A Tale of Vengeance. Part 2

The Ends Never Justify The Means.


The continuation of the previous chapter. The party had gathered together to enter into a dark tower buried mostly underground, as the warforged artificer sensed a great magical energy that was almost just like his deep below.

Our cast of characters included Dorn the human paladin, Mala the Tiefling fighter, Aine the half rogue, Rustjaw the warforged Artificer, and Balthazar the dragonborn wizard.

Once inside the sunken tower in the desert, there was little to see, but as the party progressed deeper they found that there were several mangled warforged strewn about. Some grafted into the walls, others put together with experimental parts. All suffering, begging for death. Rustjaw’s metal heart sank as he looked at all his brethern in despair. “Rust, do you want to put them out of their misery?” Mala asked as one of the warforged begged for death. “We…. We should . . . They’re in so much pain.” Mala continued.

“I,” Rust shook his head, “No, no I can’t.”

“I’ll take care of this, you go,” Aine offered. “And no it’s not to atone, it’s show I’ll have your back still, even after the accusations.”

Rustjaw scoffed but nodded, “You just want to kill,” he grumbled before they continued deeper into the complex. Every floor had more and more terrible contraptions, many combat capable that we were forced to fight through. As the party finally reached the bottom we found an old withered Elven man hastily putting together more and more terrible warforged.

“No, No, it’s not right. It’s not right. Give him back to me, give him back, GIVE HIM BACK!” The man cried out before turning around. His eyes were sunken, his flesh squeezed against the bone, and the stench of necromancy made Balthazar sick as he called out the man was far past his prime. “You, YOU . . . What are you doing. This is my home. MINE. Mine . . . You won’t take him. I want him back. I want my son back, give me my son!” The man shouted before he continued to hammer away at a clearly broken warforged.

“D-Dad?” Rustjaw pipped up.

The man turned wildly, looking at Rustjaw before a soft twinkle was seen in his eyes. “Y-You . . . You . . . No, no, no,” the man slowly stepped forward, hobbling on a cane. As he got close he reached out a skeletal hand and touched Rustjaw’s chest. “My . . . My . . . No, no no, you’re not him, you’re not him. A failure, a ghost, a phantom!” The old man growled before hobbling back to his workbench.

“Wait, what do you mean? Are you not my creator?!” Rustjaw cried out.

“Imitation! Phantom! Begone with you, you are not him. You’re not my boy!” He shouted. “My boy . . . My son . . . The Demons are at the gate and he’s fighting. Don’t you hear it, they’re fighting and my boy is wounded. I have to bring him back. I have to build him a body, I can save my boy!” The man shouted. “Quickly, to the gates, defend them, I’ll send in reinforcements, I’ll build them all bodies!” He cackled wildly.

“I’m . . . I’m a,” Rustjaw stepped back as Aine moved to the workbench and waved his hand in front of the mad artificer.

“He’s in shock. . . Doesn’t realize the war ended years ago.” Aine shook his head before seeing a journal. He carefully picked it up and brought it back to the party. “Looks like his personal journal,” Aine stated before flipping through the pages.

The party took time to read through it, learning that Rustjaw was this man’s attempt to recreate his son that died in the initial assualt by the demons, but as it wasn’t really his son he threw Rustjaw out. Rustjaw was in despair, but decided to take what notes he could from his creator’s workbench. Books, scrolls, blueprints, he’d carry on his legacy where no one else would.

“What should we do with him?” Mala asked while looking at the old Artificer sadly.

“Well I don’t want to get blamed again if something happens so screw this noise, I’ll be outside, waiting patiently,” Aine stated while holding up his hands and leaving.

“Should put him out of his misery, he’s an undead,” Dorn scoffed.

“But. . . But he’s my father,” Rustjaw shook his head.

“He’s suffering Rust,” Mala said sadly before looking at the withered old man. “Do what you have to . . . But I know if I lost all of you . . . I don’t think I could continue either.”

“You’re father, do what you want. His research is fascinating though.” Balthazar stated as he picked through a few research notes. “I’ll at least keep some of these. Might be able to use it at some point.” He shrugged.

A presence began to creep across the back of Rustjaw’s head. A presence that forced a wisdom saving through. Horrible images of his creator experimenting on living people suddenly flashed across his mind, and sent him into a mild panic. Rustjaw looked back at the party who all waited for him to make a choice. Rust turned back to look at his creator. The images continued, showing more and more horrible experiements.

