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[IKRPG] Hell on Kephrea; Chaos Above - Chapter 4 - Great Revelations in New Aurora

2016.11.15 23:36 Wulibo [IKRPG] Hell on Kephrea; Chaos Above - Chapter 4 - Great Revelations in New Aurora

An older man sits at his desk, papers strewn about. A young woman comes up behind him, and rubs his shoulders some. “Come join us, we’re having a party.” The man sighs, “I can’t, I’m still writing the play.” “The one with the dragons and that ridiculous villain?” “Yes, that one. I’m in love with the ending, but for some reason I can’t sit down and write the dialogue by myself.” “Well,” she leans forward, “the four of us are just waiting for you to come out and hang out. We’re playing your characters, let’s help you with the dialogue.” He throws his hands up, “all right, what’s the worst that could happen. Lead on, Jill.” Jill leads the playwright to the other room, where three more people are talking and drinking. “Look who’s come out to play! Let’s all listen up, all right?” The man straightens up some papers he’s holding, and reads off them. “Well, I’ll start from here. They got to this small city on the way to New Aurora, it was called
“Leraghan. A one-horse town adapted to house a hundred horsemen. Stuck between mountains to the north and the forest to the south, Leraghan was originally no more than an inn along the Young Road, a vital trade road between the kingdoms on the West and East of the Whitebase Mountains. Now that they’ve all been united under the Egalitarian Republic, which is a bit of a misnomer since I haven't seen no eagles, it’s the best defended little town in the world, and got more military presence than Solstice in Illustria.” Sillith smiled at her cleverness, and looked expectantly at her compatriots. “You guys are listening, right?”
Geldin turned his head back, “I was, lass. Good t’ know wha’ yer gettin’ inta, even if i’s jes’ total safety. Means I don’ haffta worry. I liked yer story. Only, I never been t’Illustria, so I din’t get yer joke.”
Sillith frowned. “Me neither.” Noting her duty as a self-proclaimed bard, Sillith considered asking if they were there yet, but before she could, they were.
“Now, we’re a couple days away from New Aurora still, but we do have the supplies to make it there comfortably, so we don’t have to stop. I don’t know about any of you, but I could use a drink at the tavern here, and I suggest we stay for a few hours.” Ulfbert looked to the others.
“I need to buy some things for my, uh, fluffy pets,” said Sillith, eyeing the villagers walking nearby.
“I think that settles it,” said Furrio. “If Sillith needs something, and Ulfbert has suggested that we stay, then we’ll stay.”
“If everyone’s agreed, then, let’s do it,” agreed Ulfbert.
“Thank you, that is what I said”
“Well, I was agreeing with you.”
“Right, your loyalty is appreciated.”
Ulfbert smile wryly. “Loyalty, eh? You figure you’re running things, then?”
“Naturally. I’m the strongest, the smartest, and as far as I can tell I’m the most invested with saving the world with this prophecy, too, so I think that makes me the leader.”
“Now why’d we have to have a leader?”
“Well I suppose it doesn’t matter, but it could come up at some point, if we need to make a decision.”
“What exactly do you think ‘we’ is? ‘Fore a few weeks ago, Geldin was just going to leave, is he beholden to your royal decree? What’s tying any of us to you?”
“Well, the prophecy, obviously. I don’t think Geldin’s part of the prophecy, he seems more like your follower, so he’s not part of decision-making, and should just listen to you.”
“Now that’s hardly fair,” said Ulfbert.
“Nah, I think ‘e’s right,” said Geldin. “I’m followin’ you, but I dunno ‘bout th’ others.”
“Alright, Sillith, who are you following?” Ulfbert looked at where Sillith was, but she was gone. “Er, Ara’k-azur?” The orc was explaining something to a blind old woman. “Oh no, we’d better sort this out.” When Ulfbert turned back to Furrio, he too was gone, questioning some guard. Geldin shrugged at Ulfbert, and the two approached Ara’k-azur.
“No, see, I can see that you’re blind now, what I was wondering is if I could get a new eye somewhere, since I’m half-blind.”
