Saturday, 3 March 2018

Dresden Files: Journey to the Holy Valley, pt 2

We sat down for dinner with the Guardian / Speaker. This valley is a haven for the tribes and peoples who will die. Or would have, if time worked right here. As it is, they're the last of their kinds, in a sense.

The size of the great spirits is discussed; apparently they were a little on the small size. Somewhat alarming. Tomorrow, we meet the spirit of the valley to speak with it. In the meantime, we're free to rest in any one of the communal homes.

We take our leave to have a wander around the valley; we find communities done in the style of their people, but with modern materials. The valley is roughly circular, and the village itself seems to match a seven-pointed star. Braxton seems interested in this, although I can't fathom why.

Braxton wonders where Prospero is; it turns out he and his apprentice were doing the same thing we were, but going the other way around the village, with Pat taking notes as directed by Prospero. We overhear them talking; Prospero's educating Pat about how the circle forms a greater seal of Solomon.

It's a "powered circle", a wall that stops magic. Which probably explains why this village is still safe. This particular one is designed to contain and... merge... a presence.

He starts talkin' about greater powers, messengers from the heavens, and spirits from the land. I don't really get it, but it sounds downright ambitious. I guess the fire one came outta this, and Prospero reckons the same.

Any information's good going into this whole mess. We bed down for the night, and wake up to the morning processes of native peoples. The Speaker arrives to collect us, and walks us to the resting place of the Great Spirit. He does the teleportin' thing again to give Braxton a drink, and it turns out he's able to just do that because he's "required" to do so, because Braxton asked.

Caliburn has developed a sudden and violent Irish accent.

The Speaker leads to us the center of the village, which sports a fire that seems to burn on it's own with no fuel. Braxton puts his finger in the fire, and unsurprisin'ly, is burned.

The speaker cuts his hand open, and puts his hand in the fire. It burns it down to a husk near immediately, but he ain't flinchin'. I ask if it's gonna grow back. He reckons it might. I got no words for this.

Surprisingly, the fire seems to cool, and forms a more tangible bein'. Braxton wishes he'd done that *first*. The Speaker's eyes roll back into his head, and turn to fire. We're alarmed, but he says it's simply the price for Speaking.

I ask how we can beat the ice giant. We need to find it's home, and seal it, physically or otherwise. I ask where it lives, and a map of the area appears in flame; it points to an area just outside of the village where there is no fire at all.

Caliburn wonders how burnin' the area down would go. The Speaker says not well. Braxton asks for hotter fire, and we get it. He creates a jar of earth and gives it to us. I take it and hold onto it. It's right proper comfortable.

The speaker's crispy hand has regained mobility. Impressive.

When the ice giant has been sealed, the land will return to the natural cycle and the spirit of the land will be able to rest. Time will resume.

The Speaker's eyes unroll, and Caliburn asks for a knife. He gets one made of obsidian, and the Speaker presents us with native american armaments. Made of stone, but quite impressive considerin' they can inscribe Braxton's name into his own steel knife.

I ask for a dozen or so stone chips. I get tiny little balls of stone, which will do the trick just fine. I start whittling away at my bullets to fit the stones.

The Speaker guides us to our destination just outside the valley. As we reach the top of the valley. he shows us where we're headed -- a deep ravine.

We go over the plan: Go in. Kill any intermediaries so they can't give the ice spirit life. Drop a rock on it. Draw a circle. Set fire to it.

Braxton interrupts. "Set fire to it first, *then* draw the circle. That's magic shit." He looks to Prospero. "That's magic shit, right?"

Caribou Bill volunteers to go on a scouting mission; and turns into a bear. Honestly wasn't that surprising at this point. I suspect I'm the only normal person here. Frost accompanies us.

We sneak closer to the ravine. We see about 5 human-looking things guarding the ravine in a clearing that wasn't visible from up the cliff. As I sneak, I wonder if keeping my spurs on was such a good idea.

With Frost suddenly absent, the call is up to me to order the attack. I put the jar of fire down gently to free up my hands, and motion for the attack.

Caribou Bear puts on a massive turn of speed, and shoots forward to maul a sentry. Like, rightly turns him to a slab of dead meat. Almost immediately, another sentry falls over, missing part of his head -- I wonder how Frost got his gun so silent.

I get my dander up, and lay out another sentry with a straight right to the nose; he goes down in a fountain of blood.

The bear lays out another sentry, and the remaining one staggers us with a small earthquake from slamming his staff into the ground.

I give him a good slug, but it just staggers him. Caribou Bear can't even land a hit on him. Then Caliburn comes out of nowhere with a flying dropkick and embeds his feet in the man's chest, killing him outright.

Someone who looks like Caribou Bill shows up, and sheepishly turns back into Braxton -- somehow, I'm not surprised by this transformation. He asks if we left anyone alive, and I show him the sentry I laid out.

He picks him up, and slaps him around a little to wake him up.

"Wakey, wakey, eggs and bacey," he says.

