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Old 07-09-2020, 09:43 AM   #11
Stomoxys
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 172 since leaving The Homeland

Nujan disappeared before we got back to Grogg, but shortly after, Isa, Lunas and Lunas' bodyguard, Keri, showed up. They wanted to introduce us to a very large human called Wolfram that Lunas had encountered in the Wetlands. Wolfram was almost as tall as Pakk, very hairy and dressed for war in heavy armour and carrying several weapons. According to Lunas, they were an alternative to Tivito and came from the Cities of the Prince, so I figured they were a Tiri follower. When I informed Lunas of Lunari's death, they were not very emotional and they soon left to asses the situation in the fortress. Grogg had been very quiet throughout, but I convinced them they needed their full strength to punish those that killed Lunari and they took the needle from Pakk and stung themselves. Knowing that Lunari often borrowed the ring from Grogg and that they had been exploring a strange temple, I went through Grogg's pockets. As I feared, the ring was not there. This led to a discussion of the Kabal temple and Pakk claimed that the Kabalists had captured and enslaved spirits. Wolfram disapproved of this and wanted to go to the temple straight away, but I told them of Ebsalon's warding. We should talk to Gromann and Ebsalon before we did anything rash.

Wolfram helped the injured Pakk to their chamber and it turned out Ebsalon was there. They said the warding on the Kabal chamber should dissipate the next night, but crossing it before could result in the spirit being ripped from the body. Wolfram wanted to inspect the chamber personally and Ebsalon did not trust them to not disturb the ward and came along. On the way, both of them were harping on about not using magic without 40 years of studying. Considering that Krupik had studied for many years and still had a tendency to blow up, I'm not convinced how helpful their advice is. Reaching the entrance to the chamber, the Tiri follower wanted to know if there were any empty rooms nearby, preferably with a view of the sky. Considering that all the the chambers in the building seems to contain some kind of cult temple, that seemed unlikely. I suggested the roof, but Ebsalon made clear that nobody should do anything magical in or near the tower before the warding dissipated and ushered us out. Back in the common hall, where Grogg was still sleeping on the floor, I engaged Wolfram in a discussion about demons. They claimed that demons are the spirits of powerful mages that are trapped and not capable of moving on and the mages do this on purpose because of their fear of death. This seems very stupid to me and I tried to get a better explanation from Wolfram, but they did not seem to understand the question. They did seem very interested in The Night Mirror and The Immortals and Wolfram's description of how demons are created sounded a lot like what Krull had told me.

Last edited by Stomoxys; 07-09-2020 at 04:26 PM.
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Old 07-09-2020, 01:02 PM   #12
Stomoxys
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 173 since leaving The Homeland

When I got down for breakfast in the morning, Wolfram was already there and had cleaned their armour in the night. Grogg did not want to wake up, but they did want to eat and, to my dismay, I could see Nuur-Karif with Yana outside. When I was finishing my breakfast, Gromann and Ebsalon came in, with the dwarf looking tired and irritated and the human looking tired and excited. They wanted to share their discovery, so I woke Grogg and fetched Nuur-Karif. Comparing the books found in the tower with Gromann's books, Ebsalon and Gromann had partially translated the language used in the books and now knew the names of The Immortals; Jori, Volkir, Tuza, Gritt, Albor, Darwan and Krull. Each of The Immortals seems to have been associated with some kind of aspect and they had identified seven aspects from the texts. Gritt had a title that which meant something with guard and was associated with whims and empathy, while Volkir had something to do with the military and strong winds and light. Krull was probably the last immortal and was associated with emptiness and thoughts and were supposedly able to see the threads of fate. The last four aspects were more unclear and they did not know which aspect was associated with which immortal. One of them was associated with ash and anger, while another might have something to do with dancing animals. A third was associated with shadows and pale or blinding sands and the last had a title that involved vision and was associated with hot thoughts about bad smells. Some of these sound very odd and I suspect a full translation will make more sense. I informed Gromann and Ebsalon of the book Lunari had taken from the tower, which lead to a long search of Lunari's room. They had hidden the book well, but eventually found it and let Ebsalon have the bat box as well. Unlike us, they were able to control the bat swarm within. Nuur-Karif had gone to the chapel and asked me to bring Grogg and Wolfram. Grogg wanted to sleep with the needle, but Wolfram came along.

A strange incident happened when we arrived at the chapel. Nuur-Karif, Yana and Isa were inside washing themselves when we arrived, but were determined that Wolfram should not see them naked. The mammals are especially concerned with hiding their shame from members of the other sex. As a side note, they usually refer to me as male for some reason. After the short delay, we all got inside the chapel and I placed Wolfram on a bench next to Isa and Yana while Nuur-Karif was praying. Wolfram brought a staff as thick as a log and decorated with strange symbols into the chapel, but behaved very respectfully. After Nuur-Karif got the great snake to inspect Yana, Nuur-Karif proceeded to tell everyone about their childhood. It was not particularly interesting, but the mammals got very emotional. Nuur-Karif then told the others about their task of freeing the tortured spirits and Wolfram proclaimed they were willing to help. The closest burial ground on the map seems to be close to Ur and Isa had earlier hinted that there was a quick way to get there, but they were unwilling to elaborate. When I pressed the matter, they said it involved a high risk of just disappearing. Mir had used it earlier which was the cause of the strange star lightning I had observed. Isa then changed the subject by inviting everyone for lunch with cake and I went to wake Grogg, again. During lunch, I probed Wolfram on the Tiri cult and asked if they worship Amna or Sebak. They seemed confused by the question, but said they were worshipping Amna as seen in the sky and that Tiri has a spirit. I suspect they are worshipping Amna, but is focusing on one of Amna's aspects that we have no need of. From Wolfram's discussions with Isa, they seem to know quite a lot about magic and they were quite suspicious of Kra, but were willing to accept the spirit raven when assured that Grogg had not captures it. Nuur-Karif appeared to be mesmerized by Yana and did not make any intelligible contributions to the discussion. The lunch went on for a long time, so I got my writing kit and worked on a design for an inscription for Lunari. It will naturally be a bit absurd, but they were a bit of an absurd character. The other's went to do various things, Nuur-Karif going to the chapel alone, thankfully, and I was left with Isa. When I mentioned that Krull had told me of their parentage, they quietly left, leaving me alone with a sleeping Grogg. Again, I do not understand why such meaningless things cause so much drama among the mammals.

