The group was in wonderment over the items found in the lit alcove. In addition to the ring and staff Iezecele found, each of the others received items that were tailored to their own skills. Gaspar retrieved a suit of chainmail, a longsword, and a ring. Lucinde found a new suit of full plate armor and a flail. Val acquired a suit of scale mail and a set of twin short swords. So entranced by the new items and the surge of power that came with them, that the four failed to notice that Garrn was not among them. Gaspar and Lucinde pushed on the heavy doors, revealing their guide in a nightmarish predicament.
The stocky Garrn was gripped by a man-like thing garbed in a cloak of the deepest black. In one armored hand, he held the Devonan guide aloft. In the other, a black-red blade was poised for the final strike.
Iezecele was the first to act, quickly summoning his power and releasing a scorching ray of fire. It dropped Garrn and turned. It’s face was a grayish-white, the color of maggots. More disturbing was the creature’s face. It had no eyes. The corpse flesh was smooth over the socket’s where it’s eyes belonged. The eyeless creature smiled as the ray passed harmlessly.
It’s cloak flapping some unfelt wind, the creature stood its ground. Iezecele knew he needed to put some distance between the creature and Garrn if the Devonan was to survive. He summoned a ball of molten flame and sent it spinning towards the creature.
It jumped back, dodging the ball of flame. Lucinde and Gaspar charged the creature in black. It sidestepped Gaspar’s sword and blocked Lucinde’s flail with its dark blade. Val stepped from the alcove, immediately feeling a sense of horror grip his soul. The rogue had to grit his teeth as he forced himself to move in a wide arc around the creature.
It began to speak, Val was reminded of snakes rubbing against stones, or the droning of a mass of beetles. “Now that you have shown yourselves, the Master will be pleased when I bring your corpses.” Its blade moved like black lightning. It first cut into Gaspar, then scraped noisily along Lucinde’s shield.
“I think you have that backwards!” Iezecele caught the creature with his burning sphere. Its black coat hissing in the molten heat. He raised his hand, calling forth a spectral shadow of his hand.
Lucinde’s aim was off. She would never admit it to Val and the others, but she was terrified by this thing. Its very presence sent a deathly chill into her. Only her father’s teachings bore up her warrior’s resolve.
Gaspar turned on the fear he felt in the creature’s presence, using it as fuel for his attack. He struck the creature, opening its pale flesh and spilling its blackened blood. As the creature turned its eyeless gaze on the young man, Val moved into the opening and cut along creature’s spine.
In a rage, the creature swung its sword in a wide arc, missing Val and Gaspar, but catching Lucinde’s shoulder. She bit through the pain as the dark blade burned into her flesh.
As the creature lost its inhuman focus, the group attacked with a single minded purpose. Lucinde bashed the creature’s face with her new flail. Iezecele first bowled the flaming ball into the creature and then sent the power of the storm through his spectral hand and into the eyeless creature. Val brought his twin blades together and severed the creature’s head from its shoulders.
It was slain, yet still it continued its attacks, slicing first at Val, then at Lucinde. They were not wild blows, mindlessly tossed about in death throes. The creature was dead, headless, and yet it still fought to kill them.
“Just die already.” Iezecele demanded as he directed the ball of flame into the now headless creature. Gaspar followed up on the Willworker’s attack, slamming his sword home in the creature’s chest. The black cloak stopped waving in the wind that only it felt. Then, it finally crumpled to the ground.
Iezecele rushed to Garrn’s side. The Devonan was gravely wounded. Black veins of poison were spreading from the wounds he received from the eyeless creature’s blade. “Check your wounds,” Iezecele warned. He began searching through his cache of scrolls to find one that would purge the disease from the Devonan.
Both Lucinde’s and Gaspar’s wounds were inflamed, feverish to the touch. Both warriors could see a black poison begin to fester in their wounds. Lucinde winced as she touched the tender flesh. “There’s something wrong with it.”
