When the words of Kasille are unknown
Protecting those who rise to throne.
Bounding upward, Zy’an landed upon the platform that at first looked like it was floating in the air in the middle of the this gigantic cavern. The magical ring that gave him the ability to jump like some human sized cricket surged with energy from his finger, through his body and into his legs as they pushed off into the nether. Up he zoomed, and reaching the zenith of his jump, he caught hold of a rail, as if leaving a boat and hauling himself onto a dock. He pulled himself onto the landing. From here, he could see that the structure wasn’t so much floating as it was sticking out from the cave wall in a way that looked impossible to support. By the way the cave worked it’s way around the domed ceiling of this place, it looked as if rocks were built right out of the cavern wall and just kept going until they formed a massive monument of some kind. Now that he was here however, he saw that the entire platform was suspended by no more than the attachment of the rock face at one end. Whatever magic or marvel of manpower the Kasillians had used to keep it aloft, a mystery.
Zy’an turned his attention to the building atop the platform itself. He was standing on a flat disc like a gigantic stone plate, within the darker space of the vast cave. There in front of him, was a large circular temple or shrine built upon it and the overall effect was as if it were simply hanging from the ceiling above it by invisible ropes that you couldn’t see. Behind him and inside of it, were other things, statues he thought, but Zy’an quickly tied the end of the rope he held around a nearby stone railing. Statues or foes, he would need the others and quickly. He signaled to them, who one by one began the long ascent upwards. Keeping his eye on his work, he resisted the curiosity to look again. He would sort it out when the others arrived. Around him, the rich stone and the excellent craftsmanship of the rock was remarkable. The rock, like the rest of Enceladus was so well wrought that it seemed as though it wasn’t hewn at all. A large pattern of tile lay below his feet. They featured a group of warriors battling dark creatures of incredible imagination. In another, a large blue and green sphere drifted in a black void. The sun, featured also in the image shone outwards at the sphere. In another, dragons of many hues flew together in a winged formation. Like fantastical plumed birds. Zy’an stayed put to help the others up, and then together, weapons drawn, they entered.
A large masterful sculpture of a tree stood in the middle of the space, around it, many more statues stood too, silent and frozen. The tree was an incredible work of art, with seven twisting boughs and leaves, seemingly lifelike if they hadn’t been engraved in marbled stone. On the ceiling above the statue, the chilling yet mysterious image of the concentric circles. Three rings, one within the other etched into the stone in three perfect circles. Men and women surrounded the tree effigies all made of beautiful marble. Despite their many poses, and positions, each was looking in the direction of the entry, directly at the others walking in. The glare from whomever had created the chamber was deliberate, and the effect was startling. All except for Thrak who simply hissed that this was no different than anytime he walked into a bar in Celn lands.
Below the tree, they could see as they maneuvered around it, was a woman laying at the base carved into the stone. Her back was hunched and she looked down. Her head was in her hands. Even in stone, one could tell the intention was that she was crying. Iricah whispered, “The Great Mother”. Around her, 6 other statues stood. Three women, three men. Beyond them, in the outer circle, six more pairs of statues, 12 figures among them. Each pair were carved together from a solid block of stone. A man and a woman in each stood, holding each other. They all had different statures and poses, but all were beautifully carved and one could tell that whomever they had been, that they must have been quite exquisite to behold in person.
Ulua moved to one of the statues in the outside circle. It depicted a man with long hair holding a woman close to him. She stared intently at them both as if recognizing them perhaps. The man’s dress and the woman’s as well, resembled those she wore, those of the Ata’uhn. It was the man though that captivated her.
“She looks as though she has seen a dragon,” said Frank. It was one of his favorite Celn sayings.
“I think we all know what our dragon faces look like now,” laughed Areia. “But this one, this one is creeping me out.” She pointed to the statue of what at first appeared to be a male figure, lithe, thin. Upon closer inspection though, the figure seemed to have feminine qualities as well. And then Areia nearly gasped, but her instincts caught her. She traced her hand along the statue underneath the carved coat the figure wore. On the left side, just where she herself kept him, was the unmistakable form of her mouse, Squeaks, carved into the rock. Only noticeable by the trace of her hand. And it was done so in a way that a person or observer would have to search to find it there. “What in the blasted light is this folly?” she choked to herself. It was a rare moment when she couldn’t find something to laugh at. She was just about to share this with the others when a slight crinkling sound came from the statue’s face. She looked up into it’s blank eyes and saw a line tear through the rock in the middle of the statue’s lips.
