Diablo: Moon of the Spider takes place some time after Tyrael destroyed the Worldstone (Diablo II: Lord of Destruction). It is never described how many months or years has passed since then. But we do know that King Cornelius died around the time Zayl the necromancer arrived to Westmarch.
Another necromancer had been around in Westmarch at least a few months before Zayl did. So it might be safe to say that the novel takes place at least within a year or two after Diablo II: Lord of Destruction.
There aren’t many copies around of Diablo: Moon of the Spider (published in January 2006). I managed to get my copy last week for $19.99. But it is common to see them listed for $30, $60-$100 and even nearing a $1000.
I hope the novel becomes available again under the Blizzard Legends label, because if there are no plans for a Diablo Immortal novel tie-in, then Diablo: Moon of the Spider is the defacto follow up novel after Diablo II: Lord of Destruction.
The novel mentions how Justinian IV became the new King of Westmarch, and some of the ancient history predating the Prime Evils’s Exile era. Moon of the Spider is about the return of Astrogha, the demon spider. A pet minion of Diablo. The novel was published in January 2006, but in October 2006 — Blizzard Entertainment brought Richard A. Knaak back to write Diablo: The Sin War trilogy, in preparation to announce development of Diablo III, two years later.
Astrogha is featured in Diablo: The Sin War trilogy, as a postmortem prequel to Diablo: Moon of the Spider, so to speak, where we learn the origins of Astrogha before Moon of the Spider.
There is no doubt that Moon of the Spider presents a challenge to Diablo Immortal developers. The novel is entirely based in Westmarch and surrounding areas.
Below you can read a sloppy summary I wrote while reading the novel, if you don’t mind spoilers. There is enough material here that at least a decent story writer in the Diablo Immortal team should be able to add NPCs, story hooks and even a dungeon inspired in the events of this novel. Continue reading if you don’t mind spoilers of a 15 years old novel. There is also a strange character that is never mentioned by name, but definitely had a strong hand in helping Zayl defeat Astrogha — through manipulating a wendigo. The character is possibly Archangel Imperius or one of his lieutenants based on the fiery wings description. If this enigmatic character meddled in the matters of mortals then, he might return in Diablo Immortal as well.
DIABLO: MOON OF THE SPIDER SUMMARY
The sorcerer Lord Aldric Jitan and 5 servants navigate the southeastern snowy forests of Westmarch.
Lord Aldric believed himself to be a descendant of King Rakkis.
In the past, there was a struggle for power among Westmarch factions over an object of power. The very object Lord Aldric now searched the snowy mountain for. Dreams and voices tortured him at night. Visions that led him to search and claim the object.
In his visions he saw the object materialize as a big pearl, surrounded by rotten Rakkis banners, and wolf carvings on the stones. The giant pearl is known as “The Moon of the Spider.”
Lord Aldric was led by his guide to the stronghold of the last of the Sons of Rakkis.
Wolf and gargoyle statues adorned the walls inside the stronghold. They stumbled upon a sarcophagus that seemed made off a large pearl, in the center it had a circle adorned with the carving of a spider. Lord Aldric’s necromancer servant used a crystal item that took life into an eight-legged shape that latched itself to the sarcophagus’ carving. The key that opened it. Within, there was the mummified corpse of a Vizjerei wearing a gold chestplate and belt, and the common turinnash robes with orange runes of power. The Vizjerei held the Moon of the Spider that Lord Aldric sought.
Zayl was drawn west, beyond the Twin Seas, toward the western kingdom. In Westmarch, Zayl the Necromancer entered the Inn of the Black Ram to eat a stew, and to stay the night. Thugs unsuccessfully attempt to steal his pouch. After the struggle, Zayl decides to leave the Inn. On his way out, Polth asks Zayl to follow him to go talk with his master — the noblewoman Salene Nesardo.
As they were transported in a carriage, in the middle of their conversation, Zayl was assaulted by a spirit. His vision clouded. His mind under siege. Lady Salene somehow managed to pull Zayl back from the assault to his mind. Zayl grew curious. This would make Salene gifted in some way.
Arriving at the Nesardo state, one of the original Rakkis buildings in Westmarch that seemed more a church than a house, Lady Salene reveals her deceased husband Riordan Nesardo borrowed money from Lord Aldric Jitan. After dying, Lord Aldric told Lady Salene her home belonged to him now.
Salene had a gift that allowed her to sense things. She didn’t trust Lord Aldric’s sealed documents that set him as owner of the House of Nesardo. Thus, she requested Zayl to commune with the spirit of her deceased husband to learn the truth.
Zayl agreed but he would only perform the ritual next midnight when the moon was full. When he retired to his assigned bedroom, he planned to peek into the netherworld beneath the House of Nesardo, in search for Riordan’s soul — behind Salene’s back, to sate his curiosity. Zayl had been assaulted by a spirit earlier, and he knew for a fact the origin of the attack was House of Nesardo. There was an ancient presence here. Zayl went into a trance to shed his soul into the netherworld to investigate.
Beneath the House of Nesardo was a catacomb. The souls of all the past family members of the House of Nesardo were drawn here. It was a collective of souls — bigger than anything Zayl had ever seen before. The souls reacted to his presence, and started to understand they were dead, repeating their lives in a loop. Their reaction forced Zayl to disconnect so to not alter the balance here. Zayl couldn’t find Riordan’s soul here, which he found suspiscious.
As Zayl’s soul attempted to return to his own body, he found resistance. Something had taken hold of his corporeal body. Eventually, Zayl pushed himself to regain control of his body. Humbart, the skull, yelled at Zayl trying to awaken him. Zayl’s left hand had wielded the ivory dagger and attempted to sunk it into Zayl’s chest, while the right hand prevented it. Someone tried to force Zayl’s vacant body to kill himself.
Zayl regained control, and Lady Salene somehow managed to enter the bedroom to find out whether Zayl was alright. Zayl was once more curious about her gift as Lady Salene had easily opened the door he had secured with magical runes to keep shut.
