The Noodists Advance - Interlude
January 15, in the year 903.
It is very late, on the night of the third day hence, that I staggered out of Alex’s portal following the redemption of the Maggot Queen. I wonder now, whether it was wise of me to choose this path for my trial, as I fear we are all quickly approaching redemption. I had heard so much about the brave and terrible warriors in the east, exploits of such daring against evil that it stirred my heart. The time of the beginning of my trial had past and my elders pressed me that I should choose a path, so I committed to finding this band of redeemers and joining them.
I am beginning this journal as a result of a soulful revelation following our recent battles with the evil threatening to overtake the land. It is clear to me that many of us, if not all, will receive eventual redemption at the hands of Hell’s minions, and go to live with our ancestors in the fulfilling light of eternity. These great warriors, who have accepted me as friend, and who have fought at my side in the defense of the light, must be remembered for more than their great victories. They are, all of them, simply people. Each with powers and abilities beyond those of ‘normal’ men and women, but each sharing the same fears, loves, desires, hopes and dreams of those ‘normal’ folk they fight for and must ultimately leave behind. The ‘normal’ folk should never be allowed to forget who they were. Therefore, I have started this journal to chronicle, for history’s sake, the people who selflessly defend mankind from evil.
As I traveled eastward, searching for the group, everywhere I lingered could be heard stories of the eight. I began to hear names in the accounts of the group’s exploits, as I trekked further east and closer to my goal. Alexander, a fierce and terrible warrior-druid, from the forests at the foot of Mount Arreat was the leader. Wystral his companion, a cruel hearted and bitter druid from the same village, with powers to open the earth and swallow any that displeased him or fell from his favor.
There was Half the Destroyer. In many of the stories I heard, Half fed on the children of the village people where the group rested. Afterward, he would crush the skulls of the fathers with his bare hands and then take the mothers to his bed, that should he return to the village sometime in the future, there would be an ample supply of tender flesh to sustain him. I heard tales of Texvix, the beautiful and mysterious black widow sorceress, whose seductions were irresistible to all men, and deadly to all that succumbed. She left dead men behind everywhere the group stopped.
As I was a wandering Paladin apprentice, town’s people warned me of Sin, a mage-killer. She would summarily execute every priest and holy man in any village the group passed through in the name of her “mission”. She would, however, spend up to an hour with each one in a private room prior to the execution. During this time, wild screams of erotic joy could be heard coming from the room. There were stories of the bloodthirsty Sinfully, another mage-killer. These stories of Sinfully chilled the heart. She would set traps around the village designed to terribly wound an unsuspecting villager. Once wounded, the villager would be ‘mercifully’ put to death. Sinfully would supposedly coo, purr and laugh as she took hours to finish off the unfortunates that fell into her traps. The accounts of her tortures were often told in great detail, leading me to believe that they must be true, as they were too terrible to be conceived from the imagination.
Zak the Inquisitor, a fellow Paladin, was renounced in all accounts as a priest whose judgments always meant death to the accused. Zak, recognized evil in all, and held terrible inquisitions of torture, forcing confessions from villagers to fit his whim. The tales I heard would always end with an account of the terrible necromancer, Naked Dead. He was apparently present at all executions and killings in the village and would raise the fallen villager to dance for the party’s pleasure at the lecherous feasts held every night around the village fire.
These were typical of the descriptions I heard as I traveled. At each occasion I would ask, “Why did you permit this – why did you not run away?” The answer was always the same. “What could we do? They are strong – we are weak. Besides, we knew that when they left, the land would be cleansed and we would be again free.”
Of course, I know now that these accounts were all false. During my travels however, I feared, at times to continue my quest. How could I join such a band of monsters as these? The tales of the destruction that these same monsters bestowed upon Hell’s workers kept me going. How could such great warriors for light conduct such evil? The contradiction had to be reconciled. Now I have become a contradiction as well, and shudder at the unknown way I will be described in the late night accounts of countless villagers across the land.
As a boy, I believed such tales of conquest, greatness and evil as if they were spoken from the mouth of the creator himself, and would recount them to any who would listen as such. Now, I realize that most of my childhood dreams of glory and goodness were based on lies. I understand now that it is the frailties of men that guide and influence their judgments.
