Chapter 32: Lxanvom

It is with a quivering hand that I write my last words. At my feet lies my lord, the thirteenth Adan, king of our lands. My blade is buried in his back. His blood stains the hand that writes these words. It was the promise of great strength, whispered sweetly and softly to my ears over the years that has caused this to happen. Whispers of dreams and power realized. The dreams spoke of a ritual, glyphs and runes I have inscribed upon the floor of this place, the Kings Rest. It is irony that I am now hearing whispers of truth. I have betrayed my king and my people, the voice says, not as a revelation but as torment. I hear the hissing laughter of my new lord, the dark lord, the Plaguebringer. I hear his voice, tears falling from my betraying eyes as they look at the green portal that has opened. The voice grows louder. I have a new master now, it says. He is coming...

A large candle dripped wax onto an oak table while Loral read the ancient tome. The words had been written over four thousand years earlier, only having recently been translated by the scribes of Tanaan. Loral began studying the fall of Lxanvom, the King's Rest, after his adventures took him to its door in the Plane of Disease. He read of Bertoxxulous, the god of disease. For weeks he had been reading the texts, carefully turning the yellowed pages. Nothing took his attention away from the words of a culture long dead. The room grew hot. Loral looked up and saw the scribes of the library step back and out of the way as a small figure in red robes approached.

The room was illuminated by a red glow. Flames danced in Azile's black eyes behind the shadows of her hood. In her hand she held the Staff of the Four, an eternal flame burning at its top. Loral noticed for the first time that in their century of adventures together Azile hadn't aged a day. Azile would be almost one hundred and thirty, Loral calculated, though she looked hardly older than forty. Her eyes spoke of anything but youth. Her power had grown beyond any Loral had ever seen. He had watched her rip open rifts to the depths of the outer worlds and bring forth flames hotter than any known in the mortal world. She was no longer the simple traveler Loral had once known.

An unpleasant vision filled Loral's mind. He dreamed of the elder gods dead within their own worlds. He saw armies of adventurers slaying the immortals of the outer planes and storming timeless keeps and castles. Visions of Fennin Ro's smouldering corpse lying upon the charred ground of Fire sending a column of black smoke into the air flashed in his mind. Above the corpse, floating upon a cloud of flame rose the new goddess of Fire - Azile the Scorcher.

Azile walked up to the table and sat down next to Loral. She smiled, pulled a small package from her pack, and put it down on the table. The smell of warm cake filled the air around him. Perhaps he was wrong. The vision must have been a trick of the light when she had entered. Too much reading of dramatic old texts, he thought.

"The Lotus has breached the Crypt of Decay," she stated. Loral looked at her unblinking eyes and beheld again the fiery vision.

Despite the cold darkness of the tomb, Loral felt sweat drip down his face. His eyes closed in silent meditation to Tunare, but the rhythmic chanting of the undead summoners could not be blocked out. For three days they had fought the undead of Lxanvom. Decayed husks of old priests and knights attacked with cracked lips pulled back over rotten jagged teeth. They had cut through the minions of the upper floors with little trouble, but when they entered the lower depths of the crypt they found a greater evil.

The summoners, undead priests of a lost age, called fourth the remains of the kings of Lxanvom. Torn from their rest and twisted into hideous forms, the kings attacked with strength and fury. They attacked with bloated fists and the pincers of enormous spiders. The sounds of thunder and the smells of burning flesh filled the crypt that had gone untouched for so many centuries. The blades of the Cult ripped into the kings and their minions, cutting through the material world and into the world of the tormented souls. One by one the evil forms of once great rulers fell.

All was quiet. The chanting of the undead priests became screams of death as they sacrificed themselves for a final summoning. The air became foul and cold. The group was silent as the Plaguebringer approached. His green burning eyes beheld them, the defilers of his temple. He reached towards them with a long thin arm ending in a claw with too many joints. The horror of the apparition in front of them held the adventurers as still as death.

A roar of fire broke the trance. The warriors screamed and charged in, blades held high. The clash of steel on hardened bone was deafening. Loral closed his eyes, calling upon the healing and protective magic of the Mother but Bertoxxulous had magic of his own. A dark grey mist flowed from the outstretched hands of the elder God. Loral felt his skin crack open. Sores began to appear and oozed a black liquid. All around him adventurers fell to their knees, their life energy being sapped out of them by the curse of Bertoxxulous.

A millennia earlier in lands long forgotten, the children of Veeshan created a weapon of incredible power. Using the skills of the greater wyrms, they forged a spear of prismatic energies capable of stabbing through the thickest scales the dragons had. It had been forged as a weapon for mortals to one day battle the Sleeper, Kerafyrm. Centuries later it had been discovered by an unlikely elf and on this day, it saved her from an unlikely enemy. With milky eyes and sunken cheeks, the rogue Annalyze reared back and threw the ancient spear into the back of Bertoxxulous's skull. With a deafening crack, the Plaguebringer's skull split and he crashed down to the ground.

A week later Loral was back in Tanaan, carefully turning another page from the tome that sat on the table. He took a bite from Azile's cake, feeling a warmth flow down his body. Though grey lines still crossed his face, the scars of Bertoxxulous's curse had almost completely healed. A deeper wound remained open however... a wounding of purpose. For a year, Loral had battled the beings of the planes, fighting for the safety of Faydwer and in the name of Tunare, but to what end? How far would he delve into these realms of uncertainty? For now, Loral could only ponder...and enjoy another piece of cake.