Journal of Miyara Kyosuke (78)

    The afternoon passes uneventfully.  We set up guard for the night, as we did last night.

    On my watch, I hear the sound of something moving, small noises, like it's arranging something.  I wake Miyara, and tell her about the sound and that I want to investigate it.  She takes over the watch while I head out into the woods.
    As soon as I start moving away from camp, I hear the sound of footsteps moving away from where the sound was coming from.   I continue on.
    The sound was coming from around a blind corner.  I choose to stay under cover and get close to it rather than see from a distance.  There are no sounds there now.
    There is a pile of rocks that has been placed into a crude altar.  There are clay pots on the ground in front of it, each of which has a woven grass lid.  There is no sign of anyone here.
    I decide to test my theory that they are appeasing us.  I look inside a pot, and see there is meat in all of them.  It's definite, then, it's an offering to us.  There is one pot for each of us.  I take my pot, say my thanks, and walk back to camp.  That should please the beastmen.
    Miyara says we need that meat, and says one of us should stand watch while the other carries the pots back and forth.  So I fetch the pots, saying thanks for each one.  We will pack the meat, Miyara says, to last more than one meal.  We do so, and I return the pots.  I point out that we must not harm any beastmen, we must reward their offerings.
    The meat is freshly butchered with a few bones still attached.  I do not ask anyone to identify the meat.

    At the end of my shift, Miyara and I go back to sleep and Baraku takes over.

    In the morning, we stay here long enough for Hosei and Sun to do something with the meat.  Miyara of course does not eat it, and several of the others are reluctant too.  Hosei says it is fresh, and it's clearly hobbit.  I say that someone needs to be healthy, and I eat.  Perhaps the strength of the fairy or demon will strengthen me too.  I feast on a breakfast of demon flesh, and enjoy it thoroughly.  The rest is packed for future meals.
    I repeat that we are not to harm beastmen.  They are appeasing us as if we are demons, and if we continue to act like we appreciate it, they will let us through.  Our task is important.  Miyara agrees.

    We can now see the peak to which we are heading.  It looks like we might arrive sometime this afternoon.
    It's been a bright and clear but cool day.  After about an hour there is no sound of drums, and no hint of beastmen.  Suddenly, up ahead, several shapes separate themselves from the trees and rocks, step into the trail, and prostrate themselves before us.  They are clearly beastmen.  There are six of them, about 40 yards in front of us.
    We approach.  Four of them are bear creatures, one some kind of horse-human combination, and the sixth is a birdman.  As we get closer, they remain on the ground and all six in various tones are speaking in some unknown language.
    Hosei does his thing so he can understand.  He can translate for us.  He has a concerned smile on his face as he tells us what they're saying.  They are pledging their undying loyalty to us as great evil avatars of chaos, of Tzeench, so smart to look like stupid humans so it is easier for us to destroy the world.  They tell us their names: Slurk, Hinny, Urkus, Abzort, Grum, and Pleth.  Slurk claims to be the most loyal (the bird), and he has two heads -- a finch where it would be expected, and a vulture head protruding from his stomach,
    The barbarians seem to think much more badly of these beastmen than us, but then our country has not been at war with them for thousands of years.  We acknowledge their servitude.  Miyara is concerned that they may attack us when we try to destroy the rock, but I point out there are only six of them -- and maybe they are edible too.  Miyara says that I am young and would eat anything.
    Miyara addresses them and tells them to follow us.
    We continue.
    Miyara asks me what I want to do with them.  I say we should keep an eye on them, but there's more.  I have a growing suspicion that we are following Tzeench's plan, not one opposed to chaos.  If the beastmen prove useful and help us, that will help confirm it.   If they seem eager for us to throw the rock through the crack, then maybe we should reconsider.  When they start to fight us, then we are doing the right thing.
    After about an hour of walking, the four bears suddenly break out in a snarling fight amongst themselves.  Miyara and I see no reason to stop it.  We keep walking.
    Slurk continues to follow us, and so does the horse-man Hinny.  Slurk looks interested in all of us, and in relatively good spirits.  Hinny seems to be in pain and whining a lot.  I ask Hosei about Hinny: he is whining that his feet hurt and it's a long walk and the bears are noisy and the sun is hot and it's so cold.  He seems genuinely in pain, or he's very good at whining.
    As we walk on, before the bears catch up, Slurk takes this quiet moment to get a little closer to Miyara and me, and ask us in I think Common if we would prefer he spoke Common.  Miyara says it does not matter what he speaks, we will understand him.  Slurk says of course, and that he is a fool for not realizing it, but he has noticed that Hosei translates.  I point out that obviously as avatars we do not descend to speaking in the crude human languages, and start to realize he has more in common with the barbarians than they would admit,
    We continue.  The bears catch up with us.

