The Wager Luminal

5.28.16
Erredil's log

We’ve had quite an adventure on this island, and I fear the future is darker than I had imagined.

Inside the cave, we found a situation as bleak as what we saw outside. Light didn’t seem to fill the room naturally, and when we docked our boat we found three hanged men. A giant rotting shark filled the ceiling, with a note that said: THERE IS A SEA WITHOUT A SUN

We quickly found the cache of sails and timbers, but no sign of the striped coconut we needed to access the treasure chest. We were forced to continue our exploration and began to encounter darker forces – golden-masked skeletons springing to life, and a great pit of swirling sand.

Annam and Azima were affected by the skeletons’ attacks and were drawn to the sand pit – Azima resisted, but Annam threw himself in. Azima and I managed to pull him from the sands unwillingly, but he seems…changed. All he could tell me was, “The Chaos is beautiful”. I am worried for him.

In a room on an altar, we found the coconut. I’m still not sure what happened, but behind the altar there was a…thing. Some terrible creature, slick and repulsive, with long hands holding human skulls, and a golden mask on its face. It had the words, THE SPHINX THAT DRINKS THE MINDS OF MEN

Somehow Annam could commune with the thing – it told him things that made him angry, and he grabbed the items on the altar as we all began to run. Swirling sand followed us, but we escaped back to the dock before the sand closed up the chambers behind us in a wall of stone.

There we found the rotting shark, now alive and moving. It taunted Annam with confusing words – “You gave it a piece of your mind and you got nothing”;“Shall I tell them what you learned, what you gave up a piece of your mind to know?”

What did Annam give up? What did he learn?

And the shark cursed me; it told me that something awaits me on the Northern Isle. Just writing the words sends a shiver down my spine.

We were able to defeat the shark and signal to our ship to come and retrieve the supplies. The Sunderban natives could apparently sense the creature within the cave; they came in force to the entrance to the cave when they realized it had been destroyed. As the locals aided our crew with the supplies and ship repairs, I spoke privately to their Shaman about what had happened in the cave.

His words have left me even more concerned. He spoke of the Walking Sand, and the Things of the Dragon. Annam, it seems, had bargained with such a Thing and lost. The thing in the cave came from the Dragon’s Blood, but I don’t know more. And Annam is not the same.

The curse, he told me, means that there is a doom upon me that I will not know until I meet it. Hardly an optimistic way to continue our journey.

A note later:
We have just arrived in Far Carraigh, and there was a letter waiting for me. A letter I did not expect, from a lifetime I thought I had left behind. Is this the doom of which the shark creature spoke?

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4.9.1505
Erredil's log

The storm nearly capsized our ship; we struggled mightily to keep everyone on board during the squall, and Azima was thrown off the ship when trying to wrestle the anchor under control. God’s be praised, she made it ashore safely, if rough around the edges. She managed to subdue a giant crab, if a bit clumsily. She has an impressive will to survive, but her skill in nature could be improved.

Our ship ran aground not long after Azima went overboard and was badly damaged. Jayanam tells us that the pirate’s cache has supplies for repairs, so Annam and I went scouting to determine our location and whether or not we could reach the cache. We found Azima shortly after, and also discovered groups of the island peoples. We have chosen not to approach, as none of us speak the language, but now I wonder if this was such a good idea…perhaps they could have told us more about our destination.

With Azima and Jayanam, we journeyed south to the pirate’s cove. On the way we found a great stone carving – an idol telling a myth or legend; a dragon broke the land and it was covered with water, the Great Heroine slew the dragon, and its blood fell all over the ground. The Heroine was queen for 10,000 years, but the people forgot her name, so she died. The dragon ate itself in the deep, and then there were more dragons, tomorrow. The dragon’s blood fell near our location, and Annam tells me that dragon’s blood is rumored to bring the dead back to life.

After a brief encounter with some gruesome butterflies (I still shudder to think of the things I heard them saying…) we made it without much trouble, but it seems the worst is yet to come.

We have discovered the pirate’s cove, but on the sands we find an alter with signs of animal sacrifice, and posts with human remains lashed tightly to the wood. Into the skulls are carved the emblem we have seen now on wooden disks and on the idol – and I saw it, too, in the thunderheads driving us to shore – a dragon eating its own tail. Dark omens.

Nearby lies a dark, ugly cave, its mouth surrounded with runes. I have been learning his language from Annam, and Jayanam tells us that the runes read something like:
Beware. Flee.
Run, As Fast As Your Feet Can Carry You.
Swim, Though The Tides Would Sweep You Away.
The walking sand does not sleep here.
The golden mask can see me.
They are not gone.

We have also found the body of a sailor, his lungs filled with sand. And no animals – no animals anywhere. Bubbles refuses to enter the cave. It fills me with unease.

Jayanam has told us how to recognize the cache and how to unlock it, once it is found. Tomorrow, in the morning, we will enter.

A quick note: it is now morning, and three new poles have been erected near the altar. Three poles, for three adventurers intent on entering the cave? I shudder. The dead man’s face is now covered with a mask of gold. Nothing can be seen except for a great, gaping mouth…it looks something like the mouth of the cave. I do not wish to enter, but I know we must.

