Abadius 31, 4713 (evening, Uqtaal necropolis)
The Hidden Truth symbolizes the ability to see past the obvious and the banal to a greater truth within. Sometimes this discovery is an esoteric one, sometimes it is a literal find, such as an item revealed within a room. Regardless, it is a card with the power to reveal secrets.
Misaligned, it can mean a secret being revealed to the subject’s detriment.
Seven months. Seven months, we’ve been traveling together. We’ve watched over one each other, cared for one other, broken bread together, and when it was called for, fought together to protect ourselves and our charges. For seven months, across some sixty-nine hundred miles, we’ve done all of that, sometimes in the face of seemingly unbeatable odds, and not one of us had fallen. And then, today.
Not Olmas (in spite of his best efforts to do otherwise) or Qatana (who we can’t seem to keep from wandering off) or even Ameiko, but Bevelek. Bevelek.
Gods, he’s just a driver. OK, that came out wrong. I don’t mean to disparage him, or his brother, and they’re no less important than anyone else. What I mean is, this is not their fight. They have no quarrel with anyone. They are just here to do a job: to help get us from where we were to where we’re going. They’re not involved. Nothing was supposed to happen to them. It’s not right.
And it’s pretty much our fault. We thought the passage behind us was safe. We had every reason to think it was safe. Obviously we were wrong. Did we miss a side passage? A secret entrance somewhere? Were we being followed without realizing it? I guess it doesn’t matter. Those are just excuses, and they don’t change the fact I am staring at a funeral shroud. We’re supposed to keep these things from happening.
I feel sick.
I’ve known him (and his brother) since I was, what, seventeen? They’ve worked as drivers for Sandru’s caravan since the beginning, and I met them in mom and dad’s warehouse that spring when Sandru finally returned to Sandpoint. I’ve always liked them, the little I saw of them. They were friendly, kind of talkative—Bevelek more so than his younger brother—and always made a point to say hello when I was around. Bevelek was especially good at working with the horses, and he’d invite me to come pet them or even help groom them as we were waiting for the wagons to load. This is how I repay that?
I didn’t get to know him or Vankor very well back then, but in the past several months a lot has come out. Their dad used to run a small courier service of some sort back in Magnimar, but he ran in to hard times and that was that. I’ve actually met their sister—I didn’t know who she was at the time—at the Old Fang. They’re still in Magnimar, all of them. Every now and then I see Bevelek writing to them.
What else is there to say? Bevelek in particular just seemed to like people, much like Sandru does. He loved being around them, talking to them, hearing their stories. He was so quintessentially Varisian that way. And he loved to travel. This trip was exciting! Dangerous, sure, but that’s why we’re here, right? And now we’re talking about him in the past tense.
Vankor was distraught, practically in shock. Honestly, I could barely face him. Sandru was unreadable. It’s just as well. I don’t know what to say to him.
At least we can do something about this. I am determined to, anyway. This journey has been a trial for everyone, in all senses of the word, but there’s also no denying that we have enriched ourselves in the process. We have taken the lion’s share of the spoils since this began. Yes, we have also taken most of the risks, too, but we are not the only ones here. We need everyone, and we can’t just turn our backs on those who are supporting us and making this trip possible. We can’t just put Bevelek to the earth like he doesn’t matter.
It would be wrong to assume, though, so I broached the subject with Vankor.
“I am sorry about what happened to your brother. We…we may be able to bring him back. But, we don’t want to do this against his wishes or yours. I need to know. Is that something you want us to try?”
This took him aback. He looked up at me hopefully.
“If you can bring him back…Yes. Yes! Please! This was…it’s too soon.”
I nodded, solemnly. “We can’t do it right away, but—we can do it. We do have to know, though…people get a choice when you try to call them back. It’s a difficult and costly spell. Before we commit to it, do you know…would he want to come back?”
He didn’t even hesitate. “Yes! I am sure he would. He loved life.”
We don’t have the money. Or rather, we do, just not in the right form. According to Qatana, the spell consumes a single, valuable diamond and ours our too meager fill that role. There are no gem exchanges or diamond deposits here, obviously, which means we will have to wait until we reach Tian Xia. Koya has agreed to preserve his body using a spell. This will give us the time that we need.
