Fiction & LoreReturn to: The Second Age
The Second Age…
Lord CrawWorth stood staring into the cave, trying to get his eyes to adjust to the pitch black. He was afraid to light a torch just yet, in case some of the denizens of the darkness were attracted to the light or heat. His hand strayed from the hilt of his sword to his thick mustache, and he twirled the end of it, as was his custom when he grew nervous. The silence was broken by my voice.
“How far does it go, dost thou think?” I asked. My name is Caitlin, and I insisted on coming with the expedition. CrawWorth claimed he did not care one way or the other, as long as I didn’t get in the way too much.
“It leads to another land, M’lady. How far dost thou think that is?” He didn’t mean to be rude, but he was deep in thought and paid no attention to the inflection of his voice. He turned to make sure the rest of our expedition was ready.
Michelle, the ranger from Skara Brae, was checking her bow and trying to peer around CrawWorth into the cave. The green cloak she wore wrapped around her chain mail muffled the noise it would have made normally. She finished with her bow and slung it over her shoulder, and then took the time to tie her long blonde hair into a ponytail.
Enas, the wizard, had come all the way from Moonglow to be part of the expedition. He kept his hair cut short and his face shaved clean. CrawWorth was worried about the long blue robes he wore, but he appeared to be able to travel with no problems. Enas would be performing a dual function for our party, as he was also an accomplished artist. Lord British had tasked him with sketching each of the new creatures the expedition encountered.
Xarot, like CrawWorth, wore his best plate armor. The savvy fighter was also versed in the healing skills, and therefore made the perfect complement to CrawWorth. The two had fought back to back many times against orcs, ettins, and trolls, and CrawWorth trusted him as though he were a brother. Xarot scratched his goatee and gave his axe a tedious examination. He glanced at me and smiled, as though to reassure me, but I didn’t need his reassurance.
The last of the group was the cartographer who would send maps back from the expedition to Lord British’s waiting hands. His name was Dresler, and he wore leather armor that was just a little too big for him. He was easily the smallest of the group, and his curly hair and long beard made him look the eldest, although he was probably only a few months older than CrawWorth, and probably years younger than Xarot. He didn’t pay any attention to the conversation that I was having with CrawWorth, but instead took the time to check his blank parchment and his quill and ink.
“Hand me the torch.” CrawWorth finally said. He looked into my eyes, and paused. I like to think that it was occurring to him that I wasn’t the little girl that he thought I was. My eyes have been known to have that effect on men before. He grew handsome somehow, there in the moonlight. Another time, another place, I thought. But that thought left my head quickly.
The torch flared with a brilliant yellow glow and the entrance to the cave lit up with a sickly radiance. I could see no end in sight. We entered carefully…
Day 1 — ‘Twas an honor to be chosen by Lord British himself to send back all the information that is gathered about the new lands. I hope that I am able to retain mine integrity and honesty when reporting information for those who read it. I can promise only to do my best.
CrawWorth has doubts about me, but I hope to alleviate them soon. The others who are going with us–Michelle, the ranger; Xarot, the Fighter; Dresler, the mapmaker; and Enas, the mage–all seem very secure in their roles. Outwardly they appear to have no doubts, no trepidation, no worries. I hope that I seem that way to them.
It looks like CrawWorth is ready to leave. ‘Twill be a short trip to the cave, and then down into the darkness. I shall write more when I can…
Day 2 — The journey through the cave was not far, and we’ve now arrived on what appears to be a new land. None who travel with us has seen such a place before. We are in what appears to be a small village, though some of it appears to be in ruin.
The smell of the area is somewhat stale, as though the wind avoids this part of the land. There is light enough here to see, and we’ve doused the torches that we lit to travel through the cave, but it’s impossible to tell where the light is coming from. I can not see the sun.
We have met some of the natives, and they speak our language, though they have not heard of Lord British! Imagine that someone who has lived all their life could not know the Lord of all the lands. They seem to favor the same types of dress and armor that we wear, and use the same weapons. We have met shopkeepers, blacksmiths, healers, and peasants. They speak of warring races in the area nearby, but are reluctant to go into detail.
