Tir Na n'Fir

The Search of the Lost City - Ishmael's Farewell
Thoughts from the point of view of Cora'sol "The Immortal"

cross posted from Cora’s Travel Journal

Aa’ lasser en lle coia orn n’ omenta gurtha.

(May the leaves of your life tree never turn brown.)

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

We stayed with the dwarfs helping them around their city as we could for a few more weeks, and then made our preparations to depart towards the enchanted forest and the home of the Crescent Witch. I found out that the Crescent Witch was rumored to live about 5 miles around towards the enchanted forest, so that is the direction that I recommended we travel once we decided to head out. As the Summer Solstice was near, I also spent some time in meditation and ritual for the sacred space. During those meditations, I asked my god and goddess what I should know about the dragon that we faced. A young dwarf child wandered over to me and sat down beside me. She played with her little doll and began speaking to me about the boogeyman. She showed me her doll and told me that the boogeyman had yellow eyes and walked around wearing a green robe. She said she was afraid of the boogeyman, and asked if I were going to get rid of him.

I reassured her that we were going to do our best to get rid of the boogeyman, and she nodded once and then continued to chatter and play beside me for a time. It was only after she had wandered away again that I realized that I should not have been able to talk with her at all, since I do not speak any form of the dwarven language. I ruminated on what I had been told, and later on that evening shared the knowledge that I had been given with the rest of the party.

Osman spent some time praying to his god as well, in a supplication for more living animals to leave with the dwarfs here. His god answered him and another goat appeared. The one he had previously called forth wandered over to him to greet it’s companion, and then suddenly went into labor, delivering 12 healthy kids, much to the amazement of any who witnessed the births.

Shalev also prayed, and was also gifted with a new spell. His goddess granted him the ability to see the measure of a soul. He told me later on over our afternoon tea that it was his hope to be able to use this ability to help Fife with his curse. He asked if he could try the spell out on me, and I agreed, though I warned him that because of my long life, and because I was an elf, he might not be able to get a read on me as he would a human.

On a whim, Shalev donned his white dragon armor, and discovered that it would allow him some additional perceptions. He was able to clearly see the dragon flying overhead in the distance, and discovered that the dragon always flew in a counter-clockwise pattern. As we were planning to head to the forest, that would mean that we traveled opposite the dragon’s flight path, and would also mean that we would perhaps have some extra time before having to deal with the dragon face to face.

Hearing that bit of information, Lan looked closer at the giant mushrooms that grew along the edge of the bowl shaped valley. After a few moments of examination, she told the party that the entire valley was one gigantic fairy ring, with the mushrooms acting as a border. She also said that the dragon was of fairy origins, and was likely trapped inside.

As we were packing our things, Ishmael approached the party solemnly. He told us that he wished to retire here and make a life and a home as the Forgemaster, as the dwarfs currently did not have someone to act in such a capacity, and he felt like this place had been waiting for him to arrive. The dwarfs accepted his request to stay with much enthusiasm, and agreed to help him set up a house near the great forges.

The party accepted his decision with some sadness, and that evening we held a feast in his honor, toasting his accomplishments, and giving what blessings we could for him. He gave us three of the water skins filled with the restorative waters from Martek’s tomb. He also requested to keep the layan chain mail rings that Lan had, in order to try to find a way to craft them into something, and she agreed to let him have them. Ishmael offered to watch over the bulk of our supplies and belongings so that we could travel minimally encumbered, and we agreed, consolidating the necessities down to a single cart and our individual packs.

The following morning we set out, and it felt strange to leave Ishmael behind. I am sure that he will be happy there, surrounded by accoutrements of his faith. I hope that he lives long and his fires never die out. I cast my Whispers of the Way spell to see what the road ahead might tell me, in hopes that I can continue to refine my understanding of the spell, and also in hope that it might give us a fraction of a warning of potential fores. Travel was somewhat subdued, but after about a day we managed to make our way over to the Crescent Witch’s house without incident. The house was actually a massive tree, stretching nearly 50 feet across and 250 feet high. Awestruck by the giant, I touched the bark to feel it humming with life. I could also feel some kind of enchantment, but could not discern what it might be. The door to the dwelling was 12 feet tall, and located in the center of the trunk. I looked back at the part members to see that they were nearby, and then knocked on the door. I glanced at the window near the door to see an orc peeking through the window at me. He opened the door and asked something in an odd gutteral language.

Seeing that none of us understood what he asked, he repeated the question in a language that sounded much like the one that I had heard the dwarfs speak in the city. When Shalev stepped forward and answered the orc in the same language, it confirmed to me that it was indeed dwarven, as I knew that he had been studying it fervently while we were staying with the dwarfs.With Shalev acting as translator, we found out that the orc was asking if we wanted to come inside and eat. He seemed desperate for an answer, which made us all extremely wary of the circumstances. Fife, not understanding the language, and seeing the orc in front of Shalev, reacted as a trained bodyguard would, and leapt in front of Shalev to try to tackle him out of harm’s way.

Or that’s what he would have done, had he not still been affected by the bad luck curse. Instead of tackling Shalev out of the way, he lunged off to the far left of the tree and fell to the ground, landing on his face. Thankfully the fall did not do any damage to him, and as he lay there for a moment to catch his breath, Lan peered around Shalev and noticed that there were brownies working frantically inside the tree. She warned us all in the party common language not to accept any offer from anyone, and to let her do all of the talking for the time being. She then turned to the diminutive fae inside the tree and began speaking to them in their own musical language.

As they conversed, I notice that the orc tried again to convince us to come inside and have something to eat, and when we again ignored his request, he attempted to intimidate Shalev into doing what he wanted. Shalev looked at him once, and then shrugged off the glare as if it were nothing, turning to the side to look more directly at Lan. The orc seemed taken aback by the casual dismissal and visibly slumped a little, finally resigned to the fact that we would not cross the threshold of the house, nor eat anything he offered.

While Lan continued to converse with the brownies, I helped Tobias move the cart off to the relative cover of the giant mushrooms growing nearby. We disguised the cart as we had been practicing, and once that was done, we set up a basic camp. After another few moments of rapid dialogue between them, Lan turned to us and said that the brownies had been cursed to work for 10 years making baked goods that were addicting to consume. If anyone ate one, they would immediately crave more and more, and if they could not pay for what they consumed, they became indentured to work along side the brownies in servitude. She then turned to KelLyn and asked her to confirm the nature of the geas on the fae, and she verified that it was a spell that had been cast by a secular druid, but that the power level was impossible to overcome in it’s current state.

I made a note here of the power levels that I had seen before, with the ever-growing grass, and wondered at just how much the crescent witch had done to the balance of this place in her efforts to make things as she saw fit. I also began to see why the secular druids were seen as a menace, and contemplated further discussion with my god and goddess about the differences between secular and sacred. Those prayers would be for another day, however, as my mental reverie was broken when I heard Shalev began speaking once again in the rumbling dwarven language. He asked the orc at the nature of his debt to the fae, and then handed him 9 gold pieces, declaring in dwarf and then again in common, that his debt was paid. The orc cheered and promptly handed the gold to the brownies before stepping out of the house with an audible sigh of relief. He told Shalev that we could call him Jaeger, and Shalev offered him a space in our camp, should he wish to travel with us for a time. He accepted, and the rest of the party warily welcomed him to the group.

I cautioned Shalev to be wary, and to remember that none of the rest of the party could understand their conversations. Just because Jaeger seemed friendly at the moment, did not mean that he could be trusted immediately. Shalev noted my concerns, but I know that he is instinctively trusting, and expects others to be the same way. Time will tell with Jaeger.

During the third watch that evening, Osman encountered two ragged looking dwarfs coming from the direction of the gnomish city of Ehru in Damazen. They were wearily making their way towards the dwarven city in Quadling, and seemed surprised when Osman called out to them. They drew weapons, not understanding, and Osman called out to Shalev who then woke Amit and I. The three of us went out to greet the weary travelers, and seeing that they were sore in need of some rest and some healing, we escorted them back to camp where we offered them bread and salt, a meal, and what healing we could provide. They gratefully accepted the offer and as we tended to them, the apparent leader of the two spoke to us. He told us that they had come from the war, and that they were all that remained of the forces that had been sent out.

He went on to say that they had been fighting against the Ros Babans, and that the city had fallen. The forges were cold and closed, and the outer walls had been destroyed. I hear Tobias curse under his breath, and remembered hearing about the Ros Babans in descriptions of some of his previous adventures. While the dwarf spoke, Lan worked at healing him and his companion, and she asked him about the fairy ring and the history of the valley we were in. He told us that the fairy ring had been here for 400 years or more, and that the dragon had been here long before that. The dragon arrived shortly after the death of Savoyez – the duke of the central city who had tried to keep everything running after the second wizard of Emer, Liamond, had blown everything up. Liamond was Deuxson’s grandson, and had been known to meddle with magic that was beyond his capability to control. His greatest desire was in striving to revive ancient orders, and at that statement, I heard KelLyn snort softly under her breath. He had been attempting to craft an artifact when the power went out of control and exploded, causing all of the walls of the city to shatter. In order to contain the energy, he summoned a great one over the well in the center of the city, and the great one surrounded the city making it a sacred space.

After they had been healed, fed, and moderately rested, the two dwarfs said that they would take their leave and continue toward the city in Quadling. We told them about Ishmael and they seemed surprised that the city once again boasted a Forge singer, saying that they were keen indeed to meet the newcomer. We wished them well, and they departed to complete their journey. We continued on as well, at first light.

Seeing that we were making slow and uneven progress on the remains of the path, Jaeger stood on the cart and made hand motions as if he were casting a spell. Shalev quickly reassured us that he was not attacking but was attempting to help move things at a more efficient pace. KelLyn looked on in amused disbelief, saying something about watching an orc try magic being good for a laugh. She swallowed her words quickly, however, when after a moment, the ground beneath the cart rose up in a gentle swell, and our rate of travel noticeably improved.

With Jaeger’s aid to our travel, it only took us another day to reach the edge of the enchanted forest. I recommended that we make camp here, and I offered to scout ahead into the forest. The trees here were unusual in their enormity, and I had never seen anything like them in all of my years. The outer ring of trees had bark that peeled away like paper. I got an overwhelming sense of enchantment here, and the moment I stepped foot into the shadowed depths of the trees, my skin began to prickle as if a thousand ants were crawling over me. It was not painful, but it gave me an urgent sense of warning about this place that I heeded warily. There were wide avenues between the strange trees, but aside from those I could see no path. I noted that the second layer of trees was different than the first, with shredded brown bark. The ground here chattered away at me, but I noticed with some interest that it was in a language that I did not understand. I decided then to make my way back to the camp, lest Shalev and Tobias grow concerned by a longer absence. Distance was not what it appeared to be here in this place, and when I finally emerged from the odd forest, I found myself 300 feet away from where I had originally entered the grove. I made my way back over to the party and told them about what I had observed.

Once I was safely back with the party, I decided to cast my druidic power out in an attempt to call the keepers, but it seemed to have no effect. KelLyn offered to cast her Nature of Things spell to tell me what she could find out about the forest. After a moment or two of concentration, she informed me that the forest here had a massive Create/Modify Spirits and Demons enchantment over it. I tried again to sense where the keepers might be, but once again only got the general sense that the lived here.

Shalev insisted that if we were going to go into the forest, that we should all be tied together, and immediately began working to secure everything and everyone with rope. Tobias and I took point and gave ourselves an extra measure of rope so that we could continue to scout ahead. The ground here was still chattering away in that odd language, so I paid it no additional heed. We scouted ahead about 100 feet or so, and I noticed that each layer of trees was different than the one before. None of the trees were familar to me at all, and when I used my druidic powers to try to tell me what they were, I got very strong sense that I should actually taste the tree in front of me. Confused and extremely wary about this, I tried perceive again, and again got the sense of “taste and see.” So I stepped up and tasted the tree.. only to discover that it was not a tree at all, but rather an enormous stalk of celery. The entire forest was actually a vegetable garden of gigantic proportions.

Alarmed at the realization and what it might mean, I quickly found Tobias and told him that we needed to find the rest of the party. We followed the rope only to find that it had been chewed through by a white deer. It bounded off gracefully, and Tobias tried to go after it, but the rope that tied him to me prevented it. We knew then that the rest of the party had been separated, and we began making our way back the way we came. We heard a crashing sound, and saw a 9 ft tall white rabbit with a rope tied around its neck come stumbling into the area where we were. Fife was holding on to the other end of the rope, wide eyed, and Tobias shouted at him to let go of the rope. Seeing us there, he tried, but ended up falling into the trunk of the celery stalk and getting stuck. Tobias climbed up and managed to cut him out successfully, and Fife was not injured, though he said that he could not feel his arm at all. I took a look at him, and could see no injuries at all, but his entire arm was completely relaxed and numb. We gave him some water to try to wash the sap off, and I took a closer look at the excretions from the celery stalk. I could not discern anything specific about it, however, but bottled a small amount of it for later study, making a note of it’s apparent numbing properties and being careful not to touch any of it myself. I said a quick prayer to my god and goddess to ask them if there was a specific way to call to the keepers, and they answere me telling me that the keepers can be called by doing something exceptionally good, or exceptionally bad.

I tired to use my ability to destroy plants to create a safe path for us out of the garden, but the grass immediately grew back in. I noticed that the trunk of the celery stalk where Fife had landed had not repaired itself, and so I decided to try to heal it as a way to draw the keepers attention. I created a spell that allowed me to heal the plant successfully, at least partially, and with that done, we decided to make a basic camp here and try again to make our way back to the party after some rest. As we settled in, I performed a ritualized blessing of the garden area in general. As soon as I had completed the prayer, I felt a minor earthquake, but could not discern the source or reason.

During first watch that evening, Fife fell asleep briefly and woke up to see a large white boar staring at him. It headbutted him unconscious and he woke up later screaming about a large pig. During second watch, Tobias encountered a group of very large birds. They were completely silent, and had no heat signature at all, and after watching for a moment flew away on soundless wings. On my watch, the birds returned and perched on one of the giant vegetables. I greeted the bird, but got no response at all. As we broke our camp the following morning, I felt another earhquake, and then suddenly we were all picked up off of the ground by a tangle of green vines. It felt like we were flying in the air, and then at the apex of whatever had lifted us, I looked down to see the enormous hedge maze of vegetables stretching off in the distance. Then it felt like we were falling, but being gently held by whatever this tangle of vines was. We were set gently on the ground next to the rest of our party, and I realized that a giant green man had picked us up out of his garden like weeds.

I looked up at him in wonder, for I had never seen such a being before, and I heard him tell Shalev that he had a strange association. I realized then that Shalev must have encountered the giant and asked him to retrieve Tobias, Fife, and myself from the gardens. Shalev responded to the giant that he was on a last adventure before going home to get married. The giant then asked him to wait a moment, then walked away, returning a few moments later with a pouch which he handed to Shalev. The pouch contained a green gemstone earring which was described by the giant as being able to strengthen his personal resolve. He gifted the earring to Shalev as a wedding present, and then blessed him directly with fertility. Shalev thanked the giant for the gift and the blessing, then asked him if he would like any additional plats for his garden. The giant accepted one of the strawberry plants that I had been cultivating, and I asked if there was anything that he needed. The giant replied that he had lost his fork some time ago, and went on to describe a trident like object. Tobias offered him the trident that he had taken from Sacatha’s tomb, and the giant accepted it gratefully, giving Tobias a large box in return. I asked him if he could tell me anything about the druids that had been here once, and he said that while there used to be druids here, he had not seen any in a long time. He then bade us farewell, and walked away with the minor earthquake following his every step.

