Friday, May 12, 2006

Dorben, Entry 11 ---24th Kythorn thru 30th Kythorn--- Candle circle, Hillcrest and dreams of omen and snow

Adventure Journal of Dorben Wainfoster
-24th Kythorn, The Year of the Haunting

---Our parting from Riverdell this morn did indeed prove to be tearful. Mellie did not want to see Aedron go. We had to promise he’d come back to see her. She was still “waving bye-bye” when we lost sight of her. As with everything, Mellie was waving with great gusto; using her whole body and both hands. She is a cutey.

Other than lovely little Mellie, there is only one other thing of note from our time in Riverdell. As we passed through the ruins of the original village we could still feel an unnatural cold throughout the area. I fear there is some remnant of either the enspelled ice that once covered the village or else unquiet spirits. We all kept alert but we saw nothing and were not accosted as we passed through and we soon put the river well behind us.

The rest of our day of travel passed without incident. We stopped a bit early so we would not have to move through the foothills in the twilight and dark hours. Aedron and Meg both strongly advised that full light is the best conditions for passing through that area. Our campsite seems well enough situated and we should only be another half-day travel from Hillcrest. My turn at watch will come soon enough. By my Lady’s grace, I will write again soon.

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-24th Kythorn, Evening Addendum

---Actually, this is more of a morning addendum. It is shortly before dawn light. We had some little amount of intriguing business during the night. Illandria and I were on our watch. Just about midnight, Illandria spotted a small light in the distance. I kept guard in camp while she went to investigate. The light source turned out to be a candle floating about waist high atop a nearby small hillock. I went to investigate the candle as well after she returned. It of course proved to be magical; not a terribly strong enchantment. It did seem to radiate an aura of good feeling within approximately ten feet of itself. The other odd thing is that the candle never burned down. I observed wax melt from the top, run down the length of the candle and then congeal at the base. A simple but clever design I think, although I was still no closer to figuring out why it was there. My only guess was that some adventurers had perhaps had to clear out of their camp in great haste some time in the past and lost their clever little candle. The candle was able to be moved by physical touch. I took hold of it and returned to camp with the candle to experiment with it a bit while we waited out our watch. It proved to remain floating wherever it was released, could not simply be blown out, stopped floating when the candle flame was extinguished, and floated again once relit. The good feelings radiating from the candle also returned when relit. These experiments took only a short time and Illandria simply waited out our watch. Illandria went back to the hilltop to explore once again, thinking the candle might have been a marker of a secret hideout or some such perhaps. She found nothing there although she did spot the light from another candle some distance away.

We roused the rest of the camp to get their opinions on the mystery of the floating candles. It seemed possible that the candles might be divinely sent trail markers so we packed camp and moved to follow the path. First, we replaced the first candle to its hilltop. Then we moved to the next candle, which proved to be within sight of yet another candle, and so on. We eventually came full circle to the first hilltop. It was obvious that something was being marked here so we moved toward the center of the delineated circle.

Not far from where we had originally made camp, we found some brush camouflaging a well hole in the ground some four feet across. The hole and the shaft that descended down appeared to be carved from the solid stone. The lack of any seam or tool mark suggests that this might have been Stone Shaped or some such other enchantment. Small steps extended from the shaft wall and spiraled down into the dark. Sa’d carefully explored the steps, finding the first and twenty-fifth steps were trapped with an alarm of some type. There were many more steps and we assumed that every twenty-fifth step was trapped. We all descended the well shaft. It proved to be easy enough to carefully climb down the half steps while supporting oneself with your hands on the opposite wall.

At the bottom of the shaft we found a stone latticework supporting a catwalk suspended a goodly distance above the cavern floor below us. Hundreds of the same type of candles we had seen before were floating about the cavern, each some four to five feet above the water surface. The cavern was large and much of it was filled with a pool of water. In the center of the pool was a round island, artificially round, with a large stone block at its center. The block was about eight feet by ten feet and about six feet tall by our best estimations. The island only extended perhaps four inches above the surface of the water. We could see several small tunnels letting water out of the pool around the perimeter of the cavern. We also detected strong water flow from several points around the circumference of the island. We were terribly curious about this cavern but we really didn’t have the time to explore. So we climbed back out, and covered the well back over with the camouflaging underbrush as we had found it. We will move out again at first light. By my Lady’s grace, I will write again soon.

---Morning Addendum. All of the candles around the circle disappeared at dawn. Thinking back, we are fairly sure there was no trace whatsoever of the candles before midnight the night before.

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Adventure Journal of Dorben Wainfoster
-25th Kythorn, The Year of the Haunting

---We have arrived in Hillcrest. My heart aches from the sights I have seen this day. Innocent children sped down the path to old age well before their time. I only hope we may be successful in our quest to combat this devastating curse. We arrived by midday and rode straight through the village to the temple. What few people we saw as we passed through seemed depressed and withdrawn. It is no mystery why, as we would soon see. Also, we observed no children whatsoever at play. Every person we spotted was well into adulthood.

