Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Dorben, Entry 3 --- 24th Mirtul, 1377 --- To Zolven's tower

Adventure Journal of Dorben Wainfoster

- 24th Mirtul 1377, Year of the Haunting

---Well, this day most certainly got off to an interesting start. Sa’d was back, unbelievably long scarf and all, when I got down to breakfast this morning. Evidently he reappeared in Nia’s backpack some time before sunrise. Considering the two strapping caravan guards Nia was wishing fond farewell this morning I do hope Sa’d didn’t “pop in” at any especially embarrassing moment. The others quizzed me as to whether or not I knew that Sa’d disintegrates and reintegrates from time to time. Well, I did remember that he did “turn up missing” every once in a while during the time we served together in Jett’s Rangers but this is the first time I had actually seen what happened to him. I never knew he disintegrated. It was quite disquieting, I must say. From what Sa’d had to say on the subject, the whole thing is connected to the crystal coin that he habitually flips. He has no recollection of the missing time but believes that he is called off to serve a good purpose and returned when he is finished. I have no idea as to the veracity of his belief but he seems none the worse for wear so I suppose we can leave it at that.

I had a slightly embarrassing moment with Aedron when I arose for prayers in the middle of the night. I awoke to find the big fellow staring down at me with what appeared to be a look of concern on his face. He asked if I were injured or had breathing problems. I said no and he asked me if I’d been possibly raised by cats. That’s when I realized I’d been purring in my sleep again. I told him I had NOT been raised by cats but I had been turned into a kitten for a while. The truth is often the best answer. No reason to lie to the big fellow. And considering what could have happened as a result of a miscast spell during the Time of Troubles I can live with the occasional chest rumble while sleeping, that’s for certain. Aedron seemed to take me at my word and went back to his sleeping furs. He has made no further comment on the matter.

Speaking over breakfast, we decided to let Kaliki sleep for a few more hours while the rest of us took care of a few more things in town. I was finally able to gain directions to my Lady’s shrine in Goliad and went there to pay my respects. Aedron accompanied Euphestas (young Mr. Brambletongue’s common name) and Nia to see what more information they might find about our destinations. I believe I may have overheard them say something about going to the east side of the market.

We left Goliad by highsun. As we rode along, Aedron, Euphestas and Nia filled us in on what rumors they had found out during their morning’s exploration. There were several different guesses as to what kind of spell had trapped Zolven in his tower; only agreeing that it was most likely some sort of protection enchantment gone wrong. There was also a rumor that Zolven had somewhere between 10 or 20 different familiars. Now I’m no authority on arcane magic nor their familiars but I’m fairly certain that the general rule is only one to a customer. It does make me wonder how a rumor like that could get started. Another story contended that toward the end of the Bloodstone Wars the Witch King himself assaulted Zolven’s tower with an army. The army was said to have been destroyed and the Witch King only barely escaped, only to be defeated by Dragonsbane shortly thereafter.

We stopped for a short rest at a small village about three hours ride from the city. If the little waystop had a name, I never heard it. It looked to be one of those wide spots in the road that serves mostly as a common meeting place for the farmsteads in the area. They did have a small tavern where we were treated to a tasty cup of cider by one of the locals. Most of the locals were out and about their chores of course, so there were few people about. As is my custom, I asked if there were any in the village who could use the services of a healer. The goodman who treated us to cider said only Old Jim might benefit at the moment. The old gaffer had a common seasonal cough that he says recurs almost every year as a result of wet and cool weather. Unfortunately, with the herbs currently at my disposal I could offer little better than the relief one could receive from a cup of good hot mulled wine. We remained in the village only long enough to stretch our legs. I shall give Old Jim’s malady more thought and I hope to be able to return at some later time and offer him better relief.

It was only about another hour’s ride later that we came within sight of Zolven’s tower. Quite an interesting sight to behold, I must say. The construction did not appear to be anything extraordinary. The fact that the tower was still standing was rather astounding however. The upper two-thirds of the tower appeared normal enough but those rested upon only one remaining wall for the bottom third and that wall appeared in no great repair from our vantage. It took us only a short time to ride closer and I realized as we approached that the grounds appeared to be decently landscaped. Well, I think that if my view were limited to only a few windows then I would want all vistas to be pleasing. As we got close to the tower’s base we could see where the lines of a once great house had fallen into ruin, leaving only overgrown foundation lines to mark its passing.

We tied the horses at the base of the tower. Looking up through the partially ruined lower floors of the tower, we could see that a stair descended the one solid wall to the ground. It looked secure enough so we went up, although Aedron had all the rest of us go up before he tested the stairs. The stairs looked to me like they may have been done with a stoneshape spell rather than simple masonry skill. The proved to be quite secure. At the head of the stairs we found a typical landing and interior door as you might find in any other tower. Upon knocking at the door we were answered by a young woman’s voice, saying that she’d be right with us as soon as she got dressed. That comment had us all just a little off balance for a few moments. The door opened to reveal a rather fetching young lass of perhaps 14-15 years; redhaired and freckled, in a simple peasant dress and barefoot. She invited us in, saying that Zolven was expecting us. When we enquired, she said she is known as Niana and she serves Zolven, keeping him from going insane. It eventually occurred to me from her comments that Niana was actually Zolven’s familiar, polymorphed. She did not deny it.