Enas pointed out that some of the stonework on the ground seems to be in the shape of a spider and a snake, though without his trained eye, I can make neither heads nor tales of the shapes he claims are so visible.
The peoples of this village have domesticated a creature, the likes of which we’ve never seen before. Tis a strange mix of bird and animal, and it can be ridden like the horses of our land! It has a head like a bird, though it’s eyes show much more intelligence. Two strong, muscled legs stick out of its egg shaped body, and it has a long tail that runs to the ground.
We hope to find out more about the warring races, as that information would seem to be critical to the function that we are trying to perform whilst we are here. Some of the natives have offered to guide us, but CrawWorth seems reluctant to accept their help.
Xarot and I have found the food here to be palatable, and Enas has gone to work making preliminary sketches of the riding bird. I noticed CrawWorth speaking quietly to Michelle, and felt an involuntary shudder of jealousy. She quickly disappeared through the growing number of gawkers who have come to see the strangers from the mountain.
CrawWorth is calling me over, and for some reason I feel relieved that he is coming to trust me. I’ll write again on tomorrow.
Day 3 — The village was a good place to start, as apparently CrawWorth was able to glean more information than he let on. We made our way out of the village on a small dirt path, and followed it as it winded its way down to a river. We crossed the river on a man made bridge and Michelle commented that they did a good job with the woodwork.
We’ve seen another creature, which very much resembles the riding birds from the village, although this one appears to be a very deep green in color. Xarot says this is to make it easier for the beast to hide in the green foliage that covers the forest. Enas has started another drawing.
Michelle has been leading the group today, her rangering skills are proving invaluable in this unknown forest region. I still feel the occasional twinge of jealousy when I see CrawWorth looking at her lithe form gliding through the woods.
I’ve been able to write more today as Dresler has needed to stop periodically to adjust his maps or make sure that he’s not missing vital information from them. CrawWorth and Xarot speak frequently of ways to protect ourselves from the hazards we may face. We’ve yet to run into much trouble, occasionally killing a bird or other small animal for food, but nothing has attacked us yet. (Perhaps we don’t appear as tasty as the normal denizens of this land)
Enas and Michelle are engaged in a conversation over the wild plants that grow up in these areas. Many of them seem the same as those that we are used to from our own lands, but the occasional plant seems, somehow, odd.
CrawWorth has decided that we should move on once again.
Day 4 — The land has grown somewhat more rugged, and the terrain has slowed our progress some. We traveled east from the village for as long as we could, but now mountains loom over us and mock our inability to traverse them. The paths turn north before reaching the rocky outcroppings, and we have followed with the path’s philosophy.
For the first time since our arrival we were attacked without provocation. The riding birds which we have seen in two variations thus far (the domesticated ones used by the villagers, and the rich emerald hued ones who roam the forest) have produced yet another breed. This one an evil and malicious type.
The blackish grey thing attacked CrawWorth as he rounded a corner, apparently it slipped past Michelle, and attacked him with a screech. It’s beak was furious and fast, and only CrawWorth’s superior armor kept him from sustaining serious injury. He swung several times at the beast with his sword, but the riding birds are quick and graceful, and many of his first attacks went harmlessly past it.
Xarot was quick to his side, however, and together the two of them goaded it into each others attacks. Xarot would feint to one side and swing hard, missing intentionally, and the bird would retaliate by trying to go around the other side of his swing. But CrawWorth would be there already, harshly assaulting the creature as it tried to avoid Xarot’s blows. Within minutes of adopting this strategy the beast was felled.
Enas studied the corpse of the bird intently, apparently hoping to gain some insight into the creature’s weaknesses or innate magical abilities. After half an hour he gave up exasperated, and simply cut as much meat off of the bird as he could. We plan to try eating it later…
Day 5 — Tragedy struck us today. We had no more than started out from camp when we were set upon by another band of the dark riders (this is what Enas has taken to calling the bird that was killed yesterday). Three of them struck at the same time, though it didn’t seem to be a coordinated attack, just our bad luck.
