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This is the autobiographical journal of Arvil Bren, a somewhat reluctant hero who has been placed on an unknown quest by powers that he barely knows exist. Follow his journey as it is updated daily, Monday through Friday, and enjoy! These are the most recent entries in Arvil Bren's third journal; Politics of the Redoran. His first journal can be found in its entirety here. His second journal, Trail of the Archmage can be found here.

Monday, August 22, 2005

31: Third token

I am home again. The warrior's test is completed. Now I face wisdom's test. As Zabamund said, Sul-Matuul is in no hurry to have a Nerevarine. I cannot complain. He is just playing his part in the fulfillment of prophecy. In fairness to the Ashkahn he might not know any more about the location of the Cavern of the Incarnate than the riddle he told me.

The Gulakhan and I woke early this morning, ate a cold breakfast, and left the camp sleeping in the darkness. With his guidance I made my return to Kogoruhn. The dawn found us on the northern slope of a steep ridge. Great fangs of stone rose from the crest above. "Kogoruhn is just beyond this ridge Clanfriend," Zabamund said. "Prophecy does not allow me to assault the fortress with you, but from among those rocks you should be able to see any defenses the Dagoths have in place. It should be within range of your great conjured bow." I saluted my friend in the way of the Ashlanders and began to climb.

From the top of the ridge the ruin of Kogoruhn spread below like a map. Like evil creatures everywhere, the Dagoths prefer the dark. With the rising sun I watched the final flurries of activity as they settled in for the day. I waited. One guard patrolled the top of the great stone base, another the top of the fortress. At regular intervals they would make contact. After a brief exchange the lower guard would go to the small square structure directly below my vantage on the ridge and the mournful bells of the Sixth House would toll.

In mid-morning the guards had settled into a smooth routine. As with guards everywhere, routine is the enemy of wariness. I slipped off the crest of the ridge out of sight and moved to the west. I climbed back to the summit at the closest point to the fortress itself and waited for the tolling bells. In the shelter of a towering stone spire I conjured my longbow, nocked an arrow, and called upon the Shadow Shield to make me invisible as I stepped out onto the ridgeline.

As expected, the guard on the fortress top was pacing desultorily along the nearest parapet, and the lower guard had not yet reappeared from behind the smaller structure that housed the bells. I drew, and called on the ancestors of the Urshilaku to guide my arrow's flight. Straight and true, the shot struck in the hollow just below the guard's ear and he crumpled. I dropped back down behind the ridge and sped to the east.

I did not have much time. I returned to the crest just slightly east of the ruins, verified that the lower guard was crossing the plaza as expected, and slid down the ridge. The eastern end of the ruins are dominated by matching domes that rise above the corners of the great base. Between them a low wall marks the edge of the structure. When the fortress was built that wall was no doubt intended to shelter archers as they laid waste to any force trying to climb the steep eastern face of the base. Now the ash and sands have drifted so far up that face that the wall served exactly the opposite purpose. I scuttled up the shallow slope and crouched at the wall, listening.

The lower guard's first call to his partner atop the fortress was quiet, hardly even curious. He had not yet begun to think of what might have delayed the upper guard, or even that there was such a delay. He may have been a step fast on his own round. How long he would have waited to call out again is an unknown, as is whether it would be a more insistent cry. He looked down stupidly at the arrow that had burst out through his chest and slumped to the flagstone. I leapt over the wall into the plaza and ran to the door of the northern dome.

I paused at the door and focused briefly, drawing a shroud of elemental magic around me in a sheet of flame. There was no time for stealth so I wanted the protection. I burst through the door. The Dagoth whirled in surprise, abandoning the arcane rites he was in the midst of performing. I caught him flush with a blast of lightning and dove away as a wave of his hand painted the wall behind me with glowing magical venom. I rolled, using the central column for brief shelter, and came to my feet with a conjured spear in my hands. A blast of icy frost crashed against my fiery shielding, the powerful spell driving needles of cold into my flesh. Had I taken the full brunt of that I would have fallen to the floor a brittle husk. Instead it was the Dagoth who fell, with the great spear shredding through the ashy flesh.

