We either have been exploring a tunnel full of mind-altering mushroom spores, or the fabric of time and space is tearing apart. Of course, the simplest answer is always, “MAGIC!”
After our run-in with the mutated bear-monster and the Mind-controlled Bat Horde of Doom, to settle our emotions, El and Firia did a wonderful job of making our campsite feel like home - they used their abilities to summon and grow all sorts of useful implements and comfortable amenities. I particularly like the picket fence and the perfectly-fitted doorway over the entrance to the cave tunnels. Not sure what Martin thinks of it all, but he was gone a long time in the blizzard (at least he came back with some firewood - he's not entirely useless).
I was very grateful to Sharn, who cobbled together a kind of saddle for Scáthfile so I could ride him properly. I appreciate her practical mind - and it was great timing, or I would probably be writing this journal from the bottom of a bottomless pit…
Firia and Aeowynn were tired and grumpy the next morning (I suggested some special herbs - only partially joking), and they decided to stay behind while the rest of us so wisely decided to explore the Citadel that the worms had spoken to me about. At least they don't think I'm completely crazy.
The bear monstrosity was still lying there, and it was beginning to stink, so we moved on. No one really wanted to carve it up for rations. We explored deeper into the mountain, and it felt like we were real Heroic Adventurers (TM).
After what seemed like hours and hours of walking, we almost stumbled into a bottomless abyss - very classic. It seems as though we were not the first people to visit this chasm: an old rope bridge arced across the shadowy fissure. Then I realized we could see all of this fairly well, and noticed what may have been a skylight, high above our heads in the domed rock ceiling.
The next thing I noticed was the sound of leathery wings, descending from the aforementioned skylight. Not Again.
It was chaos - bats screaming everywhere, and we ran across the precarious rope bridge. El went first, with me riding Scáthfile right behind. A good thing, too - El slipped, and as she started plunging to certain death, my noble feline snatched the back of her clothing in his teeth and sprang across the remaining gap Triumphantly.
I began singing Augment for Sharn and Scáthfile, anticipating further issues, but not before Sharn also slipped and the rope snapped - I thought she was gone for sure. El was a quick thinker, though, and summoned a massive rock golem who gently pulled up the rope, with Sharn clinging on for her dear life.
The bats kept coming and started attacking Sharn and the Golem, so we sprinted across the hallway towards a massive steel door. We dashed through and slammed it shut, and El commanded the Golem to defend the door with its bulk. I had a feeling we wouldn't be returning by this route…
We found ourselves inside what seemed to be the hallway of a temple, and our progress was halted by another door, this one filled with alchemical symbols. With the Golem defending our flank, we put our heads together and tried deciphering the symbols - they turned out to be riddles! Well, I was raised on riddles (thanks, Daideó!), so it was rather fun and it took my mind off the fact that we were essentially trapped on the wrong side of a massive chasm filled with a Swarming Mind-Controlled Bat Horde.
It was not long before we figured out the clever puzzle, and after speaking the words, the door opened like magic. We entered a sort of antechamber, and came across an old journal. It was all about old gods turning on what I assume to be humanity, and then the humans turned on them. Hmm, I'm always skeptical of journals. Narrators are always very unreliable!
Anyway, as we were reading about Shadows and Lusting After Power and the typical over-reaching villainy sentiments, I looked around for Pretty or Exciting things, but it was a fairly bland room (apart from the journal). We decided to move on, and when we exited the temple the cavern opened up into a sort of open space with buildings and bridges scattered about.
I turned to make some clever comment about the worms being right about the Citadel, but before I could impress my friends, El slipped again - this time collapsing a stone bridge in the process. We rushed to the edge, but thankfully El was okay - sitting on a pile of… Skeletons. On the bright side, she found another journal scrap. This one about a Rituul, a Great Burning, and some craziness about killing gods.
While she was reading the journal out loud, my mind started wandering, and my eyes wandered with it. And I noticed a big shaggy wolf stalking us, crossing another bridge. On the bright side, this means there's another way out.
I focused my mind, triggering the Teanga Ainmhithe and stretched my consciousness towards the predator. Hoping he was friendly…
“The Master is expecting you.” Wolves speak in images - I suspect there's a psychic element, wrapped in sound, motion, and scent. His word for Master was complex - elements of terror, claws, fangs, distaste; one being, all twisted and distorted. It was slightly terrifying.
