I am back, dear journal. I am not so good at writing in you. I would guess I have only chronicled one-fourth of my recent adventures. It is no matter, though, as I am not an author of best-selling novels or anything. I am just a man on a journey who wants to remember a slight and exact portion of the things he does. Anyway, onto recent events.
It seems we are committed to this bog, because we remain in this bog. I mean, we’re not in it as I write this but we kind of are. Istus, alright. Look.
As we trod through the bog we happen upon this stone archway. Atop it, carved into the stone, the image of a bird. Welltick susses out that it represents the Raven Queen, Goddess of Death. That may be enough to spook your everyday commoner, but not this band of boys and bear.
We venture through the archway and into what I can only describe as a bog-hole. It is full of more hocus pocus nonsense. Goofy images on the walls of men touching orbs and crossing thresholds. Further down we discover walls lined with tombs and a glowing opal. We probably argue for a while and in the end we figure the best plan of action is to touch it, so we touch it.
I cannot articulate what occurs next. It is not something that has happened to me before. It certainly is something, though. And after it happens, I look around to find that me and the boys are in a dark place. A place seemingly untouched by Istus or my Ioun. We are forsaken on some kind of stone slab suspended in a dark, dumb void. Certainly, this must be the spectral realm.
And then this cheery whistling guy shows up!
Fox greets him, and the guy isn’t much help. I don’t know what the guy was like before he was damned to the spectral realm, but I wouldn’t want to be friends with him. He talks a lot without saying much, so we walk away from the idiot and find ourselves at the edge of the stone slab. Just beyond the precipice we’re able to make out a large, shadowy structure. Looks ominous enough that it is probably important.
Luckily, there’s a bridge directly to the next slab, but, go figure, it is built not only of stone but also of hocus pocus horse shit magic. Every step we take on the thing, the destination grows further out of reach. We try a lot of things— flipping, walking backwards, closing our eyes— none of this works. Who is this most useless of beings that builds such a bridge? What is the point? I am not a civil engineer or anything but some advice to whoever built that thing: maybe don’t bother building a bridge that doesn’t do what bridges are supposed to do.
Upon realizing we all hate this pointless bridge, it becomes apparent that our only option is to jump the chasm. Thing is, it is full of souls or fire or something. “Waaater?” Nax wonders. “Ants.” Welltick insists. Nax is startled, as if scared of the suggestion of ants, but says “SNAKES????” A funny, small, mighty man, that Nax.
So Welltick and I get all racial about it and straight-up Feystep across the chasm, at which point a dizzying whirlwind of screaming souls erupt from below and pour into the looming structure ahead of us.
Fox and Nax jump across and join us. Uneventful chasm, in the end. Smoke and mirrors. I do not like dumb spectral magic. And, again, fuck that rude bridge.
We head toward the dark ziggurat before us, and on the way it dawns on me that The Bear is not with us. Fox has probably been worrying about him this whole time, ha ha! I do not consider the plight of others very often and maybe that is rude, but I didn’t sign up for this adventure thinking, “I hope I can spend a lot of time worrying about a bear!”
We bust open the doors of the structure and the inside is none too welcoming. Labyrinthine, glass walls, lined with wrinkly, naked, howling souls. They are kind of showboating.
We eventually reach the end of the maze and find ourselves in an altar. There’s a big round opening on the ceiling, with a pulsing feathery mass protruding from it. And a circular altar below it with a single feather or something. And some doorways. Nothing makes a lot of sense in this place. You can understand why it frustrates me.
So there are doors. And one says “To walk this path is to reclaim the greatest reward.” which we figure is a quick exit to return to our bodies in the Regular World where they don’t waste time building practical joke bridges.
And the other door says “To walk this path is to embrace the now.”
Thankfully, a hooded weirdo shows up to really clarify the situation by explaining that we are all in a gift for the Raven Queen, created by Thantos. She wants our souls, it seems. Great. Thanks, Thantos. Thantos.
