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Old 02-14-2021, 12:33 PM   #61
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 195 since leaving The Homeland

As if to prove Wolfram wrong, a we heard the voice of a female human from somewhere in the ash cloud. They did not see us, but shouted out in several different languages and I shouted back, guiding them to our position. Like several of the humans we had seen earlier, they were dressed like they came from the jungle near the crater, but their clothing was more elaborate, indicating that they were wealthy. They spoke the language used in Arland and introduced themselves as Nyra and claimed to represent their master called Odon or Mito or Midon. None of us had heard any of those names, but they said they had come to us to stop the killing and that their master was trying to save all life on the earth.

Nuur-Karif sat down with Nyra and got them to talk about themselves. They started out by apologizing that their master could not choose what they should think and feel, indicating that this was the case for the other humans in the area. This would explain the stunted reactions and auras I observed and I got the impression from Nyra that they were hoping to avoid death. I suppose I should not be surprised that the apeoids are willing to become mindless slaves in exchange for a false promise of evading death.

Nyra was from a high ranking family in Amaya, a large city close to the crater in the east. We saw at a distance, but we wanted to avoid detection and never went near. According the Nyra, the social organization in Amaya is even more bizarre than in The Cities of the Prince or Arland, with not only status, but also occupation decided by what family the individuals are born into. In their opinion, Amaya was the most beautiful city in the world, but they have of course not seen any of the cities in The Homeland.

Their master had come to Amaya asking for help with their plan, but had been rejected by the leaders of the city. Nyra, had then defied their family and joined their master at the crater, helping them recruit males. Unfortunately, they were unwilling to explain what they had tried to do at the crater. In particular, I am curious whether they released The Nine intentionally or whether something went wrong in their rituals. Nyra was generally unwilling to talk about their master, but wanted us to follow the instructions in the letter. They did indicate that their master came from somewhere far south of Arland and Amaya and had been rejected by the others like them and was operating alone. When Wolfram wondered whether their master was from the east, they said something about bad sorcerers coming from the east, but it was unclear if they were related.

So far, everything they had told us were consistent with what I had observed and what Azura had told me, including the infighting among the greys. I informed the others, making sure Nyra could not overhear, and discussed what to do. Wolfram was clearly still under the influence of the spell and insisted that Nyra should know about the brown forest, despite the forest being hundreds of kilometers from Amaya. When I pointed this out, they asked themselves and, as expected, Nyra had heard of the forest but did not know anything about it.

Wolfram's aggressive questioning upset Nyra, so Nuur-Karif went over to calm them down. In the meantime, Wolfram asked me to investigate whether Nyra had any magical items. Using the magic vision, I saw that one of the necklaces they were wearing were indeed enchanted. It was an amulet with a purple stone set in grey metal that did not match its golden chain. Wolfram was convinced the necklace was somehow controlling Nyra, though I did not get the impression they were being controlled. Grogg asked Kra to steal the necklace and the raven flew off, but Wolfram was too impatient to wait and asked Nyra about the amulet. They said they had received it from their master at the crater and it was supposed to protect them. They were unwilling to take it off, but I was allowed to touch it and it was definitely magical, though I could not say anything more about it.

Nyra's and Nuur-Karif's discussion had turned to the gods of Amaya. They were worshipping Ajaw, the river, the big person and the talking person. I doubt Nuur-Karif paid any attention, instead asking if they they worshipped Ashtar, which they did not. This caused a long lecture from Nuur-Karif on the wonders and glory of Ashtar, but Nyra seemed most interested in the gate Ashtar is guarding. Apparently, they thought it should be a choice to go through the gate and that apeoids should be allowed to leave the underworld if they wanted and that their master was working towards this goal. I half expected Nuur-Karif to cut their throat then and there, but they kept their composure and merely smiled, saying that they would love to explain more about Ashtar. It seems Nyra is just as insane as their master. If apeoids could choose whether they should die or not, the world would soon be nothing but apeoids running around eating each other.

I tried to learn more about Matapl, or the little person, the god I had impersonated and perhaps unwisely revealed that I had been the the eastern jungle. I doubt it matters much though. It seems the master can see what the rats are seeing and the vermin saw both me and Grogg at the crater. It makes me appreciate the The Tiny People hunting such pests at home.

Nyra wanted us to go and meet their master, but Wolfram refused when we discussed it, saying that it was suicidal. It is a bit too late to worry about that now. Instead of talking, Wolfram wanted to try to sneak up on the master in a surprise attack. The amount of rats in the area makes a sneak attack impossible and the master is acting like we pose no conceivable threat to them, so this would definitely be suicidal. In the end, we arrived at a compromise where Nyra would ask their master to come to us. They did not seem to think the master would come, but was relieved that we had stopped killing humans and rats and went back into the fog followed by a rat.

Kra came back soon after with a purple gem. Grogg was very pleased and wanted to sew it into an embroidery, but realized they had not brought any thread or fabric. Flaunting the presumably magical gem around in front of those it was stolen from would not be a great idea, but I had to deal with the spell of weakness. Wolfram still had not realized there is a spell on them, but I tried to convince them it would be a good idea to make the area of their dispelling magic large enough to include themselves. However, they said this would take too much energy. They transformed into The Star Bear and we started dancing. When it was done, it felt like a heavy load was lifted off my shoulders and I could move freely again.

With my old self back, I went scouting into the fog. I saw many rats on the way and while I do not think any of them saw me, I think a few noticed my passing. When I reached the area where I had heard the sounds before, I saw a group of male apeoids excavating something. I saw several enormous heaps of dark ash and could see two mine shafts leading down into the ground with constructed stone walls and ceilings. From the amount of ash that was piled up, the crypt must either be a brobdingnagian cavern or the ash must be constantly replenishing. Straight ahead, I saw what looked like a whirlwind with walls that looked like almost solid ash at least 30 meters wide. I had just spotted it when a the wall parted to let Nyra out. In the aperture, I could spot a camp with tents bathed in sunlight. Either the very centre over the crypt is clear of ash or somebody is using a spell to keep the ash out.

Nyra was walking towards me and looked like they were on their way back to our party, so I hurried back. They were alone, so they had probably been correct when they said their master would not come. I reached the others in good time before Nyra and told them what I had seen.

Last edited by Stomoxys; 02-14-2021 at 12:55 PM.
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Old 02-24-2021, 02:03 PM   #62
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 195 since leaving The Homeland

Wolfram wanted to fight and speculated that the the master was controlling the souls of their followers. While I agreed that the master seemed insane and should be put out of their misery, we had no idea how to do it and should talk to them to gain more information. Wolfram did eventually agree to go, but insisted they should be in bear shape and refused to rule out an unprovoked attack, even though I informed them I would not join in on any suicide. Nuur-Karif had no such compunctions though. On the one hand, the bear shape would keep them from saying something stupid, but on the other hand, their bear shapes are more aggressive.

