The 15th of Mirtul, Year of the Staff
In the Men's Lodge
After the drama that unfolded in the Door glade has played itself out, the returnees from Tuern as well as the two new-comers were quickly taken to the heart of the village and into the main glade which the the village of Everlaen was built around. Curiosity and some suspicion was shown to Index, which was fairly understandable considering the incident with Marstar, but Anuk'Nuffy was accepted at face value for now.
They were shown to the men's lodge, a low but wide dwelling which looked much like a doorway cut into a perfectly round, low hill. However, the hill was in fact the roof of the lodge which had been carved out of the ground so one stepped down to enter through the heavy hide hangings which served as a door. It had been covered in sod and ferns, moss and other vegetation had been encouraged to grow over the structure to camoflauge it better with the forest.
Inside, sleeping and work platforms surrounded a central fire pit where the villagers gathered to talk, work, game or eat when they sought company. The lodge was a common ground for all and this was the counterpart to the identical woman's lodge next door. There was no prohibition about entering though for either sex, though by custom, those single villagers who had nowhere else to sleep would seperate according to sex. During the day however, the elves mingled. Now, the returnees sat with the Council and a number of other elves who listened with interest or offered assitance or hospitality.
Annuk'nuffy returned the glare of one elf as she leaned closer against her husband, the eyes of many here distrustful of those who had returned, only three of the five here having been known to the people of the village as those who departed just days before. Despite the distrust, wounds were being cleaned and tended, and fresh food brought out. Behind her, Index quietly held a small cup of water, not drinking, more interested in examining the silver cup on his open palm, talking to any who didn't turn away from him, asking about its manufacture and artistic stylings, or telling of similarities to those of sun elf manufacture in ancient southern lands.
Brinoi, cleaned of the blood of the spider creature, spoke in quiet tones with several others of the gathering elves. Finally she turned to the group.
"Please, start at the begining and tell us all that has transpired?"
Jafton recounts events
Jafton cleared his throat, nodding thanks to the surgeon who finished wrapping one of his wounds and accepting a glass of water from an attendant, "I will tell what I remember of it, but I do not have the sharp elven memory, eyes, or ears that the others have," his eyes locked on Bob's. Bob tilted his head and raised his now visiable eyebrow. He gave the impression that he had none of those thing either.
"Stepping through the gate, we found ourselves halfway down a icy cliff face overlooking a river of lava. We proceeded to climb up, and along the way I decided to investigate a small cave cutting into the cliff face. My clumsiness was my downfall, as I slipped on ice and fell deep within the ice. I was lucky that it wasn't a vent for a lava stream," the human smiled wryly, "The others nobly followed me, though they were wise enough to figure out what was below before they plunged headfirst into the darkness."
He sipped from the cup, the cool water reminding him of icy Tuern, "We ran across some sort of creature... like a giant brain with tentacles and a massive beak. It was from this creature that we found this," he pointed at the golden blade sitting on the table, "as well as a statuette which would prove magical in its own right and a rod, which the wizardess Sila retains."
Glances were exchanged at the description of the brain creature, as if wondering if any others had heard of such a thing before, but no-one interrupted. Expressions did ease somewhat when Sila was mentioned, seeming to indicate that she was still alive.
"However, before we could catch our breath, several large beings - crosses between man and walrus - rounded a corner in the cave and attacked us without warning. We fled deeper into the caves by sliding down a long, icy chute - losing the walrus-creatures in the process," a slight smile of humor appeared on Jafton's face as he remembered the Thanois' attempted pursuit.
"The chute deposited us on a ledge overlooking a dead city beneath the glacier, giving us the first glimpse of an immense dragon that made the icy wasteland its home. We rushed to find cover within the city, and soon found ourselves investigating the ruins of what might have been a temple of some sort. Inside the building was a trap door that led to underground passageways. Inside these passageways was a hall of mirrors, each which seemed to bring forth a different sort of being. We faced evil reflections of ourselves," Jafton shuddered at the thought, "and gained several members to the party... none which made it back here."
