Quest for the Grail

Attending the trip are Lord Walter Devereux, His Grace Henry Lockett, Captain Nathaniel Greyhawk, Captain Dick Smashing, Dame Eliza Gamut, Father Anthony Sutcliffe, Witch Jones and Lord Alexander Gray.

At the start of the journey, Devereux ensures that there is a full complement of soldiers, sailors and so forth; that all Christians present are, without fail, equipped with bible and cross; and that their journey is appropriately blessed, by Lockett and Sutcliffe, among others.

Throughout the journey, Dame Eliza is seen very little during daylight hours. This is presumably because she spends almost the entire night gazing at the stars, apparently trying to predict the dangers the party will face, and ways to overcome them. It is possibly also related to the fact that whenever she is in proximity to Lord Devereux, she seems to be physically restraining herself from throwing herself upon him. Her rat amuses much of the crew by making constant jibes at the two of them over this.

In addition to Lord Devereux, Captain Greyhawk and Captain Smashing’s ships, crews and soldiers, Lord Gray arranges for a small number of creatures to accompany the expedition, including several sea serpents, a small young dragon, and a couple of gryphons and their riders.

The party take their ships and follow the map to the Solomon Islands. This is much easier than it might have been, thanks to Smashing's skill at navigation. Despite the wide expanse of open ocean, he ensures that the expedition actually follows the route given by the map, rather than being drawn off by currents or winds, both of which seem to beset the journey.

When the ships begin to approach the area marked on the maps, it is clear there is something wrong with the weather. The islands themselves are completely hidden behind ferocious storms, and the water appears to form a chain of whirlpools around the islands. When Lord Devereux places his hand upon the map, however, a clear path appears through the maelstrom, and the ships proceed through it.

Past the storms, the Solomon Islands are outstandingly beautiful, and the ships set down anchor in a small bay marked on the map. Acting on the advice of Dame Gamut, the party wait the day out before they enter the island. That night is haunted by unnatural sounds and screams from the island, and it is with great trepidation that the party land on the islands the next morning.

Rowing to shore, the party venture into the island, where they are met by the Angel Michael, who had been entreated by Father Sutcliffe to accompany the expedition. As they venture inland, accompanied by this holy force, the party very rapidly finds itself in dense forest. The Horticulturalists attending are unable to continue with their creatures, with the undergrowth being too thick, although they attempt to follow the party flying above the trees. Again, following Eliza’s advice, some traps are set on what appears to be a path through the forest, and before long, a couple of what appear to be small wingless dragons are caught. Alexander Gray ventures out to calm the creatures, and to attempt to converse with them—although not as intelligent as dragons, they do speak what Gray describes as a “dialect” of Draconic, and he manages to convince them to join and guide the party.

As the group heads further inland, the undergrowth becomes considerably thicker, and progress is very slow. It is some time before the party realises it is trapped, unable to cut its way out of the undergrowth surrounding them. As those present attempt to work out what to do, the party is beset by several large lizards. The military forces accompanying the party immediately make a formation, which, bizarrely, ends up with Witch Jones at the head of it. With almost superhuman strength, Jones leads a head-on attack at the lizards, felling one with a strike of a thick-set bible, and two more with an improvised whip taken from one of the sailors accompanying the group. Lord Devereux and Captains Greyhawk and Smashing also put down a considerable display of force, although Lord Devereux is wounded quite severely in the arm. The lizards dealt with, the undergrowth suddenly seems to thin, allowing the party to proceed. Following his impressive showmanship with the whip, and the wide-brimmed hat Jones is using to keep the sun off his face, one of the soldiers brought by Lord Devereux dubs the Puritan “Solomon Jones”, a nickname that remains for the entirety of the expedition.

As the venture continues inland, the party is continuously beset by aggressive creatures. On numerous occasions, the Angel Michael flies off, his sword drawn, and sounds of protracted fighting are heard ahead. On more than one occasion, the party shortly after passes a great creature apparently felled by the angel. On other occasions, when the trees thin out, a gryphon or dragon brought by Alexander Gray swoops down ahead, and lifts some animal out of the adventurer’s path, before it is able to cause difficulties.

Eventually the party reaches the ruins at the heart of the map.

Despite their absolutely scouring the ruins, the place seems long-abandoned - and while there is an alcove set into one wall of a once-great temple, which was clearly supposed to hold the great treasure the temple was designed to defend, there is nothing there. After the trials passed to reach this point, discovering that someone else has arrived first sends the entire party into a fit of despair. They return, dejected and downcast, to the ship, racking their brains for some clue as to who could have taken it or where it could have been taken.