I was disappointed that he was not able to tell me more, but resolved to continue my hunt for more information about this place. We gathered our things, and started traveling once again. The orc made that same motion with his hands, and the spell that he used before started up again, making our travel much easier and faster. After a while, we stopped to camp, and covered the things per Shalev’s request. He asked KelLyn to take a look at the earring, and she said that it had a powerful protection spell for vitality on it. He asked about how it was worn, and she offered to pierce his ear. He agreed to let her, and she did so quickly, placing the earring in the lower lobe of his right ear. I did a minor healing spell on the wound to prevent infection once the earring was in place, and taught him how to care for it until it completely healed.

Shalev asked Jaeger if he knew of any enhancements to the senses, and Jaeger did something which improved Shalev’s eyesight for a time. Watches all happened thankfully without incident, and we continued to make our way aorund the forest. Shalev, acting as a translator between KelLyn and Jaeger, asked KelLyn if Jaeger could look at the staff pieces that she carried with her. KelLyn, suddenly realizing that her goddess was the goddess of orcs, said a prayer to Leilanna in hopes that she would be able to learn how to speak orc, and be able to communicate directly with Jaeger.

Leilanna actually manifested in front of KelLyn, and said quite sternly that she was very cross with KelLyn about things. They got into an argument with one another, and as a result, KelLyn’s request to learn orcish was granted, but her magic was partially blocked for a time, and she was geased into killing the orcs that are doing bad things in Leilanna’s name. As they argued with one another, I saw Tobias make a rude gesture at Leilanna, and wondered at why he would dare such a thing. I then looked over and saw Shalev step in front of Jaeger, and say something in dwarvish. I heard Leilanna’s name, and Jaeger suddenly lunged forward to attack Shalev. Amit immediately picked Lan’s body up, as she had fallen over dead when Leilanna manifested, and moved her over to the cover of the first row of trees.. onions.. in the garden to protect her. Shalev tried to stop Jaeger, but ended up being knocked over. Jaeger tried again to attack, this time by beginning to cast something, and Fife threw a spear to stop him. It bounced harmlessly off of the base of Jaeger’s neck, and Osman also tried to shoot the orc in the foot. His arrow also bounced off, and Shalev managed to move out of the way and over toward Amit and Lan.

Jaeger’s spell completed, and suddenly 22 oak trees sprang up in a circle 100 feet across. They grew up 84 feet tall, some of them emerging in the middle of the giant’s vegetable garden. Leilanna and KelLyn continued to argue with one another and Jaeger moved to attack again, but suddenly stopped when he realized that they were speaking in a language that he could now understand. Leilanna tuned then to the orc, and cast something over the entire party, saying that we all needed to just chill out and relax. Then she disappeared, and Lan woke back up, seemingly unaware of what had just occurred.

Shalev, Amit, and Lan appeared to be unaffected by the spell, but the rest of the party was in an almost drugged state of euphoria. KelLyn and Jaeger seemed to be best friends now, and were chatting back and forth in orcish. She cast her spell that allowed her to talk through fires, and the trees all fell towards one another, crashing together and igniting into one giant bonfire. An orcs face appeared in the flames, spoke to KelLyn briefly, and then disappeared. Jaeger looked awestruck by what he had seen, and he and KelLyn then started reading books to each other. KelLyn read her book of Fyrewerian to Jaeger, and as she read, the stumps of the trees turned into deep metal and sank into the ground. Realizing the dangers of having two apparently drunk mages reading from a magic book, Shalev handed them both a drink that he had spiked with the powerful sleeping potion he had picked up several months ago. They both slumped over in a deep sleep, and Tobias and I decided to separate ourselves from the party and spent some rare time alone together.

The next morning we woke up still feeling the effects of the spell that Leilanna had cast, though not as strongly as before. We broke camp, and moved out toward the ruins of the gnomish city. Another two weeks of travel passed uneventfully before we were finally able to make our way around the edge of the vegetables and back to the ring of mushrooms on the outer edge. As we made camp that evening, we examined the box that the giant had given to Tobias. It was unassuming on the outside, being only about 2 ft across. When we opened it up, however, we saw two metal rings with a rope ladder strung between them leading down into a 10 × 10 × 10 room. Only Fife and Tobias were able to fit through, and they climbed down inside to see that it was a large, empty space. They asked us to try moving the box, and we could do so easily. There was no change in weight or mobility, and we all instantly realized the benefits to having such a container with us. After a brief discussion, we moved the box up onto the cart, and then transferred all of our most valued things down into the room for safe keeping.

Shalev took the time to ask KelLyn to look again at the piece of paper that I had snagged from the lizard king’s temple for some reason. She agreed to do so, and confirmed that it was most likely the name of the demon that she had imprisoned in the gem. She pocketed the piece of paper again, and went back to studying her magic. A moment later, she looked up with a huge smile on her face and said “that’s it! I know them all now!” and suddenly a raven appeared in front of her to squawk “We are watching you arch-mage. The council of Fyrewerians does not appreciate your presence on this contin…” but it did not finish the declaration, as Amit pounced on it at ate it whole almost as soon as it had appeared. He swallowed the mouthful of bird, then spat out feathers in distaste and looked plaintively over at Osman who laughed and created some goat meat for him instead.

We continued to travel, and we observed the large birds we had seen in the gardens flying in groups of 10. They would fly into the mountains, and then fly back, carrying animals of various kinds which they would haul over towards the broken city of Emer. When they left the city, they did not carry the animals with them, and we speculated that they were bringing food for the dragon. I made a mental note then, of the white animals that had watched us in the gardens, and thought that this was probably how the dragon always seemed to know where people were on the roads.

After a few more days of travel, we finally reached a huge stone gate much like the pass through the mountains at the dwarf city. There was no city here, however, only large carved figures and battlements. The entrance was completely sealed off, and the statues were wearing battered gold crowns that looked like they had been chewed on and clawed at in an attempt to remove them.

We paused here, and found some cover to make camp while we discussed whether or not to attempt to go into the gnomish city. We recalled what the two dwarfs had told us about the Ros Babans, and the constant battle that was waged behind those doors. After much discussion we decided that it was not worth trying to break through the doors, and that we would continue on around the circle of the valley in the morning.

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

So KelLyn is an arch-mage now. She seems quite pleased with herself, and as powerful as she is, I have no doubt that this will only fuel her desires for knowledge. I still do not trust Jaeger yet, though he seems to have mellowed out considerably. Having another competent magic user in the party has definitely been useful, though I can not overlook the apparently causeless attack on Shalev, depsite Shalev’s reassurance that no harm was done. I am still wary.

The dragon knows we are here, and knows that we are coming. It would be foolish to assume otherwise. It is possible that the dragon simply longs to return to the fairy realms, though I do not begin to think that it would be that simple.

I am no closer to discovering anything about the druids who were here before, but the more I learn about them, the less I am liking what I hear. Either they were not druids at all, though the spells I have sensed here have a secular druidic cast to them, or they were druids who were so power hungry that they did not care about the repercussions of their actions.

I still need to talk to my god and goddess. There is much that I do not understand about sacred vs. secular, and much more I do not understand about what can be done about our present situation. I am still awestruck at having met the Keeper that the dwarfs told me about, but can not deny that I am disappointed at myself for not knowing what questions to ask him. I have been feeling rather useless to the party as of late. I do not know enough about sacred druidry to provide more than minimal help there, and even my archery skills pale in comparison to others. The adventures ahead still call to me, the desire to see what lies ahead is still strong.

Much to do. Much to learn.
I just hope that it will be enough.

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Hide and Seek with a Dragon
About that dragon...

We spent a month at the dwarven city, each working toward our own ends. In my case, I learned the more about the art of the blade and mountain survival, given that we’re traveling in them. Given time, I suspect my bladework may exceed that of Alex or Ikari, two of the better swordspersons I’ve known, though their skill paled in comparison to my new teacher. Per his request, I will not relate who instructed me, nor mention him to any others, appreciating as few might the desire to be left alone. It may be worthwhile to return here, someday, if only to see Ishmael, who has elected to stay and become the master of the forge. He fulfilled his commission by giving me an easier to read breakdown of the formula with notes and citations which may be sufficient to begin the process of work to create Egyptian Bronze. They have the metals needed to combine it here, and if we are able to establish a trade route, our smiths may be able to purchase raw materials here which will allow us to market this new technology.

In communing with Ma’at about Fife, I’ve learned the basics of a new ritual, too complex to cast currently, which may permit me to learn whether his soul is in balance, and if not, what he would need to restore that balance. This may help him shed the bad luck which trails him, and which may cause him to die rather quickly, unless we are able to correct it. This spell may also help me learn the status of my own soul, as I have not yet had the chance to establish Law, and am uncertain where I would need to go to do so. In the interim, I have taken back the bronze spear, so that if it comes to a battle, I might use it in hand to hand combat the way Ishmael Dragonsbane did. Sadly, Fife’s current condition precludes him from being trusted with what may be our most effective weapon against it.

Our next task will likely involve getting to the city, and through the use of the compass and my armor, I’ve learned that the dragon is actually a fae, and circles the bowl every night, always in the same direction, and at different speeds. Having obtained a sense of his pattern, we departed, taking only one cart and twelve of the oxen, so we would be able to switch them out as needed, if speed was an issue. Given the possible need to hide from the dragon, I asked for a test and discovered it would take us approximately one hour to pull off the side of the road and hide, and while that is not ideal, with practice we may be able to reduce the time it takes to take shelter. In the course of hiding, Lan discovered that this bowl is actually a fairy circle, and that the dragon is likely trapped here, and I wonder if the dragon is not looking only for a way out, more than anything else. It’s something to consider, though I have no idea what it would take to either free the dragon or break the circle, if needed.

When we traveled to the large tree where the druid was said to live, we met an orc who had been trapped by two brownies and was now in their debt. They were geased into making addictive cookies for ten years, several of which have passed, and the cookies and additive enough that Jaeger was soon in debt for nine gold pieces. After a bit of conversation, he seemed frustrated and ill tempered, though to be fair, his situation was such that he needed us to escape, and my cautioned questioning delayed his freedom. He mentioned something called the “Silver Quill” which appears to be a name for Leilana, who is goddess of the orcs. As I understand what Lan told me, through some characteristic she possessed in life, Leilana became the goddess of the orcs who regenerate, when they gained enough belief to generate a goddess. She’s been trying to stop them, with no avail, and those we seek to stop killed Yeager’s friends and family, making him cautious about traveling with us. At this point, I paid his debt, so he would have the freedom to go with us or not, as he chose, and he elected to accompany us, at least for now.

That night, we were visited by two dwarves who were returning to the dwarvish city from battle, and who appeared to be sorely wounded. They described the gnomish city as both locked up and raided by the Rasbabans, a group Taran mentioned in passing when telling stories around the fire about the city where Gran’tir lives, and who had begun marketing a new metal. The senior dwarf warned us that the gnomes would likely be unfriendly, given that it was humans who had raided them, and that the forges of that city were now cold. After Lan healed the dwarves, and they had eaten, they elected to press on, to continue to the dwarvish city, and we went back to bed.

I the morning, Yeager used magic which came in very handy when he was able to manipulate the earth itself, to make the cart travel much faster, and I suspect he will be of considerable use, if all his spells are of such utility. We made excellent time and are now outside an enchanted forest, which we believe contains the ents that Cora wishes to speak to. If we are fortunate, we may be able to find out more information about the city of Emer, and sylvan trees, so that we may prevent whatever is tapped into the soul wells from corrupting them, something Cora fears greatly.

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Into the Halls of the Mountain Dwarves
Our next heroic labor appears...

We’re getting redirected, yet again. I shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose. Cora’sol Tyrtlarn is old enough to get sidetracked a hundred times over and still live long enough to accomplish all her tasks when she gets back to them, and after her time in the desert, I suspect she has gotten somewhat stir-crazy. Our current detour is to explore an Elven City rumored to have a flowering Sylvan tree, which may help her heal the corruption in the City of Elves. Having prepared for the journey as best as I see fit, we departed in search of a city we had a vague location of. On the road, Kellyn focused on her studies and gained new powers, one of which is the ability to locate the best path for us to take, and possibly create paths if need be. This will be very useful in the future, provided we know where we wish to go.

Given that Kellyn has two of the pieces of her staff back, it occurred to me that the Red Mage who was pursuing them might learn of their new location and change direction. Based on the answer from my compass, I learned he was coming, he could sense us, and while he might not be able to Scry Kellyn, he could Scry the rest of us, likely to see if he could determine where she was. Relating this to the rest of the party, I was concerned at what a Fyewareian mage could do, much less one who can attack from a distance. Based on what I have seen Kellyn do, it’s possible he can cast spells at targets he’s scrying, and thus blast us before we even know it’s coming. The others tell me I worry too much, but that appears to my task in this group… to be the pessimist who presumes the worst and tries to plan for it. I’ve known four mages significantly well: Timu, a blind mage who could likely navigate better than I could sighted, Ahriman, who could summon armies of undead to do his bidding and who could unlock the images of the past, Lan, a Fae and the Avatar of a goddess, and Kellyn, who has performed feats and wonders of previously unimaginable power. Even taking the average of those four is not someone I would like to have hunting me, and as I discussed what we should do, Osmun prayed to his god and received a new power which may prove effective. Sadly, when practicing it, he had the misfortune to cover a Gryphon in it, although Kellyn was able to clean it up. It’s a fortunate thing, as there was another circling above us, which might have done great damage by surprise had we acted foolishly. Fortunately Fife was there to prevent any rash action.

In light of the vampires we just faced, I’ve asked him to being teaching me how to use blunt weapons more effectively, so that if the time comes when I need to stake another vampire, I may have a reasonable chance of success at doing so. When I had learned all I could for now, I asked Ishmael to being teaching me Dwarvish, as it may be useful to know, and to have a second person fluent if it comes to that, given where we hope to end up, a city of Dwarves, Elves, and Gnomes. In addition, given the man who fell into the river may very well be an omen, I’ve asked Kellyn to teach me to swim. We appear to have come to an armistice, and while I doubt we will ever be friends, we managed to be civil to each other for six months, to the point where I no longer need to pray to Ma’at to give me to the strength to not kill her every morning.

Making our way to a mountain path, Lan was able to convert to an insubstantial form well enough to open the door and we took refuge inside. Inside was a small village, where we elected to rest for the night, so we could advance into the mountain well rested and prepared for whatever might come next. Sadly, we didn’t make it out of the town before there was an incident. Fife and Ishmael, in the course of exploring, discovered that the sticks in the doorways caused bad luck to anyone who crossed or moved them, to the point where now Fife may very well be a danger to himself. Kellyn does not know how to remove this curse from him, and while it’s possible my sword might be able to do so, I suspect this is the balance of his choice to cross the stick. I say that, even as I benefited from his action. Cora was able to find high quality tea and porcelain in a tea shop, which we have taken so that I may later attempt to repair it with my broach, which I have learned how much energy it has and have energy to spend. I’ve spent the past few months attempting to determine how much power is in it, that I may use it judiciously when it low, and perhaps more often when I have power to spare. The secret has alluded me, so far.

