Saturday, January 13, 2007

Dorben, entry 30 ---29th Flamerule thru 30th Flamerule--- Discussions and dreams and fighting for one’s life


Adventure Journal of Dorben Wainfoster
29th Flamerule, Year of the Haunting – Evening addendum


---Happenings this evening were not the most fortuitous. While we were speaking with the tribal representatives of the Snow Tiger tribe, the Keep decided it was time for Kaliki and Euphestas to go on a little trip. For some reason the tribal shaman was taken as well. We thought perhaps there might be a fight in the offing but the rest of the tribe did not seem upset. Unfortunately, the shaman had been handling the translation chores with his Tongues spell, which departed with him of course. We decided to have Aedron and Sa’d travel back to Bloodstone city to make a purchase of a few scrolls of the Tongue spell so that Meg might cast the spell for us. Wearing my magic boots (thank goodness the boots are able to change size thanks to their enchantments), Aedron’s speed is well on par with any of the horses and he can easily carry Sa’d, who is a good negotiator of prices. They should hopefully return by dark if not shortly thereafter.

I happened to have Comprehend Languages ready and cast that as a stopgap measure. But of course, that only allowed me to understand their language and not the other way around. I felt like quite a fool undertaking an impromptu set of charades and the question game. But once we had established the basic precepts of “Yes” and “No” I was at least able to answer some questions. The one who seemed to be their spokesman, perhaps the shaman’s second, was known as Argo and did most of the speaking for the tribe. Argo and his people seemed to have something of a fatalistic approach to life that seemed to come down to “The gods will do as the gods will do.” Once it was established that we believed that their shaman would be returned before too long, they seemed content to simply wait it out.

While I had been engaging in a more or less one sided conversation, Illandria had decided to take a look around the courtyard and the Gatehouse environs. She seemed to end her investigation about the time that my spell ended. Argo and his people withdrew to their campsite and Illandria briefed us on her findings. She said that she had found out a few things that she felt needed to be brought to the attention of the rest of our company. Her scrutiny has certainly added a few more interesting questions to the roster.

--Firstly, she was sure that the White Tiger tribe numbered in the thirties even though we have only seen perhaps ten of them at any one time. We think that perhaps part of the tribe is out hunting or perhaps on some other endeavor. Illandria observed that they seem to be a nomadic prairie tribe and such behavior would not be unusual.

--Secondly, among the traces of ours and the barbarians’ intrusion into the Gatehouse, she found heavy boot tracks. We believe the tracks most likely to be from the initial encounter that Meg described from when the tribe first arrived. But we have found no other signs of whoever these opponents might have been. Perhaps the tribe has disposed of the bodies? We should ask Argo about the encounter as we have occasionally gleaned useful clues from the creatures we’ve faced while exploring the Keep.

---Thirdly, she found tracks originating from the front entrance of the central tower and leaving the Keep. An active effort was made to cover the tracks, which destroyed much of the detail and so Illandria was unable to make any further conjecture as to their source.

Argo and his people seem to have settled in for the night, although it is only just dark. We shall wait until tomorrow to use the Tongues spell to converse with them. Ah, and speaking of the spell scrolls, I believe Illandria has spotted Aedron and Sa’d’s return. I believe I forgot to note earlier that we had decided to purchase two arcane scrolls of the Tongues spell from the party funds. Meg will cast one for us on the morrow, I believe I have been chosen as our delegate to speak with Argo further, and then she will use the other scroll to add Tongues to her spell repertoire. There are still things to do this evening and more in the morning. By my Lady’s grace I shall write again soon.

*****

Addendum 29th/30th Flamerule

---Once again my dreams return with the fullness of the moon and with it my Lady’s favor. Again, Aedron shared the same dream and we both awoke at the same moment. Even though he still interprets the dream somewhat differently than I, he at least saw the images that we observed as a bad omen and not simply as some prophecy of his frigid goddess’ “blessing” the world with her blizzards. I shall attempt to record the dream as I saw it some hours ago.

My first recollection of the dream is of floating far above the now all too familiar mountain. I observe several robed figures standing below, chanting as they face the mountainside. My point of view descends closer as the chanting reaches what sounds like some sort of harmonic convergence or crescendo. There is an audible -pop- and then all is still. All sound of the mountain winds and their fluttering of the mountain foliage completely ceased. I floated for an unknown amount of time after that. Then an awful, ungodly how erupted from the side of the mountain. I observed as a tiny point of focus spread outward to create a tremendous gate of some 100 feet in diameter opening through the side of the mountain. What I might term as “frozen hell” poured forth from that gate, but only raged a short distance from the cliff face. Some great invisible barrier stopped the force of the blizzard from blowing out into the rest of the world. Through the sheets of blowing snow I could only barely make out silhouettes moving through the tempest. These shadows moved with military formation and precision at double time march. It appeared that they were moving out along the same trail blazed by the earlier blizzard army.

