Secrets of the Sands

Bushwhacking (Part 3&4)

Session Seven and Eight

My dearest Silas,

As miserable as these last few months have been, I can’t help but be grateful that every detour and misstep has brought me to this singular moment: Today, I flew.

Alright, perhaps “flew” is an overstatement, but only a small one. The islands of Kri are dense with ancient ruins, and the native people sent me (and the rest of my haphazard crew) out into them as a sort of initiation ritual. The site of my “test” was magnificent – a temple that was remarkably intact, with a series of self-resetting traps that guard the space in perpetuity. I was able to circumvent all but one (which I didn’t even notice until I triggered it, I was so absorbed in examining the ancient glyphs and carvings on the walls), but the construction of the building was absolutely ingenious. Most of the traps were mechanical in nature, not unlike those we’ve seen in ruins dating back to the height of the Sun Empire, but one – one! – was made entirely of bound air elementals, simple creatures tasked with dashing to and fro, buffeting and repelling any attempt to approach or cross a wide chasm, with only one carefully timed way across. But once I’d figured out the timing, the wind lifted me up and I soared across the ravine, utterly unharmed.

In the final chamber, I managed to avoid the trap entirely, but my guide indulged me by telling me how it worked – a different elemental linked to each of the stone steps designed, again, the rebuff an incautious approach. And the whole temple was filled with fascinating statuary, depicting what I believe to be a proto-race. In all our travels, I’ve never seen their like; they certainly predate any ruin we’ve ever encountered, and are older than the Sun Empire itself by an age. I suspect the original population of the island may have been a common ancestor between humans and elves, and who knows what other species. The inscriptions were beyond my ability to read, but I made rubbings of as many as I could. I have half a mind to ask the tribal elders permission to re-enter the temple to examine it further, along with any other ruins on the islands. I don’t know yet what trials my companions have undergone, but I’m infinitely curious to know. My only hesitation is that I fear they might think me rude or over-inquisitive, if not outright disrespectful of their customs. I can’t say I blame them; they’ve certainly had poor experiences with curious-minded elves in the past, but I think perhaps if I make it clear that my inquiries are purely historical rather than magical, they may allow it.

Tehlmar, of course, is another issue entirely. Already he grows impatient with our progress, and I worry that any interference on his part will only cause the tenuous relationship we’ve built with the local population to crumble. He is a Sword of Damocles in an uncomfortably literal sense. But if it were not for this damned wrist cuff, I would be glad to stay in this place and learn its secrets.

I will not let this sour my mood. Today I rode, weightless, on playful currents of air put in place by a people ancient beyond fathoming. Whatever else may be, I could not ask for more than that.

With all my love,

Faylen

Addendum: My hope for an extended stay on Kri has already crumbled. A massive typhoon is striking the island, and given that the moment we ventured out into it we were set upon by assassins, we’ve made the prudent decision to set sail tonight and attempt to outpace the storm rather than continue to overstay our welcome. Tehlmar is in a foul mood and madly impatient; I can’t imagine what would motivate him to sail away from the source of his precious black rocks, or where we’ll next be making port, but evidently our time here has come to an end. I leave this letter in the care of the Kri elders, to be posted when the storm has passed, but I know not where I’ll be when it finds its way to your hands. Stay safe, love. With any luck, this is just a roundabout way home.

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Xphile theshannonlewis

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