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Old 09-25-2022, 03:57 AM   #171
Stomoxys
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 223 since leaving The Homeland

Keri led their party off while we walked down towards the river. I could not see any boats on the water, but as we neared the docks, I saw a large number of boats and barges moored to the piers. A large crowd of apeoids had gathered, but were kept away from the water by apeoids armed with spears and clubs. The crowd gave off impatience, but also timid obedience.

Normally, swimming across would not have been an issue, but with the fog hanging over the water, I would not risk it. I might freeze and sink and get washed down the river. To the south, we could see the Ar spreading out into the delta that formed the wetlands.

Nuur-Karif said we should go to a chapel to learn what was going on and led the way south to an inn. It was almost empty and we continued down some stairs in the back to the customary washbasins. There was only one apeoid in the chapel itself and I noted that Yana had no issue entering. Nuur-Karif sat down to pray near the apeoid, while I found a spot in the back were I could observe.

After a while, the apeoid said that someone should have arrived. The day was ending, so the Ashtarites should have their meet. Nuur-Karif responded that it was odd and said they were from Sam. The apeoid asked if Nuur-Karif knew any way to get across the river. They said they were from outside Byblos and used to make knives, but had found a dying snake on the road leading south. It looked like something had hurt it and it was trying to escape. They had interpreted this as a sign that they had to travel to Sam and warn the Ashtarites there. However, they had arrived in East Sam two days earlier, but not managed to cross the rivers yet.

When the apeoid arrived, they had heard that something terrible had happened in Byblos. The King's fleet had fled south and were anchored a few kilometers south of Sam at the edge of the wetlands. No boats were allowed to cross the river and someone had found a frozen reed. That should not occur so far south.

They wondered again if anyone were coming for the meet and soon after, we heard someone hurrying down the stairs. Two apeoids appeared in the doorway and looked stressed, but they calmed down when they entered the sanctuary. After the usual Ashtarite greetings, one of the newcomers led a short meet.

Once they were finished, Nuur-Karif asked if they knew how to get across the river. They did not and the best advice they could give was to bribe the other apeoids to get ahead in the queue. The same day the king's fleet arrived, the militia had arrived from Sam and claimed the council in Sam had forbid anyone from crossing. Nobody knew who were in control of the ships, but there were lots of rumours, among others that there were mercenaries from the west, which Nuur-Karif confirmed. There were also rumours that the militia came from the wetlands. Their equipment certainly looked rather ragged.

The two apeoids that had arrived for the meet left as quickly as when they came. Nuur-Karif presented themselves to the Byblos apeoid, who said their name was Zak. Nuur-Karif thought we had three options, contact the fleet, try to bribe the guards, or sneak across. When we left the fleet, Nulius' priests looked like they wanted to murder us and there was no need for Mir to know we were there. Nulius' agents probably spotted us the moment we arrived, but I gestured for Nuur-Karif that contacting the fleet was a bad idea. Zak thought the first option was strange and had no faith in the second, so they recommended trying to sneak across.

We decided that I should sneak down to the water and steal a boat, then row to a meeting place and pick up the others. We considered meeting up somewhere south of the town, but I thought it would bring us too close to the fleet and Nulius' agents, so we decided to find a meeting place north of town. I would have to row against the currents, but it should not be an issue.

The militias had placed torches along the river bank that extended several hundred meters beyond the docks and the town's edge. About a kilometer north of town, we found a relatively sheltered spot on the riverbank between to large boulders. My skin was still flashing, which put Zak on edge. More importantly, it would make it harder to reach a boat, so I covered my face and hands in makeup. I would not have any camouflage, but unless these apeoids were unusually alert, I would do fine without it.

After I had put some distance between myself and the others, I tied the threads to catch more light. For a second, the world was bathed in shades of blue, pink, and green, but it soon settled down and I could see in the dark.

I silently made my way back into the city and down to the docks. It had become considerably colder since Ajaw went beneath the horizon, but I should be able to get back to Nuur-Karif before it got too cold.

The militia were busy dragging the boats up on the river banks and piers. This was a lot more effort than I would have expected from the shabby looking militia. However, it did not look like anyone were doing something as basic as counting the boats. I continued down the docks until I spotted an area where the torchlight was partially blocked by a stack of crates. The militias were working on raising the boats from the water, but I spotted a small pram at the end of one of the piers. While small, it would be sufficient to carry the four of us. I was glad the Grogg and Wolfram had stayed behind though.

I quickly and silently made my way out to the pram while the apeoids were busy raising a boat. I considered if I should create an illusion of the pram to hide my escape. However, a rope suddenly snapped and the apeoids on the other pier dropped their boat back into the water followed by a stream of loud curses. I took the opportunity to push out and disappear into the fog while they were occupied.

I found the others at the meeting place and we set off across the Ar. There were torches along the docks on the far side as well, so we could not row straight to Sam. Nuur-Karif knew of a vegetable garden a bit north of Sam that should be a suitable landing spot. By the time we reached the garden, my limbs had begun to stiffen up. On the way over, I noticed Zak sneaking glances at me with a combination of fear and curiosity. I wondered what Nuur-Karif had said. Stealing a boat should not have instilled that much interest.

After landing we hid the boat in the reeds and set off up to Sam proper. If we were lucky, nobody would find the pram and we could take it back. It should at least remain hidden through the night.

Nuur-Karif led the way through the muddy streets to the mercenary complex. There were fewer drunks and more guard patrols in the streets than last time, but the situation did not seem to be particularly tense. Several of the patrols looked like the militia in East Sam and Nuur-Karif thought they might be from the wetlands.

The complex was relatively quiet, but there were a few assassins in the common room. Nuur-Karif arranged rooms and told us to come down to the common room once we had dropped off our luggage. My room was in the same part of the building as last time, with windows facing east.

I left my things and went down again to the common room meeting Zak in the stairs. Nuur-Karif was waiting and we went down to the temple. I made sure to wash off the makeup in the wash basins, catching Zak staring a few times. I covered myself up again with the hood before we entered the temple, but the room was empty save for the snakes.

Nuur-Karif went to the altar followed by Yana and Zak while I went to a corner. However, before Nuur-Karif could kneel down to pray, Ruk peeked out from one of the side corridors. They were happy to see Nuur-Karif and very surprised when they heard we had come from East Sam. Zak was introduced and told their story. They thought they had come too late, but hoped they could stay in Sam. Ruk said they might have a job for them and after a bit of back and forth, they said they would wait up in the common room.
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Old 10-03-2022, 01:29 PM   #172
Stomoxys
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 223 since leaving The Homeland

Nuur-Karif told Ruk about our encounter with The Shadows of Amna and for some reason they thought I had had some kind of vision involving the snake spirits captured in the statuettes. I corrected them and specified that I had not seen anything they had not, but judging from what we had seen, it was highly unlikely that the snakes had died naturally. Ruk did not know much about The Shadows of Amna, but like the others we had talked to, they said it was best to stay away from them. It might have been possible to find information about them in Sam, but most apeeoids would find some excuse and leave when hearing the name.

