Chapter 09:

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Session Number: 139
Date: Sunday 8 July 2012
Venue: Densial's
PCs & Players:

Arrian Rog1/Clr10 (Fergus) (kills: none)
Calico Drd11 (Yeran) (kills: none)
Lionel Rgr6/Wiz1/ArcA4 (Ash) (kills: none)
Rowaine Pal11 (Craig) (kills: none)
Troll Wiz11 (Densial) (kills: none)

XP Awarded: TBA

The entrance to the building remains stubbornly closed. The most reasonable explanation they can put forward is that the door to the other building is open.

The party try opening the door every few minutes, the interval growing longer as time passes. After just under twenty minutes, Troll is able to open the door. He immediately closes it.

"We don't want to encounter whoever it was that had the door open, right?" Troll says. "We keep trying the door for a while, and only go through if it's openable the whole time."

Troll tries opening the door at ever-increasing intervals, looking for a two hour window where door opens unimpeded. For the next two hours, the door opens every time Troll tries it. He looks at the party, raises his fist and throws his fingers wide open.

"OK," Rowaine thinks. "That either means that he is about to go invisible, or he plans to fireball the door."

Troll casts Invisibility then opens the door wide. The room inside looks larger than before. Troll closes and reopens the door: the interior does not change further. He enters and looks around. The single room is constructed of the same material and in the same style, but its length and width are double what they used to be.

"Looks OK," Troll whispers. The party file in, peering around.

"Line up on the entrance wall," Troll says. "I'm going to try the door."

Troll waits until everyone is in position then closes the door, pauses and reopens it. The vista is that of a very similar place at dusk. There is no one in sight. The party exit, closing the door behind them, and head for the arcanite village. Troll walks abreast of the line until his Invisibility spell expires.

As the party near the village, they notice a number of parallel lines on one of the nearby hills to the right. They look like turned earth, as if the arcanites had suddenly taken up farming.

"Filled-in trenches, perhaps?" Arrian says, smirking at Rowaine.

"Shut up," Rowaine replies. She is glad that she carries an hourglass in her haversack.

Several arcanites spot the party as they enter the village, and lead them to Shari. The arcanite leader welcomes them. Rowaine introduces Berathoin and Khordarum as dwarves and teachers from Kharag Monastery.

"They are here to… teach us?" Shari asks.

"They have two roles," Arrian says. "To teach, and to assess when you are ready."

"Are you happy with that?" Troll asks.

"Why wouldn't we be ready now?" Shari asks.

"There are lots of thing that you don't know about," Arrian says, "and that could be dangerous for you - and for people on the other side."

"Before we came here," Troll asks, "you didn't know what time was?"

"No."

"These people are here to teach you the things that you don't even know that you don't know. We need to discover what you don't know, and then teach you about it."

Shari appears confused over Troll's explanation. "Can't we just learn as we go?"

"That could be difficult."

"We don't know how safe you will be in our world," Arrian explains. "And we don't know how safe our world will be with you in it. We have a responsibility to you, and to our world. Our goal is to get you to a point where you will be prepared and safe and not too distressed."

"Can I ask you a question?" Troll says, looking at Shari. "Do you trust me?"

"No…"

"You understand what trust is?" Rowaine asks.

"I think so. We use trust in the village, everyone here trusts each other. We don't trust those who choose to do their own things by themselves, those that are not part of our society."

"Is there anyone here that you trust?"

"I trust Arrian more than I trust Troll."

Troll ignores the comment. "Do you think those other people should be allowed to leave?"

"I think they have a right to leave, yes."

Rowaine tries to get the conversation back on track. "We will remain while the teachers bed in and get used to the area and yourselves. We expect that we will be here for a couple of days."

Shari glances over to the nearby hills. "I have a fair idea how long that is."

"Shari, I have a gift for you and your village." Rowaine presents the hourglass, describing its form and function. Shari has never seen glass, but understands wood and sand. "Thank you," she says. "I'm not too sure what to do with it, but I'll definitely look into it."

