Miara said something sensible: we shouldn't use the power of the crystals because it seems to create and spread chaos. We need to destroy them, but how?

While we pondered that question, Sun pointed out that we might first consider how we are going to survive while we figure out how to the destroy them. We had no food left and the blizzard made gathering food nearly impossible. The wind blowing through the caverns was cold and uncomfortable.

Ignoring Sun's points, Goldrim pondered that dealing with the symptoms of the crystals didn't help at all and maybe even made things worse. Kyuskay said, "We need to find The Man." He is entirely obsessed with The Man from his vision.

Goldrim disagreed and thought finding The Man would be a very bad idea. Before Kyuskay could argue the point, Miara said rather sadly, "I don't think you need to find him. He will find you." Kyoskay replied, "Then he needs to hurry. I don't really know where to look, anyway."

Goldrim began praying again to his god for guidance, and Kyoskay made perhaps his worse suggestion to date: to use ths crystals more and make things worse in order to make them better. To precipitate the coming crisis, in other words. No one was in favor of that.

José muttered a few words, then recoiled, covering his face with his hands for a few moments. "Magic is all around us. Everything is heavily magical. Every one of us appears to be a magic-user now."

Goldrim's praying ceased. He said he'd had another vision. At first, there seemed to be two visions, one overlaying the other, but after he managed to focus on them, they merged into one. Water, fire, air, trees, people, everythin, was all swirling around in a giant whirlpool, draining down. And we, the whole group as well. All the living things were trying to avoid slipping down the hole, trying walk and claw their way up the water-rock-fire-vortex hole. Then he saw us join a blind man who led us up, away from the hole.

We needed to find the blind man, but again: where? Kyoskay, of course, was convinced that Goldrim's blind man was also his Man who would drink him. We considered: in the vision, we were struggling to get out of the chaos. Perhaps we should leave the caverns, then?

José suggested we test the limits of the area of magic around us. Perhaps it wasn't that far out of the chaos we had created. With a plan, we quickly sprang into action. Goldrim anchored our rope, and Bark went out into the blizzard, holding tightly to the rope. He was gone quite a while, but then Goldrim finally felt some tugs, and he pulled the youth back in.

He climbed down the cliff. Visibility was no more than five feet. He worked his way down through the snow, cold and deep. At the end of the hundred feet of rope, nothing had changed. He was next to a stream that wasn't yet completely frozen over, and it was fairly easy to follow. So he stuck his spear into the ground and tides the rope to it. Then he followed the stream for about ten minutes. Nothing changed, and he gave up and returned to us. But he had reached the road. Kyuskay started muttering about Og. Wasn't he buried nearby? Didn't he drink a lot? Maybe Og was The Man. We all ignored his ramblings.

Our situation gave us two bad choices: travel through a blizzard in the mountains or stay here and try to survive in the mountains by hunting in blizzards. José snapped his fingers and said, "Water is not a problem. Wood is out there and not that hard to collect even in snowstorms. Food is the only issue, and I think I have a solution." He closed his eyes, whispered something, and stuck his hand in his pocket. I saw him do that before, and smiled at the thought of a fresh mackeral. Yes, it would pall quickly, but it would be enough to keep us alive whether we stayed here or decided to try travelling.

His hand pulled out, not a mackeral, but a large maggoty-looking thing. Amid sounds of revulsion, Ashe shouted a warning that none of us heard over a loud snapping sound and José's cry of pain. He stumbled back, dropping the thing almost before the flash of light that accompanied the snap faded from our eyes. Goldrim quickly stepped forward and smashed it with his maul, which produced a moist splat and a large puddle of goo.

Ashe explained that was something called a sunworm and it shocked its victims. José was not badly injured, but I touched him and healed him anyway. He had uncomprehending look on his face: how had that nasty thing come out of his pocket instead of a mackeral? He looked confused and disappointed both.

He was game to try if again, but he had to rest for a while first, to gather the strength he spent in casting his spell. This time, he yelped while his hand was still in his pocket. As whatever it was tore its way out, he scrambled out of his robe and leapt backwards. It was a snotling this time, and its quick zig-zags allowed it to avoid Goldrim's maul. But the nasty thing zigged into Miara's reach, and her sword sliced it into ribbons. Again, I healed José's slight hurt, and as he rested from his spell, he put his robe back on and mended the pocket with a needle and thread borrowed from Miara.

A little shaken, he nevertheless wanted to try it again. I think he wanted to prove to himself that he could still do this spell right. I don't blame him at all: the enormous amout of chaos we had unleashed in the vicinity was no doubt the reason. I wondered what vicious creature he would pull out of his pocket this time.

To our relief, it was a mackeral. Just enough for one person, but assuming he wasn't overcome by chaos, he could perform this trick repeatedly every day and we would have enough to eat. He was visibly relieved at this success this time.