Ruk had heard some rumours about trouble among the Ashtarites in Byblos, but they were horrified when Nuur-Karif told them how close they had been to killing each other. Considering how violent apeoids are in general and Ashtarites in particular, I did not see any reason to be surprised, but I did not say anything.

While I sat there, I noticed that the flashes on my skin were weaker than above ground. Perhaps the effect was just getting weaker over time, but I thought there was a noticeable change after I entered the temple deep underground and far from any stars.

Ruk had heard that something unnatural had happened in Byblos, but nothing specific. They also knew that the king's fleet was near Sam and confirmed that the river was closed right after the fleet arrived. They thought this was partially to block any news getting across the Ar between Sam and Byblos. There were rumours that talking about the king's fleet would bring the attention of other armies down on Sam. They had a hunch that these rumours had been spread intentionally. It did sound like something Mir's agents would do.

Since the unrest began, many apeoids from the wetlands had taken taken important positions in Sam, including the in the council that nominally ruled the city. Rumour had it that it had been the apeoids from the wetlands that insisted on a council instead of a single dictator.

Since the apeoids have no legitimate power structures, they usually appoint a dictator in times of crisis. However, a council would make it easier to maintain the impression that the city was not under occupation. Most of the apeoids in Sam that could fight had run off to fight for Mir in exchange of food, so the city guard had been replaced with militia from the wetlands that could easily take control of the city.

Nuur-Karif told Ruk about the time Wolfram went berserk in the chapel in Byblos. They then went on to tell Ruk about the illusion we had found ourselves in. I had just added that Ninos had heard screams and fighting and that there was a strange light over the city, when Ruk made a sudden gesture to keep quiet.

In the silence, we could hear soft footsteps in the hallway. When I turned to to the entrance, a cloaked figure was standing there. I do not think I have ever seen an apeoid move that quietly before but there was nothing obviously supernatural about them.

The figure stayed in the shadows and asked if it was safe. Ruk confirmed and the figure pulled back their hood and entered the temple. They were a male human of middling age that I had not seen before. They carefully looked around and was briefly perplexed when they saw me. However, they quickly regained their composure and introduced themselves as Hein Gertram.

Hein asked if they could talk to Ruk who said it was fine with them, but looked at Nuur-Karif. Nuur-Karif wondered if it concerned us and Hein responded that we might concern them. Nuur-Karif did not know them either and asked who they were. Hein thought this should be obvious to anyone who lived in Sam, but said they were the apeoid who almost became dictator. Nuur-Karif made their Ashtarite sign and got a sign in response. This was enough to satisfy Nuur-Karif and they said Hein could stay and listen. I was curious about this character, so I consented as well.

Before Nuur-Karif could continue, Hein said they were not only as an Ashtarite, but also to get information. Sometimes, they also got information from birds. Nuur-Karif's face remained motionless, but a wave of disgust washed over them when they heard about the birds. They do have some strange ideas about birds. Probably because they have to look up from the ground to see them.

Nuur-Karif wondered if Hein was the one who had closed the river. They said they had organised some of the practical aspects of the operation, but they had not given the order. It was clear they would not disclose who had.

Nuur-Karif picked up the story they had told Ruk and said we left Byblos on the day of judgement. Hein wondered if it had been awful to see all the executions, but Nuur-Karif responded that we had not seen them. Hein followed up the question and was clearly fishing for something. As a high ranking Ashtarite, Nuur-Karif was an experienced murderer and the question rather silly. Nuur-Karif wondered what Hein had heard and it turned out they were Ruk's source. They had heard that Byblos had been attacked by strange powers on the day of judgement and this was considered a very bad sign. Consequently, the whole city was on the verge of hysteria.

Hein followed up by asking how the traffic had been on the road. Nuur-Karif responded that there was less than usual and there was very little long distance traffic, despite the absence of check points. With Byblos closed, a catastrophe in the east and the river blockaded, that was unsurprising. Ruk wondered if it would be possible to open the river again and Hein said something might happen in a few days, being intentionally vague.

If there was nothing else, Hein had more information to gather elsewhere, but would be back the day after at the same time. Ruk sat silent for a few minutes after they left and then got up and checked that there were nobody in the hallway. When they returned, they apologized and said that they had forgotten that Hein would come.

In the meantime, Nuur-Karif had fished their snake out of their pouch and showed it to Ruk. They said that it was pregnant and upon closer inspection, I could see that it indeed looked like it would be ready to lay eggs soon. Ruk looked closer, but got a strange look when Nuur-Karif said they had gotten the snake from a spirit raven.

Nuur-Karif then told Ruk that we were going to meet someone who had been to The King's Crypt and had gotten an aura of death. Ruk said they did not know much about such things, but thought the crypt was supposed to be shut and nothing could get in or out. They should ask Nijan though. The more senior priest might know something.

Nuur-Karif wanted to be alone with Ruk and asked Yana to arrange a bath in their room. I wanted to stay in the temple a bit and they offered to go to one of the back corridors. However, I was still cold from the rowing and said I could come back after a bath. Upstairs, we arranged for water to be heated and got tubs to carry to our rooms. After about an hour, I could sink down in the hot water and feel the cold slowly leave my body.
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Old 10-03-2022, 01:58 PM   #173
Stomoxys
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 224 since leaving The Homeland

After about an hour, I the water began to cool and I got out of the tub. There would not be much to do in Sam during the day, so I headed for the roof. When I arrived, Hein was standing on the edge of the with a crow or a raven on the arm. The bird flew off immediately, but I noticed Hein making a movement with their hand as if hiding something before they turned to me.

They asked me if it was fine if they stayed and received some news. I said it would not be a problem, if they were fine with me doing the same. They were a bit reluctant when I said it might cause some light, so I decided to not dance. While I would be mostly hidden from the streets below, the apeoids could become hysterical.

The Nine were still dancing in the east, but my attention was drawn to faint lights in the sky far to the north. They did not disturb my view of the stars and it looked like they were almost as high as the stars themselves. I sat down to observe them for a while and saw the lights shimmer across the sky in bands of colour. It almost looked like it was the same colours and erratic dancing as the colours that were flashing over my skin.

Studying the lights also gave me a good view of the wandering stars. It seemed like the lights were confined by their path across the sky. The wandering stars continued their path undisturbed by the lights and I estimated they would be back at their signs in less than two weeks. There were at least a few nights left though.

While I observed the sky, I heard the flapping of wings and the cooing of a pigeon in the night. Hein cooed back and soon after a pigeon landed on their arm. From the corner of my eyes, I observed Hein petting the bird and giving it some seeds before sending it off. While I did not see anything strange, they were obviously skilled at sleight of hand and the roof of an Ashtar complex would be a strange place to pet the cities' pigeons. Especially for its unofficial dictator.

