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Aeolus Zephyrus

Aeolus Zephyrus was a Cryinale Mage that lived in Tralisia during it’s early years. He had much reknown in the study of Ama’rane especially the Silent Wood east of Tralisia. Many considered him an expert on the matter, with his knowledge on the matter fast approaching Arch Mage Erius.

No one is entirely sure what happened to Mage Zephyrus – one day he was seen entering the Wood never to return. Some say he was consumed alive by the roots of the trees. Others say, he simply moved to a remote section in the wood to study it more closely. One dire rumor painfully suggests he willingly gave up his soul to the demons that haunt that place. Since his disappearance, there have been multiple reports of hearing muttering and mumblings about the wood.

Regardless of his current status, Aeolus prepared several papers, which have been published. Below you will find them.

 

A Report on the Sparse Forest

After spending much time observing the artifacts of the area, many pried from the hands of the ‘descenders’, I have some to several conclusions regarding the people who once lived in this area.

This report was requested by Arch-Mage Erius Reisuts.

Far to the southeast of our city lies a string of wooded areas, and recently discovered within one of those were the ruins of what appears to be an ancient city, surrounded by a sparse forest, which, I suppose, is what I’ll refer to this area as until I can decipher its proper name. In the following pages, I shall document my theories and discoveries in the hopes that I may be able to unlock the secrets of what befell this city, and what knowledge was once contained within.

The first part of the ruins that one is likely to come across is a strange set of geometric stones, a small paved road winding between them. The dominant stones are pentagonal shaped, one lying to the north of the path, and one to the south. The long, blunt side of the pentagon faces the road, and the points face outward. Upon each is some from of archaic writing, ancient words which I am unable to decipher, as well as various pictures and symbols, all neatly arranged upon the structure. Smaller stones surround these large monuments.

What remains of the road also contains the pentagonal shape; each tile consists of four pentagons placed together, small triangles filling in the edges to make a square, and the square surrounded by trapezoidal shapes. Two tiles lay side-by-side, and smaller, less intricate stones lie to either side, making a fairly large road on which to travel. The Most of the tiles have been destroyed, and whole parts of the road are missing, but enough remain that one could follow it to the site of the ruined city.

The next part of the ruins that can be found by following the thoroughfare is that of a massive archway, the remains of a wall extending from either side of it. The archway seems to be in good condition, and judging from the way it’s built, a gate probably once stood within the arch. At the top of the arch are some more archaic inscriptions, below them a strange symbol, though I could not clearly see it due to the various elements of the forest that had grown upon the arch.

Before the archway are two large pentagonal structures that stand before each side of the gate, a small, shallow, circular pit surrounding each. I would assume that water may have once flowed in these pits. They seem to be purely ornate, merely serving to greet visitors as they enter through the large archway. Unlike the previous two, they lack any form of symbols or writing, and appear to be carved from mica (I have noticed some deposits of the mineral in various boulders around the forest, so perhaps it was once relatively abundant).

The road continues on through the archway, and eventually feeds into a larger, circular thoroughfare, upon which one can see much of way remains of the city. The road is largely intact, but the once finely cut stones seem to have been shattered, and entire sections are missing in places.

Following the road south, I came across a large grouping of what appears to be houses, or something similar. I was able to find clothing, and various other objects, though much of the houses were falling to pieces, but it did not seem as though this was a natural sort of decay. Sections of the buildings were missing, as if something had literally torn part of the building off. The wall here is also very jagged, and seems to end here as well, only a few stones remaining on the southernmost part. One can only assume that whatever caused this may have also brought about an end to the rest of the city as well.

Continuing my journey, I followed the road east into another large grouping of buildings, this one slightly different. The buildings remain largely intact, though entering them would be unwise in their fragile condition. The first building I came across was larger than the others, and judging from the tools inside such as scales, and even a small mint and vault for producing and storing coinage. My guess is that it is either an early bank of some sort, or a merchant’s guild, as this area does appear to be the center of trade for this ancient city.

Beyond the building, many roads split off from the main one, weaving between rows of building which I would suspect are shops. Upon the ground in various places are coins minted from platinum. It is strange, but it seems platinum was fairly common in this place, more so than gold or silver. Tiny nuggets of platinum can be found in the shops’ remains as well as being carried by the strange beasts the roam these ruins.

Of course, at the same time, platinum doesn’t seem common to this area, not naturally. This has led me to believe that these people once conducted trade with others, perhaps the dwellers of the southern mountains. Their hills seem to contain some platinum as well as other materials. The city also seems to contain large supplies of finely-cut garnets, but strangely enough, other gems are not to be found. I would like to think the gems were used to produce shards, but I cannot say.

Beyond the remnants of the merchants district is a massive structure, clearly visible from most of the city. It’s separated from most of the city by a small forest, but there is a pathway leading up to it. The structure itself is quite large, by far the largest in this region. It’s composed of a pentagonal pyramid, its peak reaching far above the treetops, set upon a stone base. The pyramid itself has remained large intact, and it retains its pure-white colour, even having a slight sheen in some places. Near the top of each side is a marking of some sort, each connecting to the other to form a sort of pattern, but the area below this is free of any more markings.

The base upon which the pyramid rests is far different. It appears to have been constructed from a blackened stone, shaped into a large square. It reaches the height of an average building, and upon each side are a multitude of inscriptions and symbols, all seemingly scattered about, but when observed from afar, they seem to be connected. The base, sadly, seems to lack any obvious passageway that would lead inside, though it would appear that some of the base has sunken beneath the earth. Whether a door exists, I am uncertain, but this seems to have been an important structure, and its shape seems rather important as well; the pentagon can be observed in many places within the city, and although many other geometric shapes can be found alongside the pentagon, none appear to have as much importance.

