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:213 [2016-05-31 20:38] (current)
eli created
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 +<​roleplay mode="​turn_data">​
 +turn: 213
 +title: The Meeting
 +start: 577/05/16 13:00
 +end: 577/05/16 14:00
 +posted_date:​ 2016-05-31
 +played_date:​ 2015-11-11
 +weather: warm, clear
 +location: south of the Enclave of the Mad
 +xp_arnell: 38500
 +xp_corbyn: 45000
 +xp_gil: 31450
 +xp_halaren: 45000
 +xp_voss: 40000
 +</​roleplay>​
  
 +<​roleplay mode="​turn_start"/>​
 +
 +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, Arnell stepped forward, bowed deep and low, and said, "​Arnell Trent, at your //​service//​."​ He emphasized the word //​service//,​ meeting the man’s eyes to show both recognition and sincerity.
 +
 +High Mage Fovery stood with the help of his staff. He was shorter than Arnell, and had a stance more like that of a burglar than a high mage, arms and limbs loose, ready to spring or flee. The very tall, spindly woman behind him said, "​Arnell Trent. Kanal'​s contact."​ Fovery briefly closed his eyes in concentration,​ and then, using his staff to compensate for the hurt ankle, walked right past Arnell and stood before the others. "​It'​s true," he said. "More than a hundred thousand years old! So how did you lot survive a hundred and sixteen cycles of the Zioth?"​
 +
 +Outwardly, Arnell smiled and walked back to join the others, and awaited their response, but his mind rambled. 'How rude!,'​ he thought. '​Hello,​ how are you? Very well. How are you? Lovely day. Shall I introduce you to my companions, well, that would be just lovely. Pleasure to meet you, and you too sir, what a fine day it is. Thank you, no thank you.' He kept himself vigilant though. As his companions answered, he inspected each of the new arrivals, their equipment and clothing, and continued to concentrate on his magic, trying with far too little success to pick at their thoughts.
 +
 +Corbyn gleefully watched the appearance of the wizards in the little clearing. Arnell and Halaren had shown flashes of true magic, but nothing quite on this scale – transporting a whole band of people through the very air itself. He committed the scene to memory so he could revisit in his head once the meeting was over.
 +
 +His attention to the scene in front of him was so intent he nearly failed to notice the silence on his side of the clearing. It took Corbyn a mighty effort to keep from launching into the first of his 29 questions about what magic had brought the visitors here, but he succeeded and moved a half a step forward, taking care not to show any shred of aggression.
 +
 +“We cannot claim to have survived 116 cycles of the Zioth I fear. That feat is beyond our capabilities. A more apt description of our journey would be to say we accelerated past many cycles of the Zioth, so we skipped past them rather than enduring the ages, so I cannot speak as to any details of the cycles we bypassed.” ​ He paused. “Oh, I am sorry, I let my excitement overpower my courtesy. My name is Corbyn and my companions and I are pleased to meet you.”
 +
 +Halaren felt like he had been waiting a long time for this monumental meeting, but now that the time was upon them, he felt so overwhelmed by the great show of otherworldly power that he could barely keep himself together. "​H-halaren,"​ he spoke slowly, "​Healer of Andritha."​ He did not give his title. He somehow felt the more they knew, the more power they would hold over him. After a moment, he bowed quickly, sending a spray of perspiration to the ground. He looked like he was afraid.
 +
 +Gil stood behind the group, but in easy view. He watched as an observer, not a participant,​ still and wary.
 +
 +The other three Brundash wizards had spread out to the edges of the clearing by this point, and were engrossed in some sort of ritual, or perhaps casting a series of spells. Arnell knew them to be a variety of scrying and anti-scrying measures. Three more people emerged from the portal, very tall, broad of build and heavily muscled if lightly armored, each with a bow, multiple swords and daggers. All three were covered in artistic scars and had a complexion much like Voss'​s. These moved quickly and silently away from the portal and stood, one behind each wizard other than Fovery.
 +
 +To Arnell, the scene was more complicated. Mixed in with the sights, sounds and smells were fragments of thought from those around him. He got nothing from the wizards, or, strangely, from Halaren, but Gil's wariness, Voss's surprise at seeing others from his homeland, and Corbyn'​s excitement were clear. He could only read one of the warriors, whose disciplined mind was focused only on protecting the wizard while she cast her spells. The warrior wondered only cursorily who these people were that the wizards were meeting with, and he had no concern over their conversation. He perceived them all as potential threats, and was ready to draw sword or arrow at a moment'​s notice, to the point of sacrificing his own like for the wizard.
