Remembrances of a Fallen Star

AT 1082 (AZ 1454) - Early Summer
On the Road to Hebertos, Notos

The ruined port of Iakobin had nothing more to offer her. Hundreds of men, women and children slaughtered, fled or turned to stone. Then came the mountain folk, apparently sent to rout them. They put up quite a fight, but by straining her powers, Medusa was able to add most of them to grand stone garden she had crafted. It would have been challenge enough with both eyes intact and even more so with one marred from that accursed arrow. Taking the risk of losing her other eye ultimately proved to be a wise move because the mountain folk's arms, armor and engines could all be put to good use. Had she tried to slaughter them, she easily could have lost half her army or more. Until the Monarch Lich came, there would be no reinforcements, so she needed to conserve her numbers.
She slithered among the statues of the mountain folk frozen in their battle lines. Their bodies had been stripped bare, so her garden resembled the great statuaries she once knew, albeit one with a taste for the grotesque. The stunted, thick-bearded little men were hardly the lean-muscled youths and nubile women so favored by the artists of her day. The temptation was strong to mar the statues for spite, but Medusa had forbidden that they be touched. Let them stand as a testament to her power.
She went to the mountain folk's leader. He was nearly as big around as he was tall, but that was true for most of his kind. One-on-one, only a Trolwer, a Great Kobalos or one of the largest of Arachne's daughters could prevail in a test of strength. Whatever the conditions of the mountain folk's league with the Notians, the leader of the humans was wise to send them against Medusa's forces. Or it would have been, were it not for Medusa's power. No human army would pose so great a threat unless they numbered in the tens of thousands and Medusa doubted the Notians could field such an army.
"You seem troubled, my lady," Belah Dinh said.
"Do I now?" Medusa asked.
The Trolwif was perceptive. Even as Medusa was reassuring herself of their advantage, too much was unknown for her to have too much confidence. Belah Dinh did not need to say anything.
"We do not know nearly enough about this land," Medusa said. "This city was already ruined by Dragons and the Python. We did nothing more than pick over the corpse like some carrion bird."
"We do not need to be lions," Belah Dinh replied. "The canny hunter conserves his strength and picks off the weak prey. If you wish know more of this land, send out scouts to spy out the land. The Orghim have a talent for it. Use what you have."
Most of the Orghim in Medusa's army were beastmasters charged with the assorted monsters that made up the bulk of her forces. She could not afford to part with many of them lest the monsters break free to run loose over the land.
"Very well then," she said. "Five parties of four. North, northwest, west, southwest and south. Three days out and three days back."
With the sea to their backs, an entire half-turn of the clock did not need surveying. It was a small mercy.
"We could return to the forest in the west," Belah Dinh said. "It would be safer there. We can move during the daytime hours by the shade of the canopy and strike at the enemy more easily from any direction."
"No," Medusa said. "Not yet. I feel more the conqueror in a city, even a ruined one."
"And yet it grants you no peace, my lady."
It seemed like a silly thing for her to say, but the Trolwifs were not known for jesting.
"Peace?" Medusa asked. "I have never known peace for a single day, not since the gods cursed me."
The thought of it seemed to agitate the tangle of snakes in her head, as if the memory alone was meant to further her torment.
"I have heard the stories," Belah Dinh said.
"So the stories reach even your kind?" Medusa asked. "Who knows how true the telling is, though. The memory grows dim for me as well. The gods are petty and full of spite. This alone remains clear."
"Should we succeed in our mission, we will become as gods," Belah Dinh said proudly.
Medusa chuckled at this.
"Then we too can lord over the mortals in pettiness and spite."
She was wrong to take Belah Dinh's words as some jape. She was all too serious.
"The mortal world is fading, my lady," she said. "Naught will be remembered when curtain of forever night goes down."
In truth, Medusa knew little of Belah Dinh's kind or their beliefs. Was it more than simple survival which drove them into the Lich's service? Did they adhere to some death cult as the shadow walkers, devoting their lives to speeding their demise? Even for one who many times longed for death in the countless years of her cursed existence, the idea seemed absurd.
"Why then do we fight?" she asked. "That our candle when extinguished might be placed a little higher than the others on the altar of death?"
Belah Dinh seemed surprised by the question.
"You have served this long and still you do not know, my lady? We serve the Dark Race and fight in its cause because its victory is inevitable. Whether in this generation or in a hundred from now, the Void will consume all. For those who fight against it, how great will be their despair on that day. How much better to know what is coming and to accept it."
As one who had seen hundreds--no, thousands of years, Medusa could appreciate taking the long view of history.
"Perhaps it is so," she said. "Dispatch the scouting parties. We still have much work before the end."
Belah Dinh bowed and withdrew. Alone in her stone garden, Medusa turned to the chieftain of the mountain folk and affectionately stroked his head.
"Be thankful, my friend. You will not see that day."