Next midnight, Zayl was ready to initiate the ritual to summon Riordan Nesardo’s soul. Suddenly, he heard a distant bell rung thrice. Salene pointed out that meant King Cornelius of Westmarch had just died.
King Cornelius had three sons. One died in his youth. The immediate heir and namesake died months earlier of a spider bite. Only one son remaining alive to become heir: Justinian the Wide-Eyed (Justinian IV).
General Torion knocked the door. Fiona the servant informed Lady Salene he had arrived. Her half-brother Sardak said General Torion might be here to take her to Entsteig.
General Torion reveals that King Cornelius actually died the night before. They simply needed a day in advance to prepare before ringing the bell. They have been contacting the noblemen to get consensus and support, to avoid a repeat of the Cartolus Insurrection.
Zayl directly asked General Torion who for the first time looked toward the necromancer. Immediately recognizing his type, Torion unsheathed his sword thinking Salene’s mind was under his spell. Salene stood between both men to prevent a struggle. Torion was in love with Salene, and merely wanted to protect her. She assured Zayl was there at her behest. Then dispatched the general with her will to support Justinian IV as the new King of Westmarch.
With the general gone, Zayl asked Lady Salene to allow him to draw one or two drops of blood from her. Her husband was a distant cousin of hers, thus her blood connection to him would help invoke his spirit.
Polth warned Zayl to not wander outside of the house. The Church of Zakarum in Westmarch didn’t welcome Rathmians. In fact, they were perceived as heretics and desecretors; and brought to the fire. Sort of an inquisition.
Back at the House of Jitan, Lord Aldric protested the Moon of the Spider pearl did not react to his magical commands — angered at the necromancer Karybdus. The necromancer closed in behind Lord Aldric Jitan and signaled to hold the pearl in a specific stance and point toward his six servants. The spider in the center of the pearl came to life with two red eyes, and moved around creating six copies of itself. Karybdus described this as the Blessing of Astrogha. The six spiders jumped from the pearl and grew as they landed on the six servants’s heads. The servants mutated into larger men-spiders.
Karybdus informed Lord Aldric Jitan he now had the blessing of Astrogha and these six servants are now Children of Astrogha — where in ages past thousands of them existed. With the Moon of the Spider, Lord Aldric could accomplish all of his goals, the necromancer said — except first he must confront one that might oppose him. His enemy is now a guest at the House of Nesardo.
Back at House of Nesardo, Zayl, Polth and Lady Salene headed down into the catacombs. At least two floors down, Zayl began to hear the voices of the Nesardo family members who have died over the past centuries. Salene swore she could hear them sometimes, but the necromancer could not just hear them, he could see them. He felt the energies of the collective of souls. Lady Sarena explained there were three floors beneath them still. The next was a catacomb for all the servants of the Nesardo. The last floor below was not related to Nesardo ancestors because their catacombs were built upon an existing ancient catacomb.
After arriving to Riordan Nesardo’s crypt, Zayl the necromancer drew a symbol of Trag’Oul depicted as a five-sided pattern. In the corner of each side, he drew the five elements as Rathma preached them: earth, air, fire, water and time. In the center of the five-sided pattern was the serpentine form, and beneath it the downward arch. As the fulcrum of the Balance, the dragon was bound to all the elements, and all the elements bound to him.
Zayl placed Humbart’s skull in the center of the pattern, and retrieved the vial of Salene’s blood which he emptied on the edge of his ivory dagger. Zayl drew a circle of blood around the pattern and Humbart with the ivory dagger. Then asked Salene for three of Riordan’s items of personal value to him. Zayl placed a gold dagger with the seal of the House of Nesardo, a blue silken Lut Gholein scarf (only worn by noblemen of high status in Westmarch) and a medallion with a gold chain. An ancient medallion that predated the House of Nesardo — with a head shape with eight limbs sprouting from it.
With all three items in place around the pattern, Zayl was ready to begin the summoning of Riordan’s spirit. Zayl felt resistance and asked Salene to touch the gold knife and call the name of her husband to strenghten the summoning spell. However, a batlike wraith coalesced causing all insects in the area to flee in terror, and Zayl pushed Salene away, asking Polth to take her away.
Zayl was now more interested than ever in the fact Riordan’s spirit never answer the summoning, and instead something otherworldly appeared. Then four of Lord Aldric Jitan’s arachnid minions appeared out of nowhere blocking the exit for Polth and Lady Salene.
Zayl destroyed the wraith with bone spear attacks. Salene instinctively and for the first time held her ground against the arachnids throwing frost bolts at the assailants. Zayl helped with the remaining Arachnids, but the wraith returned for a second round. Polth saved Zayl’s life at the prize of losing his. Polth figured Zayl had a better chance to keep Lady Salene alive than he did.
The struggle proved too much for Zayl who lost consciousness due to his injuries. She sought Sardak’s help to carry him back from the catacombs up to his bedroom. Lady Salena and Humbart watched over him while he healed, for a few days. Lord Aldric Jitan visited Salena to once more propose marriage to her in order to save her from what her deceased husband owed. She kindly refused, and let him go.
Salena removed Zayl’s armor and clothes except his pants. She finally saw why Zayl never removed his right glove. In Diablo: Kingdom of Shadow, Zayl lost his hand. Humbart tells her he returned to Ureh to recover his hand and through ritual re-attached the now fleshless hand.
After a dream, Zayl recovered consciousness. Humbart filled him in on what happened after the wraith attack, and that he said the name Karybdus in his sleep. He didn’t know who that was. In fact, from afar, Karybdus had blocked Zayl’s memory of him, while unconscious.
Zayl invoked the aid of a demon bound to serve him named X’y’laq. Commanded him to bless his new cloak with the same enchantments of his previous cloak, but this time with the Scale of Trag’Oul.