We’re pretty tired of the whole production. I am, anyway. So we figure we might as well take that first door and get back to the real world. But once through the threshold we find ourselves in a cavernous room with no exit in sight. Do the walls start closing in? Sure they do. Thinking fast, I do my Obblet flippy-flips and vault to the top of the chamber, but the rest of the boys are still down there, getting crushed. I’m almost worried for them before realizing that this room, not unlike that bridge, is probably a bunch of nonsense. And just as soon as I shout that to the others, the illusion fades.
The next room is cold but it’s also bullshit, so let’s not dwell on it.
The final room is a large cube. On the wall it is written in smeared water: “THE FEATHER. THE RECEPTACLE. THE VIAL.”
And the water starts filling up the room. Nax suggests we “Ride that water up like a fuckin’ surfboard to heaven.” This does not work. We, instead, sink to the bottom, finding the floor to be of an earthy consistency. We claw through wet loam for a moment before a great beast pulls us through.
It is the bear! The sweet bear!
And we are in an orchard. A beautiful sunlit orchard. And there are… people! Darg! And some dwarves that I assume are Nax’s relatives! And… wait… can it be? Is it Him?
The Goblin Saint? The Olive-Skinned Angel, himself?
IT IS. IT IS GREENO. AT LAST. OUR JOURNEY HAS CONCLUDED. I RUN TO EMBRACE MY DEAREST FRIEND. IT IS ALL TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE!
IT IS ALL TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE!
IT IS ALL… hmm… too good to be true…
IT IS ALL TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE.
Instantly confirming our doubts, welcome as the death rattle of a newly-born babe, we hear a distant whistling. Same as that guy, you know. What was his name? I don’t think he even gave us a name, so I’ll just call him Chekhov, a name I made up. It is Chekhov’s whistle.
The illusion shattered, we draw our weapons and slaughter these shadows of the people we hold dear.
May Istus one day summon the power to reach his wretched, knotty claws into this spirit world and draw the life from the beings that so callously presented us with the false image of our beloved Greeno. And also of Nax’s family, which was probably an emotional thing for him, but then again, I’m fairly certain he grabbed Greeno by the buttocks and performed what I assume is a dwarven friendship mouth ritual.
As the corpses bleed out, the world fades around us, and to no one’s surprise, we are still in that altar.
Poke around a bit more, and we find the VAULT room, which is all rotatey. It’s got an urn in it, which we’re happy to assume is the aforementioned receptacle.
Back in the main room of the altar, the hooded weirdo is back, and he talks some more and tells us stories, but basically I’m just mad about the whole Greeno ordeal and fuck all of this I want to leave so let’s find the vial and leave these dumb people and this dumb world.
Entering another chamber we find a long wall of gates. “Only the Dead May Pass.” Basically looks like the original room we were in before we made the worst decision of our lives and touched that opal. Worse even than that time we let the bear hollow out Baron Stockmore’s cellarmaid, Istus rest her soul. Walking up the stairs, we find a dim stone, much like the opal we originally laid hands on. So we touch it, and it reveals the Regular World, where our bodies are all entombed. And now we just want to get back there as quickly as possible.
Thoroughly fed up with all of this, we prod around some more and find a doorway leading to the laboratory of Thantos, the giant. Thirty feet tall, three heads, branched arms. Around his neck, the vial. Figuring the greatest insult would be to deprive this guy of the satisfaction of combat, we decide to get sneaky, because this guy is busy with Giant Science Stuff anyway. Nax tip-toes in first, but one of Thantos’ heads stares at him. Nimble Fox rushes to salvage the operation and, scurrying up the distracted behemoth’s body, manages to snatch the vial. This makes for a nice moment up until he immediately drops it. But I’m so intent on leaving this shithole that I pull off a borderline-miraculous feat of acrobatics and catch the thing without making a peep.
Welltick distracts Thantos as we exit the room by shoving his Dick in the giant’s face, which is basically what every being in the spectral realm deserves.
And that’s where we are, I think. Unless we’ve already escaped. Maybe we have and I’m just having a hard time believing it. Ha ha. If not, we’re still here for a little while longer and everything’s terrible.
Other than that? Burning bottle of ash, crippling night terrors, the usual.
Goodbye for now, journal. I will write again soon to chronicle another thrilling 25 percent of my travels.