The Caverns of Kildun Aalda--Chapter Twelve--Joban's Journal
They were standing inside a room, filled with barrels.
“There must be over sixty,” Johanna said.
Balon walked over to one and looked inside. “This must be the storeroom. These contain flour.”
“This one has wheat,” George said. He tasted some and made a face. “It is still edible, but a bit stale.”
“Well, I hope we will not have to resort to eating any of this,” Britt said.
Bard saw where some flour had fallen on the floor. “I think somebody has recently been in here.” He pointed to a boot prints leading to the door.
Britt bent down and looked at it. “George, is that your print? It looks like the boots that you wear.”
“No, the prints are smaller that my foot.”
“I wonder if some monsters wear boots,” Eileena suggested.
With weapons drawn they searched the room. However, there was nothing in the storeroom, not even the rats, except for barrels containing wheat, flour, pickles, meat, fruit and vegetables.
“The supply room is ver there,” George said looking at the map.
“These are still in good shape,” Britt said looking through a box containing iron spikes and metal nails.”
“Joban and Stephan probably had not completed building this stronghold,” Bard said. Stone blocks lay in a corner. Wooden doors were stacked against one wall in the room. He walked over to a 200 foot long coil of rope. “This is too heavy to carry.
Johanna said, “The laborers probably suspended from this when they worked on the outside.”
The elf returned with several boards of wood. “These will help get the holes boarded up and keep the rats out.”
After covering the rat holes in the kitchen, they walked up the corridor past the store and supply rooms. Two beautifully oak doors were ahead of them.
“I should have known this would be the library,” Balon said.
George looked down at thee dust covered floor. There were those mysterious footprints again. It was as if they belonged to a female, the prints were delicately small. Maybe one person did survive the berserker attack. But who was it and what happened to him or her?
Britt ran his fingers through the dust. “This is excellent craftsmanship!” he exclaimed. Though the floor was covered in years of dust, it was like it was newly done. The floor was made of polished marble. Large blocks of the stone were uniformly laid out. The stones were all even and the lines of each block lined up perfectly.
“It must have taken years to do this,” Eileena said, as she looked at red gems in the center of the floor. “Look at that,” she said, pointing. “The gems are their initials!” Everybody gathered about and noticed that the gems actually read S & J.
“I notice that they both liked oak,” Bard looked at the three large tables in the east west and north wings of the library.
“Believe it or not,” George said, when I am not thieving, my next best activity is reading. He looked at the plush divans in the corners of the room. “I could make myself at home here,” he said running his fingers through the fleece upholstery. “It is a shame that they are as dirty as they are.”
“We can take care of that,” Johanna said. Within a few minutes, all the dust, dirt and grime were gone. The room looked like it was built just the day before.
“Now this is living,” the thief said as he jumped onto the divan and lay on his back. “Give me a good book and I will be happy.”
“Wait a minute,” Balon said. “Where is all this light coming from?” The rooms that they had previously explored were outside rooms. Light came in either through windows or cracks in the walls. This was an inner room; there was no way the sun ray’s had penetrated this far. The light was much more than what their lanterns were giving out.
George looked at the sconce that was mounted over his head. Instead of holding a torch, it held a small cage. Similar sconces hung around all the walls of the library. Each cage gave off a red glow.
“Fire beetles,” Britt said.
“How have they survived after all these years?” Johanna said.....
“Nobody knows how they live and eat. Yet they live many years,” the dwarf continued.
“Should we free them?” Eileena asked.
“I do not think these cages can be forced open,” Britt said. “However, it is better to leave them be. Once they are captive, they are not able to survive if they are released from their cages.”
George went over to look at some books on one of the shelves. He picked up one and the pages fell away into dust. “It probably was not interesting anyway.”
“George,” Britt spoke suddenly and quietly, “whatever you do, do not move.”
George started to laugh. “You cannot fool me…” A hissing noise stopped his words. He turned slightly towards the noise. A giant snake was gliding towards him, eyeing his prey. Even if he wanted to run, he was not able to; he was frozen by fright, hypnotized by the beady eyes. The snake was so close that its tongue flicked out and touched George’s face.
“He is tasting me!” he whispered desperately. “He thinks I am his dinner! Please help me!”
“Keep calm, George,” Britt whispered drawing his sword. “We will save you. Both the dwarf and Bard slowly approached the snake on both sides. Eileena got her bow and arrow ready.
“One three,” Britt said. “One, two…”
“Three!” yelled George.
The snake, seeing the attackers, forgot about its dinner and coiled as if to attack. However, it did not go for either of them. Seeing the creature with the stick that had a point on the end, it decided to go for that instead. It leapt and passed between the two and attacked the elf.