I turned back to the stars and began looking for visions. I wanted to know if anyone was trying to bring death to the city, hoping to make sense of the strange vision I had earlier. I had searched for about ten minutes when I noticed Hein standing next to me and silently observing the sky. I asked if they saw anything, but they just asked me the same. I answered maybe and continued gathering threads. After a while, I heard another crow come flying.

Just when the vision was beginning to take shape, Hein came up to me and said that the only way to keep Sam safe was to ensure that no dictator was appointed. That way, the apeoids in the city could dispose of anyone that tried to rule them.

I opened my eyes and realised that Hein was back at the edge of the the roof, looking out into the night. If it had been them talking, they would have to have moved very fast without making any sound. While they were very good at being silent, they were not that good. Their appearance must have been part of the vision, but it was very odd and not obviously related to my question. I do not think they would be able to insert themselves into my vision though, unless they were hiding a lot more than I thought.

Hein noticed that I was done and asked if I had seen anything. I answered truthfully that I did not know what it meant and would have to meditate on it. I made to leave and they asked me if we were the ones who released things. In response, I asked if they had also heard about the ones who opened things. They nodded and repeated the question. I said we were not the only ones and they thanked me for the information. Perhaps it was foolish to reveal as much to this apeoid, but I did not sense any ill intent from them and I was merely confirming what they had already figured out. Whatever it means to be the ones who release things.

I went down into the temple and found it free of apeoids. I had not really noticed it before, but the constant presence of apeoids and their hysterical emotions were starting to affect me. In the temple, there was only the calm presence of the snakes and I let my senses drift Initially, I found even the snakes a bit disturbing, but after a while, I managed to align with them and sank into a deep meditation. I sat there for at least an hour before getting up and leaving, certain that if anything wanted to destroy Sam, it had nothing to do with anything in the temple.

I slept for a long time and did not leave my room before lunchtime. After getting something to eat, I looked for Nuur-Karif and found them in a study room tucked in the back of the complex. I told them about my meeting with Hein and what I had seen in the strange vision. They did not have much to say on the vision, but Yana asked if I had seen Hein receive anything from the birds. I said I could not be certain, but it had looked like they hid something away when I arrived on the roof. Yana looked thoughtful, but did not elaborate.

Nuur-Karif was studying the poisons I had taken from The Shadows of Amna and trying to figure out what they were. I asked if they wanted any help, but they said it would not be necessary. They were going to go out and eat with Yana to celebrate that they had been a mating couple for 30 days. I suspect they did not want help because they wanted to be alone with Yana. Before I left, I asked if there were any books in the complex, but they said no. I would have thought the murder cult at least would have some treatises on poisons and such, but apparently not.

There was not much to do in the complex, so I used an image to disguise myself as a human and went out into Sam. I did not have very specific plans, but if I found any interesting books, I would buy them. However, I should have known that the inhabitants of Sam are barely literate and books were nearly nonexistent. There seemed to be less apeoids out in Sam than last time we were there, but the trade in foods and goods were still lively. The largest marked had not been there last time. It was set up in the western outskirts of the city and were mostly offering vegetables from the wetlands. There was a limit on how much any single apeoid could buy and a heavy militia presence to enforce the rules.

Finding anything interesting in the markets seemed like a futile endeavor, so instead I decided to see if I could find anywhere that reminded me of my vision. This led me into the poorer and denser parts of the city. Subconsciously, I had avoided the large crowds of apeoids and tried to keep some separation from them. However, in the dense and crowded slums, this was no longer possible and I became aware of the apeoids emotions. It felt like a constant din and I had to struggle to not maintain my concentration. After about an hour, I was exhausted and had to return to the complex. Luckily, I heard Yana and Nuur-Karif coming out before they saw me and I skirted around a corner and took a back entrance. Back in my room, I collapsed on my bed and fell asleep.
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Old 10-03-2022, 02:16 PM   #174
Stomoxys
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 224 since leaving The Homeland

Ajaw was halfway beneath the horizon when I woke up. The meet would be about to start below, but the idea of being confined in a room with that many apeoids was intolerable. Instead, I stayed in the room until it was almost dark and then went up on the roof. I scanned the sky in the south, but I saw no signs of Kama and Taxini. The nine were dancing in the east and I looked for the colourful bands in the north, but it was still too light. Ajaw had almost completely disappeared under the horizon, but they still lit up the western sky with an intense glow of orange and red. Almost too intense.

Volkir had been aware of me and talked to me when I searched for them and I wondered if the same would be possible with Krull. I sat down in the middle of the roof and looked for their threads.

When I opened my eyes, again, I was lying in the tub in my room. Nuur-Karif and Yana were there and said they had found me frozen stiff. Initially, they had worried that I was dead, but had detected shallow breathing and brought me inside. My limbs were still stiff and my speech slurred, but the water was warm and I felt the cold slowly leave my body.

As we talked, I began to remember what had happened. I had found Krull, but they had not seen me. We were somewhere dark and cold, with the ground covered in bright, white snow. Krull had walked on and I tried to catch up with them. However, the cold got to me before I could reach them and I felt my limbs stop responding to my wishes. I fell over in the snow and the last thing I saw was The Snow Bringer looming behind me. Krull was heading south.

I told Yana and Nuur-Karif what I had seen and wondered how far Krull had gotten. If northern Arland was as cold as the place I had seen, the apeoids would have died in droves. While they can handle cold better than People, they are far from immune, especially when they are already starving and sickly. As far as we knew, there had been no news from the north lately, but that was hardly surprising considering everything that was going on.

Nuur-Karif was dressed in a dress that consisted of a thin gauze adorned with a multitude of fabric flowers in all the colours of the rainbow. I had seen Yana work on the flowers for a long time and the final results were stunning. With a few modifications the dress could have been worn by a Person. It revealed enough skin that most apeoids would be ashamed of wearing it, but Nuur-Karif was relatively unashamed of their body.

Nuur-Karif and Yana others had been looking for me because they wanted to get back across the Ar. They had not learned much at the meet, but Nuur-Karif's snake had laid eggs on the altar, which was considered a good omen. Afterwards, they had discussed The King's Crypt with Nijan. Nijan did not know much, but had the impression that almost anything could be trapped within the crypt. That it was called a crypt was ominous. It indicated that it had contained dead things. Since such things had been trapped for a long time, they would not know how to or want to go to Ashtar, making them very unpredictable.

I was feeling much better and we began to pack. In case we had to steal another boat, I daubed myself with the makeup. To my disappointment, I noticed that the flashes on my skin were becoming weaker. While obviously impractical, they were mesmerising and beautiful.

When we left the complex, I noticed a figure standing on the roof and I discreetly gestured to Nuur-Karif. They said it was Hein and I ducked into an alleyway to give myself night vision. Looking back on the roof, I could see that it indeed was Hein. A crow had just landed and I spotted them taking a paper note hanging from its leg and replacing it with another. After giving the bird some seeds, they sent it on its way. They gave no indication that they had seen us, but I did not think they would have either way.

