In the Shadow of Kings

The city of secrets - The stargazer and the girls

Corrin

We’re down in the narrow alley. Zombies are all around us. Most of them above on the balcony we just jumped from. They follow us down. Some never get up after they fell with a strange crackling sound. We’re leaving; running away from them zombies. I don’t know where we’re heading. Somewhere more quiet for sure. Sarghon wants to look for “the eyes”. I don’t see no eyes. We need to find a tall tower to have an overview. I see a tall tower; much taller than most buildings in this rotting city. I think I know the way to it. Grax is surer about the way. So we follow him. On our way we hear more of them whispers. They whistle about pain and sufferings. This city with its tall buildings seems like a labyrinth to us. But it’s an easy one compared to the tree-top villages and town in the forest. I quickly gather the way and almost run ahead of Grax at times.

We reach the tower. There’s a locked door at the entrance. I look at the lock more closely and see the trap mechanism that will trigger once we carelessly open the door. I push my finger down on the wire to prevent the mechanism from snapping and open the lock with my bent-tip dagger. The trap’s no danger no more. We all go in and just a set of stairs. I see a flashing image of the stairs in the Black Palace under Tyr. We need to be careful about those stairs. After locking the door behind us, I go ahead again to check every step for traps. And sure as that I soon find pressure plates that would possibly trigger an arrow or other bad things. Avoiding them is faster than actually disarming them. They also give us good cover if zombies break down that door.

Up in the tower’s a room with a ghost whispering stuff. He has all kinds of strange instruments around him. He’s got one tube with weird glass, lots of maps with many dots that look like stars. One of them glasses is broken, I see. The ghost speaks again: “I was the stargazer for the queen using the sky. I unveiled the secrets for Yaramuke.” He’s floating above a skeleton. The bones got shiny metal rings. There’s a balcony outside; looking not very stable after all these years. Since I am the lightest, I go out to have a look around. Looking down I see that this tower must be higher than many trees in Algor, maybe as tall as the great sentinel. Grax and Sarghon urge me to stay in Yaramuke.

I see that this tower’s the tallest building in this region of the city. To the north I see the center with the palace. I can see the labyrinth of towers and flat buildings. I am sure there’s still something moving in there. The north and the east of the city are rising and end abruptly in a high cliff. The south is much flatter. There’re about four dozen other towers in the city, but ours is about the highest as far as I can see. It’s hard to spot things on the ground. Everything’s foggy and the darkness swallows much of the ground. Squinting, I can see 10 squares scattered around the city. I remember the one with the shield being towards the east. We came from there. To the east is also the only gate leading into the city. There’s a market place around the castle. To the north-east there’s a square with lots of towers around it. Over there’s also another tower that might the twin of this one. High and bold it stands there. There are still lots of shades and shadows moving around everywhere.

When I come back in, I see Grax doing things with that tube and some more of these glasses. He looks funny if I look at him through the weird glass. Sarghon looks at them metal rings and says boring stuff about it being gold. Xeeliah, Grax, and Sarghon look into some books. Sarghon reads “The hands: she does the dirty work for the queen. The eyes: he is looking for attacks from Urik and Raam. The voice: she travelled a lot, but stayed close to the queen when she was in Yaramuke. They all don’t take much notice of them zombies that are at the foot of the tower. Aryenne and I decide to take a nap. Legion watches the door while resting a little.

Just a little later, there’re screams everywhere. Mostly women, but men alike scream so loud as if they were with us in the tower. I look outside, but only see the zombies down at the door of the tower. To the north I suddenly see a black fog, shrouding the city. Sticking our fingers in our ears does not make the screams any quieter. The fog’s coming ever closer. We close all hatches and doors to try to keep that fog out. I see the stargazer ghost fading when the torchlight goes out. The screams get ever louder. Sarghon collapses before our eyes. The door opens and some of that black fog is coming in. Xeeliah slams the door shut, but the blackness just pushes her back. She collapses as well. I see Legion, Grax, and Aryenne fainting while my vision blackens out.

Suddenly I am in Yaramuke. I want to protect my children from the fire. But there’s no way out. I see my youngest catching fire and can do nothing about it. I want to save my oldest boy. I try to grab him out of the fire. It is really hot. My hand hurts. Flames feed on my skin. My boy is dead. I am burning. I am dead.

When I awake later, I still feel the pain in my hand. It feels black. It feels burned. It hurts so much. When I look around, I see the same fear in the eyes of my companions. Aryenne and Sarghon hold their stomachs and look pail. Grax and Xeeliah mention a woman, an advisor they call her. She was causing “it”. She was killing with her gaze. We take a while to gather all our senses and relax again.

Grax works with that tube and looks into it. He points it here and there and I wonder what he does with it. He then tells us that the plaza towards the north-east, with the many towers around it, belongs to the hand. The eyes are in the other tall tower towards the south. I don’t know how he possibly could have seen these things in the tube, but I know that Grax knows magic. I don’t want to mess with that. Now that we know where “the eyes” are, we can go there. The zombies at the foot of the tower all disappeared, so we can leave it without any problems. There’re footsteps and claw marks around the door. So we haven’t imagined that part.

The city seems quieter now. We walk straight to that tower of “the eyes”. On the way there’re more of them ghosts. On a small plaza, we see two small girls, maybe six or seven years old. She’s the first ghost reacting to us. She starts to scream when we pass by. It’s a scared scream. Then she says: “I was just a poor girl. I played hide and seek. And then I died.” She looks at Sarghon and then goes on: “My mom used to comfort me. But she is not here. It hurts too much.” We see a big black hole in her chest. Suddenly she screams: “I will show you what pain feels like!” Looking around we see that 5 ghost soldiers appeared: “We were guards of the shrine. We betrayed our kin once. We will not fail it again!” They and the two girls attack us.

I put my dagger right into the big wound the girl already has. That should kill her – anyone would die from that. She only smiles and smashes me back to the ground. Sarghon looks weird and frightening. We all keep some distance to him. I whirl around to attack the girl again, this time aiming for her head instead. Once I pushed my dagger hard into the ghost that felt mysteriously solid, it dissolves in front of my eyes. The dagger is free and the girl is no more. Seeing that, the other girl disappears in the wall next to her. I am sure that’s not the last we saw of her. Looking around to the soldiers, I suddenly feel dizzy. I am in a street full of people. I have a spear in my hand. I push it forward. I push it into the chest of a little girl. It looks at me with big eyes. It does not scream, but I see in her eyes that she feels pain. I know that my master is gone. I look around and see a woman with steely eyes. I wake up from that dream. My friends are still fighting them ghosts. I whirl around with my dagger, slashing a solid ghost here, stabbing a disappearing ghost there. In the end there’s just some ghostly mist around us, but no more solid ghosts. We killed the dead and go on our way.

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Aryenne

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