Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Lost City - The Return of Taryn the Bard

"My journey never stops - I only pause at places you could hardly dare to quest." - Cora


Previously in our story...

Tobias returned shortly, dragging the unfortunate archer by the scruff of the neck. As he stalked back into our camp, he informed us of a second, smaller camp of ragtag mercenaries hidden over in the ruins. The archer appeared scuffed up, and bore some slight injuries from falling of of the roof where he had tried to ambush us earlier. Scott made some attempts to talk to them man as Lan worked to heal his hurts, and the man told us that he attacked us because they didn't want us to find the stuff first. 

I looked at his mismatched armor, and the odd long bow that he carried, and asked him what "stuff" he was referring to. He grew tight-lipped at the question and told us that the leader of his little band was named Gavin. Glaring at the captive man, Tobias again picked him up by the scruff of the neck, and our party gathered our things and promptly escorted him back to his group. 

As we approached their untidy campsite, the archer's companions notice us and draw weapons. The archer shouts at them not to attack, and they warily allow us to bring their man into the circle of tents. They all bore mismatched armor, and inferior quality weapons, and I wondered at how far they thought they could get in such a place so ill prepared. I chuckled to myself at the thought, as it reminded me of something Shalev might have said, and I kept a watchful eye on the mercenaries as they talked to their returned man. 

They told us that we were looking in the wrong place over by the intact buildings, and that we wouldn't find the dragon there, but rather in the center of town. We all simply stared at them, and they began to realize then, I think, that maybe we were more than we seemed to be. A murmured discussion broke out among the mercenaries, and one of them stepped forward after a moment to state that he was looking for a way out of this place entirely. His companions all glare at him at the apparent betrayal, and we warily say that we can help him with that. 

The man said his name was Taryn, that he was a bard, and that he wished to join our group; and I saw Tobias and KelLyn startle in recognition. They stared at him curiously, and I remembered that there had been a bard with that name that had been a part of the party when Shalev and I had first joined the group. I remembered too that the man had disappeared only a day later, and hadn't been seen since then. I wondered if this was the same man, and I could see from KelLyn and Tobias' scrutiny that they were considering the same thing. KelLyn in particular glared at the man as if his appearance was a personal betrayal, and I recalled that she and the bard had once had romantic entanglements. 

Taryn's companions all begin arguing with him, asking him why he would want to switch sides so easily, and why he would want to go over to such a group, especially when they didn't even have good armor.  I saw Tobias smirk at that statement, and with a prideful flourish, he removed his outer cloak to reveal the imperial layan armor that he wore.The leader of the little ragtag group gaped at the armor and then took a closer look at the rest of the party members, seeing that we all wore quality armor and carried weapons that appeared to be far better than the ones they had. 

His eyebrows shot up in surprise for a moment, and then he shrugged and said again that the dragon was rumored to be in the center of town with a sniff, before subsiding into a grumpy silence when he realized that we were already well aware of that fact. Taryn gathered up his single pack of belongings, and joined our group without even a goodbye to his previous companions, and our party,now plus one more, set out to return to the street where the mage academy was located. 

As we trekked back over, Scott approached me looking like he wanted to ask me something. I looked at him curiously, and he asked me to gently break in the introduction of Jaeger to the new party member. I continued to stare at him, wondering why he thought I would be the best person to ask about such a thing, and he went on to say that it would either be me or Lan, and did I really want Lan trying to explain anything? I sighed and nodded slightly, and then relay the request to Tobias, as he speaks the common language better than I do. He shrugged and said he didn't see what the issue was. Scott then asked him what the long bow was, and they began discussing the use of the weapon. As they talked, Scott asked Tobias what an "army" was and I saw Tobias just stare blankly at him for a moment before remembering that Scott was also new to the party, and only a farm hand. He began to patiently explain to Scott what exactly he had gotten himself into, and I turned my attention to Taryn. 

I did not know much about him from when he was with the party before, and I asked him what the group of mercenaries had been looking for. He said that the dragon had been rumored to have been trying to piece together a "great weapon" which had been a gift from a great mage to a competitor in the courts where the dragon had attended in human form. The competitor had been challenged to a fight, and the weapon had been destroyed. The dragon was trying to reassemble the pieces, and anyone who leaves is sent out with the message that the Head of the Jade Court is looking for the items, with a promise of riches beyond measure if they were found. 

I pondered this new information at length, ruminating again on what the winged man had said about everything being tied together. I lost myself in these thoughts until we eventually returned to camp where KelLyn and Jaeger were still working on trying to dismantle the traps on the doors. We appeared to have good timing, for as soon as we walked up, Jaeger reached out and opened the front door to the academy. KelLyn agreed to wait with the cart for a while, as the efforts of disarming the spells had exhausted her and she needed to rest, and the rest of the party stepped inside the door. 

Inside, we saw a great empty room with double doors ahead of us. The walls are tastefully decorated with art that depicted stylizations of all four elements. Jaeger walked forward ahead of the rest of the party, and I saw him recast the ward to surround himself and the door. Lan cast a spell to see if there were magical traps on this door as well, and she found that there were. She said that the spells were of a control nature which involved perceptions, and involved both air and plants. Lan commented that the door appeared to be made of "one of her trees" with a nod in my direction, and I walked up to the door cautiously. I could sense, once I got close enough, that the wood was indeed sylvan, and that it seemed quite content that it was a door. I had a thought, and tried to ask it to open in high elven and then druidic. I got no response, but I wasn't really expecting one anyway. As I studied the intricate carvings on the door, I noticed that there were words hidden within the plants, written in elven. 

I read the words out to Lan, but she did not understand them, though surprisingly, Jaeger's eyes brightened and he said something to Lan. She told me that he had asked that I keep repeating the words, and I do so, listening as Jaeger tries to copy my pronunciation until he is able to replicate the cadence and accent correctly. The words were a spell, and when said by someone who used magic, they caused the wood of the door to turn transparent. 

We looked through the clear door to see two long oak tables, several chairs, and a hutch filled with crystal glasses and decanters. It looked like it was a dining hall, though long disused, and we took note of the double doors on the opposite side of the room. I reached out and knocked politely on the door, and we were promptly greeted by a ghoul. I cautiously asked if we could enter the room, and it - he - replied that we could not because we were not mages. I motioned for Jaeger to move forward, saying that he was, and that we were in his company. The ghoul looked critically at Jaeger and asked him to prove that he was a mage. Jaeger refused, saying that as a mage, he would not deign to prove himself as his presence here is proof enough. The ghoul accepted this statement, and then returned a short moment later to apologize, saying that there was no one here that could open the door. The ghoul thought for a moment, and then came back a  few seconds later carrying a heavy bowl, which he dropped on the handle to make the door swing open. 

