Tir Na n'Fir

The Lost City - Temples, tunnels, and still more rats
Thoughts from the point of view of Cora'sol "The Immortal"

cross posted from Cora’s Travel Journal

It’s too bad Amit isn’t here with us now. For, what better way to deal with giant rats than to have at your side a giant cat? – Cora

.oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

The rats, thankfully, made no further appearance that evening, however their apparent disappearance made me extremely wary. According to what Jaeger had described, he and Scott had only taken out half of the beasts, but Lan had seen no trace of them in the tunnels. I pondered again, briefly, how expansive the tunnelworks under the ruined city might prove to be. As we made our preparations to go into the temples across the way, I noticed that the entire area behind the two chapels was entirely unharmed, as if the area had been protected somehow from the utter destruction of the city surrounding them.

Tobias and KelLyn had spent several hours the night before telling us all that they knew from their previous encounters with the Paladin of Celestia. We decided that we would explore that temple first, and made our way carefully through the ruined street and up to the blue stone stairs.

The cobalt colored steps led up and into a main open-roofed worship area which boasted a large altar at the back of the space and a large blue velvet tapestry which hung above it. The tapestry was embroidered with an enormous silver eye – the symbol of Celestia – which was woven in such a way that it appeared to follow the party’s movements around the room. From the entrance, the embroidered eye looked very realistic, but as we drew nearer to the altar, the intricate stitch-work became more visible.

Scott made a motion to tear the tapestry down, but I sternly warned against defacing the temple. Tobias seconded my warning with the statement that, while he had a personal vendetta against the paladin of this order, he held nothing against the deity or the rest of the order, and we did not want to borrow trouble. There were doors to the left and right of the tapestry that lead into the temple proper, and I checked the door to the left first. I found no physical traps, but was still wary of potential magical traps, and told the party as much. Ignoring my warnings, Scott walked up and opened the door before anyone could say anything about the action.

I stared after him in utter exasperation, again considering his apparent disregard for safety, but then followed the rest of the party through the door into a room with several desks arranged in an orderly fashion. Each of the desks held several religious texts which seemed centered on the day-to-day functions of running a temple of Celestia. It was odd to see such rituals and rites written out, but as the text were very specific, I considered that it may have been one of the requirements of their order.

Taryn spoke up then, asking if we should take the books with us, but we had no use for them and Tobias reiterated that we should not destroy them. As they discussed the books, I examined the walls and discovered a small alcove off to one side. There was a hidden panel there which opened up a door to what appeared to be a small bathroom. The rest of the party was completely baffled by the thought of an indoor restroom, and stared at me uncomprehendingly when I told them what it was for. After a moment of trying to explain, I simply shook my head at them and said that there was nothing here in this space to worry about.

We continued to follow the hallway a short distance to another door off to the right. This door was trapped, but the mechanism was a simple one, and I disarmed it easily. The door opened into a small room which had several robes hanging on wall pegs. The robes were simple dark blue silk, and Lan grabbed one of them to put on. She happily twirled the robe around with a giggle, and said that it reminded her of the water. This room also held a writing desk, a small table, and a bed. The bed was luxurious with a down filled mattress, and sheets that were made of deep blue silk. Tobias looked at the bed, and then took the sheets off of the mattress with a saucy wink towards me as he folded them carefully away in his pack.

He debated for a moment on how to take the mattress, but it would have been too heavy and too bulky to transport, so he left it alone with a sigh. I raised an amused eyebrow at his obvious flirtation, but then turned to explore the writing desk. With great interest, I discovered several sheets of excellently preserved vellum, several long black quills, and a beautiful blue-black ink which had a mystical quality about it. I added these things carefully to my own pack, and continued to investigate the room.

Underneath the bed, I discovered the carapace of a giant centipede which had died a long time ago of starvation. It crumbled to dust as I touched it, but there was nothing left in the room of interest. We continued our explorations, and the next room opened into a larger area which appeared to be the monk’s quarters, with four cells that were sparsely equipped with simple, empty furniture.

Another door on the left opened into a second partitioned room for young clerks. There were basic unadorned robes in a light blue silk hanging on the wall. The silk was good quality, and since they bore no markings of any order on them, I took one and Scott took the other. The cots here were of a much lower quality, and the mattresses were old and musty smelling. As I searched through the room I discovered, to my delight, an old canvas folding tub. The canvas was rotten, but the copper frame was still strong and sound. I gave it to Tobias to add to the cart, with the request to help me recanvas the tub at our earliest opportunity.

There was a large carved doorway at one corner of the hallway, which lead into the high priest’s room. The door was trapped, and as I worked to delicately disarm the trap, I revealed a set of explosive runes which instantly activated in my face. I managed to avoid most of the detonation, but took some injury from the explosion. Lan ran over to me after the smoke cleared and was able to quickly heal my wounds. The door swung harmlessly open, since the handle was blown clear in the blast, and it revealed an opulent room with an enormous four poster bed with carved posts, a foot locker made of the same wood, a large desk, and several heavily embroidered robes which hung from pegs on the wall.

Tobias again began to strip the bed of the sheets, blankets, and the gauzy canopy; and then began to examine the bed to see if he could figure out how to dismantle it. KelLyn claimed the heavy robes for herself, and I examined the large desk. I found more vellum, and a larger portion of the mystical blue-black ink. Scott expressed some interest in the ink, so I gave him the smaller container I had found earlier, and added the larger container of ink to my pack with the additional vellum. I also discovered an odd rocker tool which was covered in heavy linen, which I gave to KelLyn, as well as a small box which contained several long flat quills and 6 gold nibs which I claimed.

There was a small wardrobe which contained more silk clothes that Taryn and Lan began to go through, and I noticed that one of the pieces of vellum that I picked up had some writing on it. The note was written in common, which I could not read, and I handed it to Osman who said that it was a set of instructions for shipping and handling of merchandise. There was a small alcove in one wall with wooden panels that opened up to reveal a small gold picture frame with platinum filigree. There was no picture inside it though, and in the wall behind the wooden panels was a small slot which looked out into the alleyway behind the temple. Tobias took the picture frame, and I opened the footlocker to reveal an additional set of blankets and a masterwork set of steel manacles with an ornate key. Tobias pointed out that the manacles might be useful if we decided to take prisoners for some reason, and Taryn said something about the letter referring to slaves. I looked at him in confusion for a moment, before realizing that the “shipping and handling” instructions were what he had been talking about. I dropped the manacles and eyed them in distaste, and glared at Osman who had the grace to look abashed at the deception.
Tobias, having given up on trying to dismantle the bed, put all of the blankets and sheets that he had gathered into the footlocker, and he and Scott picked it up to carry it back out to the cart. When they returned we continued to explore down the hallway over to the last room of the temple. This room was locked with mystical traps guarding the door, and I called KelLyn over to help disarm them. She looked at the door critically for a moment before stating that there was not one, but two spells on the door, a trigger and an effect. She drew a circle on the ground to help boost her power, however the first attempt failed. The trap, thankfully did not go off, and her second attempt was powered by two circles. The air sparked with static, and we all ducked around the corner for safety. She dispelled the effect spell with a gout of purple flame, and then said that it was safe to come back in. She said that the trigger spell was still there, but was essentially ineffective and would not cause any harm. The door was still locked, though it was simple enough to pick, and Scott pushed the door open as soon as he heard the locking mechanism click open, knocking me backward in the process.

I glared at him again as I picked myself up off of the floor, and muttered to myself that I would let him unlock the doors on his own from then on. Inside the room there was an iron lockbox, and a single book. The book was a ledger which listed line after line after line of transactions. The high priest had been in the business of trafficking people, it seemed, and it made me feel ill to think of the lives that had been lost by such a despicable trade. I dropped the book back on it’s stand with distaste, and turned my attention to the iron lockbox which contained three smaller boxes of separated coins.
10 copper
30 silver
600 gold

We took the lock box and the coins back to the cart and made our camp for the evening with the decision to explore the second temple and surrounding area in the morning. Morning came sooner than expected though, and towards the end of second watch, the rest of the party was awoken by the sounds of commotion. Instantly on guard, I looked over to see Tobias’ box on the ground, two apparently dead giant rats on the ground, and two more attacking Scott and KelLyn. Scott was yelling, which is what had finally made the party aware of the danger, and KelLyn was in the middle of casting a spell at the two rats who were attempting to flee.

Her spell went off with a whisper, and I saw one of the rats topple over asleep, just as Scott fell over beside it, snoring deeply. One of the two dead rats was actually still breathing shallowly, but I killed it quickly before it could regain strength and attack us again. I walked over to Lan and shook her awake to help tend to KelLyn and Scott, who had both been bitten by the diseased rodents. Tobias was grumbling darkly and opened his box up to make sure that nothing inside had been damaged before pulling it back up onto the cart. I noticed that two of the rats had run off into the dark, and I began to silently track them through the rubble to see if I could locate where they had come from.

After a short while, however, their trail simply vanished; and I returned to camp annoyed. I told the party that i didn’t think that the rats were really what they seemed, and KelLyn spoke up then to tell us that she had seen them turn into small humans. I glanced at her, my annoyance growing, and said archly that that information would have been useful BEFORE I started tracking the things. Tobias thought for a moment, and then said that he had heard of creatures like this in his class at the university, and that the description sounded like what he had learned about were-rats.

Lan agreed to continue working on healing Scott and KelLyn, and I took Tobias back out with me to continue to try to track and hunt the remaining two creatures. I noticed that there had been an odd pattern in the obscurity of their tracks, and the repetition bothered me for some reason that I could not yet fathom. We tracked them back to where I had lost the trail originally, and I spent some time searching around the rubble to see if I could pick up traces of where they had gone. I discovered a concealed door amid one of the piles of rubble, and I pointed it out quietly to Tobias. We agreed to return to camp and get the rest of the party, and I pondered how to mark the trail back to the hidden door.

I remembered a pattern of rocks that Shalev and I had used when we were in the desert, and I used that pattern again to mark the path we would take. When we returned to camp, we saw the rest of the party members still fast asleep. We checked on Lan, who said that she had done what she could to heal Scott and KelLyn, and we pointed out that they might very well have also been infected by any number of diseases from the wererats. Lan quickly cast a cure spell on them both successfully, and the rest of the evening passed without further incident.

When morning arrived a few hours later we told the others that we had tracked the wererats to their hole and we needed to get rid of them. Scott expressed disappointment at being cured, saying that he thought turning into a rat might have been fun. I stared at him for a moment, but then decided that it was not worth the argument. Jaeger agreed to stay with the cart, and we followed the trail of rocks back to the trail.

I noticed several times that the rock pattern had been almost exactly duplicated in several attempts to throw us off the trail. Only someone who was intimately familiar with the exact pattern would have been able to tell the difference, and I commented at the intelligence and cunning that this showed.

We made our way back to the concealed gap in the rubble and followed it down into a curving passageway that opened off to a large room on the right. We looked around the corner cautiously to see that the room was full of a seething swarm of smaller rats, and we quickly backed up a bit. I turned to KelLyn and told her to forget the warning about fire and enclosed spaces, and to light the room up. She grinned wide with a joy she only finds when she is destroying something and immediately began to chant in what I had come to recognize as Fyrewerian.

The rest of the party quickly backed out of the tunnel as a blanket of fire engulfed the room, killing all of the rats inside instantly and sucking all of the air out of the room. I had the breath knocked out of me as I was yanked back by Tobias, and we all waited for a handful of moments before venturing back into the tunnel.

The large room had been charred from floor to ceiling, and was completely empty of anything but smoldering ashes. We continued to explore the tunnel that lead us to another large room that had three piles of rags on the floor. One of the piles was occupied by a small human, and I quietly moved ahead of the party and cut it’s throat. As I made my way silently over, I felt a surge of approval that I knew came from my ancestors, and I smiled quietly in the knowledge that they still watched over me even though we could not communicate outright.
One quick knife stroke killed the wererat before it could even wake, and I turned to see the rest of the part gaping at me in disbelief.

I blinked at this reaction from them, as it was unexpected, nature is about life and death after all. Wererats were an unnatural scourge, and the elimination of the rodents was necessary to restore the balance of the area. I started to shrug off their amazed, horrified expressions, and turned to examine the body only to blink again at the arrow that lodged itself in my armor just above my heart. I looked down at the thing then looked up quickly to see a small wererat in a shadowed passageway staring at me with chagrin at his failure to kill me outright.

I reacted quickly by throwing two of my daggers at it, and shouting alarm to the rest of the party. The first dagger struck true, wounding it, but my second throw glanced off of the wererat as he moved to draw his sword. Tobias ran at him with his maces drawn, and struck him squarely, wounding it a second time and silencing the area around them. The rat completely unsheathed his sword then and pointed it at Osman, who had taken aim at it with his bow. I watched as the arrow was deflected by a quick snap of the rat’s flimsy sword, and then as another of my daggers wad deflected in the same fashion.

The rat stood squarely and continued to defend himself with intricate sword work, knocking arrows, daggers, and mace strikes alike with an amazing skill. I saw Osman begin to cast a spell, and I drew my bow to continue to try to at least distract the rat. As Tobias moved to swing again with his maces, the rat threw a bag of something at his feet, and vines exploded out of the small pouch to entangle Tobias’ arms and legs. Seeing the immediate threat removed, the rat then quickly threw a small stone at Osman which bounced off of Osman’s chest with a small rumble of thunder.

My arrows again struck the wererat, in the shoulder just as Osman’s spell completed and a haunch of goat arced through the air toward the rat. Tobias was still struggling to free himself from the vines, and Osman and I both took aim again with our bows. Taryn threw a dagger, and Scott rushed in to brawl with the rat. The haunch of goat meat struck the dumbfounded wererat in the chest which distracted him enough to allow for my second arrow to hit him squarely, though Taryn’s dagger and Osman’s arrow were both deflected.

Scott ran straight at the wererat, but then to his surprise was thrown clear when the wererat made some small motion. Everyone except KelLyn was surprised by the move, and the rat took out a potion to drink it. KelLy, paying no attention to the rats movements, walked over to him, stopped right in front of his face, and reached out to grab him. The rat, unaware that KelLyn had gotten so close to him, looked up just in time to have KelLyn’s hand close around his throat as she was in the middle of casting a spell, and with a flex of her muscles, she tore his head clean off.

She tossed the body out of the room, and we all spent a few moments recovering from the fight. We searched the room and discovered a small chest under one of the beds of rags which contained a pile of cheap silver plated flatware, a blue silk cape, a pair of gold bracelets shaped like intertwined snakes, and a box with a badly mangled lock.

Tobias examined the box for a moment, and then quickly knocked the hinges off of the back of the container to reveal a silver and platinum masterwork flute. Taryn gasped in wonder, and Tobias handed it over to him. The bracelets and the cape were taken for the party stash, and we discovered nothing else in this room of note. The shadowed passage that the wererat had been hiding in lead to another cavern like room with a table in the center.

On the table was a map of the entire sewer system, which showed points of entry and exit clearly marked. The tunnelworks were indeed massive, as I had suspected, and I quickly rolled the map up to take with us as a guide. There was a locked iron box in this room as well as the headless body of the unfortunate wererat. Taryn also claimed the silver needle like sword, which he called a rapier, as it was a weapon that he was familiar with.

Inside the lockbox we found a second tanglefoot bag which Tobias claimed, a short stick that Scott claimed, saying that it was a smoke stick, and a small silver box labeled with dwarven runes which contained a metal dwarven crossbow and 20 bolts which Osman claimed. There were several other treasures inside the larger lockbox as well:
a small wooden box containing 125 gold
a travel pen and ink set which I claimed
a bag of signet rings
a bag containing 10 small sapphires which I claimed
a broken silver candelabra
and an unlabeled potion which Scott identified as a potion of Eagle’s Splendor, which Taryn took.

The main cavern here had several tunnels that lead into it, but was otherwise empty and unoccupied, and we decided to return to our camp on the surface, using the map to guide us out of the tunnels. Once back at camp, we added the new treasures to the party stash, and the gold was split between the party members. I declined the coins, as I had claimed the sapphires instead, and Taryn and Scott grew wide eyed with wonder at the pile of gold that they were each given.

.oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

The second temple still needs to be explored before we can move on, and there is no telling what we might find inside. Having the map to the tunnels under the city will prove very useful, I think, and may give us away to move around to areas that we would not otherwise have been able to explore.

The dragon still waits.

