Hinterlands, part XIV - Baator

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Just SurvivingHinterlands, part XIV - BaatorCopyright © 2000 by Olga

2nd Lady of the PivotI don't know how quite to describe the sensation I got after the portal appeared. Out of nowhere, clinging to a non-existent arch, it just swirled up. We left, still shell-shocked from the experience, like bubbers botching a burglary. The destination of the portal even more surprising, we exited right where we started, the rope still hanging from the rock. For the purposes of the faction report, we have stayed an extra day, documenting all that's happened. Of the things I miss most, my hair, but strangely, I do feel stronger from the experience, not just mentally. I will try to speak to Shulug about what happened to him

The talk went better than I expected. I spoke to him as we started the walk back to Torch. It's so strange, he seemed almost patient. Apparently, he feels a change too, like he's smarter, more in tune with his knowledge. When I asked him if he suffered any physical changes, like me, he grew defensive, back into his old form. He snarled a negative answer, then tentatively moved away, talking to Eutolpe about his observations on the inside room magically. I overheard and approached the two again, to their visible discomfort. I think it's just to get me away, but he quickly said something about a "hand" room. Calling upon my memories of the mental room, it does seem like a hand. One large chamber, with four others sprouting off, one where a thumb would be. While we are resting now, I will sketch it.

Heltir's appearance is still terrifying to me, and inexplicable. The explosion would have certainly killed him; the damage from all the cold molding would have certainly done him in. Though, I do not know too much about fiends. He might have teleported or some other magical ability. Unsure of his abilities, I remain convinced he will haunt me in the future. What puzzles me is that apart from these 16 planned trips, which will soon be coming to a close, I am not overly powerful, nor do I pose any threat. Why he continues this is a mystery, one I'll never solve, sadly.

2nd Guild of the PivotTwo days of walking and I thought we would have returned somewhere at least. There is nothing, just the same barren terrain that has surrounded us since we lost sight of Torch. The dry plains stretch on as far as the eye can see. I know that this does not mean there is nothing there, but the sight of something, anything would give me comfort. Perhaps I have grown too confident of my ability to navigate the Hinterlands. Maybe something is trying to teach me a lesson. If I didn't know better, I would say we where in the 5th plains, the vast stretch of nothingness before reaching Tir Na Nog. But that is not to be, I would have welcomed a trip to Tir Na Nog. The mineral springs there are quite wonderful.

2nd Clerk of the PivotWe are resting right now at a sort of oasis. While still walking aimlessly toward the presumed location of Torch, Norrin spotted a flash of color some distance away. Needing a spot to rest out weary feet and feed our curiosity, we proceeded toward the bright red patch of something. I feel glad to report that everyone's dispositions have been improving. Such a welcome change. I never thought I would be glad to have Shulug back to how he was in Sigil, but it's quite a relief to see him brooding instead of visibly expressing his displeasure and general anger at the world around him. Myself, even though the past few days have entailed sleeping on barren, hard soil, with the clothes propped up beneath me doing nothing to soften the makeshift bed, I feel many times better, my head has cleared.

Diara and Bojcin seem to have taken a liking to each other. They rarely say anything anymore, except when prompted for their abilities. The may sit for hours talking quietly, powers know what about. Upon walking into sight distance of our oasis, Shulug went out to check for trouble. He was surprised to report that it held all kinds of edibles, soft grass, and a small stream that traveled between two outcropping of rocks. After the weeks we have spent traveling, it seems like paradise. Among the gray and black rocks, hard soil that nothing could survive in, the miles devoid of life, we have found something to be grateful for.

The area itself is not very big, maybe thirty feet on a side. It abruptly stops after the designated length. Being such a small area, I can describe it in detail. There are four trees, approximately the same height and width. The stream bisects the patch of land, beginning at a pile of rocks at the northeastern corner, slightly tinted green with algae and small amphibious creatures. I spotted a frog. The other end disappears into the ground at another pile or rocks in the southwestern corner. All four trees spread their roots to catch nourishment from the stream, leaving them with large roots that create stumbling points across the otherwise unblemished piece of land. Receding toward the stream, the grass is of average height, but carries a vibrant green color. Other than that, the land is featureless. The only life seems to be the frogs.