Inside the dining hall, we noticed that there were also doors to the right and left of us, and that the silverware was all engraved with the magic seal of the academy of Emer. We opened the door to the left into a large room with glossy polished floors and an enormous layan chandelier that suspended from the ceiling. The floors of this room were covered with trash and detritus, and as soon as we stepped into the room, the two ogres in the corner stood up and turned ponderously towards the party. They glanced at us in confusion and said "You're not supposed to be in here?" to which we hastily replied that the ghoul had let us in. The ogres looked even more confused, if possible, and said that we didn't look like mages. Scott, thinking quickly, said that we were wearing traveling clothes which the ogres seemed to accept as a rational explanation. Osman spoke up then and asked if they would like some fresh meat? The ogres looked at him, looking for the offered meat, and Osman conjured some goat haunches that we lobbed their way. 

As they ate, we saw that they were clearly undead things, and I have to repress a visible shudder at how wrong they feel. As they consumed the goat, we saw their open wounds heal, and Jaeger warned us that the ogres were pledged in service to this place, and that they should not be disturbed. I argue that they are wrong and that their presence here hints to something much larger controlling their allegiance. The rest of the party agreed that they should not bother the ogres though, seeming not to heed my warning about the potential of a larger threat, and I turn to leave the room entirely. A few moments later, the rest of the party followed me back into the main room, closing the doors to the ogres' chamber behind them. 

The next door opened into a long and dusty room which looked as if it had served as a gallery of some sort at one time. I saw that there were clear footprints in the dust on the floor, and lighter colored squares on the walls where the paintings had been removed by thieves. I noted the broken window and figured that was the method of entry and exit. Upon further examination, I notice that the nails that had hung the paintings were made of layan, and I pulled a handful of them out of the wall, putting them in my belt pouch.  Seeing no more evidence of the nature of the thieves, and no other doors in this room, we turned back to the main room to go through the next set of double doors. 

These doors opened to reveal a lavishly furnished bedroom which also boasted two full harps, a cello, and a number of other instruments. There were two full sets of armor, each holding a halberd, which stood on either side of the door. We explored the room, which looked like it might have been set up as a guest room, and Taryn eyed the cello with undisguised awe. He picked it up reverently and muttered to it as if it were a long lost lover. We also saw a strange shaped instrument off to one side of the room with white and black buttons on it. It looked almost like a harp that had been laid on it's side, except much larger. Scott and Taryn spent several moments  trying to figure out how it worked, and Taryn named the odd thing a "side hammer harp." 

Taryn was insistent on trying to figure out how to take the odd instrument with us, but it proved to be too heavy to more easily, and so with a sad sigh, he agreed to leave it where it was. He brightened noticeably though, when Tobias reminded him of the cello and the two of them went back out to the cart to deposit the instrument in a safe space and catch KelLyn up on the happenings inside. 

Once they rejoined the party, we made our way over to the main room and opened the doors to the right this time. This was a small sitting room with overturned furniture that was in shambles. The floor was smeared with old dried blood, and there was a single closed door on the opposite wall. The blood smears extended up to one wall which was empty of all other features, and after a moment of examination, I discovered and opened the hidden door to a small closet sized secret room. Inside the room were two skeletons, which were apparently the source of the blood smeared through the room. The two unfortunate adventurers were obviously on the wrong end of whatever had killed them. Their armor had been heavily damaged, but as I searched through the corpses, I discovered two intact vials of holy water, a 50 foot length of hemp rope from the Southern kingdom, and a small locked box with dwarven symbols inscribed on it. I took all three things, adding the vials to my belt pouch and tying the length of rope to my pack. The small box I worked diligently to unlock, and was successful after several long moments and a muttered curse as my masterwork lockpick broke from the effort.  I opened the box to reveal two small dwarven crossbows and a quiver containing 30 bolts. I showed them to Tobias and Osman, who were both thrilled with the discovery. I already carried one of these strange weapons, so I declined the offer, but Tobias and Osman each took one of the crossbows for their own use, and the bolts were split between the three of us. 

The single door at the back of the room opened up into a hallway and more doors, which we explored through thoroughly. We discovered another guest bedroom which boasted a large polished silver mirror. Jaeger made a noise of appreciation at the sight, and walked toward the shining pane, only to jump back as an undead specter lunged out of the reflection towards him. Osman immediately tried to banish it, but failed, and Lan worked her magic to pacify the specter. Taryn, unfamiliar with the threat, drew his needle like sword, and Tobias yanked Scott bodily out of the way of the lunging creature. Remembering the times we had encountered undead things in the pyramids, I snapped open one of the vials of holy water and flung it at the specter which caused it to smoke and to howl in fury. 

Lan's magic completed, and the specter quickly calmed down, only to have Osman's spell go off which enraged it again at the attempt to banish it. Knowing that I had nothing else that would hurt the creature, and wanting to save the remaining vial of holy water in case I needed it later, I moved over to one of the windows to break it in order to let the sunlight into the room. Jaeger picked up the empty vial and began casting a spell then, and we watched as a black shadow rolled down his arm like tar into the glass container. The specter howled again in anger, and Lan tried again to calm it down. She was successful at pacifying the spirit again, and Jaeger continued to concentrate on draining it's energy down into the vial. 

Osman drew his bow and aimed a shot at the shimmering specter, but Scott grabbed the bow and pointed his shot down away from the mirror. The specter and Jaeger continued to be locked in a tug of war, and the spirit gained enough ground to finally touch Jaeger just as Jaeger completed his spell. I heard the tone of his voice falter slightly, but the spell was not affected by the slip up, and the specter dissolved in a fading scream, turning into a thick slurry that oozed into the vial Jaeger held. 

Jaeger looked visibly shaken at the encounter, and stood swaying for a moment before straightening up and walking over to the mirror to examine it once again. The mirror was enormous, and much too large to move in its entirety. Jaeger contemplated the polished silver for a moment and then reached out with his hands, muttering something in magic under his breath, to try to cut a smaller piece off of the larger whole. I set about searching the room and uncovered a pen and ink set, several sheets of vellum, and a scroll written in an old clerical form with notes in magical writing. 

The scroll described itself as being "in regards to the divine restoration of loss of energy. A single use spell," which had been dedicated to the goddess of the waters. I remembered what had happened when Shalev had been touched by a specter, and the draining effect that such contact could have. I turned toward Jaeger and asked someone to tell him that I was going to use the scroll on him, and not to attack me. I read the scroll at Jaeger, and I felt the energy of the spell release gently. Jaeger straightened up immediately, and his eyes shone brighter as the effects of the spell restored what had been taken from him when the specter touched him. 

As this room was fairly secure, even in its trashed state, we decided to stop here and rest for a few moments before we continued to explore. Jaeger was able to remove a small square of the silvered mirror, and I noticed that he touched it to his sword, and half of it disappeared. I noticed that he did this often, offering his sword half of everything he touched, and I wondered at the symbiosis between the two.


The presence of the undead things here bothers me greatly. Especially since Jaeger stated that they were clearly bound in service to... something. It's that something that has me worried. There are a number of things that can command undead, none of which are easy to deal with. It could be that they were simply bound to the service of the place, as I know mages are prone to doing such things, but my instinct tells me that there is more here to it. 

