Tuesday, December 5, 2023

A Dissonant Chord - Part 2

In the first part of "A Dissonant Chord," the journal entries of the character Ikram were introduced. Taking place in the fictional Ironlands setting, the entries described Ikram leaving his hometown of Graycliff after his mother's passing. While traveling, Ikram and his companion Themon were attacked by a group of elf-bound warriors. Ikram managed to escape but was forced to abandon Themon. Upon returning to Graycliff, Ikram found it destroyed with Themon's head mounted as a gruesome display. Swearing vengeance, Ikram began exploring mysterious woods and caverns, discovering odd books and strange powers within himself. He then set out for the town of Mournwood seeking information about the elf-bound warriors, hoping to continue his quest for retaliation.

8th day of spring, year 132

I woke early, refreshed enough to consult my map and survey the surrounding area. I set off again toward Mournwood. I walked downhill toward a fen. All this traveling around left me quite hungry — for food, that is. The other hunger, which based on the notes I am convinced is mystical in nature, persists. Thankfully, that one is much easier to bear compared to hunger for sustenance. Pressing on, I reached a waterfall shadowed by the cliffs around it, dropping its water into a small lake below that likely flowed underground. I chose to make camp here overnight.

9th day of spring, year 132

It turns out I was camping very close to Mournwood, as it took me less than two hours to reach it in the morning. I had never seen a city before — it was huge and built around some ruins, with the nearby forest seeming to invade the city from one side. I wondered why the ruins at the center of the city had not been reused for building, which according to my grandfather was what had happened to the ruins Graycliff was built around. First things first, I needed some money. I looked around and met Padma, a rarities shopkeeper, who needed help sorting through an extensive collection of books. We spent the daylight working, and she compensated me with 10 arrowheads. I asked if she was interested in more old world books, as I saw a few in the box. She said yes, so I asked how much she was willing to pay for the three I had. She offered 30 arrowheads for each. I asked if she would like more. She suggested 2,000 arrowheads for 200 books. I asked for double. She last offered 4,000 arrowheads for 250 books, which I accepted. She swore an iron vow to pay me when I bring them. She said she would need to call in a few favors to get the full amount but was sure it would not be an issue. I slept at the inn for 2 arrowheads.

10th day of spring, year 132

I couldn't rest at all last night. I kept thinking about the money. I could easily hire mercenaries to take care of those warriors, or I could spend it on finding out more about "invocation". I set off immediately for the frozen cavern. The sooner I get the books, the better. But as I exited the city, I crossed paths with two of the warriors. I recognized them by their armor. I attempted to obscure my face, yet one of them saw me and wanted to know where I was from. They were not sure I was who they thought. I told them the first far-away village name I could think of, but one recognized my voice. I gave Valeri a kick, and we took off, with both warriors chasing us on horseback. At first, I struggled to put any distance between us. I tried to take some sharper turns by going into the woods to make it harder for them to shoot at me. There were many broken branches littering the ground and Valeri stumbled badly on one. I tried to stand her up, but failed. Somehow though, as if Valeri knew, she stayed silent and the two warriors didn’t see us as they rode past. I tried again to help Valeri up, but I was too slow. The warriors found us. Valeri, panicking, stood up on her own and I jumped on her. The warriors prepared their bows; I too took aim. We shot at each other. I missed; they barely missed. That was too close. I started panicking, thinking "Is this the same fight all over again?" as I hastily repositioned further from them and accidentally dropped my purse. I heard arrows whizzing around me, terrifying me even more. Then one asked if I liked the decorations in Graycliff. He said it was his idea. I tried to focus again. They were just toying with me. I took a shot at them, which hit, but they also hit my water pouch. I kept shooting and barely avoiding their shots. Then, suddenly, an arrow hit my arm from the back side. More warriors. I couldn’t survive this. I tried to run away, scared out of my wits. Eventually, I somehow managed to put enough distance between us for them to lose track of us. I needed to rest. Once I calmed down, I went hunting, killed a boar, and then set up camp.

11th day of spring, year 132

In the morning, I devoted some time to exploring the area, which seemed devoid of warriors. I continued traveling just to be safe, though. Later, I came across a grim battlefield strewn with the unburied bones of corpses. I wondered why nobody had bothered to care for the bodies of the fallen fighters. Were they fighting for no one? Or did the victors murder all who would have cared for their opponents? I quickly left and traveled through some cold fields before reaching a small village. I asked its name. "Timberwall," they said. I checked my map — I was a bit off course but close to the Black Tunnels. Unfortunately, when they saw my clearly man-made wounds, they kicked me out of the village because they didn't want trouble. Bullshit. I used some of my fabric to change the bandages on my injuries and then spent the night outside the village, but I got very little rest.

12th day of spring, year 132

In the morning I went hunting again, but it was a complete waste of time. Then I tried foraging, once more finding nothing edible. What a shitty place. I set off to travel. After a long while, I arrived at a peaceful coast close to the caverns. I tried fishing but only snapped my line. I tried again with a new line and got two huge fish. Finally, some fresh food. I tried to find some wood along the coast but some animal stole one of my fish while I was away. So I went fishing once more, thankfully catching some more. I set up camp but it turns out these fish were not edible. My stomach was upset all night.

13th day of spring, year 132

The next morning I went inland to forage. It took some time, but I found some fruit and gathered wood. I then spent time searching for herbs. Afterwards, I used more time crafting new pouches for water and arrowheads. I went to sleep early.

14th day of spring, year 132

I prepared some replacement arrows, as my stock was running low. This place was pleasant. I would stay here for a few days to relax and repair my equipment.

15th day of spring, year 132

I climbed a nearby hill today and actually saw the bay where the shack stood in the distance.

16th day of spring, year 132

My wounds had pretty much stopped bothering me, so I packed up and left. I arrived at the frozen caverns by midday and immediately delved deeper. I went straight to the vast chamber with the weird mystical energy. To my surprise, when I arrived, I saw a huge whirling cloud of mist almost filling the chamber. I walked carefully around, trying to find any opening. There was none, but I noticed that the swirling slowed periodically. I timed my first attempt to enter it wrong and the rotating mass flung me against a wall, dislocating my shoulder. It wasn’t the first time I had to put my shoulder back, so I downed a lot of alcohol, waited 10 minutes, and forced it back into place. I retried timing my entry again, took my time to do it right, and it worked. I was in the eye of the rotating mass. And here was that smell again. I breathed in and relaxed. Cold. I saw the swirling mass closing in on me. Was it trying to stop me? I tried again, tried to relax and take in my surroundings. Suddenly, silence. When I opened my eyes, there was no swirling mass anymore, and I felt satiated like never before. I knew I could do things now. I pressed on to the library and, once I reached it, I opened my sack and filled it with books — 250 of them. They weighed quite a lot. It would make traveling harder, but thankfully, I had Valeri with me. I retraced my steps but one of the ice formations had toppled over, blocking my path. I used some rope, a knife, and a heavy book to make a makeshift ice pick and started chipping away at the ice blocks until it broke. Once I got out and back to Valeri again, we set off immediately for Mournwood. We didn’t go far before Valeri started complaining about the extra weight. We halted to set up camp, and I noticed she had been slightly rubbed raw by the heavy bags.

In the next part, as Ikram leaves Mournwood out of fear his enemies could discover his plans for vengeance, he remains focused on his quest. Back in Stoneford, he hopes the money will help rebuild what was lost in Graycliff. But he finds out that trust in a harsh world is not easy to come by.

To be continued...

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