Niana led us upstairs to a meeting room. The table in the middle of the room showed a seam down the middle and Niana actually knocked against the invisible barrier to demonstrate its presence. The table was in fact two separate pieces of furniture. Zolven joined us soon after we entered. I would describe him as a bit on the lanky side and appears to be at the young end of middle age for a human, with brown hair and well trimmed beard and moustache. That is of course no real guideline since the man is said to have been in the tower for several hundred years. Now that I think of it, nobody has said how long he was out and about in the world before he got trapped in his tower. But that is neither here nor there.

Zolven told Niana to lay the letter we had from Cervidus out on the table and then she could go down and get the house set up for guests. After perusing the missive he agreed to offer some help. He left and soon returned to the table with a large flattish crystal scrying bowl and a somewhat tall pitcher. He filled the bowl with what appeared to be liquid silver poured from the pitcher. I can’t be certain but it did seem to me that the pitcher should not have been able to hold enough liquid to fill the bowl as much as it did. Zolven began his spell and a miniature village rose from the surface of the bowl, presumably Hillcrest, complete with miniature villagers going about their day. There was nothing to note about the village at first but then we realized something was amiss. There were no children visible anywhere in the village.

Saying that he must examine the situation closer, Zolven pushed his hand down through the image into the bowl. The liquid silver began to flow up his arm and enveloped him, flowing into his eyes, nostrils and mouth as well. It was astonishing and somewhat disturbing at the same time. We could still clearly understand Zolven when he said that his further examinations would take him some time. In the meanwhile, he said, we could ride two days north and take care of a cave full of goblins for him. The goblins had been more sneaky than violent up till now but their raids against livestock had been escalating. He said he would have an answer for us by the time we got back.

We left Zolven to his scrying and descended the stairs. We were halfway into the foyer before I realized that there was now an entire building where only traceries of ruined walls had been before. Evidently, Niana’s mission to “set up the house” had been more literal than we knew. A whole mansion had been conjured into substance while we consulted with the master of house upstairs. Niana informed us that our horses had already been stabled and fed and offered us the leisure of the house before we left. We considered getting a head start on the journey to confront the goblins but realized there were only some three hours of daylight still left to us. What with saddling and unsaddling and setting up camp, we would have only actually gotten perhaps an hour north. Seemed silly really to push on for no good reason so we accepted the generous offer.

The mansion came equipped with some version of the invisible servant spell, one for each of us, although these were actually partially visible. The servant spells made Aedron quite nervous so we promised to keep them away from him. I’m afraid the big fellow might have gone outside to sleep in the rough otherwise. That would have been quite a waste considering that Niana showed him to a room equipped with a bed fully large enough and strong enough to take a person of his size. I put together a passable dinner for us all, which was fairly easy considering the wonderfully equipped and stocked kitchen. After dinner we were provided with whatever reading material or pass time we requested. I took advantage of the offer and perused several wonderfully illustrated tomes to familiarize myself with the local herbs of the Damaran region. Quite surprising to have such a pleasant evening on what should have been our first night on the trail of adventure. Ah well, let it not be said that I looked too closely nor too long into the mouth of the proverbial gift horse. Then again, let it not be said that I am a fumbling idiot with no good sense. I’ve balanced a chair against my closed chamber door so it will fall and clatter about should the door be opened and I’ll sleep with my new mace near to hand.

Oh yes, I realize after looking back over my earlier entry that I did not make comment on my new armor and weapon. Whoever our benefactor was, they provided quite well for me. I have been provided with a masterfully crafted silvered heavy aspergillum mace similar to a hand of the moon mace. But the four primary flanges of the mace are styled to represent the four different phases of the moon, so it more closely resembles the rod of the four moons depicted as the Silver Lady’s own weapon of choice. My new banded mail armor is equally well made and outstanding in its craftsmanship. Where as my mace is silvered, my armor is of an alloy with which I am unfamiliar. The metal is pearlescent white and there actually appears to be some depth to the color. I don’t wish to tread close to blasphemy or false pride but I must say that its appearance reminds me of some items I have seen that were touched by our Lady’s own moonfire ceremony. Representations of the four moon phases can be seen upon the breastplates of the armor. However, the plates are smooth to the touch and the images actually appear to be just below the surface. As I said, the color actually appears to have some depth. And, as if all this were not enough, my Lady’s own symbol appears to rest upon one of the moon phase images when seen from the correct angle. All in all, I am honored and pleased to carry such tangible symbols of my devotion to my Lady into battle.

Ah well, the hours trudge on and we plan on departing early in the morning, which means no late entertainments, up before dawn to get ready and on our way by first light hopefully. So I will draw this entry to a conclusion. By the Lady’s grace, I will write again before long.

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