He paused for a second, eyes lost to thought, then shook it off and forged ahead, "The group was split at this point, some of us facing off against the reflections while others faced large lizards which turned little Quillcrease to stone. The lizards soon gained control of the surface and we were forced to seek passage further below. We came across a sphinx," he nodded to Annuk'nuffy, "who prompted us with several riddles. These riddles served to remove colors from a multi-colored, magical wall. However, partway through the removal of each color, an undead wizard appeared and attacked us, sending the dark-skinned l'Eliel, the bard Silver," Jafton said the bard's name strangely, "Shadowcusp, Sila, and others elsewhere," Jafton frowned, "but at the time, we believed them dead."
"So you believe that Sila, Shadowcusp, Silver and the drow priestess still survive, but are trapped somewhere else on Tuern?" Tarli asked in confirmation of what she had heard.
The human warrior nodded, then looked to Bob for confirmation.
The elves eyes were clearly filled with pain. Reliving the past few days as Jafton spoke them. It was difficult to move, to speak even to nod his head. But he managed it then gave a soft smile to the others. Now wasn't the time to go through some sort of break down. He made a small gesture for Jafton to carry on.
Jafton continued his tale, his voice slightly sadder, "The riddles were answered, in part by the marriage of Bob and Anne," he coughed and apologized, "Sorry... Leibobthor and Annuk'nuffy..." he corrected himself.
The short haired wife leant closer to Bob as she cut the human off, her hand resting on her husband's arm. "The wizard school was an attempt by an ogremagi called Cyrus to use the support of the orcs who lived in the city millennia ago - them giving him what magics they found while he destroyed some of their enemies, his students teaching the orc witchdoctors. At least till he became a lich and then left, and the city above was abandoned to the glacier."
Giving a sniff, she glanced at the ring on her finger. "He captured me and offered me the choice of death or to serve him as a guardian. It was his little joke that to lower the prismatic wall protecting his school, and solve the marriage riddles, it would turn the one who would bring down the wall into my mate. However as you can see, I was the one transformed."
Looking around those here defiantly, she looked to Bob then Jafton, to continue their report. Meanwhile the assembled elves glanced at each other, clearly surprised at this revelation - whether it was that Annuk'Nuffy was not in fact an elf after all, or that she was married to Leibobathor was not clear.
"We pushed on," Jafton began again, "soon coming upon a couple coffins and a great, iron machine shaped like a man. Beyond that was a library, which contained Index," he pointed at the librarian, "and a demoness that possessed Anne until we could convince her to vacate Anne's body. However, she proved false in her promises and turned on us, with several of the party members found in the mirrors joining her cause. Their treachery cost us Duroos," he said, casting his eyes down at his failure to bring the entire party back alive.
"In this library, Bob learned the fate of the other adventurers and we learned of a way to return to the surface. We moved through a magical portal back to the surface, finding ourselves in a closed-off cave. We dug our way to an open cave, where we came across the creature Marstar. The spidery creature was apparantly feasting upon a dead halfling, which may or may not have died in a battle against a walrusman, who was dead at its feet."
"Marstar disappeared and a wizardess appeared. Her manner spoke of nobility and she commanded the walrusmen - as well as a dragon. She tried to convince us to attack the dwarves of Tuern, who we never met, and seek a rod of hers. Failing that, she tried to convince us to prove our fealty to her by changing the statuette into a woman and telling us to kill her. When we did not do this, she attacked us and we defended ourselves, killing her and a few of her walrusmen warriors even as the dragon collapsed the cave down upon our heads."
"We dug ourselves out and made our way to the gate. The dragon apparently followed and attacked us upon reaching the gate. Marstar reappeared just as the gate opened, and dove cowardly into it as we faced the dragon. The rest you know," Jafton concluded.
"It seems as if the last few days have been a running battle for you," said Tarli, her lips turning down in sympathy. "Tuern is a dangerous place, but how dangerous we didn't know until now. It seems amazing that as many of you made it back as you did."
Aesil nodded in agreement. "You did the right thing to return to the Door when you did. If not for the dragon's attack we could have dispatched aid for the others directly - but that will have to wait for now, until we can open the Doors again in three days time."