There was a faint cracking sound coming from each of the statues then. Simultaneously, all of the mouths in the faces began to open! Ulua backed up and pointed her spear at the statue of a woman resting upon the tree’s base. She stepped back, expecting it to come to life. But save for it’s mouth, it moved not.
Together, the statue mouths spoke in an eerie and monotone voice. Their eyes, blank, void of pupils, shone with a green glow. The glow radiated out in the dimly lit chamber casting even more eerie shadows around them.
The Path of Light is lit for thee.
In every toll, there is a fee.
If thou beist pure of heart,
Be sure to cleanse your evil part.
If thou be evil in your deed,
To smite the good is what you’ll need.
Iricah spun around, half expecting the statues to come to life then and speak another rhyme of some kind, but that’s all there was. She turned towards the nearest statue and spoke as if to herself. The statue’s similarity to her was so striking in a way that she couldn’t describe. She realized they all were like that as well. “What in the Night is this place?” She asked the others.
Thrak, who came to stand by one of the male statues, said then what they all were thinking. In a way that was so basic, so simple. As only he could. He looked up into the blank eyes, the face that seemed less human and more like that of an animal, now that he really took it in. What was at first vague, to him now, clear. The ears were not present like they should be, the arms carved in less detail than other parts, holding a weapon, an axe. The hands left rough and coarse, devoid of fingers or the detail that might give away something like talons, or scales. The base was obscured as well. As if the carver did not wish to reveal the warrior’s lower half. But it was this element of the artwork that gave it away to Thrak. He thought to effigies he had seen in the isles, and the power that they held.
“It’ssss assss if the artistsss wanted usss to recognize our own piecesss. Yet another would find it hard to do so.”
While he spoke his shadow upon the ground began to move! It was subtle at first but then Thrak could see it oozing up the wall behind him. The others stepped back from him weapons drawn, as his very own shadow began to move off the floor and form a solid shape in the air next to him, exactly like him in all dimensions. Except the eyes. Thrak stared, watching it form. The others now, each of them, were staring at their own shadows, doing the same! Before any of them could speak, the shadows had solidified, as real as they themselves were, except for their eyes, which glowed a dark emerald green! Then, the green eyed impostors drew their weapons, exact likenesses of the actual weapons they carried, perfect in every detail.
Each of their silent twin’s intentions were clear. Only one of each pair would continue. A battle began!
Without speaking, each engaged itself, it’s own shadow. Some attacked each other physically with their weapons, hacking and slashing, as real as any wound they had received. Others spoke and yelled at each other. Areia broke the silence with a battle cry against her exact likeness, “It’s about time someone gave me a challenge with the knife!” she called out. Her dobbleganger, her twin, said nothing. It’s alien eyes gleamed as it lunged out exactly as Areia herself would!
Frank was the most stunned of all. His other was him. But the him he had been before his transformation. A handsome man, bearded with bright blue eyes. Although the double attacked confidently and bravely, Frank as they knew him, shrank backwards. His confusion mounted and he fell against the wall at the back of the chamber, gasping. His other attacked him fiercely with a morning star, his own morning star. Speechless, a determined face, mouth closed it came on and rained blows against his shield denting the metal. The red-faced, horned Frank, the Child of Ket, lay upon the ground, while the silent Frank hammered down blows upon him.
All around the room, the battles waged. Zy’an’s figures moved like birds, racing in between statues, throwing punches and kicks at one another. Neither of Zy’an’s figures spoke. If anyone there had been able to watch them closely, it would have been noticed well that one moved cautiously and fluidly. It waited patiently for the time to strike. The other, moved quickly, decisively, but impulsively. Each with it’s gem-like eyes glowing were fixated on one another. One though glowed green like the other doubles. Ultimately, the impulsive Zy’an stroke too fast, and was struck down by the more patient twin. It fell upon the floor, arms outstretched. Like a coin falling into the sea, the body of Zy’an’s double disappeared into the white stones on the floor.