Sardak knocked at the door. Zayl dismissed X’y’laq by snuffing out the candle that summoned him. Sardak heard another voice in the room and wondered where it came from. Zayl changed the subject. Sardak heard from Salene about the name he uttered while unconscious, and told Zayl he had heard the name once in the Inn. The name was mentioned by a friend of his: Edmun Fairweather. Personal aide to the heir, Justinian IV.
Lord Aldric Jitan grew impatient. From his balcony he could see some of the noblemen arriving to the coronation event that would proclaim Justinian IV’s ascension as the new King. Karybdus the necromancer waited for the accurate alignment of the stars when the time was right for what he planned with the Moon of the Spider pearl.
It was at that point when Lord Aldric Jitan could access its powers to ascend as the new King of Westmarch. Karybdus was on this mission as his reward would be being the instrument by which he would tip the Balance in favor of humanity. For without Lord Aldric Jitan as the new King, he thought the kingdom of Westmarch would crumble, and affect the Balance.
Lord Aldric Jitan envisioned his reign in his mind. First, Khanduras. Then Entsteig. The barbarian regions. Lut Gholein. The world would be bound to his order.
Zayl went on a solo mission to search all the Inns of Westmarch that would be worthy of a King’s aide, scouting for Edmun Fairweather. Zayl passed by a Church of the Zakarum. Soldiers didn’t recognize him as a necromancer.
Following Humbart’s advice, Zayl entered the Garrett’s Crossing inn. He found one who matched Edmun’s description. However, the commotion put Zayl in high alert as he saw crimson clad soldiers of the Church of Zakarum surround him. Zayl waved his hand to draw a rune in the air that disoriented the guards, allowing him to escape. In the street, he hunted Edmun’s trail toward a stable. When he was about to cast the same spell used on the Zakarum, a group of red armored soldiers blocked his path to Edmun. These weren’t Zakarum. From behind, others knocked Zayl down, and punched him unconscious.
Salene couldn’t bare another minute staying home knowing well that Zayl might be in trouble in such a big city. She took a route away from Sardak’s bedroom to leave the house undetected. But passing by Zayl’s bedroom, she didn’t imagine Humbart would hear her. Humbart reminded her why she shouldn’t leave her home, but Salene convinced him Zayl might be in trouble. Humbart asked Salene to take him. He was a mercenary and a hunter in his mortal life. He could assist in her search.
Dolf the guard at House of Nesardo allowed his master exit and promised not to tell her half-brother. Salene rode her horse to many of the inns in Westmarch. Humbart would tell her whether he sensed Zayl. Eventually, they went past the Church of the Zakarum, and to Garrett’s Crossing Inn. There she stumbled upon a tall man who warned this wasn’t a place for the likes of a noblewoman. Informed of a struggle inside by one of the sorcerers that rise the dead, and how he dispatched the Zakarum soldiers.
Salene inferred that if the Zakarum didn’t have Zayl, maybe General Torion might.
General Torion greeted Zayl, who woke up in restraints in one of the deep prison cells beneath the guard headquarters. One prepared with anti-magic wards. General Torion said he should be grateful his men captured him before the Zakarum guards could recover from his spell. The Zakarum dealt with heretics by cleansing them in fire. Once alone, Zayl attempted to escape by calling for his ivory dagger to come to him. However, Zayl was mentally assaulted once more (it’s later revealed this was a mental assault by Astrogha from within the Moon of the Spider artifact).
In this vision, he could see priests waiting for the moon to be in alignment to summon the demon Astrogha into Sanctuary. In here Zayl was being manipulated to let go of his dagger, convincing him to be another of the priests. Zayl was probably led to believe he was roleplaying one of the priests.
Mysteriously, after Zayl recovered from the mind assault he was now far from Westmarch city in the forest. No idea how he escaped the cell or how he got there. As he made his way back to Westmarch, Zayl was now attacked by an agile creature with blazing speed. On its third attack, Zayl was now face to face to identify his new assailant. A wendigo.
Zayl used his dagger to cast lightning at the wendigo. He thought it had been defeated, but it rose. Zayl, however, didn’t expect to see the wendigo make a gesture only meant as a heed for help.
Back at the guard headquarters, Salene asked Captain Alec Mattheus for an audience with General Torion. He informed he saved Zayl from the Zakarum, and placed him in a cell; but he escaped and tore apart one of his guards. He sent Alec and two guards to House Nesardo to search for Zayl. Salene accidentally froze Torion into a deep sleep. Then rode her horse back to her home. There Sardak told her Zayl had not returned. The guards arrived to her home. She hid in the catacombs so that the guards won’t find her at her home so quickly after last they saw her with Torion. In the catacombs, she found the spirit of her bodyguard Polth.
The spirit of Polth led her to the fifth level beneath the House of Nesardo, where long time ago an earthquake caved the entrance to the ancient catacomb where the Nesardo catacombs were built upon. Salene found no way to get past the rubble, and attempted to use her untrained magical gift to move some rocks, but as she approached, the ground gave in and she fell along with the rubble into the abyss.
The original wendigos were creatures of the mountain. More docile. It was the corruption of the Prime Evils that transformed them into blood-thirsty man-flesh eaters. The lightning explosion from Zayl’s ivory dagger not only shattered its leg’s bone… it somehow broke the corruption sway. Made the wendigo docile once more, pleading for help. Zayl waved his ivory dagger to cast a healing spell upon its shattered leg.
The wendigo was grateful to Zayl and while not able to talk, his grunts and persistence signaled Zayl the wendigo would escort him back to Westmarch city to ensure his safety through the forest. At the city walls, the wendigo was no longer behind Zayl. As Zayl faced the city walls, he noticed the intensity of the weather. He imagined Lord Aldric Jitan was behind the change of the weather… and suddenly the name Karybdus returned to his mind. Except now, the name triggered his blocked memory of Karybdus to resurface. Zayl gaped in horror.
Lady Salene had fallen at least 3-4 levels down. She willed more illumination and the blue wisp of light she summoned earlier intesified to her will illuminating the entire area. She could see below a big amphitheater. She could see robed figures of men and women seating on the benches, their eyes staring unblinking up toward an arachnid, as in rapture. They chanted: “Astrogha.”