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DAY 3: A Mighty Storm
Also BLOODERFLIES

I hate to write it, but had it not been for Annam’s quick thinking and spellcasting, I could have well and truly gone to my death beneath the waves. Thankfully, I washed up on the shoreline.

On the other hand, it was his holy symbol that led us to shipwreck on the shore of Sundarban, so I will reserve my judgment of his god as of yet.

I’m limping now, but I am sure to be sore tomorrow. After almost drowning, I encountered both a giant crab and a native with a spear. The crab lost a claw and the native lost her head. Both lost their lives.

The storm was mighty, and I fear we have been driven far off course. The ship has taken heavy damage and is in need of significant repairs. Thankfully, we washed up close to the pirates’ cache and Jayanam says that we stand to recover both canvas and lumber.

Annam and Erredil found our location on the pirates’ map, and our journey to the drop site was eventful. I sport a nasty neck wound from an encounter with those disgusting gigantic bloodsucking butterflies that the maharajah used to keep to make examples of the slaves.

Still, it’s a small price to pay for the egg we pillaged from the butterflies’ clutch. From what I remember, those eggs are worth hundreds of gold pieces, and we can sell it when we reach The Carraigh for passage to the far eastern islands. We only have a limited amount of time to fulfill our wager, and I want to spend as little time on this godforsaken continent as possible.

I write this as we camp for the night outside the cave that contains the pirates’ cache. I am very uneasy. Someone set up the bones — ribcages, arms, skulls. I’ve seen them before, on smaller islands, and I’ve seen sailors crossing themselves, asking Tamar for protection against evil.

Old Fahim told me once that it was a sign of great evil nearby. He told me his pirate brother moored near just such a place. They needed to go ashore for water, but decided to wait until first light. Their lookout swore he saw movement — always out of the corner of his eye, and they seemed to multiply in the darkness. But the bones were too far away to distinguish. Some of the crew thought that the lookout was moon-addled or in his cups, but pirates are a superstitious sort, and they shoved off in the opposite direction, without the water they came for.

The same dragon sigil is in front of the cave — the same on an idol we encountered on our journey here — the same that Erredil saw in the clouds before the shipwreck. The blood of the dragon is said to make the dead walk again. Is that all we face inside this cave, or are there other dangers of which we are unaware?

The sun fades, and it is difficult to write without any light. We face a dark lookout tonight.

ADDED IN HASTY SCRAWL
Just after dawn, the following morning

Three more stakes in front of the cave. One for each of us that enters today. The corpse in the boat wears a golden mask with a gaping mouth. The moon hid her face from us, and we saw and heard nothing last night – movements out of the corner of our eyes, maybe. Tricks that darkness plays.

But something saw or heard or sensed us. Something knew we were here, and has prepared for us. For our entrance. For our death

What was it that Jayanam said —

The walking sand does not sleep here
The golden mask can see me
THEY ARE NOT GONE

Let’s see if Annam’s beloved god can help us with whatever evil dwells in that cave. Despite the warning, we cannot turn back. Ever forward, even unto death.

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DAY 2: First blood
In which Annam, Erredil and Azima take to the open seas

So much for pirates.

Mael Coluim’s quest takes us into those same waters where my mother and I were captured by slavers long ago. I had expected trouble – so when I made my way up to the crow’s nest I was prepared for blood.

I spit at them. I gave them the gift of a swift death.

Well, mostly.

Annam proved to be quick-witted, capturing one of them and binding him, and interrogating him about his history. He is a mute – tongue cut out at the base – and I found myself sympathizing with Jayanam, a pirate who was enslaved until he could enslave others in turn. He is not what he appears, but he joins us. If he chooses to continue with us, he will be invaluable as helmsman.

Now, as the weather turns and the seas grow rougher, I know that we are as of yet far from our destination. But I face the coming storm with confidence. I know not what manner of creature we face on a small wild island in the Carraigh, but I am beginning to feel the familiar thirst to show them – show them all – what we are capable of.

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Annam: Two

With the commencement of the Wager Luminal and our trio now at sea, I have calmed considerably. My companions have proven more than capable; they will suit the design (so to speak) of The Order well. I am not sure they are yet ready for the truth. Few are.

A storm approaches. A glorious symbol of things to come.

Let the rain fall.

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3.26.1505
Erredil's log

We accepted Mael Coluim Ar La’s quest in the Wager Luminal and were given more detail about our quest.

We are to travel to a small island of the Carraigh, where a small but advantageous fortress was subject to some calamity around 80 years ago. Rumor now abounds of a great flying beast, larger than an ox but smaller than an elephant, that has made its nest at the top of the fortress tower and feasts on metal. The fortress itself is likely infested with sea demons. We are to bait the creature with the trick cannon, stuffed with casks of opium, and render it unconscious before binding it in a great net and returning it alive to the Guild.

No ships will go to this island, but our passage has been booked on the Pearl Oyster, a merchant ship to Far Carraigh. I guess we shall concern ourselves with getting to the island once we arrive there. We are to bring the beast back to Far Carraigh, to the Great Sword Inn near the docks, and knock at the yellow door. We have a letter to give to the person who answers, who will presumably obtain us passage back to Zanj.

