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:199 [2015-06-21 20:22] (current)
Line 1: Line 1:
 +<​roleplay mode="​turn_data">​
 +turn: 199
 +title: The Andrithan Healer
 +start: 577/05/11 12:00
 +end: 577/05/11 14:00
 +posted_date:​ 2013-12-26
 +played_date:​ 2013-11-29
 +weather: warm, clear
 +location: on the road from Maelbourg to the Three Paths Forest
 +xp_arnell: 26700
 +xp_corbyn: 33200
 +xp_halaren: 33200
 +xp_tala: 28800
 +xp_voss: 30900
 +</​roleplay>​
 +
 +<​roleplay mode="​turn_start"/>​
 +"​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."
 +
 +Once the long embrace was was over, Halaren replied to Corbyn. "He swore to protect us, until he leaves us. For my part, I need no other convincing."​ He turned back and asked, "Did you really ensorcel me? Because I have had entirely enough of that!" Thinking about it, if he was under this traveller'​s thrall, he would not be so angry at the thought of it. But then again, that was the sort of thinking that an enchanted man would use to... ah... his head hurt. "I cannot see the future, but I know this man's intentions are honest. You may think that is no way to live, and you may think I endanger us all, but my intuition has kept me alive so far. My druthers is that he stay with us. Better under our watch than spreading news of our whereabouts through all of Maelbourg,"​ he looked to the others for some show of support.
 +
 +Corbyn took a couple of steps forward, moving closer to Halaren and the stranger, but no so close as to be within the latter'​s grasp. "​Pardon Preceptor, but just to be clear: Sir Arnell bears no resemblance to your tormentor Ziedon does he? Not that magic might not make a difference."​ Corbyn rubbed his ear as he spoke. "​Though I see no demon bird, but rather a marmot pet, my mind could be better at ease. Dark sorcerers can prey in the mind, as you have recounted to us. If you are under an influence, I urge you to fight it Preceptor. Remember Andritha!"​
 +
 +"None at all. And //he// needs not touch you to ensnare your soul. You need not even look into his eyes."
 +
 +Arnell stepped back. His own revelation made the conversation about his sorcery irrelevant. "How old are you? Corbyn?"​
 +
 +"How old?" Halaren answered, since Arnell was still looking at him. "I don't know, rightly."​ He stood, apparently unaffected by the awkward embrace, and started remembering back, tapping on his fingertips.
 +
 +Voss was thrown off by this new arrival'​s question, but he still answered with, "I was born in the year of the horse!"​
 +
 +"Near three decades, sir," Halaren said, "but why?"
 +
 +"What year were you born? I think there is a little explaining for all of you to do. No more half-truths."​
 +
 +"About thirty years ago." He understood the meaningless of his response and shrugged his shoulders. "Well, I really don't know. Corbyn, Gil, what can you tell him? I do think we need to be honest. But can we be honest while walking? I'll not be at ease until that place is a day behind us."
 +
 +Arnell was visibly frustrated. Halaren welcomed him, but then gave obtuse answers. He liked logical solutions, reasoned argument, patterns that wove together. He drew on patience and discipline learned through years of hard study, and calmed himself. He collected his quills and other belongings, putting them all back neatly in his backpack. He gave himself a little time. Drawing close to Cabal, he checked him over and whispered silently into his ear. Cabal turned southward, and began to trot.
 +
 +"​Um..."​ As dim as Halaren was, and knew he was, he also knew there was no good reason to send off the horse, unless it had a home to go to.
 +
 +The horse walked off, then cantered, then galloped along the dirt road, weaving slightly in and out the ruts, before turning towards the fields not more than a couple of hundred yards away. Oddly, without accelerating further, the horse appeared to run into the distance, getting smaller quickly, but without getting much more physically distant, as if running into... nothing.
 +
 +While Arnell packed, Halaren washed and inspect Corbyn'​s wound. As he did so, he spoke. "When I questioned this man, he spoke only the truth. You are wise to be cautious. But even if my mind was his, his answers were still nothing but truth. Trust that. I did not ask him his affairs, or his plans or desires. He will not turn on us while he travels with us. That we know. For everything else, we must all trust each other in order to advance."​
 +
 +Arnell'​s backpack was packed and he was stroking a small brown stoat. Playing with the creature calmed him visibly. "Go eat," he murmured, and the stoat disappeared into the undergrowth,​ running along the back of the last of the farmer'​s fields. "You are all on foot, so I will join you," Arnell stated, his composure returned. "You cannot be three decades old. It is not so, and I'm sorry, but I do not believe that none of you know the year of your birth."​
 +
 +"True, I look younger."​ Halaren pulled at his own plump cheeks. "'​Tis the extra weight that keeps the wrinkles away. But I assure you, my ignorance in the matters of numbers is real. Do not take it as disrespect, sir."