Nyra appeared from the fog while we were talking, but waited at a distance when when they saw we were arguing. I decided it would probably be safer to go without Wolfram and Nuur-Karif and suggested this to the others. They did not mind, but Nyra's master had made it clear that everyone would have to make a choice and follow the instructions of the letter, go away or go to the camp. This went over the head of Wolfram when I explained it to the others, but in the end, we all decided to go, Wolfram as The Star Bear.

Walking past the excavation site, the humans stopped and stared at us one by one and the sounds of digging gave way to silence, only broken by the churning of the whirlwind. Nyra led us straight to the wall of the twister and stopped there. Nothing happened for several seconds and I could not help but look nervously around before an opening appeared, revealing the campsite and a clear, blue sky.

Stepping across the boundary, my first impression was the sweet fresh air filling my lungs. I had been breathing dusty air for so long that I did not even notice it any more, but now it became obvious. Straight ahead, a human was staring at us. Behind them, I saw four shallow depressions in the ground, just large enough for an apeoid to lie down in and there was an apeoid in each. While they looked dead, we saw something similar in the crater and it seems to be more of a coma with very low blood pressure and little to no breath. Behind us, the opening to the outside world closed and we were led to one of the five tents.

Inside, a collection of portable tables and chairs had been set up and Nyra indicated we should sit down. Nuur-Karif and I sat down by the table and Nuur-Karif got Nyra to sit down next to them after I whispered that they might prove a useful hostage. Grogg sat down on the ground and muttered something about not having their sewing kit while Wolfram prowled around acting like a barely tame animal. At several points I was concerned their horns would tear the tent cloth, but eventually they sat down on the ground.

Nuur-Karif asked Nyra where their master was, but they did not know and Grogg pointed out that the letter did not say anything about meeting them, strictly speaking. We sat there in an awkward silence for several minutes before an apeoid opened the tent flap and walked in. I immediately recognized them as a spirit we had seen at the crater. Grogg had thrown rocks through the spirit and clearly remembered as well as me. The apeoid said nothing, but sat down with Nyra and they started talking in Arani. When they walked past me, I could sense something magical about them. I got the impression Nyra and the apeoid barely spoke Arani better than me and I struggled with catching their meaning. However, the apeoid was clearly irritated and wondered what we were doing there, but Nyra countered that it was the will of the master.

Nuur-Karif asked what they were talking about and Nyra confirmed that the apeoid had recognized us and that they were worried we worked for the master's siblings. Similar to the leader of The Greys in the crater, the apeoid was wearing a black robe with purple trim and I think they were a mix of elf and human. Nuur-Karif continued by asking about the apeoids in the ditches outside, but was only told they were resting and anchoring themselves. Nyra and the apeoid discussed a bit more and the apeoid said they did not like the bear and left the tent.

The awkward silence returned and Nuur-Karif sat down on the ground to pray, ignoring Wolfram who came over and started licking their face. Not getting any response, the bear waddled towards the exit, ignoring my protestations. Not much had changed outside, except the human that had been staring at us was now kneeling next to one of the trenches. Wolfram left the tent and started sniffing around while I stayed in the opening to observe them. Grogg also got up, making Nyra protest and I asked Nyra if they had any sewing equipment. They produced some purple yarn, which pacified Grogg. There was nothing I could do to keep Wolfram from getting themselves killed though.

Returning to Nuur-Karif and Nyra, I asked them more about their gods. The Big Person is a god of the jungle that protects the wilds and the creatures that live there. By disrespecting the jungle, the apeoids can bring down the wrath of The Big Person, causing calamity and ruin. This would explain how the apeoids in the east have avoided the faith or Arland.

Matapl, The Small or Talking Person is a more personal god, interacting directly with sentient creatures and utilize their emotions, desires, and intoxication for trickery and to strike bargains with unexpected consequences. However, Matapl can also be a protecting force for those who have its favour. It is not hard to see how this would be a very powerful force among the apeoids. So powerful, in fact, that the priests of the river are trying to eradicate the worship of Matapl and Matapl is considered to be gone in some sense. They sound like a god it is very appropriate to impersonate.
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Old 02-24-2021, 02:20 PM   #63
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 195 since leaving The Homeland

Our discussion was cut short by the leader of the greys entering the tent. They looked like a tall, lean mix of human and elf, but with pale greyish skin and hair and Nuur-Karif whispered that they were the spirit they had seen in the mist. Outside I spotted the apeoid from earlier, which seemed to be some kind of lieutenant, keeping a watch on Wolfram awkwardly trying to keep the tent flap open with their snout without entering. Nyra sprang up, embracing their master and refused to let go, even when they sat down by the table. As Nyra and the master passed, I felt even stronger magic from the master than from the lieutenant.

The master asked Nyra if anyone spoke Arani. While I could understand what they said, I would struggle to translate a conversation and did not object when Nyra said they would do the translation. The master muttered something that did not sound very flattering before asking who they were dealing with. Nuur-Karif answered using the fake names, but the master were uninterested in names and wanted to know who we were. Nuur-Karif declined to answer, instead asking what the master was doing at the crypt. Nyra looked flustered by the answer and leaned over their master's lap to whisper something to Nuur-Karif before translating the question into an answer by saying we were those that had come to investigate what was happening in the area. As a response, we were told that we were right to be concerned and they wondered what they could do to help us. In Arani, it sounded like it was obvious we were there to beg for help and they would deign to listen to our request, but Nyra thankfully moderated the tone in their translation. Nuur-Karif was not satisfied with this and started asking increasingly direct questions about what the master's plans were and their intentions for the gate to the realm of the dead while I groaned inwardly. I fully expected Nuur-Karif to attack the master if they disapproved of the reply.

Instead of answering, the master called out in a language I do not know and the human that had been attending the ditches entered. The master then produced something from the sleeves of their robes and held it up in front them. I could not see the thing itself, but I could sense that there was something magical there and I got the impression of something shimmering, like the spirit shards. The master looked questioningly at the human and got an affirmative nod in response before inhaling deeply and the thing in their hand vanished. They then turned to Nuur-Karif and spoke in the language of Arland with a slightly altered voice that we had a lot to talk about and asked what we knew about the portal to the realm of the dead.

Nuur-Karif was more interested in how they had learned the language and asked if the master had taken the spirit shard from The Underworld or swapped it with the other human. The master confirmed they had taken it from the human and would maybe never be able to return it. Nuur-Karif was suspicious, but the master insisted that it was entirely voluntary. From what Nyra told us, it is not clear that the humans are able to give any kind of consent, but Nuur-Karif seemed more or less satisfied. The master then turned to Wolfram and asked if the bear could understand them, mostly out of politeness I believe, which Nuur-Karif confirmed. Addressing the bear, the master said that they had and their siblings continued to do wrong things. I should specify that they exclusively referred to their male siblings and I do not think they meant siblings in the biological sense.

