The Coming of the Zioth
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Book 1

Chapter 1plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigChapter 1: A Chance Meeting in Dunweig (Rewrite of turn 1)

This is a rewrite of Turn 1, and the second revision of this chapter (previous version). I have taken many more liberties with events and dialogue in these rewrites than in the turns, where I never modify dialogue except to correct typos.

It had been a long journey, and there was still a long way to go. It was a month today since

Chapter 2plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigChapter 2: An Anxious Employer (Rewrite of turns 1, 2 and 3)

This is a rewrite of Turn 1, Turn 2 and Turn 3, and the second revision of this chapter (previous version). I have taken many more liberties with events and dialogue in these rewrites than in the turns, where I never modify dialogue except to correct typos.

Ardith, Sahlman and Brinn exchanged the names of the inns where they were staying, and they agreed to meet at the Red Eye Tavern at noon. When they got there, they sat at a table together and ordered food. Soon, Huerten City

Chapter 3plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigChapter 3: Knowing All the Facts (Rewrite of turns 3, 4 and 5)

This is a rewrite of Turn 3, Turn 4 and Turn 5.

Continuing was difficult at first. Ardith and Ziedon could only carry the townsman so far, and they had to stop every minute or so to rest. Brinn was not nearly tall enough to take a corner of the litter. Although Sahlman tried to help, it was obvious that his arm was causing him trouble, and after half an hour, he had to admit that he'd done all he could.

Chapter 4plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigChapter 4: Trouble in Grenzig (Rewrite of turns 5, 6, 7 and 8)

This is a rewrite of Turn 5, Turn 6, Turn 7 and Turn 8.

With Brinn strapped securely to his back, Sahlman climbed the rope. Occasionally Brinn would startle the warrior by jerking his head suddenly and mumbling, as if waking from a dream.

Kay pulled up the rope when Sahl reached the top.

Chapter 5plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigChapter 5: Taking the Town by Force (Rewrite of turns 6, 7 and 8)

This is a rewrite of Turn 6, Turn 7 and Turn 8.

Sahlman heard the whistle. He looked up to the top of the large tree, and then at the townsman. Muttering, he quickly removed his kheffiya and desert robe, and stuffed them into his shoulder bag. His appearance would still be notable, but definitely not so much as it had been.

Chapter 6plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigChapter 6: Balban's Reward (Rewrite of turns 8, 9 and 10)

This is a rewrite of Turn 8, Turn 9 and Turn 10. I have taken many more liberties with events and dialogue in these rewrites than in the turns, where I never modify dialogue except to correct typos.

The morning offered a pitiful view of Grenzig. The doors to public buildings swung free in the wind, some hanging by a single hinge or laying on the ground. Shutters had been smashed, and scattered shards of broken glass were all that remained of once valuable

Book 2

Turn 11plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 11: In the Forest

Feeling better than he had in some time, Sahlman el'Musafir gave his borrowed steed its head. These horses, he thought to himself, are faster and far more comfortable to ride than the camels of my homeland. Following that was another thought. He now felt more concern, more passion, for this place than he did for the place of his birth. That idea rolled back and forth for a bit inside of Sahl's head. In a moment or two, he decided that, while perhaps that fact should bother him, it did not. His h…

Turn 12plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 12: Brininig

“Strange creature,” Kay whispered after the Brining scurried up the tree, “and an even stranger pet.”

Sahlman was amazed at the revelation of the Brinninig. In his desert home, one might find the occasional Dwarf, but the desert variety of Dwarf resembled nothing so much as a short, weather-beaten human. This Brinninig, though: why, there was no resemblance at all between it and a man. And the way it paid him not the slightest bit of attention, even though Sahl must have made enough racket to w…

Turn 13plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 13: An Attempt to Continue

All three adventurers and the townsman's servant were left shocked on the ground. Their clothes were torn in places, and the women's hair was in disarray and full of leaves.

Ardith shook herself off and muttered, “Well, that was interesting. Wonder what that windy voice was all about.

Turn 14plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 14: A Fight with Wolves

Ardith came awake slowly, and smiled when she saw that it was Sahlman's hand on her arm. When he pointed out the wolf-pack, Ardith remembered her dream. She wondered whether she could hide the horses and the members of the party, but decided that it would probably frighten the horses too much.

Turn 15plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 15: Ziedon's Adventure: Through the Fire

This first part was originally posted as “turn 10 supplement” on 11/21/1996.

Ziedon made his way from Grenzig, following the details of the map closely. He walked for days, until he finally came to a small hill. 'How could this be Rakbaven?' Ziedon thought. He checked and rechecked the map. He had seen all the landmarks encapsulated within that sloppy double circle on the map, so this hill, barely thirty feet high, had to be Rakbaven.

Turn 16plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 16: Ziedon's Adventure: Animal Moss

Ziedon opened his eyes and tried to remember why they were shut. 'Everything is white - no, yellow. Now it's green. Yes, green, but blurry. It's becoming clearer. There; something moved. Something big. No, it's gone. It's hot; oh, so hot. Yes, I was just in a fire. But I couldn't feel anything.' He tried to move his arm. 'It hurts, but I can move it.' He felt around. 'Wet. Very wet. Is it raining? No, I'm not outside; I'm in a tunnel. Oh, my head hurts!' He felt his leg: bare skin. Part of his c…

Turn 17plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 17: Ziedon's Adventure: The Maze of Foors

Ziedon continued quickly through the tunnel. None of the other creatures followed him; they kept running about doing whatever they were doing before.

It was only a few minutes before he came to a fork in the tunnel. The left fork went down, and the right headed up. The two were identical in all other respects.

Turn 18plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 18: Ziedon's Adventure: A New Master

The man tossed the stone into the air a few times, and then spoke in a deep voice. “I am the master to whom my two servants guided you. I have been searching the world for those worthy of my guidance, and you alone have passed my tests. You are foolishly brave at times, but you know how to recognize and solve a puzzle you are given. I commend you.

Turn 19plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 19: Ziedon's Adventure: Talking Cats

Ziedon left through the door of the tower, and watched, without much surprise, as the tower collapsed into itself until it was once again a small hill. He made sure the orb his master gave him was secure in its well-padded belt pouch, and began to follow the map.

Turn 20plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 20: A Storm Will Lead the Way

The tale of Ziedon's adventures held Sahlman's full attention. The desert dweller listened in awe to the recounting, his craggy face fully expressing his astonishment at many of the story's details. His mind fairly boggled at the idea of spending so much time under the ground, closed in, surrounded and trapped. 'Agh, this

Turn 21plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 21: Maelbourg

Ziedon looked at the group and their sad state of appearance and made a suggestion. “Perhaps we should find lodgings and cleanse ourselves. Ulan can wait until we are presentable.” Leaning heavily on his staff, he looked around for someone he could ask a question of. The appearance of the group prevented most people from coming near them, but eventually,

Turn 22plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 22: Nothing Gained

Before going to sleep, Ardith invited Kay to join her in prayer to Andritha. The two women prayed together in their room for a few minutes, and then made up their cots with blankets and went to sleep.

In the morning, they came down to the common room and had some bread, cheese, and a hot, sweet drink the bartender offered them that smelled faintly of alcohol.Jackol Worsen

Turn 23plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 23: The Minstrel's Song

Kay listened, enraptured, to the man's singing and playing. It reminded her of the songs of her homeland. She found the man attractive, and wished she could get his attention. Kay's heart went to her throat as the minstrel sat next to her. His presence, even his clean, male odor went to her head.

Turn 24plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 24: The Lost Scroll

Sahlman was furious to the point of distraction over losing the fight, over his soiled garments, and over allowing his weapons to be lost, even temporarily. If that had happened in the desert, he would have been dead. He could not quite comprehend why he was still alive, nor why his plans failed so dreadfully. He was unable to sit and listen to

Turn 25plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 25: Ziedon, the Necromancer

Sahlman was bone weary, winded, beaten and filthy. His attitude was eroded to a dangerous level by the events of the evening. When the strange, shadowy man with his feathers and beads materialized to bring down the fleeing thief, the traveller was nearly unable to remain standing. He wished for nothing so much as to be able to fall to the cobblestones and lie there forever. By main force of will, the desert man did not do so. As he would have done while defending his oasis against marauding raid…

Turn 26plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 26: Kreemon the Ranger

Ardith smiled and turned to the newcomer. “Hail and well met, stranger. I am Ardith, Priestess of Andritha. Thank you for your assistance. How may we thank you?”

The man nodded his head at Ardith, and pulled at his goatee distractedly. “Good morrow to you, priestess. I go by Kreemon Fangly. As for thanks, I would much appreciate word of where I might find employment.

Turn 27plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 27: Korisca the Thief

Sahlman slept the sleep of the dead, and awoke in midst of some vague nightmare hours before dawn. Unable to return to his slumber, he forced himself out of bed, and headed for the bath houses. A good scrubbing of himself and his clothing was just what the he needed. Some time later, a clean

Turn 28plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 28: Townsman Ulan

Korisca stood up and looked at Kreemon. “I suppose I should go take this ... bath, and get new clothes, but I don't know where such places are.”

“Well, I know where the bath house is and can escort you there if you wish. As for clothes ... the market place probably would the best bet. You might even find someone with a cart of second hand clothing you could sort through to see if anything would fit you. I've found a few good bargains doing that. You do have to be careful though. They, the cloth…

Turn 29plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 29: The Message

Kreemon left Korisca at the bathhouse and took a short walk back to the marketplace. The market was not crowded, but it was not empty either. There were many people about, entering and leaving shops, examining the few booths that lined the main road, or just standing and talking to friends. A group of children was playing a game Kreemon did not recognize. Every time a horseman, those few that there were, came by, the children grabbed a few dozen trinkets from the road and ran to the side.

Turn 30plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 30: Questionable Gains

Sahlman stood staring at the townhouse. His mind raced from one to another of the topics currently facing himself and the other members of the small band. Balban's trustworthiness, or lack thereof, was one concern. The day to day matters of survival were another.

Turn 31plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 31: The Last Night in Maelbourg

Ziedon spoke up again, eagerly changing the conversation. “We need to leave immediately.”

“I agree, Sir Mage,” Ardith said. “I do not like the feel of this town, nor of the townsman we have met. Let us provision ourselves from the innkeeper, and be on our way.

Turn 32plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 32: Departure

Ziedon was woken by Sahlman a few hours before dawn. As Sahl arranged himself comfortably on his blanket to sleep through the last watch, Ziedon quietly claimed a corner of the room and sat down.

Ziedon watched over everyone in silence, his eyes frequently returning to the still form of the thief. 'How easy it would be,' he thought, but each time he lowered his hands to boost himself off the floor, he shook his head. 'No, it is too soon.'

Turn 33plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 33: Another Approach

'Not good. No, not good at all,' thought Sahlman as he scrambled for readiness. For a split second, visions flashed before Sahl's eyes: cloaked raiders materializing out of the frigid darkness to tear through a peaceful bedouin camp, black blood bubbling pink and frothy in the wake of his scimitar, screams and wails of despair from the friends and relatives, from the wives and children, of those not strong enough to hold on to that most precious of treasures

Turn 34plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 34: The Townsman's Dilemma

The only emotion Sahlman could solidly identify at that moment was confusion. Perhaps if he had been paying more attention to Ulan, instead of checking all around for Forgolon Deepthroat, he might have been able to better assay what was going on. As it was, nothing was as it seemed, or nothing seemed as it was, one of the two. Either way, Sahl was left shaking his head. He had to look around at the groveling Ulan, just to make doubly certain that it was he, indeed, who was doing the begging. It …

Turn 35plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 35: A Partial Resolution

'Good,' Ardith thought as Ulan signalled his men. She had no desire for an armed conflict, or any other type for that matter.

Ardith's plan was to use Ulan's plight to gain information -- information she desperately wished to have -- about Balban and his motives, how Ulan became Balban's agent in

Turn 36plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 36: New Arrivals

Thrilled as he was by the feel of the magnificent mount beneath him, Sahl's lingering apprehension was instantly reborn as full-blown paranoia. Five more soldiers, plus one on either flank. The warrior transferred the reins to his left hand, then backed his mount a couple of shuffling steps. His eyes kept constant track of the seven men around him. The horse must have sensed his tension, because it was fidgeting and trembling just a bit.

Turn 37plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 37: Ziedon's Day

Listening to the rest of the conversation, Kay giggled at the talkative soldier, then stepped forward as though to speak.

Ardith touched her arm and whispered, “Let's stay out of this for the moment. Ziedon is doing quite well without help. He's getting more information than we have gotten for days. And remember, men in these parts find it strange enough for women to be armed, never mind that they take part in _their_ conversation.

Book 3

Turn 38plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 38: Dunweig

Korisca appeared from behind a large tree, but remained as unnoticeable as possible. She had trouble comprehending the recent events. A few days before, she was an unrecognized lowlife in Maelbourg, and this day she had dealt with a townsman. Then, her primary enemy, who could deal out the ancient powers like a deck full of aces, left with little explanation. She had no idea what was going on, but with

Turn 39plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 39: Ranes's

“Tolls for bridges, tolls to enter the town, what'll be next, a toll to use the facilities?” Kreemon muttered.

“Animals are permitted on the main roads only. We try to keep the town clean,” the guard said as they passed the gateway.

Each lantern in the town shone as a streaked globe through the fog, barely providing enough light to walk by. The first hazy building they saw gave itself away as an inn by its height and shape, and the amount of light emanating from a particular room.

Turn 40plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 40: The Healer

Ardith pushed open the doors, followed a narrow hallway, pushed open another set of doors, and entered into the sanctuary, which was, at the moment, empty. It seemed that most of the building was sanctuary. Its ceiling was as high as the rooftop, and narrow windows began ten feet above the floor, and extended twenty more toward the heavens. Spaced out on the walls was a series of once-gilt Signs of the Healer, in addition to smaller symbols of

Turn 41plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 41: A Week in Dunweig

The white and red cloth slipped out of the healer's aged hand, and fell to the floor. The healer's eyes widened ever so slightly, before they resumed their normal shape. “Clumsy old fingers,” he said. “Clean that up.” One of the apprentices, his eyes still on the man's leg, peeled the cloth off the floor, and with it wiped up as much of the red cream as he could.