The more pressing issue is, however, is preventing today’s disaster from playing out again. We can’t be in two places at once, nor can we fight a battle on three fronts. We need to be able to explore ahead and secure our passage through here without worrying about the safety of our camp.
The necropolis seems to be guarded by undead. The headless mummies we’ve encountered both along the Path of Spirits and here in the burial chambers seem to be the resident hall monitors, attacking any living thing that enters. What makes them especially dangerous is the aura of paralyzing fear that surrounds them. Get caught off guard, or worn down by the relentless assault on your psyche, and you are overwhelmed by terror and magically rooted to the spot. This is what happened to Olmas two nights ago, to me and several of the others today, and probably to Bevelek before he fell.
Our first priority is keeping more of them from coming up from behind us like they did today. Qatana and I have some ideas, but the best ones can’t be acted on until tomorrow so we’re in for another tense night.
Next on the list are the yeti. Obviously, they did not build this place, but they’re here now. The truth of it is that they are squatters as much as we are trespassers, but from their viewpoint we are invading their home and they’ve been rather aggressive about delivering that message. Not that they’ve actually said anything to us, but nothing communicates intent quite like an ambush.
The necropolis and the Path of Spirits were carved out of the mountain, and the latter occasionally intersected with naturally formed caverns to form those side passages I spoke of. A rather extensive network of caverns and fissures adjoins the catacombs, proper, and the former is where they’ve made their home. They seem to move back and forth between the two. The Uqtaal excavators apparently didn’t care if their necropolis simply opened up to the caverns in places—they may have used the voids in the rock to save time and labor, for all I know—probably because there weren’t yeti living there at the time, and the residents were not alive to complain about the decor.
I used one of my newest spells to project my sight and was able to explore much of it, albeit sloppily, until the magic expired. That is how I know all of this. Yes, it was an invasion of their privacy, and yet another trespass to add to our list of sins (one that is much worse than the first, if we are keeping track, since it was intentional). I am sure it won’t be the last, either.
This actually bothers me. There are wizards who specialize in these sorts of divinations and I am not comfortable around any of them. There is more to the school than what I am doing here, of course, but my problem with it is that there isn’t much more. It is a field that is ripe for abuse. All it takes is something you owned—even just a piece, really—and someone can spy on you from a distance with a reasonable expectation of success. Possess even the smallest piece of their person, such a bit of hair or even a nail clipping, and you can nearly do so with impunity. It’s distasteful.
And of course I am doing something much like it now. I can argue it, justify it, point out that we were attacked first, but I am still crossing that line. It’s a struggle at first, but each time it gets just a little easier. Mom, and probably dad, would say that the world isn’t so absolute; that it’s a messy place, and circumstances matter. That the stakes matter. Sometimes doing the right thing is not the same as doing the right thing. This…is probably true. But, sometimes I wonder. What if there really is an absolute right and wrong, and all this talk of nuance is just something people use to excuse their own moral failings? Or worse, to justify them. Maybe the world isn’t messy; maybe just people are.
But, we need more information about the yeti here, and we need to get it without risking our lives. I’d also like to not risk theirs. Where this falls on the axis of right and wrong, I don’t know, but it’s the best idea I have on a very short list of ideas. So, excuse or justification, I’ll probably be doing this again.
Before that, however, we need to stop them from raiding us as we explore the pool room. Much like the mummies we need to block them off, only whatever we put up we need to be able to pass through in the future. That limits our options. I have some ideas here, too, but none of them are particularly good.
The pool room is the real mystery here, and we need time to uncover it. The revenant…whoever it was in life was almost certainly slain here. A revenant is born out of hatred and a single-minded purpose: avenge their own death. It’s said they can’t be destroyed until their killer is slain, and we can thank Qatana for validating at least the first half of that theory. (I have to wonder what would happen if you were killed by a revenant and became one yourself. Would the two of you be trapped in an eternal battle, neither of you able to destroy the other?)
We don’t know how it (he? she?) died originally. We only know it wasn’t the spectres: the body is too far from the water, and the spectres don’t seem to be able to cross beyond the edge of the pool. So, whatever did this is obviously still alive (or given where we are, still undead), and able to move around. Which leaves three things we have to worry about tonight: mummies, yeti, and something else that we haven’t seen yet.
Because what we need after today is another challenge.