Returning to the previous subject, Nuur-Karif again asked about the gate to the realm of the dead and the master asked what we knew about the sibling serpents. Pretending like they did not understand, Nuur-Karif asked what the sibling serpent were and were told that they were entities that regulated what could come in and out of the part of The Underworld where nothing from our world can live. After the last meltdown, they had been weakened and the master feared that their siblings had captured an aspect of the serpents in order to use its power for their own purposes. To make things worse, they are now planning to use the aspect to shatter the gate to that part of The Underworld. According to the master, apeoids that live too long, like their siblings, become covetous, short sighted, and power hungry creatures. While this sounds like typical apeoid behaviour to me, there might be something to their their claim. The elves do live longer than the other apeoids and do seem particularly deranged.

A more pressing concern was the demon beneath us and Nuur-Karif asked what plans the master had for it. Before they arrived, the master had planned to release it, but now they intended to capture it instead. Using a large collection of spirit fragments they had collected from their followers, they intended to lure the demon into a prison that would keep it occupied and contained for a while. If their siblings released the forces of The Underworld, they could enslave entities that were trapped in the earth. I asked if this was why they had released The Nine, which they confirmed, so they cannot be all bad. The Nine had been the first they released, because they had been the closest and most obvious, indicating that the master came from somewhere to the east.

Referring to them as the master became tedious and they made it clear they did not care what we called them, so we decided to call them Odon. I asked them if there were more stars captured underground and they replied there were two other places they wanted to revisit, indicating they had been there a long time ago. Before they could elaborate, Grogg interjected and wanted to know if Odon had met Orga. They had known of something they called the titans that fought the dragons and kept them at bay, but believed the titans were now gone and the dragons were free to roam. Grogg insisted that the spirit of Orga still lived on in Grogg's clan.

After Grogg's presentation, Odon turned to Wolfram And asked them to turn into a human. Nuur-Karif leaned over to me and whispered that what Odon was saying was good and we should go back to Yana. I was a bit surprised that they were thinking about Yana now that we had found someone who might be able to help them with their mission to find Ashtar's sibling, but only whispered back that what Odon was saying was horrible.

In the meantime, Odon explained to Wolfram again that they had done wrong things, but now they were trying to undo some of it. Their siblings had tried to use them, but they did not wish to use their powers or control others and would prefer to be left alone somewhere between the meltdowns. However, with the plans to break the gate to the realm of the dead, they could no longer remain passive and had to use their power.

Wolfram had so far been in their bear shape and stared silently at Odon, but now they transformed into a human and started preaching about what they have been taught is bad magic. It has been hard to identify from their actions, but they claim that magic that enslaves bodies and spirits, especially those that are dead, is bad. Odon responded that Wolfram would not approve of many of the things they did, but Wolfram's shapeshifting could be just as dangerous. Wolfram did not react to this, but instead continued their interrogation, asking about Odon's followers. The dull look in Wolfram's face was now gone, so Odon must have removed the spell of idiocy. Odon's followers had clearly had had parts of their spirits removed, but Again, Odon insisted that it was all voluntary and they were free to leave whenever they wished, but some had given away the will to leave. This was enough to satisfy Wolfram, who had seen the trap Odon had prepared for the demon. It was in the neighbouring tent and looked like a spirit shard as large as a barrel.

Hopefully they are telling the truth when they say they just want to detain the demon and not use it for anything nefarious. We have little choice but to trust them at this point. They certainly know more about the demons than us and possible more than anyone but Krull. According to Odon, the process that made the demons was similar to the one that had created the greys and the greys had been involved in the creation of the demons.

Producing the map, I got Odon to point out the places they planned to visit. One was the crypt of kings in the middle of the wetlands, the other a place in the desert at the southern tip of the mountains separating Arland from The Cities of the Prince. Both were already marked by the previous owners of the map. The marker in the desert indicated the ruins of a city that had been associated with and greater than Ur. At the Crypt of Kings, the apeoids had buried their kings to trap their spirits which was supposed to protect the lands. Probably just another idiotic plot to avoid death. I pointed out that the kings would soon be joined by a demon as well, which made Wolfram freak out. They seem to think it is a great secret, even though it was so obvious to Ebsalon that Isa did not even have to say it out loud and anyone with agents at the evening fort, presumably all the noble families in Arland, must be aware of where they took Madan. Reacting to this information, Odon said they would then go to the crypt first.
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Old 02-24-2021, 02:34 PM   #64
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 195 since leaving The Homeland

When I asked if there was anything we could do to help, Odon proclaimed that the most important anyone could do was strengthen the sibling serpents. However, they did not know where their siblings were keeping the aspect, only that it corresponded to a physical location. As far as they knew, the areas east of Amaya and south of the wetlands were controlled by their siblings. I wondered how many siblings they had, and they said they did not know, but when I asked for at least the order of magnitude, they thought there were at least a hundred. Because they spend most of their time plotting and scheming against each other, they are less dangerous than they could have been, but they were now working more or less in concert to break the gates.

The talk of Amaya reminded me of something Krull had said and I asked them why there were so many more females than males in the eastern jungle. They responded that most of the males are sent to their siblings in some kind of arrangement. Presumably their spirits are stolen, but for some bizarre apeoid reason, the siblings despise females and only take male spirits. Pakk and Gromann had asked if we had seen any birdlike creatures in the crater and I asked Odon about them The referred to them as beaked creatures and they had fallen from The Heavens. They did not recommend dancing with them, as I had done in my vision, but did not elaborate, instead saying that I seemed to be connected to both The Heavens, The Earth, and The Underworld. The first two are obvious and I suppose the last is the result of my connection with Ashtar. During meltdowns, the barriers between the tree worlds are weakened and starts seeping into each other.

Odon seems to know a lot about The Underworld, so I asked if they knew if there was a connection between Vaxo and Ashtar, but they claimed Vaxo is much closer to us. In a sense, that is obvious since Vaxoan is right here, but with the snakes guarding the island and the split tongue of the priest, I had assumed there was a connection. They also said they believed I would go to the realm of the dead, but I got the distinct feeling that People do not belong there in the Ashtarite temple at The Evening Fortress, so I believe they were wrong.

The demon prisons must also have components of all three worlds and I asked about them. Odon said the prison were connected to the earth and thus could be controlled by entities from The Underworld, but they were created using energy from The Heavens. That was why they were placed near the Star Circles and they remembered that there had been a contiguous chain of Azura priests within sight of each other from the circle to the crypt. I wondered if they had been in there when the demons were imprisoned, but they were unsure if it was their own or someone else's memory. Tivito had designed the the ritual, but the Azura priests were the ones performing it. The amount of energy drained from the skies had been noticed by the Azura priests in The Cities of the Prince, who had stopped the last two rituals, but there must have been much confusion when they found their own participating in the rituals.

Wolfram wondered if the aspect could be trapped in the sky. Odon hoped this would be impossible, as this would do horrible things to a god of The Underworld. They feared that some of their siblings still controlled priests of Azura. To find out more, we should go to the ruined city. However, none of us could read any language that would be useful there, so we should bring someone who could. The obvious choice would be Pakk and Gromann, who had already made plans to go there, but we did not have any way to reach them as they were presumably somewhere in the wetlands. Odon also warned that the ruined city would be at least as dangerous as this crypt and they were a bit surprised that we had not killed each other under the influence of the demon. While I would not be affected by the hysterical powers of a demon, Odon implied that most apeoids would be tearing each other to pieces. Perhaps the others gain some protection from their respective deities.