Cold was our other problem. Bark rigged a breakwind out of furs. He'd noticed his furs weren't disintegrating. That did, indeed stop the wind. Until they developed holes and fell apart. José solved that problem, too. Simply concentrate for a moment and tell yourself that you aren't cold. Fueled by the power of the crystal, of course. But it did work.

Of course, our main problem is that we have the fused crystal. Until and unless we get rid of the thing, nothing will be right around us. Which was a strong argument for braving the blizzard. Why sit around here and just wait to be completely overcome by the gathering chaos?

In fact, we ourselves were being affected by the chaos, in our own ways. We each kind of did our own thing, and only with difficulty did we manage to hold enough of a conversation, over a few hours, to finally make a decision. Bark played with his furs. José with his magic. Kyuskay meditated. Miara brooded. Sun kept reminding us of the mundane problems we faced.

Finally, Sun reported the one thing that prompted a decision. The river was rising. Quickly.

And so we gathered what we could and left. Personal possessions weren't a problem, but the chest was splinters. Miara carefully took up her statue, and we all picked out gems to carry, they being small, lightweight, and valuable, and then as many gold and silver coins as we could. Perhaps we could return later for the rest. Or not. Our destination: the Druidess in the Yetsin Valley. Sean and his box should be there, too.

Kyuskay was still meditating and did not respond to anyone. Miara would not leave him behind, not that the rest of us wanted to, and so Goldrim carried him.

And I must have been touched in the head by chaos. I knelt before the snow bank we had placed Prestley in, and concentrated very hard. And he sat up! But no, his body still lay there, and Prestley was no more than a spirit. He moved around, but he couldn't see or speak, and his body still was in the snow. The river continued to rise and everyone wanted to leave, but I could feel the magic swirling around me and was convinced I could make this work. They acquiesced, and gave me a few more minutes to work. Goldrim very kindly stood near and sheltered me from the biting wind.

And it worked. Prestley's body stood up. It would not move independently, like his spirit did, but I could gently push and pull it to move it where I wanted. I manuevered the body and the spirit until the were overlapped, standing in the same place. Then I touched them both and willed them to merge.

They didn't.

So in trying to save Prestley, I had made things worse than before. The river was becoming dangerous, and we had to leave immediately. So I sheparded Prestley's body, and Bark his spirit, and we left the caverns.

This was too slow, though. We could see only perhaps 5 feet through the driving snow, and the river was overflowing its banks. We rearranged ourselves: Bark carried the spirit, Ashe the body, Goldrim Kyuskay. And we tied ourselves together with the rope in series, so we would not lose each other in the blizzard.

We did not walk far before the river swelled and overcame us.

Sometime later, I stirred and looked around. The storm was still with us, but not as severe and I could see a bit. The others were also waking up. Prestley's body and spirit were the only things missing. I hope they were interred decently, rather than sentenced to walk the earth separately. What did I do?

Kyuskay said, rather incoherently, that he had been drunk, as he saw in his vision, the rest of us with him. The distiller of Chaos had arrived, drunk Tzeentch's essence, and would now end Tzeentch's plan. We tried to ignore his ravings.

Ashe stood up and made a fire to warm and dry ourselves. He miscalculated and set an entire tree aflame. Still, it felt good, and we all moved close, but not too close as the fire was very hot. José, worried about hypothermia, stripped his wet robe off to dry separately. I pointed out that the fire was hot enough to keep us warm until we were dry, but he did not listen. After mere moments of being separated from him, José's pack burst into flames.

Beset by chaos, again we split apart, dithering and being stupid.

José beat the fire out and started sorting out the items. The Book of magical Runes was burnt to a cinder, and so were some of his spell components. Kyuskay, meanwhile, became suddenly fascinated Ashe's fire. Miara asked sharply if he was all right, and he said he was. I think I was the only one close enough to her to hear her whisper, "He may have to be the first one." Her voice was sad, but not sad enough and it made me shiver.

Kyuskay picked up items that José put aside as having been unharmed by the fire and started flinging them into the fire. Goldrim tried to stop him by hitting him over the head. Suddenly, we had a battle between Goldrim and Kyuskay. Goldrim was trying only to knock Kyuskay out, figuring he'd lost his mind temporarily. Kyuskay, however, took it differently and did not hold back.

I glanced at Miara. She looked worried, and gave Goldrim a singularly unfriendly look, but stood aside. She was going to let them duel to the death over something so stupid? Damned crystal. Although I don't understand her most of the time, I'll admit, crystal or no.