“Yee-as,” croaked the old woman, “men of you-er sort er haff blin’, yee-as. Butchou see tha’, sa you-er na less blin’ than I.” She grinned and pointed to her blank eye as she said this last word.
“Yes, see, well, no, I don’t understand. I can only see out of one eye.”
“Theh skiesh er chanchin’, d’you see tha’?”
Ara’k-azur looked up. “No, looks pretty — oh! Oh, that cloud is moving, yes.”
She laughed. “Na, chile, theh stairs! Theh stairs den’ spee-ak lih’ thay use-ta. Ther spinnen, an if I c’n see ‘t’all, ther spinnen rounchou, chile. You-er nee-er theh cenn’r, yee-as.”
The orc looked to Ulfbert. “I don’t really understand most of these words.”
“You wheel, you wheel,” she continued. “Heed my fort-yoon wehl, we won’ survife lohn wit’ theh stairs spinnen like thee-er.” She looked satisfied, and her expression changed. “That’s ten gold for a fortune, love.”
Ulfbert and Ara’k-azur exchanged confused glances. Not knowing what else to do, Ara’k-azur handed ten gold pieces to the old woman, who gave a “Rhea bless,” and waddled off.
Furrio rejoined the others. “There’s a mechanik in town, back at the military district. We can check for an eye for-” he stopped himself. “People can make mechanikal eyes here, right?”
“Right,” said Ulfbert, “I don’t know how it works, but- what do you mean here? I thought you were from Munida, the technology’s no different anywhere else on the continent.”
“Yes, well, maybe I should’ve traveled more growing up. You should go get that drink you wanted, I’ll take Ara’k-azur to get a new eye.”
Ulfbert looked as if he was about to say something, and then shrugged. He turned to Geldin. “Want to find a smith’s shop? I could work on our weapons a bit while we wait for those idiots.” The dwarf nodded.
Sillith approached a stall selling surplus military gear, sizing up bits and pieces to see if they could be repurposed for her abominations. She overheard a middle-aged human in dark robes with a horrid cracking voice arguing with the merchant one stall over. “No, I- I understand she’s not th- the god of this l-land, but I need, I, we’re doing a, uh, we need Enn’s power, you see, her, her sigil is, it’s very, I need that specif, uh, specifically.”
“Sorry, sir, you can ask all you want, I just don’t have a Sigil of Enn. Neutrality to Enn and Loh is very important to the Republic politically, a-”
“No! I, I, I won't be edu, uh, ranted at, by, uh, a shop, uh, person about deities and, the gods, and, no! I am very uh, knowledgeable, about these things! You have nothing, nothing to, uh, to tell me! Yes! No! Not a thing!”
The man stormed off, but didn’t get far before Sillith intercepted him. “You’re looking for a symbol of Enn?”
“Yes! Yes, I would greatly, uh, we need it very, yes, very much for, our purposes, which are very, well, I, uh, shan’t just be, uh, who are you?”
“That’s not important, but I have a friend who could likely make you one. What do you need it for?”
“Well, uh, I, we, my friend, he’s a- well he’s not, yes, a paladin, you see, and we need, uh, Enn has lawful, uh power, you see, and the Paladin was, er they are lawful, too, and Haen doesn’t, well, He’s not, we need Enn’s power for this rite, er, rites of, umm, I shouldn’t really, sorry, who are you again?”
“I’m an adventurer.”
“Oh! Adventurers! We need those! Well, uh, some, we need, yeah, you’re not a, uh, latent magic-user by chance?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Oh joy! And, uh, do you happen to know if your power is, uh, mundane?”
“It’s not, but I think I have a friend who has latent mundane powers. In fact I probably have two, but don’t ask the bigger one about it.”
“You must take me to them! Oh, fan- just fantast- just great!”
“You’re not with the EVA, are you?”
Ara’k-azur and Furrio exchanged glances. “The what?”
“The Egalitarian Volunteer Army, and if you don’t know, then you’re not. So why are you bothering me?”