The next day, we began a decent into the mountain, having discovered a wall which blocked off the entrance and requiring that we move forward to exit. By switching off the oxen, we began to make good time, and I kept an eye out for anything on the ceiling, remembering the creature which wounded me in the pyramid. The ring I took from the clerics in the swamp has been of great help in resisting the heat I’ve faced, and while it may not actually destroy fire, it does appear to protect me from it. It protects me so much, in fact, that I had to take it off to realize how hot the tunnels were getting, as Cora had warned us it would. With Kellyn and Osmun with us, food the party was covered, though I was wondering if we would soon run out of food for the horses and oxen. Fortunately (?) before that occurred, we reached the liquid rock Cora warned us of. As the carts were capable of being disassembled, Tobias used my ring to protect himself as he ferried our equipment and then the carts themselves over the bridge, while Ishmael was struck with inspiration and began to repair Cora’s sword. The sounds it made resembled something Fife later called a banshee, and it’s possible that there is a spirit in the sword, fashioned there in the crafting to give it power, similar to the leyan sword I possess.

With Tobias’ help, I was able to get the animals across the bridge and as we watched from the relative safety of the other side of the bridge Ishmael sang. Ishmael’s singing caused the dwarves nearby to open the doors, revealing an interior with a garden of mushrooms, which they permitted us to enter as they listen in respectful silence to Ishmael as he worked. He was able to repair that sword and we were soon met with a dwarf of rank who spoke with Ishmael about his skills and our purpose here. As Ishmael translated, I spoke honestly, though not completely, and my name didn’t do as much as normal, though the prospect of trade seemed to please him.

The dwarves here had some difficult times and have lost a significant # of their fighting age citizens, and could use weapons and trade goods. As a gesture of goodwill, I offered five of our oxen, four female, and one male, so they might get breeding stock to slowly increase their numbers, and gave dwarven leader the sword I originally purchased for Ikari, of blessed memory, which was of excellent quality. He demonstrated significantly better skill than I possess, probably even better than Alex, and I saw an opportunity to learn. He is a dwarf of some renown, but I had not heard of him, which was to my benefit, because he would only teach me if I had NOT heard of him. I’m not certain I understand, but I certainly will respect his wishes and not speak of him to others. He demonstrated skill enough that he was able to tell the life of the giant whose thighbone was used as the hilt in my claymore, I look forward to learning all he will deign to teach me.

While here, Cora was able to trade the tea plant she had grown from the cuttings I had taken from Mat’ron’s garden and trade it for local tea, and acquired far more than I managed with the blue stones I traded. We now have 20 bricks of tea we may take with us, with another 80 going to the oasis, and I believe we will be able to start a trade in tea and porcelain, which I hope will be profitable for both the dwarves and the oasis. There is also silk, which the dwarves seem use only for their children, but which I explained is highly valuable in the desert, and I traded a pregnant oxen for some silken clothing and even silken rope, which had not occurred to them to make. It may end up being stronger than the rope we normally use, and give some of the things we do with it, that may very well be of significant use. They also have the metals and apparently the knowledge and heat needed to work in Egyptian Bronze. I can see trading for the metals here to make it there, or even asking to station smiths here to send the weapons back to the Oasis. Trade for goods in something I am gaining experience in, and while the relative value of currency can be agreed on, trading for goods is more open to exploitation. My reputation is important to me, given I represent myself, my family, and Ma’at, not necessarily in that order, and thus do not wish to be known for making deals which are either unfair or harmful.

Ma’at has told me to do good, and so I aim to do so. The trade will go through Eeyore, and thus help revitalize that town, and the grass they have here, which renews constantly, may do well for grazing. Given the remote location, and may turn out to be very profitable to take cattle here, let it graze and breed, and then trade it to the dwarves for the oil, silk, and tea. Ma’at does not appear to concern herself with nonhumans, but people of Eeyore may be helped back to balance with the trade which goes through here, and as Ma’at wishes me to be the consort to the princess, this may be an excellent service I may provide, namely finding new trade routes to enrich the oasis. I’m still struggling to find my way, but I hope my actions are pleasing her. My immediate goals, dwarven training aside, is to learn the name of my sword and how to gauge the power of my broach. I don’t want to waste its power, but at the same time, I recognize how useful it may be, especially against a dragon.

The city of Emer is said to have walls of emerald and was an elven city, and it was also the central hub of trade for this region until the dragon took it. There may be an elven druid still there, but the dragon we face may be an Emerald Dragon, and by all reports is both cunning and territorial. The Dragon actually took the golden road which led to the city, and we were warned to be careful when traveling lest he see us believe the current plan is to stay in this city so that Ishmael may learn the ways of his religion, which Fife seems to have converted to simply for the sake of the beer. Cora also poses no objection to an extended stay, as it would allow her to research the druid who lived here and possibly find tools or materials that may have been left behind. Once this is done, I believe we should visit the other cities to learn what we can before we venture into the center to face whatever is there. We have faced a dragon before, and survived only through Ishmael’s quick thinking. I’d like to be more prepared this time. It’s possible we might learn enough at the other cities to stand a fighting chance, though it may turn out that we don’t have face the dragon at all. I’m not relying on that possibility, but I also have no wish to pick a fight when we don’t need to engage. Hopefully whatever we earn and learn will help us make it to the library to return the book for Kellyn’s quest, before returning to deal with the elves and whatever was corrupting the Sylvan tree. I do need to return home to be married but I recognize that my goals are not more important than the goals of the others.

I heard Fife and Ishmael commenting on my tendency to try to make sure we accomplish what everyone wants in the more efficient way possible, as after we survive this dragon, and the next two, and then the elves, we will be facing orcs with remarkable powers of regeneration, after which we will either try to find a way to heal the wounded northerner Kellyn wishes to heal, or return to the desert so I may be married. Given I know we will need Crawlsargot to stop the dark elves, that will need to something we do after I’m married, and have purified the temple beneath the Oasis, should it not yet have been done. Perhaps someone can tell me of city near where Crawlsargot is located, per the compass, so we may find it, and restore balance to the desert.

And to think, two years ago, I would have been happy to die of old age, remembered only by the Immortal, and instead, I appear to be becoming a legend in my own time. Not sure how I feel about that.

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The Search for the Lost City - Ishmael Sings
Thoughts from the point of view of Cora'sol "The Immortal"

cross posted from Cora’s Travel Journal

“The [music] produced is not in the mouth, not in the body, but, in fact, in the bones. It is all the bones in the body which are singing, and through that song, you hear the creation of worlds.

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

Once we were inside the passage through the mountains, KelLyn attempted to cast her spell that would show us the best path. The worn road in front of us lit up suddenly, illuminating a massive waterfall flowing out of the ceiling in the center of the area. The water flowed over a large crystal in the center of a fountain, and that crystal was the source of the light that now permeated everything. The fountain flowed down into a deep pool, and then into several channels that curled their way into the abandoned cityscape before us. The ceiling of the cavern was 65 feet up, and rough hewn, and aside from the cascade of water, was otherwise featureless. The waterfall looked to be the central water source for the city, and the water itself was clear, clean, and arctic cold.

The city itself looked to be completely abandoned, and everything here was covered in a heavy layer of dust. The buildings were crafted for someone about five foot tall, and everything was made of stone. We notice that there are no doors or window coverings, but simply a single stick placed across the entryway of each domicile. The dwellings closest to the fountain seemed to be old workshops and store fronts, and a quick glance inside showed only more dust.

I recalled that it had been about three years since the dwarfs and gnomes had retreated deep underground, and pointed out to the party that this place appeared to be abandoned around that same time. From what we could see, everything had been packed up and taken with them when they left. Since we had a good source of water at hand, we decided to make camp here for the night, and Tobias and Osman quickly scouted out rooftop vantage points for the evening watches. Shalev walked over to the well, and noticing that there were coins in the bottom, took out a single platinum piece and tossed it into the water as well. Whether he thought it was a wishing well, or simply did it for luck, I do not know, but there was no visible or tangible effect from his action.

We took the opportunity to refill the water barrels and skins from the fountain, and the pack animals and horses were also able to drink their fill. Lan took some time to swim in the frigid waters, frolicking with delight in the crystalline pool.

Fife and Ishmael had wandered over to explore the abandoned buildings to see what they could find. As soon as Fife moved the stick placed in front of the door way, there was a shift in magic in the area. I saw KelLyn look up suddenly in alarm and begin trying to discern what changes she obviously felt in the air. She mumbled to herself as she worked, and I heard her say something about a luck line running through the area, a brief sharp laugh out loud before saying “so that’s where it went!” and something else about curses. She continued to mutter and concentrate, and I wandered over to see what trouble Ishmael and Fife were getting into.

Fife had discovered that the building that they were scouting through was at one time a jeweler’s shop. He found an unfinished gold statue in one of the drawers there and showed it to Ishmael. The statue was a humanoid figure with six arms, and fittings where gems would have been fit in for the eyes. Ishmael hefted it once and examined it closely. He said that it was made by Hassan Abdel-Qa’id and was likely an idol of some kind for home or personal use. It was not made of solid gold, as he and Fife had originally thought, but was merely plated somehow. Fife pocketed the idol, and Ishmael found some apprentice quality tools that had been left behind that he also took.

As they left the building, Fife replaced the stick across the entrance, and they moved over to the next building. As he moved the stick out of the second doorway, KelLyn looked up sharply, then stood up and walked over toward him. Ishmael, after looking inside the building, called me over and said that this appeared to be some kind of tea shop. I stepped inside to look around a bit, and though most of what I found inside was mouldered and unusable, I did also find a half brick of tea from the mythrian farms of Kestria. Labeled Big Blue, this tea was one that I knew to be exceptionally valuable and delightfully enjoyable. I checked one small corner of the brick to see if it was still good, and discovered below the top layer, the leaves were as fresh and aromatic as the day it was pressed into a brick. I wondered why such valuable tea had been left behind, but placed the brick in my bag with a smile at the thought of being able to enjoy such a delicacy. I also noticed several chipped and broken tea sets, and I gathered these together in a small box to bring to Shalev. He enjoys tea as much as I do, and it was my thought that he might be able to repair the tea services and use them as trade goods. The porcelain they were made of was very fine quality, and I could see them being of some value when restored.

I stepped out of the building, and stretched up to my full height again with relief. These buildings were not made for someone as tall as I was. I looked over then to see KelLyn fussing over Fife and telling him quite crossly that he was to sit down and not touch anything until she could take a look at him to figure out what had gone wrong. He did as she asked, though I could tell that he was somewhat annoyed about it, and after a moment of concentration she told him that he had been affected by a very powerful curse that would make him extraordinarily unlucky. She said that even though she was the one that created the luck line that ran through this area, she had no idea about how to manipulate it, or how to remove such a curse, and that he needed to be extremely careful with everything he did until she could figure it out. She pointed at the sticks that lay across the entry ways and said that they were a protection spell that triggered when moved or crossed, and warned Fife and Ishmael very sternly not to touch anything else.

As they discussed options on how to remove the curse, Fife moved over to the fountain and tossed a coin into the water in an attempt (or hope) to gain back some of his luck. The coin skipped across the surface of the water instead, and only fell into the water after bouncing off of the edge of the fountain. He tried again, and again, it skipped all the way across and back, this time only falling into the water when it bounced off of his chest. Frustrated, he tried for a third time, this time holding the coin in his hand and placing it directly into the water. He ended up falling face first into the pool instead, and began to drown. Lan, seeing his predicament, swam over and dragged him out of the water, but he had already stopped breathing. She turned into her seal form and bounced on his chest a couple times to clear his lungs of the water he had inhaled, but he still did not revive. She shifted back to her normal form and looked at him for a moment, using her skills as a healer to see why he was still not responding. KelLyn walked over and gave him one of her healing potions, and once they could get him to swallow the liquid, it was successful in reviving him. He appeared not only revived, but rejuvenated as well, and KelLyn began reiterating her earlier statement that he should not touch anything until she could figure out how to remove the curse. She moved away to her bed roll then and began rummaging through her books to research how to accomplish this.

After we set up camp for the evening, I spent some time in meditation to my god and goddess. They were, as they often are, silent, and I wonder sometimes whether their silence is meant to be a comfort. I brewed some of the Blue tea, and found it to be just as aromatic and delicious as I hoped it would be. With the first sip I took, I was saddened somewhat by the fact that I had so little of it. I savored it slowly, and even offered some to Shalev, as such a tea should be shared. I made a note to try to find more when I could, and to use what I had only sparingly. As we shared the tea, I spoke with Shalev about the history that I knew about the tea, the groves, and the makers. He said that he had heard of the name Kestria before, and relayed to me what Tobias and KelLyn had told him about the group that they had encountered on a previous adventure. Led by a paladin and some clerics of a god of knowledge , and disguised as gnomes, they were from Kestria, and were apparently on a grave robbing tour of the region when Tobias and KelLyn had encountered them. The mage with them was responsible for the death of one of the party members that Tobias and KelLyn traveled with. These were knights from the same order, that KelLyn had wanted to attack out right as we journeyed to Eeyore. Her vehemence against them makes more sense now that I know about their previous encounters.

I can’t say much about tomb-raiding, as we have done our fair share of that lately, but the tale of their violence and aggression was something that I took note of, should we encounter them again.

The evening watches passed uneventfully, and the next day, we broke camp to continue on through the mountains. As we broke camp, Ishmael asked me if I would be willing to lay some false trails to some of the other entry ways with their cursed sticks still in place. I was able to do so easily, though I was not foolish enough to cross over the sticks to put footprints in the dust inside the dwellings. As we made our way past the fountain, KelLyn and Lan both said that they felt a massive wave of energy from behind us. We looked back to see that the doorway behind us had closed, leaving us only one direction to travel. Forward.

Osman fretted a bit over whether or not the red mage that had been hunting KelLyn was responsible for blocking the way back, but we reminded him that it really made no difference, as we had no plans to travel back that way in the first place. If the red mage thought that blocking us in would cause a panic then he truly does not know our party at all, and if he waits for us at the other end, then it will be his downfall to encounter us so cornered. Shalev did confirm, using his compass, that the mage was not in the mountain following us, but I do not know if I fully trust the answers his compass gives him, as it can be quite literal.

As we traveled along the passage, we saw several unmanned check points, but no other side galleries or pathways aside from the one that we walked. Tobias scouted ahead for a few hours, as he did not have to rely on torches to see what lay in front of us. When he returned he said that the pathway continued to switchback, but that there was nothing else of note. After two days of travel, the switchbacks got noticeably longer, and we began traveling for longer periods of time, with breaks for rest only when the animals showed signs of fatigue. Three days later I noticed that the temperature in the passage was growing discernably more heated, and I recalled that this was not the heat of the desert, but rather the heat that was given off by the mountains that men called volcanoes, and the liquid earth within them.