After this is done, however it may end, it is my hope that we will have yet another piece of the puzzle for the larger picture. There is still so much to do. I honestly wonder if Scott will survive long. He seems to have a disregard for the dangers that we face that borders on outright stupidity. The party, with perhaps the exception of KelLyn, seem wary of me after my assassination of the sleeping wererat. It does not bother me overly, as I have never shied away from trying to maintain balance where I can. I think sometimes that they forget that balance can occasionally mean taking a life rather than saving it.

I realized recently that, aside from my thoughts on Shalev, I have stopped thinking about the desert in terms of “home.” I am beginning to wonder how long it will be before I do make it back to the shifting sands that I once considered my sanctuary, and when I do return, if it will still feel the same.

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The Lost City - Oh, rats.
Thoughts from the point of view of Cora'sol "The Immortal"

cross posted from Cora’s Travel Journal

As I sipped my tea by the fire, I continued to study the book of spells that Tobias had gifted me. There were several scribbles and notes in the margins of the book, which were obviously personal observations from the original owner. As I examined the words, I meditated on the last real conversation that I was able to have with my ancestors. The barrier here still prevents direct contact, and I feel their absence almost like a missing limb. I am looking forward to the time when we can be quit of this place, and I can once again converse with them.

I still have so many questions. Looking back over the past few months, – No, years. Time really has no meaning for one such as I. – I contemplate again the larger picture. How does everything we have done, everything we are doing, tie together? I grow more and more certain that this will be just one more piece of the puzzle, but I cannot yet see what the finished result might be.

If… when we bring the barrier down here, how will that affect the outside world? How will it affect this one? We still have to find the cup and the chalice, though KelLyn’s friend is long-dead now. The winged man also mentioned several other artifacts that we would need in the coming battle against the dark elves. The talisman of Al Akbar, and one other artifact located in Kaibar. I wondered if Pyl – the author of the letter that Tobias gave me along with the book of spells – still lived there, and if they might be able to give us more information on what we sought.

Then there’s the elven city and the sylvan tree where we found the Maker. No. I have not forgotten that, and it still fills me with a seething fury that those who would call themselves my kin would so desecrate something that should be held sacred. I am determined to see this through to the end, and though I am prepared to fight them – or whatever has corrupted them – I am also aware of what the cost might be, and I wonder if I am strong enough to pay it. I ponder all of the knowledge I have gained here regarding the restoration and care of sylvan trees, and I know that I was given such a glimpse for a purpose. Perhaps what I have learned here, what I may yet learn here, will give me what I need to complete what lies ahead.

and just maybe I can save two trees instead of just one.

.oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

As I contemplated thoughts of what remained to be done, I glanced around at the campsite, noticing that Osman lay still and quiet, finally resting fully. KelLyn was drunk, again, but that seems to be her escape. She seems distant with her former lover, Taryn, and I am curious as to his reasoning behind disappearing so thoroughly. I have noticed that humans tend to see such things as a personal slight for some reason, though I imagine it also has a lot to do with how short their life spans can be.

I sipped my tea and then noticed, with some interest that both Jaeger and Scott had vanished. I mentioned this to Tobias and KelLyn and was told that the two had wandered back into the academy to finish explorations on their own rather than wait for the rest of the party. I looked at them both, then looked toward the academy, and shook my head. Either Jaeger and Scott would return, or they would not. They had made their choice to explore the unknown unaided.

Several hours later, they indeed did return, scratched and bruised and grinning like little children who had gotten away with mischief. Scott showed us the things that they had found inside:
two potions, likely healing potions from Scott’s description, a cloak that was still in good repair where he had found the potions, a ring which Jaeger warned needed to be identified before it was worn, a sling with a pouch of iron pellets, a few pieces of mismatched armor, and two clear potion bottles that contained very old holy water.

As Scott had not yet equipped himself beyond the simple clothes that he wore, he took the cloak and the potions for himself, at the party’s insistence. I pointed out that there was also a full suit of leather armor somewhere on the cart that would likely fit him, and Tobias went to help him find it.

I put one of the bottles of holy water on my belt, and Jaeger took the other one. Once he had the bottle, he opened it and dumped the essence of the shade from the mirror into it. The black goop hit the water with an audible scream, and both the potion and essence exploded into vapor which shattered the bottle in his hands. As Jaeger stoically held the bottle during this process, I heard Taryn say, somewhat ironically, that he was glad that he had sided with us. His words cut short however, and I looked up to see him staring at Jaeger with a horrified expression on his face. During the concentration that Jaeger focused on the destruction of the shade essence, he had allowed the illusion that he wore on his face to slip, and he once again appeared as an orc.

Taryn began to panic at this, as he had been unaware of Jaeger’s true nature, and continued to get riled up about the presence of such a creature in the party until Scott grabbed him by the shoulder and shoved a large mug of good strong ale in his hands. Scott physically guided Taryn over by the fire, and quietly talked to the pale man while they drank the ale. Scott handed Taryn one of the healing potions that he had found in the academy, and then KelLyn sat up and slurred drunkenly that she could try to identify his ring now if he wanted.

Scott started to say yes, but the rest of the party hurriedly assured her that it could wait until morning, and then breathed a collective sigh of relief when she fell back over and began to snore. I returned to my studies and, remembering the encounters from the previous day, I began to specifically look into spells that would allow me to clean myself and my belongings, as well as ways to potentially help bolster my power for more difficult spells.

The rest of the night passed uneventfully, and the next morning the party gathered our things and set out back into the academy, still resolute in the decision to leave no stone unturned. As we broke camp, the sun rose gracefully over the spires of the temples across the road, and I noticed again that the temple to Celestia on the left. The party agreed that we would examine them thoroughly once we were done with the academy, and once again, we made our way through the doors. KelLyn agreed to look at the ring that Scott had found, and she said that it had a modify images and mind spell on it, but it did not seem to be cursed as far as she could tell; and Scott put it on his finger.

Once inside, we immediately went over to the area that the ghasts had previously been guarding. The floor was still littered with piles of various gnawed upon body parts, and Jaeger pointed out several small diseased rats crawling among the carnage. We avoided the rats carefully, and opened the doors to reveal a library. I could feel Jaeger, KelLyn, and Osman all instantly perk up, and I shared their excitement over the potential knowledge here. As I examined the room further, however, my excitement turned to disappointment, as I realized that all of the books here were more for show. The tomes were all very lightly used, common books that were evidently only meant to create the appearance of being well-read. The shelves were very dusty, and as we examined the shelves on the off chance that there might be something of use, Jaeger pointed out one book that was less filthy than the others. He cast a quick ward over himself before taking the book from the shelf, and showed it to KelLyn.

The book turned out to be the traveling book for a mage named Arcus, and KelLyn and Jaeger broke out into a small discussion regarding the ownership of the book. She had also realized that Jaeger’s sword, for whatever reason, consumed half of anything he claimed for himself, and so KelLyn looked at him critically for a moment before declaring that he was to study the book as her student, therefore voiding the sword’s claim to half of the book and potential destruction of any knowledge therein.

Jaeger looked surprised that he had not thought of this before, and opened the book carefully to see that it was, in fact, a traveling spell book. There was nothing else of note in this room, so we proceeded to the next door which opened up into a sitting room with several crystal decanters of sour wine and some moldy chairs. The ceiling and walls here were thick with webbing, and before we could warn him to take care, Osman strode into the room. He made it three steps into the room before an enormous spider dropped from the top of the room onto his back. Osman shrieked and flailed, and Tobias managed to quickly swat it off of his back with one of his maces, smashing it against the wall with a liquid sound of pulping arachnid.

Osman, who had leaned over to regain his composure, straightened up in time to see another large spider drop down over Tobias’ head, and he shrieked again before firing wildly with his bow. Scott stepped into the room then to see what all the fuss was about, with Taryn close on his heels. Tobias eyed the descending spider warily, and prepared to give it the same treatment that he had the first one.

Osman’s first shot flew wild, but his second shot struck home which knocked the spider down into the range of Tobias’ mace. This spider flew to meet the messy remains of it’s kin against the far wall, again with an audible splatter, and Scott turned ghost-pale before retreating hastily from the room. No other spiders appeared, however, and Jaeger began to eagerly gather up the spider webs to use as spell components. I took the time to examine the room, and discovered several crystal decanters, with a gold colored wine inside them, along with a set of 10 cut crystal goblets. I carefully gathered up everything and wrapped the decanters to prevent them from breaking.

One of the decanters had a small crack in it, and so I took some of the glasses and poured a small measure of the sunshine colored liquor into each glass to share with the party before it spoiled. I told them that this was a rare vintage that needed to be savored and that taking a little bit of down time before continuing was not a detriment. Jaeger and Scott refused, but Tobias, Osman, Taryn, Lan,and KelLyn all agreed to share it with me, and soon we had cleared a space out on the porch of the academy to sit and enjoy the wine while we kept watch on the cart. Once he had seated himself beside me, Tobias launched into a descriptive tale of our past adventures, and I saw Taryn’s eyes go wide with awe as he realized that the stories he had been raised up on were ones that we had lived.

I noticed quietly that both Scott and Jaeger had wandered off into the depths of the academy again, and I shook my head to myself at their stubborn and foolhardy actions. The wine would wait for no one, not even me, however, and I settled in with a small smile to enjoy the memories that Tobias recounted. About an hour or so into the recollections, KelLyn suddenly sat up straight to say that she had felt a massive pull of energy from somewhere inside, and that we should do something about it. The statement made her pause and think for a moment before she declared “and speaking of.. let me tell you about the time that we DID the thing…” and she lapsed into a continuation of the story that Tobias had started telling, recounting our journey through the pyramid with her own embellishments for flair.

It was not long after that, maybe another half an hour or so, when we heard one of the windows near by smash outward, and we saw Jaeger tossing Scott through the shattered window to fall to the ground by the cart. They were both wounded, winded, and frightened, and I ran over to see what I could do to help with their injuries. Jaeger’s injuries were minor, and he seemed to be relatively unharmed, but Scott was uncooperative and swinging his fists deliriously. I dodged several swings and glanced at Lan who nodded and tried to cast a spell to knock him out so we could work on bandaging his wounds. He threw off the attempt though, and continued to fight us until both Lan and I gave up in frustration. I muttered darkly to Tobias that Scott was too stubborn or too stupid to live, and if he wanted to fight our help so much, he could just sit there, and I stalked back over to where Jaeger had flopped to the ground with an enormous sigh to ask him what had happened.

Jaeger grabbed a drink to help with the aches and pains that he was dealing with, and he began to explain – via KelLyn who was acting as a translator – what they had discovered.

.oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

Scott and Jaeger, having seen that the rest of the party was occupied with enjoying the wine, used the opportunity to sneak away and re-enter the academy to explore the one remaining hallway, search bodies, and see what they could discover. They came across a tunnel which lead to a cave entrance where there were a number of bodies tossed haphazardly. The bodies were all nude and drained of blood, likely the discarded empty husks from the vampire’s previous feasts. The corpses had all been gnawed on by rats and other vermin, and Scott and Jaeger decided to drag them up the stairs to burn them. The effort of moving the bodies attracted the attentions of 15 giant rats.

Jaeger attempted to get Scott to leave at that point, but Scott was supremely skeptical, saying “what? They’re just rats.” Jaeger threw one of the corpses at the rodents in an attempt to distract them, but it didn’t work and all of the rats swarmed toward them. Jaeger backed up to a narrow bottleneck in the hallway and began to actively dodge the rats attacks. Scott followed him, and the rats continued to swarm out of the cave entrance until their number had almost doubled. Knowing that they were outnumbered, Jaeger tried again to get Scott to run, but Scott would have none of it, and stepped in front of Jaeger to protect him. Jaeger began to cast a spell then, drawing an enormous amount of power – which is the surge that KelLyn had felt.

The rats swarmed both Jaeger and Scott, attacking en masse, but both Scott and Jaeger were able to brush off the first wave of bites and scratches with only minor damage. Jaeger’s spell completed and as he shouted the last words of the spell, stone spikes shot up from the ground to smash the rats up into the ceiling, killing the first wave of them instantly. Scott was unable to get out of the way of the spell in time, and he also was slammed into the roof of the cavern, gravely injuring him and smashing the potions that he carried on him. The rest of the rats had backed up warily, having also taken some wounds from the rapidly emerging spikes.

Jaeger tried then to intimidate the rats outright, and forced Scott to choke down the potion that Jaeger had snatched off of his own belt. The rats continued to back up cautiously at his screaming, and that was enough time to let the potion go to work on Scott, healing he worst of his wounds and allowing him to get back to his feet just as the rats decided to charge at them again.

Jaeger picked Scott up and threw him over his shoulder then, in order to run out of the cave, back through the tunnel, and toss him out the window where we had found them.

After telling his side of the story, Jaeger downed the rest of his drink and promptly fell into a deep sleep. The rest of us watched warily for the emergence of any other rats, but none appeared and the night passed without encounter.

The next morning, we gathered up our belongings and set about examining the windows where Scott and Jaeger had come the night before. Osman was still set on seeing what was in the room with the rock slide, though none of the windows showed us anything new. As we explored the outside of the building, we came across four dead trees, completely blackened, and in one corner of the little courtyard we saw that one entire side of the building had collapsed, filling the room with impassable rubble. Finally satisfied that there was no way through the debris, Osman gave up the search and Jaeger looked at the dead trees saying something about charcoal. I remembered Ishmael saying something about such a thing, and said that there would be no harm in removing the trees, as they had been dead a long time. Jaeger and Tobias worked to bring the trees down, and I commented that perhaps we should bring some of this stuff back to Ishmael, seeing as he had been so interested in it before.

The rest of the party wanted to explore elsewhere then, but I argued fiercely that I did not want to leave who knows how many giant rats behind us. We argued for a while about, before everyone finally agreed that it was a bad idea, and we cautiously made our way inside and back down the stairs to deal with them.

We came across the room with the hoard of dead rats, and KelLyn eyed Jaeger with appreciation at his skill. Aside from the mass of rodent corpses, however, it was eerily quiet. The footfalls of the party were the only sound, and even that echoed off of the walls. The entire place felt, at last, deserted, and we continued to pick our way through the tunnels until we came to a single large room where we saw several different holes and tunnel entrances. Realizing that this was a crossroads of sorts in this maze, we took our bearings and chose the largest of the tunnels.

We followed the winding passage until it came to a smaller intersection, but stopped there because none of us could fit through the remaining tunnels without crawling, and we all agreed that crawling single file down a narrow tunnel was not the best idea. We made our way back up to the main room where the pentagram shaped pool had been, and then back over to the wine cellar. Scott and Taryn showed some interest in the wines that were shelved there, but Tobias informed them that we carried better vintages just on general principle. As I examined the shelves, however, there were two that caught my eye. I picked them up and noticed the intricate label on each one. I could pick out enough lettering to spell the word “Aving” and Taryn recognized that as the premier winery from the other continent, which had stopped producing wines some 750 years prior. They had been known for a golden wine of mystical properties, and I put the two bottles carefully in my pack for my own personal stash.

Lan spoke up then and asked us if we wanted her to use her shiny ball to explore the tunnels that we couldn’t fit through, and we agreed that this was likely the only way we would be able to discover what was beyond them. We escorted her up to the cart, where she grabbed her orb, and I deposited the wine and crystal carefully. We made our way back down into the darkness, and the light from Lan’s orb was enough that we did not need to light a torch. We made it down to the first crossroads area where she sat on the ground and stared into her ball. She told us that one tunnel went back for some distance, but she saw nothing living or dead within the maze.

We made our way back up to the surface, and after thinking for a moment, KelLyn began to close and lock doors behind us as we went. When I looked at her appraisingly, she simply commented that we didn’t want the rats to come up behind us, and this was one way to prevent that from happening. Once we reached the cart, we sat down to discuss our next moves.

We decided that the temples would also need to be explored, but the trek into the tunnels had taken up the majority of the day, and we did not want to go exploring at night. We decided that we would begin that leg of our journey in the morning, but that tonight we all needed rest. Scott still looked pale, and I was not sure how long Jaeger would take to recover he energy he spent with the spike spell.

We set out camp again, keeping a wary eye across the way, and while we rested, I asked Tobias to tell us everything he knew about the Celestine paladin that they had encountered before.

.oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

View
The Lost City - Blasphemy at the Academy
Thoughts from the point of view of Cora'sol "The Immortal"

cross posted from Cora’s Travel Journal

“When dealing with the undead, best to do it quickly. You never want to leave an enemy behind you. " – Cora

.oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

After we had rested for a few moments, we continued out into the main room to check the remaining door near the entrance. This opened up into yet another guest bedroom which was in complete disarray. The furniture was in shambles, and there were piles of bat guano covering the floors. Seeing this, I immediately looked up and pointed out the two giant bats that hung sleeping form the ceiling.