 +
 +None of this fazed the High Mage in the slightest. In fact, he didn't seem to notice the new activity at all. "​Fovery,​ of Brundash, and you are too modest. Until three days ago, it was largely thought that nothing could survive the Zioth. Now we know the Morenthians of all people figured out a way. So, Corbyn -- and the rest of you -- tell me your story. Don't skimp on the details. I only got the basics from the Orithoran."​
 +
 +At that moment, with Fovery'​s comments, Arnell realized himself what he had known all along. He was a pawn, a messenger boy, even if he had done his job exceptionally well. He was not //in// with Fovery'​s crowd and aside from helping Voss in his hour of need, he still did not feel an integral part of the group of travelers either. He closed his eyes then re-opened them, gathering his thoughts. Focus, he needed focus. He soaked in all the information he could, faces, names, magical, non-magical. ​
 +
 +Corbyn nodded as the leader of the mages spoke. If this man was who he thought he was, a legendary figure from days long ago, relatively speaking, then this meeting presented a fascinating opportunity. Who knew what could be learned by speaking with the famed leader of Brundash? But it was also readily apparent that directing the course of this meeting had fallen upon his shoulders. Halaren appeared cowed, Arnell perhaps driven to speechlessness by the appearance of the master of his order, and the two warriors were men of action rather spirited discourse. He wanted so badly to observe and commit the sights to memory, but casting his attention away from the High Mage would probably offend the mages.
 +
 +He looked about the glade. "Of course sir," he answered. "I am eager to provide any service I can to the representative of Brundash. I owe Sir Arnell deeply for his assistance and guidance in bringing us safely into a strange realm."​ He gestured helplessly, "But I am afraid we cannot offer suitable comfort so we will have to make do with what nature has provided."​ He looked for a stump or a rock he could offer to the older man. Fovery waved his efforts aside, much more interested in what he had to say.
 +
 +While he spoke, Corbyn used the edge of his fingernail to press against his abdomen. He pressed just hard enough for the nail to provide a twinge of unpleasant sensation. It was a basic technique designed to split the attention of the left half of the brain to the right half. A Professor known by the name Hesslok had been a renowned anatomist and had been one of the first to notice the brain was naturally divided into two connected halves. His experiments had led to quite an interesting book. Much of it was hogwash long since disproved, but some of the esoteric portions remained useful as thought exercises. Hesslok had believed, for example, it was possible to train the different halves of the brain to operate independently of each other. Thus, with a little mental practice, you could set your mind to two different tasks. Hesslok himself claimed to have frequently used the technique to write his book while cooking. While the exercise hardly provided the benefits that Hesslok had theorized, Corbyn had practiced it enough that he could at least set one part of his mind to thinking and observing while the other tended to something more pressing (like escaping a manor house before the owner'​s guards discovered him in the jewelry cases).
 +
 +"And while the Morenthians came up with a rather clever idea, abetted by some great power, it would give them too much credit to recognize them as having found a solution to the cycle of the Zioth. Rather, they devised a way to misalign some small part of the world from the regular order of things. I apologize, I get too far ahead of myself. I will do my best to relay what I know, but recognize that your ability to comprehend mystical matters far outstrips my ability to properly explain such affairs.
 +
 +"​First,​ most of our company have introduced themselves - but we have two more companions, Mr. Voss and Mr. Guillaume. You will forgive them if they do no speak overly much."
 +
 +"​Silence /is/ golden,"​ Gil said softly with a nod of his head.
 +
 +"Like some of your companions, their first thought is to our well-being and our journey to this little meadow has not always been a peaceful one." He glanced over to one of the tattooed guards and decided to test a theory. He gave a slight bow to the figure and said, "​Hovost."​ Based on what Voss had taught him of his native tongue, it meant something along the lines of 'hail longrider'​ which was roughly the equivalent of '​hello'​ in Rouche. With his left eye, he watched for any sign of a reaction. Two of the guards gave him the slightest glance. Arnell heard their thoughts clearly. They wondered whether this was a mage, then quickly decided he was not.