 +
 +Arnell looked around, and in a much more conciliatory tone, continued, "It would appear you have lots of stories to tell me as we walk..." ​
 +
 +"I promised as much." Halaren looked over to Corbyn to see if he would stop him. "What is the year now? 576?"
 +
 +Arnell interrupted over his shoulder , "​Summer,​ five and seventy seven."​
 +
 +"Here is a riddle. We were all seen leaving the city of Maelbourg yesterday. But before that, no one saw us entering the city. More precisely, we never did enter the city. If we were not born there, how could this be true?"
 +
 +Halaren left Arnell to think about it, and moved on to Voss's wounds. Soon, Arnell realized no one was walking with him, and he returned.
 +
 +Corbyn watched Halaren intently as he laid his hands upon Voss, in part wary of treachery in case Halaren'​s will had been taken, but more from burning curiosity.
 +
 +"No sign of infection,"​ Halaren told Voss. "That is very good. I have no more salve to treat you, and no more cloth to wrap it." The healer clapped his hands together and sent dried mud flying. "The open air will be good for it. Just leave the traces of mud on it for now." Despite Voss being a foreigner, and the ways of Andritha foreign to him, Halaren felt as though he needed to do something to make the big man feel like he was being looked after. He laid his hands onto his chest where the damage was worst and prayed to Andritha. He prayed in Sarnam, as it made him feel more like the Preceptor he was supposed to be. It made him feel... inexplicably good.
 +
 +Voss involuntarily took a deep breath. He’d barely registered the slight difficulty he’d had breathing since he’d run straight into a wall of iron spikes. Now it was gone. Something extraordinary was happening. Under his torn clothes, blood vessels sealed up. Torn muscle mended itself. Scabs flaked away, leaving new, healthy skin. Sword wounds healed until they looked days old, and the punctures from the spiked wall were gone. The others could see that something was happening, but only Voss felt it. When the Preceptor’s prayer ended, Voss felt almost whole again.
 +
 +Gil had been the first to perform such a feat, but he was as awed as anyone. This was further proof that he’d chosen the right path in attaching himself to Halaren.
 +
 +Voss was stunned to sheer amazement, stumbling backwards in disbelief fading to gratitude. If Halaren could heal, the Guardian must have blessed him, much like Gil. If the Guardian blessed him, he must be right. Halaren had stated Arnell was okay, then he was okay. But... Corbyn had accused Arnell of
 +sorcery! Was it true? Could there be //good// sorcery? After thanking Halaren and praising the Guardian for enabling the preceptor with such a miracle, Voss nodded towards Gil.
 +
 +"​Heavens!"​ exclaimed the priest. "It was just a prayer, Voss." It really wasn'​t. He had felt such a rush as he spoke the words. It was like nothing he had felt before. This energy, this goodness, had welled up inside of him and leapt through his arms into Voss. It left him both invigorated and slightly tired. Halaren stood confused and accepted the oddly heart-felt gratitude from his companion. He braced for another hug.
 +
 +This power seemed somewhat like Guillaume'​s,​ Corbyn thought, but considerably more potent. He asked, "How? What did it feel like? Did it taste of anything?"​
 +
 +"What did what feel like?" the confusion mounted. Finally, Halaren stepped up to Voss and wiped away the dried mud from his chest and abdomen. Simply a fine physique. Scarred and leathery to be sure, but not the hanging in a butcher'​s window it was before. "The, uh... mud packs have never..."​ he muttered and trailed off into silence.
 +
 +Corbyn, overwhelmed by the revelation, had to let it brew in his mind for a while. In the mean time, he would do what he always did in difficult situations -- talk. And Arnell was only one who seemed unaffected by what had just occurred.
 +
 +"Sir Arnell,"​ Corbyn said. "I fully understand your curiosity must be engaged. I assure I feel similar. I might be best suited to address your inquiries, but I have substantial reason for caution."​ He cleared his throat as he walked, taking care to keep at least two paces space between himself and Arnell. "​Honesty begets honesty. Are you a sorcerer? As you will gather, the only experience our little band has with sorcerers was with a decidedly evil fellow who forced the dead to walk. And not a day gone by, a more uncivil fellow threatened me with death and accused me of being a '​Brundash'​ and my friend a '​Balewan.'​ So please tell me what your magic did, as I'll hazard it conferred some knowledge upon you. Tell me what you know -- and are -- and it will be easier to answer you in turn, for without it you are only asking half a question"​ The hand returned to his left ear. "I assure you it is relevant. I need to know what you may understand and accept as possible. Tales of the fantastic would be lost on a farmer or merchant, not that I believe you to be either Sir, and 'tis no use for either of us for me to regale you with myths from madmen if you are not open to unlikely events."​
 +
 +"I understand that trust and respect take time to form, but gentlemen, with Andritha as my witness, I'm a man of my word. It is all a man really has. I have never heard of this Zeedone you refer to. Regards your accusation, Corbyn, allow me to ask you this. Are you a murderer? Is a sword evil for it is built to harm, maim and kill? I would say that swords are not evil or good. They are tools for a purpose. If //your//, if a //​man'​s//,​ if any person decides to use a sword to commit evil, then it is the man that is evil, not the sword, not the tool." Arnell returned to thinking about Halaren'​s words, and was weighing up every possible option he could think of regarding the conundrum of Maelbourg. He felt like pointing out that they had blatantly lied about Maelbourg, but thought better of it. Arnell wasn't aware that he had lied at all, but then, he had much less to hide.