I motioned for the rest of the party to remain there at the door, and I quietly picked my way through the room without disturbing the bats. I moved slowly and silently across the room where I see that there are a number of skeletons and bodies strewn around. I looked at the mess for a few moments and then used a quick spell to turn the bodies to dust, preventing any chance of them getting back up again. Still keeping a wary eye on the giant bats, I continued to search, and after another few moments, I realized that there was no way to avoid getting into the mess. I put on a pair of the heavy tapestry gloves that Shalev had crafted during our past adventures, and proceeded to dig through the piles and rubble.

My silent rummaging was not in vain, as I discovered a trio of delicate bracelets made of woven silver which looked like they were of elven craft. I delicately removed myself from the room after another search, and with a good deal of regret threw the ruined gloves away. I thoroughly cleaned the bracelets before putting them in my belt pouch, and vowed to take a bath as soon as I was able to do so. I regretted the loss of the tapestry gloves, as they served as both a protection and a reminder of all of the ingenuity that Shalev had shown with developing ways to avoid traps and dangers. I made a mental note to see if I could craft a new pair of safety gloves when we made it back to town, and then I rejoined the party at the door.

We continued our explorations down the hall to another three bedrooms which were all undisturbed and heavy with dust. A quick check of these rooms revealed nothing except windows that had been heavily coated in soot. More investigation lead us down the hallway and to the left over into the kitchen and larder areas. All of the food here had long since mouldered to dust and rot with age, and there was nothing salvageable among the detritus. We noticed a set of stairs over in the northeastern corner of the room, and I recommended that we complete our exploration of this floor first before descending below. There was a brief discussion on the matter, but it was agreed that they did not want to potentially leave an enemy to come up behind us, so we made our way back out to the hallway.

Within a small closet we discovered a blue robe with silver lightning bolts embroidered on it hidden in a pile of rotting clothes. KelLyn said that the robe had some sort of protection from magic spell on it, and Osman claimed it, folded it carefully and put it in his pack. The doors to the right of were we stood opened up to reveal that a great wall of rock blocked any way of moving forward. Scott tried to pull the rocks loose, but all he managed to do was cause the rock slide to tumble further into the room. We all took a hasty step back out into the hallway, and watched in dismay as the rocks shifted and slid across to block the entrance of that room entirely.

Osman was insistent on exploring behind the rock slide, however, so we made our way back around to the kitchen and over to the grand dining room to try to find another way to the room behind the rocks. We noticed, upon entering the dining room that the ogres – Ghasts, as Tobias called them – were gnawing on something that appeared rather fresh. We cautiously decided to leave them to whatever their meal was, and carefully picked our way over to the opposite doors. As we approached, however, the ghasts stopped their meal to tell us that we were not allowed to go that way.

We eyed them warily, but they only stood in our way and did not attack. I found myself holding back a shudder of revulsion at the unnatural undead things, and found myself distinctly uncomfortable with the idea of leaving them alone. I kept what Jaeger had told the party in mind, however, and was more wary, perhaps, of the disastrous effect of breaking magical agreements. Shaking my head, I was one of the first ones out of the room, and we all made our way across to the kitchen again where we had seen the stairs leading down below to a small cellar. The room was small, boasting only a simple table and chairs in the center. On the table sat a cut crystal decanter, half full of a red liquid, and two crystal glasses. I picked the decanter up, and noticed that the liquid sloshed viscously inside, thicker than wine, and I began to get an uneasy feeling about what might be lurking down here in the dark.

I put the decanter quickly back down on the table, only to see Jaeger pick it up to examine it. He looked at it a moment and then handed it over to Scott, who pulled the stopper to sniff curiously at the thick liquid inside. He blinked and said that it was blood, and I felt the sense of unease solidify like a stone in my stomach. I spoke up to the party then, and told them to remember when we had faced vampires before. I looked around the room carefully, noting to the party that there was no dust here, and that it looked like it had recently been cleaned. I pointed out two doorways that lead to additional rooms which were filled with shelves of wine.

I took a few moments to examine the wine rooms, and pointed out that a few of the bottles were worth keeping. In the northern room, I noticed small footprints on the floor which meandered through the cheaper wines before disappearing into the far wall. I followed the footprints curiously, and when I came to the wall, I found a lever hidden in the wine bottles which opened up into a small walkway. It was dark enough here that even Tobias could not see beyond. Lan spoke up then and reminded me that she could see in true darkness, as there was no light in the depths of the ocean, and she took a look inside, telling us that she saw a shadowed figure hanging in the air. I lit a torch and tossed it into the room, but it hit a wall of something that extinguished it.

Not knowing of anything else that could cause such a thing, I immediately warned the party that I suspected a gelatin cube and to back up quickly. Osman fired an arrow towards the unseen wall, but it clattered to the floor harmlessly. I asked KelLyn to create some light, and she was able to illuminate the room. We saw no gelatinous cube lying in wait, thankfully, but we did see the body which was hanging from the ceiling by wires, suspended and dripping slowly into a pentagon shaped pool full of blood.

We cautiously made our way into the room, and Osman began to empty some of the cheap wine bottles for some reason. There was nothing else of note in the room, and Jaeger said that he could see no magic. I spoke up saying that we could not just leave whoever that was hanging there like that, and the rest of the party agreed that we should take him down. Jaeger tried to use magic to unhook the body of the man, but the spell was not strong enough, and the naked corpse fell into the pool splashing blood all over Scott. Scott cursed at the party, but pointed out the door in the southern wall as he tried to clean himself off.

Scott asked for the torch then, and shone it into the hallway where he saw a number of enormous rats seething towards us in a wave. One lunged at Scott, but he fell backward with a shout of surprise, and was able to avoid being bitten. We counted six rats, and two of them broke off and headed towards me. Lan immediately began trying to cast a spell that would tame one of the vermin attacking me, and Scott reached out to grab at two more in an attempt to smash them into the floor. KelLyn grabbed one of the rodents and attempted to cast a spell to drain it.

Not having the time to draw a weapon, I dodged the attacks of the rats around me and worked at gaining better ground so that I could defend myself properly. KelLyn drained one of the rats, snapping off one of it’s teeth in the process, and the rat fell to the ground, stunned but still breathing. Osman took quick aim, shooting two of the rats, and I took an impressed note of his skill with the bow, thinking that we might be able to trade pointers once we were out of this place.

Scott used his strength to bodily pick up the two rats that were attacking him, wrestling them to keep their teeth and filthy claws away from him. Jaeger muttered something and waved his hands in a gesture that caused one of the rats to be smashed into the ceiling with a gust of air. He then began trying to copy KelLyn’s spell to drain one of the remaining rodents entangled with Scott. The one that KelLyn had drained earlier had crawled over to bite at my leg ineffectually, and while it was occupied, Lan hit it over the head with a stick that she had picked up.

Scott continued to brawl with the two giant rats he held, even as KelLyn and Jaeger were attempting to drain them, and he smashed the vermin into the wall to stun them long enough for KelLyn’s spell to kill one of them outright. Osman continued to shoot arrows at one of the rats, and it took an additional three hits before it died. I finally was able to draw my sword, and quickly killed two of the remaining rats, even as Scott held the last one up, preparing to smash it into the wall again.

Osman shot an arrow at the rat’s head, and Jaeger redoubled his efforts to drain the creature further. Lan noticed then that two vampires had emerged from hidden doors on either side of the room, and she managed to shout “Vampires!” to the rest of the party before they cast a spell to charm us all. Osman and Scott were both instantly captivated. Not noticing that the majority of the party was unaffected by their spell, the vampires calmly told the party that we shouldn’t be down here, and that we should kill each other.

Osman turns to draw on KelLyn, and Jaeger reached out to touch the hilt of his sword. The two vampires were dressed like royalty, and they strode into the room calmly to observe the effects of their commands. The female vampire walked over to where I stood, and thinking me charmed, leaned in to bite me just as the male vampire approached Lan to do the same. I flicked my eyes at Lan to see her moving her hands subtly in preparation for a spell.

Scott threw the dead rat that he was holding toward Osman in a fury, thinking that Osman’s shot to the rat was meant for him, and he charged at Osman with a yell. I saw KelLyn cast a spell which caused the air to crackle with electricity, and I ducked out of the way of the female vampire’s bite to strike at the male vampire with my sword. The sword began to glow blue as I ran through the effect of KelLyn’s spell, and my strike to the male vampire hit with all of the electrified force of a lightning bolt just as the spell completed in a glorious cracke of blue lightning, striking the female vampire in the face.

Both of the vampires looked stunned, but recovered quickly, backing out of range as we felt the Protection from Evil spell that Jaeger wove complete. The dead rat that Scott at Osman missed hitting him, but the two were still fighting with one another under the influence of the charm spell. I looked over to see Jaeger drag his sword out of the sheath, and point it at the female vampire, in the middle of casting another spell. The male vampire turned toward me and glared at me, his eyes glowing red as he attempted to pull me under his influence. He told me that my sword belonged in the heart of the mage, but did not specify which mage to attack.

The female vampire changed then into a large wolf and snarled “Come at me!” to the party. KelLyn looked calmly at her and cast another spell towards her to try to turn her to stone. The wolf turned, avoiding the spell, and opened a third concealed door to flee into the room as Jaeger ran after her. Lan turned into her seal form and wiggled her way over to the male vampire in an attempt to bite him. He looked over at her, and I replied to his comment by looking at him and stating “no, I think it belongs in yours.” before stabbing him. The strike hit home, but did not bring the vampire down, and he tried once again to capture my will. This time, he was successful, and I was forced to move toward KelLyn to attack her.

Scott and Osman were still fighting, and I saw Osman squirm free of Scott’s grasp to fire an arrow point-blank at his head. The shot misses, and the two keep trying to wrestle each other to the ground. I stalked toward KelLyn as slowly as I could, fighting the effects of the dominate spell with every step, and KelLyn stood stone still with a look of growing fury on her face. She raised her arms then, and I heard the sound of stone cracking as the rock carved coffin from the other room smashed through the door to hit the male vampire in the head. It shattered against the opposite wall, but the distraction was enough to break the vampire’s hold over me, and I dodged out of the way as KelLyn continued to cast. The male vampire looked absolutely furious at the destruction of the coffin, and even moreso when Jaeger completed his spell to fling the female vampire up through the ceiling into the room above.

We heard screaming then, from up above us, and the sounds of fighting break out, but could not break away from the fight with the male to investigate further. Osman, having finally broke free of Scott’s grappling attacks, began to cast a spell just as I saw Lan began to weave her hands in a similar pattern. I realized that the two of them were working separately to summon a fairy, but had no time to ponder the ramifications of such an act as the male vampire tried once again to reassert his will over me, snarling at me to kill them all.

A much older vampire came through the door at that point, with an annoyed look on his face, as he asked the younger vampire if this had not been finished yet. The arrival of his sire caused the younger vampire to blink, and I was able to throw off his hold on me and turn towards them both. I threw a wooden stake at each one, and though my shots flew just shy of the mark.

It was enough to distract them both from seeing that KelLyn had begun to power a circle, and then another, and then a third. Scott closed again with Osman, and tackled him bodily into pentagram shaped pool of blood on the floor, just as Osman was trying to complete his spell. Apparently being tossed bodily into a pool of blood while casting a spell is bad for one’s fortitude, as Osman emerged, covered in gore, only to begin vomiting violently. This was enough to make Scott recoil in revulsion, and he backed away quickly to turn and face me instead.

Lan’s spell did complete, and a diminutive fae creature appeared before her ranting with palpable passion about how they had had enough. Lan managed to calm the shining creature down enough to tell her that their fairy circle had a vampire problem, and the two of them began discussing quickly what to do. A moment later, the room filled with cats, just as KelLyn completed her third circle. The air sparked and cracked as KelLyn shouted out “Undo!” with a crashing ring of power, and the older vampire dissolved into dust. The younger vampire, looking horrified at the violent destruction of his sire, fled into one of the secondary rooms with a stone coffin and a staircase that led upwards toward the severely damaged ceiling. We could still hear screams and fighting from up above us, and Lan tried to pacify the fleeing vampire but failed. Not wanting to risk his escape, I ran over, sword drawn, to take his head off. My strike is solid, but I was not able to decapitate the vampire, though Jaeger used a gout of air to throw the undead thing up through the hole where the female vampire had smashed through the ceiling. There was a renewed sound of screaming and fighting but then after a moment, all was silent. Jaeger looked at the party and cast a spell that broke the vampire’s charm spell over those affected.

Osman still lay on the ground violently vomiting what appeared to be half formed goat fetuses, and Scott still glared at him angrily. We helped Osman to his feet, and then set about going through the secondary rooms to destroy coffins and resting places. The destruction that had been caused by Jaeger’s air spells, and KelLyn’s spells had destroyed anything useful that might have been in the room, so we made our way slowly back up the stairs.

When we reached the main area, we saw the two ghasts standing there among two piles of ash and the remains of the group of mercenaries that Taryn had traveled with. I heard Taryn mutter that he had definitely made the right decision to leave that group, and the ghasts looked at us in confusion before saying that they didn’t need to be here anymore. Jaeger promptly banished them, and the party made our way back over to the cart outside where KelLyn immediately cracked open one of her kegs of beer to get drunk. Tobias and Taryn came over to the party, Tobias with concern on his face. I gently waved his attentions away and told him of all that had happened underneath the academy. He would not let me rest until I had assured him that I was unharmed, so I turned his attention towards Scott and Osman, both of whom were still glaring at one another, telling him that he should worry more about them.

Osman was still violently ill, and while we were all exhausted, we didn’t feel safe to camp here for the evening. We couldn’t go anywhere with Osman so incapacitated, however, so we stayed where we were and rested. Osman’s sickness lasted until sunset, and he and Scott continued to argue heatedly until I had Tobias forcefully separate them both to opposite sides of the camp until they could cool off enough to be civil to one another.

A few moments after that we noticed Jaeger, who had followed more slowly behind the rest of us, finally strolling back into camp. Jaeger and Scott said something, and Scott said shortly that there was still a ghoul out there somewhere. Not having the energy to do anything else at the moment, I used a basic spell to clear out the campsite, where we set up watches and I made a simple meal of fish and vegetables.

.oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

Vampires. Again.
Admittedly, that could have gone much worse than it did, and I am thankful that we have all emerged relatively unscathed. The academy has been cleared and the undead within it removed and destroyed. This makes me feel some better on a fundamental level, although this whole area still seems dangerously out of balance.

There has been no sign whatsoever of the dragon, and I am curious about this. As with so many things in this place, nothing is quite what it seems here. There are pieces of the story that I have not yet figured out, and I am afraid that I will not be able to do so until it’s too late.

We still have the two chapels and the rest of this alley way to explore before we move on, but I don’t know if we will find anything of use.

View
The Lost City - The Return of Taryn the Bard
Thoughts from the point of view of Cora'sol "The Immortal"

cross posted from Cora’s Travel Journal

“My journey never stops – I only pause at places you could hardly dare to quest.” – Cora

.oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

Tobias returned shortly, dragging the unfortunate archer by the scruff of the neck. As he stalked back into our camp, he informed us of a second, smaller camp of ragtag mercenaries hidden over in the ruins. The archer appeared scuffed up, and bore some slight injuries from falling of of the roof where he had tried to ambush us earlier. Scott made some attempts to talk to them man as Lan worked to heal his hurts, and the man told us that he attacked us because they didn’t want us to find the stuff first.

I looked at his mismatched armor, and the odd long bow that he carried, and asked him what “stuff” he was referring to. He grew tight-lipped at the question and told us that the leader of his little band was named Gavin. Glaring at the captive man, Tobias again picked him up by the scruff of the neck, and our party gathered our things and promptly escorted him back to his group.

As we approached their untidy campsite, the archer’s companions notice us and draw weapons. The archer shouts at them not to attack, and they warily allow us to bring their man into the circle of tents. They all bore mismatched armor, and inferior quality weapons, and I wondered at how far they thought they could get in such a place so ill prepared. I chuckled to myself at the thought, as it reminded me of something Shalev might have said, and I kept a watchful eye on the mercenaries as they talked to their returned man.

They told us that we were looking in the wrong place over by the intact buildings, and that we wouldn’t find the dragon there, but rather in the center of town. We all simply stared at them, and they began to realize then, I think, that maybe we were more than we seemed to be. A murmured discussion broke out among the mercenaries, and one of them stepped forward after a moment to state that he was looking for a way out of this place entirely. His companions all glare at him at the apparent betrayal, and we warily say that we can help him with that.