Unable to find a way in, I returned to the road and headed for the next structure; a building filled with various forms of weaponry, from swords to spears, all finely crafted, though most are falling to pieces, decaying along with the rest of these ruins. Of all the places in the city, this seems to be the only one rich in weapons, and metals other than platinum and gold. The clothing and armor that remains is also different from that found in the houses I had seen earlier; they seemed much more fitting of a human’s physique whereas the previous items seemed to be of elven origin.

Beside this small armory is a much larger building that seems to have once been placed right up against the wall, and unlike the other buildings, this one lacked much of the ornate designs, seeming fairly common. Within the building were the decayed remains of old beds, all side by side, lined up against each side of the wall, leaving little space with which to move. There was also a small kitchen like area with an old stove and various cabinets, and beyond was a dinning room in which the remains of tables and chairs lay scattered about. The second story of the building is mostly gone, though I was able to observe what appeared to be a doorway, an exit onto top of where the wall once stood, perhaps to allow guards onto the wall to patrol as I do believe this to be a barracks of some sort.

Outside of the remains of the building were what appeared to be arrowheads, as well as more fragments of metal, though strangely enough, some pieces seemed twisted in was that were most unusual. The wall here is also nearly destroyed, only a few stones here and there to mark where it once stood. One would assume that something happened here, perhaps related to the downfall of the city.

Far to the northeast of the city are the remains of what appears to be a tower, secluded from the rest of the city. As to its purpose, I am uncertain; it could have been anything from one of the destructive tower such as the one in the center of Tralisia, to a mere watchtower that served to watch over the surrounding lands. There seems to be a small stone building connected to the ruined tower, but these structures seem to have suffered a grave amount of decay, and I can decipher little from them.

The last object of interest is not a ruin, but a natural structure; a massive tree that rises far above the tops of the surrounding trees. I myself have never seen a tree of such great size. The tree is larger then the pyramid in the city, and it appears to still yet be alive. What could cause a tree to reach such mammoth proportions I can only wonder, and stranger yet is that all the surrounding flora seem to be normal.

Now that you know of the ruins that make up this city, I shall move on to my theories regarding the city’s past, populace, and destruction.

 

After spending much time observing the artifacts of the area, many pried from the hands of the ‘descenders’, I have some to several conclusions regarding the people who once lived in this area. A dark shroud, a torn piece of cloth that may have once been a sash, and a piece of twine that appears to have been used as a belt; When put together, this creates the garb of what one would think of as that of a humble cleric, or perhaps a druid. The clothes also seem more fitting of an elf’s physique, and indeed, I did happen across the thigh bones of an elf that seemed rather old and fragile.

Of course, the armor I saw did not seem like that an elf would wear; bulky and heavy for example. I also happened across the skull of a human, half-buried near the wall. Perhaps, judging from the riches of the city, these elves hired humans to serve as a militia for them, as humans make better fighters than elves.

Another thing that various items made rather clear was that this city conducted a good amount of trade with the surrounding areas. Large amounts of platinum can be found, and yet platinum does not appear to occur naturally here. But, in the nearby hills where the dwellers live, platinum is relatively abundant. This leads me to believe that trade was conducted between the dwellers and these people, and perhaps the dwellers may still have some record of this, and maybe even a record of the people (It would be most beneficial, I believe, to speak with them, but I cannot do so without your permission Erius). Or, perhaps, these people have some record of the Silent Woods. There was what appeared to be a small farming community in the Woods, and although it was probably secluded, some record may have been made of it and the wood before its corruption.

There are also finely-cut garnets, perhaps used in rituals or for shard construction as it would seem likely that the elven population was of Cryinale descent, or perhaps another magically imbued elven race (I’ve heard of others, but they’ve mostly gone extinct… sad, really), and such races tend to gravitate towards the arcane. There is also the strong sense of magic in the area, so the people who populated the city were, perhaps, strong magic-users, though this does not prove the garnet’s use, or answer where it came from.

There are also other items, such as plastic buttons, that I believe belong to the various nobles that wandered into this area. I did meet up with a young guard who said the nobles of Vanyelar would occasionally enter these places, but rarely return. I can assume that the more modern items are what remain of their failed ventures.

As for the city’s culture, I cannot say much, but the pentagon seems of great importance to them, as well as geometric shapes in general. The strange pentagonal structures outside of the city, the ones before the archway, and the pyramid; all seem to have been important to the people, and all bear the pentagonal shape. Perhaps the people believed that the pentagon held some magical properties, or perhaps it was for religious purposes. Perhaps, though I can’t say, each of the five sides represented one of the five entities, though the entities did not come into being, or perhaps did not make themselves known, until after the fall of Sesi, so if this were true, the city either existed after his reign, they knew of the entities before us, or it has no relation to the entities.

As for the pyramid, I have yet to decipher its exact purpose, but I do have a few theories on it. Perhaps, if the pentagon represents the entities, it was a temple of some sort, or a monument to them. If it were a temple, it seems odd that there would be no entrance, though one may exist and be hidden, but even then it seems strange.

