Dollano 28 (two hours later), SP~4,909
The City of Yemnash
It was less than two hours ago that I fell asleep, but it will (it must) be enough for now.
It is time to recount the remainder of yesterday’s events and finish with where we find ourselves at this moment, provided I am given the time to do so.
Before I go on, I have to say to myself (so that I am reminded of it in later times) that I don’t want to tell this story. The events are almost too much to bear, but I am a reporter, and so I will report.
We were chased down the tunnel for several hours, and we ended up in a large cavern, though to call it a cavern does not tell even half the story. It was an underground city. At first we thought it was abandoned. The buildings were all of stone, somewhat lighter than the stone of the walls, and they were stacked one against another in many long rows. Each was many stories tall, reaching at least fifty feet from the cavern floor, leaving some room, though not a lot, between their roofs and the ceiling.
Thick, black vines covered the face of the buildings and had sprawled inside through windows, doors, and deep fissures. For many buildings it looked like the vines were all that kept them standing.
I remember glancing over at Donnessling and Sheshoffiss and seeing the looks of surprise and wonder (and fear?) on their faces. When they glanced at each other they did not seem happy about what we had found.
They whispered together and then chose a path down one of the winding lanes.
No one spoke. This place had placed a fear on all of us, and we treaded lightly as we made our way along the cold stone cavern floor.
We were only perhaps a hundred yards along when we heard the first chittering sounds. If it had not been so completely silent we would have mistaken it for ambient sounds in the deep cavern, but there was something more determined and menacing about the sounds.
We moved quickly but the sounds also picked up and some of the vines on the side of the lane were trembling.
It was when a length of vine stretched up from the floor to meet another that was dangling from a second-story window that we saw them. Allsassring and the nossring who had gone with him were splayed against the surface of the building, just above our reach, bound there by criss-crossing vines. Their bodies were ashen and lifeless and disfigured by the crushing strength of the vines.
We were all stunned, stopped in place while we absorbed the tragedy of what was before us. I think I heard Donnessling weeping.
A cry from one of our companions behind me broke our silence. We turned to see Prassalling being dragged across the cavern floor toward a doorway across from us by one of the vines. We were unprepared for how quickly it moved. Prassalling was hacking at its length with his sword but having little effect.
Three other of our companions leaped to his aid, and each hacked at the vine. But as soon as they had sliced through three others grabbed Prassalling and pulled him into the building. Another vine shot out of a window and wrapped itself around the neck of the nearest nossring, dragging him into the building as it strangled him. The others tried to help but vines were throwing themselves at them, too, and they could do nothing more than fight for their own survival.
In less than a minute we had lost two of our companions, and the rest of us gathered to charge into the building’s dark opening.
“Stop.” It was Donnessling who knew the fate of the two who had been dragged away and would not allow the same to happen to the others under his charge.
“There is nothing we can do to help them. Follow me. Quickly!”
Then we ran, once again. This time, though, we were dodging vines, which were now thrashing wildly and attacking us from every direction.
The nossring are an agile and quick folk, as I’ve learned so well during our travels. They managed to avoid most of the vines, and others they sliced apart or slapped them away with their swords. Some were caught. Some of those were freed by their companions, but some did not make it and were dragged back into the reaches of the abandoned buildings that loomed on either side of us.
I was a burden. I must say it. If it had not been for the aid of my nossring companions I would have been taken by the vines almost immediately. Several formed a guard around me and even carried me at times. I am ashamed that I was such a burden to these stalwart folk, but they would have it no other way. A few times I drew my knife and managed to deal a consequential blow to our ferocious foes, and I met with approving glances from my comrades when I did so.
We ran, and stumbled, and fought, like this for a long time, until we finally reached the end of the buildings and their inhabitants.
Once beyond their reach we looked back and saw tendrils writhing in anger and squealing some kind of high-pitched angry dreams in our direction.
Then we saw a sight that none of us will ever be able to excise from our memories. From above the walls of the buildings at the end, those closest to us, there arose a hideous, unnatural form. Like a surge of feces it rose above the walls to reach the ceiling and then poured down over the sides to the cavern floor. It was a thick, foul-smelling muck, and, as we watched it slowly extruded from deep within the bones of many creatures. There were long bones, and short ones. Most were covered in the brown goo, but some, clearly, still had meat or skin clinging to them. There were skills, some of which still bore their former owners’ eyes or a semblance of eyes created by this mass of malevolence.
The creature (and, though it emerged in several places it seemed one single thing) rose and, forming a wide hole in the sludge that comprised its shape, it bellowed at us. It was a sound as disgusting as its form. We then heard the same kind of sound as we saw that other openings had formed that also seemed to be calling out to us. The combined sounds began as deep rumblings, chaotic and rough, almost like an earthquake. Then the chorus grew to a higher pitch and became so loud we had to hold our hands against our ears. As it became louder, and I think angrier, blobs of dark spittle and detritus of all kinds flew out from each opening. The stench became unbearable and the sound was amplified by the walls of the cavern.
I felt a hand on my shoulder and saw Donnessling motioning me away from this thing to move down the corridor. Sheshoffiss was doing the same.
Slowly and painfully we made our way down the cavern. As we did it narrowed to a wide tunnel. We continued our march away from the deadly city and yet the odious sound of the hateful bellowing continued, diminished only by our distance from it.
Then came a slight hesitation in the voice, an instant of silence, followed by a huge blast that shook the walls all around us. Then there was silence.
We had lost many, too many, and those of us who remained were shaken to our core, our clothes stained by the putrid ooze from that beast.
The silence was a relief and we all, as one, slumped to the floor of the tunnel to weep for our comrades and to recover ourselves as best we could.
“This was the ancient city of Yemnash that has been lost to the world since the ending of the Second Era of the World and the beginning of our own time, the Third Era of the Fifth Age of the World.” This is what Donnessling said to us.
When we looked up at him, we could see how weary he was as he continued, “We are now safe, beyond the reach of that corrupted place. And, there is no sign of the enemy from whom we ran before.” He looked from one to another of us, “Eat something and rest. If I am right, we are not far from a way out of this mountain and a path home.”
Several hours have now passed since we stopped in this place. I ate something before I wrote my previous entry, and then I slept because I could do nothing else. With this entry I have finished our story, and can set aside my pen and rest. I will eat a bit more, and, hopefully, will find sleep again. I do not think, though, that I will find rest from the unbearable sorrow in my heart.