Diary, I have an apology to make. I realise you don't have feelings and that apologising to you doesn't actually accomplish anything, but it'll make me feel better for the way I've been treating you. So, for what it's worth, I'm sorry. I've been kind of out of it for the last few days, but I think I was scribbling in you to keep myself awake and... sane. The nightmares I've had recently have made me scared of sleeping. Anyway, I'm feeling a little better now, so I can stop drawing such things. I've taken the pages out, but I'll hold on to them anyway. I know for sure that the visions I saw were real, and they may turn out to be important. Anyway, I'll go back and write about what actually happened over the last few days, but a lot of it is kind of hazy.
Okay, so when I left off we'd just escaped from the mine with our new hostage. Vincent was wonderful and organised the dwarves into properly blocking off that part of the mine to ensure that nobody would follow us, and with that sorted we went back to the village. The villagers gave us all drinks for being heroes and saving them from the goblins, which was nice although confusing as they mistook me for a hero again, when what I'd mostly done was get beaten senseless by goblins. Jacob said the elf's equipment belonged to us as spoils of victory, and it didn't look like anyone wanted to argue. We took the elf back to daddy's old house to talk to him where we'd be out of the way of the village.
Let's see what I remember here. His name was Tries, and he spoke common badly. The others let me do the talking, as I'm the least intimidating, and also part elf. Unfortunately he wasn't very friendly and continued to say horrible things about me. The others he didn't seem to mind, it was just me he had an issue with. I decided I wasn't getting anywhere, so I went to make some tea to calm him down, leaving Argent and Marigold to talk to him. When I returned Argent and Marigold were looking a little sheepish (I guess they just feel awkward around strangers) and Tries looked a little glad to see that we were going to feed him. He was however still very insulting to me, so I suggested to Argent that she should take over, and got up to leave. At this point he suddenly became very helpful and told us everything we needed to know.
So what did we need to know? well, there's a large network of tunnels under our city in which a civilisation of drow live, Tries is actually a drow, but the magical mutations among his people leave some of them pale skinned. They have maybe as many as a thousand drow living down there, and they mostly worship the spider god. She's very bad news indeed. Most of their people are mages, the labour and menial work is done by goblins, and Tries is very lowly ranked. We'll be in trouble if they decide to come our way. After finding this out, we handed Tries over to Jacob to look after, and turned in for the night.
More pressing than even the drow problem is our current food shortage. Even with the best magic, it's going to take the drow a very long time to clear a route out to where we live, and they may not even want to. The food shortage will leave a lot of people in our village starving to death if we don't fix it. So, with the blessings of the council, and a cart full weapons and other trade goods (things the village have in abundance and can afford to spare) we set out to travel along thr road out of the village. We don't know what's out there, but old Nathan comes from that direction, and he brings goods to trade, so there must be people somewhere, right?
Vincent took charge of the group, Marigold and Terato took point, scouting out the larger monsters in the area and ensuring we could avoid them. Argent watched the rear, and Ayeena insisted that she pull the cart so I wouldn't have to. I tried my best to help out, but Ayeena is still the paladin, and can endure any hardship it seems. And so sustained by adventure, and garbed in the hopes and future of the village, we set out to find civilisation.
Today we travelled. Terato and Vincent did some hunting, and caught a deer. They were very modest about it, and said that a skitterer had done all the work for them, but really they managed to catch us a dear.
More travelling. Ayeena is letting me pull the cart with her on occasion, so I feel useful. Terato is a master huntsman and is making sure we avoid anything we wouldn't want to come up across. Nothing has come up behind us. The nastiest thing in the area is a creature he calls an "owlbear" which is supposedly half owl and half bear, how weird is that? I mean it doesn't even make any sense! I suppose with the magical damage the world took during the cataclysm pretty much any mix of animals could exist.
I don't dream very often, and when I do they tend to be vague dreams of things I don't understand or recognise, and I barely remember them anyway. When I do remember a dream it's often immediately important, or turns out to have some meaning later. I was surprised tonight to have one of the most vivid dreams I've ever had.
