Highway To Hades

We’re making a Highway

Ra 15th, 111

In the heat and humidity of the morning air, I felt the temporary boon of protection lift from me. I questioned, wondering whether it was some punishment for a sin? My thoughts went immediately to the night of sweet kisses that Iana and I had, and my stomach dropped to my feet. Could this be? Is this a message from the gods that we aren’t meant for each other? But how can that be? We complete each other so completely! My first thought ere I wake is of Iana, and my bedtime lullaby is her sweet voice. My majestic, baritone music from my cello, and her soprano, as clear as a bell blend so perfectly.

Without any real proof, (as we are in a jungle, so why shouldn’t I be subjected to the heat?) I will continue the quintessent duet, until Osiris himself tells me otherwise!

I will, however, refrain from copulation until that blessed day that we can be joined by a servant of the Lords, just to be sure. I would hate to bring a child into this world, without dedicated parents. The build-up to the Kiss is as good as the Kiss itself!

Benji and Overkill were suffering today, and there was a point where Overkill, with his rippling, sea-hardened muscles flirtatiously dropped trow – supposedly due to an “illness only Iana could cure” – in front of Iana, whose face did not show displeasure at the sight! I swear, my heart could have ruptured, and painted the jungle red at the sight!

Rain started to pour, but the sun was still out! Horror of Horrors, what a terrible place! With the sun baking us, and the hot rain boiling us and soaking our clothes, I am surprised we all didn’t collapse on the spot, with apples in our mouths! We’ve got the garnish in the packs. A nice and tasty feast! And to make things worse, the blasted beasts here would not shirk that opportunity! Even the insects here are ravenous. There is enough of my blood out there flying around to draw a circle of summon Azariel: Superior! I have had it with this place.

While I was grumbling mentally, and playing my Cello for Iana the way a mandolin would be, our giant Rahu-man guide – who knows the forest like the back of his four hands – fell unwittingly into a bog! Seeing the green ground waving like water, I realized that the carpet before us wasn’t grass but moss and mud. The stench didn’t hit my nostrils till the muck was disturbed, and I realized that I would have to help my mates save him. I magically filled my lungs with air, and got ready to dive in.

The other Annointed were just as fast, and within seconds, Benji handed a rope to Xerx’ses, who anchored himself onto the ground, the tiny Tyvernos anchoring his feet. Cava and Overkill both jumped in, with one end of the rope. Seconds passed that seemed to drag like hours! The rope jerked twice, and our Minotaur started to pull the three up, but when they breached the surface, it wasn’t a giant that Overkill had in his meat-mits, but a nasty looking fiend I later learned was called a Kelpie. Knowing that time was running out for our four-armed friend, I grabbed the end of the rope thrown to the side of the bog, and jumped in.

The world went brown. I swam downward, for what seemed like minutes. Shapes swirled around me as I cut through the murk. Finally, I saw the sinuous, wavering shape of an unconscious guide. I felt iron fingers try to clasp on my shoulder, but I pushed past them to tie a harness on the body. With two tugs, I told Xerx’ses, which I hoped was still holding the other end of the rope. Luck be praised, he was, and started pulling us out. With my blinders removed, I looked around me, and saw Overkill and Cava in the water, but miss the fast-moving mass of the Rahu-man.

The Giant and I were lifted from the water upward by a flying bovine wizard. The Giant’s feet were still within reach, though, so quick-thinking shorebound heroes made fast work to thwart the Kelpies. Then came the proverbial hand upside the back of the head! The Warlock cast a ball of sunlight below the surface! We were going into the home of the Kelpies, on their terms; negligible light for us, but plenty for them. With the bog alight, I cast an adhesive carpet on the enemy besieging a near-death Overkill and his savior. It sank, and we had all of our party back on dry-ish land, the warm rain washing the filth from us. When I was set down, I felt a squelching beneath my feet, and looked down to see pygmy corpses strewn across the path; our thieves, discovered, it would seem!

We checked on Tiakatha, and he was alive, though he seemed to have swallowed his weight in bogwater. We hobbled to a ‘safe’ area to set up a camp and rest, as Overkill was near death, and the rest of us weren’t much better.

