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Day 11 (later) — Dear Diary, As I was sitting to write my thoughts and make sense of the day’s events, I realized that Zuffy and Mawley were standing near the large tangle of spider web. I had just recorded the prayer for the dead wolves, when their voices filtered to me. As the words sorted out in my brain, I dropped my pen (hence the ink splatter, sorry DD!).
“I’m just going to poke at it with this bone.” That was Zuffy. Mawley shifted uncomfortably. “Yeah, sure but what if there’s a spider attached somewhere?” Zuffy laughed that high, clear laugh she has. “Well, that’s why you’re here, dearest!” She reached forward and gently poked at the thick web. “What are you doing!?! Oh goddess, we were going to wait until morning, remember?” I called to them as I hurried over. “Well, um, Zuffy thought that maybe it wasn’t safe. You know? Like what if the spider creeps out later? In the night. In the dark.” I couldn’t help it, Diary. I sighed. “But that’s the reason we have watches. So that spiders don’t take us unawares.” Zuffy shrugged. “Eh. I was bored, to tell you the truth.” She jabbed harder at the web. Several strands broke and fell. “Well, look at that.”
Grriel came over. “What’s up?” Mawley explained as the others gathered round. “It is rather early,” said Vakka. “I would see this purple stone.” That was Kerboom adding her thoughts. “What purple stone?” Chica edged past me.
“Well, if we just take these last….. strands down….” Mawley grunted with effort. “Oh, right on! Look at this!” Lilly was through the passage into the next chamber before the web hit the floor. “Where’s my pack? Where’s my pack? These are some neato carvings. I know this great trick, right? You lay the paper down and rub like charcoal or something and you get the carvings right there on your paper!” Her hands were busy getting paper. I couldn’t help but lean forward to see better. It was amazing, Diary. But I digress, as Father would say….
There were passage ways that went out from the center and at each end there was a lantern. Two passages were missing their lanterns. Later Kerboom told us that she used a spell of some sort (she said the name, Diary but I can’t remember everything!) to lift it on to the hook. Which explains the huge doors that appeared out of the floor!
While Kerboom had been busy doing dangerous things, without telling anyone!!!! The others were engaged in activities only slightly less dangerous. Someone, honestly Diary, they all talk at once and the din is sometimes too much for me, someone suggested that there might be treasure under the purple sarcophagus. (What is a sarcophagus anyway? Why not say tomb and be done with it? Or stone coffin, I guess would be more accurate.) So the lot of them, minus Chica and Kerboom, started pushing at the tomb. It rotated! It didn’t move but pivoted more and rotated quite right around. Lilly jumped up to direct the efforts. They pointed it backwards from where it started and another set of doors appeared. Oh goddess. What next?
Kerboom ran up to them. “These are just like the doors I summoned! Just like… well except the trim is a different color. Odd, that.” She turned around to look at the group. “Do you think the doors open?” She touched them and swish! they opened. And out spilled a swarm of beetles and a large spider thing with one huge eye. Kerboom squealed in horror. I hope, I think, her noise drowned out my own cry, Diary. Oh how I hope so.
Before anyone else could move, Lilly took a flying leap off the tomb, yelling and landed face down among the beetles. Grriel was there in an instant swinging at the beetles. Kerboom danced away, a magic missile blasting from her hand. There was yelling and movement and I heard Chica yell “Chickens love beetles!” as she rode into their midst. I climbed on to the tomb to see better and sure enough, her overgrown chicken was pecking at the beetles while the others made short work of the spider. And then it was over. I’m sure I looked quite the fool on top of the tomb with nothing to do.
With the doors free of vermin, you could see into a small rounded room. Quite small, really. Lilly and Kerboom rushed in. “What’s this do?” And Lilly reached up and suddenly the door was gone. It reappeared a moment later, but no gnomes. Chica dismounted to look. Vakka shouldered her way in. “It was something over here.” And the doors disappeared. And reappeared. Mawley and Zuffy started toward them. “Wait! What are you doing?” They stopped and turned together, sideways like a dance. “The little ones need us” said Mawley. Zuffy shrugged her shoulders. “Yeah.” And zoom, they were gone. I was standing there on top of the tomb. Grriel shouldered her pack as the doors reappeared. “Come on.” I tried to find words. “But-but-but, we don’t know! We just don’t know what happens when you get in that, that door! What if it’s not safe?”
Need I tell you, Diary, that my words were waved aside, like pollen? No, you know.The injustices against the young are too many to count.
As we arrived, safely as it turns out — but that is simply by the blessing of the goddess, I know it — I heard someone calling for “the healer.” I do have a name! Honestly.
I gave Grriel such a look as I moved past her and down a hallway to the right. Safe indeed!
Zuffy and Kerboom were standing beside a black stone altar of some sort. The hallway ended abruptly with two statues right beside the altar. “Oh, good. What happened to this guy anyway?” Zuffy moved her hand to show me the bones. “Well, I would say that he died when someone cut his head off.” My tone was acid. She missed my sarcasm, though, Diary, because she’d turned away to look at another alcove. I sighed and stepped closer. Suddenly a warm wind blew in my face. It startled me and I stepped back, jostling Zuffy and barking my elbow on one of the statues. “Watch it! You’re pretty heavy for a halfy!” I was confused and distracted because I swear I saw one of the statues move. “There was a wind.”