It took only a couple minutes to search the sparsely furnished dome. There was no cup. I had neither time nor concern for anything else. I raced for the southern dome. As I crashed through the door the count in my head was telling me that the fortress would just be anticipating the toll of the bells. My time was almost up.

The Dagoth in the southern dome was gathering a blast of searing flame as he turned towards the door. I dove into the room and called upon the Shadow Shield once again. The sphere of raw elemental fire hung poised in the clawed hand, ready to strike, but I had shimmered into invisibility. I quietly raised the staff of the archmage and crept to the side. The long snout of the inhuman Dagoth twitched as it snuffled , trying to gain my scent. The staff smashed down across the monster's shoulders and drove it to the floor in a haze of elemental enchantments. The fireball rolled from its claws, sputtered, and died. I quickly struck again, and yet again, and the beast crumbled to ash.

The bells suddenly began ringing. Not the solemn sound that had been marking the passage of time, but the strident clanging of alarm. I grabbed an ornate cup from the table and ran, once again blurring to invisibility with the shield of the Dagoth's own ancestor. I leapt the wall, slid down the slope, and fled into the Ashlands with my prize.

Sul-Matuul declared that I had passed the warrior's test as soon as I presented the shield, cup, and corprus weepings that I had gathered from Kogoruhn. I thought that he would send me on to the Cavern of the Incarnate, and I was once again concerned for the possible outcome when I face the tests of Azura herself. But yet another challenge must be met first. The location of the cavern is locked in this verse:

The eye of the needle
Lies in the teeth of the wind

The mouth of the cave

Lies in the skin of the pearl

The dream is the door
And the star is the key


I did not immediately write the verse down, but repeated it back to Sul-Matuul until it was committed to memory as is proper for the oral traditions of the Ashlanders. I'm sure that he could see that the meaning was lost to me. "This is wisdom's test Arvil Bren," he said. "You are Clanfriend, welcome at our hearths and a brother to us in the hunt, but you are still an outlander. You more than anyone else must take counsel with the wisdom of the tribes to meet this challenge. I can say no more."

I sat at the communal fire and wrote out the verse in my journal. Seeing it in front of my eyes gave me no idea of its meaning. I was staring at it when Zabamund clapped me on the shoulder. He was dusty from the hunt, and had a stack of field dressed kagouti hide slung over his shoulder. "I hear that you have passed the warrior's test. Well done."

"Now I have another test." Suddenly I had an inspiration. "But with this test perhaps I can get your help. Sul-Matuul said I should take counsel with the wisdom of the tribes."

He grunted. "That does sound like I would be allowed to help you, but I am not likely to be able. The wisdom of our tribe lies with Nibani, not with me." He laughed. "I see again the impatience of the outlander flashing in your eyes. Go to her tent Arvil Bren. I need to take care of these hides anyway."

Nibani was waiting. "I cannot tell you of the cavern, that is the Ashkahn's part to tell, but the wisdom of the tribe is mine to share with all of our tribe. The ancestors have passed to each of us what they have. My part is the star that is the key; Azura's star. Azura's star is holy to us, and marks the twilight times of dusk and dawn. "

Like the monastery of the dissident priests! "The door will only be visible in the twilight!" I said. I looked again at the verse. "Can you tell me any more?"

"I cannot."

That was her part. I need to seek the wise women of the other clans.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Typo near beginning of 8th paragraph.

9:47 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

Thanx...the hazards of being my own editor. I read that paragraph over three more times before I finally spotted what you were pointing out...despite how obvious it was.

10:08 AM  
Anonymous Bravo 1 said...

Nicely done, I especially like how in this one he uses his Shadow Shield, something I have had to resort to more times than I'd care to recall.

I especially like how you added in the whole partol routine. I never really though about it that way, but now that you mention it it *does* make a whole lot of sense.

-Bravo

12:43 PM  
Anonymous mikekearn said...

i have to agree with bravo on his first point...once i had the shield, it rarely (if ever) left my hands.

5:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dendro said...

CAVERN OF THE INCARNATE.
Whatever you have to do, is to ask another explain you the riddle.

2:13 AM  

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