We did not hesitate further. Carrying our charges, we lumbered across the courtyard and clambered over the ruined wall. Something niggled the back of my mind at this. Once we stood on the other side, I turned to Bob.
“What is your estimate on the age of these walls?” I motioned to those sections that stood whole. “And your best guess as to how recent this destruction.”
Bob looked at me quizzically and lowered Raucous to the ground.
“Do you think we have time for this?”
I motioned for Angelo to lower Emad to the ground, and take up his axe. “Aye, I deem it important. Odd things are afoot, and the more we know, the better we shall be.”
Angelo stood facing the jungle, his eyes moving from side to side. I took up my mace and faced the castle, studying it. The tower that had once leaned stood straight and tall. Lights flashed from the topmost turret, a white pulsing that bode ill for our company. Still, knowledge held power, and we were sorely lacking a basis in reality about this place.
While the time seemed to drag, and frankly, it may have given what I’d seen, eventually Bob returned to Raucous and picked her up once more.
I turned to him and he wore a confused expression. “These walls look as new. The mortar is strong, and the seams tight. There is no sign of moss or creepers within the joints. As for the broken wall, the damage is new, no more than a few days, I would wager.” He paused, adjusting Raucous in his arms. “The damage appears is as if something burrowed up from the ground, causing this section to collapse.”
“Fair reading,” I said, leaning in to kiss him. “Let’s begone from here until we can ascertain our situation.”
“The fell beast concerns me more,” Angelo said, slinging his axe over his shoulder once more, and taking up Emad. “It had been hewed with great axe strokes, and many blows as if from a hammer or mace.” He cast his gaze across Bob and I. “Such as those weapons you now carry.”
I had thought the same coming past the beast, but did not want to say anything until we were free of the castle grounds. A memory flashed in my mind of a mighty battle, several, actually, where we fought the land shark and died, or fought and while I lived, all else perished. Only one vision seemed close enough to how the beast lay broken and slashed that I thought it had been the truest time, but if so, how had we each ended up back in the dungeon?
I led the others around the castle wall, and noted that the place where I had first broached the wall was sound as well. The tree that had fallen there, breaking the top of the battlements stood straight and tall a dozen paces from where it had lain when I first climbed its broken bough.
“This tree had collapsed the wall there,” Bob said, motioning with his head, “when we fled here from those whom we had rescued in vain.”
Angelo looked around and nodded. “Aye, I recall the same. Somehow much here has been repaired beyond reckoning.”
“The knowledge of that deed is known to me,” I offered with a shrug. “A tale for safety. Let us go a bit further. There is a clearing I would espy before we made our way back to the beach.”
Bob gave me a worried look, but did not protest.
I will tell you at this point I was strong and hale. I know not why or how time flowed so erratically in that place, other than to count the cost of wizards. However, I suspect that time is not wholly stable within the walls of that castle, and likely so before Phineas and his servants came to this forsaken place.
The clearing I wished to find appeared out of the jungle far sooner than I expected. In my mind, it had taken longer to get to the castle with Scrabble on my shoulder, then it had for us to return thither bearing wounded. Still, my curiosity was sated when I saw the standing stones, and the altar at the center. My mending had gone out this far, returning the temple here to its original glory.
The others stood around marveling at what we saw. The carved pillars showed crisply carved glyphs and images painted in vibrant hues. The general motif was of the sea, and I walked forward mesmerized by what I saw. One pillar bore an image of a great sea creature with many whip-like limbs pulling a small sailing vessel do its death. The context was such that either the ship was small, or the creature far larger than any I had seen before. Greater than a dragon, it appeared if the ship was even the size of the Tabula Rasa.
On other pillars were depicted scenes of men and women, half fish, yet unlike the horrid shark wives. They were enemies, I could see by the way they were depicted in battle. Each pillar told a different story, and as I brought them all into my field of vision, one by one, the tale became clearer to my mind.
This altar served the god of the ocean dwelling race, that much was clear. In two places, there were scenes of sacrifices being made on this very altar. In one, gold and pearls were piled high upon the surface, and in another fish and other creatures took the place of gold. Blood or treasure, common enough among those who would be worshiped.
I glanced back and the others stood outside of the pillars, trepidation writ on their faces and the fathomless depths withdrew from my mind and I smelled the jungle once more.
“Here is a place of immense power,” I said, mainly to Bob. He understood such things.
“I know of such,” Angelo said, surprising me. “She who rules the waves is an ancient deity from bygone days before our lands sank beneath the rushing sea in the times of my grandsires of old.”
He thought a moment, his piercing eyes seeing beyond this place, and with a great sigh he stepped forward into the circle. Power undulated out from his passage, going around the circle in fluctuating waves which reminded me of the ripples a stone makes when it is thrown into a calm pond.
Just how powerful had been my mending?
Next Bob came through. I was amused to see he held his breath as he crossed. Once more the ripples echoed out. As I watched it, the images on the pillars seemed to move about, the waves of power giving them the illusion of life.
Until one image rang out with the sounds of battle.