Turn 42plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 42: The Butcher Moren

Kreemon bent down and touched the butcher's cheek with the back of his hand. Moren radiated an almost unnatural cold, as if he had just come in from bad snowstorm. He was most definitely dead.

“Who can tell me what happened here?” Kreemon asked of the crowd. No one volunteered an answer.

Turn 43plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 43: Master Johannes Eltermann

The inn was filling up with fishermen, who spoke mainly of their extraordinary catches that day. Moren's name flowed around the room as well, as each table of eavesdroppers passed it on to the next.

“Priestess!” Ardith was startled to find Ranes several steps in front of her, looking up at her face with a nervous smile as he walked.

Turn 44plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 44: The Investigation Begins

“Ardith.”

A voice.

“Come here.”

Ardith looked for the source of the voice, and saw nothing. She looked for anything at all, and saw nothing. She looked for darkness, and could not find even that. Ardith screamed and woke up.

The butcher's skin had taken on a color normal for a corpse by the time it was moved to the watching room for the night. By morning, the watching apprentice had nothing to say about it. As was the tradition in

Turn 45plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 45: The Temple of the Orithory

Ranes' was filling with lunchtime customers, who still spoke quite a bit about the butcher, although not near as much as the day before.

“Something strange is going on at the Temple,” said the deep, throaty voice voice a man behind a wooden pillar.

Turn 46plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 46: A Scene of Death

Kreemon broke through the crowd, drawing his sword again as he rushed the door. He slowed enough to try the doorknob, but nevertheless crashed into the door with the momentum of his run, causing it to squeak and crack. The door was locked, but gave easily at a second rush.

Turn 47plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 47: Johannes' Breakdown

Around Ardith's hand, the bruises subsided, until there were only a few blue lines winding through otherwise healthy-looking skin. The man took one wheezing, shuddering breath, and let it out slowly. His chest hardened as the splinters of bone fused together. His eyes flickered open but then closed tight, and his breathing was once again a slow, trickling wind.

Turn 48plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 48: The Healer and the Temple

Four men entered Rosteral's house, apparently having been asked inside. Ardith, just ready to leave, sat back down and signaled the serving wench for a refill of all their drinks. “Let's just stay and watch a while,” she murmured.

Kay grinned, halfway out of her chair, and said,

Turn 49plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 49: A Dark Man, a Shadow

“No, not there! Please, slow down! I don't care what freedoms you've had elsewhere; you can not behave this way in a temple of Andritha! And I already told you, that animal must be sent back up to wait outside! Wait!”

Kreemon stopped suddenly, and glared at the priest.

Turn 50plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 50: A Night to be Forgotten

This time the priest led them in his own fashion, quietly and slowly. There was no attempt by Kreemon or Johannes to rush past him and hurry things up. When they got outside, Ardith was more surprised than the others to see how much time had passed. The sun was already half concealed by the western wall of

Turn 51plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 51: An Eventful Departure

Unusual for her, as Ardith was one of those who woke up ready for anything, she sleepily went through her morning ablutions, woke up Kay, said her morning prayers, then, checking to see if Kay was actually up, thought about their mission and getting on with it. They'd been in this town long enough, she thought.

Turn 52plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 52: Korisca's Story

Ardith was overcome with dismay that the events in the guardhouse had led to bloodshed, but they had happened so fast that there had been nothing she could do. Not that she was unaccustomed to or abhorrent of bloodshed, but that it had seemed so unnecessary. She also wondered why both

Turn 53plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 53: Johannes's Vision (Johannes only)

DM's Introduction

Johannes woke early on the chilly morning of the eleventh of Farinon. He hugged his arms to his breast, trying to rid himself of a lingering chill. Something didn't feel right, so he lifted his hands and looked them over. They were dirty and scarred, but narrow and light. They were a woman's hands. He took those strange hands and felt up and down his body, but somehow was not shocked at what he found. He was

Turn 54plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 54: Osander River Village

Johannes shook his head slightly, trying to calm his mind, struggling to sort out that which he heard from the strange vision he had seen. “So this former companion of yours was performing odd experiments on sheep... the fact that he caused the bones of that sheep to bend

Turn 55plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 55: The magic of Osander River Village

Johannes saw the light flicker, and a crash of thunder miles away, but otherwise he was unaware of Ardith's attempts to wake him; the farmer was in the way. His wife and seven children, ranging in age from two to around fifteen, stood inside, staring in much the same way the farmer had.

Turn 56plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 56: Discovery by Night (Johannes only)

Johannes felt a tap on his shoulder. It was dark, and the floor he was lying on was cold. Another vision? No, Lutont was bending low over him, close enough that he could see the man's face in the dim light of the dying fire. Lutont gestured to the door, and put his fingers to his lips. The others were still sleeping.

Turn 57plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 57: Rielicca's Accusations

It was still dark when the group, one by one, woke to the sound of muffled conversations outside. Lutont and Johannes were already sitting by the door, eating some kind of hot wheat mush, when Kreemon got up. “They're waiting for all of you to come out,”

Turn 58plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 58: The Journey to Huerten

As soon as their escort turned back to Osander River Village, the party mounted their horses and rode on toward Huerten. The sky was clear and bright, what was visible through the trees, and well before noon, the snow melted. The air was still cold though, and smelled of a winter that was more than a month off.

Turn 59plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 59: Kreemon and the Second Clerk (Kreemon only)

Kreemon headed for the Baron's keep, making a few subtle inquiries along the way about the patrols outside the city. He asked several people, but soon realized that neither the patrols nor the group they sought were common knowledge. That pursuit at an end, he began to formulate a plan for how he would deal with the message.

Turn 60plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 60: Tracking Kreemon (Ardith, Kay, Sahlman and Johannes only)

As the inn's door swung behind Kreemon and Bork, Ardith said, “I like this not. Kreemon was all too eager to take the scroll, and to confront the baron. Not that I have any reason to suspect foul play by Kreemon, quite the opposite, but... well, something stinks here.

Turn 61plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 61: Inside the Walls

Kay saw that Bork had seen her, and probably Kreemon also. She did not know what to make of the tableau she had witnessed, so she hastily, but still as quietly as possible, retreated back to where Ardith waited.

She reported to her friend in hasty whispers.

Turn 62plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 62: Below the Castle

Kreemon kept his hand on the slippery wall, and followed it wherever it led. After only a few feet, he hit his head against stone and learned that the passage became only four feet high. When the grate began to slide open, Kreemon signaled the others to duck into the passage and hurried on.

Turn 63plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 63: The Swim to Shore

“Move to the sides,” Kreemon whispered. “Keep going forward.” He stopped briefly to check the water level before following his own advice. The water was getting deeper. In the center, it now reached up to the base of Kreemon's middle finger, when before it was only two knuckles deep. Either the water was rising, or the passage was sloping downward. Another minute of running and the water was ankle-deep, even on the edges, and at least a food deep in the middle.

Turn 64plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 64: Sahlman's Adventure: Ulan's Soldiers

The first three paragraphs were originally posted as “Turn 37 Supplement,” on 8/31/98.

“HA!” Sahlman let out with a loud cry to his restless steed, leading the other three men back toward Maelbourg. At the next possible chance, Sahl would cut back on a different road toward Grenzig. He didn't know what

Turn 65plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 65: Sahlman's Adventure: The Brininig

In moments, Sahl's darting glance had traversed the three hundred sixty degrees of terrain that surrounded him, hoping against hope that he would catch a glimpse of the second soldier, hoping that he would not discover the man just preparing to slide a blade through the weathered brown skin of his torso. As he performed this automatic function of viewing his environment, Sahl spoke,

Turn 66plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 66: Sahlman's Adventure: A Farmer's Trap

Sahlman rose before dawn, more than ready to get moving. Snow had stopped accumulating shortly after dusk, so there was only half an inch on the ground, not even enough to scrape up for drinking water.

Sahl was on his way within fifteen minutes, eager to move again. All three horses had survived the night, but they had to be walked for hours before their legs had fully thawed. The morning remained cold, but the snow was melting by noon, and it became much easier to travel despite the dampness …

Turn 67plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 67: Sahlman's Adventure: The state of Maelbourg

Half a mile from the perimeter of Maelbourg, Sahlman turned to Forgolon. “This is dangerous work. We must talk now. I tell you, what I want is for my friends to be free and not work for bad men. This is all I want. You tell me now. Who is lord of Maelbourg now? Who put my friends in jail? Why they in jail? What you want from me?

Turn 68plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 68: Sahlman's Adventure: A Clumsy Stalker

A few miles from Maelbourg, Sahlman slowed down to a quick walk. As soon as he did so, he thought he heard a second set of distant hoof beats behind him, but then they died down until all he could hear was the forest sounds, and Zephyr's hooves on pine needles and newly fallen autumn leaves.

Turn 69plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 69: Sahlman's Adventure: The Murderer of Dunweig

Before dawn, the pair packed up, ate a brief breakfast and were on their way. The sky was clear and the weather was warming up, and a pleasant breeze blew between the trees. Shortly after noon, Sahlman spotted the Black Lake in the distance. Hebabelt explained that its name came from its dark sands and thick under-water growth, and that it was known to catch foreigners and even the occasional local by surprise in the night. More than one person had fallen into the water before noticing it was th…

Turn 70plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 70: Sahlman's Adventure: Kgeih

Sahlman spent the night at the inn. When dawn came and Hebabelt didn't, he left a note with Ranes, saying that he would be following Ardith to Huerten. He rode off at first light.

The guards at the gate were not nearly so friendly as they'd been on the way in. They questioned Sahl for over an hour, asking about his current destination and his previous travels, making him account for each of his weapons and every item in his saddle bags, and they even sent a runner to Ranes' to verify that Sahl…

Turn 71plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 71: Sahlman's Adventure: Searching for Ardith

The knights didn't give Sahlman much time to sleep. They woke him well before dawn with, “there's no time to waste!” and pushed their horses hard through the morning. In the following hours, they passed three more patrols, and only a few other travelers, who avoided the knights. It seemed that every town Sahl visited lately had undergone some recent change that made it act differently towards visitors. Dmerzig and Grenzig had been conquered,

Turn 72plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 72: The Return of Sahlman

When Sahl woke, the door was closed. He had a headache, and he thought he felt a trickle of blood coming from somewhere on his head. Ardith was kneeling over him. Her words faded into his consciousness. “I'm so sorry, Sahl. I didn't know who you were until it was too late.

Turn 73plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 73: The Zahiran (Kreemon only)

Kreemon dragged himself to shore a couple hundred feet from Ardith and Kay, away from the docks and any ships, and lay panting on the sand. He relaxed for only a few minutes to catch his breath, and then slowly and unsteadily rose to his feet. Despite the intense chill it sent up and down his spine, he put on his wet shirt and then headed into town, towards the house that he'd found earlier, with the special symbol.

Turn 74plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 74: Kreemon and Sahlman

Sahl reacted urgently to Kreemon's voice. Rolling to his feet, he called out, “Please let him in Brunner! I need to talk to this man.” He hastily walked to the door. “Hello Kreemon, I have been hearing bad things about you.” Kreemon had changed his appearance much as Sahl had changed his, though Kreemon no doubt had done it for more desperate reasons. His goatee was gone, and his hair now hung loose. His clothes were changed, and he wore a long hooded cloak. Without the facial hair, the prominen…

Turn 75plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 75: Johannes's Adventure: The Destruction of a Mob

Johannes trudged away from the others, shaking his head slowly and muttering. “That Kreemon is a madman. I don't know why his companions tolerate him.” He emitted a long sigh, and made his way over the crest of the hill, towards Mindolpha's hovel.

The rising sun added nothing to the hovel that it didn't quickly take away. Even the walls were in poor repair, and it seemed like masses of caulk and tar used in haphazard repairs were all that held them together. The half of the roof that had not c…

Turn 76plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 76: Johannes's Adventure: Attacked in the Forest

Johannes's watch was punctuated by brief flashes that he had difficulty understanding. A woman appeared and disappeared. Then an older woman. Then he was the older woman. Then he saw a boy, then a rabbit, and then a tree. A large man pulling a small plow. Two men fighting on a sandy beach that sparkled with ice crystals. The silhouette of a huge bird flying across a full-moon

Turn 77plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 77: Johannes's Adventure: A Burning Cat

Johannes woke to the light of the sun and the sound of Mineasia's playful voice. She was not at all surprised to find Johannes in a bedroll with her mother, and seemed to have completely forgotten the frightening experiences of the previous night. “Can I ride Roomis again?

Turn 78plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 78: Johannes's Adventure: Escaping to Brundash

“There's a tunnel! A tunnel underneath the town. And they were teaching sorcerers under there... and... the experiments... how long ago?” He clutched at his head, paralyzed by blinding pain. “It hurts! Oh, by my god, it hurts!” He struggled to pull himself upright, tears forming at the corners of his eyes.

Turn 79plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 79: Johannes's Adventure: Return Home

Johannes blinked slowly, adjusting to the sudden change to where he was -- or where he thought he was. “What happened?” He spoke slowly. “I don't remember anything of what happened...”

“Master Steiner -- Karl -- found you in a village in northern Huerten. You were delirious the whole way, even though Karl hired what passes for medicine in those parts along the way. That was months ago, and then when you got here, you were

Turn 80plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 80: Johannes's Adventure: A New Vision

Rebekah was waiting for Johannes when he came home, and she had a worried look on her face. “You're back so early. Did everything go okay with the Coordinator?”