In case someone had found the boat, we agreed that I would scout ahead. The pram was still lying in the reeds were we left it and there were no signs it had been discovered. I fetched the others and we got the back onto the water. It was a bit warmer and the trip faster than the night before, so we made it across the river without getting too cold.

East Sam was quiet and we found The Last Stop where Keri said it would be. The common room was uncomfortably crowded, but Nuur-Karif took care of the talking. The apeoid called Munir led us up to the second floor and showed us two rooms. After knocking, we opened the door to the first and were met by a miasma of tobacco, herbs, and perfume. Grogg was sitting on the floor sewing on a silk contraption, Hylda was lazing on a bed and drawing, while Wolfram was hunched over a thick log and surrounded by piles of whittling.

Wolfram, Grogg, and Hylda had been out shopping while Keri was off somewhere drinking. As soon as Nuur-Karif heard that the other room was unoccupied, they grabbed Yana and left. I took my luggage there, but I had no desire to be near them when they were planning to mate, so I dropped off my luggage and returned to the the smoke room.

Grogg's cast had come off and they were currently sewing on a sling for their arm. Considering the extensive operation, their arm looked relatively healthy, but they still could not move it. When buying fabric for the cast, the merchant had convinced them to buy scarves for each of us as well. These were the type that the merchants from Anabel used to protect their faces from the sand in the desert. I picked the most neutral looking one.

Wolfram had bought a log and were planning to make a larger totem. This would make it possible to gather more energy they claimed. They had also tested the Amna stone again and determined that it concentrated Amna's energies in the area around it when exposed to Amna's light. Their plan was to carve a socket for the stone in their new totem.

Worryingly, the caravans from the south had stopped and the merchants were unwilling to set out into the desert. Rumour had it that the dead were stalking the desert.

I told them about my vision of Krull and that the north could be frozen over. Unlike Nuur-Karif, Wolfram grasped the implications immediately and worried about the apeoids in northern Arland and The Cities of The Prince. Since the fields were supposed to be fallow at this time anyway, their stores of grain might last for a while, but their livestock would struggle to find food.

I could try to see in the sky what was happening and all three wanted to join me. Behind the inn, the desert stretched out before us and Wolfram led the way to a depression about a kilometre away. This was where they had experimented with the stone and I could see the remains of one of their circles in the sand.

The shimmering bands in the north were now fully visible and I pointed them out to the others. Wolfram said they had seen such lights once before from the north of The Cities of the Prince. Grogg said that when they were little, they remembered seeing such lights all the time. They had grown up somewhere in the Iron Mountains far to the north of The Cities of the Prince. Hylda were from the mountains north of Arland and had also seen the lights before.

Could it be that the world had somehow rotated around The Homeland so that Arland and The Cities of the Prince had been brought further north? I would have thought that would have resulted in a more obvious shift in the stars, but with all the stars moving around, it might be hard to notice. Perhaps the moving around was the stars reacting to the moving world.

We discussed what I should try to discover in the stars. Hylda thought investigating the weather was boring and instead I should ask if the masseur had been a real princess. I asked what they meant and a female human had come by the night before and given Grogg a healing massage. When they met Keri the day after, Keri had said that the female was a princess from Anabel.
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Old 10-03-2022, 02:30 PM   #175
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Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 224 since leaving The Homeland

Before we could decide, Grogg began sniffing the air and said something was wrong. We all turned as we heard panicked cawing coming from the south and Grogg set off towards it at a sprint. The rest of us tried to follow and I slipped on the spirit ring. A panicking Kra was flying towards Grogg at full speed. When they reached the troll, they flew right into them and disappeared.

Everything was quiet for a moment, but Wolfrarm looked around and said something was wrong. I still had night vision and peered into the desert. Something moved between the rocks and dunes a few kilometers to the south of us. It was definitely some kind of spirit and it came towards us at full speed. It looked like a cloud of dust and sand, but sometimes a dessicated arm or screaming face peered out. We all set off at a sprint back to the inn.

We reached the inn and were still a good distance ahead of the thing. It went straight to the spot we met Kra, but then it beelined towards us. I ran up the stairs and banged on Nuur-Karif's door, shouting that there was a spirit thing coming. I then ran to the other room and fetched a Kabal staff. Grogg followed and grabbed their club. Nuur-Karif did not tarry, but joined us on the way down.

Wolfram had waited downstairs and were turning into the demon bear when we came down. Looking at the dust cloud with the staff was confusing. It left traces where it went and it was difficult to tell where the traces ended and the cloud began. As it got closer, I could start to make out five or six distinct shapes swirling inside the cloud.

Yana and Hylda hid inside the inn while I took up position on the porch and Wolfram, Grogg, and Nuur-Karif arrayed themselves in front of me. The porch was only one step above the ground, but at least I would be able to see above Nuur-Karif. I dropped the staff and prepared a bolt of light.

Wolfram rushed into the cloud when it got near and they seemed to get one of the shapes. The rest scattered around the bear and I fired at one coming straight towards me. It hit and did seem to hurt it, but half the light seemed to go through and it did not stop.

Nuur-Karif stabbed into a shape and a dessicated corpse dropped out of the air. Wolfram promptly crushed it with their maul, but two other shapes attacked Grogg and seemed to fly through them.

The shape I had hit came straight for me, but I easily sidestepped it and prepared another bolt. Wolfram ran into another shape, but they seemed to cluster in and around Grogg and Grogg looked stunned for a moment. I tried to blast the shape right in front of me, but I misstepped and nearly stumbled off the porch, causing the beam to go off into the desert night.

Nuur-Karif manifested a corpse while Wolfram mauled another. Grogg roared that the things should stay away from Kra and lashed out with their maul. I conjured another bolt, but the shape came after me again and this time I was not able to get out of the way. It felt as if the warmth was sucked out of my body and for a moment I thought I would lose control of the bolt. However, I managed to regain control. Before I could fire, Nuur-Karif had stabbed the shape in the side and a corpse appeared before me. My bolt struck it in the shoulder and the arm nearly fell off, but it still tried to reach for me. Nuur-Karif struck again and nearly cut off its head. This brought it down and I finished it off by stomping on it.

There was only one shape left, but it was trapped between Grogg and Wolfram. While Grogg could not see it, they struck with their maul and the thing dodged away. Wolfram ripped it to shreds though. Most spirits we have met so far have ignored physical attacks, but perhaps it would work on these. If we met them again, I should bring my normal staff.

It was quiet for a moment as the materialized corpses disintegrated into dust that drifted away and mixed with the ashes of the demon bear. Grogg were swaying on their feet, but were exclusively concerned with Kra's wellbeing. I picked up the staff and the tracks of the shapes lit up. There were lingering traces of them in the dust, but the spirits themselves seemed to be gone.