We have now been at sea for nearly 10 days. Last night, during our watch, Azima discovered a crewman dead in the crow’s nest. A small crew of pirates from a nearby island attempted to take our ship, but despite a few slips and falls (and a quick salt water bath for Azima), we handily defeated them.

Annam kept one pirate alive. He has no tongue and speaks no Zanjii, and I don’t speak any of the languages of the sea or the South. He has used a slate and chalk to communicate with Azima and Annam, and Annam has begun to teach me some words so that I might speak with him also. His name is Jayanam, hailing from the now-abandoned Ten-Palms Isle. He claims to be a captive himself, stripped of his wife and child and forced into piracy. He has some skill in sailing and navigation – more than Annam seemed to expect from a simple slave. He wishes to get far away from these waters, so we have agreed to bring him with us to Far Carraigh. Perhaps his sailing skills will be useful to us as we plan our passage to the island fortress.

The waters today are rough and grey. A storm approaches – it seems that last night was not to be our only challenge on this sea.

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Annam: One
The End

A beginning is so like an ending. Such is The Order, no?

Two accompany me here at thebeginningthewagerluminaltheending.

Erredil Avaulrim. Her calm is inspiring. I must learn from her. The ground shakes, and I am giddy. The Order requires focus, calm. She does not (yet) know she is the eye of a hurricane.

Azima. Her eyes. Before, cast always toward her feet. Today…I see pride where there was deference. I see resolve where there was despair. They are…open. Poor thing.

I can feel the tremors beneath my feet. The earth itself is about to open, and then…?

The beginning….

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2.28.1505
Erredil's log

Joined Annam and Azima in Zanj today and submitted our application to the Guild. Accepted.

Three Wagers offered this year.

  • Jessica Spelter – Compass Rose of the Cartographer’s Guild.
  • Máel Coluim Ar Lá – Captain of the Heather Brigade
  • Sirabhorn Chriprabha – Grandmaster Conjurer of the Academy of Arcanists Errant

Granted “luck” from the Founder Mansur ibn Amirin al-Taifa – warned against drowning, altitude sickness, and being burned alive.

Learned from Yasif Kenadid and Máel Coluim Ar Lá’s aging mother that his Wager is likely to involve a journey across the sea and capture of a beast. A poem tells the tale of the watchtower of Bard Caraig, on the island of Caraig in the Northeast, destroyed by fire and explosions of unknown origin. The two also pointed to Máel Coluim’s love of subtly and trickery, using more than brute force to win a fight. Likely a connection to the false cannon we found in the armory, stuffed with sealed barrels and a heavy net. It is likely to be a cold journey.

A map missing from the library – likely points to Jessica Spelter’s Wager. A portion of the quadrant in the Sea of Thousands, a pirate-filled and poorly explored region not far from where Azima was captured as a child. Warned that Jessica often has high, nigh impossible expectations for those who accept her wager.

The Rev. Dr. Beatrix van Oorden gave warning of Sirabhorn Chriprabha’s quest. Likely to take us to The Roof of the World – a dark place. May be to seek a treasure still lost in the mountain monasteries, since the land has been corrupted by dark magic and is overrun with the undead. Wouldn’t mind putting a few arrows through some zombie heads.

I have approached the Guild through Annam’s recommendation – now I begin to see the opportunities to explore and learn more about new regions. Annam is a good teacher and a smart man; he will be a good companion to have. Azima has learned much in her travels and is eager to make a name for herself – she will work hard on such a quest. We will see where this journey takes us.

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DAY 1
Azima's thoughts on of the day of the wager

I am keeping these notes in a small book which I keep inside my armor at all times. It may begin to smell a bit once we get on the road, but that’s to be expected.

My company of three was accepted as candidates for the Wager. There are three being offered this time, and one of them is Máel Coluim Ar Lá’s. I have not allowed myself to imagine that we will receive his challenge, but now that I write it here — I spoke with his mother today in the garden. She spoke of islands, and the kinds of creatures that live on islands. She spoke of fjords, and volcanoes, and capturing a beast.

How wonderful would it be, to return triumphant with a fell beast! Nobody could think me less valuable then.

Annam, despite his oafish attempt at distracting the others in the armory, stole a look inside the false cannon in the armory, and something Máel Coluim’s mother said – fill the cannon with knowledge and trickery, that’s the way to catch a beast, that’s what she said — inside the cannon were small barrels and a large net — to catch a beast.

I cannot imagine that Jessica Spelter’s secretary missed the significance of what happened today. When he saw Annam attempt to distract the others, he came right over to me. I was thankful that I was able to duck away quickly. And thankful of my training at the inn when Annam chastised me. Erredil is sympathetic — I am happy to be travelling with her, and despite his manner, Annam will be a powerful ally I am sure.

To the roof of the world, to the eastern oceans, to capture a beast! We face danger, but I would face any danger to prove to these people — this city — that I am much more than I appear.

I must go to the library. I will write again after the Wager.

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