Enderal:Account of an Unknown Traveler, Volume 3
We were victorious. The battle was horrifying, more gruesome than anything I have experienced until now. The countless dead were soaking the earth with blood, turning it into reddish, dirty mud. The hostile tribes had arrived by the hundreds, their faces painted like skulls and their bodies covered in black color. They tried to frighten us with war-cries and wild dances and they had killed prisoners from the last skirmishes with our forces before the Bone Woman’s eyes. The provocations merely increased the Skaraggs’s lust for murder. During the battle, I attempted to stay in the background and watch out for Kkraka. It was impossible. Spears and stones filled the air, crushing skulls and splintering bones. Screaming, everywhere. In a battle on open ground, without strategy or heavy machinery, but with everything at stake, our side finally asserted itself. The enemy’s last warriors were driven out into the waste. I was forced to kill. It was inevitable as I was trying to look after the wounded. We suffered high losses. The Bone Woman had no mercy and scalped all enemy warriors who failed to escape. She pursued the fugitives until every last of them was dead. The celebrations has already lasted a night and a whole day. The Skaraggs dance around a big fire and inhale smoke, entering a trance-like states. They sing, shag and feast like there’s no tomorrow. Soon, I withdrew to care for the wounded. For my part, I’m just glad that Kkraka survived the fight. Observing her in her orgies with four different men in one night would have simply angered me unnecessarily. I need silence to digest my experiences. The course of the battle becomes vague whenever I try to accurately remember it. My head represses the memories. Me, as I thrust my spear through a hostile warrior’s soft abdomen. Me, as I take up a stone to crush the skull of a man who entered this fight with the same authority as I did. At first his unspeakable fear as he realizes that he will die. But only for a fraction of a moment. Then the last glow of life leaving his eyes, followed by the breath of death. I see it when I close my eyes.
I hardly feel like writing. Ever since the battle I feel strangely drawn out of my body, as if I were standing next to me. My hands carry out the necessary medical tasks without my mental investment. My head moves in spheres of absolute emptiness. Even Kkrakas intimate love and desire can’t change it. Her wildness has further increased after the triumphant victory. I have terrible nightmares. They mainly are about the events during the battle, but always end with me walking into the dark cave. The Maw draws me like a magnet. Throughout the day I watch it several times. Sometimes I stare into the black hole for hours, staring into the dark for answers. What is hidden in the darkness? Shadows and horrors.
Last night I once again had a nightmare in which I started my transition into the cave. There I found my comrades. On arms and legs, they had been impaled on the walls. They begged me for help, but I was not able to free them from their suffering. They condemned and cursed me before I woke up drenched in sweat. This can not go on. My heart threatened to consume me. When everyone is asleep, I’ll go into the cave. I am hoping that, whatever I find there, it will stop these dreams that torment me. It is my only hope of salvation. I’ll be prepared for anything. My spear from the battle and my diary I take with me. It shall not go unsaid what end my companions met; and what exists in the cave. I am also taking a bag with tubers and some water with me. I know that caves can reach very deep into the rock. In my previous life, in Enderal, I sometimes spent full days locked in them. From materials that I found in the village, I’ve tinkered several makeshift torches. Two flints complete my equipment in order to solve the mystery and to finally provide clarity. Once the moon stands high in the sky and everyone has gone to rest, I sneak to the cave entrance. Kkraka knows nothing about my plan. I think it is better not to put on notice. Our last conversation regarding the cave has made it all too clear that the Skaraggs neither reveal anything about what happened to her, nor like talking about her. I’ll find out the reason for such secrecy.