Grogg muttered that the things had talked to them and had tried to take Kra. However, they were interrupted by one of the doors of the inn slamming open and Munir came running out with a curved sword. They were followed by Keri with their crossbow and several other apeoids. Wolfram had the sense to run off into the night, but Keri aimed at them. Thankfully, Nuur-Karif distracted them and diffused the situation before they could fire.

Munir wanted to know what was going on. Nuur-Karif said that spirit creatures had attacked, but we had destroyed them and that everything was fine. Munir and Keri was sceptical and wondered what kind of beast the demon bear was. Nuur-Karif did not answer directly, but assured them that everything was fine. They reluctantly accepted, and Munir stalked off, ordering some of their apeoids to keep watch.

Keri said they would handle the situation, but wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. They also wanted to know if we should warn anyone and what to do with witnesses. Someone would almost certainly have seen what had happened. Just as they mentioned witnesses, an apeoid hiding next to the neighbouring building got up and ran away. There was nothing to be done about them, so we went inside to tend to our wounds.

Grogg was most in need of medical attention, but ignored Nuur-Karif's request and were solely focused on Kra. When we got inside, I felt the cold begin to leave my body and soon felt much better. There was still a dull patch on my skin where the shape had touched me, but it should heal with time. Warming up again seemed to work better than traditional first aid.

Wolfram came back after 15 minutes. Munir's guards were patrolling around the building, so they had had to circle around the inn and approach from the direction of town. They wondered if we had cleared out the dead from The King's crypt. I thought it was unlikely that this was all that had been released. Pakk and Gromann had experience rummaging around in ruins and would know how to handle such spirits. Grogg said that the spirits had talked to them. They wanted Kra to come with them and had tried to take Kra by force.

Nuur-Karif suggested we kept a night watch. I wondered if it was necessary with Munir's guards outside, but Nuur-Karif pointed out that the invisible spirits could bypass the guards if they came straight for us. We gathered all our things in the smoke room.
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Old 11-30-2022, 02:02 PM   #176
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Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 224 since leaving The Homeland

After a bit of discussion, we decided to keep watch from the roof. Wolfram took the first watch and I followed them up. The stars were up and this was as good time as any to study the Kabal staffs. Wolfram was a bit skeptical and Munir's guards were already on edge, so I agreed to not do any dancing.

Keri return to the inn and a bit later I heard them talk to Nuur-Karif. Wolfram leaned over the edge of the roof and opened a window, so I got the gist of what were discussed. Munir had found someone who were willing to buy the dragon scales, but it was a delicate situation. I was too occupied with the staff, but Wolfram went down. In the ensuing discussion, I heard the word mogg. Moggs had been mentioned a couple of times in the Arani book and were powerful mages. However, they were considered untrustworthy at best and malevolent at worst.

While the others were discussing, I managed to trace the energies in the staff. As I suspected, it could be used to control spirits, specifically by holding them in place. This would required focus and stronger spirits might be able to resist. It would also be possible to use the staff to put spirits in and out of objects. What kinds of objects was unclear, but objects designed to capture spirits would no doubt be more suitable.

Considering how reverently the Kabalists treated the staffs and its strong effects, I had expected there to be more. However, as far as I could tell, I had mapped out all the patterns in the staff. I guess the dizziness is just a byproduct of getting all ones senses scrambled to see spirits. The strange thoughts I felt might just be my intuition informing me of the purpose of the staff. If the Kabalist had heard what I learned, I am sure they would be very upset.

The others were nearly ready to go and I suspect Nuur-Karif would have preferred to go without me. I asked if they really wanted to sell the corpse of a powerful creature to a bad wizard, but neither Nuur-Karif nor Wolfram had any trouble with this. It was a bit unexpected from Wolfram, but I was not surprised. Their principles tend to apply when it is convenient and they thought they could get a lot of gold for the scales.

Munir led the way between the tents of the caravanserai until we reached a tent that was a bit separated from the others. It was unassuming, except for a torch outside that smelled of incense and a huge skull hanging over the entrance. On closer inspection, the skull looked like it belonged to some kind of jaguar. The only sound was the crackling of the torch.

Munir indicated that we should enter the tent and withdrew. Uncharacteristically, Nuur-Karif wanted to send in Yana first, even though we could hear the yawn of a large jaguar from inside the tent. Yana signaled something to Nuur-Karif and seemed uncertain, but entered the the tent, followed by the rest of us.

The tent was dark when we entered, but somebody snapped their fingers and a torch lit up with a green tinted violet flame. Straight ahead, a dark skinned apeoid sat on a large chair draped in skins. A large jaguar like creature with spotted, dark orange fur was sitting next to them and two smaller, black creatures were lounging further back. The apeoid, presumably the mogg, was stroking the orange jaguar, making it purr, while the two in the back pretended to sleep.

A skin was draped over the back of the mogg's chair and it seemed to be of the same species as Nujan. The apeoid was dressed in green and violet robes. What caught my eye was their necklace though. It consisted of skulls and bones from many small creatures and were full of energies. Unsurprisingly, the self lighting torch also had energies in it.

One of the black jaguars in the back gave up the charade and growled at me. The mogg just stared straight ahead, but the orange jaguar turned towards me. Wolfram indicated that Yana should say something, but Grogg interrupted them and asked the apeoid if they liked dead dragons. The apeoid did not respond, but someone tried to communicate with me. I let them state their message and the apeoid snapped their fingers again. Their lips did not move, but I heard them say in accented Arlandese that I should move back to the entrance. I was apparently upsetting the jaguars in the back, so I agreed.

Aloud, the mogg commanded us to entertain them. Yana said they were impressed by the apeoid's mastery of Arlandese, and that they spoke Arani, but the mogg said Arlandese was fine. Grogg asked again if they liked dead dragons. The mogg did not answer, but asked if we were there to sell. Grogg was not satisfied and asked if they like dragons. The mogg responded that there were few who liked dragons. This was not really an answer, but they elaborated that they would have liked a dragon if they could control it, but it was probably better if it was dead.

Yana was more diplomatic and said it was rare to meet a mogg and that they had mastered interesting disciplines that we would like to learn more about. The mogg chuckled and, after looking at each of us, said that spirits told them things and sometimes served them temporarily. Wolfram immediately tensed up and wanted to know if the spirits served willingly. The mogg said yes and I do not think they were lying exactly.

Wolfram asked if the mogg was using clay, trying to determine if the mogg was a a cabalist. The mogg responded that clay was weak and they needed strong material that had been alive. They ripped a skull from their necklace and for a second it looked like they were going to crush it, but instead they merely played with it. It looked like the skull of some large bird of prey. The mogg asked if we wanted a demonstration. If we wanted to, they could ask the spirit in the skull a simple question. Wolfram said an explanation was enough and the mogg sounded almost facetious when emphasizing that they would not force the spirit in any way and that it was not trapped in the skull. This was sufficient for Wolfram.