I asked Odon if they could leave us for a while so we could discuss in private what to do. Nuur-Karif was happy that Wolfram was suspicious of Odon, taking it as a sign they were not manipulating us, while Wolfram was still suspicious and Grogg was happy to have met someone who had heard of Orga. Going to the ruined city sounded like the best way to proceed, but we would have to get hold of Pakk and Gromann. Kra could perhaps send a letter, but they probably could not bring a response back so it would be difficult to coordinate. Wolfram wanted to send Kra to Isa, reasoning that Pakk and Gromann had probably returned to The Evening Fortress by now. I doubt that they would have leave The Crypt of Kings before they had dug up the whole place and studied every text they could find, but even if they had, I failed to see why we should send the message to Isa and not to Pakk and Gromann directly. There was also the obvious solution of asking Odon to take a message when going to the crypt.

Nuur-Karif left to find Odon, but soon returned and told us they were busy. However, Odon entered the tent soon after and asked if we were willing to do two things to help them. The first was to collaborate with Azura if they still only admitted females into their ranks. Niffi said that Azura had expelled all the male priests after the disaster in The Brown Forest and Odon implied this was because the greys only wanted male followers. Considering their sheer incompetence, I am not thrilled to be working with Azura. They handed one mirror shard to Krupik and Lunari who spent most of their time fighting over money and Lunari tried to sell it to a criminal organization and another shard to an agent of Tivito who promptly used it to power a demonic ritual. However, if the greys used star energy to capture the aspect of the sibling serpents, the Azura might be able to tell us where it happened, as I imagine it would take enormous amounts of energy. I would of course trust such information a lot more if it came from you, but I do not see any way to reach The Homeland in a reasonable amount of time.

Wolfram and Grogg managed to reveal we had a broken mirror shard. Odon had heard of these things, but did not know how to make or repair one. They thought it sounded like a very dangerous thing to carry around. They did react when I mentioned the name Krull, but did not say anything. So far, I have assumed that the mirror shard is an ancient artifact the Azura priests have had in their vaults, but Odon seemed to think it was created recently. Azura denied they knew how to make one, so I wonder who could have done so.

The other thing Odon wanted us to do was to exterminate Tivito, which immediately got Wolfram's attention. Because Tivito is a competitor to their own sect, Wolfram is very eager to smite them. I wonder if Tivito can imprison the greys like the demons. If so, it would be very convenient for Odon if someone else wiped them out.

Odon suggested that Grogg and Wolfram could help with the digging. The sooner they dug through the ash and reached the crypt, the sooner they could lure the demon into the prison and be on their way. They did not dare use magic to do the digging in case it would disturb the demon. While Odon and their followers got their nourishment by lying in the ditches, they had food and water for Nyra and they could spare enough to share for a few days. Wolfram and Grogg agreed to this, but Nuur-Karif wanted to go back to Yana. I agreed to come along and we started to prepare for the walk back. We should make it out of the most strongly affected area before nightfall, but would have to spend the night and come back the day after. I asked Nuur-Karif if it was a good idea to drag Yana and Hylda in here if it was as dangerous as Odon claimed, but they did not seem to care. It will be interesting to see how Nuur-Karif reacts if Yana goes berserk and tries to beat them to death.

On our way out, I remembered the green bottle I had been carrying around since the crater and showed it to Odon. They asked for it back and said it was bottled accidents. This prompted Wolfram to ask about the Saplurp and Odo answered they had left it away from the demon. Saplurps can gather the energies released by magical accidents, reducing the danger, but if they might release the energy if they are exposed to external influences, such as an arrow. If they had brought the Saplurp to the crypt, it would have absorbed too much demonic energy and would have become unstable.

We walked out of the camp together with the lieutenant, who's name was Paulon. Wolfram and Grogg disappeared down a mine shaft while Nuur-Karif and I walked into the mists and the sounds of digging soon faded behind us. We walked efficiently and talked about what we had learned and the connection between Ashtar and Vaxo. Unfortunately, their indoctrination is quite narrow and they knew even less than me.

The cart had made clear tracks that were easy to follow and judging from the tracks, Yana and Hylda had met with the two riders and then traveled together northwards to a small cottage. We reached it as Ajaw disappeared under the horizon and could see the cart and two horses outside, while Hylda was sitting in a window keeping watch. We sneaked up to the cottage and Nuur-Karif barged straight in, while I remained outside. It would be preferable if the night riders did not see me.
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Old 03-01-2021, 02:17 PM   #65
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 195 since leaving The Homeland

From inside I heard Nuur-Karif yelling about strangers in their shack. While their dress and colouring would mark them as a non native, the surprise must have worked because I heard some commotion from inside and Nuur-Karif and Yana came out alone. They walked a bit away from the shack and I sneaked up to them, making myself known. Yana was worried about Wolfram and Grogg, but Nuur-Karif calmed them and told them we had found allies at the crypt. Naturally, Yana was surprised and found it suspicious, but accepted Nuur-Karif's word.

Yana and Hylda had met up with the Night Riders and tried to persuade them to leave, but one of them had insisted they had to find someone and deliver something. It turned out it was Hadi, one of Amna's shadows that had tried to arrest Nuur-Karif at the boat when we traveled to Guling. Hadi had been less enthusiastic than the others and, according to Nuur-Karif, was an Ashtarite. Nuur-Karif decided they wanted to talk to Hadi, but I remained hidden for the time being, sneaking up to the house to listen when Nuur-Karif entered.

Hadi did not appear to recognize Nuur-Karif due to their disguise, but Nuur-Karif reminded them. Hadi was unfazed by this, but was unwilling to say what they were doing here and Nuur-Karif used the resulting silence as an excuse to start preaching. This went on for half an hour before Hadi interrupted Nuur-Karif and wanted to pray. This prompted the other Night Rider to leave the shack and I jumped in through the window. We sat down in a circle on the floor and started praying, but only a few minutes in, Hadi started convulsing and writhing before throwing up a black and red snake. Judging from its degenerate eyes, the snake was subterranean, but it had no trouble making its way towards Nuur-Karif. They hissed at each other for a while before the snake slithered up Nuur-Karif's arm and disappeared into their mouth. Hadi took some time to recover and were pleased when Nuur-Karif told them they had succeeded in their task and ran out to the other Night Rider.

I examined Nuur-Karif more closely and for once their dress was not soaked in blood and they appeared to be in good shape. They believed they had left a part of themselves in the realm of the dead that had now been returned to them. This would explain some of the deathly aspects I had seen in their aura and I checked their it again. It looked completely normal, like any other apeoid which could not be correct. I saw their aura before the events in Sam and even then it had aspects of death, so I tried again, but again saw only a mundane aura. It appears the snake not only brought a part of Nuur-Karif, but also a fake aura. While this has obvious advantages, it is not reassuring that I will not have any way to verify what goes on in Nuur-Karif's hysterical head.

