Burning Sky Session 10

Examining the bridge, it was apparent that the bridge had been formed by magic.

Ulfgar pointed out that the village appeared to once have been an elven home.

Directing Torrent and Xireas to hang back with Haddin and Crystin, the rest of us approached the tower.

The two-story tower had several arrow slits on the upper level, and the only entrance appeared to be a sturdy wooden door.

I hung back while Ulfgar searched the door for traps. Not finding any danger or heat, he knocked on the door, and a spectral mace appeared on the door and floated toward him. Ulfgar tried to open the door, but it was locked.

“If you stay more than twenty feet from it, it can’t reach you!” ” Cyrus cried out, backing away from the spectral mace.

“That’s no way to greet weary travelers,” I grumbled, as I rushed toward the door. “We come in peace!”

The mace swung at Ulfgar, but the monk was too quick. “Give me a hand with the door,” he called to me.

“You froward mutinous dog,” Eyvindr mocked. “You damned rogue, come out!”

I charged the door and smashed into the hard-wood, bouncing off it as it held fast.

The mace slammed Ulfgar hard as he channeled some inner power and directed at the door, sending the door flying inward, revealing a thirty foot diameter chamber within.

Just to the right of the door was a one-foot stone burning with a magical flame. Foreign words were painted on the stone in black.

As soon as Ulfgar entered a blast of cold exploded from inside. Ulfgar was able to dodge most of the blast, but it hit squarely, numbing me to the bone.

I entered after Eyvindr and Cyrus. Inside, we found two dried corpses leaning against the walls, each with a longbow, arrows, shortsword, longsword, dagger, and chain shirt.

Peeking out, I quickly shouted, “Stay back until the spiritual weapon goes away,” before closing the door and casting cure wounds on myself.

There was a thud against the door, and it flew open. Ulfgar closed the door and leaned his weight into it.

Eyvindr climbed the stairs leading up to the second floor, cursing in frustration once he reached the top and cast faerie fire.

As I was heading up the stairs after Eyvindr, the door smashed and splintered slightly from the pounding of the spectral mace. “They’re breaking through!” Ulfgar cried.

“I’ll be right there!” I replied, having just barely reached the second floor.

The second floor was dominated by a long table holding a holy symbol and next to it were a notebook, a log book, a journal, and a large wooden map of the village beyond the bridge, with small carved figures placed amid miniature buildings.

Cyrus tipped the table over, spilling its contents across the floor and prepared to drop it over the stairway.

I returned to the door and braced the door just as it was shattered by the force of spectral mace. Ulfgar ran upstairs and I lumbered after him as fast as I could. As soon as I cleared the stairway, Cyrus dropped the table, blocking the entrance, and I stepped on to it.

Ulfgar examined the wooden map of the village, carved figures, and miniature buildings.

Eyvindr examined the book, which was written in elvish. It appeared to be a diary of someone named Bhurisrava. He turned to the last entry, and read: “I tire of spending my days rescuing the burning bodies of survivors and tending to them to no effect. The last survivor I found was a woman who still believed that the Living Wood of Innenotdar could not be abandoned. She asked my help looking for her boyfriend.”

The table shattered from the force of the spectral mace and I had to leap aside to avoid falling.

Ulgar came to our aid, noting that the map appeared to have been used for planning for the town’s defense.

Eyvindr continued to read aloud from the diary, “We found him in a hidden basement under the Shrine of Anyariel, where he had gone to curse the Anyariel name, along with a dozen other of the townsfolk. The fire had somehow burned in from the roots of the shrine, and they had long since been claimed. Though not dead, they are despairing, and their curses haunt me. The woman saw her beloved and fled me into the woods, seeking an impossible death. I found myself hoping something ate her. I never learned her name.”

Cyrus and I swung the long table around just in time to absorb the next blow with the intact portion.

Ulfgar looked out of an arrow slit to confirm that Xireas and the others were okay.

