Saturday, July 28, 2007

Dorben, entry 36 ---4th Eleasis--- To follow, wonder about and perhaps even fear a friend

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Adventure Journal of Dorben Wainfoster
4th Eleasis, The Year of the Haunting


---Strange, mysterious and disconcerting things are afoot. Some mysteries from the past of one of our own have brought to light some concerns. But then she does something that most likely saves all of our lives and we are unsure what to do. And to think, when the day started we were just looking to pick up Sa’d from his trip to the Tymoran temple. The great wager between the temple hierarchy and the local thieves’ guild head had evidently come to an end. Reportedly, the temple treasury had been emptied and a single black chest left behind. A black chest that had not been in the treasure vault before hand. From what we heard through Sa’d, the chest contained a single coin; an artifact of the faith returned to the temple in some way involving the wager. From the glances we caught through the crowd, I would imagine that Lady Luck’s clergy consider the emptying of their treasury as money well spent. The last we heard was a rumor that the coin may have at one time been in the personal possession of their goddess. Quite a find for them if it proves to be true.

As we made our way toward the market place it occurred to us that neither Nia nor Meg were amongst our number. It took only a few moments’ experimentation to ascertain that our Soulbond connection with Nia was not active and therefore, she was most likely where ever the Keep sends us when it has need of our services. I shall not go into detail as to the experiment other than to say that any sort of tumbling pass while in heavy armor is far beyond my abilities and that it is a good thing I do not embarrass easily. Assessing our connection to Meg was somewhat more difficult since we were not willing to simply attack some random passerby.

When last we spoke Meg had mentioned going to the market place to purchase odds and ends for our ensuing expedition to Vaasa, so that is where we began our search. It took us some time to speak with a good deal of people but Kaliki was able to find a lead. She learned that Meg had been there, the description of her physical appearance and her bargaining acumen were spot on, but had departed suddenly and with great speed. The merchant said that Meg stopped her conversation suddenly, looked as if she wanted to make sure somebody had not seen her and then left, just like that. And that struck the merchant odd because the only persons in the vicinity at that moment had been a gaggle of children.

We returned to the Silver Stallion but found no sign of Meg, only Peekaboo, who seemed a bit anxious for us to make haste. We were packed and ready to leave within moments and left forthwith for the Keep. The going wasn’t terribly fast as our trackers were keeping an eye out for any sign and our only real clue was Peekaboo, bobbing along ahead of us. Incorporeal or not, it seems that Peekaboo still has to deal with deep snow in about the same way as any other small feline. Which means, it walked atop the packed snow and bounded like a sounding porpoise through that which was loose powder. And that is how we made our way until perhaps halfway between Bloodstone and the Keep.

It was at this point that Onyx swooped down from on high and came to Illandria with something of a sense of urgency. Illandria cast a Speak with Animals enchantment and then related to us that Onyx had told her that someone was following our backtrail. Illandria and Kaliki faded behind us with their companions, Onyx and Ebon. They later related to us that they had found a spot where the trail of whomever had been following us simply ended. All around that spot, a great deal of Scentbreaker powder had been spread around liberally. Illandria could find no tracks and Ebon’s nose was rendered useless by the pungent aroma of the scentbreaker. With no more they could do about the interloper, our quartet of nature defenders returned to us and we carried on.

As we had suspected, Peekaboo led us to the Keep. Our comrade the Shaman we left with his tribe in the Gatehouse as we continued within at Peekaboo’s insistence. Our next stop was the main building and thence inside. Even with no tail to twitch and swish insistently, it was plain that our phantom feline wanted us to get a move on. We soon came to a room we were familiar with but Peekaboo did not wish to go the direction we had thought. Instead, after some rather prolonged searching, we were able to locate a release for a secret spiral staircase that ascended into the Beacon Tower above us. It had been our intention to explore this tower for some time but it seemed like something more urgent always came up that kept us from that task. All that was behind us at that moment as we made speed up the spiral of masterfully wrought stairs.

Our ascent ended in a room we estimated to be perhaps a level or two below the beacon flame. The first glance when we exited at the top of the stairs revealed open sky. A second glance of course verified that we were in a circular room with outer walls made almost entirely of glass. The view out onto the countryside was quite breathtaking, I must say. The view inside the room was fairly interesting as well. Scattered about the room were pedestals, the top of some graced by statues. It was the subjects of this statuary garden that brought us to a halt. For there were statues of each member of our little troupe, but not exactly as we stood there and then. They were not so much idealized images, as are many pieces of art, but it seemed that they showed each of us at a possible future perfect moment or possibly offered a glimpse within our innermost image of ourselves. I am unsure.

The statue of Aedron showed him in the classic scout or hunter’s pose; on one knee, looking off into the distance. But standing behind Aedron, one hand resting on his shoulder in an approving gesture, was an unmistakable representation of the Frost Maiden. This was a somewhat different image than I have seen before however. Where as most imagery I have seen of the Maid of Ice have shown her as a slender, regal and even on occasion petite, verging on fey, this representation showed her as a female of similar proportions to Aedron himself. The face also seemed somehow different from the typical effigy. Whereas most show her with a facial expression of delighted fury or haughty indifference, this statue carried an expression of cool approval. I wonder as to just how Aedron’s tribe sees their aspect of the Frost Maid?

Illandria’s statue showed her in a classic archer’s pose, mid draw, with Onyx rising behind her, its talons resting upon her shoulders. In the representation, Onyx seemed to have gained somewhat in size and its wings framed Illandria like a great cape. Again, there seemed to be something more to the imagery that I could not quite grasp. An ephemeral something for which a definition escapes me.