My design for the Lunari inscription was a complete disaster, the Slurping Fox does not fit at all with the Flower when I have to spell LuNaRi underneath, so I decided to go out and get some air. In the inner courtyard, I met Wolfram who wanted to inspect the cult tower and the attached building from the outside. I came along, as I doubt they would be able to climb it alone, even though it would not be a very high climb from the fortress walls. It turned out the access to the walls were locked. I could easily have picked the locks, but decided that now was not the time to annoy Lunas and Ebsalon further and convinced Wolfram to send a letter to Ebsalon. Instead, Wolfram wanted to teach me some of the principles of magic, which sounded useful and kept us occupied until dinner. When the servants started arriving with food, I went to fetch Grogg and sent a message to Lunas who wanted to speak with us. Nuur-Karif was reading a letter from Mir when I got back and showed it to me. It restated the lie that they were going to the capital, ordered us to visit their camp and told us not to mess with Isa, the last bit in basic code. I am not particularly inclined to follow any of those instructions. Lunas then showed up and told us that Madan's condition had deteriorated and they were starting to become dangerous. Wolfram might be able to do something about it, but sounded doubtful, especially when Lunas proposed to lock them in with Madan. While such an experiment would no doubt be interesting, I am not convinced it would be worth the risk. Maybe Wolfram can say something about the jar in the dungeon. We should investigate it first.

Last edited by Stomoxys; 08-03-2020 at 03:00 PM.
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Old 07-25-2020, 05:28 AM   #13
coronatiger
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Default Re: Campaign log: Report to Great Priest Ixanama

Excellent writing, Stomoxys! I especially love reading Xipil's view on things, as his lizardman worldview differs radically from Nuur-Karif's. The two characters can see the same situation and interpret it completely differently!
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Old 08-08-2020, 07:34 AM   #14
Stomoxys
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 173 since leaving The Homeland

Pressing Lunas on why we had to be locked in with Madan, they admitted they did not really know why, but that was how it was done when Varja was possessed. By staying at least a full night in the room, they hoped we would be able to observe Madan and perhaps learn something, but it was unclear what. Wolfram claimed to have extensive training in dealing with such matters and seemed willing to go immediately, but I wanted more information first. The room Madan is in is equipped with double doors in order to always keep a locked door between whatever is inside and the world. Similarly, food and drink can be brought in through a system of two hatches and communication with the outside happens with a bell. No food is prepared in the room and weapons are not supposed to be raised inside, but there are a number of board games there. The most important rule seems to be that books or writing equipment cannot be brought in or out of the room. Madan and a mage called Arkan had set the rules when Varja was possessed, but the rules were never explained and the mage disappeared when Krull arrived. The current goal is to keep the demon inside Madan and Madan alive as long as possible. Apparently, possessing apeoids is intoxicating to demons and, being apeoids themselves, they cannot resist the temptation. While possessing someone, they are confined to one place, so it seems possible that Tuza will be trapped as long as Madan is alive and confined. Perhaps the games are meant to distract the demon from trying to escape as both Krull and Madan had spent much time in the room when Varja was possessed. While Lunas went to fetch Pakk and Ebsalon, I finally convinced Wolfram that we should not rush headlong to Tuza by pointing out that Grogg was still not in good shape and we might get more information if Gromann kept working on the Tivito books. Instead, we could focus on the Kabal temple that was said to contain many trapped spirits. A great abomination according to the followers of Tiri.

At this point, Yana showed up and Nuur-Karif lost interest in anything else. The Ashtarites are not very fond of trapped spirits, considering them stolen property of Ashtar, but this is clearly less important than Nuur-Karif's desire to mate. Yana was shortly followed by Lunas returning and the mammals started drinking and reveling. I was sitting at the end of the table with Ebsalon, a bit away from the others, and tried to get more information from them. Interestingly, Wolfram appeared increasingly nervous and uncomfortable as the room got more crowded and seemed relieved when I called them over. Ebsalon was either unwilling or unable to provide more information, but hinted that one should have the confidence in order before entering the demon room. Nuur-Karif then showed up in Lunari's clothes and started dancing with Yana. The apeoids have strict rules for what males and females are allowed to wear, so this got the attention of the room and I used the distraction to get hold of Pakk. Some musicians had now showed up and Wolfram almost begged me to continue the discussion upstairs. I got the impression they are afraid of crowds. Mammals continue to amaze with their silliness.

Upstairs, we were joined by Grogg and Pakk recounted what had happened in the Kabal temple in greater detail. It seems the kabalists are able to trap the spirits of the dead in small clay tokens, similar to the ones we found in the tower in Guling. These spirits can then be used to as fuel for magical rituals and also for powering the clay statues, which are called golems. Wolfram looked like they wanted to rush off and burn the Kabal temple to the ground immediately, but they remained calm. There could be hundreds of spirits in the temple and releasing them all atonce could be disastrous. Pakk had mentioned earlier that the room above the Kabal temple is dedicated to something called Elik. I tried to get them to elaborate, but they insisted they were not allowed to tell me about their suspicions and the gathering ended. Grogg and Wolfram went to their rooms while Pakk and I went downstairs where Nuur-Karif were still dancing with Yana. I had no desire to observe mammalian mating rituals, so I snuck out and went to the Ashtarite chapel.

In the chapel, I meditated on Nuur-karif's condition. Up until now, they have appeared to be in control of their emotions, but since Gritt, it has been the other way around. Perhaps they were never blessed with a reptilian disposition, but were so singularly focused on Ashtar to the exclusion of everything else that they appeared to be rational. The alternative would be that Gritt was still there. Meditating further on the matter seemed pointless and I shifted focus to my newfound abilities. Getting someone to teach me about magic could be very helpful, but it is clear that the apeoids do not really know what they are doing with a high and dangerous rate of failure. Both Ebsalon and Wolfram insists that it is very dangerous to experiment alone, but I am not convinced their ways are any safer. I increasingly got the feeling I would have to see the stars to get any clarity and left the chapel.