 +
 +The healer, still in a fog, wandered into their midst. "​Forgive the interruption... Did you not see that? That miracle? It is the will of Andritha that we live. And to ensure the Morenthians do not find us, we must leave. Let us break camp and continue north. The North Roe is near. We can follow it to the crossroads of Elgony and decide there what to do.
 +
 +"​Arnell,​ please be patient with us. You probably feel on your guard here amongst us strangers, but know that we are the same, alone in this whole world. Neither side finds trust easily. You will hear my stories once we march again. And well said about the sword. 'Tis why you find no swords hanging from gallows or locked up in stockades. But it did sound like you were admitting to sorcery,"​ he gave a friendly warning.
 +
 +Arnell slowly bent down on the edge of the road, and sat once more. He looked up at Halaren, Voss, and the others. “Were your words real Halaren? Did your magic apply to yourself as well as to me? For it would appear this new brotherhood is quite broken.”
 +
 +Corbyn noted, "But he told you in advance what he was doing? I only sought the same explanation."​
 +
 +Halaren took a breath to explain the workings of the thimble, but stopped as Arnell raised a hand to stop further reply. "For over a year now, I have been traveling, traveling as aside from my brothers I have never been accepted."​
 +
 +"We may have that in common Sir," Corbyn said.
 +
 +"​Corbyn,​ I understand your concern, and I understand that we have just met, and I do not presume.... I do not presume that all is well in an instant. But know this: I am godly. I am an honorable man. Andritha the Mother created this world and I follow her guidance as much as Halaren, perhaps more. As you have seen from this thimble, this healing, these occurrences,​ that they have flown with her grace, her will and her guidance. You may question me, but then you question Andritha, you question God, and you question the nature of things."​
 +
 +"He does that," offered the priest. "​Scholars ask a lot of questions."​
 +
 +"I do not question Andritha,"​ Corbyn replied, "but I do ponder the nature of all things. How else does one learn about natural philosophy? And I am talking with you, not Andritha. I have not confused the two." His heavy-set ally nodded silently in support beside him.
 +
 +"I am no evil sorcerer."​ He looked about to pause, but continued quickly to deter interruption. "But I have learnt over time how to shape for good, how to call things, and how to move nature."​
 +
 +"Thank you sir, that confirmation is all I sought from you."
 +
 +"I was open to your group exactly because you also looked lost. I have not lied.Take me as I am, or Halaren is right, and we shall have to part what little company we have, but know that I would view that as a shame."​
 +
 +Halaren was starting to think there was far too much sparring going on here. Too many opinions and not enough humility. "Well, I shall let you two sort out your differences."​ He turned and walked out to join Voss.
 +
 +"As for your question, yes, the world spoke to me, and the word I got was that Halaren was older than the Zioth itself, and that, as we all know, is impossible. Therefore, I ask how old you really are, and what your story really is. I have my thoughts, but...."​ he trailed off. Arnell sat, hunched, almost pleading. He did not look his composed self. He looked forlorn, resigned.
 +
 +Corbyn'​s eyes flashed and his head snapped to attention. "​How..."​ he started, but did not finish. It looked like some thought was about to escape, but held back by hesitation. No. Not hesitation. He wasn't holding back simply to conceal something. Incomplete, that was it, he had a thought but something was missing from it, as if part of it was missing, some absent piece. At last, he rushed out, "How impossibly old? Please Sir Arnell, I need your insight to understand our place."​
 +
 +Arnell looked quizzically at Corbyn. "I don't understand? Sorry?"​
 +
 +"A number, Sir Arnell -- I need a number to work with." Corbyn'​s eyes darted to and fro at remarkable speed and his hand once again tugged his ear. "You said impossibly old. How old precisely by your reckoning? I need, I need some number to answer your question. How many years?"​
 +
 +"​Thousands and thousands, supposedly..."​
 +
 +"Do you know how many thousands?"​ Corbyn'​s question was hurried and strained. "​Though it is academic"​ he muttered.
 +
 +"One hundred fifteen thousand, eight hundred eighty five" Arnell suggested.
 +
 +This explained so much! But it raised a host of new considerations. He halted completely at the edge of the path. "I must think,"​ he declared and sunk into a crouch, taking a position almost like he was praying or meditating. He steepled his hands and touched his thumbs together to form the shape of a circle. He closed his eyes but the pupils moved rapidly under his lids. When Arnell tried to say something, he snapped, "​Silence,​ I need to concentrate."​ This was only time any there had observed even a touch of annoyance or anger from him.
