Day in the Life

For stories about your characters

Epilogue: A New Beginning

Five years have passed since the death of the Istaris and the destruction of the Orc Pride. The orc presence in the Far East has greatly decreased with the loss of their leaders. The free people of the Sunwall now prosper and thrive on their land. The West is once again in peace... and most of its inhabitants did not even know they were on the verge of destruction.

Haldor is back from his journey on the seas. As always, Haleth and Morwen have been waiting for their father the whole morning, repeating in the garden the ultimate fight of their parents against the evil wizards. Aeryn is waiting inside the house. Since the fall of the Istaris and the relative quietness of the orcs, her duties as protector of the Gates of Morning leave her enough time for her family.

Even after settling down in the Far East, Haldor kept his taste for adventure... so he decided to put his talents to good use by escorting merchants through their journeys on land and sea. After the creation of portals between the West and the Far East, trade between the nations has grown flourishing. But now, it asks for more expansion. Rich patrons have invested a lot of money to build the biggest and fastest ships to explore the Great Sea to the east. And even if the orcs are quiet, there are still pirates roaming the sea, always looking for an easy prey...

Today, Haldor is back from one of those journeys across the Great Sea. Since he's been hired, no pirate has dared attacking his ship. And this last trip was very successful...

"You seem to be very satisfied with your journey..." says Aeryn.

"Indeed." replies Haldor. "This time we finally found what we were looking for... A new continent beyond the Great Sea, to the east. We were welcomed by peaceful people. Humans, elves... Their people call themselves with strange names, like we never heard before. And they wish to open a new trade route with our continent..."

"And what is the name of this new world?"

"Eyal... Maj'Eyal..."

Eden the Rogue, Chapter Thirteen: Aeryn Is A Jerk In This Story For Some Reason

FAR EAST

“This is all your fault!” Eden rattled the Orb of Many Ways frantically, but it offered no response.

Eden’s self-proclaimed stellar sense of direction had failed him in this strange new land. Despite his half-hearted wanderings, he hadn’t come across a single trace of civilisation (apart from a few orc patrols who angrily told him to ‘wait for the next beta’). For all his aspirations of becoming a loner in Middle-Earth, he soon found that being alone wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, and his present isolation was making his brain behave in strange ways… the fact he had all-but-made an imaginary friend before becoming stranded didn’t help matters.

“Now are you sorry you abandoned me? If you were wearing me, you could have fled from Novan and not needed to use the farportal…”

“Quiet!”

“I hope those ballyhooed Frost Treads have sturdy soles… you’re going to be wandering for a long time…”

“Quiet I said! Quiet! I…” Eden’s initiation into the insanity club was postponed as he spied the telltale entrance to a cave mere yards away. Approaching the entrance he saw that the cavern was submerged.

“An underwater cave… Shouldn’t be too difficult to traverse. Right…”

Fortunately, the sound of approaching hoof falls brought Eden away from his premature death on the end of a naga’s trident. A patrol was approaching him, and not just any patrol – a patrol of humans and elves in shining armour. Sun paladins!

“By Eru’s knapsack, I’m saved!” The paladin patrol (or palatrol) came to a halt by Eden’s side as he gasped, “Thank you, thank you! I-I-I’ve been lost for days! I went through this portal and it dropped me in the middle of nowhere and I haven’t got a clue where I am! But now I’m saved, hahaha! Please, won’t you help me?”

GATES OF MORNING

“High Lady Aeryn. We found some vagabond not affiliated with the Sunwall out in the wilds. Probably a spy.” The pair of paladins that had dragged Eden’s bruised body the distance of the journey to the Gates of Morning dropped him unceremoniously, “Deal with him as you will.”

Eden got to his feet, tenderly feeling his many aches and pains as he did, “You’re the boss here? I’ve gotta tell you, I don’t think much of the hospitality around here. Would it hurt ya to roll out a red carpet for new arrivals? I just think that with this treatment I’ll…” Eden looked up, noticing who he was talking to for the first time, “… okay-I’ll-be-quiet.”

The woman who stood before Eden was glaring at him with such intensity that he imagined she was trying to melt him with imaginary heat vision. Not that it would’ve been necessary; the sheer gleaming of her armour was enough to give Eden a mild suntan just by standing there.

Eden waited as the woman perused him. When no greeting seemed imminent, he coughed and began, “Anyway, my names Ed--”

I am High Sun Paladin Aeryn, ruler of the Sunwall.” The woman spoke over Eden, “Followers of the sun, who wield the power of the sun to punish the enemies of the sun.”

“Thanks for clearing that up. So, anyway--”

“Who are you, traveller?” Aeryn sniffed with distaste, “You have the smell of orcs about you.”

“I should imagine so! I’ve just fought through a whole dwarven-hallsworth of them, and I haven’t had the chance to fit a bath into my schedule. I don’t suppose you warriors of the sun have a bath house of the sun I can use… of the sun?”

An entirely humourless smile crossed Aeryn’s face, “You seem to be under the delusion that you are welcomed here, rogue. I, for one, doubt your story. We have heard of no dwarven halls in the surrounding lands, and I find it hard to believe someone as un-shiny as you could have performed such a feat anyway. I find the idea of you being an orcish spy far easier to believe…”

“How can I be an orcish spy?! They barely understand what they’re seeing half the time, let alone what others are seeing for them!”

“High Lady Aeryn!” A sun paladin approached Aeryn, who had entirely ignored Eden’s speech, “News of another spider attack reaches us. Scouts saw a group of the fiends dragging an anorithil into Ardhungol.”

“Anorithil?” Exclaimed Eden, “You mean like Beturin?”

“Indeed! That was her name!”

Aeryn scowled, “And how did you know that?” Drawing her sword, she advanced on Eden, “Not an orcish spy, but a spider spy? A spy-der?

Eden drew his knives, “Oh, whatever. You’re obviously itching for a fight of the sun, lady of the sun. I’ll give you a fight, of the sun!”

“Eden?”

Both Aeryn and Eden turned to the sun paladin in confusion. Raising his visor, he was revealed to be Belebeth, the sun paladin Eden had assisted in the Trollshaws. “Is that you? Never thought I’d see you again! How fare you?”

“You know this knave?” Aeryn mumbled, sheathing her sword.

“Indeed. He was the rogue who helped me to my recall portal I told you about.” Belebeth turned to Eden and grinned, “Come quite a way from your home in Bree, haven’t you?”

“We cannot control our circumstances, only our responses…” Eden replied with humility, but not before shooting a smug look at Aeryn.

“So, you’re not a spy…” Aeryn muttered, “But then, how do you know Beturin?”

“Saved her too,” Smiled Eden, “She’d be fertiliser for Old Man Willow right now if it wasn’t for me.”

“Well then,” Aeryn displayed a smile as gleaming as her armour, “Why not rescue her again, from these spiders? Do that, and maybe we can talk further about your admittance here…”

“Deal! After all, how big can these giant spiders be?”

ARDHUNGOL 1

“WAAAAAH!”

Eden was hurled against the cavern wall, rolling to the floor in cloud of dust. Turning his head, he beheld the gigantic mandibles only inches away from piercing his neck. He swung his dagger, by luck hitting the scuttling horror in one of its many eyes. The pain was enough for it to flinch, giving Eden the opportunity to regain his footing and bring the creature down with a frantic flurry.

“That’s not a spider!” Shrieked Eden, “That’s… that’s two mumakil tied together!”

 Level 30!
 +3 Cunning
 +2 Precision
 +1 Cunning/Packing

This scenario repeated itself many times as Eden attempted to explore the caverns – far more times than he would’ve liked. Although adventuring was never truly safe, Eden felt a sense of peril that he hadn’t felt before. During one of the quiet moments between battles, he heard a sinister voice in his head that was not his own.

“Eden?” Arenji hissed, “Your time comes, and not a moment too soon.”

“You!” Eden spoke to thin air, “This little subconscious ploy shows just how desperate you are!”

“Fool yourself if you will, whelp.”

Eden moved on, ignoring the voice, when he noticed something peculiar. “Arenji… if I’m to die… why aren’t you happy?” Indeed, Arenji’s voice was bitter, “I thought you delighted in seeing people brought to their end.”

“In most cases, yes,” Arenji grumbled, “But there is a meddler in your affairs…”

“Meddler? What do you mean?”

Arenji was silent. All of a sudden, Eden felt a presence behind him. Spinning on the spot, he saw no one.

ARDHUNGOL 2

 Level 31!
 +3 Strength
 +1 Whirlwind
 +1 Efficient Packing

Eden fell back with exhaustion. He was fighting a group of dragon hatchlings, both red and white, that didn’t seem to be dwindling. He couldn’t help but hear the distinctive scuttling sounds of giant spiders blocking off his escape routes too. Only when it was too late did he perceive the source of the hatchlings; a pair of drakes, one red and one white. Eden couldn’t hope to face them, the main body of the hatchling horde stood directly between him and them. With his escape blocked by spiders, he had no choice but to read a scroll of phase door.

The scroll deposited Eden in a new cavern, but from the nearby sounds of roaring and scratching, he guessed that he wasn’t too far from his previous location.

A faint red glow came from the darkness beyond. In its light Eden could almost make out… an orc’s face?

“Hello, something seems to be happening down the--”

???

“I… I can’t move…”

“Good. That’d just make my work harder. Can you see me?”

Although Eden didn’t feel his eyes open, his vision slowly returned. Unable to move his head, Eden could only see from his current viewpoint that he was in a dark, underground chamber. The air was deathly cold.

“I’m freezing…”

“Ahh, quit complaining.” Came Grim’s response. Her familiar face appeared in Eden’s field of view, smiling as always, “You’re lucky I found ya in time.”

“Lucky?” Eden mumbled, “Lucky how?”

“Don’t you remember? You were attacked by this orcish pyromancer and his drakes, not to mention a whole heap of giant spiders. They totally surrounded you. You were in a right state; looked like a crimson jelly exploded.”

“Oh, yeah…” Eden moved to wipe his face, but found he couldn’t move his arms, “I remember that damned pyromancer now. Makes this cold a bit more bearable thinking about it. Where are we?”

Grim offered no response, too busy with something out of Eden’s field of view to reply. Eden asked another question, “How did you find me, anyway?”

“Uh? Oh…” Grim shrugged, “Turned out there was a second farportal to the east that didn’t need the Orb of Many Ways. It’s what all those sun paladins and anorithils were using to show up in the west. I went through it, found that Sunwall place, got told to go to Ardhungol by the scary lady, and found ya in a spider web. Simple. Ooh! I think I’ve got this figured out now…” Grim ducked out of view again. A few moments later, Eden felt the paralysis slowly fade from his limbs. “That better?”

“Yes. So… I’m going to be okay?”

“Right as rain,” Grim twinkled, “Just one thing. You kinda lost a rib. Hope you don’t mind.”

“One rib? Of course not.” Eden sighed. He felt safe, a feeling he hadn’t experienced in a long time, “Looks like I owe you big-time, Grim. Still, I got pretty far for a punk from Bree, didn’t I? I wonder if the townspeople will accept me now, once they’ve seen all I’ve gone through…”

Grim made a long and hesitant noise, tugging the collar of her robe awkwardly, “Well, maybe… I mean, people are a little more accepting now than they were in the old days…”

In an instant, Eden was suspicious, “What do you mean? You have fixed me up properly, right? I’m not disfigured or anything? I have to say, I didn’t know you to be much of a doctor…”

“Doctor?! Nah, I’m hopeless at that stuff,” Grim giggled, “I ended up in prison when I tried to get that splinter out of old man Gardner’s finger once…”

“Then… what have you done? And what is that?!” For the first time, Eden beheld the tool Grim held in her hand – a bonesaw.

“I can hardly ply my trade without it, can I Eden?”

