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Old 05-09-2022, 12:45 PM   #141
Stomoxys
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 215 since leaving The Homeland

At some point, I let go of the illusion on Nuur-Karif, but did not think much about it. Looking over at them, I noticed that they had their illusion visage on again.

From what Darwan had said, we could have gone directly to Volkir, so the demon had to be at the harbour. I explained this to the others and Grogg agreed that we were most likely to find pirates in a harbour. I wondered if the tower with the stars had something to do with the Azura priest. It seemed plausible, but less than half of the fire's fuel was left, so we had prioritize the harbour.

We began walking again. As soon as we stepped away from the fire, the wind started howling again. Ahead of us, we could see the masts of the harbour, while the wind continuously tried to push us to the left. I ran ahead again and reached the crest of a sand dune that overlooked an area of rocky ground with a few plants sheltering in cracks here and there. Beyond the rocks, water stretched to the horizon and the foul stench of salt wafted towards me.

The harbour itself was very small with only a single, relatively small building that looked like a storehouse and possibly a dormitory. Two wooden piers went from the building into the water with a sail ship anchored at each end. The smallest had only a single mast and was barely larger than a rowing boat, while the leftmost of them had two masts and looked sturdy enough to sail the ocean.

I could see at least four apeoids in the harbour. They were all dressed in robes that covered everything except their faces and carried curved swords. Beyond the pier, I could see several apeoid figures moving on the largest ship, but something disturbed the illusion, making it difficult to see how many there were and what they were doing.

The others caught up with me and we discussed what to do. The apeoids could be pirates, but something about the ship made me think we should get on it. We decided to try diplomacy first and potentially attack if they were pirates. I took up position behind a rock were I had a good overview and readied an arrow, while the rest walked down and hailed the apeoids.

The apeoids were not immediately aggressive and I scanned the harbour for movement. The large ship was anchored, but its sails were set and could be rotated to catch the wind at short notice. The sails were flapping wildly in the wind and there seemed to be a lot of activity on board. The bow was facing into the wind though, so unless the wind direction changed, it would struggle to get moving.

Nuur-Karif talked to two apeoids that were standing next to the building. Due to the wind, I could not hear anything that was said. Initially, their conversation seemed cordial, but the apeoids soon seemed to tense up and I began to aim at one of the two apeoids standing at the pier next to the small ship. One of the the apeoids Nuur-Karif were talking to walked out on the pier to the others. The apeoid next to Nuur-Karif began to back away and Grogg charged at them. I took this as the signal and fired. Unfortunately, the arrow did not appear to do that much damage.

The two apeoids I had not fired at ran back towards the building and Nuur-Karif. Nuur-Karif and Wolfram ran towards them and acted like they were taking cover. Grogg's attack had been hidden from the apeoids by the building, so if their ruse succeeded, they should be able to get close and take the apeoids by surprise. On the other side of the building, Grogg repeatedly kicked the apeoid they had attacked until they collapsed.

I would not have time to fire another arrow at the apeoids before they got behind cover from the building. Instead I began to tie the threads of far sight while waiting for the screams of Nuur-Karif's victims. Worryingly, it was not screams, but the sound of an alarm bell I heard. I finished the knotting and noted with relief that it seemed to work in the illusion. Wolfram was standing at the corner of the building, mostly covering Nuur-Karif's body with their own, while the apeoids were to be standing further back mostly out of sight. Nuur-Karif opened a door, hiding the apeoids completely, but leaving Wolfram completely exposed.

Had they manouvred to get the apoids between me and themselves, they could have easily stabbed them in the back, but from what I could tell, they went inside the building instead and the bell kept sounding the alarm. Perhaps the apeoids were not helpless enough for Nuur-Karif's tastes. Grogg was apparently satisfied that their apeoid was dead, because they picked up their maul and walked back around the building.

Whatever was going on at the building, I could not affect it, so I changed my focus to the ship. Even with my improved sight, it was difficult to see what was happening there. It looked as if the image was twisted on its way to me. This made it difficult to tell how many apeoids were on board, but I estimated it to be between six and ten.

I took careful aim on one of the apeoids on the aft deck of the ship, as they were mostly standing still. Letting the arrow loose, it looked like it was flying true towards its target until a sudden force shifted its direction and it hit the side of the ship. None of the apeoids aboard seemed to notice though.

While I was looking at the ship, I noticed that the wind appeared to act differently on the ship than its surroundings. Just as I noticed it, the wind around me began to change. On the ship, a banner at the top of the highest mast changed direction and began pointing forward, as if the ship had the wind behind it. The wind appeared to whip the dark banner even more than the sails. I could not tell if it was black or very dark blue, possibly both, but the edges were lighter and there were some kind of symbols on it.

The wind got stronger again and I realized it was churning around the ship. Wolfram suddenly came running from behind the building up on the pier, followed by Nuur-Karif. Grogg at first looked confused, but followed after the others when they saw where they were going. Keeping my head low, I made my way down the steep slope towards the pier on an intercept course. Using an overturned rowing boat as a springboard, I leapt up on pier next to Wolfram and Nuur-Karif.

Ahead of us, the sails on the ship rotated and were filled with the wind. The ship seemed to be slowly drifting away from the pier while also rising up out of the water and sparks were forming at the waterline. Behind us, the apeoids were running and yelling at us to stop and that "It" would kill us. If there were ten apeoids on the ship and those three would fall us in the back, we would be in a terrible position. However, there was no alternative but to get on board and hope they would not follow.

The wind howled and seemed to have an intent of its own when I ran out on the pier. I had to compensate for every step to not be tossed into the water. Wolfram and Nuur-Karif managed to keep their balance, but I heard a splash behind me. Grogg must have miscalculated and ended up in the water, but they managed to hold on to the pier.

There was now a gap of several meters between the ship and the pier, but Wolfram lead the way and leaped across, followed by me and Nuur-Karif. Grogg managed to drag themselves out of the water almost immediately and came thundering across right behind the rest of us.
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Old 05-09-2022, 01:09 PM   #142
Stomoxys
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 215 since leaving The Homeland

After the howling wind on the pier, the calm on the boat felt deafening. However, the sound of the banner flapping immediately caught my attention and was almost unnaturally fascinating. It had to be represent the centre piece of the ritual that held Volkir and I leapt up into the mast and began climbing. In addition to the flapping of the banner, there was also a constant, whistling sound, like a strong wind blowing in the distance.

Below me on deck, the apeoids were standing around looking at us. Close up, there were no more distortions and I could see them clearly. While they were apeoid in shape, they were completely covered in flowing robes that appeared to flap in the wind, even though there was no wind on the ship. Their faces were hidden by deep cowls, but shining eyes glowed in the darkness under their hoods. It was hard to tell from above, but it looked like they were hovering above the deck. I got the impression that they did not appreciate our presence, but they did not take any hostile action.

From somewhere, a voice whispered to me, telling me to worship it and it would give me gifts that night. I ignored it and kept climbing, but the shapes below began to wave their arms as if they prepared for some ritual. Wolfram responded by charging at the nearest figure, followed by Nuur-Karif and Grogg. The shapes countered with gusts of wind and lightning from their eyes. Grogg was hit several times, causing them to roar manically and wave their maul wildly around themselves. Nuur-Karif and Wolfram were lucky to avoid Grogg's maul, but I saw them take several lightning bolts.