The man said his name was Taryn, that he was a bard, and that he wished to join our group; and I saw Tobias and KelLyn startle in recognition. They stared at him curiously, and I remembered that there had been a bard with that name that had been a part of the party when Shalev and I had first joined the group. I remembered too that the man had disappeared only a day later, and hadn’t been seen since then. I wondered if this was the same man, and I could see from KelLyn and Tobias’ scrutiny that they were considering the same thing. KelLyn in particular glared at the man as if his appearance was a personal betrayal, and I recalled that she and the bard had once had romantic entanglements.

Taryn’s companions all begin arguing with him, asking him why he would want to switch sides so easily, and why he would want to go over to such a group, especially when they didn’t even have good armor. I saw Tobias smirk at that statement, and with a prideful flourish, he removed his outer cloak to reveal the imperial layan armor that he wore.The leader of the little ragtag group gaped at the armor and then took a closer look at the rest of the party members, seeing that we all wore quality armor and carried weapons that appeared to be far better than the ones they had.

His eyebrows shot up in surprise for a moment, and then he shrugged and said again that the dragon was rumored to be in the center of town with a sniff, before subsiding into a grumpy silence when he realized that we were already well aware of that fact. Taryn gathered up his single pack of belongings, and joined our group without even a goodbye to his previous companions, and our party,now plus one more, set out to return to the street where the mage academy was located.

As we trekked back over, Scott approached me looking like he wanted to ask me something. I looked at him curiously, and he asked me to gently break in the introduction of Jaeger to the new party member. I continued to stare at him, wondering why he thought I would be the best person to ask about such a thing, and he went on to say that it would either be me or Lan, and did I really want Lan trying to explain anything? I sighed and nodded slightly, and then relay the request to Tobias, as he speaks the common language better than I do. He shrugged and said he didn’t see what the issue was. Scott then asked him what the long bow was, and they began discussing the use of the weapon. As they talked, Scott asked Tobias what an “army” was and I saw Tobias just stare blankly at him for a moment before remembering that Scott was also new to the party, and only a farm hand. He began to patiently explain to Scott what exactly he had gotten himself into, and I turned my attention to Taryn.

I did not know much about him from when he was with the party before, and I asked him what the group of mercenaries had been looking for. He said that the dragon had been rumored to have been trying to piece together a “great weapon” which had been a gift from a great mage to a competitor in the courts where the dragon had attended in human form. The competitor had been challenged to a fight, and the weapon had been destroyed. The dragon was trying to reassemble the pieces, and anyone who leaves is sent out with the message that the Head of the Jade Court is looking for the items, with a promise of riches beyond measure if they were found.

I pondered this new information at length, ruminating again on what the winged man had said about everything being tied together. I lost myself in these thoughts until we eventually returned to camp where KelLyn and Jaeger were still working on trying to dismantle the traps on the doors. We appeared to have good timing, for as soon as we walked up, Jaeger reached out and opened the front door to the academy. KelLyn agreed to wait with the cart for a while, as the efforts of disarming the spells had exhausted her and she needed to rest, and the rest of the party stepped inside the door.

Inside, we saw a great empty room with double doors ahead of us. The walls are tastefully decorated with art that depicted stylizations of all four elements. Jaeger walked forward ahead of the rest of the party, and I saw him recast the ward to surround himself and the door. Lan cast a spell to see if there were magical traps on this door as well, and she found that there were. She said that the spells were of a control nature which involved perceptions, and involved both air and plants. Lan commented that the door appeared to be made of “one of her trees” with a nod in my direction, and I walked up to the door cautiously. I could sense, once I got close enough, that the wood was indeed sylvan, and that it seemed quite content that it was a door. I had a thought, and tried to ask it to open in high elven and then druidic. I got no response, but I wasn’t really expecting one anyway. As I studied the intricate carvings on the door, I noticed that there were words hidden within the plants, written in elven.

I read the words out to Lan, but she did not understand them, though surprisingly, Jaeger’s eyes brightened and he said something to Lan. She told me that he had asked that I keep repeating the words, and I do so, listening as Jaeger tries to copy my pronunciation until he is able to replicate the cadence and accent correctly. The words were a spell, and when said by someone who used magic, they caused the wood of the door to turn transparent.

We looked through the clear door to see two long oak tables, several chairs, and a hutch filled with crystal glasses and decanters. It looked like it was a dining hall, though long disused, and we took note of the double doors on the opposite side of the room. I reached out and knocked politely on the door, and we were promptly greeted by a ghoul. I cautiously asked if we could enter the room, and it – he – replied that we could not because we were not mages. I motioned for Jaeger to move forward, saying that he was, and that we were in his company. The ghoul looked critically at Jaeger and asked him to prove that he was a mage. Jaeger refused, saying that as a mage, he would not deign to prove himself as his presence here is proof enough. The ghoul accepted this statement, and then returned a short moment later to apologize, saying that there was no one here that could open the door. The ghoul thought for a moment, and then came back a few seconds later carrying a heavy bowl, which he dropped on the handle to make the door swing open.

Inside the dining hall, we noticed that there were also doors to the right and left of us, and that the silverware was all engraved with the magic seal of the academy of Emer. We opened the door to the left into a large room with glossy polished floors and an enormous layan chandelier that suspended from the ceiling. The floors of this room were covered with trash and detritus, and as soon as we stepped into the room, the two ogres in the corner stood up and turned ponderously towards the party. They glanced at us in confusion and said “You’re not supposed to be in here?” to which we hastily replied that the ghoul had let us in. The ogres looked even more confused, if possible, and said that we didn’t look like mages. Scott, thinking quickly, said that we were wearing traveling clothes which the ogres seemed to accept as a rational explanation. Osman spoke up then and asked if they would like some fresh meat? The ogres looked at him, looking for the offered meat, and Osman conjured some goat haunches that we lobbed their way.

As they ate, we saw that they were clearly undead things, and I have to repress a visible shudder at how wrong they feel. As they consumed the goat, we saw their open wounds heal, and Jaeger warned us that the ogres were pledged in service to this place, and that they should not be disturbed. I argue that they are wrong and that their presence here hints to something much larger controlling their allegiance. The rest of the party agreed that they should not bother the ogres though, seeming not to heed my warning about the potential of a larger threat, and I turn to leave the room entirely. A few moments later, the rest of the party followed me back into the main room, closing the doors to the ogres’ chamber behind them.

The next door opened into a long and dusty room which looked as if it had served as a gallery of some sort at one time. I saw that there were clear footprints in the dust on the floor, and lighter colored squares on the walls where the paintings had been removed by thieves. I noted the broken window and figured that was the method of entry and exit. Upon further examination, I notice that the nails that had hung the paintings were made of layan, and I pulled a handful of them out of the wall, putting them in my belt pouch. Seeing no more evidence of the nature of the thieves, and no other doors in this room, we turned back to the main room to go through the next set of double doors.

These doors opened to reveal a lavishly furnished bedroom which also boasted two full harps, a cello, and a number of other instruments. There were two full sets of armor, each holding a halberd, which stood on either side of the door. We explored the room, which looked like it might have been set up as a guest room, and Taryn eyed the cello with undisguised awe. He picked it up reverently and muttered to it as if it were a long lost lover. We also saw a strange shaped instrument off to one side of the room with white and black buttons on it. It looked almost like a harp that had been laid on it’s side, except much larger. Scott and Taryn spent several moments trying to figure out how it worked, and Taryn named the odd thing a “side hammer harp.”

Taryn was insistent on trying to figure out how to take the odd instrument with us, but it proved to be too heavy to more easily, and so with a sad sigh, he agreed to leave it where it was. He brightened noticeably though, when Tobias reminded him of the cello and the two of them went back out to the cart to deposit the instrument in a safe space and catch KelLyn up on the happenings inside.

Once they rejoined the party, we made our way over to the main room and opened the doors to the right this time. This was a small sitting room with overturned furniture that was in shambles. The floor was smeared with old dried blood, and there was a single closed door on the opposite wall. The blood smears extended up to one wall which was empty of all other features, and after a moment of examination, I discovered and opened the hidden door to a small closet sized secret room. Inside the room were two skeletons, which were apparently the source of the blood smeared through the room. The two unfortunate adventurers were obviously on the wrong end of whatever had killed them. Their armor had been heavily damaged, but as I searched through the corpses, I discovered two intact vials of holy water, a 50 foot length of hemp rope from the Southern kingdom, and a small locked box with dwarven symbols inscribed on it. I took all three things, adding the vials to my belt pouch and tying the length of rope to my pack. The small box I worked diligently to unlock, and was successful after several long moments and a muttered curse as my masterwork lockpick broke from the effort. I opened the box to reveal two small dwarven crossbows and a quiver containing 30 bolts. I showed them to Tobias and Osman, who were both thrilled with the discovery. I already carried one of these strange weapons, so I declined the offer, but Tobias and Osman each took one of the crossbows for their own use, and the bolts were split between the three of us.

The single door at the back of the room opened up into a hallway and more doors, which we explored through thoroughly. We discovered another guest bedroom which boasted a large polished silver mirror. Jaeger made a noise of appreciation at the sight, and walked toward the shining pane, only to jump back as an undead specter lunged out of the reflection towards him. Osman immediately tried to banish it, but failed, and Lan worked her magic to pacify the specter. Taryn, unfamiliar with the threat, drew his needle like sword, and Tobias yanked Scott bodily out of the way of the lunging creature. Remembering the times we had encountered undead things in the pyramids, I snapped open one of the vials of holy water and flung it at the specter which caused it to smoke and to howl in fury.

Lan’s magic completed, and the specter quickly calmed down, only to have Osman’s spell go off which enraged it again at the attempt to banish it. Knowing that I had nothing else that would hurt the creature, and wanting to save the remaining vial of holy water in case I needed it later, I moved over to one of the windows to break it in order to let the sunlight into the room. Jaeger picked up the empty vial and began casting a spell then, and we watched as a black shadow rolled down his arm like tar into the glass container. The specter howled again in anger, and Lan tried again to calm it down. She was successful at pacifying the spirit again, and Jaeger continued to concentrate on draining it’s energy down into the vial.

Osman drew his bow and aimed a shot at the shimmering specter, but Scott grabbed the bow and pointed his shot down away from the mirror. The specter and Jaeger continued to be locked in a tug of war, and the spirit gained enough ground to finally touch Jaeger just as Jaeger completed his spell. I heard the tone of his voice falter slightly, but the spell was not affected by the slip up, and the specter dissolved in a fading scream, turning into a thick slurry that oozed into the vial Jaeger held.

Jaeger looked visibly shaken at the encounter, and stood swaying for a moment before straightening up and walking over to the mirror to examine it once again. The mirror was enormous, and much too large to move in its entirety. Jaeger contemplated the polished silver for a moment and then reached out with his hands, muttering something in magic under his breath, to try to cut a smaller piece off of the larger whole. I set about searching the room and uncovered a pen and ink set, several sheets of vellum, and a scroll written in an old clerical form with notes in magical writing.

The scroll described itself as being “in regards to the divine restoration of loss of energy. A single use spell,” which had been dedicated to the goddess of the waters. I remembered what had happened when Shalev had been touched by a specter, and the draining effect that such contact could have. I turned toward Jaeger and asked someone to tell him that I was going to use the scroll on him, and not to attack me. I read the scroll at Jaeger, and I felt the energy of the spell release gently. Jaeger straightened up immediately, and his eyes shone brighter as the effects of the spell restored what had been taken from him when the specter touched him.

As this room was fairly secure, even in its trashed state, we decided to stop here and rest for a few moments before we continued to explore. Jaeger was able to remove a small square of the silvered mirror, and I noticed that he touched it to his sword, and half of it disappeared. I noticed that he did this often, offering his sword half of everything he touched, and I wondered at the symbiosis between the two.

.oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

The presence of the undead things here bothers me greatly. Especially since Jaeger stated that they were clearly bound in service to… something. It’s that something that has me worried. There are a number of things that can command undead, none of which are easy to deal with. It could be that they were simply bound to the service of the place, as I know mages are prone to doing such things, but my instinct tells me that there is more here to it.

Further explorations here are needed, and likely will give us clues as to what we will face.

I would have expected to feel the presence of the dragon by now, and the fact that we haven’t has me wondering.

Taryn has returned to the party. I did not know the man before this, as he disappeared only a few hours after we had joined the party, but the fact that Tobias and KelLyn seem so quickly accepting of him seems to indicate that they bear him no ill will for his desertion. KelLyn especially seems to be affected by the return of her once lover, and seems almost uncertain around him. It is obvious that he remembers nothing of his prior encounters with her, however, and I wonder at how this might play out. She is volatile at the best of times, and having her be so emotionally off center might prove to be disastrous.

View
The Lost City - Into Emer
Thoughts from the point of view of Cora'sol "The Immortal"

cross posted from Cora’s Travel Journal

“If there is any wisdom running through my life now, in my walking on this earth, it came from listening in the Great Silence to the stones, trees, space, the wild animals, to the pulse of all life as my heartbeat.” Vijali Hamilton

.oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

Previously in our story…

The next morning, we woke to find that the golden winter wine that Tobias and I had drunk the night before still had some effect, as the colors of the world all seemed much more vivid. The effect soon faded, however, and we made our preparations to finally enter into Emer to face the dragon.

We all knew, to some degree, what we might face going into the city, and each one of us spent extra time examining armor for flaws, sharpening weapons, and reprovisioning. Gearing up for the long journey to the city, and for a battle we were not sure we could win, but knew we needed to fight, we took extra precautions with our supplies. Ishmael watched us all, and bade us luck and fortune as we turned the cart north and set out along the road out of town.

Thankfully, we faced nothing during the first month of travel, and at the end of four long weeks on the road, we finally reached the end of the fourth large field. As we approached the edge of the field, I noticed a man in grey robes standing at the corner of the corn rows, scowling darkly at us. As we grew closer, I saw that his gaze was most focused on KelLyn, and I drew her attention to the stranger on the road. She said that he was obviously not a farmer, but did not recognize him, and did not care to stop and talk to him. As she seemed unconcerned, we passed the man without stopping, but I kept a watchful eye on him until he was out of sight, and in that entire time, his gaze never left KelLyn.

A short distance down the road, we saw movement off in the grasses to the right, and we saw three odd looking animals that looked a lot like a cross breeding between a camel and some odd thing with a long prehensile nose. Tobias, having recently graduated from the Monsters class at the university, spoke up and said that the beasts were “Disenchanters” and that they ate magic. He warned that he had learned that they ignore non magical attacks completely, and that with as many magical items as the party carried, we probably looked like a feast to the creatures.

Indeed, before he had even finished speaking, they turned towards the party and began to shimmer visibly with a blue electrical light. One of the creatures raised it’s long snout in the air and sniffed loudly, appearing to try to decide which of us seemed to be the most magical. It focused on KelLyn and Jaeger, and began to walk toward us, while the other two ignored us completely and continued to paw at the ground where their attention was focused.

Jaeger drew his sword with a ring, and that was enough to draw the complete attention of the one that had been coming towards the party. It began to jog, and then trot towards us, and when the creature was about 40 yards away, Osman began to chant a summoning spell. As he chanted, a chunk of earth rose up beside him, and he instructed the elemental to move towards the disenchanter just as Jaeger also finished casting a spell. Jaeger’s spell seemed to have no effect, however, and Tobias drew his weapons and made his way through the sharp grasses to see if he could discern what had so captivated the other two magic-eaters.

The grasses were high enough that I could not see what he saw, but I saw him swing one of his maces in a deadly arc toward one of the digging creatures. A small wind rose up around Jaeger, and I knew that my bow would be of no use in this fight, so I drew my sword instead. Osman cast another spell, to no effect, and Tobias swung, again striking the creature that was digging do diligently towards it’s buried prize.

Osman, throwing reason to the winds, pulled out the magical censer and began to swing it in an arc as he summoned again, and this time, something answered. A prince of the fire realm stood before him, and I could see the visible battle of wills between the two.

Lan leaned toward the beast that continued to trot towards us, and she cast a spell to tame the creature. It seemed to work momentarily, as it stopped its forward movement and stood watching us passively. Jaeger tried again to use magic, but again, it failed against the magic eater. KelLyn also attempted magic, and her spell completed with a chunk of rock hitting the placid disenchanter in the face. I knew that I could not reach it with my sword, and did not wish to get within range to do so, so I tried to convince the grasses to entangle the beast.

