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Soul Stone - Part Four

Author: 
Freddie Freeman
Old Vault Category: 
fanfiction
Old Vault ID: 
269

"If you don't mind, Erana," Edele started, "we have to meet someone at his cottage before we set out for the object we seek."

"The High Senate of Kalashar will likely not be pleased about this delay of my task. Nevertheless, I will accompany you. Let us make haste." Erana said.

"There's a few ground rules that you have to understand first, elf-hag number two." Kalamaar started, "First off, I'm the leader of this here group; so, what I say is what goes. Second, anything I say for you to do, you better do it. Failure to abide by these here rules will likely result in Bravecleaver here meetin' your elven skull head-on, understand?" Kalamaar said, giving Erana a stern look while making chopping motions with both of his hands.

"Is he always like this?" Erana said, glancing at Edele and Ruien.

"Constantly." Edele sighed, "Come, let us go."

The foursome trekked for hours through the dense forest. Erana managed to forage fresh berries and fruits for the group to consume whenever it was necessary. The wood elf greatly interested the high elves with her carefree demeanor and descriptions of the wood elven city, Kalashar.

"We live simple, full lives in our tree-homes. In Kalashar, there is always singing and laughter."

"And hard-liquor?" Kalamaar asked.

"We prefer juices to liquor, Kalamaar." Eran replied.

"So do I - as long as it's grape juice that's been aged in oak barrels for a few years." Kalamaar said, wishing he had something to "sip".

The foursome took few rest stops as they went; Erana, a skilled woodsperson, pressed them on at a steady pace. She was interested in the group's doings up until this point. Edele explained almost everything that had happened up until now to Erana, who expressed particular interest in the stone they were after.

"This stone... was there any mention of how it looked?" Erana asked Edele.

Edele, glancing at Ruien, started to Erana, "Arinar, the person who we are traveling to meet, said that it is crystalline, and yet it is not. Apparently, it glows a strong, dark color at its core."

"If you ask me, it's all a bunch of hogwash. I hate this whole idiotic quest." Kalamaar spouted.

Erana stopped talking with Edele and was quiet for a long while, lost deep in thought.

"So, can any of you sew my tunic here?" Kalamaar said, pointing to his torn tunic. It had been that way since the encounter with the orcs not long ago.

"I have worked as a seamstress before; I shall mend your tunic the next time we stop to rest." Edele replied.

"You'll do it now!" Kalamaar shouted, sitting down and taking off his ripped tunic.

At long last, the companions came to the peak of a grassy hill on the outskirts of the forest. The afternoon sun shone brightly, piercing all of the shadows trying to creep out of the forest. A small log cabin could be seen at the base of the hill, nestled between more hills behind it and on either side of it.

"Ah... the cabin. Let's barge in, take the food, water, and beer, and finish this foolish endeavor." Kalamaar stated, running down the hill so fast that he nearly tripped.

"We must be cautious... something is amiss." Erana stated, staring at the cabin.

"Bah!" Kalamaar stated, heading towards the cottage door.

The wooden door of the cabin creaked as it opened. Kalamaar decided it was moving too slowly, and kicked it open with his booted foot.

"By the four bloody deaths of my gnomish daughter!" Kalamaar breathed, as he slowly entered the dark interior of the cabin.

The window drapes were drawn. No outside light could penetrate the one-room cabin's interior. Arinar, or what was left of him, lie on a square wooden table in the middle of the room. Four splintered chairs surrounded the table. His neck was turned and twisted, his eyes were missing. He was deathly pale; his wrinkled, withered body was heavily spotted with blood, and a few fingers and toes were missing.

"He's dead!" Kalamaar whispered, inspecting Arinar's remains.

"Thank you for your wonderful powers of deduction, Kal." Ruien muttered.

"Pale as a zombie, too!" Kalamaar stated, eyeing a closet on one of the cabin's walls.

Kalamaar approached the closet, hacking its lock off with Bravecleaver.

"By the drunken adventures of me stepfather!" Kalamaar exclaimed.

At the base of the closet was several filled water flasks. Dried meat hung from the ceiling of the closet, and fit in Kalaamaar's pack perfectly.

"Food and water galore!" Kalamaar said, merrily chuckling, "I wonder if any of these flasks have liquor in 'em?"

Kalamaar began sipping each flask, deducing the liquid inside.

"Water," Kalamaar started, "Water. Water. Juice. Water. Water."