Salene was witnessing a replay of past events. Suddenly, guards enter the room. Sons of Rakkis. A priest commanded the other cultists to complete the ceremony before the Vizjerei among the Sons of Rakkis showed up. But the moon alignment to complete the summoning of Astrogha was over.
The priest commanded the orb known as the Moon of the Spider to be taken away from the Sons of Rakkis assault and hidden for when the next time the ceremony could be completed. Another priest asked about the chained woman’s blood. The priest said when the time comes for the next ceremony, all they will need is the descendant of Rakkis. Apparently, Rakkis had married someone of the same bloodline as the woman used for the ceremony to summon Astrogha.
The leading priest had no use for the sacrifice subject. Before he could stab the woman, a Vizjerei pierced his throat with a spell. The woman looked back into Salene’s eyes, where she met her own. The woman was obviously an ancestor of Salene. The vision faded, and the amphitheater was now dusty and ancient in the present. She faintly touched the red stain nearby. Blood of those sacrificed in ancient times. “Sometimes, some horror is necessary for the ultimate good.” Salene spun around to meet the source of the voice. It was Karybdus the necromancer.
Salene tried to escape from Karybdus by blinding him with her blue light, but he captured her with a cage of bones. Then used a variation of life-tap to weaken her. She lost consciousness.
General Torion snapped out of his standing slumber with the yells coming from Captain Alec Mattheus. Torion was pulled to a chair, and given wine to come to his senses. He blamed the necromancer for whatever ill spell stunned him. He thought maybe Zayl might have returned and kidnapped Salene. Torion ordered Alec to search for Zayl throughout Westmarch and to arrest him. As he wrote a full description, Prince Justinian IV had arrived to the guard headquarters unannounced and with no escort.
Torion was surprised how well informed Justinian was that a necromancer had caused an incident in the Garret’s Crossing Inn, and inside the cells. Torion had not bothered to inform Justinian of his presence in the city. The Zakarum petitioned Justinian the custody of Zayl, and apparently he had inner-circle informants within the guard’s roster as well, keeping him informed where Torion failed to. Justinian wanted Zayl brought to him as soon as he is captured.
Zayl made his way toward House Nesardo to make sure Salena was alright, before heading in search of Karybdus. Now that his memory of Karybdus had been unblocked though he hadn’t met the elder necromancer before, he knew Karybdus was over 100 years. Perfected many of the necromancer spells taught to Zayl and other necromancers. Fought tyrants, spellcasters and demons in his quest to see the world in ultimate balance.
Zayl searched his room and Salene’s room. Not finding her, he spooked Sardak to ask him about her whereabouts. He said Salene entered the crypts trying to hide from Captain Alec. But now two guards stood by the entrance to the crypt awaiting orders from Torion to desecrate the crypts in search of Zayl.
Zayl asked Sardak to accompany him into the crypts in search of Salene. Zayl found Humbart at the gates of the crypt, left behind by Salene. Humbart offered to be used for a spell to track Salene’s whereabouts. Zayl stabbed the top of Humbart’s skull while chanting a spell. His eye sockets glowed intensely revealing a shade of Karybdus and Salene as they marched through a tunnel, then into a broken side of the mountain leading outdoors. Karybdus had left behind an army of risen priests of Astrogha to delay Zayl. As both got overwhelmed, a giant figure suddenly lunged onto the undead priests. The wendigo had returned to assist Zayl.
The ritual to summon Astrogha would need to be performed in two hours when the moon was in the perfect alignment. The wendigo grunted and signaled Zayl to follow him.
Karybdus joined Lord Aldric Jitan at the rendezvous point, then guided his master to the location where the Moon of the Spider was first created. It was buried beneath rocks. Karybdus asked Lord Aldric Jitan to rise the Moon of the Spider above his head and to concentrate his will upon a specific point among the rocks. The Moon of the Spider shot a bolt at the focal point and rocks flew in all directions, unblocking access to the ancient site’s altar.
Karybdus commanded the lethargic Salene to lay down on top of the altar, then slightly cut into her throat with his ivory dagger to draw a few drops of her blood. Pure Astrogha blood, which meant Salene was actually and somehow a descendant of the demon Astrogha. The blood was placed above the spider insignia at the center of the Moon of the Spider pearl.
Suddenly, Karybdus felt the presence of Zayl. They looked toward the only known entrance to the altar, and Karybdus threw a bone dagger in that direction impaling his unseen target. It was a dead arachnid skeleton wrapped in Zayl’s cloak. It was a ruse. The wendigo had led Zayl and Sardak through a secret priest service tunnel on the opposite direction.
Arachnids and Children of Astrogha priest skeletons attacked Zayl. Meanwhile, Sardak attempted to awaken Salene at the altar. Zayl chanted a spell to bring her back to her senses. As she looked toward Zayl, she saw Lord Aldric Jitan rise the Moon of the Spider in their direction. Sardak quickly ran toward the sorcerer impaling him on the shoulder. An arachnid quickly moved in to defend his master, biting Sardak on the neck.
Salene reacted by hurling a fire ball at the creature, then held the collapsing Sardak. Two arachnids moved to attack Zayl, while the wendigo battled most of the minions. As Zayl killed the second arachnid, Karybdus cast corpse explosion on it — throwing Zayl against the altar and almost knocking him out. Karybdus asked Lord Aldric Jitan to deal with the wendigo while he prepares Salene for sacrifice.
A brilliant light blinded Lord Aldric Jitan, who used the Moon of the Spider to shield his eyes. The wendigo tore the last of the minions surrounding him and focused now on Karybdus direction, and threw a pile of the last minion toward him. Karybdus sensed something and turned around. He dodged the attack.