My spell failed, however I did not lose faith in my abilities at the failure. I knew that my magic would be hampered here, and though I failed this time, I felt that I had been very close to succeeding, and made a quick mental note to try calling up actual vines next time instead of trying to use the roots.

The fire elemental, having only barely lost the battle of wills with Osman, set off through the grasses towards the disenchanters, setting fire to the fields as it walked. It reached the first creature, killing it with a single scorching touch, before proceeding toward the other two and Tobias. Tobias seemed unaware of the approach of the fiery elemental, continued to strike at the obstinately oblivious animal in front of him.

Not knowing what else to do, and not wanting the fires to rage out of control, I began to shovel dirt onto the flames that I could reach, and I heard KelLyn begin chanting in the magical language she used for her most powerful spells. With a rush, a wall of water rose up out of the ground and swept over the fields, dousing the fires effectively. With the largest of the flames no longer a worry, I shifted my focus more toward making sure that anything left smouldering was extinguished as well.

The elemental approached Tobias, and reached out to immolate the magic-eaters with a single touch before it turned back toward the party and stalked toward Osman. Osman was still swinging the censer, wide eyed, and attempted to dismiss the elemental prince. The dismissal was ignored, and so Lan tried to disenchant it which only managed to gain it’s full attention. Lan quickly asked KelLyn and Jaeger to help her, and the three of them worked quickly, circling one another to gather power for the banishing spell.

I moved clear of their efforts, not wanting to be nearby if it failed, and made my way carefully through the knife like grass to where Tobias was still digging through the dirt. Together we dug up the piece of KelLyn’s staff that had been thrown clear when the potion maker’s tower had exploded, and we pulled it out of the ground, blackened and covered in grime.

We made our way back to the rest of the party to see that the banishing spell had thankfully been successful, and we presented KelLyn with the piece of her staff. She was quite pleased that we had found it, and quickly cleaned it off and fastened it to the other piece that she carried. Once the pieces were together, she fashioned a strap to carry it across her back, and after making sure that no one was injured and that all the fires had been put out, we made our way back to the main road to continue towards the city of Emer.

The area past the fields was wild and unkempt forest. We could see the gleam of the university library’s shining dome just over the trees off to the right. As we progressed, the roads got worse, and the evidence of large scale destruction became more evident. Soon enough the rubble remains of the walls of Emer loomed before us, and we decided to make camp where we had stopped for the evening. At dusk, as we had noticed every day, we saw the dragon launch itself into the sky and fly counterclockwise around the area 7 times. There was a sense of tired ritual about the motion, and my thoughts again were drawn to the task of breaking the circle and whether or not the dragon would even be amenable to such a suggestion. The motions it makes and the sense I have gotten of it being trapped here lead me to hope that, perhaps it might be.

Once camp was made, I recalled the letter that Tobias had given to me while we were at the university, and I used a spell to help me translate the oddly familiar language, which read as follows:

“My dearest Eamon,
I know you are returning to your family in the Iverne mountains to continue in your family trade. I will miss you and the research we did at the library. Mistress Bliss had hoped that you would continue deciphering the elven work on conversing with plants, since you had that natural gift. I understand you will be working on it on your own until things are stable at home. No one born of the road can truly stop traveling. Ruald and I will visit you in two years to see if you are ready to wander, or if a “kidnapping” is in order. We have heard enough of the songs of Brazzemal and Tidoran to last through all the ale of two taverns. The bards here are not as good as those we traveled with.
Thank you for the shiny things. i will keep them on my travels as we head to the other continent.
Yours in Aroon –
Pyl"

There was a very faint holy symbol inscribed underneath the signature, but I did not recognize it, nor did I recognize the names that were mentioned within the letter. I found it interesting though, and I recalled that the mountains were those interior spires on the eastern edge of the other continent. Both the high elves and dwarfs lived there. there was only one desert on the other continent, also in the eastern kingdom, that exists solely because of those mountain ranges. There was – is still – speculation that the desert had been artificially created. In the heart of that desert was a dwarfish oasis, and the elven settlements and lands were surrounded by gate towers that were built of stone.

The next day we broke camp and began to cautiously make our way towards the city. Appearance of distance is odd in this place, and though the crumbling walls loomed ahead of us, it still took us another week to reach them. We passed abandoned farm houses and hamlets,all overgrown and unkempt. Nature was taking back her own with vine and rot, and the buildings were crumbling to dust. The gates of the city were missing entirely, being ripped apart by the dragon upon it’s arrival so long ago.

There was no noise here, and it struck me suddenly. The silence was absolute, and our footsteps echoed off of the stone pathway desolately. We became extremely cautious then, with the rubble looming large around us in this dead and dying place. The main highway into the city seemed clear, and we were able to make our way into the city proper unmolested. The buildings we passed were all knocked down, and I observed that there was a pattern to the destruction, as if a mighty shockwave had exploded from the center of town.

About 6 blocks further in, the main road became impassable, but we saw that the smaller road off to the right remained clear. We continued onto that road, picking our way through the rocks, and over on the left hand side, I caught a glimpse of what had once been a park. All of the trees were dead and fallen except for 7. Those 7 all appeared to be in full leaf, but oddly colored in gold, red, silver, blue, a clear amber, grey, and a deep solid black that actually hurt my eyes to look at for too long. I wanted to go over to the odd trees, but I could not find a way over the rubble, and as there was no clear path, I made note of them so that I could come back to examine them afterward.

The road turned slightly and wound its way around a large palace structure which was built straight into the outer wall. The walls of the structure were drawn in rather than keeping to the circular shape, and the structure was massively damaged. We followed the road around in front of the palace property, and we came to a crossroad where all four pathways had been cleared. We decided to take the left path, and we saw a set of completely intact buildings ahead. We discussed our options quietly for a moment, and then moved over to the sheltered street to examine the intact buildings further. We discovered that this street appeared to be a gathering of the mage academy and several chapels to various deities.

Tobias examined the chapels and then muttered an oath saying that one of the chapels bore the symbol of the temple to the Celestine order of the paladin that had tried once before to kill the party before I joined them. He told us about the paladin of Celestia, and that while he had no issue with the order itself, he had a personal vendetta against the paladin. KelLyn and Jaeger had wandered over across the road to examine the doors of the mage academy. As they moved closer to look at the doors, they activated the trap spells placed over the doors as protection, which exploded with a gout of flames. KelLyn and Jaeger both seemed to simply absorb the power of the blast, and thankfully none of the rest of the party were harmed. KelLyn said something to Jaeger in his language, and they worked together to cast a ward to surround them and protect the party from any additional fireworks. Apparently, speaking in Jaeger’s guttural language was a trigger for yet another trap, for when they spoke, lightning suddenly burst out at them both. Again, the two mages simply seemed to shrug off the power of the spell with only mild annoyance.

They cautiously began to work together again, and this time they were able to complete their warding which encased them and the whole of the front door with a glowing blue energy. As soon as the ward snapped closed, we saw the sphere fill suddenly fill with water and then immediately drain. While they worked on disarming the heavily trapped door, I saw an arrow suddenly appear in the outside of the ward. I turned, my own bow nocked, and immediately began to scan the buildings and ruins surrounding us.

Inside the sphere a large rock fell, but bounced harmlessly off of both Jaeger and KelLyn; and then a beam of light shot out of the doorway. Jaeger pushed KelLyn out of the way, and they were both unharmed by the final trap on the entrance. I continued to scan for the archer who had shot the arrow, and soon located him up on one low pile of rubble, aiming another arrow at us. I took careful aim, and fired a warning shot which sheared the buttons off of his shirt. The shot served it’s purpose well, as the man startled and his second shot flew wide of it’s mark. His eyes wide, he turned and fled into the ruins with Tobias sprinting off after him.

.oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

View
The Lost City - Some Long Conversation
Thoughts from the point of view of Cora'sol "The Immortal"

cross posted from Cora’s Travel Journal

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” – Albert Einstein

.oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

Previously in our story…

We spent about a month at the University researching various topics. I continued my search for information regarding sylvan trees and sacred druidry. The librarian there, a curiously round little man who smelled like old books and ink, informed me somewhat sniffily that all of the tomes and records involving or even mentioning sacred druidry had been checked out by the elves of Emer some 170 years prior, and had yet to be returned. He wailed, albeit quietly, that he feared the books had been lost, destroyed, or being held as a part of the dragon’s unapproachable treasure hoard.

I smiled at him and told him that I and my party were making plans to enter Emer soon, and if I should find the books he mentioned, I would gladly bring them back to the university as long as he would provide me with a copy of them as an exchange. He wiped his teary eyes with a small ink stained cloth and agreed quickly to my proposal.

He then went back into the shelves and brought out another armload of writings regarding the sylvan trees. He told me that the sylvan tree had been here since before even the elves had arrived. The elves had indeed built the city of Emer around the tree, and that during the height of the city’s acclaim, seedlings from the sylvan tree had been sent out to other places. (No, he replied to my immediate question, he did not have a list of the places that the seedlings were sent.)

He went on, somewhat sadly, to say that the tree was believed to be completely dead now, as it was destroyed by the dragon to imprison the body of the knight. I had a thought then, and asked to expand my research to include any information on how to renew a tree, which provided me with some additional information that I found quite useful.

I learned that there was a way to renew a sylvan tree from a donor plant. The plant in question would have to be brought in with an elf who lived with the seedling, and a protector who stayed with it until it was planted. This, combined with the knowledge that my ancestors gave to me regarding the ability to regrow a sylvan tree from an existing piece, gives me a lot of hope that I will be able to accomplish my task here.

I thanked the librarians profusely for their help with the research, and I allowed them to make a copy of my personal herb index as a part of my payment to them. I inquired about their fence, and they told me that the dwarfs and gnomes of Quadling had crafted it.

As I rejoined the rest of the party members, Tobias handed me a letter written in an oddly familiar desert language. I shared with them the information that I had learned regarding both the tree and the dragon, and they agreed with my statement that we should return to Quadling to talk to Ishmael in order to get some iron weaponry.

Scott offered to help us with the horses, and we made our way out to the road and on back toward Quadling. Our travel there was thankfully uneventful, and I noticed that the plants that we passed looked strange to me. I made mention of this, and Scott said that he had some skill in potion craft, and identified the odd plants as likely components for potion making. We decided to leave the plants alone, and after a two week journey, arrived again at the verdant grasslands of Quadling.

We made our way to the center of the little town, and immediately set out to find Ishmael. Ishmael greeted us quickly, but warmly, and asked what had brought us back to his step. Tobias handed over the deep metal hammer that Shalev had shown him before departing, and he accepted the gift with small thanks. We caught him up on our adventures, and told him of Shalev’s leaving. we commissioned Ishmael to make some iron arrow heads and spear points for us.

We saw Fife there, working at the forges with Ishmael, and though I am pleased to see that he has found his way here safely, he was quite angry at seeing the party. He immediately launched into an angry outburst and threatened violence if any of us came near him. I stayed well away, and approached Ishmael quietly to ask if our stay would cause any issues. Ishmael shook his head and told me not to worry, that he would keep Fife busy and well away from the party. I thanked Ishmael for his insight, and asked him if he would mind sharpening my sword (again.) He looked at me oddly and asked what exactly I keep doing to the sword to dull it so. I told him about the encounter with the blue dragon, and he snorted once before saying that that would, indeed, be a good reason to have dulled the edge.

He agreed to sharpen it for me, but warns that it would take some time, and asked if we could run a shipment of supplies down to the castle of the sorceress of the south. I brought the request to the rest of the party, and they agreed to the trek south. Ishmael brought out an ornate deep metal gate, and with the help of a number of people, we were able to load it onto a wagon to transport. We resupplied, and rested for the remainder of the day, and then set out the following morning.

Two weeks into the journey, as we camped one evening, KelLyn alerted the party to the fact that she felt something odd. Her magic sense is acute, so we all were instantly wary of what might be about. Scott looked at everyone on edge, and grabbed a wood cutter’s axe to arm himself as well. KelLyn pointed at a small metal sphere sitting inconspicuously near the fire pit and said that was where the magic was radiating from. Considering how many magical items the party carries with it, the fact that she picked this item out from all the others was impressive.

She examined the sphere carefully, without touching it, and learned that it had a powerful create fire spell inside it. She immediately picked it up and threw it as far as her formidable strength would allow toward the ridge line of mountains we traveled near. At about 40 feet into the air, the sphere exploded with a deafening detonation, and it was clear that had KelLyn not seen the sphere in time, it would have killed us all. I immediately began to scout the area, and quickly saw a man wearing dark robes attempting to hide in the grasses a short way behind the party. He had remained to see the handiwork of his death sphere, and I approached him silently but rapidly to try to capture him. He saw me before I could get close enough to him, and shouted “Death to the Imperialist Merchants! You will not live to regret crossing the border of death.” before disappearing in a cloud of foul smelling smoke.

I searched the area where he had been hiding thoroughly, and found a small metal ring with a stem on it that looked like it might have been the key that activated the death sphere. I also found a scrap or paper fluttering in the air which, upon examination, appeared to be a sketched out map showing how to get into the bowl from the mountain pass, should one be willing to travel straight up to the top of the mountain and then down again. It was a treacherous and deadly path, but I made a note of it as a potential way out of this place.

There was some additional scribbling on the paper that I could not read, but it looked like some kind of notes regarding the starting point of the would be assassin. I made my way silently back to camp, and showed the scrap of paper to KelLyn. Her face went white when she inspected the paper, and she said that it was written in Penician thieves guild cant. I question why someone from her home town would care about “imperialist merchants” but she was just as confused as I was. We set up additional watches that night, but thankfully there were no further incidents.

The remainder of the journey to the hall of the southern sorceress took three weeks, and as we made our way up to the gate house, the guard there stopped us and demanded our names. We told him that we had come from Quadling with a delivery from Ishmael, and he immediately sent word up to the main house. A few moments later, we saw a carriage descend the winding road down to the gate house where we waited. The sorceress stepped out of the carriage to greet us, and expressed her appreciation at the masterwork of the gate that had been made for her. She looked at it critically for a moment, and then asked us all to back up slightly as she began to cast a spell. As she worked, we saw that the drawbridge was stretching out to match the width of the gate. I took a curious note that the spell that she cast was a secular plant spell, and I watched her actions with interest.

Tobias and Scott offered to help lift the gate into place, and the two of them were able to help maneuver it into the space. Scott had removed his shirt before he began to work, as he only had the one set of clothes and didn’t want to ruin it. I watched KelLyn and the sorceress admire his labor with obvious appreciation, and I raised my eyebrow in silent amusement. I suppose he is well enough formed, for a human. I left them to their oggling, but returned a few moments later when I heard the gate clang into place. The sorceress nodded approvingly, and then began to cast another spell. I paid very close attention to what she was doing, and saying, as 20 rowan trees grew up out of the empty ground. They matured, and then moved themselves over to the cart and laid themselves down across it. The sorceress spoke quietly to the trees, and they burst into full leaf, and then began to drop seeds. As the seeds fell, the people gathered them into bushels and placed them on the cart as well.

I watched in wonder, and made a mental note to have a long conversation with the sorceress regarding the potential to learn from her. Her spell casting complete, and the cart fully loaded, she offered the party a meal, and we accepted. Once inside the main house, we were escorted over to the dining room, and I noted the large library room off to one side. Scott, still shirtless, somewhat shyly asked if he could put his clothes back on, only to have Lan, KelLyn, and the sorceress all chorus “no.”

Once we were all seated around her table, she inquired as to our preferences for cuisine. Lan chirped that she prefers to chase her fish. A very confused servant offered her a fish, and then ran away from her so that she could indeed chase the fish. She gleefully chased after him, but after missing him a second time, she cast a spell at the poor man to shrink him so that he would drop the fish. The man did shrink, and Lan picked the fish up and then handed the man back to the sorceress, who took him with a bemused look.

After our meal, she excused herself for a while, and offered us the use of her baths and beds. I took the opportunity to enjoy a bath, and spent quite a long time simply luxuriating in the waters. As old as I am, and as long as I have lived in the desert, I don’t think I will ever tire of a good bath. As I soaked in the waters, a pair of human women waited on me. They spent their time washing and brushing my hair, which i rarely wear free flowing since we are always traveling or fighting. As they washed and brushed, they cooed over the feel and color of my hair, and offered to braid it for me in a court style. I agreed, and they wove my hair into an intricate pattern of braids that was only worn by the highest in the courts. Once they were done, and since we were able to relax for a few days here, I decided that I would wear my blue silk dress.