Further explorations here are needed, and likely will give us clues as to what we will face.

I would have expected to feel the presence of the dragon by now, and the fact that we haven't has me wondering.

Taryn has returned to the party. I did not know the man before this, as he disappeared only a few hours after we had joined the party, but the fact that Tobias and KelLyn seem so quickly accepting of him seems to indicate that they bear him no ill will for his desertion. KelLyn especially seems to be affected by the return of her once lover, and seems almost uncertain around him. It is obvious that he remembers nothing of his prior encounters with her, however, and I wonder at how this might play out. She is volatile at the best of times, and having her be so emotionally off center might prove to be disastrous. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Lost City - Into Emer

"If there is any wisdom running through my life now, in my walking on this earth, it came from listening in the Great Silence to the stones, trees, space, the wild animals, to the pulse of all life as my heartbeat."  Vijali Hamilton

Previously in our story...

The next morning, we woke to find that the golden winter wine that Tobias and I had drunk the night before still had some effect, as the colors of the world all seemed much more vivid. The effect soon faded, however, and we made our preparations to finally enter into Emer to face the dragon. 

We all knew, to some degree, what we might face going into the city, and each one of us spent extra time examining armor for flaws, sharpening weapons, and reprovisioning. Gearing up for the long journey to the city, and for a battle we were not sure we could win, but knew we needed to fight, we took extra precautions with our supplies. Ishmael watched us all, and bade us luck and fortune as we turned the cart north and set out along the road out of town. 

Thankfully, we faced nothing during the first month of travel, and at the end of four long weeks on the road, we finally reached the end of the fourth large field. As we approached the edge of the field, I noticed a man in grey robes standing at the corner of the corn rows, scowling darkly at us. As we grew closer, I saw that his gaze was most focused on KelLyn, and I drew her attention to the stranger on the road. She said that he was obviously not a farmer, but did not recognize him, and did not care to stop and talk to him. As she seemed unconcerned, we passed the man without stopping, but I kept a watchful eye on him until he was out of sight, and in that entire time, his gaze never left KelLyn. 

A short distance down the road, we saw movement off in the grasses to the right, and we saw three odd looking animals that looked a lot like a cross breeding between a camel and some odd thing with a long prehensile nose. Tobias, having recently graduated from the Monsters class at the university, spoke up and said that the beasts were "Disenchanters" and that they ate magic. He warned that he had learned that they ignore non  magical attacks completely, and that with as many magical items as the party carried, we probably looked like a feast to the creatures. 

Indeed, before he had even finished speaking, they turned towards the party and began to shimmer visibly with a blue electrical light. One of the creatures raised it's long snout in the air and sniffed loudly, appearing to try to decide which of us seemed to be the most magical. It focused on KelLyn and Jaeger, and began to walk toward us, while the other two ignored us completely and continued to paw at the ground where their attention was focused. 

Jaeger drew his sword with a ring, and that was enough to draw the complete attention of the one that had been coming towards the party. It began to jog, and then trot towards us, and when the creature was about 40 yards away, Osman began to chant a summoning spell. As he chanted, a chunk of earth rose up beside him, and he instructed the elemental to move towards the disenchanter just as Jaeger also finished casting a spell. Jaeger's spell seemed to have no effect, however, and Tobias drew his weapons and made his way through the sharp grasses to see if he could discern what had so captivated the other two magic-eaters. 

The grasses were high enough that I could not see what he saw, but I saw him swing one of his maces in a deadly arc toward one of the digging creatures. A small wind rose up around Jaeger, and I knew that my bow would be of no use in this fight, so I drew my sword instead. Osman cast another spell, to no effect, and Tobias swung, again striking the creature that was digging do diligently towards it's buried prize. 

Osman, throwing reason to the winds, pulled out the magical censer and began to swing it in an arc as he summoned again, and this time, something answered. A prince of the fire realm stood before him, and I could see the visible battle of wills between the two. 

Lan leaned toward the beast that continued to trot towards us, and she cast a spell to tame the creature. It seemed to work momentarily, as it stopped its forward movement and stood watching us passively. Jaeger tried again to use magic, but again, it failed against the magic eater. KelLyn also attempted magic, and her spell completed with a chunk of rock hitting the placid disenchanter in the face. I knew that I could not reach it with my sword, and did not wish to get within range to do so, so I tried to convince the grasses to entangle the beast. 

My spell failed, however I did not lose faith in my abilities at the failure. I knew that my magic would be hampered here, and though I failed this time, I felt that I had been very close to succeeding, and made a quick mental note to try calling up actual vines next time instead of trying to use the roots. 

The fire elemental, having only barely lost the battle of wills with Osman, set off through the grasses towards the disenchanters, setting fire to the fields as it walked. It reached the first creature, killing it with a single scorching touch, before proceeding toward the other two and Tobias. Tobias seemed unaware of the approach of the fiery elemental, continued to strike at the obstinately oblivious animal in front of him. 

Not knowing what else to do, and not wanting the fires to rage out of control, I began to shovel dirt onto the flames that I could reach, and I heard KelLyn begin chanting in the magical language she used for her most powerful spells. With a rush, a wall of water rose up out of the ground and swept over the fields, dousing the fires effectively. With the largest of the flames no longer a worry, I shifted my focus more toward making sure that anything left smouldering was extinguished as well. 

The elemental approached Tobias, and reached out to immolate the magic-eaters with a single touch before it turned back toward the party and stalked toward Osman. Osman was still swinging the censer, wide eyed, and attempted to dismiss the elemental prince. The dismissal was ignored, and so Lan tried to disenchant it which only managed to gain it's full attention. Lan quickly asked KelLyn and Jaeger to help her, and the three of them worked quickly, circling one another to gather power for the banishing spell. 

I moved clear of their efforts, not wanting to be nearby if it failed, and made my way carefully through the knife like grass to where Tobias was still digging through the dirt. Together we dug up the piece of KelLyn's staff that had been thrown clear when the potion maker's tower had exploded, and we pulled it out of the ground, blackened and covered in grime. 

We made our way back to the rest of the party to see that the banishing spell had thankfully been successful, and we presented KelLyn with the piece of her staff. She was quite pleased that we had found it, and quickly cleaned it off and fastened it to the other piece that she carried. Once the pieces were together, she fashioned a strap to carry it across her back, and after making sure that no one was injured and that all the fires had been put out, we made our way back to the main road to continue towards the city of Emer.

The area past the fields was wild and unkempt forest. We could see the gleam of the university library's shining dome just over the trees off to the right. As we progressed, the roads got worse, and the evidence of large scale destruction became more evident. Soon enough the rubble remains of the walls of Emer loomed before us, and we decided to make camp where we had stopped for the evening. At dusk, as we had noticed every day, we saw the dragon launch itself into the sky and fly counterclockwise around the area 7 times. There was a sense of tired ritual about the motion, and my thoughts again were drawn to the task of breaking the circle and whether or not the dragon would even be amenable to such a suggestion. The motions it makes and the sense I have gotten of it being trapped here lead me to hope that, perhaps it might be. 

