Rote-ay-ip Aruthala's Journal in Reverie
Nothing happened. Well, not nothing, but not the mystic enlightenment that is my due. We left the island pair with few answers, unable to crack this enigmatic place.
Before we left, two things happened, of which I should report: an attack by a past enemy, and acquisition of a pet and new friend to the party.
We spent the night on board our ship again. Teazil remained on the isle of light sand. She felt these islands were a perfect new home for her people, and didn't want to leave them for the dubious safety of the ship. So we returned to the ship without her, and took turns watching the strange islands throughout the night.
During first watch -- Mado's watch -- the ship was attacked. Timbers shook and the hull cracked under the onslaught of a giant shark. There was a glow from under the water, and the shark was surrounded in foul black runes.
Each charge against our ship -- the Raven -- split its hull further. Soon we would go under the waves, unless we could stop the shark or drive it away.
We rose to meet this challenge: Gwen dove into the water, casting her spells, summoning another shark to battle the one attacking us. Mado, Andon, and I launched our attacks from on deck. But our progress was slow, and some other factor was interfering with out efforts.
A black lamprey accompanied the rampaging shark. This lamprey was the source of the black runes that seemed to protect the shark. And several times the lamprey launched small darts at us in a very un-lamprey like fashion.
I then chose to direct my arrows against this lamprey, and Mado lept into the water to grapple with it. We could hear its cursing, and the pieces of this puzzle began to fall into place. The lamprey was Thristle, the evil faerie we had fought in the forest near the dwarven logging camp!
How he had found us, and why he chose to attack us now, I do not know. But his strategy was familiar: he used an enchanted beast to do his dirty work. In the forest he had used oxen, stolen from the dwarves. Here he used a water creature, a shark, but it was the same thing.
With this new insight, we focussed our attack on Thristle, and less so on the shark. I dove into the water, and Mado swam to grapple with the faerie directly. But Thristle's dart found Mado's flesh, and faerie enchantment twisted his thoughts. Mado's will was subverted, and he was turned to attack Andon, who was still aboard the ship.
Left in the water, with Thristle now out of reach, I focused my attacks, and my rage, on the shark. Gwen and I battled the shark together. And in the end, Gwen charmed the beast. But not before I stabbed it through the skull, and sent it drifting to the bottom, filling the water with its blood.
Mado and Andon fought Thristle aboard the ship. Mado finally shook off the faerie enchantment, and together the two of them forced Thristle to flee.
The rest of the night passed uneventfully.
We returned to the white sand island in the morning. Teazil was still there, alive and well. She had even found something special: the first bird egg we had seen anywhere on either island. When viewed with the eye stone, I could see a half formed human soul attacked to this egg.
Gwen used her nature spells to talk to a bird. The bird talked back, and amazingly, we could all understand its speech. Here is what we learned:
All the birds on these islands were spirits, working to purify themselves on their way to paradise. Long ago, celestial beings used to come among them, and lead the worthy ones on to the next stage of existence. But no celestials had came for a very long time, and no souls had ascended beyond these islands in all that time.
The bird called another being to talk with us. After several minutes he arrived; a flying silver lizard -- a small dragon! -- that had been brought to these islands by the last celestial to ever come here. This diminutive dragon told us that the skeleton we had found was all that was left of the celestial that had brought him here as an egg.
It was wonderful to see a dragon. It would have been so much better if he were not such a prick. I named him Ashra Sintar -- "annoying lizard" in the Infernal tongue. He seemed to like the name Ash, and that is what we called him.
Ash took a liking to Andon (of course), and so acquired a pet and possible familiar. Ash also desired to come with us, aboard our ship, to get away from the islands and the insipid birds. And so a new companion, and possible friend, joined our party.
From Ash we learned that the water in the streams and pols of this island had their own magical properties: The streams were filled with holy water, and the temple pools had healing properties. So before we left, we took several barrels of stream water, and a barrel of water from a temple. We also took all the accoutrements (armor, sword, and shield) worn by the dead celestial.
It took us six days to sail back to the mainland.
Silk's Crossing was as I remembered it. The Brief Respite, with a new pavilion, looked just as it had before the fire. The construction behind it had not progressed one stone more than when we had left.
