The Fifth Path (22/30)

Anatu’s Diary Entry for Abu 1st

I am sorry, dear diary, that I have not written to you for so long. Its been a week since I wrote to you, the day before we left the island of grey skinned people and sailed out on a little boat. And what a week it has been. A great deal has happened, and I am not entirely in a good place right now, but I will do my best to record the facts, get everything down on paper. Its helped before. Hopefully it will help again.

So, to start, we boarded the boat. It was very small compared to anything else I have used to cross the water. Room enough for maybe five people if you fit them in tight. As it was, with three of us, we still were close together. None of us really knew much about boats. I mean, we had all been sailing on ships for a while now, and we knew a bit about them, but this was a boat, it had no sail, and it was small, rocked and rolled by the waves more than any other vessel we had been aboard. I was not enthused, and we should have been more cautious. Maybe we should have tried to get a local guide. But we didn’t and we set out in the tiny boat, overloaded with all our gear and supplies, and us three. We all rowed together. My Baal was in excellent spirits after his lone excursion, and although it had not been nearly as much for those forced to guard the treasure, it was good to see him happy again. He had seemed down for a while. As such, we were all in a pretty good mood. We rowed, and kept watch for the next island, which would be close enough to see within a few hours of rowing according to the locals. Sure enough, about two hours after we began, almost on the nose, we spotted land. It was far off, and considering how tired my arms already felt from the journey thus far it was a bit discouraging, but it was good to see where we were going.

Nabua was acting as our navigator, and he kept having us weave back and forth through the water. He was convinced there was a current somewhere that would carry us most of the way without us having to row the whole way, and kept trying to find it. I don’t blame him for what happened, but had we stayed straight on track, then maybe things would have been different. Probably not, but maybe. So we weaved our way across the way, and as we did so the sky began to darken. The clouds became thick and black. The wind began to pick up, and the gentle up and down which had been so constant in our journey thus far became more of a jostle and then shove as we continued, doing our best not to let the little vessel capsize. That we might simply tip over and lose all our stuff and likely our lives was a constant fear, as the boat seemed not very stable at all. Somehow we continued on, the waves ever rising, sliding over the crests and rushing down and back up the next, only getting lightly splashed each time. It was a testament to Nabua’s general skill at picking up skills that we got through that part of the journey. He knew we might need to have someone who knew about boats at some point, so he had, before the journey began, packed a book on that subject. Then, the day before we were to set out on the fateful journey, he read the book cover to cover, picking up a hundred little things that most would not have realized after ten readings.

Cresting and rolling, barely able to see where we were going except at the top of each wave, we moved slowly towards our destination. Often times we had to move parallel to it in order to avoid being crushed by waves, but never further away. Inch by inch, meter by meter, we approached the distant island. Then, after hours of fighting for our survival, fighting each wave, fearing death with each fall and each rise, we appeared to finally be close. We could see rocks nearby, little extensions of the island. And then we messed up, and there was water, and I tried to swim and I hit my head on a rock and their was blood and I swam, and I started to drown, and I dragged myself up on a rock in the sea, spat out the water, then was pushed back in by a huge wave. I swam underwater, then above, trying to get air. I could not see where I was going or where I was coming from.

Again and again I found temporary refuge on small rocks and bits of coral, but they were both a blessing and a bane, for while they gave me temporary respite from swimming and bobbing, they were hard and sharp and when the waves pushed you up against them you could bleed or faint of be crushed. I don’t know how many times I grabbed onto a rock, was pulled away, swam towards another rock, and repeated the process. Somehow eventually, by the grace of Bel, I ended up on sand. My legs were bruised and bleeding and my whole body felt tired, but I managed to drag myself up the shore, away from the sea, get myself free from the water so when I passed out I would not be dragged back into the ocean. I looked, and saw no water reaching my feet and I passed into darkness.

I was awoken by a dream. It was fortunate for me that I was, for my first sight upon waking up was of a crab claw reaching for my eyes. Had I stayed asleep a moment longer I might very well have lost one or both eyes. As it was, I managed to pull myself away, and kicked out at the crab, startling it enough for it to back up. I noticed a dozen more like it nearby, in something of a circle around me. It seemed they were hoping for an easy meal. I planted my hands into the soft sand and pushed, getting myself to my feet, able to stand, but only shakily. With my full height reached, the group of crabs retreated, deciding they might seek easier prey. With that threat gone, my mind was finally able to take stock of the situation. I realized then that I had no idea where my companions were, or even whether they yet lived. I was not happy about this. Had the crabs known the language of Bel, they might very well have been shocked at the words I used in that moment.