Once camp was made, I recalled the letter that Tobias had given to me while we were at the university, and I used a spell to help me translate the oddly familiar language, which read as follows: 

"My dearest Eamon, 
       I know you are returning to your family in the Iverne mountains to continue in your family trade. I will miss you and the research we did at the library. Mistress Bliss had hoped that you would continue deciphering the elven work on conversing with plants, since you had that natural gift. I understand you will be working on it on your own until things are stable at home. No one born of the road can truly stop traveling. Ruald and I will visit you in two years to see if you are ready to wander, or if a "kidnapping" is in order. We have heard enough of the songs of Brazzemal and Tidoran to last through all the ale of two taverns. The bards here are not as good as those we traveled with. 
      Thank you for the shiny things. i will keep them on my travels as we head to the other continent.
                                                                         Yours in Aroon - 

There was a very faint holy symbol inscribed underneath the signature, but I did not recognize it, nor did I recognize the names that were mentioned within the letter. I found it interesting though, and I recalled that the mountains were those interior spires on the eastern edge of the other continent. Both the high elves and dwarfs lived there. there was only one desert on the other continent, also in the eastern kingdom, that exists solely because of those mountain ranges. There was - is still - speculation that the desert had been artificially created. In the heart of that desert was a dwarfish oasis, and the elven settlements and lands were surrounded by gate towers that were built of stone.

The next day we broke camp and began to cautiously make our way towards the city. Appearance of distance is odd in this place, and though the crumbling walls loomed ahead of us, it still took us another week to reach them. We passed abandoned farm houses and hamlets,all overgrown and unkempt. Nature was taking back her own with vine and rot, and the buildings were crumbling to dust. The gates of the city were missing entirely, being ripped apart by the dragon upon it's arrival so long ago.

There was no noise here, and it struck me suddenly. The silence was absolute, and our footsteps echoed off of the stone pathway desolately. We became extremely cautious then, with the rubble looming large around us in this dead and dying place. The main highway into the city seemed clear, and we were able to make our way into the city proper unmolested. The buildings we passed were all knocked down, and I observed that there was a pattern to the destruction, as if a mighty shockwave had exploded from the center of town.

About 6 blocks further in, the main road became impassable, but we saw that the smaller road off to the right remained clear. We continued onto that road, picking our way through the rocks, and over on the left hand side, I caught a glimpse of what had once been a park. All of the trees were dead and fallen except for 7. Those 7 all appeared to be in full leaf, but oddly colored in gold, red, silver, blue, a clear amber, grey, and a deep solid black that actually hurt my eyes to look at for too long. I wanted to go over to the odd trees, but I could not find a way over the rubble, and as there was no clear path, I made note of them so that I could come back to examine them afterward.

The road turned slightly and wound its way around a large palace structure which was built straight into the outer wall. The walls of the structure were drawn in rather than keeping to the circular shape, and the structure was massively damaged. We followed the road around in front of the palace property, and we came to a crossroad where all four pathways had been cleared. We decided to take the left path, and we saw a set of completely intact buildings ahead. We discussed our options quietly for a moment, and then moved over to the sheltered street to examine the intact buildings further. We discovered that this street appeared to be a gathering of the mage academy and several chapels to various deities. 

Tobias examined the chapels and then muttered an oath saying that one of the chapels bore the symbol of the temple to the celestian order of the paladin that had tried once before to kill the party before I joined them. He told us about the paladin of Celestia, and that while he had no issue with the order itself, he had a personal vendetta against the paladin. KelLyn and Jaeger had wandered over across the road to examine the doors of the mage academy. As they moved closer to look at the doors, they activated the trap spells placed over the doors as protection, which exploded with a gout of flames. KelLyn and Jaeger both seemed to simply absorb the power of the blast, and thankfully none of the rest of the party were harmed. KelLyn said something to Jaeger in his language, and they worked together to cast a ward to surround them and protect the party from any additional fireworks. Apparently, speaking in Jaeger's guttural language was a trigger for yet another trap, for when they spoke, lightning suddenly burst out at them both. Again, the two mages simply seemed to shrug off the power of the spell with only mild annoyance. 

They cautiously began to work together again, and this time they were able to complete their warding which encased them and the whole of the front door with a glowing blue energy. As soon as the ward snapped closed, we saw the sphere fill suddenly fill with water and then immediately drain. While they worked on disarming the heavily trapped door, I saw an arrow suddenly appear in the outside of the ward. I turned, my own bow nocked, and immediately began to scan the buildings and ruins surrounding us. 

Inside the sphere a large rock fell, but bounced harmlessly off of both Jaeger and KelLyn; and then a beam of light shot out of the doorway. Jaeger pushed KelLyn out of the way, and they were both unharmed by the final trap on the entrance. I continued to scan for the archer who had shot the arrow, and soon located him up on one low pile of rubble, aiming another arrow at us. I took careful aim, and fired a warning shot which sheared the buttons off of his shirt. The shot served it's purpose well, as the man startled and his second shot flew wide of it's mark. His eyes wide, he turned and fled into the ruins with Tobias sprinting off after him. 


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Lost City - Some long conversations and a small peace of mind

"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better." - Albert Einstein


Previously in our story...

We spent about a month at the University researching various topics. I continued my search for information regarding sylvan trees and sacred druidry. The librarian there, a curiously round little man who smelled like old books and ink, informed me somewhat sniffily that all of the tomes and records involving or even mentioning sacred druidry had been checked out by the elves of Emer some 170 years prior, and had yet to be returned. He wailed, albeit quietly, that he feared the books had been lost, destroyed, or being held as a part of the dragon's unapproachable treasure hoard. 

I smiled at him and told him that I and my party were making plans to enter Emer soon, and if I should find the books he mentioned, I would gladly bring them back to the university as long as he would provide me with a copy of them as an exchange. He wiped his teary eyes with a small ink stained cloth and agreed quickly to my proposal. 

He then went back into the shelves and brought out another armload of writings regarding the sylvan trees. He told me that the sylvan tree had been here since before even the elves had arrived. The elves had indeed built the city of Emer around the tree, and that during the height of the city's acclaim, seedlings from the sylvan tree had been sent out to other places. (No, he replied to my immediate question, he did not have a list of the places that the seedlings were sent.) 

He went on, somewhat sadly, to say that the tree was believed to be completely dead now, as it was destroyed by the dragon to imprison the body of the knight. I had a thought then, and asked to expand my research to include any information on how to renew a tree, which provided me with some additional information that I found quite useful. 

I learned that there was a way to renew a sylvan tree from a donor plant. The plant in question would have to be brought in with an elf who lived with the seedling, and a protector who stayed with it until it was planted. This, combined with the knowledge that my ancestors gave to me regarding the ability to regrow a sylvan tree from an existing piece, gives me a lot of hope that I will be able to accomplish my task here. 