Romalar was new; a new guard working for Mara. He was of mixed birth, half of the people, although he seemed to know little of his elven heritage. His raiment was in the style of Xyl, a cloak and sword of the imperial guard. I asked if he had news of the people, but his experience was no more recent than my own.
The dwarves had not yet arrived. So we would stay in town for a time, while we finally dealt with all the loot collected on our travels. Some of the treasure was magical, and over the next few days I identified it. Romalar overheard our plans, and asked if his items could be examinied as well.
From the magical items, I took an arrow and a sword for myself. The arrow had slain an angel, and its fiendish power remained strong. The sword I traded for with Romalar, and its holy power was a bane to demons. Neither of these creature types belonged to our world, and I was preparing to challenge any who dared trespass.
From the mundane treasure, my cut was over fifteen pounds of gold coin. I buried it outside of town, to keep it safe. I drew a map on sturdy velum -- it seemed the thing to do -- and kept it hidden and safe on my person.
Over these several days, I noticed more about Romalar. While holding the eye, I saw an oddity in his soul. I had many questions: some that Romalar could perhaps answer, and others that only time and study would resolve. I judged that we should persuade him to join our party, to keep an eye on him, and to give me time to question and study him.
After we had dealt with our accumulated loot, the dwarves had still not arrived. It appeared our next task would be to find them, and bring them here.
Just as we had decided to set out the next day, the rock heads finally arrived. I slept through their coming, lost in calm reverie over the graves of fallen mortal men, but I was told about it later. They came from beneath the earth; they had tunneled all the way here from their lands up river. Stupid they may be, but I must admit, they are powerful diggers.
Herzog dealt with Cromulunt D'Garnikle, and the dwarves set to work. We remained in town while they worked. In a surprisingly short time, their tunnels reached all the way to the ruins of Dar's End. Fell creatures awaited us there, and dealing with them would be our next task.
One final note: My ring -- the ring of whispers -- was more tricky than I first thought. It had a will of its own, and used its power to escape from me. It fled as far as our ship -- the Raven -- before I found it again. Since then, I resolved to keep it on a chain, to make another escape more difficult.
I commissioned such a chain be made. It would be ready soon.
At the end of the tunnel was a wall of white stone blocks, fitted with silvery mortar. The dwarves had widened their tunnel here, exposing a broad section of sloping white wall. A narrow passage, cut into the wall, seemed as a sinister maw into a shadowy chamber beyond.
Romalar, garbed in the celestial armor we had given him, peered into the gap. Inside was a large open space, filled with silvery, silken strands in a giant web. Out of the darkness came the creature that had frightened the dwarves, squeezing its way out of the narrow passage.
The creature was terrible: a badly distorted humanoid, large, and with bubbly silver skin. Being in front, Romalar drew its attacks, and paid the price. It grabbed him with both of its oddly jointed arms, crushed him in its grasp with a mighty rend, and bit him with its sharp teeth -- its face seemed split in half with the opening of its massive jaws.
Romalar was overwhelmed, and the rest of us attacked the creature. While it was distracted with Romalar and my own attacks, Mado made an impressive hit. We felled the creature, but it continued to bubble and writhe. Then Andon stepped forward and covered it with his perverse flame, shot from his bare hands. Reduced to a grease black spot, the creature stopped moving.
Mado went to help Romalar, who was now unconscious and bleeding on the tunnel floor. Mado gave him a large drink of healing water, the same water we had taken from the island of the birds. Suddenly, Romalar disappeared! He was nowhere to be found, even with the special vision granted me by the eye.
We didn't know what to do. I tried drinking some of the same water, but there was no effect. Perhaps because I was not unconscious, or even hurt. There was nothing else we could do for Romalar. We would simply have to wait, and see what happened.
Still concerned about the webs and the possibility of more creatures from beyond the wall, Andon fired the web. I am not sure this was a good idea, much of the treasure I hoped to find -- books and scroll -- would be lost in a fire. But my voice went unheard. The web burned quickly, and soon thick black smoke forced us out of the tunnels and back to the surface.
