Week 4, Wounded by Gorlach
We were licking our wounds after our dry-gulching by Gorlach. It took us about a week to recover. Toward the end of the week, in the middle of the night, we were startled by a scream from Cantrel. At first sight, he seemed to have been shot with an arrow. Examining the arrow closely, one finds it to be like a branch from a tree. Even more closely, it turns out to be made of bone. In the twigs at the outer end is fashioned a hand grasping a small parchment. Cantrel, meanwhile, is unconscious, and there is no blood. Curious.
Wu probes at the wound. As usual, the probe is dull and fuzzy as to physical details, but psychically it feels ~nasty~. No surprise. Remembering the enhancement of non-physical data from probes, Wu scrys the arrow. He gets a picture of its manufacture -- it was grown from a murder victim's transformed skeleton.
Hastily, Wu begins a mundane diagnosis of Cantrel. Tom uses his own psychic senses on Cantrel and notes that the Melior/Deryni/? feels different -- unclean. Wu finds the arrow seems "healing" into its wound, as if it had been there for a long time.
Tom looks at the parchment at the end of the arrow. He can't read the local script yet, but the message contains a couple of lines and what looks like a signature in larger script.
Wu tries to wake Cantrel telepathically and staggers as he hits the residual memories of pain. Probing again, he finds the arrow has pierced right through, pinning Cantrel slightly to the ground. More disturbing, it has struck a rib passing in and out, and seems to have fused with it both times. The psychic alteration Tom detected seems to be spreading out from the arrow, very slowly.
After debating a while, we decide NOT to break off the arrow and to take Cantrel to the inn, where we can ask the Faen-speaking innkeeper to send for the barber-surgeon or the butcher or someone with a bone-saw, and to read us the note.
The innkeeper is quite cooperative. He hauls out a featherbed for Pfusand to put Cantrel on and (rather reluctantly) reads the note: "I told you not to use magic here. Gorlach."
The innkeeper doesn't recommend the local barber or the local butcher. Instead he tells us about a Mother Myrtle about a day's travel from here, who does healing and other stuff related to Green and Brown magic. (?) She is just a hedge-witch, though, not in a league with Gorlach. We ask the location of the nearest NICE mage of Gorlach's caliber. The innkeeper doesn't feel qualified to judge mages, but Gorlach is predictably good at collecting enemies, notably the Golden Archmage and the Blue Mage of Hreme.
Looking at the parchment, Wu says portentously, "I will heed the warning of Gorlach." And damned if we don't here the sound of heavy wings flapping somewhere in the night. Brrr. We pick up Cantrel and tramp off into the night.
Pfusand and Wu take turns carrying Cantrel -- who wakes up eventually, demands to be put down, and promptly collapses. Around mid-morning, we hear a strange animal-cry in the distance and a fainter one answering. It's probably the laugh of a hyena, but none of the player characters has ever seen or heard a hyena -- otherwise they might have recognized Gorlach's familiar as a white hyena, not a fabulously ugly white dog. Anyway, the cackle in the distance prompts Tom to pass out the weapons he managed to keep through Gorlach's attack. Most of them can go back to original owners, since the owners gave them to Tom, to use his Knack of Tools on.
We stop to eat in the middle of the afternoon. Shortly after that, we begin looking for the turnoff to Mother Myrtle's -- the innkeeper said it was easier to find if you needed it.... Well, we find it and follow it up toward the foothills of some distant mountains. Late in the afternoon, we come to a charming little thatched cottage at the edge of the woods. "How classic!" exclaims Pfusand.
We approach the door and knock, but there is no answer. Eventually, a grandmotherly little old lady comes doddering out of the forest with an apron full of herbs & things. "How classic!" exclaims the Mo Pi. "Shh!" mutters Tom. She invites us all in (we pack her little cottage) and clears a table to put Cantrel on. This involves clearing away an immense amount of rubbish and a fat old orange cat. ("How classic!" "Shh!")
Mother Myrtle slices the shirt off Cantrel (who is now down to a pair of pants and a pair of boots as far as personal possessions go). Wu tells her everything he has learned about the bone. She stares at him through a small crystal ball spinning on the end of a chain and announces that there are three spells on the bone. She can break one of them, maybe two, but we'll have to do the last one ourselves. First we remove the arrow, then remove the blight.
Tom borrows her crystal and tries his Knack on it. He finds himself getting an X-ray view of Cantrel's chest cavity and a lot of instant data on magic, which he commits to memory via his total recall skills. Mother Myrtle is intrigued by Tom's knack but now chases most of the others out to give her working room. Tom and Wu stay inside to help.
