[Sunday, March 25, 2001]
Griflet's Report: "Beneath the ruins of Tovilyis, corruption."
THE LIBRARY - Fox (28th), White Witches' Moon, Year of the Gorgon
At your entry, the tall elf stands in surprise. His face is very pale and his lips are dark. The grimlock yelps and growls; the elf aims a kick at it. At the mention of "Imric" and "Sibilan" a look of disbelief and hate passes briefly over his features, then smoothed away quickly to form a bland expression. His deep-sunken eyes flick nervously between you, your companions and the nearest exit as he speaks:
"You startled me. Greetings, strangers. Long it is since Imric's kin set foot in Tovilyis the Bright. Long indeed. A quest for a friend you say? I know nothing of that. Perhaps you will accompany me to see my king? He could perhaps help you." His eyes flick toward the left exit and he licks his thin lips, then attempts a smile.
"And which of the great elven lords do you serve pray tell Dark one?? For I have heard of no others beyond the glory of Imric and kin." you say.
"Our mighty King is of course the insuperable Coryon, far superior in all of his qualities than thin-blooded Imric. But Coryon has been...indisposed for a time. So our glorious Regent fulfills his duties." His eyes flick nervously around. He holds nothing other than the staff.
You make silent gestures to Arborius; he shoots the foul Grimlock, who dies suddenly. You point your arrow at the elf's heart. A flicker of fear passes over the his features but he sees your determination and he does not run.
"Drop the staff, put those pasty hands behind your neck and drop to your knees or as sure as this arrow is notched I will prove to you the metal of Imrics guard."
"Unwise." he mutters "Unwise and discourteous, rash elf."
You shoot an arrow at his throat, and he gurgles and dies at your feet.
The dead grimlock has nothing. The elf has his rich embroidered robe, his strange sceptre and a pouch of small gems.The robe has some blood on it, but it is dark-coloured, so it might pass a casual inspection.
GRIMLOCKS ON PATROL - Fox (28th), White Witches' Moon, Year of the Gorgon
The candle flickers, as if in a breeze from one of the four passages which enters this chamber.All of the entrances are dark tunnels which twist away out of sight. Elf and grimlock tracks are at every one. Most traffic is at the corridor opposite the one you came in, second most the corridor to the left, then the one behind you, then the one to the right. Faint harp music of a slightly discordant quality can be heard from the far corridor. From the right corridor you hear a soft clink, like the sound of metal on stone, and the oh-so-faint rattle of shifting rubble.
You drag the bodies a little way up the left corridor, but as you are doing so you hear the shuffle of footsteps around the bend, so you hurry back to the chamber. You hear Grimlock grunts as the bodies are discovered. Sure enough five of the things, armed with sharp knives and hand-axes come loping down the corridor towards you. You remember that Grimlocks navigate mostly by their keen sense of smell and you and your fellows must reek of Scrubleaf (though of course you smell nothing). Therefore hiding is useless. They are coming for you, and they don't seem in a negotiating mood.
An arrow from the Moonbow sends one to its Maker, then you, Kellin and Arborius block the corridor and draw your weapons. You run one through swiftly with your rapier, the second parries more skillfully but soon joins his companions. Suddenly all is quiet once more; Kellin and Arborius have each slain his opponent.
After dumping the bodies together in the corridor, you head cautiously down the central passage. The passage soon enters a large chamber. Dim, phosphorescent globes illuminate what seems to be a larger library than the previous, and one more intact also. One part of the room is a collapsed mass of rubble, but shelves with intact tomes line other walls. The corridor continues out the other side. A cursory glance shows a fair bit of elven and grimlock traffic directly through the room, with much less frequent tracks leaving the path of the corridor to the rest of the room.
BOOKS AND BATTLES - Fox (28th), White Witches' Moon, Year of the Gorgon
You, Windwood and Kellin start to sort through some of the books, while Arborius stands guard. There are many here. All of the books are very old, dusty, mostly written in Elvish. You realise it could take days to give these even a cursory examination. Or you could be lucky, and pick up just the right tome...
But luck is not on your side today. Arborius signals in Battle Language that someone is coming down the main corridor. You pause, and hear the sound of footsteps, several creatures. You abandon your books and prepare for - what?
