1 to Verdant Sun, Voelis
Cindra pointed the way to the forge, warning us of a dangerous beast inside. She said her contract was in there. It was an old stone tablet written with dwarvish runes. We prepared ourselves for danger, despite the tension between us all at the moment. For my part, I had my magic prepared to help heal the warriors at my side. I wish I could say we were on friendly terms and ready to fight as a team. Oh, Heath, I wish you were here. Even around these people, I felt so completely alone.
The forge was a large, fiery room with a large silver anvil atop a stone dais. The room was swelteringly hot. Platforms extended around the room, running over pools of magma that fed into the forge’s inner and outer chambers. Many of the platforms were broken, but there was enough access for us to move around. At the far end of the chamber, though, was something that would keep up from anything in here. This large creature, a lizard-like monster with six limbs and a trail of sparking quills down its back, was the current keeper of this forge: the behir.
The behir openly mocked us, claiming it was good to see visitors and how pleased Khar’shan would be if we died here. It said it was awfully hungry. I told it that it would find us very disagreeable, but it lunged and attacked us anyway.
The fight was… long. Drawn out. Deadly. We survived.
I’ve never been more scared, my love. For many reasons. I didn’t want to die here, surrounded by people who think I’m a monster. I didn’t want to see them perish because of how weak I truly am. But we fought valiantly, as valiant as people like ourselves could.
Actaeon and Torag fought together, keeping the behir away from the rest of us. They clamped a bear trap onto it, attached by a rope, and struggled against it. The behir fought back, creating a tug of war between them until at last Actaeon was sprawled on the floor in a pool of his own blood and Torag fell down from to the monster’s lightning breath.
Shadow hid out of sight, firing a volley of arrows at the creature. At first, it seemed too strong. It waved its head, snatching an arrow out of the air with a quick bite. But that was the last arrow it could dodge. Shadow was far too fast. He darted between hiding places, flinging arrow after arrow, always finding a soft spot in its belly. The behir dripped black blood onto the ground, occasionally slipping in it. It had been pierced by many arrows.
Clio used her mystical powers to dodge many attacks. The behir had launched some of its spines into the air, trying to impale or impede our movement. The spines were electric, casting dangerous lightning at anyone nearby. But as I said, Clio was able to dodge much of it. When she could, she threw her psychic blades at the behir, stunning it and keeping it off the others.
Briar cast a spell and hundreds of small vines grew out of the ground, causing the behir to struggle to move. When it saw this, it did all it could to escape the grasping vines. Because of this, Torag and Actaeon were able to corner the monster better. Some of its electric quills stunned Briar though, and she could only throw fireballs at the quills to get them to stop. She shifted into the form of an ape, trying hard to escape the lightning, but the quills continually shocked her.
I threw blasts of fire as often as I could at the creature, but most of my hits were only scorching or tearing off minor scales from its body. The behir paid no attention to me, though, as it focused all its might against Torag and Actaeon. I called upon the Morninglord’s power to remove some of the quills, but more and more came down upon us. My magic healed Torag and Actaeon when their wounds threatened to overcome them.
I made a mistake. A grave mistake. I got careless.
The behir was wounded, dying, fleeing. I had told it that we would be disagreeable, but it still did not listen. It tried to run away, so I summoned a ball of fire and scorched it again. In its anger, it turned on Torag and clamped down on him. Torag fell. He-
I should have healed him! What is wrong with me?
Shadow charged forward, seeing Torag’s limp and dying form on the ground. He lunged into the air and brought his blades down into the behir’s head. In its death throes, it created a storm of lightning. Shadow fell back, injured. But Torag-
Silence filled the room. We were all panting, out of breath and exhausted, except for Torag.
Oh, Torag. I’m so sorry. What have I done? I should have helped you.
I wanted to take down the behir. I wanted to be a hero. I wanted to prove to them that I wasn’t some idiot girl. I wanted to be strong. I wanted to be loved. I wanted to be wanted.
My selfishness cost you your life.
I tried to cast some minor healing spells on him, but the spell would not take. He was already gone. Shadow kept muttering something about healing him, too. Clio held his hand. Actaeon was furious, pacing and speaking to himself, wincing and hissing through his teeth due to his various wounds. Eventually a tearful Briar asked for my help on taking Torag out of the forge. We wanted to remove him from this awful place. Clio said she, Shadow, and Actaeon would find the contract. I think we all wanted to be done with this place.
Briar had Torag on her back and I held his hand as we walked back to the Forgekeeper’s chambers. Cindra was aghast but didn’t speak. None of us knew what to say. We kept walking. Cindra finally spoke up, telling us that there was a password to the elevator, drakna (the dwarvish word for dragon). But as she told us this, we heard the elevator open.
The tall form of Vaevictus, god king of Altea, emerged. He was followed by the shorter Azorius, god of the forge, and our friend Dia. I broke away from Briar and ran to Dia, embracing her while crying. She hugged me back. I tried to tell her what had happened, but I don’t think I got the words out. She rubbed my back and didn’t respond. In the dim light from the Forgekeeper’s pool, I could see all of their faces. Like ours, they were distraught.
Vaevictus stepped forward. He asked, “Where is my son?” Briar was confused, as was I. Torag and Vaevictus had never been friendly. Or even familiar. But Vaevictus seemed so… intensely emotional now. She laid him down, careful to put his head softly on the ground. This strong creature, this monstrous minotaur with a mind for peace and meditation. Suddenly, he seemed so small. Vaevictus, I think, tried to maintain his composure.
He said that the Oracle had sent word to him. She saw this happen. So Vaevictus and Azorius had come as quick as they could. But it was too late. “A god of battle,” he said, his voice thick with despair. “That’s what I should be. The Oath of Peace makes it not so. I cannot fight. My children fight in my stead. I am a poor father, and a poorer king.”
Vaevictus surprised us all in this moment. He reached out his hand and placed it on Torag’s chest. Energy emanated from him and wrapped around Torag. Dia broke away from me a little, calling out to the god king, but he didn’t listen to her. He continued the spell, filling the room with a soft ruby glow. Dia said under her breath that he was giving up part of his divine spark.
When he was done and the spell faded, Torag opened his eyes and breathed a shallow breath of life. Vaevictus teetered on weak legs, but Azorius caught him. Torag sat up, disbelief on his face. He patted his chest where the behir had hurt him so. His robes were still drenched in his blood, drying quickly from the heat of the Forgemaster’s pool.
“I can’t believe you did that,” he said to his father, his voice barely a whisper. “Why?”
Vaevcitus put his hand on Torag’s shoulder. “What good is my power if I cannot save my son?”
Briar and I cried again, this time in joy. Torag, our comrade and friend, was alive! We could have ran to him to hug him, but the god king blocked the way. That’s okay. There’s plenty of time for me to atone and beg his forgiveness. Oh, Heath, I hope he’ll forgive me.
Clio, Shadow, and Actaeon were with us at this point. They must have finished in the forge. Shadow had a large stone tablet in his hand. He gave it to Cindra, but I couldn’t hear what the two of them were saying. Actaeon walked up to Briar and me. He gave me a very small but tender hug, saying something kind to me though I confess I didn’t quite hear it.
We’re safe. Safe for now. That’s good. These mines and the mithral forge have been a terrible ordeal. We are out of strength, but we’re alive.
Torag is alive.