Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Search for the Lost City - Ishmael Sings

"The [music] produced is not in the mouth, not in the body, but, in fact, in the bones. It is all the bones in the body which are singing, and through that song, you hear the creation of worlds.

Previously in our story...


Once we were inside the passage through the mountains, KelLyn attempted to cast her spell that would show us the best path. The worn road in front of us lit up suddenly, illuminating a massive waterfall flowing out of the ceiling in the center of the area. The water flowed over a large crystal in the center of a fountain, and that crystal was the source of the light that now permeated everything. The fountain flowed down into a deep pool, and then into several channels that curled their way into the abandoned cityscape before us. The ceiling of the cavern was 65 feet up, and rough hewn, and aside from the cascade of water, was otherwise featureless. The waterfall looked to be the central water source for the city, and the water itself was clear, clean, and arctic cold.

The city itself looked to be completely abandoned, and everything here was covered in a heavy layer of dust. The buildings were crafted for someone about five foot tall, and everything was made of stone. We notice that there are no doors or window coverings, but simply a single stick placed across the entryway of each domicile. The dwellings closest to the fountain seemed to be old workshops and store fronts, and a quick glance inside showed only more dust.

I recalled that it had been about three years since the dwarfs and gnomes had retreated deep underground, and pointed out to the party that this place appeared to be abandoned around that same time. From what we could see, everything had been packed up and taken with them when they left. Since we had a good source of water at hand, we decided to make camp here for the night, and Tobias and Osman quickly scouted out rooftop vantage points for the evening watches. Shalev walked over to the well, and noticing that there were coins in the bottom, took out a single platinum piece and tossed it into the water as well. Whether he thought it was a wishing well, or simply did it for luck, I do not know, but there was no visible or tangible effect from his action.

We took the opportunity to refill the water barrels and skins from the fountain, and the pack animals and horses were also able to drink their fill. Lan took some time to swim in the frigid waters, frolicking with delight in the crystalline pool.

Fife and Ishmael had wandered over to explore the abandoned buildings to see what they could find. As soon as Fife moved the stick placed in front of the door way, there was a shift in magic in the area. I saw KelLyn look up suddenly in alarm and begin trying to discern what changes she obviously felt in the air. She mumbled to herself as she worked, and I heard her say something about a luck line running through the area, a brief sharp laugh out loud before saying "so that's where it went!" and something else about curses. She continued to mutter and concentrate, and I wandered over to see what trouble Ishmael and Fife were getting into.

Fife had discovered that the building that they were scouting through was at one time a jeweler's shop. He found an unfinished gold statue in one of the drawers there and showed it to Ishmael. The statue was a humanoid figure with six arms, and fittings where gems would have been fit in for the eyes. Ishmael hefted it once and examined it closely. He said that it was made by Hassan Abdel-Qa'id and was likely an idol of some kind for home or personal use. It was not made of solid gold, as he and Fife had originally thought, but was merely plated somehow. Fife pocketed the idol, and Ishmael found some apprentice quality tools that had been left behind that he also took.

As they left the building, Fife replaced the stick across the entrance, and they moved over to the next building. As he moved the stick out of the second doorway, KelLyn looked up sharply, then stood up and walked over toward him. Ishmael, after looking inside the building, called me over and said that this appeared to be some kind of tea shop. I stepped inside to look around a bit, and though most of what I found inside was mouldered and unusable, I did also find a half brick of tea from the mythrian farms of Kestria. Labeled Big Blue, this tea was one that I knew to be exceptionally valuable and delightfully enjoyable. I checked one small corner of the brick to see if it was still good, and discovered below the top layer, the leaves were as fresh and aromatic as the day it was pressed into a brick. I wondered why such valuable tea had been left behind, but placed the brick in my bag with a smile at the thought of being able to enjoy such a delicacy. I also noticed several chipped and broken tea sets, and I gathered these together in a small box to bring to Shalev. He enjoys tea as much as I do, and it was my thought that he might be able to repair the tea services and use them as trade goods. The porcelain they were made of was very fine quality, and I could see them being of some value when restored.

I stepped out of the building, and stretched up to my full height again with relief. These buildings were not made for someone as tall as I was. I looked over then to see KelLyn fussing over Fife and telling him quite crossly that he was to sit down and not touch anything until she could take a look at him to figure out what had gone wrong. He did as she asked, though I could tell that he was somewhat annoyed about it, and after a moment of concentration she told him that he had been affected by a very powerful curse that would make him extraordinarily unlucky. She said that even though she was the one that created the luck line that ran through this area, she had no idea about how to manipulate it, or how to remove such a curse, and that he needed to be extremely careful with everything he did until she could figure it out. She pointed at the sticks that lay across the entry ways and said that they were a protection spell that triggered when moved or crossed, and warned Fife and Ishmael very sternly not to touch anything else.

As they discussed options on how to remove the curse, Fife moved over to the fountain and tossed a coin into the water in an attempt (or hope) to gain back some of his luck. The coin skipped across the surface of the water instead, and only fell into the water after bouncing off of the edge of the fountain. He tried again, and again, it skipped all the way across and back, this time only falling into the water when it bounced off of his chest. Frustrated, he tried for a third time, this time holding the coin in his hand and placing it directly into the water. He ended up falling face first into the pool instead, and began to drown. Lan, seeing his predicament, swam over and dragged him out of the water, but he had already stopped breathing. She turned into her seal form and bounced on his chest a couple times to clear his lungs of the water he had inhaled, but he still did not revive. She shifted back to her normal form and looked at him for a moment, using her skills as a healer to see why he was still not responding. KelLyn walked over and gave him one of her healing potions, and once they could get him to swallow the liquid, it was successful in reviving him. He appeared not only revived, but rejuvenated as well, and KelLyn began reiterating her earlier statement that he should not touch anything until she could figure out how to remove the curse. She moved away to her bed roll then and began rummaging through her books to research how to accomplish this.

