Chapter 79: The Edge of Forever
Chaos to back of us, Chaos to the front, here we are -- Stuck in the middle with the Rock.
With apologies to Stealers Wheel, "Stuck in the Middle With You"
Kyosuke flew high up into the sky with the Crystal, and disappeared to our vision. Had he brought Suluruku back with him, we might have asked him if he knew a way to get up there, nonmagically. Or if he knew something about the crystal. Or Tzeentch. Or someone else who might.
The storm increased to a fever pitch. The sky was black, and a hard rain hammered us. As if that wasn't enough, hail occasionally pelted us as well. We waited in vain for my cousin to reappear, either successful or not. After about an hour, the storm abated a little. Two hours later, it reduced back to just snow and wind. And the stone appeared, gently coming to a rest in front of us.
I scanned the skies for Kyosuke, but he did not return with the Crystal. He failed, and he died in the attempt. At least he died a hero, properly. It was time to give up at this tower we built and go to meet Suluruku at the tower in King Og's in Yetsin Valley. The White Faerie's vision was clearer than most: I fear he is our only hope, and a thin one at that.
The trip through light snow improved greatly away from the great hole in the sky, and our journey was uneventful. Once we reached the tower, Suluruku walked out from the forest and prostrated himself at my feet.
I asked him a few sharp questions and received his grovelling answers. He couldn't find his friends nor the Cold Fire Knights. I told him I was giving him a chance to prove he wasn't utterly worthless, and he seemed eager. I told him simply that the Cold Fire Knights were searching for the Crystals of Chaos, which he had never heard of. I explained there were four, representing the western four elements, and they were made by faeries long, long ago, and that Tzeentch had touched them and made them his. He knew nothing about them, but offered all he knew of Tzeentch. Which was none of it useful.
But at the end, when I told him we were searching for knowledge of how to destroy things of power because Tzeentch desired us to, he looked up with some hope. "I know someone who talks to Tzeentch every day!" One Malusalubus, a leader of a small cult of chaos close by. Perhaps he would know where to find these stones; he certainly knew something of the mind of Tzeentch, and perhaps Tzeentch would even communicate with us directly, Suluruku said excitedly. He was willing to take us to them. Apparently this is his mission.
We followed him east to the mountains, and then south, deeper into the Yetsin Valley. We camped for the night at the point where we started heading into the mountains. All was quiet, and we were able to get some food. We were cold and miserable in the snow, of course, but not in danger of dying. Suluruku camped about 50 yards away from us, as is his habit now.
For the most part, the night was peaceful. However, on my watch, I caught the sound of a whispered argument. Suluruku's two heads argued with each other. The finch head defended Suluruku's actions in helping us, while the vulture head poured vitriol for him having betrayed Tzeentch. I will have to watch Suluruku very closely. It appears that the finch head supports us for some reason of its own, and it controls the actions. But the vulture head is our enemy.
We had only about half a day's travel the next day, and Suluruku told us a little about this cult. They are very secretive, and paranoid about outsiders, which was why he had to take us. Otherwise, they would not let us near the place. Although we could fight our way in, that was not our intent: we wanted information, and playing along with them would probably get it faster than killing them.
He said not to tell them of our power or to admit we were avatars of Tzeentch. Instead, we should pretend to be humans, pretend to want to be new acolytes in the cult. We should allow them to get used to us and live amongst them until Malusalubus trusts us to talk to us openly. If at any time we get tired of pretending, we can just end the charade and show them we are avatars of Tzeentch. He cautioned us that Malusalubus is only human, and like most humans, very jealous of the knowledge he has. He might be more likely to share his knowledge if he doesn't understand who we really are.
I have little patience, so we'll see how long this lasts. But at the start, at least, we will try to play in their rules and see what comes of it. I asked if they accepted many acolytes, and he said not many, but occasionally. He said acolytes do not live long and need replenishing. Malusalubus encourages his followers to embrace death, not to fear it.
He has it half right: death is certainly nothign to fear, and sometimes it is indeed the thing most hoped for. But under normal circumstances, there is no need to seek it out. It comes as the end no matter what.
He said the cult has about 50 people in it, mostly human and just a very few beastmen.
As I spoke with Suluruku, Ravenna announced that she thought there were armored men ahead. There were indeed, just out of sight, and Suluruku said it was probably a small guard of cultists patrolling the compound. It would be best if we let him do the talking, he said.
We walked up and around and saw ten well-armored men (and beastmen). Suluruku hailed them heartily and quickly and I caught not a word of what he said. They looked at us suspiciously, and I put my hand nearer the hilt of my katana. The leader greeted us and asked who we were. Slurk answered, "These are the great heralds of Tzeentch! The ones who come to destroy all!" So much for a low profile.
But the leader just said OK and walked away. He was uninterested, if not bored, with the exchange. I guess that Suluruku has brought other here before, with the same kind of announcement.
We continued our way, unimpeded by their "guards". We reached a peak, and discovered that was it. We stood at the edge of a sheer cliff, hundred of feet high. The mountains on the other side of the deep ravine was a few hundred feet away, and we were separated by a jagged fissure leadinf straight down to jagged rocks at the bottom. Out from the edge of the rock protruded a wooden rack that supported a tattered net hanging down the side of the cliff. Looking over the edge, it feel abotu thirty feet, and was apparently the sole method of transportation to several caves in the cliffside. A few people here and there climbed precariously on the net, moving between the caves.
We are here.