Episode 13: The Depths of Kalvar
A vast and lush jungle spread before Laurel. A brick road full of moss marked the path forward. Orlin motioned Laurel and Thistle to follow him.
Orlin – “We should reach Kalvar in about an hour.”
Laurel – “Is it that mountain over there?”
Orlin – “Yes, within it. Kalvar was built inside a large cavernous space.”
Thistle – “A cavern? Sounds dangerous.”
Orlin – “Oh it is, or rather it used to be. Living in Kalvar was always a challenge, but little by little we built safeguards. The hazard of falling rocks or stalactites was ever present in the past. In these times however, people can focus on the important matters, living their life as best they can.”
Thistle – “It must be an incredible sight.”
Orlin – “You sound like a fan of architecture, seems odd for a wisp.”
Thistle – “We have no need for such things, so we admire what others can build with the physical world. Human architecture is interesting, but it’s not the only one I admire. Dragons, for example, used to build incredible cities before the sealing.”
Orlin – “Ah, I see. It is said that Kalvar’s foundation was originally a dragon settlement. They have not returned sadly, we would surely welcome them.”
Laurel – “I think it should be obvious that the Sentients do not want to deal with humans as much. After all, we are the cause of the sealing.”
The road had guards stationed at certain intervals. They would move to different positions every few hours to keep them active and in rotation. The recent attack by Gerthran had the Grentis military on high alert. Orlin explained that it would be unlikely for Gerthran to return, as he had already acquired what he wanted, but the extra guards made the people feel safe.
Mists rolled over the paths, sometimes obscuring them and forcing everyone to slow their pace. Laurel held a light flare just above her hand. Thistle often ventured all around. The surroundings were interesting to her. Much of the vegetation was kept clear of the road to avoid any difficulties for travelers and merchants.
As they got closer to the city, more and more merchants passed the group by. When they arrived Thistle noted the large and imposing entry gate. Giant pillars held parts of the roof of the cavern. Openings in other parts filtered daylight into the cavern. This light was then redirected using mirrors that pointed to key areas of the city. One such area was the central marketplace. Another place of importance was the city center, home of the Grentis council. The rest of the city was lit by unique mushrooms that gave off an intense light. Laurel marveled at the sights, admiring every little detail she could. Meanwhile Thistle flew ahead of the group looking for statues, carvings and other such things. A large aqueduct served the city with the pristine waters that fed into the cavern.
Orlin arrived with Laurel and Thistle to his council room. In this room was a stone table with stacks of papers, decrees, council discussions and other documents awaiting his review.
Orlin – “Apologies for the mess, but the recent attack left us with much to consider. Though the council won’t meet again until later today I assure you I have their approval for what I am about to ask of you.”
Thistle – “That’s not very reassuring.”
Orlin – “We were actually discussing what to do with the artifacts after receiving word from the Entralian Council. Sadly we were too late. At the very least we knew you were gathering artifacts to oppose Gerthran, so before the council dismissed earlier we decided to give you permission to search the depths for a particular artifact.”
Laurel – “So there are still some left here?”
Orlin – “Yes, at least one more that we are aware of. There is another, but that one should reveal itself once you’ve acquired the one here. We don’t know exactly what it is, but we know it is hidden in a maze beneath Kalvar.”
Thistle – “All these artifacts have been preceded by a test. The trial of dragons in Brensur, the glacier temple in Ixis, the hidden island in Rallion and now this. Are these all connected?”
Laurel – “According to the mural at Rallion, the artifacts that have bound themselves to me are the joint artifacts created to battle Cythia. Along with what Lumos discovered I may end up being the best bet to confront Gerthran and Cythia.”
Orlin – “Lumos is wise. Your recent confrontation also reveals that you will require all the artifacts.”
Laurel – “Right, where do I have to go then?”
Thistle – “You’re not going alone again, I’m coming with you!”
Orlin – “I see no problem with that. You can help to guide Laurel.”
Thistle – “Yes!”
Orlin – “Behind this structure is a small entry to a very dark cave. Make sure you can light your way. You might find torches or braziers to ignite. You will have to navigate the maze to reach the artifact holding chamber. Be mindful that your connection to earth magic will be tested, so I suggest you begin practicing now.”
Laurel – “Got it.”
Orlin – “Be careful, right now you are our best bet against Gerthran.”
Laurel – “I’ll try my best.”
Thistle – “And so will I!”
Laurel and Thistle searched the back of the structure and found a dimly lit entryway. They had to navigate a multitude of corridors that went far into the depths of the cavern. They finally arrived at the maze itself. The large structure had various entrances and its walls reached the ceiling, making it impossible to fly over. Blazing hot magma lit the outside of the room and surrounded the entirety of the maze, with the exception of a small entry bridge. Laurel picked one of the entrances and moved in. “I could get lost in here forever”, she thought. Trying to make marks on the walls proved futile, they were enchanted and the surface shifted until the mark was gone. They did have their own markings though, this was something Laurel would need to decipher as it could provide a clue on how to proceed. Hours went by and the maze seemed endless. Finally Laurel found a room with a carved stone tablet. This tablet showed how to move certain walls and open doorways that were specifically marked. Laurel would need to meditate in order to strengthen the magical tether to earth mana.
One after another, a wall here, a doorway there and the maze began to open up. Each new path was a way forward. Some specially marked stones only opened a small window, but behind those windows a hidden path was cleared further in. The maze had now shifted dramatically from what it initially was. To both Laurel and Thistle it was confusing, but the hidden path that was being slowly opened, revealed itself when the last of the special stones was moved. This final path led directly to a room with a pedestal. Just above said pedestal was a gem that resembled the Emerald of Winds. This room was brightly illuminated by large crystal formations. When Laurel approached she noticed the gem was mostly white. Powerful earth magic radiated from the gem which revealed itself as the Quartz of Lands. As with previous artifacts the Quartz bound itself to Laurel and hovered around her. She was flooded with earth magic and could sense the lands.