After we set up camp for the evening, I spent some time in meditation to my god and goddess. They were, as they often are, silent, and I wonder sometimes whether their silence is meant to be a comfort. I brewed some of the Blue tea, and found it to be just as aromatic and delicious as I hoped it would be. With the first sip I took, I was saddened somewhat by the fact that I had so little of it. I savored it slowly, and even offered some to Shalev, as such a tea should be shared. I made a note to try to find more when I could, and to use what I had only sparingly. As we shared the tea, I spoke with Shalev about the history that I knew about the tea, the groves, and the makers. He said that he had heard of the name Kestria before, and relayed to me what Tobias and KelLyn had told him about the group that they had encountered on a previous adventure. Led by a paladin and some clerics of a god of knowledge , and disguised as gnomes, they were from Kestria, and were apparently on a grave robbing tour of the region when Tobias and KelLyn had encountered them. The mage with them was responsible for the death of one of the party members that Tobias and KelLyn traveled with. These were knights from the same order, that KelLyn had wanted to attack out right as we journeyed to Eeyore. Her vehemence against them makes more sense now that I know about their previous encounters.

I can't say much about tomb-raiding, as we have done our fair share of that lately, but the tale of their violence and aggression was something that I took note of, should we encounter them again.

The evening watches passed uneventfully, and the next day, we broke camp to continue on through the mountains. As we broke camp, Ishmael asked me if I would be willing to lay some false trails to some of the other entry ways with their cursed sticks still in place. I was able to do so easily, though I was not foolish enough to cross over the sticks to put footprints in the dust inside the dwellings. As we made our way past the fountain, KelLyn and Lan both said that they felt a massive wave of energy from behind us. We looked back to see that the doorway behind us had closed, leaving us only one direction to travel. Forward.

Osman fretted a bit over whether or not the red mage that had been hunting KelLyn was responsible for blocking the way back, but we reminded him that it really made no difference, as we had no plans to travel back that way in the first place. If the red mage thought that blocking us in would cause a panic then he truly does not know our party at all, and if he waits for us at the other end, then it will be his downfall to encounter us so cornered. Shalev did confirm, using his compass, that the mage was not in the mountain following us, but I do not know if I fully trust the answers his compass gives him, as it can be quite literal.

As we traveled along the passage, we saw several unmanned check points, but no other side galleries or pathways aside from the one that we walked. Tobias scouted ahead for a few hours, as he did not have to rely on torches to see what lay in front of us. When he returned he said that the pathway continued to switchback, but that there was nothing else of note. After two days of travel, the switchbacks got noticeably longer, and we began traveling for longer periods of time, with breaks for rest only when the animals showed signs of fatigue. Three days later I noticed that the temperature in the passage was growing discernably more heated, and I recalled that this was not the heat of the desert, but rather the heat that was given off by the mountains that men called volcanoes, and the liquid earth within them.

I cautioned the party members that it would likely get very hot very soon, and gave everyone a reminder on how to survive the heat using my knowledge of deep desert survival. I changed out of my heavy leather armor, and into my light weight layered desert attire, and it felt strange to have the robes and gauzes billowing about me once more. KelLyn and Osman worked double to keep the animals cool and hydrated, and we all took extra precautions to remain the same way. Shortly after that, we turned the corner of the last switchback to see a river of molten earth hissing red-hot through an enormous cavern. There were stairs leading down to the glowing vein of magma, and a great stone bridge that arced high above the flow.

We retreated back around the corner and away from the sweltering heat, and began to break down the carts to carry them across the bridge more easily. Tobias used his desert bred abilities and speed to ferry pieces across as quickly as he could. Shalev worked to herd the horses and oxen across safely. They balked at the heat at first, but he was able to coerce them over to the other side. Tobias carried Lan quickly over and she hid herself inside one of the water barrels to stay away from what - to her - could be a killing heat. Osman and KelLyn make their way across safely as well, and they help Shalev and Tobias begin reassembling the carts.

Ishmael, eyes bright with excitement, reached out and requested that I give him my sword. Knowing that he thought he had at last found a heat source great enough to repair it, I complied, handing the blade over to him and watching him disappear down the stairs towards the river bank. I stayed where I was, there in the protected area of the switchback, and Fife remained there with me, saying that Ishmael was his friend and he would not go until he did. Within moments of Ishmael's disappearance down the stairs, I heard the unmistakeable sound of the ring of his hammer on an anvil. The clear bell of the hammer striking the anvil was deep and resonant, and it echoed through the chamber like a song. A song indeed it was, with the deep tone of the anvil, the higher voice of the hammer, and then over all of it was Ishmael, raising his voice in perfect harmony with the call of the metal. He sang, and as he sang, he worked. I heard a keening wail begin, and the hairs on the back of my neck raised in warning, because it was the call of a northern banshee. I looked warily, but could see no source for the sounds, and then remembered that the others had said that my sword made that sound when I wielded it. I wondered then, at what Toshi had done in the making of such a blade, but the thought flitted away as I continued to listen to Ishmael work his magic.

Tobias came across then, and said that the gates on the other side of the bridge were beginning to open. The last of the supplies and equipment were ferried safely across the bridge, and the doors opened to reveal several dwarfs, eyes bright and intent on discovering the source of the songs they were hearing. Shalev and the rest of the party moved everything into the much cooler mushroom groves beyond the doors at the dwarfs insistence. I continued to stay out of sight and listen to the ringing songs of Ishmael's forging. As he continued to sing and hammer, the hallway, cavern, and bridge illuminated brilliantly with a blue light that pulsed in time with the harmonies being created. I heard a hum vibrate through the chamber, down to my very bones, and then the noise stopped completely. I continued to wait, not knowing what to expect, and then I saw Ishmael coming up the stairs with several dwarfs following him closely and chattering with him in their language. He handed me my sword, and it gleamed as if newly made. I tested the blade, twisting and flipping it to find that the balance was good, and the blade was perfectly edged once again. I thanked Ishmael with a bow of my head and then followed Fife, Ishmael, and the troop of dwarfs across the bridge.

As we were moving across the massive bridge, Fife - still under the effects of being cursed - tripped over nothing and fell, sliding over the edge of the bridge and towards the torrent of white hot lava below. I was fast enough to grab him to keep him from falling, but needed Ishmael's help to pull him completely to safety. We made it the rest of the way across without incident to see a resplendently garbed dwarf holding a blue staff waiting for us on the other side.

He guided us through the doors and I saw Shalev and the rest of the party there with all of our equipment waiting in the center of a grove of gigantic mushrooms. The elegantly dressed dwarf talked with Ishmael, and Ishmael acted as a translator for the rest of us. The dwarf welcomed us to Quadling and asked with great curiosity why we were here, because they had shut the doors years ago. We told him of our quest to find the city of Emer, and of my desire to see the blooming sylvan tree that lived there. He confirmed that Emer was just north of here, but warned us about the dragon that lived there. He told us of the war where the dwarfs went to aid the gnomes, and how that war had depleted not only their weapons and armor supplies, but had also been disastrous to their population.

