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.

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