“Well,” Furrio continued, “you’re Daisy, right?”
“Yep,” replied the dwarf.
“So you’re the best mechanik in town, I hear.”
“I am the mechanik in town, that’s correct.”
"Why doesn't our dwarf talk like that?" whispered Furrio to Ara'k-azur, then said to Daisy, “well, I had a sword I wanted you to look at.”
Ara’k-azur threw an odd glance at Furrio, who took his sword out and laid it on the counter. It had a beautiful blade, curved like a xiphos and sharp on both sides, and not very long. The hilt had a large purple gem at the pommel, which glowed faintly whenever someone held it.
“Enn grace me, where did you find this?”
“Uh, it was in a curio shop in Munida.”
“Well, where did the storekeeper say it came from?”
“He didn’t.”
“This gem looks like it comes from Mahgken. It has latent magical properties within it, which is incredible, you see, because arcane forces are nothing more than the minds of particularly spirited individuals, so to have it present without intention is just crazy! I didn’t think these things were real! Wow!”
“Yes, it’s a very cool sword,” agreed Furrio. “Now, could I attach some mechanika to it?”
Daisy blinked. “Oh. Uh, I don’t know. It looks like the energy is concentrated down the blade, probably through a thin chamber of aether in the middle of the hilt, but I can’t be sure without breaking it, and I could never put it back together. No idea how it works, really, so I couldn’t tell you. I bet you could find out more if you went to New Aurora. Did you need anything else?”
“Yes,” said Ara’k-azur, “I need a mechanikal eye. More than he needed you to look at that rock.”
“Ah, perfect! It’s really quite fortunate, we recently had a couple higher-ups blinded, so I had these made up, but they died in the field, so I can sell one to you at a discount! Isn’t that good news?” The dwarf placed a box of various mechanikal parts on the desk in front of her, a couple of odd-looking brass spheres being at the top. The spheres had a circle of coloured glass that looked like an iris, transparent in the very center (our contemporary readers would recognize a camera lens), and were clearly the eyes the mechanik spoke of.
Furrio leaned in to whisper in Ara’k-azur’s ear. “Watch this. Be ready to grab one of those and run.”
“What’s that?” asked Daisy, suspiciously.
“This.” In an odd display of dexterity for a man so large, covered in heavy ornate power armour, Furrio put his arms out and shaked his hands in a manner which is unnamed in Kephrea, but we might be willing to refer to as “jazz hands.” Daisy appeared to be so taken aback by this that she started laughing, lightly at first, but then totally uncontrollably, falling off her stool onto the ground in an irresistible fit of hysterics. Ara’k-azur saw his chance, and grabbed one of the eyes. Before the mechanik could get ahold of herself, they bolted.
The large thieves almost ran right into Sillith and her new friend. Before she could get a word in, Furrio and Ara’k-azur hurriedly ushered them into the nearest (the town’s only) tavern.
Sillith introduced her compatriots to the stranger, and realized she didn’t know the man’s name.
“Muh-my name’s Carl. I, uh, h-hear one of you is a muh, muh, mundanist?”
Furrio replied right away, “If you want to talk about that, we’re going to need drinks.”
After some arguing, Carl agreed to buy a round of ale, and asked who the mundanist was.
“That is I,” said Ara’k-azur.
“N-now, this may seem, ah, strange, b-but, have you ever, ah, fought a, uh, ah, a mons, uh, monster, a-and then you, ah sort of, of, found you could, ah, well, you suddenly, well, did what the, uh, the monster, uh could d-do, like, uh, not m-magically, b-but, ah-”
“Yes. That power has been passed down to me from my father, Aka’d-azur Shamanbrood, and it was passed to him by his father before him, and so it has been in my tribe for all of memory. Our love for the beings of the Keph has kept us in tune with them to such depth that we have always been able to work the same forces that guide them.”
