Thursday, August 25, 2005

Chapter 8. Jun 10, 2005.

Frantically, the visibly weakened Taliesin examined all of his friends, fearing betrayal. Everyone was merely unconscious, though, and in the outskirts of the clearing the half-elf could see a smile play on the shaman’s lips, before he left. Shortly after, the first one started to come around, then another and soon we were all back at our full strength. Only … everyone felt somehow … changed.

Without delay we approached the great door into the mountain, we had discovered earlier. Disabling the trap, which had been put on the door, we entered a long tunnel. Apart from a few side tunnels proving to be dead ends or collapsed, the tunnel led straight through the mountain into the valley on the other side. The tunnel was not without its own dangers, though. Multiple magic traps so intricate that even Luke’s abilities came short caused us grave wounds along our path, and our wands of cure light wounds was bereft of many of their valuable charges.

As we finally emerged from the shadows, a beautiful valley scattered with the ruins of an ancient city opened up before us. In the middle of the ruins there was a lake. Examining the ruins more closely all seemed to bear markings of a powerful acid having etched its signature into the stone. We soon discovered why, as we approached the lake and suddenly found ourselves facing a black dragon. Although not nearly as impressive as the dragons of legend, it was clear to all of us that this was one fight we would not win by arms, would we try. Vorona instead addressed the dragon with careful wording, and during the conversion discovered that it was searching for the “Staff of Cython”. The Third Book written in trionic on the other hand was of no concern to the black dragon. Hence, by Vorona’s negotiations a deal was sealed, wherein we would try to obtain the staff, while we were given leave to search for the book. As it was, there was a single, large and square building in the ruined city, where even the dragon was barred entry, hence we did not need a seer to discern that this was a good place to start our search. And so we turned our attention to this building, leaving Anarion as a willing hostage with the dragon.

The only entrance into the building seemed to be a large gate, sealed by powerful magic. Next to the gate, in a niche on either side, two statues of elves flanked the entrance. The one statue was obviously a wizard, while the other statue portrayed a warrior. Together, Vorona and Taliesin quickly figured out that the statues were keyed to the books somehow. Approaching the Cython book to the wizard statue and the Celestial book to the warrior, both books all of a sudden disappeared and the gate swung open. In the distance, the unseen dragon cried out in triumph. Entering, the inside of the building looked like a library, shelves towering along every wall. However, there were no books to be seen. In that moment the ghostly image of an ancient elf wizard suddenly appeared and started speaking to us. The ghost wizard explained that he was one of the Cython, an ancient and long forgotten order of wizards, and that he was waiting for those worthy of the secrets in the trionic books. He further explained that the library, which had once resided here, had long since been moved to a safer place, and likewise the Staff of the Cython was no longer here. Casting an unknown spell he then magically tested all of us, save Taliesin who manged to resist his probe. At first the results seemed to leave him in great doubt, since we were obviously not what he had expected. Especially Vorona and Naxxar bore an unexpected taint of evil in their souls. After a moment of struggling in his own mind, however, he decided that we must be the worthy ones after all, since we had made it to this place. Subsequently the two well-known books as well as a third, unknown book appeared out of nothing.

Since, obviously, the staff so desperately wanted by the black dragon was not here, we needed to device a ploy to ensure Anarion’s safe return. And thus Taliesin’s frystalline staff was equipped with a makeshift symbol of the Cython and wrapped in cloth to keep its true appearance hidden from the black dragon. Moreover, to complete the deception, the ghost wizard cast a spell on it, giving it a powerful but false magical aura. Finally we bid the ghost wizard of the Cython to fare well and left the library, heading back towards the lake. Unknown to either of us at that time, Vorona hid the staff on the way, something that later proved to be a fortunate gambit, as we again confronted the black dragon. Negotiating on our behalf, Vorona expertly bluffed the dragon into releasing Anarion in return for knowledge of the hiding place and ought us time to escape. As the dragon lifted up from the ground on powerful wings to seek its treasure, we ran like the wind back to the tunnel…

Emerging unscathed from the tunnel we were again met by the Couatl, who told us how to get back to our own Material plane again. Once through with the books, the portal would be sealed for good after us. He then handed us another gift from the shaman, two jars of magic war paint, the most powerful magic the tribe possessed.

Knowing that our enemies would undoubtedly be waiting for us on the other side, we readied our weapons and spells before proceeding. And true enough, stepping back through the portal we were immediately attacked by the elf female and her group of warriors: the orc barbarian, a human monk, and a female human rogue. The elf at once lifted up from the ground using her Fly spell, to cast her spells at a safe distance from our swords. Her primary target proved to be Naxxar, whom she had rightly judged to be her most dangerous opponent. Meanwhile, the rogue singled out Taliesin, who was seriously wounded by several arrows fired with deadly precision. On the other hand, spell, bow and sword quickly rendered the orc helpless, and thus the tides of battle seemed to change back and forth. In the end it turned out to be Naxxar, revived by Taliesin’s magic, who came to decide the outcome of the confrontation as his fearsome blast nearly finished the elf off, causing her to flee. Bereft of their leader the rogue promptly surrendered, while the monk also took to flight, to be pursued by Vorona. Vorona ultimately caught up with him, but alone the monk proved to be too much and he suffered defeat. Fortunately, the monk did not care much for taking Vorona’s life and merely went on to escape into the woods – that is after having lifted Vorona’s purse!

Back in the camp near the stone circle we questioned the rogue, who turned out to be nothing more than a hireling, albeit a dangerous one, from a nearby city. Her testimony certainly shed no light on the mysteries still in front of us, and she was eventually allowed to go, buying her freedom with a heavy purse of gold.

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