The wendigo came to the aid of Zayl, who was laying on the ground next to the altar. Zayl asked him to help the others instead. The wendigo grabbed Zayl in one hand, then Salene on the other. Salene commanded it to help the dying Sardak, but the wendigo’s hands were full and lunged toward the exit. Deep into the forest, the wendigo ignored Zayl’s commands to stop. Zayl regretted leaving the dying Sardak behind. But suddenly, he remembered Sardak while being half-brother, meant he also had the blood of Astrogha. Karybdus could still complete the ritual to summon Astrogha.
Karybdus magically prevented Sardak from losing more blood the moment he was bitten. He was still on the edge of death, but not dead. He rose his body from the ground and placed it on the altar. Lifted the sacrificial dagger (retrieved from the amphitheater beneath House Nesardo’s catacombs). Lord Aldric moved to his place to resume the ritual.
The wendigo ran through the forest effortlessly carrying two humans with an army of Lord Aldric’s minions pursuing behind, but three intercepted the wendigo from the front. The wendigo released Zayl and Salene from his grip to grab two of the minions. The third jumped onto his chest.
Zayl couldn’t find Salene, and fought as many of the minions as he could. The rustling of branches in the direction they came from let Zayl know that Salene had ran back for her half-brother Sardak. Zayl wasn’t sure whether Sardak lived, but if he didn’t, they would still need Salene. Zayl went back in pursuit.
Zayl was almost catching up to the frenzied Salene. One of the arachnids grabbed her in the air ready to bite her throat, but she instinctly cast a fireball through its back, scorching it. Zayl managed to catch up and held her hand. She turned around and her hand flared, burning his glove. He quickly removed it, exposing his skeletal right hand. She apologized.
Zayl grabbed her to run in Westmarch’s direction, but once more she slipped out of his grip to go rescue Sardak. She said she could sense him. Another aspect of her special gift. Zayl had no option but to lift the hilt of his ivory dagger and tap the back of her skull to enchant Salene into following him. She would mimic his very own steps as if a mindless puppet walking back in the direction of Westmarch.
The dusk was now over, and the full moon came into view. This was a full moon bigger than any Zayl could remember. Then the top of the moon emanated shadows that transformed into eight legs. The forest reacted to the change of the moon filling the air with howls. Wolves and owls reacting to the moon. Zayl had now no doubts that Sardak was still alive and that Karybdus was completing the ritual. As Zayl turned back toward the ceremony, he heard branches crushed. Captain Alec Mattheus and his guards on horses surrounded Zayl.
Captain Alec commanded Zayl to let Salene go, then injured Zayl on his shoulder. Salene commanded him to stop. Zayl isn’t the villain. Lord Aldric Jitan tried to sacrifice her. Zayl and Sardak saved her. Captain Alec asked Salene to mount Samuel’s horse, and Yorik to cuff Zayl’s hands. The shadows continued to move from the top of the moon down to its bottom. Zayl could see the Moon of the Spider was not only an artifact, but a phase of the moon itself. Zayl imagined that when both the moon and the artifact reach a resemblance, the ritual would be over.
Zayl motioned to his bag, and Captain Alec asked Yorik to investigate what he hid there. As Yorik touched the pouch, Humbart protested. This made Yorik stumble backwards to the ground, causing the horses to go awry. Zayl quickly mounted Yorik’s horse and rode in the ruins direction.
Captain Alec commanded all six guards to come with him in pursuit, and to Samuel to ride Salene back to Westmarch to General Torion.
Eventually, Captain Alec and his men captured Zayl. They held him chest up on the ground, ready to stab him with a sword. The moon was almost covered in shadow. Suddenly, spiders attacked the men, allowing Zayl room to escape the grip. The parasitic spiders jumped onto the men’s heads inserting their legs through their skulls. The men were transformed into human-like arachnids under Lord Aldric Jitan’s control. Captain Alec dismissed Zayl’s pleas to flee back to Westmarch and continued to try to impale Zayl with his sword. Sadly, Captain Alec also fell pray to one of the parasitic spiders.
Lady Salene tried to convince General Torion that it was not Zayl who he should hold prisoner, but Lord Aldric Jitan. Torion refused to believe her. Salene said Zayl requested guards to be placed atop the walls of Westmarch with fire. To look for spiders. Torion dismissed that warning too. She reminded him the new King had been decided due to a poisonous spider killing the oldest prince.
Edmun Fairweather appeared at the guard headquarters requesting Lady Salene was brought before Justinian IV. She insisted General Torion come along. She thought Justinian would listen where Torion ignored her warnings, but she didn’t trust walking alone with Edmun. At the throneroom, Justinian IV dismissed Edmun and Torion to stay alone with Salene. Her gift was triggered when Justinian began to talk to her. She could hear a whisper matching Justinian’s words. When Justinian noticed she was able to hear the whispers, he revealed it was the spirit of King Cornelius standing next to him. She couldn’t see him, but could hear the whispers. Not a good thing considering King Cornelius was among the monsters that attacked Zayl, and Sardak at the amphitheater — a puppet under the sway of Karybdus.
Justinian revealed that Karybdus brought King Cornelius back to Justinian at his request. His father asked him to move the guards away from the walls to be present during the coronation ceremony. All the noblemen would be present. They would witness an attack of spiders, and as per the plan, he would be the one saving the nobles from the invasion. The nobles, including those conspiring against him, wouldn’t have other option but to proclaim him the new King and savior. Salene couldn’t believe Justinian was in on Karybdus’ plot to attack the city.
Back at the altar, Karybdus tried to convince Zayl that what he has sacrificed will lead to the ultimate balance. Zayl accussed him of being corrupted by too many life-taps on demons. Karybdus reveals to Zayl that he had fought side by side with Zayl’s parents long before Zayl let them both perish for the sake of the Balance. Zayl had destroyed a ship and everyone onboard perished, including his parents.
Zayl flared in anger and overcame Lord Aldric Jitan’s magic that held him contained. Zayl held Karybdus by the throat with his skeletal right hand. Lord Aldric pushed further his spell, and Zayl fell to the ground. Karybdus prepared to kill Zayl with his own ivory dagger, when suddenly the blackness projected by the moon turned to crimson. This signaled the second phase of the Moon of the Spider. It was now that Astrogha could be summoned. It was now that Lord Aldric Jitan would be granted the full powers promised to him to claim the throne of Westmarch and become the ruler of the world.