Carl stared slack-jawed for a moment. “I- th-th-th-this is incre-e-e, uh oh my, wow, yes! That’s- a whole tribe of- yes! Wow! Okay, uh, so, uh, h-have you h-heard of, uh, this, uh, the, uh, the b-blight?” Ara’k-azur simply stared. “R-right, o-of c-course, haha, yes, uh, of course. Well, there is this being, the charm wyrm , that has the power to weaken the blight wyrm and other forces of the blight, and, well, we, uh, we know where it is, and, uh, we, we need your, uh, h-help. It, uh, won’t come out to, uh help, so we were hoping to, s-steal, its power.” Carl paused, and caught his breath. This was the most composed he’d been so far. “Have you heard of the Netzer brothers?”
“No.”
“A paladin and arcanist, they’re trav-v, uh, trav, going around and building this, uh, army to, uh, well, kill the, uh, blight wyrm. They, uh, my friend is, uh he’s this p-p-paladin, and, uh, he’s uh, uh, h-helping the, uh brothers, and, well we, we, are tasked w-with getting the, uh charm wyrm’s h-help, or, uh, as close as we, uh, can.” Some heavy footsteps were heard from upstairs.
Sillith perked up. “A paladin!? Here?”
“Uh, yeah, he sh-should be down any, uh minute. Anyway, Ar-r, uh, Arrr, uh,”
“Ara’k-azur.”
“Yes. Do you w-want to h-help us?”
“I don’t know, funny man. I have a mission of my own right now. A group of arcanists killed my best friend, Two-fa-”
“We’re in,” said Furrio. “You may not believe it, but we are the subjects of a prophecy, and I will not accept that my comrade’s gift is a coincidence. We were meant to destroy the blight wyrm, and I’ll see to it that we do.” The heavy footsteps were now descending the staircase behind them.
“Wait one moment, mighty-hammer,” said Ara’k-azur. “We still need to learn more about the prophecy in New Aurora, or did you forget? What makes you so sure it’s about this blight wyrm?”
“We will go to New Aurora to confirm,” said Furrio, “but that is hardly necessary. I can feel this in my heart.”
Sillith jumped out her chair and pointed at the impressive figure standing at the base of the stairs. He was clad in golden armour, and had a somewhat gaunt mustachioed face and wild hair. Most of the tavern’s patrons were looking, though many had seen him the day before. He smiled handsomely at Carl, and walked towards the group, totally unphased by the party’s reaction (Furrio was also standing awestruck by his presence, his hands placed emphatically on his helmeted head). “Are you going to introduce me to our friends, Carl?”
Carl smiled broadly. “Sir Rephael, Paladin Defender, meet Arakidur, the shaman, mundanist, and eminent appropriator!”
Rephael’s smile broadened to the size of Carl’s, and he stuck his hand out for Ara’k-azur to shake. “Please, for a friend as dear as I know you will become, just Rene is fine.”
“And you can call me Ara’k-azur, for that is my name.”
Sillith shrieked like, well, like a young elven bard meeting a legendary hero. “You’re Rene the Renegade, Expert Gambler, Superb Rider, Exquisite Prowler, Graceful Cleaver, Legit Paladin! Furrio, this is the guy that prophecy was about!”
Rene looked at Sillith with confusion on his face, and Furrio said, “wow, what a strange occurrence. There’s no mirror here, yet according to you, I’m looking at myself.” He turned to Sillith. “Seeing a hero like him is a real treat, but the prophecy is about us, Sillith.”
She rolled her eyes. “Let’s let the scholars of New Aurora decide that. For now, Rene, it’s such an honour to meet you. You have to tell me about fighting Tyranny!”
Rene’s smile weakened. “Perhaps someday soon. After all, we’ll have a lot of time when we’re travelling together. You are with Ara’k-azur, aren’t you?”
“Yes.”
“But you’re headed to New Aurora? That’s a bit inconvenient, as we’re headed to Haensland from here, right Carl?”
“Th-that’s right, Sir,” said Carl. “I th-think that’s, uh, best.”
