Caroun: The Sacrifice
As viewed by Lethalia Horidre in Dark Ages, Priestess of Deoch
Today I must have felt at least a small spark of peace from the recent days as I found myself sleeping much later than usual. Or, perhaps it was just an unseen force attempting to keep me from my daily chores, or from discovering and uncovering more knowledge than I should. It's Deoch 7, 2nd moon, 4th sun, 1 PM. A voice came to me upon awakening and said to me, "Praise Deoch, Ceannlaidir, Cail, Luathas, and Fiosachd." But where did this voice come from, and from whom?
There are many things here that cannot be explained and perhaps there should be no meddling in the events that are taking place. I fear I do not know. What I will do, though, is attempt to explain what is within the grounds of Astrid and raise some other questions that may have never entered your mind. Once you have thought about these questions, you may wish I had never brought them to your attention. This writing is not for the weak of heart or the frail of mind.
Sadly, Hesperos has given his own life in the ancient ritual of Caroun, but in this sacrifice, has saved his child. The inspirational flames of light that are Deoch, the unconditional love and compassion of Glioca, and even the destruction and knowledge of death of Sgrios were certainly with Hesperos on this grim day. This trinity of gods is a most extreme one, yet most understandable when viewed in a situation such as his sacrifice.
I have read the words of, and spoken in person with the child Kalliope, daughter of the brave and loving Hesperos. She wrote that she saw a star, shining more brightly than it had ever been seen. She believes that this was the light and love of her father, Hesperos, to shine on us for eternity. As I looked up into the evening sky last night, I too saw this star and for some strange reason, my heart believes he, a form of him, or some other being altogether, watches over us now. Perhaps this being always has, but without our notice.
Many children were saved in this time of grief. I can only assume by the voice of praise I heard that this legend will live on with us until the end of time. Be that good or bad, I cannot yet say. Even so, lest we forget the gruesome details, I would like to write a few thoughts. These children are still in danger and need your help as long as these creatures such as kobolds and goblins are interested in Astrid. But as a priestess and a skeptic, I will not request your help, this must be your decision alone.
As you walk into the ancient grounds of Astrid, a stench flows throughout your senses, seeming to attack every part of your body leaving you vulnerable. Is this an unseen attack in itself? An almost eerie stillness surrounds you except for the occasional cry for help or the clanking of swords. Let me say that I believe these "creatures" to be at least somewhat intelligent at the very least. Unless there is some unseen god or force behind their brilliant plan of defenses. The order of power and defenses are arranged in a most educated way as you will see in this discussion. They leave no area unprotected and are even more protected the farther inside Astrid you travel. I'm not quite sure that anything here is as it appears, so these are only my views and I will be stating that things "seem" a certain way throughout my writing.
As you move farther in, you notice dirt paths that seem to have been etched into the ground without the slightest hint of grass ever growing over them. It's as if the grass avoids the very aura emanated by the roads. Upon examining the roads closely and wanting to find what important fact they led to, we discovered only two things thus far; the roads seem to form some sort of hexagram and directly in the center of these roads there was a great dirt mound with yet another hexagram etched into it. I'll discuss more on that in a moment.
>From studying the creatures within the grounds of Astrid, it seems we can divide this ancient place into three areas. The top points of the hexagram, middle points, and lower points. The first area of Astrid, I'll call the lower levels. It is the area where you can find the lower points of the star if it were viewed from above. These creatures are seemingly less strong than the creatures of the other areas. This could be a decoy. Creatures that seem to be easy to overtake so that you do not know the next area could be fatal. I think their weakest creatures are used as front-line sacrifices. There are creatures here that do conjure the elements, but nothing in comparison to the creatures you will meet in the next two areas.
The second area would seem to be the mid-point of danger for Aislings. This area is dirty and overrun by kobolds and other creatures seeming to be wolves. In actuality, these creatures are shamans in wolves disguise, a rather old and timeless trick that has once again seemed to confuse the Aislings. They will fight you seeming to be a weak wolf and at what you would think is the point of their death, shed the wolves skin and heal themselves. They show their true forms and will stop at nothing to cast numerous spells on you and your party, seemingly trying to keep you from finding the ancient hexagram in the center spot of this area. Within this hexagram, it appears that with your faith in your god, or some other force, you can summon familiars to fight with you. They will fight for you to the death, but know that you can also heal and help these familiars to show your thanks to them. The help is welcome, although I do not know the long-term consequences of these summonings. Do realize though that they do not stay in our world for long, they have been summoned from another plane. Also, they cannot follow you from area to area. Also realize that just as you are able to summon, the creatures of this area are able to summon as well.