The sounds of combat below were drowned out by the voice returning. This time it said 'they' could try, it could make me as fast as the wind. I answered that we were sent by its sibling to free it. It did not seem like it registered my answer, but said it wanted to fly at full mast that night, as if asking for permission. Surprised by the sudden change in tone, I told it that Tivito were planning to feed it to the dragons. Again, there was a mood change and the voice hissed triumphantly that it would feed on the dragons and I should let it be with its worshipers.

I reached top of the mast and was hanging right below snapping banner. Even though the banner was flapping wildly as if whipped by a storm, I only felt a breeze and had not trouble holding on. Up close, the banner was as big as me and the field was black and a very dark blue or violet. The hues formed a pattern, but the banner was flapping so wildly that I could not tell if it was a checker pattern or something else. It might also have been distorting the illusion, making it blur. What was clear, was that there was fringe shimmering like silver and an emblem consisting of two crosses in the same silver material.

"How can I release you?" I yelled into the wind. As soon as I had spoken, I noticed the knots tying the banner to the mast. I hope this was a coincidence, but a shiver ran down my tail and I steeled my mind against any incursions.

In the illusion, the banner looked like they were tied with a normal rope, but I recognized the knots as similar to those I tie myself. With a bit of work, I would be able to untie the banner.

The voice seemed to have forgotten what I had already told it and asked me who had sent me. I repeated that its sibling had sent me and added Darwan's name. This got an immediate response. The voice sounded almost unhinged and begged me not to take it to "the heretic" and commanded me to let it stay with those that worshiped me and it would give me gifts. It sounded like its followers would worship me, but it was hard to tell what it meant. I answered that being worshiped by apeoids were worthless.

Considering that Darwan had not known Volkir's name, it was odd that I got such a strong response when mentioning Darwan's name. The voice returned and said there were good reasons why Darwan had been captured before them and were it not for that traitor, they would still be free. The hysterical voice suddenly took over and begged me not to give them to the heretic and traitor. They would give me the wind. I asked if they really wanted to stay imprisoned by Tivito, who had captured them in the first place, and they said that anything was better than Gritt and Darwan.

Krull had also been terrified of Gritt and it sounded like they were preparing for a confrontation when we met them at The Night Mirror. I told Volkir that Krull was opposing Gritt and the sane voice responded, sounding almost hopeful, that we should work together to explain to Krull who the real traitors were. I do not think Krull would need much convincing to think Gritt were a traitor, but I asked why they were traitors. Volkir said they and the other demons would never had been captured had it not been for Gritt and Darwan.

Trying to learn more from the demon, I asked them what Gritt did. They had denied the others everything good and refused to share the power. This sounded like typical apeoid behaviour and I said as much. The knots were almost loose and the hysteric voice returned with a vengeance. It shrieked "Take me, but do not take me to Darwan." as the knots came loose.

The banner came loose and the wind suddenly fell silent. Only my companions were left on the deck below me. Away from the ship, it looked like the illusion was dissolving into sand and smoke and the mast I was hanging in began to sway violently.

With all my force, I hurled the banner as far up as I could. For a moment, it looked like it was going to drift gently to the ground. However, a powerful gust of wind took it and blew it away so it disappeared from sight within seconds. I was too busy getting down from the mast to keep track of the banner and it seemed the ship was sinking and dissolving at the same time. Hopefully, Volkir would escape their bounds. A demon under the control of another sounds even worse than a free demon.

I got down to the others and saw that both Grogg and Wolfram had several burn marks and looked like they were barely standing. The ship continued to sink under it while the sails drifted away in a cloud of sand and dust. I wondered how it would feel to be bathed in an illusion of salt water. Thankfully, I did not have to try it out. Just as the ship was about to disappear under the waves, the illusion broke completely and we found ourselves dropping into the river.

Grogg broke the surface and managed to roll over on their back, keeping their head above water. Wolfram, however, was nowhere to be seen and I dived down and grabbed them. I was able to drag them back to the surface and Nuur-Karif came over and helped me keep their head above the surface.

Seven ships were coming straight towards us. The lead ship was Nulius' flagship and Nuur-Karif shouted out for them. We were in the river outside the canal, south of the canal entrance and west of the palace. The ship had been facing almost west out of the harbour when we left. If directions in the illusion corresponded to directions in reality, we had then first gone south out of the door to the campfire and then turned right, heading west, when we walked to the harbour. Judging distances in the illusion was very difficult, but I think it corresponded more or less to the distance we had traveled in reality. Of course, we must have walked on water and through the walls of the palace, so Darwan did not just create an illusion.

The ships must have gotten past the chains somehow and I made a note to ask Ninos how. Nuur-Karif shouted towards the ship that was bearing down on us and to my relief, Ninos appeared at the gunwale. They recognized us and shouted that they would help us.

Steering close to us, someone tossed down ropes to us. While Nuur-Karif held them up, I fastened one of the ropes under Wolfram's arms and they were hauled aboard. We repeated the process with Grogg and I was glad Ninos had found their sturdiest ropes. Nuur-Karif were able to climb aboard on their own and I scrambled up last.

Ninos had someone fetch blankets and something warm to drink, but kept looking nervously over their shoulders towards the aft deck. Nulius was standing there, staring straight into the distance. I doubt they were happy that we had defied their order to stay put in our cabin and not cause any disturbances. Ælios would no be happy either. Grogg's plaster cast was completely soaked.

Judging from Ajaw, we had been gone for at least an hour. In the east, the dark shadows had moved closer while a red glow stretched across the horizon in the west. In between, Byblos was bathed in a strange light of its own and I wondered what was going on there. Looking down, I noticed Grogg's shadow was gone.
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Old 05-22-2022, 03:59 AM   #143
Stomoxys
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 215 since leaving The Homeland

Judging from the sky, the dragons were approaching and I asked Grogg if they were ready. They responded with a simple yes and hefted their maul over their shoulder. Nuur-Karif wanted to go to Ælios' cabin, presumably to look for Yana, and Wolfram agreed. They were badly hurt and wanted to find Ælios and ask for healing magic. I found it a bit odd, considering that they suspected Ælios of necromancy. Grogg wanted to stay on deck and wait for the dragons. I would like to stay with them, but Ninos said that something had happened with Ælios. It looked like it would take a while for the dragons to arrive, so I decided to go down with the others. Grogg decided to come along as well, but asked Kra to stay on deck and keep watch. The spirit raven made a racket and through the ring, I could see them jumping around Grogg's feet as if they was looking for something. Probably Grogg's shadow.

Grogg and I made our way down through the dark hold to the cabin. All the lanterns were out in Ælios' laboratory leaving it in a deep gloom. My shiny pebble had gone out, but the shimmer coin was still glowing and with a little bit of extra energy, I could use it to light up the room sufficiently to see.

At the far end of the cabin, Ælios was slumped against the wall. Nuur-Karif went into the office, but Wolfram was sitting on a barrel that looked familiar. Walking up to them, I felt the odd citrus smell again and my suspicions were confirmed. It was Darwan's barrel.