On board the ship, Eliza tends to Devereux’s wound. Although not life-threatening, it is serious, and could easily become infected. The two spend some time in Devereux’s cabin, while Eliza performs some form of witchcraft to heal the injury.

Lockett and Witch Jones awake in the middle of the night having had a dream of hope. Solomon Jones rouses everyone, and Lockett prepares an impromptu sermon on the theme of hope. The adventurers, spurred and inspired by the speech, and regardless of the danger of traversing the island at night, set out into the jungle to return to the empty ruins.

When they arrive, the tumbled stones and shattered walls are there no more. Instead, a majestic temple entrance in the side of a canyon greets them, leading deep into the earth and lit by a soft golden glow. All are astounded by the sight, and quickly descend into the mysterious temple.

After walking for several hours, constantly descending further into the earth, the party enters a large chamber. As the party reaches the centre of the room, the exits in each wall are suddenly blocked by large stone tablets falling into the entryways. At this point, snakes begin to pour from holes in the ceiling, forming piles several feet deep. These piles expand, joining together to form a wall of snakes surrounding the intrepid adventurers.

As the snakes hiss and threaten the party, all are overcome by a sudden, near-supernatural fear of the creatures. Although they hold off the beasts with weapons and flaming torches, all feel their knees begin to shake and their will crumble, almost as if a great black hand is pressing upon their souls. Worse still, sand begins to flow into the chamber, through which the snakes writhe with little difficulty, but which traps the feet of the humans. As they are slowly buried in the rising sand, all the while the snakes creep closer and closer, hissing and flaring glowing red eyes in the rapidly descending darkness. As the sand rises to shoulder height and the party are trapped, each one feels they will die alone. Lockett and Jones begin to loudly pray, commending their souls to God, while the others make peace, each in their own way. As the sand rises above their necks, Devereux and Eliza reach out for each other through the darkness, their fingers just brushing for a moment before everything goes black.

They all awake on the stone floor of a bare chamber with neither sand nor snakes. Was it real? Was it an illusion? Was it some strange or magical dream? None can be certain, but each has discovered a sudden firm resolve within themselves that comes with the knowledge of certain death. There is a strange calm over the entire party as they continue down into the tunnels.

(Please note: Your character is now unusually afraid of snakes. This can be suppressed in the same way as any other phobia, however please roleplay appropriately.)

The tunnels in the underground temple are long and full of dangers and traps. Most of these are avoided with quick wits, cameraderie and Eliza's predictions. At one stage, it seems that Witch Jones is almost in danger of being crushed by a great boulder that, released from some hidden mechanism, rolls along the passageway at great speed, but Nathaniel Greyhawk helps him swing to safety at the last moment. Other incidents of near-death are too frequent to mention.

Finally, the adventurers find their way to the heart of the buried temple. The walls shine like stained glass with some inner light. The floor seems almost to be carved out of a single great ruby. Seated cross-legged at the centre of the floor is a man dressed in Roman armour, with an expression of great peace upon his face.

He does not identify himself, nor answer any questions concerning his identity; however, he informs the adventurers that since they are pure in heart, possessed of great courage and have refused to lose hope, he will entrust them with his charge. In an alcove set into the wall behind him is a cup.

Looking at the cup directly is difficult. It seems that every time one blinks or glances away and back, it changes. Some see a great golden chalice, some a mead-horn, some a bowl, an iron cauldron, a simple wooden winecup, an amphora; none can seem to agree on precisely what it is, or whether the thing itself is changing or merely their perceptions.

The Guardian motions them forward, but gives one warning; that any whose faith is uncertain or weak will be utterly destroyed by a mere touch of the Holy Cup.

With humility, a great act of faith, and a certain amount of caution given earlier events, Devereux steps forward and places a hand upon the cup. After a pause during which no-ones draw breath, he smiles and picks it up, quite alive.

On observing the cup more closely, one thing all can agree on is that it is sealed. The Guardian, who is smiling gently and whose form seems to be fading into the air as he speaks, gives them one final warning: that the Seal of Solomon will not break until the hour of their greatest need.

On observing the seal more closely, they can find that it is made of a substance which seems to be wax, but which will not scratch or dent under any force or pressure.

Being the only person willing to touch the Grail, Lord Devereux is entrusted with it, and is watched over for several months by the Angel Michael, who acts in a decidedly belligerent manner to anyone other than Devereux who approaches it. After the return to Albion, the angel remains with Devereux for some time, before trusting him to look after it well, and leaving him to deal with “other matters”.

bonus.grail.txt · Last modified: 2008/03/13 18:30 by helen