Johannes sighed, sinking into a chair in the sitting room. “I am not sure I can even trust my own mind any more. I don't know what is happening to me

Turn 81plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 81: Johannes's Adventure: Uyithlyaw

“Uyithlyaw?... So I have arrived...” Johannes sat up, blinking, attempting to take in his surroundings and orient himself. “I was wandering in dreams. I had thought I had returned to Duerstadt...” He shook his head. “What has been happening to me? Have I been going mad?

Turn 82plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 82: Johannes's Adventure: The Knights of Huerten

Mindolpha led the way back to the Maelbourg-Huerten road. Based on the angle they took, Johannes realized that Uyithlyaw's home was in Marchhanbar, a politically insignificant barony surrounded on three sides by the barony of Huerten. They continued through the woods for the rest of the day, cutting in at a sharp angle relative to the road, and made camp when it started to get dark.

Turn 83plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 83: Johannes and Sahlman

Additional text was added on 7/17/05

Sahl returned to Sir F's to sleep. He thought he heard muted footsteps behind him, but when he turned around to look, no one was there. When he arrived, the door was locked. He knocked a few times, and heard the innkeeper say,

Turn 84plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 84: Waiting for the Trial

The next day went without a hitch. Johannes escorted Ardith from Felender's house to the Office of the Corporal of the Central North District, while Sahlman followed at a distance in case there was any trouble. From there, the corporal himself brought Ardith and Johannes to the Offices of the Captain of the Guard, a few hundred feet from the castle gates, and from there they were taken to see the Second Clerk.

Turn 85plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 85: The Zioth Expert

Every morning, Redbelve passed the time with Sahl while he was training his horse. After a few hours of training on the twenty-fifth, he mentioned that Sahl could meet the Zioth-expert that evening. Evening came, and Redbelve took Sahlman and Johannes to see his friend. The scholar lived alone in one of the poorer neighborhoods, the entranceway to his small home serving as a workplace for himself and two other scriveners. Various religious texts, not all of them

Turn 86plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 86: Preparing for the Winter Fair

On the twenty-seventh, Sahl went out alone to train Zephyr. Mindolpha had been more trouble than usual during the night, and Johannes was sleeping late. As usual, Redbelve stopped by to give him a few pointers. In the afternoon, Sahl took a stroll around the city, working through his plans for preparing for the Zioth. Late in the afternoon, he found himself near a small cemetery which looked like it had been filled up a long time ago. There weren't a lot of people around

Book 4

Turn 87plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 87: The Winter Fair and Festival

Sahlman, Kay and Johannes had all grown up in large cities, but the Huerten Winter Fair and Festival was no less impressive for it. The castle was the gloriously decorated centerpiece, with banners, flags, and trumpeters playing fanfare on the hour for no reason other than to impress. Knights, dressed in their clumsy formal armor, engaged in mock jousts before cheering crowds. Normally, the castle was surrounded by large open areas. These areas now served as the core of the Fair, and were anythi…

Turn 88plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 88: Uyithlyaw's Prophecy

The heavy heat of the morning became more oppressive as the day wore on, then it slacked off, and by evening was replaced by a thickening fog. The Winter Fair and Festival went on. As stands and shops closed, people and their money moved inside, where all manner of entertainment could be found. Sir Jerenil's First Knight and the baron's Trader's Lodge, of course, had the best, and both had hired people to act like patrons of the competitor and then shout out things like,

Turn 89plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 89: Dealing with Disaster

Things were far from easy for Johannes and the others in Sir Jerenil's. Merely taking orders and organizing the barmaids in such a crowded inn were almost overwhelming tasks. Add in tending to the injured, resolving disputes about chairs, tables and rooms and dissipating fights, and the three of them, even with

Turn 90plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 90: The Rift

The rising sun illuminated a new Huerten. Fog burned away to reveal destruction unimagined the night before. What had been gaudily decorated streets were now piles of rubble, where not one house in two still stood. What had been packed fairgrounds were now a chaos of wood and canvas.

Turn 91plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 91: The Creatures of the Rift

Sahlman felt a sharp tug on the rope. From the darkness where Daluar had vanished from sight came a muffled gasp and the 'shing' of a rapier being drawn. Then the rope went slack, followed by an unpleasant thump. For an instant, Sahlman feared the worst, but the hurried shuffling noises and twitching of the rope indicated that

Turn 92plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 92: Meeting the Baron

It was well into the afternoon when the dragged themselves over the lip of the rim and into the light. Most of the villagers had gone, but the dozen or so who remained watched the explorers with awe. That was hardly surprising. Besides the weapons, which by themselves would keep most people at bay, everyone but

Turn 93plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 93: The Zioth Institute

Sahl thanked the guards after reading the baron's note and signing for the money. He then turned to the party. “In a sense, this belongs to us all -- that's Kay, Ardith, myself and Daluar, for services we have performed during the quake and in exploring the rift. But more than that, the Baron expects us to use it to fund our explorations of the Zioth. I assume that all of us want to do this?

Turn 94plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 94: The Battle of the Rift

The soldiers of Huerten didn't doubt the sh'kurdaru now. Suddenly, they were all cooperative, all polite, and, despite years of training in organized teams, they were desperate for leadership from someone who understood this strange threat.

With the torches blown out, and bonfires billowing up clouds of smoke, this was more than the soldiers and

Turn 95plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 95: New Blood

The night dragged on and on. It was dawn before Daluar and the soldiers were coming to the end of their task. More tired than they'd ever been before, they carried net after net full of Sh'kurdaru heads to the Rift. The entire force of Huerten, save the knights, some of whom were just now arriving to see what was left, was in a state of utter exhaustion.

Turn 96plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 96: The Captain of the Guard

“Salangin -- is that how you pronounce it?” Jereld, captain of the Baron's Guard, stopped Daluar just as he was leaving through the path of rubble that had once been the courtyard gate. His pronunciation was wrong, but he didn't give Daluar a chance to correct him.

Turn 97plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 97: Into the Depths

The next two days were taken up with preparations. Sahl discussed the requirements for the crossbows with the castle weaponsmith. Then he went to a potter in town and demanded a batch of ceramic bolts in the Baron's name. The bolts would be filled with and sealed against disteloitte. They would be cylindrical, balanced in the center, around once inch thick by four inches long, and have fins at the end to stabilize them. When the bolts were ready,

Turn 98plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 98: The People of the Rift

“This is not what I signed up for,” said Oloic.

“Yes it is,” Nerror, the other soldier, replied. “Shut up.”

Both soldiers, along with the mountaineers Teulen and Ker, and the original party of Sahlman, Daluar, Ardith and Kay, looked out at the expanse of

Turn 99plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 99: The High Baraderres

Ardith had had little luck. The creatures were willing to accept her, but as far as communication went, she was starting to think them incapable. They could point and gesture, but they quickly tired of the game and wandered off to eat, drink, sleep or mate. Sometimes, they seemed more like herd animals that humans. Their aversion to the sealed entrance just reinforced the idea.

Turn 100plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 100: A Disappointing Conclusion (The game fell apart at this point, so this story line has come to an end. Read on for Ziedon's adventure!)

Teulen, Ker and Daluar spent the next couple hours scouting the halls for sh'kurdaru. What they found was promising in some ways, at least. Adult sh'kurdaru came through this area only rarely, perhaps once in half an hour at most. The downside was that they weren't part of a regular patrol, so their comings and goings would be unpredictable. If they moved quickly and quietly, they could get from the low baraderres' area to the shaft leading up to the high baraderres in about fifteen minutes. Doi…

Book 5

Turn 101plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 101: A Mission from Rakbaven

This first part was originally posted as Turn 37z, on 8/31/98

Ziedon, days before, had made sure to memorize useful parts of Ardith's map. When he was sufficiently distant from his party, he placed his own two unremarkable maps on the ground, and placed an “

Turn 102plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 102: Settling in Dunweig

Gathering himself, Ziedon headed south, glad to be out of the tower and away from his impossible Master. He thought of the creatures he had met the last time he left the tower, and kept his eyes wary of them, but throughout the journey, they did not appear.

Turn 103plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 103: The Butcher Moren

The butcher opened his eyes wide, as if realizing his own mortality for the first time, and then looked down at the ground, accepting it. “Yes, I am Moren.”

Ziedon clapped his hands in glee. “Wonderful. I bring a message for you.” He spent a long minute reciting the magical words written as with chalk in his mind. Once

Turn 104plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 104: Sheep

“So, how'd it go with the apothecary?” Dalast put his food on Ziedon's table, and pulled up a chair. Ziedon frowned. “I never made it there. I realized that I must have looked a fright with my unkept beard and hair so I sought the services of a barber. Afterwards, I was still tired from my journey, so I returned for some lunch and a nap. I do feel quite refreshed. Mayhaps I will make it there on the morrow. I intend to enjoy myself this eve, seeing what this fine town has to offer me.

Turn 105plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 105: Moren's Book

Ziedon left the sheep behind him to persue the intruder. He chanted the spell again as he ran, targeting the interloper's heart, but by the time he finished his incantation, the person was too far for it to take its proper effect. She did feel something, because

Turn 106plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 106: Rosteral

The bathouses were not on the main crossroads of the town, but they were still easy to find. They were as close to the lake as they could be without too much threat from storm, and a portion of the town's wall rose up around that part of the lake to deter flood waters. The bathhouses were no more than half a mile's distance from the butcher, and an eighth from the inn

Turn 107plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 107: Creating Rumors

Ziedon moved behind the bathhouse and then, taking extreme care not to be seen, continued to the next building. Pausing there, Ziedon cut the hem of his robe and bandaged his wound. He cut more slices of cloth from the robe, soaked them in water from his waterskin, and used them to clean himself up.

Turn 108plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 108: The Seven Question Dream

Ziedon woke to sunlight on his face. He had slept a long time. Stretching and blinking his eyes, Ziedon thought, “That is what I needed. Ah..” As he swung his feet onto the floor, a sharp, reverberating pain reminded him that his wound would be a long time healing. Fortunately, it was not infected yet, and the edges were beginning to crust over, but the bandage was still damp with blood.

Turn 109plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 109: The Other Galpen

In the morning, Ziedon prepared his spells, then took out Moren's book, and looked at it reflectively as he thought about his dream. Ziedon was not normally one to remember his dreams, and now he'd had one two nights in a row. The previous night, someone had been questioning him. Obviously there was something deeper going on underneath the currents than was immediately visible.

Turn 110plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 110: Preparing an Assassination

Ziedon pledged the next couple of days to prepare for his assassination of Bure. He immediately took Galpen up on his offer, and followed him to the house and shop of an upper-class tailor. With Galpen by his side, Ziedon was able to acquire a suit of clothing that would make some of the lesser townsmen jealous, for under half its value. It still cost him fifteen gold attles, which ate a good bit into the money that Galpen had offered.

Turn 111plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 111: Caught

The next morning, Ziedon realized things would not be as easy as he'd thought. As well as any satirist could have predicted, the town guard patrolled the streets in force, now that a wealthy merchant had been murdered in his own shop. News of Weg's messenger paled in comparison, to the point where

Turn 112plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 112: Hebabelt Forester

His horse was untouched and had been treated well, and the new saddle was still leaning against the wall. Ziedon mounted, and rode until he just out of sight of the west gate, then dismounted. Wearing his old robes and equipped with his staff, Ziedon led his horse towards the gate.

Turn 113plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 113: Dragged into Maelbourg

Ziedon made his journey a casual one. He did not want to arrive in Maelbourg saddle sore, tired and dirty, or with a crippled horse. Soon after setting out, he found a moving stream and unloaded his bloody clothing. There was no need to risk being caught with that.

Turn 114plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 114: Townsman Galgewe

“So Ziedon, I see you caused Townsman Ulfendol quite a bit of trouble.” When Ziedon opened his eyes, he saw Galgewe, standing tall, hands clasped behind his back. It was a bit hard to make out his features. When Ziedon opened his eyes wider and shook out the blur of sleep, he saw the reason. He was in a jail cell, securely locked, with metal bars reaching to the ceiling, and attached at their base to a half-wall of stone.

Turn 115plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 115: Working for a Townsman

Ziedon was escorted out of the jail, to be taken to the nearby Purple Raven. His damaged clothes were brought elsewhere to be mended. Two of the three men who walked with Ziedon were common thugs, hired for strength rather than agility. They wore standard uniforms, consisting of leather armor, longsword, light crossbow and dagger, along with narrow-rimmed hats and a short black ribbon. The third man, doubtless the leader, was lighter than the others, but certainly looked like he could hold his o…

Turn 116plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 116: The State of Maelbourg

An hour or so after the tailor left, a messenger arrived with an unsigned letter from Galgewe: I will not be able to visit you myself tonight due to prior engagements, so I will answer some of your questions here. Please destroy this message when you have comitted it to memory. If you forget, its ink is designed to fade within a day or two.

You asked for descriptions of the major players in town, so here they are. The number following each name is an indication of power and influence. There a…

Turn 117plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 117: Jerrakken

Ziedon slept deeply, and did not wake until fairly late in the morning. The rest of the materials for the summoning spell and the priming of the paper were on the desk, though some of the summoning materials were not _quite_ right. The spell would probably work anyway.

Turn 118plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 118: Ulan's Allies and Balban's Enemies

Ferenz's tavern had nothing like the lush accomodations of the Purple Raven. Leaving his escort outside, Ziedon entered a dusty, low- ceilinged room much wider than it was deep. While the poorest laborers of Maelbourg couldn't afford tavern food, the men assembled for lunch today were not much better off.

Turn 119plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 119: Townsman Silnquost

Tilluri and Gelefer brought Ziedon across town to a far wealthier neighborhood. They arrived in front of a small building that Ziedon's map described as the Guild Tradehouse. Guilds used the building to arrange major trade agreements with each other and with neighboring towns, and some of the more important guild masters had private offices inside. The place was built like a fortress, with thick stone walls, heavy iron-bound doors and windows built small enough and high enough that even a practi…

Turn 120plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 120: Velirra Dufowl, a Bad Omen

As they walked to the tavern, Ziedon felt an inexplicable tinge of nervousness, as if he was being followed. He looked back frequently, but could see nothing out of the ordinary. Then, just outside the tavern, a wave of fear washed over him. He stopped, unsure whether to hide or run, and then it passed.