I thanked the librarians profusely for their help with the research, and I allowed them to make a copy of my personal herb index as a part of my payment to them. I inquired about their fence, and they told me that the dwarfs and gnomes of Quadling had crafted it. 

As I rejoined the rest of the party members, Tobias handed me a letter written in an oddly familiar desert language. I shared with them the information that I had learned regarding both the tree and the dragon, and they agreed with my statement that we should return to Quadling to talk to Ishmael in order to get some iron weaponry. 

Scott offered to help us with the horses, and we made our way out to the road and on back toward Quadling. Our travel there was thankfully uneventful, and I noticed that the plants that we passed looked strange to me. I made mention of this, and Scott said that he had some skill in potion craft, and identified the odd plants as likely components for potion making. We decided to leave the plants alone, and after a two week journey, arrived again at the verdant grasslands of Quadling. 

We made our way to the center of the little town, and immediately set out to find Ishmael. Ishmael greeted us quickly, but warmly, and asked what had brought us back to his step. Tobias handed over the deep metal hammer that Shalev had shown him before departing, and he accepted the gift with small thanks. We caught him up on our adventures, and told him of Shalev's leaving. we commissioned Ishmael to make some iron arrow heads and spear points for us. 

We saw Fife there, working at the forges with Ishmael, and though I am pleased to see that he has found his way here safely, he was quite angry at seeing the party. He immediately launched into an angry outburst and threatened violence if any of us came near him. I stayed well away, and approached Ishmael quietly to ask if our stay would cause any issues. Ishmael shook his head and told me not to worry, that he would keep Fife busy and well away from the party. I thanked Ishmael for his insight, and asked him if he would mind sharpening my sword (again.) He looked at me oddly and asked what exactly I keep doing to the sword to dull it so. I told him about the encounter with the blue dragon, and he snorted once before saying that that would, indeed, be a good reason to have dulled the edge. 

He agreed to sharpen it for me, but warns that it would take some time, and asked if we could run a shipment of supplies down to the castle of the sorceress of the south. I brought the request to the rest of the party, and they agreed to the trek south. Ishmael brought out an ornate deep metal gate, and with the help of a number of people, we were able to load it onto a wagon to transport. We resupplied, and rested for the remainder of the day, and then set out the following morning. 

Two weeks into the journey, as we camped one evening, KelLyn alerted the party to the fact that she felt something odd. Her magic sense is acute, so we all were instantly wary of what might be about. Scott looked at everyone on edge, and grabbed a wood cutter's axe to arm himself as well. KelLyn pointed at a small metal sphere sitting inconspicuously near the fire pit and said that was where the magic was radiating from. Considering how many magical items the party carries with it, the fact that she picked this item out from all the others was impressive. 

She examined the sphere carefully, without touching it, and learned that it had a powerful create fire spell inside it. She immediately picked it up and threw it as far as her formidable strength would allow toward the ridge line of mountains we traveled near. At about 40 feet into the air, the sphere exploded with a deafening detonation, and it was clear that had KelLyn not seen the sphere in time, it would have killed us all. I immediately began to scout the area, and quickly saw a man wearing dark robes attempting to hide in the grasses a short way behind the party. He had remained to see the handiwork of his death sphere, and I approached him silently but rapidly to try to capture him. He saw me before I could get close enough to him, and shouted "Death to the Imperialist Merchants! You will not live to regret crossing the border of death." before disappearing in a cloud of foul smelling smoke. 

I searched the area where he had been hiding thoroughly, and found a small metal ring with a stem on it that looked like it might have been the key that activated the death sphere. I also found a scrap or paper fluttering in the air which, upon examination, appeared to be a sketched out map showing how to get into the bowl from the mountain pass, should one be willing to travel straight up to the top of the mountain and then down again. It was a treacherous and deadly path, but I made a note of it as a potential way out of this place. 

There was some additional scribbling on the paper that I could not read, but it looked like some kind of notes regarding the starting point of the would be assassin. I made my way silently back to camp, and showed the scrap of paper to KelLyn. Her face went white when she inspected the paper, and she said that it was written in Penician thieves guild cant. I question why someone from her home town would care about "imperialist merchants" but she was just as confused as I was. We set up additional watches that night, but thankfully there were no further incidents. 

The remainder of the journey to the hall of the southern sorceress took three weeks, and as we made our way up to the gate house, the guard there stopped us and demanded our names. We told him that we had come from Quadling with a delivery from Ishmael, and he immediately sent word up to the main house. A few moments later, we saw a carriage descend the winding road down to the gate house where we waited. The sorceress stepped out of the carriage to greet us, and expressed her appreciation at the masterwork of the gate that had been made for her. She looked at it critically for a moment, and then asked us all to back up slightly as she began to cast a spell. As she worked, we saw that the drawbridge was stretching out to match the width of the gate. I took a curious note that the spell that she cast was a secular plant spell, and I watched her actions with interest. 

Tobias and Scott offered to help lift the gate into place, and the two of them were able to help maneuver it into the space. Scott had removed his shirt before he began to work, as he only had the one set of clothes and didn't want to ruin it. I watched KelLyn and the sorceress admire his labor with obvious appreciation, and I raised my eyebrow in silent amusement. I suppose he is well enough formed, for a human. I left them to their oggling, but returned a few moments later when I heard the gate clang into place. The sorceress nodded approvingly, and then began to cast another spell. I paid very close attention to what she was doing, and saying, as 20 rowan trees grew up out of the empty ground. They matured, and then moved themselves over to the cart and laid themselves down across it. The sorceress spoke quietly to the trees, and they burst into full leaf, and then began to drop seeds. As the seeds fell, the people gathered them into bushels and placed them on the cart as well. 

I watched in wonder, and made a mental note to have a long conversation with the sorceress regarding the potential to learn from her. Her spell casting complete, and the cart fully loaded, she offered the party a meal, and we accepted. Once inside the main house, we were escorted over to the dining room, and I noted the large library room off to one side. Scott, still shirtless, somewhat shyly asked if he could put his clothes back on, only to have Lan, KelLyn, and the sorceress all chorus "no." 

Once we were all seated around her table, she inquired as to our preferences for cuisine. Lan chirped that she prefers to chase her fish. A very confused servant offered her a fish, and then ran away from her so that she could indeed chase the fish. She gleefully chased after him, but after missing him a second time, she  cast a spell at the poor man to shrink him so that he would drop the fish. The man did shrink, and Lan picked the fish up and then handed the man back to the sorceress, who took him with a bemused look. 

After our meal, she excused herself for a while, and offered us the use of her baths and beds. I took the opportunity to enjoy a bath, and spent quite a long time simply luxuriating in the waters. As old as I am, and as long as I have lived in the desert, I don't think I will ever tire of a good bath. As I soaked in the waters, a pair of human women waited on me. They spent their time washing and brushing my hair, which i rarely wear free flowing since we are always traveling or fighting. As they washed and brushed, they cooed over the feel and color of my hair, and offered to braid it for me in a court style. I agreed, and they wove my hair into an intricate pattern of braids that was only worn by the highest in the courts. Once they were done, and since we were able to relax for a few days here, I decided that I would wear my blue silk dress. 

