Thursday, 13 May 2010

ebon zikkuract - the southern stair

Divine majesty, I must report the loss of the party who explored the southern stair of the miraculous zikkuract of Algolia.  Strange omens and incursions following Maldut of Uthuta's expedition made it necessary for guards to be posted at the keystone.  The hierophants are interpreting the omens yet I bring them to you as Nirhad of Salkuta bade me before the jungle claimed him.  The southern stair is strange to behold, you will know that the hierophants descend and return as normal.  Yet when the expedition left, they were seen walking as slowly as mourners of fallen Ningesh, their speech slurred as if drunk yet none of that expedition would dare. The jungle of the green sun has inspired curiosity among the guards, the jewel-bright insects that enter the zikkuract command a heavy price despite hierophant decree to kill and bring their bodies for study.  I know one guard who has sought to capture rather than destroy and I suspect sorcery behind his treachery.

Before he was claimed by the jungle, Nirhad gave me this tile, saying the wisdom hidden under the green sun  tempts even hierophants to treason. I do not understand the glyphs but they change when my eyes look away then return.  There are mysteries I do not understand. The two guards reported to me before the howling fever sent them to the Underworld.  Both loyal Sarti, may her courage be rewarded and strong Naku spoke of a portal to Khadu in the jungle whose vines lashed and tried to draw blood. They said the ziggurat was covered in vines whose blooms turned in their direction.  Nirhad's incantation to Ankil parted the vines on the stairs and they followed a path revealed by moving creepers. The over-grown ruins were made of bones and a peculiar pale stone with grey and red veins.  Sarti told me of the beast cults beyond Ekkad and the howling fever.  Nirhad was greatly troubled by this, the former inhabitants may have sacrificed to the beast cults and Khadu.  To serve both would be like being torn apart by horses.

Yet the jungle was jealous.  Naku said how he slew a vicious scalebeast that spat at Nirhad and it's venom began to grow on his flesh, turning him feverish and green.  The expedition sought shelter in the ruins and here Nirhad found a library kept dry by crystals in a pot that made the air bitter.  Stacked on shelves about the room were a number of tiles carved with glyphs.  Their sole guardian was the dusty husk of a man with the skull of a beast sat as if studying the tile you have before you.  When Sarti touched the tile, the beast-corpse rose up and breathed dust upon her and Naku.  Both of them slew the monster and on Nirhad's orders fled the ruin as Naku began to howl.  They returned, the creepers moving to trip and lash at them.  The guards saw them rising up the steps, seeming to take forever.  I went with them to the healers and gathered what I could before the howling fever choked them.

After sometime, Nirhad came to the ziggurat, his body beginning to wither like rotten fruit and green like the creepers around him.  Ankil's invocation kept him safe but the creepers began to move like waves and I saw them twist into a likeness of a Zari giant, a great bloom where the head would be and sinewy limbs of vines.  Nirhad told me the others were dead from the jungle and that the library had lore from the beast cults and Khadu.  He spoke of nature corrupted and as his eyes mouldered, told me to present the tile to your divine majesty saying no hierophant should see it.  His last act was to bind my oath to that and though the hierophant tortured me, I have fulfilled my oath.  The giant came up the steps and as Nirhad gave me the tile, it reached out and grasped him, unaffected by the strange langour that had affected Nirhad's expedition.  Though I chopped at the sinews with my axe, the giant plant rent Nirhad in two then moved like a wave back down the steps, into the jungle, ignoring my efforts.  Though the insects from this world are highly sought after by healers and sorcerors, this world is a great peril.  The plants and venomous beasts attack explorers over blasphemous secrets tainted by howling fever.  I am yours to command or to punish divine majesty, for the world of the green sun un-makes me.  I would prefer to die cleanly in your regard than feed Khadu's spawn!

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