I took the first watch and took up position on the roof of the shack. About two hours later, the Night Riders returned from the place they were sitting and entered the shack without noticing me. They were unsure where to go next, but Nuur-Karif convinced them to go to Bleakcastle, the city were I originally met Nuur-Karif and one of The Cities of the Prince. The Night Riders were naturally hesitant to go to a stinking, plague ridden city, but Nuur-Karif told them it was easy to disappear there and they complied. They will leave in the morning and I do not expect to see them again.

About two hours after Ajaw left the sky to Amna, I could see the mist had started gathering around the crypt again. I used the spell of magic sight again, but I suspect something went wrong, because the energies saturating everything in the area seemed much fainter than before. In any case, I did not see anything special around the crypt.

Half an hour later, I saw powerful flash from somewhere in the middle of the mist. I stared in that direction, but did not see any more flashes. However, about half a minute later, consistent with the delay of thunder at that distance, I heard a powerful boom. It sounded more like rockslide than thunder though. I quickly climbed in the window to wake Nuur-Karif and tell them what I saw, but I was interrupted by a very loud, deep rumble that shook the whole shack and I worried it would collapse. I ran outside, but could not see anything special and neither did Nuur-Karif who appeared in the window. Using magic sight again, I could see the energies in the area and the glow of the ashes and something was going on in the crypt. It looked like enormous shapes were flickering around in the fog, disappearing and reappearing all the time, but too diffuse for me to see clearly.

While Nuur-Karif was uninterested and went back to bed, I am concerned. Odon had planned to use a few days before they released the demon, but it appears they have started already. I hope Grogg and especially Wolfram have not done anything stupid. It will take several hours for me to get there and by then I expect it to be over, one way or another.
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Old 03-14-2021, 12:54 PM   #66
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 195 since leaving The Homeland

Whatever was happening at the crypt was still ongoing when my magic sight fizzled out. I climbed down to try to convince Nuur-Karif to come with me but with no success. I had hoped that pointing out that Wolfram and Grogg might be wounded and in need of medical attention would persuade them, but they were more interested in Yana. Perhaps for the best. I could travel much faster and quieter alone.

In case the fog would get too dark, I lit up a pebble with star energy, and this time it worked as expected. Putting the shining rock away in my pouch, I continued on my way, but had only walked for 10 minutes before I could sense waves of energy emitting from the fog. Diving for cover, I stared into the darkness and saw bright flashes rip through the roiling ash clouds, almost like quiet lightning. It was over in a few seconds, however, followed by a strange, almost unnerving calm. While the area was still saturated in strange energies, it felt like something was missing.

I hurried on towards the crypt. Contrary to my expectations, the fog became less dense as I got closer. Either they must have released Jori and the demon was gone, or Odon's plan had succeeded and they had captured the demon. It was comforting to be able to see the stars.

As I neared the crypt, I could see the whirlwind at a much greater distance than before. A few of Odon's rats were still scurrying around, but it looked like most of them had been killed, brutally. As I got closer, I saw no signs of anyone moving about, but Wolfram's totem was standing near the opening of one of the mine shafts. The circle of symbols around the totem had been partially wiped out by someone stepping on them and it looked like combat had taken place.

Judging from the tracks, Wolfram and Grogg had fought many smaller attackers. There were no corpses and very little blood though. Just the ever present ash. Towards the end, Wolfram must have turned into a bear, but it looked like extra ash had gathered in the bear's footsteps somehow. It looked like at least Grogg was still alive at the end, because their tracks led towards the whirlwind and they had dragged the bear with them.

Other apeoid tracks led out from the whirlwind and down into the open mine shaft. It did not look like they had been in a hurry. The shaft led down into the ground in the direction of the whirlwind at an angle of about 20 degrees. The walls and ceiling were of stone, with a slight arch keeping the ceiling up and it was completely dark. Under the ground, I again felt the presence that had been missing since I saw the flashes from afar.

I carefully crept down, until I spotted a source of light ahead. One of Odon's followers was standing in a doorway with their back to me and staring into a central chamber. Behind them were the shattered remains of a stone door that must have fallen outwards. I crept close enough to see through the doorway. Inside was a circular chamber with a domed ceiling. A stairway was spiraling further down along the edge of the chamber, creating a moat around a central platform. There were four doorways in the chamber, one in each cardinal direction, but the doors in the other three were still intact. I was looking through the door facing west. In front of each doorway was a small platform, but one would have to jump to reach the central platform. Curiously, there were traces of ash and soot in the chamber, but it did not look like it had been filled like the mine shaft. The mine shaft was not large enough to account for the enormous pile that had been excavated outside. I think the ash must have been generated as they dug.

On each of the small platforms, a follower of Odon was standing and staring at Paulon and a war machine at the centre of the chamber. The war machine, called a ballista by the apeoids, can throw arrows the size of spears with great force, but its slow reload speed and the steepness of the mine shaft would make it useless down in the crypt. However, the ballista was so magical I could sense it all the way to where I was lurking. I suspect it played a similar role to the mirror in Darwan's crypt and was involved in the ritual to bind the demon. I wonder how they got it down, as it looked like it was too large to fit through the mine shaft.

Paulon was standing next to the ballista and was using some type of magic. I can not be certain, but I believe they were examining the war machine and I settled down to observe. Nothing seemed to happen for nearly an hour though. The other followers were standing and staring while Paulon was casting some spell very carefully. I believe the other followers were somehow giving their energy to Paulon, though they appeared to be just standing there. The ritual did not look like it would conclude anytime soon, so I left as quietly as I had arrived.

Last edited by Stomoxys; 03-20-2021 at 10:48 AM.
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Old 03-14-2021, 01:07 PM   #67
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 195 since leaving The Homeland

I approached the whirlwind, but it did not open and it looked like it had picked up more ash since last time. Peeking through the gaps in the ash, the camp looked calm and illuminated by lanterns hanging in front of some of the tents. I waved the shining rocks and shouted, but got no response. I did hear a stressed out raven, presumably Kra, and the growls of a bear that sounded seriously ill. Wolfram was alive it seemed.

With Wolfram incapacitated, I used the opportunity to examine their totem pole. It looked rather forlorn where it was standing alone in the ash, kept erect by the its guy-wires. It was completely covered by pictographs depicting stars and various mammals, especially bears, as well as more abstract symbols reminiscent of those Wolfram draws on the ground. Examining it with magic confirmed that the pole was magical, even though Wolfram insisted it was not. I have some ideas for how I could examine it more closely, but with all the demonic energy in the area, I considered it too risky. It might require lots of energy and I did not want to gather it from the environment here.

I gathered up the lantern and a knife Wolfram had dropped and dragged the totem with me over to the whirlwind. Again nothing happened when I approached, so I tried to stick a hand into the wind. It was so powerful that I could not keep my hand straight, but with running speed it might be possible to jump through. I would risk getting tossed away by the gale though, so instead I shouted out in Arani and waved the shining stone around until an opening appeared in the wall of wind.