We waited for one hour, and then trekked back down the dwarven tunnel. To our surprise, Romalar was there. He was completely healed, and seemed bemused by his experience. He told us he had been on an island, he mentioned the name Teazil, and remembered many birds. It seemed the water Mado gave him was healing water, but it also had a strong connection to the place we had taken it from. Very strange.
With the party reunited, we proceeded through the wall into the chamber beyond. We were inside the upper levels of a huge tower, now completely buried. The tower lay almost on its side, its inner wall steep, but navigable. The webs were almost completely burned away.
At the bottom of the chamber, we found a way down and in to the tower's next level. The next chamber was also filled with web, but I convinced Andon not to burn it. And lucky I did, for this chamber was a library. Inside we found mostly rotted books, useless except for one tomb with golden pages. Several more golden page fragments were scattered near the floor. I chose to examine these later, when we brought them to the surface.
The next level down, had a circular hallway around an inner core of four rooms. In one room we found another monster. It was a silvery skinned humanoid, but very tall, with freakishly long arms and legs. It was asleep in one of the rooms, stretched out atop a nest of collected webbing.
We attacked from ambush. Romalar and I shot it with our bows, and Andon used his magic missile spell. Our attack woke the creature, and it surged up at us through the tilted doorway.
The creature grabbed Mado, and pulled him down into its lair. Trying to help, Andon cast a spell of weakness. I try not to think ill of my comrades, so I assume Andon's target was the creature. But he hit Mado instead, thereby lessening Mado's chances for survival against the creature.
Romalar lept into the room that was the creature's lair. He attacked the creature and drove it off Mado. But not without a price, for he had again drawn a foe's attacks away from a companion and onto himself.
I sent my Raven -- Nevin -- to attack the creature with magical wounding, but this was not enough to shield my friends from the creature's attacks. Mado managed to climb free of the lair, but Romalar was soon caught in a lethal hold.
Now I let my fury free to save Romalar, who had so selflessly put himself between us and danger. Suffused in rage, and calling on Lord Strith for aid, I lept down and landed a might blow on the creature. So powerful was my attack that one blow was all it took. The creature took one last swipe at me, before its wounds overcame it and it fell to the floor.
But it was not dead. Like a troll, this creature slowly pulled itself back together. I hacked it into little pieces, but the pieces still wriggled together and tried to re-grow into a single creature. Yet I didn't want Andon to use his fire, not until we had searched the lair for treasure.
While keeping an eye on the slowly regenerating troll creature, we searched the room. We recovered all the valuables we could find, an then gave Andon free reign to use his fire.
With the threat behind us, we searched the rest of the outer hall and other three rooms on this level. The treasure we collected was piled at the top of the tilted hallway, near the doorway to the previous level. When we had finished on this level, we descended to the next level down in the tower.
Our exploration for the day was soon over. The last level we explored was once the ground floor of the tower. It was a vast open area, with one-time decorative columns, now mostly broken and fallen. Once fine furnishings had also fallen to the lower end of the chamber. Arches that once led outside, were filled with dirt, held precariously in place since the fall.
We peered through a smashed-open sliding trap door into the next level down. It was a long drop, and we heard vicious feeding noises from below. This is where we chose to halt our exploration for the day.
Since our deal with Herzog was for all the treasure we could carry out, we left behind all the treasure we had found so far. We would return soon to scout below the tower, and would bring our selected treasures out after we finished our explorations.
A medium chosen to last the ages: scripture written on gold. Such were the fragments, the pages, we had found. Brought up to the light; concealed among the many leaves of my own sorcerous book.
They were the only treasure. A lapse; an oversight that kept hidden until our explorations could be concluded. A lucky chance that saved this knowledge, when much else was lost.
We reentered the buried tower, and made our way back down to the bedroom level. I listened, and my sensitive ears heard the snores of another creature. We climbed carefully down, until we all stood at the top of the tilted hall that girded this level. Then, with a rope about my waist, I climbed down to the room where the creature slept.
I crept toward the slumbering beast. It was another silvery skinned monster, this one had one side swollen with muscle, grossly deforming its otherwise humanoid shape. Without hesitation I fell upon it with my scythe. And then, while it awoke in pain, I fled from the room, hoping it would follow me out into the open.