“Trade?!” Thoughts of dread were rapidly accumulating in Eden’s mind, “Why is it so cold?! How did you heal me?! And where are we?!”

Grim smiled, a picture of glee, “The Paths of the Dead, silly!”

http://img18.imageshack.us/img18/4163/bledendead.png

You have died!

Eden the Rogue, Chapter Twelve: Walking Too Deep

MINAS TIRITH

“Well well! If it isn’t the king of the sandworms! What business do you have with us here, your highness?

“I have destroyed the Master, and have shocking news for your elder.”

“Hahahaa! You?! Destroy the Master?! I don’t suppose you have any proof?”

“Well… I drew this picture.”

Aahahaahahaa!

“And also, I have his head in a bag here. Look.”

“…! On you go.”


“Welcome, Bree-Man, to Minas Tirith.”

“Racialist,” Thought Eden in his head.

The town’s ancient elder shifted in his seat. Looking at his deeply tanned and wrinkled complexion, Eden couldn’t help but think of walnuts. “Traveller, please be quick as my time is precious.”

“Ignoring the fact that you were just sat there collecting cobwebs…” Eden muttered under his breath, before addressing the elder properly, “I have found a strange staff in my travels. It looked very old and powerful. I dared not use it.” Eden froze – why hadn’t he used it?! He could’ve left that Ukruk looking like a metroid victim…

The elder remained silent for a while, “… Indeed, you were right to come here. The staff you describe reminds me of an artefact of great power from ancient times. May I see it?”

Eden tugged his collar awkwardly, “I’m afraid I lost it…” He went on to describe his encounter with the orcs in detail, with only minor embellishments, “So, I was riding along on my tiger when I saw this group by the side of the road. ‘What’s all this?’ I thought, as I adjusted my diamond-rimmed eyeglasses…”


“… And that’s about it.”

The elder’s head was bowed in thought, his eyes closed. “Could I have that story without the nonsense, young man?”

Eden hung his head, “Found staff. Big orc. Head hurt. Gone.”

“Orcs?! In the west?! This is deeply alarming!”

Hah, Eden thought. Knew I was right, back in the Old Forest.

“We have not seen any for nearly eighty years. They must have come from the far east…”

“Excuse me? Far east?! What far--”

“But do not let me trouble you…”

“I’M TROUBLED--”

“Do not let me trouble you. You brought important news and you are lucky to be alive.”

Eden rolled his eyes, “Thank you, my lord.” How many vampire lords has he slain recently?

“We have heard rumours from the dwarves that there may still be an orc presence deep in the mines of Moria. I know you have been through a lot, but we need somebody to investigate and -- GET BACK HERE!”

Eden, who was already halfway to the door, reluctantly turned, “Are you cracked?! I’m not going into Moria!”

“I can see someone like you only exists for personal gain…” The elder mumbled to himself, “Lad, I suppose you know the story of Moria?”

“Yes. Dwarves, greedy, dug too deep, balrogs.”

“Indeed. They dug too deep. They dug too deep for their mithril, gold and jewels…”

“…”

“I understand that the balrog situation is now under control, but the depths of Moria largely remain open. If one wanted the wealth within its halls now, they wouldn’t have to dig too deep – they wouldn’t have to dig at all!”

“…”

“How does ‘walking too deep’ sound to you?”

WILDERNESS

As Eden made his way towards the western entrance of Moria his attention was taken by a structure that wasn’t on his map. An abandoned ruin, obviously of elven architecture, stood open and ready for an enterprising adventurer to explore.

“Meh,” Thought Eden, and continued on his way.

MORIA 1

Yep, this was definitely a dwarven hall. You could always tell when the bearded brethren of the mountains have had a hand in designing something. Long corridors branched around the entirety of the halls, many of them useless, simply ending in dead ends or curling around on themselves. Each and every wall was covered in engravings, the vast majority of which illustrated the various horrors and massacres the previous residents of Moria had suffered/caused. The air was thick with the smell of cat meat and mushrooms. Still, it beat the smell of…

“Orcs!”

The orcish battalion that fell upon Eden came as something of a shock. They had forgone their usual ‘drums in the deep’ routine; a few years ago the orcs realised that an orc playing a drum is an orc not beating somebody’s head open, so they banned the activity. While this choice certainly improved the stealth and manpower of many orcish groups, their strength still wasn’t enough to put Eden away presently.

Eden also noticed, with quiet irritation, that the orcish assassins he fought held rather mediocre daggers, despite ostensibly being part of one of the orcs’ largest forces in the west. Just how long would he have to amble along with dwarven-steel daggers for?

 Level 28!
 +2 Dexterity
 +1 Cunning
 +1 Precision
 +1 Knife Mastery

"Aah... Do you hear this noise? This is the end of knife mastery and weapon combat's tyranny over my generic skill points. I can finally specialise... anew."

MORIA 2

It had been a long time since Eden had fought trolls. The Trollshaws were a distant memory, but here he saw that the big and brutish race still had some tricks up their sleeves. With a mishmash of metal plates covering their hides to improve conduction, not to mention segments of carpet under their feet to generate electricity, the trollish thunderers were indeed dangerous opponents. Eden would have gladly traded in his Frost Treads for rubber treads while fighting them…

MORIA 3

Next up in the long parade of Eden’s enemies: Wyrmics. Two of Eden’s least favourite things – orcs and dragons – brought together in imperfect harmony. The main dangerous thing about fighting wyrmics was unpredictability; some wyrmics are genuinely mighty opponents, wielding forces draconic to deadly effect. Others were just orcs slightly touched in the head who liked dragons a little too much. After a while, Eden had discerned a fairly reliable system for judging wyrmic danger: If they’re wearing fake tails, take it easy.

On approaching the stairs leading to the lowest level of Moria, Eden couldn’t help but notice the heavy, hot and mephitic air that blew upwards from the depths below. Demons in Moria? No…

MORIA 4

The long and winding corridors finally coming to an end, Eden now entered a spacious hall, used by the previous dwarven occupants of Moria as a communal meeting hall. A rather different community resided here now, although it was a community Eden now knew all too well – orcs.

Eden pointed wildly, screaming at something over the orcs’ shoulders, “BALROG!”

By the time the orcs realised Eden was lying, they were already dead. “Only in Moria does a trick like that always work,” Eden chuckled, “To be honest, I am pretty surprised that there actually isn’t a balrog here.” It was at this point that a great scorching wind blew through the hall, displacing the many dwarf skeletons that were piled up around its perimeter.

“Perfect,” Eden thought, “I knew there had to be at least one -- brrr!”

Without warning, the scorching wind ceased, only to be replaced by a wind as chilling as those from the Icebay of Forochel. Confused by the dungeon literally ‘blowing hot and cold’, Eden only understood why as the leader of the orcs he had fought stepped into the hall. Eden found himself wishing that he didn’t understand now.

The orc was massive, easily the largest specimen Eden had the misfortune of facing, and the great multitude of scars that marked his flesh were displayed as trophies of the many battles he had endured. Eden noticed – with concern – the many scars on his chest he had received from daggers. If an assault like that wasn’t going to stop him he was in a bit of trouble, he thought. He also saw that said orc was a wyrmic, a skilled and powerful one indeed; one half of his body glowed with heat, licks of flames appearing occasionally, while the other half was frozen, with ice crystals constantly forming and reforming across his skin.

Eden stood uncertainly as the orc approached, mace in hand. The two stood before eachother momentarily, the orc silent, Eden waiting for the inevitable threats and boasting that all orcs employ. To say he was rather surprised when the orc’s mace met with the side of his head is an understatement.

Shaking off the initial blow, Eden and the orc began their fight proper. As it transpired, Eden’s fears were quite genuine; the orc was less than impressed by his knifeplay, and despite his bulk could easily match Eden’s agility. The orc’s minions didn’t help either, for while Eden could handle them easily enough they served their purpose of distracting him from his main foe, which only served to press the orc’s advantage home.

Eventually forced to phase door away to catch a momentary respite, Eden took stock of the situation. It was the fire and the ice he really couldn’t deal with; between this guy and Carn Dûm, Eden was cultivating a rather large rivalry with the elements in general. But that was when it hit him.

“Hey!” Eden shouted from his hiding place, “You… what’s your name?”

“Golbug!” The orc thundered.

“Golbug, hi. Which side of you is fiery again?”

“The left side! Daargh!” Golbug smacked himself in the head with his mace, “What am I doing?! Time to die, wretch!”

It certainly is, thought Eden as he slipped on his rings of fire and ice resistance, making sure to put the ring of fire resistance on his right hand…

With the elements the orc controlled dulled by Eden’s rings, not to mention the forces under his command all falling or fleeing, it wasn’t long before the battle turned in Eden’s favour, culminating in a killing blow straight at Golbug’s heart. The orc staggered, but before he fell he turned and slammed open the pair of wooden doors behind him. Beyond them was a small chamber in which a portal, like the recall portals Eden had seen before but much larger, took pride of place. Taking a large glass orb from his pocket, Golbug’s final action was to roll said orb towards the portal, dropping it as he fell. The orb fell short by a couple of feet.

 Level 29!
 +3 Constitution
 +1 Precision
 +1 Trap Detection

Eden approached the portal, holding up the strange orb. “Interesting trinket,” He thought, “I bet Minas Tirith would love to see this. Suppose I better go show them… at least there’s no chance of me being ambushed by orcs this time, seeing as…” Eden tapped Golbug’s body with his toe, “… you know.”

As Eden made to leave the hall, he almost ran into the courier that was headed in the other direction. Hiding his face, the courier offered a sealed scroll to Eden. “Here.”

Eden unsealed the scroll and read it, “Mmhm… our elders found… yadda yadda… orc hands… hmm… masters in the far east… yadda yadda yadda… should you find this Golbug… please investigate?”

“Investigate?” Eden repeated, “What do they mean by that? I mean, my knives have investigated most of his insides… what do they want me to do now?” Properly noticing the courier for the first time, Eden nodded and reached into his coin pouch, “Sorry, I forgot. How much do I owe ya? Five?”

Crack! Eden was floored by the courier’s kick. Before he could gather his thoughts he could already see that the courier now held a dagger and was ready to strike down at him. Rolling away from the strike, Eden got to his feet and spat, “Geez, okay, ten! What, are you… YOU!”

From beneath the courier’s hat, the face of Novan gave Eden a smile straight from the deepest reaches of the void, “Thought we’d forgotten about you, scum?”

“What are you doing?!” Eden shouted at his former colleague, “What are you doing in that courier get-up? Got a second job? Just being a horrible bastard can’t pay the bills by itself I guess…”

“The courier is dead,” Novan snarled – Eden noticed that the clothes Novan wore were bloodstained, “And you will be too. You took Melna. You took Melna from me!” Novan swung at Eden again, but this time he was ready to dodge.

“What do you care about Melna?” Eden retorted, “If you like mental patients so much, why don’t you go back to the madhouse you got her from and kidnap another?”

Novan had no more words for Eden, simply unsheathing his second dagger and running at him furiously. Eden brought his own daggers up to block, but Novan’s berserker charge was enough to knock him from his feet. Eden disentangled from Novan, who was already bearing down on him again. Bringing up his daggers in preparation for a flurry, Eden was dismayed as Novan effortlessly blocked the attack. “You always were worthless, Eden. I’m just about to show you how worthless!”

Eden knew he was fighting a losing battle. The memories of his losses to Novan while he was in the gang haunted him, and facing him in his present fury seemed a foolish choice. He couldn’t flee, either – Novan blocked the only exit. Or did he? Eden noticed that as their fight neared the portal the orb he had taken from Golbug began to resonate, the swirling mist inside it glowing brightly.

“Where will it take me?” Eden thought, “Does it matter? Any location is better than ‘on the end of this maniac’s knives’. Besides, it’s probably two-way.” Disengaging from Novan again, Eden fled into the portal chamber.

