The scribe lay twisted in his tiny cell. The especially large moon cast shadows of the bars upon his face. He chuckled to himself with an admittedly unclear mind. How poetic was this beautiful moon, yet he had no quill with which to put his emotions to parchment. Fear had come and gone, but only in intensity. Yes, he was still alive, but why and for how long?
Torben Eastlander, the scribe of the heroic feats of the the six, could not think of what they would do in his situation. Instead his mind wandered. Memories of old words, written so long ago by others and himself, weaved their way through his mind – a cacophony of ideas that left him confused as one might have just before waking up in a sweat.
A dream this was not. Torben made efforts to recall his prior days and understand his situation better so that he would be ready, ready for something, when it would come. Perchance to escape? To tell a good lie? To persevere through whatever torture may come? He had already told them what he knew of the six and they had read his most recent manuscript, before it was ready. That made him all the more mad.
Still, finding some morsel of satisfaction, he gloated in the fact that the poetry delivered upon his captors was of such poor quality that at least he had inflicted some pain upon them. As he began to feel more faint from the lack of sustenance, his lips began to mumble the words of the most recent addition to his manuscript…
Long ago the mages of the Temple of the Arcane constructed a vast library, something I would have loved to spend a considerable time in. Within its walls lay a treasure of knowledge, not just of arcane magics, but more practical things, such as how to grow food underground. There was poetry too. What a pity none of the five are intellectuals – such a wasted opportunity. None-the-less, Tira and Rift, being of keen memory, were able to absorb some of the letters before the tragic destruction of many great works, and some not so great.
One of the more interesting works relayed to me was by Xathros, the very beholder that the five had slain just over one year ago. It was titled, “The Wisdom of the Beholder”. Even with just a short summary, second-hand at that, I can now guess at this particular beholder’s mindset. For example, this poem was relayed to me:
Maiden in meadow
Beauty soon be immortal
Within me deathless
From my discussion with Rift, who quickly read several portions of the text, it seems that Xathros actually thought he was helping creatures gain immortality by “joining” with him. More poems corroborate this more directly:
Rose tiny flower
Compare thee to a maiden
Petals grace my lips
and this more whimsical one:
Petrify, petrify, death and disintegrate
All the whole day long
Makes me tired
Other chapters were reportedly much more serious, with discussion of the motions of the heavenly orbs (complete with not-so humble comparisons to himself) and what Rift thought were mathematics in a chapter titled “A New Magics”. In some unknown tongue of perplexing scribbles, it detailed something called “wavelets” . Clearly this Xathros was quite mad, but Rift said she still pulled some of those pages from the book to study at a later time.
Tira reported more mundane tomes, such as “How to Grow Corn Underground” and “The Secret Life of Selachii”. Z’alden had a lucky find with “Revealing your Inner Bahamut and Tiamat”, but couldn’t remember much of it because he kept getting drawn to Rift’s excitement with Xathros’ chapter on “A New Magics”. Perhaps he thinks this knowledge will help him divine the intentions of the weather gods. Who knows? Meanwhile, Barrick and Erik kept complaining about the lack of picture books.
As the five studied the literature, they finally came to focus on a very large and very round table in the center of the room. Upon the center lay a fine example of hide armor and some scrolls. They knew it was a trap, but went for it anyway, of course. As Z’alden crept up upon the table and touched the armor, the precious books began to fly off the shelves and swarm into a maelstrom of sharp paper and sturdy bindings. (I must admit, the thought of the adventurers possibly dying by a thousand paper cuts was quite amusing.)
What wizardly power had been imbued upon this incarnation was a surprise to even these experienced warriors. The chaotic swarm hammered them, both physically and mentally, dealing psychic damage. Perhaps it was a just reward for not being more quiet and respectful in the library. Picture books indeed.
The adventures battled the hailstorm of for quite a while. Lightning and fire, steel and sweat beat back the swarm like so many angry birds. As I heard the tale my heart grew torn between the quill and sword. Me, a man of the ink, and them, whom by their presence I knew the victor. With terrible blows by the ranger and the sorceress, pages lay lost and scattered upon the floor. The fighter closed the chapter (sorry) on this battle by a clever trick – trapping the books in his “Shield of the Armadillo”, which encased the final swarm, severing its connection to the power source.
Erik the ranger was happy to have the enhanced armor and Z’alden delighted over a scroll that could cure disease, with a little effort. Yet it was not like the adventurers to rest long, and this time was no exception. Soon they were further on, deeper into the Temple of the Arcane. Coming to a crossroads of sorts, they analyzed the four possible directions. Turning back was not to their liking, nor was digging through rubble and taking time to break arcanely sealed doors. So they decided to move directly forward by breaking down welded shut door.
Before them lay a vast room of deathly cold water. Ice ran the edges of the room – a tempting passage to what lay beyond – a sleeping ringael. What beast would lie in such a frosty nest? Using their collective wisdom and the ranger’s “foe stone”, the adventurers gathered that this beast, though weak in will, had no vulnerabilities and could very likely resist lightening and cold. (I could have told them the last bit.) They also surmised that the beast ws of neutral alignment, capable of serving a master. Using her keen intellect, Rift surmised that the room was built to sustain the beast. Someone had built the room and trapped the ringael in with not only a sealed door but also an invisible barrier.
After a while, a plan formed. Erik would first drink a potion to improve his thievery skill. Next he would be made invisible by Rift, who would then cast an arcane gate through which he could simply step through to arrive next to the beast. Why? Did I tell you about the adventurer’s pathological need for loot? Around the beast’s neck was a necklace, or rather a belt to anyone of human dimensions. The adventurers simple had to have it.
With the utmost stealth, Erik slipped through the dimensional gate to arrive immediately next to the sleeping ringael. Pausing with a soft breath, he studied the belt and it’s buckle. Then his hands un-wove the belt through the buckle, as if it was a serpent silently moving unnoticed through the grass toward its prey. The belt was free. The beast still lay sleeping. Erik calmly moved back through the dimensional gate to his companions.
With the belt in their possession, the five adventurers pondered what to do next. That was too easy. They must attack! Surely an opportunity to coup de grace a sleeping beast was too good to pass up. Tria was the first to attack and her magic struck the ringael hard. Rift’s attack missed. Z’alden then delivered a heavy metal bolt from his crossbow. To no one’s surprise, the ringael awoke.
Revealing its powers, the ringael took flight and the tempest beneath its wings blew Erik and Z’alden into the icy cold water. So too did even the stout dwarf get slid into the waters. Lightning sparked from the ringael, shocking all those who lay too close. While the men of the group floundered in the water, the women took defensive action. Tira used her wicked sorcery to reverse the ringael’s resistances, making it vulnerable to both lightning and cold. Rift cast a resist lightning spell upon herself and sent a mirror sphere before the creature so that its attacks would be visited upon itself as well.
The scribe’s recollection of his text was interrupted as his small, single-person prison started to move. The wood creaked and the bars squirmed against their braces. A large creature was heaving the box off the ground and onto a cart. Dark figures gathered around. Their cloaks sagged on their boney forms. Their sunken faces and hollow eyes lay in the shadows of the hoods. Torben felt fear like he had never imagined possible. It was an unnatural fear as if the figures knew enough about him to magnify his emotions. Then one spoke what he realized was his true name. All went dark.