Al Haddid Jalut Encampment, August 16
Today, Dendera and I were wed.
Today, I met my new son.
It was all a blur, but scattered throughout with crystal clear images. Dendera, resplendent. Dendera, alive in a way I’ve never seen before as she was reunited. Lyr, covered in paint.
I’m not sure how I can ever encapsulate today.
We awoke fairly early and breakfasted with Al Haddid Jalut. The tension and excitement in the encampment was palpable.
With her first wish, Hashtaram emerged from the ring and the desert erupted. In a chaos of trembling earth, the desert opened up, then erupted. Amidst a torrent of sand, Zarjasz al-Ulaq erupted from the ground, or, more accurately, a portion of it. A large, squat, domed tower, wrapped in spinning bands of ensorcelled metal. It stopped for a moment, then began to sink again. Quickly, Dendera recovered herself and shouted the second wish. Hashtaram stopped the spinning fortress, then became whole, no longer tethered to the ring.
He gloated in his freedom, refusing to unlock the doors, claiming that was not covered by the second wish. Considering his response to the first wish was hardly “safe,” for several were swallowed by the desert in the confusion, his recalcitrance should not have been a surprise.
Asha Druj, clearly expecting this sort of difficulty, strode forward and attempted to bargain with the efreeti. When her request was predictably rebuffed, she held forth a ring, with a single, skull-like stone, and intoned a wish for the doors to open. A light arced between the ring and the efreeti, who wailed horrifically. The patter of his spent ashes on the sand was simultaneous to the sound of Zarjasz al-Ulaq’s great doors unlocking.
The marut led the way, easily opening the doors, followed by the group from Al Haddid Jalut, then Lady Lacroix’s party, ourselves, Asha Druj’s party—it seemed wise to put Lyr in front of Druj, so she would not have to glare, boiling in rage, at Druj’s back—and finally Eframostis Barit.
A massive staircase led down, beneath the surface of the sand. Going was slow, for all, save the marut, were drawn to the writings and engravings on the walls. Al Haddid Jalut will find years worth of study in these walls, I suspect.
We eventually reached an antechamber, with another massive door that could not withstand the marut. Through this door was a great chamber, so vast that even Lyr’s brilliant light could not catch all the walls. Uneasily, we trekked across this expanse in the wake of the marut.
At one point, I happened to look up, and beheld a titanic symbol of Bahamut, a great eye wreathed in wings. But this was no inert statue, for the thing quickly sprang to motion, descending on us and blasting beams from its eye. My shouted warning saved Lady Lacroix from a beam, but the floor beneath her fell away. The signatory groups scattered.
As we approached a wall, with more great doors, the floor fell beneath us and we tumbled into a room below. The fallen floor tiles then tumbled back up the wall, sealing us in. Not a chance collapse, but a trap.
Within the room lurked several large mechanical scarabs, which attacked us. We quickly destroyed them, but many more were coming. We fled into another room, much like the one we had just left, carved our way through more construct insects, and raced on through connected rooms.
A faint noise and strange character to the air our only guide, we found ourselves at a large chamber, filled with the metal fiends and a stable portal, apparently to the Plane of Air, the source of the breathable atmosphere within this fortress.