"Some things you won't understand properly until you experience them in the larger world," Arrian says. "And that's OK. That is the way it is for children in our world. Before they go out into their own lives, they are looked after by what we call parents: two fully-grown people who have responsibility to care for them."

"Two?"

"Sometimes more, sometimes less."

"You have some similar system here, do you not?" Rowaine asks.

"We call them caregivers," Shari says, looking at Rowaine. "One person would normally be the caregiver for the child, until they had grown old enough that they didn't need a caregiver any more."

"What are the responsibilities of a caregiver?"

"To teach them the ways of whatever society they are in, whether it is the village, or other places."

"So you yourselves have a system whereby you teach your young about the world that they are about to enter," Rowaine says. "That is what we offer you."

Recognition dawns in Shari's eyes. "That makes a lot more sense to me. I have no more questions."

"Where are these other people?" Troll asks.

"We don't talk to them that much. They do their own thing."

"Do you have any contact with them whatsoever?" Rowaine asks.

"The most contact we have had is when you arrived, with them."

The dwarves begin their lessons in private with Shari. They have brought a number of items and show them to Shari, one at a time: a quill and ink, some parchment, a couple of books, an abacus, a knife, a ball, a pair of dice, a guitar. Shari is both amazed and bewildered. Arrian stays close, helping as he can.

Lionel expresses a desire to discover what is over the horizon. "Don't go alone," Rowaine warns. Calico offers to accompany him. They set off on foot, heading up into the foothills of the mountain. Calico assumes dog form. It does not appear to be a difficult climb.

Troll wanders off, mingling with the general populace. "Wait up!" Rowaine shouts. She had planned to stay with the teachers, but seeing Troll's retreating figure, she decides she can mitigate the most harm by following him. The pair attract something of a crowd; arcanites almost fall over themselves to be near the newcomers. They seem eager to impress.

Kano joins the throng. "Hello," he says. "You are back. Did you bring anything interesting?"

"Some people from our world," Rowaine says.

"Can I meet them?"

"In a sec. So what have you been doing since we saw you last?"

Kano immediately becomes withdrawn. "Oh, I was just over… practicing stuff." Rowaine knows the juvenile arcanite is hiding something that he feels guilty about. She nods to Troll.

"It's not for you yet," Troll says. "You shouldn't go there any more."

"Go where?"

"You know," Rowaine says.

"I'm sorry."

"That's alright," Troll says. "It's OK to make mistakes. It's good to realise that you have made a mistake. Would you like to meet the other people?"

"Cool!" Kano says, perking up at once. Rowaine leads him towards where Shari and the teachers are walking around the village. She introduces him to Berathoin and Khordarum, then returns to the crowd around Troll.

Some time later, Kano again wanders over to Rowaine and Troll. Rowaine smiles at him. "Those two people you met are dwarves," she says.

"What does it mean to be a dwarf? Kano asks. A surprising insightful question for a sheltered youngster. Rowaine explains that being a dwarf is a combination of physical qualities and upbringing. The teachers bear both traits in spades, but she explains that both she and Troll see the world as dwarves do; a result of being raised in a dwarven monastery.

"What is this monastery?" Kano asks.

"A place for those that do not have caregivers of their own," Rowaine explains.

"Someone else became the caregiver for all the children?"

"Yes."

"Poor caregiver."

"There is reward in sacrifice."

Kano looks away. He points out two arcanites. "Those two over there, they are from outside the village, like me."

Rowaine examines the two figures. For the life of her, she cannot name a single thing that distinguishes them from any other arcanite. "Are they part of your group?"

"No. I know them, though."

The teachers ask Shari to call a public meeting. Shari introduces the two dwarves, who then talk to all those gathered about why they are here. They then start discussing the different races.