Of course, this monument may have served a more magical purpose. Erius told me of an evil that lurked beneath the ground; perhaps this is some matter of sealing mechanism. The stone base upon which the pyramid rests is different from the pyramid, so perhaps the evil was sealed beneath the ground, the base placed upon it so as to seal it, and later a pyramid was built onto the base. This would explain why there are numerous inscriptions and markings on the base, but not the pyramid, and why they’re made of different materials.

As for what form of disaster befell the city, I am not certain. At some places, it appears to have been caused by an invasion of sorts, though who would have invaded I would not have the slightest idea; they didn’t seem to occupy the city, instead intent of destroying its people, and yet leaving that strange pyramid intact. It seems most unusual; the invaders came and slew the people, yet left the spoils and some buildings intact, almost as if they were after the people, not the riches.

The tree at the center of the forest may have no relation to the ruins, but it is a most interesting thing nonetheless. It seems as though something or someone was able to make that single tree grow to immense proportions, and it seems the only logical explanation is magic. I must wonder that, perhaps, the roots of the tree came into contact with something; perhaps whatever lurks beneath the ground. Perhaps someone was able to make it grow. If the base and the pyramid that sits atop it were built at different times, perhaps some religious figure came to the forest and caused the tree to grow as a miracle of sorts, and it was he who brought the pentagon into significance. Of course, the tree may have been able to tap into the Gaia Tributary somehow, though tapping directly into it would no doubt leave obvious outward signs, though I suppose a small enough dose wouldn’t, but such seems unlikely.

There is also a tower to the north, slightly to the east, of the city. I’ve thought it possible, that this tower was one of the kinds used to gather energy, but signs of shard fragments cannot be found. Still, the strange descenders had to have had an origin, and certainly these beasts are not natural; one man even called them ‘abyssal spawn’ though if he was being literal or not I am not certain. But if they were, then this tower may have been used to open a portal to the abyss.

Secluded and away from the city, it may have belonged to a lone man, perhaps a sage of some sorts, who experimented in these arts. Perhaps he summoned forth the descenders, and maybe even brought about the end of the city. Still, the tower may be nothing more than a watch tower. If only I could travel farther east so as to see if there were another civilization in that area. If it is a watch tower, it would have had to have been built there for a reason.

 

Still, there is much more to be discovered in this place. This report only skims the surface, and I believe that with time, all may be revealed, about this place, and perhaps others. Perhaps we can learn from these people, so as to not suffer their fate.

 

A Report on the Hillside valley

This is something strange about the natives of Ama’rane: they’re either reclusive, or extremely hostile. But why is this?

This report was requested by Arch-Mage Erius Riesuts.

Far to the north is a seemingly primitive land populated only by the Pagri and Husanie tribes, and the beasts known as hemlins. It is a strange land with hills that stand at an unusual, and seemingly perfect, ninety degree angle, and nestled between a grouping of these hills is a most unusual valley. In the following pages I will present my theories on the valley, and it’s relation to the surrounding lands.

 

The Circular Stone Structure

In the southeastern part of the valley, through a thick forest and lodged between the steep walls of the valley lies an unusual structure consisting of an almost perfect circle of rectangular slabs of blackened stone. Each slab is placed at an equal distance from the ones beside it, thirteen in all. Each pillar like slab is easily the height of a small building

The area around the circle is also unusual; the grass is thick and lush, and some vegetation has even begun growing along the rocky walls of the valley, and upon attempting to channel essence from the Gaia Tributary, I found this place to have an extraordinarily high amount of magical energy, and contacting the stream was far easier than in other parts of the valley, and indeed, far easier than in most places surrounding Tralisia.

One interested in the arcane, such as myself, would certainly see more in this area than a mere circle of stones; these stones were built in this place because something also exist, or perhaps flows. The magical energy in this area must stem from something, and the stones themselves do not hold any magical properties. This leaves but one thing: the Gaia Tributary is close to the surface. It’s not so close that it’s power overwhelms the natural surroundings, but instead augments their growth. Of course, there is more than this place to support my theory.

 

The hemlins of the valley

Anyone who has set foot in the northern hills knows of the fearsome beasts known as hemlins, but those who have journeyed into the valley have no doubt witnessed the larger valley variant. These lumbering hemlins can only be found in the valley, strangely enough, and one must wonder why. The answer, simply enough, is contact with the Gaia Tributary.

Over time, consistent contact with the Gaia Tributary at a safe, yet close distance can cause flora and fauna to grow to exponential sizes. The valley hemlins were once much the same as the average hemlin, but life in the valley and exposure to the stream has caused them to grow in strength and size. These hemlins wander the valley aimlessly, though they stay mainly on the western side of the valley some may wander to the east. They also seem peaceful in regards to the other creatures of the valley, and even seem to treat the surrounding forests well, but dare a mortal set foot in their valley, they seem to go into a frenzy, perhaps to protect their leader.

At the very end of the western path is the lair of the most incredible hemlin one could imagine. He has a thick hide covered in pitch black fur, though hints of discoloration on the parts of its skin where fur does not grow show small blue spots. It’s teeth are large, and each of it’s claws like that of a scythe. This beast also never seems to leave it’s lair, always content to stay there, and after fighting a long and grueling battle with one of its kind, I found that its lair also has the strong sense of being close to the Gaia Tributary. This magic influence is no doubt what causes the hemlins to reach such massive proportions.

 

The Troll’s cave and the Rune

Between the two side of the valley lies a small cave system populated by trolls and goblins, and what’s more, magic seems to be hampered here. If the stream were flowing between one side of the valley to the other, one would have to believe that this cave would share the strength of the stream felt in the valley, perhaps to even a higher degree, and yet it is the complete opposite.

