Part 7 : Seekers of the Lost City
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Posted 27 October 2002 - 05:56 PM
Twilight 7: Seekers of the Lost City
It was one hell of a party.
After the defeat of the blue dragon Triop'isyiiljias, the party slowly headed back to the oasis where the bedouine-camp was located. With the brown dragon Hyyr'uitychtj in tow, the party was welcomed back to their waiting arms. After a few tense moments, since it turned out the bedouines had never seen their protector from this short a distance, the tide turned and thus began one of the greatest celebrations in the history of this Bedouine-tribe. For a whole week, music sounded across the desert valley, wine flowed bountiful, as did the supply of dates, pomegrenates and horse-meat. Belly-dancers danced like there was no tomorrow, and the waterpipes had to be constantly refilled (as did Gerty's lungs).
Eventually, Vierna thought it was time to get on with their quest and, often with exceeding difficulty, varying per party-member, she managed to tear her party away from the festivities. Fully loaded with food and supplies, the camels were ready to leave, with the ever-moody mule Carla in tow. The great dragon Hyyr'uitychtj led them away from the camp, with all the bedouines standing in a row beside their tents to see them off.
The trip took eight days, across the sandy planes of the Calimport alongside the great Marching Mountains still looming in the distance, attending every oasis on the way as well. After eight more days of excrusiating heat and sandy winds, the party was relieved to finally stand in the shadow of a gigantic steep face of rock.
"We are here," Hyyr'uitychtj said as he surveyed the area.
"Certainly took you long enough, browny," Gerty claimed and rubbed her painful red nose. "You try being a red-headed gnome in this sun!"
"It would have taken us a lot shorter if you didn't insist upon trivialities like 'eating', 'sleeping' and 'refilling the waterbags'," Hyyr'uitychtj sneered, then chuckled. "And those camels weren't too quick either."
"Unlike you, Hyrr," Vierna chuckled, "we need more than sand and rocks to keep, well, living..."
"Elves," Hyyr'uitychtj snorted. "Well, let's not dwell on this... This is as far as I'll go. You're on your own."
"Scaredy Cat, Scaredy Cat, sitting on the doormat!" Gerty sung with a mocking tone.
"Are you a professional death-wish artist or is that some kind of hobby?" Glyill snarled.
"Make fun if you wish," the ancient brown dragon snorted. "But I didn't get to live this long by traipsing around cursed cities. I'm not staying here either..."
"How will we get out of the desert without a proper guide?" Vierna asked. "We are already far off the map our friend Daoud gave us."
"I'll give you this scroll," Hyyr'uitychtj offered. "It's a modified Limited Wish-spell I have been preparing when you were all busy sleeping. If cast, you will be transported to the nearest person that is friendly towards you. Even in the worst case, it will still take you back to the bedouine camp!"
"And back to more partying?" Lenny finished with a grin.
"Quite," Hyyr'uitychtj replied. "You'll find the remains of Handretta a few hundred yards to the east, in an incline of this stoneface, protecting it from the sun and the sandstorms... at least, before Shar cursed the damn place."
"Alright," Vierna said. "We'll leave the camels here and proceed on foot. If Daoud's cousin Rabba is right, we are bound to run into undead creatures. Load all weapons and some supplies on the mule and let's go."
Hyyr'uitychtj could swear he heard the mule Carla snarl at being dragged along yet again as he saw his friends step into the distance. Solumnly wishing them luck, he turned around and strolled back to his burrows in the valley now far away.
"Hmmm," Vierna said as she took a gander through the rocky incline to look upon the supposedly cursed city from a distance. "Doesn't look very cursed to me. I certainly don't sense anything unnatural."
"Nor I anything evil," Lenny mused.
"Probably for a reason," Glyill added grimly.
Brimstone, however, didn't like the look of the city one bit and showed it by growling and whining as the party drew nearer.
The city of Handratta itself looked basically like any other abandoned place. Handratta was fairly large, and the varying architecture betrayed that the city had had numerous urban development projects in the past. All buildings were low-rise, often only having a single floor, yet had a relatively spacious look to them, save for the large palace in the distance, built in typical Calishite style. The city was bone-dry however. Cracks ran across the tiled streets and houses, and there was not a living creature anywhere. Not a bird, an insect, a plant or even a cactus. The party was greeted with utter silence. Not even the wind howled in this abysmal place.
"I don't see any of those golden treasures Rabba spoke of," Gerty broke the silence with a disappointed groan.
"Nor any disgusting undead, thankfully," Shivon sighed in relief.
Brimstone, however, was still suspicious and getting more and more agitated by the minute.
"What's up with him?" Glyill asked.
"Hmmm," Vierna said. "I'd say it could range from 'Dragons Ahead' to 'Dammit, I've Got Chiggers In My Nose', but I really don't think anyone has been here for centuries. The dust is undisturbed."
