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3rd day (continued)
Ludvik went in first, short sword in hand. He passed through a layer of shifting light and ended up sliding out sideways on his ass. The trip was pretty disorienting; especially for a bunch of kits who’d never used a portal before. It was hot, and he was on his back in a pile of ashes in an unlit fireplace. There was no light there.
Ekikos came in next and couldn’t see anything. The light filled the back of the fireplace and ripples, and then Aella and I came in.
The fireplace was big. Beyond it was a large square room. The center of the room was dominated by a large anvil; larger than Hinrik’s in Crossguard. The square room was supported by four columns. Something about 8′ tall and human shape stood in the four corners; each one covered in a tarp. An additional tarp lay over a table about 3-4′ high.
Gears and such filled the side and a large set of iron doors closed the room. There was a rumbling as Svana tumbled into the room with the light. She started to sit up, became dizzy and let the lantern fall from her fingers as she fainted. Ludvik dropped his sword and ran to his sister. Eki and I searched in vain for an alternate light source as the wick from the then completely broken lantern sputtered in the pooling oil. The light was dying.
Ludvik tokk Svana out of the fireplace and lay her on the floor. He couldn’t wake her.
The light faded slowly. Eki and Aella stayed with Svana as Ludvik and I explored the room. The artistry of what lay within those four walls was lost on us as kits.
I climbed up inside one of the tarps, and then pulled it off to get a better look at what it hid. It had a square pedestal base, feet dressed in sandals and stood 8′ tall. It was a human female statue carved in the classical style. A cloak of feathers was draped over one arm, and held out like a shield. The arm bore an actual bracer. The other hand, thrust forward and palm up, was barren.
Ludvik pulled the tarp off the table. Atop it lay another human female statue; this one crafted in bronze and covered in patina.
The third corner held a wooden statue of the same woman. It was 1/2 finished and stood in a mound of shavings and sawdust. We’d found the fuel to keep the fire going, but now were faced with the quandary of how to start it anew. The bottom half of the statue was roughed out but unfinished. The upper half was done and seemed to be of the same woman.
The third corner had another wooden statue – again of the same woman. It wore a breastplate on its torso and held a carved abacus at the waist. Its hair was plaited and looped together in a bun at the base of its neck. It looked longingly towards the anvil.
A table lay against the far wall, cluttered with clay and wood bits. Each bit was carved into some aspect of the woman: her ear, her lips, her eyes, her nose. The artist had practiced each aspect many times before using the form on the larger statues. Some were very crude shapes, while others were closer to the final product. The beauty of the work was lost in our attempt to find a new light source.
The last statue stood in a defensive pose. It was brandishing a spear and wore a scowl. The statue spoke of strength and marshal resolve. It had a rough finish and was cast in bronze.
I thought the bracer from the first statue would make a fine fire-dish, so I went to get it. It took some work to get it off the arm of the statue. When it was finally free, a triangular table in the room (off by the doors) seemed to sprout legs and move – spider-like, towards us with remarkable speed. When I dropped the bracer, the table stopped moving. Ludvik was already closing in to defend me.
With some strain Ludvik lit up his sword and gave it to Eki as a light source. Ludvik and I then went to check out the door. Along the way we noticed a tunnel that was seemingly hidden by the gears and rods that ran through it. The air beyond was humid and filled with the smell of sulphur. Eki scouted ahead and found that the tunnel led to a large rough room filled with water. I know now it was a cave, but back then I had never before seen natural stone or free-flowing water, so to me it looked like an unfinished house and an over-tipped portal of water. The smell reminded me of the Great Foundry and the Hive, but for the heat. That was something I couldn’t explain. Now I figure we were deep underground. The wheels and axis must have been steam or thermal powered, but I still don’t know what they did.
The door had many gears and wheels on it, and try as we might we couldn’t figure out how to open it. Eki went into the water and scaled his legs pretty badly. He was trying to get to someplace beyond the door. He did, eventually, see a passage; but he couldn’t figure out how we’d all manage to get to him — let alone get beyond him to the passage without burning ourselves. So he came back, soaking wet, to join us. The hot water made him shiver and the skin blistered and peeled off his legs. Ludvik bandaged his legs as best he could and Eki tried to stay calm.