The temple was a fairly standard layout and we quickly found the head priest’s offices, but nobody within. We moved to the infirmary and there found the larger extent of the village’s population, most of them patients. The patients were all of advanced age, which struck me peculiar as I recalled our first reports were that this Fever was striking the children of the area. This confusion was soon cleared once we asked a volunteer if we might speak with Brother Coran. She went to another section of the infirmary to fetch him. Those of us with healer training set to helping the patients as best we could.

Brother Coran and a few healthy young volunteers soon arrived. The volunteers relieved us of our duties we adjourned to the temple proper. Coran read the letter from Zolven while we unpacked the lab equipment and supplies. There was space set aside for a sparse alchemy lab and the brewing of minor medicines. The equipment we brought greatly increased its efficacy and breadth of production. While the equipment was being laid out, Coran told what he could of the Blue Diamond Fever.

The Fever strikes the young first and their cases seem to be the worst. The curse somehow accelerates their aging process at a terrible rate. Older persons are affected as well but not as soon as the children and they are not affected as quickly. In the end, their body turns into a blue diamond in a burst of blue energy. And that blue energy will then seek out the bodies of the dead and reanimate them. I had to admit that I had not made that connection between the girl we saw die in Goliad and the skeletons that arose from the crypts below. How thick could I have been to miss something so obvious? My teachers would despair, I am sure. Brother Coran pointed out that there seemed to be two ways one might be immune to the Fever. Either one is very old, like his elderly assistants, or one has been dead and returned to life. The second circumstance is why Coran has two able bodied young men to assist him at the moment. Both young men tried their hand at adventuring some years ago, both passed on at some point in their career and were returned to life and then came back home to the village.

Coran pointed out that it would be at least two days before the alchemy lab was functioning fully. Until then it must be tended day and night. That duty will fall mainly upon Coran and myself so we will be sleeping in shifts and not far from the lab. We had all noticed that the village was somewhat disheveled, what with all the work falling upon the shoulders of a few village elders instead of the full population. Those of us with healing skills spent the rest of the day tending those in the infirmary. I am sorry to say we seem to be doing little more than easing the pains of rapid aging and making our patients more comfortable. But at least they are suffering less. We have no other choice until the medicine to slow this insidious curse is ready. I was quite pleased to be able to offer some relief to the poor village elders to whom has fallen the care and upkeep of the village. A minor curative spell is enough to relieve the arthritic pains and swelling from their joints for a day and I am more than happy to oblige.

The village elders also have some goodly help with caring for the village. Those of us without healing skill have lent their hands to the chores of bringing the village back up to snuff. So many things have gone undone. And it is not only because those left to tend the village are old and somewhat infirm. It is because there are so few of them. The work of several dozen village folk of varying young ages has been heaped upon the shoulders of perhaps a dozen or so elders. And other than the occasional involuntary groan brought on from overworked joints, they make no complaint. In fact, upon the face of more than one of the elders I have seen a look of grim determination and perhaps a spark of pride in knowing that one can still get the job done when it is needed.

Nia was the first to volunteer to help in tending to the village’s needs outside the infirmary. Upon seeing the full infirmary it was obvious that our stay would not be short and Nia quickly volunteered to see to the stabling of our horses. I think the poor dear just wanted, nay NEEDED to be away from the crushing despair of all those poor bespelled people. The rest of our company agreed, at first silently and then verbally verified that it were best Nia work elsewhere in the village. The business of the infirmary is depressing as it is and she is not one who has been practiced in dealing with these things and none of us wanted to see her spirits so depressed. One helps where one is best suited. And I do believe that those two young men who’ve been helping Brother Coran will be well relaxed once they are finally allowed to actually sleep this eve. They were both handsome enough and I think Nia may lift their spirits.

We are doing what we can but it is obvious that this is only a stop gap. This cursed Fever is far from broken. We have brought some small respite to this community but I despair that it will not be enough. Not nearly enough. Not by far. The path to the answer is still ahead of us, waiting to be found. I must sleep now. By my Lady’s grace, I will write again soon.

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Adventure Journal of Dorben Wainfoster
-27th Kythorn, The Year of the Haunting

---There was naught to write down last eve and I was sore tired and wanting my bed more than my writing desk at the end of the day. We have done a goodly amount of work these two days. Livestock have been returned to their corrals, firewood and peat have been stocked, roofs have been patched and so on. In a few more hours the medicinal lab’s processes will be to the point that Coran can tend it on his own. It is good to be doing goodly works but I do wish we were able to do more. I only hope Arben will return some time soon so that we might figure out the next step in this quest. My eyes grow heavy and my bed calls. By my Lady’s grace, I will write again soon.

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Adventure Journal of Dorben Wainfoster
-28th Kythorn, The Year of the Haunting

---We have taken another small step on this quest today. Arben entered the village this morn with a large bag upon his shoulder. He met all of us at the temple and simply set to emptying his bag while he talked to us. Few things he said made immediate sense. He was complaining somewhat about us being too early. He did not clarify much as to what we were too early for. He speaks nonsense at some times but I think it seems that is more of a way for him to change the subject than genuine madness.