Braxton grabs the sentry, and stares into his eyes. Prospero looks alarmed, and Braxton begins to laugh. The sentry suddenly snaps his bonds as he grabs Braxton by his neck. Braxton seems revitalized now, but it's no match for this sudden turn of speed and strength by the sentry.

I whip out my gun and put a round into his shoulder; it blows a chunk out of his shoulder, but he doesn't stop. And he doesn't bleed.

The sentry begins to drag Braxton towards the ravine. Braxton resists, and his hands turn to vicious claws. They sink into the sentry's forearms, but only a little; Braxton can't do much more than break the skin.

Caliburn decides if we can't break the sentry's hold on Braxton, we might as well break the sentry's hold on the ground and lift him up.

Caribou Bear lunges in, and bites his spine clean in two; the was-sentry goes limp, and Braxton is freed. Braxton tells us what he experienced; a dark and terrible power. That sentry was no longer human.

Suddenly, the body starts to pull itself back together with inky black fluid. Caliburn has an idea, and places his knife in the corpse's chest. It does nothing, so he begins to stab wildly.

"The fire, the fire!" I run to recover the pot of fire from where I left it. Caliburn rips the head off the corpse, and with Caribou Bear's help, drops it in a small hole. Braxton draws a circle around it and seals it with blood by stabbing his hand. The head stops thrashing around, and begins to leak black fluid.

I return with the pot of fire, a little late to the situation.


After we're done sealing the corpses, we hatch a plan; Braxton disguises himself as a dead cultist. Caliburn and I grab spare robes. Caribou Bear turns back into Caribou Bill and puts on the last, bloodied set of robes, and leaving the wizards to finish the containment circle, we head on into the crevasse.

We have the feeling of being watched. Perhaps it the spurs and my hat. The crevasse appears to be deeper than we thought. "This crevasse is deeper than we thought," Braxton remarks.

Caliburn announces our presence, boldly and clearly. He gets no response, but the air feels cold. Braxton draws a circle around himself, and complains it doesn't work -- damn fool, it's gotta be blooded to be effective.

He calls back up to the rim to ask why magic is cold. Apparently it's just Braxton's interpretation of the energy. That is, it's only cold if he reckons it is. I yeehaw and fire my gun twice before reloading.

A stiff breeze pushes past us. Only Braxton seems to not feel it. Caliburn removes his robe and seems to feel it more, so he puts it back on.

We hear a sound and more ice men appear, charging straight for us; Caliburn shouts a warning, and thanks to that, Caribou Bill and I can get out of the way of the two that come for us.

Caliburn smashes my attacker with one chop of his hand; I put a bullet in the head of the ice giant attacking Bill, but it doesn't go down. It mauls Bill, and Caliburn finishes it off with a headbutt.

Meanwhile, Braxton has started approaching a larger ice sculpture. It was just a head, but suddenly begins to move, and we find a much larger ice man emerging from where he's been half-buried.

It's not like the others. It has an endoskeleton made of darkness... the king of Skeletons.

Caliburn engages it immediately; Bill joins in, and between the two, it is weakened. Caliburn staggers it, and I throw the pot of fire over the top of it, and shoot it; the fire doesn't just fall out, but it falls down and sticks to the skeleton, burning away at it.

The skeleton suddenly turns bright white, and turning to face me, walks forward and passes into me. I feel a change -- I used to be the most normal in the group. Now I'm something else. A voice whispers to me: Envoy of the First Flame.

We've killed the summoners, and slain the aspect -- all that remains is to collapse the ravine. Nobody bought any dynamite, but one of the wizards did have an earthquake stick. Before Braxton can use it, Caliburn wants to explore the tunnel. He doesn't get very far, though. Braxton gets further, but still blacks out at a corner in the tunnel. I look and see something terrible; I don't want to go any further, and I grab Braxton and drag him back out.


Outside the ravine, we prepare to seal it off. As they prepare to collapse the ravine, we notice it's not half as cold anymore; it's like summer out here now.

Braxton finally gets to hit the ground with his stick. To everyone's surprise, it actually does something, and shatters the rocks beneath. He becomes insufferable.

The actual wizards collapse the ravine, and it is now fully summer time. Heat begins to warm us, although it doesn't affect me anymore.

We return to the valley -- the village is now gone; scattered through time, if the Guardian was right. Mission complete.

As we begin to walk back, Frost begins to transform; he morphs, and turns into someone who looks like Phobos. Gray, as Braxton identifies him distastefully. Gray has a job for him. A job with a group for the formerly powerful and their offspring.

Braxton accepts, and tells him to find them in Washington DC before vanishing suddenly. Prospero is a bit spooked, but still up to finish the job; he takes us through the Ways back home. The block of ice we saw on the way in is gone now.


Epilogue:
Caliburn, who took the head of one of the ice men, and finds it is not melting, puts it to use in a coolbox. He eventually dies of mystery frozen gut syndrome.

Caribou Bill went back home to Canada, and bought out the forest he was trying to preserve; with the money he was paid, and the support of a mysterious lobby group.

Braxton vanished for a while. I never looked at snarky assholes the same way twice after that.

And me? With new power in my hand, for once in my life, I have questions, and a taste of the world that holds the answers.

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