The answer, I believe, lies in the southern part of the caves were the magic should be at its strongest. There, carved deep into the wall, is a glowing green rune. This rune most likely serves as a seal to suppress magic in this place. But why would anyone wish to suppress such magic, especially if it is the same race that constructed the stones circle.

By simply surveying this place, it’s obvious that it was once a mine of some sort, and perhaps people even sought shelter here as one can find strange drawings on the walls of the caves. Perhaps these people carved this rune into the wall to prevent themselves from being intoxicated by the stream as the stream does have a habit of driving men to madness and having other unwanted side effects. This would make mining and occupation of these caves safe, at least until the trolls were unleashed into the cave.

One could assume that the trolls existed much further down in a separate cave system, but thorough digging may have brought these two systems together, and perhaps a cave-in split them again, bringing the trolls in and perhaps ruining the race that once dwelled there.

 

The Pagri, the Husanie, and the little green men

Of course, this still leaves several questions unanswered, namely who built the stone structures and who carved that rune. This answer lies within the caves, specifically upon the walls of the cave, conveyed through the medium of primitive art. There is a place in the cave where a small picture of an ancient people has been drawn, and this picture shows a group of small creatures with green skin approaching a grouping of stones, much like the stones in the valley, providing a link between the cave and the valley. These green-skinned beings, slightly reminisce of amphorians, seems to have been the people that built the stone structures and populated the caves and perhaps the surrounding lands as well.

But what happened to this race? That answer may lie in the Pagri and Husanie tribes. The Pagri are rather infamous in Tralisia; a race of primitive and unruly natives, but also one of the few surviving native races, but signs point to them not always being the dominant dwellers of the hills. There race seems to have few, if any, stable villages or cities, only small settlements. But if this race existed for so long in these hills, certainly their civilization would be more advanced and perhaps less hostile.

This is something strange about the natives of Ama’rane: they’re either reclusive, or extremely hostile. But why is this? I’ve theorized that whatever happened in the Silent Wood upset the natural balance in what is now the area surrounding Tralisia; civilizations were uprooted and others destroyed, and those that survived have had the scars of the event passed on from generation to generation provoking the behavior found within races such as the Pagri.

The Husanie are a rarely seen people, usually only noticed because their skin and heads are used as decorations by the Pagri. Perhaps these people were the original dwellers of the hills long before the Pagri came, and it was they who came into immediate conflict with the Pagri. It seems much of their race has been wiped out.

Perhaps it was also the Pagri who brought about the end of the green ones, not directly as I believe it was the trolls who brought about the final blow, but I believe it was they who pushed these people into the caves, but the Pagri left the caves alone after the trolls arrival, and perhaps because of the anti-magic rune, and they also left the valley alone for fear of the hemlin; Pagri can deal with the hillside hemlins, but the valley hemlins are far stronger than they, and to descend into the valley would certainly be death.

This fact also supports my theory of the green ones not living within the valley, but within the hills and the cave, the reason being that the only ruins in the valley is the stone structure. There are no other signs of intelligent beings within the valley, meaning that they lived outside. The Pagri chased them from their homes, and the trolls finished them; a sad end to such a race.

 

A Report on the Forsaken Pit

 

This report was requested by Arch-Mage Erius Riesuts and is the second part of the Hillside Valley report.

The Great Tree of the Sparse Forest

I mentioned this in one of my previous reports, but within the sparse forest lies a massive tree, one larger than any other I’ve ever seen. If the stream has caused unusual growth in hemlins, I suspect it has done the same with this tree, meaning the stream also runs below the tree. It is not as close to the surface as it is in the valley, but the roots of the tree can reach far below the ground. I could not think of any other reason for an isolated and yet massive tree as all the other trees around it are only average.

 

The Pit, the Graveyard, and the Art of Binding Souls

More research must be conducted, and we may have to meet this ‘Selandra’ and determine if she is one who had a soul bound to her corpse, and then if we can reverse it.

In the depths of the hellish place known as the Silent Wood is a strange area where death is null and void, and only the sounds of suffering can be heard, and it is within this area that the final proof of the stream, and perhaps the story behind the woods lies; the pit. It’s a deep pit of which one cannot see the bottom, and one must wonder what lies at the bottom. I suspect the answer is the Gaia Tributary. Directly exposed to the surface, and what’s more, there lies a graveyard near the path of the stream; one must wonder what may have transpired here so long ago.

Although it is not directly along the path of the stream, I suspect that some disruption within the stream caused it to change its normal path and flow right under what was once a graveyard. This caused the Gaia Tributary to come into contact with the stream.

That alone is poses only minor dangers, but what is more is that it is rumored that demons arose from the depths of the earth and the stream, and those who have yet to gain a body, or have lost theirs are forced to simply flow along the stream, but what happens when the stream comes into contact with these corpses, and the demon souls as well: The soul is bound to the corpse by the essence, and the corpse is returned to life. Of course, the demon cannot realize its power in its current body, and one could assume that other souls may have been bound as well, but the result caused this area to be abandoned and a large gate to be erected to keep the resurrected souls away from the village. One can even find a newer graveyard near the gate, further proof of this.

The art of soul binding is a forbidden art, and those who attempt it are shunned, but it is possible; the question is if that is what happened here. It certainly was not the only thing to happen here, but it could have been part of it. The only way to prove it, I fear, would be to attempt to reverse it. To meet one who was a victim of this and reverse it. To break the essence which binds the soul, that of a demon I suspect, to the corpse or to the living person.

