A Bard's Tale

LOCATION:  Colorado

CHALLENGE:  4 stars

DATE/NUMBER:  14-Aug-2000/25

MAP: 

And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear   -- Mark 4:9

Diana had a good view of the Zora Valley from her home in Draxmoor Manor. Good new this was, for this was the day foretold in the Prophesy of Kra as the day she'd begin her descent into the valley to recover The Shimpps. She opened her window, took a deep breath of the fresh mountain air, and casually picked out the scents of the various wildflowers carried by the light breeze, as a speck of black on the horizon slowly grew larger. Columbine, she whispered, that was his essence; but her brief moment of pleasant reminiscence was broken, as the blackness of a raven alighting on her window reluctantly captured her attention. "ook ver nly ock arn" ominously cackled the bird before flying off again as fast at it arrived.

She carefully closed the great oak doors of the manor behind her for the last time, and walked with purpose down Nyrra Road. As she passed thru Drax, the only town she had ever seen, she admired the buildings erected by the long-departed Yuum: the observatory, the moss-covered cathedral with its shining brass bell tower, the three ivy-covered university buildings, the library, and the doorless obsidian tower that remained a mystery to all who dared to gaze upon it and ponder its secrets. The road faded to a trail, thence to nothing as she passed the last of the farms and into the uninhabited crags and knolls of the valley. Now was the time to be wary, she muttered to herself, as she felt for her ivory dagger and recited the handful of old cantrips her father had taught her years ago: one for water, one for fire, one for earth, and one for air. Always follow the wind -- that's what the Prophesy said -- and she kept a steady pace despite the blisters growing on her feet, as her invisible guide howled uncaring thru the rocks.

Soon she came to be walking along a river, a shallow putrid river of green -- oh how she longed for the pure, floral scent of the mountain breeze! Very wearily she proceeded now, having spent several days nonstop on her feet. As the day began to fade into evening, the river opened up into a lake, Meyer Lake she recalled from the Book of Kra, with a small, heart-shaped island in the middle, or so the Prophesy said. This was the place she was to get to, but how, she wondered? As she pondered this little problem, her body went numb with fear as she realised the rocks were moving towards her.

The stench of death overwhelmed her as she summoned the will to overcome exhaustion, and focus her mind and body on the eerie apparitions that confronted her. Think quick -- a cantrip -- which one -- you've incurred my wrath, raised my ire, now your bodies be consumed by fire! As the flames shot down her arms and into the ghastly beings, terror gripped her chest like a vice as their malevolent grins and eyes advanced on her, unfazed by, and even enjoying the flames. Now what -- think quicker -- water -- evil -- I'm gonna die -- walking dead -- you've given me quite a scare, but now I banish you with air, she chanted as she made the sign of the holy cross with her finger. The wind howled and whipped the dust up above her head, and a huge wispy crucifix took shape towering above her, cowering the wraiths off into the wilds of the night.

She collapsed with fatigue, sleeping dreamlessly until the howling wind picked up and woke her with the dawn. The impassable lake still loomed, just as yester evening, but now she was down two cantrips, and once again her attention to this problem was interrupted, this time by some tapping down by the water's edge. Going down to investigate, she was elated (and a bit shocked), to find an old rowboat tethered to a wooden dock that was just about rotted away, and an even older gnome working nearby, the gnarled lines of his face showing older and deeper than the valley itself. "Oh please, kind sir may I buy your boat, twenty pieces of the Queen's silver I have -- it is very important". Spryly stepping between her and the dock he growled: "Book of Kra -- show me, show me, and you shall pass -- you must prove to me that you are the one first".

The actual Book of Kra, of course, had been lost long ago, even before the Yuum had left; all that was left were the various fragments and memories passed down among the sages and sorcerers. Her memories of it came from her father; as she replayed those memories a bit, it popped into her head how he once said that gnomes weren't the brightest of folk, and then her mind was speaking faster than she could think: Book of Kra, letters of worth, spring forth now from the earth! As the rocks and crags trembled, shook, grew, and reshaped themselves into giant-sized letters spelling out "BOOK OF KRA", the confused, awed, and evidently satisfied gnome stepped out of the way, allowing Diana to stumble her way down the rickety dock and into the boat, rowing out whilst laughing at her dolmenesque handiwork that now graced the lakeshore. She spotted the heart-shaped island, and avoiding some razor-sharp rocks that protected its natural cove, pulled the boat up onto shore. She then quickly spotted the pyramid-like structure at the center of the island that was most certainly the treasure vault.