“A wind?” Zuffy stepped into the alcove. “Where-oh!” She gasped as she was lifted off the ground. Suddenly she and the skeleton were bobbing up and down. Before I could speak, I felt wind from my right, turning I saw that the statues had moved up beside me. One staff was down and one staff was up. I cocked my head and, yes Diary, it swung its staff at me. At my head! I cried out, which got everyone’s attention. Lilly was there in a moment, as was Kerboom. I remembered my blade, my trusty sickle and I grabbed it and swung hard at the statue in front of me and missed. It had moved so quickly! I heard Mawley laugh as if from a great way off. “Dance with me, stone man!” Chips of marble flew past my face. A staff jabbed at me again. As if in slow motion, I saw Lilly leap up and slice at the statue attacking me. In the next instant I was on my back, on the ground, my face wet. As I struggled to my elbows, I saw Mawley and Lilly topple the two statues. I sighed with relief, Diary. I’m not afraid to tell you that. I wiped my face and saw red. I am ashamed, but before I could think of how it would sound, I wailed out — “I’m bleeding!” and fainted dead away.
Day 11 — Dear Diary, I am heart sore and weary. We had our first battle today and thank Ehlonna, I did not have to fire a shot in anger. All the same, we did draw blood and kill. More on that later — it is hard to write simply about it. I’ll begin at the beginning, as the bards say….
The road out of Diamond Lake town was easy. The streets are well laid and maintained. We passed houses, great and small. I stayed at the rear of the group. An elder of my village had been an adventurer in his day and old Owain had given me much advice on how to best be a healer to a group of adventuring fools, as he put it. “Stay at the back, child. Watch their moves and get to know the personalities. Learn who is cautious and who is a fool for battle. Some will seek your favor and others will curse you for your kindness and healing. Heed them not! It matters little what they think of you. Your job is to keep them alive. They don’t have to like you. Aye, or even thank you. Will you thank them for every head they cleave?” He smiled, patted my knee and said, “You’ll do fine, young Ariel. Just fine.” I had thought to ask him more, but he stood and turned to sort a pile of papers, so I knew my time with him was ended.
As we left the town proper, the road began to climb, and the pathway became dirty and rocky. I was surprised to see Zuffy, the other half elf, walking beside me. “I worship Ehlonna, too, you know. I’m glad that you’re in the group.” I nodded, bit my tongue to keep from hurling angry words at her and wondered why she was talking with me. She spoke again. “I think I may have gotten off on the wrong foot with you last night. I, I think I made a joke about your virginity and look, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize how young you are and –” I held up my hand. “Stop, please. Really. I had taken offense at your words, but only because I thought that you were speaking of our Lady, Ehlonna. It matters not what you say or think of me.” I realized that this didn’t sound friendly, Diary. So I started again. “What I mean to say is ‘Thank you for your kindness.’” She smiled. “Perhaps, we can pray together tonight. Give thanks to the Goddess for our safe arrival at the cairns.” She waved her hand. “Because, look! We’re here.”
I noticed Grriel standing by a cairn. It was much of a height with her. “OK, so this is a cairn! I like it. Rocks. On top of other rocks.” In the resulting silence, we all heard the murmur of voices. “Ha!” said Vakka. “They whisper!” I heard Zuffy sigh beside me and murmur “Well, yeah! That’s why they call them the Whispering Cairns.”
It was a passage way of cairns. They made a road of sorts that looped up and around the hill. I paused to look around. On the desolate hill top, it was quite pretty. Or maybe that’s not the right word, Diary. It was beautiful, in a sad way. The rocks, the sparse grass, the wind and sky. I felt…. something stir inside me. Like I was marking this moment in time.
My thoughts were broken by the sound of Lilly yodeling. “Listen! Isn’t this cool?” The group was milling about and looking at the different cairns along the road. Some stones were a lovely deep purple. Chica rode her chicken up ahead. “Don’t go too far!” I called out to her. The other gnome, Kerboom, followed in her wake. As she passed Lilly, that one said, “Where ya going? I’m going too!” In a matter of moments, I was alone on the hilltop. “Right.” I muttered to myself. I was angry, Diary. But as I examine my heart here, at the end of the day, what right do I have to be angry with my new companions? They are a flock and I am their shepherd……. Hmm, I like that.
I rounded the corner and saw the mouth of a cave. Oh Ehlonna! A cave? To be cut off from the sun? What a fate! What if I should die in the darkness? Those were my thoughts and I am not ashamed to record them here, for your eyes only, dearest Diary. If it is weakness, then I am weak! If it is the folly of youth, well, so be it!
I steeled my courage, as Father would say, and entered the cave. As I stepped into darkness I heard someone call out for a light. I remembered my oil lamp. “Here!” I hurried forward and saw Mawley and Grriel standing by the cave wall. I handed my lamp to Mawley and as she lit it, the wall was illuminated. It was …. astounding. The walls were carved with swirling tubes and deep crevasses. The murmur of voices was louder here. I heard Zuffy beside me. “That’s not Elven, for sure.”
