From the journal of Andrew Ezekial Crawley, 1933.
October 7, Noon, The Road, Alfheim
My watch is still not working, so I am telling time by the position of the sun. Not the first time I’ve done this, but having a properly wound watch not working for no apparent reason is quite distracting.
We have been following what appears to be an old Roman road, or at least a road built in the manner the Romans did. It is heavily weathered, patched in some places but not in others. There is also the ruins of an aqueduct paralleling the road. Foxglove is moving us along at a good pace. She seems to have a definite itinerary in her mind, but has yet to share it with us. Luckily for me, my “hike” across China earlier this year prepared me for this.
Break is over, time to continue walking.
October 7, Sundown, The Road, Alfheim
We’ve arrived at the edge of a dark forest. The aqueduct stops abruptly at it and Foxglove has warned us against entering it at night. She claims the trees are full of nightmares and if we camp here, we will avoid spending two nights in the forest. So we made camp.
The sun is close to the horizon right now and this has sparked a thought in my mind. If I have the time differential correct, when the sun sets here, it is rising in Europe and vice versa. Normally this would require us to be somewhere in the South Pacific, but clearly we are not. Where did that door in the cave actually take us?
October 8, Noon, The Road, The Dark Forest
Foxglove is moving us through the forest as fast as we can hike. She is very nervous in here and recommends we stay on the road at all times. The road is in very good condition under the trees with some red-capped mushrooms being the only thing like debris on the road. Kurt keeps claiming that he sees the mushrooms move, but I am certain he is imagining things.
Foxglove is moving us out.
October 8, Sometime after Sunset, The Road, The Dark Forest
Foxglove kept us moving past the setting of the sun. It is only because some of us are starting to stumble that we convinced her to finally stop and make a rude camp. I’m on first watch and now that we are no longer hiking, I have noticed how quiet this forest is. I cannot recall hearing any birdsong or insects noise since we entered the forest. It is eerily quiet. Except for Kurt’s snoring of course.
October 8, Sometime at Night, The Road, The Dark Forest
We were attacked on Kurt’s watch. He apparently dozed off and awoke with a weight on his chest and trouble breathing. The rest of us awoke about the same time with the same symptoms. Considering the nature of where we are, I applied some of the eye ointment to my eyes and could see a small imp sitting on my chest, apparently stealing my breath and suffocating me. The others were in the same predicament. A short fight ensued wherein Kurt’s pistol mis-fired. Foxglove threw down a handful of oats on the road and the imps and they stopped attacking us and started picking up the oats, one by one. She had us capture one and dispatch the rest. One it was tied up, Sam and Jack could finally see it (Kurt has a limestone monocle without a lens that has similar properties to the eye ointment).
Foxglove explained that the imps behavior follows certain rules and they are bound to stop and pick up any spilled grains. Further, as long as we have the one captive, no others will attack us, making us safe in the forest. She seemed rather relieved and went back to sleep. The rest of us are trying. I’m trying to not look into the trees and I see hundreds of eyes looking back at me when I do.
October 9, Sometime during the Day, The Road, The Dark Forest
The heavy overgrowth of the trees makes it difficult to tell what time it is, but we are hungry and so it feels like midday. Foxglove has allowed us to slacken our pace a bit, feeling confident that our captive keeps us safe. It seems to have worked so far.
We passed a river earlier with an intricately carved bridge over it. There was a troll, of course. Foxglove talked with the troll a bit to get it to come out from under the bridge. The troll was roughly human in shape, made of rock instead of flesh and covered with moss. He reminded me of the standing stones with teeth back in the German valley Albert was spying on.
Foxglove introduced the troll as Peat and explained that we had to pay a toll to cross the bridge. The toll was a personal item from one of us and a story from the heart related to the item. If we didn’t or we gave a bogus item, he’d take our heart. After a quick huddle, Kurt handed over his lariat and told a story about how he stopped a rampaging bull at a rodeo with it, saving the lives of some clowns. (Apparently, rodeos use clowns to distract the bulls when a rider gets thrown off. Why the circus clowns do this I cannot begin to imagine.) Peat accepted the lariat and the story and we were allowed to cross.
As a note, the carvings on the bridge were of leering faces, like gargoyles on the cathedrals in France. There were post statues at either end. The end we approached had statues of two nymphs, the other side had nagas, which I recognize from my work in India. Why they are here is a mystery. I also made a rubbing of the sign on the bridge that Foxglove translated as “To pass, pay troll.”
Rest break’s over – time to march on.
October 9, Evening, The Road, The Dark Forest
We are camping inside the far edge of the forest at Foxglove’s advice. Apparently, up ahead the forest gives way to a swamp, which is more dangerous than the forest. What’s next? An un-passable chasm with a rope bridge?
I’m tired and it is making me cranky. Once my watch is over I’m going to sleep deeply.
October 11, Noon, Svartalfheim (?)
We marched through the swamp all yesterday, all through the night, and half of today to get here. We are all exhausted and currently hiding from the Svartalfar horde. I’ll get to that.