I cautioned the party members that it would likely get very hot very soon, and gave everyone a reminder on how to survive the heat using my knowledge of deep desert survival. I changed out of my heavy leather armor, and into my light weight layered desert attire, and it felt strange to have the robes and gauzes billowing about me once more. KelLyn and Osman worked double to keep the animals cool and hydrated, and we all took extra precautions to remain the same way. Shortly after that, we turned the corner of the last switchback to see a river of molten earth hissing red-hot through an enormous cavern. There were stairs leading down to the glowing vein of magma, and a great stone bridge that arced high above the flow.

We retreated back around the corner and away from the sweltering heat, and began to break down the carts to carry them across the bridge more easily. Tobias used his desert bred abilities and speed to ferry pieces across as quickly as he could. Shalev worked to herd the horses and oxen across safely. They balked at the heat at first, but he was able to coerce them over to the other side. Tobias carried Lan quickly over and she hid herself inside one of the water barrels to stay away from what – to her – could be a killing heat. Osman and KelLyn make their way across safely as well, and they help Shalev and Tobias begin reassembling the carts.

Ishmael, eyes bright with excitement, reached out and requested that I give him my sword. Knowing that he thought he had at last found a heat source great enough to repair it, I complied, handing the blade over to him and watching him disappear down the stairs towards the river bank. I stayed where I was, there in the protected area of the switchback, and Fife remained there with me, saying that Ishmael was his friend and he would not go until he did. Within moments of Ishmael’s disappearance down the stairs, I heard the unmistakeable sound of the ring of his hammer on an anvil. The clear bell of the hammer striking the anvil was deep and resonant, and it echoed through the chamber like a song. A song indeed it was, with the deep tone of the anvil, the higher voice of the hammer, and then over all of it was Ishmael, raising his voice in perfect harmony with the call of the metal. He sang, and as he sang, he worked. I heard a keening wail begin, and the hairs on the back of my neck raised in warning, because it was the call of a northern banshee. I looked warily, but could see no source for the sounds, and then remembered that the others had said that my sword made that sound when I wielded it. I wondered then, at what Toshi had done in the making of such a blade, but the thought flitted away as I continued to listen to Ishmael work his magic.

Tobias came across then, and said that the gates on the other side of the bridge were beginning to open. The last of the supplies and equipment were ferried safely across the bridge, and the doors opened to reveal several dwarfs, eyes bright and intent on discovering the source of the songs they were hearing. Shalev and the rest of the party moved everything into the much cooler mushroom groves beyond the doors at the dwarfs insistence. I continued to stay out of sight and listen to the ringing songs of Ishmael’s forging. As he continued to sing and hammer, the hallway, cavern, and bridge illuminated brilliantly with a blue light that pulsed in time with the harmonies being created. I heard a hum vibrate through the chamber, down to my very bones, and then the noise stopped completely. I continued to wait, not knowing what to expect, and then I saw Ishmael coming up the stairs with several dwarfs following him closely and chattering with him in their language. He handed me my sword, and it gleamed as if newly made. I tested the blade, twisting and flipping it to find that the balance was good, and the blade was perfectly edged once again. I thanked Ishmael with a bow of my head and then followed Fife, Ishmael, and the troop of dwarfs across the bridge.

As we were moving across the massive bridge, Fife – still under the effects of being cursed – tripped over nothing and fell, sliding over the edge of the bridge and towards the torrent of white hot lava below. I was fast enough to grab him to keep him from falling, but needed Ishmael’s help to pull him completely to safety. We made it the rest of the way across without incident to see a resplendently garbed dwarf holding a blue staff waiting for us on the other side.

He guided us through the doors and I saw Shalev and the rest of the party there with all of our equipment waiting in the center of a grove of gigantic mushrooms. The elegantly dressed dwarf talked with Ishmael, and Ishmael acted as a translator for the rest of us. The dwarf welcomed us to Quadling and asked with great curiosity why we were here, because they had shut the doors years ago. We told him of our quest to find the city of Emer, and of my desire to see the blooming sylvan tree that lived there. He confirmed that Emer was just north of here, but warned us about the dragon that lived there. He told us of the war where the dwarfs went to aid the gnomes, and how that war had depleted not only their weapons and armor supplies, but had also been disastrous to their population.

The city of Quadling was nestled just outside the mushroom groves, in a verdant field of lush grasses and open sky with the mountain pass directly behind them. The dwarf told us about the city of Emer, which rested at the crossroads between this city and the other three cities in the valley. Each city corresponded to a different element, and had at one time had trade goods and abilities unique to each quadrant. Quadling corresponded to fire, with the great forge at the center of the mountain pass that they worked. Gilken, to the north, was linked to air. Wankae to the east was the city of waters. Damazen to the west was known for earth and deep metal. This is where the gnomes went to.

In the center of it all was Emer, the elven city with the famed sylvan tree which was known to bloom twice a year in the spring and fall with glorious pink blossoms. It was once great trade hub for the entire area. It’s walls were made of a deep green stone, and the roads that stretch out from it were made of gold. When the dragon came, he took the city and the elves that resided within disappeared. The old dwarf said that one druid was still rumored to live within the tower at the center, but could not tell us more about whether or not that was still true. He told us that the dragon was ancient and incredibly powerful. His scales matched the color of the city walls, and he was crafty and intelligent. The dwarf told us how the dragon had ripped the roads up to prevent easy travel to the city, and that he was known to take human form to patrol the roads that remained to find foolish adventurers and kill them before they knew what they faced.

Ishmael introduced Shalev as the noble he was, and as the Master of Trade Routes. The dwarf showed keen interest in this, and agreed to set up a meeting with the remaining merchants of the city to see what would be available for trading. The dwarf also mentioned their desire for food supplies, if we had any to spare, and Osman offered to create fresh meat for them using his clerical ability.

Shalev offered some of the oxen as breeding stock for goodwill, and when head dwarf mentioned again that they needed weapons, Shalev offered one of the three swords he wore of mystical quality make. The dwarf took it, tested it, and called it acceptable. Shalev, seeing the dwarf exhibit astounding skill with the weapon, asked him if he would be willing to teach. The dwarf said that his name was Sulayman and that he was part of a group of rangers at one time, and if Shalev didn’t recognize him but still wished to learn, he would be willing to teach him.

As we talked, we made our way over to the northern edge of the city, where the dwarf informed us that we were welcome to make camp, as he knew that their homes would be uncomfortable for those of us of taller stature. Shalev, in his element here, began to set up camp in the fashion of a merchant caravan, instructing us that if we had goods we wished to trade, that we should display them just so. I brought out the Penician bows to trade, and the broken crossbows that we had acquired were also laid out. The oxen and horses were allowed to graze freely, as the dwarf said that there was an enchantment on the grass that would cause it to grow back the next day. There were no trees here, and when I asked about it, the dwarf told me that the great fires beneath the surface prevented tree growth, and that an enchantment prevented anything else from growing here as the grass would choke it out. What crops and gardens that they did have were in terraced containers throughout the city. I asked about the enchantment and he told me that the witch who had lived here was responsible for casting it because she wanted everything to look pretty. He also mentioned to me that if I wanted to see trees, that I should visit the forest on the western edge between here and Damazen, where the keepers of the forest were known to reside. He said that the keepers of the forest were reclusive, and looked like the trees that they cared for. I kept my excitement hidden as I thanked him for the information, making a silent note to visit the ents as soon as we could safely do so.

Osman, who had been creating meat for the city, stopped briefly and spent a moment in prayer to his god. After the prayer was finished, he cast his spell once more, but this time the meat didn’t run out until everyone in the city had been fed. Knowing their need for living livestock, he prayed again, and after another moment, a goat appeared in thin air, which he caught and set gently down on the grass. The obviously gravid animal bleated happily and sauntered off to begin grazing, and the dwarfs simply stared and murmured a strange word to each other.

I spent some time as well walking among the plants and small gardens of the city, blessing what I could, and checking the health of the gardens. I noticed that the dwarfs of the city followed me at a short distance, watching my every movement. I heard them saying that odd word over and over again, but when I turned to ask what it meant, they all bolted back into their homes, only emerging again after I had turned back to my walks. I wondered again about the enchantment here, and recalled seeing both KelLyn and Lan cast a spell that would tell them the nature of things. I thought deeply about this, and then prayed to my god and goddess to see if I might be able to learn a similar spell. They responded to my request by granting me the knowledge of how to cast the spell Nature of Things, which will allow me to sense the type and strength of another spell. I thanked them quietly, and tried out my new ability to find that the spell on the grass was an exceptionally powerful Create Plant spell. I could not tell specifically what spell was cast, but the sheer power of the enchantment was awe inspiring.

Ishmael spent long hours in conversation with Sulayman, as the dwarf was a priest of the order that Ishmael followed. The discussions were quietly animated, and I could see the excitement in Ishmael’s face as he learned more about the faith that had called him, and the abilities that he had been granted. Fife also showed some interest in this, as the dwarf showed Ishmael how to concentrate beer with a spell. Fife listened intently to what Ishmael was telling him, and I was amused to see that he had decided to convert because of the beer. He was still affected by the curse, and when he contritely talked to the dwarf about it, he was told that while the dwarf could not remove the curse, the druid that was rumored to live in the center of Emer might be able to do so. Fife then showed the unfinished idol to Sulayman, and asked if the jeweler who crafted it was here in the city. The dwarf looked at the piece and said that sadly the jeweler and his son had gone off to aid the gnomes during the war, and had been killed there. He told Fife to keep the idol if he wished, and Fife put it back in his pocket.

Shalev and I spent some time walking around the city together as he talked with the dwarfs about potential trade goods. He came across a pair of older dwarf women who worked in silk. Shalev asked if they would be willing to trade for it, and they were a little confused, as they only used the soft material for their infants. We explained a little bit of desert culture to them, and they agreed to trade their silk for one of the oxen. Shalev asked if they would be willing to work with the rope makers to craft lengths of silken rope, and again the dwarfs looked confused, but interested in the process as they had never considered making rope out of the silken threads before now.

During my walks among the plants and gardens, I also took the time to check on the animals. I found that three of the oxen were pregnant, and that three more were just out of season. I told Shalev this, and recommended that these were the ones we should leave here with the dwarfs as breeding stock.

We gave one of the pregnant cows to the dwarven women in trade for silk, and I spent some time with them showing them how to deal with the gravid animal, and how to handle her once she went into labor. They were thankful for the information, and for the cow, and immediately guided it back into their yard.

I heard that odd word murmured in my direction again, and I asked Ishmael what it meant. He told me that it meant “druid” and I asked the dwarfs to tell me about the druid who had lived here before me. I learned that her name was Khaibar, and that she had two brownie servants named Kheblar and Kheblor who helped her run a bakery. The called her the Crescent Witch, and the Witch of the South. I asked if I might be able to see her house and her work place, but the dwarfs were overcome with another bout of shyness, and would not tell me more about it.

Shalev and I continued our walks through town and come across another merchant who worked in a beautiful translucent porcelain. Shalev traded some of his personal funds to have a lovely tea service made for his bride to be, and I traded some of my gems for a personal set for two. Shalev also mentioned that the porcelain might be a highly valued trade good, and the dwarfs agreed to begin crafting the delicate material into cups and services for trade. He also commissioned a tea service for ten people, and when I asked him about it, he responded that cups would break, and that I would live longer than he would so this way I would have replacements for the cups. I was amused and touched by the gesture, though saddened to a brief melancholy by the vivid reminder that I would indeed, calamity aside, outlive everyone.

We also came across the tea tree groves, and both Shalev and I showed great interest in their local tea. Shalev asked how much a case of the tea would cost, but the dwarfs named a price that was beyond what he had currently. Shalev told them that the tea would be highly prized in the desert cultures, and they were also interested in becoming a part of the long term trade agreements. I asked if they would be willing to trade for a different tea instead, and they agreed with interest when I showed them the saplings of the Philosopher’s Tea that I had been cultivating from the cuttings that Shalev and I took from Ma’tron in the elven city. I traded them one living sapling for a case of their pressed tea, and asked if I could also have a few cuttings of their own tea trees for my personal gardens. Shalev took note of the comparative trade of like goods, as I don’t think he really realized until that point that not everything needed to be traded for coin or gems. They agreed, and gave me several cuttings which I immediately planted in small containers and added to my own collection. As they were taking the new sapling away to transfer into their own gardens, I heard them begin to sing to the plant. I immediately paid closer attention, as the spark of what the Maker told me about forgetting to sing still resonated deep within my thoughts. I listened to their songs, and while I noticed that they did not know the words, that this was quite clearly something that they had heard the Crescent Witch do. I memorized the tone and cadence of the song, in hopes that when I did eventually run across the spell that corresponded to it, I would be able to recognize and remember it clearly.

I also paid attention to the fact that they used tea tree oil almost exclusively here. I asked if they would be interested in olive oil in trade for their tea tree oil, and they were very excited about the influx of a different oil to use. I created several jars for personal trade between them and myself, and then asked them to go through Shalev to set up the major trade with the oasis.

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

With trade goods of silk, oil, tea, porcelain, and iron the city here has vast potential for the trade routes Shalev works so tirelessly to create. He has already crafted letters of agreement to be taken back to the oasis, and works with the dwarfs here to establish the beginnings of trade not only with the oasis, but with Waycam and Eeyore as well. It will be interesting to see what changes such an influx of new goods will create.

I have much to consider here as well. With the rumors of the druid that lives in Emer, and the stories of the druid that lived here, there is much to think on indeed. It is my hope that I can visit the home and workspaces of the Crescent Witch to see if I can learn anything more about her, and perhaps learn more about Emer, the tree, and the dragon as well. I need to spend much time in meditation and conversation with my god and goddess. I am trepidatious, not about what I might learn, but about how to deal with what lies ahead. The keepers of the forest to the west also call to me. I want to see what they might be able to tell me as well, though I fear the rest of the party might balk at the delay that staying here might mean. We may have some time, as the way behind us is closed, and there is much to do here in this city before we move on. In the mean time, I will watch, I will pray, and I will continue.

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The Members of the Party - Ishmael's Perspective

I was going to update these to my character sheet but I keep getting an Internal Server Error whenever I try to update Ishmael. So just throwing it here instead.