Within seconds his pursuer faced him again. Eden watched Novan pant and seethe from within the portal’s soft light. “Don’t think that fool glyph will save you from me, Eden! Any last words?!”

Eden didn’t have any last words, but he did have a last hand gesture. Suffice to say, it wasn’t a wave. With a pop, he vanished, leaving Novan to stare in horror.

“Coward!” Novan howled at the portal, “Fine! Run! You may be able to save your own hide, but can you say the same of those you care abo…” Novan was so invested in his raving that it took him a while to notice the excruciating pain that had appeared in his back, and was rapidly spreading to his chest.

Looking down, Novan only saw the scythe blade stuck through his chest for a second before it was brought upwards, effectively ripping his torso in two.

Pulling her scythe from Novan’s body, Grim stepped forward and regarded the faintly glowing portal with interest.

Eden the Rogue, Chapter Eleven: Sandworm Madness

SANDWORM LAIR 1

At first, Eden resented the idea of travelling to the lair of the sandworms. By right he had already passed Angolwen’s test – it wasn’t his fault that his trophy was now several hundred feet out of the reach of his daggers.

However, his mood improved somewhat as he travelled to the lair. It appeared the head of Gunadek’s golem, last seen rolling down Carn Dûm, had created quite a giant snowball which had barrelled straight into the centre of Bree. Between the recent thunderstorms and the new layer of snow that now covered the town, Eden was quite gleefully pleased at the karma his hometown was receiving.

He was further pleased as he entered the lair – pleased and confused. He had been used to massive, labyrinthine dungeons. He had explored vast stretches of forest. The “lair” he found himself in was only slightly larger than his own bedroom, and it held no sandworms at all.

“… Sandworms?” Eden looked under a small rock, “Hello? Sandworms?” Standing straight, he frowned with confusion, “Is this it? Is this the lair? I don’t see how -- BARRRGH!”

Without warning, a huge sandworm, its mouth a grinding mass of razor-sharp teeth, burst through the wall of the chamber Eden stood in as if it was paper. Eden instinctively struck out at it, but his knives were woefully lost in the gargantuan mass of worm-flesh. Eden wailed, “Geez, what a crazy way to die!”

But Eden didn’t die. At least, not then, for the sandworm (which had barely noticed him at all) simply burrowed into the chamber’s wall once again and tunnelled out of sight. “Ahh, I get it…” Eden hummed, inspecting the new tunnel the burrower had created.

Placing one foot inside the tunnel, Eden leapt backwards as he heard an ominous rumbling. With a resounding crash the tunnel caved in, cast a blinding sheet of sand over Eden. Wiping the sand from his eyes, Eden regarded the chamber wall levelly.

“… I think I’ll wait for the next one.”

SANDWORM LAIR 2

Eden descended to the next level of the sandworm lair, only to find the passage to the next level after that was immediately next to him. “Thank Eru for small favours…”

SANDWORM LAIR 3

“If the spice is the life, I’d say that the sand must be the death.”

SANDWORM LAIR 4

“Some people say fear is the mindkiller. Me? I say sand.”

SANDWORM LAIR 5

“Walk without rhythm? These sandworms sure dig without rhythm…”

SANDWORM LAIR 6

“It is remarkably difficult to keep making Dune references when you haven’t even read the dang thing, or played the RTS.”

SANDWORM LAIR 7

By luck, Eden had descended straight into the midst of the sandworm queen’s nest, almost landing on its disgusting bulk as he fell into the chamber. True to what Eden had thought previously, the worms were no match for somebody who had fought dragons. Eden’s act of wormy regicide seemed all too simple; he considered naming his daggers ‘Magna’ and ‘Carta’ momentarily, but decided against it.

Now came the portion of the trip Eden had feared the most, more than the sand and certainly more than fighting the worms – extracting the sandworm queen’s heart.

“Ugh… this is so gross…!” Eden cringed as he tentatively searched for the organ in question. On finding it he immediately fled, wiping his gloves feverishly, “Yuck! Plegh! Funny, I always thought these giant, underground worms had three hearts.” (and a THOUSAND internet cookies if you get that reference)

ANGOLWEN

Eden once again found himself in the city of mages. On entering the city’s main plaza, he found that the area was abuzz with activity – it appeared some manner of construction work was going on. Eden only had time to watch briefly before his attention was taken by the woman before him. Said woman was obviously a heavy-duty mage; the type that have enough auras whirling around them to make them look like lanterns. Eden glanced at his auras from Beturin and Belebeth’s training, and felt a twinge of aura-envy.

“And you are?” The woman asked.

“Eden,” He replied, “And you?”

“Linaniil, new ruler of Angolwen.” The woman bowed in mock humility, “This fair city has recently come under new management. May I help you, rogue?”

Eden presented Linaniil the sandworm queen’s heart, the disgusting organ wrapped in one of his old cloaks, “I got you mages a little something. I hear that delivery of this disgusting worm-bit is enough to allow me full access here?”

Linaniil peeked inside the old cloak briefly before returning her gaze to Eden. A strange smile played on her face, “Interesting… I suppose you know that there’s one final part of the test? It’s not much; you don’t even have to leave Angolwen to complete it.”

“Oh? Sounds good…”


Eden dry-heaved. Before him, the pulsing, oozing heart of the sandworm queen lay on a plate. The grins of the mages surrounding him – and the glass of potion of cure disease that stood beside the plate – didn’t fill him with confidence.

“Now, eat it.” Linaniil commanded.

“… Is this a joke? Jokes are meant to be funny.”

Linaniil’s expression was now a picture of seriousness, “Eden. Do you believe magic is something we just… acquire? Through luck? We have all undergone extreme trials here. Only through suffusing our body with dangerous substances such as this do we truly touch the arcane. If you wish to join us, you must do the same.”

Eden looked at the sandworm queen’s heart again, “So, you’re saying… I’ll become a mage if I eat this? Able to tear the earth asunder with a snap of the fingers? Able to rip the threads of time and space like a temporal kitten?”

“Sure, why not?”

Eden thought to himself deeply. Should he eat it? “Oh, you know you’re going to, you cretin,” A voice in the back of his mind sighed, “Just tell me when, so I can turn off your taste buds, okay?”

Eden raised a knife and fork, cut away a section of the heart (ooze, ooze, ooze) and held it to his mouth…

WILDERNESS

 Sandworm Goodness!
 +3 Constitution
 +1 Precise Strikes
 +1 Health

Eden woke up in a ditch, his head spinning, the phrase “ZIGURANTH LOVER” messily daubed across his forehead in ink. Half-expecting to feel the mother and father of all hangovers, Eden was surprised to find he felt rather good. The heart had given him a sense of hardiness and constitution that didn’t appear to be fading. “This can’t be right,” He mused, “There must be a downside to this… I’ll go back to Angolwen and ask… ask… uh-oh.”

Eden could feel a hole in his memory; the distinctive feeling of knowing you’ve forgotten something, but not being sure what it was. The mages had erased his knowledge of the location of Angolwen!

MINAS TIRITH

Trolls, Bree, Angolwen, snow giants, dragons… Eden’s enemies list was becoming rather crowded. It would soon find a new member, though: As Eden approached the gates of Minas Tirith, he saw that the guards moved to block him, halberds at the ready.

“Leave us, you insane fool,” One of the guards yelled.

“What?!” Eden yelled back, “I haven’t even been here yet!”

The guards conferred for a moment, one of their number finally stamping towards Eden. “Haven’t been here?!” He shouted, “Then tell me – who was that mind-addled imbecile who showed up last night, screaming that he was king of the sandworms, raving about liches living in the town library, shouting about thunderlords to that rock over there?!”

“What?!”

“And then you run off with our elder’s hat, bellowing about crushing the menace that resides in Tol Falas! As if! You’re lucky I haven’t run you through now, troublemaker! Leave!”

WILDERNESS

Bree was closed to Eden thanks to the general unpleasantness of its population, Angolwen was denied to him too, and now he had been forbidden from entering Minas Tirith thanks to a bout of sandworm madness. What was he to do now?

“One thing that guard told me puzzles me,” Eden thought to himself, “I talked about a menace in Tol Falas? I haven’t even heard of a menace in Tol Falas… so… maybe that part of my raving was true?”

Eden formulated a plan… they would allow a madman into Minas Tirith if it was a madman who kept his promises.

TOL FALAS 1

“Some assistance, please?”

Eden was pleasantly surprised – a warrior had hailed him without the slagheap of bluster they commonly employ. Indeed, this fighter appeared quite calm and levelheaded. He was still wounded however.

“I’m… Boryrab… recall… over there… help… escort?” He panted, “Man, those skeletons pack a wallop!”

“Very well,” Eden nodded, “But you say tally ho once and I’m leaving you to fend for yourself.”

Eden was further pleased as he and Boryrab made their way through the first floor of the tower, and indeed came to appreciate how devastatingly effective a fighter is when they use tact; given the right preparation, a warrior could weather punishment that would reduce an archmage to a bloodstain.

“There’s your portal,” Eden indicated the familiar sight of an etched circle in the ground, “Just ignore that skeleton warrior over there and get outta here. I’ll deal with it.”

Boryrab froze, turning to stare at Eden with shock, “Leave… the skeleton warrior? I’m to… just run… and not fight?”

Eden’s face iced. He knew exactly what was coming, “Oh no. No no no! Don’t you dare! DON’T YOU DARE--”

“Ha-ho! Come, face me, you wretch! A-ha! Rapscallion! I’ll see your skull above my -- whaa! Where’d you get that mace from?! I -- no -- ack -- GRAAGH!”

And so passed the last remaining brother of the Grinymnir family… Eden hoped.

TOL FALAS 2

 Level 23!
 +2 Dexterity
 +1 Cunning
 +1 Rush
 +1 Knife Mastery

Eden faced a new breed of foe here – a demon. A lithe and ferocious figure, clad in heavy armour and wielding a vicious knife, tore towards him. Eden smacked it with the pommel of one of his daggers the moment before it struck, sending it flying backwards, its body evaporating, leaving its armour to hit the tower wall with a clatter.

“Should’ve spent a bit more time in the Item World, demon,” Eden mocked, “Item World… I want to go to Item World. I bet Eden’s Guile World would be awesome, full of parties.”

TOL FALAS 3

Eden dropped the empty potion of cure disease with a clatter, shuddering, “These ghouls really need to learn proper dental hygiene.”

TOL FALAS 4

Dangerous foes dwelled on this level of the tower. Eden almost believed the maulotaur he found to be the master of Tol Falas, as it swung its giant greatmaul through the air, barking orders at the pack of dragon hatchlings it commanded. These hatchlings were strange – their scales shone with a scintillating myriad of colours. Eden felt a multitude of energies burn through his arm as he struck them; you’d think your arm getting simultaneously chilled and heated would mean that it wouldn’t do anything at all, BUT YOU’D BE WRONG.

Once his foes had been felled, Eden noticed that they had been gathered around a large, wooden signpost. On said signpost there was a message, written (ostensibly) in blood in a large, menacing hand:

“MINIONS: Be aware. I, your great Master have found an item. It is of extreme power, but not yet complete, at least for my purposes.

All hail your brilliant Master. Would you like to walk in the sun? Would you like to be free to roam green meadows and crush innocent children? Such are my wishes also. The reward to anyone who brings me any item that will help me bend this sta... item to my will shall be stupendous.

Also, any new minions who have magical research skills are wanted. Recruit them and you shall be rewarded. Though if they steal my secrets, your blood will be my wine and your heart my appetizer.”

“Whoa,” Eden thought, “He actually wrote out his mistake on the second paragraph there. I’m guessing this guy’s a vampire, from the haemophiliac special he outlines at the end…” Looking down, Eden noticed a small message carved into the wood of the signpost beneath the parchment:

“Unded Unyion #610 UNYTE!”

