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