The city of Quadling was nestled just outside the mushroom groves, in a verdant field of lush grasses and open sky with the mountain pass directly behind them.  The dwarf told us about the city of Emer, which rested at the crossroads between this city and the other three cities in the valley. Each city corresponded to a different element, and had at one time had trade goods and abilities unique to each quadrant. Quadling corresponded to fire, with the great forge at the center of the mountain pass that they worked. Gilken, to the north, was linked to air. Wankae to the east was the city of waters. Damazen to the west was known for earth and deep metal. This is where the gnomes went to.

In the center of it all was Emer, the elven city with the famed sylvan tree which was known to bloom twice a year in the spring and fall with glorious pink blossoms. It was once great trade hub for the entire area. It's walls were made of a deep green stone, and the roads that stretch out from it were made of gold. When the dragon came, he took the city and the elves that resided within disappeared. The old dwarf said that one druid was still rumored to live within the tower at the center, but could not tell us more about whether or not that was still true. He told us that the dragon was ancient and incredibly powerful. His scales matched the color of the city walls, and he was crafty and intelligent. The dwarf told us how the dragon had ripped the roads up to prevent easy travel to the city, and that he was known to take human form to patrol the roads that remained to find foolish adventurers and kill them before they knew what they faced.

Ishmael introduced Shalev as the noble he was, and as the Master of Trade Routes. The dwarf showed keen interest in this, and agreed to set up a meeting with the remaining merchants of the city to see what would be available for trading. The dwarf also mentioned their desire for food supplies, if we had any to spare, and Osman offered to create fresh meat for them using his clerical ability.

Shalev offered some of the oxen as breeding stock for goodwill, and when head dwarf mentioned again that they needed weapons, Shalev offered one of the three swords he wore of mystical quality make. The dwarf took it, tested it, and called it acceptable. Shalev, seeing the dwarf exhibit astounding skill with the weapon, asked him if he would be willing to teach. The dwarf said that his name was Sulayman and that he was part of a group of rangers at one time, and if Shalev didn't recognize him but still wished to learn, he would be willing to teach him.

As we talked, we made our way over to the northern edge of the city, where the dwarf informed us that we were welcome to make camp, as he knew that their homes would be uncomfortable for those of us of taller stature. Shalev, in his element here, began to set up camp in the fashion of a merchant caravan, instructing us that if we had goods we wished to trade, that we should display them just so. I brought out the Penician bows to trade, and the broken crossbows that we had acquired were also laid out. The oxen and horses were allowed to graze freely, as the dwarf said that there was an enchantment on the grass that would cause it to grow back the next day. There were no trees here, and when I asked about it, the dwarf told me that the great fires beneath the surface prevented tree growth, and that an enchantment prevented anything else from growing here as the grass would choke it out. What crops and gardens that they did have were in terraced containers throughout the city. I asked about the enchantment and he told me that the witch who had lived here was responsible for casting it because she wanted everything to look pretty. He also mentioned to me that if I wanted to see trees, that I should visit the forest on the western edge between here and Damazen, where the keepers of the forest were known to reside. He said that the keepers of the forest were reclusive, and looked like the trees that they cared for. I kept my excitement hidden as I thanked him for the information, making a silent note to visit the ents as soon as we could safely do so.

Osman, who had been creating meat for the city, stopped briefly and spent a moment in prayer to his god. After the prayer was finished, he cast his spell once more, but this time the meat didn't run out until everyone in the city had been fed. Knowing their need for living livestock, he prayed again, and after another moment, a goat appeared in thin air, which he caught and set gently down on the grass. The obviously gravid animal bleated happily and sauntered off to begin grazing, and the dwarfs simply stared and murmured a strange word to each other.

I spent some time as well walking among the plants and small gardens of the city, blessing what I could, and checking the health of the gardens. I noticed that the dwarfs of the city followed me at a short distance, watching my every movement. I heard them saying that odd word over and over again, but when I turned to ask what it meant, they all bolted back into their homes, only emerging again after I had turned back to my walks. I wondered again about the enchantment here, and recalled seeing both KelLyn and Lan cast a spell that would tell them the nature of things. I thought deeply about this, and then prayed to my god and goddess to see if I might be able to learn a similar spell. They responded to my request by granting me the knowledge of how to cast the spell Nature of Things, which will allow me to sense the type and strength of another spell. I thanked them quietly, and tried out my new ability to find that the spell on the grass was an exceptionally powerful Create Plant spell. I could not tell specifically what spell was cast, but the sheer power of the enchantment was awe inspiring.

Ishmael spent long hours in conversation with Sulayman, as the dwarf was a priest of the order that Ishmael followed. The discussions were quietly animated, and I could see the excitement in Ishmael's face as he learned more about the faith that had called him, and the abilities that he had been granted. Fife also showed some interest in this, as the dwarf showed Ishmael how to concentrate beer with a spell. Fife listened intently to what Ishmael was telling him, and I was amused to see that he had decided to convert because of the beer. He was still affected by the curse, and when he contritely talked to the dwarf about it, he was told that while the dwarf could not remove the curse, the druid that was rumored to live in the center of Emer might be able to do so. Fife then showed the unfinished idol to Sulayman, and asked if the jeweler who crafted it was here in the city. The dwarf looked at the piece and said that sadly the jeweler and his son had gone off to aid the gnomes during the war, and had been killed there. He told Fife to keep the idol if he wished, and Fife put it back in his pocket.

Shalev and I spent some time walking around the city together as he talked with the dwarfs about potential trade goods. He came across a pair of older dwarf women who worked in silk. Shalev asked if they would be willing to trade for it, and they were a little confused, as they only used the soft material for their infants. We explained a little bit of desert culture to them, and they agreed to trade their silk for one of the oxen. Shalev asked if they would be willing to work with the rope makers to craft lengths of silken rope, and again the dwarfs looked confused, but interested in the process as they had never considered making rope out of the silken threads before now.

During my walks among the plants and gardens, I also took the time to check on the animals. I found that three of the oxen were pregnant, and that three more were just out of season. I told Shalev this, and recommended that these were the ones we should leave here with the dwarfs as breeding stock.
We gave one of the pregnant cows to the dwarven women in trade for silk, and I spent some time with them showing them how to deal with the gravid animal, and how to handle her once she went into labor. They were thankful for the information, and for the cow, and immediately guided it back into their yard.