Turn 121plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 121: A Rap on the Shutters

Late in the night, Ziedon was woken by a rap on his shutters. Thinking it was the wind, he dozed off, but the fourth time it happened, he got up and separated them. The bird stumbled a bit and landed on the outside window sill, peering in. A moment later, there was a knock on his door.

Turn 122plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 122: Hewlard and Duddan

“You called me.”

Ziedon rolled over in his bed, ignoring the dream.

“You called me. Why?”

He was tired. How much sleep could he have gotten? Three hours? Four?

“You called me. Why?”

Ziedon opened his eyes a crack. The sun had risen only recently, and it was cold. The bird was perched on the highest shelf above the desk, staring at him with interest. It was also squawking annoyingly.

Turn 123plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 123: G is Catching On

Once the guards left his room, Ziedon bolted the door and sat in thought. Making a decision, he sent out a summons to his familiar, calling it back to him with all haste. While he waited, he took one of his pouches and padded the inside with extra cloth. He then removed the skulls from the two mouse skeletons and put them in the pouch, with more cloth between them. He hefted the pouch in its hand, tied it to his belt and walked around normally for a bit to make sure that the padding was sufficie…

Turn 124plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 124: The Public Guildhouse

He'd planned to capture Galgewe, tie him up, take that pesky amulet away and enchant him so many times he'd forget his own name if Ziedon had asked him to. It would have been nothing to take Galgewe's power from him and send him away. He might have even had a little “

Turn 125plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 125: Commanding the Guards

Townsman Silnquost didn't show up the next day, and the only news Ziedon got of the outside world was from a conversation he overheard when his guard was changed.

“So what's going on outside?”

“It's nuts out there. The priests are out.”

“What?”

Turn 126plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 126: A Demostration of Power

It was two hours before Townsman Silnquost arrived. Three guards entered with him and positioned themselves around Ziedon. These were not the same three who had pinned Ziedon before; they looked stronger, better trained, wore different uniforms and bore higher-quality arms, the type one would expect to be with a man of

Turn 127plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 127: Recconoisance

Townsman Silnquost had promised information; Ziedon was hardly surprised when it didn't come. He was a prisoner here, however the townsman had sugar-coated it. But then again, waiting around for a few days couldn't hurt, especially if he really was a hunted man outside this building. He could escape when he needed to.

Book 6

Turn 128plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 128: A Friend

Kreemon left the fisherman's house thinking about Sahlman. The warrior was loyal to the two women, and wanted to serve this city. Both facts could be dangerous. Sahl could try to clear their names and earn a reward by turning Kreemon in.... Since he left first, Kreemon moved quickly off to the alley where he'd hid before, and waited. When Sahl left, Kreemon followed him all the way back to Sir F's, where he knocked on the door.

Turn 129plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 129: Korisca's Help

Kreemon spent the next few days caring for his wounds and Bork's, exercising as best he could in the cramped quarters, and spending a lot of time in meditation with Bork and in prayer. He asked Rheideielle to purchase him some new clothing so he could change his appearance, as well as some rations and equipment for when he left town. He supplied the funds.

Turn 130plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 130: A Changing Year

As soon as Kreemon left Rheideielle's house, a sense of peace washed over him. It was good to feel the open air, even if the make-up gave it a greasy feel.

The morning snow had become a heavy heat, which by evening, had given way to a thickening fog. This was both good and bad for Kreemon's chances of getting out that night. He'd be harder to recognize through the fog, but there would be fewer people coming and going, so the guards would be more alert.

Turn 131plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 131: The Shortest Path

It was the second night since they'd left the city. Fallen trees and broken segments of road had become common sights during the past days, showing that whatever had happened was more widespread than it had seemed initially. There were even a few cracks in the ground, though nothing nearly so vast as the great rift outside of Huerten. Just half a dozen feet or so deep, most of them.

Turn 132plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 132: Springing Ziedon

Maelbourg was well known for being a musical town, but Forgolon was a level above the rest. His mandolin never played a sour note. His fingers never missed a beat. And his voice was so flawlessly controlled, filling the crowded room so expertly, that even tonedeaf

Book 7

Turn 133plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 133: The Disappearing Trick

“Ziedon,” Kreemon said, “It is us. Korisca and Kreemon.” He chuckled. “We have come to rescue you.”

“Hi, Ziedon,” Korisca said. Strangely enough, she seemed perfectly calm in the presence of the man she'd feared for weeks.

Kreemon glanced at the desk before refocusing his attention on the door.

Turn 134plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 134: Korisca's Claim to Townsmanship

In the morning, Ziedon gave Korisca some money. “I am famished,” he said. “Would you please be a dear and go get us something warm and filling to eat? You could also see if there are any rumors about last night, or any news. In the meantime, I need to review some of my notes. Please do not disturb me.

Turn 135plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 135: The Northern Gate

After Forgolon left, Ziedon called Tah'iera to him. Within moments, the strange bird landed on the window sill. “Please follow the man who just left,” Ziedon said. “Let me know where he goes.”

After Tah'iera flew off, Ziedon said, “Korisca, Kreemon. I don't know how long this transition period is going to take. I would very much like to get my necklace back from

Turn 136plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 136: Desecrating the House

In the morning, Ziedon woke up to an icy breeze -- again -- and lashed out. “Who keeps opening that damned window? I was freezing all night long.”

Kreemon stood up and stretched. “Sorry. I like the fresh air.”

“Well bloody hell. I am not going to be much use to anyone if I catch a cold, now am I? And what about

Turn 137plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 137: Digging up Galgewe

Kreemon and Korisca left a quarter of an hour after Ziedon, shovels strapped to their backs. Korisca led Kreemon through back streets, taking a different route than they had the day before, to get to the old North Gate.

Four priests were standing in clear view around the Temple of

Turn 138plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 138: The Hidden Army

The invisible mist wafted through the corridors, passing priests and parishioners without their knowledge, but it moved slowly, like a light breeze with direction and purpose.

The mist passed through corridor after corridor, then through the reading rooms, and into the great entrance hall of

Turn 139plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 139: The Transformation

Ziedon woke once again to a stiff breeze. He had fallen asleep sitting up, but now he was lying on the hard floor, his cloak wrapped tightly around him. He glared at the open window, working life back into his fingers. The sooner they could get to that boarding house, the better. Kreemon could have the room without the fireplace. Let him freeze as much as he wanted.

Turn 140plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 140: Interrogating a Spy

When the man faded back into visibility next to him, Ziedon took his belt pouch and looked inside. There were only a few coins, which made sense given the man's common appearance. There was nothing to indicate who he was or where he was from.

Ziedon tied the man's hands behind his back, tied his feet together, and gagged him with a strip of cloth from his shirt. Then he searched his body thoroughly, even to the point of looking in his shoes and under his shirt. Other than a dagger that looked …

Turn 141plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 141: The Merchant from the Eastern Kingdoms

Ziedon made it to the Silver Sign unmolested. He received a few funny looks from passers-by, and a member of the town guard followed him for a short time, but he was otherwise left alone. The tavern and boarding house was easy to find. The rusty iron Sign of

Turn 142plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 142: The Battle of the Magics

Ziedon sucked in a deep breath of air. His fingers moved nimbly in the motions of a spell as he replied in a cold tone, “For your transgressions, my wrath with shake the earth and blot out the sky! My friends will defend me against your evil!”

“Your devious tongue will only enhance your suffering,

Turn 143plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 143: The Song of Destruction

Kreemon woke up hurting all over. He lifted himself slowly, only realizing he was lying on a table top when his motion unbalanced the makeshift stretcher, twisting it out of Ziedon's sore and tired hands, and sending it crashing to the ground. Kreemon rolled a couple times on the ground before colliding with the filthy wall of the alley. Weak from his many wounds, he lifted himself carefully on the palms of his hands, and saw

Turn 144plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 144: Gathering Support

The day got worse and worse for Ziedon. The volume of the chant became louder, until at times it was almost impossible to concentrate. It would then soften, but never as much as the last time. Ziedon felt he was running out of time to deal with this problem, and given how the last fight with the priests went, he would probably need help, and a good plan. He had just decided that, when the chanting reached a crescendo more powerful than any before it.

Turn 145plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 145: Kreemon's Mob

“We'll drop you off at the boarding house and then go to Silnquost's guild house.” Kreemon chuckled, remembering how he started his current trip to Maelbourg. “I think we know how to get there.”

Kreemon and Korisca escorted Ziedon back to the boarding house, and then headed to the public guild house where

Turn 146plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 146: Confronting the Sign

While Kreemon stirred up the crowds of Maelbourg, Ziedon lay in bed, tied down, repeating over and over to himself that it was all a bluff. The music in his head, the rapid slipping away of his magical knowledge, it was just a trick. The mages from Forgolon's song were driven mad by the song and its effects, and either committed suicide or attacked the priests, which was just another form of suicide.

Turn 147plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 147: The Golden Priest

Ziedon looked down at his bound body and then up at the others. “I just had a very unique dream; I am not sure if I made things better or worse. Could you please let me up?”

While Korisca untied him, Ziedon said, “Tah'iera, I need some additional mice, or other small creatures, to replenish my supply of skulls. Could you please go find me some? If you could also please do a quick turn over the woods outside of the town walls, I'd like to get an idea of what is going on with the army that is out…

Turn 148plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 148: The Dream World

At the safe house, Ziedon unloaded his gear and then went through some stretching exercises to relieve his sore muscles. “Where is Kreemon?” he asked Korisca.

“He's out finding a place on the other side of town, in case we have to split. Ziedon, what was all that out there? I've never seen anything like it. That priest

Turn 149plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 149: Spreading Rumors

It was late morning when Ziedon came out of the dream. The sun was showing through the clouds, and the muddy streets were slowly becoming navigable again, despite the occasional drizzle. Kreemon and Korisca knew that the next day at midnight, the earth would open up outside of Huerten

Turn 150plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 150: Ziedon's Plan

It was finally the day of the earthquake. Kreemon, Korisca and Ziedon woke to a chill draft and flurries of snow outside, but they knew it would get hot later in the day. Their new boarding house wasn't nearly so well situated as the last one, being far from the walls and

Turn 151plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 151: The Earthquake, Again

“Ziedon's been gone a long time,” Korisca said, looking out the window into the ever-thickening fog. The earthquake was less than an hour away. At that moment, Tah'iera, Ziedon's demonic-looking bird, landed on the window sill. The bird looked into Korisca's eyes, then flew the couple feet and tugged on her shirt sleeve.

Turn 152plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 152: Another Use for Galgewe

The next day dawned to clear skies and a Maelbourg only slightly worse for wear. There were a few minor injuries, and one person had gotten lost in the fog and fallen into the river and drowned, but buildings, for the most part, still stood upright. The streets were a mess, but by early afternoon, most of the fallen lamp posts, broken carts and winter boarding had been picked up.

Turn 153plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 153: Vanquishing Evil

Kreemon kept his cloak wrapped around him and quickly made his way back to his room, frequently making sure he wasn't followed. He checked in with Korisca to get news of the town. Not much had happened while Kreemon was gone. People were still camped outside

Book 8

Turn 154plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 154: The Sailor from Marais

Cundee wasn't sure why he'd agreed to carry a passenger he'd known nothing about. Especially on this last big venture before the winter, when any delay could cost him dearly.

From the time he'd picked him up in Gerenois Harbor, just two hundred miles from Marais, he'd been trouble. It wasn't anything he _did_, precisely, but the crew were uneasy around him, and some of them blamed him for every little thing that went wrong. If only he _were_ responsible,

Turn 155plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 155: An Unexpected Detour

Progress up the river was slow. After an anxious day waiting for the ice to break, a day of sweltering heat sent torrents of melted snow downstream. The next day, rain fell so heavily that what little progress they'd made the day before was lost.

Turn 156plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 156: The Army and Balban

Cundee selected a barge crewman and one of his own for the shore party, and directed them to take some supplies and the closest thing to a tent and bedding as could be rigged from the barge. He also took along a few samples of the cargo. Late in the afternoon, they set off, and made camp in the dark, not too far from the army, but far enough that they wouldn't be heard if they kept their voices to a whisper.

Turn 157plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 157: The Preceptor's Day

Preceptor Halaren arrived in Maelbourg on the first day of the one thousand first year of the Zioth. The previous priest, a timid man in his thirties whose gray hair and tired look made him seem fifty or more, spent only two days training Halaren before he left town. Now that whichever higher-up he'd offended had forgiven him, he wanted to leave as quickly as possible. This left

Turn 158plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 158: The Andrithan Townsman

Before bed, Halaren had some chores. He walked from the temple to the garden nearby, his wooden bucket in hand. From it, he produced a carrot wrapped in a greasy cloth from the kitchen. He rubbed it in the soil as he prayed for the Mother to look after her children, then buried it in the ground.

Turn 159plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 159: How to get away

Kreemon wandered around for the rest of the day, sometimes as a wolfhound, other times as a man. The tension in Maelbourg had been rising for weeks, and it was finally breaking. Some people were bleary-eyed like they hadn't slept in weeks, and others were overly energetic, but almost everyone was happy. The music that was a constant background in

Turn 160plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 160: Lelen Meretal

Clouds moved rapidly overhead. After some time, Cundee, pacing up and down the length of the raft, trying to keep spirits up, saw a man approaching, in a simple tunic, muffler and cowl. The man looked to be in his late twenties, and stood wide and heavy, large feet and hands offsetting a comparably small head. Had he not been covered with muffler and cowl, his skin would have appeared pale and a little blubbery, tugging his facial features downward to give him a slightly sad and dim-witted appea…

Turn 161plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 161: The Barrier

Halaren lay down in bed, but couldn't sleep. He wasn't the only one; more than one resident of the temple paced back and forth through much of the night. At least the time passed quickly. It seemed like only a few hours before dawn arrived, and Halaren had to get out of bed again. He hurried through his usual morning appearances, then excused himself to sneak out of town again. He did not arrive at

Turn 162plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 162: Balban's Camp

Tah'iera returned to Ziedon to report where the journeyman had gone, and some of the conversation with the Messenger. Tah'iera also mentioned that there weren't many other birds about, and that those that remained were very confused about the barrier dome. It went all around the city, for about a mile in every direction.