Rene said, “Well, we’ll take a couple of weeks in Haensland, won’t we Carl?” Carl nodded. “So, why don’t you three meet us there when you finish up in New Aurora, and then we can travel together to find the Charm Worm.”1
“Sounds like a plan, man, but we’re actually five, if that jives,” said Furrio.
Rene chuckled, “that works for us I’m sure.”
Sillith started fidgeting. “I’d love to stay and talk to you more, Mr. Renegade, but I really have to use the washroom.” Sillith bolted for the restroom, and Rene left the tavern with Carl. Ara’k-azur and Furrio argued for a couple minutes about the prophecy, until Furrio interrupted to ask, “wait a minute — have you seen Fox?”
Ulfbert and Geldin stepped into the tavern, to see Ara’k-azur slumped over the bar, surrounded by empty glasses. “For Haen’s sake,” Ulfbert said, “it’s scarcely past midday. And where are the others?”
“I don’ know,” said Geldin. “Ye migh’ ‘swell give ‘im ‘is axe back if ‘e’s awake.”
Ulfbert prodded Ara’k-azur, and he sat upright. “I’m not drunks,” he slurred.
“Great. I’ve finished making a halberd, so now I can fight properly, and here’s your improved axe. Where are the others?”
“Carl bought these for me,” said the Orc, pointing to the empty glasses. “He’s the man.”
“Right. Fantastic.” Ulfbert turned to Geldin. “I think this means no more splitting up in towns.”
“‘Less ye get lucky in New Au’ra,” said Geldin, “maybe th’ prophecy won’ be ‘bout them, an’ we can leave ‘em behin'.”
Ulfbert smiled. “We can only hope. Let’s find the others and get there as soon as possible to find out.”
Sillith came from their right, surprising them. She was wearing a broad smile. “Are we following the paladin?” she asked.
“Paladin?” asked Ulfbert. “Do you know about this?” he asked Ara’k-azur.
“Non’t noooo... yeah! Renega’! He went to haaaayn...” Ara’k-azur fell off his stool.
By the time he was helped up, Furrio rejoined them. “Fox was hiding in the lavatory. Anyone know why?” But nobody admitted that they did. He simply shrugged. “Well, so long as Ara’k-azur can walk, I guess we’re off to New Aurora.”
A rather thin orc wearing circular wired spectacles, fairly nice clothing, and a long grey ponytail looked up at them. “And who exactly is asking?” he said.
“We’re adventurers. We’ve uncovered an ancient Auroran prophecy, and we wanted to talk to someone here about it,” replied Ulfbert.
“I see,” said the Orc. “Well, I suppose you’ll want to talk to Ouzlak, he’s the local expert on Auroran history. Normally that would make him the busiest man on this campus, but with times being what they are, he might be the only wizard around who’s not too busy to see you. The astrology department-”
“That’s great,” said Furrio, “I guess history’s day is in the past, eh?” He had his helmet off, and was waggling thick Ogrun eyebrows at the orc. Somehow this made the orc chuckle. “Where can we find him?”
A nice oaken door with a golden plate reading “Arnold Ouz’lak”2 opened in front of the adventurers. “Good luck Winslow, this is very promising indeed,” spoke an orcish voice, and a scrawny middle-aged man clutching a few scrolls graciously stepped backwards into the hallway, smiling. He saw the adventurers, nodded, and headed in the other direction.
The adventurers walked into “Arnold’s” office. Unlike the first orc, and another they’d passed on their way here, here was an orc wearing his hair long and straight, and even sporting facial marks similar (though less artistically pleasing) to Ara’k-azur’s. He looked surprised at the presence of the adventurers, and then smiled. “Explorers!” he said. “And a genuine Ork3 among you as well! Please, have a seat. I am the eminent Ouz’lack, Wizard of the Archaic tradition.”
“I am Ara’k-azur Shamanbrood, Shaman of the... Shamanbrood tradition.”
“Fascinating. I’d love to talk at length with you about your heritage sometime. Are you around, say, three weeks from yesterday.”
“No.”
“Oh. Then what is it that you want?”