Arben produced a great many things from that bag. Much more than it could possibly hold normally. His finds included a rather large magnifying lens, several bags that smelled of earth and compost and multiple other odds and ends. It seems obvious that Arben really does get around and does so by way of some magic. He produced live cuttings of herbs that I know are not normally in season this time of year anywhere in these northern climes and many are most certainly not native to any nearby area either. I am not one who too closely examines the teeth of a horse given as a gift so I did not pursue questioning about this. The block of chocolate and pouch of ground coffee, which could very likely have come directly from Maztica, were appreciated. After it seemed he had fished all he could from his bag, Arben again complained that we were too early. He said that we should go do something useful and suggested Bloodstone as a destination. He said that there was always something that needed doing up that way. And then he left.

We quickly realized that Arben had provided us with the makings of a prime medicinal herb garden from the dirt and fertilizer and cuttings. Brother Coran directed us to an area near the temple where all the making of a greenhouse were already gathered. One of the village elders proved to be a skilled carpenter and he found several willing apprentices among us. We set to building shortly after Arben’s departure. The cuttings are in their pots and boxes and bundled against the cold, awaiting their new home. We should be able to fit the lens into its frame tomorrow before highsun and should be finished soon after that. Although not a perfect reading lens, that piece of glass is a large diffuse magnifier and should serve quite well to harness the weaker sunlight of this northerly weather so that the plants may flourish. Again, I go to my bed well tired from a good days work. By my Lady’s grace, I will write again soon.

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Adventure Journal of Dorben Wainfoster
-29th Kythorn, The Year of the Haunting

---The greenhouse was finished earlier today and seems that it will serve its purpose nicely. The village had been returned to some semblance of order and Arben’s words that we should go do something more useful rang in our ears. Brother Coran sent us on our way with his blessings. We have decided that we will return to the site of the candle circle and attempt to discern if there is any connection between it and the Blue Diamond Fever. According to one of the old timers in the village, the candle circles are a haunted place. People enter, never to return and all that. Considering that the candles and the hole disappeared at first light, one can see how that could happen. We will be on the road again soon. By my Lady’s grace, I will write again soon.

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-29th Kythorn, Evening Addendum

---Something very interesting has occurred. Aedron and I had identical dreams this evening. I awoke before I was due to stand my night watch. Both I and Aedron rose abruptly from sleep at the same moment and mentioned that we had been awakened by a dream. It took little conversation to realize that the imagery and timing of our dreams had matched down to the moment. Our interpretations of the imagery are the only place where we differ. I believe it to be some type of foretelling or warning and Aedron sees it as a portent of good fortune from the Frost Mistress.

The dream began with a detached view overlooking a pleasant mountain setting. Then frost began to form upon everything within view, quickly becoming worse and worse. Then snow began to fall, rapidly developing to into a blizzard which covered the entire view. The viewpoint began to move as the snow storm became worse, soon carrying my vision above the storm. Soon, the view centered upon the source of the snow. It was blowing at great speed from a hole in the side of a mountain. It was at that moment that I awoke from the dream.

It may have only been my imagination but it did seem as if I could feel the cold of the storm still gripping me from beyond the veil of dreams. I am unsure of what to make of this dream but I have just realized something. This is the first dream of which I have had any recollection since returning to life below the temple in Goliad. I’ve known some people who claim they never remember their dreams but that is most certainly not my case. Ever since my childhood I have had dreams which I remember upon waking. Admittedly, it is not always so easy to interpret those dreams but still, they have always been there. And yet, I have gone over a month with no memory of any dreams whatsoever. That is, until now. This is very disquieting to me. Aedron says this is his first dream since Goliad as well. Curiouser and curiouser, I say. I have endeavored to sketch out the mountain to possibly spur memory later.

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Adventure Journal of Dorben Wainfoster
-30th Kythorn, The Year of the Haunting

---We have arrived at the location where we believe the candle circle was last located. Aedron, Illandria and Meg seem fairly certain of the landmarks. We set our camp outside the perimeter of where the circle last appeared. Even though we want to investigate we don’t wish to tempt fate just in case. We’ve set camp early so that we can be rested for investigation this eve. By my Lady’s grace, I will write again soon.

-30th Kythorn, Evening addendum

---It happened again. Aedron and I had identical dreams and awoke from said dream at the same instant. The dream was similar to the first in as much as the blizzard was still blowing from the same mountain. But there they differed. My detached view moved in upon the snow blowing out of the hole in the mountain. There were shadowy shapes concealed within the blowing snow. They looked to be humanoid, in many sizes and variations but other than that I could make out no details. There was a veritable army within that blizzard.

And that is why I think we need to leave this candle circle behind us. I believe we may need to turn toward Bloodstone Pass and make all haste. I think that is what the dream has been trying to tell us. They are never just literal; dreams seem to always have the need to use allegory and imagery. A mountain pass at its most basic is a hole through a mountain, yes? And in Hillcrest, when Arben was ranting at us about going and doing something useful, he said that we should go to Bloodstone. I believe that is too much of a coincidence and in this case, most likely no coincidence at all. I only pray that we are not too late. By my Lady’s grace, I will write again soon.

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