Turn 163plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 163: A Difference in Viewpoint

“Journeyman Lelen,” Ziedon said. “How nice to see you again in such different garb.” Kreemon stepped around and to the side, taking up a flanking position.

The Andrithan priest shifted his weight and adjusted his clothing, an uncomfortable grin on his face, but no sign of surprise or alarm.

Turn 164plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 164: A New Friend

Kreemon wasn't too gentle as he ripped out the crossbow bolts and searched the priest and the thatched pack he'd dropped at the beginning of the fight. There was a lot of worthless junk - an old bedroll, a winter blanket, a bucket with a strange symbol carved in the bottom, some candles, a fishing net and a piece of reflective metal possibly used for shaving. There were packages of herbs that

Turn 165plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 165: Rousing the Dead

After a bit more discussion with the Preceptor, and watching him carefully apply mud from his jars to his own wounds, Ziedon heard a rhythmic tapping at the door and knew that Tah'iera was back. In a squawking language that Ziedon seemed to understand, the bird told him that there was one fresh grave in the

Turn 166plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 166: Just a Lot of Books

Sometime later, Ziedon opened his eyes to the dark interior of the Temple of Andritha. He felt well-rested, if a little stiff and disoriented. Was it morning? There was no way to tell. He picked up his spell book and turned the stiff pages one by one, looking for spells that would be useful that day. An hour or so later, he stepped out of the study, leaving the skeletons behind, and gathered everyone to the south side of the temple.

Turn 167plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 167: The Door Behind the Ribbon

“Excellent,” Ziedon said, looking down into the dark hole between the bookshelves. “Would one of you see where the stairs leads while the other keeps watch on the door? I will have a quick chat with those captive priests and then we will continue onward through this secret passage.

Turn 168plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 168: The Old Library

Kreemon walked around the edge of the disgusting pond, looking for any signs that the priest entered it. There were none. Unless Halaren was an excellent leaper, he wouldn't have been able to avoid leaving footprints in the muck. Just to be sure, Kreemon stood still for a while, watching for any ripples in the water that would suggest something larger than a frog or snake hiding in there. Again, nothing. There were a few shallow caves and quickly tapering tunnels in the chamber, but nothing larg…

Book 9

Turn 169plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 169: The Foreign Tutor

Frost hung in the air as Corbyn's breath escaped from the hood of the cloak. 'Even the weather here in Maelbourg is dour,' he thought as he wove his way around the House. But the unusual chill was not enough to stay him from his business -- he needed a new set of rooms. The widow Turen's house had been accommodating enough for a solitary lodger, but the old woman was a bit too nosy for his tastes and he suspected keenly interested in the comings and goings of her lodgers. No, a place with a bit …

Turn 170plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 170: A Job From F

The sting of being abruptly let go by Argol still stirred and burned inside Voss' heart. He was certain that he had made a good impression upon his employer. He was certain that he was worth more than at least half of Argol's retinue.... his careful, experienced study of the other men had revealed to him that most were paper soldiers

Turn 171plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 171: Playing Politics

After some minor preparations, Corbyn left for Grabble's, and Voss soon after. It was near the west gate, Weret had said, and it turned out that was all the direction they needed. Grabble's was the first inn one would come across, walking into town from the west.

Turn 172plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 172: The Mercenary's Refuge

Ramzi hoisted his end of the tied pile of planks onto his shoulder, and led the way to the townsman's house. He hadn't been told which townsman, nor did he care. In Maelbourg, the best most outsiders could hope for was manual labor. Fortunately, Ramzi had never been afraid of hard work, and no job was too menial for him. All he desired was food in his belly, a roof over his head when possible, and an escape from his violent past. After two years on the run, the weight of being a constant fugitiv…

Turn 173plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 173: Two More Pieces of the Puzzle

That evening, Ramzi was refueling the hearth in the common sitting room, when a giant of a man barged in, and demanded in a thick accent to speak with the head server. The accent seemed familiar, but Ramzi couldn't quite place it. It was certainly not from anywhere in

Turn 174plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 174: The Oddest Storm

Ramzi overslept. He didn't realize it at first, but after the large cloud passed overhead, the sun shone in brightly. The morning was half gone. He hurriedly got dressed and ran to the Stone and Fire. This time, Fennel did get upset. Doing one useful thing didn't give him the right to get all high and mighty.

Turn 175plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 175: Meeting the Preceptor

Corbyn and Ramzi arrived at the temple to find that someone had done their job for them. Broken boards swung from the sides of the door, and from the looks of it, the door had been forced open from the inside. The sound of a shovel digging through hard ground came from the garden outside the temple.

Turn 176plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 176: The Sky is Falling!

Corbyn opened the door to his barn and found a letter on the floor inside, tied to a pouch of coins. The letter read, “You've made good on the bargain, and so will I, but our meeting will have to be delayed due to weather.” It was signed, “F.”

Turn 177plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 177: Tala's Prophesy

The night draws ever closer, the Zioth is at hand, In the land completely overcome, Resigned to peace, prepared for war, An ancient plague contained.

Tala had followed the prophesy for close to half a year. It had been summer in the Seven Nations when he'd left. Now it was winter, and the strangest winter he had ever seen. First was the blizzard, then the rapid melt leaving mud everywhere. Then an earthquake, which had allowed

Turn 178plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 178: The House Guard

All the younger boys bunked together and served or studied in whatever way they were told. Like Gil, these were mostly the firstborn sons of converts to the faith. Their fathers, for a variety of reasons, had undergone the difficult conversion required to join the faithful. Those men who could not also make a meaningful donation in coin or labor, offered the promise of their firstborn sons. It was no honor to come in to

Turn 179plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 179: A Footprint in the Wall

At the sound of the approaching strangers, the guardsman yanked his hand away from the wall and spun around. Emotions flickered across his face that were hard to read. Fear maybe, or shame, but also a strange kind of dreamy wonder. All that was gone in a moment, and soon the handsome, broad-chinned visage wore the stony look of one used to standing watch. He stood perfectly straight, and his hand went to his sword, though he did not draw it.

Turn 180plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 180: The Rotted Oak

It looked like a fire had torn through the forest, yet the ground was covered in jagged chunks of ice. Halaren rested against the trunk of an oak tree whose branches, stripped off by some unknown force, were scattered on the ground around him. Many of them leaned against other similar trees, making the forest floor difficult to navigate.

Turn 181plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 181: A Dark Passage

Gil watched first in confusion, then in horror, as Voss was drawn into the tree. Finally, cursing himself for being so slow, he leaped forward, dropping his sword and grabbing the barbarian's right elbow which protruded from the wood. Bracing his feet against the outer portion of the tree, he did his best to pull the huge man free.

Turn 182plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 182: The Glass Room

“'Tis a glass goat!” the priest observed as he rounded the corner. He stopped next to Gil. “Your sigil. Your former sigil. Can you open it, sir?” Without enlightenment from Gil, Halaren looked around. The mechanism was quite beyond him, but chains were simple. They were like strong rope.

Turn 183plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 183: Averting the Signs

From the looks of it, something had long since grown and died in that room. Crumbled branches lay strewn about, and powdery dust that may once have been leaves or moss coated every surface. In the middle of the room was a solid stone desk whose edge was carved in the likeness of a snake, and beyond was an empty bookshelf.

Turn 184plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 184: A Secret is a Secret is a Secret

“Well,” the priest muttered, looking into the crowded room, “I suppose they have enough people in there.” He turned and walked the dark tiles towards the entrance portal to keep watch for the sorcerer and his unholy pets. He passed by Voss, who was intently examining his wounds.

Turn 185plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 185: Hidden Treasure

“My word!” The Preceptor cried at the sound of the glass door grinding to a halt, and grabbed his chest. He took a few breaths and looked back up, dismayed. “And I suppose we won't be able to close this door again, either. We are drawing Thand a map right to us.

Turn 186plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 186: The Song of Eternity

The blades shot out towards his neck--

--and struck the snakes. They weren't blades at all, but rather blunt blocks of shiny metal. Were they just there to tighten the collar? Gil felt the floor giving way under his knees. Instinctively, he spread out, searching for anything he could hold on to so that his neck wouldn't snap. There

Book 10

Turn 187plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 187: A Changed Maelbourg

Ziedon awoke from a dreamless sleep to a painful pecking on his chest. He opened his eyes and shut them again. His head was pounding, and his eyes felt like they were glued together. The next time he opened his eyes, he saw a blur that had to be Tah'iera. Next to him, Kreemon was sitting up with his head between his knees, trying not to vomit.

Turn 188plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 188: Finding Old Friends

Ziedon set the six items from under the House in a circle. He crushed a pearl over each one, and meditated, allowing the dust to sink in and reveal the power of the items. To Kreemon and the rest of Maelbourg, a full, exhausting day passed, but Ziedon's spell measured time perfectly. Exactly six true hours passed. By the time Kreemon cleaned and hid the bodies, found that no jeweler would open his doors, and returned, the ritual was complete. Both men were tired, but

Turn 189plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 189: Following the Paths

At any other time, Kreemon would have had an extremely difficult time disguising his activities. The wheelbarrows, the one active laundry in town not accepting customers, and above all the stench, would have been too conspicuous to ignore. As it was, though, no one wanted to investigate. There were too many more important things going on. After he'd cleaned enough bodies and wheeled their bones to his hiding place near the boarding house, Kreemon returned home. He wasn't surprised that

Turn 190plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 190: Disguised as Priest

Hours, or more likely with the altered passage of time, days later, Ziedon found Kreemon asleep in his clothes, with the open shutters letting in the chilly air. It was dark outside, some time past the middle of the night. Ziedon studied his spells by candlelight, then waited for Kreemon to wake. The moons moved across the sky. Shadows formed and slid across the floor. No more than two hours could have passed, but it was noon. It was incredibly disorienting to have the sky completely ignore

Turn 191plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 191: Followers of the Sorcerer

Kreemon opened the window and sat down in front of it. He could see the Paths, whether he wanted to or not. Where and when did they go? The paths were narrow, winding and endlessly intertwined. The hardest to follow led through time, but how far, and in what direction? At this point, all he could do was guess.

Book 11

Turn 192plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 192: The End of Eternity

Darkness.

Silence.

Gil's arm was outstretched, the stone key still in his hand. He couldn't move.

As much as the moving stone snakes had disquieted him, Corbyn felt it important to try and close the gap, get closer to the pillar. He still held one end of the whip, but he couldn't pull it. Was

Turn 193plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 193: Changes

Corbyn leaned back down the ladder and held his finger to his lips, gesturing at the others. Once he had gotten their attention, he used a free hand to form a shape: the legs of a man. He repeated the gesture for quiet, and waved upward, then he slipped out the opening as quietly as he could and glided over to a spot out of sight of the one open chamber, hoping to make a better assessment of the situation before things came to a head.

Turn 194plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 194: The Mage and his Balowan

Halaren had been silently watching the dialogue with the priest unfold. Any word could be the last, and he worried about their fate once talking stopped. He looked down the hole where Tala looked back up at him. Voss's sword was still on the floor. Obviously he did not get the meaning of

Turn 195plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 195: Taking a Stand

Voss's refusal to enter the cell made Corbyn nervous. “Again, sir,” he said trying to deflect a bit of attention, “my friend here is not a Balowan or whatever you call it.” He looked at the awaiting room. “Looks more like a waiting room to me, Mr.

Turn 196plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 196: A Long Time Ago

Halaren beamed and shouted with a wave as the family departed, “'Tis so! He will show kindness, and know kindness in return!” Even without speaking the name of the goddess, he was pleased to share some of her teachings. Returning to his friends, he attempted to reveal the year.

Turn 197plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 197: The Initiate

Arnell Trent had been an initiate of Brundash for close to a year. Born in the foothills of the Kourels, in the heart of Andrithan land, he had been a sickly child, and as such, fell into a life of scholarship and calligraphy, rather than the martial path his brothers took. He learned early on that he had an affinity for magic, and thus had been entrenched in

Turn 198plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 198: Magic for Magic

“Corbyn, may I see your wound?” Halaren sat him down near a pile of dried manure and proceeded to clean his wound. “Blast. I need more ointment.” Corbyn wondered if that was how he referred to the herbal mud their healer so generously rubbed into people's wounds. He became even less comfortable as their healer eyed the manure.

Turn 199plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 199: The Andrithan Healer

“Arnell, is it true?” Voss asked. “Corbyn, why would you accuse him of such a thing?

“Just being cautious, Mr. Voss. It seems Sir Arnell did something -- not necessarily malevolent, mind you -- but he realized something and I would like to hear from him that this is indeed the case.

Turn 200plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 200: Where to Find a Secret

They continued to exchange information over the next hours. Arnell asked each of the others about their backgrounds, and was rewarded with stories of Tala as a wanderer from the east, Voss as a member of the savage Vhoosch tribe, Gil as a House Guard of Morenth who had felt drawn to

Turn 201plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 201: Yunim

Other than its location on a map, Yunim had very little in common with Dunweig. This was a city, packed dirt and cobblestone roads congested with people, mules dragging carts and wagons, and even a few horses carrying the wealthiest guild masters and merchants. Of course, horses would be far more common four hundred years later, when the harness would be perfected.