 +
 +"I hope that sufficiently covers the necessary introductions and we turn to more interesting topics. My account will revolve around the unexpected flow of time, which imposes certain narrative difficulties,​ not to mention concerns over the role of causality. Frankly, it has occurred to me that in dealing with matters of time relaying facts may pose certain dangers if placed in the wrong hands, or any hands. On the other side of the scale, it might not matter at all if the course of events is pre-destined. I mention this because of the possibility that you, in your great wisdom, might realize I am about to relay something potentially hazardous. If that is the case, please interrupt me immediately."​ Corbyn cleared his throat and lined up the bits and pieces of the puzzle in his mind.
 +
 +"A moment ago you mentioned the cycle of the Zioth. Why did you call it a cycle and why do you think of it that way? I realize I am probably not the one who should be asking a question of view, but I only seek to line up my account and knowing your current perspective would help me to address the subject of time in a sensible manner."​
 +
 +"It is commonly known that the Zioth is a cycle. The world is destroyed and rebuilt every thousand twenty years. A better question would be, who lives to tell the tale?"
 +
 +"We do." Halaren had finally built up the courage to speak, although his wavering voice lacked real conviction. "​Excuse me, Great Fovery of Brundash, but do you know Andritha?"​
 +
 +Fovery smiled at Halaren, which almost made him look like he thought the question was a joke. "Yes, I know of Andritha."​
 +
 +"Then you know that the blade, pointed downwards, is a sign of peace. I am about to draw my own blade, but not for any purpose of violence."​ His hand went slowly to Zilgard'​s sword, now small as when they had first found it. He drew the blade, keeping it down, then dropped to one knee and drove the blade into the earth. "As you have your tests and vision beyond the normal eye, so have we."
 +
 +He continued with his preparations without further interruption. He produced a metal thimble and rested it upon the pommel of the dagger. By now, it was apparent to every one of his comrades what he was planning. From a small bladder, he carefully poured liquid into the thimble. Then he approached Fovery and slowly produced the blood-stained rag that he had used to repair Corbyn'​s whip, causing the mage to take a step back. The three eastern bodyguards became more alert, but Fovery casually waved them off. He seemed interested in the ritual. The rag was filled with blood-red flower petals. Gil recognized these from the coach. He did not mention it to anyone, as he felt utterly confused by what he saw, but as he had lain resting after being on the brink of death only minutes before, he had watched the Preceptor dip white petals into the blood of the assassins. Now Halaren was sprinkling these petals from high, watching their descent just a yard away from the legendary wizard. The petals spun around on a light breeze, but landed at Halaren'​s feet. The blood of the wicked was not attracted to the mage.
 +
 +At this, Arnell did two things. First, he focused on all of the Wizards, and second prepared mentally to counter a spell, searching all of the Wizards for giveaways, tell-tale signs of casting. These guys might be better wizards than himself, but they might not. He hoped Halaren was not about to be interrupted. His sense of inward tension mounted, and he resisted attempts to search his mind, meanwhile attempting to keep his spell aura present. He briefly contemplated seeing just which of the men were Brundash marked, as a way to know their power, but he dismissed the idea. These men were friendly, he reminded himself, he hoped. Outwardly, he tried his best to maintain his friendly face and positive posture. ​ His initial awe of Fovery already dispelled by his lack of manners, Arnell unconsciously drifted a step closer to Gil and Voss. 
 +
 +Corbyn did his best to keep his composure. He wanted to yell at Halaren, to berate the the man into understanding this meeting was not the time and place to demonstrate his folklore rituals. He could only hope the contingent from Brundash clearly saw the priest was offering a humble prayer. The wizards probably understood the stuttering priest offered no threat, but Corbyn doubted that the bodyguards -- the balewan as the Ritual-master had called them -- readily ignored anyone offering a bloody rag to their charges.