My priority of course was Baal Uras, though finding Nabua was a close second. The shock of having lost track of them both managed to push my weakened body into a state in which I could run. And so I ran, up and down the beach, calling out, looking for any sign of my companions. After three beaches and over three hours of searching, I finally found a clue. Footsteps in the sand far down the third beach, and marks that could only be made by dragging someone along behind you over the sand. One of my companions had washed ashore here, and some group had taken them. I followed the tracks up to the edge of the beach, but after that, when the sand was no more, I lost them completely. I had never learned the art of tracking, as I spent most of my life in a city, where knowing who to talk to is much more important than knowing what to look for. Now of course I cursed myself, blaming myself not knowing a skill that I had really had no reason to learn. Had I been Nabua, maybe I would have packed a book on the subject, carried it in my backpack, and been able to figure it all out after an afternoon with it. But I was not so adept at learning from books, and in fact had no books on me except for you, dear diary. So I did what any self respecting bodyguard would do in that situation and rushed blindly into the jungle.

My maces had been washed away in the storm, but my belt held one long knife, intended for blocking. I pulled out the blade, intending at first to use it as a protective measure, but soon discovering the other useful property of such a long sharp blade, namely cutting through the vines and undergrowth of the jungle, clearing a route where it was possible to walk. I shudder to think how slow the travel would have been if I had had to climb under or over or between every vine and bush. While I was not focused much on the landscape and the surroundings, focused instead on any signs of human life, or any clue to the location of whoever had been dragged in here, I still managed to spot the incredible number of snakes that seemed to flee from my presence. The place was thick with them, both in the trees and pushes and on the ground. My interaction with snakes had largely come from the true land of course, so I had no fear of them, not really believing the tales of men dieing from simple wounds. Had I known that half the snakes I drove before me could have killed me in less than a day with a single bite, I would perhaps have been a bit more cautious. As it was, I killed two snakes that tried to bite me, and then was caught by a third, which moved much more swiftly than I was expecting.

From that point I lose a lot of memories. I remember continuing through the jungle, not aware of the danger I was in. I remember the arm swelling up, and a numb feeling spreading. I remember my lungs becoming harder and harder to use, and my heart fluttering. Then, there is a long time where my memories are not but images. The jungle from below. A snake slithering across my body. A great black beast walking solemnly past. A monkey taking my knife. The terrifying face of a demon. The view of the jungle from someones back. A house up in a tree. Strange plants and weird smells. A bed made of leaves and dirt. The demon giving me food. Night and day and night again.

While I was never truly unconscious for long, I woke up from my stupor like state after two nights. Or rather in the middle of the second night. I did not really understand what had happened to me. I saw the demon sleeping on the ground, but his face was propped up against the wall. I realized then that it was a mask. I knew I needed to keep looking for my companions. I tried to stand up. Pain. I was on the ground, face planted, nose first on the wooden floor. My nose was broken. I made noises and the man behind the mask woke up. He looked at me, and then, eyes filled with fear, he put on the mask, before lifting me up, and sitting me back down on the bed. He tried to speak to me, but I could not understand. I tried to speak, slowly and not making a lot of sense, but he could not understand. And so the miming began. It was a long slow process, but by the end I had a sense for what happened. The snakes were dangerous, and I was lucky to be alive. It seemed that most died when bitten by the snakes of this island, and that it was only due to the strength of my body, as well as the power of his herbs that I had been OK. I tried to get across that I was looking for my companions, that we had all washed ashore, and that at least one had been taken off the beach and into the jungle.

We tried to communicate about where my companion might be, but it proved impossible, until we started using lines in the dirt, as maps proved to be a universal language. It seemed there was a village where one might potentially find someone who had been taken from the beach. It was apparently dangerous for some reason however, and he did not want me to go, but I insisted, in my non verbal manner. There was little he could do to stop me, unless he wanted to try to trap me here however, so, I was soon moving about and on my way, I was weak still, and I had to get help from a long sturdy pole that I found near my saviors house. It would be useful in a fight certainly, especially with all of my other weapons gone, but the main reason was simply to help me move. My body was still not responding quite correctly, and it was much easier to walk with three legs than two. And so, I hobbled away from the shelter of my new friend, and out into the jungle, towards the village that my friend kept warning me away from.

