[Friday, January 12, 2001]
Griflet's Report: "The once-proud city of Tovilyis is truly desolate."
A FRIEND, A PRISON AND A ROYAL CORPSE - Swan (22nd), Witches' Moon, Year of the Gorgon
You rest a day, which is a relief to all. You don't see any large armies in Tovilyis; just a few occasional skulking or limping figures.
You lower the rope to Tovilyis and begin the climb down. However it soon becomes apparent that Leonore cannot enter the window, even though everyone else has no trouble.
"What can I do Griflet? I am frightened, I must admit." says Leonore.
"We can't just leave him here," says Kellin. Arborius nods. Windwood says nothing.
"Nor can stay," you reply. "I'm not sure what binds him here but I suspect it's his wounds. Perhaps we need more law stones? Many things I have been but scholar I am not. What do you think, Leonore? You are well versed in the ancient laws. Where may we find more information about this tomb of Celedril?"
You think long and hard about what Leonore has told you about this place. After the Battle of Sorrows, Celedril was brought to this place neither quite whole nor quite dead. His body was co-habited by a Quarmallian demon, so that the king's bearers did not know if they carried their liege or a thing of chaos. This place was designed as a prison as well as a tomb.
But surely Leonore is no demon? You suspect that Coryon and Imric would have heard similar queries about their father. They could not kill Celedril (he should have died already), but they knew that if he was a demon, he must never be allowed to escape.
So a prison, but not a physical one. The windows are open, the entrance (although secret) easily accessible, at least now. Something else must have kept Celedril here. Magic? Some weird technology of Law? And why did it now restrain Leonore but not you or your companions. Was it power, was Leonore a sorceror? Was that it?
"Leonore, are you a magician?" you ask.
"I...I am trained in the basics of Geomancy, but it's not exactly what I would call magic."
"What would you call it?"
"A - deep knowledge of the earth and its power perhaps...I...don't know. The Geomancers were slain before I advanced far in my House."
"But you did expect to advance far."
"I never really thought...My elders said I had promise. But what has this to do with...ah, power, of course. I should never have come here. Perhaps if I had been fully aware..but of course I was wounded by the Wild Elves. Ah, Griflet, what am I to do? I am not powerful, I am small and afraid."
"I think I see the problem Griflet's driving at. Is there any way that you could..reduce or give up your power, Leonore?" says Kellin. "Perhaps then the tower would let you go."
"I don't know. I don't think I can make myself - less powerful. I never thought that I would have power, let alone that it would be my doom."
Then you think of the Law Stone. Long ago Coryon used the stone to suck power from Bloodbane. The result was catastrophic and caused chaos and mayhem for generations. But perhaps power drained from a Lawful elf instead of a Chaotic monster might have different effects? You don't know and you don't even know how you would cause such effects even though you possess the Law Stone and are its lawful bearer. But the possibility is there and the information could be found - perhaps in the forgotten libraries of Tovilyis or through devotion to Law.
In the meantime it seems Leonore is trapped here. At least he will not starve; hunger and thirst don't seem to affect those in the tower. In some ways, though, that is worse.
"Leonore do you know how to contain your power in the Law Stone?"
"Unfortunately, no I do not, Griflet."
"If not then it is to Torvillyus we must go and hunt out the ancient secrets which hold our friend captive."
"Leonore though you are to remain here for sometime, I promise we will return for you. In the meantime hold well your spirits and mind."
"Well it seems I have no choice." Leonore smiles faintly although he seems troubled. "I do trust you Griflet, and I know you will return for me if you can. But I realise that my chances of leaving this tower are slim. However - since still I hope, I would advise you when you enter Tovilyis to seek out the ancient library. The 'Book of Three' suggests that it was near the palace and a quarter once known as the 'District of Reverence'. It may be dust and all it's books likewise, but that was where the most powerful grimoires and histories were kept."
"The King! Lower him down into the ruins of Zecy....." you command.