 +
 +He kept talking. That seemed like the best approach, to satisfy the curiosity of Fovery and the others. "​Forgive the Perceptor, he is quite dedicated to his rituals and offerings as befits a holy man. But to answer your key question Master Fovery, we all live, but I think only of those in our small company can remember the tale because we escaped the closing of the loop. For that is what it is, a loop. The Morenthian sect that built the device which hurled us forward in time did not understand that, Nor did I, to tell the truth, until after I experienced it for myself. The world is destroyed and rebuilt every one-thousand and twenty years. What we can do is describing the rebuilding. The band of Morenthians who built the chamber we uncovered assumed that if one could push beyond the date of the Zioth, they could bring themselves into the next era. But there is no new age lying on the other side, only an echo of the prior Zioth. Every cycle is identical. I have bypassed over 100 cycles of the Zioth due to the device we uncovered, and in that time the exact same book has been written 100 times and all of us have been born and lived our lives over 100 times. So the truth is we all survive the cycle of the Zioth, enduring the same story over and over again, but only my small company can see far enough to remember the truth."​
 +
 +Corbyn furrowed his brow. "My apologies if my description is jumbled, I was attempting to provide a short summary. I am more than happy to tell the full tale so you can draw your conclusions,​ but I hoped to offer you an attempt at a general answer first before relating the whole tale."
 +
 +Voss scarcely noticed any of the words or even that Halaren was fumbling with his possessions once again. His eyes were focused on the scarred warriors who carefully watching the edge of the clearing. How long had it been since he had seen any other children of steppes? What on earth were they doing here? Could they be from some hidden tribe for he had never heard of Vhoosch warriors serving great wizards. The guardians seemed wary and ready to spring into action, as befit a warrior. He wondered what they would think of him, so far from his homeland and without a tribe to call his own anymore.
 +
 +"Now that is something I haven'​t considered,"​ Fovery said, standing a little straighter which made him lose just a bit of his roguish appearance. "I suppose then that you have skipped ahead through the ages a hundred times as well, and we've had this conversation as many times. Unless, of course, you were the first to skip ahead, in which case, it is an honor to meet you. At what point in the Zioth did you discover the Morenthians'​ trick?"​
 +
 +“We come from the end of the Zioth cycle. I myself was born in the year 982 and we left our era in the year 1001 by our reckoning, 19 years before the coming of the Zioth. The end of the world looms over the people of our time and the Zioth is a subject of keen interest to those of an inquiring mindset. While some of my compatriots are a few years older than myself, barring any unfortunate turn of health, all of us could be expected to endure the end of the cycle. It is, quite frankly, an odd time to live as the lurking apocalypse introduces a certain malaise in the populace. It is not an age of great cheer.”
 +
 +In truth, the end of the Zioth, as much as it was of interest, had not featured that much in Arnell'​s studies, for the end was many generations away. He guessed that if one lived in 1001 it would be much more pressing, obviously. He was interested now, however, and listened intently. ​
 +
 +Halaren, who had dropped to his knees, was muttering in Sarnam over the dagger embedded in the ground​. He stuttered slightly, half concentrating on his own words, and half on what Corbyn spoke. He knew he could be dim-witted at times, and he knew he spoke more than he ought to, but he never disclosed important information to such questionable people. He also sensed Corbyn'​s frustration with his own actions. Surely the knowledgeable man understood why he was doing these things. Or did Corbyn see these wizards as kindred? The priest shook thoughts of disloyalty from his head, and started his prayer again.
 +
 +Corbyn continued, “And it is possible we might merely be repeating a conversation which has occurred countless numbers of times. I have considered three possibilities thus far, and there might certainly be more.” Corbyn shifted his weight as he settled if for what might be a long conversation. “One: No free will at all. We repeat this trip, this conversation,​ over and over again. Nothing we can do will disrupt or change this endless cycle. That is a rather depressing option and I hope this is not true.
 +
 +“Two: Nothing is predetermined. Once we have left our cycle, anything we do represents a change in time loop. So the actions we take might change the course of history within a given cycle. Or course, that could be a dangerous prospect if true. The interim cycles would remain unaffected. But I believe this is an unlikely prospect, most simply because prior versions of ourselves would have made the same trip through history. In other words, the Corbyn from the last cycle would have changed my cycle from this one. So theoretically,​ I could find differences between the cycles caused by my immediate predecessor.
 +
 +“My opportunity to test this has been limited thus far, but I was exposed to one example. I brought a book with me through time. A journal from a priest of the House of Morenth that I discovered in the ruined tunnels under the streets of Maelbourg, a city that may bear a different name currently.” ​ A pained expression crossed his face. “The Ritual Master of the House took it away from me unfortunately. When we exited, instead of finding ourselves in an abandoned ruin, we wound up in a heavily guarded and active complex. I can provide a more full step by step account later, but in short, I found the priest we encountered had another version of the book I found. In other words, an identical journal was being written in each cycle. And my trip brought two versions together. The priest conducted a test while holding us captive; he wrote in my book to see if it changed the contents of his book. It did not, because since we left our cycle entirely – there were two different books, rather than the same book at different periods of time.