I heard that odd word murmured in my direction again, and I asked Ishmael what it meant. He told me that it meant "druid" and I asked the dwarfs to tell me about the druid who had lived here before me. I learned that her name was Khaibar, and that she had two brownie servants named Kheblar and Kheblor who helped her run a bakery. The called her the Crescent Witch, and the Witch of the South. I asked if I might be able to see her house and her work place, but the dwarfs were overcome with another bout of shyness, and would not tell me more about it.

Shalev and I continued our walks through town and come across another merchant who worked in a beautiful translucent porcelain. Shalev traded some of his personal funds to have a lovely tea service made for his bride to be, and I traded some of my gems for a personal set for two. Shalev also mentioned that the porcelain might be a highly valued trade good, and the dwarfs agreed to begin crafting the delicate material into cups and services for trade. He also commissioned a tea service for ten people, and when I asked him about it, he responded that cups would break, and that I would live longer than he would so this way I would have replacements for the cups. I was amused and touched by the gesture, though saddened to a brief melancholy by the vivid reminder that I would indeed, calamity aside, outlive everyone.

We also came across the tea tree groves, and both Shalev and I showed great interest in their local tea. Shalev asked how much a case of the tea would cost, but the dwarfs named a price that was beyond what he had currently. Shalev told them that the tea would be highly prized in the desert cultures, and they were also interested in becoming a part of the long term trade agreements. I asked if they would be willing to trade for a different tea instead, and they agreed with interest when I showed them the saplings of the Philosopher's Tea that I had been cultivating from the cuttings that Shalev and I took from Ma'tron in the elven city. I traded them one living sapling for a case of their pressed tea, and asked if I could also have a few cuttings of their own tea trees for my personal gardens. Shalev took note of the comparative trade of like goods, as I don't think he really realized until that point that not everything needed to be traded for coin or gems. They agreed, and gave me several cuttings which I immediately planted in small containers and added to my own collection. As they were taking the new sapling away to transfer into their own gardens, I heard them begin to sing to the plant. I immediately paid closer attention, as the spark of what the Maker told me about forgetting to sing still resonated deep within my thoughts. I listened to their songs, and while I noticed that they did not know the words, that this was quite clearly something that they had heard the Crescent Witch do. I memorized the tone and cadence of the song, in hopes that when I did eventually run across the spell that corresponded to it, I would be able to recognize and remember it clearly.

I also paid attention to the fact that they used tea tree oil almost exclusively here. I asked if they would be interested in olive oil in trade for their tea tree oil, and they were very excited about the influx of a different oil to use. I created several jars for personal trade between them and myself, and then asked them to go through Shalev to set up the major trade with the oasis.
` .oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

With trade goods of  silk, oil, tea, porcelain, and iron the city here has vast potential for the trade routes Shalev works so tirelessly to create. He has already crafted letters of agreement to be taken back to the oasis, and works with the dwarfs here to establish the beginnings of trade not only with the oasis, but with Waycam and Eeyore as well. It will be interesting to see what changes such an influx of new goods will create.

I have much to consider here as well. With the rumors of the druid that lives in Emer, and the stories of the druid that lived here, there is much to think on indeed. It is my hope that I can visit the home and workspaces of the Crescent Witch to see if I can learn anything more about her, and perhaps learn more about Emer, the tree, and the dragon as well. I need to spend much time in meditation and conversation with my god and goddess. I am trepidatious, not about what I might learn, but about how to deal with what lies ahead. The keepers of the forest to the west also call to me. I want to see what they might be able to tell me as well, though I fear the rest of the party might balk at the delay that staying here might mean. We may have some time, as the way behind us is closed, and there is much to do here in this city before we move on. In the mean time, I will watch, I will pray, and I will continue.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A new day, and a new road

The road goes ever on and on...


Resupplying for the road is always a little tedious. Necessary, but tedious. There are provisions to gather, equipment to repair or replace, maps to study, rumors to listen to...

The required stay in the city has begun to make me feel claustrophobic. I dislike the crush of people, the constant noise, and the miasma of smells that permeates everything within the enclosed walls. That being said, it has been nice to sleep in a real bed and have ready access to fresh food and water without having to worry about magic going awry. I still don't understand how these people can waste so much water, but I certainly can't deny the absolute decadent luxury of a hot bath.

The platinum, gold, and silver that we accumulated from the adventure through the tomb was split up evenly between the party members. I added the majority of my coin to the overall party fund, as I have no real need for the money. I instead chose a handful of the gems as my share of the treasure, and placed them in my belt pouch along with some other small mementos that I have collected.
Fife, Osman, and Ishmael seemed a bit shell-shocked at the riches that were suddenly in their possession, Tobias and KelLyn didn't say too much about their shares, and Lan seemed not to care overly for the coins.

Shalev seemed to be a little inordinately concerned about how the rest of the party would spend their haul, but I reminded him gently that it was not his place to instruct them on what to do or not to do with their share of the treasure. As quartermaster, he holds himself responsible for supplying the party, so understandably has claimed a larger share of the overall funds to finance the expeditions. What he does with his own personal share is his business, and I reminded him that while he may disapprove of the rest of the party members expenditures, that it was their choice to spend as they wished.

Shalev took the ornate rug from the treasure hoard and made an effort to exchange or sell it for an equivalent amount of gold and silver. He ended up mistakenly donating it to the court of the count instead. The count was so impressed by his generosity, and in return granted him a noble title, making him a defacto baron in the courts. This makes him noble twice over, and Fife pulled him aside later that day to give him a not-so-subtle reminder that he shouldn't be stepping onto the front lines because that's what he hired Fife to do. Fife takes his role as bodyguard very seriously, I've noticed, and I hope that maybe Shalev will listen to his advice and not be so headstrong and set on being the first into the fray in the future. I think he has finally started to realize that even though he is a second son, he is still vastly important in the overall scheme of things.

Osman made the offer to train the soldiers here in archery, and I spent much time observing him and what he taught in hopes that I could pick up some tips to improve my own skills. Shalev also offered to train them in sword work and defense, and they readily agreed to the lessons. When we weren't training with the soldiers, Shalev and I spent many long hours over tea in conversations about balance and faith. I find these discussions to be enlightening, and even though I do not worship Ma'At, her views and convictions echo my own beliefs on overall balance. Being able to apply these thoughts to my own faith has allowed me to feel stronger in my abilities, and even though my god and goddess still fail to talk to me directly, I do notice that my prayers feel more effective now. During our discussions about faith, he asked if I could teach him about the spells I knew on how to heal animals and humans. He said that his goddess had told him that he should seek me out to learn such things, and so I agreed to show him what I could.