Wolfram acted completely oblivious and I told them to get off the barrel. They were already under Jori's influence and adding Darwan as well could not lead to anything good. They refused to budge, but I began checking the barrel for energies. I could not immediately sense anything, but when I gingerly touched the barrel, I sensed that there were some kind of energies inside. Again, I reiterated that Wolfram should get away from the barrel, but they obstinately remained seated and instead asked me suspiciously what I had done in the mast. They muttered something about trying to capture the demon. I was about to tell them that I had no interest in demonic corruption, but I was interrupted by Ælios.

The surgeon had roused themselves and said something along the lines of "I hope you did not also ...", but they trailed off before they finished. I walked over to them to take a closer look and they appeared to be unhurt, but exhausted. I asked them what had happened, but they only waved a hand and indicated that they wanted the barrel gone. Wolfram finally got up, but held on to the barrel and dragged it along over to the patients.

Ælios relaxed a bit when the barrel was removed, but still looked tense. I carefully touched them to see if their pulse was normal. They started when I touched them, but I think I was more distressed. From the touch, I got a sense of intense stress and anxiety, so much that it was infecting me. I let go immediately and backed away.

Wolfram had taken the barrel with them into the office, while Grogg announced that nothing was happening and they would return to the deck. I had heard Hylda's and Yana's voices in the office, but they did not seem to know what had happened. I followed Wolfram, but met Nuur-Karif in the doorway. They asked where Grogg was heading and set off after I told them. To their back, I said that it was Darwan's barrel.

In the office, Wolfram had put down the barrel and, strangely, reseated themselves on it. I asked them why they were obsessing so much about the barrel, but only got a nonsensical response that they had to keep it from me. I could not help but wonder if they were had gotten the taste for demonic powers. They next asked if Darwan might be in the barrel and looked almost disappointed when I said that whatever was in the barrel was not nearly powerful enough to contain a demon. Was this why they wanted to capture Volkir? As a side note, the barrel appeared to be made of cocobolo wood, another indication that Darwan came from somewhere near The Homeland.

Arguing with Wolfram would be pointless and Nuur-Karif returned, so I recounted what Volkir had said, emphasizing how hysterical the demon had sounded. While I talked, Hylda got up and asked where Grogg was. Like Grogg, they did not have a shadow. They did not know how it happened, but asked us to tell them if Grogg came back. Yana had their shadow, but something appeared to be wrong with their vision.

Ælios was incapacitated, so Nuur-Karif began to see to Wolfram's wounds. Despite the presence of a bed that would make it easier, Wolfram remained on the barrel. I opened the window to look out and the red hue was spreading across the sky and getting nearer. It did not look like it would reach us for a while yet, so I went back to the lab to ask Ælios what had happened.

The surgeon was sitting on a stool, holding a book opened on a blank page and a quill in their hand. However, they were staring blankly into space instead of writing anything. I asked them how they were doing and they pulled themselves out of their reverie. After taking a few seconds to gather themselves, they whispered that their masterpiece had not been what they envisioned. I asked them to elaborate, but they only said it would be best if we took the patients with us when we left.

I carefully touched Ælios and again felt a wave of anxiety coming, but it was less intense this time. They said they had fixed the patients and I asked why they were not more pleased, noting that they had not said "healed". They only shook their head, so I told them there had been a demon in the room. They muttered that they knew and looked down for a few seconds. They then turned back to me and asked how much time they had and if it would be possible to hide.

They seemed to have had some kind of interaction with the demon, so I told them honestly that I did not really know. They insisted that we should take the patients and the barrel away if they were to have any chance of escaping. They admitted they had entered their agreement willingly, but now they had to get as far away as possibly. It was unusual to see an apeoid that was aware of their mistakes and I asked if I could see their aura. They said I could do whatever I wished as long as we took the patients and the barrel. Their aura looked normal and I could not detect any hint of a demonic taint. I told them as much, but it did not seem to bring them any relief. They wondered if they should wake the patients so we could get going immediately, but I answered that Wolfram and Grogg were too wounded to move immediately.

I returned to the office and told them that Ælios had made some sort of deal with Darwan and we had to take the patients. Nuur-Karif wanted to fetch Grogg and I followed them up on deck. Two guards were keeping a watch on us, but they made no attempt to stop us. The ships traveled swiftly on the river, so we could no longer see Byblos. In the west, Ajaw had reached the horizon, which was a deep red hue. To the east, dark tendrils were reaching out from the solid blackness on the horizon.

Grogg was slumped near the bow with the needle protruding from their neck. Nuur-Karif walked over and pulled it out. Grogg tried to swat away the disturbance, but Nuur-Karif dodged easily and said that Hylda were looking for them. This convinced Grogg to join us downstairs. Grogg and Hylda discussed their lack of shadows and Hylda said they had had a dream were they had to run after Grogg to get them back. It sounded plausible that it was related to their missing shadows and perhaps it can be used to get Grogg's shadow back. Unpleasant side effects seems to be a theme for demonic gifts. After they finished their discussion, Grogg promptly inserted the needle back into their neck. Meanwhile, I helped Nuur-Karif reapply the cast on Grogg's arm. It turned out Nuur-Karif had gotten the needle from Ælios and given it to Grogg.

Last edited by Stomoxys; 05-22-2022 at 04:49 AM.
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Old 05-22-2022, 04:18 AM   #144
Stomoxys
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 215 since leaving The Homeland

When we were done with Grogg's cast, I went back to the laboratory to take a look at Korro's aura. The discolouration was gone and as far as I could tell, they were a normal apeoid. Ninos knocked at the door and I led them into the office. They said that we had to stay in Ælios' cabin and could only leave if we all left the ship. Nulius had not given the order in that many words, but it had been obvious what they meant. I told them we would leave as soon as Wolfram was capable. They nodded and just reiterated the order.

I asked them what had happened on the ship and they said they did not know, but it had definitely been magical. While their team was working on the chains blocking the harbour, it felt as if the whole world had been warped. It looked as if some parts of the city had moved closer while other parts had moved further away. There had also been a terrible commotion at the palace square. At first there had been screams and shouts from an angry mob, but they had changed into fear and terror and it sounded as if someone had attacked. They feared what would happen if the ceremony had gone wrong and the superstitious apeoids thought that the gods had abandoned them. It will probably be quite brutal, especially with the ongoing cataclysm, but I did not say anything. Wolfram began to speculate, but had the sense to not explicitly reveal our involvement. To change the subject, I asked what would happen now that Mir had declared war on the office of the king. Nilos was very glad that was not for them to decide.

While we were talking with Ninos, Nuur-Karif sneaked out to talk to Ælios. I followed Ninos to the cabin door and overheard Nuur-Karif negotiating with Ælios. The surgeon had offered them one jar of some kind of healing salve that was supposed to speed up the body's natural regeneration, but was very painful in the process. If we handed the jars with the clay tokens over to Ælios, we would get two extra jars of salve. Since the clay tokens seemed pretty useless to us, I nodded consent when Nuur-Karif turned to me, but added that they would have to convince Wolfram.