Eileena had no time to react. Her bow was knocked out of her hands as the snake landed on her and coiled around her body.
“Stun!” both Balon and Johanna yelled as power shot out of their hands. The snake stopped restricting and began to uncoil from the elf’s body. Bard and Britt pulled the snake off her body and slew it.
Eileena breathed a sigh of rlief. “It goes to show that you never know what to expect. I did not realize that would happen and let my guard down.”
“That is why we always have to be on our highest alert while in these caverns,” Britt said. “We have had too many close calls.”
After making sure there were no more snakes in the library, they felt the room was secure.
“We can stay in here, for the night. Now that the kitchen is clean, we can cook in there.”
“I wonder if snake tastes good,” George said.
“What do you have there, George?” Britt asked. They were back in the library after eating dinner and getting settled for the night. George was lying in his favorite divan and had pulled out the journal he had taken from Joban’s chambers.
“It is that one journal. The one I cannot make any heads or tales of.” He kept turning the book one way and the other.”
“You took that without permission. What if the elders found out?”
“I would have returned it. I just forgot about it until now. I thought it might give some clue about these two men of legend.”
“Let me look at that,” Balon said, sitting down next to George. “I think if I cast a read language spell, we may be able to decipher this.”
“How does that work,” Bard asked. “It will decipher these runes. The only problem is if Joban spoke in different tongues, which he most likely did, it may take a while to find the interpretation in the common language. Well it will not hurt to try.” He waved his wand over the book.
“I recognize this one,” the magic user said as the runes started to form. “This is the ogre language.”
“You know ogre?” Eileena asked.
“Just a few words and ones I do not want to repeat; they are that vulgar. I do not recognize this one, however,” he continues as the runes once again formed on the pages of the book.
“Let me see,” said Britt. “Oh yes this is hobgoblin. I can speak it fluently but I only know a few written words and ones that I do not want to repeat either.”
“Here we go,” Balon finally said as the runes were deciphered in the common language. He handed the book back to George. “It is all yours.”
George started reading. “It looks like a journal of one of his adventures from his younger days.”
Even though they had been getting ready to sleep, they were interested. “Please read it, son,” Britt said.
Dage 1, 3045
I Joban of unworthy parents, unworthy heritage, unworthy ancestry am going on a mission to, hopefully end my unworthy life. While I can end my life by drinking from that poison I made, I do not want to die the coward’s way. I, an unworthy medium, want to die fighting for my life, my unworthy life.
(“Wow,” said George. “It seems that Joban was a very bitter person. “Maybe that was his goal in the barbarian lands and he dragged Stephan along with him.
“Maybe,” said Britt. “From that date, he must have been a young man, maybe even younger that you, George.)
Before I start out, I pack all my unworthy possessions. There are not too many of them. These include (all unworthy, of course):
1 Flask for water
My Personal Journal
Ring of invisibility (why I would even have one of these, I do not even know)
Ring of Protection
Potion of Gaseous Form
Iron Rations for Three Weeks
Several Small Sacks
All of these unworthy items go into my unworthy backpack.
Now I go to my mission and hopefully my death.
I had been traveling the world trying to make something of my unworthy life. After months of acquiring nothing, I finally returned to my home town of Antares.
(“I did not know that,” Bard said.
“This is probably his personal journal that I am holding,” George said)
I stopped at the only tavern in town, The Stoneville Inn, hoping to drink my sorrows away. How it mad me angry or sad (I am not really which one it was) when I passed through the tables and heard people laughing and breaking out in gleeful songs. With the mood I was in, I did not feel like laughing and singing. I just wanted to forget about my unworthy life.
I made my way to a table away from the others. It was near the back exit in case I wanted to leave quickly. There was a table unoccupied next to me. I thought I was lucky and that I would be alone. However, after I took the first sip of my mead, several patrons came in and sat next to me. One man turns to me.
“I see you are a magic-user,” he says noticing my robes.
Great now he wants to talk to me. I just want to drink my sorrows away, crawl in a hole somewhere and hopefully not wake up.
I nod my head without saying a word. Maybe this man will leave me alone. Of course I know that is not the case.
“Have you heard of the wizard, Gallapus?”
Who has not heard of Gallapus, the greatest wizard of all time? Maybe if I was a famous as Gallapus, I would not feel that I was so unworthy.
“Yes,” I decide to answer him. “No wizard was able to defeat him. Their power, however great it was, could not harm him. Only when Gallapus used magic against his own body, it worked.” Now I am starting to warm up. “Is that how he met his demise? Did he use his powers to kill himself?” Maybe I should rethink about using my powers to end my unworthy life.