KelLyn spent some time studying her books, as she always does, as well as agreeing to try to identify some of the items that we picked up during the trek into the tombs. She was able to successfully determine the traits of the first of the two javelins as:

* The Javelin of Ziwa - Single use weapon, when thrown, will evoke the power of the god Ziwa.

During her attempts to identify the second javelin, she botched her spell, and the room that she was in filled with wheat. She and Tobias were buried, but thankfully not crushed by the sudden appearance of several tons of grain. The doors and windows smashed open with the pressure, and also knocked Ishmael over, though he was able to recover and move out of the way of the outpouring. The ceiling of the room that KelLyn and Tobias also collapsed, filling the ground floor of the inn also with grain as well. We dug both of them out with the help of Amit, and offered to pay the innkeeper for the damages. The owner of the inn said that he would sell off the grain first, and use that to pay for repairs, but that we would be responsible for anything left over. He sent for a merchant to take the 864 bushels of wheat away, and we told him about the farmstead  that ran the distillery not too far away. He agreed to send a portion of the grain their way, and then shooed us out of the inn while he and the merchant team began work to excavate the main rooms.

I decided to pay another visit to the diviners here in the city, to see if they could tell me anything else about sylvan trees. They told me of some interesting legends about a pair of sylvan trees that were known to actually blossom. This is unusual indeed, for even I with all of my years in existence, have never seen one flower. They told me that one was located on the other continent, but that one was located here, in an elven city called Emer. The city was at one time a hub of trade for gnomes and dwarfs, but was supposedly lost when those races disappeared underground. It was protected by spells that would prevent scrying, but that the last known location of the city was in a bowl like valley between the mountain rages to the north.

The count handled some of our supply needs when he provided us with six sturdy draft horses to pull the carts we have. I have to keep reminding Shalev that the oxen we still have with us are not a mobile food source unless absolutely direly necessary. Especially with his driving need to make sure that we have every iota accounted for with regards to perishable supplies. The trek through the tombs has increased his paranoia to some large degree, and I saw him purchasing several hundred extra feet of rope recently, as well as taking the old tapestries and heavy woven material that we found in the depths to make "trap checking gloves" as he calls them. I had to smile and shake my head, because while we might not necessarily NEED 600 feet of rope, it will make him happy to have it just in case.

He also had several solid, waterproof chests with intricate locks made to give us a safe place to store things on the carts. KelLyn immediately claimed one of the smaller of these for her books and magic items, the largest one was filled with what treasures we were keeping with us, and the third one remained empty for miscellaneous storage purposes. Tobias helped to craft the smaller of the chests, as well as several large barrels that we will keep on the cart for water and perhaps ale.

Shalev also, for some reason, decided that he needed to learn how to swim. Much to my astonished amusement, he approached KelLyn for instruction, as she was raised along the coast. She agreed warily to help him learn, and I am glad to see the two of them at least moderately getting along finally. He also approached me to ask about learning how to fight someone without looking them in the eyes, and I agreed, but I wonder at his sudden determination to specialize in these skills. Among the skills he wished to improve, he requested additional training with blunt weapons as well, and I think perhaps he is wishing for whatever edge he may be able to gain. He still thinks of himself as inferior or expendable to some degree, but if the training makes him feel better about himself, then I will teach him what I can.

The count also sent out word to the nobles of the city that we had permission from him to trade for high value items in their possession if we wished to do so. The economy here is still recovering from the despair that had wracked it when the trade routes to Waycam were destroyed, and has only just begun to see the renewal of their resources. Ishmael spent some time speaking with the merchants in the city to find out the state of the economy here, and to try to garner information on which of the noble families would be best to speak to and most likely to be willing to trade with us.

After visiting the first few families, and seeing their wide eyed reluctance at having a noble paladin approach them to buy their family heirlooms and treasured possessions outright, I recommended to Shalev that he try rewording his request to buy their treasures as rather a search for wedding gifts for his bride to be. This proved to be much more effective, and we ended up accomplishing our goal to trade the biggest bulk of our treasure and reduce the sheer bulk of what we carried with us.

Tobias immediately took offense to this for some reason, mistaking the change of phrasing to meant that Shalev was actually trading the party treasure for personal gifts. I pulled him to the side and gently explained to him why I recommended the change in phrasing, and while that mollified him somewhat, he still seemed upset at Shalev. I have to wonder a bit at the ire between the two of them. I do not know why Tobias still continues to mistrust Shalev, but feel like something will need to be said to him pointedly about it if the issues continue.

The first noble that we visited showed us a large blue/black pearl that had been entrusted to his family by a mage. It supposedly had the power to create nodes of energy, and the noble said that he would want something of value to a mage, as well as a large sum of money for it. KelLyn, of course, vehemently refused to part with any of her valuables, and so we refused that bargain politely and moved on.

The second noble showed us a beautiful jeweled leaf brooch made of a soft green stone. The edges of the brooch were encrusted with fine quality diamonds and sapphires. The noble told us that the piece had been in his family for generations, and that it had come from the captain of a ship who was known to do trade with the coast. The captain had traded the piece to the noble's family as a dowry price for a bride, but that there was a rumor that owning anything made from this material was considered a crime of theft from the originating country. The party discussed whether or not we should take the risk of owning the piece, and I pointed out that we already had an item made of that exact same material that we had picked up from the pyramids so long ago. If simply owning the material was a crime, then we were already marked after a fashion, so one more piece would not matter. They agreed, and Shalev made the trade for the brooch. The noble requested that we bring the money directly to the court with a message that it was paid to him. We agreed to do so, and as we were speaking to the count about the trade, the noble walked in to the court, threw a large chain at the feet of the count, and loudly declared somewhat sniffily that he was moving.

We eyed the actions of the noble with some concern, and Shalev spoke quietly to the count to make sure that he had not stepped on any toes with his trade attempts. The count reassured him that he was fine, and that some of the nobles in his court had indentured themselves long ago and were grumpy about their lot in life because of it.

We moved on to the next noble family, a good bit lighter than before. This third family had very little, but they offered a box of very rare spice (cinnamon) for trade. It was clear that they needed the money, and while Shalev made the trade for the box of spices, I quietly left a small bag of salt and another small bag of spices on the noble's table for him to find later after we had departed.