The meadows were endless, verdant, viridian. The brease was cool, and it ran through my hair as I rode my horse over the sea of green. I had a horse, I knew how to ride it, somehow, she was beautiful, but her name was not important. A gleam of metal, suddenly in front of me as I dismount. A large shining metal cage, masterfully worked from the finest steel, and cold to the touch, despite the warm sun shining on its surface. A beautiful man, half-elf, perfect, but dishevelled, shirtless, trapped, dismayed, saddened, caged. He grasps the bars and looks into my eyes, pleading. He speaks, but I do not hear him, and then the dream is gone.
When I awoke, I discovered that the others had all seen the same dream as me. Very strange, it must be a portent of something... but what? The only weirdness was that everybody saw the prisoner as a man of their own race, so I guess if he isn't a metaphor, he's probably not the half-elf I saw. Pity. Today's travel was uneventful, no signs of another settlement, but my map says we should soon be approaching a river with a bridge over it. When I was on watch at night I had the same dream again, coming to me as a vision. This time when he looked at me, there was understanding. While I could not hear him, I could understand what he was saying. He was trapped within the cage, forced each day to build... a house of some kind? at the end of the day he would destroy the house, although I do not know why. Then he would build it again.
I remembered something the village wise woman once said, about dreams that are so real you can become a part of them. This dream was starting to worry me, it was certainly unnatural, so I decided to reach into it, and when I did, the facade melted away to show another dream.
The city was made of brass, every surface ablaze, perpetual fire. I was barefoot and the fire burned my feet. Figures, hooded, moved among the houses the battlements, the walls, as though the fire was... natural, right. Their skin was red or black, and it became obvious that they too, were creatures born of these fires. I saw one of their faces, handome, yet twisted, evil, overbearing. It grinned at me, a cold calculating look as if this was it's rightful place, and I was to be punished for tresspassing, a look of experience that spoke volumes, that the torture it could inflict upon me would be total, unbearable. And then there was only pain.
I awoke, screaming, clutching at my feet, only to find them burned by the vision. Vincent chastised me for "falling asleep" on my watch, and then Argent took over, ordering me to bed again. Every time I closed my eyes, the vision returned, and I could not shake it. The pain the torture inflicted upon me jarred me awake, until the next time I drifted off.
For the next few days, was it only two days? we travelled, there were no new incidents, but as I closed my eyes, the visions would return, denying me sleep, denying me rest. At times as we walked, fatigue would set in, and I would falter or stumble. The heroes, not used to travelling with dead weight didn't notice my predicament and pressed onwards. I managed to keep myself awake by sketching images of my visions in this diary. In the afternoon of the second day of this, we came across a tavern by the road.
Wait, what? What's a building like that doing all the way out here? and a busy tavern with music and a full stable? These places only exist in the stories. Perhaps the lack of sleep was taking its toll on me, but perhaps not - others could see it too. Vincent however could not, and told us that it was an illusion. I wanted to cry. Vincent broke through the illusion for be, and led us to the basement, where a creature was trapped. No less, it was one of the creatures from my nightmares, a being of pure evil and fire.
We discovered that the dreams of the man in the cage came from the creature, that called itself an efreet, that he was magically bound here, to lure travellers to the inn so its owners could kill them and steal their wealth. When the cataclysm came, its captors died, and it was trapped, still forced to create the illusion of a friendly tavern. Vincent made a bargain with it, and freed it. It was the right thing to do, as now it won't send dreams to any other people. In addition, no creature, evil or not, should be trapped in eternal slavery. Vincent is also sure that it can't return to this plane without our permission.
The efreeti left, and we beat a hasty retreat from the illusion of the tavern, before it exploded. Unfortunately at this point, between the fatigue of having no sleep for three days of hard travel and the horror of seeing the nightmares that tormented me in the waking world, it all became too much for me, and I blacked out.