Days 2 – 5
Ugh…I feel awful. I hardly have the strength to write. My agony is worth the liberation of a friend, however. We freed Mali from every cage we could, although he is trapped in a soul sphere.
It started four days ago, after I had been attacked by that crau-inth. It’s attack, and Jinn’s threats, left me debilitated and confused, so Jinn had to lead me back to Falsaye…I barely had the strength to carry Ayu, the smell of blood strong in my nose and the pain in my head refusing to abate. When I got back to town, everyone was wondering where Millimaru was. It wasn’t until I realized that they had seen me with “Millimaru” that things began to make sense.
I explained to them what happened…sort of. Apparently I did not do a good job of explaining, because no one seemed to care…except for Gertrude. She asked if I needed healing, and at first I told her no. Then I asked her if she had any herbs that could heal this hurt inside me, and she recognized what I was talking about. She fixed up a broth that made me feel a bit better. Elinara even gave me some alcohol, and for once I didn’t care, I just took it. The headache started to go away, and things looked as if they were getting back to normal. Well, sort of normal; that term has such a different meaning than it did a few months ago.
I managed to convince everyone to let Jinn come with us. I’m not entirely sure why he’s coming with us. Gertrude and Elinara obviously can’t stand him, and he knows it. But perhaps he realizes that taking on Millimari on his own is suicide, or maybe he thinks I have more clout than I actually do.
While I was gone, the group saw a blinking light in the woods and decided to check it out. I don’t remember much of the story, because my head was swimming, but I do remember that they found a wolf that looked exactly like Astara, but it was a mecha. While they were looking at it, a giant Nashi attacked them, which was many times larger than a normal Nashi; they later discovered that it was a mecha.
Somehow they figured out that it had a weakness on its belly. They managed to kill it, but not before it killed the Astara look-alike. As Elinara told me the story, I could only hear Jinn’s words: “They were meant to replace us. You would not believe the horrors I have seen below…you wouldn’t believe…” What if Jinn is right? Mechas are being created to replace us. If they could replace Astara…why not my friends or me?
They all survived with some scars, but seemed in good spirits. Gertrude convinced everyone to visit her house before attempting to find the path under the well. When we got there, we discovered that the basement was covered in an extremely thick layer of metal, so deep that there was no hope of digging through it. Someone did not want anyone getting to the underground that way.
We spent a few days recuperating and digging down the well. I rested and began feeling better. In my rest, I came to see different sides of people because I only really had the will to observe, not interact. Gertrude’s mental condition is worsening. I studied a little bit of hypnotism before we left Falsaye, and I recognize that some of the tricks I learned wouldn’t work on her at all. She is thinking differently…as if she has multiple parts of herself vying for attention and control; it’s almost as if she has two different personalities. If I survive long enough, I want to help her. I can improve on hypnotism a bit, and maybe learn some tricks to get rid of her confusion, like eliciting poison from a wound. I owe her so much for what I’ve done to her.
We eventually uncovered a path to the area below the well. It was a large, open cavern with a metal half-sphere that took up most of the room. We climbed to the top of it, and there was a door with the telltale rings in it. We tried using the generic ones that Eroq gave us, but Jinn told us not to use them. They were contaminated with Maintainer’s Disease. Since we couldn’t leave them around for someone to find, Yaisona quietly folded them back into the cloth and placed them in her pack. Then we used the real bracelets to open the door.
Using Alyssa’s rope, we all climbed down into the sphere, only to realize that we were going to need the rope. Baadonai flew up to untie the rope. I’m not sure what caused it, but the door began to close while Baadonai was untying the rope. We screamed for Baadonai to jump back down, which turned out to be a bad idea. He was so startled that he panicked and almost didn’t make it down. The door clipped off the tips of his wings when it closed, but other than that he was all right.
Gertrude provided us some light, and we got a lantern lit as the psionic dissipated. The bracelets had dropped down after the door above had closed. After pocketing them, we investigated the strange chamber.
It was beautiful. A crystalline wall surrounded us, bending light in eerily mystical ways. Jinn mentioned that the sphere we were in was some sort of psionic amplification chamber. We found another door located on the floor of the room, but the bracelets didn’t open the door. Elinara suggested that I try eating away at the door with one of my psionics, but I didn’t like that idea. Even though the power wasn’t on, the chamber had a distinct feel to it. I guessed that any psionic that I cast might quickly overpower me, and could risk killing us all or turning the amplifier on. Arik misunderstood me completely, and so used his skills to heal all of us. I’ve got to give him a little credit; testing my theory with healing was better than testing it with destruction, but it still wasn’t the greatest idea.