Turn 202plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 202: A Splash of Water

Arnell woke with a start, sitting blot upright in bed. In truth this wasn't that unusual. He immediately felt abuzz as if the day was to hold something special. He quietly opened the window shutters to let the early morning light into his small, orderly room, dressed and went through his usual morning routine. Soon he was sitting over his spell book in deep, silent concentration. It did not do to flaunt magic. Anyone knocking on the door would have assumed he was still asleep for the response th…

Turn 203plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 203: Risen Kanal

Halaren settled back into the dark corner of the bench, the smile fading from his lips. He let an internal well of confusion, emotion and voices of the past fill him and take him over. His face pinched together, like the wringing out of a cloth. In a minute he was near to tears, but his thoughts were already being collected. The order of

Turn 204plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 204: A Hasty Exit

Halaren breathed in deeply and exhaled with vigor as they emerged from the confines of the temple. He seemed genuinely pleased with their meeting with Risen Kanal.

“I really thought we were in trouble there,” he said. The beaming priest turned to the others to see what they honestly felt about what had transpired.

Turn 205plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 205: The Death of the Spies

The enforcer's visor hid his face entirely, so any expression he wore while riding at his rapid but even pace towards Arnell was invisible. It almost seemed that the enforcer would ride right past the beaming and smiling man in the center of the road, but he reared his horse at the last moment. Those townspeople close enough to see backed away silently, watching with interest while ensuring that no one could possibly associate them with what was going on.

Turn 206plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 206: Never Touching the Ground

Corbyn swiveled to Arnell, focusing on the dapper man to the deliberate exclusion of Halaren's gruesome workplace. “Perhaps there may be no need to run. We have certainly borrowed the carriage and horses, but I would not quite say they are stolen yet. The carriage could be returned certainly, but the owner is a good deal less likely to want it back. Some coin might be preferable. And more to the point Sir

Turn 207plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 207: Eluding Enforcers

While Halaren crossed the field, Arnell had several scares. The enforcer stayed still for the most part, but would occasionally move his horse a few steps one way or the other, or crane his neck to see what was happening. He was edging closer and closer to the place where his view of the silk would no longer be blocked. Then, just as

Turn 208plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 208: The Enclave of the Mad

After leaving Tala, they moved deeper into the forest just to be safe. The woods were inhabited, if very sparsely, and a determined enough enforcer might check each and every hamlet that was under the influence of Yunim.

They soon approached a clearing which seemed like an excellent place for a meeting, except that a group of a half dozen people was already there, around a single long hut with a grass-thatched roof. An old man naked to the waist sat on the ground, leaning over a large book. His…

Turn 209plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 209: The Blood Master of Gallia

Time passed quietly, aside from the occasional muttering from one of the Mad. Voss continued to pace around the edge of the clearing, watching for any signs of trouble. The strange residents of this camp did not seem to offer any threat, but the odd children made him uneasy, children who never entered into normal reality, despite changing positions occasionally. An hour passed, then two. The arrival of the group must have spurred an unusual moment of activity, or perhaps they were unusually quie…

Turn 210plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 210: A Question After All

Arnell finished up the food they had prepared and found a quiet corner to settle down in, grateful to be indoors at night. He checked the position of the windows and doors before sitting quietly and taking copious notes. It wasn't that he was unsociable, it was more that he had an evening and morning routine that he found hard to change. He also loved his sleep. If ever someone had wanted to torture

Turn 211plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 211: The Legend of Zilgard

When the sun's light began to filter through the trees around the clearing, and make its way into the open door and windows of the shack, the enclave of the Mad was silent. For once, all of them were sleeping or in their trance.

Arnell awoke as usual and looked around, surveying his surroundings. Going to sleep early had its benefits: he often woke with the birds, and aside from the dreams, his sleep was silent. He took out his books as he always did when he woke, and read, completely focused o…

Turn 212plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 212: Waiting in a Clearing

Risen Kanal hadn't specified where the Meeting would happen. He'd just said to look for a secluded place, so the group went deeper into the woods, away from the Enclave of the Mad and any pursuing enforcers or Morenthian guards. There was no sign of the elves they'd been warned about, at least no sign anyone would recognize. Four hundred years in the future, elves were a fairytale, commonly believed but with no proof. It was said they lived in the forbidding central forest of Huerten, a huge reg…

Turn 213plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 213: The Meeting

With the High Mage of Brundash just a few yards away, Arnell’s guard dropped. Not only was his long time hero standing in front of him, but also a great mage who could probably blink an eye and send Arnell to the netherworld. He tried not to look awestruck. Partly to indicate to the others that this mage was not to be trifled with, but mainly from his own respect for the man,

Turn 214plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 214: Brundash

The last time Voss stepped through a magic portal, he was impaled on the other side. Despite the uninjured magicians and balewans -- his own people, or some relation -- he was apprehensive, but if anyone could handle the brunt of whatever was in there, it was him. It was his duty to go first. Without any outward show of concern,

Turn 215plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 215: My Wandering Colleague

Arnell had bowed slightly as Belazan passed, but now stood to the side. Here, he held his counsel and simply listened as intently as possible, once again soaking up everything he could. He tried to study body language and perceptions. He waited, once again confident he was not the focus. He was getting used to it!

Turn 216plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 216: The Mad Mage's Curse

Outside, Fovery quickly caught up to Halaren. The priest recognized the mage's stance. It was obvious that high mage hadn't always been his profession. “What troubles you?” he asked.

Halaren sobbed as he leaned against what he thought was a tree, drawing in heavy breath. Nuts rolled from the bowl as his grip weakened.

Turn 217plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 217: You must ally with one

When Halaren left in the company of the High Mage Fovery, Corbyn and the others stayed in the stone pyramid for the night. Even Arnell was under constant scrutiny of the watchful eyes of the magi and Balewans who stayed with them. To Corbyn, being in the heart of a lost realm of magic and knowledge, yet being forbidden by the distrustful Cailena from so much as reading a common book was maddening.

Turn 218plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 218: Memories

“Milk?” the priest offered a cup to Corbyn when they were again alone. “It is a blessing from the Mother. Now, how do you feel?”

Corbyn reeled slightly as the initial effect of the potion took hold. Voss grabbed him by the arms and all but lifted the skinny fellow from the floor as he transferred him to a nearby bench.

Turn 219plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 219: The First Piece

Halaren held Corbyn's hand throughout the ritual. He hardly had a choice; the scholar held on with the grip of a woman in childbirth. Sounds and colors flew through the air as if they were solid things, and each time one struck Halaren by accident, it briefly held meaning

Turn 220plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 220: Gaping

The group awoke the next morning to find High Mage Fovery gone. In his place was a letter written in small, practical handwriting, practiced to conserve space, which was odd for someone who surely had no lack of ink or paper. Arnell read the letter aloud:

Turn 221plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 221: The Ancestor's Journey

These Storytellers were so strange in their approach to the truths around them. When looking at the truth, at the past and present, something was either true, false, or still in question. There should be no desire to meld the conclusions. What strange people to want to propagate lies into their histories for the sake of a narrative.

Turn 222plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 222: Raven Children

She visited all the Story Halls that night. The Halls weren't the only places stories were told, but they were the easiest places to find them. Finding a moment to speak with a Storyteller was much more challenging. The telling was a performance that was not interrupted except in prescribed manners. The listeners laughed together, clapped together, even sang together. It was an intricate ritual that

Turn 223plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 223: The Dream of Faulkan

The next day, Aldet knew something had changed in Gaping. It was subtle, but she'd been there long enough to have caught on to the patterns of everyday life. Had someone died? Had the peddler come into town off schedule? Had there been a fire? No, the first would probably have some ritual to go along with it, and there was none of the frantic activity one would expect from the later two. Well she was bound to find out eventually. Word spread quickly.

Turn 224plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 224: Strangers

After repairing her armor, Aldet headed into town late in the morning to keep an eye open for the strangers. They'd last been seen walking in the direction of the Polies, so she waited on that side of town. After meandering around for all of the morning and the early afternoon, she spotted them returning. They were very hard to miss. Even the blond one couldn't be mistaken for a resident of the village. As the group made their way through the paths, the young woman raised her hand to hail them a…

Turn 225plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTurn 225: The Gatekeepers of the Mouth

Gil, Voss, Corbyn and Halaren met up again the next morning with a renewed sense of urgency. Fovery's accelerated timetable meant they didn't have long to finish their business in Gaping. Soon, Aldet arrived with the news that Polinakas had been seen around town. This would not normally be unusual