The road through the swamp was slick and had an eight-inch lip added to keep the swamp waters from flowing over it. At one point the road was shattered and we had to hop from one part to another to avoid stepping in the waters of the swamp, which Foxglove stated would be extremely dangerous to do (step in the water, not hop the rocks – I’m rambling). We made it past with the help of a guide rope we set up.
The swamp was unpleasant and damp. Near the end of yesterday, several of the others saw what appeared to be someone with a lantern in need of assistance. Further investigation led to the conclusion that it was a will o’ wisp and we should ignore it. Sadly, Sam’s mind was ensnared by the will o’ wisp and he had to be physically restrained by Kurt. After the incident back in Marche les Dammes, I think Kurt received a certain amount of satisfaction hog-tying Sam.
Foxglove pushed us to keep walking through the night. We could see many will o’ wisps out on the periphery and so pushed on. Near dawn, a white horse came out of the mist and approached the road. Kurt looked at it through his limestone monocle and then told it to move on and get some meat on its bones. It looked fine to me, so I’m not entirely certain what was going on, but I’ve learned to accept that things here are not always what they appear to be. The horse eventually walked away.
As Noon approached, we approached a wall that seemed to form the border of the swamp. There is a gate made of iron that Foxglove identified as Weyland’s Gate, which was made by Weyland to separate the realms. The wall is heavily eroded and breached in a few places, allowing the swamp to spill over to the other side.
Foxglove stated that one of us would have to open the gate as she could not touch it. I pushed on it and it swung freely at the slightest touch. Beyond was a dry rocky plain with a large, black mountain ahead. There were stone steps down from the gate to the plain, the level of the swamp being at a higher level than the plain. How this could be, I have no idea.
I stepped through the gate to the top of the steps and was hit by a cold gust of air. While the swamp was warm and humid, the rock plain is cold and dry, like an overcast winter day. I could see down the wall on this side and could see where the river crosses over to this realm. A large military camp is there along the far side of the bank. Foxglove identifies it as the enemy’s horde and is surprised to see that it is already assembled.
Then she gives us the bad news.
She cannot pass the gate due to “The Rules” and we will have to continue on without here. She gives us some cloaks that are the same color as the rocky plain, which will provide us some camouflage. She also explains to us the two ways into the keep on the mountain: brazenly through the front door or through the waste tunnel at the foot of the mountain.
Apparently the Alfar have spies in the keep, who report that people from our world are sometimes guests of the keep and we might be able to get by the guardian by at least not appearing to be foes. The waste tunnel leads to the sewers and then up into the keep itself.
I immediately voted for going through the front gate. After the tunnels under Kilimanjaro, I will prefer any other option to tunnel crawling. We discuss a bit and decide to hold off until we can see the keep and evaluate further. Foxglove left and we hunkered down on the backside of the stairs to hide from the horde. The odds of being spotted are low, but we’ll rest better knowing that they are lessened.
It feels like Kurt’s watch. Time for me to sleep.
October 12, Noon, Svartalfheim (?)
We’ve crossed much of the plain and can now see the keep on the mountain. It is impressive. It looks like a giant spire of crystal that seems to have grown out of the mountain. There is something very large at the front gate that moves and must be the gate guardian. Lower on the mountain, on the far side, is the only patch of ice on the entire mountain. It is noticeably large. We are discussing which way to go.
Damn. We’ve chosen to investigate the ice patch to see if the tunnel entrance is there.
October 12, Mid-afternoon, Svartalfheim (?)
The tunnel entrance is at the top of the ice patch and covered with a wooden grate. A rotted wooden grate that is easy to get past. We’ve decided to head in this way.
I hate tunnels.
The tunnels are carved from the rock. We’ve passed three gates and found a stretch covered in mathematical and chemical formulas and architectural drawings. I’m photographing some and copying down some that seem relative.
[Several pages of formulas covering various disciplines: physics, chemistry, architecture, biology]
Found an ancient guy (Bos) who claims to be dead, despite the fact we were having a conversation. He also claimed to be the architect of the fortress and the tunnels. He has a dead mouse named Hob as a pet. The mouse is actually dead and dried up. He guided us to a major tunnel junction and explained what was at the end of each tunnel, but would go no further. The tunnels are (from left to right):
1. Oubliette – where Bos hanged himself and died?
2. “His” chamber – no explanation
3. Guest privy
4. Guards privy
7. Baths (hot springs)
6 – ends in domed room with grates 30 feet off the floor
3 – underside of privies – attacked by giant (horse-sized) spider
2 – blocked by rock-fall – might be a sewer dam
1 – tunnel splits (L) leads to trapped grate, trap on other side® roof grate to torture chamber and arguing guards
7 – solid door opens on hot springs. Investigating further.
(Note: More happened after this, but we did not stop at a place where Andrew could update his journal. So the last of this game session will appear at the beginning of next session’s journal entry.)