But, use this hexagram with caution! We do not yet know of the origination of the hexagram, nor do we know the magics worked within. This could all be a ploy! This could be some evil doings by the creatures of Astrid, or even worse. These familiars may not be from your god at all, but an evil trickery. They could have you summon these creatures to lose faith in your god. Or worse yet, to anger your god. I think the creatures of Astrid would most certainly sacrifice their own lives to have Aislings sink to a level of evil. Also be aware of the magic arts practiced here in this area, they can sometimes prove fatal as well.
It seems that at the top points of the star, the creatures are the most dangerous and protective of their territory. We'll call this the upper area. We can only assume that the strongest and most efficient creatures are here to guard the children they wish to use for sacrifice. This is the place that the children are brought. There are small, dirty, fenced in cages that the children are stored in by the creatures. These cages must be dug deep into the land as sometimes all you can hear are muffled cries and pleas for help. These areas are very dangerous and you should never travel alone there. There are powerful shamen that will poison, blind and injure you in what seems like one swift flash. Their warriors are strong and well educated in the art of fighting. There are traps all around that will send a shock through your body and leave you frozen and defenseless for quite some time. There are traps that will leave you blind trying to make your way back to safety. Traps of needles, daggers or other pointed weapons are abundant as well. The habitants of this area also have the ability to summon familiars, but they do not seem to come from the hexagram, rather a power they have been given, perhaps by their god. These creatures and their familiars alike are powerful and can prove to be the creature who will send you to meet Sgrios.
Now you should have some view of the dangers that lie within the grounds of Astrid. Be certain that my writings do not even put a fraction of the actual horrors contained there within your mind. The only true way to experience these visions are to travel there yourself, but this is something I do not recommend. And if you are very young, I plead with you, for the safety of your own life, do not travel there! Neither alone nor with companions. If you do not think of your own safety, at least fear for the safety of your friends you intend to carelessly drag in there with you.
But now, as a priestess and also an objective observer, I think I must look at this situation from another point of view. The side of the races that inhabit the grounds of Astrid. How long have they been here? Obviously these grounds are ancient and sacred. At least it would seem so... Did we disrupt their ancient land by settling so close to them? Have they been in this area longer than Aislings have existed? These are questions that I cannot answer. Unfortunately, I do not know enough about this ancient ground to answer honestly. But I am not quite brave enough to try to talk to the creatures within to find out either. I just offer another point of view on the situation. Perhaps these races have been around far longer than we have. Perhaps they are only protecting their sacred areas. Maybe sacrificing the children of Undine was never in their plan. These rituals have obviously gone on for a very long time and never have the children been in such danger. At least that's what we think...
Perhaps Hesperos had uncovered something that was never to be seen or known by any of us. In defense, and to keep their secrets hidden, they had to silence him. Obviously, he escaped. We know he was safe, at least for a while, as he taught us the lore of the goblins. Was it that the only way they knew to silence him was to threaten him with his child? Perhaps what they wanted all along was his life, just to be sure their secrets would remain silent forever.
Could Deoch have been an enemy to this god that Astrid was created for? Is this part of Deoch's plan? To create us Aislings to overcome this unnamed god? It seems rather strange to me that our lord's Shrine lies just outside this ancient and sacred place. Which came first, our shrine to Deoch, or these seemingly ancient grounds? Perhaps Astrid is not ancient and sacred at all. Perhaps it is newly made by another god to attack Deoch's shrine. Was Astrid created for a god that is unknown to us? Or perhaps even to Chadul? My body shudders at this thought.
Was Hesperos' sacrifice more than just the salvation of his child? Within this star he seems to shine, will he return by the grace of a certain or even unknown god? Was all of this started by the hatred Hesperos held for these other races? A personal attack against them that he has brought us into? Was this the reason they took his child? Was this the reason he sacrificed himself? This is something that will remain a mystery to us now, as Hesperos has given them what they wanted, his life... unless... Perhaps somewhere, sometime, something from Hesperos will be uncovered explaining the full story of what has happened to cause all this disruption and destruction. Knowing Hesperos, as the bard he was, there must, MUST, be something, somewhere, that he has written and hidden for someone to find. The only question now, is where and when will these writings be found, if ever.
Until something more is known of Astrid, be safe and blessed. If you must travel to Astrid, for whatever reason, may the gods watch over you and keep you from harm.
In conclusion, I would like to thank Xilan, Makaveli, Pashura, BlackStone, Ashura, Ash, Miriamele, Nakayla and all other friends and fellow guild members who risked their lives venturing with me as I studied these areas and tried my best to keep them safe in their hunts and quests to save the children. I would also like to thank all the Aislings of Temuair who helped save the innocent children who were taken from their families. And a special thank you to a very special young priestess Talshaya, and the other priests of Glioca, who made the great potions of life for all who were in need.
Priestess of Deoch