Fight the power, ghouls. Just learn to spell first.

TOL FALAS 5

Affixed to a second signpost, Eden found a new missive from Tol Falas' supposed master.

“MINIONS: Perhaps you are minor dens of foulness because you have nothing to aspire to? Perhaps you could be greater if you had a worse example before you? Consider me! I began my long unlife as a foolish pipsqueak such as yourself. Why, there was a time before I had conquered even a pit let alone a level or a dungeon. Now, behold all that is mine.

You must have aspirations. I am not content with just the rule of Tol Falas. No, soon I shall have more. Much more. My boots shall tread the surface of the earth! I shall explore and destroy the most beautiful mountains. All shall be mine once I can walk in the sun once more. Where will you be? Do you wish to be more than the wight I stepped on yesterday? I shall need great leaders to guide my armies across the land.”

Eden frowned with thought, “This guy sounds like he means business. Not sure about the great leaders part – most undead have enough trouble stopping their brains from falling out, let alone using them.”

 Level 24!
 +1 Dexterity
 +2 Cunning
 +1 Weapon Combat
 +1 Dirty Fighting

TOL FALAS 6

Strangely enough, this level was almost deserted. Perhaps it was a strike? “Looks like Undead Union #610 finally grew a backbone.”

TOL FALAS 7

Eden walked along the tower’s passageways, as happy as you like, when suddenly he found himself sent sprawled to the floor, grievously wounded. His mind was on fire! “Gaaaak! What… the heck’s… happening…?!”

A woman with lank, black hair and a strangely flattened face peeked around the corner at Eden. Eden was confused at first, but this confusion soon gave way to horror as the woman rounded the corner proper, revealing the huge, trailing serpentine body that followed her. “Psyren…!” Eden attempted to croak, but no noise escaped his lips – he had been silenced.

“Walker…” The naga hissed, “If a huorn falls in the forest, and nobody is around to hear it… does it make a sound?”

“Get out of my head!” Eden wheezed mutely.

“What is the sound of one hand clapping?”

“GET OUT OF MY HEAD!”

The psyren’s mouth curled into a grin as she slithered towards him, intent on finishing the job; she had a riddle about grain, chickens and foxes that she had been dying to test out. Eden found that he was thinking better now his constant running commentary had been silenced. If nothing could come from his mouth, he’d have to put something in, and he had just the thing.

“If you had a boat that could only hold three things, including yourself… hey, where did you go?!”

The invisibility the potion had granted Eden had given him enough time to flee, and he now hid against a wall, frantically chugging as many healing potions as he possibly could. The psyren found him before he had finished, so he could only manage a choked, “Glmfph! Mmplhf! Flurrmpfhy!” as he swung a dagger out at her. Eden’s voice returned only after the psyren had fallen, “Psionics: Like magic, but more smug about it.”

 Level 25!
 +1 Dexterity
 +2 Constitution
 +1 Sweep
 +1 Knife Mastery

With peril comes plunder, however, and Eden soon found himself the proud new owner of a dwarven lantern and a cloak of the Shire. The cloak looked rather silly; it was very small, and when Eden put it on it looked like he was wearing a large napkin backwards, but he couldn’t fault its boosts to his dexterity and cunning.

TOL FALAS 8

“MINIONS: To my newest vampire: Burn, foolish adventurer, burn! I bet you are sorry for that flame spell now, aren't you? Suffer as I revisit it upon you.

To the rest of you, there will be punishment. An adventurer got down to my bedroom and surprised me. I, myself, was hurt and almost had to use my special power. All is well now and I am as dangerous as ever, but you shall suffer for letting him get so low. The next minion I see shall be toasted with my marshmallows. Where then were the special pits of doom I organized? Where was the poison of my wights or the diseases of my ghouls? Indeed, I should slaughter all of you and I would, but those who were most foully remiss were already slaughtered by the adventurer. The rest of you? Beware my wrath.”

“Beware my wrath,” Eden echoed sarcastically, “I wonder what this guy’s special power is. It’s probably quite impressive, but I’d laugh if it was just slapfighting or something.”

TOL FALAS 9

 Level 26!
 +2 Dexterity
 +1 Cunning
 +1 Sweep
 +1 Knife Mastery

Eden marched into the tower's throne room. Before him, his greatsword resting on his lap, the Master regarded him with quiet fury.

“So what’s it to be?” The dark figure spoke quietly, “Will you join the unity, or will you die here?” Without warning the vampire leapt to his feet, whirling his greatsword in a frenzy, slashing tapestries and shattering pots, “Join! Die! Join! Die!” He screamed.

Eden pursed his lips, shaking his head, “Do you really want the last thing you say to be a hokey reference? Wouldn’t you prefer to quote some great thinker or something?”

The vampire sat in his throne again, seething, “You’re remarkably confident for somebody ten seconds from becoming a corpse, and don’t think that dying will keep me from you. It is no exaggeration to say that an eternity of suffering begins for you here. MINIONS!” The Master howled, “TAKE HIM!”

Silence.

“To be honest,” Eden smirked, theatrically picking his fingernails with one of his knives, “I don’t enjoy using enemy detection or magic mapping scrolls – I feel it’s detrimental to my sense of direction – but I must admit they were splendidly helpful here. This entire level is as empty as a death mold’s soul, except for you and me…”

The Master snarled, brandishing his greatsword; he was so used to the praise he forced his minions to heap upon him that Eden’s sass bordered on heresy, “FOOL! You actually believe you are a threat to me! The greatest blades of the warriors and the most powerful spells of the mages have failed to destroy me! What can you do?! Stealth me to death, rogue?!”

“There’s more to rogues than stealth, vampire,” Eden and the Master circled eachother slowly, “They can steal, perform great feats of agility, set traps – well, not in this beta – and of course, they can fight dirty!”

** WHUMP! **

The Master stumbled backwards from Eden’s sudden (and rather below-the-belt) kick. Initially pleased with the reaction his dirty fighting received, Eden’s face fell as he realised the Master wasn’t hunched up in pain, but laughter.

“That’s it?!” He cackled, “A child could give me a greater challenge! I believe I shall have some fun with you; torture is an art, after all. Won’t you be my canvas…?!”

“Tch, that’s what I get for trying to mix up my strategy,” Eden rolled his eyes, “Back to the ol’ grind: FLURRYFLURRYFLURRYFLURRYFLURRY”

The Master’s body fell, soundly perforated. It was Eden’s turn to exclaim, “That’s it?! Seriously, if these guys keep falling this easily, it’s just going to get harder and harder to describe these battles.”

“Hmhmhmhmhm… FOOL!”

Lifted back onto his feet by dark and unstoppable forces unknown, the Master was resurrected, his strength completely restored. “Do you see your folly now?” He sneered, “I can will myself back to life as many times as I wish… s-seriously. If you wish to flee now, I shall understand completely, and… hm?”

Eden was missing. All that remained was a hastily written note by the Master’s feet. Taking it up, he read, “Sorry I didn’t hang around for your post-resurrection boasting. Teleported away to warm up my stabbing arm. Flurries take a lot out of it, you know. Back in ten turns or so, Eden.

“Turns,” The Master growled, stalking out of his throne room in pursuit of Eden, “What inanity, what insolence, what --”

“FLURRYFLURRYFLURRYFLURRYFLURRY”

The Master’s body fell again, even more soundly perforated than before. “A double-flurry job,” Eden thought, regarding the Master’s body, which was not resurrecting again, “You were indeed a mighty foe. Now, I’ll just loot your mighty body, if I may…”

The first item of import Eden found on the Master’s body was his black choker. Grim would kill for that, Eden thought; necromancer chic was pretty much like goth chic, except less eyeliner… usually. Still, its ability to prevent blindness and the total uselessness of Eden’s previous amulet meant that it was going around his neck for the duration.

The second item both enthralled and repulsed Eden simultaneously. Even someone as… differently magical as Eden could tell that this was the staff. He knew that mages would salivate over this bit of magical wood like an Ent would over an Entwife. “Forget gaining access to Angolwen,” Eden smiled, hastily identifying the staff as he took it up, “Staff of Absorption… when I show up with this bad boy… they’ll make me its king!

 Level 27!
 +1 Dexterity
 +2 Cunning
 +1 Precision
 +1 Weapon Combat

TOL FALAS 3

Eden was so thrilled with his recent acquisition that he almost ran into the skeleton mage that stood before the stairs he descended. On instinctively turning and fleeing from the undead manathrust machine to safer ground, he then ran into another one. It was at this point that a skeleton warrior got a lucky hit in on him as well, stunning him as the mages surrounded him.

Eden survived, but barely. “So, that’ll be three minions taking it to me more than the grand high boss of this place did. Yep. Normal service resumes…”

WILDERNESS

Ukruk, nursing both many scars and a grudge, stormed to the entrance of Tol Falas, a new and more powerful warband in tow. “I had to kill ten patrols of sun paladins to earn this new squad,” He growled, “They are not going to waste.”

“Brothers!” Ukruk stood before his new band, on the steps of the tower, “The time has come to retrieve the staff from this insolent vampire’s lair! Do you remember the plan?”

The orcs were silent. Planning wasn’t one of their strong suits.

“Very well,” Ukruk grumbled, “Essentially, it’ll be like most other orc incursions into the west. We’ll send in a bunch of grunts, let the Master get complacent in slaughtering them, then surprise him with an out-of-depth corruptor. You ready, G’nel?”

G’nel, the team corruptor, clicked his blighted fingers at Ukruk and winked. He loved his job.

“For the glory!” Ukruk raised his axe, then turned and almost bumped into Eden as he was leaving the tower, Staff of Absorption still in his hands. The two parties stared at eachother.

Eden coughed quietly, “… I don’t suppose any of you know the way to Ang--”


Eden awoke minutes later, both without the staff and thoroughly stamped into the ground. “You… you just can’t get the staff these days,” He burbled, before spitting out a tooth and passing out again.


As if things weren’t bad enough – exiled from Bree, exiled from Angolwen, exiled from Minas Tirith, recently impositioned by a bunch of orcs – Eden was now further aggravated by his conscience gland acting up. Orcs in numbers such as this, stealing staves from innocent travellers, was news important enough for the rulers of Minas Tirith to hear.

He would have to travel there to tell them, but first he had to make a detour.

BREE

“Heya Eden. Did something happen down south? I keep hearing stories about groups of the undead roving around, cheering and burning payslips.”

“Yeah, about that…” Eden twisted the tip of his beard reluctantly, “I kinda destroyed this guy called the Master, a head honcho vampire operating out of Tol Falas.”

“The Master?!” Grim, who always kept up-to-date with the latest affairs of the differently-alive, keened with delight, “You took down the Master?! That’s amazing! That’s… why are you so sad?”

Eden paced awkwardly, “That’s just it. I destroyed the Master. Without any trouble. The only offence he got out was a single manathrust. Not only is it completely out of character for me, but also it’s a total anticlimax! Can you help me?”

Grim tapped her nose, “Just leave it to ol’ Grimmy.”


http://img543.imageshack.us/img543/8895/blsneaky.png

"Perfect."

Eden the Rogue, Chapter Ten: Eden's Redemption

CARN DÛM 1

“Come, yon frost-rimed behemoths! Snapping, snowy death! I will stand and fight! The peoples’ cheers bring me courage! … Actually, that’s a lie. This ring brings me courage.” Eden looked upon the ring that decorated his finger warmly, the sapphire set in it glowing gently, “It really takes the edge off this cold!”

CARN DÛM 2

Eden’s progress continued. The sky was clearer than it was on his first ascent of Carn Dûm, allowing him to see further up the mountain as he progressed. Thanks to this, he could take in the bizarre lightshow that was taking place near the mountains peak – both shafts of light and unnatural shadows burst from the side of the mountain every now and then. Eden felt a strange sense of déjà vu.