"What about the inhabitants?" Lenny asked.
"I'd say they left as quickly as possible," Vierna said, noticing the half-loaded rotting cart in the middle of the street and the remants of possessions long forgotten laying strewn across the porches of some homes.
"We should look for the Fountain of Forgetfullness and get out of here as fast as we can," Glyill offered.
"That palace seems like a good place to start," Gerty said, pointing in the distance. "Might find some left-over treasure too!"
"Okay, let's look around and see if you can spot a fountain..."
Shivon, Vierna, Brimstone and Gerty arrived at what once was a thriving Medina-square, but was now as silent as a tomb. A dried well sat in the middle of the square and, as in every other part of the city, the dust hadn't been disturbed for ages. Glyill and Lenny had gone ahead to scout the palace, while the rest had decided to check out the main squares.
Shivon wondered what they would find here. The very place set the hairs in the back of his neck on end. Suddenly, he was overcome by a sudden dizzyness and blurred vision. After taking a moment to rub his painful eyes, he noticed he was not in Handretta anymore.
Instead, he seemed to be floating in a miasma of swirling grey. Somehow, he felt calm and at ease while a figure emerged from the dark horizon. Try as he might, he could not make out who the figure was.
"Son," the figure greeted, and finally Shivon recognized her.
"Mother," Shivon greeted coldy, still remembering their last meeting in Suldenesselar.
"Son," the figure answered with sadness. "Please do not speak of me with such coldness in your voice. Ever since you... left, I have been feeling so empty... so alone..."
"I'm sorry," Shivon softened a little. "But it's your own fault..."
"Shivon," the figure wept silently, "you are my son. My only child. I love you... I only wanted to protect you..."
"I love you too, mother," Shivon said while a single tear rolled over his cheek. "But what you did... You KNEW how much she meant to me, and you still..."
"I was wrong," the figure lamented and seemed to be crying herself. "I was so very wrong. I thought she would lead you on a path of evil... and... I see now that that was never the case... I've done a lot of thinking. And... I've come to the conclusion I only have myself to blame for losing you..."
"Losing?" Shivon asked. "You've never lost me, mother. I... planned to return sometime soon and..."
"Son!" the figure wept. "Please... I need to know you can... forgive me for what I have done to you. I... I'm so very sorry and... I want to be a part of your life again..."
"And what about Vierna?" Shivon asked.
"I will... accept her as a member of the family, Shivon," the figure confirmed. "I hope only that... you can forgive me."
"Of course, I can, mother!" Shivon cried. "I love you!"
"Come to my arms, my son!" the figure replied with tears in her eyes while she extended her arms.
With tears of joy, Shivon prepared to fling himself into his mother's arms, but soon enough, something held him back. Try as he might, he could not shake lose. Then his vision started to clear again....
And Shivon noticed he was about to impale himself on an upright sharpened piece of wood. Startled, Shivon managed to stand his ground. Glancing over his shoulder, he noticed a growling Brimstone holding the end of his robe in his mouth, and the huge hellhound promptly released it when he noticed Shivon was in control again.
"Thanks," Shivon sighed in relief while Brimstone barked for good measure.
Then, Shivon saw the city for what it truly was : a tomb. The town still looked the same, but Shivon was startled to find hundreds of dessicated skeletons on this square alone. Some were crumbling to dust from age, while others looked looked to be only have been there for less than a year. It was certain that all these poor individuals had died a violent death. Some seemed to have impaled themselves, as Shivon almost did. Others seemed to have killed each other, while some had flung themselves from rooftops. Some had weapons inserted through their eye-sockets, and more than a few were incomplete. Some were wearing tattered rags, other lavish armors... but they were all dead... And his Vierna were nowhere in sight.
"Where are the others?" Shivon asked Brimstone in a slightly panicked state.
Brimstone barked in reply, intending his friend to follow.
"Vierna!" Rauva shouted as Vierna crossed the hills leading to her beloved home : De'Arnese Keep, her favorite place to be in all the Realms. She smiled as her sister Rauva ran into the courtyard, where her parents as well as her brother Valas were having a lovely dinner. Vierna revelled in the air of home... The lush green hills. The furtile fields. The beautiful forests.
"Sis!" Valas greeted as Vierna smiled and approached the table where hundreds of delicassies from all over Toril were displayed.
"Hello there, Vierna," her father greeted with a hearty smile.
"My child," Viconia smiled and rose from her seat. "Welcome back home Ssinjin Eoul. We have saved a seat at the table for you."
"Thanks, momma," Vierna chuckled heartily while a single tear ran over her cheek.
"Are you here to stay?" Rauva grinned hopefully.
"To stay," Vierna answered blissfully.