“I . . . He abandoned me . . . But . . . I don’t . . . I don’t,” Rustjaw grabbed his head and shook it angrily, “Damn it! Father look me in the eye!” He shouted before the old artificer turned around.

The old artificer screamed at him before going silent and pointing a skeletal finger at Rustjaw. “You . . . You’re not my son. . . You’re not MY son . . . End your existence. . . Stop WEARING HIS FACE!” The artificer screamed.

This threw Rustjaw over the edge and he proceeded to attack, stabbing the old man over and over again and again. The old artificer, even as an undead, was far too weak to fight back. He’d barely taken care of himself when he was alive, and as an undead did little to preserve himself. One hit was all it took. As soon as the deed was done though, Rustjaw immediately felt regret. “What have I done . . . What have I done?!” Rustjaw stated as he looked at his blood soaked hands in horror.

“What anyone else would’ve,” Dorn scoffed. “What’s done is done. Let’s go.” Dorn turned to leave, and Balthazar shrugged before following.

“Didn’t think you would do it, but I guess it is what it is,” Balthazar added before leaving. Only Mala stayed behind to comfort Rustjaw.

It took a few hours but once they left, Rustjaw no longer had the same joval demeanor he had had at other camps. He was quiet, barely spoke, and at night would merely lay down and stare at the stars. Mala tried to comfort him the best she could, but soon he just stopped talking.

Another day or two passed, then a few adventures died from the food being poisoned. Another pack animal was killed with the provisions being found to have a very potent poison in them. Dorn glared at Aine, but Aine didn’t even bother fighting it this time.

When we stopped at the last city before our final destination, the group was encouraged to get as much rest as they could. The cult had at least a few hundred members, and it would be one hell of a fight. As the night came by Aine recounted a story of how this was his home. The ruins of the city was actually were he survived till rescue had come during the war. He wanted to go wander, and Mala stated she would go with him to ensure the party that Aine wasn’t doing anything wrong this time.

The party for once didn’t argue. Dorn had long since abandoned any shred of care of bringing Aine to justice, and stated that if he caught him doing anything it would be death. Rustjaw merely shook his head, and Balthazar practiced a few rituals for some spells he got with a recent level up. “Do what you want, I’ve got more important things to worry about,” Balthazar stated as he cast a few new cantrips happily. “With this I’m even stronger than before, ha,” he grinned. Something had been aggrevating his ego, and in character the party was growing more and more annoyed wtih the dragon. I don’t want to ruin the immersion, but again don’t worry the party was totally ok IRL. The roleplay was the best part of this group. Back to the story.

Aine and Mala wandered for a short while away from the main expedition, and eventually found their way downtown where Aine stopped in front of a ruined house. “Aine? Is something wrong?”

“This was it,” he sighed while folding his arms and looking up at the building. “I survived in here. I had a few friends, others like me . . . They didn’t survive sadly.” He shook his head.

“Aine,” Mala placed an arm on his shoulder sadly. “I’m so sorry.”

“I did a lot of bad things to survive here….. I’d do them again to keep my family safe…. But I’m not evil though you know? I didn’t do any of that stuff I’ve been blamed for.” Aine argued, wiping away a tear or two. “I’m here to help just like anyone else. I’m not . . . I didn’t do any of that stuff . . . I want . . . I want to make the world a better place damn it.”

“Aine, I want to believe you I do but . . . You have to admit it is hard. . . If you’re serious I want to help you guys get back to how you were, so if I can do anything please let me know.” Mala offered before so saw Aine starting to break down. She embraced him, holding him tightly and assuring him she was there. “We’ll prove your innocence don’t worry.” Mala always was soft at heart for the party, and wanted to help since Aine seemed geninue.

After a bit more roleplay with exploring the old home, the two returned to camp. It was a rough night with almost all eyes on Aine, and as the next morning rolled around the bickering turned to arguing in character. Insults, questions of loyalty, and after another pack animal died of what appeared to be poisoning, Dorn and Aine broke down into a fist fight that only Mala tried to stop. Dorn accidentally hit Mala so hard it left her with a black eye and a concussion that Balthazar quickly healed up the best he could. After injuring someone other than Aine, Dorn only became sickened with himself, which in turn lead to a greater fury against Aine. Rustjaw had given up on making things better, still shocked by his choice to kill his creator, and Balthazar of course could care less, busy enjoying his new spells. It was at a point where sometimes he had even begun muttering to himself about how great he was, and the party only grew more concerned.