There was only one problem! A Cockatrice barred our way! I AM SO SICK OF THIS PLACE!!! The Cockatrice attacked, spraying death all over us, but the Air Warlock created a wall of wind, so as to bring the cockatrice in to close quarters. It worked, and the dragon was so flustered, it missed the Minotaur and the Gnome in its swoop. Xerx’ses charged it before it had a chance to come around for another attack, and trampled the mostly-dead dwarf underhoof. Strength be damned, he’s the embodiment of Luck! He survived a demon-spawned cloven hoof massacre, shortly after getting out of the clutches of a Kelpie’s watery grave, brought to within an inch of death, but bouncing back.

The Luckless Cockatrice was not spared, though. Skewered on the horn, it took three giant hands to remove it. We harvested it, and spread the parts among us. I mentally went through all of the circles I knew, to see if there were any that require dragon parts. Unfortunately, nothing that I know of requires dragon components. It will still fetch a pretty penny, though. Hopefully it’s worth rotting in our packs and weighing us down.

We finally found a place safe enough to settle down and heal. I set up my bed roll near Iana’s tent, and then helped set up the rest of the camp. Cava suggested we rest a day, as it has been a week of endless attacks, heat, and marching. All the better for me! Hushed music, singing and dancing with dinner seemed to lift everyone’s spirits.

Ra 16th, 111

Cava came up to me today, and we talked about ‘My Intentions with Iana.’ I have no idea how these two formed such a father/daughter bond so quickly, but there’s no escaping it! I am just glad that I don’t have to have him as a legal father-in-law! … I hope, that is. He’s far too handy with that axe… I assured him that my intentions are pure, and that Iana is my sun, moon, and stars. She illuminates the darkness in which I live without her, and it will never go away. He made sure I knew that it had better not, or I would be singing the soprano, instead of her.

Doesn’t he see how much she looks to him? She has looked to me only a few times, and even then it’s only a prelude to looking to him. She trusts him with all her being, I only have her heart. I think it all came from a calling given her of Bast, but I could be wrong.

After a whole day of resting, I think we are ready to continue on our Luck-Forsaken trek!

Ra 18th, 111

Waking up to the third day straight of boiling rain, I have had enough! I voiced my opinions to the group, who summarily dismissed and ignored them with nothing more than a simple “WE SHALL TRUDGE ONWARD!”

After talking to the Rahu-man, I learned that there is a hierarchy of dangerous places in the world. The number one most dangerous place in all of Palladium is, of course, the Land of the Damned. The second most dangerous place in all of Palladium is the Firebog, just northwest of us, and the ONE SWATH of jungle we are in comes in a close third! The single stretch we decided to hike across could very likely kill us. The guide showed on the map where we are, after a week of travel, and it isn’t even a quarter of the way to the mountains! It will take us at least a month, and that’s if we survive the night! Reckless and Irrational are two of the countless adjectives that swirl in my head right now, thinking of us continuing.

My suggestion was to trudge a week back to the boat, sail around to the Western Empire, hire a wagoneer, and travel the rest of the way around the Scarlet Sea in comfort, feet up and head back! Safe, quick, and painless!! I am not lazy, and I know that with the Gods of Light on our side we can do anything, but why walk through coals when the grass is just as accessible? The Gods shouldn’t have to hold our hands all the time!

Well, since we decided to keep delving into the forest’s treasure trove of hassles, I started to think about what I could do to aid us. I never once thought to leave the group, as whenever a member of CrIsis trudges out on their own, they either die, or are saddled with unbearable duties, like, oh, I dont know, pretending to be the king of a crumbling kingdom in the middle of civil war or something. And we are CrIsis as a group; alone we are nothing.

I ran through my circles that I have the ingredients for. Unfortunately, most of my summoning circles require live sacrifices, all of which I left with Rogtilda. I thought of summoning Nipshanks, but he’d be in the same situation of having to navigate the jungles just to get to us. The only other one I have is that to summon a True Elemental. A being of such awesome power and lack of moral, it is quite literally a force of nature! Fire, Earth, Wind, Air, all of which would help, in their own way – As long as we can control it! So, I suggested to Tyvernos, the tiny tot of the true elemental tongue, to see how he would summon one. His methods are so different, that he would be of no use in my ritual, but he decided to try his own way without me. Such a self motivated man! It is no wonder why he was chosen for this task. He prayed to Bennu and his Elemental Air, and we heard nothing. The leopard man that appeared to Benji minutes before decided to urinate all over the tiny tyke. Poor man! That was probably an omen, but whether it was an omen referring to us running headlong into the jungles unaided, or an omen foreboding the summoning of a dangerous force of elemental magic, I have no clue.