The mogg asked for a demonstration from us and Wolfram handed over a dragon scale. The mogg studied the scale intently and asked if there were more. Grogg had brought the entire bag and dropped it on the ground in front of them. The orange jaguar got up and pushed the bag over to the mogg while Grogg proclaimed that it was the scales of Palongi's spawn. The teeth and claws were also in the bag.

After rummaging through the bag, the mogg said they would grant three wishes in exchange for the dragon's remains. After a bit of back and fourth with Wolfram trying to convince themselves it was fine to trade with a necromancer, the mogg increased the offer to four wishes and Wolfram agreed. The mogg would do anything in their power to grant the four wishes, but if this was not all the scales, the wishes could backfire.

Grogg had sewn some of the scales into my winter gown, but unlike Wolfram, I did not trust the necromancer so I did not say anything. Instead I discreetly gestured to Nuur-Karif, who apparently shared my sentiment and said that it was all the scales. However, Grogg suddenly remembered them and set off to get them.

While Grogg was away, Wolfram tried to ask the mogg out about the nature of the wishes. The mogg did not say much, but they recommended that we keep it simple.

We heard Grogg's footsteps long before they entered the tent with a handful of scales in the hand. From the shredded strands of fabric still clinging to some of them, they had not removed them gently. The mogg accepted the scales and said we had given them the whole dragon and they were waiting for our wishes. This seemed rather important, so we asked if we could think about our wishes. They said it was fine, but we should be back before dawn. We returned to the inn.
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Old 11-30-2022, 02:21 PM   #177
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Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 224 since leaving The Homeland

Grogg said they wanted to talk with Kra at a distance while Wolfram wanted a new suit of armor. The mogg was clearly able to communicate with spirits and animals and both of those could be useful. After a bit of speculation, I decided that spirits would probably be more useful. Hylda thought a bottle that would never go empty would be handy. It would be practical, but I suspect they wanted a bottle filled with liquor. Nuur-Karif remained silent.

Keri and Munir knocked on our door. We let them in and Munir wondered what had happened. They thought we would be very lucky if the mogg granted us a wish and this was a rare event. Grogg told them we had been granted four wishes which shocked Munir. The mogg's name was Moggarif and they were one of the most powerful moggs in existence. For them to grant more than one wish was unheard of. Grogg thought it was perfectly normal that they had payed a good price for the corpse of a dragon. Considering how willing the mogg was to increase the price from three to four wishes, I suspect we undersold the remains. I also doubted that anything good would come from handing over the remains to an apeoid like Moggarif.

Munir warned us that we should not tell anyone about the wishes. In Anabel, even the lowest slave would know who Moggarif was. If it got out that they had granted wishes, there were many who would try to take them from us. After giving us the warning, Munir left and said they would rather forget about the whole affair.

After Munir left, Grogg and Wolfram continued to discuss their wishes. Grogg wondered if they wanted boots that could make a troll fly, while Wolfram wanted armour for their bear shapes. They had not quite decided, but we set off for the tent again. By the time we arrived, Grogg were discussing with themselves whether they wanted a better maul or the ability to communicate with Kra.

Moggarif did not appear to have moved, but the bag of scales were gone. Wolfram said they wanted a suit of armour that fit their bear shapes. Moggarif said that might be possible, but they would like a demonstration. Wolfram agreed and turned themselves into the star bear and then the demon bear.

They then did not turn back into their human shape, but instead began to grow massively in proportions. For a while, I thought they would outgrow the mogg's pavilion, but they stopped when their back scratched the ceiling.

The new shape looked down at us with vacant eyes and I worried if the beast still recognized us. It was mostly hairless, but tufts of long gray fur covered parts of its thick, wrinkly skin. Unlike Wolfram's other shapes, this one had six legs. It gave the impression of being ancient. The jaguars acted as unsettled as I, but Moggarif appeared unfazed and said it was an impressive display. However, they wondered how they were supposed to make one suit of armour that fit all these different shapes.

The bear stared dumbly at Mogariff until Nuur-Karif asked them to turn back into human shape. The simple instruction seemed to penetrate and Wolfram began transforming again.

In the meantime, I said I wanted to be able to communicate with spirits. Mogariff said that it was simple enough and that my wish was granted.

Nuur-Karif wanted an amulet that would turn them invisible. This was not specific enough for Mogariff and they asked what Nuur-Karif wanted to become invisible from. Nuur-Karif said everything, but the Mogg was not pleased with this answer and told them to mull it over. I guess becoming invisible to spirits or the stars or normal eyes are completely different things.

Grogg wished that they and Kra would become powerful enough to fight dragons. Moggarif instructed Grogg to kneel and took a skull from their necklace. They then threw the skull down on the ground hard enough to shatter it and studied the pieces intently. After a while, they asked Grogg if they wanted a magical weapon. Grogg said yes, preferably their maul. The Mogg said it would be possible if Grogg could be without the maul for a few days. Grogg said yes, but Wolfram wondered how long it would take. The Mogg said it should not be more than a few days.

Nuur-Karif asked the rest of us what the mogg meant when the asked for specifications. They thought perhaps it might be for physical beings or spirits, or perhaps it was if the invisibility was permanent or not. According to Wolfram, there were mages in The Cities of the Prince that could turn themselves invisible. They achieved this by creating a kind of illusion. This sounded plausible and I decided to try it later.

Wolfram had decided that they did not want bear armour, but instead armour that protected against spirits. They were a bit vague, so Moggarif asked if they wanted to make their armour protect against spirits or if they wanted a new piece that gave protection. After mulling the question for a while, Wolfram decided they wanted a new piece of armour.

Nuur-Karif explained to the Mogg what Wolfram had said and said they wanted an amulet that could do the same. The mogg said that mages in The Cities of the Prince were an untrustworthy lot and this was not their specialty. However, they could make something that would turn Nuur-Karif unrecognizable or invisible in shadows. Nuur-Karif thought this was acceptable.

We had all given our wishes, so Mogariff summarized. When they got to Grogg, they asked if Grogg was sure about their wish. As far as Moggarif could tell, Grogg had already fought a dragon. Grogg reconsidered and said that instead, they wanted to see spirits or dragons. Again Moggarif thought that this was something Grogg was already capable of. Grogg considered if they should wish for Kra to become more powerful, but then decided that they wanted shoes so that dragons could not escape. Moggarif warned that dragons were powerful creatures and they could not guarantee that it would work. However, they would do their best to create something that kept dragons from escaping. It was a dangerous wish though and they wondered if there were any specific dragons Grogg were hunting. Grogg immediately answered that they were hunting Palongi.

The mogg said we should return after Ajaw had risen four times. Then we should find what we were looking for. Hopefully, we would never see each other again. If that happened, the wishes could be twisted in unpredictable ways.

It was late at night, but Wolfram wanted to go into the desert and test their new shape. Nuur-Karif was not interested, but Grogg, and I joined them. A few hundred meters from the inn, Wolfram stripped down and then transformed into the enormous beast. I looked at their aura and it looked surprisingly normal. If it were not for the other auras lurking in the background, the telltale sign of a shapeshifter, I would have thought it was a normal beast. The thick, gray skin reminded me of mountains and I believe it could blend in with such an environment.