 +
 +“Still, if a prior version of myself made the same journey and arrived in the same complex, the priest presumably would have still written in the book. And since I picked up the book in 1001, it should have been altered if I can alter the past. So my current belief the history of the cycle cannot be so easily disrupted.”
 +
 +“Three: A reality that operates somewhere between the first two possibilities. The cycle of the Zioth is not utterly beyond alteration, but doing so is a difficult feat and can only be accomplished in limited means. It is possible that I and my companions might alter the course of the Zioth, but only by taking certain actions when we have broken free from our natural cycle. We might not be able to alter things when confined to our own cycle of the Zioth, but perhaps we can carry something between cycles that could break the endless cycle. I consider this option plausible, but I do not have any empirical evidence to support this, nor can I think of a way to test it. And my thoughts are partially based,” his brow furrowed, “by prophecies.” ​ He sighed. “Something I would not normally put much stock in, but given that similar accounts have been proffered by multiple sources I have paid it heed. A self-proclaimed ‘Messenger’ passed along a prophecy to Preceptor Halaren in Maelbourg. A brave and noble traveler from the far east who joined us in exploring the ancient tunnels relayed a nearly identical prophecy from a priest in his homeland. The book I found in the ruins under the House of Morenth contained a similar account, and not two days hence we passed a day in the company of the Mad and the eldest of their enclave repeated it again. It revolves around the ‘Voice of the Zioth’ who may be an evil soul from our era, and to travelers on a ‘second path.’ ​ If we are those bound to the ‘second path’ then we can potentially change the fate of the Zioth. The elder of the Mad suggested that we would find ourselves making a return trip to the House of Morenth and our own cycle – how I do not know yet. But any change or success might be contingent on our taking certain actions during our stay in this time period. I suspect our search will be for ‘secrets of the Zioth’ which have been vaguely alluded to in sparse historical references.”
 +
 +“Of course, these are my own haphazard conclusions based on incomplete information and limited time to ponder things. We appreciate any guidance from wiser heads.”
 +
 +"Do not confuse power with wisdom, Corbyn."​ Halaren had finished with his preparations and was rising to his feet. "​Power,​ the Great Fovery demonstrates in abundance. Wisdom is to be seen. Pardon my saying so, sir. All I mean is, you know where I stand, as a follower of Andritha. As a healer. Power flows through me like I never thought possible, but that power is guided by years of learning, by the aspects of Andritha, by wisdom!​ We know --" He glanced at the others and corrected himself, "//I// know nothing about Brundash but what I have heard from Morenthians,​ and I know nothing of wizards but for one man who abused and twisted his power to call the bones of the dead into his service."​
 +
 +He stood unarmed, slouching and shaking, an altogether unimposing figure, and awaited a response.
 +
 +"​I'​ve never been interested in animating the dead. It's an easy enough trick, but people tend not to trust you when corpses are following you around."​ With that lighthearted response, he returned his attention to Corbyn. "Your book was changed in this time, but not in yours. That means that cycles //can// be changed. But you skipped over a hundred of them. Maybe they just change very slowly."​ The other wizards were now paying some attention to Fovery, but in a distracted way. Arnell knew this meant they were focusing half their attention on their scrying spells. "My guess is as good as yours."​ This admission seemed to offend some of the other wizards. "I don't know of any magic which could return you to your own time, but I'll look into this Morenthian trick, and we might be able to get you back into the House of Morenth. In the mean time, what else can you tell me? What is your time like? Does Brundash still go under the same name?"
 +
 +"Like everyone, I would like to know more about Brundash too," Arnell said, glancing around, "but does someone approach? Is everything alright?"​ He motioned to Voss and Gill, his senses heightened. ​
 +
 +"​I'​m sure we'd know," Fovery said, his eyes still on Corbyn. "You have nothing to fear. My chaperones can be overzealous at times, but they do keep a good watch."​ The other wizards did not look pleased, but they kept silent.
 +
 +Halaren'​s wide eyes darted about. He watched Fovery, the other wizards and their protectors, but he also kept an eye on the thimble on the pommel of the dagger and the edge of the wood. Arnell'​s concern about someone approaching could not have possibly made him any more tense.