One of Odon's followers was standing inside, staring dully at me. Behind them, Wolfram's spirit bear was lying on their back looking unconscious and I could see Grogg squatting in front of one of the tents with the tent flap draped around their head. Both of them looked wounded. I went to the bear and they were completely covered in ash, but also seemed to shed ash from their fur and a small puff of ash appeared every time they exhaled. I had just started on a closer examination when Wolfram growled and lashed out with a paw that I was barely able to dodge. From my superficial examination, they did not appear to be bleeding to death, so I went over to Grogg instead. It appears Wolfram has embraced Jori and I wonder if they will have to smite themselves now.

I got no response when I talked to Grogg or carefully poked them with my staff. They seemed completely transfixed with whatever was in the tent, but they blocked the entrance. Lying down on the ground, I was able to see under the tent flap. In the far side of the room was an apeoid, that had to be Nyra based on their clothing, lying unconscious on a bed. One of Odon's followers sat next to the bed and a strange, transparent tube, like flexible glass, stretched from the arm of the follower to Nyra's arm. It looked like blood was flowing through the tube from the follower to Nyra. There was also strong magical energies around the bed and a number of items that looked magical and probably had something to do with healing was scattered around the tent.

Again I tried to contact Grogg, but they simply shoved me gently away. The idiotic expression on their face, as well as being an apeoid and being Grogg, indicated that they were intoxicated. Grogg and Wolfram were supposed to help excavate the tunnel to the crypt. If Odon left them without supervision, they might have done something stupid and released the demon too early. Why they would drug themselves is a mystery, but it might be the cause of their stupidity. A more sinister possibility is that Grogg has become one of Odon's followers, but I do not believe this is the case. Grogg seemed even less responsive than them.

I dumped Wolfram's equipment next to them and they grabbed the knife with their paws and started caressing it. It did not look very likely that they would cut themselves, so I let them be and inspected the rest of the camp. The other tents looked very normal except for the lack of beds, which Odon and their followers do not need. The wall of wind was still swirling around the camp. Trying to mimic the motion I had seen the followers use, I was able to make an opening on the second try and walked out. It did not close behind me though, even though I waited for several seconds. Instead, the aperture remained open and seemed to destabilize the wall around itself. I shouted for one of the followers standing around and gestured that they should close the opening, which they did with a simple gesture. In doing so, they revealed to me the trick of how to control the openings. By channeling a little bit of energy, the winds could be shaped to make the opening and it would close itself given permission. However, I had not known how to give it permission, so the opening had remained open and would probably have collapsed had I left it. Considering that I must have used energy from the surroundings, full of demonic influence, that could have been risky.

Outside the whirlwind, I had a clear view of the sky to the east and sat down on a rock to meditate. All The Nine were dancing now, but they looked a bit more reticent than normal. I did not notice much else going on, so I found my bed in one of the tents and went to sleep. If the demon bear woke up and went berserk, there were several of Odon's followers and Grogg between them and my tent.
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Old 03-27-2021, 06:41 AM   #68
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 196 since leaving The Homeland

My sleep were rudely interrupted by someone yanking me out of my bed in the morning. It turned out to be Grogg and for a second I feared they were under demonic influence, but they did not appear to be enraged or otherwise hysterical and let me climb up on their shoulder once we got outside. Getting my bearings, I noted that morning had come, but the camp looked much the same as the night before. The demon bear was still sprawled on the ground close to the whirlwind wall. Kra was sitting on Grogg's other shoulder and were still visible and Grogg themselves looked worn, but not like they were about to fall over.

It soon became clear what had stirred Grogg, as Hylda's screams were able to pierce the churn of the whirlwind. Grogg roared back and set out in their direction of the wall and it looked like the intended to march straight through, so I quickly made an opening. Outside, Hylda, Nuur-Karif, and Yana were waiting, but Hylda lunged forward as soon as they saw Grogg and I was barely able to jump down before their arms enveloped Grogg. Together, they went to the tent, making it clear they intended to mate.

The rest of us dragged the cart inside and I closed the whirlwind while Nuur-Karif ran over to the bear to check on them. However, they were only able to state the obvious fact that Wolfram was wounded and there was something very strange going on with them. They also snatched away the dagger from the bear, despite my warnings, but the bear seemed oblivious to our presence. With not much else to do, Nuur-Karif and Yana erected their tent while I tested the ash. Mixing a bit of it with water, I got the same soapy feeling one gets from normal ash. It would be very unpleasant if it started raining, but Yana assured me that rain is rare in this month. On a related note, I wonder if Jori's ash is as fertile as the ash of Vaxo.

Nuur-Karif was on their way into the tent to pray and I noticed that all the ditches were empty. Being in one of those would probably give a better connection to the ground and I asked Nuur-Karif about it. They agreed, but did not seem interested and ducked into their tent followed by Yana. Grogg had woken me up earlier than I would prefer, but I could tell from Hylda's screaming that I did not wish to return to the tent. Instead, I decided to experiment and laid down in the nearest ditch. It was surprisingly pleasant and Ajaw felt warmer than above ground and I soon fell asleep, barely registering the faint tingling of magic.

I woke sometime later and stretched, feeling rejuvenated. The strange hunger I had felt since the day before was completely gone and I was not sleepy at all. Feeling energized could perhaps be explained by sleeping well in the ditch, but the lack of hunger or thirst would be more difficult to account for. I suspect I somehow absorbed energies from the ground and possibly from Ajaw as well.

Hylda's screams were still coming from the tent, but Wolfram had turned into a human and was sitting on the ground meditating. I confronted them about the demon bear, but they insisted it was not very important. Considering how their earlier rants about how horrible the demons were, this was a bit surprising. I suspect their indoctrination has been less thorough than Nuur-Karif's and, as a result, their only defense against inconsistencies is not thinking about it. In a sense, it is reassuring that their fanaticism is less severe. I can only imagine the angst if Nuur-Karif felt they had acted against the will of Ashtar.

Checking on their aura, I could not see any obvious changes since last time, but their bear auras were lurking in the background. I would have to study Wolfram in bear shape to be certain, but I got a hunch that something was off. However, Wolfram was unwilling to transform, claiming they were too hurt. They did look rather haggard and I suggested they should borrow Grogg's needle, but Wolfram said Grogg had given the needle to Odon. With a bit of prodding, Wolfram did confess their memory from the night before was jumbled, but they did not respond when I hinted that it might be due to drugs. I suppose a demon corrupting one of your shapes might disturb your mental faculties, but that would not explain Grogg's behaviour.

Before I could question them further, Paulon came in through the whirlwind with two followers and went to Odon's tent and I hurried around on the outside of the camp to the back of the tent. I had hoped to eavesdrop on Paulon's report to Odon, but I only heard the constant churn of the wind. Even without the wind, I am not sure I would have heard anything, as Odon and their followers seem to communicate at least partially without sound.