Once my bath was done, and my hair was finished, I decided to visit her library and spend some time in study. As I descended the stairs, I was reminded that the rest of the party had rarely seen me like this, and I was slightly amused at the stunned look on Tobias’ face. I have a few tricks up my sleeve, still, and it amuses me to keep him guessing. I spent the rest of the evening studying my books and sipping my favorite tea by the fire, for once unworried about my surroundings. While i don’t sleep, I do enjoy having the down time to really relax once in a while.

The next morning, the servants offered us a sumptuous breakfast of eggs, and some form of meat fried in butter. I tried it curiously, but found that it was not to my liking, though the rest of the party devoured it with obvious enjoyment. There was also fresh bread, and the sorceress said that she would have several of the loaves as well as the fresh butter set aside for us to take with us when we departed.

I remembered the coffee beans that Shalev had taught me how to brew, and I offered to make her some. She accepted, and tasted the slightly bitter brew with curiosity. She asked if I had any more of the beans, as she liked the taste. I said I only had a handful of the beans that were ready to brew, but that I had several seedlings of the bush, and that she was welcome to have one. She eagerly agreed, and offered to show me through her gardens after breakfast was done.

I brought the seedling to her later, and as we toured around the aromatic plants of her expansive gardens, we chatted about a number of things. About half way across the area, I turned suddenly towards a very strong energy pull. I felt the energy of the place thrum through me, and I asked her if she would mind if I tried to speak to my ancestors while here. She said that I was welcome to try, but that I was unlikely to be able to reach through the effects of the circle surrounding the bowl. She was correct, and though I tried, I received no response. I thanked her for the chance, and our conversations shifted over to magic and the sacred. I asked her how she was able to call the trees up the way she did, and she offered to teach me about magic. I discovered, to my surprise, that she was actually older than I was, and we agreed together that there were many more conversations between us in the future.

As we departed the gardens, she handed me a cut quartz decanter full of an extremely good wine. She told me to wait until the time was right, and enjoy the wine with the thoughts of all we had shared. I gave her one of the bottles of the exceptional elven wine that I had in return, and we made our way back into the house. The next day the party made preparations to return to Quadling, and we departed with my farewell to the sorceress to visit again when I am able.

As we rode out toward Quadling, I studied the decanter that she had given me, and I noticed that there was something written on one side of it. I don’t recognize the language, but Lan says that it’s in a language from the other continent. After about two weeks of travel, I heard the scroll case in my bag click to signal the change of seasons, and when we made camp that evening, I spent some time doing the rituals for the summer season. Again, I received no direct response from my ancestors, though I was able to feel that they were pleased with the continued attempts to reach them. I spent the rest of the evening studying the book of spells that Tobias had gifted to me, and I was able to learn spells that would allow me to set up a perfect area for camping, and interestingly enough, a spell that would allow me to add magical impulse to interactions with fae and elves.
I took careful note of these spells in my own book, and said a small thanks to my ancestors for the ability to understand them.

We made it back to Quadling a week later, and the people cheered as we drove the trees into town. They immediately unloaded the trees and carried them over to turn them into charcoal. The charcoal was carried over to the forges, and I watched as the people all sang in unison as Ishmael worked to stoke the fires white hot. He said that if this worked, that they would have a crucible capable of pouring deep metal, and then watched the fires critically for a few moments before turning back to us.

He handed me my sword, better than new and razor sharp, with a quip that I should fight less dragons with it. I thanked him for taking care of it for me, and made no promises regarding what we might be facing in the future. He smiled at that, and then handed us several baskets full of iron arrow and spear points.

He noticed the quartz decanter I carried, and asked to see it for a moment. I handed it to him carefully, and he looked at the etchings on the side of it. He raised his eyebrows in appreciation and told me that the etching was a label that said “Black Ice Winery,” before he handed it back to me. KelLyn gave Ishmael a red star stone for his use, and Scott asked Ishmael about the war that he had heard about.

Ishmael looked at Scott for a moment, and then told us that the dark elf army and their march across the desert.
I pointed out with some concern that the messenger who had brought Shalev’s summons home had said something about an army, and that we had seen walls surrounding the oasis. Ishmael gives us an update on the goings on, and he is well informed about what is happening outside of this protected crater.

Later that evening, I decided that I would enjoy the wine that the sorceress had given me, and I sat down by the fireside and opened the bottle. As soon as the seal was broken, the bottle sang with a harmonious hum. The wine inside was gold in color, and smelled of winter fruit and flowers. I knew that it was on the verge of turning sour, so I poured it into glasses for Tobias and I to share. It tasted of sunlight through snow, of thick honey, sweet winter berries, and long chilly nights beside a fire. It carried with it the sweetness of laughter, and the warming heat of stolen kisses.

As we savored the wine, we talked, and watched the embers of the fire glow with incandescent colors. It was a rare moment between us, where the world faded to just he and I. The troubles and worries of tomorrow ceased to be, for one silent span of moments, and that peace will live within my memory for many years to come.

.oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

I was surprised to find such a kinship with the sorceress. I was serious when I said that I would try to visit with her again. I think she has much she could teach me regarding my own powers, and I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations that we shared.

I worry about my friend. He may be gone from the party’s thoughts, but not from mine. I know he is well protected by more than one deity, but I am afraid that I might not see him again in his lifetime.

Once we make our way out of this place, there are still so many things to do. I recalled what the winged man had told us about the artifacts we would need if we had any hope of defeating the dark elves. About everything being tied together. I still don’t know how what we do here ties in to the bigger picture, but I feel, more strongly than ever, that it’s necessary to face what comes ahead.

View
The Lost City - Returning to School
Thoughts from the point of view of Cora'sol "The Immortal"

Authors Note: This actually goes back a while, and I have a lot of writing to catch up on. I will continue to create new entries until we are caught up so stay tuned!

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“It is important that one never stops learning. Whether it be traditional studies through books and letters, or more practical studies of life and experience. The moment you stop learning… stop wanting to learn… is the moment you cease to be.”

The party seems adrift with Shalev gone. Despite all of the things they said about him and to him, they can not deny that he provided for us. It is interesting that with him gone, they seem to have lost interest in completing the tasks we have set ourselves to accomplish. They seem content to wander aimlessly, and I am reminded strongly of the moment we… I first encountered them wandering lost and ill-prepared through the middle of the desert.

- Cora

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We made our way along the road, traveling west at a steady and uninterrupted pace. The roads here are scarred badly in places and not well maintained, but still passable. Travel is not difficult, and we see small farm houses scattered throughout the fields. There is a large forest off to the right composed primarily of nut trees, and I took the opportunity to gather some of these for our stores. It was slow going, but we were not traveling quickly, and eventually I was able to gather two full barrels of pecans and walnuts. The nuts were sweet and delicious, and I was thrilled to find such a bounty. I thanked the trees for their fruit, though I do not know if they heard or cared.

After about two weeks, we were able see the mountain clearly off to the right, and we used this as an additional guide in our travels. The roads were thankfully quiet, and we appeared to be the only travelers out and about. As we rode, we saw the corn fields that had stretched for acres end and a huge field of the strange crimson flowers begin. Recalling the earlier warning about the danger of these flowers, we noticed with some caution that the road branched off here and the road to the right went straight through the center of that field. The left hand path went off by the edge of the corn fields, and Jaeger agreed to scout ahead as a raven.

When he returned, he told the party that the path through the flowers was much faster, potentially, than continuing on our current path. Still wary of the potential effects of the carmine fields, we elected to stay on our current path despite the additional travel time, and continued on the left hand path around the flowers.

The next morning, the party awoke to what appeared to be snow falling, and as we began to bring out the winter gear, we noticed a humming sound in the air. We looked around to try to locate the source of the sound, and we saw a number of iridescent soap bubbles floating in the air in a northern direction.

While this was, by far, not the strangest thing some of us had ever seen, it was enough to make us pause for a moment. When Jaeger reached out to touch one of the delicate bubbles with a curious look on his face, it popped with a small sound. The bubbles gradually increased in size, and one particularly large bubble was almost 8 feet across. This large bubble descended down right in front of where the party stood, and when it touched the ground it burst in a shimmering shower to reveal a human woman wearing long white robes.

The party watches her warily, and she looks long at the party, noticing each one of the magic users right away with a simple nod in their directions. After a moment, she comments that she noticed that we had chosen to travel around the flowers, and that this was wise. She asked us directly then what we intended to do to fix the land, asking KelLyn specifically if, as an archmage, could she not detect the imbalances?

I remained silent at this, but raised an eyebrow, as this is something I had been telling the party almost as soon as we arrived. KelLyn murmured that she wasn’t always an archmage, and then waxed poetic about balance and the nature of things. I looked at her with some amusement at this, and began to think that maybe – just maybe – she had been paying attention to what I was saying after all.

The woman, who says her name is Glenda, tells us that the war has spread across the entire continent, and asked what our purpose here in this bowl was. As KelLyn had been singled out by her, she continued to speak, telling Glenda about our quest to restore the sylvan tree in the center of Emer, and the additional quests that we had to heal GranTier and locate Joffrey’s library.

At that statement, Glenda smartly quipped “which one?” and tells KelLyn that the library that we are seeking is most likely the one located over in the Krakafir mountain ranges. KelLyn ranted for a while about Joffrey breaking her things, and when she described her staff, Glenda took immediate notice. When Glenda expressed interest in this, KelLyn told the her about the desert being cursed, and then said “but I fixed it.” Which caused Tobias and I to glare at her with some anger, because it was not she alone that helped to restore the desert, and had it not been for all of us, we could not have accomplished the feat.

Glenda noticed our ire, and raised her eyebrow at KelLyn at the presumptive nature of her declaration, but then quickly changes the subject to ask her about her ability to do magic with water, as it was an uncommon gift. KelLyn mentioned Lan, and Lan began speaking animatedly about fish and water,and how she missed the ocean. She then stopped, mid-ramble, to ask what kind of fish hamburger was, and then started up about water again, and the strangeness of the fish there.

This whole conversation caused Glenda to blink, amused, but she was either very interested in what Lan was saying, or she was too polite to interrupt the selkie’s chatter. The rest of the party, seeing no threat and deciding that we were not going anywhere any time soon, began to set out the camp again and relax.

I watched, quietly, and listened as KelLyn and Glenda talked. KelLyn proceeded to lay out her entire life story for the unknown woman as if they were long lost sisters. During the course of the conversation, her goddess Leilanna was brought up, which made Lan chirp that she was her avatar. This sparked another long discussion about divinity, which ended with Lan wondering aloud if Leilanna could taste whatever she tasted, and promptly licking the ground.

Again, Glenda blinked at the antics, and murmured under her breath about whether or not we actually HAD traveled through the flowers. After a moment, Glenda waved her hands and snow fell gently onto the blood colored flowers. She pulled out a wand, and I tensed at the action, but she only conjured a table with a smile and a statement that it was time for a break. I relaxed some at this, realizing that there was nothing we could likely do if she chose to harm us in any case, and in desert fashion, I offered to share food with her. Tobias brought out one of the older bottles of wine to share, and the food appeared directly on the plates in large portions. I noticed with some appreciation that the meal was individually tailored to each of the party members, and that the vegetables and fruits that appeared on my own plate were well spiced and seemed at the peak of their season.

Jaeger pulled out his sword and laid it on the table, as was his custom to do. Half of his food vanished into the sword, and Glenda’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. She accepted the wine that we had provided, and crystal goblets appeared to pour it into. She asked us about our next steps then, and KelLyn stated that our immediate goal was to repair or restore the sylvan tree. I was uncomfortable with the amount of information KelLyn seemed to be so carelessly sharing, and I shot her a warning glance as Glenda asked her how we knew it was still there.

Glenda cautioned us that we would need to be stealthy to get back in, and tells us that the dragon would be quite difficult to deal with, as things are the way they are here for a reason. She says that the imbalance here is necessary, with a glance at me. KelLyn tells her about the blue dragon that we encountered and Glenda looks at her with some alarm. She tells us about dragon nobility, and the difference between metallic and chromatic dragons. She tells us also that we had gathered a large amount of power together in one place, and that those who sense magic could see us coming from a half mile away.

This was not new information for us, as Jaeger had warned us before about his swords inability to mask it’s signature. Glenda went on to say, with a note of ire, that those who had worked hard to control their destinies saw us as a wild card, and as a dangerous one at that. She added in a warning that we should be careful in our travels here, as we trod in a place where we could come face to face with our own destiny.

Then, with a deep breath as though she were making a decision, she stated that if we continued down this road past “Hoppin John’s” farm, that we would end up at Waglebug University where we would find information that would be useful. She reinforced the warning that the right fork should be avoided as it leads straight to Emer. She wished us well, and drawing a circle at her feet, stepped into the giant bubble that formed around her. She said she needed to depart to look more into the appearance of the blue dragon, as it concerned her greatly, and with that she floated away. The table disappeared with her, and the party begins to break camp and prepare to travel on.

KelLyn asks Jaeger something, and they begin discussing in earnest for a few moments. She tells the rest of the party that she is (finally) looking into a way to mask our appearance to other magic users. She uses her Nature of things spell on her necklace to see if that would lend her any clues on how to cast a spell on the entire party, but does not come up with any useful information. She promises to continue to look into it though, and we begin our journey along the road once again.

Another week passed before we saw anything other than flowers and corn fields. We came to a break in the fields where we saw a large, well kept farm, with workers out in the fields. We noticed that one of the workers was running towards the party carrying a pack on his shoulders.

The large man hailed the party loudly, and asked directly if he could join us to help kill the dragon. We looked wryly at the farm hand, and asked him pointedly who he was, and if he knew what he is getting himself into. He told us his name was Scott, and that his boss told him to go get hired on with a caravan. He told us that he was bored with farm life and looking for some adventure, then asked for a going rate of three silver a week. We chuckled a bit at this, knowing that he would soon have more than he likely would ever know what to do with, and with a glance at one another, agreed to let him join us.

We traveled on for another few hours and then made camp for the night. That evening, Jaeger and Scott got into a wrestling match to see if they could prove who was stronger. I watched the male display for a moment, before shaking my head and returning to my studies, meditations, and tea.

The next morning, I requested that we wait a while, as the season had turned and I wanted to do the rituals for springtime properly. I took the time and moved a little away from the party. I could tell that the ring of mushrooms surrounding this place still dampened my connection with my ancestors, and I felt the distance keenly. I was able to successfully complete the spells and rituals though, and their culmination made me feel some better.

I returned to the camp in time to see a live goat fall from the sky with a bewildered bleat. Scott caught the goat easily and tossed it towards Osman, who was not so skilled at catching farm animals and instead caught the confused animal with his face. Both he and the goat toppled over with a surprised cry, but thankfully neither was overly harmed. Scott walked over to calm the goat down, and he asked quite confused where the goat came from. Osman sat up and explained that, where he comes from, once a year goats fall from the sky if you said the right words.

The rest of the party laughed at this, but I gave them all a disapproving look at the deception, making a mental note that I should not take any of them at their word when they spoke in Common.

Scott and Jaeger got into another wrestling match, and while they grappled with one another, I made my way over to where Lan and KelLyn were sitting. We began to discuss how to potentially break the fairy ring here, and the ramifications that such an action might cause. I mentioned that I got the strong feeling that, while Glenda may have been one of those who had worked hard to control her own destiny, that she had aided us in her own way, and may not be so opposed to the return of natural order here.

The next morning, we all woke up to the goat making a horrible racket right near Osman’s ear. Scott looked at the goat with the critical eye of an experienced farm hand and promptly stated that the goat wasn’t right in the head, but seemed physically healthy. Osman tried to talk to it, but this only led to more loud bleats from the goat, and confusion on Osman’s behalf as he tried to figure out what his godsend was trying to tell him.

The goat kept acting strangely, bleating loudly, stumbling around, and running into everything. We eventually decided to break camp and move on with the noisy animal in tow. Even the horses were eyeing the goat warily, and as we travelled, Scott eventually became fed up with the noise and threatened to knock the goat out if Osman couldn’t quiet it. This, naturally, caused an argument to break out, and I took note of the aggression between Osman and Scott. KelLyn stated that the goat seemed to be magical, and as they argued, I watched the goat. After another moment of everyone yelling at each other, I calmly stepped in the middle of the argument and pointed to the goat, who was happily, noisily, and woozily munching on the crimson flowers that were growing near the roadside.

The argument ceased then, and Osman quickly pulled the disgruntled goat away from his colorful feast. Osman put a muzzle on the goat to prevent it from eating any more of the addicting drug flowers, and travel afterward proceded quietly. It took an entire day for the goat to come down off of whatever it was in the flowers that made it so delirious, and it became obvious that if we had gone through the forest of flowers instead of taking the long way around, we would have been lost ourselves.

