Chapter 13 – The Erstland Wastes

Late the next morning, after our heroes have rested well from their busy night, a servant awakens them and announces that the the king once again called all of the refugees to the gates of the castle. Bleary-eyed they get dressed and emerge from their tent.

This time King Arayen has a great smile upon his face as he says, “Truly we are blessed with heroes in our midst! Last evening these brave souls single-handedly saved our city from the snake-like terrors that attacked through the sewers.” He makes a broad gesture towards the party. “I have sent many soldiers and a group of Kaern Arc-miners to seal the sewers off so they may never be breached like this again. So, these brave souls, who will leave us soon to complete an urgent mission, must be thanked by us all.”

The crowd cheers as the King retreats back into the castle. Elowisyl seeks out any maidens that are cheering for them, and gives many hugs and squeezes. They throw their hankerchiefs after him, and he catches a few. After the crowd calms, a servant approaches the party and asks them once again to come into the castle.

The King, Erillas and Combellon greet them, and the King says “You are true heroes, and since you are our last and best hope, our prayers go with you. Here is a little thing for you,” he gestures to Atentir, and hands him a tiny bottle with a leaf inside. “Yeador tells me that this is an Aska leaf, and has great healing powers. Use it well.”

Erillas approaches Elowisyl and gives him a very old looking parchment. “This is an enchanted parchment. I carry its twin — when you write upon one, the words appear on the other. We will use this to keep in contact on your travels.” Elowisyl is excited to receive this gift, but his brother Galandil scoffs in jealousy for having received nothing.

“Now,” the King says, “We have arranged for you to speak with a man who lived in Jerech. He is very old, so you must not excite him too much. This is a very delicate subject for him.” The party is taken to an adjascent room where an old man named Grees lies. He has scraggly white hair and a long beard, and is covered with liverspots. His sightless eyes are white with cataracts.

“They told me you would be coming to ask me questions,” he croaks in a weak voice. “What do you wish to know?”

“What can you tell us of Jerech?” Elowisyl says.

“I grew up there, working in the salt mines. When I turned fifteen, I started working in the salt processing beds, where we harvested the purified salt so it could be exported.”

“How old were you when you started?” Meran says, a bit surprised.

“Eight years old. I had a large family and we had to feed everyone, you know.”

“Were there any landmarks in the city that you could tell us about?”

“Oh, yes, there is the great ridge on the west, where the salt mines are located. On the south side is the Salt Oasis. We called it that because of the high salt content — not enough to make it impossible to drink, but our water was saltier than that of the Blue River.”

“Anything else?”

“The city had a grand colosieum, I saw many battles there as a young man. It was in the northwest part of the city. Also there was the temple of Selena, the Goddess of Purity, in the southeast portion. The market was near the center of the city, and Queen Helen II’s manor was in the south-east portion.”

“Can you tell us about what happened there?”

“Things started getting strange about 10 years ago, after my wife died of Tuberculosis. A local man named Drem, the son of a miner, built a large mansion at the top of the ridge. Everyone thought he was crazy for living up there, and no one knew how he got the money to build it, but there it was. We heard of strange things going on there; everyone had their suspicions. But it wasn’t until kids started disappearing that I knew something was going on.

“The city guard told us that it was wild animals, or some Nomad bandits that did it, but I didn’t believe it. I wanted to get my son’s young daughter out of the city, but he of course refused. I went to his wife and I was able to convince her, and my granddaughter and I left secretly one night, bound for Tymirr.

“Once a few miles out of town, we looked back to see a flash of light, like a bolt of lightning coming up from the ridge. Then there was the worst sandstorm I’d ever seen; we barely made it to Tymirr alive. I later found out that no one in the city survived. No one has been back there since. All those families…women and children. But I’ve said enough now, I must rest.”

The party thanks Grees for his help, and returns to their tent. A few hours later, one of the scholars from the library visits and speaks with Galandil. He gives him a map of Jerech and the surrounding area; the only one that they can find so far. The map seems consistent with Grees’ memory.

That evening it is announced that the sewers have been sealed and no other Terrors may get through. Both the party and the Kaern are set to leave for the next morning. The party does some last-minute shopping, purchasing several large waterskins for their horses and themselves.

At the break of dawn, the party prepares to leave. Lionel tells Neith that he is planning on staying in the city, since Neith has proved that she can take care of herself. He wishes her good luck on her journey.

After a tearful goodbye from family and a somewhat large send-off from the city’s refugees, the party leaves and travels north along the Blue River with the four Kaern. Things seem quiet for the first two days of travel, although they do notice that the life here is fading quickly. There is almost no plant life and they come across few animals.

On the second night, while Meran is on watch, he sees several shapes approaching from the west. Watching them for a few moments, he sees that they are a group of four zombies. He awakens everyone else and they begin an offensive. The zombies are killed and their bodies burned. From their remains the group finds some old armor, rusted weapons and a dirt-caked buckler.

Galandil senses that the buckler is indeed magical, and Neith takes it. The next morning she washes it off in the river and finds that it is highly polished and very well made. Galandil sees that it is made of a very high-grade steel. They also find that it is unnaturally bright — Neith finds that this is its special property, to shine so brightly that it blinds one’s opponent.

They continue through the next day, and when they believe they are close enough, they turn west. The Kaern bid them farewell, and Erag tells Galandil that he hopes to see him in Kaern after this whole thing is over. He also thanks the party one last time for saving them in the mines.

The party begins traveling into the deeper desert, and the plant life here is even more sparse. After walking for a few hours, they come upon a large depression. They decide to walk around it instead of going down into it. As they are going past, they see movement in the center of the depression. The party attempts to move quietly, but a few party members slip and send sand tumbling down into the depression.

Further movement can be seen under the sand moving towards them, and they ready themselves for battle. Two large worm-like creatures emerge and begin attacking them. They whip their heads about like huge clubs, and spit acid. The party manages to defeat them, though a few of the party members are injured.

After healing and having a midday meal, they move on towards Jerech.