As the fight raged, Bark sidled up to Miara and asked to see the crystal. She held it up for him to look at, but refused to let him touch it, as she had since the things had fused together. But he said he might be able to break it with his fist, like he'd seen in his vision. She agreed, and held it steady for him against the groun. He hit it with all his might, and yelled aloud in pain. That was not what his visions had showed him. Nothing else to do, I touched him and healed him. It tired me only slightly, but I sat down on a rock, near the fire, to rest. When would this madness cease?

The rest more or less watched the fight between Kyuskay and Goldrim. Miara looked like she weighing options and didn't like them. Both were heavily wounded, and Goldrim stumbled back. José said, "He's backing away!" But instead of stopping, Kyuskay pressed his attack. Miara said, "Don't kill him!" and took a step forward, just as Kyuskay landed a killing blow, and Goldrim fell to the ground.

This time, perhaps it would work. Perhaps I could save Goldrim. I ran forward and reached him just as he hit the ground. He was dead. But only by a moment! I took a deep breath and pushed into him all the strength, all the vitatlity, all the life, he he had lost. It was more than I could give easily, but as I fainted, I felt him come alive again. I had done it.


I eventually woke up and found myself being carried by Goldrim. I was very weak, and Goldrim said he would carry me as long as I needed the help. I let him carry me onwards until I regained all my strength. Eventually, I walked on my own, marvelling at Goldrim, alive and well.

We were following a stranger, a blind man, through the blizzard to his hime village. Apparently he had shown up to check his traps shortly after the fight, and Goldrim said this was the blind man from his vision. And so we followed him. As wolves followed us, but never quite gained the courage to attack. Ashe was dragging a travois with the injured Kyuskay on it. When the wolves appeared, he moved to the front, and Miara dropped back to guard our rear. I checked on him; he was injured and unconscious, but not in immediate danger. I, too, had taken injury when I healed Goldrim, so I first healed myself, and then him.

When reached his village, Urdivar, the wolves peeled away. It was a small, rude village of miners nestling in a small valley. There were perhaps 15 or 20 buildings, rough stone and old. At its back was a cliff with a few mines. A couple of hundred people lived here, sharing the communal huts. The buildings were old and not well-kept up. The village felt as old as the mountains that sheltered it

He guided us to what he called the meeting hall first. That was a large firepit outside, with about 30 villagers, dirty, gathered around warming themselves. He said vaguely they don't usually have real meetings in weather like this. The cistern was here, too.

He then took us to the closest thing they had to a general store, Querla's. Querla was a halfling woman, and her store had little but alcohol and three girls for "entertainment". She had a little food for sale. José offered her a solid puddle of silver (melted keys from his pack), and she eagerly grabbed it and gave us a little jerky, a couple bags of flour, and a pot for it. She wanted more silver for cooking time at her fire. The village is cleared a long way around: there's not much firewood to be found. None in a blizzard. She was interested in buying from us, but of course we had nothing.

José and Sun went to work with the lousy and pricey ingredients. Kyuskay and I sat down, tired. Miara and Goldrim went walking around with Pippo, the blind man.

The girls tried their luck with Kyuskay, Sun, and José, but lost out. After a while, Miara and Kyuskay reappeared, about the same time that our cook produced something edible. Goldrim actually paid one of the girls 2 gold coins to go away and leave him alone. José spent more on a cask of whiskey. At least it will be safe to drink. This village was filthy, far more so than usual. I resolved to help these people tomorrow. Considering their state, some of them were surely ill and diseased.

After dark, in the late evening, the workers returned from the mines. They came to Querla's, to buy alocohol and some food (and the girls), and then left. Querla didn't encourage loitering.

José disovered from Querla that Nuln is a good month or two away. We were about half a day from the Yetsin road. The storm had started about two days ago and kept on pretty steady. Bark came in and said the communal huts were rapidly being claimed, and we'd better go claim one ourselves. There was one that was exactly the right size to hold all of us, and no more. We had to pay the people who had already claimed it to leave.

The stone hut's floor was covered in furs and rugs that quickly warmed us. But they were filthy and vermin-ridden. If we weren't socked in by the crystal-induced blizzard, it would have been child's play to gather the right herbs and drive them all out. Instead, we just had to suffer like the rest of the villagers.

We chatted in the privacy of the hut before falling asleep. The villagers were friendly, if not desperate for someone new to talk to. Someone they haven't seen everyday for their entire lives. The village has little or nothing to fear from bandits: they have nothing.

Ravenna, A Monk of the Biancan Order

Part the First:
Blood and Mud

Part the Second:
Murder and Mayhem

Part the Third:
Puzzles and Crystals

Part the Fourth:
Dwarves and Rocks

Part the Fifth:
Diplomacy and Daggers

Part the Sixth:
Crystal and Chaos

Part the Seventh:
Sheer Insanity

~ The End ~