Kingmaker

Outside the tomb

Daargan feels confident. Hopefully not overconfident...

So, we are, finally, here.

After breaking camp and entering the Valley of the Dead, we passed through endless ranks of tombstones marking the graves of long-dead cyclops. Despite the undeniable hold of death over the place, we passed unmolested and without incident. Arriving at the foot of a winding stairway leading up into the Tors, we met and overcame what I imagine must be the ‘Dread Guardian’ hinted at in the notes we had gathered—a single zombie which, while large of stature, was nevertheless a minor obstacle to our journey. Far more taxing was the climb up the stairs, which took the better part of a day. Although I could have ensorcelled us to fly up the stairs, we thought it prudent to save the expenditure of magical energy lest we needed it to overcome any other guardians (or denizens of the area) we might encounter on our climb, or else flee from such encounters. A sensible sentiment.

Ultimately, though, it was an overcautious one as we made the ascent untroubled by either the living or the dead. The top of the Tors is an abandoned, empty landscape. The days following that—the past four days we have spent exploring these Tors—have likewise left us unmolested, both during the day, and without any repeat attempts at nocturnal assassinations, such as that which followed from our destruction of the lich’s familiar.

Thus, my question: if we are truly walking into the lair of a lich, where are its minions? Where is this dire threat to the region? There is not even the rattle of old bones. I come to one of two conclusions. One, that the centaurs are, as I suspected, simple-minded and craven. They cling to their ancient superstitions and overstate the threat that this creature poses. In this scenario, the reason for the absence of guardians is simple; the lich’s power is at its nadir, and it simply does not have bodies to throw at us. In this case, I’d surmise that the apparent abduction of the folk of Varnhold was the lich’s entire attempt to this point to form an army, and as such our task of overcoming said army will likely not be troublesome. In this scenario, we have little to fear.

The second possibility is that the above are merely the sentiments that the creature wants us to believe, for some purpose, and that holding these beliefs is to our detriment. However, I do not hold much credence to this possibility. Only in bad theatre does the villain welcome the heroes into his lair, gloating maniacally over them, only to be overcome in the end as foolish pride proves to be his downfall. No. In reality, victory is bought by swift, overwhelming strikes. The absence of these is evidence either of the creature being incompetent (mind addled by millennia in the grave?) or weak. Again, either way, I believe we have little to fear.

In either case, I do not particularly care at the moment. This morning we have reached what must be our destination; a tall pillar of stone lies in the middle of a lake in front of us. Even when I close my eyes I see it in my mind; the magic here is strong. I feel it and myself getting stronger as we approach this place, pulsing with my heartbeat. It is like being in the chambers below Candlemere. When I awaken from my sleep each morning, I feel new energy burn within me. I can do things I could not do short days ago. I do not think I could turn around and leave this place if I tried. But that is immaterial, for I do not want to.

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kitsuki Bookkeeper

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