"Come then, child. Take your place at the table," Viconia offered.
Suddenly, as she was about to step forward, she was knocked off her feet, and before she knew what was happening, she noticed she was suddenly being licked by a fiery, wet tongue. Her vision turned to normal... and saw she had almost jumped down the well in the center of the square. A smiling Shivon helped her to her feet while she scratched Brimstone behind the ear.
God-Emporess of The Sword Coast, Scourge of Turnip-Beetles and Richest Gnome in all of Toril, sat upon her throne of solid gold in her palace build in the huge city New Turnipville. She sat back contently as two Drow males fanned her with large feathers.
"Fan a little more, guys," Gerty chuckled. "If you're lucky, I'll even tell you a story about my uncle Jan."
Looking forward to hearing the story, the Drow males started to fan with fanatic devotion. Then, another Drow male came walking towards her carrying a tray filled with a choice of exotic turnip-types.
"I'll have a Granny Cormyr right now, thank you," she said and took a turnip.
Again, two Drow males entered, this time carrying a large bathtub filled to the brim with gold and jewels.
"Ah!" Gerty rubbed her hands. "My afternoon Treasure Bath!"
Then, Gerty did some quick callistentics and jumped towards the golden bath : Only to find herself suspended above the bath in mid-air. Her vision returned, and she found herself staring at the hard stones of the square from atop one of the houses.
"OH, MAN!" she cried, while Vierna put her on the ground.
Glyill Nightshadow slowly made her way through the swirling black mist, holding her weapon, prepared for all that might have at her...
"So," a familiar voice sounded from the darkness, and a half-elven male took shape a few meters in front of her, "there she is... The Star of the Show."
"Tirantis," Glyill snarled. "Why don't you go sit on a spear?"
"Tsk, tsk," Tirantis replied. "And we used to be soooo close," he chuckled.
"Close?" Glyill laughed. "We used each other, nothing more."
"I took you from the streets... Educated you... gave you a purpose. And look at you now, how laughable you have become. The most talented and powerful assassin of the Shadow thieves seems to have turned into a pathetic little Imatarian Cleric... Tell me, have you been suffering nicely the last few years?"
"I've never felt such freedom before my entry in the Ilamatarian faith," Glyill retorted.
"Are you telling me, that the assassin who slit Lord Cleos' throat during a dinner-party, the assassin who killed Stormbringer Grual in his own temple, the assassin who killed the Meisarch herself, the assassin who found a way to end Lord Rhombus' life... is now praying for the sick and wounded? Giving bread to starving children? Playing hero alongside famous adventurers?"
"You've just answered your own question, dungbreath," she grinned.
"A stroke of pure genius, the murder of Rhombus, I mean. You took note that he stopped to sniff the flowers outside the Council Chambers each morning and prayed them with a volatile toxin, thus bringing the toxins from his dinner, the toxins on his clothes and the toxins on the flowers together to simulate a heart attack... No one ever knew the truth except you and me. Come on," he said while stepping closer to run his hands through Glyill's raven hair. "Don't tell me you don't miss it. You still wear black. You are still a stalker. You miss the easy life, don't you? The power over life and death. The thrill of the kill... Our nights of passion together."
"Fool!" Glyill laughed heartily. "I faked it everytime! I used you to advance my station in the guild, like you used me!"
"Fake?" Tirantis grimaced in unease. "The time to celebrate my elevation to Shadowmaster? The time during our trip to Sembia? The time in Lady Jyssev's bed while she was in the next room? The time after you had assassinated Isaea Roenall?"
"Fake, fake, fake and fake," Glyill laughed, then spit in his face.
"Never mind!" Tirantis screamed. "But you were always fond on taking the easy way out, Glyill. Don't bother denying it. But it's not too late." Immediately, a bound woman, weeping from fear, appeared from the mist, looking up Glyill with pleading eyes.
"Kill her... And you can return to your old ways. Damn Ilmater, damn morality, damn your friends. And damn redemption. Choose the easy path, Glyill..."
For a moment, Glyill waved... Then, she drew a knife from her boot and rose it high above the crying woman... only to slash her bonds to let her go free.
"Damn YOU!" Glyill said. "Don't you know how often I have dreamed about gutting you like a pig, Tirantis! Looks like I'll get my wish after all..."
Grinning evilly, Glyill swung her holy mace at Tirantis' head.
"... and by the power given to me, I pronounce thee man and wife," the elderly Dawnmaster of Lathander declared, while all wedding guests cried out in joy.
Looking over his shoulder, Lenny noticed Vierna, Gerty and Shivon were shouting joyiously at the top of their lungs while Brimstone howled. The day was lovely, and the wedding was being held under the open sky in the pastoral landscape of Keep De'Arnese.