"Keep your eye steady Arborius, we dont want to be trapped in here. Fall back to the entrance chamber and we'll hold them off at the door."
The others quietly obey your orders, they fall back and you take up your position at the door. Presently, you spy the shambling figures of three Grimlocks, followed by a tall robed figure, elf-sized. The elf carries a sceptre, and the Grimlocks bear sharp knives like those you saw earlier. The Grimlocks obviously sense something amiss, they are grunting and waving their weapons. Taking careful aim with the Moonbow, you let fly an arrow. The elf jerks in mid-stride and falls; your arrow protruding from his heart. The Grimlocks start an insane-howling, waving their knives and baring their pointed teeth, but they seem uncertain whether to advance. You decide for them, and fire a volley across the chamber. One of the Grimlocks dies in agony and the other two retreat from view into the passage. As they go you fire one more volley, another grimlock falls with an arrow in the back. The final grimlock runs out of sight round a bend in the passage, no longer screaming.
After a quick sign to the others you sprint off down the corridor after the fleeing Grimlock. The passageway twists and turns, and you quarry is somewhat faster than you, out of sight half the time but you can hear it panting. Then finally a straight section; you see it at the end, just near a room. You fire your bow - a hit. The Grimlock lurches into the room clutching its side and disappears from view. It looked like a pretty serious wound, but maybe not fatal like the others. You suddenly feel exposed and on edge. There is no noise, not from the Grimlock, or anywhere. The discordant harp music has stopped. All is quiet, but it is a menacing quiet. You make your way back quickly to the others in the library chamber.
"W-what now?" whispers Windwood, eyes wide in the gloom.
TWISTING TUNNELS OF TOVILYIS - Fox (28th), White Witches' Moon, Year of the Gorgon
There's no harp music, it's very quiet. In the far distance, from the corridor where the harp music was, you hear a few metal clinkings, a bang like a slamming door, then silence.
Swiftly you and your three companions head back across the dim library and into the corridor on the far side, passing by the bodies of the felled Grimlocks as you do so.
You follow the twisting corridor, pausing occasionally to listen for more noises. You arrive in the chamber where you pursued the Grimlock; there it is collapsed in the corner, though still alive from the sounds of its rattling breath. Two more corridors enter this small square domed room. The right passageway is silent. From the left hand corridor you can hear the sound of shuffling and walking feet. You pull the hood of your dark cloak back to listen. It sounds like three or four smaller creatures - probably Grimlocks - and at least two larger ones. Faint metallic squeaks and clanks indicate that at least some of the approaching figures are armoured.
You think fast. Grimlocks rely heavily on their sense of smell, and at the moment you and your companions are very smelly (or so you assume, since you detect nothing..), so your stealth is not of so much use here. However, they also rely on their hearing, and your companions are quite quiet. And the air is reasonably still, unlike at the entry chamber. As for the pale elves, you don't yet know their strengths or weaknesses.
The footsteps are approaching. You hear Grimlock-type grunting from that direction.
You beat a hasty retreat into the corridor and listen carefully. As the group gets closer your keen hearing distinguishes 3 suits of armour and 4 smaller figures, which you presume to be Grimlocks. The group enters the chamber. You, Kellin and Arborius ready your bows. There are exclamations and Grimlock howls as they discover the body of the dead Grimlock.
SHAWEI - Fox (28th), White Witches' Moon, Year of the Gorgon
"By the Red Rock, what's this!" (a muffled, nasal voice in Elvish) "Quiet, fool!" (a lower, more urgent voice)
There is a pause; the Grimlocks are making a ruckus, then a quietly spoken "This way."
When the Grimlocks appear in the corridor, you give the signal, and unleash a volley of arrows. Three of the four Grimlocks twist and jerk in death. You glimpse three tall exquisitely armoured figures behind the Grimlocks. They retreat into the room, but not far enough for the remaining Grimlock to flee, so it charges desperately, its blind eyes wide. You finish it with an arrow through its neck.
Then the three armoured warriors emerge, two at the front and one behind, brandishing strangely gleaming falchions, encased from head to toe in armour of magnificent construction. You realise that this will give them very good protection against arrows, so you don't try to volley at them. You draw back and fire, as do Arborius and Kellin, but all the shots glance harmlessly from the advancing wall of living metal.
"Look what that one bears..it can't be!"
