With the Dark Rider defeated, Scratchy took to examining the contents of the dining hall. Despite its current state of disarray, it was clear that the hall had been set for a glorious feast. There was the usual human food, turkey and lamb and boar, of course, but next to it were dishes that humans would never eat: a plucked and broiled tengu trussed into the shape of a turkey; a ratfolk
with its chest cavity spread wide and its innards jellied; and the centerpiece, a decaying centaur with a cherry in each
empty eye socket. Scratchy, however, was not a human and sat down to the most sumptious meal he’d had since the stew the witch Maroux had made. He was halfway through the ratfolk when he heard an anguished “Argh!” from a side room.
The source of the cry, Scratchy soon found out, was Zelcor. He had been exploring a side room near the dining hall when he’d seen a harp attached to the wall. Going to get it, he’d set off an arrow trap which now had him seriously in need of additional healing.
“Here, let the goblin get it,” Scratchy sighed, and moved around the obvious trigger to pull the harp off the wall. When he brought it to where everyone else could see, there was revulsion and disgust all around. The harp had been made from the mummified remains of some sort of faerie creature, its bones arrayed in the shape of the frame and its skin stretched out to form the strings. Its head sat at the top, mouth frozen open in a cry of pain.
“Gee, I wonder if that’s evil,” Zelcor mused.
“More importantly,” Scratchy replied, “don’t go grabbing things out unless I’ve checked them out first.”
Everyone agreed, and they checked out a few more rooms, found a little more treasure, and fought a few more minor enemies. Presently, all that was left was the room that the Dark Rider had emerged from. Much to their surprise, it was empty except for a raised, circular pool in the center filled with a vibrant blue liquid.
“Is it magical?” asked Milacent.
“Oh yes,” said Theodora, who then peered into the depths of the liquid. Her sight blurred, and she heard a voice in her head saying, “Milacent Mindurian … “. It was accompanied by a vision of Milacent being violently decapitated.
“What did you see?”
“Oh, nothing. Let’s move on.”
At the back of this room was one final set of doors. Zelcor stood in front of it, holding the Shard of Lust in his hand. “The next shard is behind this door,” he said, “I can feel it.”
“Alright everybody, get in position,” Scratchy ordered. They all got into their standard positions for opening an unknown door, and Zelcor pushed it open with a spell. Fortunately, no attack came at them when the door opened, but there was one more horrific sight.
The chamber behind the door was a long one, with walls of bare stone. At the far end was a twenty-foot-tall marble pillar that had at its base the kneeling, dessicated corpses of three angelic beings, their wings spread and mouths open in silent screams. From their eye sockets ran articulated metal shafts that curved up to the top of the pillar, where their pointed ends emitted a soft glow. Floating above, seemingly suspended in the radiance, was a triangular piece of metal: The Shard of Gluttony.
“I’m not climbing that,” said Scratchy.
“No need to,” said Theodora, and she reached out her arm to cast a Mage Hand spell. The shard wobbled slightly, then gently floated from the top of the pillar down into Theodora’s outstretched hand.
“See? No problem at all,” she told the others with a grin. Unfortunately, her happiness was cut short by a piercing shriek. The angels at the base of the pillar were crying out in pain, their bodies convulsing and thrashing. They ripped their faces away from the metal fixtures in their eyes, then slumped to the ground before dissolving into mounds of foul-smelling corruption.
As they did so, there was a shudder, a feeling as if a minor earthquake had rippled throughout the whole of the demiplane. The light, never bright to begin with, grew dimmer, and the air grew strangely stale. Finally, a wave of coldness swept over everyone. Milacent felt it, then looked at Scratchy with shock. “Scratchy,” she stammered, “you’re a zombie!”
Scratchy certainly didn’t feel like a zombie, but looking back at Milacent he gave her a reply that she didn’t expect, and certainly didn’t enjoy: “No, you’re a zombie!”
“You’re both zombies!” Theodora informed them, then looked down at her hands and thanked Nethys that the skin on them was still smooth and not undead-looking. Despite that, it was clear that they needed to get out of there.
“Everybody, gather around me!” Theodora yelled, holding up the forked metal rod that they had found in Maligast’s room. Everyone moved toward him as instructed, hastened by the fact that stones seemed to be falling out of the walls around them. Zelcor, as he moved closer, looked through one of the gaps made by a falling stone and suddenly saw something very familiar.
“It’s my riding dog!” he exclaimed, and indeed it was. The little gnomish riding dog that they had left outside the keep was now rushing towards it, ghoul stirges still in pursuit. It was running as fast as it could, zigging and zagging to avoid the diving attacks of the stirges, striving with all its might to reach its departing master. And then Theodora finished her spell, and they were gone. Zelcor was no longer in the Black Forest, but standing on a mountain overlooking a swamp.
“I’m sure it’ll be okay,” Milacent told a crestfallen Zelcor.
“Yes, it totally won’t absorb the energies of that place and then come back to hunt you down as a twisted aberration bent on getting revenge for being abandoned,” added Theodora, “Now let’s figure out where we are.”
After some surveying of the area they figured out that they were in the Fenwall mountains, overlooking the very swamp that they had trudged through to reach the Lady’s Light. It took about two weeks for them to make their way to the river that they had used to travel from Magnimar to Kaer Maga, plenty of time for Theodora to cure them all of the strange disease that made them appear to be undead. When they did reach the river, it just so happened that they were at the primarily gnomish town of Whistledown. Upon arrival, Zelcor separated from the rest of the party, because there was one place in particular that he wanted to go.
“Hello,” he said when he arrived at the local animal dealer, “I’d like to purchase a riding dog.”