Today was a glorious day. January in the desert is quite pleasing as the sun was warm but the air cool and refreshing. I woke late and lingered in my room, skipping breakfast at Atma’s. I could hear the voices of several of my fellow ‘Warrior Monsters’ as they went about their business in the town. From my window above Drognan’s store, I could see almost the entire town of Lut Gholein.
“Hullo Lycis!” called Naked Dead as I stuck my head from my window. He and Zak were heading towards the town mall; both were carrying an armful of wildflowers they had just picked outside the gates of town. “I have been bending Zak's attentive ear, burdening him with my troubles, while we picked these wondrous flowers for Atma, and now we are returning them to adorn her tables. Come, join us.” “In a minute, I’ll meet you there” I returned. They walked on, continuing toward Atma’s with a laziness that suggested they were enjoying each other’s company, and didn’t want to leave the warm sunlight. There, across the street, in the town mall, were Alex the Terrible, Wystral the Bitter, and Half the Destroyer, playing Nash with a group of boys.
Nash (translates loosely from the barbarian tongue as ‘crunch’) is a simple, yet rather brutal game enjoyed by most Barbarian and Druid boys. The men were teaching it to the boys of Lut Gholein as I watched. Two teams of ten, twenty ten-inch diameter, sand-filled leather balls per team, two four inch wide boards suspended three feet above the ground, and two fair sized stones, are needed to play the game. Five boys from each team stand shoulder to shoulder, each team on their own board. The boards are parallel and about twenty feet apart. The team members on the boards are called nashers. The five remaining team members from each team, stand around the boards, they are the gatherers. The object of the game is for one team’s nashers, using its leather balls, to knock all the other team’s nashers off their board. Of course, the gatherers retrieve the balls for continuing action. A “Battle” is complete when all the nashers of one team have been felled. A stone is advanced one slot on a ten-slot scoreboard after each battle. The team that wins ten battles – wins the game.
The boys were all standing around laughing while Wystral and Half demonstrated the game. Wystral was standing on one board, while Half stood on the other. Alex was laughing so hard he could hardly stand, as Wystral continually pelted Half with ball after ball, while Half, filled the air with a joyful melody of taunting that, I’m sure, could be heard in Kurast, across the eastern sea. Half was, of course, unaffected by Wystral’s attacks. His song had awakened me this morning.
Near where the men and boys were playing, Sin and Sinfully lounged in the sun around the mall pool. They were talking and laughing together, probably about the men and their antics. It is obvious to me, if no one else, that since we returned from the maggot lair, Sinfully has never strayed very far away from Half. I have never seen them actually together, but she is always nearby. Sin, on the other hand, unless she is with Sinfully, is usually alone, but she does not sulk. While she does not ever take the lead during the playful antics of the party members, she is always quick to respond with a laugh and a warm smile. She is, however, always strangely vigilant. Her eyes are constantly darting back and forth, looking for what, I cannot tell. I’m sure, that she would instantly know if a stone on the street were out of place.
I have spent the last two nights at the hearth of Drognan. He is a wonderfully friendly man and I have learned much about the town and its history from him. I have also learned much about Texvix from him as well. She was not trained by the Zann Esu as is usual for the female mage. Instead, she was apprenticed to Drognan many years ago when she was a young woman of seventeen. He shared with me stories of her apprenticeship and the times she spent with him and his wife, before some internal, deeply rooted, motivation forced her to leave Lut Gholein and begin searching. She is perhaps the oldest member of the party, although Alex and Wystral have probably lived as long. She is uncommonly beautiful, and does not seem modest as she wears the low skirt and halter as is common with members of her clan. She has been very friendly and warm to me these few days, but seems always distant, as if her mind is elsewhere. Her eyes, while glowing, warm and friendly, cannot conceal an inner pain and conflict that she must carry with her. I do not know what this pain is, nor does Drognan, but it is plainly with her always.
There are more than just eight now, but I am tired and have many days to fill this journal. There is Else, Numsay, Naked Fist, and several others, and there is always Meno.