And that is the point at which I and Aedron awoke. I would surmise that the robed figures had erected the invisible barrier to contain the super blizzard released from their gateway. Perhaps they know that the snowstorms spawned from their earlier breech between worlds alerted the surrounding lands. It seems obvious that there is some sort of organized invasion going on. But by whom and for what purpose? It appeared that these forces were moving the same direction as the last, which would presumably take them into northern Vaasa. Again I ask, for what purpose? I can only assume ill tidings and on this Aedron agrees, although for a significantly different reason. He felt that the robed figures were committing some sort of cardinal sin by constraining the blizzard. I am not sure if it quite occurred to him that some sort of enemy army was using his deity’s precious snowstorms to cover their invasion.

Whatever the case, I felt that I could not delay. I donned my armor as quickly as possible and informed my companions that I felt the need to ride to Bloodstone immediately and warn the General of my vision. Illandria chose to ride with me, which I appreciated. Our group has established it is usually best that none of us travels completely alone if possible. We rode out from the Keep and were soon at the gates of the city. Luckily, although I believe Nia is to thank actually, the guards recognized us and let us pass right through.

We made our way to the Castle and then to the military annexes. Our wait was not long, perhaps only two or three minutes, once we informed an aide we had urgent news for the General. We were taken from the waiting area directly to the General’s office. It seems the General and his Bodyguard do not sleep much as neither showed any signs of being called from their beds. Also, the General said as much when I made comment. I described all that I had seen in my dream, using the large slate board upon one of his walls to draw an approximation to the best of my abilities. I really don’t know why but I was feeling somewhat out of sorts and my narrative was confused and scattered. But the General was able to follow along quite astutely and certainly seemed to believe me.

I was able to make it clear to the General that our dreams definitely seem to be clairvoyant, not prophetic. From the position of the moon’s light shining upon that mountainside, it seemed almost certain that we were seeing these events as they happened. The General agreed and said that what we had seen was most likely the explanation for why they had suddenly lost contact with the five scouts that had been watching that mountain. My gut felt hollow and my heart heavy at the thought of their presumed loss.

I continued to ramble on, mentioning the presence of the Snow Tiger tribe and describing their appearance. I feel I made a complete fool of myself at that point in the conversation. I described them as looking like humanoid versions of displacer beasts and without thinking said, “You know, the scary purple shadow kitties.” Illandria assured me it wasn’t as bad as I felt it was. After all, this was a man who had led armies into battle and was a veteran of many adventurers beyond that, according to all the stories and legends. And here I was using completely juvenile terms to describe a creature with which he was most likely more than familiar. I can only surmise that I was so rattled from speaking with the General that my mind fell back on my first recollections. I was quite young when my instructors first taught me about displacer beasts and how to recognize them and they of course used descriptive terms to which a child could relate. I still feel the perfect ass for speaking to the General in that way. On the brighter side of things, at least his Bodyguard got a good belly laugh out of it.

Unfortunately, there were to be more laughs from the Bodyguard at my expense during that meeting. Explaining about the humanoid barbarian tribe brought up the existence of our Keep. Considering that the General is head of the military forces we thought it best to inform him of the existence of a sizeable fortification within an hour’s ride of his city before there were any misunderstandings. We wouldn’t want him to think we were planning anything underhanded after all. We undertook a climb to the upper reaches of one of the city’s towers so that we might gain an unobstructed sightline to the northwest. Illandria and I were able to easily spot the torch beacon atop our central tower but not so the General or his Bodyguard. They saw nothing but a clear dark night over the expanse of the Bloodstone valley. To say I was disconcerted would be an understatement. I stood there pointing like some retarded weather vane, my mouth flapping like some ridiculous beached fish. I apologized to the General for wasting his time, although again, I do feel he believed me. The Bodyguard could choke back his laughter no longer and finally laughed out loud. I admit it has always seemed that the Bodyguard thinks of me and my companions as little more than the “new little adventurers” traipsing around his kingdom but this was just embarrassing. At least he muffled his outbursts enough that I do not believe he actually scared anybody in the city below.

All during the ride back from the city Illandria assured me that I had not made as great of a fool of myself as I thought. I appreciate her reassurance and I know that I can be my own worst critic. I really do hope that I did not leave the General with too bad an impression and that any unsatisfactory opinions he might have formed about me don’t reflect badly on my companions. Ah well, there is still a few hours for sleep and then another day begins. By my Lady’s grace, I shall write again soon.