Party Member Impressions:

Cora – The Immortal. A long-lived elf that has forgotten more years than my entire lineage has lived, apparently. She should really just call herself History, considering how much she tries to live in it and tries to bring it back. I don’t understand what being a Druid is, besides having a connection to trees, which is kind of impossible since she’s from the Desert AND THERE ARE NO TREES IN THE DESERT. I can’t tell if she’s against progress or not in her need to keep everything “balanced” and stagnant. Still, her connection to her God and Goddess is undeniable. And her sword! (insert squirrel diversion into metallurgy).
Fyfe – Unrivaled spear thrower and master of multiple arts. I am glad to have my master of carousing in this party. I don’t think I appreciated a good beer and the travels without meeting him. He takes sacrificing himself for our good very seriously and has stepped in front of many blows that would shatter a normal man… and has been shattered a few times himself. I wonder if he just considers himself immortal, or if he’s that bored and looking for any kind of challenge?
Kellyn – Never would I have thought the impossible could become… mundane. Kellyn continues to seek more power and does so as she travels with us. I begin to wonder if The Fire Goddess Weary Anne is just asleep and Kellyn has just tapped into a God’s dreams, or if, like the Godling Martek, she is being groomed for godhood? I already knew Gods and Goddesses work mysteriously, but their grooming process leaves me in serious doubt of this world…
Leilana – Everyone always warns of the effects and problems of Kellyn. The one to truly fear is the sea dog. Why does she travel? Why does she pray? When she slips into water, does she feel the need to return? She can fly! – no she can’t. She’s a faerie – she summons faeries – she’s a god, but only when she’s dead, or playing with her ball, which can do anything, but never when she wants it to do it. Or so she tells us. She made me super-strong! On accident. :/ Is there anything fathomable and consistent about Leilana? Out of everyone she scares me the most. And the worst part? She’ll probably outlive us all.
Osman – Goats. Elementals. Faeries. Unrivaled archer. Speaker of the Lizard tongue. On pilgrimmage to “help the world”. Combining six different metals does not a stronger alloy make. Oh yes, unaware until recently of his own mortality, it seems. Perhaps his God is teaching him a lesson by introducing him to so many stronger individuals around him.
Shalev Ben Barak – A poor lost man who can’t seem to find what he wants so he adopts everyone else’s needs and goals. He hides his own aimlessness by calling everything he does “obligations”. He’s now a Paladin of Ma’at and of Balance – perhaps his recent death by Ma’at(?) will help him find something personal to “balance” what he keeps doing for everyone else? Does Ma’at work that way?
Tobias – He is a good sign that elves can change and appreciate this world instead of whatever pretty dreamworld they think they belong in. Tobias is the most down-to-earth, solid person I’ve met that I would forget he’s an elf if not for the ears. Pretty is nice but he seems to look for utility, and I respect that about him. Also, he follows where Cora leads. Easy to know why he still adventures.

Ishmael – I have changed. My clay jar has been shattered and cannot be pieced back together. Once, I was content and my waters of happiness fit in my jar. Ahnu watched over me in the Oasis where I was the Master of my craft and life. Like all of the other blacksmiths I have since met, I was happy to learn anything new that came my way, but did not go in search of it like my Master Abrahim. Now as much as I try to fill myself with knowledge, with gold, with triumph – it all seems so dry. I miss the heat of the shop, the rhythmic clanging of the hammer and the smell of molten earth, and yet I think not even the forge will slake my thirst anymore. Have I been quenched, Zelteni, and found my calm as I harden? Or am I yet still being recast, and being plunged once more?

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A new day and a new road...
Thoughts from the point of view of Cora'sol "The Immortal"

cross posted from Cora’s Travel Journal

The road goes ever on and on…

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

Resupplying for the road is always a little tedious. Necessary, but tedious. There are provisions to gather, equipment to repair or replace, maps to study, rumors to listen to…

The required stay in the city has begun to make me feel claustrophobic. I dislike the crush of people, the constant noise, and the miasma of smells that permeates everything within the enclosed walls. That being said, it has been nice to sleep in a real bed and have ready access to fresh food and water without having to worry about magic going awry. I still don’t understand how these people can waste so much water, but I certainly can’t deny the absolute decadent luxury of a hot bath.

The platinum, gold, and silver that we accumulated from the adventure through the tomb was split up evenly between the party members. Fife, Osman, and Ishmael seemed a bit shellshocked at the riches that were suddenly in their possession. KelLyn didn’t say too much, and Lan seemed not to care overly for the coins. Shalev seemed to be a little overly concerned about how the rest of the party would spend their haul, but I reminded him gently that it was not his place to instruct them on what to do or not to do with their share of the treasure. As quartermaster, he holds himself responsible for supplying the party, so understandably has claimed a larger share of the overall funds to finance the expeditions. What he does with his own personal share is his business, and I reminded him that while he may disapprove of the rest of the party members expenditures, that it was their choice to spend as they wished.

Shalev took the ornate rug from the treasure hoard and made an effort to exchange or sell it for an equivalent amount of gold and silver. He ended up mistakenly donating it to the court of the count instead. The count was so impressed by his generosity, and in return granted him a noble title, making him a defacto baron in the courts. This makes him noble twice over, and Fife pulled him aside later that day to give him a not-so-subtle reminder that he shouldn’t be stepping onto the front lines because that’s what he hired Fife to do. Fife takes his role as bodyguard very seriously, I’ve noticed, and I hope that maybe Shalev will listen to his advice and not be so headstrong and set on being the first into the fray in the future. I think he has finally started to realize that even though he is a second son, he is still vastly important in the overall scheme of things.

Osman made the offer to train the soldiers here in archery, and I spent much time observing him and what he taught in hopes that I could pick up some tips to improve my own skills. Shalev also offered to train them in sword work and defense, and they readily agreed to the lessons. When we weren’t training with the soldiers, Shalev and I spent many long hours over tea in conversations about balance and faith. I find these discussions to be enlightening, and even though I do not worship Ma’At, her views and convictions echo my own beliefs on overall balance. Being able to apply these thoughts to my own faith has allowed me to feel stronger in my abilities, and even though my god and goddess still fail to talk to me directly, I do notice that my prayers feel more effective now. During our discussions about faith, he asked if I could teach him about the spells I knew on how to heal animals and humans. He said that his goddess had told him that he should seek me out to learn such things, and so I agreed to show him what I could.

KelLyn spent some time studying her books, as she always does, as well as agreeing to try to identify some of the items that we picked up during the trek into the tombs. She was able to successfully determine the traits of the first of the two javelins as:

  • The Javelin of Ziwa – Single use weapon, when thrown, will evoke the power of the god Ziwa.

During her attempts to identify the second javelin, she botched her spell, and the room that she was in filled with wheat. She and Tobias were buried, but thankfully not crushed by the sudden appearance of several tons of grain. The doors and windows smashed open with the pressure, and also knocked Ishmael over, though he was able to recover and move out of the way of the outpouring. The ceiling of the room that KelLyn and Tobias also collapsed, filling the ground floor of the inn also with grain as well. We dug both of them out with the help of Amit, and offered to pay the innkeeper for the damages. The owner of the inn said that he would sell off the grain first, and use that to pay for repairs, but that we would be responsible for anything left over. He sent for a merchant to take the 864 bushels of wheat away, and we told him about the farmstead that ran the distillery not too far away. He agreed to send a portion of the grain their way, and then shooed us out of the inn while he and the merchant team began work to excavate the main rooms.

I decided to pay another visit to the diviners here in the city, to see if they could tell me anything else about sylvan trees. They told me of some interesting legends about a pair of sylvan trees that were known to actually blossom. This is unusual indeed, for even I with all of my years in existence, have never seen one flower. They told me that one was located on the other continent, but that one was located here, in an elven city called Emer. The city was at one time a hub of trade for gnomes and dwarfs, but was supposedly lost when those races disappeared underground. It was protected by spells that would prevent scrying, but that the last known location of the city was in a bowl like valley between the mountain rages to the north.

The count handled some of our supply needs when he provided us with six sturdy draft horses to pull the carts we have. I have to keep reminding Shalev that the oxen we still have with us are not a mobile food source unless absolutely direly necessary. Especially with his driving need to make sure that we have every iota accounted for with regards to perishable supplies. The trek through the tombs has increased his paranoia to some large degree, and I saw him purchasing several hundred extra feet of rope recently, as well as taking the old tapestries and heavy woven material that we found in the depths to make “trap checking gloves” as he calls them. I had to smile and shake my head, because while we might not necessarily NEED 600 feet of rope, it will make him happy to have it just in case.

He also had several solid, waterproof chests with intricate locks made to give us a safe place to store things on the carts. KelLyn immediately claimed one of the smaller of these for her books and magic items, the largest one was filled with what treasures we were keeping with us, and the third one remained empty for miscellaneous storage purposes. Tobias helped to craft the smaller of the chests, as well as several large barrels that we will keep on the cart for water and perhaps ale.

Shalev also, for some reason, decided that he needed to learn how to swim. Much to my astonished amusement, he approached KelLyn for instruction, as she was raised along the coast. She agreed warily to help him learn, and I am glad to see the two of them at least moderately getting along finally. He also approached me to ask about learning how to fight someone without looking them in the eyes, and I agreed, but I wonder at his sudden determination to specialize in these skills.Among the skills he wished to improve, he requested additional training with blunt weapons as well, and I think perhaps he is wishing for whatever edge he may be able to gain. He still thinks of himself as inferior or expendable to some degree, but if the training makes him feel better about himself, then I will teach him what I can.

The count also sent out word to the nobles of the city that we had permission from him to trade for high value items in their possession if we wished to do so. The economy here is still recovering from the despair that had wracked it when the trade routes to Waycam were destroyed, and has only just begun to see the renewal of their resources. Ishmael spent some time speaking with the merchants in the city to find out the state of the economy here, and to try to garner information on which of the noble families would be best to speak to and most likely to be willing to trade with us.

After visiting the first few families, and seeing their wide eyed reluctance at having a noble paladin approach them to buy their family heirlooms and treasured possessions outright, I recommended to Shalev that he try rewording his request to buy their treasures as rather a search for wedding gifts for his bride to be. This proved to be much more effective, and we ended up accomplishing our goal to trade the biggest bulk of our treasure and reduce the sheer bulk of what we carried with us.

Tobias immediately took offense to this for some reason, mistaking the change of phrasing to meant that Shalev was actually trading the party treasure for personal gifts. I pulled him to the side and gently explained to him why I recommended the change in phrasing, and while that mollified him somewhat, he still seemed upset at Shalev. I have to wonder a bit at the ire between the two of them. I do not know why Tobias still continues to mistrust Shalev, but feel like something will need to be said to him pointedly about it if the issues continue.

The first noble that we visited showed us a large blue/black pearl that had been entrusted to his family by a mage. It supposedly had the power to create nodes of energy, and the noble said that he would want something of value to a mage, as well as a large sum of money for it. KelLyn, of course, vehemently refused to part with any of her valuables, and so we refused that bargain politely and moved on.

The second noble showed us a beautiful jeweled leaf brooch made of a soft green stone. The edges of the brooch were encrusted with fine quality diamonds and sapphires. The noble told us that the piece had been in his family for generations, and that it had come from the captain of a ship who was known to do trade with the coast. The captain had traded the piece to the noble’s family as a dowry price for a bride, but that there was a rumor that owning anything made from this material was considered a crime of theft from the originating country. The party discussed whether or not we should take the risk of owning the piece, and I pointed out that we already had an item made of that exact same material that we had picked up from the pyramids so long ago. If simply owning the material was a crime, then we were already marked after a fashion, so one more piece would not matter. They agreed, and Shalev made the trade for the brooch. The noble requested that we bring the money directly to the court with a message that it was paid to him. We agreed to do so, and as we were speaking to the count about the trade, the noble walked in to the court, threw a large chain at the feet of the count, and loudly declared somewhat sniffily that he was moving.

We eyed the actions of the noble with some concern, and Shalev spoke quietly to the count to make sure that he had not stepped on any toes with his trade attempts. The count reassured him that he was fine, and that some of the nobles in his court had indentured themselves long ago and were grumpy about their lot in life because of it.

We moved on to the next noble family, a good bit lighter than before. This third family had very little, but they offered a box of very rare spice (cinnamon) for trade. It was clear that they needed the money, and while Shalev made the trade for the box of spices, I quietly left a small bag of salt and another small bag of spices on the noble’s table for him to find later after we had departed.

The next noble we visited was flighty and failing in her attempts to be enigmatic and mysterious. She airily showed us a room full of various crystals, and Shalev mentioned quietly that according to his compass, there were magical items here. We brought KelLyn in so that she could help identify which ones were magical, and she pointed out two small crystal spheres that were about an inch across. She offered to trade a yellow stargem for them, and the whymsical noble woman agreed. KelLyn identified the spheres as being spelled to cause extreme damage when thrown, and she promptly handed the crystals over to Fife.

With only two noble families remaining to trade with, we moved on to the next house. This noble had several sacks of jewels which we readily agreed to trade for. Jasper, emeralds, and a gorgeous white gemstone that looked like it was filled with fire. The noble called this strange looking gem “elf’s tears” and I looked at them quizzically. Shalev traded for 12 of these unusual gems, as well as some of the emeralds and jasper, and this was enough to significantly reduce the bulk of the heavier plates of currency that we carried.

Ishmael and I traded some of our own personal cash for some of the emeralds and some of the beautiful fire-filled gems. I took two of each for my private collection, and Ishmael took the remainder for his.

The last noble that we payed visit to had an ornately carved scroll tube that had a tree etched into one end, and the roots of the tree spiraling down around the rest of the tube. It looked like it had been gnawed on or clawed at by a dragon in an attempt to open it up, but otherwise appeared sound. The noble wanted us to trade the teeth and scales that we had scavenged from the black dragon for the tube, and Osman, Shalev, and I agreed to do so. The scroll tube was obviously of druid make, and so it went became my possession.

Since we had accomplished our goal to reduce the sheer bulk of our possessions and treasures, we traveled back to the center of town, where the inn was still being excavated from the wheat. While Shalev spoke with the merchant caravans about trade routes and directions to DragonSpire, Osman and I restocked our arrows and the rest of the party made their last preparations to finally depart.

The merchant caravans told Shalev that DragonSpire was across the switchback trails through the mountains, but cautioned that it was foolish to travel into dragon country. Shalev took the warning with grace, though I could tell that he was alarmed. Osman and Tobias set the dragon rib bones in a tannin bath to soak so that they could begin crafting bows out of them. Tobias noticed that some of the trees locally were of a sturdy hardwood called maple, and he gathered several lengths of the maple wood to begin crafting wooden long bows for he and I.

I spent some time focusing my energy on the scroll tube that I now had, and discovered that it had markings on it that corresponded exactly with the changes of the season that the druids considered holy days. The tree carved into the end ticked around by itself, and I made a note that it seemed to be some kind of clock or calendar that marked the year.

KelLyn was able to identify the scroll that we had found in the room with the shambling mound as a web spell of some kind. She also looked at the spell book that Shalev de-cursed for her, but the power words for the spells had been erased when the curse was removed. She said that it would still be useful for research, however, and tucked it back into her pouch.

The party then discussed where to go next at some length. We decided that DragonSpire was still the next on the list, and I requested that we try to find the lost elven cit of Emer, since it appeared to be on the way to our destination there. My hope is that seeing the blooming sylvan tree might lend me some clues on how to renew the other. I have not yet given it over to death.

The party agreed, and we made plans to depart within the next few days. I made a note that it was mid-winter, and pointed out that we had not equipped appropriately for winter travel. While they supplemented our supplies, I spent some time in deep meditation and prayer for the turning of the season. Hearing the noise, and wishing to be outside of the city limits for my own rituals, I moved out into the fields nearby to seclude myself from the chaos of the city.

The city celebrated their midwinter with a gigantic keg of beer and a very loud parade. They asked Shalev to tap the keg, and then handed him a large stein of fortified beer. Everyone joined in the raucous celebrations, and I heard later on that Shalev accidentally supplanted the normal ritual when the townsfolk decided to follow his actions. The high priest of the local god was apparently very put out with him over it, especially since the people celebrated Ma’At and the ways of balance instead of the local god Vindare.