Through a lot of awkward grunting and shaking of paws, the beast communicated that it wanted Grogg up on its back. It was large enough to easily carry the troll and they set off into the desert at full speed. Each time an enormous paw hit the ground, it gave a deep boom that must have been heard all the way to the inn. Soon after, I heard a ruckus from that direction and saw Munir and some of their guards were arming themselves and mounting camels. I began to think up some story to calm them down, but Nuur-Karif shouted from the window that it was fine and Munir did not need to investigate. Munir was doubtful, but obliged, saying that they wished this was the last time something strange happened.

Nuur-Karif came running from the inn towards me. I intercepted them and we set off towards the sound of the bear. It had not gone very far, but were running around in circles with Grogg hanging on. Grogg saw us and signalled to the bear, making it to stop. Nuur-Karif walked up to it and were greeted by a big lick, leaving them covered in drool. Nuur-Karif was not amused and told Wolfram to revert to their human shape. When they did, Nuur-Karif scolded them and insisted they had scared Munir.

When Nuur-Karif were done, Wolfram said we no longer needed any camels. While the bear was rather hideous, it would be nice to not have to deal with more beasts than necessary. Wolfram thought that their bear shape would be able to carry everything we needed and should handle the heat well. To test their abilities, they wanted to go out in the desert the next day. Nuur-Karif suggested that I joined them so they would not get lost. While the bear was rather unpleasant, it would take me away from the apeoids, so I agreed.

Back in the room, Keri had left a note telling us to not bother Munir any more. Grogg stabbed themselves with the needle and passed out while Nuur-Karif took the first night watch. Grogg had ripped up the winter clothing they were making to get to the dragon scales, which would require some mending, but at least it looked like they had gotten all the scales.
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Old 11-30-2022, 02:28 PM   #178
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Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 225 since leaving The Homeland

I slept until lunch and woke well rested. Wolfram was drawing a contraption, that turned out to be a harness for their new bear shape. Hylda was not very impressed and Yana offered to take measures. We could then get saddle makers to make a proper harness, though we might have to pay them extra to keep quiet.

Keri appeared and were drinking alcohol as usual. They suggested that we should bring a flock of goats that the apeoids could eat. It would be disgusting, but the goats would be able to find enough grass to reach The Desert Lake. They would then be slaughtered before we went into the desert. Wolfram said they would be able to carry so much food that it would not be necessary and asked Keri to come along to see their shape. It would be best to let Keri adjust to it before we took off.

We packed up enough provisions to last for a day for me and Wolfram and Keri, Yana, and Nuur-Karif came with us to the place Wolfram had tested the Amna stone. Wolfram thought they would need four times as much food as a normal human, so my backpack was full.

When we reached the bowl, Wolfram began transforming. Keri did not like what they saw, but remained calm. Their only comment was that Wolfram should refrain from transforming near the inn. In response, Wolfram licked them.

I helped Yana take the measures they needed for the harness. Due to the shear size of the bear, it required a bit of climbing and a couple of ropes, but we managed in about half an hour.

When we were done, Yana and Nuur-Karif went to look for a saddle maker while Keri went to find more alcohol. Wolfram had said that they felt uneasy about me in their bear shapes, so I created an image of an apeoid from Annabelle. It did not seem to make much difference though.

The apeoids from Annabelle tended to be darker in the skin, but my image had white spots on their skin. I had not planned for this and I thought it must be a side effect of my shining skin.

I climbed up on the back of the bear and they set off into the desert. Its six feet propelled it forward at great speed and I had to hold on to its fur to stay on. With a bit of practice, I got more used to its movements and were able to let go. Trying to do anything with my hands, like firing my bow, would be risky though.

The bear had great stamina and trundled along between sand dunes in the heat of Ajaw. Occasionally, we stopped to navigate or eat. It was great to be away from the apeoids in the city and if I concentrated, I was able to shut out the bear as well. I imagined this would be what it would feel like to be a master herder riding a gargantuan.

During our breaks, I was struck by the stillness and monotony of the desert. Rolling sand dunes was the only thing I could see in all directions and there were no sounds except for the occasional rustle of the wind over the crest of the dunes. Towards nightfall, this began to change. We stopped about an hour away from the inn to study the stars. In the dark, I could hear the scurrying of bugs and other small critters.

In the desert, I could dance undisturbed and wanted to know if Arland had moved further north. The bear lay down to drowse while I danced and my skin was lighting up in all the colours of the northern lights. As I danced, an image began to form, but just as it was about to disentangle, it evaporated. This was surprising, and I wanted to meditate a bit, but we had to get back to the inn. Wolfram turned into a human and we began to walk.

As we walked, it struck me that north had come closer to Arland not the other way around. It did not feel like my own thoughts, so it must have come from the stars. Perhaps I subconsciously registered the image and what it shoved.

The concept got me thinking of stories I had heard about The Eternal Plains north of Arland. Sometimes, the plains would be covered snow. The apeoids there would somehow know in advance and start migrate. Sometimes, traders would arrive and find their settlements abandoned and herds gone. However, the steppe apeoids did not or could not tell outsiders how they knew.

We returned to the inn and met the others. This night, we decided it was not necessary to keep a night watch and I slept in the storeroom.
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Old 11-30-2022, 02:40 PM   #179
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Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 226 since leaving The Homeland

Keri showed up in the morning in the morning and we discussed provisioning. Wolfram had calculated that we would need half a ton of food, but thought they would be able to carry it with an appropriate harness. Keri announced that they had only promised to take us to Pakk and Gromann and were not sure if they would continue to follow us. They described the aura Gromann had acquired as a fog of death and thought that this was a burden Gromann had somehow accepted. It had greatly affected them, even though they were strong willed and this again was affecting Pakk. The resulting spirit activity were beyond Keri's abilities, so they did not think they could help and would prefer to stay at a distance.

We spent most of the day buying provisions for the expedition and I kept myself covered with the image of the apeoid I had used the day before. Sudden sand storms could occur in the desert, so we would need a large and sturdy tent as well as supplies. The caravanserai had all the things we needed, but we started by selling the Shadows of Amna's weapon to a trader from Annabel who recognized their quality and did not ask any questions. The proceeds from the sale covered all our expenses and then some.

In addition to the tent, I insisted that we buy a brazier. One trader commented that this was a luxury. Even though the nights could get cold, a tent should be more than sufficient. We did not mention that we were headed for the mountains and the trader willingly accepted our gold.

There was a crowded square in the outskirts of the caravanserai in the direction of East Sam. The square was surrounded by tents with elaborate patterns and rich colours. In front of them were posters advertising the services of soothsayers and fortune tellers. Several of the posters had drawings of cities and palaces that reminded me of the structures in Darwan's illusion. Did Darwan originally come from Annabel?

