Into the Realm of Nightmare: My Journey to Necropolis
 

Erik Valstrom

UP: Catkills

    Listening to brave warriors' tales tends to make old, retired, warriors like me feel as if they no longer bear any kinship to them at all. Such were the feelings which led me to follow up on one that I had heard... that the Orb of Soul Seeking lay within the confines of Necropolis, the City of the Dead.

The Necropolis certainly isnít hard to find. A short walk south of Yew's town centre on the Felucca facet, one will inevitably happen upon a clearing. Two imposing edifices will come into view, a Keep and a Tower. There they stand, side by side, like twin, grey, gauntlets thrusting upward from the tormented ground - fists of some perverse deity which haughtily gesture absolute defiance at everything around them and above them. Several smaller buildings fill the rest of the clearing, all equally dark and austere, if not as large and forbidding. Grasping the shaft of my trusty halberd tightly in both hands, I walked into Necropolis alone, having left Andar, my steed, safely stabled, lest in my own madness to prove my courage I lead that noble animal needlessly to its death along with my own.

One of those they call "unborns" greeted me respectfully enough. Dressed in a blood-red robe and with the stench of death about its body, the creature ushered me into the Keep. I now realize it was a mistake to have gone inside - I will now have to live with an image of unspeakable horror eternally etched in my memory for the rest of my life. Even within the cramped space of the foyer, hundreds of human bones lay piled about. Blood-stains, some quite fresh, spattered the walls, floor, and even the ceiling. To keep from slipping and falling I had to step lightly about, avoiding congealed pools of blood at my feet. The only thing that prevented me from being violently ill was the immediate consumption of three cloves of garlic whose odor and taste overpowered all but the vilest of the putrefaction, or at least made it tolerable. The only thing the lighting did was make it more evident, step by step, that this was not a place I, nor any mortal, should enter.

I entered a large chamber and awaited the appearance of Zombi Rothgar, one of their respected leaders, an "Ancient" as I was told. I noted his skeletal features, wholly devoid of flesh, at least from what I could see, and recoiled a bit as he introduced himself to me. He (or should I say it?) seemed hospitable enough, speaking to me in a rasping voice, questioning me about my identity and the nature of my visit as they do all "guests" to their City. I told him who I was and that I came to learn the reason for the Orb's appearance and stay in Necropolis. There were other undead present and each willingly supplied information in turn. However I am sure they told me only what they wanted me to know. From the interview I gathered that the Orb actually chose Necropolis as a place of protection from Armande and Scaramandine, the faction leaders of the Necromari who seek to control the Orb. The deity of the Undead, the Guardian as they call it, had counseled them to protect it and this they were now doing. They had even "fed" it souls until it had acquired mobility and could seek them on its own. I asked Rothgar about their dealings with Armande and Scaramandine, and on that subject I found him to be quite reserved. It seems they were having discussions with one of them about issues regarding the Orb but nothing had been settled. I got the distinct impression they were uncertain exactly how to work it to their advantage, but until such a time as they could, they were simply content to allow the Orb to aid them in claiming souls for their deity's good pleasure.

While in conversation with Rothgar a few other visitors appeared, including members of their Shadowclan Orc allies who occupy a fort further south. They made me most uncomfortable as their snorting, slavering, crudity, and general appearance are, if anything, even more disgusting than that of the undead, who do manage to retain a semblance of humanity. While we spoke we had another visitor - this one quite unwelcome - a liche who waltzed in and began attacking Rothgar as if drawn to him by some ancient hatred. I grabbed my halberd and came to the defense of my host. I was pleased to feel it slam powerfully into the body of the liche. Assailed from all sides, it fell quickly. I learned something new and quite pleasant from the encounter - that these undead do not control all of their own kind. We then resumed the conversation briefly, but some urgent matter arose and Rothgar's attention was divided between us. Feeling rather ill by this time and increasingly concerned for my own well-being, I extended my thanks for the interview and departed. I was then approached outside the Keep by one I considered a rogue member of their group - a bloodsucking undead sitting atop an ostard. He indicated that there were those who thought the Orb served only as a detriment to the worship of the Guardian. His testimony conflicted somewhat with Rothgar's tale, but it was easy enough to see why - the "official policy" concerning the Orb was not embraced by them all. Such things are natural among humans, but I was astonished to learn that the undead could also think independently of, if not in rebellion to, the will of their leaders.