As expected, Wolfram insisted that they had to investigate the tokens before handing them over. That Ælios appears to be much more concerned for the well being of spirits than themselves was completely lost on them. What I had not expected was that they would transform themselves into the demon bear. Nuur-Karif grabbed Yana and ran out of the office, coughing on the ash and smoke that filled the air. I held my breath and got over to the window where it was possible to breath. The bear began to sniff and lick the tokens, leaving ashes everywhere.

Wolfram soon turned back again, but their paws had left scorch marks on the boards that would be impossible to remove without replacing them. Reluctantly, they conceded that there were no apeoid spirits in the tokens, probably not a whole spirit anyway, so Ælios could have the tokens. I had to ask several times, and they sounded strange when they finally replied.

Nuur-Karif handed over the jars to Ælios. The surgeon must have been aware that something had happened in the office, because I heard them saying they would stay out of the office until we left so they would not have to see what we had done. Nuur-Karif wanted to test the salve on themselves and smeared it on their chest. We waited for a few minutes and nothing seemed to happen. However, a strange piercing pain began to build up in my chest when I looked at them, so I went to the window to look at the sky.

Ajaw appeared to be balancing on the horizon without going beneath it and the sky was a deep red. I did not see any signs of Kama and Taxini, but the ship was heading south west, so I could not see the sky in the south. In case they appeared and I lost consciousness, I tied myself in with a rope. Above me, the soldiers were on high alert, but they were not preparing for anything specific.

If we were going to leave, the patients should be awake, so I left the window to tell Ælios. I took the opportunity to study Nillet's aura as well and it also looked normal. The effect of the salve should be over in an hour, so Ælios thought they should begin with the patients immediately if they were going to be ready by the time we left.

I looked into the office to confer with Nuur-Karif, but the stinging pain returned much stronger than before. Somehow, I knew it was Nuur-Karif's pain, despite them hiding it masterfully. The realization left me stunned for a few seconds, which Nuur-Karif noticed and wondered if I was hurt. I said I was not, but it must have been obvious to them that something was wrong. They did not inquire further though, but said that Ælios should wake the patients.

Is this the kind of pain the followers of Tzacol experiences. If so, why have I not experienced anything before, and why was I not sent to their temple. The implications are quite disturbing, but the alternative, that it has something to do with my proximity to the disgusting demon, is horrifying. I will have to investigate more later.

Ælios gathered themselves when I told them to wake the patients and told me to fetch a bottle from their desk. It contained an orange liquid and gave off the stench of alcohol when they opened it. There was also a sweet, fruity smell to the liquid which I think was meant to hide the taste of alcohol. It seemed much stronger than something that had just fermented, but Ælios took a good swig of it.

Carefully avoiding looking at Nuur-Karif, I returned to the window and asked them over my shoulder if we should begin treating Wolfram as well. They lied and claimed they did not feel anything, but said they could begin treating Wolfram. Wolfram had tried to sleep a bit, but agreed to try when Nuur-Karif woke them up. I carefully glanced over at Wolfram and could tell they were in pain. Unlike Nuur-Karif, they did not lie about it, but were able to handle it just as well.

Just as I turned back, I saw a flash in the west. After several seconds, something that sounded like distant thunder reached me. Above us, dark clouds were pressing in from the east, but the flash had seemed to be much further west, away from the clouds and into the red. Suddenly, Kra was cawing wildly and the needle was hovering over Grogg. Up on deck, there was a tumult and I could hear armoured boots march past the door. From the smell, a change of weather was coming and we hurriedly packed up our things.

Outside the window, I spotted another flash in the west and looked out again. Far in the distance, a shadow had appeared in front of Ajaw, but it was too far away to tell what it was. Tying the threads, I enhanced my vision so I could just make out the shape againts the glare of Ajaw. An enormous water spout had appeared in front of Ajaw. I have heard of such phenomena happening outside the coast near The Homeland, but this thing dwarfed anything I have heard of before and was over land. It must also have moved extremely fast as it looked like darted back and forth, even though it must have been tens of kilometers away. I remembered what Volkir had said about feasting on dragons and hoped it was only the hysterical rambling of a deranged apeoid.

Grogg grabbed their maul and started banging into the deck making it creak worryingly. Wolfram seemed to be sufficiently mobile, so Nuur-Karif went to the door and shouted for Ninos. The spy appeared and looked uncharacteristically unnerved. They said they had never seen their priests that upset before and agreed that we should get off the ship as soon as possible.

I told Ælios we were ready to leave and they picked up an injection tool similar to Nuur-Karif's, but much larger. After steadying themselves, they plunged the needle straight into Nillets chest and injected the contents. After a few seconds, Nillet began to gasp for air before they suddenly heaved themselves off the table and landed in a pile on the floor. They then puked yellowish bile onto the sole and I felt a building urge to vomit myself. In the meantime, Ælios moved on to Korro with a fresh needle and repeated the procedure. I would like to think it was just the revolting smell and sight of Nillet's vomit that made me sick, but I do not think so.

Nillet's puking ceased for a bit and they tried to get back on their feet. They failed and collapsed back into a heaving heap, but they were upright long enough for me to see their shadow. It was not Nillet's, but Korro's. Darwan had left their mark.

Ninos tore open the door and told us we had to hurry. Nuur-Karif helped Nillet to their feet and told me to help Korro. I did not want to find out what would happen if I touched the shivering apeoid, so I told Hylda to take care of Korro while I grabbed some luggage instead. The spy led us towards the ladder to the deck and I noticed they had a dagger in their hand. They paused at the base of the ladder and instructed us to go up and turn right right to the gunwale. There, a boat would be ready for us.
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Old 05-22-2022, 04:40 AM   #145
Stomoxys
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 215 since leaving The Homeland

The deck was full of apeoids separated into two groups. One of the groups had brought a lion up on deck and what I assume were priests were standing around it. Another set of priests led the other group and the two groups were chanting and yelling at each other. Some of the sailors and soldiers seemed to favour one group or the other and the opposing sides were shoving and pushing each other when they got too close. Most of them just looked confused though.

All the priests were wearing white or yellow robes with gold details, but the patterns differed between the two groups. The group with the lion was presumably the lion priests, so the other group would have to be dragon priests. Nujan had said the two groups did not get along and the animosity was at full display. Had Grogg realized that there were dragon worshipers on the ship, we would probably never get them off, so I did not say anything. Nulius was nowhere to be seen, but I was amazed that they would tolerate such a complete lapse of discipline.

We reached the gunwale, but I noticed some of the apeoids looked suspiciously at us, especially the dragon worshipers. A large rowing boat was moored to the side of the hull and several ropes were tied to the gunwale, making it possible to climb down. Korro and Nillet would not be able to climb on their own, so we agreed that Wolfram would climb down first and then Grogg could lower them down. I tied ropes around our luggage and under the patients arms, carefully avoiding touching them, while Wolfram climbed down. This part of the operation went smoothly, even though we got more and more attention from the apeoids.

From the east, a grey wall of clouds were approaching rapidly. To the west, the slave plantations of Larma stretched out as far as we could see, bathed in the red light. The water spout was still visible as a shadow far to the west. I wonder if it was the presence of Volkir that upset the priests so much. They should have expected that both the dragons would appear.

