…And the Nameless created the Gods and the Gods created all the races of Norrath to worship them and bring them honor and for many years all was well. But soon the Gods grew jealous and each coveted the worship of all mortals, that each might grow more powerful than the others. And the Gods of the Light and the Gods of the Dark made common cause against each other and mighty were the battles between them and all Norrath trembled.
Then came the Nameless, He who created all things and He who shall end all things, and He sent forth His avatar into the world saying “Keep thou the balance, that no lesser God shall rise all powerful, and that neither Light nor Dark shall reign supreme.” And thus did Roehn Theer the Godslayer come to Norrath and so did the Gods come to fear one who was both less and more than a God and for a short time peace returned to Norrath.
But the Gods wished not for balance and together they caught the Godslayer unawares and threw him into the Void and bound him there, that they might advance their own ends in Norrath without fear of reprisal. And once more did Norrath tremble and all the races of Norrath bowed down before the Gods and the Gods strode without fear among men and we were much afraid…
~ fragment of text attributed to Zebuxoruk, translated by Eylee Zephyrswell
The shadowy figure bowed its head, eyes closed, concentrating deeply. Had an observer been present in the room, they would have heard nothing and seen no more than the figure of a powerful void being floating in the air, apparently deep in meditation. However, in the reverent silence with which a worshipper communes with his god, an internal conversation was occurring.
“What progress can you report? Have you located the artifacts we sensed?”
A frown crossed the void man’s face. “We have confirmed that the artifacts do, indeed, appear to have been created by the mage Najena, as we suspected. Unfortunately, she was alerted by our probing and discovered the presence of the void anchor in Lavastorm much more quickly than we had expected.”
“Has the anchor been damaged?”
“Fortunately, no. Once the mage detected our presence, she interfered somehow with the concealment illusion, stripping it off completely. She then attempted to close the anchor, but we were able to turn back her attempts and it remains open. We are currently working to restore it.”
“No. The element of surprise is clearly lost; we must simply press forward. The mage is attempting to create artifacts that can counter my powers and stopping her must be your first priority; anything else is secondary.”
“Yes, Master. The beach has already been secured and the forces are even now advancing on Najena’s tower. We shall have the artifacts within the week, if all goes well.”
“See that you do, Munzok. Since Anashti revealed our presence prematurely, our only option is a rapid advance before they can find a new way to prevent my return to Norrath. Get those artifacts by any means possible, and do it now. Fail in this and there will be no corner of Norrath or the Void in which you can escape me.”
Moosh panted, his breath coming in gasps as his powerful legs pounded down the stairs to his mistress’s inner stronghold. Behind him, the sounds of approaching battle followed swiftly; more swiftly than even their worst fears could have predicted.
“Mauls! To me!” he barked. As they approached the entryway, the ogre troop fell efficiently into their accustomed formation behind him. Heavily armored and in peak fighting condition, the Mauls were Najena’s most trusted defenders. Moosh felt a fierce pride as he surveyed the troop: veterans of many a battle and like himself, descended from the original ogres who had been Najena’s sole defenders when she left Neriak so many years ago to begin her lone research. Every one among them was fiercely loyal to Moosh and to their mistress, and they would not fail her now.
He nodded, drawing his sword and gesturing towards the sounds of approaching combat. “We make our stand here. They must pass no further. We will prevail.”
The Mauls drew their weapons, settling into an alert guarding stance, ready for the enemy’s approach. Within moments, a bolt of fiery magic splashed against Moosh’s shield, singeing his eyebrows. Around the corner came a wave of elemental constructs and soon the Mauls were fully occupied defending themselves. Balls of fire and blasts of frost flew from side to side and the smell of scorched hair and burned flesh filled the air.
Moosh shattered an ice elemental with his sharp blade and then dodged a blow from an earth golem. Stepping backward to evade the blow, his foot slipped in an unexpected patch of ice and he found himself suddenly on his back, with the golem towering over him. The golem’s massive foot stamped down to crush his skull… and was deflected at the last moment as Drash’s massive spear pinned the golem to the nearby wall as if it were as insubstantial as a butterfly. Moosh scrambled to his feet, nodding thanks to his comrade.
“Where is the mistress?” grunted Drash as he dispatched the earth golem and retrieved his spear. “Why has she not dispelled these pests?” He ducked to avoid a fireball and then charged forward to attack the fireball’s creator before Moosh could reply.
Moosh turned to deflect a sword blow with his shield and pondered this question himself. Najena’s mastery over elements was as close to absolute as any being could achieve after hundreds of years to perfect it. For an enemy to attack her using elemental minions was beyond foolhardy, it was bordering on suicidal. She should have either dispelled or assumed control of these elementals as easily as an ogre might swat a fly, and yet the Mauls were still occupied defending themselves. Could she be injured? She should be safe in the Ward of Elements and the Mauls were guarding the only entrance. Could the enemy somehow be interfering with her ability to see what was passing outside?
Parrying another blow, Moosh focused on the weapon attacking him for the first time, and was surprised to find he recognized the massive sword. Hand-chipped from a single massive block of stone, this sword could as easily be used to bludgeon the enemy to death as to slash flesh. Indeed, he had seen this sword many times before and listened to many ale-fueled tales describing the arduous process of handcrafting a traditional weapon like this one. Moosh looked past the sword to his attacker’s face and a chill grasped his spine as he recognized his long-time acquaintance and comrade, the master of Najena’s jails.
“Ca’iluer!” he shouted. “What are you doing? It’s me! Drop your weapon, old man, before I have to hurt you!” Moosh fell back a few steps, defending himself, but hesitant to press his attack. The old man was full of stories and boasts, but no match for the strength of an ogre in the prime of life.
“We are everywhere, Maul.” The words came from Ca’iluer’s mouth, but were not spoken as he normally would. As the jailor swung the huge stone sword at Moosh once again, a purplish flicker seemed to pass over his body. For a second, it seemed to Moosh that the man became transparent and he could see through Ca’iluer’s body to note that the fighting around them seemed to have died down; then with another flicker the man’s solidity returned and the sword connected with Moosh’s pauldron. Unbalanced by surprise and the sheer weight of the weapon, Moosh stumbled, but found himself steadied by a strong ogre hand grasping his arm as Drash appeared beside him once again.
“Drash, it’s Ca’iluer! Help me hold him…” Moosh’s voice trailed off as the firm grasp on his arm was not relinquished and in fact became tighter. “Let me go!”
A dread foreboding grasped him, and he turned to look into the eyes of his most trusted fighting companion and friend since youth. Drash smiled back and a purplish flicker seemed to pass momentarily across his face.
“So glad you could join us…”