The next noble we visited was flighty and failing in her attempts to be enigmatic and mysterious. She airily showed us a room full of various crystals, and Shalev mentioned quietly that according to his compass, there were magical items here. We brought KelLyn in so that she could help identify which ones were magical, and she pointed out two small crystal spheres that were about an inch across. She offered to trade a yellow stargem for them, and the whimsical noble woman agreed. KelLyn identified the spheres as being spelled to cause extreme damage when thrown, and she promptly handed the crystals over to Fife.

With only two noble families remaining to trade with, we moved on to the next house. This noble had several sacks of jewels which we readily agreed to trade for. Jasper, emeralds, and a gorgeous white gemstone that looked like it was filled with fire. The noble called this strange looking gem "elf's tears" and I looked at them quizzically.  Shalev traded for 12 of these unusual gems, as well as some of the emeralds and jasper, and this was enough to significantly reduce the bulk of the heavier plates of currency that we carried.

Ishmael and I traded some of our own personal cash for some of the emeralds and some of the beautiful fire-filled gems. I took two of each for my private collection, and Ishmael took the remainder for his.

The last noble that we payed visit to had an ornately carved scroll tube that had a tree etched into one end, and the roots of the tree spiraling down around the rest of the tube. It looked like it had been gnawed on or clawed at by a dragon in an attempt to open it up, but otherwise appeared sound. The noble wanted us to trade the teeth and scales that we had scavenged from the black dragon for the tube, and Osman, Shalev, and I agreed to do so. The scroll tube was obviously of druid make, and so it went became my possession.

Since we had accomplished our goal to reduce the sheer bulk of our possessions and treasures,  we traveled back to the center of town, where the inn was still being excavated from the wheat. While Shalev spoke with the merchant caravans about trade routes and directions to DragonSpire, Osman and I restocked our arrows and the rest of the party made their last preparations to finally depart.

The merchant caravans told Shalev that DragonSpire was across the switchback trails through the mountains, but cautioned that it was foolish to travel into dragon country. Shalev took the warning with grace, though I could tell that he was alarmed at learning that there was a "dragon country." Osman and Tobias set the dragon rib bones in a tannin bath to soak and soften so that they could begin crafting bows out of them. Tobias noticed that some of the trees locally were of a sturdy hardwood called maple, and he gathered several lengths of the maple wood to also begin crafting wooden long bows for the party.

I spent some time focusing my energy on the scroll tube that I now had, and discovered that it had markings on it that corresponded exactly with the changes of the season that the druids considered holy days. The tree carved into the end ticked around by itself in a daily pattern, and I made a note that it seemed to be some kind of clock or calendar that marked the year.

KelLyn was able to identify the scroll that we had found in the room with the shambling mound as a web spell of some kind. She also looked at the spell book that Shalev uncursed for her, but the power words for the spells had been erased when the curse was removed. She said that it would still be useful for research, however, and tucked it back into her pouch.

The party then discussed where to go next at some length. We decided that DragonSpire was still the next on the list, and I requested that we try to find the lost elven cit of Emer, since it appeared to be on the way to our destination there. My hope is that seeing the blooming sylvan tree might lend me some clues on how to renew the other. I have not yet given it over to death. Ishmael also showed interest in visiting the lost city, as the legends had it as a major trade hub for dwarfs and gnomes.

The rest of the party agreed, and we made plans to depart within the next few days. I made a  note that it was mid-winter, and pointed out that we had not equipped appropriately for winter travel. While they supplemented our supplies, I spent some time in deep meditation and prayer for the turning of the season. Hearing the noise of the city, and wishing more than ever to be outside of the city limits for my own rituals, I moved out into the fields nearby to seclude myself from the chaos of the city.

The city celebrated their midwinter with a gigantic keg of beer and a very loud parade. They asked Shalev to tap the keg, and then handed him a large stein of fortified beer. Everyone joined in the raucous celebrations, and I heard later on that Shalev accidentally supplanted the normal ritual when the townsfolk decided to follow his actions. The high priest of the local god was apparently very put out with him over it, especially since the people celebrated Ma'At and the ways of balance instead of the local god Vindare.

While I was out in the fields during my meditations, I heard the scroll tube click once, and the slide open. I looked at it to see an ancient writing that said "This is the scroll of the Elder Druids of Maurina to be delivered as payment. Contained are 6 spells to be offered in settlement of our debt."

I looked further to see 6 scrolls rolled up with the letter.
* Translate the scroll (easy) Perceive/Sphere of the Deity. Adds D/3 to language skills. Adds a greater understanding of any language read, spoken, studied, or heard.

* Whispers of the Way (medium) Perceive/Sphere of the Deity. D/3 to perception. The ground around me talks to me and tells me what it "sees"

* The Javelin of Ceylon (difficult) Modify/Sphere of the Deity. Draws a javelin up out of the ground to throw at enemies.

* Invoke the Greater Way (very difficult) Create/Sphere of the Deity. a spell that has to do with transportation or transit of some kind.

* The Dragon's Bane (difficult) Move Control/Sphere of the Deity. Has something to do with a very high quality of alcohol called the "water of life."

* The Time of Things Unseen (difficult) Modify/Sphere of the Deity. Grants the ability to not be seen in some way.

As I studied these scrolls I realized that I would need to cast them to learn exactly what they would do. I spent the rest of the night in prayer and conversation (albeit one-sided) with my god and goddess.

I was able to successfully cast the Whispers of the Way spell and discovered much to my astonishment that the road itself began speaking to me. The longer I listened, the more detailed the descriptions it gave to me regarding what it observed. The ground would not respond to inquiries that I posed, so it appears to be informational only. It also only seemed to work for the immediate area, but it is an interesting spell nonetheless.

I was also able to successfully cast the Translate the Scroll spell, and discovered that it gave me a much more nuanced understanding of the meanings behind words. I used this spell to immediately delve into the study of my Initiate's guide to Sacred Druidry, and was quite happy to discover that it allowed me to understand new layers of depth in the book as well as in my own language.  I can foresee this spell being of great use to me in the future, and made a note to use it as often as I could to perfect its casting.

The following day, I made my way back into town to meet up with the rest of the party. They told me, somewhat bemusedly, about Shalev's abscondment with the local rituals. I simply smiled and shook my head as I noted that the road continued to chatter at me, and that here in the city it was much louder. I'm sure I seemed distracted to the rest of the party, but I was having difficulty concentrating on anything else with the constant chatter of the roads and the city. I wondered how long the spell would last, and how the druids of old used this to their advantage, for it would not have been included in the collection if it were not useful somehow.