But still, this does not answer the question of what created the pit. I would assume that perhaps sensing that the stream was closer to the surface here, the demons gathered and swarmed upwards, breaking through and returning to the surface world to wreak havoc. These beings could not be held back by a mere gate, and certainly they could have brought an end to much of what once existed here, but that still leaves much unanswered.

More research must be conducted, and we may have to meet this ‘Selandra’ and determine if she is one who had a soul bound to her corpse, and then if we can reverse it. But such an act could prove more dangerous; once freed from its prison, the soul may grow stronger, or it may grow weaker. Still, this is not a decision I can make. If only there was a less dangerous specimen of soul binding to experiment with.

 

Journal: Silent Wood

Upon Aeolus’ disappearance into Silent Wood, this journal was found near the east gate.

Sneaking In

Dance_of_Rebirth_by_shiroikuro

At first, the forest seemed just as any other forest, except for the complete and utter silence.

Perhaps it was out curiosity, a desire to know what lay beyond the protected walls of Tralisia, a yearning to decipher the truth, that I wandered into the area known as ‘silent forest.’ I snuck past the guards under the cover of night. I had been practicing my ability to become one with the shadows, and here it proved most useful. Or perhaps it was the fact that a few of the dwarven workers had brought a few kegs of dark draught beer to work and had decided to share it with the guards. Either way, I was able to make my way into the forest.

At first, the forest seemed just as any other forest, except for the complete and utter silence. Even the laughter of the guards barely pierced the forest, which I found most disturbing when I considered that I had gone no more than a few feet in. I foolishly marched in and soon found myself utterly lost in the darkness. My confidence and courage waned as I wandered aimlessly into the dark mist which covered forest of which many a horrid tale had been told. Of course, it was not long until I found myself running hysterically through the forest.

I had been walking for quite some time and my eyes had begun to adapt to the darkness. I soon came across what I thought to be a group of children. I was surprised to see them, and found it strange that people, especially children, would be this deep in the forest, but nonetheless I smiled and approached them. ‘Hey, might I ask in which direction the city is, or maybe you could tell me… where another… path… is’ I said, my voice going from a shout to a mere whisper. A feeling of fear overcame me as the children approached me, they’re eyes a burning crimson, the likes of which I had never before seen. They encircled me and began singing an eerie song, one of them occasionally asking me to play with them.

I shut my eyes and clasped my hands over my ears, letting out a scream as I ran as fast as I could. I didn’t care where I was going; I just needed to get away. The sounds of laughter echoed throughout the woods. As I ran, my foot caught itself on something… At the time I merely thought it to be a root or a stone. I fell to the floor of the forest, well below the mist that covered the floor. My fall caused the mist to briefly dissipate, and I brought myself back to my feet, regaining my composure, if only briefly. I quickly checked myself for any wounds, and as I reached for my leg I noticed blood on it. Of course, I merely assumed I had cut myself, but as I looked around I noticed that I was slowly sinking. I looked down and noticed that I was indeed sinking, but not into some quagmire, but into a thick pool of blood.

I latched onto a nearby tree branch, and pulled myself out. I sat down on what I believed to have been a rock in an attempt to calm myself and regain my breath, but I noticed the rock was soft. I looked down to find that I had in fact sat upon the corpse of a human, it’s eyes were missing, it’s skull cracked open and inside what I assumed to have been it’s brain covered in small fungi. I jumped up and looked about, noticing yet another corpse, and soon found that the entire area had been covered in corpses.

Black Out

I had read stories about Arch Mage Erius’ ventures across the Ravinder…

I once again ran without thought, but fortunately luck was on my side, a rare occasion for me. I ran screaming into a large granite wall, knocking myself unconscious. I awoke to the sounds of laughter in a dark room. I feared what I may find, wishing to merely close my eyes in the hopes that all would go away, but I eventually figured that I would die one way or the other, so I pulled myself out of the bed upon which I had been placed and picked up a nearby candle, slowly opening the old wooden door. I was greeted by a dwarf whose beard was still dripping with ale. It seemed the guards had found me and placed me in the tavern.

I picked up my equipment, surprised to find it all intact and none of my gold missing, and headed back out. I stopped by Erin’s and picked up a few pieces of parchment as well as some ink, and created a sphere of light to provide a defense against the all-consuming darkness of the woods. The parchment I used to make a map of sorts, marking my path and the landmarks I encountered. With supplies in hand, I headed back into the woods.

This time I found my journey much easier, at least in the beginning. The things I would come across… If such things were to be revealed to the people of Tralisia, the people would surely flee, for if the woods are hell, then the forest beyond… I suppose I shall get to that in due time, but for now I shall focus on the silent woods for few adventurers dare venture into the damned land.

As I walked along a faded trail, jotting down my progress on my map, I bumped into a beast, an ancient beast known as a demon. My body went limp, my face paled as the best turned around and eyed me. It merely knocked me back into a nearby tree and descended into the darkness ahead. I fell to my knees, still shaken from the encounter. I had believed that one could only meet such a beast in the forsaken region known as Ravinder, and yet one had stood before me. A fear entered the back of my mind. ‘Perhaps the fate of Ravinder will be shared by Ama’Rane… and if so…’

I had read stories about Arch Mage Erius’ ventures across the Ravinder, and his battle with the demon ‘Rak-Lan.’ Truly he was powerful to have felled such a beast, but that was one demon. What if he were faced with an army, an army of demons? And what of the other horrors that may exist within these woods?

