The Shackled City
Jarvyk Entry 8
With the false angels felled, and their belongings acquired, we endeavored to discern the nature of that liquid which they offered. Surely it must be some foul concoction of torment or subversion. The telling would have to wait for more accommodating circumstances. A few vials I took for my own study and that is all that left with us.
The halls beyond proved dangerous at best. Karamus, adept as he is, was even wounded by a well placed (and executed) trap. Although unsurprised by these events, I am none the less concerned. If they are any indication of future perils, we would do well to keep the Cansin at his best. He is the only one among us able to deal with such dangers well. Fortunately for all Bransen is beyond even himself in fortune, a fact that keeps the rest of us in good health, and spirits.
Not far from the chamber of the false angels we found a throne room, infested with six-armed skeletons. The denizens found no purchase between Kort and I, and so were put down. Their presence intrigues me. If these undead abominations are the remains of those depicted upon the hegemonic plate then I hasten to find their creators. Those creatures appeared quite powerful, and ancient, within those depictions. Any who could raise them from the dead must be very powerful indeed. Power can, and in this case I believe does, imply age. We may be dealing with a very old, and thus capable, foe.
As fortune would have it, this very chamber was found to house “Alakast”. If legends of men can be believed, this weapon should help greatly in our quest to rid these lands of meddling demons. If those legends cannot be believed, it will be too late to have them corrected.
After further exploration we stumbled upon a chamber containing a throne, in front of which was an enchanting mirror. In that throne sat Alek Tercival, the purpose of our quest. He stirred, as if awoken from a long slumber, just about the time we arrived. After some inquiry it was revealed that the mirror into which he stared could reveal some measure of fate. Futures, or potential futures, could be seen. Alek, as we thought him to be, told an admirable tale of purpose. He stared into the mirror, were his words, to see the “dark fate of Cauldron”. His desire was to find the cause and thus discover its undoing, so freeing the city from destruction…or worse.
It was about this time that we, or at least I, got an ill feeling from the situation. It was Alek, all that we searched for, and yet it was nothing. I reached out to Clangeddin, asking for guidance. He responded quickly. This Alek was no evil imposter. For the moment, my concerns were quelled.
Alek asked us to continue his search for answers, owing to his exhausted state. He implored us to find within the mirror the answers that he could not. Out of blind arrogance, I suspect, he was believed. I stared into the mirror myself. Surely the answers would be revealed to me, and they were. A figure, which we only later found to be the real Alek, lay trapped within a maze of rooms.
It was while we were so distracted that Kort, in all his brutish wisdom, noticed an ill placed movement at my back. Alek, the visage thereof, slid dagger from sleeve at my back. Before he could do harm, however, my brave brethren was upon him. Like a pouncing leopard, Kort tackled the impostor.
It was only then that we realized the depth of the deceit. The Alek within this chamber was not Alek. He, it, was not even human. Twenty-four mirrored bodies, golems it seemed, strode through the large mirror. Each was identical to the next, and very large. As they attacked, I realized their true nature. They were beings from the plane of mirrors; Nerra. Their blades drain life as most drain blood. A simple prick can cause the fabric of life to begin unwinding within a person.
I screamed to the others, “They are Nerra, from the plan of mirrors. Their blades drain life force.” The others heeded my warning, but not before I was struck. A chill coursed through my veins, quickly replaced with the pumping heat of combat.
Ashton, quick of wit, sought to relieve these creatures of any protections. As fate would have it, this was the right action. There were not twenty-four of these beasts, only a handful. Magic obscured their true numbers, but no more. A pitched battle ensured, and I was wounded grievously. Others of our rank held their own, and mine, felling each creature in turn.
Kort, in his moment of clarity, had managed to incapacitate the creature from the throne, rather than killing it outright. We still saw Alek upon the beast, but Bransen the Wise pierced that deception and was able to reveal the mirrored underbelly to us all. We questioned the creature, but it would not reveal the secrets of the mirror, nor of Alek’s location. We sought to bargain even, and it would have no part.
We did discover that the mirror was a pathway, of sorts, and that Alek lay within. Ashton, although intelligent, threw caution to the winds and simply entered the portal. I could not let him risk himself alone, and so too strode beyond the looking glass. It did not take long to realize that we were in some sort of enchanted maze. Walking from room to room resulted in a strange teleportation, the likes of which I had never experienced directly. For a moment, I thought we would be lost in this maze forever.
It was at that moment that I looked again to Clangeddin. What wisdom could He offer, and how could I use it to our salvation. The hegemonic plate, the pattern! It all made sense. The starry mirror itself was depicted upon the plate, held high above the head of the largest figure. Below was a set of icons, numbers, which could be correlated to the rooms within the maze. I knew not the true meaning of the pattern but neither could I sit there and await the others. Only Ashton and myself were through the mirror, and with no way back. I could hear my friend but could not find his location. With a little luck, and a lot of faith, the pattern was realized.
Unfortunately, having followed the maze to completion I could no longer communicate with Ashton. So, I strode through the exit. It was then that I found myself in the presence of the real Alek Tercival. That chamber also contained the other side of the starry mirror, through which I saw Kort and Karamus. I was able to communicate with them visually, and so detailed the pattern of the maze.
They took that pattern into the mirror and so led everyone to our, mine and Alek’s, location. Alek was very bad off. He had been tricked into entering the maze; deceived by the very false angels we had battled. I informed Alek of his mistake, but he did not take the news well. Piety seems to be a trait lacking in some faiths.
We brought him up to speed on Cauldron and the challenge he was to renounce. He saw no way to realize that solution, and so remained despondent. Seeing that our situation was too much for him, Kort and I sought to at least provide a viable exit. It did not take long to cut through the door that had trapped Alek for so long, and even that did not raise his spirits. It was as though he were a beaten animal, resign to his own demise.
We inspected the newly created exit but found nothing familiar on the other side. Somehow, we had arrived in a desert, and at a completely different time of day than it should have been. Disoriented and confused, we decided to await the morrow and see what fate would bring. Although most of us would normally choose direction over fate, Bransen found unwilling (and unsought) converts wherever he went. A welcome rest then…
The night did not pass uneventfully. Kort and Alek attempted to sleep amongst the sand and stars while the rest of us sought refuge within the stone walls of Alek’s former prison. We were mere yards apart.
After only a short time at rest a demon, Glabrezu I believe, appeared near Alek and Kort. It set upon Alek and slew him before we could offer a proper defense. The demon then fled, having fulfilled what must have been its purpose.
For his part, Alek did not act with reservation. Were he to have fled into the former prison he would have been better defended. Instead, we all bore witness to his evisceration. Damn the will of humans. It is so often their undoing.
The demon, in an odd showing, mentioned Redgorge just before it fled. Alek, in an even more disconcerting showing, said these words as he passed on. “There is naught left for you in Cauldron, heroes! To return is to enter your own graves and to bring doom upon all you love! Trust the sign of the Smoking Eye if you wish to save them all!” It was not Alek, but Nidrama. If she is to be trusted, this path must be undertaken.
With heavy heart, and mounting opposition, we must press on to the salvation of Cauldron. I only hope Ashton can find the resolution we so fervently seek.