As the beast lunged from the room, my Nevermore flew too close and was struck. My bashe flew down to help my raven familiar, but only made of herself a target. Nevin escaped. But Gwen was caught and dragged down the twisted hall, out of sight from above.
I reached the upper part of the hall, and held the rope -- still tied to my waist -- so Romalar and Mado could climb down and attack. Then I climbed sown and lept upon the creature myself.
We all struck the creature. Andon struck it with spells to weaken it. Many sharp points tore at its flesh. And finally, after almost wrenching the life from my sister, it let her go. Impaled upon the point of my scythe, the creature fell to our attacks. Then Andon torched its body, burning it until no piece remained un-consumed.
After the battle we looked around. Most of the treasure we had piled here during our last visit was ruined. The dresser was thrown down and shattered. Other pieces were bent, burned, or scattered. Much was lost.
The golden pages held a writing none of us could understand, we needed magic to decipher them. They told a story of the tragic betrayal of a god, the fall of a temple, the precursor of an apocalypse.
We descended to the next level, what may have at one time been the ground floor of the tower. A trap door led even further in, into a cavernous chamber beyond and below. The trap door had been blown open by the tower's fall, and only a dark gaping maw remained. We lay along the edges of this hole and peered into the dark space beyond.
To light the darkness below, enchanted light arrows were fired down. The first arrows revealed the vast chamber. Partially filled with water, it also contained two ships, now wrecks. The chamber was that big.
We heard sloppy sounds of feeding, coming from one of the ships. Soon the noises quieted, and we saw something moving through the water, away from the ship. With more light we discerned a giant creature pulling itself from the water, and beginning to climb the chamber walls.
It was coming for us! We fell back to the edges of the ground floor chamber and prepared. We did not have long to wait.
The creature started to climb up though the onetime trap door. Immediately Andon fried it with a ball of fire. Romalar and I struck it with arrows as the fire passed. It finished climbing from the hole. Andon struck it with fire again, and Romalar and I again sunk feathered shafts into its hide.
But despite massive hurt, the creature was undaunted. It howled its rage and charged straight at me. Despite the magical protections I had set before the battle, I was still struck a mighty blow. Our peril was great, but my own temper would not let me retreat. In a rage I attacked with my scythe.
Through a red haze I hit at it. Then the creature grabbed Mado, and using him as a club, struck at me again. I don't remember all my wounds, but I knew I was near to death. I sensed my bashe close by. So with iron will, I forced myself to step back, and let her healing touch save me from death.
The creature chose to charge across the room at Andon. Andon frantically climbed away as the giant struck at him. But he managed to climb clear, and burned it again with another ball of fire. This was finally enough, the sum of all our attacks were overwhelming, and the creature fell. The fire continued to burn, and in a short time it was consumed.
The betrayal of a god, a foretelling of the apocalypse. The god's body was sundered and scattered. O ye mortals, what have you done.
After a brief respite, we returned to the tower, descending back to the ground floor, to peer again into the darkness still below. We again fired shafts of light, managing to stick a shaft into each of the shipwrecks trapped there. Small silver things swam in the water, but no monsters climbed up to attack us.
With the aid of my magic, we all floated safely down atop the hull of one capsized ship. We heard noises from below, occasional splashing and the clank of metal, and the ship rocked unnaturally. Swimming into the hold of the ship we saw an amazing sight.
Filling the hold was an arm. A beautiful arm, with pale, unblemished skin, but of a massive scale. Iron bands clamped the arm and attached hand to an iron beam that ran the length of the hold. All to clamp the arm firmly in place.
But the most frightening thing, was that the arm yet lived. It twisted and strained against its iron bonds. In one place, where the bands had been snapped, living fingers slapped the water in spasms of apparent agony. Great splashes of gore, showed us where the warped humanoid monsters had fed upon the arm, keeping themselves alive since the fall, over one full year ago.
This was obviously not a natural relic. To learn more, Romalar and I cast our magical detection cantrips in the hold. But the magic aura was of a scale that we could never have anticipated or imagined. It turned the unholy whispers from my spell into a deafening shriek.
The sound was literally deafening, and it tore from me my perception of sound. I was deaf. That Romalar was also deafened was small consolation. I had been so proud of my abilities, even if others derogate my contributions. This was a wound I did not know how I would live with.