 +
 +"​Mister Foss. Vox. Voss." Halaren stumbled over his words as often happened, "how are you feeling? I hope you are not at all anxious because of that... that miracle. I swear that sort of thing has never happened to me. Otherwise I would have given... I don't know, given you some warning?"​
 +
 +After five minutes of concentration,​ Corbyn laughed suddenly, stood up and immediately took up a brisk walk. "Thank you, Sir Arnell, I think I know enough to speculate at least. Can we keep up the pace now? I have a renewed sense of agreement with the Preceptor that more distance is better. And I think, Sir Arnell, I owe you an answer to your question!"​
 +
 +Corbyn strode briskly, as if he had never interrupted the morning'​s walk at all. "I cannot claim that I fully understand the state of things now, such grace is not likely possible for a mortal man, but at least I have found a bit of illumination in the all-encompassing darkness."​ He shifted his gaze on to Arnell. "I am very curious about the gift you describe, and have a score or more questions about it I would ask, but I believe it is your turn for answers. I apologize for the confusion of my companions, and for my own forthcoming comments no doubt. Speaking in riddles is not very helpful, but when is trapped in a mystery, that is the only way to answer. But I'll do what I can."
 +
 +"I am, from my own chronological perspective,​ 19 years old. The question of the year of my birth is a more opaque subject - more than you can imagine. An hour ago i would have told you that I perhaps had not been born yet - nor any of my fellows. Nonsensical as that may seem, it was the assumption I was working under."​
 +
 +Corbyn'​s voice fell into a ready pattern, as if he was once again addressing the students in his former schoolhouse.
 +
 +"But your revelation has changed that, and I have now considered an alternative - one beset with myriad implications. The best I can say now is that I was born in the year 982 on the calendar, in a prior cycle of the Zioth. Indeed, on a calendar basis, it could be that I am several thousand years old - having bypassed many cycles in the calendar. Incidentally,​ this has led me to consider that the Zioth is in fact a cycle that repeats itself - a possibility I had considered before, but one with out any proof prior to today."​
 +
 +"​982,"​ Arnell murmured, "but that would mean..."​ His fingers wagged this way and that. "​Maelbourg."​ So this was what Brundash had sent him to find...
 +
 +Corbyn pondered for a moment and then said. "I estimate that I was born, at least by the calendar, 115,875 years ago, and 114 cycles of the Zioth have passed since then." This explained a good deal. Of course writing in the Ritual Master'​s snakeskin book had not altered the copy that Corbyn had picked up, because they had not gone back in time at all and his book pre-existed the other copy.
 +
 +"You may simply conclude I am a madman, and that is your right. Though you will find my fellows to be equally mad, which would be an odd shared delusion would it not? By the way, it has occurred to me that it is important to keep moving. You are not the first person we have encountered in this age. The first person was a zealot and fool, but alas he took something from us. If he can perform the same feat that you can, upon examining the item he might realize his mistake, if he can divine its true age, and I've no desire to deal with him again in the short-term future.
 +
 +"I can proffer an explanation of this, or at least a theoretical explanation,​ but it has to do with the secrets of the Zioth. What little I know of the subject was obtained in forgotten and dangerous places, and it has occurred to me there might be those who hoard knowledge of the Zioth who might imprison or kill those who display knowledge of it. If were to share this with you, you should understand Sir Arnell you might bear the risk of being branded a heretic by certain faiths, or worse. I felt I should probably inform you of that first."​
 +
 +Halaren was relieved to see the two moving again, and in the same direction. But which direction they would end up traveling was still unclear. He smiled as Arnell approached, and joined his pace. "All worked out now?" Then quietly, "did I hear Corbyn say you would be right to conclude he is mad?"
 +
 +"​Enough of argument."​ said Arnell simply, and continued to walk. Arnell walked silently, deep in thought. The next time they stopped, he reached into his backpack, withdrew paper, quill and ink, and made some notes and jottings. Arnell sighed. He reached for Mustel, and a few minutes later the little stoat appeared. Arnell stroked and played with the stoat, his mind working overtime. When their rest was done, he said, "​Perhaps we should return to Maelbourg to investigate further..."​
 +
 +"The source of our current predicament does lie in Maelbourg,"​ Corbyn answered. "It is Maelbourg at this time and not Malaener? And it is why we need a bit of space at the moment to clear our heads. The House of Morenth holds the key, as it were. But before that, you did not answer my query. I can tell you more, but if I do it will contain what may be deemed forbidden knowledge and subject you to potential peril. I am unwilling to do so without your consent, Sir Arnell."​
 +
 +Arnell grinned. "You talk of magic and time travel, and worry of supposed forbidden knowledge. I jest in part, but please, go ahead, tell me everything."​ Perhaps Corbyn could grow on Arnell after all....
 +
 +Halaren hustled to keep up. "Good, good. What to tell you now," he thought out loud. "I could start at the beginning, but since I am still confused about this all, perhaps I should just get to the point.
