Great news! As you might have guessed we were not horribly murdered and/or enslaved by Maldrek. In fact he was rather grateful for being released so he offered to grant us all a boon. Normally I am pretty hesitant about accepting rewards from evil creatures but we had already released him and this wasn't contingent on us serving him so it seemed an awful waste to refuse. Besides if we remained modest and careful nothing too bad could happen, right?
Nisha is now at least half-devil and the Rat is now a vampire.
We now have a dagger capable of damning those slain by it to Hell.
Maldrek will now be accompanying us on our travel back to teach me the history of the Dominion and Sylvester arcane knowledge.
Every part of my being is screaming for us to flee. When face to face with an Infernal Duke that is the only sane response. But no, let's ask for things… it must have twisted those gifts beyond recognition. I mean becoming a vampire and devil isn't that bad, it's the less obvious ones I'm, concerned about. What is that thing going to teach my host and that wizard, knowledge is power and power corrupts. I would be overjoyed by the possibility of corrupting this weak host but how can I compete with that abomination?
Well, it could have went worse. It is rather difficult to set positive moral examples to our new friends when one of your colleagues chooses to become a representation of evil in front of your eyes. Aside from it being a perfect example of what not to do. As for Maldrek accompanying us, honestly I'm not too concerned. I may have set a precedent for evil creatures following us. I'm sure once we get to know each other properly that we'll become fast friends and that he'll see tyranny is bad.
As if this couldn't get any worse, that thing is now coming with us. Why is it only me and the rat that seems to be concerned with this development?! It's one thing to bring vanquished demons that they know they can beat, a whole other to bring not only an Infernal Duke but a Master of Magic at that! Also there's the damn Dragon to be concerned over, a quiet one but still a shifty one. We've seen him change his form already, what's to say his metallic form wasn't another ploy that these imbeciles haven't seen through?!
But enough of that! We also did some actual exploration as well! Turns out the palace is still staffed by some mysterious clockwork constructs which toil endlessly preparing food and keeping the palace as intact as they can. If we could get one of those constructs onto the ship and analyse it's inner workings that would be another impressive patent. With the palace explored we made for the only other intact building in the city, the fortress.
It was quite nice to be waited on quite so efficiently. Shame they dropped the plan to kidnap one of the servants and se what made them tick. Could have used those for… well everything. The dominion evidently had no lack of random trinkets and toys to keep themselves amused. A shame I was only brought through after the fall. I imagine I would have had quite a different life if let lose in the dominion in it's prime…
Following the Rat's lead we descended into the basement of the fortress where his impressive sense of smell alerted him to something. Scouting ahead he found multiple people dressed in fine garb but with obviously decaying flesh. Deciding they probably didn't mean us well we tried sneaking up on them. I unfortunately managed to hit every single obstacle on the way, destroying any advantage we might have had. When we arrived where the enemy was supposed to be we found nothing… until they descended from the ceiling. Ghouls. Ambushed, surrounded and paralysed from their touch things were looking rather dire. Unfortunately for them I don't require things like muscle control to move as Ziobohn helpfully got us out of that situation. When I regained control over my muscles in a show of team effort we scared the crap out of them (being wreathed in shadows with a demon voice helps). Between my terror and the terror of being utterly destroyed by the rest of the team they fled leaving us free to explore the rest of the basement.
I'm not entirely sure what was going on in this fortress but it can't have been good. There was a line of cells containing strange, chimeric creatures most likely left to starve once The Fall happened. More importantly there was a strange summoning circle, designed for a specific creature and used only once. Amongst the blood soaked engravings there was a name that stood out. Obitus. That name just keeps coming up recently. Talking with Maldrek later this is apparently was related to his father, Vioreck Obitus. To make a long story short his father had fused with a shadow demon but was eventually killed and sent to Hell. He quickly distinguished himself in Hell and became rather influential due to his capacity to get things done. However someone really hated him and wanted to summon him from Hell so that he could kill him again. He gave this information over to the Dominion which then summoned Vioreck but did not kill him but rather made use of his services.
I swear I know that name from somewhere I just can't seem to recall… I don't think it was good… Frankly whatever man somehow has an Infernal Duke as a son is utterly terrifying.
Anyway, moving from the basement we heard gunfire and saw a small squad of very old elves fighting against ghouls. After the ghouls were defeated we discovered these were the last survivors of this fortress. I can't imagine the horror of having to fight for your life against the evil remnants of this place for nearly a century. They were overjoyed that someone had come to their rescue and I began to escort them to the safety of the palace. Then I remembered that Maldrek still looked terrifying and had the crown of an Infernal Duke which seemed like the last thing these survivors would want to see. So I went ahead to convince Maldrek to look slightly less terrifying.
It would seem he didn't take me saying that Angels were prettier and less immediately terrifying than him well and he nearly killed me when he sucker punched me in anger. That is no way to respond even if it is a grave insult to him! I'm pretty sure my jaw is out of place and I've broken at least 2 ribs. Still, he has worked very hard to appear like he does and it isn't nice to insult him (even if Angels are prettier). I'll have to make it up to him. I'm thinking I shall bake some cookies and give a sincere apology. Hopefully we can then move on from this and get back to becoming friends!
While I felt the pain just as acutely as my host did, I now feel I have something in common with the Duke. It can be quite infuriatingly insulting to have someone insult your own designed form. But still this just reinforces my fears, not only capable of abusing the arcane arts to his own ends, he's also just really damn strong…