Two of the dragon priests turned towards us and pointed. Grogg decided this was the time to abandon ship and more or less stumbled over the gunwale. They landed in the boat with a crash, but held on to a rope. This must have dampened their fall somewhat, but I was very glad the boat was sturdy. Hylda screamed out and began to climb down followed by Yana. The scream got the attention of some of the soldiers and judging from their expression, they shared Nulius' hatred of orcs.

Yana must have slipped or lost their grip, because they suddenly came crashing down into the boat. Hylda tried to catch them, but only succeeded in losing their own grip and fell into the water with a big splash. I dived after them and they remained calm, so I managed to keep them above water. However, with their backpack, they were too heavy to drag against the current. Nuur-Karif had started climbing down, but cut their rope to drop down quickly, barely catching one of the other ropes to slow their descent into a graceful swing. Safely down in the boat, they tossed the rope out to me and they and Wolfram pulled us aboard.

One of the dragon priests came over to the gunwale and started yelling something at us. I got Hylda to grab one set of oars and took the other myself and we rowed away from the ship towards the eastern riverbank. The priest stood there chanting and yelling the whole time until the current brought the ship out of earshot. Whatever they were chanting about, Tinibagra presumably had more important matters to focus on, so I did not give them much attention.

The eastern bank of the river was as bleak as expected with empty fields stretching all the way to the wall of clouds. We aimed for a small hillock next to the river with a few trees and some scrubs, which would give some protection. The boat slid into the reeds on the bank and Wolfram jumped on land and dragged the bow up on the bank. We quickly hauled our luggage on land, but I silently cursed when Grogg got up. Their fall must have weakened the boards and they managed to step right through them. Since we were already at the river bank, the only immediate problem was that the patients lying in the bottom of the boat got soaking wet. However, if we survived the night, traveling by boat would much faster and safer than plodding along the King's road.

We had just gotten everyone on land when rain started pouring down. Despite the hole, the hull of the boat might give us some shelter. It might also be possible to fix it, so Wolfram and I pulled the boat up to the top of the hillock. Wolfram's pain was receding and it was much easier to ignore when I was busy doing something.

We had spotted some lights to the south when rowing towards land and Nuur-Karif wondered if we should go and see if it was a village where we could find shelter. On the one hand, a hole in the ground would probably be the safest place to be, but being seen by apeoids could be problematic. Another problem with apeoids was that their sensations might affect me, but what made me decide against going there was the risk of flooding. Wolfram was happy to not risk any crowds while Grogg had no intention of staying underground either way.

The sky was getting darker and darker, with the clouds displacing the red glow in the west. Last time, the darkness and red glow had met in an apocalyptic struggle, but this time it seemed the fires were retreating before the clouds. Perhaps Volkir held Tinibagra at bay.

Wolfram placed the boat upside down against a tree and began to tie it down. The first time we met Palongi, the winds were so powerful they would have ripped the roof off the farmhouse had Grogg not held it in place, so I doubted the ropes would hold, but it was better than nothing. In the meantime, I sat down to look for the Hunters. I could see the stars through the clouds, but there were energies in the clouds that blurred and twisted my view. The stars seemed evasive and hard to pinpoint and there were no signs of Kama and Taxini.

Grogg was staring towards the east and held their maul in an iron grip. The wall of clouds coming towards us was now almost black and the red glow was just a faint shimmer the west. The lights on the ships were still visible, but they were rapidly floating down the river away from us.

The troll was preparing themselves for a fight and decided that the riverbank should be their battleground. Marching down, the smashed their maul into the ground and roared Ogra's name. In response, the wind picked up and howled through the trees and bushes. A lightning bolt flashed over the fields to the east, almost immediately followed by an ear shattering thunderclap. It was soon followed by another, but Grogg held their ground.

There were no signs of The Hunters, so I searched for their threads. The stars were slipping away, so there were less threads than usual. Otherwise, I probably would not have been able to track them. I were not able to find their location, but I got a clear impression of hiding in ambush. I walked over to Grogg and, using my most authoritative voice, told them that they had to keep the dragons' attention long enough for The Hunters to spring their ambush. They responded by slamming their maul into the ground even harder.

Just as soon as I said it, I got a strange feeling that something was wrong. The rain suddenly stopped and there was a moment of silence before a lightning bolt struck the ground just to the north of us. Wolfram shouted something from the shelter of the boat, but they were drowned out by another bolt just 20 meters east of the hillock. The lightning was followed by a gust of wind that seemed to circle around Grogg.

While there was little I could do to help Grogg directly, at least I could create a decoy to hopefully take strikes for Grogg. Dancing the dance of The Nine, I carefully created an image of Grogg as true to the original as possible. A new Grogg appeared right before me and slammed their maul into the ground, just like the original. Possibly due to energies all around us, the image made the ground shake and roared just as loudly as Grogg themselves.

I was on my way to create another image when I heard Nuur-Karif hurrying towards me. Usually, they have no trouble navigating the darkness, but this time, they seemed to be walking blindly and almost stumbled on something. I shouted to them so they would find me and they came over and asked what was happening. I explained that it was a decoy , but for some reason, they were angry about it. While we talked, Wolfram also came down from the shelter and complained.

I ignored them and Nuur-Karif stalked back to the boat. The images should be placed apart from each other, so I walked about ten meters further up the river. In the meantime, Wolfram walked over to Grogg and grabbed hold of the troll, distracting them from their ritual. The dragon took this opportunity to strike.

Had it not been for the decoy, both Grogg and Wolfram would have been destroyed. Instead, a bolt of lightning tore the image apart in an explosion of gore and burning flesh. The realism was very satisfying. I had to blink several times before I could see anything through the afterglow. Where the image had been, a circle with a diameter of several meters were scorched black. A large snake like creature at least five meters long was rearing up in the center of the circle. It spread out fanlike wings and gave out a loud hiss from its crocodile looking jaws.

Last edited by Stomoxys; 05-22-2022 at 05:47 AM.
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Old 05-27-2022, 07:54 AM   #146
Stomoxys
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 215 since leaving The Homeland

Before the creature landed, the sky was covered by a thick layer of dark clouds. Afterwards, it was suddenly clear and Amna shone down on us from above. On closer inspection, the creature did not really look like a snake. If anything the body reminded me of the strange creatures called sea horses that are said to live outside the coast of The Homeland. However, this creature had four short legs with huge talons and a head that reminded me mostly of a crocodile. The dragon certainly did not look like a Person with wings.

The dragon looked down on Grogg, who shouted for Lunari's help. From my position, on the far side of the creature, I could not see if anything happened. Wolfram, standing next to Grogg, favoured direct action and threw a knife. However, it was taken by the wind and went flying.

Getting behind a nearby rock, I created an image of a new troll. If missiles were ineffectual against the dragon, creating distractions and confusion would be more useful than trying to hit it with my staff. Besides, if Grogg and Wolfram were going to use their normal tactics, anything that could take damage for them would be an advantage.

Just then, the dragon roared. From my position behind the creature, it felt as if the air was vibrating and the ground was trembling. Grogg and Wolfram were standing directly in front of it and it looked like they struggled to stay on their feet. As if answering the dragon, Grogg roared out a yes, while Wolfram ran at it, chopping at its wing with their sword and dagger.