Each tree carries a familiar fruit, oranges, peaches, pineapple and cherries. All the fruits are vibrant and edible; I have sampled one from every tree. Although we are surprised by this appearance, I have to say, everyone is acting and feeling better. I have much contentment from this oasis, but some suspicion sits uneasily in me. Unless we have completely bypassed any gate towns, we are still in the hinterlands, and in the nether region of such. Nuntius and I must be cautious

2nd Low of Pivot After another full day of resting, I have coerced the others to finally leave. They seem quite content to stay in the small patch, eating fruit, petting frogs and acting like brainless children. The equipment has been gathered up, I have had some time to write up a report to Laver and we are ready to go.

2nd Void of PivotEverything seems well as we pass along. Unfortunately, we don't seem to be making much progress. To everyone, including me, the oasis is still partially visible, and as our fortunes seem bleaker, the hunger to return to that paradise increases.

Well, they managed to convince me, after Norrin fell and hurt her leg, everyone seemed for it. We are back at the Oasis. Nothing else to write.

3rd Lady of PivotStrangely, it seems whenever Norrin is inside the oasis, she is fine, but when she steps out, she can hardly walk. Nuntius and Brald have been trying to carry her, as the rest of the group is getting more suspicious about this occurrence as well. I cannot say all, as Shulug and Diara still seem convinced the oasis is the best place for us. As much as we walk, we cannot seem to shake the oasis from our sight.

3rd Market of the PivotWe have been gone nearly a month. I wish I had a Hover Mimir right about now. That would be convenient to show her we haven't peeled her and disappeared.

I write this now many hours after the fact. As I was writing, Norrin was asserting her strength and attempting to walk sans assistance. We all stopped suddenly when we saw a smallish figure walking towards us. Standing there and waiting, my heart began to race. When she approached, I felt instantly we were in trouble.

It was a small girl. Looking human, around nine years of age, and completely innocent, she asserted to Norrin, who was looking very confused, "You have to pay for use of the facilities" At this statement, I furrowed my now very black brow in confusion. She sensed that, I could tell. During this period of shocked silence, she just stood there, quietly. Towering only about four feet tall, from my observation, she had the very look of a small human child. Blond, with hair flowing down just past her shoulders, her blazing green eyes swept us, expecting, demanding an answer. She had on red shoes, with a tiny heel and red bows at the backs. The dress was very simple, pink with red and blue flowers, and lace sleeves. Her skin color was of average tint, making the total sum an average girl, except for the fierce air of confidence that was practically visible around her.

Norrin spoke up at last, but was not even able to finish her first word. "You made use of Wfanopgeco (I transliterate to the best of my ability). Since you (and she pointed to Norrin) have the most to pay me with, I simply took my liberties. But now you are trying to leave without payment" The voice felt almost as it didn't belong to the body. Norrin replied, "I don't get this, the payment, all of it. It is a dark, would you please explain?" I had never heard her so polite. To me, one of the best things about Norrin is, when she opens up, she swears like a sailor.

The little girl sighed, with a deeper voice, but seemed to catch herself and proceeded "Since I make no use of your petty gold and copper pieces, but I must be reimbursed for my services. I take of you as you took of me" Then someone, I think Brald looked back, and we all followed suit. The oasis was no longer visible. The girl continued, "You ate of my fruit, you agreed to reimburse. My consumption weakens me, now that you are well, I must take back what is rightfully due"

I then managed to venture – "But we didn't know! There was no agreement, no warning. I'm sure, if we knew…" She cut me off

"But it was stated!" Her voice grew deeper and hollower, and once more she corrected herself " If you looked upon the edge of the grass. There were words, spelled out in your simple language, stating exactly what I am and what staying entails! I do not lie!" She approached Norrin. "You had the most. Are you ready to make payment?"

I don't know, but I was terrified. I can usually think, reason, but my mind was blank. Brald jumped in. "Um… miss, I dunno but, do you have to take payment only from her? It would be (and I could see him grasping for words here) purer, if you took the best from all of us " At the words, Shulug looked horrified, and opened his mouth, when the girl spoke again "SILENCE! That is satisfactory."

And then, I felt something draining away, and could no longer stand. When I got up, which couldn't have been more than a minute afterwards, she was gone. In the distance, I could see a mess of buildings and several tall spokes rising out of them. Ribcage. Never thought I would be glad to see that place

[ Author's note : As payment, the "Girl" siphons 50 hit points. This can be from just one person, or spread out over several people. Each decides how much to give up. If there is not enough, she decides if someone is holding out and takes more from them. If engaged in combat, treat girl as 8 HD Erinyes. Decide for yourselves what she really is *evil grin*]

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