Iricah and her twin however drew neither a weapon nor moved. They stood in front of one another. And unlike the others, Iricah’s twin spoke, but her voice was not her own. It was a male voice, a voice of a younger man. Well spoken, articulate. “You could have saved me Iricah! You could have prevented all this! Instead, I am gone. We know why, we both know!”
“No!!!” Yelled the bard, “No, that isn’t true! The King. The King could have saved you, and you know why he didn’t!”
“No,” sighed her twin nastily, sarcastically, “You know. You’ll always know, this part of you cannot be killed, not by any duel.”
“I won’t be brought into the darkness like this! Nor would you if it were really you! You are gone, gone! I can’t change that! But I can pull the veil back for others. For you brother, I swear I will never stop trying to reveal the truth!”
Iricah’s shadow faded like dust blowing around the chamber into nothingness. She looked around to see the others watching her. Sweating, her chest heaving, she put her hands to her face, and sobbed forcefully.
No one spoke for a long time. But finally, someone did.
“Is it still you Master Thrak?” asked the victor of Areia’s battle.
Thrak simply took a finger out of his sack. He stared at the diminutive rogue and attempted his “smile”. “Would you really care either way?” He looked around at the others. Their expressions ranged from confused to shocked. Happily thought Thrak, none of them had green eyes.
Zy’an then did something he had never done. He pulled down his cloak, revealing his face for the first time, His silver hair was brilliant, like Areia’s yet lighter, translucent almost The gemlike eyes shone outward from a masculine yet youthful face.
Glancing back at the lizardman, and with a quick hmmmphff as if she was only partially impressed with Zy’an’s reveal, she answered Thrak. “Probably not,” she sighed, “But I was hoping the new you might at least smell a bit better.”
Frank, who had the most noticeable transformation outwardly at least of them all smiled at Areia. “I confess, that I was thinking the same.”
“When we get back I’m putting in a request to have less humans in this adventure,” said Thrak. Their laughter was interrupted by a loud crack from above them! From above, the concentric circles began to slide down forming three cylinders, one inside of the other. In the narrowest, middle cylinder an opening, and in the opening, a simple stone stairwell going upwards.
A voice came from the stairwell, kindly yet bold, “Welcome Heroes! The Path awaits you!”
“The path of what?” said Frank.
Iricah pointed to the stairwell, backlit by a golden glow. “The path of light is lit for thee.” It is often spoken of in the Ballad of Light and Darkness. When heroes deeds will make it shown, the road to the path of light.” Said the archaeologist, and smiling, excited almost, she stepped into the stairwell, ascending the steps to the beyond above them. Her gaze was frozen upwards, her eyes wide and full of wonder.
By the time the others entered the smaller chamber at the top of the stairwell, Iricah had taken out her notebook and was deciphering the script written in various places. They were in another chamber. This one, like the one below, only smaller. Here, four statues stood. Each statue depicted one of the four heroes from legend. Although legend is slowly becoming the wrong word to describe this thought Iricah. Much more common than those below, these were likenesses of the simple variety one found in the Plaza of Heroes. Every Celn city had one, a meeting place. Here, they stood and gave a much different feel to the observer. They seemed out of place. Behind them, Aaround stone door of some kind against the opposite wall of the stairs.
One at a time, Iricah moved writing notes, and stood in front of the statues. She recited her transcription from her journal as she went along, the others watched her, waiting. Standing by a statue which pointed at the floor. She told them what they already knew, that this represented “The Warrior”. She read aloud the inscription written beneath.
The warrior shall be duty bound.
His weapon rests upon the ground.
She then moved to another spot and bent down to the pedestal there. This one was a feminine figure, which must have been the Great Mother they all knew, holding a bowl in her arms. She recanted the inscription for them identical to that of the ancient ballad as well.
Great mother’s blood will play a part, her enemies fear a noble heart.
The next statue was the easiest to decipher thought Thrak. It was a hooded figure who held his hand out, palm upwards, empty handed. “The Trickster?” he asked the archaeologist.
“Right you are, Master Thrak,” she smiled looking up from her notes. Her eyes were glowing with excitement. She looked like she had found the lost sword of Taryn or something thought Areia. She read that inscription to them next.
The trickster’s tool provides a spark
Between the goodness and the dark.
And finally, she walked to the last statue and knelt before it’s base, above which was clearly that of a man on one knee. Marcus gruffled a bit at that seeing both of them kneeling. Areia realized that was his laugh, and she giggled herself. Next to the carved figure lay a simple table, made coursely like the rest of the artwork in stone.