Michelle could scarcely fire her bow, as one kept close to her and rushed her whenever she tried to aim. Enas began casting defensive spells on each of us, and I was washed over by magic as a Reactive Armor spell was placed on me. Dresler seemed nervous, and rushed to stay away from any of the beasts. It was all I could do to keep from running away myself…
CrawWorth and Xarot, however, were godsends. Their skills and perseverance kept the birds from seriously threatening any of us, and though we were doing what seemed like little damage to them, they were doing as little damage to us as well.
The tragedy occurred only a minute or so after the birds attacked. Xarot, with no thought for his own preservation, led the beasts towards one another, and two of them bit at each other! Fighting over the very meal that stood before them! With a quick grace that could only come from many years of study he leapt between the two and drew the attention of the third. With all three of them focusing their energy on him he disappeared into the brush.
“MOVE ON!!” He yelled, “I’ll catch up!”
CrawWorth was near exhaustion and could scarcely reply. His words disappeared into a tumult of heavy breathing. He eyed me for a moment and then turned to Michelle.
“Get us to safety!” he hissed, his breath coming in ragged gasps.
She led us on. After an hour or so of travel we stopped to wait for Xarot’s return. Sadly, we have not yet heard from him. Occasionally we hear the wicked scream of the dark birds, and my skin crawls as I wonder what has happened to our brave friend.
It was almost dark when we saw the first of the lighted buildings.
Another village. We arrived as a rugged group and fell to the ground as soon as we were within what we felt to be the city’s safety. Villagers came to help, offering food, water, and healing, as well as a place to stay. CrawWorth has already dozed off on a cot offered up by one of the village elders.
Michelle and Enas are talking with some of the others who are a little more eager to spread information about the warring races the other village was loathe to discuss. I have not yet heard much of the information, though the words ‘Snake-man’ and ‘Spider-people’ have come up frequently.
When CrawWorth awakens and finds out more we shall travel again….
Day 6 — The journey to the village was uneventful, but again tragedy has found us worthy of it’s attention. A few hours after leaving and heading out through the strange land we spotted some creatures moving about on a hillside not to far from us. Journeying closer to take a look we discovered a small group of green creatures with scaly skin. They leap from place to place on powerful hind legs and eat smaller insects.
It seemed strange to Enas that they would be gathered around, apparently waiting for something, and he commented on it just as the brush nearby opened up to reveal one of the most horrifying sights I have ever laid eyes on. A tall, snake-like creature, brandishing a scimitar slithered into our midst and attacked Michelle as she tried to string her bow. CrawWorth tried desperately to protect her, but was held up by the small green creatures, who began moving around in evasive patterns as soon as the snake-man appeared.
Enas loosed a spell and an energy bolt hit the being square in the chest. After releasing a hiss of rage he quickly dispatched Michelle with his scimitar. Without Xarot’s healing abilities I’m afraid she was lost to us.
CrawWorth was now behind the beast, and he swung his sword viciously, letting out a snarl as he did so. His manly form was in perfect harmony with his weapon as he sliced the monster nearly in two.
We buried Michelle’s body, taking from her all the equipment we could carry, and Enas saying a word of virtue over her body. We quickly tired of walking, and no one has spoken since the incident.
Tomorrow I will write more, it’s too painful right now.
Day 7 — Still reeling from the loss of Michelle, we made our way over a great gorge, and into a barren region of desolation. Only the water to the west broke the dreary spell of emptiness around us. After a while, Enas started talking again, something we hadn’t done since Xarot’s heroics just days ago. I found myself fascinated as he talked at great length about the possible origins of the people in this strange land.