Mother Myrtle kneads clay while Tom grinds up some herbs. She then puts the herbs and the clay in a bowl, together with some green liquid. She then puts the bowl on a small brazier to bubble and steam. ("How classic!" "Shh!") She puts the bit of clay in a leather pouch and hangs it around Cantrel's neck. Then, with a surprising, lightning-fast snatch, she breaks off the arrow, except for an inch-long stub.
She then tells Wu that he must heal Cantrel daily, as if expunging poison, until all the spells are broken. (She remarks that she can "see" that Wu is capable of the healing. Interesting.) She then puts Tom to work making a silver cap for the inch-long stub, with a loop through which the thread the thong of the leather bag. We do all this and she announces that two of the three spells are now broken.
She also takes Pfusand aside and shows her pictures of certain golden and purple flowers that we will need for the final cure. And she gives Wu a glass jar and a flask. Here's the recipe:
We are to grind up some feathers, combine them with the powder from the jar plus some liquid from that flask, then soak a rag in the result. Wrap the resulting poultice around the arrow stump. Do a massive healing as for poison, then pull out the arrow very quickly, by the thong. We should remove the arrow within the next two weeks.We then have a month to remove the blight. This involves using the flowers. We may have to come back to Mother Myrtle for that part.
Now for the catch: The flowers grow only in the Golden Fields. Well, we were headed there anyway. However, the feathers in question are six downy breast feathers of the great Bronze Eagles, who live in the mountains to the north-north-west, a trio of mountains with the tallest in the center -- the same mountains where Gorlach has his castle. These eagles are bigger than a Faen, probably kin of the legendary Gold Eagles of the Golden Fields. We should obtain the feathers without violence, if possible.
As to Gorlach, he MIGHT not be in his castle while we're there. She tells us the borders of his domain (approximately -- they fluctuate with the state of his ego) and warns us to trust no scavengers we meet there, including the lesser hawks and eagles. Also, we should refrain from doing magic.
"Is this magic?" asks Chris, and proceeds to do some card-tricks using his Dicing talent. "How about this?" asks Tom, picking up Mother Myrtle's knitting needles and using Tools to start purling with them. Yes, those things are magic. Wu stages a brief karate demonstration. No, that's not magic. However, the fact that we are magic-users is readily detectable. In fact, she teaches Wu the spell.
She is quite bemused by our own magic. She's never seen anything like the telepathy Wu uses to leap the language barrier at one point (with her permission). Or Tom's and Chris's talents. Wu's probe feels rather like her Detect Magic spell, but strange and somehow sloppy or off-hand. And it's exceedingly odd that we don't use any rituals, gestures, or incantations. Wu's wards are effective, but perfectly detectable, so we can't do any magic privately behind them. Chris's mind shield is magically penetrable, but since no one here seems to read minds that's hardly relevant.
Conversations begin to wind down now. Tom diffidently brings up the matter of payment. We're broke. Mother Myrtle waives the fee, however, as covered by the strange and intriguing information we've brought her. We proceed to give her some more. While David and Pfusand go off into the forest to rustle up dinner, Tom tells her that we're from another universe and recounts our adventures since arriving. (He is not so rash as to mention worldbenders, pantopes, or diadems.) She is fascinated, and begins giving us some more travelers' tips, this time realizing the depths of our ignorance:
There's nothing particularly odd between here and the Golden Fields. But in the Golden Fields themselves are all manner of odd, non-human folk -- fauns, centaurs, "Heroes" such as Cantrel appears to be (who are said to be demigods), and various strange beasts composite of ordinary ones.
The people there behave oddly (naturally) and mix whimsical behavior with strangely rigid rules. They like playing games and would be likely to challenge us to such games. They aren't really keen on humans, but the non-humans in our party might lend some measure of acceptance.
Not all mages are as jealous of magic in their domains as Gorlach is. So, for instance, we wouldn't automatically get stomped on for doing magic in the Golden Fields, the realm of the Golden Archmage.
To the north of Gorlach is the domain of the Crystal Archmage. He is harsh but pure and the two of them have been on steadily worsening terms. (Good! Gorlach is at odds with TWO Archmages. The Golden Mage of the Fields doesn't like him either.)
Our two best chances for getting back to our home universe (in her opinion) are the rumored monks of Kung Lao (local equivalent of Tibet) or the Black Mage. We encounter a language problem in describing the Black Mage, but he is a tricksy character who would probably like Chris's dicing talent (as would Crystal), and his color signifies the space between the stars. He seems to be a teleportation specialist and has no fixed abode. He might know about travel to other "planes."
We pump Mother Myrtle for as many mages and colors as she can recall. We get:
The party plans to leave for Gorlach's domain in the morning.