    A little later, Slurk asks if there is anything that he might do for us -- any of us.  Miyara answers in Common for him to find a deer for us and bring it back.  He turns, looks at the bears, and clearly tells them to go do it.  The bears run off.
    Slurk says something to Hosei directly in quiet tones.  He looks at us, and says he wants to know where we are going.  Slurk then looks back and forth among us in a confused way, but says nothing.  What he actually asked was could he be permitted to know, and could he be of any service, such as by scouting ahead and tell the beings ahead that we are arriving and they should bow down.
    Miyara says that we are following his trail on our business, and he can best serve us by following us.  He prostrates himself.  He gets up and follows as we continue onwards.

    As the day goes on, Hinny gets more whiny and it becomes clear that both of Slurk's heads can speak, and occasionally speak to each other.  It's approaching our lunch break, so we stop and rest.
    I ask for permission to start a fire using our powers.  I have trouble doing it.  A thunderbolt nails the pile of wood from the sky, scatters the wood, and zaps us all.  I remain standing, and laugh insanely as if I were a mad barbarian.  Very suddenly, I shut up and sit down, still grinning like a madman.
    Slurk and Hinny seem cowed.
    I tell Slurk to light a fire for us.  He builds a small fire.  He asks if I want a bigger one.  I say it is satisfactory, and that will be all for the time.  I prepare and eat a meal of hobbit.  He says I am so smart to cook my meat like the stupid humans do, he never would have thought of that.  I roast hobbit.  I turn to Hosei and say, for him to translate, that the taste and smell remind me of burning humans.  Hosei turns to Slurk and Hinny and says, "His Highness says that cooking the meat reminds him of the smell of burning flesh."  Slurk and Hinny and Slurk all nod their heads, Hinny more enthusiastically than the others.

    About four hours after they were sent away, when we're back on the road again, the bears return with three deer.  The deer are still struggling, a buck, doe, and fawn.
    We are only an hour or two from the base of Hawk's Claw.  We stop, turn the biggest into meat.  The others we graciously allow the beastmen to have.  It takes a couple of hours for Hosei and Sun to prepare the buck, so we had just as well camp here.
    Miyara speaks to Goru in Nipponese, telling him we're probably only an hour away, although we don't know where to find Zokuri the Younger.  She suggests that when we get closer, one of us should go ahead and try to find him before we turn up with six beastmen behind us.  Goru should go because Zockri is a dwarf, but he could take Ashu for woodland support.
    Hawk's Claw Peak dwarfs every mountain around us.  It might be most of tomorrow before we reach the top, if that's where we need to go.
    We're now moving through lightly wooded scrub, with lots of small hills and rock outcroppings.  Some snow is on the ground here.  There is not much of a trail now.
    Rabena does some foraging and looks for something other than meat.  She comes back with some bush that is dry and unappetizing, but edible.  As she does so, she and Baraku, who accompanied her, come across Slurk who has been waiting for them.
    Slurk asks in common if he can be of any service.  Rabena says she has what she needs, and Slurk steps aside to let her pass.
    Back at camp, she hands her bushes to Hosei to make edible.