The next statue that came to my notice was that of Sa’d. Or should I say, of Sa’d and his nemesis Das. The statue tableau showed them facing each other, seated on opposite sides of a gaming table. Sa’d was shown about to lay down the high card to win the game with one hand while about to flip that ever present coin of his with the other. Das was shown throwing dice while also ready to flip a coin with the other hand. I would guess that the piece represents the dichotomy of their ever ongoing oppositional relationship; forever after linked as the opposite sides of the same coin.

The statuary representation of Nia was also not alone on its pedestal. The representation of Nia, in all her robust good health and good nature, with a pleased ‘devils-take-the-hindmost’ grin well in place, was faced by another figure. The secondary figure was kneeling before Nia, draped overall by a voluminous cloak. It would seem this must be some representation of Nia’s erstwhile secret admirer, as the figure was holding forth a perfectly formed purple rose for Nia’s approval. Unfortunately, even after changing my angle of view I was unable to make out any real details of the Admirer. In fact, the folds of the carved cloak showed no occupant. All in all quite mystifying although Nia’s image certainly did seem pleased.

Kaliki’s statue came to my notice next. It showed her in something of a casual pose, Ebon close at hand. Ebon’s image showed some signs of growth as his shoulder looked to be close to that of Kaliki. One could not help but take away a sense of merriment from the grouping as Ebon, as big and strong and vicious as any apparently larger than normal timber wolf, was shown in something of an ‘overgrown puppy’ moment. Ebon has been known to engage in such playful pawing and mouthing in real life more than once. I believe “glompfing” is the term that Kaliki has used in reference to this playful gesture of affection. Very cute, even if he is a fairly large and efficient predator.

My own statue nearly brought tears to my eyes. It is a beautiful rendition of the way that I sometimes feel inside. Or at least, the way that I wish to be worthy of each day and night. The statue showed me in a reverent stance, possibly praying while looking forward, as if seeking the path of life ahead perhaps. The moving part of the statue was the figures which surrounded me, seeming to bolster and strengthen my stance. One image for each of My Lady Selune’s beautiful aspects. Each a wonderful representation of that which cannot truly be defined. I was moved, truly moved.

I might have taken out my drawing kit to begin sketches of the statuary garden if not for what else we found there. For it seemed Peekaboo had led us true and shown us the way to its mistress. For kneeling before one last statue was Meg. The face of the statue certainly looked like Meg, although there was perhaps a noticeable difference in age. But this carved version of Meg was shown wearing full battle armor; the armor of an army officer, perhaps even a general. But most troubling of all was the likeness carved standing directly behind Meg, almost as if her shadow had been supplanted by this other creature. For creature is the only word that seemed to fit that which we saw. It looked to be something from the lower planes but none of us could say for certain whether it be demon, devil or otherwise.

We approached our friend to ask what was the matter. As she turned we could see that she was weeping tears of blood. She began to talk but we could not understand the painful syllables she uttered. A spell of Comprehending allowed one of us to understand and translate for the rest. I was so caught in the moment that I cannot say for certain who cast the spell other than I am fairly sure it was not I. We guessed the language as some dialect of Infernal. As Meg continued to speak, it became clear that she was telling a story. Her story told of a great conflagration that wiped out some 3000 souls along 50 miles of shoreline. Kali related that she believed this might be in reference to something that happened on the shores of the Lake of Steam some two decades ago. Meg went on to say that an oracle stated that only a direct descendant of Galus can make their land recover. She said that all of the bloodline have died and only when the flame rules again will their land recover. Again, I was concerned and caught up in the moment and was unable to gather every specific.

It seemed that Meg was telling this from a point of personal anguish. As if she felt in some way responsible for this shore side slaughter of some two decades past. It made me wonder just how long Meg had been dead before she returned to life in that morgue chamber with the rest of us. Most of us had met our premature ends just a few weeks or perhaps a month prior. Perhaps Meg had been passed a bit longer than the rest of us?

As Meg spoke, more crimson tears made bloody tracks down her cheeks and dripped freely from her face. The tears smoked as they hit the floor. Flames began to roll from her eyes as she continued her story and smoke leaked from her mouth. At that point we had begun to back away cautiously from our friend. We knew not if it would become necessary to fight our companion or to simply contain her while she was overcome by what could be classified as some sort of magical fit of madness.

Meg began casting and Aedron’s cat whisker quick reflexes spurred him to attack, soon followed by the rest of us in one form or another. The attacks were unable to interrupt the spell however. Meg successfully completed her spell, which at first I thought had been a Gate but instead seemed to be some variant on a Dimensional Door, as she stepped through the radiant point and was gone.

Peekaboo once again led the way, insistently gaining our attention and bounding down the stairs to the lower reaches of the Tower. Boo led us from the Keep and directly to a large drift of snow. There was a fairly large hole in the top of the bank and steam seeped upwards from below. We dug into the snow bank and soon uncovered an unconscious and still somewhat warm to the touch Meg. We removed Meg to the Gatehouse and made her comfortable as well as secure. We bound her hand and foot and covered her with several layers of wet blankets. The blankets are an immobilization technique I learned in my healer’s training; often used for those incoherent and thrashing from fevers. And indeed, Meg did seem feverish. I began treating Meg’s symptoms and continue to do so even now. We are keeping watch over her even as we guard her from harm. Odd circumstances, I must say.

Sa’d has elected to stay in the Tower for now. After some consultation amongst ourselves, it was agreed that the spell Meg cast did indeed look to be a Gate spell, however she might have used it. With that in mind, Sa’d felt more comfortable keeping an eye on the spot where the spell was cast, just in case something decides to come through after all. I believe that is all for now. By my Lady’s grace, I shall write again soon.

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