It went deep into the rock. My torches were able to brighten my way through the tunnel. There were not many branches in the cave. Most of the time the way was straight, but rough. Some bifurcations led to dead ends or into shafts that were too tight to advance further. Again and again faint moonlight shone through small fractures in the rock. My search for truth led me on until the stones became more slippery. The sound of dripping water became ubiquitous with time. In the end, the path gave way to a circular chamber with a large hole in the ceiling. Moonlight flooded the room. Roots of plants grew inside via the opening of the chamber. Slowly, I felt my way down over steps, into a sink with a base made of smooth stones. In the center of the chamber was a round altar, radiated by the moon. I had expected a place of sacrifice like this and braced myself on finding blood stains and the last remnants of my comrades. But there was nothing of both. The altar was clean. Not even a smell of mildew and rotting flesh. The entire chamber was filled with tension. As if something strange were in the air. A force that was not of natural origin. Fear spread through my limbs. I took my courage in both hands and explored the sacrificial chamber. There was nothing remarkable to discover, except for paintings that stretched across the walls of the entire round. When I looked closer, I realized that they had been made with a kind of oil paint. The procedure was, as opposed to the traditional, primitive paintings of the Skaragg culture, completely different. It was clear and penetrating. What I saw on the walls did not fit their simple murals. The contents of the images were of such cruelty and so grotesque that I am unable to put it into words. What I found was deeply disturbing. Animals copulating with human counterparts in reproductive rites. Indescribably brutal executions. And that was not all by far. The paintings culminated in the middle of the end wall in a large painting. I remember the feeling that came over me very well. My body refused to consider the painting. It refused with vehemence, for it knew that what I would see would change me. I forced it to. In the painting I beheld several people in between the hands of a deity with five animal heads, suffering, having opened their mouths to scream. When I regarded it closer, I discovered the face of one of my companions among the tormented. As if someone had torn it directly from his skull and put it on the rock. With growing horror I found more faces resembling those of my kidnapped companions so closely it sent shivers down my spine. I saw Vard, the insufferable sailor and our leader Sarek. They were all in the painting, as if they had already been there for centuries. The images put me into an abyss of fear. In the cave, it was worse than during the battle. Even now, I suffer of inexplicable fear that makes me cry when I think of it. I can neither understand nor explain. All I know is that these drawings deprived me of any self-control. Frozen with fear as I was, they forced me to raise my spear against me. They enticed me to put an end to my life. To kill myself, by my own hand. To my amazement, the spearhead was trembling right under my throat as I managed to escape. Can paintings drive a person to kill themselves? This is not possible. They are only pictures, only simple drawings created by a cruel hand. Nothing has become clearer. The cave caused more questions than before, and my nightmares are horribly worsened by this discovery.
My condition has worsened further ever since I left the cave. Sometimes I hold the same suicidal thoughts that stalked me there. I can hardly resist them. If there are objects near to me with which I could harm myself, my hand sometimes starts to arbitrarily reach for it. Then I have to stop it with my other arm, summoning all my mental and physical strength. It is as if these drawings changed something in me. It seems like a gateway to the world of the dead, trying to get everyone who has seen it into its kingdom. The time came when I could no longer bear it. I told Kkraka, my only confidant, what I had done and what was going on inside me. Her face froze in front of my eyes as I told her that I had entered the cave. She paled. Then she ordered me to keep silent and covered my head with both hands. She looked deep into my eyes. Hers, shimmering with tears, searched for something in particular. In the broken Inal I had taught her, she told me that it was forbidden for members of the tribe to enter the cave. Anyone who dared to, was condemned, for he brought the tribe in great danger. Only the two blind men were allowed. I asked her what happened with the paintings in the sacrificial chamber. She became even paler. I should have never entered the cave, she said, and backed away from me. Kkraka thought I had brought disaster upon us all. She quickly left the hut. I do not know what exactly she meant by her words, but they are certainly no good for me. I won’t sleep tonight. I hide all sharp objects so they are no longer in my sight and then await the next turn of fate.