When we arrived finally at the den of the cult, the expedition was in dissary. Out of the near sixty people, there were only about thirty two left. our food was down to barely enough to maybe get back, strict rationing had made many hungry, and the water had everyone paranoid if it could be poisoned. The party was angry at Aine for causing such a mess, Aine was hopeless in his belief that maybe he could make things better, and Balthazar had slowly developed some sort of prideful complex that left him very unhelpful.

So it was looking like a suicide march down into the belly of the beast. Morale was crippled, whispers that we were all going to die here spread among the expedition, and the party only grew more bitter.

But with little care and perhaps too much pride from Balthazar, the party descended. Mala’s speech of hope fell on deaf ears with a low persuasion check, and soon she too fell silent.

Room by room. Hallways by hallway, floor by floor. We marched through a dungeon losing NPC after NPC. Those that tried to run found other hidden traps or cultists behind us that were ready to grab stragglers, and our numbers dwindled even further. It was nearly a week of using the last of our supplies to get to the inside of this ruin the cult took over and sadly the dice decided to play dirty. While trying to thread the needle with a shot from his longbow, Aine accidentally shot Dorn in the back. Because of their prior dealings, Dorn took this as a sign of betrayal and mid fight he managed to down Aine.

Once the fight was over Dorn moved to Aine and raised his sword, “For your crimes, I sentence you to die, you traitor.”

“It was an accident! It was an accident! Dorn don’t do this!” Aine cried out, but Dorn brought down his blade with the fury of a warrior, stabbing it even through the stone floor with a natural twenty. He left his sword there, Aine struggling and bleeding out.

“Bleed out like the coward you are . . . Now, where is the Demon this cult has summoned, where is your leader?!” Dorn shouted at the near empty room filled with bodies. A few cultists peeked from the shadows, but didn’t want to fight just yet. “Well where are they?!” He shouted, just now noticing the amount of bodies. “Weak, every last one of them,” Dorn shook his head, “Show yourself Demon! Show yourself! I’ve already dealt with one coward, I will deal with another! Bring the leader of this cult to me as well! I’ll cut them down like the Dog they are!” Dorn shouted before hearing the dice clank.

A sword ran through his back covered in a thick viscious substance. A failed con save was all it took for the poison to paralyse him, and as he hit the ground Dorn felt his body become rigid like stone. “Coward . . . Cowards!” He managed to gurgle forward.

Then a soft near uncaring laugh came through as Mala stepped over him. Rustjaw was badly hurt and barely holding together, and Balthazar glared as he readied himself, “I knew you smelled wrong.”

“Isn’t it beautiful?” Mala stated as she moved to some stone steps leading up to a pedestal. She twirled on her heels, her smiling face covered in some of Dorn’s blood, her arms were spread open, as though she were playing or welcoming guests to a play.

“M-Mala?” Aine coughed, still gripping the sword buried in his gut.

“The smell of blood, the despair, the burned bridges, isn’t it ecstasy?!” Mala asked excitedly before she gazed at everyone. Her smile was paper thin, and her eyes void of any sort of life or emotion. She looked like a living doll. “All this time . . . All this time comforting you . . . Spinning your webs, putting knives in all the right places, isn’t it ecstasy! They said vengeance leaves one unsatisfied, but I feel absolute bliss.” She stated again before looking at the party with those souless eyes.

“Mala what are you talking about?” Dorn croaked.

“Mala you . . . What have you done?” Rustjaw perked up.

“Who cares, time to introduce the lunatic to a nice crispy lightning bolt.” Balthazar sneered with a mad grin.

“Careful Bal, you’ll regret it.” Mala grinned while looking down at him.

“The hell I will, how dare you look down at me! Eat lightning you bitch!” Balthazar screamed as he pointed a staff forward.

“I wish Balthazar was cut off from magic till time itself collapses.” Mala stated before a gust of wind burst through the underhalls of the citadel. Above Mala there was a massive open hole in the ground that led up to the sky, and the lightning bolt dissapated not ten feet from her as the wind gust forward and from the caves and up to the sky.

“What the?” Balthazar looked at his hand, glared and pointed his staff forward, “Lightning bolt!” He shouted, his voice echoing in the caves as the DM described that nothing happens. “What?!” He shouted before pointing his hand forward at Mala, “Fireball! . . . Fireball! . . . What’s happening?! Fireball! Firebolt! Something! Something!” He shouted before Mala held up a scroll that burned up in front of them.