 +
 +"We are fleeing the city of Maelbourg. The House might be interested in killing us all because of, ahh, a transgression. Or two. And there are two Houses: The one we entered, and the one we exited. The same, but different, and somehow we stepped from one to the other. I liken it to a distorted mirror image, but Corbyn thinks we jumped into the history books -- they did have very large libraries."​ He went on, giving a jumbled account of a confusing situation. Arnell could tell that Halaren was better at simply accepting things as they were than deducing what they meant. Still, he tried his best to relay the events that unfolded, stating from the time of his meeting the others. He also mentioned that he had studied the Zioth for many years, though a scholar he certainly was not.
 +
 +He had gotten as far as the magic portal which has thrown Voss into a spiked wall when Corbyn decided to interject. Arnell seemed to possess some degree of education, and as entertaining as Halaren'​s rendition was, Corbyn guessed there was only so much unintentional misinformation that Arnell would tolerate.
 +
 +"Ahem, if I may, Preceptor, I know it is hard to voice, but we must try to avoid speaking in riddles for the benefit of Sir Arnell. A full recounting would take a considerable time, but I can perhaps provide a succinct summary of the important bits. First, the Zioth appears to be a cycle that repeats, rather than the end of all things. Of course, that only makes sense, as otherwise the various languages and cultures of the world could have never evolved to be as varied as they are. Second, there is some secret knowledge associated with the Zioth, known only to a few. I've found references to five great secrets and from what I've learned was that at some point these five great "​secrets"​ were divided among the various major religions at the time. The House of Morenth was one. Now I rather suspect that the House has acquired at least one other secret from another member of the pact, perhaps, regrettably,​ through violence."​
 +
 +Corbyn gestured toward his wounded arm. "​I'​m afraid my reference to dangerous knowledge was not just dramatics. Earlier this morning I received this at the hands of Morenthian temple guards because we showed up in the place one of their great secrets was hidden. In our time, the chamber where they hid one of the secrets was empty and forgotten. At this time it is still under tight guard -- a difference we discovered to our great surprise."​
 +
 +He lapsed again into his lecture voice as he continued along the path. "So, by way of summary, the secret beneath the House in Maelbourg is the element of time. It was used to build a chamber the ritual-masters called the Chamber of Eternity. The purpose of the Chamber, I believe, was to let some chosen servants of Morenth to break the cycle of the Zioth, live beyond the year 1020. The Chamber was designed to do this by creating a small bubble of time where the city would be cut off from the normal passage of time, carrying it past the Zioth. Incidentally,​ that may explain how the worship of Morenth survives from cycle to cycle. By the year 1001 in the cycle we hail from, the Chamber had been forgotten in the catacombs in the city proper. But then an earthquake, or some other event, triggered it. All of us were within the city when that happened, and things became noticeably odd. Days and nights blended together, sleep would restore no rest, clouds flew across the sky faster than any bird ever could. The House did not remember the chamber, or know what had happened. And it was activated years before the Zioth. I think that if it had gone unchecked for long it might have started to drive those inside mad or to death. One side effect was that winter snow piled up outside the barrier, only sinking through slowly. When it came through, it fell as great hunks of ice that devastated the city. And knocked some buildings down on a couple of us." He nodded to Voss. "To be fair, that bit happened in a different Maelbourg, some 115,000 years ago. I don't think the ritual-master could have held that against us. In fact, I think we rather fixed that problem for the city. Not very grateful on their part."
 +
 +"In point of fact, we would be heroes in our own world,"​ Halaren added with an appreciative smile.
 +
 +Corbyn continued. "We survived, and gathered in the midst of the rubble, this small band. Some of us were previously acquainted: Mr. Voss, Preceptor Halaren and myself. Mr. Tala and Mr. Guillaume we met in the rubble-strewn streets, Mr. Guillaume was following a figure he believed to the be Preceptor. Volunteering to help, we did eventually find Preceptor Halaren at the entrance to a portal to a hidden catacomb. The trap therein badly wounded Mr. Voss, but we made our way in eventually. His Grace Halaren told us an evil sorcerer wanted by the city was down below as well, so we sought to prevent him from stealing any secrets hidden below. Inside we found some clues about the purpose of the place, and eventually the Chamber of Eternity as well. It was abandoned, but operating. Using the nearby devices, we sought to turn it off. I think we succeeded, or at least altered its operation, but trapping ourselves in its effect. Things seemed to move around us at tremendous pace. I realize now that it was us standing still while time moved around us. We did not go back in time, Preceptor, as we previously thought, but forward by an almost unimaginable amount. All of this raises interesting questions about the Zioth, time, and a multitude of other things, but I am still working some of that out.