“Not Orcish or Kobol, either” said Vakka. Kerboom squeezed between Mawley and Grriel. “Let’s see…. hmmm. Hmmmmm. Not Gnomish. Not Draconic….. althoooooough, (she drew out the word so long, Diary). Although there are some elements that remind one of Draconic.” She cocked her head. “A softer intonation, perhaps? I just can’t….” The cave was suddenly filled with the sound of Lilly’s voice. “Haloooooooo! Halooooooo!” Mawley laughed and stepped close to the wall. She put her mouth to one of the tubes. “Hello yourself!” And the echo: “Elf, elf, elf”
I heard Chica say “How far do you think this goes?” And then she said “Oh.” Her tone put me on alert but before I could react, Zuffy strode past me on her long legs. Diary, she is taller than me, if you can believe it!
I saw her squat near Chica and speak softly. Grriel had noticed the movement. We all heard the low growl coming from deeper in the cave. Vakka and Grriel both quickly covered the distance to Chica. Right behind them came Lilly. “What? What?” I heard her ask. And then “Puppy!”
Oh Goddess, I thought and hurried up to the group. As I got there, I saw that Grriel had stepped in front of Chica. Vakka was at her right hand but,
damn, darn, Lilly was right beside Vakka. On the front line, as they say. Grriel growled at the wolf and Vakka and Lilly joined in. The wolf turned and slunk away. “Ha ha! That’s the way. Run little puppy! Run from us!” Lilly danced a little as she called out.
“I think perhaps –” my words were cut off by a howl ahead in the darkness. A large dark form suddenly charged from the shadows and went straight for Lilly. With amazing speed for such a big woman, Grriel stepped in front to take the attack. The wolf chomped down on her arm and she swung it away and aimed her crossbow. I felt movement on my left and Mawley ran by, followed by little Kerboom, crossbow in her hand. Yes! Get your weapon out! I said to myself. I couldn’t see very well, what with the half-orcs up front, but it sounded like a whole pack of wolves to me. I heard Lilly yell in pain and Grriel grunt. I stopped my movement to get the longbow ready and reached for my horn and my healer’s kit.
“Lilly?” I knelt behind her. “Step back! Where are you hurt?” Even though she was still facing, oh Goddess, three wolves! I knew that I could at least magic some healing on her. Bandages would have to come later.
“What? Let go!” She shrugged away my hand and I could feel the muscles ripple under my hand. I had no idea she was so strong. Even kneeling, I could see over her shoulder so I saw Grriel get attacked by two wolves at once and saw Mawley swing her axe at those same animals. I saw blood spray out and I was moving to my left, to Grriel without conscious thought. Vigor, a voice in my mind said. And so I cast the vigor spell on Grriel. For a good solid, vigor spell, you want to be able to place both hands on the victim. Grriel, somehow, was still standing. I reached up and put a hand on each shoulder, the carved unicorn horn cupped in my right hand. I said the first words that came to my mind: “Grow strong, little flower.” And I felt the heat as the spell moved through me to her. Because of my position, I did not see Mawley chop the head off one wolf and in the same swing, cleave the other in two. I heard several arrows fly and bring down the last wolf as it ran.
And, then Diary, our first battle was over. No one died. I didn’t panic (not too much). But the animals. I knelt down for a moment, unsure that my legs would hold me. The blood was slowly spreading. Vakka bent over one wolf. “Dinner time, eh? Eh, cousin? Fancy a wolf steak?” She laughed. Grriel shook her head. “Too early in the day for carnivore. Before lunchtime, I like to eat herbivore, don’t you?” I know what a carnivore is but I am not familiar with the other word. As soon as I can, Diary, I will look it up!
Vakka turned to me. “And you little Ariel? Can I slice a steak for you?” I waved a hand. “I don’t eat flesh, but I, I thank you for your kindness, Vakka.” She frowned. “What? But this is good meat! Don’t listen to Grriel! She has strange notions for a half-orc, but she’s my mother’s sister’s girl and we love her. Not eat meat! Ha.”
“No, truly. I do not eat of the creatures of the forest. When I pledged my life to the Goddess –” Vakka laughed and put an arm around me. “It’s settled then! These are not forest creatures. These (she patted the wall) are stones. Not trees.” She paused. “I guess I can see how you’d get them confused…..” Her voice trailed off. She turned back to her butchery. “I’ll cut extra, in case you get hungry later.” After she was done, she piled the bodies and placed a rock over them. “My first cairn!” She studied it with hands on hips. “Pretty good, eh?”
I stayed where I was — knees on the cool stone and I wanted to cry. Blood had been spilled. Life ended here and no one else seemed to care. I did what I could for the souls of the wolves. “Fuin fallah galad, Ambar en Rana. Lenn amar, van Elen*.” I murmured. “Take them to your bosom, Lady.”
*Darkness before light, [the] fate of [all] wanderers. Journey home[ward] fair star.Older Posts »