Karybdus abstained from killing Zayl and focused on the ritual. Karybdus asked Lord Aldric to step in position and to place the Moon of the Spider above his own head. Karybdus held the sacrificial dagger above the Moon of the Spider, allowing Sardak’s blood to drip on top of the spider motiff surrounding the giant pearl. Zayl warned Lord Aldric nothing was what it seemed, to no avail. The spider came to life, dropping out of the pearl and onto Lord Aldric’s skull, drilling its legs into him. Lord Aldric pleaded Karybdus for help, but the later said everything is as should be. Lord Aldric met his demise.
Astrogha now spoke through Lord Aldric’s lips. He had been returned to Sanctuary from his foul prison. Karybdus kneeled before Astrogha: “Welcome back, my Lord Astrogha. Welcome back.”
Captain Alec Mattheus was welcomed at the gates of Westmarch. He commanded the soldiers to snuff out the fires around the city. After leaving, the guards questioned his orders. Their leader countered that order, but it was too late. A sea of spiders climbed the walls and attached themselves onto their new hosts, growing the numbers of Children of Astrogha.
Zayl continued to argue with Karybdus that his wasn’t the best course for the balance. Karybdus response signaled he had summoned Astrogha to betray him. How or why, Zayl did not know. Ever since the amphitheater where the children of Astrogha confused Zayl with their master, Zayl couldn’t understand, but now he did. Unbeknownst to Karybdus, Astrogha had enough influence in the world that he had chosen Zayl to be his host.
This wouldn’t do for Karybdus’ plans to betray Astrogha. Karybdus had chosen the sorcerer Lord Aldric Jitan — one of pure blood too — to be Astrogha’s host. The third phase of the Moon was nigh. Astrogha commanded Karybdus to bring Zayl for the next phase of the moon. To make Zayl his final host. Astrogha said he didn’t need Zayl to be a pure blood for the next phase to work. Karybdus feared that all the arcane knowledge of a necromancer would be used by Astrogha if the unholy union between both was successful. It would be impossible to betray Astrogha with that power.
Zayl was forced to kneel. Above him, Astrogha’s appendages slowly detached from Lord Aldric’s skull. Motioned to attach itself onto Zayl’s skull.
The children of Astrogha opened the gates of Westmarch to allow the swarm of spiders enter the city. General Torion mounted his horse and decided to patrol the northeastern walls that were now poorly patrolled upon Justinian’s request. Others could do this job, but he wanted to feel relaxed today doing his former duty. Suddenly, he noticed the lack of torches along the wall. He could feel movement in the shadows. The horse went awry. Suddenly, two cat-size shadows approached. One attached itself to the horse, the other one climbed General Torion’s shoulder. He quickly slashed it off with his sword. He slashed the one above his horse, who was suspiciously standing still. As soon as the spider was split in half, the horse fell to the ground as if a lifeless puppet, pinning Torion’s leg.
A guard approached Torion, and won’t reply to his questions. Instead, attempted to remove Torion’s helmet. This close, he could see the guard’s helmet bulged sideways. Beneath the helmet, he could see one of the spiders. He didn’t need to know further. He stabbed the guard’s throat through, and secured his own helmet. He struggled with more spiders. Another guard approached flailing his torch at the spiders, saving his general. Torion counted only 7 loyal guards to help him protect the city. The other possessed guards were now attacking their fellow guards. Torion vowed to destroy these spiders even if it meant burning all of Westmarch. He sent a guard to alert Justinian to send all the guards to help contain the invasion.
The guard arrived to the throneroom, but Edmun dismissed him. Justinian was too busy. The guard insisted. Edmun ordered the guards to arrest him. Salene continued to insist the spirit of King Cornelius was being manipulated by Karybdus, and pleaded Justinian not to listen to his father’s whispers. Salene couldn’t understand why her gift had waned while near Justinian. She figured out his necklace was the source of Justinian’s sudden powers even though none in his family were sorcerers. She grabbed the necklace, and Justinian quickly attempted to restrain her. She suddenly willed herself elsewhere. Then again. She figured Justinian willed to neutralize her, but now that she was in possession of the necklace, it amplified her gift.
Edmun saw her and held her hand. Salene tried to do to him what she did to Zayl earlier; but with the necklace amplification it was too much. Edmun was fully in flames. Before dying, he invoked the name of his true master: Astrogha.
Salene looked in Justinian’s direction. Then looked at his side. The shade that represented King Cornelius was no longer surrounded by a dark aura. Removing Justinian’s medallion had severed Karybdus’s sway over King Cornelius. No longer controlled by the necromancer, he informed his son. Salene reminded Justinian about the guard messenger he sent to prison. He must know what transpired in the city.
There was no time to wait for the guards to come to Justinian. Salene needed to inform General Torion that help was coming. She held the medallion and concentrated on General Torion. She teleported next to Torion. She informed him what happened at the throneroom. Torion and the remaining guards were being overrun by swarms of spiders. Salene asked them to step back from the barrels of oil. She held the medallion and the barrels were catapulted into the air and crashed in the middle of the swarm. She rose her hands and fire shot out into the swarm.
General Torion wondered how she did that, as she didn’t think of Salene a sorceress. He praised her, but recognized she had just earned them some time unless the source was stopped. Salene concentrated on Zayl and held her medallion. Only Zayl could stop the swarm. The strain was too much. Salene has a range limit, even with the medallion. She teleported somewhere in the forest, but with such force she lost the medallion.
She searched for the medallion in the downpour caused by the rain. Suddenly, she noticed a light in the woods. She couldn’t tell if it was a mirage. In the corner of her eyes she could noticed a dark hooded figure, silver robes, and wings of fire. But blinking again, the figure disappeared. It was now replaced by something approaching. It was the wendigo that helped them not long ago.