*****

Adventure Journal of Dorben Wainfoster
30th Flamerule, Year of the Haunting

---Our conversation with the Snow Tiger tribe representative went well enough but was still rather difficult and not terribly useful I feel. I believe our talk can stand as proof that a translation spell is not an interpreter. Speaking with Argo soon had me to realize that they are from a world and culture where the classic “predator/prey” relationship is not present. Theirs is a world with only different gradients of predator.

After we had again reassured Argo and his people that we believed their shaman would return soon, what we mainly tried to impress upon our feline visitors was that they are currently residing within a kingdom occupied by innocent civilians and they need to be careful as to what or who they might decide to hunt. Our real stumbling point came when we attempted to explain the difference between livestock and wild game. I suspect perhaps we may not need to worry too overly much about that little differentiation however. Argo described a deer that some of his tribe had taken down yesterday and they seemed rather disappointed that the creature gave them no fighting challenge whatsoever. I think that if they found a wild stag boring, they would find domesticated livestock barely worthy of notice. After all, even house cats provided with food daily in their own personal bowl still prefer hunting rodents on occasion, even if only for play. Argo and his people seem in control of themselves enough that I do not believe we need to worry about them chasing farmers around for sport.

Other than the lack of any proper prey, the main complaint of Argo’s people seemed to be the cold. I stifled a bit of a chuckle as I passed their observation on to my friends. Argo did not seem happy in the least when I informed him that we were currently in high summer in this area and the general mean temperature is a great deal lower. We advised them there were warmer climes to the south but getting there would not be easy to say the least. Just as the spell was coming to an end, one of Argo’s tribe approached. I believe he had been on watch near the Gatehouse as he was complaining that the Keep was still growing. It seems that a second story of the Gatehouse had sprung up beneath him. It seemed to me that the Keep rebuilding itself is quite disturbing to them. I suppose perhaps because it has always been a ruin to them. I wonder if theirs is a superstitious tribe.

We decided that we might as well investigate the Gatehouse. Since that IS our means of entering and exiting the Keep it seems that securing the rest of the building is in our best interest. One part of the Gatehouse was cleared by Argo’s tribe already so that leaves the rest to us. We are preparing for that endeavor even now. By my Lady’s grace, I shall write again soon.

*****

30th Flamerule – Afternoon addendum

---I am worried. We have encountered something disagreeable in our exploration of the Gatehouse and it has put our little friend Sa’d in a bad way. It seems that we have the situation more or less under control at the moment and there are other avenues still to explore but still I worry for him.

We entered the ground floor of the Gatehouse on the opposite side which Argo’s people entered. The first things we discovered after Aedron, Nia and Sa’d had carefully examined the door for traps was a pair of strange dark wraith-like creatures. We had been careful to open the door without breaking the threshold and so the creatures were still frozen and we had time to prepare. Unfortunately this has brought forth something we really need to keep in mind. In future, when facing incorporeal undead we may wish to wait until the last resort to attempt to Turn the creatures. Sa’d and I cooperated in Turning the creatures and were successful; perhaps too successful? The creatures “ran” away at full speed; which in this case meant that they passed almost immediately through the far wall of the Gatehouse and soon were out of sight. The rest of the party was able to get in a few successful hits but that was about as well as we could do before they were out of range.

I should make note here of some observations on these wraith creatures. They shared some basic similarities but these did not appear to be “normal” wraiths by any means or measure. As soon as the room rejoined the flow of time once again it seemed to us as if there were a strong breeze in the room, drawing all air in the room swirling toward the creatures. I believe this may be my first encounter with something I have heard of, called a Void Wraith. In my own opinion, they appear to be some sort of undead air elemental; which I had thought was impossible. We had been planning to simply wait for the creatures to return, as their brainless ilk are wont to do. Illandria was even keeping eagle eyed watch with her bow ready. But our more curious friends decided there was plenty enough time to investigate another room while we waited.

The door immediately to our right as we entered was elected as our next point of exploration. No traps were detected and we used the Key to open the door rather than making use of anybody’s lock picking skills. This appeared to be the office of the Gatehouse Commander; outfitted with several bookcases and a good heavy wooden desk among other things. The room appeared empty so we entered. Sa’d found a few papers lying atop the desk blotter and went to examine them more closely. As he looked on, we could see several words being writ upon the paper without benefit of any pen. The papers upon the desk then leapt the short distance it took to grab hold of Sa’d. A great deal more paper emerged from the leg well, all connected end to end and animate as some sort of paper snake. And like some snakes, its first point of business was to wrap itself about Sa’d’s body. I can only conjecture that the paper monster might have been the result of a stack of scroll quality material gone wrong or corrupted.

