When I got near the spot where I could cross the bog to retrieve my gear I checked with the green sight to see if there was anyone about. A few gorge-wings showed up a goodly distance away, but other than that, the place was safe. I left the wagon, tethered the horse without unhitching him, and waded through the bog to recover my gear. It only took a few moments. Now I had a conundrum. Go find Liz and Blargle, or head out on my own, hoping that Liz can find me and ditch Blargle. Or, do I trust that Blargle is a decent sort who would not resort to political pressure and attempt to kill me. Decisions, decisions.
Frankly, I was so torn, I moved the wagon as far off the road as I could, around past the hidden tunnel toward where I assumed the well under inn came out. Once I was fairly confident we couldn’t be seen from the road, I broke out the journal and caught up with the last few days. I normally like to write each day so the events are fresh in my mind, but I think I’ve done those days justice. It was good to hold the quill in my hand again; a delight to hear the scratching of the quill on my good parchment paper; a sheer pleasure to cast the sand upon the page to prevent smearing and close each day that I had missed. I am beginning to think I may have a small obsession with this journal. I know, you’re thinking I’m a little off my game. But I know how important the histories were that I read at the monastery, and the things I’m discovering that were half truths, bigoted and rascist screeds and just factually inaccurate. When I complete this quest, I want a record of how I accomplished it, who helped or hindered me, and what future generations should be taking from my experiences. My quest is a vital one, but is by no means the only one in the wide world. There is too much wrong out here for me to handle it alone.
The journaling took me the better part of the day, so I ate a late lunch and studied Bob’s maps. He had told me to go Far Spire. That was a point of fact. But what had he intended I do once I got here? Liz had said we would sell the horses along with everything else and head eastward into the swamp. But with Kithri now a concern, all those pesky gnolls hunting us, and that pompous Bishop Cirila, I was torn. I needed to find my way to the great ruined city, but it was further than I had first imagined. I’m not sure what those villagers and Sister Vera had thought I meant when I said I was going to the vast city in the swamp, probably the one where we encountered the troglodytes, or maybe the dragon ruins. In either case, those were dangerous, sure. But they were outlying cities, leagues and days from my final goal.
I thought about the civilized areas of this land, contemplating how the western edge along the sea had not been cursed the way the rest of the land had been. Was that a coincidence, or was there a greater power at play here? I would love to find an ancient map of the nine and sixty before the first Merric murdered the great emperor.
Now that I thought about it, how had the world not been totally covered in the blight that consumed the nine and sixty? Somehow, just shy of the western trade road, the carnage had ceased. I would want to talk with Bob about that, and Liz when I found her again. What traits of the western lands kept them safe? Or was it magic or divine power that I have not discerned. Oh, I think the great university at Skyfell may have had some ability to affect the spreading of the curse, but that is purely conjecture. Puzzles within puzzles.
And speaking of puzzles, two other pieces became clear to me as I read though my last journal entries. Sometimes I get so caught up in exciting or extraordinary events that I forget to document the quieter moments, the subtle discoveries.
Here’s one to contemplate. Captain Kershaw, as a young girl, came upon me in a clearing where a lizard folk shaman battled with giant spiders. He carried me in his arms along with three shrunken lizard folk skulls that spoke in tongues. Those were the three skulls that Wizard Tim had when we first met. They were the ones who implied I was the Fool of the prophecy. Where had Tim come upon those shrunken heads?
How much of a coincidence was it that I found Liz and how much a part of my life she would become? The old lizard folk shaman had given me my holy symbol for Semaunzilla (may she enlighten her more slow-witted follower). Is that why, growing up, I confused that with Sister Edna’s worship of Yolanda? Just how tied was I too these beautiful people?
What if Kithri here? Why had she come to me when I was so near to death? She claimed to be allied with Yolanda, which I assumed to worship by default along with my lizard mistress. But when Kithri fell at my feet, and my divine power was stymied, it was due to drawing it from her, not from Yolanda. Puzzles within puzzles.
I needed to understand what happened in the bowels of that volcanic island before it exploded. She had been teasing it out of my memory before she collapsed. That was the key to her recovery and likely more answers to my burning questions.
But the last time I tried to delve into those memories, I had collapsed. I could not afford to do that alone, with Kithri incapacitated. It put us at too much risk.
Oh for the days when my biggest concern was leeches, and my path was as clear as my next step forward.