I had to learn that love does not protect one to be betrayed. Kkraka had done just that. She did it out of faith to protect her tribe and decided to act against my life and our love. Abruptly the Skaraggs came into my hut and dragged me roughly to the throne of the chief. The entire tribe yelled at me. Stones flew. I saw Kkraka next to the chief. She suffered my conviction with dignity. A warrior like her showed rarely weakness. The Bone Woman spat at me with insults, of which I knew to interpret only half. The Skaraggs dragged me to a wooden peg on which they firmly tied me. There I stood, tied up and could not do anything besides squirming and seeing my terrible end directly into the eye. Even now, when it’s all over and I look at the stake, I can not believe that I survived that situation. I did not die. When I was born, the kindly Malphas gave me the toughness of a cat. Otherwise I can not explain what happened. I fainted, just at the moment when the chief hit me in the face, pulled my head up and put a bone knife to my hairline. She was ready to claim my scalp for the offense of entering the forbidden cave and having harmed the tribe. When I awoke, I knelt in the dust. My shackles had been severed. My body was stiff, as if I had remained a whole day in this crouching position. My eyes only slowly regained sight before they were able to see that all Skaraggs lay on the ground - I rose sluggishly and looked at me the countless corpses. The Bone Woman, right at my feet. She held the blade of sharpened bones, with which she had intended to kill me. Beside her lay Kkraka. Her hair was matted with blood. She had rammed her own knife in the chieftain’s back. She in turn had been murdered by another member of the tribe. As if the Skaraggs had suddenly been possessed by a collective self-destroying madness, they had killed each other, every one the one who had been closest to him. I looked blankly from corpse to corpse. The wind swept it over the bloody bodies. It was the only sound in dead silence. They had exterminated themselves. I sank down to my knees beside Kkraka and put her head in my lap. But I could not cry. Not even scream my grief from me. Nothing was possible. A week has passed since the accident. I do not try to understand. Everything would amount to the fact that I am the one who is to blame, however this might be possible. Maybe I had taken the horror that was in this cave outside. As if through the mischievous intent of a vile, supernatural power that loves to see people suffer, I was spared. It let me live. My thoughts are twisted. I can not speak, eat or drink. The shock has made me useless. Just now, as I write, I can use my mind. Once I put the book away, I begin to rot. What should I do now? I do not know.
I have decided to bury Kkraka properly. I have prepared a bed of dry shrubs for her, laid the most beautiful stones I could find on her breast, and burned her. My tears evaporated in the flames. I can not honor the rest of the tribe in the same manner. I do not have enough strength left to pile them up. Before hunger or the lack of water will kill me, I will leave the islands. The urge to kill myself does not persecute me anymore. It is the numbness that makes it impossible to be my own master. I know the Skaraggs had fishing boats. Perhaps I will be able to use one of them for my escape.
It has been nearly two months since I last opened this book. I am safe, in the care of a refugee settlement on the coast of Arktwend. How I ended up here, I will now briefly describe: As I had already written in my last entry, it was my goal to escape the islands. I fought my way through to the coast. From the village, a path directly led to the rocky cliffs. Between spray and stone I found the small bay I was looking for. With great effort I pushed a small Skaragg fishing boat into the water and paddled out into the sea. The small sail caught little wind, and I was slow. I could only hope that the current would carry me to a safe harbor. After a few hours I was so powerless that I had to lay down and fell asleep immediately. For a long time I rested - until the gentle touch of a hand on my cheek aroused me. I saw Kkraka, whose black hair was around her skin and fell on my cheeks - at first. As my eyes cleared, the face of a woman with hard features appeared. She dabbed my forehead with damp cloth. I remember the first smell I noticed very well. It was Trabantis herb, a bitter plant with which they treated my wounds. I knew it from times past, of the times when I had roamed the woods of Enderal. The current had carried my little boat up to a beach on the continent of Arktwend. Once again I had been impertinently lucky, having been washed up near a refugee settlement, for, as is commonly known, there are not many living souls to be found on Arktwend anymore. The inhabitants of the small settlement found me completely exhausted. They were mostly good-natured people. They could have left me there in the wet sand, but they did not. One family agreed to look after me. After my first awakening, I could hardly speak long enough to thank them for their help. The words did not come to my lips. They seemed to be locked in me. The woman named Karmilla, who looks after me with her eldest daughter and her husband Arvil, is very tender with me. I notice that she does not trust me completely and is very cautious with me. Little by little, the inner emptiness that filled me, vanishes. The year in the company of the Skaraggs has marked me. Above all, these last events certainly have not passed without trace. But slowly, I regain the feeling of how life really is, and my taste buds even enjoy a meal other than tubers. The inhabitants of the settlement integrate me into their daily work. They give me simple tasks and invite me to dinner together. Some men are suspicious. They are asking me questions about my origin. I can not blame them. If a stranger had been washed in front of my door, I would have done exactly the same thing. At some point I have to explain to them where I am from and what has happened to me. So far I was unable to. It is still too recent. The Fundament and the day of our departure have long since passed. For a whole year I am already on this trip. When I remember that day, it seems as if my comrades and I crossed the wooden plank to the ship deck just yesterday.