A final challenge emerged. The maze crumbled into pieces that sank into the lava. Thistle expressed her concern to Laurel, but she in turn was confident she had all the necessary tools to cross the fiery magma. On the ceiling was a large rectangular carving. A lead of sorts to help visualize what needed to be done. Using a spell that could cut the stone through that same carving, the cut created a large stone block that fell onto the magma and created a pathway. The size allowed it to float for some time before it melted away, giving Laurel the opening she needed to cross.
Laurel returned to Orlin showing him the Quartz of Lands she had gained.
Orlin – “Excellent work Laurel. Now that you have that I have some good news.”
Laurel – “Oh?”
Thistle – “Is it about that other artifact?”
Orlin – “Yes indeed. Not long after you left I received a report that the sands shifted in an area of Scillion. I believe you should find the next item there.”
Laurel – “I will head for Scillion, but can I at least get some rest?”
Orlin – “Goodness me, you must be exhausted! Apologies, but Gerthran’s attack has us on edge. It feels like we must rush to gain the upper hand. No amount of acquired power will matter if you are too tired to use it though. So yes, please, take what time you need.”
Thistle – “Why didn’t you say something earlier?”
Laurel – “I feel the same way as Orlin. Gaining power to oppose Gerthran is a big priority.”
Orlin – “You do need rest, regardless. Go to the Inn at the edge of Kalvar. Rest there and once you’re ready, I will accompany you to Scillion.”
Thistle – “Sounds like a plan, let’s go Laurel.”
Orlin escorted Laurel to the Inn he mentioned and then returned to continue some of his duties with the council. Later at night, on that same day, Laurel woke up a bit disoriented. The area where the Inn was located was dimly lit all of the time. It was very quiet outside. Very few people could be seen walking around the streets. Laurel took her time to enjoy the peace. Her thoughts stirred, she knew she would have to face Gerthran again. Next time, she promised herself she would be ready.
Thistle approached from high above. She was studying the construction of the support pillars. Meanwhile a guard let Laurel know that Orlin would arrive soon. Laurel was surprised, but the guard mentioned the council had been in session for most of the night. As soon as Orlin reached Laurel they began their trip back to the world portal.
Now returned to the ruins of Scillion, Laurel, Thistle and Orlin discussed their next goal.
Laurel – “We’re here, what now?”
Orlin – “Just north of here is a place with a very large plaza. The report indicated thatthe sands used to cover a large carved stone. Our scholars couldn’t figure out what the carvings meant, but now that you have the Quartz of Lands it should be easy for you to discover what to do there.”
Thistle – “Was there anything else?”
Orlin – “The carvings seemed complex. With your knowledge and the artifacts I’m sure you will learn something the scholars couldn’t.”
Thistle lit nearby torches, as it was still nighttime in Entralia. While she did this, Laurel studied the carvings.
Laurel – “There isn’t much to go on, but this here looks like it refers to the Boots of Scillion.”
Thistle – “But you have those already.”
Laurel – “And they might be the key to the artifact here. There’s an energy emanating from around this area.”
Laurel moved a nearby stone using her magic to what looked like a spot specifically made for that stone. The floor reacted and sank a little. It seemed she had the right idea. Another stone that could fit a different carved opening was also nearby. Once again the floor sank a bit more, but it was still not enough. The carved floor was a kind of pressure plate. If it could be pressed down at a very specific weight it would activate a mechanism. Laurel thought how the two stones she placed were specifically built to provide some weight, but not all that was required. She then remembered how the Boots of Scillion were depicted. In the carving on the floor, the boots seemed much larger than what she was currently wearing. Thistle reminded her that she still had the Emerald of Winds equipped to the boots. An idea flashed in her mind and using her magic she removed the emerald and replaced it with the Quartz of Lands. Immediately upon changing the boots became heavier and heavier. The pressure plate sank. The earth magic in the quartz could be altered changing how much the boots weighed. Finally a loud clunk signaled the activation of the mechanism. A nearby fountain, which was completely dry, began to rise. A doorway started to emerge. There was a small chamber protected by magical enchantments which dissipated once it had completely surfaced. Inside were a pair of bracers.
Laurel – “This is it.”
Orlin – “Excellent! Go on, take them.”
Laurel grabbed the bracers from the pedestal where they were held. As soon as she placed them on her arms a flood of ancient knowledge gave her insight into the artifacts. The Bracers of Utoas are the second joint artifact of Grentis and Rallion. They were hidden here in Scillion to signal each of those worlds that their collaboration had allowed them to create powerful tools.
Orlin – “Great work! I should report back to the council. Laurel, we place our hope in your hands. Return to Balancor, search for whatever you might need next and tell the Entralian council that they can count on us if they need reinforcements.”
Laurel – “I will. Thank you Orlin, you’ve been of great help.”
Orlin – “Farewell, Laurel and you too Thistle!”
Thistle – “Take care!”
Orlin left in a hurry to return to the council at Grentis. It will bring them much needed hope after the defeat they suffered. Laurel’s next destination was Balancor. The desert would once again challenge them, but this time she had both the power of wind and earth at her disposal. The sands would now bow down to her newfound strength. Thistle and Laurel reached the surrounding forest in a matter of minutes. It will take them some more time to reach the capital and inform the council of what has transpired.