 +
 +"In any event, when it wore, my fellows and I were exhausted and we found ourselves still in the chamber. Yet when we exited, we found not the ruin we had entered, but an active complex. I decided that a straight forward approach might be best and hailed a priest we found nearby. He summoned the guards and threatened us with death. He would not listen to reason, and we could not show we had come from his future -- because, I know now, we did not, but rather from the past. He intended to toss us in some secret prison because we knew of the Chamber. He claimed I was from someplace called Brundash, and that Mr. Voss was my '​Balewan.'​ We did not go quietly, and after a struggle, the priest poisoned himself, courtesy of Mr. Voss, with his own darts. With a pressing need to seek treatment, he ordered the guards to release us, and we made our way, wounded and confused, out of Maelbourg. And that, Sir Arnell, is where you find us this afternoon. And with your bit of advice, we understand a bit more about our situation. I had thought the Chamber might be our way home, but I see now that may not be the case, though it might not matter because the cycle merely repeats itself.
 +
 +"If I have been unclear, do not hesitate to press me. I have tried to be forthcoming,​ now I don't suppose you in turn would be willing to tell me a bit about the magic you worked and what your business or interests might be?"
 +
 +"​Certainly,"​ said Arnell. "You mentioned a place called Brundash, why did you pick that as a place?"​
 +
 +Corbyn shrugged. "I did not, Sir Arnell. It was the ritual master under the House of Morenth who declared I was from Brundash. I cannot be sure why, other than his statement that he suspected we used magic to enter the Chamber of Eternity, which happened to sit below his office. He referred to Mr. Voss here as a Balewan as well. I don't suppose your business involves this Brundash place does it? The House priest seemed to think very dimly of it."
 +
 +"​Perhaps when we discuss maps more fully over lunch or at a resting house tonight, we can find out how your world is different from mine, but Brundash are a collective of influential wizards. Led by Archmage Fovery, they serve political leaders in a variety of capacities. They are often political, though secret. Other than a few rogues, all wizards are affiliated with Brundash in some way, whether they be politically minded socialites or research-obsessed recluses. We know that wizards are expected to provide Brundash with information,​ and occasionally,​ to do a task set for them without question."​
 +
 +"​Excuse me," Halaren said, "but does that apply to you as well? Are you Brundash?"​
 +
 +"Over the past few years, there have been rumors of mistrust between wizards and the population. There have always been problems with specific people, religions or political entities, but I fear it is becoming more widespread. Oh, and Belazan is another powerful mage of Brundash." ​ Arnell looked up at the summer sky. "​Something is afoot, and you know as much as I. Whether Brundash is a place or not, I do not really know."
 +
 +Arnell spoke openly and reflected with Halaren about possible meanings, more and more accepting of being involved. Arnell'​s warmth grew as mutual trust developed. He felt himself being sucked in to this odd band of travelers. Woven into the conversation,​ he also shared his background.
 +
 +On a modern map, Arnell'​s homestead was the town of Stein, tucked into the Kourels -- the Korill Mountains in the distant future -- on what would one day be the borders between Ensaniland and Zarabry. The town and its vicinities were home to roughly two hundred families, most of whom lived in the villages and farmland of the valley. On the valley'​s edge, toward the hills and mountain, lay the walls of Stein itself, whose stone keep was surrounded by a collection of wooden houses and cattle-keeps,​ inside the palisade walls. The bailey provided for market days as well as protection of the local people, should the need arise. Water was fetched from the main river nearby, and occasional river traffic provided trade.
 +
 +Marcus Trent was the lord of the town, had been fore more than ten years, and locally had the title Lord Stein. As a member of the clergy, Marcus believed the title, held by the Trent family for generations,​ was granted him by Andritha. He ruled fairly but robustly, along with the rest of the family. Lord Stein was usually found in the keep, atop the motte that looked out over the valley and protected the local area, as he was, in Arnell'​s eye, an excellent administrator of the lands, with a shrewd understanding of finances.
 +
 +Arnell'​s father was Karl, Marcus'​s younger brother and commander of a standing garrison of thirty men. He was tutor to the handful of armored knights who lived on the land, and the squires who were constantly being trained to take over from their fathers.
 +
 +Arnell had two brothers, Stefan and Lars. Stephan, the elder, was a knight in service of his father, and had been married young to Matilda, who had borne him three children already. Lars was a rather angry twenty-three year old, having lost his first wife in childbirth, but an excellent soldier nevertheless. ​
 +
 +The market town of Stein was known for the local produce and wares, and welcomed visitors, although to be truthful, the Trent family preferred to limit the movement of the peasantry and tie them to land.
 +
 +With the clergy high on Marcus'​s agenda, magic was permitted within the town, but public displays were quietly discouraged,​ and on market days frowned upon as the traders sought fair trade and Lord Stein sought fair tax on that trade. Magic, lately, was bad for business.
 +
 +The main two public houses were the Bear, and the Shoebox Inn, named for the farriers and cobblers on the same street, and while they were actually quite similar in structure, they were not in clientele. The stout doors of the Bear opened to the local bawdy house with the soldiery, smiths and wenches inside, whereas the Shoebox Inn welcomed the bard Ambrose on a regular basis to tell of news from the lands, and had rooms for the traveling merchants and a saddlery behind.