The dying god is he who can
Give more than what is in his hand.
Iricah looked at them then, but said nothing. No one spoke for a long time. Thrak watched Iricah. She had a look on her face that clearly was as confused as theirs but their was a twinkle in her eye, as if she was waiting for something to happen. After several moments of silence passed and for some reason, everyone seemed to look at Thrak. He wasn’t sure why, but something in him had changed. He had felt it since the battle with his twin. It was slight at first, but here and now, with them watching him he could feel it. In his chest, beating. A sense of something he wasn’t before. A courage that had risen to the top of his skin, prickling his flesh. For whatever reason, and not fully understanding why, he moved toward the warrior statue and took a knee there. Thrak then placed his axe at it’s feet. Behind them all, the large round circular door cracked loudly. A brilliant light emitted from it, casting multi-colored beams around the room. Upon his scales, the light shimmered.
“Well done, Master Thrak,” said Iricah. “The warrior.”
Thrak nodded, still confused. Something felt important in him though. But he couldn’t explain it just then to the others. Not until much later, at least.
“Well, I’ll not be undone here,” piped Areia, “besides I sense a huge treasure allotment from the DM!” Or perhaps that wasn’t what she said. Perhaps, she said, “I’ll not come all this way, and risk my life and have my getaway ship confiscated empty handed.” So saying, Areia placed a dagger upon the hands of the hooded figure. But, melodramatically, nothing happened. “Well, fine!” she pouted.
“He who can,” said Zy’an, “give more than what is in his hand.” With his silver hair radiating light from the portal’s brilliant beams, he removed the ring he coveted and placed it on the table of the kneeling man. It was a decision that came quickly for whatever reason the mysterious monk had chosen. Crack went the portal behind him. The others looked at him still unsure what to think. “The dying god,” mouthed Iricah watching the light grow brighter all around them.
“To Ket with this,” said Areia. “Squeaks come here buddy. You’re the best tool anyone has around here.” She placed her little friend upon the hand of the hooded figure. “Damn thing better not hurt my buddy!” The little mouse stretched it’s legs out as she pulled it from her pocket, and sniffed the stone hand. He looked up at Areia and it might have been her imaginaation, but his whiskers stopped at just that moment. Crack.
“I think he’ll be alright Areia,” said Iricah coming to stand beside her. The light shone even more brilliantly obscuring much of their faces and expressions upon them. She was smiling but also seemed empathetic to the rogue. Everyone knew how important her friend was to her. “A true trickster indeed, you are Areia.”
“Yeah, well don’t count on anything fancy, bard,” laughed Areia. “The only trick I care about is the one that gets me the heck out of here and back to the ship with coin in my pocket. Come on back over here Squeaks,” she said reaching out for the small creature.
“But what about The Great Mother?” said Marcus. “Great mother’s blood?” He turned to Ulua wondering. Ulua though looked as if the great mother statue had come alive, and was trying to attack her. She backed away from it, but in so doing hit her head upon another, that of the trickster, whose arm was extended at an unfortunate angle. The light from the portal was becoming so intense that her hands went in front of her face to shield it from the glare while she cried out with the pain of hitting her head. She spun inadvertantly, then and as she did so her left hand scraped the front of the statue of the great mother. The whole thing happened so awkwardly, so strangely, that it almost seemed coreographed like one of the dance troops practicing for a show in the noble’s quarter. The great mother’s statue had been carved in such a way that it’s robes appeared to be blowing as if in the wind, and the edges of the stone, meant to be the whipping gown actually made several pointy spikes. Ulua’s hand bumped into one of these. A small red dot appeared on the gown’s edge.
A single drop of blood trickled down her thumb and landed in the stone basin beneath it.
Ulua, watching the blood drip into the bowl, stood open mouthed. But she wasn’t looking at the others, or the now gleaming light edging around the portal’s periphery. She was staring at the stairwell, where a shadow had just appeared. She stood frozen, as did they all, while voices from a long time ago, foreign yet familiar invited them. Soothingly. Like an invitation to come home.
The Hero’s Journey is complete
In tome and deed the past does meet
Those Heroes from a distant land, with knowledge lost once in defeat.