“Almost fifteen years . . . Fifteen years I waited for this . . . What’s the point in killing quickly I always asked, when there are so many better ways to make it hurt so much more.”

“What have you done?!” Balthazar screamed. “My magic, my magic,” he stuttered while still trying to cast spells.

“You don’t remember . . . None of you remember . . . But why would you? No why would you,” Mala smiled, speaking slow and sadly, then crossing a hand over her chest and bowing her head. “My name is Mala, veteran of the invasion your country suffered against. Part of the foreign armed forces from the East that were sent all those years ago to help . . . Former slave soldier, and the one who will burn your world to the ground.” She grinned before turning her gaze to Dorn. “Sweet Dorn… Preaching justice, power, and honor in battle . . . When me and my kind were sent into battle with no armor. . . Just these swords,” She held up her bastard sword, “You ignored us. . . I cried out for help as my brothers were being bombarded by fireballs, as demons tore through our front, you ignored us, You ignored the slave collars, you let arrow walls fall atop us without so much as a peep. It was poetic really, delivering false orders to your commander, letting him do the same to your men. You spinned such a story about command striking first, but that was a lie wasn’t it? And to say you’d do it again… Well I was hurt, really.”

“You  . . . What?” Dorn glared at Mala.

“An Eye for an eye. You know when I stepped outside to give you some privacy he was about to spill it was through bad orders. I wanted to save that scroll of hideous laughter, but oh well, his laugh was so well timed, when you cut him down I couldn’t stop smiling outside. It was euphoric, the blood, the fear, the hatred, as you cut down the one man who could’ve helped you resolve your demons peacefully.” Mala wrapped her arms around herself and shook all over, “It was ecstacy watching your face turn to such anger.”

She looked to Rustjaw, “Oh Rust, how could I forget. You didn’t do anything wrong no, but your creator. . . Such horrors were the creation of metal weapons, so terrible were his experiments on the slave soldiers that couldn’t say no.” Mala tore off the sleeves of her fine clothes, removing her gloves, and showing a left arm of metal painfully welded to her body, and a right arm horribly mangled in scars, metal bits, and old tattoos of previous owners. “I hated it so much . . . When we screamed for him to stop, but he kept poking, prodding and making . . . I broke. . . But watching him break you . . . When I hung his son in front of his tower I hoped and prayed that one day I could have my vengeance, but this? Oh this is so much better!”

“You’re a . . . A slave?” Aine coughed.

“I was . . . Raised to fight and kill whoever I was told to,” Mala nodded. “I hated it all so much. I used to be so hopeful. Then I began to taste revenge, and I found the wine was much sweeter when coated in despair. When I was sent here to this foreign land I told myself I would earn my freedom, that me and my fellow slaves would be free . . . But as my friends died that hunger to have revenge grew. I wanted more . . . I wanted more from this world. . . Aine look at me, don’t you remember this sweet face?” Mala smiled innocently at Aine. “This sweet gentle face?”

“What?” Aine coughed up blood again.

“Oh? Sorry, sorry, let me make it easier.” She passed a hand across her face and suddenly looked like she was in despair. “Please! Please help us!” She shouted with a sudden desperation in her voice that was so real it made Aine open his eyes in shock. “My love is dying! Please! Anything! Bandages, medicine, a place to lay down and treat him. Please I beg of you!” Mala suddenly dropped the face, staring at Aine with a cold smile once more. “Ring any bells?” She watched as his eyes opened even wider. “Yes, yes, there it is. After a crushing defeat I dragged my best friend, my lover, all the way to the city you were hiding in. I begged so many survivors . . . They ignored me sure . . . But you remember what you did Aine. Don’t you?”

“You . . . No,” Aine shook his head in disbelief.

“You mugged us. Welcomed us in then stole everything before kicking us out. I only barely managed to get my sword back. . . What little food and water we had . . . You stole everything . . . He died in my arms. You said you’d do those evil acts to survive all over again didn’t you? Right to my face without even realizing it…. After that I had nothing left really. . . I wanted vengeance more than anything, I simply didn’t care anymore. I wanted to wound, hurt, and kill you so badly. But that would be too easy. No, first you needed to break. Executed by your friend, what a very sad way to go.” Mala shook her head.

