The darkness was thick and oppressive. But that was how the Curate liked it. He imagined that if he were able experience the Void, it may feel like this. Although, he was not sure he would feel anything if he were consumed by the Void, rather he would merely cease to exist. And as much as he looked forward to that day, there was work to be done first.
When Curate Redder had been sent to the Grey Towers in search for one of the Six Essences, he knew that he had been given a great honor. The leader had chosen him along with five other Curates to lead the searches for the revered one’s essences. According to the leader, the time was ripe to search, find, and join the essences and bring Lornu-Ava back to the world in her vengeful glory.
The Kingdom of the Isles was in the midst of recovering from their nine year war with the invading Tsurani followed by the nasty business with Murmandamus and his invading army at Sethanon and some believed they had become complacent in their vigilance. Curate Redder could understand if that were so. After all, after a kingdom defeats a great threat to its existence followed by an even greater threat, the last thing expected is a yet another threat immediately following it. The Curate found their leader’s logic to be sound, and was honored to be selected to lead one of the expeditions.
He had arrived weeks ago to the area with some of the lower ranking followers, keeping a low profile while traveling. They had worn the white vestments of Arch-Indar to both mask their true devotion as well as a vicious reminder of Arch-Indar’s betrayal to their beloved Lornu-Ava. He felt dirty when wearing them.
Soon, Great Void, you will be rejoined and you may exact your vengeance on all responsible for your cruel imprisonment.
Once they had arrived, they had snuck into the mines of the Grey Towers dwarves, and spent well over two weeks navigating through the maze of tunnels and caverns. Curate Redder had to give the dwarves credit, for their feats of engineering were quite astounding this deep below the surface. Drawn to the power of Lornu-Ava’s Essence, eventually the group found the ancient temple and had been studying the artifacts and relics found there for a few days.
Redder was surprised when Tain made mental contact with him a few weeks back. In order for that to work, he had to be near, and Tain was supposed to be in the great mountains in northwestern Kesh seeking out another of the Six Essences. Guided by the mental images sent from Redder, Tain and his group had found the temple in much shorter time.
Tain had explained that he had discovered that the Essence itself had been found years ago and collected by another and secreted away in a location in Kesh. Prior to the arrival of the Tain’s expedition, something caused the guardians of the Essence to transport it to another location it was currently being transported via ship to the isle of Stardock, where the magician’s academy resided. Tain had sought out Redder in order to help perform a dangerous ritual to retrieve the Essence on the boat. It was not something a single Curate should attempt; and even if the two of them tried the ritual, it may not work.
Resolved to complete their mission, they undertook the ritual, invoking the power of Lornu-Ava to rip open a hole in the world through which they pulled in the artifact. The residual power of the temple underneath the Grey Towers helped them as did the life essence of twelve of their followers and they succeeded in their task. Redder was sad to see them consumed by the ritual because now he would have to carry some of his on gear himself.
The two Curates now possessed two of the Six Essences of Lornu-Ava and knew that they would be rewarded for their deeds. They expected they had completed their task much quicker than the other four Curates. Even with the guidance of the prophecy, exact locations of the Essences were not known. Time would be needed to find and retrieve the remaining four. Knowing this, Redder had convinced Tain to stay for a short time, investigating the temple, probing its magic and researching through the ancient library.
It was at this point that some of the followers assigned to be guards brought word of dwarven activity in some of the nearby caverns. The two curates were standing at the altar in the main room of the temple, discussing what secrets they had already learned about the structure.
“We cannot risk discovery,” insisted Tain.
“If we do not make our presence known, then we will not be discovered. This place repulses non-believers. The dwarves will be too scared to come near,” said Redder.
“Ahhh… but they’ll be even more unlikely to discover us if they’re dead,” noted Tain.
Redder sighed. “Fine. You are more than welcome to deal with the dwarves as you see fit. I’m going to spend some more time in the temple.”
Tain smirked and turned to leave.
Redder looked up and said, “Wait a minute. I think I may have something that will help.” Tain paused and turned back to Redder. Redder pulled a large book from a stack that was on the altar, and opened it.
“It seems that the original worshipers at this temple in ages past had discovered a unique occurrence in these mines. Occasionally, from deep within some of the mine shafts that the dwarves carved, wraiths would rise and wander the caves and caverns, searching for life to drain and devour.” Redder saw Tain’s eyes widen.
“Don’t worry. We haven’t seen any while we’ve been here, Curate Tain.”
“No, of course not.”
This man did not deserve to be one of the six chosen, thought Redder.
Redder looked back down to the book, and continued, “What some of the priests discovered that these wraiths could be coaxed from their hiding places and when brought forth, infused with the power of the Great Goddess, creating a hybrid of void and wraith.”
Tain looked confused.
Redder waited a few seconds for Tain to catch up. “What I’m suggesting is that we attempt this ritual ourselves and send these Voids against the dwarves.”
“Are you sure that’s a good idea? Are we able to ensure we will have control of these Voids?” asked Tain.
“The ritual indicates that the voids were bound to any true-believer of Lornu-Ava once infused with her power. So, yes. We will control them.”
Redder sighed, “And if that doesn’t work, you are more than welcome to go out and meet the dwarves face to face if you like. Bash them in the face, turn them into beetles – I don’t care. As long as you make sure that none survive.”
After a minute of thinking it through, Tain agreed. He gathered the book and began to leave.
Redder called out, “Take some of the priests with you and go to the room with cages. I believe there was a mine shaft there.”
Without turning around, Tain raised his hand in acknowledgment and went through the double doors out into the antechamber. Redder saw the guards outside and was pleased to see the warding spell was still in effect for the guards out there. He thought that the previous residents of the temple had been quite clever with that setup: guards in a state of suspended animation until activated by a threat. He would like to learn that trick. There were so many wonderful things to learn in this temple.
As Redder turned back to the altar, the draping sleeve of his robe caught the edge of the stack of books, and they tumbled to the floor. Cursing, he bent down to pick them up and stopped short. The first book he had looked at was open to a page with a unique summoning ritual. He picked the book up and placed it on the altar. The ritual was straightforward enough, but the notes are what caught his eye.
Every time we try this we get to the apex of the ritual and we fail. We are using the Essence as our focus and source of power, but I am beginning to expect it isn’t enough. If only we were able to find another of the Six, I believe we could complete this.