While I was out in the fields during my meditations, I heard the scroll tube click once, and the slide open. I looked at it to see an ancient writing that said “This is the scroll of the Elder Druids of Maurina to be delivered as payment. Contained are 6 spells to be offered in settlement of our debt.”

I looked further to see 6 scrolls rolled up with the letter.

  • Translate the scroll (easy) Perceive/Sphere of the Deity. Adds D/3 to language skills. Adds a greater understanding of any language read, spoken, studied, or heard.
  • Whispers of the Way (medium) Perceive/Sphere of the Deity. D/3 to perception. The ground around me talks to me and tells me what it “sees”
  • The Javelin of Ceylon (difficult) Modify/Sphere of the Deity. Draws a javelin up out of the ground to throw at enemies.
  • Invoke the Greater Way (very difficult) Create/Sphere of the Deity. a spell that has to do with transportation or transit of some kind.
  • The Dragon’s Bane (difficult) Move Control/Sphere of the Deity. Has something to do with a very high quality of alcohol called the “water of life.”
  • The Time of Things Unseen (difficult) Modify/Sphere of the Deity. Grants the ability to not be seen in some way.

As I studied these scrolls I realised that I would need to cast them to learn exactly what they would do. I spent the rest of the night in prayer and conversation (albeit one-sided) with my god and goddess.

I was able to successfully cast the Whispers of the Way spell and discovered much to my astonishment that the road itself began speaking to me. The longer I listened, the more detailed the descriptions it gave to me regarding what it observed. The ground would not respond to inquiries that I posed, so it appears to be informational only. It also only seemed to work for the immediate area, but it is an interesting spell nonetheless.

I was also able to successfully cast the Translate the Scroll spell, and discovered that it gave me a much more nuanced understanding of the meanings behind words. I used this spell to immediately delve into the study of my Initiate’s guide to Sacred Druidry, and was quite happy to discover that it allowed me to understand new layers of depth in the book as well as in my own language. I can foresee this spell being of great use to me in the future, and made a note to use it as often as I could to perfect its casting.

The following day, I made my way back into town to meet up with the rest of the party. They told me, somewhat bemusedly, about Shalev’s abscondment with the local rituals. I simply smiled and shook my head as I noted that the road continued to chatter at me, and that here in the city, it was much louder. I’m sure I seemed distracted to the rest of the party, but I was having difficulty concentrating on anything else with the constant chatter of the roads and the city. I wondered how long the spell would last, and how the druids of old used this to their advantage, for it would not have been included in the collection if it were not useful somehow.

Once the party was ready to depart, I spoke with KelLyn, giving her the description that the diviners had given me about the last known location of Emer. I asked her if she would be willing to try to scry, not for the city, but for the bowl like valley where it would have been. She agreed, and as she began to scry, her orb began to pulse with magic. When she returned her attention to the party, she said that she had seen a place that matched the description to the North, and we gathered our supplies and set out once again towards adventure.

We have three carts with us now, one for extra supplies, one for food, supplies, and treasures, and one for riding in when desired. I chose to ride for a while, so that I could continue to study the new spells from the scroll tube. I used the Translate spell once again, and was able to determine that the scroll tube and enclosed spells were a payment of a greater debt of the Druids of Maurina from one of the three islands of healers and saints. This fact was interesting to me because druids were not often grouped with healers and saints, so it made me wonder again about those ancient druids, and again at what had happened to exterminate them all. With the translate spell still active, I used it’s enhancements to continue to study my druid guide, the other spells in the collection, and the intricacies of my own circular language.

We travel for two weeks without incident, thankfully. I notice with more than a little interest that I can still hear the roads chattering away at me. There are other travelers and merchants along this road, coming in to the city with their winter trade goods of lumber, wheat, and wool. I listen to what the roads tell me about them to try to gain a greater understanding of how this spell works. It seems to be able to pick up details on the way a person refers to themselves: “elf”, “human”, “woman”, “man”,etc. The longer we are in one space, the more detail the road’s descriptions become, “druid”, “warrior”, “paladin”. I find the chatter to be interesting in a conceptual sense, and it gives me some insight as to how the reputations of those druids of old may have had more than a little truth to them.

Even though there are plenty of people along the roads we traverse here, I notice that they each camp separately. This is curious to me, as in the desert cultures travelers would often share camps to gain safety in numbers. The peoples here are reluctant to do so, and it puzzles me why they would refuse offered protection and shared camaraderie. They were even reticent to part with information about the roads ahead, although they did warn us that the dragons have a strong presence across the first ridge of the mountains. They also informed us that the snows had begun only a few days journey ahead, and that the large local predators would often use the snows as cover and camouflage to hunt. They cautioned us to be on the look out for a large cat with white and grey spotted fur that they called a snow leopard, as well as carnivorous hares that roamed the areas in packs. These hares were more akin to wolves in their mannerisms than rabbits, and could be quite aggressive during the leaner months.

One merchant that we spoke to was able to give us a little more of the old stories and rumors about the lost elven city. He said that the Quadling dwarfs were rumored to do trade with the elves at a great city before they disappeared. The entrance to the dwarf lands and the pass under the mountains was marked by a great gate about 6 months travel ahead of us.

We moved on, and continued traveling for another two weeks when we came to a crossroads. One road led off to the right, and the other road continued to the north. When we stopped here for a brief rest, KelLyn approached me. During her studies, she had come across a language written on one of her scrolls that she could not read. She said it looked to her like ancient elven, and she asked if I could take a look. I agreed to do so, and I used my translate spell to help me discern what was written.

The scroll was written in several different languages, and I could pick out several elven words that mentioned sylvan trees, and alarmingly enough the words for destruction in reference to the tree. I also picked out the words for “polymorph any object” , “move ley line”, and “control elven army.” As I continued to study the scroll, I revealed a hidden description written out in druidic moonscript. When I looked closer at the moonscript, I was able to translate it as follows:

“The first artifact was destroyed to kill the bull. The second artifact could not be destroyed, so was encased in a coffin of deep metal, sealed by magic fueled by the spirit of an ancient dragon that volunteered to be beheaded. The coffin was placed in a volcano, and protected by an ancient compact with the giants.”

As I read the translations to KelLyn, she became agitated, and I expressed concern at the wording that I was able to understand. I do not know what this scroll does, but the fact that it talks about the willful destruction of a sylvan tree, and the ability to control an elven army, actually made me rather reluctant to return it to KelLyn’s possession. Since we were studying together, I recast my translate spell, and asked KelLyn to help me discern more about the spells that I had been given from the scroll tube. I was able to discover little more about them, however, and while they sound interesting and potentially useful, I am reluctant to cast them, as I know I do not yet have the control to do so and do not wish to risk a loss of faith on my part should I fail.

While we were speaking together about this, I noticed briefly that Lan was once again studying her shiny orb. Suddenly a large presence of evil radiated out from her for a few seconds, and then just as suddenly she was exuding an almost angelic sense of good. Shalev, at the sense of evil, had jumped up and drawn his sword, but then looked perplexed as the sense shifted. Lan appeared blithely unconcerned about the incident, and it would seem that she may have found a way to change the way people sense her alignment. That orb of hers has been quite an interesting toy, and I have begun to wonder how, if at all, it may be affecting her directly to use it.

I decided to take a break from my studies for a while, and I began to work with Fife on learning how to throw spears, in hopes that the knowledge I gained from him could be applied to my archery abilities as well. KelLyn, of course, continued to study her books and would mutter and curse to herself almost constantly. She mumbled something at one point about the soul forges and finally knowing how to create them, and then something else about creating magical items, but did not expound on the knowledge that she was discovering.

At the crossroads, Shalev asked his compass if the road that we were on was still the correct pathway to find Emer, and Lan confirmed his findings with her spell that showed us the way. We continued north, and shortly after we made camp that night, we were set upon by the predatory hares that we had been cautioned about. We were able to take them out with out too much difficulty, and as we were gathering them together to skin and prepare to cook, Amit jumped in to protect us from the snow leopard that had been preparing to attack.

We saved the pelts from the animals, as both the hares and the leopard had gorgeous white fur, and prepared the hares for stew. KelLyn wandered off into the warren, and she came back out shortly after with a baby hare tucked into one arm. She said that there were others in there, but that she wanted that one to be hers. Shalev graciously offered to help her learn how to train the animal up, and she agreed quite happily. Sadly, I knew that there would be no way to help the rest of the babies survive, and that the best mercy would be to kill them quickly rather than let them suffer starvation. I did so, and said a gently sad prayer over them. The cycle of life is sometimes a harsh one, and while they could not have survived, in their deaths they gave us nourishment for which I gave them thanks and respect. Afterwards, I searched through the warren and found a small magical pouch hidden among the detritus. The pouch appeared very old, but still in excellent condition, and when KelLyn examined it she discovered that it had some kind of create earth spell attached to it. I took the pouch and tied it to my belt, and we made our way out of the warren.

We continued on the next morning, and travel without further incident for several more weeks. I requested to stop for a day or so when the spring equinox arrived, and I spent the day and night doing the appropriate meditations and rituals for the seasons. My god and goddess did answer me this time, and I learned that there was no way to move a sylvan tree, which dashed any hope I had of relocating the one from that cursed elven city. They told me that I should seek out the keepers of the soul wells as they would be able to give me the information I needed about the life cycles and care of the trees. However, they were not able to give my any information on where they were located for some reason.

My focus now is learning how, if possible, to restore the tree safely. If it can not be restored, then it must be allowed to die, and a new seedling planted in a new area where it would flourish. I must find a way to speak to the keepers to discuss this further. If it must die, then so be it. The elves of that cursed place stated their desire to be apart from everything that made them elves. They may just get their wish, though sadly I do not think they realize exactly what that will mean for them until it is too late.

While we were stopped, Osman and Tobias worked at using the dragon bones and maple branches to craft beautiful bows of superior make. Once the bodies of the bows were shaped, they took the tendon and sinew of the dragon and began to soak them so that they could be twisted and woven into string for the weapons. The dragon bone and hard wood make these bows much more resilient than a standard bow would be, and I look forward to having one of them for my own once they are completed. Fife came over once he saw what they were working on, and he was able to give them additional pointers and advice on how to craft the bows.

I noticed, with some surprise, that the roads had stopped chattering at me at some point just past the full moon, and I debated on whether or not I should recast the spell. I find myself missing the white noise of the chatter to some degree, and I still wonder at what advantage the spell might be able to grant.

During the course of our travels, Shalev had been using his compass to ask various questions. He helped me to determine more details about the spell scrolls I had acquired, and he also discovered that the red mage that had been hunting for part of KelLyn’s staff was now pursuing our party instead. I know that KelLyn has magic about her that allows her to be invisible from scrying, but the rest of us do not have such protections. I imagine that since he knows that she is known to travel with us, that he is tracking us in order to get to her. There is nothing that we can do about it at the moment, however, so we continue to travel on towards the dwarven gates. The lands here have become rocky, and we have steadily been traveling upwards. The foothills have changed to the edges of the mountain ranges, and the dwarven gates are not too much further away.

KelLyn was supremely unconcerned about the red mage’s pursuit of us, and she continued her studies uninterrupted. Those studies lead her to discover a new spell similar to the one that Lan had been casting to show us the way. KelLyn’s spell, she explained, would actually CREATE a path if one was needed, and she offered to use it whenever needed to help us on our journey. This spell is quite a useful one, and I made a note to speak to her about it at length to see if perhaps I could pick up enough about it to try to learn it as well. She approached me again for discussion, and this time asked that I teach her what I could about the realms of plant and animal. In return for that knowledge, she agreed to teach me what she could about Vitality.

Osman also discovered a new spell, as his deity appeared to have answered him directly with a gift of power. He was given the ability to create a form of pitch, and he moved up the path a little ways to practice the spell and see what it would do. Fife and Shalev went with him to act as protection. Osman tried his spell out and a fountain of black viscous oil poured from his hands over the ridge and onto a twiggy structure made of branches and tree boughs. We heard an angry noise, and a rustling, and a griffon, now covered in sticky pitch, emerged from the nest to glare at the three of them, hackles raised. Osman made a frightened squeak and ran back towards camp. Shalev also made a dash back to camp to snag a lit torch, and when he got back to where Fife was still standing warily, he tried to walk up to the griffon. Fife jerked him backwards though, and put Shalev behind him with a firm comment to stay there and not move.

The griffon did not attack, but merely stood there glaring. We all took a slow step backwards, trying to appear as unoffensive as possible, though Fife still held the lit torch warningly, prepared to throw it at the creature should it move to attack us. KelLyn tried to cast a destroy earth spell in an attempt to remove the pitch from the griffon’s feathers. Her spell went awry, however, though there was thankfully no adverse effect that we could discern. She tried once again, this time drawing a circle to augment her power, and was successful. The pitch disappeared, and the griffon looked down at it’s feathers in surprise, but still did not attack.

Shalev, on instinct, looked up towards the sky, and he pointed out quietly that there was a second griffon circling high overhead, also watching. We all made our way carefully and slowly back to camp, and we saw that Tobias had covered all of the horses with tarp, effectively disguising them from the circling griffon.

We all decided that it would be best to move on a ways from here, and we kept the pace very slow for a while, to make sure we were not attracting the attention of the griffons any more. When we stopped again for the evening, KelLyn made an attempt to use one of her fire-speak spells to try to determine where the red mage was located, but was unable to find out where he was.

Fife, Osman, and Tobias completed the crafting of the dragon bone and maple bows, stringing them with the dragon sinew, and Osman, Tobias, and I all took one of the finished weapons. It is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship, and the bow feels like it was made for my hands. Knowing Tobias had a hand in it’s make means that it most likely was. I noticed some intricate scroll work carved into the weapon I chose, and noted again that Tobias appears to have crafted it just for me. I appreciate the gift, and will make sure that it is used well.

We continued to travel for another month without encountering the red mage, or with any further incidents, and at last came to the great cliff face with the Quadling dwarven symbols carved into the door. The doors had been latched long ago, from the outside. Shalev asked the compass if there were still dwarfs living in the mountain, and was told that there were indeed, so the passage between the mountains here may not be abandoned as it appears to be. Ishmael looked at the doors, awe apparent in his face, and he noted that he thought dwarfs were supposed to be short and stocky, so why were the latches 40 feet up off of the ground? We all spent some time examining the doors and the surrounding area, but could find no way or mechanism to open the great stone slabs. I noticed a spot at the base of the door where there was a very small opening about an inch or so high. KelLyn tried creating a circle and casting here new spell to create a path, but it simply showed us that the path we were on was the best way through.

Seeing the crack appeared to be the only way inside, we asked Lan if she would be willing to use her orb to turn into the gaseous form we had seen her become before and travel underneath the door to see if there was a latch or a lever on the other side. She agreed, and once on the other side of the door was able to locate the mechanism and open the door. A stone slab only slightly taller than I was opened with a hideous grinding noise, and we all made our way into the entrance way of the cavern. The lever that opened the door would not budge again to close it behind us, and we decide to venture into the passage under the mountains to see what new adventures lie ahead.

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On the road again...
Going who knows where in in the general direction of our destination, eventually?

