Actions

UO

2002-05-16: Plague of Despair


BNNMasthead.gif
Global Edition


Plague of Despair / 蔓延する絶望

Author: Unknown author Published: May 16, 2002



Adranath tripped slightly in the muck of what had become the swamps of Yew. All around him he felt the pulsing evil of the decay as it fed upon itself, slowly consuming every bit of life in its path. The sensation was so strong now that it took little of his concentration as a user of nature to feel it. The area around him was dense with enough plague spores that they resembled a thick dust. The air swirled with his movements—the ancient Meer was reminded of Clainin's lab, with its hundreds of old texts and tomes stored away on shelves that were rarely given a dusting.

At long last he reached his destination; a huge gnarled tree towering into the sky, stretching its dark diseased limbs upward and outward. The entire surface of the tree was covered in rotting grey bark, and within its branches huge pods seemed to glow with an eerie green hue. The swamp bubbled and whirled slightly at the roots of the great plague tree as the pods slowly shed their spores into the winds.

As he opened a small pouch, the Watcher was overwhelmed by another fit of horrible hacking coughs. The attacks came so strongly now that he felt practically immobilized by the sickness. He hoped the shopkeepers in the area who had become affected were not also suffering as much, but he already knew that was not the case.

One by one he removed a few small items from the pouch and dropped them into a disgusting slimy maw at the base of the plague tree, which absorbed them greedily. As he pulled the final item from his pouch, he paused to examine it. Ironic, he thought, that the beasts created by the plague should be the very solution to curing the land. He was thankful he had garnered Clainin's assistance in dealing with them; his own magics had become too weak to possibly hold a creature of such power. As he stared intently at the object in his hand, he prayed silently that enough of the special creatures could be found to make a difference.

Finishing, he laid the last small object within the maw of the tree, and watched as it also was absorbed quickly. A few short moments went by, and he began to feel a slight shudder from the tree, and within his mind he could sense the decay buckle and grow weaker. Closing his eyes, he could feel the plague tree before him as it struggled to process the ingredients he had placed inside its hungry maw. Finally, he could sense success; the cure was at hand.

Again, the violent coughs overtook his body and Adranath stepped back away from the tree. His objective was now clear, but the ingredients he had fed to the plague tree had only a small effect—it would take a great deal more if the land was to be fully cured.

A gust of wind blew through the swamps and the spores of the diseased tree filled the air like smoke. The progress of the decay had barely been halted, and if it was not cured soon Yew would not be able to host life. From his robes, Adranath pulled a small communication crystal given to him by Clainin, knowing that it represented their only real hope. If the word was spread far enough, and fast enough, the land just might be saved in time.




アドラナス(Adranath)は、すでに湿地と化したユーの泥の中へ足を滑らせた。周囲には、脈打つような腐敗の毒気が自分自身をも貪りながら、ゆっくりと、しかし手当たり次第に生命を飲み込んで行く様子が肌で感じられた。身の毛もよだつようなその強い感覚は、自然の力を操る者にとれば、感じ取ろうと精神を集中させるまでもなく否応なく伝わってくる。その地域一帯には、重苦しい砂埃のように疫病の胞子が舞っていた。歩くと、体の周りの空気が渦巻くのが見えた。アドラナスはクレイニン(Clainin)の研究所を思い出した。そこには、何百という書類や古書が整然と書棚に並んでいたが、どれも塵ひとつ被っていなかった。

長い時間をかけて、彼はようやく目的地に到達した。そこには天を突くような瘤(こぶ)だらけの大木が、病に冒された黒い枝を四方に広げて立っていた。全体が腐った灰色の木肌に覆われ、枝のあちらこちらに口を開けた大きな虚(うろ)からは、得体の知れない緑色の光が漏れている。その根元には、ぶくぶくと泡立つ汚泥が静かに流れ、胞子嚢(ほうしのう)からは、風に乗り、ゆっくりと胞子が流れ出ていた。

アドラナス観察人は、小さな巾着袋を開くと同時に激しい咳の発作に襲われた。発作はあまりに激しく、そのまま体が動かなくなってしまうほどだった。この付近の同じ病に冒された商店主たちが、彼ほど重症に陥っていなければよいがと祈ったが、同時に、それがいかに虫の良い願いである事かをアドラナスは知っていた。

ひとつひとつ、彼は巾着袋から何かを取り出し、朽ちかけた大木の根元の、不気味な粘液を満たした穴に投げ込んだ。木はそれを貪るように吸収した。最後のひとつを袋から取り出すと、彼はそれをまじまじと見つめた。皮肉だ、と彼は思った。この災いから生まれた怪物が、その穢れた土地を癒す元になろうとは。すでに、あの怪物を一匹だって相手にできないほど力が弱くなっているアドラナスは、何匹もの怪物に対処してくれたクレイニンの力添えに感謝した。彼は手の中のそれを見つめ、静かに祈った。結果を出すために十分な数の怪物が捕まる事を。

仕上げに、彼は最後のひとつを木の穴に投げ入れ、同じように素早く吸収されてゆく様子を見守った。少しすると、木からかすかな振動が伝わってきた。木の腐敗が止まり毒気が弱まる感触が、体の内側から湧き上がってきた。目を閉じれば、今投げ入れた薬の効能を、木自身がなんとか取り込もうと戦っている様子が伺える。彼は確かな手ごたえを感じた。治療が効いたのだ。

またしても咳の発作で体の自由を奪われたアドラナスは、木から少しあとずさった。これで方針が決まった。だが、今この木に与えた薬の効果は微々たるものだ。この土地全体を完全に治療するには、相当な量の薬が必要になる。

一陣の風が沼の水面をかすめ、病んだ大木から放出される胞子が雲のように周囲に充満した。腐敗の進行は、どうにか食い止める事ができたが、治療を急がなければ、ユーは草一本生えない死の世界になってしまう。アドラナスはローブの下に手を入れ、クレイニンから預かった小さなコミュニケーションクリスタルを取り出した。それには、彼らの最後の望みを託されていた。あの言葉を遠くまで、そして素早く届ける事ができれば、手遅れになる前に、この土地を救う事ができるのだ。