I had hoped that joining in this quest would improve my lot, but it appears that fate, if such a thing exists, continues to conspire against me as I once again find myself in an unwelcome place, despite my intention otherwise. Nemacris, they call it. I had planned to stay behind as the others foolishly forged into the unknown, partly to continue our original efforts, but mostly because I, quite frankly, don’t like the chances of a proper return. Besides, the woman is right—although I can appreciate her predicament better, perhaps, than most—this is her mission, and her’s alone. I understand the others have an ulterior motive in assisting her, but I feel it to be unnecessary, and even somewhat of an intrusion. Alas, my plans have, as usual, fallen to pieces and there is nothing left to do but venture on.
Almost immediately upon arriving, the tone of this adventure was set as I was approached by the wildling, the one infected with some manner of dark magical creature. We had recently discovered that this… parasite… was intelligent, feeding off its host’s knowledge and life force until the day it was strong enough to enter into a body of its own. My compatriot believed that, if this thing was intelligent, it could be negotiated with—he wanted answers, a sentiment I shared, and he came to me with a proposal for a plan to force communications with the creature inside him, one to which I, perhaps foolishly, agreed. I was to provide him with a poison and time enough to allow it to take effect, in hopes that the threat to their shared life would leave the parasite with no choice but to answer our questions.
Perhaps we overestimated the creature’s capabilities, or level of intelligence. Or maybe we simply misjudged its intentions. Or it could be that it simply outbluffed us, but it’s safe to say our gambit was an abject failure. The approach was flawless—the wildling announced his intentions and drank the potion, as I put a blade to his neck, threatening to cut him down if anyone, the Creature included, attempted to intervene. As the poison took hold he demanded answers to some basic questions from the parasite, but it made no sign of response. I suppose it would be inaccurate to call the move a complete failure, as it was able to confirm one lingering suspicion. As the life began to fade from my young companion, the tattooed warrior who joined us at the asylum began to collapse as well, as though their fates were inextricably linked. There could be no doubt, this man was the incomplete vessel of the dark creature.
Upon realizing that no answers were forthcoming, I slackened my hold on the young man and allowed his friends to rush forward in concern. However, any trust I held for the man who called himself Kale was now forfeit and I did not wish to see him recover. I waited until he had disappeared before providing the antitoxin. This was, I now admit, a miscalculation on my part, as the cost of this counterfeit life was all too real. Realizing my mistake, I engaged in an even bigger one, forgetting myself for only a moment, hoping to undo what I had allowed happen. But I was too late and, as always, paid a far greater price for my error than I could have guessed. It seems the creature is capable of great feats of self-preservation and, upon the death of one host, will choose another, one nearby. I carry the thing now, an indescribable weight upon my very soul. Perhaps this is proper, a memento of my lapse, a penance for my sin. A reminder—never get involved.
A dour mood took the party at this point. The parasite’s projection returned as soon as it recovered, rendering the entire endeavor moot. We took the body with us, carried by the swordman, as it would be improper to leave it in this place. I, for my part, chose not to dwell on the events, as it was not the time or the place for such things—in such an alien and potentially dangerous place, distraction would not do. The gnome, who I had worried would be an extra burden on us, given our experience in the asylum, actually proved to be most capable, and seemed to share my outlook. He traveled along beside me on a strange floating disc of his own conjuration, keeping pace effortlessly.
It wasn’t long before I began to see signs of life—objects glinting off the side of the path we traveled. The others, in their distraction, had no interest in gauging our surroundings, leaving me and my traveling buddy to investigate on our own. Fortunately their pace was not rapid and our excursions did not cause us to fall far behind. And it is to their great loss that they did not accompany me, for the investigations were most promising, indeed, albeit in a manner which deepened my concern for our safety. For the things which caught my eye were, to put it bluntly, the last remains of those who had walked this path before—and these were not mere travelers. I found many spoils of those far richer, and likely more powerful than any of us (perhaps other than the two supposed heroes of legend)—magical items of all sorts. I was fortunate to have the gnome with me, as his skills gave him great insight into the nature of the things we found.
Among the spoils was a most intriguing blade, a rapier bearing a foreign-sounding word on its hilt which, when spoken, causes it to glow with a blue magical frost. Also of note were several enchanted rings, two of which in particular struck my attention—one which caused me to disappear into thin air and another which seems to quench my hunger and thirst. Some of the other rings seem to be useful as well, but it appears there is a limit to how many can be borne by a single person. Perhaps I will share with the others, although I don’t doubt these artifacts would fetch a good deal of money from the right dealer. Before I give the impression of indiscretion, I will note that there were items I left behind, most notably a deck of cards—an odd enough find by themselves, made odder still by my companion’s immediate reaction to them, one quite similar to the one he gives the false man in our company. I am coming to trust the gnome’s instincts and did not hesitate to leave the cards where they lay. I also passed by several sets of armor which would have been too impractical to carry and, although I know that there is no rational reason for it, I find myself uncomfortable with the thought of plundering a dead man’s raiment without his consent. Despite this concern, I did find a very fine set of chainmail that I simply could not leave behind. The material and craftsmanship was nearly beyond compare and it would have been a waste to simply let it lie, particularly when it fits me so well.
I have now reached the limit, I think, of what can be considered reasonable side-tracking and am rejoining the others. I can only hope the remainder of this excursion is uneventful and that we are able to return to the world we know safely, although I do not anticipate this.