Part 85: Words

11 to Burning Sun, Goloris, 34 days remaining

Ahoyhoy is such a cute little town!

No wait, town is not quite the right word for it. The tortles here don’t really consider them towns or villages or anything of the sort. They’re more like gatherings with permanent residents. The buildings here are shells, which is kind of neat and a little on the nose. I don’t know if they’re constructed to look like shells or if these are actually shells of other beasts, but I suppose that doesn’t matter. In between the shell buildings are tall walls, and each gate has a pair of spear-wielding tortles protecting it.

Hmm… I’m not sure if protecting is quite the right word here. Like town above, it seems like the word doesn’t quite fit. The tortles with the spears are here, but they don’t appear to be defending much. Rather, they’re milling about and happily chatting with one another, and they were all too pleased to have us come in. None asked us any questions or had us remove our armaments or anything. Instead, they just asked us to be nice. I suspect they can do some serious damage with those spears, though, so we decided to be on our best behavior.

Anyway, Mudgraw introduced us to many of the residents of Ahoyhoy. He also explained that the population here is a little too much at the moment. Another gathering further north, called Goodayday, was destroyed by a fire-breathing dragon. The dragon had descended upon Shell Island after the day of Wakening Sun in Inalis, just over a month ago. It required tribute every week lest its anger be kindled and it would burn the island to the ground.

How terrifying! But what’s even more terrifying is that the tortles of Shell Island are already doing this for someone else. Every month, sacrifices and offerings are sent to the Typhoon Palace at the southern tip of the island. There are some clerics and priests of the Primal Tide there and they demand a tribute or the Primal Tide will destroy the island! With the extra tribute required by the dragon, the people of Shell Island are really stressed and aren’t sure what to do.

Fortunately, we are the Dragonlords, the Knights of Xavian, and it is our mission to help people! Who is this fire drake that has come to bother the peaceful tortles? Whoever he thinks he is, we are his reckoning, and that reckoning shall be witnessed today! The tortles were quite pleased to hear this from us. They explained the geography of the island, where the other gatherings were, and where we could find the dragon – at the peak of the central volcano.

Mudgraw bade us goodbye and went to do his tasks for the day while we looked around Ahoyhoy. Clio, Shadow, Actaeon, and I went to the market to see what was for sale and we found… well… trinkets seems like the wrong word here. Heath, if you were here, I might have pinched you when you accidentally told this merchant, Yaoyao, that his wares were junk. There were feathers, baskets, clothing, some coral, and the like. Nothing was magical or could aid us in battle, but… I don’t know. I kinda felt bad for the poor guy. Yaoyao didn’t really have anything for us, but we are the first visitors to Shell Island in who knows how long! I ended up buying a bundle of feathers. Perhaps I can make something for Nessa or Briar or Clio later.

Clio actually found something interesting, though. There was a bag of small pearls that, I think, Yaoyao didn’t know the value of. She bought it for far less than it was worth. Actaeon was interested in a basket that Yaoyao said was full of scorpions. The scorpions were free but the basket was just a few gold coins. Nicely woven with beautiful imagery on it. Just… also full of scorpions. But Actaeon said he’ll find a good use for them. Whatever he means by that, who knows?

And Shadow… Oh Father, what have you gotten yourself into now? We have to occasionally remind ourselves that Father grew up on a farm, so being surrounded by a menagerie of animals is normal to him. We also have to occasionally remind him that the Gjallarhorn, albeit a very large ship, doesn’t really have the room for a lot of animals. He nevertheless decided to purchase a dimetrodon egg, a pteranodon egg, and a very angry axebeak. Angry might not be the right word here. Livid maybe.

The others outside of the marketplace found another tortle Kabe. Years ago (centuries?), Kabe left Shell Island to adventure with a group of passersby. He learned shipbuilding and brought that knowledge back to Shell Island. Unfortunately the people here thought ships wouldn’t serve the tortles very well, so they had him create wagons instead. I guess Kabe didn’t enjoy making wagons very much because when we Dragonlords offered to have him make some ships and take the warrior tortles to Ellandyr to defend it, he was all too happy to oblige. So now, once we deal with the dragon, we’re going to ask the tortles to join us in the war against the Titans.

The town of Ahoyhoy is small and quaint, and Father wants to build a home here someday. Once we rescue River and Rare, he wants to move here and live a simple life. I can’t say I blame him. It’s so nice here, and the weather is so fair. Perhaps I’ll join him for a short while before going back to living wherever Clio and Briar go. I’m pretty much just going to follow them around, hahaha!

We’re heading off through the jungle now, towards the central volcano where the dragon should be. The tortles think the march there should be a few days, so I don’t know when I’m going to write next.

It wasn’t that far. Gods help the tortles. They’re a simpler folk, perhaps a little naive and too trusting, but they’re also quite slow. Slow isn’t the right word here. Unrushed might be a better word. While traveling to the volcano, we made a plan for what to do here. First, we’re going to visit the volcano and deal with the dragon. Second, we’re going to keep going south to the Typhoon Palace and see why the tortles are being extorted for protection offerings by the Primal Tide. Something is amiss with that, and we’re not convinced the tortles aren’t being taken advantage of. But anyway, for that second part, I’m going to change into a tortle and see how much information I can get from the priesthood there. My allies kept telling me to go slower because I was walking and talking too fast to be believable as a tortle.

Unrushed! What other word could I use? Honestly, in a footrace, I think I could beat a tortle. And you know me, Heath, I’m not exactly a competitive sprinter.