CARN DÛM 3

“This was where I found that fire drake,” Thought Eden, “I sure could go for another one of those right now. It kept me toasty… in extreme pain, but toasty.”

CARN DÛM 4

On a whim, Eden visited the cairn he had constructed for Melna, only to find it had gone. Her body had vanished, and the stones he had piled up were scattered across the ground. “There are two possibilities…” Eden considered, “Either there’s an unhinged ghoul running around the area now, or more likely… a dragon got hungry.” Eden thought upon this possibility for a moment, “I can only hope the knives she had on her person gave it some serious indigestion. Being eaten by a dragon can’t be very pleasant…”

“Indeed…” Came the deep, sonorous voice from behind Eden. Once again whirling around in a storm of knife-thrusts, Eden eventually looked down to see a large stone head. Its eyes, wrought of polished obsidian orbs, rolled up to look at him blankly.

“Good morrow, young master,” Spoke the head, its voice both ponderous and courteous, “Have you seen my master about? His name is Gunadek.”

“Gunadek? Ahh, you must be his golem… or at least, part of his golem.”

“Indeed…”

“I’m afraid he’s left. He went through a recall portal… should I take you to it?”

The head sighed, shaking back and forth in an approximation of sadness, “No need. I have come to believe that Gunadek has no great love for me. Did you know that, when I had my body, he didn’t even see fit to array me with a tree trunk?”

“Tree trunk?”

“You don’t know? In golem circles, it is the height of disrespect for an alchemist to deny their golem an uprooted tree to use upon its enemies…”

“That’s a… shame?” Eden shrugged, experiencing a deficit of empathy, “I suppose if you want a tree trunk, you could use the one I took from Bill. It should be in Bree.”

The golem’s eyes shone, “Truly? A great kindness, young master, thank you. I shall travel there now…”

“Won’t you need assistance?” Eden began to ask, but the head was already rolling away under its own power, rapidly becoming covered in snow as it headed down the mountain.

CARN DÛM 5

The terrain around Eden was becoming familiar; he was fast approaching his proving grounds. He heard the grunts of the giants and the snarls of the dragons up ahead. Granted, you can always hear these things anywhere on Carn Dûm, but it still caused him to move with great reluctance and caution.

Eden attempted to calm himself, “Think rationally. This time, I’ll be ready. This time, I won’t have some cretinous warrior to babysit, Mandos rest his munched-down soul. Just let your instincts take you, Eden… and flurry. I admit, I don’t like the idea of putting my life in someone else’s hands, even if that someone else’s hands is just me with my brain switched off, but -- WHAA!”

An explosion rang from the top of the mountain. Staring around in panic, initially believing Carn Dûm was a recently awoken volcano, Eden looked up to see a trail of smoke that ran from the top of the mountain to the firmament above him. A star had struck the peak of the mountain! Just what was going on up there?!

“Varda, you butterfingers!” He yelled skywards.

CARN DÛM 6

It was almost a comfort to see what he had expected to see the entire time he trekked up the mountain. The horde remained. At its front, a chieftain of the snow giants sat atop his cold drake steed. “Little munchkin,” Boomed the giant, “You return to --”

“Munchkin?!” Snapped Eden, offended, “I’m not even using shops! How can I be a munchkin?!”

“I meant munchkin as in little, not metagaming parlance. Are you going to let me finish?”

“… Fine.”

“Little munchkin!” The giant boomed again, regaining his train of thought, “You return to us? Your cowardly flight caused us great mirth before, but the time for laughter is over. You will not leave our sacred mountain alive!”

After a moment’s pause, Eden raised his finger at the giant, “I’ve got one word for you.”

“Oh? And what is that?”

“Well, actually its five words, strung together, and shouted at the top of my lungs.”

“…?”

“FLURRYFLURRYFLURRYFLURRYFLURRY”


Meanwhile...

WILDERNESS

The orcish warband was in high spirits, singing joyful songs of slaughter as they clumped through the plains of Rohan. Only one of their number wore a scowl, the blood mage Burzra. Elbowing the band’s captain, Ukruk, roughly in the stomach (the traditional orcish way to get attention), he growled, “While I delighted in the destruction we caused…”

“Good.”

“… and while the screams of those we crushed bring me much joy…”

“Good.”

“… I still question why our pride should bow to those… filthy wizards! They are puny, they hide behind their illusions, they sit in their towers. You would have us return to an age like Sauron’s, orcs becoming mere minions once again?”

Ukruk glared at Burzra, but in truth he partially agreed with his words; it was just the fact that orcs glare pretty much constantly, “I understand your concerns, but worry not. I know more of the wizards’ plan than they realise. The fools. They are not our masters, but they shall bring back our real master. Our only master.”

“You mean…?!”

“Do you remember the golden days? A massive dungeon, over a hundred levels deep? Our pathetic enemies only having a scant eight buildings to support them? Tricking Lagduf into attacking level twenty adventurers by telling him they’re only level two? Well, with the return of our master, our golden age shall return again. The wizards shall be crushed by him, their blood his wine, their bones his trophies, their spines his charm bracelets! With this staff, his great return is only --”

“Foes!” One of the band’s scouts had spotted a group waiting in ambush up ahead. Burzra and Ukruk ceased their conversation, drawing their weapons.

Night was falling, and the warband could only make out the silhouettes of the party ahead of them. Roughly twenty dark figures blocked the orcs’ path, but the simple fact that they had not attacked instantly led the orcs to believe them to be cowards.

“Adventurers!” Ukruk cackled, “There are no narrow corridors to hide in here! Your scrolls of phase door are useless in this grand wilderness! Bear witness to your death… I am Ukruk!”

The figures offered no response at first, watching the orcs intently, but eventually they parted, allowing a single one of their number to walk towards Ukruk. As the figure came into the light of the warband’s lanterns, the blood drained from Ukruk’s face.

The man before them wore priceless armour of gold and black marble, a cape dark as pitch drawn about him. He held the gleaming, engraved greatsword in his hand as if it was light as a feather. His hair was pure black and perfectly-groomed, and his sneering face had the pale complexion of the dead.

“Who are you?!” Ukruk snarled.

“Who am I? Why… I am the Master, and you shall obey me!”

CARN DÛM 6

“Yes! Victory fanfare!” Eden mockingly slapped the head of one of the bald snow giant’s bodies in time with his singing, “♪ Ba-ba-ba-ba baa baa ba ba-baa…! ♫”

 Level 22!
 +1 Dexterity
 +2 Cunning
 +1 Weapon Combat
 +1 Backstab

“And to the victor, the spoils, it seems…” Eden’s eyes had alighted on a wand, almost invisible under the blanket of snow. Taking it up, Eden was surprised to find out that it felt remarkably warm, despite its burial. He read the small, filigreed inscription on the side of the wand.

“Gwai’s Burninator…” Eden thought to himself, “A quality bit of foe-scorching gear, I’m sure! Now all I need is Edge’s Chronocannon and Susramanian’s Fun-Alchemy Gift Set and I’ll have the entire collection!”

CARN DÛM 7

Eden approached the summit, both the supposed lair of Rantha and recent recipient of a great big starfall. The area was eerily quiet – it appeared that Eden had all but broken the strength of the snow giants on the previous level. It was funny, but the strange lights and shadows he had seen at the peak of Carn Dûm were slightly familiar. He had seen them somewhere before… in the Old Forest, maybe…?

“Hello!”

Eden wheeled around, almost slipping and tumbling back down the mountain on seeing the woman behind him, “Beturin?!”

“Beturin?” The anorithil cocked her head in confusion, “How do you know my sister? I’m Salareyavea.”

“You’re Beturin’s sister?” Eden said in shock, “Beturin has a sister? A twin sister?!” Salareyavea nodded. Eden was momentarily stunned – he didn’t feel that cold anymore, he realised. “My name’s Eden,” He introduced himself, “What’s an anorithil like you doing up a mountain like this?” Realising how his question could be interpreted, he hastily added, “T-That wasn’t a come-on, I seriously would like to know what the heck you’re doing here.”

“What else? Hunting Rantha,” Salareyavea cast a hand to the mountain path behind her, “That celestial slap on the wrist I gave him just now has him on the run. Now I’ve just got to finish the job.”

“Nice, nice,” Eden nodded, “I don’t suppose, if you do kill him… I could borrow the head?”

Salareyavea shrugged, “Why not?” The pair walked down the mountain path together, “You said your name’s Eden, right?”

“Mm-hm.”

“Beturin told me about you a little.”

“Oh, really?” Eden grinned, “Did she tell you about our battle against Old Man Willow? Or how I escorted her to her recall portal safely?”

“She told me how you stabbed her.”

Eden’s face fell, “Ah… yes…”

Salareyavea smiled, “Kidding. She did tell me the rest. You’re pretty brave for a rogue, aren’t ya? She said that when that big tree came at you, all you did was start screaming and flailing your daggers everywhere and--”

Rantha came from nowhere. In an instant, Salareyavea’s head had been bitten clean off, her decapitated body slumping to the ground. The great wyrm turned its head towards Eden, the icicles around its maw dripping with blood, and shrieked.

Eden didn’t move as the blast of frost hit him. Having withstood Rantha’s assault with stoicism enough to make Gunadek jealous, he quietly unsheathed his knives.

“As an enemy…” (stab) “… you should know…” (stab) “… that the one thing…” (stab-stab) “… you shouldn’t do…” (stab-stab-stab) “… is press an adventurer’s berserk button!” (stab-stab-stab-stab-stab-stab-stab-stab!)

“It just never ends well.”

Stumbling and faltering under Eden’s barrage, Rantha only gave a low whine as the final strike from Eden’s flurry knocked him off his reptilian claws and backwards, leaving him to plummet into the depths of one of the mountain’s chasms. Eden heard a dull squelch as Rantha’s body was impaled upon a huge, rocky stalagmite at the chasm’s bottom.

Before leaving, Eden constructed a second cairn for Salareyavea. This time, he wrapped her body in enough poison vines to poison a small continent – any dragons who tried to pull the same trick on her as they did on Melna would be in for a very nasty surprise.

WILDERNESS

“Look, guys… we have to talk.”

Eden sat, bare-footed, at the base of Carn Dûm. Eden’s Guile lay on the ground before him. “Up on Carn Dûm, in Rantha’s hoard… I don’t know how to say this… I found some better shoes.”

Eden’s Guile remained silent.

“I-It’s not like I’ll forget you,” Eden soothed as he tugged on the Frost Treads, “I’ll keep you in my inventory, keep you polished…”

Eden’s Guile remained silent.

Eden attempted to cheer his inanimate footwear up, “And hey! Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll be able to wear you and these Frost Treads! Like… say… maybe centaurs will be unlocked someday!” Eden spoke to nobody imparticular, “Will there be centaurs?”

Although Eden didn’t hear it, and couldn’t possibly comprehend it if he did, Eru rumbled, “What do you think, you great fool?”

“Still,” Eden continued, getting to his feet, “At least be happy for me. Now I’m sure to be allowed in Angolwen, now I have the… head… of…”

Rantha’s head was still attached to its body, at the bottom of a chasm several hundred feet deep at the top of Carn Dûm.

OH, BY THE GREAT, GLIMMERING, DOUBLE-DECKED, OCEAN-GOING YACHT OF OROMË…!

Eden the Rogue, Chapter Nine: TRAINING MONTAGE

BREE

Normally, those who made bold claims of practising necromancy would be tried and hung immediately. This is hardly a bad state of affairs; while there was a brief necromancy renaissance a few years ago, with so-called “new” necromancers claiming that they weren’t evil but rather just “dark” and “anti-heroes”, at the end of the day the common people didn’t want a bunch of pallid maniacs forcing their deceased relatives to perform menial work and terrorise their friends.