I was just about to interject my own opinions of the land when we came across something that made CrawWorth stop in his tracks. He looked at us each in turn, his eyes wide with surprise and then pointed to the ground in front of his feet. There lay a sword. But not any sword. Xarot’s sword. He recognized it by the handle, and gently plucked it up from the dust that lay all around it. Overwhelmed with pain at the memory I turned and discovered that we were not alone…
Coming up behind us was a lone figure, huge, looming, and watching us intently. I’ve seen an ogre before, and even a troll, and this beast matched them in size easily. When it was only twenty feet away we could make out it’s most odd feature. The beast had but one eye! He carried a small tree in his hand, the leaves ripped off of one end, and as we realized it was a weapon he raised it above his head and rushed forward.
Enas was prepared this time, having had time to grab his spellbook and prepare his reagents as we watched the creature approach us. His incomprehensible words of power seemed to fill the air around me as a bolt of lighting spiraled down from above and struck the one-eyed beast, causing him to shriek in pain and surprise. His weapon was tossed to the side as he fell face first into the hard ground. Smoke rose from his body where the lightning had struck.
CrawWorth cautiously approached it and prodded it with his sword. It groaned, but made no move to get up. We hurried on along the path, watching over our backs as we went….
A few hours later found us crossing the waters to the mountainous regions on a fisherman’s boat. Snow fell freely from the sky, and as the cold wind rushed over us, we stood silently together and mourned for Xarot. Somehow that began to lift our spirits and we traveled on through the snowy lands for some time before we realized that we’d walked in a complete circle. Without Michelle to guide us we had no idea where we were or where we were headed. Upon seeing us return, the fisherman, a friendly old man named Clarwik, offered us return passage on his ship. We readily agreed.
Day 8 — We’ve moved away from the waters and headed deeper into the abysmal plains that seem to surround us now. We’ve seen more of the one eyed beasts, though only from a distance as we have purposely avoided them. Of Snake men, we’ve seen no more. But we’ve run across the second of the warring races, and now the comments tha Enas made in the first village, and the stories of the villagers in the second village are finally coming together.
The group at war with the snake men, which Enas tells me the villagers call Ophidians, are the Terrathans, or Spider People. We have not encountered a group of these up close either, but Enas and I sat quietly on an outcropping and watched a group of them travel together towards what we assume to be one of their lairs. They are hideous, and make me long for the comfort of my own home. The upper portions of their bodies are much like men, two arms, two hands, a broad chest, and a head. But from the waist down these beings are pure spider. Their thick, bloated bodies make me ill, and I can’t imagine how I’d feel if one of them touched me with it’s hairy legs.
I was ready to join CrawWorth and Dresler again, who were resting together while Dresler redrew some of his maps (CrawWorth seems tired much more than he should be, perhaps he is becoming ill), but Enas wanted to stay behind and make more sketches. He promised to meet us in just a few minutes, and I set out to find my way back to our encampment. But it was not to be. Just seconds after leaving his company, I heard Enas scream in terror. I started to return to his side as quickly as I could, but before I could take a step I could see the spider people on all sides of him. Disgusted by their horrendous form I made my way back to CrawWorth and Dresler, and crying I told them of what had happened.
CrawWorth drew his sword and demanded that I lead him to the place where Enas was captured, despite my reluctance to return. When we arrived we found nothing except the papers and pictures that Enas had drawn. These I took and folded them neatly into my pack. CrawWorth would not be stopped though. Using his limited training in the woodland arts he began following their trail back to their lair. Both Dresler and I argued that this would be suicide, but he would hear no more of it. We reached the lair as darkness fell.
Fortunately, there was a ring of trees around the clearing where the Terrathan’s gathered. We watched as they stripped Enas of his clothes and went through his pack, destroying most of what he carried. His ink and quill were thrown into a fire, and he was to follow. They slit his throat with his own dagger and began feasting on his still warm corpse.
CrawWorth would have rushed them, I believe, but when I turned to see his reaction he was gone. Dresler and I made our way back away from the spider people and found CrawWorth spitting up blood a few feet away.