Since my little operation was a failure, I returned to Wolfram and told them about the crypt and ballista which only seemed to confuse them. They clearly needed rest, so I sneaked after Paulon when they reemerged from Odon's tent and left the camp with two new followers fresh from the ditches. Outside the whirlwind, the air was still full of ash and Paulon went down into the crypt again. I considered following them, but decided I was unlikely to learn anything new and returned to the camp.

Hylda had finally gone silent when I returned and Wolfram was nowhere to be seen. Yana was sitting outside their tent and told me Nuur-Karif was meditating. This usually means they are refilling their venom vials, which can keep them occupied for hours. I was considering what to do, when Yana suggested I could get some food. To my delight, Nyra had brought fruit, fish and bugs, so I was able to make a passable meal. Possibly the best I have had since I impersonated Matapl.

I was able to rouse Grogg, Wolfram, and Hylda from their rest and we all gathered to eat. Grogg was more than willing to tell us about what they had experienced the night before, but it seemed a bit disjointed. Grogg and Wolfram had fought each other to distract the demon until hordes of demons and horses surrounded them and wounded Nyra. The horse part is particularly suspicious as Horses are a recurring theme in Grogg's hallucinations. Grogg also claimed Odon had started crying when they saw Nyra, but had performed a wonderful medical operation to save Nyra's life. While there certainly were many interesting artifacts in the tent, I find Grogg's description of swirling light, time and smells less than plausible. To my relief, I saw no signs of demonic corruption in their aura, leaving drugs the most likely explanation.

Neither Wolfram nor Grogg were forthcoming about why they had drugged themselves, and changed the topic to what we should do next. Nuur-Karif wanted to go to Azura, convinced by my speculations that they should know something about Ashtar's twin, while Wolfram wanted to go to Byblos and murder Tivito followers. The first would require us to go to The Cities of the Prince and I am doubt the Azura priests would be able and willing to help, while Wolfram's plan started and ended with assaulting suspected Tivito members. Issues like how they were going to enter a crowded city without breaking down or how they intended to butcher the noble Larma family and get away with it did not bother them. I argued for finding Pakk and Groman and going to the ruined city. Odon had suggested it was a place of knowledge that might help with locating Ashtar's sibling or understanding the process Odon's siblings had used to capture the god. It was also much less likely to end with Wolfram attacking an army alone and dragging the rest of us down with them.

Yana and Hylda mentioned rumours of an Azura temple somewhere in the north of Arland. While a curious detail, it was far to vague and would require traveling through at least one war zone. Grogg and Wolfram would have to rest for several days before they could go anywhere anyway, so we left it at an impasse. I suggested to wolfram they should try to sleep in one of the ditches, but they only murmured something about witchcraft and disappeared into the tent while Nuur-Karif and Yana ducked into their own tent. Grogg was more receptive to the idea, but the ditches were not in troll size, so they dug their own and laid down to rest. It looked like the ditches saw more use now that Ajaw was higher in the sky.

Last edited by Stomoxys; 03-29-2021 at 12:25 PM.
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Old 03-27-2021, 07:34 AM   #69
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 196 since leaving The Homeland

With my companions unconscious, the camp was quiet so I decided to investigate Odon's tent. One of their followers was standing outside, but made no effort to keep me from entering. Nyra was still lying comatose on the bed with one of the followers giving them their blood. A screen at the back separated the room from the inner parts of the tent and shelves and tables with mystical artifacts lined the tent walls. A stack of parchment sheets covered with strange figures immediately caught my eyes. There were about thirty of them and and I could not figure out what the figures were supposed to represent. Perhaps some kind of geometrical shapes or a new writing system or something more esoteric. While I was studying them, tracing out the shapes and trying decipher their meaning, I heard someone entering the tent and carefully put them back.

One of Odon's followers entered entered the tent and stared at the blood donor for a while. I think the were communicating, but I could not detect any of them using magic. After staring at each other for about half a minute, they exchanged places and transferred the transparent tube to the arm of the new donor. At the end of the tube was an incredibly fine needle that they carefully inserted into a vein in the new donor's arm. I do not think I have seen so fine metalwork before except a few exquisite pieces of gold jewelry. However, this needle appeared to be made of some hard metal like steel.

Besides the parchments, there were also a large number of crystals, stones, and flasks in the room, including the bottle of accidents I had given to Odon. Many of the items were magical, especially a collection of star stones like those at the Azura temple and the star circles. These contained more energy and shone much brighter than the ones I have seen before and it almost felt like looking at a star. I will have to experiment with my own stone later. Unfortunately, Paulon entered looking displeased as usual, and got one of the followers to escort me out.

Not much had changed outside and Grogg. Grogg was still lying in their ditch and was mumbling something in their own language. The only word I could make out was 'Orga', which sounded like it was incorporated into a number of compound words. Perhaps I should get Grogg to teach me their language. It is much nicer to listen to than the other apeoid tongues and sounds almost like singing. At the moment, however, Arani would be a much more useful language to master and I set out to see if any of Odon's followers could help. Eventually, I found one that responded to Arani and I tried to explain that I needed to master the language and wondered if they had any reading material. They clearly understood what I said because they left and came back with a book.

The book was handwritten with detailed illustrations and must have been quite costly. It turned out to be a collection of fairy tales about some human prince. On the first page was an illustration of the prince riding on a lion, but the lion was smaller than Mir's lions and appeared to be a reddish brown instead of pale gold. The prince's clothing reminded me of those seen in Darwan's illusion, indicating that the book originated somewhere to the south. Leafing through the book, I stopped at an illustration and looked over my shoulder to make sure Nuur-Karif and Grogg were not nearby. In the illustration, the prince was fighting with something that looked like a big snake, about two and a half times longer than the prince, with short, stubby wings. The snake was spewing something from its mouth at the prince and reminded me of the apeoids' description of dragons and Grogg's claim that snakes were young dragons. Snakes are obviously not dragons, but Grogg knows more about them than anyone, so perhaps there is some connection. Nothing good would come from starting another theological discusion between Nuur-Karif and Grogg though.

Paulon had gone out through the whirlwind a short time after they had me thrown out of the tent and now they came back carrying a bolt meant for the ballista. Yana had been preparing lunch and Wolfram and Grogg appeared again. Wolfram had apparently come to their senses while they slept and now agreed that we should send Kra with a message to Gromann and Pakk and we could wait for them while Wolfram and Grogg recuperated. I agreed and suggested that we could send a message with the priests of Tsovin and Vagan to The Evening Fortress if it was worded opaquely.

I started drafting a message while Wolfram and Grogg discussed how fast Kra could fly. Grogg insisted Kra could reach Pakk and Gromann in the swamp in a couple of days since they once fetched Trollnip in a couple of days. They had to confess they did not know how far Kra had flown, but handed me the plant after taking a deep drag. Their eyes glazed over for a few seconds, though I did not notice anything besides a somewhat pleasant, spicy smell. From what I can tell, the plant belongs in poor soil and according to Grogg it grows in the mountains, which seems plausible, though I would not be surprised if I found it in a shady crevice in the stone desert.