Once my bath was done, and my hair was finished, I decided to visit her library and spend some time in study. As I descended the stairs, I was reminded that the rest of the party had rarely seen me like this, and I was slightly amused at the stunned look on Tobias' face. I have a few tricks up my sleeve, still, and it amuses me to keep him guessing. I spent the rest of the evening studying my books and sipping my favorite tea by the fire, for once unworried about my surroundings. While i don't sleep, I do enjoy having the down time to really relax once in a while. 

The next morning, the servants offered us a sumptuous breakfast of eggs, and some form of meat fried in butter. I tried it curiously, but found that it was not to my liking, though the rest of the party devoured it with obvious enjoyment. There was also fresh bread, and the sorceress said that she would have several of the loaves as well as the fresh butter set aside for us to take with us when we departed. 

I remembered the coffee beans that Shalev had taught me how to brew, and I offered to make her some. She accepted, and tasted the slightly bitter brew with curiosity. She asked if I had any more of the beans, as she liked the taste. I said I only had a handful of the beans that were ready to brew, but that I had several seedlings of the bush, and that she was welcome to have one. She eagerly agreed, and offered to show me through her gardens after breakfast was done. 

I brought the seedling to her later, and as we toured around the aromatic plants of her expansive gardens, we chatted about a number of things. About half way across the area, I turned suddenly towards a very strong energy pull. I felt the energy of the place thrum through me, and I asked her if she would mind if I tried to speak to my ancestors while here. She said that I was welcome to try, but that I was unlikely to be able to reach through the effects of the circle surrounding the bowl. She was correct, and though I tried, I received no response. I thanked her for the chance, and our conversations shifted over to magic and the sacred. I asked her how she was able to call the trees up the way she did, and she offered to teach me about magic. I discovered, to my surprise, that she was actually older than I was, and we agreed together that there were many more conversations between us in the future. 

As we departed the gardens, she handed me a cut quartz decanter full of an extremely good wine. She told me to wait until the time was right, and enjoy the wine with the thoughts of all we had shared. I gave her one of the bottles of the exceptional elven wine that I had in return, and we made our way back into the house. The next day the party made preparations to return to Quadling, and we departed with my farewell to the sorceress to visit again when I am able. 

As we rode out toward Quadling, I studied the decanter that she had given me, and I noticed that there was something written on one side of it. I don't recognize the language, but Lan says that it's in a language from the other continent. After about two weeks of travel, I heard the scroll case in my bag click to signal the change of seasons, and when we made camp that evening, I spent some time doing the rituals for the summer season. Again, I received no direct response from my ancestors, though I was able to feel that they were pleased with the continued attempts to reach them. I spent the rest of the evening studying the book of spells that Tobias had gifted to me, and I was able to learn spells that would allow me to set up a perfect area for camping, and interestingly enough, a spell that would allow me to add magical impulse to interactions with fae and elves. 
I took careful note of these spells in my own book, and said a small thanks to my ancestors for the ability to understand them. 

We made it back to Quadling a week later, and the people cheered as we drove the trees into town. They immediately unloaded the trees and carried them over to turn them into charcoal. The charcoal was carried over to the forges, and I watched as the people all sang in unison as Ishmael worked to stoke the fires white hot. He said that if this worked, that they would have a crucible capable of pouring deep metal, and then watched the fires critically for a few moments before turning back to us. 

He handed me my sword, better than new and razor sharp, with a quip that I should fight less dragons with it. I thanked him for taking care of it for me, and made no promises regarding what we might be facing in the future. He smiled at that, and then handed us several baskets full of iron arrow and spear points. 

He noticed the quartz decanter I carried, and asked to see it for a moment. I handed it to him carefully, and he looked at the etchings on the side of it. He raised his eyebrows in appreciation and told me that the etching was a label that said "Black Ice Winery," before he handed it back to me. KelLyn gave Ishmael a red star stone for his use, and Scott asked Ishmael about the war that he had heard about. 

Ishmael looked at Scott for a moment, and then told us that the dark elf army and their march across the desert.
I pointed out with some concern that the messenger who had brought Shalev's summons home had said something about an army, and that we had seen walls surrounding the oasis. Ishmael gives us an update on the goings on, and he is well informed about what is happening outside of this protected crater. 

Later that evening, I decided that I would enjoy the wine that the sorceress had given me, and I sat down by the fireside and opened the bottle. As soon as the seal was broken, the bottle sang with a harmonious hum. The wine inside was gold in color, and smelled of winter fruit and flowers. I knew that it was on the verge of turning sour, so I poured it into glasses for Tobias and I to share. It tasted of sunlight through snow, of thick honey, sweet winter berries, and long chilly nights beside a fire. It carried with it the sweetness of laughter, and the warming heat of stolen kisses. 

As we savored the wine, we talked, and watched the embers of the fire glow with incandescent colors. It was a rare moment between us, where the world faded to just he and I. The troubles and worries of tomorrow ceased to be, for one silent span of moments, and that peace will live within my memory for many years to come. 


I was surprised to find such a kinship with the sorceress. I was serious when I said that I would try to visit with her again. I think she has much she could teach me regarding my own powers, and I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations that we shared. 

I worry about my friend. He may be gone from the party's thoughts,  but not from mine. I know he is well protected by more than one deity, but I am afraid that I might not see him again in his lifetime. 

Once we make our way out of this place, there are still so many things to do. I recalled what the winged man had told us about the artifacts we would need if we had any hope of defeating the dark elves. About everything being tied together. I still don't know how what we do here ties in to the bigger picture, but I feel, more strongly than ever, that it's necessary to face what comes ahead. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Lost City - Returning to School

"It is important that one never stops learning. Whether it be traditional studies through books and letters, or more practical studies of life and experience. The moment you stop learning... stop wanting to learn... is the moment you cease to be." 

The party seems adrift with Shalev gone. Despite all of the things they said about him and to him, they can not deny that he provided for us. It is interesting that with him gone, they seem to have lost interest in completing the tasks we have set ourselves to accomplish. They seem content to wander aimlessly, and I am reminded strongly of the moment we... I first encountered them wandering lost and ill-prepared through the middle of the desert. 

- Cora


Previously in our story...

We made our way along the road, traveling west at a steady and uninterrupted pace. The roads here are scarred badly in places and not well maintained, but still passable. Travel is not difficult, and we see small farm houses scattered throughout the fields. There is a large forest off to the right composed primarily of nut trees, and I took the opportunity to gather some of these for our stores. It was slow going, but we were not traveling quickly, and eventually I was able to gather two full barrels of pecans and walnuts. The nuts were sweet and delicious, and I was thrilled to find such a bounty. I thanked the trees for their fruit, though I do not know if they heard or cared.