Once the party was ready to depart, I spoke with KelLyn, giving her the description that the diviners had given me about the last known location of Emer. I asked her if she would be willing to try to scry, not for the city, but for the bowl like valley where it would have been. She agreed, and as she began to scry, her orb began to pulse with magic. When she returned her attention to the party, she said that she had seen a place that matched the description to the North, and we gathered our supplies and set out once again towards adventure.

We have three carts with us now, one for extra supplies, one for food, supplies, and treasures, and one for riding in when desired. I chose to ride for a while, so that I could continue to study the new spells from the scroll tube. I used the Translate spell once again, and was able to determine that the scroll tube and enclosed spells were a payment of a greater debt of the Druids of Maurina from one of the three islands of healers and saints. This fact was interesting to me because druids were not often grouped with healers and saints, so it made me wonder again about those ancient druids, and again at what had happened to exterminate them all. With the translate spell still active, I used it's enhancements to continue to study my druid guide, the other spells in the collection, and the intricacies of my own circular language.

We travel for two weeks without incident, thankfully. I notice with more than a little interest that I can still hear the roads chattering away at me. There are other travelers and merchants along this road, coming in to the city with their winter trade goods of lumber, wheat, and wool. I listen to what the roads tell me about them to try to gain a greater understanding of how this spell works. It seems to be able to pick up details on the way a person refers to themselves: "elf", "human", "woman", "man", etc. The longer we are in one space, the more detail the road's descriptions become, "druid", "warrior", "paladin". I find the chatter to be interesting in a conceptual sense, and it gives me some insight as to how the reputations of those druids of old may have had more than a little truth to them.

Even though there are plenty of people along the roads we traverse here, I notice that they each camp separately. This is curious to me, as in the desert cultures travelers would often share camps to gain safety in numbers. The peoples here are reluctant to do so, and it puzzles me why they would refuse offered protection and shared camaraderie. They were even reticent to part with information about the roads ahead, although they did warn us that the dragons have a strong presence across the first ridge of the mountains. They also informed us that the snows had begun only a few days journey ahead, and that the large local predators would often use the snows as cover and camouflage to hunt. They cautioned us to be on the look out for a large cat with white and grey spotted fur that they called a snow leopard, as well as carnivorous hares that roamed the areas in packs. These hares were more akin to wolves in their mannerisms than rabbits, and could be quite aggressive during the leaner months.

One merchant that we spoke to was able to give us a little more of the old stories and rumors about the lost elven city. He said that the Quadling dwarfs were rumored to do trade with the elves at a great city before they disappeared. The entrance to the dwarf lands and the pass under the mountains was marked by a great gate about 6 months travel ahead of us.

We moved on, and continued traveling for another two weeks when we came to a crossroads. One road led off to the right, and the other road continued to the north. When we stopped here for a brief rest, KelLyn approached me. During her studies, she had come across a language written on one of her scrolls that she could not read. She said it looked to her like ancient elven, and she asked if I could take a look. I agreed to do so, and I used my translate spell to help me discern what was written.

The scroll was written in several different languages, and I could pick out several elven words that mentioned sylvan trees, and alarmingly enough the words for destruction in reference to the tree. I also picked out the words for "polymorph any object", "move ley line", and "control elven army." As I continued to study the scroll, I revealed a hidden description written out in druidic moonscript. When I looked closer at the moonscript, I was able to translate it as follows:

"The first artifact was destroyed to kill the bull.  The second artifact could not be destroyed, so was encased in a coffin of deep metal, sealed by magic fueled by the spirit of an ancient dragon that volunteered to be beheaded. The coffin was placed in a volcano, and protected by an ancient compact with the giants."

As I read the translations to KelLyn, she became agitated, and I expressed concern at the wording that I was able to understand. I do not know what this scroll does, but the fact that it talks about the willful destruction of a sylvan tree, and the ability to control an elven army, actually made me rather reluctant to return it to KelLyn's possession. Since we were studying together, I recast my translate spell, and asked KelLyn to help me discern more about the spells that I had been given from the scroll tube. I was able to discover little more about them, however, and while they sound interesting and potentially useful, I am reluctant to cast them, as I  know I do not yet have the control to do so and do not wish to risk a loss of faith on my part should I fail.

While we were speaking together about this, I noticed briefly that Lan was once again studying her shiny orb. Suddenly a large presence of evil radiated out from her for a few seconds, and then just as suddenly she was exuding an almost angelic sense of good. Shalev, at the sense of evil, had jumped up and drawn his sword, but then looked perplexed as the sense shifted. Lan appeared blithely unconcerned about the incident, and it would seem that she may have found a way to change the way people sense her alignment. That orb of hers has been quite an interesting toy, and I have begun to wonder how, if at all, it may be affecting her directly to use it.

I decided to take a break from my studies for a while, and I began to work with Fife on learning how to throw spears, in hopes that the knowledge I gained from him could be applied to my archery abilities as well. KelLyn, of course, continued to study her books and would mutter and curse to herself almost constantly. She mumbled something at one point about the soul forges and finally knowing how to create them, and then something else about creating magical items, but did not expound more on the knowledge that she was discovering.

At the crossroads, Shalev asked his compass if the road that we were on was still the correct pathway to find Emer, and Lan confirmed his findings with her spell that showed us the way. We continued north, and shortly after we made camp that night, we were set upon by the predatory hares that we had been cautioned about. We were able to take them out with out too much difficulty, and as we were gathering them together to skin and prepare to cook, Amit jumped in to protect us from the snow leopard that had been preparing to attack.

We saved the pelts from the animals, as both the hares and the leopard had gorgeous white fur, and prepared the hares for stew. KelLyn wandered off into the warren, and she came back out shortly after with a baby hare tucked into one arm. She said that there were others in there, but that she wanted that one to be hers. Shalev graciously offered to help her learn how to train the animal up, and she agreed quite happily. Sadly, I knew that there would be no way to help the rest of the babies survive the hardship of a winter without protection, and that the best mercy would be to kill them quickly rather than let them suffer starvation. I did so, and said a gently sad prayer over them. The cycle of life is sometimes a harsh one, and while they could not have survived, in their deaths they gave us nourishment for which I gave them thanks and respect. Afterwards, I searched through the warren and found a small magical pouch hidden among the detritus. The pouch appeared very old, but still in excellent condition, and when KelLyn examined it she discovered that it had some kind of create earth spell attached to it. I took the pouch and tied it to my belt, and we made our way out of the warren.