When I reached the ruined tower, I spotted a group heading up towards the fortress. I quickly hid and when they got near, I could see eight guards surrounding two apeoids that had their hands tied and faces covered in hoods. They appeared to be wearing expensive clothing and it looked like one male and one female. It was clear that the guards wanted to hide the prisoners' identity and they all kept quiet until Lunas arrived and talked to the leader. One of the prisoners tried to talk, but was rewarded with an elbow in the stomach before they were sent off to the dungeon. They did not take the normal route through the courtyard, so I went ahead to the dungeon. As usual, the security was abysmal, no wonder Nujan has settled here. After a while, Keri, Lunas' alcohol dependent dwarf "assistant", came stomping down the stairs and confiscated the guards' key. They inspected the cells, but not the torture chamber where I was waiting. Very sloppy, possibly because they were busy quarreling with the warden of the fortress about the keys to the dungeon. The prisoners were then brought down and placed in separate cells and Keri and the guards left. One of the prisoners, the male, tried to contact the other, but got no response and not much happened, so I decided to leave. The guards at the door panicked a bit when I told them to open and Keri seemed very displeased when they realized I had been there. Outside I met Nujan and we went to observe the stars from a roof in the village.
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Old 08-11-2020, 12:44 PM   #15
Stomoxys
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 174 since leaving The Homeland

In the morning, we could see Wolfram running around in armour. It seems like they are following a strict training regime and we joined them for breakfast in the fortress when they finished. After a while, Nuur-Karif came in looking rather bedraggled and wearing Lunas' clothing. Oddly enough, they were carrying a drinking glass full of their own poison. Before Gritt, they considered the poison holy and would not have treated it that carelessly. I had not slept all night, so I went to sleep on a roof after breakfast.

After a few hours, I was woken by Wolfram opening some wooden boxes containing weapons that Lunari had ordered, including a new bow for me. They then wanted to demonstrate the power of their totem claiming that it connects them to Amna and helps them perform rituals. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to study it more closely. Wolfram led me, Nuur-Karif, Grogg and Nujan to the ruined tower, where they erected the totem on the ground and drew symbols around it. Some of the symbols seemed to indicate the star constellation Tityra, that is not possible to see from The Homeland, but is represented by a large, carnivorous mammal called a bear here. Seemingly satisfied with the symbols, they proceeded to chant and invoke Tiri before suddenly opening their arms and an aura appeared around them. When I look at auras, they appear in a flash and are only visible to me, but this aura seemed permanent as long as they were close to the totem. It was much less intense and it looked like Wolfram's aura was influenced by something, possibly something related to Amna. When Grogg entered the circle around the totem, their aura appeared and it looked the same, but weaker than earlier and Kra's aura was dancing around on their shoulder. Nuur-Karif's aura, on the other hand, had changed considerably and did not appear to have any traces of the brightness that had surrounded the crown. It seems Gritt is truly gone. Surprisingly, Wolfram seemed to recognize the reflection of Sebak's aura in mine when I entered the circle. They still don't realize that Sebak and Amna are two, but perhaps there is hope. I finally convinced Nujan to enter the circle as well and it was prettier than the apeoids' and somehow more animalistic, but also seemed to be influenced by something.

A section of the floor was clearly newer the rest and I suspected it was a walled up staircase to a basement and got Grogg to smash it. However, it turned out whoever walled up the place had been thorough and we would have to smash through several meters of wall, which would probably attract too much attention. I decided to come back later and look for another way, so we returned to the fort.Back in the dining hall, Lunas appeared and informed us about their guests in the basement. Lunas had already questioned them and they claimed to be from Larma and had connections to Tivito. The strange part was that they had surrendered themselves willingly and claimed to have permission from Mir to come to The Evening Fortress. Now, Lunas wanted us to question the guests as well and we reluctantly agreed. Since Wolfram's order is more or less banned by the law here, they did not want to be identified and I shared the sentiment, so we both put on disguises, me with the beard and they as a troll.

In case the Tivito elf would attempt any spirit shenanigans, we brought purple incense with us and made quite the procession down the stairs. At the entrance, Nuur-Karif and I prayed and they received guidance from Ashtar/Ssuxxakan. In case they killed the prisoner, they would have to kill them again. Considering how the elf in the Guling tower had died and refused to stay dead, this seems important. The others entered the cell of the male elf and Grogg shoved the incense up in the prisoners face, but we could not see anything special. It seemed like they were almost expecting to be executed, while at the same time complaining about their poor treatment, leading to a strange interrogation. The elf, calling themselves Irdol Larma, claimed to have the same mother as Isa. This is supposedly very important and they had come to bring Isa back to Larma. In exchange, they would leave their mate, the female prisoner, as some kind of hostage and would keep Tivito from coming to Guling. They also insisted that they needed to talk to Isa, which would awaken Isa's power and make Isa understand what is right and wrong. While it all sounded like ape drama to me, they seemed unperturbed when they saw Kra in the light of the incense, indicating that they are familiar with spirits. We locked the door and proceeded to the next cell.

In the other cell, a female elf human hybrid appeared to be sleeping. The Larma are said to despise humans and one of them would not mate with a hybrid, so this immediately roused suspicions. Even more interesting, their aura appeared to be entirely human. When questioned, the female presented themselves as Nami and confirmed everything Irdol had claimed and stated that the signs were right and all would be released. They did not elucidate who would be released, but maybe they meant the immortals? Their subservient manner gave the impression of very thorough indoctrination, barely flinching when Nuur-Karif raised their hand as if to slap them. However, they did give Nuur-Karif a recipe that was a coded message; "asylum gives information".

Back in our quarters, we discussed the situation and concluded that the prisoners had to be on some kind of information mission. While they had seemed genuine, they could not be stupid enough to think the Alderas would agree to the trade. Especially when Nami was obviously worthless as a hostage. It is possible Nami is a spy and this was a sloppy attempt to get them into The Evening Fortress, but it seems more likely that the goal was to get Irdol inside the wards on the island. Who knows what their spirit can do if they kill themselves. Lunas and Keri showed up and Nuur-Karif explained what the prisoners had told us, which was more or less the same they had told Lunas. They mostly agreed with our assessment of the situation, but a lack of prison cells complicates an asylum negotiation. Some of Lunari's drugs may also be helpful in determining if the prisoners are telling the truth.