He is very sick, and neither Dresler nor I know what to do……
Day 9 — We couldn’t get much farther away from the spiders with CrawWorth in the condition that he was in. We made our way as far as we could. We slept that night with no watch, as none of the three of us could stay awake for very long. We were exhausted. CrawWorth slept the latest, and by the time he woke both Dresler and I were packed up and ready to begin moving. This would have to wait though, as soon we were surrounded by the Ophidians. Their slithering voices appeared all around us, and moved past us as they headed towards the Spiders.
CrawWorth was amazed at their concentration on the enemy, as they paid us no mind whatsoever. Finally, his curiosity getting the better of him, CrawWorth followed them towards the clearing. Dresler and I tagged along reluctantly. As we got nearer we could hear chanting. The voices of the spiders are indescribably beautiful. A mixture of pure symmetry and harmony. As we neared the clearing the chanting stopped.
And then, as suddenly as the sun appears in the morning sky, the Terrathan’s and the Ophidian’s began their war. For one perfect second their was nothing but clear skies and the noiseless beauty of nature. And then metal rang out against metal and the shrieks and hisses of the Ophidians mixed and mingled with the barks and harsh cries of the Terrathans.
The three of us were swept away in a tide of fighting snakes and spiders, and soon we found ourselves running towards a beach. The water seemed a safe place to be at the moment, and fortunately their appeared to be an abandoned ship sitting off to one side. CrawWorth pointed towards it and shouted smoething I didn’t understand, but the three of us turned as one in the direction of the boat. Dresler started falling behind, and at some point he shoved his maps into my hand. I turned to ask why and he fell to the ground, an arrow protruding from his back.
Both the Ophidians and the Terrathans were looking our way now, and CrawWorth and I barely made our way to the ship as both groups, still fighting incessantly among themselves, moved to attack us. CrawWorth got the ship into the water though I’ll never know how. As we drifted away with the current they seemed to forget us again and reengaged in their war of wars.
We sailed for many hours with no tillerman, no oars, and no wind to move us along. We drifted wherever the current carried us, and after a while it occurred to us that we could no longer see the land. CrawWorth was apparently feeling better as he splashed some of the cold water into his face and glanced around at our predicament.
We were feeling desperate when we saw the shape in the distance. A huge black spire looming out of the ocean. And now there were two of them. Perfect twins they were. Black pillars with huge silver snakes curled around them in decoration. I was almost sure from a distance that the serpents were alive, but as we got closer we discovered that they were just metal carved around the black stone pillars.
We drifted towards them slowly and I turned to ask CrawWorth what they were. Poor, poor CrawWorth. He lay on his back, his eyes staring blankly at the sky. I crawled over next to him and he glanced at me, then tried vainly to turn his head. He grimaced as I touched him and mumbled something about his leg. It was then that I noticed the bolt. Sticking straight out from the calf. I reached down and yanked on it with all my might, cutting myself in the process, and watching revolted as a sickly green fluid came gushing out of the wound.
I leaned in close to CrawWorth, knowing somehow that he would soon die. I hugged him, and straightened him up in the boat. I leaned closer to him, tears flowing down my face. He smiled and said, almost inaudibly, “a kiss”. I kissed him then, and held him tight as he died in my arms. My face was surely a perfect study in agony, as I realized for the first time that I was the sole survivor of this mission. This journey of discovery had become a journey of death.
I watched as the boat sailed between the serpent pillars, and was amazed at the change that occurred all around me. The very sky changed colors, and suddenly I could see the sun again. I laughed through my tears as the familiar smells of Britannia wafted towards me. I passed out then, though from exhaustion, or ecstacy, or sorrow I could not say.
When I awoke I was in the Bay of Britain. As my ship sailed towards the docks a crowd gathered. When news of who I was made it’s way to the center of the city, a group of Virtue guards arrived to escort me to see Lord British.
I could feel the poison from the bolt then. It was working it’s way into my blood already. I don’t know if the bolt was Ophidian or Terrathan. At some point I threw it out of the ship. When I meet with Lord British I shall give him this last journal entry. So that all may know of the braveness of CrawWorth, and all the others who traveled with us.
I loved him. And soon we shall be together. I write my final words…..
Last modified: March 29, 2011