Zayl ferociously negated Astrogha’s attempt to drill his appendages into his skull. His magical wards were strong but he was delaying the inevitable. Karybdus had prepared spells on Lord Aldric Jitan long ago to guarantee he could betray Astrogha removing him from Lord Aldric whenever he was convinced the Balance had shifted where he desired. However, Karybdus had not accounted for the demon Astrogha having such control on the world from his prison inside the Moon of the Spider artifact.
Nevertheless, an elder necromancer like himself knew more than anyone the strengths and weaknesses of a necromancer. This could tip his advantage against Astrogha. He could mask his spellwork even better in Zayl than he did with Lord Aldric. Silently, Karybdus weaved his spell on Zayl while the parasitic Astrogha focused on claiming Zayl as his new host.
Justinian brought the cavalry to General Torion to hold the line of defense against the swarm of spiders. Captain Alec arrived, and Torion — who hoped to be succeeded as general by one he considered a son — welcomed him. However, Alec tried to remove Torion’s helmet. The act forced Torion to defend himself. Looking closely, he noticed Alec’s helmet was placed higher above his head than normal. There was no denying it. The Alec he knew was dead. This was a puppet controlled by a parasitic spider. After a struggle, Torion knocked Alec’s helmet off, and sliced the spider above his head in half.
The wendigo traveled through the forest with Salene in one hand to bring her to the ruins. Salene was certain that Zayl was prisoner there, for he never returned to Westmarch. The third phase of the moon was nigh. There was no time to waste. The wendigo lured most of the larger arachnid monsters. Salene used her gift to teleport inside the ruins. There she saw Zayl about to be eaten by a large spider.
Karybdus sensed the wendigo. Then he sensed a familiar presence. Lady Salene Nesardo. But when he looked in the direction he sensed her, nothing. Then he sensed her elsewhere. He looked there. Nothing. This surprised him, but now he understood what was going on. Too late. Lady Salene cast a fireball at his chest, knocking him against a wall.
Salene looked in Zayl’s direction. The large spider was vomiting web fluid around Zayl from the feet to his upper torso. She could only see his right hand and head. Astrogha wanted Zayl to submit willingly to the merge, invading his mind with promises of grandeur. By the time the third phase of the moon was over, he would be fully enveloped in the cocoon, and willingly merged into one being: Astrogha/Zayl. The cocoon would accelerate the process to rearrange Zayl’s body into Astrogha’s true form.
So far her gift had manifested in two spells: teleportation and fire. She feared to use the latter against the large spider that had Zayl’s head pinned with its legs. She feared harming Zayl. Suddenly, Humbart talked to her. She evaded two of the arachnid humanoids and closed the distance between her and Humbart. Salene asked him if he knew how she could help Zayl. Humbart said returning his ivory dagger would do. Humbart told her it was in Karybdus’ belt.
Salene approached the unconscious Karybdus, and parted away his cloak. Then grabbed Zayl’s ivory blade from Karybdus’ belt. Karybdus opened his eyes and grabbed her hand. She couldn’t teleport nor cast a fire spell. He had accounted now for her abilities, and couldn’t escape his grip. She attempted to use the ivory dagger, but he also restrained that hand.
She remembered Humbart’s words, that if Zayl could get ahold of his ivory dagger, he could break free of Astrogha. The ivory dagger suddenly left her hand and hovered above her. She wasn’t certain how. She focused her thoughts on the ivory dagger reaching Zayl. There was no doubt anymore. She was willing the ivory dagger to move toward Zayl. Karybdus was not expecting this new skill set.
The wendigo burst into the chamber all scarred and bleeding, clinging on his body at least seven dead arachnid humanoids, and one of his arms hanging uselessly. The remaining arachnids looked toward the wendigo and recognizing him as a threat to their master Astrogha, attacked.
Zayl was weakened, but his will still prevented Astrogha from claiming him. Suddenly, he felt something in his skeletal hand. Sensing it, he said powerful words Trag’Oul taught Rathma long ago. The ivory dagger flared bright. Astrogha shaked in revulsion. Zayl swung his dagger back and forth where he thought Astrogha was above his head. Astrogha’s legs retreated allowing Zayl to hold better control of his mind. He used the dagger to break the webbing. Zayl was now free.
His senses drew him to look for the source of the noises. He saw the wendigo. He wondered where Karybdus was. Humbart yelled at Zayl that Salene was in danger, but before Humbart could say further, he warned Zayl.
Zayl looked behind. Astrogha’s true form was taking shape and growing. He realized now that Astrogha had returned to Lord Aldric Jitan’s corpse as a last effort to cling to his rebirth in the mortal plane.
Zayl launched his dagger toward the webbing surrounding part of Lord Aldric’s grotesque large body, but it ricochet away back to Zayl. The wendigo had now perished. Karybdus had Salene’s throat in a grip. He was casting a terrible spell to punish Salene. Zayl cast a spell toward the wendigo’s corpse. A bone spirit flew in Karybdus’ direction slashing him in the chest, drawing a large chunk of his soul essence. The revenant returned to the wendigo’s corpse taking a chunk of Karybdus’ soul into the realm of the dead.
Karybdus was weakened, but he had learned in over a century many spells to replace chunks of soul lost to him. He aimed at Salene. Zayl warned Salene as the Talon of Trag’Oul was cast by Karybdus to claim Salene’s soul to replenish his own. Salene teleported. The bone spear struck the wall, missing its target. Salene had teleported next to Karybdus. She held the same sacrificial dagger used on Sardak and aimed at Karybdus’ neck. Karybdus’ familiar spider came out of his cloak and threatened Salene. She killed it. Karybdus struck at Salene, but she teleported near Zayl. He grieved the demise of his pet.
Salene helped Zayl to his feet. They looked at Astrogha, almost done with wrapping Lord Aldric’s corpse. Astrogha had swelled into a form twice as big as a wendigo, and the moon of the spider was nigh concluded. If that happened, Astrogha would be at the peak of his true form and powers. Zayl felt he had failed. He rescued Salene only to let Lord Aldric and Karybdus use Sardak’s blood for the ritual. A thought formed in his mind. The blood. It was not over yet.
