Friday 24th June 1498
We left a Warning Letter along with what rations we could spare at the Bronze Shield explaining what had happened and hastened to Pontchateau to meet with Lord of this domain – Sir Gurval Levesque.
The brutish-looking horses that we had saved from the stables made good speed, arriving at Pontchateau castle by the afternoon. Guillaume negotiated an audience with Sir Levesque and explained the situation – although neglected to begin the story with the ogre's attack which seemed an oversight!
We were escorted into the castle where we were kept under guard whilst Gurval's son, Finbar, and some retainers traveled to the Bronze Shield to corroborate our story. Quite inconvenient as we all longed to return to Vannes or Sandpoint, but we couldn't blame him for his caution as we had confessed to the killings of folk under his care. Still, it gave us a safe, warm place to rest and some good food. We were all famished and sick of living off trail rations and berries after having spent days traveling, fighting or delving underground. Kingsholme wasn't exactly renowned for it culinary delights either!
Saturday 25th June 1498
Finbar returned today and confirmed everything we had told the elderly knight. Gurval was clearly as relieved, as were we, and he now trusted us as honest folk and so gave us leave to explore the town of Pontchateau and to ride back to Vannes in the morning.
We took the opportunity to offload some of our excess gains at the Saturday markets and to make our observances at the temple of Saranae.
Saturday 25th June 1498 – Evening
The pencils which accompany the Map have returned every night since we first stayed at the Bronze Shield over a fortnight ago. With everyone present, unhurried and in good cheer we decided that there would be no better time to try and 'activate' whatever magic it held.
I began ever so carefully drawing in the rough outlines of Vannes on the map, lightly at first but soon with more confidence as Guillaume, Shanae and Lydia all contributed what knowledge they had about the area. Then everything went white.
I came to in a square room, the makings of a small tavern, that appeared to had been drained of all life and colour A mere simulacrum of a tavern, I suppose. Two figures – a barkeep and a mysterious gentleman – appeared to shimmer with half-life, but everything else was absent of any vigor. I held a pencil in my hand which seemed to be full of some kind of barely contained magic, but of the map was no sign. I approached the barkeep and an energy sprang between the pencil and his figure, suffusing him with colour and a semblance of life! The pencil went dark and mundane as if its power had expired.
The man did not at all seem perturbed by his surroundings and when questioned only told me about rats in his cellar or his dislike of the graveyard at nightime. Worthless tales and nonsense. My only thought was that he could be some kind of automaton and after a couple of attempts I was able to draw the colour back into the pencil leaving him inert.
Guillaume, Lydia and Shanae soon joined me in the tavern. They said that I had become unresponsive whilst filling in the map and that when they attempted to shake me out of my reverie they had felt a tugging on their minds which drew them to this place. All were armed and armoured as if for battle despite claiming that they were not so before their arrival. All are convinced that they came here willingly although I cannot say the same for myself.
There is nothing I can liken this place to, other than possibly the illusory halls of Hasdrubal's tomb. It is perfect in its dimensions and lacks any of the character of a real, believable place. After attempting and failing to restore life to other surfaces – doors, windows or even drinks – we turned to the mysterious stranger. When he sprang to live he informed us of a vital quest; goblins who worked for the evil Lord Darkness had stolen the farm's pigs and they needed to be returned. No more information was forthcoming.
Clearly this was some kind of test. We accepted the challenge, withdrew colour from the man and applied it to the tavern door instead. The door sprang open, we stepped through and were immediately stopped in our tracks by a deep cavern just beyond the door. A ghostly bridge spanned its breadth. the entire world was white, the clouds appearing as relief carvings and light shining from all directions.
We jammed the door open using two metal pitons before removing the colours once more. Bringing the bridge to life allowed us to cross unhindered and the colour flowed like water over the nearby grass and rock. I took a cutting before crossing and removing the colour once more. Everything returning to dead, hard whiteness including the blade of grass I had placed in the pocket of my jerkin.
Clearly this was a manufactured place, unfit for normal life. Each space we entered was no larger than the last and boundaries, some obvious and others not, rose all around us. Even the grass underfoot was hard and unbreakable. There was no give or flex in the pale surfaces and they were devoid of the warmth or texture of the natural world. We had to walk with care not to fall on the unyielding surface.
The following 'rooms' passed by quickly, a quarrelsome tree, an engorged spider, a forest clearing, a dirt track and a riddle. Each space posed a constructed, artificial challenge of some kind and was bounded by a 'portal' that would transition us to the next with seemingly no time passing. This place seemed nothing more than a dark parody of life, a child's fantasy made real or possibly the demented thoughts of an uncreative story-teller.
The final location in this place had us defeat a goblin-like creature and return a pig (inside a chest, no less) to the mysterious stranger who had been waiting at the end for us. Then it all went white again.
Sunday 26th June 1498 – Morning
We all awoke this morning having collapsed on the floor of the room as the first rays of light shone through the open curtains. The pencils had vanished but the area we had attempted to fill on the map was completed. Vannes was present in intricate detail.
The pitons used to wedge open the colourless door were missing and a hard, white blade of grass was in my pocket. The implications are astounding. Lydia suggested that the map-realm could be a place where the black sword could be left in secret and I must attempt it is an intriguing prospect.
We stocked up with fresh rations (and pitons) before starting our journey back to Vannes once more.
Sunday 26th June 1498 – Evening
We arrived back at the Bronze Shield and have decided to stay the night here instead of riding through until the morning. We are all tired and hungry after another day at the road.
We tore into our trail rations which simply didn't feel as filling as usual. The thoughts of the Hunger loom over us, although we cannot be sure whether that is because we too are being afflicted or if it is a simple trick of the mind caused by returning to this accursed place. We pray it is the latter but we will hasten our attempts to find the cause none-the-less. I dread to meet the same fate as those who died here…