I felt much better after he healed me. For a moment I’d thought he’d been working on becoming a better healer and the resonance chamber wasn’t working, but then the temperature began rising. If Arik hadn’t grabbed his sword and pried the lower door open, we all could have been baked alive. The tip of the sword broke some sort of seal, and the temperature quickly returned to normal and the door slid open.
The door opened onto a catwalk, and while we were climbing out, a cannon shot echoed through the bowels of the mecha cavern. The scorpion mechas we’d seen below Vayl were firing cannons and arrows at us. Along side them were two more heliospheres. During the battle, two bolts impaled me through the chest. I was so mad that the stupid thing attacked me that I managed to land a hit with my whip. It wound around the cannon piece of the scorpion, and I yanked as hard as I could. I heard a clunk, and the cannon obviously wasn’t going to have as easy a time attacking us.
The scorpion mecha didn’t have a chance to attack, however, as Arik split the thing in two. Arik came over, saying I should hold still. I saw my life flash before my eyes as I waited for Arik to yank the bolts and my innards out at the same time. But the pain was brief, and Arik quickly healed me. He and I don’t always see eye to eye, perhaps because he’s several feet taller than I am, but he’s indispensable in battle. He’s kind at heart to those things that he doesn’t want to cleave…I can respect that, I guess.
With the mechas disposed of, we continued over the catwalk, where another large sphere stood in our way. With a bit of fiddling, Yaisona, Gertrude, and Elinara used Alyssa’s necklace to open the sphere. And Millimari stood in front of us. I stood in amazement at our luck...or lack of it, in this case. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong. Well, more than the fact that Millimari was standing in front of us. She didn’t move immediately to kill us as she had on the mercenary ship. When I tried to turn to see what the others were doing, I noticed I couldn’t move, and my headache came back, only this time it was stronger.
I knew immediately that it was a crau-inth. Hoping that someone was not hindered by its binding attack, I tried to tell everyone to use physical attacks, but the words didn’t come out. Alyssa stood, dazed and confused, as the only person could move. She tried reasoning with it, then tried a much more suitable thing: close the containment area again. As predicted, I saw the same pink tendrils, albeit several times larger, lash out from Millimari’s form and grab onto the chamber walls, keeping it from closing. Alyssa was so terrified that she grabbed her necklace back out of the door controls.
I still couldn’t move, and my psionics were doing nothing. I kept losing my concentration because of the headache. The battle pillar in front of us came alive, scoping all of us as targets. That’s when Gertrude ran by me. As the terrible lord crau-inth revealed its true form, we saw a blob of pink and red with hundreds of large eyes watching us. Hunger, it said in my mind…over and over. Gertrude must have been able to free herself from the binding of the grand crau-inth and ran to the console, looked at it for a few moments, then snatched Alyssa’s bracelet and jammed it into the console. The pillar in front of us focussed on the crau-inth as it made its way to devour us, and not a moment too soon it launched a powerful stream of cannon shots, bolts, and psionics directly into the grand crau-inth. And the thin membrane that held the grand crau-inth together disintegrated, and we were covered in pink, nauseating slime.
With the psionic binding released, I almost slumped to the ground; my pain was so great…it still is. I can’t concentrate…but I felt Mali’s presence nearby. I remembered him as a child, and he thanked us for saving him. I looked past the remains of the beast and saw a rusted metal soul sphere, larger than the one I have. The crau-inth had been feasting on the power of the soul sphere for some time, and that’s how it had become so large and powerful. Mali is weak, and could only tell us that there wasn’t much time until Millimari found a way to turn the power back online.
I realize now that someone, or something, had to have put that crau-inth in with Mali. I knew it was a trap! But who set it? It could have been Millimari, but she’s a mecha…and Ayu couldn’t see the crau-inth that attacked me in the forest. Is there someone else who is trying to kill us? And if so, why? Finding and rescuing Mali is a huge victory for us, but we know too little to act with the decisiveness and quickness that Mali said we needed. And I need rest…
The team looks beaten. Elinara even passed out after the battle, and my face is once again caked with dried blood and pink slime. I hate these crau-inths…