Kellin looks at you quizically, then he and Windwood lift the frail body of the King from the throne.
"H-he's as l-light as p-parchment!" exclaims Windwood.
They lower the body out of the Zecy window. Windwood climbs down, unties the king and scampers back through the window. "He looks like he might b-blow away."
Then, sombrely, Kellin and Arborius tie up the body of Griff the Gallant and lower him though the Tovilyis window. Then, they climb down themselves.
"Farewell, Leonore, lad. Keep your chin up. We'll be back, don't worry." Arborius: "Fare well."
"G-good bye - er - g-good l-luck, L-L-Leonore...er.." Windwood is gone too.
You and Leonore are alone in the tower. There is a silence between you for a time.
"These are strange seasons indeed."
"Farewell, Griflet. Hopefully we shall meet again." His voice is strained.
You grasp the rope and climb down.
THE SIGHING PLAIN - Swan (22nd), Witches' Moon, Year of the Gorgon
When you let go of the rope the tower is suddenly gone and you stand on a dry grassy plain, sighing with the wind which gives it its name. The air is warmer than on Zecy. Nearby are your companions. Arborius and Windwood are digging a shallow grave; Kellin looks on near the body of Griff. Looming large nearby are the crumbling pitted walls of Tovilyis. Gaping holes in the walls show glimpses of the ruins beyond, and the occasional distant skulking figure.
So much has happened since you were last here, although it was only nine moons ago. You met Polydices near here, to the north west, close to the ruins where you found Black Annie and the 'Revenge'. Polydices spoke of a destructive device which he had buried not far from there. You think you know roughly where the thing lies - or lay - near to another set of ruins due west of the 'Revenge's hidden base on the Upper Lake of Pleea. Unfortunately you cannot recall where in Tovilyis the gate to Limbo had opened, or if the Quarmallian even mentioned its location. You were in a hurry to return to Imric's Hold at the time, and it didn't stick in your mind.
When the grave has been dug, Kellin and Arborius lower the corpse of their comrade into it. "Brother," says Kellin "although you were not Elf, yet were you Elf-friend and blessed. May the Powers speed you to the paradise you deserve." Then he turns to you. "Come Griflet, let us not lose another friend or another moment. Let us enter Tovilyis and find the means to rescue Leonore."
"Wait," says Arborius, also turning from Griff's grave. "Smell the air."
The wind has turned and reeks with a putrescent stench, the foul vapour of the Beggar-city.
"Vardin spoke of this. We can disguise ourselves but not our sense of smell. We will be discovered if we try to infiltrate the city. I suggest nose-plugs."
"I know of a herb which burns with a stench which, although unpleasant, is not as bad as this. Inhaling the fumes of this herb does kill one's sense of smell for a while; also, unfortunately one's sense of taste." says Kellin. "Alas, I do not have any of this herb. It does, however grow wild in a land like this, and so I might be able to find some."
The smell is quite horrendous. You look towards the ruinous bulk of Tovilyis, and the darkening mountains beyond.
"Let us waste no time and find this herb," you say. "We have worries enough on our mind without this foul rench to distract us. As much as you can find, we'll need a supply for the next few days. I have a feeling these twisted streets may be as hard as any Jungle trail. We must keep our wits about us."
With Kellin to help and a few hours of searching, you soon find an adequate supply of the bitter herb, named Scrubleaf. Burning some you wince at the acrid smoke and your eyes water, but then soon you notice that you can't smell anything except for a whiff of the foul smoke. However even that is preferable to the fog-stench of the beggar-city. You nod to Kellin.