“We were hoping you could help us with an old prophecy, assuming you haven’t forgotten its details over the last millennium,” laughed Furrio.
Ouz’lack chuckled politely. “From where is this prophecy?”
“It’s ancient Auroran, we found it in some ruins Southwest of here. We already have it translated, but we were hoping for help with the finer points.”
“Oh, I see. Well, I’m a bit busy for that sort of thing, you should take it up with Winslow Friedrich, a human wizard candidate of mine. He’s very bright, but not doing anything important right now. You just missed him heading to the library.”
“Then we’d better book it there,” said Furrio, and left the room. The others thanked Ouz’lack for his time politely and then followed him.
Winslow had a number of books in front of him. He had just opened one when Furrio approached him and asked, “we heard there was a bookworm we should talk to named Winslow. Have you seen a dragon made of pages nearby?”
“Huh?” asked Winslow.
“Bookworm? Book wyrm? Like a dragon? Keep up, kid.”
Winslow looked at the young ogrun face in front of him. He was about to make a point about age, but it was twisted in such a silly expression he had to just laugh and shrug. “Alright, I guess that’s me. What do you need?”
“We found this Auroran prophecy in some ruins. We managed to translate it, but we don’t know what order the fragments should be in. Could you help us?”
“Sure,” said Winslow. They gave him Geldin’s images, and attached translations. “I can tell from the composition of the tablets in these sketches which things would be where on a wall, so that should help.” He explained that the bit where Ta’k-ros introduces himself is the first, followed by the ‘great evil’ driving them from their homes. “That’s Tyranny,” Winslow said. “You can tell by the wording and the story. There are rumours he was killed by some adventurers in Hurm, though.” Winslow continued that the introduction of the four happens right after that, and it ends with the evil not being reborn twice. “The ‘spirit’ might be Fara, the huntress. That’s just a guess though. The Aurorans worshiped Keph principally, and he’s not known to communicate with shamans like that. As for the other four pieces, I can’t tell you anything about their order. Sorry.”
“I had another question,” said Furrio. “Does this gem look like anything to you?” He showed Winslow the crystal in his sword.
“Hmm, I’m no great wizard, but there’s latent magic in this crystal, isn’t there?”
“Yes."
“This actually looks like it might be related to my work. Have you heard of the Avians?”
Furrio looked shocked, but the others were just confused. “Tell us.”
“Well, legend has it that back in the first millennium, there was this whole other race of people on Keph, who had feathers and talons, and other birdlike features. They were incredibly intelligent, and had started developing a sort of super-weapon to destroy the monsters of Mahgken. However, they made some other advancement, and gained the ability to use magical crystals to lift whole city-sized chunks of the keph into the air. So, they abandoned this weapon, and just up and left the ground to live in the skies on cities totally safe from monsters. Now, most people don’t believe it, but I’ve uncovered some ancient texts that detail some specific sites where this was supposed to have happened! If people were to investigate these sites, and there were actually city-sized craters with no evidence of other causes, it could lend credence to this previously far-fetched story.”
“Well,” said Ara’k-azur, “we’re adventurers. We do stuff like checking out ancient ruins all the time.”
“Hey, yeah! I’ve been trying to lobby for a scrying, but that’s just too much money and effort these days for theoretical history. Maybe I can get funding for a small expedition, though! We can send another scholar with you, one whose work isn’t as important, and you could visit these sites! I doubt you’d get very much though, on the order of 2000 gold.”
“Interesting,” said Ara’k-azur, with his purse of 150 gold. “It wouldn’t help that they were developing a super-weapon?”
“It might!” said Winslow. “I’ll give this a go. It should only take about two weeks for me to get a proposal together and hear back, will you be around?”
“No. Can you maybe send word to us in Haensland?”
“I’ll try.”
At this point Sillith rejoined them. She looked very disappointed. “I just went off to research our friend Rene, and look what I found...” Sillith had found an archived letter which claimed that one Sir Rephael had fallen from the order of Paladins, when defending the University of Opulia from a demonic demigod. He supposedly saw his old love Esmeralda and his beloved mount both die, and lost faith in Haen at that moment. Attempting to sacrifice himself, he successfully got the demon demigod under control, but he survived.