    Once it's clear that we intend to camp here, Slurk tells Hinny to build two fires -- a larger one for us, and a smaller one a little further off for them.  Our camp looks down on theirs, and we have a decent view of it.
    Slurk is concerned whether the camps are as we like.  Miyara tells him he has done well, which he seems pleased to learn.

    As the watches are about to start, and Slurk and Hinny are about to go join the bears.  Slurk and Hinny share a word, and says that he thinks we are so smart to sleep at night, just like humans do.
    Except for the amazingly loud snoring of the bears, and Hinny whining even while he sleeps, the night is uneventful.

    Soon the name of the mountain is clear, as we are attacked by hawks.  We beat them off, of course.  As we continue, the terrain becomes much more difficult and it will take us at least two days to climb.  We spend the night on the mountain, which is cold but tolerable.  After various alarums and excursions for two days, we see Zokuri's hut at the top of the mountain.
    It stands on stilts above the glacier in which the stilts are embedded.  There is no sign that it is even inhabited.  On one side, 20-30 feet to the west, is a 20' cliff.
    The sun is setting as we approach.
    Miyara asks Goru to visit the hut and explain a little before we all show up with the beastmen.

    Goru walks up to the door and knocks.  From out of the hut, in a clear voice in common, "Go away!"
    Goru comes back.  Miyara berates him for not talking with him, and tells Goru to try one more time.
    Goru goes back, and says something in dwarvish.  As soon as he has finished, the door opens and a voice says "Get inside, you damn fools," in common.  We tell Slurk to stay here while we go in.

    The hut is 10 x 12 and fur-lined, with a small fire burning in the stove.  Zokuri sits down in front of the fire, and seems lost in thought.  His flesh is wrinkled and dry.  His yellow beard trails on the floor with mites crawling in it.  His eyes are bright with intelligence and fear.
    I tell him in Nipponese that Cosutan Loso said we were to talk to him.
    Miyara asks in another language how we are to destroy it.
    Zokuri does not seem to be listening.  He seems to take a breath, and says he's waited over 4000 years, 4313 to be exact, and now the moment has come.  "Have I forgetten what I am meant to do?  Help you, or let it all happen?  Let the end finally come."
    Miyara and I are of course respectfully silent.
    After a long period of silence -- except for the fighting bears outside -- he speaks.  He speaks of the making of the crystals, the mistake of the great dwarven civilization at its height.  They had beaten the elves and were steadily driven them out of hte cities.  The greenskins were of little concern.  They knew of the dark gods but did not see their workings.  They grew complacent.
    He was a young enginer in those days.  His father Z the Elder was famed for his engineering.  Z the Y was apprenticed to the great Wismag the Sagacious, designed of ingenious steam-powered devices.  W assembled a team for a new form of energy that could be wrestled from the very stones of the earth.  These crystals would manipulate the powers of the very elements themselves.  The development under the Yetsin valley took years, and they found ways to transmit hte power through the air.
    They were to create a new golden age.  They took the receiving apparatus to the strongholds.  ZtY was at hte first one, at Karaz-a-karak, and the appartus exploded.  Waves of descructive energy caused earthquakes and so on at every place there was receiving gear.  Volcanoes followed, goblins exploited the weakness and rolled in.
    The crystals were separated, but even at the time there were grim omens.  Wise men said they could not be kept apart, and sooner or later a pack of fools would bring them together and the world would be destroyed.
    He falls silent.  We wait for the wise fairy to decide.
    Miyara asks if there is, then, no way to destroy it?
    ZtY says they can't be destroyed.
    I ask if we can make them safe?
    ZtY says if there was a way, he would have done it 4000 years ago.
    I ask what he is going to do now.
    Continue, he says.
    Rabena asks about the hole, the one she saw in her vision.
    ZtY dismisses visions.
    R says it was visions that led us to him, respectfully.
    I say that no matter what we do, it seems like Tzeench is going to take over the world.
    Who's Tzeench?
    An orcish god.
    Wat does that have to do with the crystals.
    The crystals are a force of chaos.
    Nonsense!  He is an engineer, believes only in what can be proven.  The crystals were a scientific experiment gone horribly wrong, nothing to do with ancient dead gods.
    Then why are we being worshipped by beastmen as avatars of chaos?
    He dismisses the question.  Fools and prophets believe they are a force of chaos and will destroy everyone's world, not jsut the dwarven one they already have, but he doesn't hold with such silliness.
    CL said that if we didn't already have a plan, we should talk to ZtY.  Why are we here?
    He doesn't know CL and doesn't know why we are here.
    Why are you here? I ask
    AFter he recovered from the explosions, he returned to their labs at Karak Vagnal to discover all his colleagues were dead, the civilization in ruins, and that it was all his fault.  He climbed up this mountain, built the hut, and planned to sit here until he died.
    Why aren't you dead?
    He doesn't know.
    Miyara says perhaps it's because he hasn't helped us yet.
    Why didn't you kill yourself?
    He answers Miyara.  How can he help?  What do we need?
    M: We need to stop the destruction the crystals will cause.
    Don't put them together.  Don't pick them up.  Leave them wherever they were.  No, don't leave it here.
    M: when we got here, you questioned whether to help us or let happen what may.  How can you help us?
    He says he doesn't know, but grabs writing materials and begins drawing a map.  Once he is done, he points to a spot on it, and says "This is Kadar Gravning."  (where we got the last stone, the burial ground) He draws a vague line northward.  "This is Kadar Vagnal.  The stronghold of wisdom, where we built hte crystals.  Perhaps you will find some answers there."
    The door springs up, an axe flies through the air.  Z takes it in the face, staggers back, we all fall on the west call, the side of the cliff, it tilts, and threatens to fall.
    About to step into the hut, Mathilde (head of the empire knights, Knights of the Cold Fire) steps back as the hut falls.
    I try to zap Mathilde with lightning, doesn't work.
    Rabena grabs the map.
    We brace for the crash.

