I did not want to look into that bag. Now way. No how. I stood against the tree and watched it a bit, seeing if it would move on its own. Old One Eye was one of those older gods, more crotchety than most, and eccentric. What he knew that I didn’t would fill volumes, I’m sure. I began to pace. What kind of trouble was Bob in? I’d just seen him a few days ago.
The light did not fade and after an hour or so, I rolled up my bedroll and stood over the bag, glaring at it. I didn’t notice any oozing, or blood, so it wasn’t like a severed head or anything. Well, I guess objectively, it could be anything at all. When it had landed, I would’ve said it was more than one thing.
Even my natural curiosity did not flare here. I truly didn’t want to open that bag. I had a sneaking suspicion I would regret it. I tended to trust that gut punch feeling that made my dangly bits draw up and my mouth go dry.
Time wasn’t passing, and I was still locked in this dream state. I could only think of one way to exit this dream, and that was by opening the bag.
It is with a heavy sigh, and a roiling belly that I squatted down and touched the burlap. It was an ordinary bag. As I had two hands, I gently lifted the opening, spread it wide, and closed my eyes.
When nothing happened, I cracked my right eye open just enough to allow some light to creep in and again, nothing happened. I realized I was hunching my shoulders, so I took a deep breath, let it out, and opened my eyes.
Inside the bottom of the bag, in a bed of white feathers, lay three shrunken lizard folk heads, linked by a fine silver wire that I knew from experience could not be severed. The three turned to me and began to sing.
The world is failing
The dark is nigh
Find the fool
Hear his reply
The dragon marks him
His fate is sealed
Bring us to him
The world be healed
Again, with the old song they sang to me when I first encountered this most ancient of artifacts. One head spoke on the language of the Abyss, one spoke in the language of the Celestials, and one spoke in the tongue of Liz’s people. One line each in their respective languages, then the next line spoken in a rotation. So, after three lines, each head had spoken in one of the three languages. It is rather confusing at first, but when you’ve heard them as many times as I have, you get used to it. Besides, I had the song memorized in all three languages.
My problem was I had left these three in the company of the last celestial that protected The Stronghold of Kithri’s Fist. She had been the sole survivor after all these eons. Her partner had been killed the day Wizard Tim, Liz, Bob, and I along with a slew of hobgoblins, bugbears, and goblins had battled an army of demons who were assaulting the keep.
It’s a story you already know, Father Mulcahy, but I’ll refresh a few details so you don’t have to go back and read my prior journals at this time.
Liz, Bob, and I had been trapped inside that fortress. The celestials had been the only protectors for thousands of years and as their presence was maintained, the keep became more and more attuned to the celestial plane where the two had originally came from. They missed their home, but at least they had each other for company. When the one died, the other locked herself into the tower, and the three of us began a month’s long hiatus from the world.
It is there that the three of us performed an ancient ritual and bound ourselves to one another. After a while Liz realized that we were being changed by the place and tried to convince us to leave. Bob locked himself in the chapel, and I wandered the halls, lost and angry.
Eventually Liz left, hoping to find Wizard Tim again, to have him help rescue us. Bob lasted another few months, by which time he had converted to worship Kithri and become the first of her paladins in thousands of years. The first since Brother Ezekiel, whose remains we hoped to find on the island of the ánthropoi.
I could not be convinced to leave, and grew angry with Bob, who left on his quest, heartbroken at my refusal to accompany him. And so, I wandered that place for nearly two years alone and angry. The celestial plane was one of peace, but I had a destiny to fulfill, and that place brought out my worst instincts.
In the end, it took the red stone that Wizard Tim had given me, to allow Bob and Liz to contact me telepathically. The same stone that had allowed the wizards to find me in the keep at Butcher’s Bay.
I had to hurt myself to clear my head, and I spent months of maiming myself, gaining a clear head, then healing myself and going back into the void. Eventually the celestial realized what was happening to me. Time does not run the same for them. She took pity on me and allowed me to break the spell that place held over me.
In the end, I left the three heads with her for company, and left to find Bob and Liz. Now, to see these heads in a bed of feathers that I would bet my remaining hand had belonged to that very celestial, sent a cold chill down my spine. The wards and protections on that place were epically strong, the strongest.
“How do you come to be here?” I asked them. They sometimes deigned to answer questions, but only rarely.
Instead of a clear answer, I got another riddle song.
The darkness is growing
Despite the Fool’s best
Yet he seeks a madman
To finish his quest
To close the foul well he gave up a hand
A sacrifice worthy of song
But another Hand rises to shatter the world
We fear the Fool fails before long