This perspectives post brought to you by the man behind the Van, Chris!
Deep beneath the streets of Gloomwrought, Vanguard felt sick to his stomach. He and his allies had found the birthplace of the enigmatic Keepers, the great, bloated corpse of a primordial, still dripping black blood from wounds suffered at the dawn of time. Each drop transformed into a Keeper, confirming the rumor that the creatures were older than the city itself. Finn had deduced that some corruption introduced into the body of the primordial was the source of the False Keepers. In order to fulfill their end of their bargain with Prince Rolan, they would have to excise this corruption. Though Vanguard was not one to quail in the face of danger, he felt ill at ease as they began their ascent of the ancient creature. He decided that, as far as he was concerned, the sooner they were done with this errand, the better.
When they reached the arena built into the top of the creature, they were beset by both enemies and intense feelings of regret and despair. “We’re close,” shouted Finn. “Yon book is the source of the corruption!” At first, Vanguard steeled himself against the waves of anguish, but they gradually began to wear down his defenses. An image of Rusty, his erstwhile ally, came unbidden to his eyes. Vanguard had failed to repair the rift growing between Rusty and the rest of the party, and now they had abandoned their friend in his hour of greatest need. He saw Sagebrush, as he remembered her in life, and thought bitterly of the cruel parody of that life into which the Bornfist clan had made her. Finally, he saw the flames of Matthallal, as he had so many times before, terrible and familiar in equal measures. His family…his village…his life went up in smoke like so much kindling, and he had done nothing to stop it. He had failed to fulfill his role as a warrior, failed to protect his family, failed to save his sister. And still Bornfist walked free! He had failed even to secure the dubious consolation of revenge! Vanguard fell to his knees, bile rising in his throat and his head swimming. He felt so weak, as if his very life was draining out of him. The room went dark.
Gradually, his senses returned to him, and Vanguard felt Lief’s hands on his shoulders, helping him to his feet. His breath came in ragged gasps, and his allies looked at him with mingled pity and horror. He moved to sheathe his sword, and when his gaze fell upon his hand, his heart leapt to his throat. The hand was disfigured beyond recognition. His fingers were fused together into a fleshy mass, a wad of meat and bone that would never notch an arrow or string a bow. Distraught, he looked to Finn. “An effect of the dark magic at work in this place,” Finn explained. “It may be reversible, but we won’t know until we get back.”
“We’d best be getting back then,” grunted Orsik, averting his eyes. Vanguard nodded. What else could he do but agree?