Part 11: Stench

2 to Verdant Sun, Voelis

The centaurs that surprised us did not try to kill us, so thank the Morninglord for that! As it turned out, Briar was familiar with the tribe. She called them the Noya tribe, one of the four (or is it five?) tribes of centaurs of the Emerald Isles. They were dressed in bronze mail, which is why I think we were a little on edge when they appeared. But Chief Hakar was very cordial and polite, something I myself was not suspecting.

Not that Briar is impolite or anything! She’s just a little awkward around people. And the Vega tribe we fought a few nights ago were horrible to us. But good news on that, the scar from that Vega’s spear that cut me is gone now. Just the usual scars remain, and I can deal with that.

Chief Hakar did not come all the way down to our camp. Instead, he stood on the cliffside above us and called down, in Sylvan first and then the Common tongue when Briar asked him to do so. He said that, unlike most of the other centaur tribes, the Noya respected Amalj’aa for their creation, but did not blindly revere him. They not harm those that had not harmed them first. Hakar’s purpose in seeing us was, originally, to investigate the fallen star that Torag had collected. But he gave us warning as we went further into the Sierras towards the Great Falls of the Arkelon river. Troglodytes, wretched lizard-like creatures from the Underdark, were spotted at there. Some of Hakar’s people had fallen there.

Hakar asked us if, since we were on our way there, we could be on the lookout for his fallen tribesmen. He gave us a horn that could call him if we needed his help. It was a very thoughtful gift. Oh, Heath, did I mention his feathered helmet? Yes, he was adorned with feathers of all kinds, colors, and sizes. Brilliant, really! I wonder if other centaurs like feathers like that. Maybe I should collect a few and see if Briar would like them.

Briar spoke to Hakar in Sylvan again but I didn’t catch any of the words. He and his people departed and we began to break down our camp. Alfred was apparently fully fed and would not eat any of Shadow’s fish. Torag and I had heard crunching sounds last night on our watch, but I assumed Alfred was sleeping. I guess that sound was him snacking. So that’s a thing.

While we packed up camp, we talked about the centaurs and our surprise and delight that they did not try to harm us. Briar explained that there were good people no matter where you go. Not all of those created by Amalj’aa were beholden to serve him without reservation. At this, Shadow apologized to Briar and the rest of us for the grisly scene with the centaurs the other night. One was trying to flee run away from us, but he had taken it out in a very gruesome way. But Briar was cheerful. She told him and all of us that it was okay for us to defend ourselves and do what was necessary to stay alive and help each other. Those Vega centaurs were soldiers. In a way, so are we.

Can’t really say I’m okay with that. I don’t like using my magic to kill, Heath. I… I don’t want to be a soldier. But I’m coming to terms with this “hero of prophecy” ordeal. I can’t avoid killing anything that would stand in the way of us saving the Emerald Isles. We’re the good guys.

Troglodytes sound awful. Why would anyone voluntarily live underground where they can’t see the sun? The sun is so warm and inviting! Sunburns are how the Morninglord reminds us of his power! Oh, I wish I could disrobe and feel the sun on my skin. But then, they’d all see the scars. I don’t even want to see them.

Shadow is calling. It’s time for us to leave. I’ll write more later, my love.

2 to Verdant Sun, Voelis

Here I sit in a stinky cave surrounded by my friends, almost unable to breathe properly. We are resting from some trials and I have a bit of time to write. Long story short, we’re in the Mithral Mines. Well, no, actually that’s not true. We took a detour almost immediately. Maybe the short version of this won’t work.

We spent the day hiking through the mountains until, at sunset, we came to probably the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in the Emerald Isles. Do you remember the lake north of the temple? The sunset over that lake was, I had always assumed, the most beautiful thing in Xerender. Looking upon the lake with you was the most beautiful thing I had ever thought I’d see. Sorry, Heath, but I think I found something that contests the beauty of the lake. The Great Falls of the Arkelon river were majestic. The light from the Morninglord was gold and red on the falls, casting a shimmer of silver upon the valley we found ourselves in. It’s indescribable. I admit I was a little sad though, looking upon it. It comes and goes, but today I really missed you, Heath. The thought of being away from you is… I’m sorry about what I did after you died I shouldn’t have it was thoughtless I should have just After what he did to me I was in darkness and

Dia knew the stories of the Mithral Mines very well (probably having written some of their history herself). She indicated a small path behind the waterfall. That was the entrance we should use. The path was perhaps too difficult for Alfred, so Dia said she’d stay behind with the allosaurus while the rest of us ventured forward. When the path is clear, we will call to her and help Alfred come with us. The poor thing looked rather confused all day. New masters, I guess. My friends let me quickly perform a Sacrament of Sunset before we ventured towards the falls.

The path was loud! Water crashed down around us, covering up any hoofsteps that Briar made, and helping muffle the noise of me tripping and almost taking Clio down with me. Since the sun was leaving us to the Moonmaiden, we needed some light. I lit my your lantern to help us see. The soft glow made our path easier, but it alerted a small grouping of Troglodytes ahead of us. They charged, gnashing their awful teeth and scratching with wicked claws, but the Oracle’s Chosen Heroes defeated them without much trouble.

