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Old 07-01-2020, 01:46 PM   #7
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Story so far, part 6

In Guling, there was much more activity than when we left. A small fleet of ships we had observed sailing from the west when moving out had docked in the harbour and construction and repairs were happening on the walls. The real Mir were on the ship and I suspect that the lead star in the west was related to their departure. We reached the causeway just in time to make it across and were invited to meet Mir and Lunas. Mir was an odd character, prone to rambling and with a highly inflated sense of self worth, even by mammalian standards. In the west, they had served as a warlord in the Dragon King's Star army, but there was no explanation what a Dragon King or a Star army is. Presumably empty titles. They did tell us about Lunari's spear, however. It is considered important for the nomads from the wasteland in the north and is supposed to control the urhorse, the horse deity I saw in my vision. The threat of 10000 mounted warriors and the promise of large amounts of gold convinced Lunari to relinquish the spear, to everyone's relief. They were becoming increasingly unstable and annoying as long as they held on to the weapon. The mammals were celebrating into the night and got quite intoxicated. Around midnight, I observed the stars and saw something that looked like a flash of lightning, but with star light. It traveled away from me towards the east.

Nuur-Karif had gained favour with Lunas by mating with them, and the next day they showed us an Ashtarite chapel in a closed off part of the fortress. The chapel was dusty and mostly unused, but there was a large snake there, almost as large as those in The Homeland, but poisonous. Lunas also told us what they knew about the cube. It had been brought to Guling by a party sent by Azura, but there had been internal conflicts and they had disagreed on how to proceed. I believe one of the members was a traitor and sold the cube and the others to the Larma family. Presumably they are dead by now. Lunas also wondered why we trusted the Azura priests. I agree that their motives are unclear, but they seem to be the only mammals that have any clue about the stars and what is happening in the sky. If only they were better at choosing collaborators for their missions. Lunari, on the other hand, seemed to trust them completely. I did observe an Azura priest affect Grogg's thinking at one point and the spear demonstrated that Lunari is susceptible to mind magic, so perhaps Lunari had been enchanted. Lunas recommended that we got Pakk and Gromann to study the cube. They are scholars, a troll and a dwarf respectively, living in The Evening Fortress. Gromann was the author of the book I discovered in the Cities of the Prince, but it had so far not been possible to get anything intelligent out of them. The dwarf had been irrationally angry and the troll had been constantly sad for no apparent reason and I had the impression they had acted like this for a long time. While we were away, they had stopped this silly behaviour.

When they saw the cube, they were fascinated and claimed it not only contained vast amounts of star energy, but also the connections in the sky. After some initial study and consultation with their books, they decided they needed to know exactly where we had charged the cube. We told them about the mesa in the desert as well as the crater in the east and that Azura had intended to send cubes to the north, south and the brown forest as well. They suspected that Azura wishes to understand and possibly possess the powers at certain places, the crater being one of them and the hills in the wetlands is probably another. They also asked if we had seen any birdlike creatures in the crater, which we had not, only the grey cultists. The discussion was cut short when they realized Kra was in the room, and they packed up their books and left. A reasonable reaction considering what happened in the brown forest. I got hold of them again later and they agreed to identify the magical items from the forest to prove their abilities, which they were able to. The coin Kra had brought can gather small amounts of star energy while the key that had appeared can lock a door until the next Amna is full. Pakk mentioned a story about earlier Alderas traveling up the river and visited a land with a volcano in a great lake inhabited by lizards. The tale was considered a lie, like most of the things the mammals in Arland write. That seems to be the case because the Alderas claimed to have seen Gargantuans, even though it happened after the last apocalypse. I later found a book with the tale and I believe the Alderas found a text from before the tail war and copied it, possibly without even leaving Arland.

We also got more information about the orc in the dungeon. Madan's mate, Varja, had been struck by an illness known as king's fever. Lunas had been sent to the forests in the north were Krull was leading an orc tribe while Mir was sent west. Next to a lake known as the Night Mirror, which is claimed to be connected to the stars, Lunas had met Krull and the latter agreed to come to to The Evening Fortress. On the way back, Krull and Lunas had been ambushed by orcs, but Grogg and Lunari had showed up and Grogg defeated the orc leader in single combat. Krull had not been able to cure Varja, so Varja died and Krull was put in the dungeon. Pakk and Gromann appears to get upset when Varja is mentioned and I suspect they were supposed to cure Varja as well.

King's fever is a disease that seems to mostly affect the nobles and is somehow related to malevolent spirits known as demons. The mammals are reluctant to talk about demons and I do not think they know much themselves, but it seems that demons can take control of the minds of mammals, especially if the mammal is seeking it. Why anyone would seek this is hard to comprehend, but the mammals' blindness and hysterical nature probably makes them vulnerable. Mir and Isa claimed that a demon named Tuza had taken control of Madan and this was the same demon that had attacked Varja. In the Cities of the Prince, the followers of Tiri are responsible for protection against demons. I wonder if it is Amna or Sebak or both the mammals are praying to for protection. In Arland, an organization called Tivito has the exclusive right to deal with demons. They appear to be controlled or allied with Larma which means they are enemies of Aldera who claims that they are controlling and helping demons instead of stopping them.

At night, we went to Guling and the spirits around the tower were gone. I spent the night at the Ashtarite chapel with Nuur-Karif, but they disappeared into the hallways in the back. They were back in the morning, but covered in blood and with bite marks on their neck. Despite their wounds, they appeared to be in good health. They claimed to have been to the realm of the dead, but were unwilling to say anything more, beyond that they now had a higher rank in the Ashtarite hierarchy. Back at the fortress, we visited the chapel and they appeared to speak with the snake. I have observed Ssuxxakan followers appearing to speak to snakes, but Nuur-Karif had earlier claimed that Ashtarites can not do this. The snake bit Nuur-Karif in the throat and they were slightly intoxicated afterwards. At night, I could feel star energy from the rooms of Pakk and Gromann. They were experimenting with the cube.

The next morning, Nuur-Karif presented a human called Yana that would help us with disguises. Lunas had asked us to investigate a burial ground a bit to the north were the villagers had seen ghosts and the disguises could be convenient to avoid attracting attention. As Isa can see spirits, it would be interesting to bring them along. They have been kept at The Evening Fortress their whole life, not having had any opportunity to grow. This is especially unfortunate because they hinted that they were born under exceptionally powerful stars. I was a bit surprised that Lunari agreed that we should take Isa with us, as the Alderas certainly would not like it and it could jeopardize Lunari's payment. However, they went along with the plan and contributed enthusiastically by arranging a distracting party while we snuck Isa out.

We left immediately after the causeway appeared, traveling by wagon through the night. I observed the stars and I could see Amna exceptionally well, including how the stars reflected their mother's light. I could also see that Amna is not alone, but Sebak's spirit is still there, wrapped around and in Amna. I must have passed out at some point, because I woke the next morning in a small hut feeling exhausted. Isa claimed I had been using too much magic and that was why I had lost consciousness. Thinking back, I had done something with the energy from the stars, knotting it together like ropes. Trying something similar on Grogg, I got the impression of a bluish light and the taste of clean, strong metal.

Last edited by Stomoxys; 09-16-2021 at 09:58 AM.
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