Wolfram hit and the dragon roared again. Even though the wing was lacerated, the creature barely seemed to notice and swiped at Wolfram with the remains. Grogg took a step towards the beast and roared that they were tough. They seemed to be able to understand the creature and communicate with it. Their conversation was as friendly as you would expect, though. I began instructing the image of the troll to attack and heard Hylda scream from the hill that Grogg was indeed tough.

Wolfram continued their struggle, but were knocked off their feet by the winds just as my troll came running towards them. I realized that by adding extra twists and turns, the image was able to roar and even cause the ground to tremble when storming forward. I am not sure if it actually caused the ground to shake, or just stimulated the senses to create the illusion. I suspect the latter.

The dragon ignored the illusion and pounced on Grogg instead. Despite the shattered wing, the creature ran so gracefully it appeared to be floating over the ground. It came crashing into Grogg and sent the troll flying with a series of load curses. Wolfram and my image came running after, but before they could reach it, the dragon did a pirouette and roared again.

Grogg got back on their feet and yelled at the dragon to call for its mother, they would never surrender. While it was a powerful beast, its appearance was far less than what I had expected of a creature that covered the sky with storms and gave even the stars pause. If this was just a spawn, it would make much more sense, and improve our chances of survival considerably. I began creating another troll.

The troll and the dragon kept roaring at each other while Wolfram charged at the beast again. This time it was prepared and sidestepped Wolfram's strikes. In response, it snapped at Wolfram's head with its jaws. Wolfram had a heavy helmet that covered their entire face, but I could see blood running beneath it and Wolfram fell backwards.

My troll reached the dragon and hacked awkwardly at it with its axe. While careful study would have revealed that something was wrong with the troll, it was not obvious in the heat of battle and the dragon dodged away from the strikes and tried to bite the head off the troll. As its jaws passed through nothing, I saw an insulted expression on the dragon's face just before Grogg's maul connected at full force. The second troll had now received its instructions and charged forward chanting for Ogra.

The dragon pounced on Wolfram again who barely managed to roll out of the way. Grogg tried to hold their ground again, but was sent flying by the onrushing beast. My trolls ran after the dragon, waving their weapons and roaring while I conjured a third into existence. The dragon must have realized that the images could not actually harm it, because instead of trying to dodge their attacks, it roared at Grogg again. They still appeared to be a nuisance though, but I did not bother to send in the last image. Instead, I began gathering energy for a direct strike.

Grogg yelled for Hylda to find their shadow while Wolfram got up on their feet. Their helmet had several perforations and blood was flowing, but they did not appear to be in immediate danger of passing out. Another roar from the dragon was answered by Grogg that they would rather die than kneel and the troll lurched forward again. Once again, the dragon flowed forward and rammed Grogg out of their way. However, Wolfram was standing behind Grogg with their sword at the ready. When the dragon came bearing down, Wolfram used its momentum to impale it on their sword.

The dragon screamed and went crashing past Wolfram, ending in a heap. Grogg yelled that they hoped Palo would choke on Vanjan while Wolfram ran after the beast and stabbed it several times with their sword. The creature began to dissipate while Grogg stumbled over to the remains. Before they could reach it, the dragon disintegrated completely and something that looked like a spirit hovered above it. However, unlike spirits, I could see it clearly without the ring.

I managed to contain the energies and it looked like I held a blazing ball of star light in my hands. The hovering spirit was an excellent target, but I was not sure how to direct the energy at it. I did not know if it would have any effect either, but there was only one way to find out. Grogg charged right through the spirit, while Wolfram had started transforming into the demon bear.

The spirit looked like it was about to jump up into the air and the wind whispered so all could hear that we had already lost. Wolfram shouted something about shadows and gestured on the ground. I made a throwing gesture to direct the ball of energy at the floating shape and a bright beam of starlight shot forth from my hands. My muscle memory was used to account for gravity, but the beam went straight ahead, overshooting the spirit.

Grogg shouted for Kra to stop the dragon, but it was already taking of at an incredible speed. On its way up, I saw what Wolfram had meant, as a shadow corresponding to the dragon shot across the ground. Kra cawed wildly and fluttered upwards, while Grogg threw themselves after it and tried to grab the incorporeal tail. It was unclear if they missed or went through it, but the spirit did not slow down. Grogg was furious, but realized that Kra had no way of keeping up and called the raven back.
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Old 05-27-2022, 08:03 AM   #147
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Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 215 since leaving The Homeland

Back on the ground, Hylda was running around looking Grogg's shadow, while Wolfram set off towards the top of the hill. The beam of energy had taken the last of my energy, but I made my way over to Grogg. I could tell they were hurt, but the pain were affecting them, and consequently me, much less than the other apeoids. I asked them if it was a dragon. They said yes and confirmed that it was only a spawn.

The clouds were returning, but something was shimmering in the light of Amna were the dragon's body had fallen. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a pile of scales that each looked like a gem. There must have been at least 100 kilos of them. If nothing else, they could probably be traded away, but a suit of armour made from the material should be both very strong and look magnificent.

Nuur-Karif came over and asked if anyone needed first aid. I was unhurt, just tired, and Grogg insisted that Wolfram needed it more. I was inclined to agree, judging from the blood. Hylda ran around, even checking that my shadow was not Grogg's, but had to report failure and helped Grogg and I collect the scales. In the light of The Shimmer Coin, I found two claws and two fangs. Each were over thirty centimeters long and clearly magical, so I brought them back to the boat.

At the top of the hill, Nuur-Karif was telling Wolfram to come under the boat so they could look at Wolfram's wounds. Wolfram ignored them and was manically drawing a circle on the ground. From their muttering, I gathered that they were planning to force the dragon to come back with a ritual. They had drawn the innermost part of the circle with their own blood, making it look quite gruesome. At some point, they had switched to chalk and were struggling to draw on the rocky ground. I told them that it was likely to start raining again soon, but they ignored me, so I went back to Grogg.

When I told Grogg what was going on, they yelled up that it was pointless. The dragon had said it would not be possible to harm it without a shadow, because one had to kill its shadow. I suppose Wolfram had a shadow, but their ritual was unlikely to succeed, so I did not worry. Even if they were able to complete the circle before the rain washed it away, the dragon would probably be strong enough to resist the ritual. That is, if they could even reach the dragon. It had to be far away by then.

I asked Grogg what else the dragon had said, and they said it claimed we had led someone or something called Vanjan (or something similar) to Palongi. That name was unfamiliar to me, but it sounded a bit like Varja or Vanus. None of those would fit very well, but perhaps it was another name for Volkir. Darwan had not recognized the name "Volkir", but had answered evasively when I tried to get their name for their sibling. I suppose an insane storm demon could get along with an enraged storm dragon, but I am sure there will be an answering move from Tinibagra. If the dragon's strategies were as overconfident as its tactics, they were likely to make mistakes. Besides, I am more excited to see the new force announced by the wandering stars.

It started raining again before we were done, but we were able to gather the scales into one of Grogg's bags. It was so full I was worried the weight would cause it to burst, but Grogg insisted it was fine and carried it up to the boat. Wolfram was still drawing, despite the intensifying rain, but the rest had taken shelter under the boat. Occasional flashes of lightning and Ajaw was still visible on the western horizon, but it was getting so dark that Wolfram had to make their totem shine with the light of Amna. Through the veil of the clouds, the stars were unchanged.