"You my kiss the bride," the Dawnmaster smiled.
Lenny regarded his lovely bride. She was wearing a lovely white dress, which still could not hide her beautiful form. He lifted his newly wedded wife's veil... and stared into the deep-green eyes of Glyill Nightshadow. Immediately, he was overcome by her sheer beauty. Her long raven hair... her sharp half-elven features... her light complexion and her smiling lips. A few moments later, he took her in a passionate embrace and kissed her gently. The scent of cinnemon tickled his nostils as he tasted her sweet lips.
"Okay, PARTY IS OVER!" sounded from behind him.
"Tirantis!" Glyill shouted in intense anger. "How typical of the likes of you to ruin my perfect wedding!"
"She's coming back with ME!" Tirantis snarled.
"Over my dead body, thief!" Lenny sneered, rose his spear and engaged.
"What are those two idiots doing?" Gerty asked as she and her friends arrived at the Square in front of the palace. It had taken little effort to follow the sounds of weapons being slammed into each other in this quiet city.
"We'd better break this up soon!" Vierna said, after noticing both cleric and paladin were fighting each other with fanatical devotion.
"Grab him!" Shivon said while grabbing hold of Lenny's spear.
"Got her!" Vierna cried as she could barely hold on to Glyill.
"Lenny?" Glyill finally asked.
"G... Glyill?" Lenny asked and cast his eyes down. "I... Oh, sweet Lathander, I almost killed you!"
"You almost killed me?" Glyill chuckled. "Fat chance!"
"Well, I guess we've found out what happened to the inhabitants of this town," Gerty chuckled. "As well as all those missing treasurehunters."
"Yeah," Vierna said. "It seems we have broken the curse for now. If it hadn't been for Brimstone, we would have joined them."
Brimstone simply barked once, as if to say 'it was nothing'.
The sound of water behind them alerted them to the presence of the only source of water in this city. A small fountain was located in the palace courtyard. Several corpses were lying around it with extended arms, as if they had tried to reach it in their final moments.
"And there is the Fountain of Forgetfulness," Vierna grinned.
"How can you tell?" Shivon asked. "It looks like a simple fountain to me."
Still grinning, Vierna pointed to the base of the fountain. There, engraved in the stone, the words 'FOUNTAIN OF FORGETFULNESS' were cleary legible.
"Oh," Shivon chuckled and blushed.
Being careful not to touch the water itself, Vierna filled one of her waterskins with the clear, blue water and gently put the waterskin in her Bag of Holding.
"So," Shivon asked. "What kind of visions did you all have?"
"I was queen of the world," Gerty sighed.
"I was home," Vierna smiled.
"My mother..." Shivon simply said.
"I had a chance to settle an old score," Glyill grinned.
"It's, erm, personal," Lenny answered carefully.
Suddenly, Vierna whipped her head around, staring across the mainstreet.
"Hey, look!" Gerty suddenly shouted. "Look at that stupid donkey!" Indeed, Carla had just walked up a ramp and was standing on the top of one of the houses surrounding the palace. The mule was looked down upon the streets with a thoughtful, yet sour expression.
"EVERYBODY GET OFF THE GROUND!" Vierna suddenly shouted and motioned her friends to run towards the ramp themselves.
Soon enough, a large lump under the mainstreet appeared out of nowhere, pushing all rocks and skeletons aside. Then, the lump stopped as if sensing for prey, and then headed towards the party post-haste.
"Oh, man!" Gerty shouted as she was hoisted up the ramp. "Can we never get a break?"
"I'm guessing 'no'," Glyill offered as she jumped in the air and flipped on top of the roof.
"Careful!" Vierna shouted, and Brimstone barely made it unto the ramp, before a large reptilian creature emerged from the ground.
"It's a Hatori!" Vierna yelled. "Sand-reptiles... They sometimes snack away entire caravans."
"Oh, just GREAT!" Gerty asked. "How are we supposed to out of here?!"
"I'm guess we don't, unless you want to become a snack," Glyill offered.
"Maybe if I give it a turnip, it'll go away?" Gerty asked.
"Or it might consider it an appitizer!" Lenny retorted.
Then, the building shook twice.
"Tell me this isn't happening," Gerty sniffed.
"This isn't happening," Glyill answered. "You are not about to be digested by a Hatori. In fact, this is all a bad dream because you've eaten too many turnips last night."
"Glyill's open mouthy should be shut!" Gerty snarled.
"How many times have you heard that in your life-time?" Glyill chuckled.
"Shivon!" Vierna yelled and tossed Shivon the scroll. He started to read, but then... The building started to collapse... The scared elven mage managed to finish the last word of the spell when he was about to fall into the Hatori's gaping maw... The entire party (plus the mule Carla) was engulved by a white light and the Hatori lost its meal...
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