The morning sun rose on its wheel-and-pulley system, or whatever it takes to get a cardboard sun into the sky in this place, and the clearing just ‘poofed’ out of existence. Seems the clearing goes to Brambleson, not the other way around. Melchior will have to wait for another day to interrogate the rabbit. For Brambleson’s sake, I hope that day never comes. There’s GOT to be some statute of limitations on how long a fake character can expect to be punished for the murder of somebody who would already be dead due to old age. Especially when he’s fuzzy, cute, and adorably inept.
Poor Kenari. The house she was sleeping on just disappeared from beneath her, but she always manages to land on her feet. Still. Got to be a rude awakening.
We broke camp and picked a direction to travel through the bramble patch. In this place, the Bramble is like the Flogistan between the Spheres of different plot lines in the greater story. So far, only the cook has had any idea about the presence of Melchot. The rest of the characters have either been evasive, lying, or too highly distractable to give our questions any real answers. Everybody thus far has been terrified of Cesarian. Just what have we gotten ourselves into this time?
Hours of wandering through the briars brought us to another destination. The clearing was very large, with a lake in the center and an island at the heart of the lake. Honestly, the lake is more of a boggy marsh moat, but none of us felt like testing out how well the local wildlife liked our tasty flesh. The only non-aqueous access to the island was a sagging rope-bridge. I could tell right away that it wasn’t up to holding a Maenad’s weight. There was NO WAY I was getting on that thing.
Before the others got a chance to test out their luck, a mournful Coatl appeared in front of the bridge, so very glad for some company. We tried to talk to her, but even Kenari couldn’t get her to cheer up, even after she played the corresponding card, and she’d managed a Coatl that was ten times the size of this one, back in Bralspace. The Coatl was crying for the dead Sonaree and nothing could be done to alleviate her sorrow.
Toward the end of our interaction, the Coatl did something to try to make us as sad as she was. The others didn’t take to kindly to that. Before they could attack or do her much damage, the Coatl disappeared into the misty bog, leaving me with my buzz officially harshed. Sometimes I hate being an empath, and a weak-willed one at that.
Ef tied a rope around his waist as they all bickered over who was going first and how many of them would get on at once. I wished Word was still with us so he could fly me over, but I soon changed my tune and was glad of remaining on the other side. The bridge would only hold one at a time, as Ef’s weight made the bridge nearly touch the water as he neared its center. The rest followed suit and I moped around, feeling left behind.
Kenari and Lenata called out what they found as they searched the island. It was a miniature graveyard with cardboard headstones and a nice, coffin-shaped tomb with Sonaree’s name ‘carved’ in the front. Honestly is everything made out of pasteboard here? They spent some time looking around and scrutinizing the candles set out on Sonaree’s tomb. The candles were meant to keep the dead things from rising again.
It wasn’t long before a dark specter loomed out of nothing at the foot of the bard’s final resting place, forming into a litch-king. A large one. Another player in the conspiracy and a card in the deck. He asked them in a menacing way if they were mourners or trespassers, and Ef said they were there to mourn the lost Sonaree. The specter was mollified for only a moment, but it seems that was just a ruse. He quickly knocked over one of the candles, extinguishing it, and the undead began rising from their graves. Ghastly arms shot up and grabbed at my friends on the other side. Now do you see why I was glad to remain behind?
Honestly, I’ve never trusted the undead, especially after what happened with the ghosts and our helm in the flow, so I was ready for him. I knocked him flying with a blast of icy force, amping the power up as high as I could. He smashed through a tree and into a second one, and I was left with a pounding migraine. Psychic ennervation is a royal bitch.
Thankfully, that gave my teammates all the time they needed to bring down the pain on the Barrow King. In no time at all, it seemed Lenata was finishing him off with a bout of positive energy while Kenari re-lit the candle, sending the zombies back to bed (those that escaped total destruction from Lenata’s channeling, anyway). Lenata found the third token in the crumbled ash that used to be the Barrow King and that seemed to be that.
Three tokens down and three more to go, we were about to head to our next destination when out of the Brambles came a Paladin. He demanded that we turn over the tokens we had gathered thus far so that he may fulfill his destiny as the one who killed Cesarian. Obviously, we weren’t about to hand them over to a total stranger, so Kenari and Ef wheedled out the Paladin’s story. After finding out that he had no tokens of his own, had in fact held a few and lost them, we were more reluctant to give them over.
We asked to aid him, instead. Ef tried the logical approach, promising that of course the Paladin would strike the killing blow. We’d just… soften the dragon up first, and make sure the Paladin would actually survive to get to his final target in the first place. Like most paladins I’ve met, he was bull-headed in the extreme, saying, “This is MY task. You are not faithful enough to aid me in it,” or some such holier-than thou rot.
Melchior took the greatest exception to the questioning of his faith, and challenged the Paladin to a philosophical, theological debate. I couldn’t help but zone out on this. What’s to debate? The gods are real. I’ve MET some of them, including Melchior’s, Kenari’s, and my own. Granted, I hadn’t known Murlynd was a god when I met him, otherwise I would have stammered and tripped on my tongue and just stood there trembling and silent (or knelt there) as I’d done before and since.
In the end, Melchior won out, and we were off once more! The Paladin knew the way ahead as he had traveled this way so many times before. He told us of the giant ant queen, ‘the weaver,’ who ran the wax-works. (What is with all the GIANT BUGS?)
As we were nearing our destination, the Paladin turned on us, and once again demanded we hand over the tokens. What is it with these people? Did Sonaree just hate dynamic characters or something? Everybody’s stuck, unable to change or grow in the least. Maybe that’s what they mean when they say the story is broken. Everybody’s a static character.
I tried the ‘boil ’em in their armor’ trick I haven’t done since the Endless Stair in Nova Roma. I didn’t even singe his hair before Melchior blew two fist-sized holes clean through him, and Ef, Kenari, and Lenata finished him off, although Lenata broke her spear in the process. I’m never going to EVER question Melchior’s faith. I don’t want to end up like that Paladin. We got some neat goodies from him, though. The armor itself was a total loss. I snagged an amulet of natural armor, Lenata got some spell-type things. There were a few potions here or there, but the really cool thing in my estimation was the long-sword. We all took a break while Melchior buried the shield the Paladin carried. (The device on the front was worthy of respect, he said. He cast a disparaging glance at the Paladin, himself. Wow. He really doesn’t like that guy. He left him out to rot and buried the shield? Harsh.)
Kenari is even now figuring out how the sword works for Ef. It’s magical and goes by the name ‘flame tongue.’ I sat down to write in my journal and drink some water, and WHOOSH! There it goes. What was the activation word? I can’t remember. Seems odd enough that we wouldn’t be saying it by mistake in the Flow.
Ahh, adventure. Times like these, I hardly ever think about the… hour before we plunged into the Plane of Time. Killing things and taking their stuff, running around, solving mysteries, it’s times like these when we’re on the road that I feel that sense of family that Ef wrote about. Even Melchior is beginning to fit in, and he’s been with us such a short time. He’s a tough, lone-wolf type, absolutely certain who he is and what he’s doing. No ambiguity there. Makes him a hard sell at first, but I think we all respect him just a bit for being that way.
Ah, well. Break time’s over. Off we go to the wax works!