She circled around looking for a way in, but none was to be found. All that could be found, chiseled into the side of the vault, was an odd, cryptic riddle:

I am one of the oddest of words
just one of many irregular verbs
but while my cousins take form based on subject
my form oddly is determined by object.

What a strange thing to encounter she thought, as she idly began looking under and around the rocks for a way in while pondering the puzzle. "Of course" she exclaimed, remembering the clue from a few days back -- as she spoke the answer, the northern portion of the pyramid silently slid away, revealing stairs down to a lighted passage. Quickly she scrambled down the stairs, feeling the tense excitement of victory pounding in her heart.

The passageway opened up into a rough cavern, with another passage leading out the other side. She crossed over to this passage, careful not to slip on the wet rock, and continued to follow the wind as the passage lead into some stairs going up. The stairs headed a bit north of east and climbed about forty feet before ending at a triangular-shaped landing, just after passing an intersecting passage. Two passages headed away from the triangle; she hurried down the left one. It led out of the caverns to the outside; opening up into some sort of ancient cemetery -- her heart was racing with anticipation now.

The first thing she noticed was that it was surprisingly well maintained, with the exception of the wilted, dead, and dried out flowers that graced the otherwise well-preserved headstones, crosses, and urns. She cautiously walked over to one section where an array of six and one half crosses were in a perfect line, attracted by a faint, yet familiar scent. She struggled to place the scent -- what was it -- oh my god -- "columbine" she cried out -- but all the flowers were dead -- this was a place of death. Before she could think the words thru, out it came: As I now have found my treasure, I call forth torrents of water, and as her incantation faded and the rains came pouring down, the flowers sprang to life, bringing forth not his essence, but him himself back to the living, to be reunited once again. They embraced like no one has embraced since the beginning of time.

Later, as they stood there, an animal approached them from out of the hills to the northeast; it was an eight-legged pegasus, the perfect beast for two riders. They mounted, and out of the valley they flew, reminiscing about days past. "You know", he said, "I was beginning to wonder if you'd ever make it". "Yeah", she smiled back, "I had my doubts a few times along the way -- that Prophesy of Kra is filled with downright obfuscation, misdirection, cruft, and cryptic twists and turns that I never could have expected". "Well", he replied, "as long as the treasure remains in our hearts, we'll never get lost again".

NOTE 1:  Off-trail walking is involved. Very high altitude hiking is involved. There is very steep, rocky, and extreme terrain in the area. Know the area and weather first and how to deal with them, not recommended for those not experienced in this sort of thing.

NOTE 2:  Be wary of snakes and other wildlife when reaching into dark places. No need to dig for this box. All bearings magnetic unless otherwise noted. A pace is a long stride counted on a footfall of either foot, i.e. two paces are counted each time the right foot hits the ground. Be aware of if or when there is game hunting in the area.

NOTE 3:  Please re-hide the thing well just as you found it

DISCLAIMER & COPYRIGHT:  PERSONS USING THIS CLUE OR HUNTING THIS LETTERBOX DO SO AT THEIR OWN RISK. Do not hunt this letterbox without reading and agreeing to the waiver first. Children, do not hunt this letterbox without the supervision of an adult who has read and agreed to the waiver. Possession of this clue does not imply rights of access to particular lands and route choices, or the safety thereof, including the location of the box itself. Always observe current local regulations, signs, property rights, and customs; you are responsible for your actions. Clue not indended to be taken literally or to suggest route choices; route choices (and the choice to proceed at all), are your choice.
This clue and associated stamp art are copyright © 2000, by Randy Hall. Permission to reproduce for personal use granted; all other rights reserved.

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