I made myself tell the inhabitants of my story. Some did not believe me until they saw the broken man’s gaze, my gaze, in the glow of the fireplace. This look was proof enough that I did not give them a mere fairy tale. I left the remaining, eternal doubters their belief. I paid my debt with Karmilla and Arvil with hard work. This is the least I can do for them, after all they have done for me. At a small festival, the children of the settlement asked me about the savages of the bony islands. I told them harmless stories, which were far removed from the reality of the Skaraggs. The little ones liked it. I start to see the world with different eyes and I also believe that the world now sees me with different eyes. I have become dumb, and seldom a laughter escapes me. Still, I am back on my own feet. As I have left the strange world of the Skaragg islands behind me, it is becoming increasingly clear to me where my roots lie. I suddenly feel the old memories of home sneaking back into my head. It pulls me back to Enderal. If I have survived all this, it may well be the predestination of my path to return there and make my discoveries public. Malphas’s will, it could be called. He gave me more luck than cleverness, to accomplish this, my task.
An expeditionary ship from Qyra arrived in the village. The scouts were on their way back from Nehrim’s northern edge. I had a conversation with its captain, to whom I described my situation. He allowed me to go to Qyra. Because I followed the same vocation and insisted that I do not need much provisions, he did not demand payment. I did not have a single coin, so I was very happy about this circumstance. Karmilla and Arvil gave me all the supplies which they could spare. I embraced her in parting. Any kind of thanks is inadequate to weigh what they have done for me. I am forever in their debt. For several weeks I have traveled the coastline of the continent. Sometimes I go on foot, every now and then I meet a kind merchant on whose cart I can ride for a while. I discover a very special beauty in the desert landscape and write a few poems about prominent points. I had already done this in my youth when I stumbled across fascinating landscapes. The time here makes me at least partly forget my sadness. With every sunrise I move a little closer to home. It will not be easy to return to my old life. If I tell the truth to my companion, she will certainly leave me if Malphas does not give me a second chance in love. I could tell her that it was necessary to cling to something like love for Kkraka and that I would never have survived without her. Certainly she would not understand that. She would react as any tested companion would react to betrayal with another woman and ignore the disproportionality of the situation in which I had been. I do not know if I could ever give her what she deserved, whether I would be ready to love her as if I had never been gone. Who knows if in the two years of my abstinence she has not already found a new companion for her side. As you can see, the troubles of the ordinary little man enter me again - after they have been absent for a long time.
This will be the last entry of this report that was initially supposed to document our journey. In the days of my imprisonment, it has become my most faithful companion, and survived the greatest dangers with me. Here I was able to write down all my thoughts. On these pages my mind was always cool and keen, even if it threatened to disintegrate when I was not writing. It is not easy for me to put my feather on the parchment for the very last time. But it is time to seal the end and hand over this report to the hands of our guildmaster so it can be published. I do not want any pay for what we have found. Having safely arrived in Enderal is more than enough for me. What I am hoping for is a monument to my brave friends, whom I doubtlessly lost in an inexplicable tragedy on the Skaragg isles. I will tell their families what happened so they do not have to remain in uncertainty. I can not explain their death. It is linked to the murals I found in the sacrificial chamber of the cave. Let the people, who do not want to believe it, declare me crazy. I know what I saw and do not deny a single word of what I have written down. Malphas himself is to be my witness. This report is the achievement of many. Our discovery forever lives in it. We were the first to land on the Bone Islands in the Lost Sea. May the souls of my comrades, my friends, find their peace, wherever they may be.