The Seeking

Weep No More

Death of a Champion

The characters stumbled upon a chapel within the temple, a macabre spectacle made of solid gold bones that reflected the light weirdly. From the shadows cast by golden skulls the party discovered Delos lurking in silence. The party demanded answers, which they were eventually able to drag out of the reluctant and subdued Champion.

Delos revealed that some religious zealots had come to the town where he’d settled with Esry’s mother Nasri. His concern over the proselytizing and the dead look in their eyes lead him to take his family further out into the woods, while his adventuring background lead him to investigate the cultists. In the end he managed to successfully drive them out of town; however, his concern about them returning drove him to find out the source of the cult, or perhaps his wanderlust was reignited by his recent adventuring. In any case he left Nasri and Esry in search of the source of the dead-eyed cult.

After quite some time he came upon a mother and son who had also encountered the cult. The son had the dead-eyed look of the cultists but had been saved by the mother. “He seemed hollowed out, emptied somehow. Whatever he had been was gone, all that was left was a hollow shell.” The mother was on a quest to find a cure, either with the cultists or by some other means. Having no other leads, and perhaps feeling some sympathy with his own family, Delos went with them. At long last she heard of a place that granted eternal life and a fortune of gold to those capable of fighting for it.

They made their way to Morenor and discovered the place much as the party saw it now. The woman tried to register her son, formerly a capable enough fighter, but was refused (or feared for her son’s safety or chances of success given his condition). Delos’ adventuring spirit got the better of him, and registered to the lists on their behalf. He won his first combat, and returned with as much gold as he could carry, two heavy bricks in each hand. Unsatisfied, he entered again, was once again victorious, and won a fortune of gold and the side betting. Determined to find the secret to the Champions’ eternal youth, to help the boy and perhaps grant to his family, he entered a third time and once again gained the Champion’s favor. By the next day he had learned the secret, to his horror and regret, and was the newest member of the Champions.

In time he became inured to his condition, gave up his love of music and singing, and became resigned to killing feckless newcomers trying to prove themselves or get rich quick or whatever; it didn’t much matter any more, nothing did. He became a machine, numbed to the killing he was forced to do to live another day. He revealed that each dawn they were reborn by consuming the flesh of the fallen combatants changed by a dark ritual performed just before dawn. As the day progressed they aged, eventually becoming invalids before the next rejuvenation. The horror of his existence strove with his hope to see his family again, even as the killing deadened his soul. In the end he earned a reputation as a brutal and efficient killer, with none of the showmanship or flair of some of the other Champions.

Delos refused to go into detail about the ritual and forbid even discussing the possibility of recreating it to extend his life. He said it was an evil, hateful process that would permanently corrode and corrupt anyone involved in it, and forcefully dissuaded Geran from even attempting it. Geran’s latent telepathy picked up on Delos’ powerful feelings on the subject, however, and was soon overpowered by gruesome and traumatic images: the body of a challenger, beheaded and spurting blood; the body, tied to a post as if to restrain it, despite being deceased; lying on the sand, feeling weak and feeble and surrounded by other aged forms, as a decrepit figure chanted and the ape-like Custodians looked on; the body suddenly coming to life, straining against its bonds, and glowing with a brilliant radiant light.

Geran’s mind was filled with a hunger for that glowing flesh, a slavering bodily need, and in his mind’s eye saw himself crawling to the straining corpse. His fellow invalids approached too, and as one began tearing into the struggling form, pulling off chunks with teeth or fingers bent into claws by age and need. Geran felt the sweet, sweet taste of reanimated flesh pass over his tongue and down his throat, and life returning to his wasted limbs. Juice dripped down his chin, mixing with his drool as he gorged himself on life itself. Suddenly he came too, knowing the horror of the ritual performed each and every day for who knows how many years of Delos’ life, and how long for the rest of them. Given the age of the Deathpriest, perhaps centuries.

Delos excused himself, and became morose and subdued. He had no excuse for the horror he was party to, and said he only hoped that Nasri and Esry would forget him. Better that than see him like that.

Delos then spent a bittersweet day with his daughter, having revealed himself, his story, and how he came to be in this place. His interest in music rekindled by seeing his daughter following in his footsteps, he played a sombre song on her mandolin and passed on his wisdom and effects, an entire lifetime compressed into a day. In the end he passed telling Esry he loved her and dissolving into dust.

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Dark_Horse

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