It seems that family ties is the source of much of this drama and I tried to get some clarification from Lunas, starting with Lunas themselves. Nulius, Mir's companion from the west had implied that Mir was the only offspring of Madan, while Irdol had consistently referred to Madan as Lunas' father. Frustratingly, Lunas only answered evasively when I asked them to explain. Thankfully, they were a bit a bit more forthcoming about Isa's mother, the king's mate, though not necessarily more helpful. A king's mate is supposed to be a female elf with special, if undefined magical abilities. These abilities are inherited by their offspring, especially the female ones. As a twist on the tale, each king's mate only had one daughter, and could only get female offspring if they were in "love", which is a term the apeoids use for a variety of feelings. Usually, like in this case, it means lust, but they also use it to describe friendship and the feeling that keeps them from leaving their offspring. I bet Nuur-Karif would say they love Yana. Clearly, the tale about the king's mate is rubbish and Lunas themselves did not seem to believe it. If they could only had one daughter, one of them would have fallen down the stairs before getting any daughters and that would be the end of the line. My working theory is that the elves use females with magical abilities as breeding stock and made up the tale to justify it. While incredibly cruel, considering their horrific method of reproduction, I don't believe it's beyond them. Perhaps it's even possible that the offspring drains some of their mother's abilities in the parasitic stage? Especially among the elves, as they seem to go pregnant for long time and seem to have some connection to the stars. If Isa were affected by powerful stars while at the same time draining their mother's powers, Lunas' claim that they are one of the most dangerous elves in the world might be true.

Last edited by Stomoxys; 10-10-2020 at 02:05 PM.
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Old 08-11-2020, 12:47 PM   #16
Stomoxys
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 174 since leaving The Homeland

I was still sleepy and went back to the roof to sleep after the meeting. Wolfram woke me up about an hour before sunset and we went to have a final consultation with Pakk and Gromann, while Nuur-Karif got a more suitable weapon for destroying statues. In Pakk's opinion, the binding on the spirits powering the statues would break if we destroyed the statues and the spirits would go to the underworld. Ebsalon and Isa followed us to the Kabal temple and Ebsalon placed a new ward on the entrance in case we screwed up and released the spirits. Grogg led the way in, forcing open the bent gates and marched in followed eagerly by Wolfram and then me and Nuur-Karif. The branches that were scattered all over the floor had rotted unaturally fast and now crumbled when we stepped on them. At the far end of the room, we could see Lunari's corpse, but the shattered golem next to it had been completely eaten by the birds. As we approached the corpse, we passed a shattered clay chest that had contained coins and clay tokens. From the tracks, it looked like the birds had been rummaging through the pile and on closer inspection, there did not seem to be anything special with the remaining tokens. The corpse had received a rough treatment and did not look pretty, but putrefaction seemed to have proceeded as expected after two days in a hot and humid environment. A bit of a relief, considering the medium in the cave. When Grogg bent down to pick up the corpse, Lunari's pipe fell out of a big tear in their backpack and Grogg screamed out. In the following silence, I could here a faint rustle in the trees and prepared for combat. However, nothing happened and Nuur-Karif was able to recover the backpack and we followed Grogg carrying the corpse out of the temple.

Searching Lunari and their backpack thoroughly, we could not find the ring anywhere and the silver key was also gone. The thing we thing out of the ordinary we could find on the dead elf was a clay token, but there did not seem to be anything special about it. From the state of Lunari's clothing and backpack, it seemed the birds had taken everything magical, presumably into the forest. Hopefully the items have not been used to power the golems or something similar. In order to trigger the golems to attack, we decided to break the chests and urns. When we reentered, we could see an intact chest in the corner to our right and Wolfram tried to detach it from its plinth. This triggered chirping from birds in the forest and just as it seemed that the chest was about to come loose, it shattered and coins and tokens fell out in a small avalanche. Still, nothing seemed to happen besides chirping and I and Nuur-Karif gathered up the tokens in Grogg's helmet. Many of them were clearly magical. As I approached the gate with the helmet, the gate slammed shut, but it was so bent that I could walk through and placed the tokens in a corner. The chirping had died down when I rejoined the others and we proceeded to an urn that Wolfram promptly smashed. This triggered a cacophony from the forest and we retreated a bit, but again nothing happened and we approached the urn again. There had been a slot in the urn and it seemed that the birds had tried to extract the magical tokens through it, but they had not reached the bottom. Before I could collect all the tokens, a passage opened in the forest and a statue came rushing out, sounding and acting like a horse and another statue followed close behind.

The ensuing battle was short. The horse statue rushed passed us, shaking the floor making Grogg fall over, but was driven off by Wolfram with flail and pick axe and Nuur-Karif with brass knuckles. The other statue took up position in the passage and was rushed by me, Wolfram and Grogg. Begind it, a third statue, which must have been the bird statue, was powering up a spell with a large, white shining sphere floating between its hands. It had sent a similar sphere towards Lunari when Grogg had been there and hit them, even though they were a distance away. Considering how bunched up we were, I realized this could be bad. While the statue in the passage was no match for Grogg and Wolfram, I was not able to get past it to reach the last statue before it sent the sphere flying towards Wolfram. I instinctively leapt away, but everything went white.

The next thing I remember is lying on the floor and all the clay in the room had been turned to dust floating in the air and slowly settling on the ground and on my companions. They where lying on the ground where I last saw them, but Grogg and Nuur-Karif seemed awake and were getting up. Wolfram on the other hand were still lying on the ground and I stumbled over to check on them. There was no sign of the statues and the trees in the magical forest were slumping over having lost all vigour, some of them having snapped under their own weight. The hut in the middle of the chamber seemed untouched, however. From the gate, I heard Ebsalon making their way into the chamber, so we could not have been out for long. As far as I could tell, Wolfram's pulse seemed normal, but I called Nuur-Karif over to take a look. Thankfully, they woke up after Nuur-Karif gently shook them.

Last edited by Stomoxys; 08-28-2020 at 02:21 PM.
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Old 08-28-2020, 03:51 PM   #17
Stomoxys
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 174 since leaving The Homeland

With all the clay items in the room disintegrated, I feared that the chamber would be full of released spirits and my fears were soon confirmed by Isa screaming about seeing spirits everywhere in the room. It seemed like a good idea to withdraw out of Ebsalon's ward, but Nuur-Karif insisted we had to find the ring and I made my way towards the shack in the centre. From Isa and Wolfram I gathered that spirits were escaping, and when I turned around, Wolfram had started transforming. Their body started twisting and convulsing while their clothing and armour melded around them into a thick coat of fur. When their shape started to stabilize, they appeared as a huge, hulking carnivorous mammal that could only be a bear. At the edges, they appeared slightly translucent and shimmered slightly. This was a new ability they had not told us about but it was soon apparent they could interact with spirits, as they ran off and started swatting invisible things in the air. Seeing Wolfram in bear shape, I realized I had seen such creatures before. In the brown forest, a creature like this was lying close to Toltecatl, with the Great Priest's mace smashed through its skull. The implications are disturbing to say the least and I will watch Wolfram carefully from now on.

