You know what’s ironic. One might believe that all memory resides in the brain, when in actuality it is really stored in the spirit. The brain, it turns out, is more of a baffling system that prevents you from remembering everything so you don’t collapse under the weight of it all. The physical form can only handle so much before the humors and other vitae reach a critical overload point and the mind starts to shut down. I find that knowledge in and of itself fascinating, but to discover what had happened under the island temple before the volcano destroyed it all is truly astounding.
I had destroyed all the undead that were pinned in the rubble. They were people of my order, yet they had lingered on after their death to accost anyone willing to venture to this place. Now, the odds of anyone finding this island smack in the middle of one of the most horrid swamps, was practically nil, but I excelled at doing the unexpected.
What I had witnessed in the beneath place there is frankly hard to comprehend, but here it is.
The illusion of treasure and the monster that guarded it were both false — double blind trap to keep the casual observer far, far away. Nearly worked with me, too. Fortunately, I’m both stubborn and driven by this quest and any knowledge of the towers and why we had abandoned them over the centuries was critical for me to understand. Remember, when I first started out, all I had were the recurring dreams. I didn’t really understand the betrayal of the first Merric, nor how he and his followers purged the nine and sixty of any follower other than those who worshiped the One True God.
It still eludes me, how that could’ve happened within and coalition of enlightened nations, but I guess I have always underestimated the pettiness and jealousy that plagues the various sentient species. Finding that first tower where I worshiped with Sister Vera was recent news, within the last decade or so. It was likely an outpost during my first few years at the Keeper’s Monastery. For that is the name of our home. I hadn’t known that, not really. It wasn’t until he told me the name of our keep that things started making sense.
He, by the way, is a god you may be familiar with, Father Mulcahy. He was a dwarf by the name of Thunder Jack. As I recall now those memories something funny happened. I’ll get into the details in a minute, but Thunder Jack told me I would meet Bob and we would form a physical and emotional bond. He told me that there are secrets in the dwarven community that outsiders rarely if ever learn and that I would be honored above all he’d ever known. He also said that Bob would love me unconditionally but that he would always know that Liz was first in my heart. Those memories derailed me for a bit there. I sat and thought of how much I loved them both, and how much I missed them. I think at one point I mentioned to Kithri how sad it made me to think I’d be leaving them forever and she told me to shut up and get on with the story. Being nearly dead, in a coma and short one hand sure made her cranky.
I realized the illusion on the island and took it on faith that there was a passage under the ruins, a great spiraling ramp that delved into the very heart of the world. Brother Charles had been with me at that point, and he refused to follow me, implying that I was committing suicide. I think the illusion fooled him.
I also realize this is the first time I used the green sight from Semaunzilla (may she forgive my tattered memory). No wonder it came so easily when the Kithri divine became so difficult to grasp. I was able to follow the ramp downward for hours. There were no caves off this underground spiral. It was as if something molten and dizzy had clawed their way up from the bowels of the earth, burning their way upward in a spiral that broke into the courtyard of the keep.
Which, it turns out, is exactly what had happened. This keep had once belonged to Kithri as an outpost in this corner of the swamp. The Celestials that protected it had been good and pure, the troops, the paladins and the priests who lived in that place had been the final remnants that moved to the Keeper’s Monastery. There were several great keeps that Kithri had raised to protect the land in the wake of the great curse and the downfall of the pantheon. But time, constant attack, and outright betrayal had destroyed most of them. I know the Stronghold of Kithri’s Fist, the headquarters of the paladin order, remained intact, though it was sorely depleted in both defenders and reality, being partially sucked into one of the celestial planes. But we were talking about the Island Keep
A great devilish wurm burned its way upward from the very fires of the Nine Hells and burst into the courtyard, devouring men and women, children and animals, and eventually even the celestials. It wasn’t until Thunder Jack arrived and defeated the beast were our people able to escape. Only a few dozen survived to escape. They loaded wagons with artifacts and relics of the old pantheons, including some that were not truly wholesome. Some argued that the very existence of the artifacts of the evil gods should have been destroyed, but yet others debated the very balance of the universe. In the end, those who proceeded you, Father Mulcahy took to the boats, crossing the pristine lake and made their way down the channels toward the final edge of the world. For you see, our keep is the final refuge. Our dilapidated, cursed and falling down keep is the final sanctuary. Beyond our keep, beyond the last home I had ever known, lay nothing but a desolation so grand that no one had ever returned from even a short excursion into that desert.
So while the others packed that which they had been hiding from the zealots and the demons for thousands upon thousands of years, Thunder Jack slew the great wurm and followed its trail back into the fires of the Nine Hells. That was the path I followed and I recall now how terrible the fires were, how bleak and horrifying.
No wonder my mind had repressed those memories. It was horrid, but the heat, the burning lake of viscera and the devils that haunted my steps were enough to break my sanity, which is exactly what happened and why my mind walled those memories away. Lucky me I was mostly dead where I could relive it all in its unadulterated glory.