Gin’s Journal Entry, Day 32, Page 44
Merrill led us into his cavern where he had a fire pit and food ready for us. Scattered about the cavern were shelves, tables, and boxes of odd tools, metal scraps, and mechanical instruments of unknown purpose. Happi and Tamar ate greedily while Balor wept and only nibbled at his food. The news of his wife’s death had only begun to sink in for the dwarf. Badell comforted his dwarven friend as best as he could – in silence. I was tired, but wasn’t hungry and politely refused Merrill’s generous offer of food. I had too many other things on my mind to worry about eating.
I grunted and shook my head in agitation. Tamar noticed me, shrugged and kept eating.
‘You’re finished here,’ Krallak continued. ‘You promised to return and repair my telescope. We must return.’
“Maybe,” I mumbled. I opened my sack and took out all of the scrolls and books I had collected during my travels.
‘But we must return. You promised. What about the halfling? He looks like he could fix my telescope.’
“Enough,” I hissed a bit too loudly. The others stopped and turned to me, expecting me to talk. I ignored them and continued to file through my books and scrolls. Again Tamar shrugged and kept eating.
“Ignore him,” she said to the others. “He’s like that.”
I got up and walked away from the group, finding myself a secluded corner of the cavern. I needed peace and quiet while I studied.
‘We must go back to the monastery. We must observe the Heaven Rock.’
‘What year do you think it is?’ I finally asked Krallak, mentally.
‘What year? That’s a silly question.’
‘Just answer the question,’ I said, a bit forcefully.
‘Why, it’s year 47-3 of Chiron.’
‘And was the sky pale green and cloaked with thick clouds of darkness?’ I asked.
‘What nonsense are you talking about?’ Krallak seemed indignant.
‘And did you have a fabled sun high above your heads during the day and see legions of stars at night? Was there a blue sky that mirrored a blue ocean?’ I continued.
‘What kind of questions are these. Of course. The sun and star…’
‘Krallak,’ I interrupted, ‘You’ve been dead for a very long time. The sun, the stars, and a blue sky are myths to my people; only stories passed on from generation to the next generation. There is no sun, no stars, and the sky only glows sickly pale or dark green to show the passing of the day.’
‘Gobbledygook!’ Krallak hissed.
‘That year you gave me means nothing to me. My people have no sense of time anymore, only periods of ages from one generation to next. We follow no numbered years anymore.’
‘You make no sense, Gin. You’re mad.’
‘That, I won’t argue with, but you’re further along the road of madness than me.’
‘I’m not mad. We must return to the monastery at once. It will all make sense. We just need to repair…’
‘Enough!’ I shouted in my mind. ‘You are dead, Krallak. I’m not the most intelligent man of my clan, but any person with two stones in their head would know that you’ve been dead for a very long time from an age long forgotten. You are a myth.’
‘Stop this, Gin. You’re insane. I’m not dead. I’m not a myth. I’m talking to you right now. Proof I’m not dead. We must return…’
‘And fix that blasted machine of yours?’
‘It is beyond repair, you fool. From what I saw, it lay shattered into a thousand pieces about that big room and probably out into the countryside where thieves plundered it and the undead dragged it. There is nothing left of it except for a husk.’
‘And that’s why we need that halfling. He could fix…’
I removed the ring. I had enough of the pointless argument. For whatever reason, Krallak’s mind was trapped; frozen in a single state of space and time. There was nothing I could do to convince him. I then began to study the various books and scrolls I had collected.
One particular book, Krallak’s personal journal, was of interest. It recounted his studies at the monastery. The first two-thirds of the journal was dull and boring; writings about what he ate, notes on his telescope project, philosophical disagreements with fellow monks, his struggle with celibacy, painful urination and bowel movements, and skin rashes and warts. He wasn’t the most interesting person in life.
It wasn’t until I had reached the last third of the journal that his story piqued my interest. He wrote about a new object in the sky he discovered, something he called the Heaven Rock:
‘I saw a new white dot in the sky tonight. I swear it wasn’t there before. I have no record of it in any of my maps or catalogues. It is not much bigger than the tip of a pin. It must be a new star and nothing more. Peculiar, but nothing of profound note. I’m sure Ardamus would find it interesting. I recorded the finding and shuffled it away.’