We made it back to town, and began the process of recovery from our previous adventure before setting out again. We had close to a ton of treasure and I did my best to reduce the weight we carried without significantly reducing the value of our haul. The party has a significant number of gems and jewelry. We purchased a jeweled leaf with diamonds and sapphires around the border, and the leaf is made of the soft green stone, same as a pin we acquired from the dragon’s lair. This stone is similar to the stone used in the pyramid. The noble who traded it to us said it was a crime to own it outside of the country, and was given to him by a captain as a dowry. Given its value, it is an excellent and lightweight way to transport significant amounts of treasure, though I suspect we may need it to acquire something else, should we find ourselves in sudden need. If not, I plan to sell it to the Princess for her to resell it elsewhere. Her family, being in charge of the Oasis and rich is likely to have the means to acquire the full value for it better than we, and we may then still make a significant profit on it. After visiting the various nobles, we also managed to acquire more emeralds and some opals, in addition to two magical crystals which Fife may find useful against and dragons we find ourselves facing.

I’ve been made noble in the court of the Count, in exchange for a rug I was going to sell him. I’m uncertain who got the better end of the deal, but suspect it was him, though I am ignorant of these matters. It’s possible that this will do well as either leverage or a foundation, once the Princess is informed, as she may then station merchants here, to operate a way point for the trade route, and taking advantage of the benefits of being part of the nobility. The funds we have spent here will likely have an energizing effect on the local economy, which I believe is in balance, since it was their money anyway, in the swamp, which we merely retrieved. The noble who sold us cinnamon will have a second chance to get his affairs in order, and the other noble used his funds to pay his taxes and leave the county. I inquired with the Count if I had committed a faux pas, but he appeared unconcerned and advised me that sometimes it was best for parties to part. There was a chance to purchase a pearl which might have had magical significance, but as Kellyn was uninterested, we moved on. Tobias had inquired why I was claiming all the loot for myself, before he was informed I was merely using the verbiage Cora suggested, to appear less crass to the nobility we were using to acquire high value low weight objects.

Recalling the events we barely survived, I’ve undertaking preparations for our next venture. The tapestry we took has been made into sets of gloves by some of our party members, which should allow the safer handling of some of the items we encounter, and I’ve acquired 600 feet of rope, above and beyond what is in our packs, as we’re going into the mountains and may very well need it. We have three carts, four oxen, and six horses, so we are covered for now for transport, and in fact I suspect that our treasure will fit on one. The other two will be used for additional supplies such as food, water, and winter gear. Kellyn has enjoyed having her staves back, and examining her new spell book. Sadly, I destroyed the words of power when I disenchanted it, in response to Ishmael being affected by a curse on it. The Priests of the god Vindare told Cora of an Elven city, which had a blooming Sylvan Tree, one of the only two which exist, which Cora wishes to visit on our way to the library to return the book. We’re looking it the last location it was rumored to be, and I hope Cora is able to find it, as she could use some good news on the arboreal front.

I’ve since learned that while there may only be two dragons guarding the library, the valley is filled with dragons, so we may need to travel underground, at night, or with as much stealth as possible with carts, in order to avoid being eaten. With two carts, we should be well supplied, so that if Kellyn or Osmun are injured and unable to supply food or water, we can last long enough to get them some help without starvation being an immediate concern.

I am still learning the art of politics. What was intended to be a quiet walk to contemplate the balance ended up with my hijacking part of another god’s religious ceremony, though I managed to guide them in an appreciation of nature in their drunkenness, and to have them drink in moderation after eating, something with didn’t please Fife much, nor the high priest. He waved away my attempts at an apology, and I suspect he will consider the debt settled if I do not return for quite some time. I asked Ma’at about learning to heal, and she sent me to Lan, to learn how she does it. After witnessing her magic, I was told that there were different ways to heal, one being magic, and another being divine power. I’ll next work with Cora on her healing, so that if it’s needed, I may be of some use, and so I may balance my ability to harm with the ability to heal. Given Ma’at did respond to me, I believe the etiquette of how to speak to a deity is slowly being made clear. Cora still seems frustrated at her lack of response, Lan is an avatar, not a cleric, Kellyn does not seem interested in serving Leilanna, and Osmun does not appear to pray often where I may see him. Oddly enough, this reminds me of when I was originally in the desert, learning to communicate with Cora when we didn’t have a language between us. Eventually, we got to where we are now, so I am hopeful for the future.

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Into the future.
If I knew then what I know now...

I once heard an elven bard drunkenly proclaim a theology lesson, namely that the gods cast forth a thousand thousand mortals to complete their ends, and as some die along the way, whomsoever manages to survive long enough to complete the task at hand, “poor bastard that they are” is the one “fated to complete the task”. As a practical matter, this means that no matter whomsoever you believe has blessed your journey and given you instructions or orders to accomplish a goal, in the end, you must succeed or fail on your own, unless you are good enough, skilled enough, or loved enough for them to offer you assistance on your quest. In my case, I have a suit of dragon skin armor, a holy avenger, a broach which protects me from evil in a myriad of forms, managed to stumble across a mage who can make rivers of water, a sea dog who can reverse death if she gets there soon enough, an elf who supposedly can run on air, a bodyguard who can probably bulls-eye a fly at twenty yards, discovered blacksmith who managed to kill a dragon by himself, an alchemist selling extremely potent healing potions when I had the funds to buy up his stock, and an archer priest who can make sure we have ample fresh meat so long as he’s not the one opening the chests of treasure.

As support systems go, Ma’at is nothing if not helpful when it counts, to the point where she protected me from an evil Efreet before I had done anything for her. As far as keeping the balance, I assisted in bringing back a mage who went to great lengths to cause his return from the grave, so much so that I suspect even Ma’at might proclaim he has earned a second chance so long as he is not too disruptive. She appears to be extremely patient with me, and her methods of teaching remind me of Cora in the beginning, in that I am expected to do it myself, but she will help me if I truly need it. Thinking on it, I probably should not have been in charge of the Oasis, as while I have a gift for logistics, I don’t possess the people skills to rule, and don’t want to be bound to a place longer than I have to. That was a gift Ma’at gave me, allowing me to sacrifice that rulership vs. commanding me to step down. By making it a choice, I no longer have resentment toward the princess, and when I see her next, I can do so without ire or anger. Dying allows you to see things in a different perspective, and seeing your goddess in all her glory while your soul is measured is not one which easily fades.

I don’t know what the future brings, and I suspect that when I make plans, the gods laugh, but I know no other way to play the game, and am comforted that Ma’at is with me, and that Amit and Cora have my back.

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Into the Tomb of the Lizard King Finale: The King is Dead, Long live the King
Thoughts from the point of view of Cora'sol "The Immortal"

cross posted from Cora’s Travel Journal

“Oh for gods sake, how many times are we going to have to kill this guy for him to STAY DEAD?”

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

The party stayed where we had made camp for a while, using that time to rest, recuperate, and study various books and items. Shalev continued to study the book of the undead, KelLyn studied her books, Ishmael asked again to look at my sword, and I could still see his confusion when he examined the blade. Lan was lost in contemplation of her shiny orb again, and Osman continued to study the book about demons.

I checked on Fife periodically, and Tobias and Amit kept watch. Shalev got up at one point, and moved away to a different area to create several skins full of blessed water. When he returned, and saw me observing his actions, he shrugged and said that you never know what might come in handy in this place. I nodded my approval, and checked on Fife one more time, to see him finally waking up. He seemed none the worse for wear, and we gave him a few moments to reorient himself before we broke camp and moved on.

We moved back into the main area where the altar was, and I spent some time examining the two remaining levers. Working off of my original plan, I tied a rope around the lever to the left, and then ran across to a safe spot where I waited for the weight of the rope to trigger the lever. When it did, a door hidden behind the altar slid open. I repeated the process with the right hand lever, and another door was revealed, this time on the left wall.

The party decided to go through the door to the left, because we always go left. It lead us to a corridor that turned off to the right, with another door at the end. Shalev used the grappling hook to pull the door open from a distance, and it revealed a circular chamber that had 11 coffins laid out in the center. The room stank of death and decay, and I shuddered with revulsion at the sense of evil that still permeated everything about this place. As we came into the room, we noted a door on the right hand side that lead back into the main temple area. Ishmael walked up to look at the coffins, and we warn him to take care. Shalev came up beside Ishmael, preparing to pour the blessed water he had created over the coffins. He saw the remains of a female lizard creature, and as he leaned over to take a closer look that corpse and the one laying in the coffin beside it opened their eyes and sat up.

Shalev and Ishmael reacted with cries of horror, and Shalev immediately removed the head from one of the corpses as Ishmael smashed the face of the other with the torch he carried. Both of the corpses continue to move and attack, despite the injuries and flames. The one that Ishmael smashed in the face lit up like dry tinder, but still managed to swing and hit Ishmael in return. The impact of that blow was tremendous, and only Ishmael’s armor saved him from the terrible damage it would have done. The sound of the hit reverberated through the room with a crash, though Ishmael shrugged it off as if it were nothing.

Fife threw a spear and pinned the decapitated but still blindly flailing body of the second lizard zombie thing to the coffin behind it. Ishmael was still grappling with the one that was on fire, and reached out to tear it’s arm off.
Before he could grab it, however, it…she… leapt backwards to the rear of the room, and began making motions as if she were summoning something. I tried to shoot her then, to disrupt her summons, but my arrow bounced off of her harmlessly. Fife also tried to spear her, to similar effect, and Shalev moved forward then to take her head off. He did hit, and successfully decapitated her, but as the body fell to the floor, a cloud of gas billowed out of the remains to flow through the door to the right.

Shalev immediately moved forward and started to douse everything in the room with the holy water he had created earlier. Two of the other corpses in the coffins smoked when he poured the water over them, but after a while they stopped, and everything was dripping and stinking, but definitely dead. He destroyed some of the coffins just to be on the safe side, and we moved to follow where the cloud of gas had gone.

Before we could move more than a few steps, however, the room filled suddenly with a swirling, chittering cloud of flying rats. I remembered seeing these earlier on, and while we were in the swamps, and remembered that Fife had called them bats. The bats swirled and chattered, moving in an almost beautifully flawless harmony as they swooped down to attack us. Shalev instinctively tried to Dispel Evil, but there was no effect. Lan tried to cast a spell, and I saw 9 of them calm and fall away from the cloud. Lan cried to them to defend us from the rest of the bats, and I saw them turn mid-flight to do as she asked as we all ran from the room. None of us suffered any injury from the creatures, and as soon as we were out in the hallway, KelLyn began to scratch circles into the floor to gather power to cast. She stopped after the second circle was drawn, as she heard the noise in the room quiet down. Ishmael peered in to see the nine bats that Lan had tamed had done their work well, successfully decimating the remainder of the cloud.

Shalev had begun flipping through the book that described the undead as soon as we were safely in the hallway, and he came across a description of vampires which he read aloud to the party. The description matched what we had seen with the lizard zombies, and I recalled too the part of the riddle that had said “Beware the Brides.” It went on to explain that the only way to kill vampires was to drive a wooden stake through their heart, immerse them in running water for a full minute, or expose them to direct sunlight.

KelLyn, who had begun to tremble with the effort of holding the power she had drawn in check, told Ishmael through gritted teeth to get out of the way so she could cast the spell. He quickly dashed into the room and smashed up the remainder of the coffins, grabbed a handful of the wooden debris, and ran back out again with a grin saying cheerfully “Look! Stakes!” He handed the wood pieces to Fife and Tobias who immediately began working to fashion them into the stakes for us to carry with us.

KelLyn, unable to hold the power any more, let it go to cast her spell. As she was casting, we heard her mutter an audible curse, and the rest of the party reactively ducked to try to avoid whatever result might occur from the botched spell. There was no explosion, but all of the party began to feel sick. I looked at Shalev, and he appeared ashen, and cold to touch. A listlessness seemed to seep through all of us, and we all just stood there for a moment wondering what had happened. Lan used her skills to try to figure out what the spell was, and she was able to discover that KelLyn’s misfired spell had somehow removed all of our souls, essentially turning us into the very undead things we were facing.

Shalev went even more pale at this news, and I grew nauseous with the realization that I was, indeed, not whole. I think the shock of it is what prevented Shalev and I from acting any further. We all retained our power to think, our power to reason, our power to move and fight, even our powers to cast spells. But the knowledge that our souls were …elsewhere.. was disconcerting and disturbing on a level I have never experienced before.
Ishmael shrugged and went back into the room to gather up more wood pieces for stakes.

KelLyn used her ability to discern the nature of things to try to find out what spell she actually managed to cast in an attempt to find a way to undo what she had done. Lan spent some time in meditation to her goddess, and after a moment, returned to herself to say that she had managed to catch a glimpse of greenery, with all of us standing, imprisoned within individual circles. She speculated then that she had seen where our souls were trapped, but unfortunately had no idea where that was, nor how to get them back to us.

None of us really knew how to proceed, so we decided to continue on with the quest at hand, despite our current state of being. We went through the next door, and found ourselves in a magical study filled with various magical components. KelLyn looked around with a spark of interest, and said that there were several high value items here. She, Lan, and I all went over to the walls and perused through the components, and each of us took several pouches of useful items. We had Ishmael appraise the rarest items, and he found a pouch of ground pearl that he also took. After we had removed everything that we could think of that might be of value or use, KelLyn instructed Fife to take the rest and mix them all together in a pile to prevent them from being useful to Sacatha, or whatever other spellcasters might be down here.

He agreed, and spent the next few moments effectively trashing what was left of the room. We did not burn anything, because KelLyn warned that it could be dangerous to do so. The next door opened lead to an oppressively evil chamber. There was a coffin made of reed and pitch sitting on the floor in front of a throne where a large lizard man wearing a crown sat. He looked at the party and said “Well it took you long enough.” Shalev made an immediate move to cast a destroy undead spell, but the lizard king commanded resoundingly for us to stop. Because of our state of being soulless, his command worked, and we all froze in our tracks. Sacatha then made the command that we should all come to him. Shalev, however, used his indomitable willpower to ignore the commands after a second, and completed his action to touch his brooch and cast Destroy Undead on Sacatha. The spell went off with a blinding light, and the lizard king’s body disintegrated into a pile of dust, releasing a gas cloud that phased through the nearby wall.

Shalev, determined that the lizard king would not escape so easily, and mindful of the completion of the geas upon him being so close, yelled out that we should go through the wall after him. KelLyn and the rest of the party, still under the compulsion, moved over to the wall and KelLyn used her magic to weaken it so that Ishmael could smash it down with a couple of solid blows. I managed to shake off the effects of the spell, and turned to destroy the coffin on the floor behind us before following the rest of the party into the room beyond the smashed wall.

