It has cost us, though — and me especially. It is no secret among our group that there is little love lost between Blizzard and me, but I will be doing penance for a good long while for my actions earlier today. I contributed half the resurrection price, but it hardly seems enough. The fact I was bespelled when I slew one of my own companions doesn’t salve my conscience.
At least Blizzard seems back to normal, more or less. As unlikable as ever (although I cannot truly blame him for his hostility towards me at present).
We are now headed back to the mage college to resume our attempts to enter the library and retrieve the information these clerics need to cure the zombie disease. We have devised some strategies for avoiding a repeat of the disaster inflicted by the ‘Guardian of the library’ spell. Squirrel managed to cross that threshold without ruin this morning. Perhaps he can do so again, with a few safeguards in place…
It’s been a truly terrible day. After losing and reviving Blizzard this morning, we have now lost Squirrel — literally. He succumbed to the library spell, disappeared into the bowels of the college and never came out.
This is bad. Really bad.
Earlier, we triggered a cloud of poisonous gas in one of the corridors (which almost did for me), and we fear Squirrel entered it in his bespelled state. It’s pitch dark inside the college without mage light, so we cannot even search for him without succumbing to the poison gas ourselves.
To make matters worse, Nightshade is unconscious and not responding to healing. During our exploration of the ground floor of the college this afternoon, she succumbed to a fear charm at the entrance of what looks like a great hall. I didn’t get the chance to enter, before she was fleeing out the front door of the college.
We hadn’t dared to open the front door yet — for good reason, as it turns out. In her blind panic, Nightshade found herself facing four of the whirling wind creatures on her own. Once she fell, I managed to drag her back inside, but now we cannot bring her around at all. We can only hope the clerics of Phanator are able to help her.
Darkness has fallen and we are a sorry trio stumbling back to the temple for the night, carrying one companion and missing another. I am still weak after my encounter with the poison gas, and Blizzard is probably still coming to terms with his death experience. Alix remains our strength.
We fear Squirrel is dead.
I didn’t think today could get any worse. I was wrong.
The clerics say Nightshade has succumbed to the zombie disease. They can do nothing for her — although they have fortunately restored my depleted constitution. This makes me even more determined to find them information that will help them develop a cure.
We cannot let Nightshade turn into a zombie.
The clerics tell us that she must be fed blood. I can barely comprehend it. Blood. Blizzard, Alix and I have each allowed her to feed from us, and she is now awake.
Her eyes are now red and she is still weak. She has begged me to take Domino, her ferret companion, until her blood cravings ease. (I’m not sure what Fleet will think of this.) Apparently Nightshade no longer needs sleep or any other human sustenance.
I do not know how I will sleep tonight. I cannot stop thinking about Nightshade’s predicament, but she is our companion and we will find a way to save her.
And Squirrel. His motivations may be a mystery sometimes, but he has proven his loyalty to our quest time after time. I hope to blessed Emrys we can retrieve him safely tomorrow. I fear we will once more be grateful for the presence of Geretam and his fellow clerics.
And then of course there is Elliana — the cleric of Elloran who stole the Left Eye of Varrien. She is the whole reason we are here in this desolate abandoned city. Geretam is not sure how much longer they can delay her departure. And even if they do, we somehow need to figure out how to wrest the Eye from her.
the next day…
Last thing I remember was stepping across the threshold of the library. I’d done it before, no ill effects — unlike Zillah, going berserk and killing Blizzard out of some ensorcelled sense of protectiveness for the mage school.
Next thing I know, I’m returning to consciousness on a cold altar at the temple. Alix is saying, “Welcome back”, and Zillah and Nightshade are helping me off the slab, my legs as weak as a newborn foal’s. Alix calls down some holy goodness and before too long I’m able to proceed under my own steam, the woolly fog cleared from my mind.
“I died again, didn’t I?” I ask. This weakness, the confusion, the sense of having been gutted of all energy and fitness, is sadly familiar.
“We had to give up your cloak in part payment,” Zillah says, and I count the loss of yet another piece of magical accoutrement. I’m pretty much down to just the dagger I’ve borrowed from Blizzard and the bracers my parents gave me. And I can feel the loss of physical fitness; coming back from the dead takes its toll. I should know – that’s twice now. Third time’s the charm?
The others fill in some of the blanks: I’d been trying to access the library again, and I’d fallen foul of the charm ward, been turned into a guardian. My companions had the good sense to stay out of my way; but then, presumably, I embarked on a perimeter search or perhaps undertook an inventory.
They found my body in a hallway filled with poison gas, the remnants of a trap we’d triggered earlier. Fortunately, it had been dissipated sufficiently for them to retrieve my corpse.
Pause to consider that, again. My corpse.
Is this mission worth the risk of dying again? Yes, I’ve become a more accomplished mage; yes, my skills at larceny have been honed. But my body, and my mind, have been weakened, and I’ve precious little to show for the all the discomfort and death other than a bulging spell book.
Heh. That could be payment enough, if I could just get my mind around them. But for that I need to transpose them into my own grimoire, to imprint them, to harness them, to my will. And for that I need special ink…
And the next morning…
I was so wrong about Elliana! She is truly the nicest and most honest cleric I have ever met. I knew I was right in thinking her motives in taking the Eye from the Church Elloran were altruistic. She and I sat down together last night and talked everything through.
I’m not sure why she’s interested in learning about magic portals, but since we finally managed to get all the books out of the library yesterday (a good present for the newly resurrected Squirrel — he needed a quiet day to regather his strength), I was able to retrieve all the books we hadn’t already given to the clerics of Phanator (on plants and the like), and which Squirrel hadn’t already claimed for himself.
I felt a little bad sneaking out to the college in the dead of night, not telling my companions, but they wouldn’t understand. Besides, Elliana swore me to secrecy, and I trust her. (They have busted me now, though… they noticed all the books were gone today. I have tried to explain to them that Elliana is our friend and we should help her — and let her help us — but they don’t believe me.)
And at least it means Elliana is now staying an extra day while she reads through the books I salvaged for her. I’m looking forward to seeing her this evening and hearing whether they were helpful.
In the meantime, we continue to search for answers in this terrible college, risking death with every step. The clerics need still more information to cure the zombie disease, and we are hoping to find objects and information that will aid (and fund) our quest. Most of the rooms are little more than dull classrooms — although we did find a most useful storage room with all kinds of useful gear, and a few other miscellaneous rooms of little interest.
The most interesting doors are protected by fierce magics. I don’t know how we’re going to get past most of them. Perhaps I should ask Elliana tonight whether she will aid us — assuming we make it through the rest of the day…
Did I mention I need magic ink?
It might be worth risking death again, because in that school of magery is a workshop. And in that workshop, I suspect, are all the ingredients I need to make up a useful batch of ink – and who knows what other valuable trinkets might be in there?
But the workshop is guarded by a beholder, and it is a fearsome sentry. My father told me of them, these concoctions of master wizards. It is a floating ball of stalks set around a central eye, with each stalk ending in a tiny eye. Forget sneaking up on a beholder. Each eye is more than just observant – each has a special power. The ones my father mentioned were spells such as paralysis, weakness of mind and body, and, of course, death.
I’ve convinced my companions to finish searching the school, in hope of finding a keyword or somesuch to disarm the beholder. Failing that, we’ll have to fight it, assuming I can convince my colleagues the potential payoff is worth it. But I’m up for it. I need to be able to access these spells. Our lives might depend on one of them.
Still, in the back of my mind rings the warning: third time’s the charm.