The iron men of visage grim do more than meet the viewers eye
You’re left and left and found my tomb and now you all will die
The last two lines of the riddle echo through my head as we contemplate our next move. There are two heavily warded doors before us, one left, one right. We have two keys, each of which appears to fit one of the doors perfectly.
We need to choose.
If the riddle at the entrance of the tomb is to be trusted — and, no matter how obscure, it has at least proven true — we should obviously choose the door on the left.
Not that I’m too keen on the dying part.
The past two days have been hellish, but we’ve survived. Tomb of horrors, indeed. But surely this is the final test. Surely behind one of these doors is the true tomb, in which the haft of the Flail of Wind and Rain is sequestered.
We’ve just passed through the false tomb (If you find the false you find the true…) and battled the iron men, aided by a djinn who emerged from one of the urns.
Then a mummy rose from the sarcophagus (because someone couldn’t resist the pretty amulet around its neck) and we were forced to battle that too. Not so easy without the ability to use our magic. Three of our party were struck by the mummy — Alix, Nightshade and Blizzard — and I fear we’ve not yet seen the repercussions of that…
But first we need to finish this and get out of here. I pray the haft is to be found within.
Back to the doors before us. The correct one must be the one on the left, I know it. Blizzard agrees and volunteers to open it using the tasselled key. We hold our breaths and stand back.
It fits, turns, opens. Blizzard kicks the door in and I flinch. But no explosion — or anything else. One by one we enter.
The haft is actually here. It’s in an alcove behind a statue. Alix and I move as one towards it. She murmurs, “Here lies the haft of the flail of wind and rain,” and I realise she’s reading a plaque above the alcove. Heart thudding, I wrap my fingers around the smooth, wrought wood.
A shimmering figure appears and I tense, because I’ve been waiting for something to attack us, but the figure bows and offers congratulations, tells us we may each take one thing before we leave. I clutch the haft tighter. I haven’t looked at anything else, but I’ve learnt my lesson on that score. The haft will be my one thing.
Alix nudges me, then looks expectantly at the haft. A moment later, she takes it out of my hands. Her message is clear. She wants to carry the haft. Her eyes bore into me, and I yield to her conviction.
A misty grey archway has appeared where the door used to stand. Hoping this means our sojourn in this horrific tomb is ended, we pass through. I’m so weary and desperate I care not where it leads… but it empties us out into the viewing hall, back in the town of Kyam.
It truly is over. The Tomb of Horrors is a mile or two behind us, and we have the first part of the Flail of the Wind and Rain. Maybe we really can do this thing.
Maybe we can truly prevent the rise of Varrien, goddess of destruction.
One week later
I stare at his funeral pyre, hardly believing it has come to this. Not even Alix could bring him back this time. We were only a day out from Reyim Baal too, when it happened. Just one more day, and we would all have survived the trek out to Kyam and back — not precisely intact, but not dead.
The dust plains are dire indeed. It’s taken us a week to make it back to Reyim Baal from Kyam. A week in which we faced several different creatures, including air elementals and a lion-headed dragon.
It was also a week in which we laboured to keep Blizzard’s mummy rot at bay. Alix managed to heal herself of the curse, thank Emrys. And Nightshade hasn’t had any of the usual effects, probably due to her stint as a half-zombie. But Blizzard was slowly succumbing…
Not that it was the mummy rot that did for him. No, that was a monstrous earth elemental that pummeled him — pummeled all of us — in the dead of night. Blizzard took the brunt of it, though. He never stood a chance.
We’ve carried him to Reyim Baal to give him his last rites. The flames consume his earthly flesh as we each farewell our companion.
When I first met Blizzard, my instinct was to cut his throat in his sleep. His and his mate Abra’s, too. They were clearly plants from the church of Kaltan, intent on hijacking our quest.
But over time Blizzard’s abrasiveness became kind of endearing, and we were united in a common pragmatism. Blizzard knew what it took to get the job done, and was unwilling to compromise on mission or belief. We found ourselves in a few scrapes, just the two of us, and his commonsense and occasional flashes of brilliance were a large part of the reason we got out of them.
And then the god of tree huggers tapped him on the shoulder and pointed him in a new direction; one, sadly, he never got to follow through to its full realisation.
We’ve lost a bold, brash fighter; one whose mouth started many a battle and whose brawn helped to end. A solid and, at the end, dependable companion. His death came through happenstance, a collision of small moments that amounted to little. He deserved better. Let us hope his new god is kind in the next life, if there is such a thing.
I don’t expect we’ll meet again, but I say to him, for all the annoyances and occasional thoughts of murder, it was an honour to share the journey.
Another companion gone. Yes, he started off a questionable ally, but he never hesitated to stand and fight for us. Even when he doubted the most. And then that change of heart and deity. Ah, it cost you, Blizzard, but it eased all my heart and mind. I would have hated for it to come to a bloody show-down — and it would have, had Emrys not taken you aside.
This journey has been costly. I do not want to consider if it will cost any more lives. So many come and gone, Lord, so many come and gone. But not moving forward has never been an option. I pray Shadrath welcomes you to his hearth as one who aided his cleric. As one who may have become a friend.
Blizzard. What can be said about such an unexpected, pointless, futile death? Better to speak of his life, our comrade in arms, our fellow in this arduous quest. He was always ready with his greatsword to defend his friends, and even those of us who weren’t always his friends.
It is odd to think of it now, but I remember not liking Blizzard at all when I first came to travel with the party. I was suspicious of his motives, and found his bluster and impulsiveness very irritating at times. Not to mention his infernal apelike turns! But he changed a lot in the time I knew him, proving himself a loyal and stalwart companion over and over again, and in the end trusted him as I would a brother — though I suspect he still kept some secrets close to his chest.
I will not soon forget how Blizzard was always the first to offer his wrist for blood-letting during those dark days when I came near to succumbing to the zombie disease. The first, and sometimes the only!
How I wish the others had listened to me when I suggested we kill Blizzard and preserve his body for resurrection, in order to forestall the mummy rot which was consuming him. It seemed a very practical solution to me and he might yet be alive now. Or all of us dead, I suppose.
We can never tell what fate has in store for us, and perhaps it’s better that way. I hope you are at rest now, Blizzard, and perhaps have found some measure of peace.
We were never friends, Blizzard and I.
At first I detested him for his brash posturing and blustering tongue, distrusted him for his service to Kaltan. In time, I respected him for his unwavering loyalty, his fearlessness, his skill with a blade. I even came to rely upon him and value him as a member of our party. But friends… no. Not even once he swore his allegiance to Emrys, my god, for the sake of accord in our party. It is true this eased our relationship somewhat, but there was too much between us by then for us to ever truly be friends.
It didn’t help that I killed him once. And tried my best on another occasion. Both times I was bespelled, but he never truly forgave me. I suppose I cannot blame him.
When all is said and done, though, I will miss Blizzard. I’ll miss our verbal sparring, his never-say-die attitude, his creative and often wild solutions. His personal sacrifices for the good of our quest. And I’ll miss him in our next melee, when his big heart was worth almost as much as his mighty sword.
Farewell, Blizzard. May your spirit dwell peacefully in the afterlife.
Thanks to Jason Nahrung (Squirrel), Lita Kalimeris (Alix) and Kirstyn McDermott (Nightshade).