Zayl asked Salene for her blood. Salene is human, but an ancient ritual bound the blood of her ancestor to Astrogha. That blood is a link between the mortal plane and Astrogha’s plane. Therefore that which allows him to bind himself in the mortal plane can also disrupt it. Zayl cut Salene’s wrist to gather some of her blood in the sacrificial dagger used in the Moon of the Spider ritual.
Zayl handed the sacrificial dagger to Salene. Astrogha’s bloodline. Her blood. Her hand. Only she could disrupt the rebirth ritual. Right on Astrogha’s head. Between the eyes. As Astrogha’s limb removed the webbing off his eyes, he claimed victory. He had returned. Salene teleported behind him, and plunged the dagger where Zayl specified. Astrogha did not die. It was too late. The rebirth was complete.
Zayl and Salene moved toward the exact location the Moon of the Spider artifact was first created by the Vizjerei. The sacrificial dagger now containing Salene’s blood and Astrogha’s ichor was held by Zayl. He touched its tip with his own ivory dagger and draw a spell on the carcass of the Moon of the Spider artifact.
The Moon of the Spider artifact opened like a flower, and an unnatural wind began to draw into the artifact. Some of the arachnid carcasses were drawn to it. Astrogha in horror was being pulled as well. To Zayl’s surprise, Sardak’s corpse started to move. It was being pulled. Zayl now worried that Salene was in danger as well. Everything that shared Astrogha’s blood would be pulled into the artifact prison. Zayl’s hand felt a pull. The sacrificial dagger with Astrogha’s ichor and Salene’s blood was being claimed as well.
The artifact grew in size. Astrogha was pulled, and grabbed Zayl’s leg — attempting to remain in the mortal plane or to drag Zayl along into the artifact prison. Zayl used his ivory dagger to set himself free from the grip. Astrogha now used its legs to cling to the edges of the artifact’s shell.
Astrogha spat web fluid in Zayl’s direction but the force of the wind made it miss its target and instead cling to the altar. The force was such that the altar broke and slammed Astrogha, who lost his grip and got pulled into the abyss of the artifact.
Karybdus, as weakened as he was, struck at Zayl yelling how he had destroyed all what he worked hard for to maintain the balance. Karybdus asked for the sacrificial dagger. There was still time to fix Zayl’s mistake. Zayl obliged. All that had Astrogha’s blood was being sucked into the prison. Even the children of Astrogha. The sacrificial dagger contained Astrogha’s ichor. Zayl stabbed Karybdus in the heart. The sacrificial dagger no longer held in Zayl’s hand was claimed by the Moon of the Spider artifact as well, pulling Karybdus into the prison too.
Zayl lost consciousness seconds after Salene called his name. She survived. Salene teleported Zayl and Sardak’s corpse back to Westmarch, and tended to Zayl’s wounds. Justinian IV sent for Zayl four times, but Zayl declined the invitations fearing he would be rewarded a medal. General Torion said his farewell to Zayl. When Zayl was ready to say farewell to Salene to pursue other disturbances in the balance he could sense, Salene offered to come along with Zayl.
Zayl declined and said Justinian IV would need her more than ever. The young king needed guidance. Not just from General Torion, but from her. As Zayl reached for the door to depart House Nesardo, Salene kissed Zayl’s lips. She gifted Sardak’s horse to Zayl and some supplies for his journey.
As Zayl left the gates of Westmarch, a figure looked at Zayl in the distance. The figure is described as resembling a mercenary with many faces. The figure had tested Zayl and Salene, and they rose to the ocassion meeting the test. A pair with potential. The figure had sent the wendigo to assist them in their task. The figure wondered how Zayl and Salene would fare next they met each other. The figure spread its fiery wings and flew into the sky.
Zayl the Necromancer
Humbart Wessel (Zayl’s skull companion)
Lord Aldric Jitan (sorcerer, and senior-ranking member of the Westmarch Council of Nobles)
Rolf (one of Lord Aldric’s servants)
Karybdus (necromancer. one of Lord Aldric’s servants)
Hyram (owner of The Inn of the Black Ram in Westmarch)
Lady Salene Nesardo (Westmarch noblewoman, aristocrat, descendant of the demon Astrogha, widow of Riordan Nesardo)
Polth (Salene’s bodyguard)
Sardak (Salene’s half-brother)
Fiona (servant of the House of Nesardo)
Barnaby (another servant of the House of Nesardo)
Edmun Fairweather (Justinian’s aide)
X’y’Laq (demon bound to Zayl’s commands)
Dolf (guard at the gates of House of Nesardo)
Captain Alec Mattheus (General Thorion’s adjutant)
Skaro (Karybdus’s pet spider)
Brennard (Westmarch guard)
Yorik (Westmarch guard)
Samuel (Westmarch guard)
Stephan (Westmarch guard)
Gerard (Westmarch guard)
Boromir (Westmarch guard)
King Rakkis — founder and ruler of Westmarch
Captain Kentril Dumon (character from Diablo: The Kingdom of Shadow)
Riordan Nesardo (Lady Salene’s deceased husband)
Queen Nellia (died shortly after Justinian IV was born)
Icharion (Zayl’s father)
Tokaric (priest of Astrogha)
Odyssian, Theroni, Jalak, Mumryth of the Wing (seem to be important characters of the Rathmian mythos)
Den’Trag (the Teeth of Trag’Oul)
Falaya, Horus and Nil (necromancer elders)
Armin Ra (a Vizjerei defeated by Karybdus long ago. Karybdus fashioned the bone and metal armor he now wears to fight an epic battle against Armin Ra)
Lord Vermillion (Westmarch nobleman)
The Inn of the Black Ram
Lut Gholeim (mentioned)
Garrett’s Crossing Inn (mentioned by Humbart)
Children of Astrogha amphitheater