I felt utterly helpless. ‘If even the Arch Mage cannot save us, then what have we left?’ I thought to myself. Tralisia is a world divided against itself, and I fear that if someone or something were to mobilize the beings of the woods, the city would fall, and Ama’Rane would become a world of ruin. But even so, I returned to my feet. ‘What will be, will be, but I’ll be damned if I sit idly by and let the innocent suffer!’

Into the Evil

 

The corpses no longer had much affect on me…

With that, I returned to my journey. I’d stand against the evil if it came, and that was that. I continued on my way. The corpses no longer had much affect on me, and things seemed fine, at least until I noticed the trees around me. I had always noticed some slight movement amongst them, but merely thought it to be the shadows cast from my orb, or the wind, or maybe just my imagination. But it was when I heard a weak laugh that I discovered it was indeed much more.

When I heard the laugh, I began to look around to see from where it had emanated. It was different from that of the children, and as I searched I heard a voice. ‘Over here’ it beckoned, ‘I’m over here.’ I closed in on the voice, searching through the thick mist, for at the time I believed it to belong to a wounded man. I approached the base of a tree, the voice then said ‘look… up.’ I did so, examining the tree. ‘Perhaps he’s hiding within the tree’ I thought to myself, but as I raised the orb higher, I came across what appeared to be a human face, carved into the tree, grinning as an eerie laugh came from it.

I quickly left the tree, somewhat calmer as I believed running from a tree to be a sign of lacking sanity. As I continued on I noticed several trees with faces. Some laughing, some appearing to be in anguish. They all looked disturbingly real, as if something had transformed hapless humans into trees.

I soon found my way across an old bridge and next to what appeared to be an old building of some sort. This I found most intriguing. Apparently, the forest hadn’t always been this way. Little could be found within the remains of the building, but I was able to come across the remains of several more houses, as well as a shrine of some sort and a small graveyard. ‘Could these woods have once been a thriving village? Did those children once play in the woods when alive, as they do in death?’

With my parchment nearly depleted, I decided to once again return to the city. As I walked in a general southwestern direction, I once again came across one of the corrupted forsaken children. At first I noticed one walking alongside me, a big grin on his face and those ever-glowing red eyes looking up at me, filled with a corrupted innocence. I stopped and turned to the boy, but he continued to skip along, slowly fading away as he went.

I chased after him, hoping to get a closer look at these beings. Perhaps I could ask them what had transpired here. They seem to mean no harm. It was merely their otherworldly appearance that made them seem evil, but in truth they are merely victims of all this. I soon found myself lost as I had deviated from my planned course.

I heard a strange voice, but couldn’t make out what it said. Believing it to be one of the children, I called out to them. There was an eerie silence as my echo faded, soon followed by the sounds of more voices than I could even imagine filling my mind. I was told so many things, all in an attempt to corrupt me, to make me like them. I ran, as fast as I could, shouting “Silence! I won’t listen to your evil!”

The voices picked up in intensity and speed, becoming unbearable. And then something strange happened. I approached an unusual pathway, and immediately the voices came to a stop. I fell to the ground and rested, attempting to find where I had been. I looked over and noticed the children had gathered again. But they wouldn’t approach me. One of them, the boy from earlier, looked at me and said, “He’s in the bad place…” and with that, they fled.

“The bad place? Wasn’t I already in the bad place? If even those who are already dead fear this place…” I rested for a bit, and then continued on the path. ‘Perhaps’ I thought to myself, “this ‘bad place’ is where this all began.” I decided to head in, walking through the path into this forest.

It was not long until I happened across the first of many disturbing sights. It was a hole filled with various parts of the body, but what was most unusual was that these disembodied parts were moving, even talking. I was horrified and yet enthralled at the same time. I kneeled down next to the piles of parts and sorted through, looking for a head. I had hoped to find out what had happened here, what had corrupted the woods, but each head did nothing but babble incoherently.

As my excitement subsided, the horror returned. Why were these heads alive? Some of them were missing eyes, some had their skulls cracked open, and many were simply grotesque. To imagine the pain of being like this for eternity… What kind of evil can do this to people? A place where life is immortal should be a paradise, and yet this is surely hell. As I walked off, I noticed some form of wild animal holding a screaming head in its jaws, dropping the head and chewing it to pieces, crunching the bones and flesh as the head clinged to life, unable to die. The pain is simply unimaginable… What if this evil were to grow, to envelop Tralisia? Such things must not come to be.

“I had seen enough”

I had seen enough, and I feared what lay beyond.

With this, I decided to leave the area. I had seen enough, and I feared what lay beyond. As I made my way out, I witnessed a strange bird-like human, a harpy, attack a tree. The tree, it began to bleed. Not blood, but a strange green acidic sap. It also cried out… This reawakened my theory that the people of the village may have been turned into trees. I quickly made my way out and came across the corpse of a warrior, and his horse was nearby.

Even outside of that place, decay is slowed as the remains of the horse and man showed. This brought up the question: Was this part of some town militia that tried to face the evil as it invaded the woods, or was he merely a hapless adventurer who had foolishly made his way deep into this horrid place, much like myself?

They were fortunate to have died beyond the reaches of the forest. At least in the woods their spirits could rest, though not peacefully. Nonetheless, I did not wish to share their fate, so I continued onward, still somewhat lost.

