Climbed the gap today.
The landscape is barren, rocky red ridges and promontories. Eagles or rocs could live here. Would albatrosses?
No sign of any nests.
Just a lone armadillo or two.
The sun is setting and there seems to be no easy way out of this canyon. I need to make more ladders to scale the next cliff face.
I carve a hasty hole in the rock face to take shelter for the night, and put together a rough workbench to assemble more ladders.
I can’t sleep. The silence has grown into a loud roar in my ears. I keep expecting an attack, or for something to happen, but nothing does.
In the middle of the night, I open the door to my shelter and take a walk for some fresh air.
It’s only then that I notice that the grass here has all died. Short barren stubs drained of any spark of life.
Were they that way when I chose this area to shelter in, or was something standing outside watching as I crafted my escape route?
Either way, the sooner I get out of this dead place, the happier I’ll be.
In the morning, I see something winged fly across the rock face. It looked almost reptilian. Was it a flying lizard, a bat? Or was it the bird I saw previously?
I scale the cliff to find more red rock and cactus.
I climb higher, hoping for a sighting of the albatross and a new heading to follow.
There are some yellow ground dwelling birds here, secretary bird-like, almost friendly and comical, but no albatross.
Looking back, shows how high I’ve climbed. The clouds are almost within reach. I bite back the suicidal urge to try.
Instead, I head further in the other direction, following my last recollection of how the bird flew, and the cliff ends, revealing a majestic sight. A settlement built into the cliff face, and a vast stretch of water, dotted with numerous specks of wetland. Is it a river delta leading to an ocean? Or merely a large landlocked lake?
I hide my drawn appearance by lowering the visor of my helm, and claim to be a mercenary warrior, an adventurer seeking fame and glory.
The villagers are taciturn, telling me only the name of their settlement – Ostcliff.
I find a farmer in need of help with his crops and trade a day’s labor at the fields for some carrots and potatoes.
I spend the night with a slightly more garrulous old librarian, roasting potatoes over a furnace of rocks I put together for him, though his sanity is questionable. He paces relentlessly through my stay, running his hands over his tomes and confessing to me that he hears voices whisper to him in the quiet of the night, speaking of caged animals, an impulsive lord and a reinforced fortress.
I nod and listen to placate him, since I don’t want to be thrown out, but I only really care about one thing.
I’m just not sure how to ask about seabird sightings without sounding just as crazy.
The screech of spiders and the hollow rattling of skeleton bones echo outside during gaps in the conversation. This is not an easy land to live in.
Then I have it, as I look out the window at the large body of water, illuminated in spots by a few nightblooms.
Casually, I ask about the fishing out on the water, if it’s any good, that I was thinking of going out in a boat and a reel tomorrow, trying to lead in to any sightings of an albatross.
It’s a dead end. The man pays more attention to his books than things that creep, swim or fly.
Sunrise in Ostcliff is quite beautiful.
I anxiously scan the skies for any signs, but there are no wings on the horizon.
With no true heading, I decide to follow up on my pretext of fishing, but intend to follow the shore and at least find out if all this water is merely an extremely large lake or if Ostcliff overlooks an ocean.
A short while later though, while following the shore northeast, I come across an ominous tower.
Guttural groans are the only warning I get.
Zombies gush out of the ground floor and pull my boat under as I flail away with my sword, trying to fight and row at the same time.
Sputtering out brackish water, sinking with the weight of my armor and flailing my way back to the surface by kicking up from the bottom, I claw my way to the nearest ground to make a stand.
One of the zombies was carrying an odd little book.
I don’t get much time to peruse it before more undead rush from the tower. Surely, some infernal magic must be conjuring them and forcing them out in daylight?
I don’t get a chance to even look inside, as the moaning horde forces me into a corner.
I’m desperately trying to get a chance to turn around and set an escape ladder up against the cliff, but their relentless onslaught doesn’t give me an opening.
One of them finally gets through my guard and ends me.
The pain has barely receded before I wake again.
In bed. On the top floor of my house.
I bury my face in my hands. Was it just a terrible dream?
I’m naked and shivering.
I think not.
I think I’m stuck here until I figure out what’s happened to me and find a way out.
(Village name brought to you by random googling of village name generators and eventually joining two words that made sense to me.
Weird rumor and librarian who was determined to know nothing of value conjured up by random rolls from the RPG Solo website, utilizing the Mythic Game Master Emulator complex questions, Universal NPC Emulator or whatever the hell else they’re using for those buttons.
The rest, surprisingly or not, is all Minecraft Hexxit and a bit of fancy imagination and retelling.)