After exploring the room a bit, we noticed that the prone statue was really some kind of machine. It had gears and wires at its joints and seemed to be designed to be mobile rather than stationary. We thought if we put all the things from the room onto the statue, maybe it would wake up.
So, we devised a plan. I picked up the bracer and led the walking table to Ludvik. Ludvik would break the table and then we could put all the bits on the prone statue. It didn’t quite work out as well as we’d planned. Eki and Ludvik had to fight the table while I tried to gather wood shavings and start the light again. Their battle lasted a while and Eki’s badly burned legs made him miss the table a lot. I remember Aella telling me later how good Ludvik was with a sword, even back then.
After a lot of work the shavings caught on a fragment of the smoldering wick, and I got the fire going again so we had light (Ludvik’s lit short sword died out after a time). Aella kept hearing something fluttering around the room and tried to follow it. Eki gathered up the bracer, a helm, an amulet, and an pearl eye from the four corner statues and put the former two on the prone statue. We couldn’t figure out where to put the latter.
Ludvik checked on Svana and found she looked like she was dreaming. He still couldn’t wake her.
Aella followed the sounds and discovered a bottle with the picture of a bird painted on its front. The bottle was covered in shades of red and yellow. She suggested we give it to the statue, so Eki poured it down the statue’s throat and then, for good measure, popped the pearl eye into her mouth too.
As the liquid passed down her throat, the patina disappears from her body. Her blue-gray eyes opened and she sat up. She only spoke Hellenic. Fortunately Eki’s grandmother spoke Hellenic, so Eki knew a little. To the rest of us it was a language we had heard in sermons at the Athenium but couldn’t really understand more than just a word or two of.
We convinced the golden one to come with us and used the fire I’d built to open the fireplace portal once more.
The voyage home
We emerged back in the trough and climbed out. As we did, the door to the shed opened up and three dabus floated into view. They were about six feet tall each, robed in gray and were floating off the ground. They had white hair and two sets of rams horns each.
The first one floated forward and, using their visible symbol language, said: “Please leave now or the Lady of Pain will be angry.” A second one spoke, but we couldn’t completely understand his message. We stepped aside and the dabus destroyed the trough.
As they did, Svana spasmed in Ludvik’s arms, gasped and then awoke. After their happy (but brief) reunion, Ludvik tried to return the short sword to his father’s armory. Nestor was still at the forge, but so too was Ludvik’s father Hinrik along with Eki’s father Yourgos. More people are summoned and Ludvik tells them that the rest of us are in the shed.
Yourgos was in a state of panic; Eleni, Eki’s mother, was worse. My own Marm didn’t stop washing me for a good 10 minutes… They were all scared, but they were all glad we were alive.
The Priestesses came when Yourgos bellowed that his son was hurt. Priestess Ismene and Acolyte Lini were perplexed by the golden one. Ismene named her the Chryseis Pallas.
Hinrik fetched Svana and had Nestor bring her into the house; she was still not very steady on her feet. Hinrik then spoke to Ludvik. After a few brief questions Hinrik declared “You’ve made your choice.” And walked away. He returned immediately with a leather scabbard, a baldric and a belt for the short sword. The sword Ludvik had taken earlier was now his to keep.
Everyone else gathered at Eki’s place. The priestess was tending to Eki and everyone was talking at once as the golden one looked on, somewhat perplexed. Suddenly Kalliope declared “I want this! This is mine!” She was clutching the golden one!
It seems we came home with treasure after all.
It took weeks for everyone to calm down. Our disappearance had coincided with the news of a killer loose on the streets of the Cage. He killed faction members – but the details of that adventure were never mine to tell.
The golden one was welcomed into the temple and began to feel at home there. She also became something of a celebrity in the neighborhood. No one quite believed we saved her.
Svana recovered from her experience. She described it all as a dream. She’d dreamed that she was flying around the room, watching everything from above. Hinrik didn’t want to talk about anything relating to the event and let Ludvik be.