 +
 +Lord Marcus Trent intended to turn his attention towards mining in the mountains, as was fearful that the market trade needed supplementing,​ not least as he predicted that one day a king would come to rule and demand greater taxes and tithes.
 +
 +Corbyn gave a small smile as Arnell spoke about the origins of his journey. "I can relate to your account somewhat, Sir Arnell, growing up some strapping older brothers. My elder siblings inherited their girth from my father, who built broad shoulders working in the mill, during his early days. They are of less use than his intellect these days as a businessman,​ but he still felt it was important to be of sound body. He said it showed a capacity for hard work." Corbyn shook his thin arms with a derisive snort. "​I'​m afraid I tended more toward the intellectual side of things than the others. My mother was a bit sickly after I was born, and twas mostly my spinster aunt who cared for me. She filled my head with stories of wonder and myth. She claimed that she had left home during her youth to spend a year or two as an apprentice to a wizard, but I never knew how much stock to put to it. Said she lacked some in-born talent, and eventually got sent back home. A good thing from her point of view, for the fellow'​s house burned soon afterword -- again by her word. So I wound up a bit more pampered than my elders. My father tried to toughen me up by putting me to work in his stockyards, but I just taught myself how to use a whip rather than shove cattle around by force of arms." He looked away from the road as he walked. "I never saw quite eye to eye with my father, so I left home a few years ago and went out to find my way in the world. Not that I really found one, or rather, I found a lot of ways. Sounded more interesting than doing the books for my father and eventually my older brothers for the next few decades."​ He turned to Arnell and smiled. "So we may have a couple of points in common, Sir Arnell, save that I lack your fascinating profession. Were you headed to Maelbourg to study? I must warn you, the House of Morenth still has great enmity for wizards, in my day and the present.
 +
 +"If you have the patience and the time, I'd love to hear about the way you discovered the Preceptor was over 115,000 years old."
 +
 +"​What'​s this now?" The subject of their current talk listened incredulously. He had never heard of a number where hundreds came before thousands. It must be like "​four-and-twenty"​. So "​one-hundred-and-fifteen-thousand"​ was one thousand one hundred fifteen. "​Flights of fancy, anyhow,"​ he thought, "no one counts age into the hundreds, let alone the thousands."​
 +
 +"And for your part dear Preceptor, I wanted to ask you just which prayer you were reciting when you worked the great blessing of Andritha we saw not an hour gone by."
 +
 +"I have been thinking about that! Both times I prayed to Andritha in Sarnam. With Voss it was Holichet Al Vespur Allur, a prayer of peace. I thought it appropriate since all I have is this dagger with the symbol of Andritha the Fighter. And then the prayer of wasted blood with Corbyn. But mark these words, I feel it is the Sarnam itself 'tis as important as the prayer. It positively tingles on my tongue!"​
 +
 +Arnell nodded. "Much of my calling surrounds gathering. I am able to call on the forces of nature, of Andritha'​s will, and sometimes I get answers."​
 +
 +"Call upon the will of Andritha?"​ Halaren supposed that was the purpose of prayer, though he had never seen the answers presented so blatantly. Anyhow, he had better not accuse Arnell of any wizardry or blasphemy since he himself seemed to be getting answers from Andritha as well. He just hoped they were both talking to the same god. Ziedon called his power from somewhere, obviously not from Andritha, and that just proved that she was not the only source of miraculous power.
 +
 +"With answer to your direct question, sometimes I can see other places, other things, and sometimes I gain information about the world about me. With Halaren, my calling told me purely what Halaren was, what he did, and how old he was. When the world explained how old he was, the world itself stumbled and said a hundred thousand years. Hence my questions."​ He looked around, hoping a foolish deer would happily poke its head around a nearby tree. Mentally checking on Mustel, he thought out loud "​I'​m getting hungry."​
 +
 +"Not a lick past thirty is still my answer to you." Halaren felt it was important to keep perspective. He turned off the path and announced, "Hear that, world? Thirty, and not a century more. And I thank you to keep your idle gossip to yourself from now on!" He craned his head. "Oh, is that the crossroads ahead?"​
 +
 +"You will have to forgive him Sir Arnell, we find he talks to himself a bit more in his dotage."​
 +
 +Corbyn watched the keen young nobleman with great interest. Here was a fellow, a day and age really, where he was not compelled to hide the use of magic from the light of day. There might be some advantages to this time displacement. "That sounds like a useful gift, Sir Arnell. Why the aid in scholarship alone is almost unimaginable."​ He cast his gaze over Halaren. "​Though perhaps not as merciful as the blessings conveyed by the Preceptor. What say you, your Grace? Time for some lunch, and perhaps more importantly,​ some tea?"
 +
 +"​Indeed,​ young sir. Perhaps we should make a fire just there, near the river. No point in attracting attention on the roadside while we sup."