Nyra entered the tent while we were talking, carrying a large platter of elaborately prepared fruit. They looked frail, but stumbled over to Grogg and presented the fruits and thanked them for saving their life. Grogg accepted and started stuffing themselves while Nyra reluctantly agreed to sit down. I got the impression they considered it dishonorable to sit down, but they were barely able to stand upright and passed out before they reached the chair. Luckily, Wolfram was able to catch Nyra before they fell and handed them over to Grogg. Wolfram did not look like they were in any shape to carry anyone. Grogg, on the other hand, lifted Nyra up on their should with little effort and I followed them outside.

Odon was standing in front of their tent, but came running when they saw Nyra. Four of their followers were standing around, but all of them snapped to attention, while Odon rushed Nyra back to their bed. Grogg and I followed and saw how Odon's followers started a new blood donation while Odon used some kind of magic. Whatever they were doing, it seemed to work, because the colour lowly returned to Nyra's pale cheeks.

There were no signs of the silver needle, prompting Grogg to ask about it. Odon looked pensive for a second before motioning for us to follow them further into the tent. Behind the first screen was a room that contained something that looked like an enormous spirit shard. I could see it with my bare eyes and I sensed that it was strongly magical, but at the same time, it felt like it muffled the world around itself. I could not sense any demonic presence from it, but Odon paid it no heed and walked through a second screen.

The innermost room in the tent was full of books and scrolls in what looked like many different languages. However, the centerpiece of the room was a glass cloche containing an apeoid heart. It looked perfectly fresh as if it had just been removed from a body, but there was no blood and it lay perfectly still with Grogg's needle sticking out of the left ventricle. Odon said Nyra's fleeting life would end if their heart was not returned to them soon and asked us what we knew about the needle. It was a bit unclear what they wanted to know, but they clarified they thought the heart was exhausted. From our experience, the needle restores fatigue very quickly, so the heart should be ready to be returned to Nyra.

We were ushered out of the tent and Odon did not want any help. When I pointed out I could provide them with star energy, they only muttered that they should have known that earlier, but now the tent needed to be completely clean. We were left outside, as the traffic in and out of the tent grew frantic before quickly subsiding again. My companions still needed rest, so I fetched the Arani book and sat down outside to observe Odon's tent.
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Old 03-29-2021, 12:57 PM   #70
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 196 since leaving The Homeland

I struggled more with the book than expected. Odon's letter had been straightforward to understand, but I suppose it helped that they tend to repeat themselves at least three times. Approximately an hour later, one of the followers approached me holding a paper slip. There was not anything written on it, but I found Grogg's needle attached with a piece of wax when I unfolded it. Both Grogg and Kra were very pleased to get the needle back and Grogg immediately stuck it in their neck. They almost fell over, but Hylda caught them and lowered them relatively gently to the ground. They did not get to rest for long though. Just a few minutes later, Odon entered the tent and wanted us to join them in the conference tent.

Hylda removed the needle from Grogg and we all followed Odon to the tent with the tables. Inside, Odon asked us all to sit and indicated they wanted to talk about Nyra. However, Nuur-Karif was more interested in the demon and asked if it had been captured. Odon claimed it was and would remain imprisoned as long as they were not destroyed and could maintain the prison. As long as the demon were under control, Wolfram's condition should not get any worse or spread to any of their other shapes. I was curious about the ballista and Odon thought it was used to lure the demon into the crypt. Like other apeoids, the demons covet trinkets they perceive as valuable. The ballista was full of energy, which would have made it almost irresistible to the demon. I would have thought the ballista and the demon would have been irresistible to Tivito as well, but Odon thought that they might have been too busy securing Volkir. Wolfram declared that the ballista was bad sorcery and should be destroyed, but Odon cautioned them and said Paulon would look into it. Who knows what would happen if the ballista was destroyed and all the energy in it released. It is interesting that Odon can be destroyed though.

Odon returned to the issue of Nyra and said they were currently alive, but in a coma and it was uncertain if they were going to survive. Like Nuur-Karif with Yana, Odon wanted to mate with Nyra and sought Nuur-Karif's advice on whether they should they turn Yana into one of the undying like themselves. Nuur-Karif responded with a long sermon concluding that Odon had to let Nyra die if it was their time and Odon agreed. One would think that age would make the apeoids less hysterical, but as Odon has hinted before, the opposite seems to be the case. I was a bit surprised that they apparently could make females undying and asked Odon about it. If they could, the exclusion of females by the greys would make no sense, but I suppose I should be used to that by now. Odon simply shrugged and said they were already in enough trouble, hinting that this was just another irrational apeoid rule.

Grogg thought it would be better to turn trolls or People into undying. While trolls are better than other apeoids, making anyone undying sounds rather awful. It would be interesting to observe the process though. Wolfram was very much against the notion, but before they could voice their opinion, Odon again assured them that their followers were all volunteers that had willingly given up the ability to die. This was why they had kept Paulon back when Grogg and Wolfram were fighting the demon, as unlike them, Paulon could not escape a possession by dying. From Nuur-Karif, I got the impression that it was too late for the villagers that had been possessed and death was not an escape for them. I should ask them about it later.

Odon continued reassuring Wolfram, stating that even the rats were not really harmed. They simply removed some memories and added others while the rats served. This was no worse than the breeding of livestock for food that the apeoids are doing. While this is true, of course, they could have saved themselves the effort. In Wolfram's world, apeoids are somehow different from other mammals and deserves special treatment. More importantly, Odon claimed they could not see what the rats were seeing in real time. If this is true, I wonder when and how they became aware that we were on our way towards the crypt. Even though we spent some time repacking the cart and killing their followers, we moved faster than a rat should be able to run. Pressing them on the matter would probably be counter productive, so I let it slide.

While Odon and Paulon clearly has apeoid bodies that looks like elves or humans, on closer inspection it is clear that they are neither. They are taller and more robust than elves, but still quite slim with narrow ears like elves. In addition, their skin is paler, which might be due to being undying. I tried to get Odon to clarify what they were, but they were unwilling or unable to say much beyond stating they were not star creatures. They have earlier indicated that their current body is not their original body, and they seemed a bit confused by the whole question. At least I have not detected any star energy in them.

Odon had one last thing they wanted to discuss, the gods. They thought the gods were the only beings more durable than themselves. However, there were other being that were trying to consume the gods, those the apeoids call dragons. The fact that the dragons were back made them nervous that their siblings might actually succeed in their insane plan to capture Ashtar's sibling. Grogg declared that Odon did not have to worry about the dragons as long as there were trolls like themselves that descended from Orga. Odon wondered if Grogg meant the giants, though they have earlier referred to Orga as a titan. If this was the case, Grogg might help stop the dragons. As usual, the apeoids are obsessed with whom has descended from whom. I was more interested in whether Odon could heal Grogg's arm, but Odon said it had died a natural death and could not be restored.
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