Fortunately for Grim, her cheerful demeanour and the fact she appeared nothing like a necromancer – possessing a mop of blonde hair and a face given to smiling dopily – meant Bree’s townsfolk took her claims with rather good humour. She was treated as something of a village idiot. Of course, this doesn’t mean she was treated kindly; she was doomed by association with Eden, after all.

“Hi, Mr. Gardner!”

“You get away from me, you freak.”

“G’mornin’, Mr. Shrewsbury!”

“Keep moving, quarter-wit.”

“Nice day, isn’t it Mrs. Finswick?”

“She’s back, Elwin! Get the crossbow!”

“Yeesh, living types are always so touchy.” Grim was about ready to head to the local cemetery to perform a few extractions (the locals had been gossiping recently about faulty coffin hinges popping open on so many caskets…) when she heard a strange groaning sound coming from the dark alley behind the alchemist’s store. Curious, Grim meandered down the alley, only to find quite a sight waiting for her in the detritus piled up beside the store’s back door.

“Eden!”

Unshaven and with bleary eyes, what was unmistakably Eden sat amongst a pile of empty bottles and golem parts. On noticing Grim, he drunkenly raised a half-empty bottle of slime mold juice and slurred to her, “I’m not dead, Grim! Sorry to disappoint you; you can’t use me as an undead slave just yet…”

“Don’t be silly,” Grim said as she came to Eden’s aid, “I wouldn’t make you an undead slave! You’d be an undead butler! What are you doing here? What have you been drinking?”

Eden raised his bottle, “Slime mold juice. It’s been out here for a while so it’s kind of fermented into something like cider. Well, cider that’s passed through a troll’s digestive system, but cider all the same! Cheers!” Eden clinked his bottle against an imaginary one, then slumped over sideways.

“What in the name of Mandos’ mountain of mistresses are you doing here, Eden?” Grim asked, “I thought you’d died!”

“How did you know?”

Grim allowed herself a small smile, “All of Eriador must have heard that high-pitched scream from Carn Dûm. It made all the dogs start barking.”

Sitting up once again, rubbing his eyes in an attempt to focus his thoughts, Eden slowly told Grim of his trial on Carn Dûm. He told her how he had been cornered by countless dragons and snow giants with next to no provisions. He told her about the fear he felt as he first stuck his head around the corner leading to the main mountain path. He told her about his countless battles against drake and giant, each time hoping that the stream of enemies that rounded the path’s corners would cease before his body gave out. He successfully escaped the hordes, but he felt no jubilation – there was an entire mountain to descend, and that seemed a terrifying prospect without his many bottles of “liquid courage”. Against all odds however, he survived.

“I admit,” Eden smiled, “I did feel rather cheerful after finally getting off that wretched mountain. However…”

“However?”

“It was a lesson in my limits. I’ve been thinking about what the mayor said when I overheard that conversation, ‘he won’t keep beating these odds forever’. I’m starting to think that my adventures are doomed to failure! … Grim?”

To Eden’s surprise, Grim had already backpeddled quite a distance from him. She wound one of her arms around in a circle strangely, “I’ve never done this before,” She grinned, “And I may never do it again, so I’m going to do this right.”

“Do what right?”

Grim continued to pace backwards, “Just hold still.”

Confused, Eden complied as Grim finally stopped pacing, a good thirty yards from Eden. All of sudden she broke into a sprint, her arm twisting wildly. Before Eden could realise what was about to happen, Grim had nailed him with a full-on running slap that sent him skidding to the floor.

“SNAP OUT OF IT, EDEN! Heavens,” Grim sighed, “That felt good.”

“What are you talking about, Eden?!” She continued, “What happened to my old friend, who felt that he could take on the world as long as he had a dagger in his hand?! What happened to my friend who strode into the wilderness with nothing more than a knife and the leather on his back, to come back a troll-crushing, bone-crunching, tree-bothering hero?! What happened to him?!”

“He nearly got his face bitten off by dragons!” Stammered Eden, rather frightened by Grim’s hysterical rant.

“Nearly! Tell me, does nearly kill you?! Have you ever gone to the local sawbones and said ‘Gee, doc! I think I’m coming down with a case of nearly’! I’ll tell you what nearly means! It means your enemies failed, which means that you won! And you’ll win again!”

Eden leapt to his feet. Grim’s pep talk was working, even if it was for the wrong reason, “Don’t you get it, Grim? Those dragons were underlings, henchmen! Henchdragons! If they stopped me, what chance would I have against Rantha?!”

Grim’s eyes lit up – she was about to play her trump card, “Eden, think. What would Beturin think if she saw you now?”

Eden froze, “… Beturin?”

“You know what she’s doing now? She’s hanging around anorithil-land or wherever they live, thinking ‘why hasn’t he called me?’ ‘why hasn’t he called me?’

“Because phones haven’t been inven--”

WHY HASN’T HE CALLED ME?

“…”

“Tell me. Did she give her heart to some two-bit, cowardly thief who wails and flees whenever he faces adversity?”

Eden’s eyes blazed, “No way! She gave it to a two-fisted, dual-strikin’, flurry-stormin’, void-spawned demon! Rantha’s going down!” He stood dramatically for a moment, before suddenly realising, “How did you know about Beturin anyway?”

Grim sniggered, “I saw that picture you drew.” Eden cringed, cheeks turning red.

“However,” Eden added, “This doesn’t change the fact that I almost got my ticket to the Halls of Waiting from those dragons. Any ideas on getting past them?”

“Don’t worry,” Grim tapped her nose, “I’ll train you.”

WILDERNESS

Grim and Eden stood at the mouth of the maze, which Eden had previously believed to be the entrance to Angolwen. “I see fighters and stuff go into this place all the time when they need training,” Grim said, “They always come out lookin’ much stronger. They usually have shiny new equipment, too!” She turned to Eden, who now wore a heavy suit of steel plate armour thanks to his previous massive armour training, “How do you feel?”

Eden shifted uneasily, his armour squeaking, “I don’t like this armour. The metal plates keep grinding together. I don’t like grinding.”

“Ahh, stop complaining.”

“You know why it grinds, don’t you? It was cheaply-made. It’s cheap. I don’t like cheap grinding.

“Oh, hurry up and get in there!”

“Cheap suits of armour are usually made in bulk by unscrupulous armourers, the scum. In fact, I hear in Dale the practice has been nicknamed scumming. I don’t like CHEAP GRINDING, SCUMMING…”

“GET IN THERE!” And with a swift kick, Eden began his “training session”.

MAZE 1

“This was where I had that dream with Arenji. Ha! See this, Arenji? See how I’m breathing? See how my heart’s beating? These symptoms are common to those with the condition, being alive.”

MAZE 2

Picking up a scroll of phase door, Eden suddenly felt rather more safe. His thoughts turned to the adventurers he saw travelling to the sandworm lair. “I wonder if they managed to kill that sandworm queen. If they did, it’d certainly be a big boost to NPC rights.”

MAZE 3

“I have a theory. Fighters come out of here looking tougher because their skin has gone all leathery from all the acid that’s poured on them!

MAZE 4

Clank, clank, clank…

“If I get an itch in the middle of a fight with this on, I’m scuppered.”

MAZE 5

 Level 20!
 +3 Strength
 +2 Dirty Fighting
 +1 Combat Techniques (The one with precise strikes, rush, etc.)

Hold on, Eden thought. It appeared that his previously gained category point had vanished! “Geez, I probably accidentally committed some useless skill to memory somewhere and have forgotten about it. Probably something like macramé or whittling, knowing my luck.”

MAZE 6

“Damned labyrinth. I bet this thing would be child’s play to get through if I could see it from above.”

Eden found himself thinking: If the only reason I’m here is to gain experience, that means I’m killing all these creatures and people just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It feels… it feels… fun. Reavers have been unlocked.

MAZE 7

 Level 21!
 +3 Dexterity
 +1 Health
 +1 Lethality

Eden certainly felt a little more experienced since his entry into the maze, but in truth experience wasn’t his primary concern. It was supplies. He was now truly feeling the effects of his banning from Bree’s stores – the only healing potions he possessed were a few meagre vials that he had scrounged during his recent trip.

Still, the journey had been far from useless. In particular, he had found three interesting rings. The first two afforded Eden protection from fire and cold respectively; he could have asked for no better assistance against the breath of the dragons. The third ring was something special indeed: It glowed with a multitude of colours as the primal forces of nature warred within it. It almost seemed to shake with fury… Elemental Fury.

“Meh.” Thought Eden.

WILDERNESS

Eden emerged from the maze once again, exhausted and sporting his first set of armour dents. Attempting to keep the cheerful sign pointing to Angolwen out of his eye line, he looked for Grim. “Grim? Where are you?”

Eden found a note nailed to the back of the Angolwen sign. “Got bored waiting. Gone home for lunch. Kiss kiss, Grim.” Eden grumbled.


As Eden made his way back to Bree he spied a distant mountaintop - Carn Dûm. He shivered. Even with his newfound experience he still felt a primitive fear as he thought of scaling the mountain once again. Maybe his near-death experience would stop him adventuring effectively for the rest of his life?

Eden was shaken from his reverie as a figure approached him. “Massacre! Massacre!”

The man that fell at Eden’s feet was visibly shaking, attempting to form words through his constant panicked gibbering, “Help! H-H-Help! Massacre!”

“Righty-dokey. Where do you need a massacre? Please say Bree.”

“No!” The man shakily got to his feet. From the look of him Eden guessed he was a lumberjack, “You’ve got to help me! You’re an adventurer, aren’t you?!”

“Well, I’m not sure anymore --”

“AREN’T YOU?!”

“… Yes, I am. Where’s this trouble?”

SMALL LUMBERJACK VILLAGE

Eden heard a man’s screams further ahead. "Why didn’t he scream like that?" He thought. His screams always made him sound like a little girl who had seen a spider. He hadn’t been able to get out of the panicking lumberjack what the threat to his village was. It could've been anything: Trolls, undead, maybe even orcs. If it was a dragon… would he be able to face it?

It turned out to be none of these things. A mass murderer, a frenzied, blood-soaked butcher stalked the paths of the village. Eden watched as his victims seemed to freeze, their eyes filled with horror, as the insane lumberjack approached them, only to fell them like miniature trees. Eden watched the spectacle momentarily, only coming to his senses as the murderer’s eyes fell on him.

“Tell me, boy…” He growled through a mouth of gore and broken teeth, “Are you afraid of dying…?” His knuckles were turning white from how tightly he held his axe.

The impact of the murderer’s statement stunned Eden; it was almost as if he knew about his experience on Carn Dûm and was now using it against him to deadly effect. Eden could only watch as the murderer stalked towards him, and gloom descended…

A shrill scream rang out from behind a nearby house, diverting the murderer’s attention and causing Eden to shake off the gloom. A woman and her young child had attempted to use the distraction Eden offered to escape, but now the murderer bore down on them, knocking the woman to the floor with the butt of his axe.

“Ben…! My husband…! Please!”

Ben Cruthdar lifted his axe, snarling, “Let’s see how much blood’s in you--”

Aaand that’s just about enough of that.”

Ben looked down – a pair of daggers was sticking through his stomach. Eden kicked Ben’s body off his knives, leaving him in a pool of blood beside the petrified mother and child. Before he died, Ben stared up at Eden. Expecting to see nothing but hate and madness in his eyes, Eden was surprised to see they had taken on a strange new shine. “Thank you…” He whispered.

“… You’re welcome?”


“People actually happy I exist,” Thought Eden as the group of lumberjacks before him offered him a small sack of coins, “I could get used to this.” Speaking out loud, he asked one of the lumberjacks, “I don’t suppose you have any shops I can use here?”

“Sorry, my friend. This is just a simple lumberjack village, after all.”

“Figures…”

“Still, you’re welcome to stay as long as you please. We’ll make sure you’re well looked after; you’re our hero, after all.”