The climb takes Lionel and Calico about ninety minutes. There is nothing remarkable at the top, just featureless grass, but the view is noteworthy. On the other side of the mountain, grass extends for about a half mile before it gives way to sand, stretching out to the horizon where the sun hangs, motionless. To the left is more sand, and trees. There is no visible edge in any direction; the horizon appears to be about a day's walk away.

"I would be very interested in what's over that horizon," Lionel says, looking across the sandy waste.

"I can fly us both," Calico offers.

Calico transforms into a pegasus, and Lionel climbs on. They take to the air and fly towards the sun. After something over two hours, the horizon appears to be getting closer. The sand seems to have an appreciable edge. The pair investigate.

It is indeed an edge. Beyond it, ahead and down, is featureless sky. An unusual feeling sweeps over the pair as they circle - is it vertigo? Their eyes begin to ache as they look out. They fly off the edge. The sand sides are smooth, as if the material were stacked against a glass wall. Below the strata of sand is a deep layer of earth. The wall curves inward.

Lionel and Calico head back to the village. They land on the outskirts and Calico resumes his dog form as they enter. In the village centre the teachers are addressing a large gathering. Lionel takes Arrian and Troll aside and explains what they saw.

Weariness in head and arm suggests that evening approaches. The teachers have explained the concepts of day and night, and the need for most living creatures to sleep. They, and the party, are given the use of a building to rest in. Troll and Arrian stay on watch for the first half of the "night", Lionel the second half. Some of the arcanites express interest in seeing what the newcomers are doing. Arrian makes sure they do not disturb the resting party, directing the arcanites to talk to Shari.

The "night" passes uneventfully. Rowaine yawns as she straps on her imithrium breastplate and looks up at the sun, everpresent in the same quadrant of the sky. It was not the best night's sleep she has ever had. She wonders whether she would ever get used to the constant dusk of this place.

An hour later, the teachers resume their tasks. They spend time introducing Shari to the concept of "fun." They enlist Calico to teach the arcanites about animals, directing Calico to assume the shape of each in turn. The day passes.

The next day is filled with more teaching. Troll continues to immerse himself in arcanite life, learning what he can. At the end of the day, the teachers and the party meet with Shari to discuss the past two days' events, then they take their leave, saying that they will return within the week.

Kano does not follow the group as they head back to the cabin portal. They pass through, arriving at the floating mountains, then trek back to Trina's branch. They make their way to Kharag Monastery.

"So, good dwarves," Rowaine begins, "what is your assessment of these curious creatures?"

"I think they need time more than anything," Khordarum says. "There are a lot of things that they know, but there is much more to learn."

"What is your assessment of their character?" Arrian asks.

"There is a difference between those that live in the village and those that don't. The villagers had more of a sense of community and friendship. They also helped out each other more."

"Did you notice any violent traits?"

"No, not amongst any of them. The nonvillagers more readily took to the dice game, though."

"We have only witnessed one incident of falsehood that we know of," Rowaine says, "by a youngster, and it was not well disguised. Have you witnessed any ability to deceive?"

"The nonvillagers don't like talking about what they do in their own time, but I perceive that to be more about privacy than deception."

"Did you see any of them used their magic?"

"No. The villagers appear to covet coming back into our world, and I understand that they perceive their magical abilities as a barrier to that. The villagers are very cooperative. Nonvillagers, on the other hand, seem to be less interested in us."

"I thought that the villagers were compliant," Troll says. "People-pleasing. The nonvillagers were more independent and more straight-up. Frankly, I got on with them better." He pauses. "Shall we bring one of them through to our world, see if their powers work here?" Troll suggests. "Someone like Kano?"

"Shari, I think," Rowaine says. "Do you think it a good idea?" she says, looking at the teachers.

Berathoin and Khordarum exchange glances. "Yes," Berathoin says. "Probably sooner rather than later. And we agree that Shari is a better choice. The villagers are itching to get out into the world; she could calm them down and explain things."

