With his usual good sense of timing, Garrick rejoins us as we leave the temple towards the nearby settlement. Karishka leads us, over the next four days, across the wastes to what she claims is a “nearby” settlement called Junktown. We arrive on the 16th.
Junktown has a lot of what turn out to be vendor booths, like a big market. The ghouls are trading what at first seems like junk, and on closer inspection are things like scorpion poison glands, Synergy, skulls and other similar things. All barter.
In the middle of Junktown is a sizable cave entrance with lots of traffic in and out. Karishka tells us the farms are in the cave. As we get further in, Karishka starts asking other ghouls where the learned scholars were, and we eventually reach a group of six or seven gray-haired ghouls.
Over the next several hours, we’re peppered with questions about the outside world and events over the past number of decades. They had heard about the Everwar. They speak of a traveler that visits from time to time, one they call the Wise One, who wanders the wastes. Last visit about a year ago. Tales of this wise one date back to the Cataclysm. He is always helpful, though vague on whether the wastes will ever end. He helped them learn how to shape Synergy. Using Synergy, they can make things like Karishka’s light rod, and weapons. They describe Synergy as a form of concentrated magic, and believe that the items they make should still work outside of the wastes.
When I show the elders our lantern symbol, they show us two others that we haven’t seen before — probably predating the ones we’ve learned. They mention a temple or fortress about three days from here with a mosaic with a lantern symbol worked into it. When I ponder whether we might find a ring there, Milo and Heinric start twitching. The innate magic in the wastes would probably be highly dangerous to using the rings — IF the rings survived the cataclysm. Heinric suspects we might be able to use them as an arrival point, though won’t guarantee that to be danger-free. One of the ghouls, Aeron, provides us with sketches of the mosaics at the site. He also is a Synergy crafter.
Some of how the ghouls now view the creation of the wastes is similar to the Dwarven beliefs of how they emerged from the underground.
Mery discovers, through her sorcerous ways, observes the ghouls greeting the dawn. She learns that their “magic glow” dims just as the sun crests the horizon. On consultation with Heinric, he suspect they are absorbing more magic.
I leave Aero with my shield for a few days as an experiment to see if he can make it more durable or stronger.
Our trip to the Lantern “fortress” only takes a bit more than a day, thanks to Karishka and Garrick’s help. Upon arrival, Milo tells us that this was a Temple to Gorem, somewhat similar to other’s we’ve seen with ring. The area surrounding the temple shows signs if major damage, and the temple is scarred but standing. Making our way into the catacombs and find the mosaic, and signs that the ring is still there, under rubble and debris. With some work, we’re able to clear out the ring and verify it is still there. In spite of finding the ring, we are unable to find any name for the place, and can’t associate it with anything we have on the map. Milo thinks he might be able to consult a Gorem library to figure out the name of this place.
Garrick gives us a warning before a new ghoul arrives to meet us as we’re finishing our investigation of the rings. When this ghoul speaks, we each hear him in our native language. He introduces himself as Siberys, whom the ghouls call the Wise One. Somehow I manage to remember his name from our conversation with Khyber, which he acknowledges. He mentions he has a fondness for the wastes.
Mery asks Siberys about the the one who started the Everwar, and gets confirmation that he is a Lich. Siberys won’t tell Mery where he is, because the three of them have a bet on what we’ll do when we find him.
I try an extract the name of the third dragon, and Siberys dodges the question. Apparently the third dragon might think he is the one above.
Siberys gives me an object — the favor marker that we had delivered to Khyber. We can now call upon the dragons for a favor. Apparently our work to fulfill the draconic promise and open the new lands has made humans interesting once again. Siberys is very interesting in seeing what happens, while Khyber is interested in all of the details and interactions.
Asked if there is a way for the ghouls to safely leave the wastes, Siberys tells us it will take a while (in our terms). We (humans) might be close to enough knowledge of magic to figure out a way.
Asked what would happen if we used the ring from here, Siberys mentions that it would be the most interesting trips of our lives. He does give us the name of the place.