Nuur-Karif told Grogg about the healing salve, but Grogg declined. They trusted more in their needle, despite its recent history. I curled up in the corner under the boat and tried to rest. However, Korro and Nillet were staring catatonically into the dark. Sitting next to them, I got an uncomfortable feeling that made it impossible to relax. Further away, Nuur-Karif were holding Yana and were hysterically worried, which did not help. After fifteen minutes, I gave up and climbed up in a tree outside. It was more dangerous in case of lightning or powerful winds, but staying under the boat with apeoids was becoming unbearable.
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Old 06-19-2022, 04:59 AM   #148
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Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 215 since leaving The Homeland

I found a comfortable nook in the tree and curled up to sleep. The rain intensified and the tree was occasionally rattled by gusts of wind, but the foliage provided sufficient shelter and it was still warm. Down on the ground, Wolfram continued working on their circle, but had to resort to scratching their symbols into the ground for them to survive the weather.

Wolfram's chanting woke me maybe two hours later. Their circle had a diameter of about two meters, the largest I had ever seen them do. I dove down from the tree and took shelter behind some rocks. Wolfram's rituals have so far been less explosive than Krupik's, but I do not trust any apeoid wielding large amounts of energy. Observing the threads of energy, the totem was glowing with a white light, but it was difficult to get a grasp on how the threads were flowing.

The ritual ended without any explosions and I stepped forward to ask them if it had worked. However, Wolfram turned into the demon bear before I could say anything. Far to the west, it looked like streams of dark clouds were driving away the orange glow. I idly wondered how Nulius' priests would handle such a turn of events and attached the spirit ring in front of my eye.

When I turned back to the totem, a spirit was standing there. It appeared to be a male apeoid, dressed in fine, but unremarkable clothing. Kra emerged from the boat and studied the totem intently. I approached the spirit, but it did not appear to notice me, not even when I spoke to it and waved my hand in front of it. Instead, it stared intently at the totem.

This went on for several minutes before it looked around and then sat down on the ground. It then produced a book and began to write something. I looked over its shoulder, but the translucent quill did not produce any letters. The spirit finished their writing and stared intently at the demon bear and the totem. I looked at their aura and noted the differences between a living and a spirit apeoid.

Kra began cawing, causing Hylda to murmur in their sleep. The spirit looked like it tried to get Kra's attention and seemed to succeed. At least the raven skipped closer and studied the spirit intently while cawing softly. The spirit then began to move its lips as if speaking, but I could not tell what they were saying. I am not sure if this was because it was hard to read translucent lips or because they were not speaking a language I knew. Mostly the last I believe. Kra looked like they understood though, because they skittered past me to a spot indicated by the spirit and began pecking at the ground.

I walked over to the spot and began shuffling away the top layer of grass, but was interrupted by the spirit bear suddenly bumping into me. They did not appear to be aggressive, but I kept my distance as the bear began to dig. Its claws were much more efficient for digging anyway. The spirit observed the demon bear intently while Kra hopped around them and cawed.

About a meter down, the bear's claw stuck solid stone. More digging revealed what appeared to be the corner of a large rock slab. It looked like it had been produced artificially, but I could not see any symbols or markings on it. Wolfram turned back into a human and said we should wait until the morning before continuing the excavation. If there was anything dangerous down there, it would be better if our companions were awake. While I was eager to find out what the hill was hiding, I had to agree with Wolfram.

Wolfram declared that they wanted to send the spirit on. Just then, I heard a shriek or scream from the darkness in the east. Wolfram said they had not heard anything, but Kra began cawing and flew up in the tree. I joined them and stared into the darkness, but could not see or hear anything. In the meantime, Wolfram performed a ritual. The spirit began to dissipate, but before they disappeared completely, they signaled to Kra and pointed at the hole in the ground again.

The night seemed quiet, but Wolfram turned back into the demon bear, so I kept my vigil in the tree. After a few minutes, I heard something large approaching and pointed it out to the bear. I am not sure it understood, but it did not matter, as the creature soon gave out a shriek similar to the one I had heard before. It looked like a large horse, possible the biggest I had ever seen, but there was something off about it, as if it was suffering. It was also a spirit. When I closed my eye behind the ring, I could not see it at all.

The horse approached the totem, but looked like it was struggling against the attraction, resulting in a zigzagging route up the hill. When it spotted the demon bear, it snorted loudly and stood there stomping its hooves. Wolfram placed themselves between the horse and the pole, but moved out of the way when the horse set off in a trot straight towards the pole. It stopped right next to pole and stood there snorting and stomping. I got down from the tree and sneaked closer to observe the horse's aura. It was definitely a spirit, but there were strange colours and patterns in them that I have not seen in any other spirit aura. This was definitely not a normal spirit.

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Old 06-19-2022, 05:35 AM   #149
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Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 215 since leaving The Homeland

The horse seemed agitated and lifted a hoof, kicking the pole so hard that it fell over. I began to back away as the horse whirled around and nearly hissed at me. Wolfram growled at it, but its focus was on me and it looked like it was about to charge me.

I wsa prepared to jump out of the way as it ran towards me, but instead of trying to run me over, it sent out a kick that hit me square in the chest and sent me flying towards the tree. I feared the kick had broken several ribs, but my primary concern was getting out of the way. Using my momentum, I swung myself up into the tree.

Kra must have pulled the needle out of Grogg, because the boat suddenly toppled over, pushed by the roaring troll. The ropes held the boat more or less in place, but it spun around and the gunwale hit Nuur-Karif's foot. I climbed back up to the nook in the tree while the demon bear approached the horse. It looked like the horse was unwilling to take the bear head on, because it pranced around and gave the totem a passing kick.

In the meantime, Grogg had disentangled themselves from the boat and charged in the direction of the horse. It did not look like Grogg could see the horse and it easily jumped out of the way. Wolfram followed, but stumbled and barely avoided a hoof to the snout. They were still hurt from the fight with the dragon spawn and their ritual must have taken its toll.

Up in the tree, i felt relatively safe and gathered energy for a bolt of light. Grogg repeatedly tried to grab at the horse, but it danced away, delivering kicks before jumping out of reach. Nuur-Karif got back on their feet and hobbled towards the horse, but their foot was clearly hurt.

The horse followed the crest of the hill and circled around our camp followed by Grogg and the bear. Suddenly it turned and started towards the the camp. I fired off the bolt and this time I aimed it correctly. It was not exactly a subtle attack, so the horse saw it coming and jumped out of the way. Grogg's chase continued, but Wolfram was lagging behind. The horse realized this and turned to charge the bear. Grogg must have heard it coming and managed to grab the horse so it stumbled. Before it could get back up, Grogg threw themselves at it and pinned it to the ground. Without the ring, it looked very strange with Grogg floating in the air and grabbing on to nothing.

I had prepared another bolt, but did not fire. It looked like Grogg was in control and Wolfram had lurched over and began mauling the struggling creature with their claws. Firing into the melee, I could have hit Grogg or Wolfram. Nuur-Karif also hobbled over and threw a knife, causing the creature to materialize.