Nuur-Karif ignored Wolfram's transformation completely and reached the shack soon after me. The door fell in with a single kick and a blast of clay dust enveloped us, making me cough and sneeze. Nuur-Karif, on the other hand, must have held their breath and ran into the shack and emerged almost immediately with the ring in front of their eye and the silver key in their hand. We made to leave, but before we had taken a step, Isa gave out a shriek and Wolfram came charging past us, lunging at something in the air. Nuur-Karif followed up and stabbed something in front of the bear with their dagger, materializing an old human that came crashing down on the ground. The old human was clearly angry and shouted about small branches lacking respect for other's branches. Presumably the branches are related to some confused mammal religion. While they were still shouting, Grogg picked the old human up, and ran towards the gate were Kra was cawing frenetically. Luckily, Grogg heeded me and Ebsalon when we told them to drop their load and the old human tumbled to the ground a second time. Looking around, I saw Wolfram swatting invisible spirits in a corner while Nuur-Karif appeared to be praying. As the old human was trying to get on their feet, Ebsalon demanded to know their rank and title. This was met with derision and claims that the mysteries of the Kabalists were beyond comprehension for a young human like Ebsalon. Ebsalon again demanded rank and title and this went on for a while before I decided to put the creature out of its misery. The corpse crumbled to dust almost immediately. Whatever their mysteries are, it seems clear that they are not suitable for apeoids.

Ebsalon clearly did not appreciate having their interrogation interrupted, but did not make a fuss about it. Instead they brought Isa along to the shack, but Nuur-karif barged past them through the doorway. Isa claimed there were a few spirits there, but I only noticed the Tivito paper slip that Lunari had brought and Ebsalon retrieved it. The frenetic energy of the chamber had subsided somewhat and Nuur-Karif pulled me aside as they left the shack. They had heard a cry for help from a female apeoid, but they did not know who it was or even if it was in the room. I suggested it might be the Ashtar priest possessed by Gritt, but they said it was someone on the island. Wolfram had apparently decided that there were no spirits in immediate need of swatting and turned back into human form. Now they wanted to conduct a ritual that would send the spirits in the room on to the underworld. This involved erecting their totem pole on the roof of the shack and drawing an elaborate circle of symbols around it. I helped them, trying to get insights into their ways, but they were either unwilling or unable to say much more than that the symbols were related to Amna and Tityra, as well as some other signs. The apeoid's representations of the stars makes little sense. While tying the ropes stabilizing the pole, I heard Yana shouting for Nuur-Karif outside and Nuur-Karif rushed out, throwing the ring to me. They also said something about the key and I found it in the dust on the ground. Nuur-Karif was gone for about a quarter of an hour and their return was announced by a shriek from Isa. Apparently, some bird spirit had emerged from Nuur-Karif as they came up the stairs. Nuur-Karif has an irrational distaste for birds and I assume this displeased them. The news they brought was much more disconcerting though. Yana had had a clay item they claimed they had gotten from their parents that had disintegrated which made them seek us out in the Kabal temple. While it is obviously concerning that they have knowledge and items related to Kabal, a much more immediate concern were the jar in the dungeon. Everyone dropped whatever they were doing when I mentioned it. As if to confirm my fears, Nujan appeared shouting for Ebsalon to come along and alarm bells started ringing as we stormed into the courtyard.

To my surprise, Nujan led us down towards the dungeon. The jar had been kept there, but I thought I had convinced Lunas to move it to a vault somewhere away from Irdol. In hindsight, that could have been even worse. The guard room at the top of the stairs to the dungeon was full and the door itself was barricaded. Keri was pacing back and forth and shouted to us that Lunas was down below alone and in mortal danger while the barricades were hastily removed. Worryingly, Wolfram hesitated in the staircase, seemingly frightened by the number of guards in the room, but Grogg came behind them and almost forced them through the room and down the stairs. If hysteria can make them hesitate in a moment of crisis, the consequences can be dire.

Down in the dungeon, Irdol was ranting in their cell, demanding to be released and threatening to murder Lunas twice. Otherwise, it was completely quiet and I saw nothing out of the ordinary through the ring. Ignoring the elf, I went straight to the cell where the jar had been, but saw only a pile of dust on the floor. Behind me, Nuur-Karif was asking for the key to Nami's cell with urgency in their voice. I still had the key and unlocked the door, but something on the inside kept it from opening completely. Through the gap, I saw Lunas' boots blocking the door and Nami was lying motionless on the bench. Nuur-karif was making their way into the cell, but turned and gestured to get Isa out of the dungeon. Looking closer, I saw that a pool of blood had formed around Lunas.

Faint gasps for air could still be be heard from Lunas and Nuur-Karif shouted for Grogg's needle while sending me to fetch their medicine kit. In the staircase, Wolfram and Isa were arguing, with Isa trying to go down again and Wolfram holding them back. Who knows what Irdol would have done had they realized Isa was there and we were in no position to deal with that now. The bear human was clearly failing in holding back Isa, but Isa came with me when I told them to find bandages and first aid gear while I ran to get the medicine kit. I also brought some dirt Nuur-Karif uses for healing back to the dungeon and found them with a pile of bandages desperately trying to stem the flow of blood. Lunas' own dagger had pierced deep into their chest and appeared to be aimed for the heart. I helped Nuur-Kairf as best I could, tying bandages and maintaining pressure on the wound at their instructions. Suddenly, Ebsalon, who had been off somewhere tried to contact Lunas and pulled out the needle. They must have suspected Lunas could be possessed, because they asked about Lunas' mother and a spot on Nuur-Karif's belly. As response, they only got a faint negative sign, but Nuur-Karif was satisfied and the needle was reinserted. Lunas did not wake up again.
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Old 08-28-2020, 04:11 PM   #18
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Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 174 since leaving The Homeland

Blood had gotten everywhere, but only now did I have time to taste it. I got the impression that Lunas had been frightened, but had defended something precious. It seems the entity in the jar had tried to possess them, but they chose a good death instead. The same could not be said for Nami. It was clear something was very wrong with their corpse, and it appeared desiccated, like the medium in the cave. The staring eyes were bloodshot and the mouth was frozen open, as if they had been subjected to some great physical exertion. Even worse was the blood. It did not taste of normal apeoid emotions at all, but as if something had displaced Nami. Irdol had ranted about how Nami had suddenly started screaming, and the entity in the jar must have possessed them. The elf had been shouting intermittently and now seemed mostly upset about some item that was missing and was threatening Lunas. Grogg was apparently getting tired of the elf and informed them that Lunas was dead, which amused them greatly. They also started rambling about how stupid Lunas was and that the stolen item would only harm Lunas which they did not need it for immortality anyway. This infuriated Grogg and they started to break down the door of Irdol's cell. Luckily, the door held and I managed to convince Grogg that we would punish the elf later, but we would have to do it in a controlled fashion to make sure they did not come back. This calmed them down and they insisted they had not planned to kill the elf, but merely rip their arm off and beat them with it. Ebsalon had gone to investigate something, but hinted that the entity in the jar might look for magical items to rejuvenate. Lunari's spear was still sitting in its cell, so I picked the lock and retrieved it. It felt disgusting, but manageable after I wrapped it in bandages and we left the dungeon.

In the staircase, we found Wolfram and Isa. The latter had clearly been crying, but they collected themselves when Nuur-Karif informed them of Lunas' death. Following the apeoid's customs, they were now in charge of the fortress and they instructed the guards to gather the senior staff and officers. If the jar thing could drain power from items, by far the most powerful item I knew of would be the star cube. The others did not seem very concerned, especially Wolfram who wanted to go back to their spirits in the Kabal temple, but I insisted they came along. We did not need another screw up today and I did not wish to meet the thing in the jar alone. Thankfully, the cube was untouched and I took it with me to the Kabal temple were Ebsalon was busy completing a ward.

When the ward was finished, Ebsalon told us what they thought was going on. The entity in the jar was probably a wraith. A wraith is somewhat similar to demons, but more common and much less powerful. Importantly, it is possible to destroy them in similar ways to other bound spirits. Wraiths are usually created intentionally by apeoid mages that fear death, trapping their spirits in this world and nourishing themselves by consuming others. Considering that they start life as parasites, it is perhaps not surprising that they are willing to spend unlife in this way. This was probably what happened to the elf in the Guling tower and what Irdol had planned to become. It turned out Ebsalon had conducted an autopsy on the Guling corpse and found a Kabal talisman the elf must have swallowed just before they died. The item Irdol had been ranting about must also have been such a talisman that had disintegrated. Notably, non Kabal clay items appeared untouched.

The jar wraith must have been weak when it escaped and immediately possessed Nami, using their body as fuel to channel magical energy. However, it had probably spent most of that energy trying to possess Lunas which would have left it in a weakened state. While wraiths can snack on other spirits, this will not sustain them and without access to easy prey, it had probably sought out a crypt. In such places, they can sustain themselves on the energy left by rotting mammal corpses and they are often drawn to them. Officially, there were no such places on The Evening Fortress, but Ebsalon found this highly unlikely and asked us to find and destroy the wraith immediately. They would consult with Pakk and Gromann and guard the star cube.

We figured the two most likely locations for a crypt were somewhere in the cultist tower or in the walled off basement of the ruined tower. Remi, the chief of staff at the fortress would know where a crypt would be and we found them almost immediately. However, they were uncooperative and insisted there was no such thing on the island and telling us to not screw up Isa. Pakk and Gromann also knew a lot about the fortress and would be more cooperative, so we climbed the stairs to their chambers. The crypt was indeed underneath the ruined tower and had been walled up in order to keep Isa out so that they would not be affected by lingering spirits. On our way there, we met Nujan who tagged along. If anyone knew of a way in, it would be them, but their answer was negative. While there are small apertures in the cliff face, smelling of death according to Nujan, these are walled up from the inside and Nujan had not found any other entrances. We considered continuing the excavation from earlier, but this would take a long time and the noise would certainly attract attention. Instead, Wolfram proposed that they could channel the power of Amna to attract spirits and this might work on the wraith as well. While they seemed doubtful, it would be worth a try and they set up their totem in the same spot as this morning while we lit up the purple incense. Again, they drew a circle on the floor, but their prayer was different this time, asking for Amna's light to attract any spirits. It must have worked, because soon Nuur-Karif pointed out in the night and said two bird spirits were approaching. Wolfram made another prayer and Nuur-Karif claimed the birds had disappeared. In the sky, I noticed Amna shining bright, despite being a tiny sliver. A horse spirit also appeared and was put to rest, but it seemed no wraith would appear and I sat down to meditate. However, I barely had time to close my eyes before Nuur-Karif shouted that something was coming up from the ground and pointed towards the stairs.

In the light of the incense, I saw a shimmer that lurched towards Nuur-Karif, but they jumped away and Grogg's club passed straight through the shimmer. Grogg had been carrying the horse spear, but dropped it on the ground, clearly not enjoying it much more than I did. The wraith did not seem have any misgivings about the spear, but snuck through a wall and grabbed it. This gave me the opportunity to get a better look at it and to my surprise, it was a human, not an elf. Its aura, however, was definitely not human. The closest I had seen before was Kra's aura, but this was much stranger. Nuur-Karif recognized the wraith, and got its attention, making it drop the spear in its eagerness to attack them. While this was going on, Wolfram had been transforming and they had now taken the shape of a bear again. The unarmed wraith stood no chance against the charging beast and was quickly ripped to shreds and disappeared.

When things calmed down, Nujan appeared from the shadows and we quickly left the scene, but it seemed nobody at the fortress had noticed. On the way back, I asked Nuur-Karif and they revealed that they recognized the wraith because they were the one who killed it the first time. We made it to Pakk and Gromann's chambers and found Ebsalon still there. They were hiding, as they did not want to submit to Isa's authority before certain loose threads were sorted out. I guess such situations are to be expected when nobody knows their place. In particular, it would be very convenient if Irdol were to make good on their promise to kill themselves without creating a wraith. When we met Lunas in a swamp, a human had given Nuur-Karif a vial of poison that the Ashtar priest had claimed was for those who refused to die. This seemed like an excellent opportunity to test it out.

