October 12, 2019 interlude

This was not a city of dead people. This was a dead city. What is the difference one might ask? A city of dead people is quiet, no people means no one laughing, no one crying, no one doing anything that would tell the universe that someone lived here.

A dead city was different, a dead city was loud with the tortured pain and anguish of thousands of souls unable to escape… Where a city of dead people can feel alive even in the absence of sapient life, the dead city had its very vital core extinguished and it seemed to reach out to anything that entered to draw out that spark to reignite itself. Rhom understood this, just as stories live so to do cities.

They had stopped for the night, their presence concealed behind both magical walls as well as physical ones. Sleep was not finding any of them easily but physical exhaustion was rapidly overcoming the unease they each felt here.

Rhom stepped out of the arcane dome and dug his fingers into the dirt and dust of centuries on the ground. He let the grit slip from his fingers, it fell straight down. There was not even the tiniest of breezes here.

Sitting cross-legged upon the floor, he traced out the symbol of the god of death before him. “Father of Ravens, please…turn your lantern towards this place and free these poor souls. They are in agony and none can see the path to the next realm.” He could feel the pain returning, the constant needle pressure of his father’s talon embedded in his heart. There was something about this place that was so unnatural and wrong that even his demonic sire was disturbed by it through the warlock’s pact bond.

The thought amused the tiefling, what could unnerve a demonic lord of nightmares to such a degree? But then it dawned on him that if his father was disturbed then Rhom himself should be terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought.

And yet he wasn’t afraid. At least not for himself. There was a city above this one that could and would suffer a similar fate should the dragon god be freed. A world that would suffer. His allies, their friends, all their work and sacrifice in vain if they failed.

Theorne… So, perhaps this was what drives him. Not duty, not glory, not adventure… Fear for others. It would explain how the man continued to draw powerful and talented people to him, to lead them to fend off the terrors and machinations of a never ending host of evil that sought to conquer, control or destroy everything. They shared his fear and sought to overcome it together.

The warlock continued his quiet prayers, the runes spreading outward around him as he beseeched death to help these souls. And all at once the world went silent inside and out as two words drifted across his mind. “I cannot.”. Rhom felt his heart stop, where was he if even the very essence of the end of life itself had no power? And what had happened to this place to damn every living thing here to eternal unrest? The runes vanished as Rhom wiped them away with his hand, fearing that his attempts to pray might have attracted attention to their presence. Stepping inside the magic dome again, he found his bedroll and laid down to sleep…