We did our best to attack the creature but it quickly became apparent that all our attacks were also striking Sa’d. We also discovered that bludgeoning weapons are of no use against such things as this. As we tried to cut the clinging papers away they continued to wrap tighter about Sa’d and then began wriggling under his armor. Trying to tear loose some of the papers revealed that it (they?) was sinking tiny thin tendrils into Sa’d’s skin. The thing was bonding to his body. Also, as we attempted to pull the thing loose, we discovered the materials making up its body did not feel like paper or parchment. There felt to be an amount of give and stretchiness that for all the world felt to me almost like skin. This did not in any way make me feel better about the situation.

It did not appear that we were making much if any progress and we were running out of opportunities. Desperate for any alternative solutions, I cast Amanuensis and began to scribe my book of scriptures upon the creature. All I could think was that being made of paper, perhaps being forcefully written upon might cause it some consternation. Unfortunately, it did not seem that the spell did much if anything except perhaps make the creature pause momentarily on occasion as if it might have been reading what was being writ. Other than that, nothing.

Next, Aedron thought to use water, one of the “mortal enemies” of paper against the creature. The other of course being fire which we really couldn’t use without hurting Sa’d even worse than was already the case. Aedron grabbed up Sa’d and raced from the Gatehouse, the rest of us doing our best to keep up. The river was not terribly far away and we were there within moments. He submerged Sa’d but this had no obvious effect so we continued to cut and tear at the creature. We could see that our attacks upon the paper monster were also doing harm to Sa’d so I felt I had to cast some curative spells to keep him alive. I suspect that the spells were healing the monster as well but I could not just stand there and watch Sa’d expire at our own hands.

Aedron, assisted by the others, had finally been able to pry and tear loose a good deal of the monster. However, even as we felt this small moment of triumph we also felt the pangs of defeat. Pulling a length of the creature loose had shifted part of Sa’d’s armor and we could see that the very end, possibly the “head” of the creature, had completely melded into the skin at the base of his spine. It no longer appeared to be paper laid over skin, but simply a thickening of the skin with some discoloration and writing; almost like a tattoo gone wrong was the thought that occurred to me. Unfortunately, the more accurate analogy would most likely be something closer to a giant leech with its head dug in and greedily supping upon the life force of its host.

We continued to work at the end of the creature that had been pried loose. Aedron’s grip was unrelenting. Considering that it seemed entirely too late to get the thing’s “head” out of Sa’d without very likely killing him, we decided to settle for a half measure and just concentrated on getting loose as much as we could and cutting that loose. I reassured the others that there were spells, although beyond my power, which could most likely remove the creature from Sa’d and would very likely be available at the Tymoran temple within Bloodstone.

It felt as if we struggled in the shallows of the river with that creature for quite a long time, but I am sure it was actually only moments. We were finally able to cut away approximately two thirds the creature’s length but the remaining third instantly snapped “into” Sa’d. The excised section lost all cohesion or animation, separating into individual sheets and fluttering down into the river flow. I made a snap decision and cast Frost Breath. I was worried that perhaps the creature might have been only playing dead or that its remains might contaminate the river if left to simply float away. The spell worked as I hoped it might and froze the sheets in a scrim of ice upon the surface before they could float away or sink. We removed that sheet of ice before it could melt, since quite often magical ice is quite transient and short lived.

As Sa’d was carried to the shore, it appeared that he was spontaneously healing. He was conscious by this time and related that he could feel his spells being taken from his memory. Even as he spoke we saw what appeared to be the writings of a scroll appear upon the length of the creature laid into Sa’d and then fade, again as if a spell had been cast from a scroll. It seems perhaps Sa’d’s spell energies are food for the creature. Even as we spoke, it continued to drag each and every spell from his memory and consume it in one way or another.

The one slight bright side to this seems to be that when the creature subsumed a curative spell it used the spell to heal Sa’d until he was completely recovered from his wounds. He says that other than the loss of his spells and feeling somewhat drained, he really does not feel all that bad. We are however not entirely sure that his thoughts are completely his own. I have neglected to mention that we first saw the creature using Sa’d’s spells as we were bundling him into his bedroll. We then wrapped him in a blanket as well and tied him tightly. He is bundled for travel and to keep him from possibly using his spells against us if his will should be overcome. He did ask that if the Amanuensis spell were going to continue, and there seems no good reason to stop it since it does still seem to be distracting the creature somewhat, that we at least use his own book of scripture. It was but a moment of thought to change the focus of the spell to the book found among his belongings in his pack. It was a simple enough thing for his comfort. Soon, one of us will carry Sa’d to Bloodstone so that his brethren in the Tymoran church may hopefully remove the creature from him. The rest of us will most likely remain here to combat the void wraiths that are very likely on their way back soon enough. By my Lady’s grace, I shall write again soon.

No comments: