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Old 06-20-2020, 01:31 PM   #5
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Story so far, part 4

We spent 2 days in Sam. On the second night, I spent the whole night in an Ashtarite temple without seeing the stars, but I felt no ill effects in the morning. Before it reaches the sea, the river of Arland branches out into a large and wetland. The plan was to travel west from Sam by wagon around the wetlands through a dry area to Guling. However, one of the noble families, called the Larma, had started a military operation in the area and burned an Ashtar chapel, including the worshippers in it. To avoid their troops, we made our way into the wetlands. The wetlands were much more fertile than the rest of Arland with trees, large bodies of water and slowly moving rivers. Naturally, the mammals are busy trying to destroy it by chopping down the trees and digging drainage ditches, but their population is still somewhat limited and the destruction is not complete yet. We found an Astharite guide to show us through the wetlands and the second night, I had a vision, but not from the stars. I first got a feeling that something had to die when meditating under the stars. When I went down in the dirt cave we were sleeping in, I lost consciousness and when I woke again, I felt very sick and was certain some mammals in the area had to die. After sleeping, the vision became clearer and the mammals became more recognizable. Our guide took us to the mammals on their own initiative and we slew them. Unfortunately, I was not able to investigate and determine why they had to die, but they seemed to be particularly violent and savage.

The day after, we encountered a party of mammals, including a human-elf hybrid called Lunas. Lunas is a member of the noble family controlling the Guling area, the Alderas, and they and Lunari knew each other. Grogg and Lunari had rescued Lunas from a losing fight once. We travelled on towards Guling together with Lunas, but it was slow-going as mammals are barely able to swim. After 1 night and 1 day we reached a larger branch of the river and a boat they had hidden there. There, we were nearly ambushed by a creature reminiscent of the bizarre panther-lizard hybrid in the jungle. This one was much smaller, but very fast under water. We were able to defeat it and its blood tasted of dominance. These creatures clearly consider themselves the lords of the wetlands and I got the impression they are one of the reasons the wetlands haven't been completely ravaged by the mammals yet.

Sailing down the river, I saw that the burrowing rat had appeared in the sky on the 2nd night. Even the mammals have realized that this is a bad sign. In the morning, we could see the end of the wetlands and the bare lands of the mammals. Lunas left us and we traveled the last part of the journey by wagon. Looking through the ring, I noticed something was off with the burrowing rat. Sitting down to meditate I had a new vision where I was trying to hide myself and someone else from its malevolent gaze. I was woken by Nuur-Karif and my eyes had been glowing again.

We reached the city of Guling early in the morning. The Alderas live on a fortress island outside Guling called The Evening Fortress, which is clearly much older than the Alderas. To get to the fortress, one has to cross a causeway that appears when the sea recedes for an hour when Ajaw reaches the sea. While the fortress is quite dillapidated, it is built using techniques similar to ours and have withstood the test of time. There is also some kind of protective spell surrounding the whole island. I have later been told that it stops all attempts at spying from the outside using magic and the mammals are no longer capable of making spells as long lasting and durable. For some reason, one is not supposed to swim out to the island, but it is unclear why, besides being unpleasant to swim in the salt water.

When Ajaw touched the water, we walked to the fortress and were not questioned by anyone, which was strange, considering that they were in a state of pseudo war with another family. As we were climbing the stairs to the central fort, we were approached by a jaguar like creature called Nujan that could talk and reason. These creatures are native to the desert west of Omar, but they seem to travel around and seem less hysterical than most mammals. They do not need laws for example. Except for Nujan, the fortress was strangely empty and we only met a few servants and guards, including a human called Marcus who is in charge of the armed forces of Aldera. We were given rooms in the fort, but we were not allowed to enter the inner courtyard of the fort.

In the evening the next day, I noticed a strange whirlwind around a tower in Guling that was only visible through the ring. This tower was in a part of the city controlled by the Larma family and I was told it usually held a light beacon as part of a propaganda campaign, but this night it was dark, at least for the mammals. To me, it was shining with star light, similar to the light emitted from the cube when we charged it, and through the ring I could see that the whirling shadows had started to extend from the tower towards the sky. The light was blinding, but I found a shaded corner to study the stars and I could see that something was affecting the burrowing rat.

While I was studying the stars an elf appeared from the inner courtyard which had to be Isa, the youngest member of the Aldera family. They exclaimed that what was going on in the tower was awful, but did not elaborate and went back to the inner courtyard. Soon after, we were summoned inside because Nuur-Karif's medical skills were needed. The leader of the Alderas, Madan, was lying on a bed, writhing in pain and screaming with a strangely distorted voice. When closing my eyes, I saw tendrils of something reaching in through the windows and it appeared that Isa could see them as well and claimed a being called Tuza was back. Madan was moved to a dungeon underneath the fort and placed in a torture chamber in order to get them away from the tendrils. This appeared to calm them a little, but they were clearly losing against whatever was affecting them and we decided to strike at the source of whatever was going on, the tower.

Using a boat and a secret exit, we made it to the city, sinking an escaping ship on the way. The ship was crewed by hired soldiers and other bands of hired soldiers were rampaging through the city, burning both houses and temples. Marcus had been contacted by someone who must have been an Azura priest, possible from the Cities of the Prince, and was already besieging the tower when we arrived. Grogg led a frontal assault while Nujan and I climbed up on the outside and attacked the defenders from behind and we took the tower with few casualties. At the top floor, we found a dead elf with someone else's blood on their hand, several magical items and an Azura cube. The blood of the elf tasted of dominance and submission, but no fear of death, and I also got the impression of malevolent magic. Among the magical items was a small black box that could summon a swarm of bats, a lantern that changed colour when someone that had not touched it before got near and a rope tied in a circle that blocked light from leaving the circle. There was also a sealed jar, that felt like it contained something malevolent when I touched it. Scattered around on the floor outside the rope were about 40 clay tokens. According to Isa, these had been used to hold the spirits of dead mammals that were now swirling around the tower. Together with the star cube, they were used to power the ritual that had somehow guided or taken control of the burrowing rat, making it attack Madan. Interestingly, Isa is able to see spirits unaided.

We secured the magical items and took them to The Evening Fortress. A number of priests of Rama, a god of animals, spirits and self inflicted pain, possibly related to Tzacol, took charge of the tower and the swirling spirits. Unsuccesfully, it would later turn out. While we were rowing out, a downpour started, extinguishing the fires in the city.

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