"Dwarf," Edele started, sighing, "we all have to drink the water you're contaminating."

"To the Hells with ye, elf-hag!" Kalamaar retored, and continued testing the flasks.

Kalamaar picked up the last flask, muttered a silent prayer, and began to sip it.

"By the mutated ligaments of me sister! This be fine wine!" Kalamaar exclaimed, greedily tucking the flask in his pants.

"Now," Kalamaar started, "we've got the supplies. Arinar's dead. The woodsman isn't here. Let's take his corpse to his wife and collect our fee. Mind you, those of us who will be paid." Kalamaar said, glaring at Erana.

Arinar groaned. He rose up off of the table, standing on it with his rotten legs.

His head twisted around his shoulders to face the companions. He outstretched his arms, and reared a sickly smile, revealing several bloody, hungry teeth. Blood poured from his empty eye sockets.

"Flesh." Arinar moaned.

Arinar started towards the companions, leaping off the table.

"By the foul, lengthy bowels o' me mother!" Kalamaar exclaimed.

The dwarf whipped Bravecleaver out of its holster and into his ready hands, glancing back towards the elves.

Ruien was shaking violently. He stumbled backwards and fell to the floor. He couldn't tear his own eyes from the empty sockets of Arinar. Edele was in no better shape; she was shrieking violently. Erana was busy unfastening the lid on one of her moss-colored vials and dipping the heads of several bolts into it; her hands were trembling, spilling liquid as she tried desperately to coat her bolts.

"Whelp," Kalamaar started, "Looks like I'm gonna have to beat the bloody Hells out of you without the help of the elves."

With that, Kalamaar hewed off the legs of Arinar as he clumsily made a grab for the rather agile dwarf.

Arinar reared a fierce, ethereal cry. His body, its legs separated from it, pulled itself along the wooden floor of the cabin with its pale arms, forgetting about Kalamaar and heading for Ruien.

"Don't you crawl away from me!," Kalamaar started, "I'm not done with your festerin' undead arse!"

"Sorry it took me so long, dwarf." Erana said, leveling her repeating crossbow at Arinar. She had managed to regain her composure rather quickly.

"You can 'repay' me later, if you catch me drift!" Kalamaar smirked, keeping his eyes on Arinar.

Kalamaar flipped Bravecleaver into the air. Catching it with both hands, he flung it towards Arinar's shambling body. The battleaxe made a loud "whooping" noise as it spun through the air.

As if on cue with Bravecleaver, Erana's crossbow let loose with a salvo of six bolts, smoke streaming from their tips.

With a thud, the double-bladed battleaxe impaled Arinar and pinned him to the floor. Less than a second later, six brief piercing noises were emitted as Erana's crossbow bolts impaled Arinar's festering body.

Kalamaar walked towards Arinar. Stamping his boot on the zombie's grimacing face, he smiled and wrenched Bravecleaver from the zombie's back.

"A pity." Erana said, tightening the cap of one of the vials attached to her belt.

Turning towards Ruien, Kalamaar started, "He's dead. Again. Why didn't you lift one of them hands of yers and fling some magick or whatnot?"

Ruien was still in a frightened state. He kept shaking his head, continually glancing at the body of Arinar, which occasionally twitched. Edele, her hands covering her face, was half-screaming, half-crying.

Kalamaar stepped over to Ruien and grabbed him by his robes, "Snap out of it, elf!" Kalamaar shouted, slapping Ruien across his face, "The zombie's taken the one-way trip to the afterlife!"

Ruien shook his head and stared at the dwarf.

"I... I..." Ruien started, glancing about nervously, "I panicked."

"Really? I had thought that whole bit about lying on the ground, shakin' something aweful, was just you elves finally realizing that you must bow and tremble in the presence of Kalamaar, your lord and master!" Kalamaar said, rambling on about how he was going to alter the universe to better accommodate "alcohol samplers such as myself."

Ruien, heaving a deep sigh, glared at the dwarf, "The zombie was something I'd never seen before. It... it radiated a foul energy that repelled me. I fear my sister fared no better."

"Do not fret," Erana began, "I, too, was startled by this undead fiend's presence."

"You long-legs will get used to it, I reckon. I've a feelin' this poor sap ain't the only undead minion come back to haunt the land of the livin'." Kalamaar explained, wiping the blood off of Bravecleaver, "Erana, slap Edele a few times for me, will you?"