After about two weeks, we were able see the mountain clearly off to the right, and we used this as an additional guide in our travels. The roads were thankfully quiet, and we appeared to be the only travelers out and about. As we rode, we saw the corn fields that had stretched for acres end and a huge field of the strange crimson flowers begin. Recalling the earlier warning about the danger of these flowers, we noticed with some caution that the road branched off here and the road to the right went straight through the center of that field. The left hand path went off by the edge of the corn fields, and Jaeger agreed to scout ahead as a raven. 

When he returned, he told the party that the path through the flowers was much faster, potentially, than continuing on our current path. Still wary of the potential effects of the carmine fields, we elected to stay on our current path despite the additional travel time, and continued on the left hand path around the flowers. 

The next morning, the party awoke to what appeared to be snow falling, and as we began to bring out the winter gear, we noticed a humming sound in the air. We looked around to try to locate the source of the sound, and we saw a number of iridescent soap bubbles floating in the air in a northern direction. 

While this was, by far, not the strangest thing some of us had ever seen, it was enough to make us pause for a moment. When Jaeger reached out to touch one of the delicate bubbles with a curious look on his face, it popped with a small sound. The bubbles gradually increased in size, and one particularly large bubble was almost 8 feet across. This large bubble descended down right in front of where the party stood, and when it touched the ground it burst in a shimmering shower to reveal a human woman wearing long white robes.

The party watches her warily, and she looks long at the party, noticing each one of the magic users right away with a simple nod in their directions. After a moment, she comments that she noticed that we had chosen to travel around the flowers, and that this was wise. She asked us directly then what we intended to do to fix the land, asking KelLyn specifically if, as an archmage, could she not detect the imbalances? 

I remained silent at this, but raised an eyebrow, as this is something I had been telling the party almost as soon as we arrived. KelLyn murmured that she wasn't always an archmage, and then waxed poetic about balance and the nature of things. I looked at her with some amusement at this, and began to think that maybe - just maybe - she had been paying attention to what I was saying after all. 

The woman, who says her name is Glenda, tells us that the war has spread across the entire continent, and asked what our purpose here in this bowl was. As KelLyn had been singled out by her, she continued to speak, telling Glenda about our quest to restore the sylvan tree in the center of Emer, and the additional quests that we had to heal GranTier and locate Joffrey's library. 

At that statement, Glenda smartly quipped "which one?" and tells KelLyn that the library that we are seeking is most likely the one located over in the Krakafir mountain ranges. KelLyn ranted for a while about Joffrey breaking her things, and when she described her staff, Glenda took immediate notice. When Glenda expressed interest in this, KelLyn told the her about the desert being cursed, and then said "but I fixed it." Which caused Tobias and I to glare at her with some anger, because it was not she alone that helped to restore the desert, and had it not been for all of us, we could not have accomplished the feat. 

Glenda noticed our ire, and raised her eyebrow at KelLyn at the presumptive nature of her declaration, but then quickly changes the subject to ask her about her ability to do magic with water, as it was an uncommon gift. KelLyn mentioned Lan, and Lan began speaking animatedly about fish and water,and how she missed the ocean. She then stopped, mid-ramble, to ask what kind of fish hamburger was, and then started up about water again, and the strangeness of the fish there. 

This whole conversation caused Glenda to blink, amused, but she was either very interested in what Lan was saying, or she was too polite to interrupt the selkie's chatter. The rest of the party, seeing no threat and deciding that we were not going anywhere any time soon, began to set out the camp again and relax. 

I watched, quietly, and listened as KelLyn and Glenda talked. KelLyn proceeded to lay out her entire life story for the unknown woman as if they were long lost sisters. During the course of the conversation, her goddess Leilanna was brought up, which made Lan chirp that she was her avatar. This sparked another long discussion about divinity, which ended with Lan wondering aloud if Leilanna could taste whatever she tasted, and promptly licking the ground. 

Again, Glenda blinked at the antics, and murmured under her breath about whether or not we actually HAD traveled through the flowers. After a moment, Glenda waved her hands and snow fell gently onto the blood colored flowers. She pulled out a wand, and I tensed at the action, but she only conjured a table with a smile and a statement that it was time for a break. I relaxed some at this, realizing that there was nothing we could likely do if she chose to harm us in any case, and in desert fashion, I offered to share food with her. Tobias brought out one of the older bottles of wine to share, and the food appeared directly on the plates in large portions. I noticed with some appreciation that the meal was individually tailored to each of the party members, and that the vegetables and fruits that appeared on my own plate were well spiced and seemed at the peak of their season. 

Jaeger pulled out his sword and laid it on the table, as was his custom to do. Half of his food vanished into the sword, and Glenda's eyebrows shot up in surprise. She accepted the wine that we had provided, and crystal goblets appeared to pour it into. She asked us about our next steps then, and KelLyn stated that our immediate goal was to repair or restore the sylvan tree. I was uncomfortable with the amount of information KelLyn seemed to be so carelessly sharing, and I shot her a warning glance as Glenda asked her how we knew it was still there. 

Glenda cautioned us that we would need to be stealthy to get back in, and tells us that the dragon would be quite difficult to deal with, as things are the way they are here for a reason. She says that the imbalance here is necessary, with a glance at me. KelLyn tells her about the blue dragon that we encountered and Glenda looks at her with some alarm. She tells us about dragon nobility, and the difference between metallic and chromatic dragons. She tells us also that we had gathered a large amount of power together in one place, and that those who sense magic could see us coming from a half mile away. 

This was not new information for us, as Jaeger had warned us before about his swords inability to mask it's signature. Glenda went on to say, with a note of ire, that those who had worked hard to control their destinies saw us as a wild card, and as a dangerous one at that. She added in a warning that we should be careful in our travels here, as we trod in a place where we could come face to face with our own destiny. 

Then, with a deep breath as though she were making a decision, she stated that if we continued down this road past "Hoppin John's" farm, that we would end up at Waglebug University where we would find information that would be useful. She reinforced the warning that the right fork should be avoided as it leads straight to Emer. She wished us well, and drawing a circle at her feet, stepped into the giant bubble that formed around her. She said she needed to depart to look more into the appearance of the blue dragon, as it concerned her greatly, and with that she floated away. The table disappeared with her, and the party begins to break camp and prepare to travel on. 

KelLyn asks Jaeger something, and they begin discussing in earnest for a few moments. She tells the rest of the party that she is (finally) looking into a way to mask our appearance to other magic users. She uses her Nature of things spell on her necklace to see if that would lend her any clues on how to cast a spell on the entire party, but does not come up with any useful information. She promises to continue to look into it though, and we begin our journey along the road once again. 

Another week passed before we saw anything other than flowers and corn fields. We came to a break in the fields where we saw a large, well kept farm, with workers out in the fields. We noticed that one of the workers was running towards the party carrying a pack on his shoulders.