“Sorry, but I’ll have to decline your offer. I’ve got a dragon to slay.”


Grim sniggered, "I saw that picture you drew."

http://img138.imageshack.us/img138/7094/edenandbet.png

Eden the Rogue, Chapter Eight: Is This The End Of Eden?!

ANGOLWEN

"Ahh, now this is more like it!"

The secret city of Angolwen spread before Eden. The plaza he stood before was filled with mages walking to and fro; talking about new spellcasting techniques, comparing spectacles, enjoying chilled glasses of restore mana at one of the many roadside potion stands. Eden grinned – these spellweavers were so easy to steal from! They always had prime equipment, and it was child’s play to pickpocket from somebody who carried all their things using feather wind…

"May I help you?"

Eden halted as a guard clanked towards him. He noticed that on the tip of his spear there wasn’t a spearhead, but a wand. He guessed that it wasn’t of sense. "What are you doing here, rogue?" The guard asked sternly.

"Me? Didn’t you get the message from that novice mage? I’m to be welcomed here! I’m Eden!"

"Novice mage?" The guard thought to himself. With sudden realisation, he slapped his face with frustration, "This again…"

"Excuse me?"

"Some thieves who know the location of Angolwen disguise themselves as mages. They trick saps into giving them all their magical equipment, promising that they can grant them access here. Didn’t you ever ask yourself why an apprentice would have such authority?" Eden had asked himself, but it didn’t make him feel any less stupid now.

"Oh, by Ulmo’s anklet," Eden grumbled, "What do I do now?"

"You turn around, and go home."

"What?!" Eden exclaimed, "But I have no home!" This was a lie – Eden did have a home, but he didn’t plan on returning to it, what with it being in the middle of that town that hates his guts. Grim had asked if she could use it to store bodies for her necromantic experiments. Eden agreed; on the off-chance that Grim was a necromancer, the smell would drive the townspeople crazy.

The guard, seeing that Eden would not leave quietly, gave a huge sigh. “Fine, I suppose I can tell you about the standard test mages give so others can access Angolwen. I’m going to warn you though, they give out this test simply so that the people taking it get killed and stop bothering them. If you succeed however, they’ll be legally bound to allow you access. Are you interested?”

WILDERNESS

“Either the heart of the Sandworm Queen… or the head of Rantha… hmm…”

Worms or dragons? Massive, fire-breathing reptilian monsters from his darkest nightmares, or worms? It almost didn’t seem like a choice at all!

It felt more like a choice, however, as Eden approached the sandworm lair. By chance, Eden found himself walking alongside a group of fellow adventurers also interested in gaining access to Angolwen.

“Awful lot of scrolls you’ve got there…” Eden commented, noticing the reams of parchment that bulged out of the adventurers’ satchels, “Thinking of starting a library for the sandworms?”

“What, are you simple?” Snapped an elven archer at Eden, “These are magic mapping scrolls! Phase door scrolls! You’d have to be insane to enter the lair of the sandworms without these. If anything, I think we’re underequipped…”

“Really?” Eden looked at the paltry selection of moth-eaten scrolls in his pack.

“Aye. Your biggest enemy down that hole isn’t the sandworms…” A gruff-looking dwarf (is there any other type?) stooped to pick up a handful of sand, “It’s this.”

“Sand? I don’t understand what you’re – Pfagh! Plegh!” The dwarf had dashed the sand he held at Eden’s eyes.

“That, times a million.” The dwarf laughed, “Aye, the only good thing about going into the sandworm lair underequipped is that your corpse is already buried for you! How’s that for convenience, lad? … Lad?”

Eden was already a distance from the group, shouting over his shoulder, “I’m just going to go and get a thick jacket! I think I’ll need it where I’m going…”

CARN DÛM 1

Eden shivered. The lands surrounding Bree could hardly be called balmy, but they weren’t nearly as cold as Carn Dûm. Eden almost found himself wishing for intense combat, believing it would warm him up somewhat. Unfortunately, his primary opponents on the mountains were cold drake hatchlings and snow giants. Each battle was becoming a trial; the wounds he received from his enemies were quite trivial compared to the bitter cold he experienced each time he faced them.

CARN DÛM 2

“I swear, if those mages have sent me on a wild goose chase like those slimeballs in Bree did, I’ll… I’ll…” What would he do? They were mages. “I’ll… stamp my feet, have a temper tantrum and storm off…?”

Eden was rather shocked – literally – to find that some of the snow giants possessed the power of lightning, hurling great bolts of electricity at him in battle. He guessed they must’ve eaten a few tempest mages.

  Level 17!
 +2 Strength
 +1 Dexterity
 +1 Weapon Combat
 +1 Lethality

CARN DÛM 3

Regardless of his recent victories over the snow giants, Eden found himself feeling worn and downtrodden. While he couldn’t fault the speed boost his eponymous boots gave him, he could fault them when it came to keeping frost and slush out from his socks.

It was the chill that got him. It was a very strange experience while fighting, dreading your own blows rather than the enemies’ – each strike at the cold dragons and snow giants brought on a bout of frostbite. To someone like Eden, who employs rather a “death by a thousand cuts” fighting strategy, this wasn’t a good thing. Eden’s mind drifted, filling with images of roaring fires, his warm bed back in Bree, mittens…

It was because of this that he almost missed the remarkable clouds of steam that were emanating from around the corner of the mountain pass he trod on. “Steam…” Gasped Eden quietly, “A hot spring! I found a hot spring! Bliss! Haha, looks like my luck's turning around; the other Valar must have heard about Arenji messing around with my dreams and had him clapped in tilkal!”

Unfortunately for Eden, in truth Arenji was at his diabolic best.

“Hot spring…” Eden chirped happily, “Hot spring… maybe there’s a bath house too! And a high school! And a -- FIRE DRAKE!”

The steam he had saw was the snow hissing and melting beneath the mammoth reptile’s bulk as it waddled around being generally unfriendly and avaricious, as dragons are wont to be. On spying Eden, the dragon gave a colossal roar. Not a roar of anger, as Eden thought, but a roar of joy, for it could now indulge in its favourite hobby – burning things!

“YOW!” Eden wildly weaved out of the way of a huge gout of flame, “I… I don’t know if that felt bad or good!” He stammered. It was delightfully warm…

The second burst of flame, which did hit Eden, he was less ambivalent about. Ducking around a corner, Eden heard as the dragon roared again. This roar was a roar of summoning; it was calling its brood. Unfortunately, this would be the fire drake’s undoing: Just as fighting cold drake hatchlings chilled Eden’s knives, fighting fire drake hatchlings heated them. By the time he faced the fire drake, his knives were hot enough to cut through the dragon’s thick scales like a battleaxe through an elf neck.

With one final death cry, the fire drake collapsed with a great thud, gold spilling out from beneath its body, the snow around it melting to water. Eden happily collected the gold – happily and carefully, it was still rather hot – wondering why dragons were greedy as he did. He’d never seen one in a shop before. Then again, he wasn't going in any shops soon either. "Me, you, magpies... we're of a kind, dragon."

CARN DÛM 4

Did extreme cold give people hallucinations? Eden hadn’t heard about anything like that, but it would be the only reason he was seeing what he was seeing: An alchemist sat on a small boulder, smoking a pipe ruminatively. While his clothes were as worn and weathered as Eden’s were from the climate and wildlife, he appeared rather unruffled. “Hello…?” Eden addressed his hallucination, “What’s your name?”

The alchemist looked up at Eden, taking the time to extinguish his pipe, empty it and place it into his shirt pocket before replying placidly, “Gunadek, my friend. But don’t concern yourself with the name of a corpse, my boy.”

“A corpse…?” Eden pulled a face in confusion, “You’re looking pretty good on it. I suppose it’s the cold, it preserves bodies well, I hear…”

“Few percent short of immunity, aren’t you?” Gunadek sighed, “There’s a beast out there, a cold drake, and it has me cornered. This long path affords no protection from its frost, and I find myself unable to travel back the way I came to boot. Fortunately, I appear to have lost it momentarily, but I fear it will find me again soon…”

“Why? What attracts a cold drake?”

“The sound of some young turk bellowing about what attracts cold drakes, for one!”

Gunadek and Eden looked up the mountain path, one languidly and the other in sheer horror, as the cold drake appeared. It was markedly different to the fire drake Eden had fought previously, terrifying in an entirely different sense: The gore of its previous meals was frozen around its snapping jaws, the frost it exhaled was so dense as to form shards of ice and hail which fell to the ground and shattered. And of course, just its presence drove Eden’s body temperature down past ‘absolute zero’ to ‘no, for real, absolute zero’.

“So, you’re an alchemist, eh?” Eden shivered, “Erm… is your golem around, perchance?”

“Eaten,” Gunadek simply replied.

“Ah… got any gems? Throw a couple of technicolour bombs its way!”

Gunadek gave a hollow chuckle, “The only gem I have left is the one on my wedding band, and I’m not sure what good that would be in a bomb… a little hate-based damage, maybe…”

The cold drake roared, expelling a massive plume of frost at the pair.

Gaaakakakak!” Eden’s body temperature dropped past ‘no, for real, absolute zero’ to ‘haahagaaagaa cold heheeha cold cold’ as the frost engulfed him. Eden's mind was so mangled and half-frozen by the assault he found himself thinking in ways he never would have thought if he was lucid:

“Cold, cold, cold. Make cold go away. Drake long way away. Can’t get to it in time. What to do? Disengage? No, disengage means to run away from, I want to run away to. What to do? Gunadek? Wounded, useless. Useless? No. Frightening. Pretend he’s frightening! Run from him! Disengage!”

In an instant, Eden found himself stood before the drake, having just ran screaming from the confused alchemist. In a way, Eden was glad as he revealed his daggers: He didn’t need his mind for what he was about to do now. The drake roared, lifting one of its own hatchlings to shield itself, but it was useless.

“FLURRYFLURRYFLURRY… aah… achoo! FLURRYFLURRY”


“Did you see how that thing used one of its babies as a human shield? Ah… draconic shield?” Eden muttered as trudged back to Gunadek, “Despicable. Can I borrow your pipe?”

“I suppose,” Murmured Gunadek as he slowly held it out, “I have no more pipeweed, however…”

“Doesn’t matter, it just needs to be warm,” Eden held the pipe to his forehead, and sighed with relief, “Aah, that’s better.”


“Here we are…” Gunadek’s eyes fell upon his recall portal, half-covered by snow, “I must admit, that was quite a feat you accomplished, and I thank you. … Any reason why you let yourself get hit by that snow giant thunderer on the way here?”

Eden shrugged, shaking off his electrocution and attempting to smooth out his frazzled hair, “It keeps you warm.”

“Super. Still!” Gunadek nimbly span his staff as he walked towards his recall portal, “Shall I reimburse you for your troubles? I could teach you how to petrify with a touch, to imbue your equipment with the power gemstones possess, even to channel raw magical energy through --”

“Wow! How did you do that?”

“This?” Gunadek twirled his staff again, “Just a trick I picked up during my studies.”

“Teach me that! Teach me that!”

“Are you sure…?” Gunadek asked uncertainly, “It’s only got to be worth, like, one point of dexterity…”

“Teach me!”

“… Very well…”

 Level 18!
 +2 Dexterity
 +1 Cunning
 +1 Knife Mastery
 +1 Lethality


“An escort quest and a level! Quite an adventure this area of Carn Dûm was. Still, I suppose nothing else interesting could hap--”

“KILL!”

The pack of bandits leapt upon Eden without warning, but then Eden spun his daggers around without warning as well. Seeing three of their number immediately fall, the remaining brigands fled, leaving Eden to look over those he defeated. He recognised one of them: Melna.