Once the returnees had finished their reports and their tale was done, the questions started.
"Do you think that the drow had anything to do with the problems you encountered?" asked Kerkstra, evidently rather suspicious that l'Eliel was actually what she claimed to be - a 'good drow'.
Jafton railed at Kerkstra's implication, "No, the drow l'Eliel showed no signs of treachery, and proved a ready and able companion." Kerkstra looked thoughtfully at Jafton, perhaps wondering at his defence of the drow. A moment later though he nodded slowly, accepting the rebuke from the human.
"This dragon you found in the undercity," put in Aesil. "It was the same one which chased you back through the Door?"
Jafton shook his head, "As I recall, the color was different. But I may have been mistaken, for my eyes are not as sharp as those of the elves."
The elf let out a sigh and slowly shook his head. "The dragon below was bigger, much bigger. It was also very red, I might even go as far to say it was of similar size to the dragon that attacked Shadowdale all those years ago," He new this wasn't good news and his tone more than reflected his inner emotions.
Kerkstra pondered. "Did you find any sign of the object that you were hoping to find? The orb mentioned in the diary?"
Jafton shook his head, "This, as I viewed it, was a secondary objective... with scouting Tuern as a possible elven community being the primary objective. With help, I can map out what we know of the area. There seem to be giants, dwarves, walrusmen, and dragons in the area."
"You viewed correctly, I think," Aesil agreed. "The information you've brought back will be very valuable. It seems that the idea of a community on Tuern becomes ever more slim. Perhaps we could, ah... weather the hostile envirnoment, but with so many foes it seems that almost any of the Door locations would be better places to work on first. Would that be your assessment as well?" Aesil directed the question to the returnees in general.
"It seems rather moot," Jafton said, his fingers tightening on the the glass he held in frustration. "The gate was cast into a river of lava. Any hopes of using the door to establish a settlement were defeated in that single act of a vengeful dragon." The human warrior shook his head, "No, I think the first question that should be on our minds is how to get the others back." He stroked his chin, "The ogre wizard managed pools of divining and magicks capable of moving us instantly from place to place... surely the elves can produce similar, if not greater, magic?"
Aesil and Tarli looked at Kerkstra to answer this one, who became rather uncomfortable. He in turn looked over to where Brinoi was sitting, cross-legged on one of the platforms. She shook her head at the unspoken question. Kerkstra sighed. "While we do have magic at our disposal, it is not the right kind to send you or anyone else back to Tuern without the Door. Divination, we may be able to accomplish - though that is a notoriously unrealiable art, at the best of times. For the transportation, I fear that even Mydran was uncomfortable with using such spells and their like is beyond any of us here right now."
"What about..." Brinoi started to ask, but Tarli cut in. "In any case, while we are all understandably worried about the others," she said reluctantly. "Our real problem is actually the Door. If the Door is destroyed, then we have failed already. We need those Doors to link with the other sites. Without them..." She trailed off grimly.
Kerkstra spoke up again in response to this sobering thought. "Mydran once told me that the metal used in both the Key's construction and the Door's was unknown and he suspected it was some alloy made with forgotten lore from the Days of Thunder. He also suggested that it was it probably indestructible."
"Does that really matter if the circle is broken?" asked Tarli. "We cannot use the Doors if one of them is submerged in molton lava!"
"Well, if the metal is not damaged," put in Aesil. "And the device still works as it was supposed to, then we could retreive it somehow from the the lava and the circle would be whole again. A lot of metals don't respond to casual heat, or even anything but white heat. If this Door is so powerful and magical, it could survive the lava."
"That does not alter the fact that it is now out of bounds to us though," put in Tarli.
"We must have faith," admonished Kerkstra. "The Seldarine will help us."
"The Seldarine helps those best who help themselves," said Aesil, responding with an old adage.
"If an alternate means of travelling to Tuern is possible," Jafton said, looking deeply at Tarli and Brinoi in turn, having not missed the subtle change in direction of the conversation, "then we should explore it... to provide a means for the others to return as well as looking to return the gate to your Circle..." He turned to Kerkstra, "I have little doubt that your Elven arts can locate the gate, but perhaps this is an opportunity granted by your gods? Dwarves are masters of stone, metal, and heat... perhaps the Dwarves of Tuern can be persuaded to aid in the recovery of the gate, thus opening lines of communication that may help in the establishment of an Elven settlement there?"