After a long journey past several familiar ruins, I found myself in a strange area. The ground grew soft beneath my feet making moving even harder, and the thick mist that had coated the ground earlier had begun to grow thin. I also smelled unusual scents and heard sounds of life that had not existed within the confines of the thick woods. A thick gunk of some sort could be found on the various corrupted fauna, seemingly eating away at them. Perhaps it was a fungus of some sort as I had noticed some fungi elsewhere in the forest.

The mist grew even thinner, the trees less dense, and the ground wet. Apparently, some sort of bog had developed on the far eastern edge of the forest, and I had wandered in, something I would soon regret. The few remaining trees here were twisting and horrid looking, but it was not they that posed a threat. As I haplessly wandered into this strange territory, I was assaulted by a strange creature. The force of its blow sent me flying back quite a ways, causing my body to get stuck within the mud of the marsh. The beast came towards me and I desperately struggled to pull myself free from the mud.

The beast was no more than a few feet away when I finally freed my leg. I ran back to the safety of the forest, relieved to have escaped with my life, though I had lost a boot to the mud. Such was a small loss though. I marked the area on my map, making a note not to wander in again, and continued westward towards the city.

The walk was rather uneventful compared to my earlier passing through. Perhaps day had come, though I could not tell. The canopy was far too thick for even the brightest of lights to penetrate. As I continued on, I noticed the mist once again thinning, but the ground was not muddy or wet, but instead became soft, much like a bed of feathers as opposed to the hard dry ground of the woods. I wandered into this area, cautiously watching for any signs of hostile beasts.

I was somewhat baffled as I looked around. No longer was I in the wicked woods or the marsh, but in a peaceful meadow. The mist had become a fog that surrounded the meadow. It was almost as though the mist had tried to permeate through the meadow, but something was holding it back. I found little of interest there though, save one thing: At what seemed to be the very center of the meadow I found a lone rose. It was of a dark black color and appeared to be wilting.

The Corrupted Rose

Was it indeed holding back the evil as it did the surrounding mist?

I sat down next to the rose and began to think. Why had the corruption of the woods not entered this place? What does this rose have to do with the barrier? Was it indeed holding back the evil as it did the surrounding mist? This meadow and this rose certainly have much to do with this area. Perhaps this rose has to do with the evil that entered the forest, or perhaps it has properties that repel evil. But it seems to be wilting. Could its powers be fading? Will this meadow fall to the darkness as well?

After having to wander around in constant danger, this peaceful meadow was most welcome to my weary body. After I had sorted out my thoughts, I laid my head down and took a quick nap. I faintly remember having a most unusual dream, but I’m afraid that I have waited too long; I am unable to recall the dream, but the strange feeling still exits within my soul. There is certainly something about the area.

I awoke from a peaceful sleep and tarried a bit longer as I ate a small meal. With a sigh, I headed back towards the all-consuming mist. It didn’t take long for me to find the path back towards the city. Once there, I purchased several more sheets of parchment and finding a replacement for my lost boot. I stopped by the bar and headed for the washroom. The mud from the marsh coated my clothes and found its ways into areas I shan’t mention.

After washing up a bit, I headed back into the woods. This time I was determined to find out what was inside this “bad place” the spirits spoke of. Of course, I decided to map out the areas of the forest I had missed before. I saw many more things, finding my way into a grove of living trees, but I continued on, knowing that this map may prove very important in times to come.

With the map complete, I headed north again, back into the dark path and the forsaken lands beyond. Strange wolf like beasts trailed me, never approaching, but ever-watching, no doubt waiting for me to let my guard down. They would certainly add me to the piles of living corpses that littered this place if given the chance.

The Gate

The gate merely stood there.

As I walked along the faded path, I soon found a large gate. The gate was most unusual in that it stood in the middle of the path I was on, but no wall accompanied it. The gate merely stood there. One could easily walk to either side of it, as I soon did, but my mind still began to wonder. “What purpose did this gate once serve? Was it part of the village? Was there something beyond, even before this evil arose?”

The gate was of unusual size, but I could decipher little from it, and so I continued onward. I noticed as I walked that the large nests which rested eerily in the branches of the dead trees were getting closer and closer, creating a roof of sorts, and soon I came across a large archway. Beyond I could see only darkness, but the most unearthly sounds emanated from within.

I proceeded inward with caution, a sense of danger growing, but my desire to find what lay beyond pushing me ever forward. The strange sounds grew louder as I tried to feel my way through the hall, and soon I found from where these sounds came.

I was quite confused, uncertain of what I was seeing. Along the walls were people, naked, using the thorns to satisfy their carnal desires. Male and female, they seemed to never cease their actions, but as I regained my composure and headed forward, they turned toward me, calling out to me to join them. Those that could reach me whispered in my ear. I slapped them away and began to run towards the feint rays of light. They grabbed at me, but fortunately they would not leave the walls, allowing my scant and yet ample space to escape to the outside.

Perhaps, now that I’ve had the time to sort my thoughts, those were the people of the village. Could something have lured them there, trapping them, or could they have gone of their own free will, attracted by the carnal pleasures within. Perhaps it was the evil that had lured them there and placed them under the illusion of pleasure. I may attempt to return to that place and see if it is possible to free one of those people from their desires and see if they know the truth.

Nonetheless, I found myself back in the forest. I searched the ground and soon found the trail and continued along it, ever watchful of what I may find next. As the path split, I headed southwest and found myself in another graveyard. This one seemed far older than the other; arcane symbols were placed on the graves and the graves themselves were cracked and the names were indecipherable. And above that, the graves had been desecrated by some filth. I dared not observe them closely, and turned back to explore the other pathway.

