The ride south was uneventful, and if Raethe had not felt reborn over the past few days, boredom might have driven him mad.
The dwarf rode with purpose once again, and though his immediate task was clearly in Moskovia, his eyes were fixed readily southeast toward the once and future seat of the Stormforge Clan.
Jan slept on Raethe’s shoulder much of the day, and soared off into the night after sunset. The bird was a strange source of comfort, even when it wasn’t perched close by, as if Beordin’s blessing was with him always. The dwarf let himself get lost in the enjoyment of the cool Russian air and, of course, the sense of not being doomed to disgrace.
The calm of his thoughts quickly snapped back to reality when an all too familiar feeling washed over him. There was something out there… something loathsome.
Moments later the group was ambushed by a lone mage. Ordinarily not enough to cause the dwarf any anxiety, but this manling was shrouded in chaos magic! Raethe charged alongside Kal, and as they closed the mage tore a rift in space and time. Kal was quick enough to easily avoid it but Raethe was not so agile. The pony stopped short and threw him headlong over the reins and into the unknown.
Raethe crashed through the rift and seemed to hang in space, like he had leapt into a deep lake. Spinning left and right he tried to get his bearings. It took only a moment, and he was able to see and hear, but that wasn’t what struck him. It was his “other” senses that seemed amplified here. He could sense things for miles around. The overwhelming madness that is the Abyss was laid out before of him, and he could feel his markings begin to excite.
He moved swiftly, though he could make out no discernable ground beneath him. There was something close, something big, and it was no happier about the dwarf being there than he was himself.
Although he could sense it coming, the creature still managed to get the drop on him. A massive tentacle struck from out of nowhere and wrapped itself around Raethe’s midsection. The creature pulled him into view and Raethe was stunned at the sight of the thing.
It was massive, many times larger than the giants he had fought, as large perhaps as the dragons of legend. Dragons, however, were always described with a sort of reverence. Great and terrible beings of near god-like power, the dragons’ ancient bloodlines made even the least of them formidable and worthy of respect. This thing was an abomination.
The creature’s massive body defied any form, and it had eyes and what might have been mouths all over it. Dozens of massive tentacles whipped about trying to pulverize the tiny dwarf.
Even as he was being crushed by the creature’s tentacle, Raethe had no trouble tapping the fury in his soul. He lashed out with the Stormhammer, hitting the tentacle and forcing his release. He charged at the body of the creature with a fire in his eyes that was born of his true and utter hatred for its nature. Striking true, his hammer landed blow after meaningless blow. The creature seemed completely impervious to any harm he could do.
Soon Raethe found himself immobilized by several of the creature’s appendages. Each of his limbs was wrapped tightly and his body was constricted. He was being pulled closer to the center of this thing, and soon its massive mouth was in view, along with one large eye which looked at him at once with malevolence and indifference.
Raethe’s rage was useless, no strength he could muster would break him free. With every bit of his will he focused his contempt on the creature, spitting curses in languages no man or dwarf should know, and for an instant he thought he saw fear register in its massive eye. Then he felt its grip begin to weaken and he could breathe again. Then, as the creature’s tentacles trembled trying to keep a hold of him, thin bolts of energy lanced out from Raethe’s flesh tearing through each of the foul limbs.
Black ichor sprayed through the strange environment and Raethe dropped back down at the base of the thing as it wailed in pain. This time Raethe fought the urge to strike with the Stormhammer, keeping it ready only to knock away any errant tentacles that lashed out at him.
Instead, he focused on the essence of the creature. The same blasphemous power that Raethe had hunted for so long and become so familiar with. The same energy he was now able to wield as a tool against its rightful masters. The more he focused on the creature, the more it cried out and thrashed around. Soon it moved less, until it just trembled and jerked, its tentacles limp and lifeless. Then, the great eye turned a milky white, the colossal mass shriveled, and it was no more.
Raethe found himself energized with the death of this chaos lord, and found he could now force his way back through the chaos-mage’s rift that had now all but completely sealed.
As with all things chaos, the rift was unpredictable, and Raethe found himself free falling about 20 feet until he crashed atop his pony. The poor beast was killed by the impact of the dwarf landing on his spine. Raethe himself was seriously hurt to begin with, and was badly concussed from his landing.
Thankfully Khalid was nearby, and as he began to call forth the blessings of a god Raethe knew nothing about, he could already feel other eldritch power at work, snapping his broken leg and ribs into place, and healing his punctured lung.
His head still ached, but as Jan landed gracefully atop the Stormhammer and cawed, Raethe felt the worst effects of his concussion subside. He straightened his goggles and cloak, shook his head at the deceased pony, and took up his pack. The gates of Moskovia awaited.