"Destroy them!" shouts one of the warriors as they march toward you.
You retreat down the corridor, then turn to shoot your enemy. You and Arborius hit, but once again the arrows glance off that armour. Maybe it was made by Coryon himself. You haven't faced foes so impervious since Bloodbane.
By now you are back in the Library chamber, retreating. The armoured figures contine their advance towards you. You fire again, again the arrows are useles. You dash into the corridor, the knights temporarily out of view. You pull the Horn of Podgett from its harness and blow a long mournful note. In a flash three flame-bearded barbarian warriors from their distant time appear, and hurl themselves upon the armoured elves, who by now are in the middle of the room. For a moment you are unsure of whether to use this opportunity to fight or flee, then you draw your rapier and join the melee.
You square off against the elves, with Kellin and Arborius on either side of you. The elves form a bunch, but your companions and the other-dimensional berserkers surround them. The stale air is rings with the clangour of metal on metal. You face the leader. Your foe is a good swordsman, but not as good as you. His armour however proves nearly impossible to penetrate with your rapier. Blow after blow is deflected by the metal plates, and momentarily you think your enemies have the advantage. Youe opponent deals you a painful slash on the arm with his falchion - the cut is deeper than you would have expected from his weak blow. Gradually your numbers and the barbarians' powerful battle axes take their toll. First one elf falls, then Windwood deals a death blow to another. Then another of the barbarians hacks a huge gash in the leader's side and he crumples with a clanking sound, dropping his falchion as he slumps forward.
You pull off their helmets to reveal pale elven faces with wispy of greyish hair. The leader is still alive, breathing shallowly. The other two are no more.
In a blink, the bersek warriors are gone and you stand alone in the chamber with your companions. You and Arborius were slightly wounded (although with your still-unhealed wounds from the Blessed Isle, you are not in great shape); the others are unhurt.
Once again silence returns to the catacombs, but for how long?
HELIAS - Fox (28th), White Witches' Moon, Year of the Gorgon
"Windwood. Kellin. Watch the corridors. Listen hard for anything approaching. Arborius remove his armour. Then the others. See if they have anything that can be of any use."
"Certainly. Just let me bind that wound of yours." You let Kellin treat your cut while you attend to Arborius and the elf. "Thank you" says Arborius, rubbing his shoulder.
You stand over the pale elf with my weapon ready, in case he gets cheeky. "Sound me your name and title elf!"
The elf looks wearily up at you. In the gruff voice you heard back in the corridor he says, "I am Heilas, Guard Commander of the Upper Works, Quarter of Contemplation."
You qustion him at length.
"This is the main library section, though some books have been removed from time to time by various of our scholars. I know nothing of your 'Book of Three'. The People have little use for book-learning in these times, except for the sorcerors. And they are a minority."
"Red Rock is where Coryon lives, up the Stone Lion Stairs. Surely you knew that already. Coryon judges all criminals, he judges them harshly. They never return to the City. Coryon will judge you, too, for illegally entering here and holding his sacred Moonbow. What gross crime did you commit to get your hands on it?"
Was not a crime but revenge that landed me this mighty Bow. I found it in the cave of Bloodbane the Black Dragon, Burner of this here city of Torvilyus" you reply.
He looks at you. "That cannot be true. Bloodbane is the Foe. He destroyed the city, the People, the enemy Quarmallians, and you claim you just 'found' it in his cave. Why do you stand here then, and not in the Foe's belly? No, you must have found the sacred Bow somewhere else..maybe the ruins somewhere, though we searched and searched...stolen it most likely.."
He trails off. You sense his doubt, but he doesn't believe you.
On defenses he is more cagey, though you assume it is the subject he knows most about. You gather that the Grimlocks are used as slaves and guard animals, though not armed heavily or allowed to congregate in large groups. They are controlled by the pain-wands, created by sorcerors from fragments of demons. "A necessity" shrugs Heilas. He gives you the impression that most of the Shawei have access to armour like his in an emergency. "Our population is lower than it once was, plenty of spare suits,", he lets slip.
Arborius gives you his inventory: "Three suits of armour, three helmets, one with some kind of headdress, three falchions, one of those sceptres, three small pouches of gems. That's all."