“Ha… haha…” She croaked, still attempting to heave herself up to stab Eden regardless of the mortal wound she had received, “Gonna get ya, Eden… gonna… why am I so cold?”

“Honestly,” Tutted Eden, looking down at his deranged assailant, “When you’re a psychopath, stabbing things like a maniac is the only thing you can do well! How hopeless must you be to be out-stabbed by a lucid fellow like me?”

“Cut ya… kill ya…”

“Charming. Ooh, hello…” Stooping down, Eden tugged the heavy gloves from Melna’s twitching hands. One identify spell later, and he said, “I should’ve known! How could a madwoman like you hold onto anything without the Gloves of the Firm Hand?”

“Mel… Melna’s Guile.” Melna coughed, then she died. For this last statement, Eden decided to give Melna a proper burial. “She’s stabbing Maiar now,” He said solemnly to the cairn he constructed, then walked into the snow.


Still, it appeared his old gang was still operating, regardless of their leader’s death, and they were now outfitting his assassin’s with artefacts? Maybe they were getting outside help…

CARN DÛM 5

“♪ Twirly-twirly-twirl… ♫ Getting these Gloves of the Firm… M-Melna’s Guile just after learning this staff-twirling trick was really quite fortuitous!”

CARN DÛM 6

“Ho! Friend, some assistance!”

Eden groaned. Do all warriors begin their conversations with that? Sure enough, on turning he spied a man in plate armour approaching him. While most of the adventurers he met were injured or troubled in some way, this man had been put through the ringer quite extensively indeed. His shield was little more than a dented piece of tin, and the blade of his axe had been broken clean off, leaving a rough haft in his hand.

“Hathyrath, my friend,” The warrior shook Eden’s hand firmly, “I require your assistance --”

“Another recall portal job?” Sighed Eden, “Where are you all getting these portals anyway?”

“Recall? Ha!” Hathyrath laughed, “It is true that I shall be using a recall portal to leave eventually, but first I have enemies to slay! I was just going to ask if you would assist me, rogue.”

Eden was surprised, but not necessarily annoyed, “Okay… I guess the exercise will keep me warm. What enemies are you planning on slaying, anyway?”

“Those ones!” Hathyrath pointed over Eden’s shoulder. Eden turned, and his jaw hit the ground with a resounding thump.

Four cold drakes. Three snow giant chieftains. Both dragon and giant had brought hordes of underlings. The forces arrayed before Eden would have been enough to siege Minas Tirith, let alone turn a lost warrior and his rogue escort to goo.

“Ah, if only my brother was here!” Hissed Hathyrath.

“Brother?” Eden knew the answer to his question before it even escaped his lips, “Was your brother’s name… Grinymnir?”

“Why, yes! You’ve met him? Ah, he is a peerless warrior – without equal! Would that I had the skill and raw might that he possessed! How did you come to meet him? I assume he is still travelling the wilds on his adventures?”

Eden didn’t know what expression he was wearing as Hathyrath was simultaneously frozen, crushed and torn asunder by the horde. He could only hope it wasn’t silly. But now, he had to turn to the matter of his survival, which was very much up in the air. The horde remained, and was continuing to swell as the drakes screamed for their broods.

 Level 19!
 +1 Dexterity
 +2 Constitution
 +1 Massive Armour Training
 +1 Dirty Fighting

No more fooling around, thought Eden. If I’m going to be fighting stuff like this I’m taking no chances: Wear enough armour to survive an apocalypse and cheat, cheat, cheat.

He hurriedly unfurled a scroll of phase door and read it. It deposited him two feet to the right. Cursing angrily, he read a second. This one deposited him into a snow giant warcamp. The third, a dragon’s nest. The fourth, another dragon’s nest…


The last of Eden’s healing potions fell the to the ground, empty. His scrolls of phase door and teleport were consumed. He had found a momentary respite, a tiny alcove hidden from the baying hordes that waited for him. Arenji’s frenzied laughter rang in his ears. Eventually, he would have to make a run for it…

Chapter 30: Victory

Haldor appears in a large room with four portals in the corners. The two istaris stand before him, shining like the sun.

"Welcome, Haldor. I hope you found the High Peak entertaining..."

"Eldorin, why are you doing this? You were supposed to help people!"

"Yes... I was used to be called Eldorin in my youth, but my name is Alatar now. Eldorin died ages ago when mankind decided to forsake their beliefs in Numenor. And despite what you are thinking, all we want is to help people. We have come to the self-evident conclusion that people are just unfit to govern themselves. Since the fall of Sauron there is no threat to unite them and they have become lazy."

"So you have decided to become the threat yourselves?"

"Us? Ah no, we are merely instruments for the Master. We have planned for His return."

"The Master? And who would that be?"

"Isn't it obvious? The greatest of the Valar, the black foe of the world. Melkor the great, whom you may know as Morgoth! The staff will allow us to drain enough energy from this world to open the portal to the Void and summon him through! We will bring forth the Last Battle, Dagor Dagorath, as it was prophetized to happen when the world was made.
You cannot stop us now!"

"I will stop you... I will not let Morgoth come back!

The air whirls around Haldor and suddenly High Sun Paladin Aeryn appears.

"Then you shall not fight alone! Together we shall stop them, or die trying!"

"I am glad to have you by my side, my Lady. Let's save the world!"

Haldor quickly examines the situation. The four portals are doors to four different dimensions: Destruction, Dragons, Undeath and Elements. These portals will perpetually summon beings through them if they are not closed at once. To close these portals, he will have to neutralize the two istaris first. Haldor casts Time Prison on Alatar and Stone Wall on Pallando, then promptly teleports to each portal. First, he tries to use the four Orbs of Command on the portals... no effect. Then he tries the Orb of Many Ways, hoping that he won't be sucked in the portals instead... but no, activating the Orb of Many Ways disables each portal one by one.

With the help of Aeryn, Haldor now tries to eliminate the blue wizards. With Alatar removed from time, they aim at Pallando first. Disperse Magic to remove his protections, then bolt spells while Aeryn is using the power of the Sun to weaken him further. After an epic fight, Pallando goes down... Haldor has just the time to pick up a shining pearl, the Pearl of Life and Death, and Alatar is freed from his Time Prison spell...

"I see you managed to vanquish Pallando..." says Alatar. "You have become extremely powerful, Haldor. But it still won't be enough against my power! I know what you have become, and I will be mercyful. Let me end your undead life. The halls of Mandos are waiting for you..."

Mandos can wait... Haldor remembers the time when mankind was living in constant terror of Morgoth, Lord of Darkness. This time will never come again! Haldor aims his Disperse Magic spell at Alatar... and the wizard finds himself moving and casting more slowly! Aeryn rushes out, and instantly attacks Alatar.

The magical duel has attained high levels of skillfulness. Round after round, devastating spells are cast. Many times, Haldor needs to make a pause to regenerate life and mana energies. Aeryn uses her melee skills, magical skills and healing skills very effectively. And soon, they seem to have the advantage over the blue wizard... Finally, after a final mana bolt, Alatar falls on his knees. And the once powerful Maia seems to regain a spark of goodness again...

"Forgive me, Haldor. You and your friend proved me that I was wrong. Now I can go back to Valinor in peace... I know that you dislike your current condition. Take my last sparkle of life essence as a gift..."

And with these words, the Maia Haldor once knew as Eldorin dies. A glowing halo rises from his body and quickly surrounds Haldor with bright light. When the halo clears, the two istaris lay dead on the floor. Suddenly, their bodies vanish in some immaterial mist.

"Aeryn, are you well?" asks Haldor.

"I cannot believe we succeeded. I was prepared to die and yet I live. I might have underestimated you. You did more than we could have hoped for!"

"We both did, my Lady."

Aeryn suddenly looks at Haldor more closely.

"Haldor, what happened to you? Your face... It looks brighter and more colorful!"

Haldor doesn't understand at first... then he looks at his reflection in a polished surface. Aeryn's right! Something has definitely changed... Haldor looks under his Cloak of Deception, and can't believe what he sees... Instead of a pile of bones, he sees flesh and blood! He touches his chest... and feels a heart beating again!

"It's nothing..." responds Haldor. "It's just... the feeling of a mission accomplished."

But maybe it's a little more than that... Haldor grabs Aeryn's hand.

"Come. A portal to the Gates of Morning has opened in the other side of the room. Let's go home..."

Chapter 29: The High Peak

As soon as Haldor enters the High Peak, he knows that something is wrong. The entrance should be visible... but there is no trace of an entrance anymore. Haldor is trapped inside the High Peak, with no turning back!

The High Peak looks like any other dungeon... with its monsters, and its vaults. In one of them, Haldor finds a strange wooden staff covered with an icy glow, showing the craftmanship of the elves. An icy elven-wood staff of wizardry. The Staff of Saruman he is using is nice... but this staff is nicer.

Haldor looks more closely at the creatures in the tunnels. The orcs he meets don't have the usual weapons and armor of the Orc Pride. Probably deserters or mercenaries... The demons must have been summoned from the infernal planes by powerful mages. The undead cratures must have been raised from the dead by powerful necromancers. The dragons must have inhabited these tunnels long before any other monsters were brought here...

Seven times Haldor takes a portal to the next floor, seven times the entrance behind him disappears. On the eighth floor, he is welcomed by many powerful undead. Many dreads, banshees and dreadmasters come through the walls and surround him. More than once he is close to be annihilated by the hexes... not counting the many times the uncorporeal undead manage to silence him and disperse his magical protections, rending him totally powerless. After a long fight, Haldor destroys the last of the undead... and sense that his own power has come to a cap.

There's another vault on the level... Haldor hesitates. He doesn't need to raise his experience level anymore, and he doesn't think of any item that could help him more than his current equipment. But something tells him to clear the vault. Inside, he finds a well-crafted staff made of dragon bones... a dragonbone staff of wizardry! He also finds a suit of gleaming plate mail, the Plate Armor of the Returned King.

Now it has been ten floors since Haldor entered the High Peak. And still no trace of the Blue Wizards... But on the fifteenth floor, he finds a strange portal. The portal seems to be connected to the Sanctum, the den of the Blue Wizards. Now there's definitely no turning back. Haldor steps on the portal and activates it...

Chapter 28: Final Preparations

Haldor enters the swilrling portal and in the blink of an eye is transported back in sight of the Gates of Morning. Before going to the slime tunnels, he needs to pay a visit to Limmir in the Valley of the Moon. He has found many rings and gems in his travels, and now is the best time to put them in good use.

On his way, Haldor finds a massive, stained girdle. The Mighty Girdle of Bombur. Limmir is still standing in the middle of the lake in the Valley of the Moon.

"Limmir... I found this mithril ring, a diamond and a pearl. Can you make a magical ring out of them?"

"Of course... look..."

The Master Jeweler creates Limmir's Ring of the Moon. A powerful artifact ring with resistances to all elements and boosts to innate capacities.

"Thank you. Now I'm prepared for the final journey..."

Haldor leaves the Valley of the Moon and heads to Grushnak's Pride bastion. Now the remaining orcs in the bastion don't pose any threat... most of them flea as he approaches, the others die quickly. On the bottom floor, he finds the entrance to the slime tunnels. Using his glowing key, he opens the magical door...

Lots of jellies welcome him in the tunnels. Not far from the entrance, Haldor finds an orb pedestal carved with the elements. He uses the Elemental Orb of Command on the pedestal, leading to a distant 'clonk' sound. Deeper in the tunnel, he finds three more pedestals. He uses the three remaining orbs on the pedestals, the Dragon Orb, the Orb of Destruction and the Orb of Undeath. Suddenly, there is a loud crack in the distance. The shield covering the High Peak has been deactivated!

Haldor makes his way through the slime tunnels. The jellies slow him down greatly, and he has to use all his cunningness to avoid them multiplying out of control. Finally, he reaches the exit of the slime tunnels... and enters the High Peak.

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