"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
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.
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.