 +
 +Gil, on the other hand, turned his back on his friends to watch the edge of the clearing. After a moment, he began to slowly pace a circle around those in discussion. Voss took no prompting to circle in the other direction. His eyes scanned the wood, and his ears listened to the conversation.
 +
 +Halaren was a reliable fellow, Corbyn thought, if somewhat devoid of tact. While his observations and warnings were certainly on point, if the big priest had listened carefully enough he might have realized that Corbyn had used a lot of words to produce only a modicum of information. Enough to whet the appetite of the High Mage as the two sides sounded each other out but without disclosing the most sensitive bits of information recently acquired or their source. Since Fovery did not appear overly concerned with Halaren'​s words of caution, Corbyn felt it best to pay it heed while trying to remain affable and and open.
 +
 +"I am afraid the good Preceptor had an unpleasant encounter with a necromancer who enslaved the dead to his service and remains -- well deservedly -- wary of wielders of black magic. And as for your questions, therein lies the rub." Corbyn folded his hands into his thinking position.
 +
 +"The grace and wisdom of Sir Arnell have brought us here, for we are strangers in a strange land. And I am strange in my own place and time. The House of Morenth did not proffer a friendly welcome and in fact, have set at least one pair of violent killers on our trail, to our great personal loss. Given time, we could perhaps acclimate enough to hide our odd nature and learn to adapt, but that prospect takes time. Sir Arnell aided us by volunteering to educate us and assist in seeking out a temporary safe haven and we have transferred our burden onto his kind shoulders.
 +
 +"I am happy to offer what I can, meager though my knowledge might be, but there is a simple question first. Would you really want to know the future? As you pointed out, maybe it is true that we can cause some slow alteration of the cycle. If that is the case, if I provide a glimpse of the future, what impact might it have? Would it be on my conscience or soul if I let slip something that leads to a great conflict? Or on yours if something you learn changes the lives of thousands? There is a possibility that it is all pre-ordained of course, in which case speaking of the future changes nothing. I cannot say with certainty yet and neither side is bound or beholden to each other yet. So as my wiser companion has cautioned, I should ask - Do you really want to know the future? Or the tiny bits we know?"
 +
 +"The future hasn't happened yet. We can agonize over every decision we ever make if we want to, since anything we do might lead to good or bad. All we can do is our best, and maybe knowing something about a long-past variant of our future will help with that. Maybe there'​s a great conflict you'd like to see avoided."​
 +
 +"​Yes,"​ Corbyn said in an uncommon display of brevity. "There is a great conflict, but it is possible I will ensure it happens by revealing the tiny bit I know." He blew out a sigh and cast his gaze toward Halaren. Perhaps there was some benefit to having an independent conscience who was unafraid of speaking bluntly. Corbyn turned words around in his head, but found no satisfactory conclusion. Yet, as always, inspiration did not completely abandon him. "But this may be because I am just bedeviled by uncertainty. I have learned the year, but frankly the current state of affairs does not match the fragments of history from my era. I would be grateful if you could see fit to spare a sentence or two on the current state of affairs. Is there a state of war? Or is a conflict looming? Tensions within Rang?"
 +
 +"There is always war somewhere, but not here, now. I can't speak to Rang, since I've never heard of it." Fovery hesitated, then continued. "Of course, relations between Brundash and those we work with are not at their best."
 +
 +"High mage!" the tall woman said. Fovery waved a dismissive hand but otherwise ignored her. Arnell understood her sentiment. The magi did not usually discuss Brundash with outsiders. Even Arnell, a wizard of Brundash, was privy only to to a small fraction of the secrets.
 +
 +Halaren piped up next, "Is it in a great wizard'​s interest to avoid conflict? I think power such as yours together with knowledge such as ours means never losing again."​
 +
 +"​Losing?​ Is there something you know of which I might want to win or lose?"
 +
 +At this statement, Arnell focused his attention toward Fovery, studying his face, words and body language for every clue he could get. While Fovery had managed to hide his thoughts from magic, Arnell could tell his was excited to hear whatever Corbyn had to say. The High Mage didn't fit in with the other magi. His casual language and roguish stance kept him apart, and the others clearly hadn't been comfortable with everything he was revealing.
