2nd day of the 3rd ride, month 6 , 1262
I am dying.
My survival is far from certain and this has led me to doubt my actions. After the dream at the Sacred Baths of Sedna I followed the right course of actions to ascertain the signs in my dream. I have successfully identified each individual part of the vision but am still uncertain about the meaning of the message.
Was I warned to avoid the horrors in the darkness, or was I supposed to find them and face them?
I chose the latter and find myself dying of a disease. It promises a bleak end indeed, since my bodily remains will be given to the Flame upon my demise.
I have spent my life with a healthy dose of fear for the Sea and the Lord of the Deep, knowing … no, trusting, that I would be welcomed in his halls after a life of service to the Mother of Streams. Now it seems that even this fate might be denied to me. That this might happen in the summer I find to be an even crueler irony.
Is this punishment for mistaking the meaning of the dream? If so, it seems unseasonably cruel.
But let us pick up where we left off.
We were in the room where we faced the White Gnome and its minions. After our victory we discussed how to proceed. It was decided to retire to the burrowed tunnel from which we entered into these vaulted tunnels. We agreed that it was too dangerous to linger or to press on.
We reasoned that we had done enough to fulfill the terms of our agreement. I suggested that we bring back one of our gnomish attackers as evidence. Upon James’ further suggestion, Astrid severed one of their heads to take with.
I was almost certain that we could expect an ambush on the return trip, a concern I did not voice aloud, unwilling to cause undue concern. Unfortunately I was to be proven right.
The two elves of our company took the front and the rear and we methodically made our retreat. All went well until we all noticed clanging noises coming from somewhere deeper inside the vaulted tunnels.
James was immediately eager to investigate. I was less enthusiastic about the idea, but found that an argument would not help our desperate situation so I stayed my tongue. After a short discussion the elves departed, leaving the humans with their single lantern to make their way back to the tunnel on their own. Thank Sedna I had placed the markers!
It was very difficult not to liken the departure of our elven companions to the betrayal of Elvenkind to Humankind in their hour of need.
Luca was entirely confident in his own recollections and did not pay attention to the markers at all. I did, and found that at some point the markers were gone. Luca scoffed at the possibility of being mistaken and we persisted on our path.
We walked right into a trap.
Three of the gnomish miscreants appeared from the darkness and started wailing at me with their crude weapons. After one feeble attempt to strike at them I cowered behind my shield while Astrid tore our attackers to shreds.
I was savagely cut and am now dying from a disease inflicted by one of their blades.
I then convinced Luca that we were on the wrong path and we tracked back until we found the markers again. A little later we discovered the truth: the gnomes had employed some kind of illusory magic to obscure the markings and so waylay us. We recovered the right path and successfully found the burrowed tunnel.
The ambush could have been much more disastrous had there been more gnomes lurking in the darkness. I later found out that this was not a stroke of luck, but related to the clanging noises we had discerned earlier on.
I later learned that these noises had come from a fight between five well equipped Lyrian knights and a host of these gnomish rats. The knights prevailed, and our elven compatriots had conversed with them. They warned of a terrible disease and they explained that they had come from the De Courtenay estate nearby. Their leader was Armand de Courtenay, a Paladin of the Platinum Lord, and they were seeking the source of the disease.
Surely the struggle with the knights distracted the majority of the gnomes and secured our survival in the ambush, as well as preventing harm to our elven compatriots in their recklessness. But in fairness, them encountering the knights has been useful.
Upon returning to the tunnel we were immediately ridiculed by the arrogant one. He seemed to take pleasure in the fact that we were waylaid by monsters and nearly slain. I confirmed that we had indeed been tricked by magic of the gnomish rats. He also complained that he had wasted so much time looking for us.
My happiness at recovering our way out was severely dampened by all of this. Luca appeared mostly angry.
Emrys had apparently summoned reinforcements from the estate. Much to the relief of the house guards we decided to retire back to the surface, bringing with one severed gnomish head, and the slain guardsman in the tunnel. The one in the aqueduct had been set on fire by Emrys.
On the surface things started to get a bit blurry for me. We first spoke with Captain Mollen, after which we ate and rested a little. I inspected my wounds and found that I was quite likely mortally wounded.
I failed at proper etiquette when we visited the Lords of Sheridan for our debriefing, but they were kind enough to forgive my transgression. I have missed much of what was discussed but I seem to understand that we are meant to go down into the accursed tunnels again tomorrow.
When they started staring at me as to whether or not I would come with I could only blurt out that I required healing and that I might be corrupted by an affliction.
Upon that dismal note we retired to our resting places. I was offered a corner in the stables, where Benten the Purple visited me in person. He examined my wound and said that he was unable to heal it. He did provide me with an amulet that should stop the affliction from gaining in strength. He explained that the surest way to recovery would be at the Cathedral of the Platinum Lord, but that the closest servant of the Platinum Lord could be found in the tunnels from which we had just returned.
I should have asked him what the masks in the mansion mean.
So now I face the same question I faced yesterday. Do I avoid the darkness and its horrors, or do I go towards them?
In my current weakness and despair I am inclined to go back to Kingsport.
But what if it is part of the test? Should I persist?
Will my servitude to Water end in Flames?
I need to sleep …