Great. This is the same drivel the bats were going on about. I could see that he intended to attack us, so I tried to stall. “Who are you?”
More images. His identity was wrapped up in dangerous creatures living in the trees in a vast forest - they must be crazy if they prey on wolves… I tried to come up with a Common Tongue equivalent for his name - Stalker beneath the Tree Predators of Death seemed clumsy; I had just settled on Tree Stalker when he started sprinting towards me.
Scáthfile sprang in front of me, hissing and baring his teeth. I began singing Augment, boosting everyone around me. El must have just climbed back up onto her bridge to see it, hearing my Spellsong, and she instinctively cast a massive fireball, incinerating the wolf, and nearly frying me and Scáthfile along with it.
I was devastated. I'm not entirely sure why; maybe because I had made a connection with Tree Stalker, and maybe I could see that he was being controlled by this Master - it wasn't HIS fault he was being forced to attack me! I had this heroic idea that maybe I could save him, and all that lay in front of me was a smoldering, blackened hole.
I'm not sure how long I was curled up beside Scáthfile, weeping, but I just had to process the situation. Was it my fault? Had Augment been too powerful? That fireball was nothing like I had seen before - it was crazy.
Sharn tried to say something to calm me down, and I started yelling at her. It wasn't fair, but I felt the whole world wasn't fair right now. I think the outburst encouraged El and Sharn to let me be, and once I was done crying I heard the sound of a fountain, and thought that would be a good place to properly rest.
Over a bridge there was a nice statue with clean and clear water bubbling up from it, so I washed my face and curled up for a nap. Just as I was drifting off, using Scáthfile as a pillow, a scream startled me.
Sharn began babbling about crazy mutilated horses that disappeared, and chewing tongues, and wanted me to come to the stable to check it out. Yeah, right - I wanted no part in that insanity. They had found another journal, apparently written by the same person. How odd - I guess the author is terrible at keeping private notes in one place.
We decided to explore some more, and El and Sharn really wanted to swim into a submerged building. I'm not sure in what society that is sane, but Sharn just jumped right in, and El at least took the precaution of some sort of magic bubble. I chickened out, and left an arrow made of stones to show what direction I left in case someone came back sooner than me.
I wandered around for awhile, until there was a sudden earthquake, and a pillar fell down, making a new bridge across the stream. Taking this serendipitous pathway, I came across a library. This made me quite excited - libraries are always fun, but it turns out most of the scrolls and books were soggy and rotting. Very unfortunate. However, I came across another journal page - maybe someone left it here after the destruction and abandonment…
It was quite disturbing, and I could see parallels between the story the author told and Elisandre's current pathway: what if El is going to turn into a flame creature? Hmm, what if she IS a flame creature, and this is not her true form? I remember the first time her magic awoke - she rocketed across the clearing like a flaming ball of pure energy, destroying those bandits. The magic described in the journal was very similar to what she had just demonstrated on Tree Stalker. We'll have to be cautious - maybe I'll have to talk to her about it later.
I heard another explosion - it turns out Sharn was playing with some dangerous materials in an enclosed space. I don't know how they survived. I called out to them, and they came over to check out the library. Just outside, on the walls, a strange message was scrawled like graffiti. It took us a while, but we finally translated the runes. Something odd about new gods and being released by a stone. Definitely hallucinogenics combined with magic.
Then IT came. A shambling monster from the past - straight from the journals we'd been reading over the past few hours. I quickly drew my lute and played a high-spirited rhythm - he looked dangerous. I called out, trying to sing about the things I read, trying to bring back a sense of who this thing once was. Before it had descended into insanity.
We made eye contact, and I thought maybe there was a glimmer, but it passed quickly and attacked. It whispered in my mind - insane ramblings of something that once had a voice.
I switch to a battle song, bringing courage to Sharn who looked ready to flee in terror (she had a bad day - I'm not sure she'll ever eat a horse again, which is fine by me); together, the four of us surrounded the twisted apparition, but it wouldn't go down.
In desperation, I stopped playing, drew my loaded crossbow, and fired a bolt straight into its head.
It crumpled to the ground, then dissipated in a breeze that appeared from nowhere.
It was kind of sad. I wished I could save this poor creature. This was a hard day, Daideó, and very disheartening. I hope we can at least escape this Citadel of Doom.