The large man hailed the party loudly, and asked directly if he could join us to help kill the dragon. We looked wryly at the farm hand, and asked him pointedly who he was, and if he knew what he is getting himself into. He told us his name was Scott, and that his boss told him to go get hired on with a caravan. He told us that he was bored with farm life and looking for some adventure, then asked for a going rate of three silver a week. We chuckled a bit at this, knowing that he would soon have more than he likely would ever know what to do with, and with a glance at one another, agreed to let him join us. 

We traveled on for another few hours and then made camp for the night. That evening, Jaeger and Scott got into a wrestling match to see if they could prove who was stronger. I watched the male display for a moment, before shaking my head and returning to my studies, meditations, and tea. 

The next morning, I requested that we wait a while, as the season had turned and I wanted to do the rituals for springtime properly. I took the time and moved a little away from the party. I could tell that the ring of mushrooms surrounding this place still dampened my connection with my ancestors, and I felt the distance keenly. I was able to successfully complete the spells and rituals though, and their culmination made me feel some better. 

I returned to the camp in time to see a live goat fall from the sky with a bewildered bleat. Scott caught the goat easily and tossed it towards Osman, who was not so skilled at catching farm animals and instead caught the confused animal with his face. Both he and the goat toppled over with a surprised cry, but thankfully neither was overly harmed. Scott walked over to calm the goat down, and he asked quite confused where the goat came from. Osman sat up and explained that, where he comes from, once a year goats fall from the sky if you said the right words.

The rest of the party laughed at this, but I gave them all a disapproving look at the deception, making a mental note that I should not take any of them at their word when they spoke in Common. 

Scott and Jaeger got into another wrestling match, and while they grappled with one another, I made my way over to where Lan and KelLyn were sitting. We began to discuss how to potentially break the fairy ring here, and the ramifications that such an action might cause. I mentioned that I got the strong feeling that, while Glenda may have been one of those who had worked hard to control her own destiny, that she had aided us in her own way, and may not be so opposed to the return of natural order here. 

The next morning, we all woke up to the goat making a horrible racket right near Osman's ear. Scott looked at the goat with the critical eye of an experienced farm hand and promptly stated that the goat wasn't right in the head, but seemed physically healthy. Osman tried to talk to it, but this only led to more loud bleats from the goat, and confusion on Osman's behalf as he tried to figure out what his godsend was trying to tell him. 

The goat kept acting strangely, bleating loudly, stumbling around, and running into everything. We eventually decided to break camp and move on with the noisy animal in tow. Even the horses were eyeing the goat warily, and as we travelled, Scott eventually became fed up with the noise and threatened to knock the goat out if Osman couldn't quiet it. This, naturally, caused an argument to break out, and I took note of the aggression between Osman and Scott. KelLyn stated that the goat seemed to be magical, and as they argued, I watched the goat. After another moment of everyone yelling at each other, I calmly stepped in the middle of the argument and pointed to the goat, who was happily, noisily, and woozily munching on the crimson flowers that were growing near the roadside. 

The argument ceased then, and Osman quickly pulled the disgruntled goat away from his colorful feast. Osman put a muzzle on the goat to prevent it from eating any more of the addicting drug flowers, and travel afterward proceded quietly. It took an entire day for the goat to come down off of whatever it was in the flowers that made it so delirious, and it became obvious that if we had gone through the forest of flowers instead of taking the long way around, we would have been lost ourselves. 

Eventually we came to the fork in the road that Glenda had told us about, and we decided to keep to the straight path, feeling like we were not yet prepared to enter Emer itself. We followed the path until we came to an enormous and ornate wrought iron fence that surrounded a large and immaculately kept campus with several stately buildings scattered among the green grasses and shrubs. The presence of iron here was curious, and the sheer amount of it was impressive. It was obviously meant to repel and keep out fairies of all kinds, and Lan was distinctly uncomfortable.

We discussed it with her, and we all agreed that she should stay outside of the fence with the cart and the bulk of our belongings, as we did not want the presence of the iron to injure her. Scott agreed to stay with the cart, and Jaeger also offered to remain behind. Tobias, Osman, KelLyn, and I walked up to the decorative gate, and we are guided to the administration building. 

Once inside, a round little man walked up and welcomed us all to the university. He explained that the library was open to all who wished to study, and that they offered a variety of courses for those who wished to learn. He recognized  KelLyn immediately, and warned her sternly not to cast any magic anywhere on campus. He pulled out a lengthy liability waiver that he requested that she sign as agreement, and she grumpily agreed. 

Tobias inquired about what classes were offered, and after hearing the descriptions, expressed interest in some. He was informed that those he was most interested in were already in session, and it was too late to register for them. He chose a biology and a monster knowledge class, and he was ushered off to where the classroom areas were located. 

I expressed my simple desire to visit the library, and I was shown the way to the great gold doors. Osman follows me to the library, and once through the doors I approached the librarian to ask for guidance in my search for knowledge. 

The librarian looks at me kindly, and asked what I was searching for, and I requested - to start with - a history of this area, and any information they could find for me about the sylvan tree. He disappeared among the books and scrolls, and after a while came back to me with a cart full to overflowing with texts.

I am able to learn much of what happened to create this place as it is now, and only a little about the tree. From what I learned, the elves that were here had arrived early after the crater was formed, and planted the sylvan tree over the wellspring at it's heart. The elves were loathe to share the sight of the tree with anyone else though, and were loathe to leave the tree unguarded. They built a wall around the city to protect the tree, and over time become complacent, and were central in provoking conflicts between the four quadrants. 

The city was impossible to take, with the wall that the elves had built, importing rocks from Al-Auld mines, which were now known as the "Border of Death." The dragon came down from the caves to the north, and seeing the city, dug up the entire road to prevent easy access to the city, and carried the hoard of gold to the center of the city which he made his dwelling. 

The tree in the center was crushed by the fae dragon and the dragon used the sap to encase a man who had attacked him so that he wouldn't rise up against him again. I recalled the ghost castle where the knight encased in sap had rested, and did not tell the librarian about what we had done.

the librarian goes on to tell me that the dragon continued to monitor the treasure he had gathered at the center of the city, and that as a fae, the dragon was susceptible to iron. Magic was generally unreliable here, and each quadrant was essentially now an empire of their own. The entire crater was under an extreme amount of magical tension. 

Among the texts and writings was also a detailed map of the entire area, and I asked the librarian to have the map transcribed. They agreed to do so, and when I offer to pay for it with some old platinum coins from my own purse, they sternly tell me that platinum is cursed and that they will not accept it. I relay this information to the party, recalling the warning that Shalev had given them when they picked up the platinum bars from the ghost castle. They made a sound of derision when I told them my own concerns, mirroring the thoughts of both Shalev and the librarian, and I tried to get them again to avoid using the platinum. An argument about finances broke out, and I asked simply if they wanted the map, or not. They grudgingly said that they did, and so I used some of the party funds to purchase the map, staying well clear of even touching the platinum bars that had been picked up.

I returned then to the library with the gold required, and returned as well to my studies of the area.