As you bind the elf he looks at you coolly, but says nothing."Why did you elves remain here after the cities destrcution? Do you not smell the stench here?" you ask him.
"What else is there beyond our beautiful city? Even ravaged by the Quarmallian filth, burned by the Foe, filled with human dregs and loathsome beastmen, there is no other place for us. An empty plain beyond. And where were your precious Imric and Elthiria while the Jewell of the South was burning, while the armies of Quarmall marched on us, burning away Old Sibilan as they came? Where were they? Where was Imric? He is a coward and he left us to burn and to die. He left us to the Dragon."
"Right," you tell him. "On your feet Helias. I have no wish to harm you nor do I have any compelling urge to remain here in these sad corridors. I am simply looking for a book and once I have found it I will be gone. Lead us to the book and I give you my word of honour I will let you live. Try to deceive me or my companions and you will surely die. Let's be done here."
Helias says, "I know nothing of your book as I said. Do with me as you will. It is you who will die this day, stranger. For when I do not report back, others will come, many others. And they will take you to Coryon for judgement. He is..not lenient these days. I offer you no deception in these words, merely observation."
Kellin says "Well, that sounds unpleasant! We'd best be done here before your friends come looking. Great minds think alike, eh Griflet?" winks Kellin.
You look at Kellin, stunned and slightly amused.
SEEKERS OF KNOWLEDGE - Fox (28th), White Witches' Moon, Year of the Gorgon
You begin the search of the library chamber, ignoring the dead bodies in the centre of the room. The gurd commander Heilas wathes you quietly, himself watched by Arborius. Windwood guards the corridor.
Neither you nor Kellin are paricularly scholarly types. However, the need is great and you start sorting through the books on the shelves looking for something to help Leonore to escape the from Tower of Zecy. (The 'Book of Three' is not what you seek - Leonore has a copy of that rare tome with him.)
Time passes. Windwood paces nervously. No-one comes. Your prisoner remains passive. An impressive pile of discarded books lies next to you, but the shelves are still fairly full. Your mind is clogged with words and histories, treatises, indices, long-winded librams and terse Elvish poetry. None of it has been useful. Then you realise with excitement that the tome you are reading is describing the Battle of Sorrows and its aftermath, the construction of an enchanted tomb to contain a demon and so forth. In reference to the tomb it mentions its 'special powers' and refers to a more cryptic tome, 'The Shadow Three'. Whispering to Kellin, you begin an exhaustive search for this book. Your heart sinks. It doesn't seem to be here. Probably the sorcerors which Heilas mentioned stole it. Then - there on the floor under the bottom shelf you spy the spine of an old book just peeping out. You pull it out, dust it off and read the title: 'The Shadow Three'. You have it.
You don't know for certain that these books can help Leonore, but they are the only references you've found to his predicament. Something tells you that if anything can help your friend it is the knowledge found within these old tomes.
You turn to Heilas. "You're free to go." you tell him.
He looks at you uncertainly. "Free? I am free only to go to my death. You have truly bested me. It would have been better that you slew me with my companions, for now my failure will doom me to Coryon's harsh judgement. Or, stripped of all honours I will roam the lower reaches. My life ended two hours ago in this room." He gestures to his fallen comrades lying in a blood-encrusted heap on the floor, their gleaming armour piled neatly beside them.
"Well you are free from any violent intent on our behalf, it is for you to decide your own fate Helias. I offer you freedom in the Northern Elven people of Imiric as this is Elven custom, but only if you give your word to swear yourself loyal. There I will show you the head and claws of the great Bloodbane and then tell me that Imrics people pump yellow blood."
Helias looks thoughtful. "I was prepared to destroy you out of hand and now you offer me my freedom. I do not understand. Nevertheless I accept your offer, stranger. If the Foe truly is no more and you have proof of this then I give you my word to swear loyalty to your kin. The world is a stranger place than I had imagined, and the reputation of a foreigner among Imric's kin is better than that of an outcast among my own."
You give him his armour and sword back, and gather the other suits. Then you all stride from the chamber, return through the anteroom and the twisty corridor to the cracked and broken plaza and the cool night air above. There is no moon. The stars shine brightly in the black sky. Around you in darkness loom the crumbling buildings and pillars of Old Tovilyis. Hastening through the black ruins, you head for the nearest city wall, and out to the desolate plains beyond.