He spied his companions the Rogue and the Monk, already small shapes in the distance, heading off to he knew not where, their deadly cargo hidden on their persons. Victory had been theirs but the costs had been dire, and it seemed that danger was still upon them. Many of the dwarf’s companions had perished over the years, but now his thoughts turned to the present and the task he had sworn to do.
One of Norgarths men grasped at his hand to haul him the last foot onto the deck as the ship listed in the winds high above the ground. He shouted orders and the ship veered round and headed straight as a dart in the opposite direction from his companions. ‘MAKE HASTE MEN,… before whatever unnatural beasts arise from those ruins to take your lives!’He grabbed the bosons arm and shoved two objects into his hands and leant close ‘take them to my cabin and wait... AND no questions!’
The girl was still over Norgarth’s shoulder, her lanky frame was like a feather to the warrior. Her bloody fingers brushed across the deck as he carried her body to an empty cabin and shut the door behind him. He laid her down upon the rough linen and stared momentarily at the pained/horrified expression still upon the Tiefling girls’ face, no more than 18 years of age, yet it was unnaturally drawn and ashen. Haennah’s breath came fast, shallow and laboured; her chest rose and fell in an uneven rhythm. Expressionless he steeled himself knowing what he was about to see, but he had to look again, to ensure his eyes had not deceived him. He roughly pulled her robes down off her shoulders leaving her bare to the waste.
Whatever foul magics that had ravaged her body had left its mark, her skin was scorched and looked half flayed off. And then there was that thing, Norgarth’s mind raced to try and glean how it could have happened, but this dread sorcery was beyond him. It was only a few days since Haennah’s deceit had become known. She’d had on her person the Black Crystal Heart of the Lich Zhang all along. And then in Rathmore again took it from the mummified body of undead wizard. And yet somehow, somehow it was now embedded in her chest. Before they had left Rathmore he had tried to remove it but it was fused to her ribcage half embedded. But now it looked as if it had sunken deeper into her chest, the flesh had partly closed around it so only a third of the heart showed.
The pale skin around the edge was almost transparent ,the dark black of the human shaped crystal heart fading beneath the flesh. The light in the room reflected on the sharp edged faceted nodules that covered its surface, as if he was looking down from afar upon the black dread mountains of the Abyss. He grit his teeth as his gaze followed the black hair-line veins visible just below the surface of the tieflings skin and he could just discern the throb of the blood that passed from the crystal heart into its new hosts body.
There was a knock at the door, ‘Sir are you ok? Is the girl?..’‘Yes fine! Leave me be!’ He hesitated, his free hand on the nearby blanket ready, and listened for the soldier’s steps to fade. He reached down and hesitantly touched Haennah’s new heart.. he felt a tingle of energy, like a beat pulse from it through his fingertips and into the marrow of his bones, the ache was painful and he pulled his hand back sharply. He placed a hand on her neck ,… the pulse was strong and throbbed at the same tempo he had felt from the heart. Her breath still came in short sharp gasps but already seemed more regular. He threw the blanket around her and got up to leave. ‘If you live , so be it, but there’s nothing I can do for you now.’
A few days passed and Haennah remained comatose. There was little that could be done other than keep her warm, yet the wounds she had succumbed to healed surprising quickly and without any scarring, yet still she could not be wakened.
Norgarth stood in the rain and leant against the rail of the prow looking out into the night sky as the ship continued on its journey. The body parts of Zhang that he had taken could not be destroyed so they must be scattered and hidden, and Haennah must never know. He had seen her obsession twist the girl’s personality, it seemed that little of the naïve, overly chirpy tiefling was left and she had been consumed by an evil desire for power. He hoped that by some miracle she had not succumbed finally to her own folly. Was the crystal heart actually evil and if so what would become of her?