Almonihah traveled for about a week without anything unexpected happening. He fought several more Javni’Tolkhrah, and every time, it seemed the land itself was fighting against him. He quickly learned to not trust tree branches, overhangs, rocky outcroppings… all betrayed him at critical moments. Other things seemed more… wrong about the land as he went further south, as well. Trees bent in unnatural ways, lush jungle areas bordered on dessicated deserts, until it seemed the terrain could do anything but what it was supposed to. The Javni’Tolkhrah he saw were more bizarre, as well, some frighteningly lethal, some clearly dying of their own impossibility.
Another thing he slowly became aware of was the incessant sound of the wind. Except, it wasn’t the wind—it didn’t move the trees, and breezes would come through that did. Even when the air was completely still, the ceaseless sound still murmured. At times, he almost imagined it sounded like some unintelligible language, like Jivenesh was muttering insanely across the Madlands. Almonihah quickly dismissed that thought. For some reason, it chilled him.
According to Falloen’s journal, it took about a week and a half to reach the half-way point through the Madlands, a vast desert he had called the “Desolation of the Dragonfall”. What forgotten lore lent it that name, Almonihah did not know, but he started looking for it, knowing it would mean he was half done with his journey.
More than a week passed, however, and he saw no sign of it. The half-dragon was a bit busy not being eaten or killed by mobile trees or whatever other madness these lands could create. Things kept getting worse as he got farther into the Madlands. There were times he could swear he could watch grass turn to sand and solid land to lake. The wind-like sound grew louder and more persistent, as well. It made sleeping… difficult. Not that he slept much if he could help it—only enough to keep himself alive.
Eventually, Almonihah decided he must have passed the Desolation. He’d been traveling almost twice as long as it had taken Falloen to reach it, and he’d seen no sign of it. Perhaps in the intervening centuries, the Madlands had swallowed even the mighty wastes Falloen had described. Regardless, he was sure he must be more than halfway by now. A good thing, too—he was starting to run low on supplies.
The land had been trending upwards for the last day, and today he was climbing mountainsides. Fortunately, it seemed that few Javni’Tolkhrah haunted the slopes, and the terrain seemed more stable than it had for the past few days. The climb was arduous, but at least he wasn’t fighting for his life the whole way.
He reached the top, but his spirits sunk as he did. On the other side of the mountains, he could see for a long distance. A barren, blasted wasteland, vaguely bowl-shaped, though far too large for even his eyes to see to the other side. And in the middle, a dimly-seen dark smudge that even from here looked chaotic. That would be the Maelstrom, and it was at the heart of the Desolation of the Dragonfall.
Yeah, that might be a small problem. Just a thought. This chapter is not exactly going to be a pleasant experience for Almonihah. I’ll give you a hint, though, he doesn’t die at the end of it.