We made it back to the dungeon without anyone challenging us and found Irdol sleeping in their cell. With a little effort, I picked the lock and Nuur-Karif snuck in and injected the poison into the elf's jugular. By the time Nuur-Karif made it out, Irdol had stopped breathing and I locked the door again. Nuur-Karif left to alert the guards, which seemed to cause a major stir, and I took the opportunity to place the spear back in the cell. It may prove convenient if the guards are not aware of how easy it is to pick the locks. After a long wait, Nuur-Karif returned with Ebsalon and Keri. The latter was very displeased, but Ebsalon could reassure them that the elf really did appear to be dead. Still, they placed a ward on the cell and Nuur-Karif and I would remain in the dungeon to monitor the corpse while Wolfram and Grogg left to complete Wolfram's ritual in the Kabal temple. Nujan appeared a bit later with food and some blankets, as well as some water to wash off the worst of the blood, but did not stay long. I cannot blame them, the dungeon is a drab place far from the stars. Being alone with Nuur-Karif, I confronted them about their embarrassing behaviour. They agreed they had been distracted lately, but unsurprisingly became agitated when I pointed out they wanted to mate with Yana and should get it over with. At least they confirmed they will not get pregnant when mating with a female. I have my suspicions about Yana, but discussing this with Nuur-Karif seemed pointless and I withdrew to the torture chamber to write this report and get some sleep.
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Old 09-15-2020, 03:45 PM   #19
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Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 175 since leaving The Homeland

I slept a long time this morning, choosing to ignore both Wolfram and Keri who came by, but eventually, hunger overcame my desire to sleep. Nuur-Karif had been awake all night, staring at Irdol's corpse which appeared to be perfectly normal. They had calmed down during the night, so I pointed out the danger Yana is in. Undoubtedly, Larma's spies are well aware of us, that Nuur-Karif has taken a keen interest in Yana and that Yana attended meetings with Lunas and us right before Irdol and Lunas died. Assuming they are not spying for Larma themselves, of course. I did not mention the last part and Nuur-Karif agreed. We should anyway move on towards Ur as soon as possible to destroy the wraith, but we would probably have to attend to Madan for a night first. They went to talk to Isa and Yana, leaving me alone with the corpse. While I had my own knives, they left me one of theirs and told me to bite it. This is something they do when they prepare for combat and is a part of their worship of Ashtar.

The dungeon was empty except for me and nothing happened. After a while, Wolfram showed up with some papers which I believe is a report they wish to send back to their religious order in the Cities of the Prince. They have been asking about ways to send a letter, but I have advised against it. It would have to be sent with merchants and could easily be intercepted which would make it too risky, even if they knew how to encrypt the contents, which I do not believe they. It does not help that their order is considered criminal here in Arland. I also read them my notes about the various demons, as they wanted to prepare to meet Madan and Tuza. However, the half translated notes still did not provide many clues. Considering that Tuza is connected to the plague bringing Burrowing Rat, the most likely aspects seemed to be the ones involving hot thoughts and bad smells, but that did not give us much to go on. This was a good opportunity to question them about their shape shifting. They claimed they had always been able to do it and it was a gift from Tityra, but they had not always been able to control it. Now, however, they are mostly in control and it was completely different from what is going on in the brown forest, though it was unclear in what sense. I will aim for the vitals if they get out of control.

We were interrupted by bells from outside, but they did not sound like an alarm and the guards upstairs speculated that they were calling a meeting. Wolfram still wanted to visit Madan, but they did not wish to leave the corpse unattended, so we decided I should ask Pakk and Gromann or Ebsalon to watch the corpse. Looking for Nuur-Karif, I went to the chapel and found them standing and praying. Usually, they are on the floor, wrapped in snakes, but they had not slept all night and did not want to fall asleep. They repeated that Irdol was gone and there was no need to guard the corpse, but they would anyway have to sleep before they could visit any demons. They had also gotten the impression we were expected at the meeting, so we did not stay long in the chapel. After a quick detour to my room to get my clothes, we went to the inner courtyard that was packed with staff and soldiers. Remi appeared from the nobles quarters and proclaimed that Lunas was dead and Isa had an announcement. Isa then emerged, marched to a dais in the center of the courtyard and promptly left again. Notably, their dress was now decorated with apeoid symbols of authority. The crowd was confused while Remi was looking around with consternation. This went on for about a quarter of an hour before Wolfram appeared in the doorway of the nobles quarters. Someone was trying to push them into the courtyard, but the large human refused, holding on to the door frame and looking rather sickly. Their irrational fear of crowds were causing issues again, but eventually they were left inside with the door open and Isa marched out again. In their short speech, Isa proclaimed themselves the king of The Evening Fortress and the enlightened leader of the council of 12, before dismissing the staff and soldiers. I am sure the other nobles will be greatly displeased by Isa claiming the title of king and will consider it a declaration of war, but it is not like these titles mean anything. While an enlightened apeoid is a bit of an oxymoron, the other title is more interesting. Ebsalon was the leader of the Council of Eleven, but it appears Isa has more or less unilaterally declared themselves the new leader of the mages.

Me, Nuur-Karif, Grogg, Wolfram, Nujan, Pakk, Gromann, Ebsalon, Keri, Yana and Remi were required to attend a meal with Isa. Wolfram had to be rounded up, but eventually all were gathered in the dining hall. Isa opened by asking Grogg if they considered Wolfram a companion, which they confirmed. They then proclaimed that we were those the prophecy foretold would disturb the threads of fate, but also mend the threads together. Consequently, we were no longer welcome on The Evening Fortress and would have to leave the next day. As a last request, they wanted us to bring the stupid horse spear to Mir. I wonder if Isa wants to get Mir killed, but that is not really any of our concern. Nujan was ordered to go home to Kajar and take control. They clearly did not relish the prospect, but Isa insisted and told them to take responsibility and get their litter to cooperate. In the end, Nujan relented, but would follow us for a while before going home. I will interrogate them later on what exactly Isa meant. Ebsalon, Pakk, Gromann and Keri were told to bring Madan to The Tomb of Kings, which I believe is the island in the middle of the wetlands. There, Madan would be laid to rest and I got the impression this would bind Tuza, similarly to how Gritt was bound in the crypt. Yana was told there was a ship going west, but they would rather travel with Nuur-Karif. While this will be distracting for Nuur-Karif, it is best to keep a potential spy close so I can keep an eye on them.

Finally, Isa turned to Remi and demanded that they should pick which family they would serve. This brought protestations, but Isa's eyes started glowing and a lightning bolt hurled towards Remi's head which exploded like an overripe melon. Luckily, I was able to take cover behind Grogg, but the rest of the party was showered with the contents of a human head, followed by a flood of vomit from the troll. Considering that I've seen Grogg happily eat brains directly from an ape skull, I do not know why they reacted like that. Wolfram, on the other hand, got to their feet and threw themselves at Isa, but was blocked by some kind of spell and Isa danced away. In the ensuing melee, Wolfram was roaring at Isa to end their spell casting while Keri, Nujan and Ebsalon tried to keep them away. In the end, Grogg stumbled over, still vomiting, and subdued the hysterical human while Ebsalon retreated with Isa up the stairs. We were detained in the dining hall while Keri arranged for the disposal of the corpse. With the experienced help of Nuur-Karif, they were able to compress it into a chest that were taken out through the kitchen. After a bit, Isa returned and announced that they would pardon Wolfram for their crimes if they were willing to confess, which luckily they did. We were then invited to continue the party upstairs.

Last edited by Stomoxys; 10-10-2020 at 02:19 PM.
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Old 09-15-2020, 03:57 PM   #20
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Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 175 since leaving The Homeland

While the others were busy cleaning themselves downstairs, I was able to ask Isa and Ebsalon a few questions. I first inquired about the fastest way to get to Ur, and while Isa was willing to let us travel through the sky, Ebsalon was strongly opposed. Remi had been executed because they worked for both Larma and Aldera and Madan had tolerated this as an attempt to keep Remi under control. They were more forthcoming about the prophecy, however, and Isa was surprised that the prophecy is not common knowledge. It is a collection of writings by various authors considered sacred by the council mages and are said to be older than the previous cataclysm. Some of the texts mentions a group that is supposed to awaken everything. What this means is unclear. I suppose that it is possible that the mammals were able to interpret some of the stars, especially before the cataclysm, but I would not put much stock in a text of such dubious origin. Especially considering that most of the things the mammals write are lies and propaganda anyway. It would still be interesting to read the prophecy and Isa said I could get a letter to the council in Ur which should give me access. Apparently there were no copies at The Evening Fortress.
If we were going to leave, we would have to take the cube with us and Ebsalon asked me to come along. To my surprise, they took me to the chamber above the Kabal temple. The room was quite bare, but in the floor, a 12 pointed star was engraved together with symbols reminiscent of those Ebsalon use. This was the chamber of the 12 and they could use it to transport us to Ur through the sky. They strongly advised against it and were uncertain if Wolfram and Grogg could handle the mental strain. I would have to agree on that part. In addition, if something went wrong we could end up in a completely wrong location or even up in the sky. They would also have to tap into the power of the cube in order to transport the whole party to Ur. I said I would try to convince the others, but I predicted it would be difficult. Together with the cube, they handed me a their notes on the seven demons, before they left to prepare for their trip to the wetlands.

The note on the demons were in keyword form and listed their military role and associated aspects. Jori: attacker, aspects of ash and rage. Volkir: flanker, aspects of whirlwinds and lightning. Gritt: leader of the bodyguards, aspects of empathy and whims. Albor: hunter and tracker, aspects of animal and unpredictable dance, possibly shape shifting. Tuza: spymaster, aspects of fever and thought rot. Darwan: saboteur, aspects of shadows and mirages. Krull: last defender, aspects of apathy and prophecy. A footnote pointed out that a prophet is not only able to see the threads of fate, as the mammals call it, but also touch them.

When I returned to the others, Isa and Keri was gone and Wolfram still wanted to see Madan and talk to Tuza. I told them we could get to Ur instantly by traveling through the sky, but they were too afraid. Perhaps with reason, as they don't belong there. I also noted with some concern that Wolfram has no reservations about the Azura priests and wants to bring the cube to them. The cube belongs in responsible hands in The Homeland. Nujan reiterated that they wanted to come with us in order to postpone their responsibilities in Kajar. Finding Mir would be as good an excuse as any but they did not know where Mir was. The latest letters indicated that Mir was planning to go into battle, but had been very vague. Yana confessed, with little prodding, that they were a sleeper agent for Amrosh, a noble house in the east of the country. Their intelligence organization is known as Amna's Shadows and is the same group that is after Nuur-Karif for some killing they did. Yana insisted they had only acted as a kind of insurance in case things went sour between Aldera and Amrosh and claimed to be unaware that Nuur-Karif is wanted. Now that Lunas is dead and their Kabal item was broken, they claimed to be free of Amrosh influence and would flee together with Nuur-Karif. We will see.

It was decided that the other's would leave in the evening. I wished to travel through the sky, and went to find Ebsalon to organize it. On my way, I met Wolfram and it seemed Ebsalon had finally been able to convince them that it was not necessary to visit Madan or watch the corpse any longer. Unfortunately, Ebsalon did not wish to let me use the sky path without Grogg, Wolfram and Nuur-Karif agreeing, claiming we would need a plan in case the mages in Ur had a hostile reaction. This explanation made little sense and I suspect they had gotten cold feet and knew I would have trouble convincing Wolfram and Nuur-Karif. Wolfram, the shape shifting sorcerer claims to be against the use of magic and was a nonstarter, but I hoped to be able to make Nuur-Karif see reason. Alas, they insisted we should stay together and to some extent I see their point. Moving Grogg and Wolfram through a desert with a hostile army in the vicinity would not be an enjoyable task. Interestingly, when I went to pack my things, the color changing lantern from the Guling tower had crumbled to dust. I decided to take a final trip to the chapel before we left and meditated on what happens after death. It was calming and I left with feeling certain that The People does not belong in the Underworld together with the mammals. I also went by Pakk and Gromann's chambers to say goodbye. They are probably the most knowledgeable mammals I have met and returning them to The Homeland would in some sense fulfill the goals of the expedition. Of course, they would get killed if they just wandered into the jungle, so I told them to go to Monike and ask the locals for guidance. While they did not seem very enthused, they would consider it if they had to flee The Evening Fortress.

We left at sundown and procured a wagon in Guling large enough for all six of us. It was not exactly a subtle vehicle, but it would travel quickly and carry all our luggage. Nuur-Karif and Yana sat in front, controlling the horses while Nujan and I took up position on the roof and Grogg and Wolfram were crammed inside together with the luggage. Again we were supposed to use our alternative identities, though I would prefer if I do not have to present myself at all. In the sky, Amna was tilted strangely in a way I have not seen before and I asked Wolfram if they knew anything about it. They did not, but claimed it had been even more tilted the night before. Nujan, however, said that Amrosh calls this a horse phase, which is just ridiculous. In the south west, I could see the Snake slither along the horizon while Zatza was high in the sky, reminding me of Lunas. They had been born under its influence. I could not see Kama and Taxini anywhere, but in the east, the Nine where still dancing above the Brown Forest and the lead star was still shining above The Evening Fortress. It was good to be out of the mammal city and under an open sky again and I went to sleep on the wagon roof.

Last edited by Stomoxys; 10-10-2020 at 02:08 PM.
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