"No," Erana started, gently shaking Edele until she came about.

Edele, still crying, started, "Arinar! How? Who could've done such a thing?"

"There now, me dear, you just stick with Kalamaar; he'll protect you -- until he tires of you, that is." Kalaamar said, smugly.

Ruien, taking a deep breath, approached Arinar's twiching corpse. He prodded it with his staff to make sure Arinar was truly disposed of. As soon as Ruien's oak staff touched the zombie, Arinar's writhing hands grabbed it and thrust it into Ruien's face, knocking him to the floor.

Kalamaar, startled, readied Bravecleaver and charged Arinar.

"When I kills my enemies, I expects 'em to stay dead for good!" Kalamaar shouted, and hacked at the floor where Arinar was moving. He slashed and chopped until Arinar was in many pieces.

"That'll keep him dead and buried, I figures." Kalamaar said, again starting to wipe Bravecleaver clean.

Ruien, rubbing his sore jawbone, was trying to comfort Edele, who started to gag when Kalamaar began chopping the zombie to pieces.

"Hey, what's this?" Kalamaar said, his vision fixated on something on Arinar's severed head.

"Some kind of... necklace?" Kalamaar stated, ripping it from around Arinar's neck.

At that moment, Arinar's disembodied head heaved a great sigh.

"That's it! Time for some more carnage!" Kalamaar shouted as he climbed to the top of the table Arinar was found on. As he prepared to do a flying leap with Bravecleaver and smash down upon Arinar's head as he hit the floor, the dwarf was startled as the head started to speak.

"Thank you, my friends." The wretched head of Arinar said.

The elves, shocked, stared at the talking head in disbelief.

"Arinar?" Ruien started, "Is that you?"

"Yes. That necklace Kalamaar took from me was an amulet of necromantic control. I am now freed from its curse." Arinar explained.

"I see... who did this to you, Arinar?" Edele asked.

"A great and powerful necromancer." Arinar started, "She... she called herself Shyva Loknight."

"What happened? Where's your woodsman friend you spoke of?" Ruien inquired.

"I must be honest with you, I fear." The head started, choking, "I sought to deliver you to the necromancer when you came here. There was never a woodsman. When I arrived here to tell Shyva you were on your way, she rewarded my loyalty with death; rather, undeath."

"I'm alright with that, Arinar. Of course, I can't speak for Bravecleaver here; I think he wants to thank you with his sharp edges!" Kalamaar roared, enraged at the fact that he had been betrayed.

"Please, forgive me. I am not an evil person. I merely wanted to be on the side that would win the war." Arinar explained.

Erana, gasping, interrupted Ruien who was just about to speak, "War? What war?"

"The one that is foretold in the prophecies. Do you know not of what I speak? Surely you've heard of the Blood Strife." Arinar said, his empty eyesockets no longer leaking blood.

"The Blood Strife? Ramblings of madmen, not a prophecy!" Ruien said, scowling at Arinar.

"You shall see. Already, part of the prophecy has come true." Arinar said.

"And what part is that?" Edele demanded, motioning for Kalamaar to stop making "practice swings" at Arinar's speaking head.

"The Highmaster being found, of course, as told in the prophecies. He shall soon be reborn into a new body. He will lead the forces of darkness in a great siege against the legions of the Lightbearer, covering all the lands in eternal darkness." Arinar said, grinning.

"Highmaster? You're delusional, Arinar." Ruien began, "You said Shyva killed you here; where is she now?"

"She didn't think she needed to stay and dispatch of you herself. She assumed her band of orc raiders would take care of you. Apparently, she was mistaken." Arinar said in a deep whisper, "She killed me because I knew too much, I gather. Do this poor soul a favor and send her to eternity with the foul spirits she has allied herself with."

"I was plannin' on it." Kalamaar said, pacing.

"Know this," Arinar began, "you must find the stone at all costs."

Arinar's head, with a look of despair on the face, went limp.

"Poor fool." Edele said, glancing at the floor.

"What now?" Kalamaar said, putting Bravecleaver back in its holster.

"I suppose it is time to search for the stone." Ruien stated.

"Or," Edele started, "perhaps we should search for this necromancer?"

"I ain't goin' after no necromancer and her foul legions! Let's just bring Arinar's severed head to his wife and collect our reward and be done with it! I wants me gold!"

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