At this point, it was getting horribly dark. Briar knew some magic that allowed her and Torag to see in the dark like Shadow. It used up much of her magical reserves to do it, so all she could do for most of the rest of this adventure was small fireballs. I affixed my special candle onto Actaeon’s helmet so he could see. I offered a candle to Clio in case she needed the light, too, but she instead said she’d stand closer to me and use the light of my lantern. Which is great because I like being near her. Really, she smells amazing all the time. The flowers and things-

Oh, right, the smell. The smell, Heath. I’ve never smelt anything as wretched. Not even when those kids locked me in the outhouse for two days. The Troglodytes reek, like a rotting fish covered in the contents of a sickly man’s stomach. Truly putrid. Actaeon, for some weird reason, chose to keep the head of the brutish Troglodyte on his shield, and the rest of the bodies we shoved into the falls to let Arkelon wash them away.

Gross, just being near these things makes me want to take a bath. Actually, when was the last time any of us bathed? I can clean the grime off my and my clothes, but a real bath sounds wonderful right now.

Shadow and Torag snuck ahead of the group since they could see in the dark. The group wanted me to extinguish my candle and lantern, but I wouldn’t budge on that. Yes, Heath, I’m still afraid of the dark. No, that’s probably never going to go away. Plus, I can’t send a bolt of fire at something I cannot see. So I stayed behind with Actaeon, Clio, and Briar. Shadow and Torag returned after a few minutes. They found two paths up ahead. One led to what was probably the Mines – the path was laid with stone with a determinate architecture. The other path led into a twist of caverns that stunk like the Troglodytes. While they were trying to decide which path to take, they had heard a cry from the Troglodyte path.
It must be the centaurs from Hakar’s people! The Troglodytes must have captured them! We knew the plan immediately: take that passage and save someone.

Not far into the path, we were ambushed by a few of those terrible monsters, disguising themselves to look like the rocks on the walls of the tunnel. Actaeon and Shadow quickly take out the one that bit Actaeon. Torag chased down another that was trying to get away. I blocked another while Clio and Briar struck it down.

At this point, Clio felt a strange psionic pull further in the tunnel. The cries abruptly halted, too. We had to hurry! Perhaps we were too late, though. Either way, Shadow and Actaeon led us further, following the smell.
Remember earlier when I wrote about the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen? Here’s the most horrible thing now. A small cave in the tunnel, wherein we saw a group of Troglodytes roasting a still-alive centaur over a fire pit. Another centaur was injured in a makeshift jail cell, stabbed and prodded by other awful creatures.

What could we do but fight? The Troglodytes are no match for us. I’m happy to say the centaur over the firepit survived. Torag pulled him down to safety and Briar used the last of her strongest magic to close his wounds. They told us they had been dragged down into the caves by the beasts. One Troglodyte was above the rest, though. It was intelligent, speaking in languages other than the utterances of the lesser creatures. We thought perhaps it was the leader. Could one of these creatures be reasoned with? Could we convince the leader to leave the caverns?

Shadow gave the injured centaurs directions to Dia and Alfred, then we moved on. The smell continued to grow. Eager to watch our backs, Actaeon left a set of traps behind us. We rounded corners in the tunnels, finding old bones on the ground. Straw mats lined the floors where the creatures must have been sleeping. A gross slime was on the walls and floors.

We walked through the caves for perhaps another hour before Shadow stopped us. The smell was overpowering now. Shadow disappeared into the darkness but came back almost immediately, coughing horribly. He found a refuse pile. That’s what he called it, anyway. In Ylissee, we called it an outhouse. Of course, our outhouses were outside. This one was in a cave with absolutely no ventilation.

Unfortunately (and fortunately? This remains to be seen), Shadow informed us that he saw a lot of things in the pile of waste. Actaeon almost immediately jumped in to see what he could find. He came out with a nice sword and spear made of adamantine, a very strong metal. There was also a few suits of mithral armor, one of which would fit me. But I am not wearing that thing until we clean it!

Some more Troglodytes tried to sneak up on us while we reeled from the stench, but we made short work of them. At this point, I noticed how injured Torag had been from the fights. I cast some curative magic to close his wounds and we decided to rest and catch our breath. There was another tunnel here that led to what I presumed to be the Underdark. We definitely did not want to go there. While resting, Clio found what she thought was the source of the psionic energy she felt earlier. The walls of this small cave were lined with the blooms of the Forget-Me-Not flower, the color of opal quartz. She and Briar collected as many flowers as they could, with Briar casting little druidic spells to cause more flowers to bloom, replacing those that they collected.

Ultimately, we decided to leave the tunnels and return to Dia and Alfred. We saved the centaurs we were looking for. Our mission was complete for now. We would probably have to deal with more Troglodytes, but again, perhaps we could reason with the intelligent one. Right now, it was getting late and we would be wanting to sleep soon. We will rest under the stars instead of the roof of this smelly cave, and will venture into the Mithral Mines tomorrow morning.