 +
 +Arnell'​s face showed curiosity too, and he glanced in the others'​ directions, his head tilting this way and that. Win or lose he thought to himself, that hit a nerve. He suddenly wondered what religion Fovery was and checked Fovery, and then the mages for any tell-tale clothing, symbols or artifacts, and was disappointed to realize that all the magi were all dressed the same. As desperate as he may have been to ask and probe, he felt the best way to do this was to maintain his silence. He used the age old strategy of looking at everyone else as if expecting them to speak, for he was sure that Corbyn and Halaren'​s knowledge of history, or rather of their history, was about to enlighten all of the magi present about what may be their next, greatest challenge. He felt the air thicken around them. 
 +
 +Corbyn held up his hand. "I will not insult your intelligence by pretending the conflict we hinted of speak of does not involve Brundash. It does. And I appreciate your candor, and the caution of colleague, but your words confirm what I suspected: there is potential strife between the powers of this day and age. That provides a certain degree of comfort, for that means we are not potentially creating unrest where none currently exists. Based on our own timeline, there is an imminent conflict looming that Brundash will be a participant in, unless history changes. Would knowledge of this change affect how you react?"​
 +
 +"​Without a doubt. We don't go looking for fights; if we did, the world would be a very different place."​ That earned him another look from the tall woman. "If you can help us prevent some great conflict, by all means do so."
 +
 +​Halaren nodded. Of course, these wizards must first make themselves seem trustworthy in order to get any information. He wanted to tell them that they would be wiped out in a short time, that in his own time the wizards were reduced to stories.
 +
 +And then the wily ​Preceptor considered another story. Above all things, he was terrified that the sorcerer Ziedon had followed him to this place. Would it not be prudent to turn these wizards against him while the priest had their ear? It would be easy to convey the impression that the wizards of Brundash would be wiped out in a conflict of mages, while the summoners of the dead prosper. But then again, questions from Fovery might cause Halaren himself to inadvertently trigger his own lie detector.
 +
 +​He turned to look at Corbyn. "That wizardess ​would see that we have no information about them, yet they expect us to share with them the secrets of their future."​ Turning his head towards Fovery, he continued, "If they want us to trust them, perhaps they will agree to bringing us to their home. We can see how they treat their own people, their workers. See if their power has turned them into overlords."​
 +
 +Fovery smiled, and glanced back and the shimmering black portal. "​I'​m afraid that might go a little farther than these others would be willing to tolerate, for all that I'm their High Mage." That was the first time Fovery had named his own title. "So by all means."​ With a flourish, he gestured towards the portal.
 +
 +"High mage!" the woman shouted, and her exclamation was echoed by looks from the others. "This goes --"
 +
 +"​Beyond what you're willing to tolerate. I thought I already covered that."
 +
 +"I must insist!"​
 +
 +"Oh good. Let's be on our way then. After you," he said, smiling mischievously at Halaren.
 +
 +"​Splendid. We accept, sir." Halaren smiled at the tall woman, lingering for a moment until she finally broke her frustrated fixation on the High Mage for a quick glance at him. He then dropped to one knee and collected his bizarre array of items, even the blood-red petals. "We will, of course, be safe in your care?" He waited until Fovery answered before he reclaimed the thimble of liquid and his weapon, thus ending his spell of truth.
 +
 +"You don't have anything to fear from me, or any other mage. You're of great interest to Brundash."​
 +
 +Arnell, inwardly surprised, maintained his very best diplomatic face. He was delighted. He considered the challenge others were facing and turned to Voss, in part to hide his own feeling, but also to support the big man. 
 +
 +Voss was dubious to say the least. Halaren had become a great source of strength, but this was pushing him to the edge. Stepping into some unknown portal was not his first choice. He appreciated Arnell'​s intervention. ​
 +
 +"This is good," said Arnell, reading Voss' reaction. Voss grunted. "You remember our escape of the town guard? It is the same, it is just that you can see the shimmering light. It will take us where we need to go," Arnell whispered.
 +
 +Voss stared at the portal. He looked at Arnell. In return, Arnell put his hands on Voss' shoulder. He figured that on most occasions, Voss would be helping him, but this was his turn to return the favor. Arnell caught his eye, building trust. It helped.
 +
 +Voss took a step forward. He hand moved quietly to hover near the hilt of his sword, not aggressive, but ready. Arnell stood next to him, waiting for the others'​ lead.