“No he only used powers to let people think he was defeated. From what I heard he lived a long life and died of old age.”
That will be my curse in my unworthy life, live for a long time.
“People are afraid to go to his castle. It is rumored that his ghost still wanders the hallways. Many magic-users, including warlocks and wizards are afraid to go there. They believe they will lose all their powers.”
I am interested. Maybe if I go to this castle and if the stories are true, I can either find some meaning in my unworthy life or find a way to end it. “Where is this castle?”
“Sir, it would be too dangerous for you!”
This makes me happy to hear.
“I am just curious,” I answer.
The man looks relieved. “The castle is a journey of eight or nine days from here. You will find it easily. It is built on the plains and it is in the shape of a lion.”
(“I remember that castle,” Britt said. George do you remember that dead-end mission?”
(“Yes,” George said. “The castle was abandoned and there was no ghost. We did not even find one gold coin.”
(“The castle was starting to fall into ruins,” Eileena said. “The elders did not think it was worth any effort to try to restore it.”
That is interesting. It looks like this wizard put great detail into his home. Maybe someday, if I find so worth in my life, I will build a fortress that people will talk about.
(“I think he did find some worth in his life,” George said.)
“What can you tell me about this castle?”
“It is a very dangerous place. He haunts his castle day and night, waiting for somebody worthy.”
That leaves me out.
“There are monsters with him guarding his home.”
“Has anybody ever entered it before?”
“Yes. There are rumors of great magical rewards. I do not know what they are because, most how enter the castle, do not return.”
Ah a way to end my unworthy life.
“The ones who do return turn into wild animals.”
At least if I was an animal, somebody can hunt me for food.
“I even remember one time an entire army tried to enter the castle. All but one was destroyed. That is when an important secret came known.”
“Which secret is that?”
“Only one person at a time can pass through the magical boundaries of the castle. If you are planning to explore the castle, do not bring anybody else. That is your only chance. With you being a magic-user, you may survive the castle and be greatly rewarded.”
I really do not want to survive. I want my unworthy life to end.
The man pulls a book out of his bag and hands it to me. “I know you are going to attempt to explore this castle, so you should have these. It is a magic journal and there are maps of the castle.”
“What if I do not survive in there?”
“I will know your fate if this book appears back in my bag and you do not return. Others who entered the castle and did not return were able to map areas they explored. If you survive in the castle, you will be a hero.”
If I were a hero, maybe I would not feel that my life is so unworthy.
“How to I find this castle?”
“Do you know where the Moosegrove River branches to the east?”
“Follow it until it branches to the north. That is about six days traveling. Then you walk in a southerly direction for two days. By then you should be able to see the castle on the plains. It looks like a tiger getting ready to strike.”
“Just be careful,” said the lady sitting next to the man. “When you get near the castle, there may be creatures lurking on the outside.”
Dage 10, 3045
The next day, I left on my mission with all my possessions. The man, whose name I never found out, walk with me to the edge of Antares and wished me luck.
“Before I forget, never enter in the castle during the night.”
“Thank you,” I said and went on my way following the river. While I could have rented a horse from the stables, I preferred to walk. I never liked or trusted horses.
Six days passed and it was a lonely journey. I met no people along the way and very few animals. It did not matter much to me; I did not feel like talking to anybody. I did not need people trying to convince me to turn back. On the six day, just as the man had said, the river branched to the north. I started walking south.
After two days of crossing the grasslands, I could see a faint outline of the castle on the southern horizon. Even though I could not see the outline of the tiger, I knew it was Gallapus’s castle. It looked like it would take me at least one more day to reach it. I decided to sleep the night and start out early the next morning.
At dawn, I started once more towards the castle. Even though the past eight days had went quickly, this last day seemed to drag. Even after walking ten minutes, it seemed that two hours had passed. The castle just did not seem to get any closer.
I finally reached the castle today in the late afternoon on the ninth day. I am going to rest here for the night and try to enter the castle in the morning. Whatever it takes, I have three days to complete my mission, unless it is my fate not to survive. Then I have to make it back to Antares before my food supply runs out.
“Son,” said Britt, “that is a very interesting story. However, put the book away, you need to sleep.”
“But I want to find out what happens,” the thief said.
“We will, just get some sleep.”
George did not answer. His head was leaning against Balon, already asleep.
Johanna gently took the book from George’s hands and put it back into his bag. Gently covering him with his blanket, she said, “Sleep soundly.”