Journal of Malaena Lucidius: If I ever leave this place, it will be through Miri’liana’s grace alone. After a rest period in the library—spent by all but Alexandra, Tash and me deep in contemplation of ancient Hisskarssi texts, we moved on to the next room. I’ll note here that I have no notion, anymore, of day or night. There are only quick, draining battles followed by eight to ten hours of rest, then more exploration, more battle.
Once we tore the scholars away from the books and scrolls, we entered what appeared to be an empty room. I say “we”, but I really mean Alexandra. We were suspicious of a room that offered no threat, and rightly so. Alexandra marked the traps, and then went to work disarming their trigger. This, apparently, greatly upset the ghost (presumed by Takeo to be Emperor Samaran, the mad ruler who lost the war against the humans and silver elves and thus precipitated the downfall of the Hisskarssi Empire). While we still waited at the door, he appeared and began to attack Alexandra. Though it took some time to navigate the trapped floor, Dusan, Takeo and Derek made it to her and began their counter-attack. The ghost eventually fled, again.
The next room had a more straightforward danger. Three more of those ceramic soldiers were there. Prepared this time for their hostility and tactics, the melee fighters attacked, while the wizard and his vipaani worked magic from a safe distance. It was going quite smoothly, for a battle, until the Mad Emperor returned to savage the spellcasters. Derek attempted to distract wraith, with some success. It again disappeared, while the rest of the fighters smashed the simulacrum soldiers. After healing all that I could, we opened the door to the next chamber.
In that immense space was the skeleton of a dragon, surrounded by the remains of Hisskarssi dragon knights. We closed the doors and rested, wishing to be at full power before attempting the fight that might be before us. Culann and Tash retreated to the library, saying that they would join us the next day.
The next “day”, Culann and Tash were still in the library. We went on without them, and again opened the doors. The room itself was odd—showing the passage of time, where all else in this place has been untouched. The signs of conflict were clear—one door looked melted. Weapons had been shorn in two. The bodies of the dragon knights showed to factions—one had fought with the dragon, one against.
Alexandra spotted some sort of trap near the entrance to this chamber, and managed to disarm it. We began to make our way across the room, hoping to avoid the notice of the giant skeleton. It didn’t work, of course. A spirit arose from the dragon’s bones, along with spirits from five of the slain dragon knights. The dragon-spirit then began to speak.
What followed was a long history of the fall of the Hisskarssi Empire, and an explanation of why this place is the way it is. To sum up, the conflict between the humans and the Hisskarssi has a long and complicated history, complete with the manipulation of Bahar by the Watcher of Deception. The culmination of this was the death of Bahar, which left the dragons and the Hisskarssi rudderless and confused. One of Bahar’s last orders had been the extermination of the human race. Some dragons kept to this last order; others did not; still others fled Ondoron entirely. In the midst of this chaos, the Emperor Samaran ruled. He was paranoid, and eventually only trusted two advisers, a dragon named Ang Wen and his son, a dragon named Lengzhu. These two exacerbated the tensions between the Hisskarssi and the humans and elves, who by this point had formed an alliance. It resulted in open war, a war that the humans and elves won. Samaran was slain. Ang Wen and Lengshu fled the battle, confusing the Hisskarssi forces.
It appears that the two dragons fled here, along with the emperor’s body and a Wu Jen, who’s name I cannot recall at present. Our dragon and those dragon knights loyal to him, fought a furious last battle against Ang Wen and Lengshu. Ang Wen was killed, and with his dying breath, cursed the Hisskarssi to a slow death as a race. Our dragon was also slain, but he used his powers to seal the mountain, imprisoning within Lengzhu, the Wu Jen, and the ghosts of the mad emperor and dragon adviser. Takeo’s presence here means that he may be able to lift the curse from his race. We only have to accomplish four minor tasks.
Two are done. The first task was to battle the skeleton of Ang Wen. It seemed a long battle, though it could not have lasted more than two minutes. The dragon again and again struck out with claws, jaws, tail and wings, dealing grievous injury to all within its reach. Indeed, I myself was wounded, though I did not suffer as others did, with injuries that seemed to sap the vitality and strength. In the heat of this battle, the Mad Emperor returned. I have taken hurt before, but nothing like the blows I received from this ghost. Its blade through my armor seemed to steal away my sense of self, my very personality. Indeed, as of this writing I have not recovered. It is disconcerting, and why I have returned to my journal.
Anyway, after much trouble and many wounds, both were defeated. Alexandra has a strange obsession with climbing on the backs of our larger foes, but as she seems to get deadly results that way, I cannot argue with her methods. I did have one good thought. The worst part of fighting the ghost of Emperor Samaran has been the depressingly little result that conventional weapons, even magical weapons, has had. I offered Takeo my quarterstaff, which has been enchanted to effectively handle the incorporeal spirits. This seemed to work much better, and made quicker work of the Mad Emperor. I am glad that it has finally seen some more practical use than merely being a walking stick and a totem against memories.
I digress. After the defeat of dragon skeleton and ghost, we entered the throne room. There, the body of the emperor was seated on the throne, clad in armor, a weapon in each hand and a crown atop his head. The spirit of the dragon, who had talked with us at length earlier, had told us that the person who wore the crown could (within some limits) command the ceramic soldiers. As there were some hundred of them within the throne room, we considered ourselves fortunate that we had put to rest the spirit of the emperor before entering this room. Takeo claimed the crown and armor. I have healed those that I could of damage to spirit and body. I will, though, require several more days to fully heal everyone. I am low on diamond dust, and would fain save it for after the battles that lie ahead.
For the two tasks we have accomplished, but two more await. We must face and defeat the Wu Jen. Then, we must enter the council room of the dragons, and slay Lengzhu, who is still living. If we manage this, the curse will be lifted from Takeo’s people. If we fail, then Lengzhu will be free. Our dragon has promised us some aid during this battle.
I know not why I write this. I have little hope of success, and when we fall, there will be none to read this.