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zioth:turn:195 [2015-06-21 20:22] (current)
Line 1: Line 1:
 +<​roleplay mode="​turn_data">​
 +turn: 195
 +title: Taking a Stand
 +start: 577/05/10 13:00
 +end: 577/05/10 15:00
 +hide_date: 1
 +posted_date:​ 2013-08-04
 +played_date:​ 2013-07-23
 +weather: warm, clear
 +location: under the House of Morenth, the city of Maelbourg, the barony of Huerten, the kingdom of Rang
 +xp_corbyn: 31100
 +xp_halaren: 31100
 +xp_tala: 26700
 +xp_voss: 28800
 +</​roleplay>​
 +
 +<​roleplay mode="​turn_start"/>​
 +Voss's refusal to enter the cell made Corbyn nervous. "​Again,​ sir," he said trying to deflect a bit of attention, "my friend here is not a Balowan or whatever you call it." He looked at the awaiting room. "Looks more like a waiting room to me, Mr. Voss, I think may be acceptable?"​
 +
 +Tala was hesitant to go in the room, cell or otherwise. What they called it didn't matter, it was effectively holding them in some place while being watched, and no liberty to leave as they pleased. It wasn't actually a good spot to be in. But the alternative was something he thought was probably worse. Maybe later, when they have talked on their options. "Yes, I think it is better to honor their hospitality."​ //For now,// he added to himself. ​
 +
 +The priest stared at Voss, who realized that was the first time the man had looked directly at him. Until that point, he had focused his attention on Corbyn, who he perceived as the mage and therefore the leader. His stare was one of disbelief, that anyone would disobey him. After a frustratingly long pause, the priest turned his back and stepped away, allowing his guards to fill the gap between him and Voss.
 +
 +Before they could, Voss dove at the priest, scooping him up with one arm and drawing his dagger with the other. He hoped to secure the priest in front of him, his own back protected by the wall, but he overestimated the man's size. While Voss tightened his arm around loose robes, the priest slipped out and landed in an undignified pose on the floor. "​Treachery!"​ He called out, his eyes on Corbyn rather than on his attacker.
 +
 +A few guards drew swords, spreading out to give each other room, and tried to put themselves between Voss and the priest. Voss recognized them as the less experienced of the bunch. How had they gotten the initiative? Was this a planned maneuver, sending in the weaker fighters first? In the crowded space, only one managed to actually connect his sword with Voss, but the cut stung, connecting and reopening two of the punch-holes made by the spiked wall.
 +
 +Corbyn looked at the priest, making sure to lock gazes with him for an instant. He shrugged and tried to look cowed and apologetic. Unfortunately,​ the man seemed as thick as a plank, at least in his capacity to reason. He had hoped that this Voice of Zioth might actually understand the device they had below and how it might have brought him here, but this stubborn priest had pushed Voss too far, and now the big man was in mortal danger and Corbyn had no idea how to fix it.
 +
 +He wasn't even armed, and even in the best of times this sort of fray was not something he was equipped to deal with. He prepared his body to dodge, angling to keep a guard between himself and that priest. The fellow had venom-tipped darts after all, and despite lacking any shred of evidence to that effect, he assumed that Corbyn was some sort of wizard.
 +
 +He ducked and weaved, trying to appear nonthreatening while he searched for a way out of this awful mess. Well, it didn't hurt to try one more appeal. "​Please,​ good fellows, can we not settle this without arms? We've tried to come here and talk peaceably, but this priest,"​ he gestured toward the Morenthian, "has done everything he can to silence us. Why is he hiding the things in that book from the House? Is there not someone of authority who will listen?"​
 +
 +"Oh dear me," Tala shook his head as he drew his weapons he preferred to use in combat, two kukris. "Hey, hey, I'm all for his idea. Talking is good. Yes? No?" He shifted to his right, closing on Corbyn'​s location after seeing the latter had nothing to defend himself with, and crossed his two weapons before him, taking a more defensive stance, but ready to strike should any of the guards try to harm him or any of his companions. "I do not wish any harm, but I will defend myself."​
 +
 +Halaren watched, devastated, as Voss reached the limits of his patience. There was no point in lamenting over it now. Even if they could talk down the situation again, it would only mean going back into the cell, and he was fairly certain Voss would need to be dead for that, or unconscious. As the situation exploded around them, Halaren stood at the back of the cell and contemplated the easy way. Turning on his ally and sacrificing him for the good of the group. But how could he even think of that? His eyes flashed up, locked in sudden resolve. The prayers of Andritha on his lips, he pulled out the borrowed sword and moved stealthily to the doorway. Let them be victorious if it was the will of Andritha.
 +
 +The barbarian roared as the priest escaped his grasp. Voss wheeled and dodged the guards pressing their attack. He was in the unfamiliar position of having missed his target and lost the initiative in battle.
 +Perhaps the ordeal had truly altered his sense of timing. //Spirits of health and endurance be with you.// Halaren'​s words echoed in Voss's mind. //The Andrithan should have prayed for speed!//
 +
 +With the guards on top of him, Voss barely had time to question any potential tactical disadvantage caused by the crystal room. Instead of thought, what passed through his mind was a curios analogy of a time-hangover. That train of thought ended abruptly as the guard'​s steel hit home. Voss howled in pain, filling the room with the sounds of agony. All thoughts of strategic execution left him as pain and rage filled his mind. Perhaps surrender would have been the better part of valor, but the barbarian would never know. He could only be what he was; a cornered, gravely wounded animal.
 +
 +Voss felt preternatural ability fill his body as the rage clouded his mind. Satisfying his anger by ringing angry slashes of his great sword against the guard who had drawn his blood was an appealing option but not the course he chose. No, Voss would focus his anger on the priest. After all, the only way to kill a snake was to sever the head.
 +
 +The enraged Voss sheathed his dueling dagger. With a feral roar he dove at the priest laying on the floor with both arms, no longer concerned about the man's physical well-being. The priest was just starting to get up when Voss fell upon him, whipping his head back down into the stone floor. The priest tried to jab Voss with a fistful of darts, but the normally thrown weapons were too awkward, especially while he was being tossed around.
 +
 +Tala parried the first swing aimed at Voss's exposed back, returning with a sharp stab under the armor that forced a cry of pain out of the stoic guard. Gil stopped a second guard and then slashed his sword into the first, biting into his arm. As Halaren'​s sword finished him off, it occurred to him that the sword pointed north. Where had that thought come from, and how had he known without any windows? No time to think about that now. The preceptor swung around and thrust the point of his sword into another guard'​s armpit.
 +
 +The four guards Voss had identified as being more skilled were hard-pressed to get into the melee. The two guards at the outer door rushed in and had the same problem.
 +
 +"This is all a big misunderstanding,"​ Tala said. "It really is. Can we not all just use words like civilized people? We are all civilized people here, are we not?" He then caught sight of Voss, who was busy grappling with the priest, smiled then said to Corbyn. "My bad. Apparently not."
 +
 +Three of the nearby House guards went for the obvious target -- the man on top of the priest -- but in the increasingly crowded melee, none could get a good thrust in. One sword ripped Voss's shirt a little, but slid harmlessly across the steel of his armor. Tala got three good slashes against the attacker with his smaller, more maneuverable weapons, and another guard was down, his sword skittering across the floor and bouncing off of feet.
 +
 +The fourth guard looked at Voss and decided to even the odds. He dropped his sword and dove for Corbyn, but the supposed mage deftly twisted out of the way.
 +
 +With his knee on the priest'​s back, Voss pinned the arm that held the darts to the floor and growled, "​Call.... off..... your... dogs!!!"​ He twisted the priest'​s arm around and stuck him with one of his own darts. The priest let out a yelp of pain tinged with fear, though there was no immediate effect other than few a drops of blood oozing out of the wound.
 +
 +The Andrithan Priest seemed altogether different in the heat of battle. His wit seemed sharp for this activity. He slid a guard off the end of his sword and readied for the next. The tunnel vision of combat had set in, and Halaren could not even tell how many guards were left. Several left standing, several on the floor. He heard Voss behind him, encouraging the Morenthian Priest to stop the fighting. It was admirable. The heavy-set warrior-priest pushed on, stepping over the bodies. If they could take the entrance to this chamber, it would be a good tactical holding point. He slashed at another guard with his sword, one who was now between him and Tala, cutting deeply into the man's thigh. A second slash was spoiled when another guard stepped back and bumped his arm, spoiling his aim.
 +
 +One of the more experienced guards finally made it in to the heart of the melee. Unexpectedly,​ he went for Corbyn rather than Voss. Corbyn dodged out of the way of his first lunge, but a second came with unanticipated speed and opened a gash in Corbyn'​s arm. 
 +
 +Voss drew his knife and put the blade to the base of the priest'​s skull. He met the gaze of his most recent attacker, and bellowed to the guards, "​Attack again and the Morenthian dies! Get back!" His command had no effect on the pressing guards. They didn't even seem to hear him. Either they didn't care about the priest'​s life, or they had been trained to ignore such threats.
 +
 +The priest winced and said, "​Stop."​ Immediately,​ the guards stopped attacking. They kept their swords at the ready, but waited for now. The room was suddenly very quiet. "​Release me," he said to Voss. "​Now."​
 +
 +"If we release you, the killing continues."​ Halaren stood tensed, sword dripping with blood. He could not believe the barbarian'​s plan worked. He kept his eyes on the guards, not knowing what to do next it this delicate situation.
 +
 +The adrenaline of combat was seething through the barbarian. Voss was aware of how precarious their position was. He had not intended for any blood to be spilled when he aimed for the priest. He was not about to surrender their hard won -- and only -- bargaining chip. "We get safe passage and you get your life, priest. Your chamber brought us here. We will not pay for the unwanted passage with imprisonment."​
 +
 +The priest breathed deeply, hesitant to say what he had to say. "You have attacked a priest and Ritual Minister of Morenth, and therefore your lives are forfeit. However, I have only a three hundred count to retrieve the antidote or mine is as well. Therefore you have won your freedom. You will be escorted from Maelbourg and returned to your fellows of Brundash. Now release me."
 +
 +This struck the barbarian as the best deal they could have wrought. Voss glanced towards Corbyn and his fellows for any sign of disagreement. Seeing none, he released the priest with a final retort. "My apologies, priest. Please heal thyself. But know we are not from Brundash."​ Voss rose and attempted to conceal how gravely he had been wounded during the battle. ​
 +
 +Corbyn tried to edge back slightly, to give himself a bit of space. While Voss rumbled, he tore his shirt sleeve and wrapped it around the substantial wound in his own arm. He nodded at Voss. "But in all honesty sir, we are not from Brundash. We will go without bloodshed certainly, but I have not lied to you about from whence we came. Maybe someday we can convince of that."
 +
 +Tala immediately sheathed his weapons. "Yes, yes, we truly are not from Brundash. I believe I have not ever set foot there. In fact, I am not even sure where it is. Where is this Brundash?"​ he asked Corbyn in a low voice.
 +
 +Corbyn shook his head as he pushed down on his arm to staunch the bleeding. He said back, in a low voice "​I'​ve no idea, Mr. Tala. I've scarcely heard of it, but being out in the world is better than being here, until we know what happened and find a way back." He wrapped another layer of cloth around the arm. The cut was surprisingly deep. It shouldn'​t be life-threatening,​ he hoped, barring infection, but there was a fair amount of blood. This was making him nervous. He'd taken some hits before certainly, and some probably worse than this, but he wasn't much for shedding blood, much less his own. Damn the time barrier that had destroyed the whip.
 +
 +"Here, let me help you with that," Tala offered to Corbyn. He removed the cloth and folded it so it was longer and thinner, then wrapped it around the wound with moderate pressure. "Does it feel tight?"​ he asked, adjusting depending on Corbyn'​s answer.
 +
 +Deep down, Corbyn wasn't sure if it would be smart to leave. This was potentially the only way back, and if this was the past. Who knew what kind of damage they could cause? But it was better than getting killed. This stubborn priest kept insisting he was a mage, which meant he would be the focal point of the attacks from the guards. And he couldn'​t take more wounds like this one. And, who knew, it might be fun to see where and when they had actually wound up. He knew the place was here now, and it might be easier to negotiate a return later, rather than to fight back to the chamber now, especially as he had no idea of how to use the chamber. That maybe could be picked up with a bit of study.
 +
 +Live and learn - the most important part was the living though.
 +
 +The priest rose to his feet, never offered a hand by the guards. No doubt they already knew his preferences. He turned his back to the newcomers and walked calmly towards the exit, though the moments of his life were slipping away.
 +
 +Halaren had mixed feelings about the developments. He had time to think about the dead, those he had killed. He lowered his guard. Tearing lose a swath of undergarment,​ he wiped the blood from his blade and tucked the cloth into his belt. He eyed Corbyn, tying off his bloody arm, and checked on Tala and Gil. They all desperately needed rest. Perhaps when they left Maelbourg. "With caution, Mr Fox. The upper hand we seem to have is shown us by our enemy. Ritual Minister, your discomfort short-lived if we may leave now. Will you send us through the secret exit that is near the room where we met?"
 +
 +The priest spun around, one hand on the wound in his arm, and stared at Halaren. "What secret exit?"
 +
 +Tala looked up at the priest'​s reaction. //Either that's a good one, or a bad one. But maybe it's one step closer to them believing us.//
 +
 +Halaren instantly regretted mentioning it. He simply thought returning the way they came would offer them the most immediate removal ​ from danger. He did not stop to think what their knowledge of this secret would imply, or even if it still held true in this place. He looked back at Corbyn for a moment, as if the scholarly young man could give him some hint of what to do next.
 +
 +He smiled thinly to the Minister and offered up what he could, "The one by which we gained entrance. Not far from the room where we met." The look on the Morenthian'​s face did not show comprehension. "In the alcove. With the trap. Here," he indicated Voss, "with the trap that left these marks on this man, and nearly killed him." Halaren was trying to be brief out of respect to the Minister'​s supposed poisoning, but obviously he was failing. "​Assign your men to escort us; we will show it to them as we leave. Yes?" He looked back at his companions.
 +
 +The Ritual Minister gave Halaren a squinting stare for several seconds, then turned and walked briskly away, soon disappearing from sight. Four of the guards formed up in front of the group, three others, including one injured, filling in behind as the group was led from the room.
 +
 +Halaren, coming of the high of battle, began to take up his usual concerns. "​Mister Fox, I cannot believe what you have been through. Why, you could collapse at any moment. Oh, why can I not get some hot water? Here, take this," he handed over a clump of his prized mud, "You know what to do with it."
 +
 +"Oh, and your arm, let me see that," he shuffled swiftly to Corbyn and inspected the wound, constantly threatening to grab or touch the bandaged arm with his free hand, but did not. "That seems good for now. We will get you mending proper once we are gone from here, never you fret." He stared at Corbyn for a moment with a smile, looking as if he wanted to say something.
 +
 +Halaren stopped and let himself fall back to the Morenthian guards. "Where is that guard whose leg I injured? Did he turn back? He ought have. Can you take this to him? 'Tis a treatment for open wounds, you just apply it under the bindings."​ His voice continued to be heard as the group marched along, talking to no one in particular.
 +
 +Responding to nothing, the guards marched back the way they'd come, getting curious but unsatisfied stares along the way. At one point, Voss glanced back and saw that five more had joined them. The seventeen men were a somber parade through the halls of the House of Morenth.
 +
 +After a long march, they passed through the two libraries, and were back in the long, dim tunnel that led to the Chamber of Eternity. There the guards slowed, waiting to be shown the secret way out.
 +
 +"Umm, which alcove is it?" Halaren looked anxiously at Tala and Corbyn. "Maybe you can tell me," he seemed now to be conversing with his sword. "Which way do we travel?"​
 +
 +"Did you mean the passage from the forest, sir?" Corbyn wasn't quite sure if Halaren'​s accidental description of a "​second entrance"​ was a critical error, or a potential benefit. After all, they did not know the "​right"​ way in to begin with. Of course, now that he thought about it, he could see that Halaren might have put them in a bind. They had passage out now, but if they needed to return here to access the chamber again, he doubted they would get a warm reception. Having a second way in, a secret way, would have the process a good deal easier. Even if stealth was unlikely to succeed with a large group, it would have allowed for a quick dash to the chamber before the interior guard could organize things. Corbyn frowned. "So much has changed."​
 +
 +Halaren nodded, then turned back to his sword which he swayed like a divining rod over the floor. The sword, if it was something magical, did not communicate anything to its wielder, but he did seem to have an uncanny sense of direction, even underground. "'​Tis here." Halaren had spotted the alcove on the way up, but piled high now with odds and sods, he could not be sure. With his sword still at the ready, Halaren began to clear the trapdoor.
 +
 +The guards immediately intervened. Halaren was pushed back into place, or maneuvered really, like a pebble in a bucket of sand. They simply filled in the area in front of him until there was no more room to do what he was doing.
 +