The volcano is big, nearly ten thousand feet above us. Climbing it would take us well into the night, so we thought to look around for something else that might take us there. Shadow, Torag, and Clio spotted a cave near the base of the volcano and went to investigate. Its inner halls are carved with depictions of snake-like people, all in a manner of worshiping a large serpentesque monstrosity. They eventually found their way into an inner temple chamber before coming back to report to us. Once we heard the report, we all entered together to investigate. Perhaps there would be a path leading up the mountain that didn’t involve climbing sheer cliffs?

The temple here is derelict, caked in dust and bones, and parts of the altar at the center are dyed red in ancient spilled blood. Two snakes, Ssura and Y’zleth, were at the altar near a small bowl. Beautiful snakes! And they spoke to us (which is how we learned their names). The snakes explained that this was once called the Shrine of Fangs, a temple dedicated to the worship of the Primal Tide. The temple fell to disrepair when a new place of worship was constructed one hundred years ago at the end of the island: the Typhoon Palace. The two snakes here were assigned to guide visitors at this shrine to visit the southern palace instead.

The snakes also told us that an inner part of the temple here was further in, but was behind a locked mechanism. The key to this mechanism, a small statuette of the Primal Tide, was missing unfortunately. It seems some geonids, little rock-like creatures, wandered in here and took it for themselves. The snakes suggested that finding this statuette would lead us to a lift that would take us quickly to the top of the mountain.

Where do we find the geonid that stole the statuette? Hard to say! There are caves all over this island, so it will be very difficult. Perhaps it would be faster to climb the mountain after all? I asked Kiora, but she simply said that either climbing the mountain or finding the statuette would cost us the same amount of time. Climbing would tire us, though. So that was that! We have to find the statuette!

Clio tried a scrying spell based on the description of a geonid that the snakes gave her. We are lucky it worked! The geonids she spied on were arguing over it in a cave filled with moss and lichen. The snakes found that information very useful and suggested the only network of caves with moss in them were on the eastern shore of Shell Island. That gives us a place to start looking, right?

Briar summoned some pteranodons to carry her, Clio, and myself over to the eastern shore while the others prepared for a fight against a dragon. It didn’t take long to see some cave entrances from the sky, and we landed safely on the eastern shore just past the sands of the beach. The weather is actually nicer here. Less wind. I might have to remind Shadow of that when he builds his house. The cave went further in than we anticipated, so we lit a lantern and went as quietly as we could.

A strange cave monster startled us pretty quick, but Clio distracted it with one of the pearls she bought from Yaoyao. We moved onward until we saw what looked to be a dragon hoard. Sort of, anyway. Hoard is definitely the wrong word here. I might call it a pile instead. It consisted of some coins, jewelry, and shiny rocks. A few other trinkets here and there, too. On top was a small statuette of a snake-like monster. That was it! That’s the statuette of the Primal Tide! But before we could even reach for it, four little rock-like creatures came out after us – the Geonids. They began to squeak and snarl at us, clawing towards us to get us away from what appeared to be their pile of treasure. To our surprise, Clio understood their language!

Today, we saw Clio speak Terran for the first time, an old dialect of the Primordial language. Maybe speak is the wrong word for it. Because, as it turns out, Terran is mostly just cute little squeaks and weird body language. Clio started making these weird noises and moving in jerking patterns. As pretty and attractive as Clio is, I must say this is a new side of her that I’ve never seen. Maybe it was the absurdity of the situation – trying to talk to Geonids using weird hand motions and stomping her feet – but she was, I think, trying to hold back laughter the entire time. Clio is usually very serious, but this was absolutely splendid.

Between Clio and the Geonids making their weird dances and noises, Briar and I gathered this: the Geonids found the statuette and claimed it as their own. As such, they’d defend it to the death. However, perhaps if something could be traded to them of equal worth, they’d be willing to part with it. Clio tried a pearl at first, but they said it wasn’t enough. We tried some gold coins but got the same result. Only after a few other ideas did Clio figure out that their word for value wasn’t what we thought it would be. It’s like this, Heath: the statuette was old and scratched and not in good condition. The pearl we offered was worth at least 100 gold, much more than the value of the statuette, but they thought the trade was bad. Adding gold coins to our offer wasn’t good either. Why not? Because they were not the same size as the statuette. See, the Geonids placed value on something based on its size rather than its apparent worth.

Thus, we needed something of equal size to the statuette for them to make the trade. I remembered the training discus from the coliseum at Ellandyr that Torag and I were using so long ago. It was a little bigger than the statuette of the Primal Tide. We offered that and they gladly accepted. Yes! Now we have the statuette and a path up the mountain! No climbing for me and my weak little mage legs!

Clio was so charmed by these littel Geonids that she decided to give them an additional prize for their hoard. It was the lewd statuette of Salamul, the nasty dragon that had vexed the Isle of the Sleepy Drake. Salamul thought very highly of himself, and we’ve long been creeped out by the fact that he had a statuette of himself made. Especially one in such a vulgar pose. The Geonids had no problem with it, though, and were glad to take it. Now we have the statuette, and we were ready to head back! The weird rock monster we found on the way in had barred the way again, though, so Clio had to give it another pearl before it would let us go. Hmmm… like a toll, I suppose?

The others were pleased to see that our little expedition had been successful. We put the statuette in the altar in the Shrine of Fangs, and the snakes were elated to have their relic back. The path to the elevator opened up, and we were on our way. The elevator in the next room was strange, though. It was covered in dried blood. Actaeon figured it out pretty fast that a blood sacrifice needed to be made to make the lift move. A little blood from him (having sliced his hand with a knife, ouch!) and we were off!

Now to deal with that dragon. Hopefully we can reason with it and have it leave peacefully. We’re Dragonlords. I don’t like the thought of us slaying dragons as part of our jobs. But we will do what we must. If this dragon is smart, it will happily oblige. But we’ll see.