I was already dizzy from having spent so much time around so many apeoids. However, I was curious if any of the soothsayers had any actual abilities and even if they did not, it should be entertaining and perhaps I could pick up a trick or two.

One of the tents had a poster with a city under a starry sky and a line of apeoids waiting outside. I considered that a good sign and got in line when the rest returned to the inn. While I waited, I saw Nuur-Karif pass by. They and Yana had been out on their own errands all day and while they recognized me, they did not approach. Luckily, Yana was not with them.

Ajaw was touching the roofs of Sam by the time I reached the front of the line. A monkey emerged from the tent with a cup and held it out towards it. I put a silver coin in the cup, in the upper range of what the apeoids were giving, and it scurried back inside. It soon emerged again and held up the tent entrance for me.

The inside of the tent was dark and smelled of incense. A female apeoid was seated across from me with their eyes closed, but opened their eyes when I entered and bid me welcome. They then asked me what I was seeking and I said I was heading to the desert and needed good fortune. They concurred that I indeed would need good fortune if I was headed there. However, they could not grant me that. I then asked for any advice or warnings. They said it was rumoured that the dead were walking and it was dangerous to look at death. However, they would see what they could do.

The fetched a small brazier with red glowing coals and some kind of incense I did not recognize. While they sprinkled the incense over the coals, they asked who they should ask. I wondered if they could ask the heavens and they said they would see if anyone was home.

They closed their eyes and began to hum on a melody. Suddenly, they stretched out their hand and tossed a powder into the coals. Immediately, a green flame flared up and the apeoid began to mutter. about seeing the dead. They were hunted, but they had been captured. Why were they hunting if they had been captured They were still captured. They were bound to something. What had brought them here. They had been dead so long. How had they gotten here.

Suddenly, the apeoid snapped out of their trance and seemed completely unaware of what had just transpired. They looked very tired though and asked me politely to leave. On my way out, they shouted to the waiting apeoids that they were closed for the day. There were still a long line, so I heard annoyed muttering and got some angry stares on my way back to the inn.

If the soothsayer was acting, their performance deserved the silver coin. Furthermore, they must have lost substantial revenue by closing early, indicating that they were genuinely exhausted.

Their words had been vague and could be interpreted in many ways. However, an obvious explanation was that they referred to the spirits that were released when Pakk, Gromann, and Ebsalon opened the Crypt of Kings. The desiccated corpses that hunted Kra certainly looked ancient. If they were now bound to Gromann, it would explain the fog of death surrounding the dwarf. It would also mean that whatever powers were binding the spirits must be very powerful.

Nuur-Karif were gone when I reached the inn, but the rest were there. I told them what the soothsayer had said, but it did not make any impression. I said I wanted to study the stone circle and Grogg and Wolfram agreed to join me, bringing their crafts with them. Awa from the inn, I placed the circle in the spot were Wolfram had put their totem and began to carefully dance and twist the threads around it.

I spent nearly two hours and thought I had tied a tight mesh over the stone, but I was not able to get a full grasp of how the stone worked. Wolfram said that there were two likely explanations for this. Either, it was an extremely complex enchantment placed on the circle or someone had deliberately tried to obfuscate how it worked. In either case, an even more careful study was needed and they suggested I could get Pakk and Gromann to help me when I found them. I considered trying to get Wolfram and Grogg to help me, but it would take all night and it was far from certain it would work.

Instead, I tried to fill one of the spheres with energy. Dancing under the stars allowed me to direct the energy more accurately into the stone, but it felt like something was pushing against my efforts. To add more, I had to divide my attention between containing the energy already in the sphere and gathering more. I managed to apply more energy and started to feel the resistance weaken. However, if I let go an instant, it would escape with potentially dangerous consequences and I was quickly exhausting myself.

With a last push, I drove more energy into the sphere and it began to glow with dull, blue light. At the same time, waves of pain were rushing through my body and I still felt the sphere resisting. If I kept going, I would probably pass out before the resistance gave way. Carefully, I let the energy escape from the sphere and dissipate harmlessly. Perhaps I could have pushed the last part with the help of Wolfram's dancing bear, but I was too exhausted and I was not sure if it was even possible. The star water might also be an option, but I did not know how to get the energy out of it.

We returned to the inn and Nuur-Karif and Yana returned soon after, claiming they had been at the chapel and then an inn. They were unusually circumspect about it, but I was too tired to ask any more questions and went to sleep in the storeroom.
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Old 11-30-2022, 02:47 PM   #180
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Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 227 since leaving The Homeland

I was woken by somebody knocking on the door of the neighbouring room. It turned out to be Munir who said that Moggarif's tent were gone. We had been instructed to not come back before Ajaw had risen four times, so we were reluctant to go and investigate, but Hylda had not been there and volunteered to go.

They returned after 15 minutes and said that the tent was indeed gone and was replaced by a large jaguar. It looked like it was guarding something hidden under a blanket. Nuur-Karif thought we should wait another day and I was inclined to agree, but Wolfram wanted to go immediately and Grogg and I followed.

We reached the spot where the tent had been and saw the large, orange jaguar from Moggarif's tent. The apeoids stayed well clear of it and whatever it was guarding.

When it saw us, it got up and approached. Wolfram stood in front and the jaguar gently nudged Wolfram them in the direction of the blanket. Underneath was a crate with four items, Grogg's maul, a shield, a parasol, and a bag that could be used for torture through strangulation. All the items were full of energies.

Wolfram grabbed the crate and we headed back to the inn. With its task completed, the jaguar walked to the edge of the caravanserai and then ran into the desert. Just before it set off, it turned and winked at us.

Back at the inn, I asked Nuur-Karif to help me test the bag. It was likely to make me lose consciousness, so they would have to take it off after a few minutes. I then placed it over my head and tightened the strap. I passed out quickly and woke up with Nuur-Karif taking the bag off. They had cut the experiment short because the strap had cut off the blood circulation to my head. While I was out, I thought I heard strange, muffled whispers, but nothing I could identify as language.

I had to spend a few minutes to recover. We were discussing how to feed the bear when Munir knocked on the door and asked if they could come in. There had been strangers at the inn looking for someone that fit our description. Considering Grogg and Wolfram, there were little room for mistake. Munir thought the apeoid that asked were from abroad and had not said anything, but they could not guarantee that everybody at the inn had kept their mouth shut. After they were told that we were not there, the stranger had disappeared. There were also a ship down in the harbour in East Sam and another on the other side of the river. Presumably from the fleet.

Munir said they could try to find out more and indicated that they had a network of informants. Soon after, Nuur-Karif grabbed Yana and followed. They claimed they were also going to investigate, but had been in a hurry to leave. Wolfram were oblivious, and Grogg was suspicious, as usual.

I wanted to figure out how the bag was supposed to work, so I took it to the storeroom and began to study it. On my way out I saw Wolfram studying the shield intently, especially an impression of a jaguar paw on the front. There were no marking on the other items. Grogg was sewing.
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