 +The guards seemed doubtful, in what little expression could be read in their faces, but their silent orders were clear. Bit by bit, they carried out brooms, mops, barrels, pots, crates and other items until the corridor was as crowded with objects as with people. As they went deeper, the items that came out were older. One crate broke open, scattering wooden scroll tubes everywhere. These were cleaned up to make room for even more.
 +
 +After half an hour of this, a priest arrived. "What are you doing?"​ he asked. "The Ritual Minister,"​ one of the guards answered. Unsatisfied,​ he stayed to watch, inspecting each of the invaders as if they were some interesting books or artifacts, and treating them as such, blind to their activities and deaf to their words.
 +
 +It was another half hour before the passage was cleared enough to follow it to the end. Three other priests had come and gone to see what was happening, but the Ritual Minister himself remained absent. The first priest to arrive, who had remained through the whole proceeding, entered the short passage which had apparently served as a storage closet for a long time. After a minute, he came out, his mouth and nose covered with his robe to keep out the dust. He examined the newcomers again, and settled on Corbyn. "You have wasted a good deal of time here. Will you explain why all of this old junk had to be disturbed?"​
 +
 +Corbyn was starting to wonder why he seemed to be drawing the lion's share of the attention. Had the Ritual Minister told this fellow that he was a mage, despite the absolute lack of any sort of proof? Maybe he should play dumb for once, though he was not sure how well he could pull that off. Maybe the best tact was to simply appear flustered -- easy enough manage in his current state. "Ehh, sir?" he said. "The ritual master said to show the guards how we stumbled in here, some kind of trick passage. We thought it was back here in this room," Corbyn pointed, "but it could be my brains a bit addled because I am still not sure what rightly has happened to me." Using his unwounded arm, Corbyn leaned forward to poke about in the debris, searching for any sign of the spiked portal that had nearly slain Voss.
 +
 +Halaren observed with a forced smile. He was amazed, time and again, at how these Morenthians reacted to their presence in the House. They seemed cross, like this mundane irregularity had added mild annoyance to an otherwise hum-drum day. No one saw them a part of some splendorous event, the recipients of some miracle. "​Mister Fox?" Halaren waved for attention. "Would you teach me that song from earlier? A little music might make the work go faster."​ He winked and grinned impishly.
 +
 +Tala remained silent in the background, trying not to attract too much attention and not do or say anything to cause any more friction. "No, I am sure it was this way," he finally said as Corbyn justified what they were doing. He still had reservations on what the effect of finding the trapdoor would actually have on the situation. But since they were already there anyway... "If it is fine with you, can I go ahead and search the passage? It might make this faster, since we know what we are actually looking for."
 +
 +"​Go,"​ the priest said. "And you," he added, gesturing to two of the guards. The addition was surprising only because unlike this priest, the Ritual Minister had seemed to have a silent understanding with the guards. They had simply done what they knew he wanted. This priest had to resort to actual verbal communication.
 +
 +Tala and the two guards walked along the passage, stirring up dust with the acrid smell of the rotting wood and paper they were stepping over and around. At the end, Tala examined the thin wooden pallet that covered the floor, and soon located the metal ring that was the handle of the trap door. It had been hidden under a soft piece of earthenware that had been seamlessly set into the wood, and painted so that the grain was replicated perfectly.
 +
 +"Ah, here we go," Tala said as he looked at the guards, patting the metal ring for emphasis. "Mr. Corbyn, Preceptor,"​ he called back down the passage. "​Please come and have a look at this."
 +
 +The Morenthian priest was the first to arrive. "Look at that," he said. "Could there really be a secret route I didn't know about?"​ He gestured to one of the guards, who pulled the door open.
 +
 +Halaren kept close to Corbyn, Voss and Gil following somewhere behind. "Did you find it? Can we leave now?" He arrived in time to see a guard shine a torch down the hole, then swing down on the metal brackets ​ mounted on the underside.
 +
 +"​You,"​ the priest said to Tala. "Show him the passage."​ Tala obeyed, only to find an empty room. The dull, slowly swirling colors of the portal were no longer there.
 +
 +Halaren waited nervously. There were simply too many people already in there. He half sat on an old crate and looked through the items that had been disturbed. Tala was taking a while. Why was everyone not moving?
 +
 +Corbyn kept the pressure up on his arm, making sure to wince in front of the guards and the accompanying priest. "​Perhaps we've become addled, but this chamber... I don't think it was empty before? Could we have picked the wrong passage, but I don't think so." He shook his head, attempting to portray a look of confusion. "​I'​m not even entirely sure how we got here now. But this room, it was hidden and forgotten, no?"
 +
 +"Oh, no no no," the Preceptor muttered. His hand fondled the pommel of the Andrithan dagger and he prayed quietly for a speedy and peaceful resolution to their predicament.
 +
 +"​But..."​ Tala tried to reason out as he looked down into the room below. "​But..."​ He looked at his comrades, then the priest, then back to his comrades, as if asking for an explanation. Then as he looked again and saw that it was still empty, he sighed and shrugged. "Now I am just confused as well."
 +
 +Halaren stood. "I will see. These men should not have labored in vain," he said, and descended into the small room. He searched every corner of the room. The iron slab that had impaled Voss was gone, as was the portal. Whatever this room had been built for, it had long since been emptied out. There wasn't any sign of anything having ever been there. Halaren quietly asked the sword Lodestone to help, but the sword was silent. He was not eager to give up, but it seemed that they had little choice. He looked discouraged at the others. "​Nothing. This place is not the place we knew. I have wasted our time and endangered us all. What should we do now?" He looked up to where the many guards waited for them.
 +
 +Tala was similarly disappointed,​ and perhaps a little more confused so that when Halaren looked at him, he simply shrugged and passed the glance to Corbyn.
 +
 +The senior priest, the Ritual Minister, had vanished into the complex - eager no doubt to treat himself of course. Corbyn was scarcely surprised that this "man of the cloth" was interested in only his own well-being. That meant he had not been bluffing about the poison, and even with an antidote, the man was probably going to sweat out an unpleasant hour or two. Too bad more priests could not be like Halaren. A bit of a lug, but he seemed to genuinely care about people. That meant these guards were at a loss, as the man who had given them their orders was not around to clarify them. This other priest had dropped by to butt in, but he did not outrank the Ritual Minister. Might be best to make the most he could of the confusion.
 +
 +Corbyn had been disappointed to see the hidden passage go missing. That was, in essence, a high card hidden up a sleeve. That had been the back-door to sneak back in if and when he needed, if he decided he had to go reactivate the chamber.
 +
 +And the Ritual Master had taken his book, an outcome which slightly vexed him, but not overly so. Corbyn still had the more important book stashed away, and he could remember everything of import that the snakeskin volume had said. Once he was away from prying eyes, he would write it down in the little golden book, just to be safe, but for all his other shortcomings his memory was still intact.
 +
 +So, he thought, let's get the hell out of here.
 +
 +Corbyn leaned to one side, catching himself and re-adjusting,​ to give the impression he was staving off a swoon. He turned to the eldest looking guardsman. "I am sorry sir, we thought the passage we stumbled into was down this way, but we are confused."​ He looked at his companions. "And I'm not sure our heads were fully sharp to begin with, something has muddled us and led us astray where we should not and I would prefer to take my leave of where I do not belong and where we might offend. Perhaps it is time to cast us out as the Ritual fellow ordered and I can start the process of finding someplace to lay my head and bandage myself?"​
 +
 +The guard said nothing, but the priest, peering down into the room below, answered. "A waste of my time." He looked up at Corbyn. "Yes, get them out of here. Escort them to the East Gate and see them off."
 +
 +The priest was the first to leave the alcove, followed by many of the guards. By the time the intruders got out, the priest was gone. Silently, the guards formed an escort and marched out of the alcove, into the large library, past the tapestries, up the stairs, and so on through the House of Morenth. The final steps brought them up a stairway to the outside, by way of a tiny shelter separate from the House, whose inner and outer surfaces were decorated with artful spirals of silver and brass, swirling around Signs of Morenth. Corbyn was almost certain this building hadn't existed before.
 +
 +It was early afternoon, on a warm summer day. Even the air smelled a little different. They were escorted to the East Gate through an entirely different Maelbourg. The House was smaller and much newer, and homes were larger and more spread out, with smoke holes rather than chimneys. The east gate was wide open, welcoming travelers and allowing free passage in both directions. This was no insular refuge, but rather a seat of power and wealth.
 +
 +As soon as they were outside the gate, the guards reversed direction and returned to the town, with a brief word to the gatekeeper. For the first time since they'd arrived in this place or time, the party was alone, on the wide road to what in their time was Huerten.
 +
 +Corbyn was happy to be free of the walls of Maelbourg. Once he was clear of the gate and the house guards had retreated, he began to relax a bit. His stance shifted, while the others could tell he was still obviously favoring his injured left arm, he no longer appeared woozy or shaky on his feet. And if the thin young man had any concern over being thrown back in time, it was not apparent on his face. Instead, he looked rather eager to get a better look at his new world.
 +
 +Halaren stopped and to look back through the gate. His eyes had been welling up as they walked in the open air, thinking about all that was gone. After a minute, he turned and met Corbyn'​s eyes. The band was slowly wandering away from Maelbourg, unsure where to go next. "I suppose I need not ask about the temple."​ He felt completely defeated, but without the mercy of death to quell the anguish. "It was... over there, near the north wall," he added for the benefit of the others, though no one else could hear his low voice.
 +
 +Corbyn tried to quell any overt enthusiasm as he looked at the Andrithan pastor. "Who knows, Preceptor? There may be a building there, there may not, or it could be a different structure entirely. Your temple is elsewhere now, not so much in physical distance, but in time. Best to worry about that when we can find our way back. On the positive side, while we are here you know no harm may befall your sanctum, because it lies beyond reach of danger as something that has not yet taken shape."​
 +
 +"I suppose you need not address me as Preceptor any longer. That implies... some position. But since I have nothing now, please just call me Halaren."​ He flashed a quick smile, "​Halaren the Healer. Until my Temple reappears."​
 +
 +Voss was exhausted. His injuries throbbed but this adventure astounded him. The sheer wonder of the 'same but different'​ feel of Maelbourg kept him going. Somehow, someway they had managed to survive. But what was that Western phrase? 'Out of the frying pan and into the fire?' It didn't matter. They were alive, by the will of the Guardian, they were alive. It was time to take stock of their situation and heal up. The Morenth priests were less than welcoming. Dimly, Voss wondered how his tribe would have greeted strange, unexplained visitors to their camp. Time would tell if the population at large would shun them, too.
 +
 +Once the group was alone, the barbarian spoke up. "Where can we take shelter? Andrithan, where would your countrymen be? I'd like to take you up on that offered tea."
 +
 +"And I would like to still have a country where from to offer it!" Halaren sighed deep and long, then straightened his posture and strode forth to join the others. "I am member of the Ecclesiarchy in Duerstadt. But that is on the other side of the Kingdom, on the North Sea. I would be glad to be out of Huerten and with any of my brethren."​
 +
 +"A capital idea, Mr. Voss," Corbyn said. "You -- and I to a much lesser extent -- are certainly a bit the worse for wear and could use a bit of a rest. I do think it behooves us to put some more distance from Maelbourg. I know in our time the House does not reach much beyond its gates, but why test that should that rather rude Ritual Master change his mind on matters?"​
 +
 +"As I see it," Halaren said, "we must go north. We can go straight north on the road to Forenzig, but after two days' travel that way ends in swamp. We will get a chance to regain our strength in a small town, then can travel the trails around the swamp in Fallar or Tallury. If escaping Huerten is our goal, then we head north to the border and into Tallury. It is but 4 hours' walk. Or if we keep to the main roads, then we must go east through Huerten City. I was only there once, and that was a different world. We should find a map. Unless we follow the roads, I could only wander aimlessly northward without one."
 +
 +Corbyn shook his head as he walked. "That would normally be the case Preceptor, or perhaps will be the case at some point in the future, but I myself have no idea '​when'​ we might be now. Any of those towns, or roads, or even countries might be in a very different state these days - if they exist at all. Have we arrived at a point before the Plague of Morenth, for example? Logic dictates, based on what we saw, that we are after the ancient times of war, after the secrets of the Zioth were split up, because the House has already built the chamber of eternity. And, it is after the little golden book was written, and after the House of Morenth was formed by the merger of two different religious organizations. But it is still not a lot to go on.
 +
 +I suggest that we keep moving for a while, maybe find some isolated hamlet or farm and try to obtain a room or two. I'm not sure precisely how we'll go about determining the correct year without raising suspicions from the locals, so we'll have to give the matter some thought."​
 +
 +Though he was no doctor, Corbyn could tell Voss bore serious wounds. The man probably would have been dead absent the ministrations of Halaren. The doughy priest, slow nature aside, at least had the hands of a healer certainly, and that could help make sure they staved off infection, probably the greater peril rather than the severity of the cuts and bruises themselves. And, though it had been in a heated moment, Corbyn was sure he had seen the priest use, or at least try to use, a magical charm. Certainly he seemed to be a safer subject to study than the rumored dark sorcerer.
 +
 +And then, when there was some measure of safety and peace, Corbyn needed to think about what had happened. He would transcribe the important passage from the green book, just to protect his memory, and then reflect upon the chamber.
 +
 +The Chamber of Eternity, from the accounts, seemed to have been designed to move Maelbourg and the faithful beyond the Zioth -- in other words, accelerate them through time. But after deactivating it, Corbyn and his fellow explorers had been moved backwards through time. Was there a rebound principal in effect? Or could it be something else entirely? What if the Zioth was not the end of the world, as the foolish readily assumed, but a rebirth? What if in fact, the period of the Zioth was in effect, a loop? Future Maelbourg might have broken free of the the cycle, but those who manipulated the Chamber itself instead wound up launched in the next cycle? Could this have been forward movement in time after all?
 +
 +Corbyn looked at his wounded, confused and demoralized companions. "Well gentleman, I can think of at least one positive arising from our circumstances."​ He waited for Tala to look up as well. "​We'​ve given ourselves a bit more time to learn about the Zioth and we don't have to worry about the end of the world, at least for the time being."​ He tried a smile.
 +
 +Tala looked silently at the sky and breathed in the fresh air of the outside world, bringing a smile to his face. They had been far too long inside those dark, dank tunnels, and he was a man who preferred the vastness of the world outside. Was it too long, or it did it just felt like it due to the series of events that transpired there, he couldn'​t know. Perhaps it was even illogical to think that it was "​long"​ since they should technically have ended up years, decades, maybe even centuries, before that time that those series of events started.
 +
 +As the others chimed in on where to go or what to do from that point on, Tala was clearly at a loss, and so he preferred to let the others lead the way. But one thing was sure was of their immediate concern, and that was as Corbyn had pointed out, determining where they where thrown back in time. He could still fill the disbelief within him as he ran those words through his head, but it was as it was. They were definitely in some other time than their own And he thought about how it exactly worked, Were they the ones hurtled back in time? Or was it some sort of consciousness projection, that they were experiencing these events of the past and are lying somewhere unconscious?​ He just shrugged as he could in no way find a definite answer for himself.
 +
 +"Mr. Corbyn is right. We should find out first and foremost when this is, so we could act accordingly. Though maybe it is not as hard as you say it is. I could simply act as if I had some sort of injury to the head that somehow got me not thinking straight, and ask for the time?" he smiled at the thought of his suggestion. "And yes, that certainly could be a positive for us," he replied to Corbyn'​s remark on having more time.
 +
 +From beside Corbyn, Halaren suggested, "you or Mister Fox. Someone with a foreign appearance. Unless they don't like foreigners. Well, we could all try asking. There is no shortage of people."​
 +
 +Halaren stepped away to talk to a small group of pedestrians. He offered some generic Morenthian greeting that he had learned during his many months in the city, then attempted his ruse. "I heard from an astrologer speaking in the market square; he had some good news for boys born under a certain sky. In what year was your young one born?" He smiled to the boy, who was busy looking at Halaren'​s dress and weaponry. He judged the boy was 10, possibly 11, so they would be able to calculate the current year.
 +
 +The couple only glanced at Halaren before pulling their son and cart along and continuing on to Maelbourg. Several steps away, the mother reconsidered and turned her head. "The five sixty sixth, in the planting month. Is my son favored?"​
 +<​roleplay mode="​turn_notes"/>​
 +
 +<​roleplay mode="​turn_end"/>​
 +
 +