Four months later:
‘Tonight, I noticed that odd dot I had discovered four months ago has a subtle purple hue around the circumference. I do not think it to be a star anymore. A meteor or a comet? It has captured my attention now.’
Three months later:
‘That same dot has grown ten times its original size now. Incredible! It now glows purple! Purple! It’s a purple meteor! My brothers and I have never seen anything like it before and none of our records have anything similar to it. What a time to be alive.’
The journal skips to two months later:
‘Each day that damn purple rock has grown ever larger. I am convinced it is heading towards us, like a speeding arrow in the night. Ardamus disagrees and believes it to be a simple comet that will pass by us like a gentle wind. The common people are starting to create religious ideas about the purple rock, forming pockets of cults and sects all across the land. They believe it to be a blessed omen from the gods to bring in a new age of prosperity and wealth. I am not convinced. Truth be told, I am beginning to be disturbed by the rock.’
A month later:
‘Something is wrong. No. Everything is wrong. The people have given the purple rock a name: the Heaven Rock. To them, it is not just an omen anymore, but the hand of the gods in physical form, coming to bring everyone eternal life, or some such rabble. It’s nonsense, all of it. Even my brothers are now caught up in the fervor. People are giving their wealth and homes away, and living in mud huts to sanctify their bodies with nature. Some people have formed flagellation cults, whipping and piercing themselves on sensitive parts of their bodies to experience their last moments of pain in life. And others have formed cults of sexual debauchery the likes of which I do not want to recall. The world has gone mad and that damn Heaven Rock comes ever closer. It is almost as big as the moon. How can it move as such speed? Less than half a year ago, it was only a tiny dot.’
A week later:
‘My brothers are calling me a heretic. Why? Because I question the Heaven Rock and the sanity of the people’s behavior? One of my brothers, who still likes me, told me that a few mayors and lords are petitioning to the king to have me executed. What madness! What have I done except pose a contrary question to their belief? The sky is purple now.’
The last entry recorded no date:
‘We are all in danger. The Heaven Rock is not a blessing or eternal life. It is death and I cannot convince anyone. It is not slowing down. My brothers refuse to look through the telescope to see what I see. They think me a heretic and blasphemer. I have sinned by looking at the Heaven Rock with my sinful telescope. If it was not for Forshenill, I would be dead by now; hanged and my entrails wrapped around a tree. (Forshenill does not believe as the others do, but he is not as vocal about it as I am. I told him he should leave the monastery as soon as possible and find somewhere safe, before the Heaven Rock arrives.) To appease the gods and the Heaven Rock, my monk brothers have decided to break apart the telescope. It is almost worse than death. They have locked me in the observation tower with the broken remains of my life project, and I am helpless to stop them. But I fear it is all meaningless now. What I saw…. What were those flying horrifying monsters around the rock? The Heaven Rock will hit Delthrand in two days. I believe the coordinates will be 65.16/-0.57, between Syrill and Pyrenesse.’
I quickly grabbed my map of Delthrand and found the coordinates. Then I took out another scroll I had found in my travels. This one spoke about a teleportation device that took travelers to the site of the Heaven Rock’s landing. It gave the coordinates of 133.75/-12.32, which pointed to a place called Doomtooth Crags. It was close to the Kingdom of Selz.
All of this was interesting, but pointless. What good was any of this information? And then I noticed the part of the map called Urdelthia.
I replaced the ring on my finger.
‘…And that is why we must return.’ Krallak said. Apparently he never realized I had taken the ring off and continued talking.
‘Krallak, quick question.’
‘Another question? Pertaining to the Heaven Rock?’
‘Of sorts. Krallak, what are the coordinates of the monastery according to this Delthrand map I found at your observation?’
‘What do you need that…’
‘Just answer the question, damn you.”
‘Very well, it is 140/25.’
‘Thank you,’ I slipped the ring off and put it in my pocket.
“Merrill,” I said, standing up and out of my corner.
Merrill stopped his tinkering and pulled off his spectacles to peer at me. “Yes, yes, Gin. You looked so intent with your notes, I didn’t want to disturb you. Your friends went up and are sleeping. How can I help? This is so exciting, isn’t it? We’re off on a grand adventure. Yes, yes.”
“Merrill, let me ask you, how exactly do you know there are lands beyond ours? What evidence do you have?”