CITY OF BEGGARS - Swan (22nd), Witches' Moon, Year of the Gorgon
After inhaling burning packets of scrubleaf - your lungs still feel like fire, but the smell is gone - and daubing yourselves with excrement, you move cautiously into the city in the deepening twilight. Finding an entry is no problem; holes gape in the walls like cavities in giant teeth. Shadows of ancient buildings legthen across your path as you move through dead Toviliyis. Older buildings of the ruin are made of a sand-coloured stone, often blackened by fire or grime. Something about this old city, you feel a sense of despair, apathy about the jumbled buildings and menace too. There is rubble and filth everywhere, the occasional humpy or lean-to pressed against crumbling monuments. Sometimes you see skulking figures like yourselves hobble or creep out of sight as you approach. Sometimes you feel their listless eyes on you as you pass their holes and hovels, but no-one speaks to you or accosts you.
It grows dark. Tovilyis by night, a warren of dark buildings with darker doors, the stars far above, brilliant and clear. Sometimes in the rubble you see dim sputtering firelight, always partly hidden, figures huddled round, sometimes so hunched and deformed it brings Beastmen to your mind. It is very quiet. Silence fills the hollow spaces.
LIKE A BEGGAR IN THE NIGHT - Mole (23rd), Witches' Moon, Year of the Gorgon
Dusty morning light filters through cracks in the stone wall of the ruined building which you and your companions have found somewhere in the western quarter of the ruins. It is already warming up. It looks like it will be a hot day.
While the others prepare a small fire (more scrubweed will be needed soon and food too, although you won't taste it) you sit apart and ponder the information you have gathered in this preliminary reconaissance.
There seems to be no obvious power structure in the city. The only thing which appears to link the 'citizens' is despair. There are small families scattered in the ruins, many individuals from a variety of human backgrounds. You glimpsed some Beastman-like figures but made no contact with them. No sign of a palace or market, though you found a few filthy wells scattered here and there. You always felt the presence of other creatures around the wells, and you moved on quickly.
You heard hints of beings called 'The Black Ones' or the 'Overseers' but you saw nothing of these. These creatures sound vaguely like the jet-black man you discovered aiding the Beastmen (Polydices named them Zerai), but apparently they are not so common since their defeat at Twixwater meadows earlier this year. Apparently that defeat has also reduced the human population of Tovilyis significantly.
There has been no new building in the city except for shanty towns and humpys, many of which seemed deserted last night. There are some buildings from the old time which have survived more or less intact (like the building you are currently in - perhaps once a merchant's..?) You suspect there are many buried cellars, possibly even an underground network.
The old libraries you seek could be anywhere, though likely closer to the centre of the ruin near some of the old cracked plazas and avenues of broken columns. Possibly the gate which Polydices spoke of is in the southern quarter of the city - the beggars you spoke to seemed to think that the 'Overseers' were more active there.
You feel an immense loneliness in this place, feel it dragging on your heart. You shudder at the feeling.
A CLUE FROM MAKTUB - Fox (28th), Witches' Moon, Year of the Gorgon
As the moon wanes you continue your nightly searches of the jumbled Beggar City.
None of you know enough of the old Tovilyis to know where the Great Library might be. You can only search and hope to find it.
On the second night, you find a blasted crater, the size of half a block. The surrounding buildings seem melted and burned. This damage seems more recent than the general devastation of the city. There seem to be no beggars or other creatures in the vicinity of this oddity. You wonder if this destruction might have been caused by Polydices' machine.
The third and fourth nights are tedious and fruitless; you pick through the ruins, examining a few buildings which are mostly intact and which might have contained a library. No luck. In the morning the sun rises and a hint of the stench of this place hits you; the Scrubweed is wearing off. Time to hole up again until nightfall.
On the fifth night you notice a stunted dwarf of a beggar with a filthy beard. You've noticed him before tonight and you think he might be spying on you. A few gestures of Battle Language to Kellin is all it takes. The next thing the dwarf knows you have your hands on the scruff of his neck. He flinches.
"Arrgh, don't hurt Maktub!", he shrieks. "I'm sorry master Shawe....stranger. Please let Maktub go."
"Tell me why you've been following us and I'll consider letting you go. Now speak."