Eleni didn’t let anyone out of the house for fear of the killer, even though the nearest murder was on the other side of the ward. The murderer was called the ‘Law Shredder’. Within a week the murders had stopped, and life began to return to normal. We were all house bound for about 2 weeks, which was about as long as Eki’s grounding lasted.
So thus was the tale of our first adventure. We were so very young, but it was not the last. The text tale took place almost 3 years later … but that is a story for another night.
Our first adventure
3rd Day of the Rule of Rings, in the State of Freedom, 121 H.R.
(Session 1. Saturday, March 17, 2007)
We didn’t know it then, but this was our first adventure together.
It started like pretty much any other rain-sodden, stir-crazy, please-Marm-can-I-go-outside type day. Eki’s family had it worse than mine (so many big kids, such a small space), but Eleni managed somehow to divide the boys from the girls and set both teams to work. It had been a dreary week in Crossguard. The rain was said to wash the sins of the world away; it certainly deadened the stink for a while. But it also meant that Yourgos was home, as most of his work relied on good weather.
Tlao’s return destroyed all of Eleni’s work and we heard the din from upstairs. I begged Marm to let me go see what was going on and somehow she agreed, so Euge and I snuck downstairs. Eki was already bouncing. The version of the chant I heard was that somehow Tlao managed to get into the Civic Festhall and hear a public reading by Jeena Ealy of her latest book titled ‘History of the Blood War’. He was to recount some of the tales he’d heard at the Keg & Cask that night.
The chant had set Eki and his siblings to using the sheets hung up inside to dry as bat-wings, and pretending to be the various races known to them, engaged in the “Blood War”. In this case – it really meant just declaring who they were and chasing after one another. It was the most bloodless of wars ever fought, and other than a lot of noise, there were no signs of battle.
At the time I knew nothing of the Blood War or really understood what a demon or the Hells were, other than people and a place that wasn’t the Cage. I ran upstairs to tell Marm about it and Da was back. Marm didn’t like the idea that I had heard of this “Blood War” and she liked it even less that Eki and his siblings were playing out their own rendition downstairs. But Da managed to convince her that it would be a good way to gather with the neighbors, a rather civic-minded thing to do in Marm’s view; and so they made plans to go to the Keg & Cask later that night.
Euge and I were given over to Medea’s care.
Ludvik and Svana played their own version of the Blood War at their house. Svana had “discovered” a portal to the Nine Hells, and so armed with smithing-tongs and a candle they stepped into the upstairs fireplace. Svana made a whooshing sound and their game of pretend was off. They joined us at Eki’s after dinner.
Now Svana always had a tale, and once Medea was out of earshot, she began telling us she knew a way to find treasure. Naturally Eki’s was the one that figured out how to exclude Kalliope and Euge. They weren’t happy about it, but they did go and try to distract Medea. Kalliope completely forgot that Euge was supposed to have a hurt paw, and instead told Medea she wanted to sing. She used the hanging sheets as a set of curtains and performed for her older sister and Euge, the rest of us snuck off.
We made our way through the house and out into the back shed. The rain was coming down in sheets and it was pretty hard to see. Once inside Eki and Aella couldn’t see – so Ludvik went off to get a coal from the forge. He returned and lit an old broken lamp that Svana had found. As the lamp was lit, the ember tumbled away from the lamp and danced across Ludvik’s thigh. It then fell into an old trough where a red-rimmed portal opened. The portal closed as soon as the ember had gone out.
Svana declared that she had discovered the portal, and brought the light closer to the edge to see. The portal opened again, and then closed as she withdrew the light. Eki and the others armed themselves with sticks or rods, or whatever they could find. Ludvik took off across the street back to the forge. There Nestor was working the bellows, he commented that he wouldn’t protect Ludvik when his father returned, but Ludvik was determined. He took the keys to the back room and dug out one of his father’s short swords before returning to us.
One by one we stepped through. We stepped out sideways and had to crawl out into a hearth to get into a clear space where we could reassemble and take stock.