Silt Striders of Balic

The Man with Two Minds

In the observatory of Urik, Vintner stands by a few prone guards whose brains have been scrambled by his chaotic and dangerous magics. The walls are coated in his equations, and he is sweating trying to figure out what part of his numbers are wrong. As he erases Oba = 1 and replaces it with Oba = 0, he realizes his mistake is inherently Samm. Where Samm has been equal to 1 this whole time, Vintner scratches his head when he realizes his calculations make sense if Samm is equal to 2. He consults the stars to see what this could mean. Meanwhile…

Samm walks through the desert to Balic, intent to find his grove and dig his own grave. His thoughts are swimming, mingling with alien memories he either can’t place or places incorrectly. He remembers walking to the grove once before, when a member of their number was a Thrax in hiding. Try as he might, he cannot remember how the story goes, and even distinctly remembers Vorelixen being slain by the Thrax on the first night. He casts a suspicious glance on his allies who’ve fought with him for over a decade, remembering their expressions and trying to read who could be the undead horror plaguing them.

As the memory is dispelled, he remembers himself imprisoned in the chambers of the Library at Urik, being tormented not by a masked figure but by the Raven Queen herself. Fading from this thought, he continues to misremember and among other things remembers being camped outside of Gulg when the phantom witches arrived at their camp. However in his memory he can see plainly that Althaea is of their number, slitting the throats of Samm’s paralyzed cadre and drinking deeply of their blood.

Arriving to the grove, Samm speaks with the gravedigger Granger who understands with some sadness what Samm intends to do. Samm heads to the inner cloister of the grave site, where he digs his own grave and plunges a blade in to his stomach. Instead of laying dead in the hole, he is assaulted from every direction by the laughter of long dead enemies who do not rest well in their holes. Struggling to suck wind in to his ruined guts, vision cloudy, Samm fights these spirits with feverish desperation, finding that by shedding his own blood he unwittingly completed a ritual he’d been setting in motion for months. Implanted in his mind and finally freed, Borato emerges from his psyche in a cloned copy of Samm’s body and immediately resurrects Elgo from the grave Samm put him in long ago. Forced to fight with what little he has left, Samm is finally able to dispatch these agents of the Raven Queen and as their final attempt to reclaim life comes to an end, Samm re-emerges in the torture chamber of the Raven Queen.

His mind finally his own, the shackles of the Raven Queen find no further purchase on his limbs. No stranger to conflict in far away lands, Samm draws his radiant glaive and advances on the goddess herself. The fighting is intense, as though the Raven Queen’s power is immense and she is able to crush, stab, and flay Samm numerous times she is unable to stop the engine of hatred that pushes on through mortal injury. Desperate to stay his assault, she summons a horde of ghosts to wage war with him. Undeterred, Samm draws upon the same power and while the ghosts of Sorcerer Kings and long deceased foes assault him they are deterred by the heroic efforts of Captain Husk, Gorye, Tarek, Ro, High Praetor Lucius, Honey Badger, and others. In the end, Samm finds himself looming over the broken form of the Raven Queen. Like so many before her, Samm’s glaive ends her and offered her power he refuses.

Drawn to a familiar place, and the closest thing to a god of death remaining, Lakan-Do’s ghost emerges. Having just been slain in a coup at Ur-Draxa, he questions if Samm will once again take up the mantle of the Imperator of Xanthus and put an end to the insanity there. Raising an army of ghosts, he marches towards that cursed land.



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