The party agree to ask Shari to accompany them to the floating mountains for at least a full day, and see whether she can work her magic there. The teachers request that they be present, and ask for a day and a half to prepare. The party leave the teachers to their deliberations and preparations, and return to Elondel.

The group turn their minds to the mysterious family rooms in the tower. They strip off their metallic equipment and climb to the circular landing that leads to the private chambers. The locked door stands open and they enter, lighting sunrods.

Past the oval room, the cleared paths into the chamber beyond are still present. The party follow the left path to the previously unexplored doorway. The area beyond is dark and choked with flora. There might have been hinges on one side of the portal in ages past. Unlike the outer wall, this wall is barely two inches thick.

The party follow the right-hand wall, hacking at the scrub with obsidian-edged machetes. Not far into the room there is a respite to the undergrowth surrounding what appears to be a long wooden bookcase on the wall. Dozens of books line the shelves. The bookcase and its contents are in pristine condition. Rowaine cannot sense any evil. Troll detects abjuration magic about the bookcase; he believes it is magically preserved. The spines of the books bear elven script that indicates they are tomes of magical research.

The party drag Troll away from the bookshelf and continue following the wall, eager to discover the extents of the room. The wall bears left; along it, opposite the obscured doorway is a table. Like the bookcase, the plants seem unable to establish a foothold in its vicinity. Upon the table is a rectangular metal box, about five inches high. A folded leaf of paper and a quill sit next to the box. The table and the items it bears are all immaculately preserved. The wall again turns left to complete the room. The almost completely rusted remains of another matre-sized creature lie beside the wall.

Circumnavigation complete, the group return to the table. Arrian can see no hidden traps - unless the box itself is a trap. Troll senses not only the same abjuration magic on the box, but some alteration magic designed to keep it closed. He is beginning to recognise a combination, a flavour of spells that brings to mind his family. The same interplay of dweomers can be seen at Elondel. It is a different category of magic, one not seen anywhere else - almost as divergent as the 'magic' of psionics. Troll has a grasp on the principles, if not the specifics - with time and practice, he believes he could learn it.

Troll picks up the box. It is surprisingly heavy, as if it were solid metal. There are no visible latches, hinges, keyholes, or signs of it being anything other than a single block of material. No one is feeling sick, hopefully evidence that it is not toxic, as a block of pure imithrium would be. He places the box back on the table and picks up the paper. Upon it is written fine elven script:

"To my son,

I was hoping that you would find this, my dearest Étella that I had to send away so young. First of all, I want you to know that we only sent you away with the heaviest of hearts, and if we had been able to keep you and raise you, that would have been our dearest wish. But we had no way to save you or this world, except by the actions that we took. I have in this room preserved as much as I could of your heritage and it should survive until you are able to return to this place. Elondel will know what to do with the box.

With all my love,

Ankella Roulae."

"What does it say?" Rowaine asks.

"Nothing," Troll says, wiping his eyes. "Grab that," he says, indicating the box. "Can I borrow your backpack for a minute?"

"Of course."

Troll takes the haversack, walks back to the bookcase and shovels the books inside. He returns, takes the box from Rowaine and places it on top. "I'm going back downstairs," he says. "I have some reading to do."

"Do you want to wait while I do a circumnavigation of this building first?" Rowaine asks.

"Suit yourself."

KeepMyShape.jpg

Rowaine ventures outside and battles through the thick brush, following the building's right-hand wall. She finds a corner and rounds it. She follows the wall for sixty feet, where the brush thins. She sees another corner of the building. Beyond, a narrow clearing extends out and down the side of a shallow hill, bordered by the forest. Two hundred feet away, the forest ends and a plain continues for a good mile. A plain covered in a sea of arachtria, to the extent that it sparkles. There are far too many to count; Rowaine guesses there are tens of thousands. They are not moving. Their numbers finish neatly at the treeline, as if there were an invisible, impassible barrier. Rowaine backs off, very slowly, very carefully, re-entering the building.

"Uh, guys…"

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