"Yes, yes, Maktub will tell all. Don't hurt him! Maktub watches the strangers, he sees them, he thinks they are Shawei, but they don't know the ways, they are strangers. Maktub sees them in Shawei territory, they look like Shawei but they are not Shawei. Maktub is curious but now, alas, it is the end of him."
"Who or what is this 'Shawei?'"
Maktub looks fearful. "They look like you, Master, but they are vicious. They live underground in the catacombs. They warred with the Blind Ones and won. The Blind Ones is slaves now. Now all who venture below becomes their slaves. Shawei is the kings below, like the Old Ones. Now will you let Maktub go?"
"Not yet. Do you know anything about a library? A building with books?"
"Books. Maktub knows books." His dark eyes gleam in the faint moonlight but then he looks fearful. "I can show you, but you must let me go. Shawei there. Maktub is afraid."
You sense that the pathetic beggar is being reasonably honest with you and you allow him to lead you to the edge of a cracked plaza whose flagstones jut up at every angle wherever they are not covered with rubble from collapsed buildings.
"There, there is books" says Maktub, pointing with a stubby finger to a partially collapsed building across the square with a gaping black hole for a doorway. "but there is Shawei and Blind Ones too. If you go below you is slaves to Shawei. They don't care you look like them. All is Shawei slaves. Now let Maktub go, he is afraid of this place. Blind Ones they can smells you real good."
"Books in there, not far!" mewls Maktub, pointing a stubby finger. You don't think you can get much more detail than that.
Then: "You are free to go Maktub however you will forget you ever saw us and tell nobody. Did you see us Maktub?"
"Who are you going to tell?"
"That's right, because we are not Shawei, but we are dangerous and our vengence knows little mercy. These are my words."
"I remember..nothing, Master", whimpers Maktub as your arrow pulverizes a carved building-corner. The beggar scurries quickly away when you release him, and is lost to sight.
THE CATACOMBS OF TOVILYIS - Fox (28th), Witches' Moon, Year of the Gorgon
The four of you cross the jumbled flagstones of the small plaza and approach the dark hole in the rubble. Carefully you lower yourself down and the others follow. You find yourself in a dark tunnel, with unsafe-looking walls composed of rubble from the buildings around. Cautiously you move forward according to your careful plan. On the ground are footprints, you've seen them before. A few bare human footprints, some Elves have passed this way. Most of the footprints are from Grimlocks; you remember similar signs at the Grimlock Caves in the Stormlands.
As the tunnel curves around you see that the stonework improves, and that it ends at an old door with a round handle. Dim light flickers from beneath the door. Suddenly you hear a weird screech from beyond the door, followed by a cursing voice and a high pitched noise which gives you a vague ache behind your eyeballs. The screeches become howls of pain.
Very cautiously, you open the door a crack and view a large chamber, domed, illumined by a flickering candle. In the centre of the room (from where the candlelight flickers) is a desk with a book open upon it. Nearby stands a tall figure dressed in baroque robes. The figure holds a gnarled sceptre or wand raised threateningly above its head. On the ground is a small hunched figure which you recognise as a Grimlock, although you see no sign of the sharp weapons those creatures relish.
Around the perimeter are decaying shelves, some of which are strewn with rotting books, others of which have collapsed completely.
Quietly you look on through the crack in the door as the robed figure lowers its wand. The high-pitched whine fades. The grimlock mewls and whimpers on the ground and the robed figure seats itself. As it does so its embroidered hood falls away, revealing a pale, gaunt Elven man's head. The grimlock sniffs and snuffs, facing toward the door as the Elf continues reading.
You recall from your earlier encounters with grimlocks that the creatures have a strong sense of smell; it is almost certain that this one has detected you, given the liberal quantities of Scrubleaf with which you and your companions are daubed. If there are more grimlocks about then they will likely detect you also.
You enter the room and fan out, with weapons ready. You unhood yourself and step forward.
"Greetings friend, we are House servants of Imiric from the forests of Sibilan, on a quest to rescue a friend, what brings you to these dark corridors and what devilish demon is that?"