    The hut goes over the edge through the air.

    It lands.  It hurts, but so far I am still alive.

    The hut rockets down the mountain, bouncing, rolling, back to sliding.  I leap up when the door is on top, and look out.  We are sliding fast, rocks and ice everywhere, more glacier as far as I can see.  I try to stay here as much as possible, but don't try to jump out.
    Rabena calls up an air elemental.  She tells it to pick up the hut and slowly bring it to a halt.
    Very gently, the hut begins to slow down.  Eventually, it comes to a halt.
    The doorway is on a side now.  As I move to look out, the hut slides another few feet.  I am looking up the mountain up the glacier with marks of our passage.
    Then we all hear something else.  The cry of hawks.  Hawks circle the hut.
    As I move to climb out of the hut, it slides a little further and begins to rock like there's nothing holding up the other side.
    Rabena tells the air elemental to hold the hut still.
    I work my way around the hut to look around it.  We are at the top of the cliff where we were attacked by the hawks, where they live, at the base of the mountain.  The cliff is only about 10 yards high, but the hut is balanced above.  I tell Miyara about it and suggest the air elemental carry the hut, but it is not strong enough.
    Our choice is to climb down the cliff or fall down the cliff.
    Rabena summons a second elemental.  They can slow the fall, but not carry us.
    I get back in for the controlled fall.

    The elementals use the drag of the cliff to help slow it.  It's a very rough ride, and the hut disintegrates quickly.  As it hits the bottom, it splinters into many pieces and we all hit the ground hard.
    A large quantity of snow falls off the top of the cliff and buries us.  This keeps the hawks away, at least.
    At Rabena's direction, the air elementals dig us out.

    As we look around and check that we are all present, Z wakes, groans , wails, and screams "I can't die!"  M says that's because he has to help us first.
    I take the axe out.  He is still alive, even impaled by a spike of wood from the hut.  He screams that he will die only when the crystals die, or when everything else does.