 +
 +Corbyn looked back at Arnell with a grin. "​Should you happen to have some tea leaves, I think you will endear your dearly to the good Preceptor. And some talk of local events would be good."
 +
 +"Oh, we have tea!" Halaren patted his armor, under which he had a bag of leaves stuffed. "And we have a bounty of water, and soon fire. But for want of a pot." He normally travelled with everything he needed, but had lost so many things during the days of chaos. "I would welcome some tea while we discussed our futures."​
 +
 +Halaren took several minutes to select a good spot for their lunch. Someplace that made him more comfortable by its reclusive nature. Even though he knew they would make a fire, it was just second nature to be cautious in this environment. Next, since no one had a pot, he looked for houses nearby where he might acquire one. He addressed Arnell, "Sir, would this coin of another age be of use here? And what could we buy with it?" He fished out a polished copped coin with a black spot in the middle, and showed it to Arnell. It resembled a tiny symbol of Andritha the Mother.
 +
 +Corbyn waved his uninjured arm. "We are lost men, after an unusual fashion, with little guidance on where to go, so your advice is appreciated,​ Sir Arnell. Thus far, our only imperative is to stay clear of the Morenthian Ritual-Priest and his soldiers, but maybe you can tell us a bit more about modern Maelbourg -- or ancient; it is a bit difficult to be sure on our end."
 +
 +That was a subject Arnell didn't know much about. Maelbourg was an important local town, but paled in comparison to the nearby city of Yunim, which would one day degrade to the small town of Dunweig. ​
 +
 +It suddenly occurred to Arnell that the others might have coins from the future, or distant past as it were. He borrowed a few coins from Gil and Tala. The silver aglars were struck on both sides with the image of a man's head, one side in profile and one face forward. This, Arnell was told, was King Diure the Sixty-Fourth. he wasn't sure how a dynasty could be that old without him having heard of it. Diure was depicted in the most flattering way possible, either that or he was truly a very attractive man. The mature, powerful image was designed to inspire loyalty -- to remind everyone who was in charge. The copper coins, diyars he was told, were large and heavy, stamped with a clover on one side, and the worn impression of a man -- Diure the First -- riding a horse on the other. Around the edge of one side were letters too worn to read. Corbyn volunteered the text: "​Beyond the Zioth, may the king rule under Andritha."​ So there was an Andrithan kingdom in the future!
 +
 +"Can I look at your coins too, Corbyn?"​
 +
 +Corbyn nodded and said "​Sure."​ He reached into a purse tucked behind his belt and took out a golden attle. "I believe this one is of more recent vintage."​ He flipped it with his thumb and sent it spinning toward Arnell, who caught it without flourish. Now Corbyn knew that even if Arnell might be taller, richer, more handsome and stronger than he was, he might not as be as agile. That was one reason at least not to be jealous!
 +
 +The gold coin was extremely thin, but reasonably solid nonetheless. No doubt there were impurities in the metal which gave it that property. It was clear, by the shiny face of the coin, that gold was as little used in Corbyn'​s time as Arnell'​s. One one side, the face of the king was struck. On the other was the letter Aral in Sarnam.
 +
 +Arnell again checked the coin over. "May I?" He motioned toward the purse.
 +
 +Corbyn began to untie the purse from its secure location. "I cannot see a reason why not. But I'm afraid the coins I have are all identical, as I received them together."​
 +
 +Arnell checked each coin carefully, but found nothing more than slight variations. Tala, had a couple coins from a different land. The silver was etched with black dye in a complex pattern, and each coin was different.
 +
 +Before they set out again, Halaren took another look at Corbyn'​s wound. "Well, your arm is not coming along as well as I had hoped. Delicate things, arms. 'Tis a blessing we have two of them." Suddenly a mischievous grin came to his lips. "Do you know the prayer of wasted blood? Should we give it a try?"
 +
 +Corbyn nodded. "I think I may know it Perceptor, let us speak it together while Arnell ponders our discussion."​
 +
 +When Halaren spoke the words, the healing which had affected Voss was repeated. Corbyn'​s wounds closed and scabbed, as if he'd had an extra day to heal.
 +<​roleplay mode="​turn_notes"/>​
 +
 +I pointed out Corbyn'​s player'​s frequent misspelling of //​Preceptor//,​ and he responded with this:
 +<div indent>
 +Interesting fact, traditionally the appropriate term is Perceptor - the modified term "​Preceptor"​ coming into use only after Year 321, following a flood which caused water damage at the library of Brumstadt that made the ink of the holy text of "​Andritha'​s Flock" the seminal work on ministering to the needs of a parish run slightly, leading to the introduction of certain misspellings in the subsequent era.
 +
 +See, e.g., The Impact of of Disasters on Ecclesiastical Records, Asst. Prof. Wren, (Journal of Religious Studies, 999).
 +</​div>​
 +<​roleplay mode="​turn_end"/>​
 +
 +