We spent the rest of the day clearing an opening large enough for a circle that could summon the Elemental and also protect all of the party.

Ra 19th, 111

I felt SO embarrassed. I started preparations for the ritual, and I felt the power coming from the circle itself, even before I activated it. I felt that bone-deep ache that every summoner recognizes – inadequacy. That’s the best word for it. Every summoner can sense his limits, and anyone that ignores them is liable to be destroyed by that which he summoned. I told my companions I wouldn’t be able to do it, and I could see disappointment etching Iana’s face.

“I can just ask in a different place!” Tyvernos suggested, as if it were obvious to everyone. Summoners pull their targets from wherever they may be, with no question of distance or willingness. Apparently Warlocks can only supplicate to those within a certain range; walk a mile or two and try try again. I wasted the day, so we will try tomorrow.

Ra 20th, 111

We trudged a mile, and Tyvernos stopped us. I braced myself for the incoming onslaught, but some in our number didn’t. Iana failed to stele herself, and when Tyvernos called upon the True elemental of Air, she ran in fright. The Minotaur managed to grab her, where I failed. I seem to do that a lot, lately.

The air elemental was immense. A lidless eye clothed in lightning a hundred paces in the air stared down at us. Several tornadoes danced around it, destroying everything infront of us, creating a clearing. The Warlock spoke a language that sounded like wind, hunger and pain in word. The elemental’s responses were the same language, but one hundred fold in magnitude. The rest of us tried to not be smashed by the trees that were being ripped from the ground. Our poor horse did not make it, but we should be able to eat what was left of him. Iana thinks the idea revolting.

The Warlock sent the tornado ahead of us, to clear a path and scare the wildlife. I must say, after a day’s travel with no attacks I am relieved. Benji cried to us about killing wildlife, and destroying the forest, but after a month this path will be reclaimed by the forest, and after a year the jungle will appear to have never been disturbed. The wildlife sense the magic of the elemental, and will have hidden or ran from it.

We walked in the tracks of the elemental all day today, and nothing barred our way. It almost felt like a walk in the park on a Sunday morning. If the park were recently smashed by a rampaging, hundred-foot tall ball of destruction and mayhem.

Ra 21st, 111

The suggestion was made that we employ the magic we had among us, and speed our journey. Xerx’ses and I cast Fleet Feet several times along the way, and Cava and Overkill helped as much as they could with their rings. If only I could make rings already! I could have given us all a ring or two, and would not have any problem. I am so spent that I can barely raise the quill to parchment to pen these few lines.

The only thing that happened today was an ambush by Ogres, but we skirted the threat and ran along.

Ra 22nd, 111

Xerx’ses and I did not take a watch last night, as we needed all the strength we could in order to keep our magical conveyance active. Iana and Cava healed our wounds received by the Elemental and the Ogres, as well as the cuts and bruises from tripping on fallen trees.

After a few hours of uninterrupted running, we reached the mountains! The Elemental was dismissed by Tyvernos, who thanked him for his services. We rested for lunch at the foot of the mountains, and as we got set to start into them, another feline messenger of the gods slashed Benji’s face. Not fifteen minutes later, we were welcomed to the Baalgor Mountain range by FROST GIANTS. I mean, seriously? In the jungles? Giants? Well, I guess they’re at home in the peaks, and the destruction in the jungle must have attracted them. Either way, they tried to killify us. They did not succeed, well not totally. Cava, the bastion of never-dying flesh fell! If it weren’t for Quixsis’ prayer on his behalf to the Lawgiver, methinks he would have been lost forever. Xerx’ses was also lost, and unfortunately when we recovered him, his flail was gone. I shudder to think of ever losing my mace, Xama’sconde. I will push to find it, but for now we rest, and restore health to our nearly deceased. WHAT A HELL HOLE!

Power to Osiris, and Glory to Ra!

>>Entries ranging Ra 15th through 22nd in the 22nd Year of Emperor Voelkian Itomas II, from the personal journal of Azariel, Apprentice Alchemist 8th rank, Novice Summoner of 3rd rank, Wizard of 5th rank, Acolyte of Osiris and the Lady of Luck.<< Pictures, in order, from the following sources. Crystalinks
Princess Bride
Mythological Beasties and Co.
Floaker
Lightning is uncredited- sorry- would like to know…
OpenLearn’s LabSpace
RatesToGo

 

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