Black crypt rises from the swamps
 

Angus Kalum

UP: Baja

    A simple journey, t’was all the Seer had expected – and how much I had wanted to believe him, to trust in him. Two nights before, when he came to visit the Golden Brew Tavern, his mood was light, jovial even. The assembled crowd had spoken of events past, questioning the Seer about the fate of the Black Orb that had been extracted from the meteorite weeks before. Though Mythos informed us that his friend, Darius the Astronomer, had been guarded with his experiments, he added that Darius was nevertheless in a splendid mood, filled with the delighted zeal of discovery. Indeed, they had spent some time discussing other matters – most notable of which had been another celestial event of some import. Having little knowledge of such things, I found it hard to follow his words but it seemed that two discoveries had been made. One, that the ‘alignment’ of a certain set of stars was to come in two days, best viewed at the midnight hour in the southern swamps near Destard. Secondly, that a strange, phosphorescent glow had been spotted in those very same swamps by a few wayward adventurers and miners. The Seer suggested we make a journey of it, travelling to the swamps to study the phenomenon – to take our thoughts away from the dark affairs of the last few weeks.

    When I think of it now, I cannot help but laugh. Travelling into that stagnant, fetid swamp on a lighthearted journey. But we were so desirous that the black cloud o’er our heads might be lifted. We followed because we wished that it might be true.

    I thank those that watch o’er us that the crowd that assembled at the Golden Brew this eve was not clouded by this spell of na´ve hope. They had brought weapons, and their spellbooks, and were clothed in protective armor. E’en the most lighthearted of the group seemed to carry a sense of unease behind his quips. No matter how hard we tried we could not dispel the sense of dread that had encircled us. Again, I give thanks that such was the case.

    Upon stepping through the swirling magicks of a summoned portal, we found ourselves accosted by the horrid stench of the bogs. The thick muck made travel difficult, but we nevertheless set forth ever deeper into the marsh. As the last glimpse of solid ground faded from view, we heard a call from the front ranks. Something was seen rising out of the viscous swamp water. A few men stepped forth, but before we could prepare our forces the stench of rotting flesh swept o’er our company. The vile water all around us began to froth and bubble – rank, wormeaten hands rising from the depths and snatching at our heels.

    I dare not attempt to recall the specifics of the battle that occurred…it was all too bloody and horrible…each vision filled with the lifeless grins of our assailants. Some were barely recognizable as human remnants, so bloated with noxious gasses and scarred by decay, their flesh hanging off in ragged strips. A dark and dismal battle it was, surely hours in length. And when we were through with the vile deed, when every wretched, animated corpse was sent back to the bog to lay silently once again…only then did we see the black monument on the horizon.

    It must have risen while the battle was fought, for the thick mire of the swamps still oozed down its sides, the underlying stones a hoary black. Fallen gravestones laid scattered about the area and six great statues stood before the ancient crypt, marking a path to its massive iron doors. Vain attempts were made to pry the portal open before Seer Mythos stepped forward to examine the markings engraved upon its surface.

    The markings were familiar to him, indeed, in his studies at the Lycaeum he had read of the protective rituals in which they were once used. The Seer stood back, raising his hands to the skies. With a mumbled incantation and a movement of his hands through the air, the crackling energy that permeated the iron doors dissipated and the portal was opened.

    And what was found within broke our steadfast party into two.

    The Black Book of Kyrith-Lann was the name of that abhorred tome, and the very moment that the Seer did take hold of it, he seemed changed. Protective is scarcely the word, he seemed greedy, covetous towards the book. And e’en though Mythos did remark that the words within were in a runic text he had ne’er laid eyes upon before, he continued to hastily scan its pages with a distracted look in his eyes.

    The rest of the evening was spent in heated debate over the fate of the Black Book. Whether to destroy it outright, or to decipher the ancient manuscript and learn its secrets. Those on the side of destruction reminded the Seer of his visions – of his hand in the downfall of our realm. And when I did see the look in his eyes when he perused that archaic manuscript, I felt justified in joining their side.

    Nothing good could have been raised from that noxious bog, no virtuous deed to come from deciphering the Black Book. And though no one knows the origin of its title, I can see that Kyrith-Lann can only foretell our destruction.

 

From the Town Cryer - The Journal of Ultima Online, Thursday, January 14th 1999