Beyond the wall, we saw a pile of treasure. Gold, silver, platinum, a gold ring, a spell book on a pedestal, and several other items. Shalev, in an uncharacteristically brash move, ran over to the ring and immediately put it on his finger. Before I could yell out though, we saw the body of Sacatha beginning to reform in front of the spell book. He turned to the party, and commanded us to kneel as he threw out a cloud of components into the air. KelLyn shouted out a quick warning to duck out of the way because that was a Cloud Kill spell. But then she stopped mid sentence with a smirk on her face, and said “nevermind, our bodies are already technically dead. We can’t die!” I shuddered again at the visceral feeling of wrongness within me at that statement, but did not deny that she was correct, as we were unaffected by the cloud. Shalev moved forward to attack, eager to finally be free of the geas, and KelLyn knelt below the deadly cloud and began to chant. The rest of the party was still under compulsion, and they too knelt below the cloud. I walked forward until I was in front of everyone, and then as I moved to kneel, I used the gauntlet that I had been given in the Temple of Nutartek. It allowed me to sense exactly where Sacatha was standing, hidden as he was within the death cloud. I aimed directly at him and used the word that activated the gauntlet’s power. The cone of affect struck the lizard king, and he once again changed back into a gaseous form, disappearing into the death cloud. It also, unfortunately, rebounded off of the back wall and struck Ishmael and Shalev as well.

Shalev collapsed to the floor in a dead faint, and a wave of orange and gold energy radiated out of Ishmael in a ripple which brought him down to one knee. Suddenly, and without warning, we found ourselves blessedly whole again. Our souls had returned to our bodies. I sighed with immense relief at the feeling, and then realized that we were all still within the death cloud, and finding it difficult to breathe. KelLyn was the only one who was standing fully in the cloud, and she also collapsed. Lan crawled over to her and cast a spell to restore her to health, keeping her beneath the cloud and giving her a potion to cure the residual effects.

Ishmael picked up the spellbook that was on the pedestal then, with the intent to carry it over to KelLyn, but as soon as he touched it, he made a face. When Shalev asked what was wrong, he said that the book made him feel “icky.” Shalev, without hesitation, touched the book with his holy sword, thinking to remove whatever curse lay upon the tome. The feeling of wrongness faded from the book, and Ishmael carried it over and put it in KelLyn’s pack.

Ishmael and Shalev appeared unharmed, although Shalev was as white as linen and had a noticeable tremble about him, and I wondered at what had happened to frighten him so profoundly. I made a note to discuss it with him once things had calmed down, and then I felt the gauntlet pulse. I looked at it, at somehow was able to sense the presence of an undead figure behind the doors to both the left and the right. I told the party that the fight wasn’t done yet, and we opened the door to the left. As soon as the door opened, Fife threw one of the stakes we had prepared earlier, striking the lurking Bride right in the heart. She looked at him with shock, and then fell over, dead for real this time. Fife threw a second stake at the second Bride who had been hiding behind the first one, and she too looked surprised before collapsing into true death. Shalev walked over and calmly took their heads off, just to ensure they were truly no longer a threat.

We moved over to the right hand door, and Shalev paused a moment there, trying to use his senses to find out where Sacatha was, and what weaknesses he had, but he was unable to discern anything. We opened the door and saw yet another coffin made of reed and pitch. Shalev ran over to try to lift the lid of the coffin, but felt something holding it down from the inside. He began hacking it apart with his holy sword. Fife and Ishmael moved over to help him, and they broke the lid apart and yank it off. They saw the body of Sacatha reforming inside, and Shalev stabbed the body with a stake, striking through where the heart would be. Not satisfied that he was dead yet, Shalev poured holy water over the body, and watched as it began to smoke. I looked carefully and was able to see the now familiar gaseous form trying to conceal itself in the smoke from the holy water. I wasted no time in explanation, and shouted the word to activate the gauntlet I wore one last time. Light and sparks arced through the billowing smoke, and there was a terrible screeching scream. A sconce that had been fitted to the wall suddenly fell off and cracked open, revealing a shriveled heart. The heart of the lizard king. Shalev moved over to the desiccated thing and hammered a stake home through its center. There was another horrible screeching noise, and Shalev looked up at me, relief in his eyes, and said “He’s dead. I can feel it.”

Then Shalev also fell over dead. I cried out “No!” and made to run to him, but Amit beat me to his body. Nosing his friend with great concern, the giant cat began pawing at Shalev’s head ad face. Fife looked on and told Amit to paw at his chest instead. Amit, making growls of distress and concern, smacked Shalev several times square in the chest, using his giant paw to try to revive his companion. I tried to move closer, but the growl Amit gave me made it clear that he considered this his to do. After another moment, Shalev sat straight up with a huge gasp of air, and Amit began licking his face with obvious relief.

Shalev looked pale. Shaken and shocked and having gone through so much, he hugged Amit tightly, and I could see tears on his face as he buried his head in the great cat’s shoulder and sobbed.

Lan came over after he had calmed down a little and administered a basic first aid to Shalev to tend to any remaining hurts he might have had. He radiated a gentle holy aura, almost like a glow, and I knew then the source for his tears, for only coming face to face with his goddess would have moved him so openly.

I looked down at my hand, where the gauntlet had been, and discovered that it had disappeared and in it’s place I held a strange looking staff. I recalled then, the staff that Ahriman had traded for this so long ago in that temple, and I wondered at what it could do. I made another note to have it identified once we returned to safety, and then moved over with the rest of the party to sort through what treasures were scattered about the room.

We found:

  • two magical javelins (Fife and Tobias immediately claimed these.)
  • a handful of gold, platinum, and silver coins
  • A crystal ball on a stand (KelLyn immediately claimed this)
  • Sacatha’s spellbook (Ishmael put this item in KelLyn’s pack after Shalev removed the curse that was on it.)
  • 23 silk packets containing the disappearing powder that the cleric had used in the court of the count. (I took these)
  • a major healing potion
  • a scroll
  • a clerical scroll containing spells in the name of Nutartek for:
  • resist fire
  • perception – Find the Path
  • Cure Critical Wounds
  • Raise the Dead

KelLyn made a squeal of delight when she also discovered that somehow the two pieces of her staff had been returned to her. Shalev told us then that when he had collapsed earlier he had “died” and in the conversation with Ma’At that ensued, he used the one wish remaining in the ring he had placed on his finger to return their souls to their bodies, return KelLyn’s staff pieces, and the repair of all of our equipment.

KelLyn was so happy with the return of her staff pieces that she didn’t even berate him for messing with the spellbook, or the use of such a powerful gift of the wish. She acted for just a moment like she might even hug him, but then discarded that notion to hug her staff pieces to her instead.

After we sorted through the rest of the room, Fife and Shalev discovered another hidden door which lead to a large room full of prisoners chained to the walls. We had found the kidnapped folk of Waycam at last. Fife, Shalev, and Ishmael worked to break their chains to free them, and we lead them up to the main room where we rested.

They were malnourished, frightened, and had been beaten severely. Lan and I worked together to give basic first aid for the less injured, and the party donated their potions to use on the more severely hurt. There were 50 refugees in total, and once we had fed and tended to them all and reassured them that they truly were free, they began thanking us profusely. We healed everyone up enough to safely move them, and we began making our way up to the base camp that we had created and stored all of the other treasures gathered. The refugees agreed to help us haul the stash up to the surface, and we gathered everything together to begin the long trek back to the top.

We made it up past the entrance to the fortress, and we discovered that the illusory river had reappeared. Shalev moved forward and used the tip of his sword to dispel the illusion once again, and we lead everyone through the acid pots along the riverbed with no injury or incident. Shalev, Tobias, and Fife searched through the remains of the graves that were there in front of the fortress, and discovered an additional 1000 gold pieces and 4 medium sized rubies. They also found enough clothes in good repair to give to the refugees to replace the rags that they were wearing.

Once everyone had made it across the riverbed safely, and a good way up the stairs by the fire pits, Shalev turned back to toss the evil staff that he had taken from the cleric into the acid pools in hopes that it would be destroyed. Destroyed it was, and the explosion of magical energy was tremendous. Shalev took some minor damage from the backlash and the acid cloud, but thankfully the roof did not collapse on us all despite cracking and rumbling ominously.

We continued to make our way back up to the base camp, and as we passed the vile temple, I remembered the promise I had made to myself and my deities. I walked into that cursed place, and let loose my anger and frustration and revulsion, wrecking everything inside. The party and refugees looked in with wide eyes, having never really seen me get this vicious about something, and asked timidly if they could help. I agreed, and we destroyed everything in the temple. Once every stone had been destroyed or overturned, I felt incredibly relieved, and I could feel the oppression of this place begin to lift noticeably.

Once we had gathered all of our stashed treasures and food stores, we made our way back up to the actual surface of the temple, to see the remains of the dragon corpse still mouldering in the corner where he had died.
The refugees began working with Tobias and Fife to pull up the rafts and skiffs that were sunken in the marshes, and repair and rebuild them so that they could haul us all back. The easy labors were a good way for them to regain their strength, and they enthusiastically helped us work.

While they worked, Osman made a hearty stew out of goat parts and helped to set up camp. Shalev was lost in internal contemplation, and so I took myself over to a corner of the dock to spend some time in deep ritual and meditation as thanks to my god and goddess for getting out of that place alive and whole. I reveled simply in the act of being able to reach out to them again, after feeling so cut off while we were down below.

Later that evening, Shalev began talking with the refugees about repopulating and rebuilding the ruins of Waycam. As we discussed what would happen next, we began painstakingly making our way across the marshes, moving one island at a time, and stopping to occasionally hunt, fish, and gather supplies, or to build an additional raft or skiff.

Osman, Fife, and I used the time in travel to teach the refugees how to hunt and fish, how to gather supplies, how to survive, and some basic fighting skills to defend themselves. After we had beached on the fourth island, we discovered a large stone circle etched with runes and various markings. KelLyn instructed us to destroy it completely, and we agree. Once the stone circle was decimated, I felt the oppressive gloom of the swamps lighten considerably. The swamps at last felt …. normal. Though the miasma of the marshes still existed, it was a more natural gloom, and I felt like I could finally breathe.

Five days of uneventful travel later, and we made it back to land safely. The villagers and refugees immediately knew their surroundings, and were able to lead us back to the ruins of Waycam. We checked the inn there, and while the horses had gone, our supplies remained safely hidden beneath the floor. We retrieved everything we had left behind, rebuilt the cart, and set about helping the villagers and townsfolk rebuild the place.

I asked for Lan’s help with the fields, and we went out to each field there to perform a blessing to restore the crops to full harvest, which the villagers immediately gathered to store. Ishmael rebuilt the blacksmith shop, and spent his time crafting nails and other useful items for the town. Tobias spent his time building barrels for the town to use as storage. Shalev spent his time helping where he could, and talking to those who were interested in Ma’at. Most of the village folk were extremely grateful to us all, and to Ma’at, and they agreed to set up a small shrine in her honor to remind themselves of the balance that had been restored to them.

After about a week or so, when we felt that the town was safely well on it’s way to full recovery, we donated the two bags of gold pieces (1000 total) to the town accounts, and then KelLyn opened a portal to the main city so that we could finally make our report to the count.

When we appeared out of nowhere at the city gates, the guards were understandably alarmed, and when we said that we had returned from the swamps to speak to the count, they brought him down directly. The count greeted us with wide eyes, having not expected us to return at all, and listened avidly to our tales of what had transpired. We gifted him some of the teeth of the dragon that we had killed, and he welcomed us to town with open arms, bidding us to spend as much time and money as we wished. He supplied us with sturdy horses, ordered a round the clock guard for our cart and supplies, and then hushed the tax collector sternly when he began to complain about us not having to pay taxes.

After the money was divided evenly among the party members, Fife, Tobias, and the others went off in immediate search of the local pub for a well earned drink.I remained behind with Shalev, acting again in my role as advisor, although I am more just a presence at his side now than actual mentor. He and the count began immediately negotiating desert trade routes, and plans for resupplying and providing protection for the newly restored town of Waycam.

Surprisingly, as Shalev negotiated deftly the trade routes with the desert, he insisted that his wife-to-be’s name be used first instead of his. This is completely opposite of what he had been saying, and I wondered again at what he saw in the face of his goddess. The count was so impressed with the proposal that he offered to escort the share of treasure that Shalev wanted to send to his family personally. Shalev agreed to that, and took off the platinum chain that he had worn around his neck, handed it to the count, and requested that it be give to his bride-to-be as a token of his affections.

After negotiations were sealed, we left the count to make his preparations, and Shalev and I wandered about town for a bit before joining the others at the tavern. Shalev is still quite withdrawn, compared to how he normally is, and I imagine he will come to me to talk when he is ready. He said that he was uncertain if there were additional wishes left in the ring, but he feels like there may not be, as he has heard that you can not wish for more wishes.

We stopped by a wood worker in town, and commissioned a couple of chests to be made to haul around the riches that we had found in our adventures. The carpenter agreed with wide eyes, and Shalev and I then finally made our way to the tavern to share drinks, stories, and thoughts about all that we have done.

He also has a list of questions to ask the diviners regarding several of the items we still search for. We have the money to back up the request without thought, and while we plan to spend a well earned rest here, there is still much to be done.

The lizard king is dead. The town of Waycam well on it’s way to being a healthy, thriving place once again. The count has his trade routes restored, and remains eternally grateful to the party for the feats we have accomplished. I’m sure there are bards who have already begun composing sagas, and I am interested to see how they will weave the tales we create for them.

It’s time to rest for a while, and contemplate what comes next.

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The meaning of balance
An evening medition on the will of Ma'at
Actions have consequences, and those consequences are often balanced by the effort the achieve them. Fife has skill with his spears similar to the skill Tobias has at running, based on the amount of effort he expends in practicing that skill. If I am to be a paladin of balance, or more importantly of the balance, it is important to respect that great will or great skill or great effort may cause a change in the balance while not being unbalanced.

Martek undertook a great effort to bring about his resurrection, but I wonder if it was a resurrection so much as putting his life on hold, to be resumed at a later date. It was certainly a complex endeavor to bring him back to life, and I wonder if that effort and those careful arrangements were the framework of a new balance. When the balance if nature shifts with a new predator or prey moving into an area, the system adjusts; is this disruptive to the balance in a manner Ma’at disapproves of? If there must be a balance between all things, that means there must be a balance between progress and stability. Is there a difference in her eyes between one static change or a cascading one? A city which expands slightly and then maintains its borders may be very different than one which attempts to conquer the desert and destroy all who do not bow down in her eyes.

Does that mean great changes are permitted if great effort is undertaken to achieve them? If something valuable, be it money, food, time, and effort is sacrificed to this end, does that mean that the change goes with the balance, even as it changes what came before it, such as the return of the water to the desert, the breaking of the curse, and the other issues of Amun Re? Someone took over the temple of Nutartek, so it is unbalancing to reclaim it or to leave it with those who still appropriated it?

Our party is capable of great things, and when I embrace the darker side of my nature, I am deadly to my enemies in battle, just as Kellyn is capable of majestic acts when she focuses her power on controlling her magical strength. Not all the things we CAN do may be things we SHOULD do. While we have killed a dragon and likely decimated the lizard-man population, the effort it took to undertake these actions will likely mitigate to some degree their affect on the balance. Contrariwise, some of what we wish to do going forward may be less subtle. Ishmael may someday be able to create weapons of renown, Kellyn may soon be able to create magical items, and I wish to find ancient skills of battle and self awareness. Must these efforts be abandoned, or are these goals less unbalanced the longer it takes to achieve them?

And then there is my own nature… deadly with an edged weapon, if wounded in my armor, I turn into a dragon, and one which occasionally may benefit from my sense of strategy. Is this unbalanced as well, or the other side of the coin to my own nature?

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