It took me a day to find the place. The maps had not been very specific, and it was impossible to see more than a tiny fraction of area around you in the jungle. I likely passed within a few dozen yards of it many times before at last, stumbling into the very center of town. There appeared to be some kind of celebration going on, but all of the villagers, each dressed in a different horrifying demon mask, stopped short as soon as they saw me. Before I could respond, they had me raised up in the air, and carried around and around, before being put down in a large golden throne, which was sitting nonchalantly next to a house of leaves and twigs, and a pile of human skulls. They all shouted different things to be, none of which I understood, before at last, some kind of leader came up to me, and bowed low, before presenting me with a morbid gift, a large skull, with dried blood caking it. It was not till I brought the skull in close that I realized the blood formed symbols and letters, and soon I had a message decoded.

It seemed that it had been Nabua who had been dragged from sands to this place. The citizens had treated him kindly at first, but he soon discovered that they hoped to use his bones for fortune telling and he went into overdrive, trying to figure a way out. He apparently managed to do so by convincing them that he was one of their gods. He had left them the skull, to give to anyone who looked like him, for according to him, they too were gods. And the final part of the message was simple. It was instructions on where to meet. The final island, across the sea. It seemed that Nabua had gone on ahead, having some kind of a lead on a boat or something that might be able to take him on. I was hesitant. On the one hand, it was one place that we were all likely to try and go, but on the other, it seemed like abandoning the Baal to go on ahead without trying to look for him. Even as I was presented with a lovely and horrifying meal of meat, insects, and root vegitable, my mind jumped from place to place. Was my Baal also going on ahead? Was he dead? Should I look for him here, or would he need me in those future islands? I was very unsure of what to do.

When at last the party died down, and the people brought me to a very large and comfortable grass bed, this one covered with soft sheets, the same fabric that they had used in the unpronounceable land. I slept well, though my dreams were strange, filled with arguments and mysterious disappearances. I woke up and I slipped out of town, taking a handful of gold from a trunk that was sitting on the ground in my room, and a long spear with me as souvenirs. I had to look for the Baal, I could not give up just yet. And so I headed north. For north was where the port town to this strange island was, a place much different then the jungle that covered most of its surface. It would be there where boats could be hired, and there where my companions would have to have been seen or heard from.

It was a long journey. I killed a lot of snakes on the way, careful now to strike even quicker than they. They were dangerous foes, though thankfully they largely ran away from my presence. My most terrifying encounter was with a huge, twelve foot long brown snake, which reared up, as tall as myself. It struck in a flash. Had I kept my had in the same place on the spear than I would have lost it. Instead, it struck wood with its fangs and I pierced the creatures body with the spear. I stabbed it a couple more times to be certain. It had been a formidable foe. I had other encounters similar, though none quite as heated as that one.

At last I reached the port town on the northern edge. It was completely unlike everything I had seen on the island that far. Pirates and soldiers of Adroth and natives of the island all walked and talked together. Houses were made of stone or cut wood. There seemed a hundred ships out along the shore. I asked about my companions. Of Nabua, there was word. He had come in here, dressed in a rainbow cape, a gift from the tribe that had proclaimed him a god, and traded his services as a translator and navigator for a spot on a boat heading out into the wild lands beyond. But of my Baal I head not. None had heard of another foreigner landing on the sand, not even the locals. Could he be dead, drowned in the ocean before he could wash to shore? No body found indicated this was not likely the case. Still I was worried. But with no news, there was nothing to go off of. I could not search for him with no location where he might be found. So I was forced to follow Nabua’s plan. I would meet him at the fabled lands, continue the journey, alone now.

I did a demonstration of my fighting skills with the spear I had taken from the bone reading tribe, and soon had a job as a soldier on a boat heading in the direction of the fabled lands. It departs tomorrow, and I took this time, to at last speak with you diary. I am alone in the world now, though I know at least Nabua lives still. The quest continues however. If my Baal is dead, then his quest at least is not. I shall complete it for him if need be. The map shall have his name on the isle of legends. I hope that I shall see him there, but if not, then I will see it through at least. Tomorrow I travel the final leg, to the lands of myth and legend.


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