As we made our way up the Ustradi, I contemplated all possible scenarios dealing with the color. Grivald, the young man Lorenz had saved from the oozes in Ecanus, was among us. A young, eager magus, in whom I placed too much confidence. Had I been but slightly more careful, it would have saved my neck.
A simple plan, shadow projection would shunt my life force into my shadow, an undead form immune to the color’s life-sapping aura. A telepathic bond would be formed between us, allowing our adept diplomat, Lorenz, an opportunity to parley with the creature, my shadow as proxy. Aklo is a difficult language to master, and Vestin had yet to take the time. I had instructed Grivald to place my comatose body into my bag of holding, providing safety, should the color approach. Clearly, I was not sufficiently adamant on that point.
My shadow’s lack of shriveling and death alarmed the color upon my approach, but began to respond once Aklo was uttered. I awaited Vestin’s charismatic oratory, ready to translate. His chosen address was somewhat disappointing, but I believed Vestin knew his craft, translating “There is no more life to feed you here, but we lifeforms can help”. The color was unmoved.
Somehow, our diplomacy had failed, now bloodshed followed. I couldn’t foresee how much would be mine. The ghostly color sped through the ground, as I gave pursuit through the air. Our crew and their life force were too hard to conceal, and the color was eager to feast. I called a wall of force to halt the blasted beast, but I was too slow, it was already below the ship.
Soon, half our crew were chartreuse, lethargic, or both. I should have known what was to come. Even in my undead form, I could feel as well as hear the sharp crack as the colored Grivald tried to cave in my skull with his morningstar. A thousand curses raced through my mind. The idiot failed to follow my instructions. No matter, the damage could be repaired in time.
Black powder ecplosions poured from our ship as the Captain showered the color with ghostly bullets. Hastened by anger and magic, Reskafar and I laid into the color. Both Grivald and Aven were now turned. The chartreuse undine turned to my comatose body, raising his greatsword into the air. I do not recall the infinity of curses that followed.
It is a unique experience, watching your own body decapitated. A great calm washed over me, and I saw reality with a clarity heretofore unknown. The color had to die, by my hand, its existence erased, its life eradicated, its race forever fearful of my name.
Hurt by bullet and missile, it retreated below the surface. I gave chase, loosing even more force into its formless gullet. I gazed into it shapeless form through the bedrock, and realized my clarity was naught but rage. The color was less than half-dead, our crew closer to fully, my body—utterly. We could not destroy the beast. This had to end, one way or another.
In a moment, it was back above, disintegrating the captain. Blood and viscera poured from the kobold, as his outer layers evaporated at the color’s touch. But the color’s demeanor had shifted. We were no longer fodder for growth, but dangerous, and worthy of respect.
It offered in its formless Aklo tongue, “Life, or death?”
Lorenz offered, “Of course! Parley!” Despite my boiling rage, I knew he was right. We had no chance against this monster. He could see as clearly as I. We now had a genuine chance to reason with it, if it still believed we had any capacity to kill it. As I stared into its incorporeal mass, I saw the truth. It was close, so close, to achieving its goal.
Lorenz was far more eloquent this time, with much more charm than the line he gave mere minutes before. I summoned a beast upon which the color could feed, but it still bellowed “MORE!”. Soon, Reskafar was upon us, his flesh magically stitched together again. With him, were the several crates of “Presto Oozes” given to us by the alchemical charlatan, Rudhale.
“Have at em’, they’re sure to fill you up,” cleverly smirked the kobold.
One by one, the oozes shriveled to raisins, all the while the color grew brighter, more powerful, until it reached its full measure, turning a bright lime green. It squeed in pure delight, “I may rejoin my cluster! I am in your debt, as are all my future generations. I shall send them all here to delight in the feasting you forms provide!”
“Your future generations will be slain, scouring your incorporeal pesitlence from the universe”, I thought.
“What do you know of recent celestial disturbances surrounding this sphere?”, I said.
“_The heavenly bodies have been disturbed by a force from the diaspora, or somethinbg like that,”_ it uttered, and with that, jettisoned into outer space.
“We’ve little time. I’ve only hours until this form is exhausted. Lorenz, I have need of you. Please retrieve my body, including the head.”, with that, I teleport us to the great capital city of Nex, Quantium. The others would have to make their way here on their own.
Quantium is like no other place, magic is paramount. The understanding, subduing, and ultimately empowering nature of magic is everywhere. Of course, I’ve returned to this wondrous city minus a head. My shadow led Lorenz to the largest church of Abadar within Quantium, him carrying my body, and head over his shoulders. It was there his skills would be needed.
Laying my broken body before the clerics, Lorenz worked his own verbal magic. After ten minutes of clever religious references and bawdy jokes, I would find my body revived at mere cost, five-thousand gold for the diamond needed. A small price to pay for a head.
I awoke in my body, feeling exactly as one ought to after being recently beheaded. Lorenz was leaning in the corner of the temple, arms crossed, with a little smirk across his face. I would allow this. I did owe him that. We thanked the generous, incurious clerics, and made our way to the harbor. Our telepathic link endured, and our ship was close to arrival.
Not only had our remainder arrived, but Hexa’s group as well, in addition to another past encounter, the Freedom, and her slave crew. Perhaps the arrival of so many potential allies is a sign. I will have to divine the secrets of our path more often now. But one thing is certain, they cannot know what happened with the color.