Suddenly, Wolfram stumbled and it looked like they almost fell over. I decided that it was best to finish the spirit as soon as possible and sent the bolt into its exposed belly. The whole creature appeared to light up for a moment before slumping to the ground. Wolfram did not take any chances, however, and kept mauling the creature until its head was an unrecognizable mass.

I climbed down from the tree and made my way over. Unlike the other spirits Nuur-Karif had materialized, this one did not immediately decompose. Instead, the corpse lay there and stank of death, more than it should. This spirit seemed to have kept more of its physical properties, which might be why it putrefied slower than other spirits. It was much faster than a normal corpse though. Tasting a bit of the blood, I got an intense sensation of desire for vengeance. I thought only apeoids were capable of such intense hysteria, so I do wonder how this spirit came to be.

Yana and Hylda began righting the boat, while the rest of us dealt with various wounds. Especially Wolfram was severely hurt, but Nuur-Karif's foot was also in a bad shape. Grogg had also taken a beating, but insisted they were fine with their needle and Nuur-Karif did not appear very eager to help them. I guess they thought the boat could have hit Yana.

Wolfram had no idea where the horse had come from. Presumably, it had been in the area and been attracted by the ritual. Luckily, the horse had kicked down the totem, else we might have had to deal with more beings like it. According to Wolfram, their ritual had covered several kilometers in every direction.

Kra called Grogg over to the hole in the ground and they looked very interested and sniffed around. However, Wolfram called on them to leave it until the morning and Hylda convinced Grogg to lie down under the tree and prick themselves with the needle. Initially, I thought I had broken ribs, but after checking myself, it appeared to only be fractures, so I laid down to rest.

I laid down under the boat and focused on ignoring the apeoids. At some point, a light flared up somewhere to the south west. It looked like a ball of fire that rose up and turned west. Without the stars, it was hard to tell, but it looked like it was somewhere along the river and could be from the Nuilius' ship. Perhaps the priests were trying to help their dragon. Almost a minute later, we heard a rumble coming from the same direction, like distant thunder.

Normally, I do not think I would have been able to sleep under the cramped boat, but I was so exhausted that I eventually fell to sleep. My dreams were chaotic and very unpleasant though.
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Old 06-19-2022, 05:54 AM   #150
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Join Date: Jun 2020
Default Day 216 since leaving The Homeland

It was almost completely dark when I woke up. A quick check revealed that there were no stars either. Nuur-Karif was already up and about, so I asked them what time it was. They did not know, but thought it should have been morning. At least I felt like I had slept a whole night. Nuur-Karif wondered if I wanted the healing salve, but I said it would not be necessary. We did not have any way to get more and I felt better already. Instead, I asked Nuur-Karif to use their dirt technique to treat me. Their foot seemed completely fine and I did not detect any pain from them. Presumably they must have used the salve on themselves.

Everything was completely quiet and we found some old rations in Grogg's backpack. Despite heating it over a fire, it tasted stale, so I went down to the river to catch some fish. I got a few fish, but felt strangely uncomfortable dragging them ashore and killed them as quickly as possible. After cleaning, i gave the guts to Kra and roasted the fish over the fire.

The smell woke Wolfram and they immediately went to check on the totem. It had taken a few kicks, but Wolfram seemed satisfied that it was fine and packed it down. I checked the stone slab we had unearthed more thoroughly with the light from The Shimmer Coin. It had no markings, but judging from the edges, it looked like a covering. I also tried to detect if there were any energies nearby, besides the items we had brought. In the middle of the hillock was something strongly magical. Presumably, the slab was the entrance to some buried chamber.

After the fish were done, I woke Grogg, as the needle tends to give them an even greater appetite than normal. Wolfram wanted to do some planning, so they went to fetch Nuur-Karif who had disappeared into their tent with Yana.

I suggested we should try to repair the boat. Traveling on the river would be much easier than slogging over land and safer as well. The others agreed, but none of us really knew much about woodworking. Lunari was able to shape wood using magical energies, so I asked Grogg if they could ask Lunari for help. Grogg said they could try, but did not sound very hopeful. I did not have high hopes myself, as this sounded much too practical for The Slurping Toad, but it was worth the effort.

Nuur-Karif said they would salve Wolfram while Grogg and I worked on the boat. I gathered up sticks and branches and wove them into the hole. it was not sturdy, but it would hold the branches in place long enough for Grogg to call upon Lunari. Grogg again expressed their doubts that it would work, saying that Lunari only helped when it was really important. I said they should think of all the prostitutes in Sam. If there were anything left of the elf, it would consider getting to them a critical concern.

Grogg closed their eyes and asked for help, but after they had stood there for half a minute and nothing happened, they touched the boat. There was a thump, as if a something made of glass hit the grass. Looking underneath the boat, we saw a bottle of liquor lying in the grass. It might have been stuck in the bottom of the boat all along and suddenly fallen down, possibly with the help of The Slurping Toad. The alternative would be that the toad made the flask materialize. I would imagine the latter would require a lot of energy though and I doubt it would be possible now that The Slurping Toad was far away. I asked Grogg if they wanted to help with digging, but they grabbed the bottle and said they had important business behind some bushes. They took Hylda with them and we soon heard Hylda's mating screams. I suppose The Slurping Toad did do something.

I dug up the shovel from Grogg's backpack and started digging away the dirt over the stone slab. As more of the slab was revealed, I saw that it was rectangular, but with rounded corners and probably weighed too much for me to move. While I worked, there was no traffic on the road going past the hill and no sign of stars.

After about an hour, Wolfram came over and I could tell they felt much better. They took over the shovel, speeding up the process considerably and after another hour, the slab was free from the dirt. It was lying on top of a layer of large slabs that could be the top of some structure. It did not look natural. Grogg and Nuur-Karif came over and Wolfram and Grogg lifted the slab out of the whole.

Underneath it was a dark opening to a chamber inside the hill. It smelled damp and enclosed, as if it had not been opened for many years. I found a smooth stone that fit nicely in the palm of my hand and made it shine. By including the energy trapped in the stone Kra had found, the stone shone so brightly it would light up the whole room.

In the meantime, Nuur-Karif had inspected the hole with their dark vision and said it was an underground chamber with what looked like the remains of a study. I looked down with the shining stone and saw that we it was about two meters down to a stone floor covered with a thick layer of dust. In total, the chamber was about four times six meters. Near the centre of the room was a pile that might have been a writing desk at some point and the remains of shelves were lined up against the walls. Remains of various items was scattered all over the floor, but everything looked like it had crumbled to dust or would do so at the merest touch. The only exception was a circle lying in the middle of the room. The total diameter was about a meter while the annulus was twenty centimeters wide and ten centimeters tall. It immediately caught my attention and had to be the source of the energy I had detected.

Nuur-Karif said they wanted to meditate and left for their tent. I got my rope and attached one end to the tree and lowered the other into the chamber. I could probably have gotten out without it, but a rope would make it easier, especially in a hurry. Wolfram was at first sceptical and wanted to wait for Nuur-Karif, but followed me when I climbed down into the hole and Grogg came along as well.
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