Merrill jumped up off his stool, clapping his hands in glee. “Oh, oh, oh. I have these.” He grabbed a small sack from a shelf and pulled out strange fruits of the like I have never seen. They were red, orange, and blue in color and were soft and ball-like.
“There’s nothing like ’em here on Ur-Delth. So they must be from a different land, yes?” Merrill smiled.
“But how did you get these things?”
“Oh, I sent out my flying devices.”
“Eh?” I tilted my head.
“These things,” Merrill grabbed another sack from a shelf and took out a small metal sphere with two wiry wings, and tiny metal claw. From a distance, it could look like a bird.
“It took three weeks, but it came back with these things. I sent 15 of them out, and only two of them came back.”
I held the small contraption and examined it closely. It was impressive.
“Question for you Merrill. Would you be able to send this thing out again, following its previous flight path?”
Merrill thought for a moment, rubbing his chin. “I don’t know. I’m not sure where it went or how it came back. Like I said, 13 of them never returned.”
“But do you think you can try?” I asked.
“Well, I suppose. But why?”
“Merrill, I know you’re excited about traveling to a different part of the world, but we need to prepare first.”
“What are you talking about?” Merrill scoffed. “I can get these binding discs on by morning and we can…”
“No,” I interrupted. “Merrill, we can’t do that. We’re not ready.”
“What do you mean?”
“First, we need to know where exactly we’re going.”
“Which direction, Merrill?” I interrupted again, with a bit more force in my voice. “North? South? East? West? Are we just going to follow The Serpent and hope for the best? What if this bird-thing of yours never followed the Serpent? What if the others followed the Serpent and got themselves caught and eaten?”
“Well, um, I guess…” Merrill seemed disappointed.
“Plus, you just said it took three weeks for your bird-thing to return. Do you have enough food and water to be on your boat for that long? Enough for me, Tamar, and yourself? Is your ship big enough for that much food, water, and sleeping quarters?”
“Oh, well, I never really thought about it that way.” Merrill admitted.
“No, we must prepare. First, I want you to work this bird-thing and try to get it to follow the same flight path it took before.”
“When you release it, I will have Malum follow it.”
The small shrike appeared on my shoulder.
“Oh,” Merrill gasped.
“Malum will stay in contact with me and when they return, we will have an idea of where to go and how to get there.”
“I see, that, that, could work,” again Merrill admitted.
“So, for the next three weeks, while your mechanical bird and Malum are gone, this is what we need to do: first, you will finish your binding disc task, but also you will need to refit the ship to make it bigger so that we can haul at least three weeks worth of rations and water for at least five people, and a place for people to sleep and be out of the danger from the wilds of nature.”
“But where are we going to get that much food?”
“I will talk to the mayor or leader of Osmarren and convince them to sponsor us. But don’t worry about that. You focus on your end and I’ll work on mine. First, get your bird-thing working again.”
“Right, right. I’ll have it ready by morning.”
I went up to the sleep quarters to speak with Tamar. Balor was grieving outside the room. I motioned for him to follow me. With everyone awake, I explained my plan.
“We have a glimmer of hope,” I said. “A chance to find a new world for ourselves – for everyone. A world where the dead stay dead and the living live on in peace. Where the myths are true – a sun in the sea of blue sky and a dark night not covered in a cloak of clouds but littered with the legions of sprinkling dots called stars. A world where fruit grows above ground – plentiful, fresh, and healthy, and only need be plucked by fingers. A world where children can run and play in the fields and forests, without fear of being torn apart by a lich and its undead minions. Is that worth a chance? All we need do is try and fight for it.”
Tamar agreed with my plan. Balor even agreed, wanting to come on the expedition. He even suggested that he could act as a liaison for Osmarren to help convince the mayor to sponsor us. Happi wasn’t exactly sure she wanted to risk her life in a crazy scheme such as mine. But I reminded her that we would wait for three weeks, and if she wanted to come, she was welcome.
In the morning, Merrill released the newly programmed bird-thing and I instructed Malum to follow in pursuit, invisible. The sphere went up and up and up, disappearing in the thick green, clouds above.
Tamar, Balor, Happi, Badell, and I headed back to Osmarren….and of course we had to bump into a bunch of undead fish monsters that wanted us for lunch…
My resolve to save the people of Ur-Delth grew.