Iezecele felt his scroll disintegrate as the power contained within was released into Garrn. As he saw that black veins begin to ebb, he turned to Val, “I only had one of these.”
Val looked at Lucinde and Gaspar, wondering what prolonged exposure to the poison would do to them. In his mind, he could see the infection slowly taking over them, turning their flesh the same corpse-like maggoty white. He couldn’t let that happen. He first thought of the spring. It’s water had some type of power. Val wondered if it would be enough. Then he remembered the room, the power that had come over them. “Head into the room.”
As soon as Lucinde and Gaspar were bathed in the light of the hidden room, the poison was purged from their bodies. While the wounds remained, the black veins faded and the feverish sensation cooled. Both warriors let out a sigh of relief.
Garrn gripped Iezecele tightly, “It just stood there.” He stared at the crumpled corpse on the ground. “It just stood there and let me hit it. My axe did nothing.”
Gaspar looked at the Garrn’s axe, then his own sword. There was nothing wrong with the Devonan’s axe. It looked sharp and well maintained. His own blade was smoking where the eyeless creature’s blood stained it. “Look at your blades.” He wiped off his sword with a rag, discarding that as it began to smolder. The others who had wounded the creature quickly followed suit.
“Let’s get moving.” Iezecele suggested. “That thing looked like it never had eyes. It was probably born underground.”
Eyeless." Val muttered. “That’s a good name for it.” He looked at the monstrous corpse, “Simple, yet ominous.”
Iezecele followed Val’s eyes, “If it was the creature. Did you see the way it still attacked after you severed its head? I wonder if it was the cloak.”
Garrn watched the two men calmly discuss the horror they had just faced. " You still want to continue to Karg?" Garrn asked. He wanted nothing more than to turn around and return to his home in Hamilton.
Gaspar nodded, he was even more anxious to get to Karg than before. He worried that there might be more of these things in the Devonan city.
Wary, Garrn led the group to the city of Karg. “What is that?” Lucinde felt more than heard a repetitive thrumming.
“Hammering.” Garrn whispered. “Too much though.”
“Wait here.” Val went ahead of the group. The sound of the hammering was so overwhelming that there was no need to sneak quietly. He traveled up the steps to a precipice. Looking down into the mountain city, he saw hundreds of smiths at work. The only area only illuminated by the blue fire of the forges. Something other than Devonans worked the billows, nor the anvils. They were man-like in shape, but taller and more muscular. Beyond that it was their heads that shocked Val. Instead the heads of men, these creatures had the heads of wolves, goats and boars. It was obvious to the rogue that the city was lost to these monsters, but he wondered how they had managed to invade.
“That’s not good.” Iezecele muttered as Val used the power of the ring to report what he had seen.
Gaspar moved close to the Willworker, “What’s not good?”
Iezecele shared Val’s report with Garrn and Gaspar. “I’m in contact with Val,” he added, without explaining the power of the ring. “Come on, he says it’s safe to come forward.”
The others joined Val and saw with their own eyes the forges worked by the man-beasts. “No,” Garrn whispered. With his Devonan eyes, the guide could see a new horror in the darkened forges. In the distance, about a dozen Devonans were pushing carts of debris to a pair of large doors. With his sight, he could see their faces. They were defeated and broken.
As the doors open, a thick mist swirled in. “Like the cliffs,” Iezecele muttered.
“Lets get out of here,” Lucinde suggested. She had seen one of the smiths pause in his hammering and sniff the air. With the snouts of beasts, she thought they might be able to sense them.
As the party returned, they found five of the man-beasts clustered around the dead eyeless creature. “What kill a Neverborn?” The group heard one of the man-beasts say in a guttural Devonan tongue.
The party descended on the five man beasts, surprising and defeating them swiftly. As Iezecele healed the party of their wounds, he watched as the healing wave disintegrated the eyeless creature’s corpse. “Well, at least we have these things for proof.”
“Neverborn, huh?” Val sheathed his blades, “I have to admit. That sounds better than Eyeless.”