“Last but not least . . . Balthazar,” she looked to the dragonborn trying to roll arcana checks, cast spells, anything to find out why he couldn’t cast anymore. “We never spoke, but you were declared a bit of a minor hero clearing that one area of demons. Remember the wounded? How we begged for healing. You scoffed and merely hunted more Demons instead… I remember your battalion looking down on us. I’ve hunted so many of them, yet there are still so many left…. But you? I wanted you more than anything for that scoff…. I sold my soul many many years ago for but a single request, a favor from a higher being. I could’ve had anything. . . I could’ve made the world a better place, but you know what? I think I like what I wished for now. It perhaps wasn’t a true wish spell, but I think taking your magic was just the beginning.” She grinned before stepping up to the top of the stone steps.

“Why are you doing this?! Mala?!” Rustjaw called out.

“Why?” Mala perked up, turned around and giggled. “Did you not listen to a single word I said my friend?! Look around you.” She laughed hysterically. “You’re heroes! Good people! You! What irony in a world plagued by such injustice, I see no alternative to sparing it. May as well begin the great reset with another invasion. This land took everything from me, and there’s far too many of you to kill one by one. This will be the great flood that cleanses the valley! It will be beautiful!”

Mala placed her hands behind her back and smiled cheerfully at the group. “I have no more capacity to hate.” She said in a calm and silky voice. “I broke ages ago, so don’t worry, even as you bleed out here I’m not angry at you. I just want to watch it all burn! Starting with those that abandoned me and my kind.” She opened her arms, “This cult here is just a means to a bloody end. We have more than enough bodies to open a door to the nine hells again, then everything will be ecstacy!” Mala happily cheered.

“We can talk this out,” Aine coughed.

“Nope,” Mala shook her head, “But for what it’s worth, I knew you were innocent, I just liked watching them blame you for everything.”

“We’re a means to an end?” An NPC cult member nearby spoke out.

“Hm?” Mala turned to look to the NPC. She just realized what she had said, and cursed to herself.

“You said we’re a means to an end?” The NPC asked again.

“I thought we were promised paradise, you didn’t say anything about slaughter!” Another cultist shouted.

“Oh bother, I forgot you things were still breathing. Ah well,” Mala shrugged before placing her hand on a pedestal, causing a giant summoning circle to form. “I guess it doesn’t matter now. It’s time to set the world ablaze!”

“Fight!” Doren shouted to the cultists. “She’ll kill you all if you don’t fight! You have to stop her! Rust fight her! Balthazar, help Aine! Don’t let her open the portal!”

“Oh? You want to throw minions at me, how romantic!” Mala drew her blade, “More bodies, more demons, more fun! Let’s kill each other!” Mala shouted as the cultists were rallied by a fairly high persuasion from Doren. Mala had let slip there was no paradise, and now the dozen or so rushed her. These low level cultists weren’t going to do much against a level fourteen fighter, but they bought valuable time for Balthazar to help stabilize and give healing potions to Aine, and move to try and treat Doren.

Even as the cultists were cut down they continued to fight, realizing there was no other way, but soon Aine and Doren had joined the fray and were hacking away at Mala’s HP where they could.

It took it’s time, and Aine had gone down again, but as Mala prepared for a killing blow a Cultist thrust her spear through Mala’s back. Then another, and one more for good measure, then Rustjaw ran his sword right through her gut. Rustjaw shook all over as Mala reached out and weakly grabbed his neck with her metal arm, the other still gripping her sword. “I’m not done….. Yet,” Mala coughed, still smiling as those lifeless eyes peered right into Rustjaw.

The summoning circle slowly started to flicker and fizzle out. “I’m not done,” Mala muttered again. Her body running on pure adrenaline as the spears were removed. She stood standing for but a moment as Rustjaw’s sword held up her body. “Varn?” She whispered as her hand let go of Rustjaw’s neck and cupped his cheek. “My love? Is that you? I’ll be home soon….” Mala’s lifeless eyes looked down to the ground as her head rested on Rustjaw’s chest, a weak laugh escaping her lips as the tip of her sword weakly pushed her sword against Rustjaw. “We’re finally… Free… Together…” She went limp.

He pulled his sword from her and let the body fall to the ground as the magic circle finally disappeared. Her other hand was nearly breaking the handle of her sword it had been gripping it so tightly.

The cult scattered afterwards, and the party went on to become heroes once more that had stopped another calamity. There was peace for the next few years, until rumors began to spread of a mad Tiefling in the Deadlands once again causing trouble.

But by then the PC had turned NPC, and me? Well, I went on to play a neutral Good Goliath Monk, and Mala went back into my vault of characters for a future BBEG.



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