Along this path were multitudes of nest, and unlike before, these were still inhabited. I quickened my pace, not wanting to fall to these creatures, but I was brought to a stop when I suddenly heard my name being called out. I looked around, but saw no one, save the harpies. I looked around and noticed the harpies focusing on me, calling out to me. These creatures appeared in the form of seductive women, and I must admit that I felt my desires growing.

I was tempted to fall to my desires, but as I looked in the distance, I noticed two grotesque creatures burying the bloody remains of a man deep into the ground. His genitals seemed to be missing, instead replaced by a hanging intestine from which blood and bodily fluids gushed. No doubt this man had experienced the pleasures the harpies offered, and I was able to observe the creatures. Although part of their bodies took the form of a young woman of slim figure and full breasts, the other half was that of a bird like demon.

As the ground swallowed up the man’s remains I ran in fear. The harpies seemed content to merely tempt me, but no doubt they would soon grow tired and decide my consent was not necessary, instead choosing to do to me as they pleased, and certainly not in a good way. In this forest, where one cannot die, to have one’s intestines ripped from their bodies and buried alive would be a fate of unimaginable horror; to be trapped forever in the earth, in darkness, unable to move, and yet in insufferable pain, forever…

I thought that I may attempt to free the man, but fear of the harpies’ wrath kept me away. They delighted in suffering, and I did not desire to meet my end here when I still did not know the truth. I buried the guilt and pressed onward with hopes that I would find the truth.

Another split in the road presented itself as I continued, but this one was marked by a most disturbing thing. Near the left side of the path was a large tree with the face of a bearded old man, and from that tree were rotting fruit. On the right was a tree with the appearance of a young man, and surrounding him were the corpses of sheep.

I though about this for a minute. The young man, I believed, represented a failed leader whose followers were all slain, and the old man represented a man who was wise, but allowed his wisdom to be turned rotten, though why I do not know; perhaps by inaction against evil, or perhaps being corrupted by evil. I decided to take the path of the old man, but what I found beyond I believe to be of great significance, and so I shall first tell what I found beyond the young man’s path.

The Massive Tree

The young leader led the people to fight the evil, but they were all slain along with their leader, or perhaps they were turned into the trees I saw.

What I found was a massive tree; the body appeared to be a large crowd of people, its branches their arms reaching towards the sky, looking for someone to save them. Perhaps there was once a great leader in this village that lead the people against a great evil that rose from this area, and also a wise old man whose wisdom was great, but who chose to do nothing against this evil. The young leader led the people to fight the evil, but they were all slain along with their leader, or perhaps they were turned into the trees I saw.

I do believe this to be possible as the trees are most unusual. Earlier I had come across a tree the looked like a young elven woman surrounded by harpies who were molesting here in every way imaginable. It seemed so real, and yet it was only a tree.

Either way, I first took the path of the old man, and found what I believe may have been the place from which all the evil had originated. This was a large pit, whose depth seemed immeasurable. I dropped a small pebble in to test the depth, but the sound of the pebble reaching the bottom never came. I examined to pit to see if there was some way to enter safely, but could find none. The cause of the pit though, could it have been that this is where the evil rose, where the demons I had seen originated from? I heard of demons such as Rak-lan rising from pits that reached into the depths of some abyss, perhaps the place known as Hell.

But what lay at the bottom? Was there something below that the old man sought? Perhaps — and this is something that I am most unsure of — there is something below that few have witnessed; the stream known as the Gaia Tributary. I have also heard of rare occurrences where the Gaia Tributary can be seen, rising from the depths of the earth, but these places are always deep into the earth, much like this pit. Perhaps this evil was in fact some corrupted being who had fallen into the Gaia Tributary, whose mind had been warped. I’ve long since believed demons to be the result of what happens when one is immersed in the stream, but until I am able to descend into this pit, I cannot say, but the truth, there is no doubt that it is there, and for that reason, I must enter this pit. I must know the truth, I care for nothing else.

The Truth

The appearance of demons no doubt followed the Tributaries rise.

I shall return, I shall find the truth, but for now, I can merely try to decipher the truth from the clues found within the forest. There was once a village within this forest, one that seems to have existed for ages. Perhaps there is no ‘evil’ as I have been saying. It is possible that something disturbed the Gaia Tributary, something changed its path causing it to flow beneath the graveyard and permeate the “bad place.” Perhaps this caused the dead to rise, and prevented others from dying. Perhaps it caused the mist, and corrupted the forest. The appearance of demons no doubt followed the Tributaries rise.

I must wonder, could it be that when the dead rose, the large gate was constructed to block of the area? The village tried to live in peace, ignoring what had occurred, even creating a new graveyard, but when the stream surfaced, demons followed, and the demons hastened the corruption. The young leader led the people against the demons, but the demons felled them, and the old man, he knew that the stream had brought the demons and sought to gain its powers. But all failed. Those that had not fallen to the harpies’ temptations fell to the demons, perhaps a great demon.

But what of the rose? And I’ve heard rumors of a beast known as Selandra that exists within, one who calls itself “The Truth.” If such a beast does exist, I would desire to meet it. Certainly one who calls itself truth is not evil. Perhaps Selandra desires to keep Tralisia from the evil by forcing them from the continent. Of course, if this beast is evil, it must be vanquished for corrupting the truth.

But, these are merely my musings. My mind craves rest as the night draws near. I will find the truth though, no matter what it takes, though.

 

 

*Aeolus Zephyrus was an actual player of ATS. The writings after the introduction are of his own words.