The Work of Desperation

“Swear to me,” commanded Ar’ek. “Swear to me that you will aid me, and Telynor shall live.”

That was all it took. E’thor bound himself to the demon, immediately regretting the decision. But for the man he loved, what else could he do? E’thor made the deal, not fully knowing what the deal would entail, and he did not care. He would do anything for Telynor and never fully comprehended the power and might that Ar’ek gained from their bond. Ar’ek denied that he had the ability to cure Telynor but reminded E’thor that the body could be preserved. It was better to let Telynor die and safeguard the body while Ar’ek helped E’thor with his research. And thus, Telynor expired, grasping at his husband’s hand, and E’thor wept bitterly.

While this was happening, Arpistis had grown concerned about E’thor and Telynor’s very sudden disappearance. She followed them up to the mountain path that led to the manor. Fearing what she should find there, she first went to visit Mavka and beg for help. Instead, she found E’thor in conflict with Mavka. E’thor had been instructed that the balance of the forest needed to be thrown off in order to uncover the truth of the Black Fog, and the resurrection of the Iron Thane was necessary for this. Arpistis arrived just as the Iron Thane bound Mavka to her Tree, and E’thor stunned Arpistis with quick magic. She awoke in Blackspire Manor and was forced to continually cast a spell of preservation on Telynor’s body. E’thor left to continue his research.

Convinced by Ar’ek that Deng had been holding him back, E’thor now worked alone. He found the tower of The Thing That Should Not Be and collected traces of the Black Fog from the old coffer, then cast a spell of warning on the tower for anyone who might accidentally come upon it. Over the next year, he gathered ingredients from all around Neblina Forest and began to haphazardly mix and combine them with the Black Fog he collected, creating all manner of strange fusions. The first of which was a container of black sludge that he placed in a cave outside of Burrow Wood, along with various instruments to inject them into an otyugh that Ar’ek provided him. The second was another container with a different mixture that he dropped into an aquifer that fed into Prince’s Harbor.

The third experiment he made came to him purely by accident. E’thor was in the forest attempting to inject his sludge into an orchard of apple trees when Gwynn, now the master druid of Prince’s Harbor and a member of Hearthfire Guild, came upon him. E’thor quickly disguised himself with magic and spoke to Gwynn. Gwynn explained that some people were falling ill in Prince’s Harbor as there was something tainting their water. Seeing an opportunity for test subjects, E’thor promised Gwynn that the fruit he was “creating” – he dubbed it joyfruit – would cure the people of their sickness. In reality, E’thor did not expect this to work at all. It was a distraction to get Gwynn away from him, and the madness of losing Telynor caused E’thor to not realize how wicked his actions here. The contaminant in the joyfruit mixed poorly with Black Fog. Gwynn went mad and his family perished.

Furious, E’thor created one final experiment for the aquifer again, this time placing it where it would seep its necrotic energy towards a new source of research participants: the town of Grove. Ar’ek convinced E’thor that his experiments were justified, and that he had compassion for E’thor and Telynor. Surely the people of Grove would forgive him. Surely E’thor was vindicated. To further study his experiments, E’thor hired a traveling sorcerer named Piewright to watch over Burrow Wood. Piewright, a wicked man in his own right, went to watch Burrow Wood while capitalizing on the dire situation of the residents. He hired Tomi Redwood and Conrad Leafen to watch Grove in his place.

E’thor returned the Blackspire Manor, eagerly awaiting good news from Piewright, and barely registering that Blackspire Manor and the caverns below it were now crawling with demons and gremlins.