Eventually we came to the fork in the road that Glenda had told us about, and we decided to keep to the straight path, feeling like we were not yet prepared to enter Emer itself. We followed the path until we came to an enormous and ornate wrought iron fence that surrounded a large and immaculately kept campus with several stately buildings scattered among the green grasses and shrubs. The presence of iron here was curious, and the sheer amount of it was impressive. It was obviously meant to repel and keep out fairies of all kinds, and Lan was distinctly uncomfortable.

We discussed it with her, and we all agreed that she should stay outside of the fence with the cart and the bulk of our belongings, as we did not want the presence of the iron to injure her. Scott agreed to stay with the cart, and Jaeger also offered to remain behind. Tobias, Osman, KelLyn, and I walked up to the decorative gate, and we are guided to the administration building.

Once inside, a round little man walked up and welcomed us all to the university. He explained that the library was open to all who wished to study, and that they offered a variety of courses for those who wished to learn. He recognized KelLyn immediately, and warned her sternly not to cast any magic anywhere on campus. He pulled out a lengthy liability waiver that he requested that she sign as agreement, and she grumpily agreed.

Tobias inquired about what classes were offered, and after hearing the descriptions, expressed interest in some. He was informed that those he was most interested in were already in session, and it was too late to register for them. He chose a biology and a monster knowledge class, and he was ushered off to where the classroom areas were located.

I expressed my simple desire to visit the library, and I was shown the way to the great gold doors. Osman follows me to the library, and once through the doors I approached the librarian to ask for guidance in my search for knowledge.

The librarian looks at me kindly, and asked what I was searching for, and I requested – to start with – a history of this area, and any information they could find for me about the sylvan tree. He disappeared among the books and scrolls, and after a while came back to me with a cart full to overflowing with texts.

I am able to learn much of what happened to create this place as it is now, and only a little about the tree. From what I learned, the elves that were here had arrived early after the crater was formed, and planted the sylvan tree over the wellspring at it’s heart. The elves were loathe to share the sight of the tree with anyone else though, and were loathe to leave the tree unguarded. They built a wall around the city to protect the tree, and over time become complacent, and were central in provoking conflicts between the four quadrants.

The city was impossible to take, with the wall that the elves had built, importing rocks from Al-Auld mines, which were now known as the “Border of Death.” The dragon came down from the caves to the north, and seeing the city, dug up the entire road to prevent easy access to the city, and carried the hoard of gold to the center of the city which he made his dwelling.

The tree in the center was crushed by the fae dragon and the dragon used the sap to encase a man who had attacked him so that he wouldn’t rise up against him again. I recalled the ghost castle where the knight encased in sap had rested, and did not tell the librarian about what we had done.

the librarian goes on to tell me that the dragon continued to monitor the treasure he had gathered at the center of the city, and that as a fae, the dragon was susceptible to iron. Magic was generally unreliable here, and each quadrant was essentially now an empire of their own. The entire crater was under an extreme amount of magical tension.

Among the texts and writings was also a detailed map of the entire area, and I asked the librarian to have the map transcribed. They agreed to do so, and when I offer to pay for it with some old platinum coins from my own purse, they sternly tell me that platinum is cursed and that they will not accept it. I relay this information to the party, recalling the warning that Shalev had given them when they picked up the platinum bars from the ghost castle. They made a sound of derision when I told them my own concerns, mirroring the thoughts of both Shalev and the librarian, and I tried to get them again to avoid using the platinum. An argument about finances broke out, and I asked simply if they wanted the map, or not. They grudgingly said that they did, and so I used some of the party funds to purchase the map, staying well clear of even touching the platinum bars that had been picked up.

I returned then to the library with the gold required, and returned as well to my studies of the area.

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View
The Lost City - A Call Home
Thoughts from the point of view of Cora'sol "The Immortal"

cross posted from Cora’s Travel Journal

“Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his master.” – Cora

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We broke camp the following morning and set out along the roads, keeping the looming cliffs off to the left. The road traveled straight through the hay fields here, and the golden grass swayed on either side of us. We noticed that there were straw thatched huts spaced periodically along the fields, but the farmers that worked there stayed well clear of the roads. The road here was obviously designed for travel, and while there were no inns or buildings along it, there were several cleared spaces and camp sites available for use.

Use them, we did. These sites made it much easier to set up and take down our camp, and our travel was quick and uneventful. I used the down time while we camped to study the book that Tobias had given me, as I had seen mention of a number of spells that might be able to aid with cam preparation and daily activities. I was able to find the descriptions of the spells, but determined that I would have to study them much more before I would be comfortable enough to cast any of them. I missed my connection to my ancestor’s wisdom keenly in this place, though I continually reached out to where their voices should be.

After about a week and a half of travel, we finally saw the edges of the hay fields. The road branched off here, with one path leading straight through the glass forest and another path leading off to the side, around the glimmering trees. The pathway that lead through the forest was littered with shards from fallen leaves and branches, and looked to be quite treacherous for the animals, though we would likely be able to pick our way through unharmed. Lan spoke up then and said that she remembered the brownies we encountered earlier warning us to stay away from the glass forest altogether.

I reached out to touch one of the trees, and found to my interest that they were very certainly alive. I also got a sense of unhappiness from them, but though I tried to use my abilities to perceive the cause of the distress, the only thing I was able to understand from them was that they did not belong in this state. Jaeger reached out to break off a leaf to study, but it shattered with a loud crack the moment he touched it. He then turned into a raven and flew overhead to scout out the pathways. When he returned, he said that it would take only about a week to go through the forest, it would take a month or more to go around it.

In an uncharacteristic display of reluctance, the party as a whole agreed that traveling around the forest would be safer, trusting in Lan’s memory of the brownie’s warning.
Before we turned around I made one last attempt to try to discover why the glass forest was so aggrieved. I had been working with Lan studiously to learn the Fae language, as everything here seemed to speak it. I had refrained from using my spell that let the roads talk to me, up to this point, because the chatter in the unknown language was nearly maddening. I finally felt like I might be able to at least begin to understand what it said, though, and so I cast it again. The chatter was immediate, and I found that I was able to pick up enough to understand the basics of what the roads were saying, but sadly, it told me nothing about the forest or why the trees were so despondent.

I made a note of where the forest was, and wondered yet again if breaking the giant mushroom circle would be beneficial to this area that had been apart from the natural order for so long that the trees had forgotten how to be trees. The more that I consider this path, the more I feel that it may be our only option here. It bears more consideration though, as I have no idea how to even begin such a task.

We took the southern path, leading around the glass forest, and continued to travel for about two days. I noticed that we could no longer see any of the farmers anywhere, but being so close to the forest thought little of it. That evening as we camped, I saw Jaeger and KelLyn huddled together over the fire, working on some form of combined spell. Nothing seemed to happen though, and as there were no explosions or otherwise adverse effects from their plotting, I left them to it. I did notice that Jaeger had gathered some of the glass shards into a pile, and that he used magic to turn them into projectiles which he flung with surprising efficiency at a nearby haybale. He seemed pleased with the results of this spell, and nodded to himself before muttering something unintelligible to KelLyn.

A few more weeks of travel took us on a slightly uphill turn. I noticed that wild onions, chives garlic, and other herbs grew prolifically along the path, and I took the opportunity to gather what I could. I contemplated adding a few of each to my little travelling herb garden, and decided that having such additions would be simple enough. I added a small section to my box, and took several of each of the wild herbs that I found to cultivate for my own.

Eventually we came into sight of the mountain, and saw a large field of bright crimson flowers. There was a ramshackle hut along side the field, and there were five old men dressed in ragged clothing sitting on the porch of the dilapidated building. They each had a pipe in their mouth, and each puff of their breath released an opaque white cloud. They watched us, silently, and made no motion to greet us, speak to us, or do anything except sit and watch. We passed them without a word, and I noticed an odd, cloying smell coming from the flowers in the field. I made a cautious note to stay far away from whatever these flowers were, and we continued along the path toward the mountian. Jaeger said something to Shalev, and Shalev looked at his compass to confirm that we were still heading east.

The paths here were loose and gravelly, but well traveled. We noticed that the glass forest had finally begun to taper off and become more odd looking. The road continued down and we found ourselves journeying beside the forest. The trees were no longer made of glass, but now were brilliantly colored in purple, blue, green, and every other color imaginable. The path lead us through the center of this forest, and we kept to it warily. The trees here also gave off a palpable sense of troubled existence, and periodically Amit would jump up onto the cart and let out a low growl. Every time he did this, we saw well camouflaged green leopards, poised to leap down on the cart, run away. I noticed that they were much smaller cats, and then realized that the pathways babble of “big cat, small cat, small cat” made much more sense.

After another two weeks of travel, we came to a clearing where we saw a herd of centaurs relaxing. I wanted to go and greet them, thinking of the centaur that I held trade with in the desert, but the rest of the party wanted nothing to do with them. The centaurs paid us no mind at all, and I sighed in disappointment at the lost opportunity as we traveled out of the clearing and back into the forest.

Eventually we did clear the forest, and exited out onto a rich pastureland with well tended farms and gardens. We saw the giant mushrooms of the outer ring of this place off to the left. The farmers paid attention to our party, but remained silent as we passed them by. The children though were excited to see us, running up to the fences and shouting to the party to ask if we had seen the centaurs, if we had bought anything from the centaurs, and a host of other questions. I grumbled again to myself about the missed chance to trade with the centaurs as the party responded that we had not stopped to talk or trade with them. The children, disappointed that we had no goodies to share with them, went back to their families, and we continued to travel and camp along the road.

After another day or so of travel, we encountered a farmer on the road who was leading a heavily laden cart pulled by an odd animal that looked like a mix between a camel and an ox. The humpbacked beast was enormous, but placid, and seemed to shoulder the weight of the yoke without a second thought. Shalev greeted the farmer and inquired about what he might have to sell or trade. The farmer said that he was looking for a plow, and when Shalev said that we did not have one, the farmer shrugged and continued to guide the plodding beast along the path.

We saw a large city with a castle built into the cliffs ahead. We saw the homes get closer together, and we saw shops, market places, and a large crater in the center with a house in the middle of the depression. As we got closer to the city, Jaeger did some magic that allowed him to appear human, so as not to cause alarm. I went to one of the closest shops and knelt down to speak to the fae inside. I was able to ask in broken fae if there was a place that we could sleep and trade. He responded in common, seeing my discomfort with the language, and said that the market would be open for trade in three days’ time, and that we were welcome to camp to the west or to the south of town as there were no inns here that could accommodate those of our size comfortably. I thanked the shop keeper for the information, and noticed that he sold barrels. I also noticed that the metal that he used was different, and when I asked politely why he didn’t use iron, he rattled off something about a stronger metal. I asked him to wait a moment, and then brought Tobias in to see the barrels and talk to the shop owner as a fellow cooper. They discussed technique and the finer points of barrel making for a few moments, with the shop keeper telling Tobias that the metal bands he used were made of a gnomish bronze instead of iron. Tobias happily purchased one of the barrels from him, and the shop keeper told us that the name of the city was Wenke. I asked him about the university and he told me that the college was closer to Emer, in the center of the bowl.

I thanked him again, and we took our things to the south of town to make camp while we waited for the marketplace to open. Once we made camp, Shalev set about making an inventory of our trade goods and deciding how best to set up and display the wares we wished to trade. The following morning, we heard an explosion. We immediately looked over at KelLyn and Jaeger, and KelLyn responded “it wasn’t me!” We looked over to the town and saw that there was smoke coming off of a roof on the northern side. Ashley and Osman went to go check out the disturbance, and I mentioned wryly that someone should probably go with them, just in case.

None of the rest of the party made any movement to do so, so I caught up to them to go check out the building. We saw a man standing outside coughing, and three guards nearby asking if he were ok. The guards went into the house and brought out a tray of smoldering ashes. I asked in in halting fae if he was alright, and he rattled off something I couldn’t understand. I asked him to wait, and then went back to camp to go and get Lan to help translate. She conversed with the man for several moments, and I caught the words for “potion” and “healing.” They continued to speak, and I asked about his gardens. The man said that he outsourced for his ingredients, and said that he would hopefully have several potions ready for market, and the preparation of these was what had caused the explosions.

We returned to camp in time to see a large cart full of odd purple roots being poured out into vats and mashed down into a gooey paste. We watched, curiously as the paste was drained onto cloth sheets and then rolled into cone shapes. We asked what this was, and were told that it was a type of sugar that would be available for sale or trade at the market. As we made our way back over to the southern edge, we passed by a pair of looming gates leading into the mountain. These gates were heavily guarded, and when we inquired, we were told that these were the Eastern Gates to the outside world, and that they were currently closed to outsiders unless special permission was granted to pass through.

On our second day of camping, a rider from the south came into the center of town. Shortly after we saw him ride through, Jaeger returned to camp to tell Shalev that the rider had run up to the guard saying Shalev’s name multiple times. Shalev was curious about this, but extremely wary, and asked that we all prepare for a fight if necessary.

The following day, we brought our cart into town and found a suitable place to set up for market. Shalev set up the trade area in formal desert fashion, displaying what wares we wished to trade in the best way possible on the brightly colored rug that he had taken from the guardroom in Sacatha’s dungeon, and then seating himself in the center and sipping cooly on some tea while he observed those that came by to look.

A farmer came by carrying an enormous slab of meat over one shoulder. We saw that he passed by several stalls with a shake of his head, much to their obvious disappointment. When he made his way to our area, his eyes lit up and he nodded his head hopefully and asked if we had any dwarven ale. We did have several bottles of an extremely good vintage remaining, and he and Shalev immediately began to barter. The man said that the meat he carried was a highly sought after cut of the odd humped back cows called water oxen. The “bacon” was cured with salt and would keep for a very long time, and that he would be willing to trade for the dwarven ale.

As they began trade discussions in earnest, the messenger looked over at our trade area and shouted “Found you!” then ran over and said that he bore a message. Shalev asked him to wait until the trade was completed, and the messenger said that it was a message from the oasis. Shalev sighed and asked again for patience while the trade was finalized, saying that his wife had waited this long, ten more minutes would be nothing.

The farmer chuckled at this, but finally agreed after several moments to trade both racks of the bacon for one keg of the dwarven ale. The farmer then brought the large racks of meat over and had them placed on the cart, while the rest of the shop owners groaned in disappointment. Shalev then turned to the messenger and listened as he was told that the negotiations between his mother and wife-to-be had been completed for the past several months and that the wedding was scheduled for only 22 days from then.

He nodded and said that he would begin preparations to depart immediately. KelLyn offered to open a portal for him to transport him straight into the heart of the oasis,and he agreed to the offer. Shalev approached the guards at the eastern gate, and requested permission to go just to the other side of the gates so that he could be transported home. The guards reluctantly agreed, and as they opened the gates with a thundering boom, the rest of the party worked to help Shalev prepare to return home.

We took two of the horses and loaded them up with the best selection of the trade goods he had worked so hard to gather, evidence of the routes he had established in his family’s name: honey, tea, porcelain, alcohol, spices, oils, and a chest full of coins and gems. I made sure that he had the gifts of jewelry and porcelain that he had commissioned specifically for his bride, and I also gave him the scroll that I carried that would grant him protection from the undead. KelLyn gifted him with a potion that would allow him to control low level undead as well, and once the gates were open, KelLyn, Jaeger, Osman, and myself accompanied Shalev through the gates to see him safely home.

As soon as I crossed the threshold of the gate, I felt my connection to my ancestors restored to me with an almost audible click. I sighed in relief, and worked quickly to cast what blessings I was able to on Shalev. That done, I gifted him with one of the bottles of extremely good wine as a personal gift, and a promise that I would come to the Oasis as soon as I could.

Jaeger worked with KelLyn in the rhythm we had seen them establish to gather power for the spell to open the portal. As the power ramped up to a nearly tangible level, KelLyn looked over at Jaeger in surprise as she said “but I have a wand for this spell..”

Realizing that she couldn’t simply release such a large amount of power in a closed space, she began to concentrate and focus the power down into a point. She used the spell that the demon prince had taught her to solidify the power into a solid, shining blue stone about half an inch across. The powerful node of water magic shimmered softly, like sunlight through water, and she looked at it for a moment before turning and handing it to Shaelv. She said that it was both a wedding gift and a parting gift for him, specifying that it was not for his wife at all. Then without another word, she turned and opened the portal directly into the heart of the oasis.