Eyvindr finished reading aloud from the diary, “I can do this no longer. To whatever god hears the prayers of the doubting, please give me the strength for the task ahead of me. I am going to deliver the despairing to the mouth of the White River upstream, where at least they can have some reprieve from the fire. May someone find what I have hidden. It would help bring to justice those responsible for the destruction of my beautiful homeland, for which otherwise none shall shed tears.”

“Silence the forty tongues who hold me here,” Cyrus recalled the words of Indomitability, “Hey, that sounds like them.”

After a final thud, the spectral mace disappeared.

I went downstairs and called to Xireas and the others to come inside, and led them upstairs.

Using the wooden map, Ulfgar identified the location of the shrine in the center of the village, shaped like a large willow tree.

Examining the elvish books further, Eyvindr noted that the journal covered Bhurisrava’s last few weeks in the tower, mixed with musings on the nature of faith. It appeared that the priest underwent a conflict of faith as he faced death. He also recounted the tales of many refugees who spoke of fires that simply would not go out. The elves of Innenotdar tried to save their home, but not even magic could put out the flames.

I noticed a hidden compartment in the floor’s wooden flanks. Everyone backed up as I tugged on the door, which was locked. I tried to use my smith’s tools to pry it open, but I almost broke my tools. Cyrus tried to pry it open with his handaxe, but could not get a grip.

Ulfgar used his elemental attunement to break the lock.

Inside the compartment, we found a pouch labeled: "For later study.” A sleeping face was drawn on the pouch.

“This must be what Bhurisrava hid,” determined Eyvindr.

The pouch was light, and the contents crinkled like paper. Eyvindr read the Goblin writing on the pouch: "Take one for visions of the firemaker. Do not take more. These are poison.”

Eyvindr recalled that Bhurisrava's notes called these "dream seeds," explaining that they were taken from the corpses of goblins who had helped set the fires, and that according to a speak with dead spell, the seeds were supposed to create prophetic visions of a dream realm, but Bhurisrava felt no effect when he tried one, and he risked not take another.

Ulfgar noted that the holy symbol was of the god of sunsets.

Eyvindr sang a song of rest while we sat and ate.

“There was a story I recall hearing when I was growing up about Anyariel,” Crystin muttered meekly. “As I remember, Anyariel was a hero of the forest, a holy warrior who died only a few years before the forest caught fire. She was said to be friend of the forest’s fey, was blessed by the forest itself, and according to the story, she had many times fought darkness from the forest’s borders, wielding a magic sword. This was a greatsword carved of wood, which she used to defeat many monsters, including a blackguard from Ragesia and a rampaging golem of white clay.”

“Interesting,” Cyrus gasped. “So she was from these woods…”

“Yes, Anyariel was a hero of these woods,” Crystin confirmed, “according to the books and children’s stories, she was quite the hero.”

Once everyone felt rested, we all crossed the bridge into the village, realizing that we were crossing the White River.

A single road intersected through the village, which was a quarter mile across and consisted mostly of ruins of little interest—burned out homes and stores, a park whose trees were cut down so they would die and stop burning. The homes were built into the boughs of trees or along the contours of hills. In the village’s center, atop a low hill, was a beautiful fountain in the shape of a grand willow tree with drooping branches: the Shrine of Anyariel. It was surrounded by a shimmering pool surrounded by a ring of seventeen old oak trees.

A walkway of stepping stones led to a small “island” in front of the tree, where Eyvindr indicated the townsfolk would offer prayers and thanks. However, by now the water had boiled away, and only the trees remained, occasionally raining fiery debris. The willow tree was finely crafted out of stone, or possibly a tree that was turned to stone, possibly to protect it from the fire.

Cyrus led the way to the tree, bypassing the stepping stones. “Anyariel, I’m sorry about what happened to your home,” Cyrus sympathized aloud, looking up into the tree where he saw two dried corpses that dropped down from the tree. They reeked with a ghastly stench.

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