Bob finally decided that now was the best time to make himself heard. "I'll talk to the dwarves," He could feel the look of shock come from his wife, he didn't care. He wanted to get the others back and while Tuern was an icy hell hole he would much rather give being the hero another crack. "First I might need a drink?" he gave a customary smile. Anyone might have thought the elf had more than just the idea of being a hero behind his toothy grin.
Rolling her eyes at her husband's priority, Annuk'nuffy rolled her shoulders, keenly aware of her lack of wings in her new form. Idly, she took Bob's hand, linking fingers. "Once the lava is cool on the door here, check to see if it melted. If it is indestructable, then this doorway should be unharmed. When the door in Tuern opened, the dragon had been resting its foreclaws on it, and cried in pain when the portal appeared and severed the tips of its claws."
The short haired elf looked to Brinoi and Tarli, her the tips of her mouth trying not to turn up in smugness. "From what I saw the river of fire pours into the sea. If the Teurn door is indestructable, in three days it will either still be in the molten rock, in sea water, or in lava rock cooled and hardened by the sea. If the portal opens regardless of obsticals, it could still open perhaps a study in what magics could cross the portal to clear the way or allow transit is in order?"
"Two of those options are extremely bad," said Kerkstra grimly. "We saw that the lava could pass through the Door, so there is no reason not to believe that sea water wont either. I don't think we can afford to open the Doors again unless we can be sure what is on the other side."
Aesil frowned and began to object but the priest raised his hand. "Can we take the risk of drowning Everlaen in fire or water? With the Door open, it could maybe flow back and into Cormanthor as well, and who knows how far beyond."
"We can't just let the Circle be broken, Kerkstra," put in Tarli. "There is too much at stake here."
The priest nodded. "Perhaps we can divine it's status with magic." He paused as he ran over his options in his mind. Brinoi shifted. "What about Selenne's uncle? He is the only one in the village with the powers to get to Tuern without the Door." The three councillors looked uncomfortable.
"It is settled then," Jafton said, setting his cup aside, "This Selenne's uncle will be enlisted to help determine the status of the Tuern door. Preparations will then be made for returning to Tuern for the others." He stood, "In the meantime... by your leave, I will seek out the local barber-surgeon. Please send your cartographer over as soon as you can, for a rough map of what we saw of Tuern may help this uncle of Selenne." The tall human warrior bowed to the assembly and then stalked out of the room.
Bob frowned slightly. He couldn’t help but wonder what Jaftons problem was. Other than over grown facial hair and maybe he could do with a good wash. This only led the elf to consider different hygienic problems that the human may have had, as well as himself. But he did have wild elf blood in him; everybody knew wild elves don’t give off unpleasant smells. The elf had to check though and gave himself a subtle sniff. Maybe he didn’t have enough wild elf blood.
“I too with your permission shall leave to wash and rest my aching muscles. If any further input is need from me I will more than willing to help. My offer still stands to go back to Tuern I want those other back here as much as anyone present, I’ll not be able to rest until I know she….They are safe,” Bob could all of a sudden feel a burning, it was something he had gotten used to as part of married life. He wife’s stare, he was convinced it could kill.
With a disgruntled sniff of her delicate elven nose, Annuk'nuffy rolled gracefully to her feet. "However unlikely it is that those poor unfortunates escaped what is left of the ancient prisons, my husband will be less distracted knowing their fate. If they are still alive, they may be found my scrying magic as we contacted them with a magic font." Then without a word and pointed looking away from Bob, she walked to the door, her footsteps becoming faint running once out of sight. Most eyes on Bob were shocked or confused, a few feminine ones carrying accusation.
“Well,” Bob began. He was never any good with silences, let alone evil stares. “I think it best I leave now,” it came to the elf that he might return to his items being burned in a pile with his irrational wife dancing happily around them.
He moved to the exit after giving a customary bow, wink and a smile.