We continued on the next morning, and traveled without further incident for several more weeks. I requested to stop for a day or so when the spring equinox arrived, and I spent the day and night doing the appropriate meditations and rituals for the seasons. My god and goddess did answer my supplication this time, and I learned that there was no way to move a sylvan tree, which dashed any hope I had of relocating the one from that cursed elven city. They told me that I should seek out the keepers of the soul wells as they would be able to give me the information I needed about the life cycles and care of the trees. However, they were not able to give my any information on where they were located for some reason.

My focus now is learning how, if possible, to restore the tree safely. If it can not be restored, then it must be allowed to die, and a new seedling planted in a new area where it would flourish. I must find a way to speak to the keepers to discuss this further. If it must die, then so be it. The elves of that cursed place stated their desire to be apart from everything that made them elves. They may just get their wish, though sadly I do not think they realize exactly what that will mean for them until it is too late.

While we were stopped, Osman and Tobias worked at using the dragon bones and maple branches to craft beautiful bows of superior make. Once the bodies of the bows were shaped, they took the tendon and sinew of the dragon and began to soak them so that they could be twisted and woven into string for the weapons. The dragon bone and hard wood make these bows much more resilient than a standard bow would be, and I look forward to having one of them for my own once they are completed. Fife came over once he saw what they were working on, and he was able to give them additional pointers and advice on how to craft the bows.

I noticed, with some surprise, that the roads had stopped chattering at me at some point just past the full moon, and I debated on whether or not I should recast the spell. I find myself missing the white noise of the chatter to some degree, and I still wonder at what advantage the spell might be able to grant.

During the course of our travels, Shalev had been using his compass to ask various questions. He helped me to determine more details about the spell scrolls I had acquired, and he also discovered that the red mage that had been hunting for part of KelLyn's staff was now pursuing our party instead. I know that KelLyn has magic about her that allows her to be invisible from scrying, but the rest of us do not have such protections. I imagine that since he knows that she is known to travel with us, that he is tracking us in order to get to her. There is nothing that we can do about it at the moment, however, so we continue to travel on towards the dwarven gates. The lands here have become rocky, and we have steadily been traveling upwards. The foothills have changed to the edges of the mountain ranges, and the dwarven gates are not too much further away.

KelLyn was supremely unconcerned about the red mage's pursuit of us, and she continued her studies uninterrupted. Those studies lead her to discover a new spell similar to the one that Lan had been casting to show us the way. KelLyn's spell, she explained, would actually CREATE a path if one was needed, and she offered to use it whenever needed to help us on our journey. This spell is quite a useful one, and I made a note to speak to her about it at length to see if perhaps I could pick up enough about it to try to learn it as well.  She approached me again for discussion, and this time asked that I teach her what I could about the realms of plant and animal. In return for that knowledge, she agreed to teach me what she could about Vitality.

Osman also discovered a new spell, as his deity appeared to have answered him directly with a gift of power. He was given the ability to create a form of pitch, and he moved up the path a little ways to practice the spell and see what it would do. Fife and Shalev went with him to act as protection. Osman tried his spell out and a fountain of black viscous oil poured from his hands over the ridge and onto a twiggy structure made of branches and tree boughs. We heard an angry noise, and a rustling, and a griffon, now covered in sticky pitch, emerged from the nest to glare at the three of them with hackles raised. Osman made a frightened squeak and ran back towards camp. Shalev also made a dash back to camp to snag a lit torch, and when he got back to where Fife was still standing warily, he tried to walk up to the griffon. Fife jerked him backwards though, and put Shalev behind him with a firm comment to stay there and not move.

The griffon did not attack, but merely stood there glaring. We all took a slow step backwards, trying to appear as unoffensive as possible, though Fife still held the lit torch warningly, prepared to throw it at the creature should it move to attack us. KelLyn tried to cast a destroy earth spell in an attempt to remove the pitch from the griffon's feathers. Her spell went awry, however, though there was thankfully no adverse effect that we could discern. She tried once again, this time drawing a circle to augment her power, and was successful. The pitch disappeared, and the griffon looked down at it's feathers in surprise, but still did not attack.

Shalev, on instinct, looked up towards the sky, and he pointed out quietly that there was a second griffon circling high overhead, also watching. We all made our way carefully and slowly back to camp, and we saw that Tobias had covered all of the horses with tarp, effectively disguising and protecting them from the circling griffon.

We all decided that it would be best to move on a ways from here, and we kept the pace very slow for a while, to make sure we were not attracting the attention of the griffons any more. When we stopped again for the evening, KelLyn made an attempt to use one of her fire-speak spells to try to determine where the red mage was located, but was unable to find out where he was.

Fife, Osman, and Tobias completed the crafting of the dragon bone and maple bows, stringing them with the dragon sinew, and Osman, Tobias, and I all took one of the finished weapons. It is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship, and the bow feels like it was made for my hands. Knowing Tobias had a hand in it's make means that it most likely was. I noticed some intricate scroll work carved into the weapon I chose, and noted again that Tobias appears to have crafted it just for me. I appreciate the gift, and will make sure that it is used well.

We continued to travel for another month without encountering the red mage, or with any further incidents, and at last came to the great cliff face with the Quadling dwarven symbols carved into the door. The doors had been latched long ago, from the outside. Shalev asked the compass if there were still dwarfs living in the mountain, and was told that there were indeed, so the passage between the mountains here may not be abandoned as it appears to be. Ishmael looked at the doors, awe apparent in his face, and  he noted that he thought dwarfs were supposed to be short and stocky, so why were the latches 40 feet up off of the ground? We all spent some time examining the doors and the surrounding area, but could find no way or mechanism to open the great stone slabs. I noticed a spot at the base of the door where there was a very small opening about an inch or so high. KelLyn tried creating a circle and casting here new spell to create a path, but it simply showed us that the path we were on was the best way through.

Seeing the crack appeared to be the only way inside, we asked Lan if she would be willing to use her orb to turn into the gaseous form we had seen her become before and travel underneath the door to see if there was a latch or a lever on the other side. She agreed, and once on the other side of the door was able to locate the mechanism and open the door. A stone slab only slightly taller than I was opened with a hideous grinding noise, and we all made our way into the entrance way of the cavern. The lever that opened the door would not budge again to close it behind us, and we decide to venture into the passage under the mountains to see what new adventures lie ahead.