To abnegate my pain, I sought to contact Lord Strith. He would want to know what we had found. And I was right, he was interested. In my reverie, Lord Strith spoke to me. He said, "I claim this thing as my own. I command you to protect my claim." And so it would be.
Just over one year ago, the tower had risen hundreds of feet above the ground. At its base had been a gargantuan warehouse. This structure had been so great that ships could dock inside to load and unload their wares.
Now, deep underground, we searched this once proud structure. Despite the levels of destruction, there was still wealth to be found: We found more silver bars than we could carry, many crates of precious ceramics, soaked and defiled textiles, and, of course, the titanic, living arm. As per our agreement with Herzog, we gathered all the treasure we could carry and prepared to leave.
Before we left the lowest levels, Mado set out to explore the passages he had found below the surface of the water. After an unbelievable feat of breath holding, Mado found more open spaces, and possibly a way out into the Green River. To further increase our share of the treasure, Mado took many silver bars underwater, through these passages, and out to the river. He would shuttle them out to the Raven -- his ship -- later.
So, staggering under the weight of our haul, we concluded our exploration of the buried tower. As his share, Herzog took a valuable suit of armor and a golden picture of Dar's End before the apocalypse. We took hundreds of pounds of silver bars and a set of twenty-seven game pieces carved from semi-precious gems.
I could not hear, but I made my injunction known: No one would move or claim the titan's arm; It had been claimed by Lord Strith. Herzog told us (and Gwen wrote it for me so I would also know) that a silver haired man was asking questions about a mystic power source nearby. Who could this be? And how did he learn so quickly about the arm?
Romalar took us to an herbalist he knew outside the town. She was able to cure our deafness, for which I was very grateful. I paid her off with silver to show my appreciation. My bashe -- Gwen -- admired the herbalists skill with plants, and stayed to learn something of the herbalist's art.
Able to hear again, I met with my comrades in the Brief Respite to talk with Malhevik -- the silver haired stranger. Despite my prohibition, Herzog had already taken Malhevik to see the arm, and Malhevik already had plans to use the arm's magic for his own purposes.
We interrogated Malhevik, while sipping ale in Herzog's tavern. He gave us fragments of knowledge: another apocalypse one thousand years ago, the arm being a relic from that event. He started to tell us how he planned to use the arm's energy to raise a tower for himself, and other amazing projects.
This had gone far enough. I said to him, "The arm is not yours." This got his attention, and I said, "Lord Strith has claimed the arm, and you may not have it." Then I prepared for a fight.
But Malhevik surprised me. He knew Lord Strith, as though the two of them had encountered each other before. Malhevik said he would talk with the god, and then walked out of our interrogation.
That night I prayed to Lord Strith, and the god spoke to me again. He told me that he knew Malhevik, and that Malhevik would be the arm's new guardian.
I did not know if I should feel happy to be released from this grave responsibility, or slighted that I could be set aside so easily. But my responsibility in Silk's Crossing was ended, and I was eager to travel. It was time to move on.
We decided to set out to sea again. The rumors and tales of the Keepers of the Sane drew our interest. This mysterious organization was up to something, and their agents were making nuisances of themselves up and down the coast. Our new objective was to learn more about these fanatics, to track their agents, and to eventually investigate their home on the Isle of Brass.
First we took a little time to provision our ship -- the Raven -- and ourselves. At this time, I purchased a necklace from a craftsman in town. The necklace was to hold a magic ring I possessed, and the craftsman was an unstable personality we had rescued from the Keepers' pirate ship.
Finally we set out. But I could not focus yet on our task: I had been cheated! The necklace was cursed, and each day one golden link was lost from the chain, shortening its length. Obviously, I would be strangled in only a few days time, if I could not remove this cord from my neck.
For two days I tried to cut the chain, or use my spells to analyze its enchantment. But nothing worked. Finally, in desperation, I smothered the necklace in holy water, the same water we had brought with us from the islands of the birds. This worked! The necklace exploded from my neck and I was free.
Now I could turn my attention back to our task. I was ready to join my comrades at our quest. But if I ever met that craftsman again, he would feel my wrath.