 +
 +Corbyn gazed at the portal in shock. He was not sure why Halaren had chosen to offer words of caution about trust, as the large priest had previously appeared unconcerned about the state of the timeline. No, that was not the most adept description. Rather it seemed the potential intricacies and complications of altering historical events had sailed clearly above his blissfully round head. Had Corbyn misjudged the man again? It was so hard to tell if the fellow just played the fool, or he actually muddled through life in a cloud of misunderstanding - occasionally parting the mists with astounding displays of insight. Perhaps it was the discussion of war. Temporal problems might bore the man, but maybe the pain of cost of war was something the priest understood more deeply than Corbyn.
 +
 +Whatever the reason for his concerns, Halaren had allowed them a tremendous opportunity,​ a chance to see the fabled Brundash! But was a trip worth the risk? Given the date, Brundash was soon to be enmeshed in the Battle of Magics and Corbyn intended to keep his distance from any battlefields until he had a better understanding of the current state of affairs. It would no doubt be dangerous to visit Brundash, even beyond the possibility of the city coming under assault. Yet this opportunity,​ to see a whole realm of mages that would soon vanish from the face of the earth, presented an opportunity like no other. Fovery was offering safe passage, though he did not yet know of the upcoming strife, and if he was planning something, the fellow would hardly admit it openly. Yet Corbyn suspected that had been the point of Halaren'​s odd ritual, to determine whether his intentions were true. Of course the High Mage of Brundash no doubt had access to his own potent magics that might place him beyond the reach of Halaren'​s power. And Fovery'​s comment that they were 'of great interest'​ could be interpreted in more than one way; a rare butterfly was of interest to a scholar, but nevertheless pinned to a board under glass.
 +
 +Valid concerns all, but no reason to hesitate. He knew as soon as the offer was made which path he would take. In his heart, curiosity always won out. And wizards or not, his wits had never fallen short when it came to getting out of a sticky situation.
 +
 +But what of the others? Corbyn knew the price of his own insatiable thirst for knowledge, but it hardly seemed fair to foist that danger on someone else. But Halaren was already packing up for the trip, and he doubted that Arnell would look askance at a chance to visit Brundash. That left Voss and Guillaume. Corbyn assumed the Gil would follow Halaren to the ends of the earth, such was his fervor after breaking free of the bonds of the House, so he turned to look at Voss. Arnell had stepped forward to place a hand on his shoulder to reassure the warrior from the east, perhaps not realizing that it unnerved the large man. The warrior was wary of such contact, as Corbyn knew from his efforts to stay clear of the rough-housing children in his school. Corbyn was not sure how Voss might take to this journey, but leaving him alone in an strange land, hundreds of years from his own era, with the House of Morenth or city guard in pursuit, seemed like the worst option.
 +
 +Voss felt the blood surge in his veins. It was not the rush of battle, but a heightened sense of awareness, a sensation he was familiar with from his time as a soldier and a raider, watching the night for sign of prey or predator. He nearly flinched away from Arnell'​s touch, but he knew such a sudden act would cause the eastern bodyguards to react act once. It was, after all, what he would do in their situation. The portal looked uninviting. He remembered well the spikes that had nearly ended his life after the last trip through such a passage. Yet, if he had not gone, then surely Halaren or Corbyn would have died. He would not leave them to such a fate. And if one of the mage's guards went through first, all the better. Though the city of the mages did not excite him as much as his companions, the bodyguards of the wizard kept drawing his gaze. Could these be the first tribesman he had seen in, well, he had no idea because the discussion of time now gave him a headache. It offered a glimpse of a homeland now long lost to him. He saw Corbyn looking at him. He would not let fear rule him when the others needed his strength. He nodded at the scholar and stepped forward, keeping his hand clear of his sword so as not to provoke his eastern brethren, and dislodging Arnell'​s hand the in the process.
 +
 +Corbyn chimed in. "We would welcome your hospitality and the opportunity to see even a small portion of famed Brundash -- as permitted by your security measures."​ He purposely did not add, '​before it is lost for the ages.' "And perhaps you can help shed some light on what fate has in store for us."
 +
 +He stepped forward, but Voss held a hand up to Corbyn. "I go first,"​ he said. Corbyn nodded.
 +
 +
 +<​roleplay mode="​turn_notes"/>​
 +
 +<​roleplay mode="​turn_end"/>​