He looked surprised at this generosity from her, but accepted the stone with thanks. then mounting his horse and taking the reins of the one holding the trade goods, he looked at me. He thanked me for all that I had taught him, and said that he would see me again some day. I nodded, and watched as he rode through the portal to greet his mother and new wife. As he and Amit strode through, I saw that there were now walls surrounding the oasis, and that there was a large army standing guard along the walls. I heard the messenger snort out loud and then turn to quickly walk in the opposite direction saying that he was in no rush to return because he knew about the war and what waited.

KelLyn heard him say this and stepped in front of him with a short curse. She picked him up by the scruff of the neck and said “oh hell, no you didn’t tell us about that.” then pushed him straight through the portal to land a little behind where Shalev had walked through. Then the portal closed with a snap and Shalev was gone.

The two gnomes who had been standing on this side of the gates stared at us with wide eyes. She asked if we might be granted passage at a later date, and they quickly told her that if we returned in three months’ time that they would have a tunnel dug out specifically for us to use. The guards and the gnomes granted us permission to stay outside the gate for a time so that we could communicate with our gods, and Osman immediately knelt to pray. KelLyn began muttering to herself, and presumably her goddess as well.

At long last I was able to speak again with my ancestors. They responded quickly, with a question as to where I have been. I told them quickly of the ring, and of all we had faced. They advised and consoled me, telling me that I was on the right track. They confirmed that I could replant a sylvan tree where an existing tree once stood, provided that I had even one single piece of the original tree. This gave me a great amount of hope that I would be able to restore what had been destroyed. I spoke with them more about our current circumstances, and they confirmed my growing suspicion that the circle that kept this place apart needed to be broken. It would cause some chaos to do so, but this place had been removed for far too long, and bringing it back into touch with the world around it would help to restore it over time. Breaking the circle would also free the dragon who circled around the center, and that would be the biggest advantage that we had in dealing with him. I also asked about the spellbook that I had found, and they told me that I would be able to cast the spells when I called on them to do so , if I studied them long enough

I offered to share some wine with them, but the said with some sadness that they were not able to enjoy the gift in a physical form. They appreciated the thought, however, and I thanked them for the advice and comfort that they gave to me. It had been too long since I spoke with them, and their presence was like a soothing balm to my spirit.

Once we had all completed what conversations or prayers we needed to say, we turned and made our way back through the gate, hearing it grind closed behind us. We made our way back to the trade tent and spent the rest of the day completing trades with various vendors; honey for the odd sugar (10 lbs), tea tree and olive oil for corn oil (10 lbs), and a diverse mixture of local fruits and vegetables.

The guy we had encountered earlier showed up towards the end of the day, selling a variety of potions of attraction, ethereal reality, cure all parasites, potions of speed, levitation, and an odd clear potion with blue floaty specks in it. KelLyn approached him and asked about the clear potion. As she spoke to the man, she asked about the potions of speed, and he told her that they were made out of brownies. When she expressed concern about the brownies, the man replied that “they were dying anyway.” which instantly made me dislike him immensely. KelLyn also found his manner distasteful, and quickly finished her business with him, purchasing the clear potion and one potion of attraction.

Before he left, he confirmed that the college was straight towards Emer and to the south. He also warned us about the smoke shops, saying that we should avoid them at all costs, saying that the smoke and fumes from such places could befuddle even the strongest minds. We thanked him for the information and returned to the tent to begin packing up our belongings ot return to camp.

As we packed up our things, Ashley got up and wandered over to the potion seller. They conversed for a few moments, and the potion seller suddenly took an extreme interest in Ashley and took him by the arm to walk with him back toward the shop. It was only after we had finished packing up that we realized that Ashley was missing.

KelLyn and Jaeger suddenly looked up and started running toward where Ashley was last seen, as they had felt a surge of magical energy. The animals were all spooked, and the rest of the party had their hands full trying to soothe and rein in the horses. I told Tobias and Osman to go try to find the rest of the party while Lan and I prepared to depart.

A few moments later, there was a very large explosion on the northern end of town. We looked up in alarm to see that KelLyn and Jaeger were surrounded by some kind of warding bubble, and that nothing remained of the potion makers shop except smoldering rubble. The yellow sphere that encased them slowly dissipated, and Jaeger turned into a raven to pull a levitating KelLyn over and down to the ground. KelLyn came storming back to camp, with Jaeger still in raven form flying after her, swearing in malevolent anger. She was quite upset, and once we were able to calm her down, she told us that the potion maker had kidnapped Ashley and killed him for spell components. She ranted on about how she had then killed the potion maker because it served him right, and he had a piece of her staff that got flung away in the explosion, and was probably in the center city of Emer, and that we were never going to get out of this godsforsaken place. Then she stomped over to the cart and opened up a barrel of her beer to get a drink.

Shortly after KelLyn had finished her tirade, the city guards approached and asked for recompense of the destroyed properties. She negligently handed them some platinum from her purse and began her tirade again about unethical potion makers. The guards stammered their thanks at the kingly sum of money they had been handed, and said that the southern sorceress would almost certainly be arriving the next day to check out the cause of the explosion.

Once the guards had left, KelLyn said that it would likely be in our best interests to move out the next day anyway, as we had already packed up all of our things. Early the next morning, before daybreak, Jaeger once again turned into a raven and flew up high in order to scout the roads ahead for us. and we cleaned our camp and set out on the roads toward Emer and the college.

.oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

Shalev is gone. I knew that one day this would happen, that our paths would diverge and that he would eventually have to travel on his own. I am proud of my student, and think that he is well equipped to handle whatever may come his way. Amit travels with him, and this gives me more solace than any protection spell I could have cast for him, though I have it on extremely good authority that he is protected by more than one god.

He has departed to return to the oasis to fulfill his oath to be married. After that? His path is his own to choose. He was recently told of specific things required to become a true paladin of Ma’at, and was also told where to find those who will aid his quest. It is my hope that the roads are gentle on his feet, and that our paths will eventually cross again. If I do not see him again in his lifetime, I will hold to the promise I made to him long ago to revisit the oasis and see his children.

Travel well my friend. May you find the peace you seek, and trust that we will eventually meet again.

I was finally able to speak to my ancestors again, and the conversation was more soothing to me than anything else ever could be. Their advice and consolation helped me solidify my resolve, and gave me hope that I will be able to restore not only the tree here, but the tree in that cursed elven city as well. They warned me that I should not bind myself to the tree, as that would prove fatal, even for one such as me. I do not yet know what it will take to accomplish this task, but I have faith that they will grant me the power I need to do so.

Breaking the fairy circle here is another matter entirely. I need to talk more with Lan and KelLyn about how to accomplish such a thing. Maybe with their advice we can come up with a plan. It is also possible that the dragon, knowing our intent to free it, might offer to aid us, though I think if he could have broken the circle himself he would have long ago.

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The Lost City - A Moment of Rest
Thoughts from the point of view of Cora'sol "The Immortal"

cross posted from Cora’s Travel Journal

“People of accomplishment rarely sit back and let things happen to them, rather they go out and happen to things.” – Cora

.oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

While we were camped at the remains of Lacosta’s tower, we discussed exploring the ruins to see if anything of interest had been left behind. We quickly saw, however, that nothing remained, and after a few moments we gave up the search entirely.

Lan took the opportunity to swim in the lake, spending long moments frolicking in the water and playing with the merfolk that lived under the waves. She checked for items that might have been thrown into the lake, but also found nothing of note.

During the meal, Shalev handed Tobias, Jaeger, Lan, and Osman each a potion that would increase their reflexes. They took the potions, and I eyed Shalev with a small amount of concern as he did this, taking some note of his action and the way he carried himself.

The watches that evening passed uneventfully, and the next morning we set out to continue around the lake. There were sheer cliffs off to the left, and we noticed that there were caves in the cliffsides where we would occasionally see flying monkeys departing and returning from them. We recalled the earlier warning we were given about avoiding these creatures, and we continued to travel without encountering them.

A day or so later, I requested that we stop so that I could properly celebrate the turn of the seasons. KelLyn and Lan also took the opportunity to perform their own celebrations, though I noticed that KelLyn performed the rites for spring instead of winter. I shook my head at this, and wondered again at the strange relationship that she had with her negligent goddess.

Winter was the time for honoring ancestors in my culture, and I spent several long hours in silent communion, crafting a prayer to those who had gone on before me in hopes that I could gain their knowledge and advice on what we faced. I cut up one of the apples, and opened up one of the vintage bottles of my elven wine to celebrate the seasons with them. After what felt like mere moments, I looked over to see with surprise that hours had passed and that I had been so lost to the ritual that I had lost touch with my surroundings entirely.

This was extremely rare for me, and it alarmed me somewhat to realize that I had been so unaware. I trusted in Shalev, Amit, and Tobias to guard me should the need arise though, and returned to my thoughts on my ancestors. While I have consistently been unable to reach out to them while trapped in this beringed bowl, I did get the sense that they had heard me. I got the sense of approval of my rituals, and made a note to do them again and more often. I also was given a brief glimpse of the knowledge that what I needed was indeed here, somewhere, but also the feeling that they had wished that I had asked for something else instead. To this I took note, but thought quietly that if they wanted me to ask for specific things, they should be more specific in their guidance.

After the seasonal rituals had been completed, we traveled on, and after another four days of travel we arrived at Yup castle. As we walked up to the gates, we took note of the stream that flowed down out of the cliffs and the city itself that was built into them. The moat surrounding the outer gates was full of writhing water snakes. Shalev shouted a greeting up to the castle, and we saw a small face appear over the wall. Lan greeted the face then and relayed the message that we had been asked to deliver them that Locasta would no longer be a problem.

A few moments of shouted conversation passed between them, and then once they were done speaking, Shalev asked if there were a market or a place to trade goods inside. The people at the gates asked that we state our names and professions, and one by one the party members introduced themselves appropriately. I said nothing, but merely watched. One of the guards at the gate recognized KelLyn’s name and then said that as “companions of the arch-mage” we would be welcome to the city.

We made our way through the gates and into the city. The outer city boasted a well kept inn and a bustling marketplace full of vendors of all varieties including a jeweler, armorer, blacksmith, weaponry, stables, and a temple to multiple gods of the area. The people here were mostly dwarfish or fae, and as such all of the buildings here had been built to their size, making the inn too small for most of our party to stay in comfortably. Shalev stooped down and entered the inn to arrange for meals while we stayed here, and asked if there were a place where we could camp comfortably. They agreed to bring our meals out to the center of the courtyard where tables were set up around a fountain. They served Amit a quarter carcass of timberwolf, which Amit eyed curiously before eating with relish. They brought out a plate of fruits and cheeses for me, and I thanked Shalev for the thought to my dietary preferences when in cities.

The meal was sumptuous and we all enjoyed the foods brought out to us. Shalev took the opportunity to listen to the trades happening around us to gauge prices and learn what he can of the way they bartered for goods and services here. I made my way over to the blacksmith to see if he had the knowledge to resharpen my sword, but he did not, so I returned to the inn to see if I would be allowed to visit their gardens. I was emphatically and somewhat coldly turned away, however, and I got the distinct feeling that they did not like elves here. Shrugging it off, I returned to the fountain to sit and observe for a while.

Shalev made his way over to the blacksmith as well, and then after visiting the weaponry, went to get Tobias urgently. Tobias had been acting furtively, which piqued my curiosity some, but he followed Shalev over to the weapons shop where Shalev showed him a deep metal mace that he had found. Tobias bought the mace without a second glance at Shalev, then dismissed him brusquely and returned to whatever he was trying to hide doing. I noticed the sad look in Shalev’s eyes then, and the small nod he gave, as if reaching a decision that had taken a while to solidify. A suspicion began to grow in my own mind then, but I left my student to his thoughts and did not pry. Shalev then went over to the armorer and commissioned a suit of chain armor to be made for him.

Shalev was pointed over to the area between the temples and the stables where there was ample space for us to set up a comfortable campsite. We went over to do so, and afterwards Shalev moved over to the rear wall to the inner city to practice his sword work.

As I sat in camp, studying my book on druidry and reveling in the beauty of the written elven language, I saw Tobias approach me nervously. Such reluctance was not in character for him, and so I set my book down to watch him intently. He presented me with two gifts then; a gorgeous ring of woven platinum and layan threads bearing a leaf made out of the green stone that looked like the same material of the leaf pendant Shalev had purchased in Eyore. The ring seemed familiar to me, but the memory nagged at my mind and I could not recall where I had seen it before. Any inscriptions had long since been sanded away, and I studied the craftsmanship, but could find nothing that sparked the memory further. The second gift was a tattered book that was written in high elven. The book was damaged, and Tobias told me that unfortunately the jeweler had been tearing out pages to use as scrap. About two thirds of the book remained intact, though, and as I glanced through it, my interest peaked as I realized that it was a book of spells in ritual to a goddess named Ehei. These spells were all druidic in nature, and I spent several moments glancing through the pages. The book detailed the descriptions of spells that I would find incredibly useful if I could find a way to craft them in my own ancestor’s names. I asked Tobias if he had heard of the ancestor Ehei mentioned in the book, but he did not know the name. Like the ring, I had the nagging sensation that I should know who this was. It bothers me that I have come across yet another thing that I seem to have no memory of.

After a few more moments, I turned my gaze to Tobias and pointedly asked him why he chose to give me these gifts. I know that courtship in elven cultures can last for centuries, but I also know that Tobias has spent a very long time among the humans, and that as such might wish to press the courtship further. He confirmed my suspicions after a moment when he blushed as dark as his desert skin would allow and declared plainly his love for me. I smiled in return, saying nothing, but letting my eyes speak for me as I gave him a small kiss in a public display of the answer.

For five days we stayed there, camping in the city of dwarfs and fae, having our meals brought out to the fountain. Shalev continued to practice, and I noticed a determination in his strides that made me again take note of his preparations. As he practiced his sword work on the fifth day, the gate to the inner city opened up and a dwarf wearing armor made of deep metal emerged riding on a horse. He spoke with Shalev quietly for a moment in dwarfish, and then invited him and Amit into the inner city.

A few hours later, Shalev returned and told us all of what the dwarf had told him. He told us that the eastern gate should still be open for travel outside of the bowl. He also said, with more than a little regret, that I – as a druid – was no longer welcome in the city. I nodded, and agreed to camp outside of the outer walls. Shalev said quickly that he would camp with me there, and the rest of the party remained inside to complete whatever trades and commissions they needed to complete. Tobias also remained inside the city, saying that he had one last thing he needed to do.

Shalev, Amit, and I made a simple camp outside of the city where we stayed as we waited for the party to complete their business dealings inside the city. I was allowed inside the city to take my meals at the fountain in the courtyard, and it was here that Tobias approached me nervously again with another gift. This time he presented me with another ring, this one delicately shaped silver band with fire opals stylized as flames at the base of a still living tree made of an iridescent green material. He said that the theme of the ring was that the tree will always outlast the flames. I found the gift highly appropriate, given all we had been through, and accepted the ring with a gentle smile.

It was determined that we would all depart the following morning, and I returned to the camp outside as Tobias went with the rest of the party to the inside camp to make preparations to depart.

.oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

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I may have just looked into the Abyss.
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer.

When I first met Cora’sol Tyrtlarn, there were difficulties in communication, and once we found ways around them, she began my education. She taught me that females are no lesser than males, though that took a bit more work. She taught me joy, and terror, and fear.

As she explained it, for someone who wants spend his life wandering the desert, I am surprisingly aware of the dangers of doing so, and can usually list a dozen reasons why any given action might be unwise, even as I do it anyway. It’s an unusual balance of wisdom, bravery, and foolhardiness.

She taught me an old mantra she heard once, which she thought might help me, when my acknowledgment of danger makes me overly cautious.

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

Today, I saw my friend die and suspected my teacher would be next. Looking into that dark night, I elected to rage against it. Only I remained, and the I that did was determined to do what I thought impossible. To me, it was impossible that Amit should die that way, and if one impossible thing had happened today, why not a second, a third, or a dozen.

Cora has seen grief enough to see the cycle of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance over and over. I could not deny what I had seen, and so went straight to anger, bargaining that if this was the way that I was to end, I would go willingly so long as I was able to drag that ancient lizard with me. On some level, I was bargaining with the Universe of what I would do, given another chance; and lo and behold, another chance was granted. The price appears to be another quest, and it is a price I’ll pay it willingly. As the quest may take us in a similar direction to Crawlsargot, given the wide range it may rest in, and Ma’at did say it was a quest, I believe the two are connected. She may very well have been warning me of what was to come, and may be getting me ready for it.

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