Ulfbert turned to Winslow. “Would you know anything about more recent events like that?”
“Not really, I don’t pay attention to anything that happened before the year 2400. Did you know there’s like a pseudo-undead plague going around? Crazy! No, for anything after around 2900 you’d want the Bardic Department.”
Sillith’s eyes couldn’t be covered by the largest coin on Kephrea they were so wide. “The what.”
They heard the Bardic Department before they saw it. It was an absolute cacophony, a blend of instruments and voices with no shared rhythm or theme. When they opened the doors to the great hall in which the bards were performing, it only became worse. Dozens of people (mostly humans with some orcs) were lined up playing instruments or singing, with no conductor to be seen. After a moment, a very wide orc, the second they’d seen here without a ponytail (including all the others in the ‘orchestra’, and some encountered in the streets outside the school), noticed them, and shouted above the din, “come! Join our Ode to Chaos!” Sillith dropped everything but her harmonica, and joined in for a good eight minutes, at which point the noise fortunately ended. All the other bards went on their way with purpose, but the orc who called Sillith up stayed behind.
“Greetings, friends! My name is Fantasius Gregorius, the renowned bardic wizard. For what reason have you come here, clearly seeking my counsel in particular?”
“I bet he was born ‘Greg,’” whispered Furrio to Ulfbert.
“We’re looking for information on a number of topics,” said Sillith, “but also I was wondering if there are any openings because oh my god all of this is amazing.”
“You’re a little young to be joining our ranks,” said Gregorius, “but I’d be happy to regale you on a number of topics, for a number of topics happens to be my area of expertise.” He was doing something which he seemed to think was what rolling Rs was, although the linguistic basis for this habit is unknown.
They questioned him on the Paladins, and he spoke at length on the origin of the modern paladins, as well as the original four. They questioned him on Rene specifically, and he offered to give them the entire story of Carl’s Saviours in verse, but they declined. He admitted that he had heard of Rene’s falling, and wished to tell it all as a tragedy, but everyone but Sillith asked him to move on. They asked him about the Blight Wyrm and Charm Wyrm, and he told them all about how they were two of the early great monsters from the Time Before, who avoided being banished to the Dungeon Realm when the Time of Folk began, since they were rather smaller than some of the other monsters. “In those days being smaller than mountain Durvruhl marked you as small fry, so enemies of Blight needn’t take heart,” he said.
They asked him about the university, and he smiled. “We owe our recent success to Kathros. That man was a bit of a creep before, kept to himself, but with the Egalitarian government offering funds to research a solution to the Blight, he’s really risen to the occasion. Done some amazing work. Really, with the cuts that have been happening at other institutions, and despite my incredible work, I owe this department’s continued existence to him. If you’re interested in the blight, it might be worthwhile trying to talk to him. Word to the wise, though, he, uh, prefers humans.”
Ara’k-azur nodded his understanding. “Can you tell us about the Avians?”
“Well, I mainly deal in fact,” said Gregorius. “The avians are no more real than, say, the fifth Paladin.”
“There’s a fifth Paladin?”
“No. It’s another myth. Not even the good kind which is corroborated in other stories or historical documents, the made-up kind.”
“Tell us anyway, maybe it is real.”
“Look, the story just says that there was a fifth Paladin adventuring with Tyranny, Freedom, Slaughter, and ‘Paladin’. People noticed that the gods of the Eastern pantheon, Haen, Neth, Sei, and Enn, create a sort of cross pattern. Haen and Neth are opposites, as are Sei and Enn. Well, Paladin embodies aspects of Haen and Enn, Freedom Haen and Sei, Tyranny Neth and Enn, and Slaughter Neth and Sei. So, somebody thought, ‘maybe a fifth one was in the middle, totally neutral.’ This one is called Nature. Supposedly she was a great mediator, and only comes out in times of great imbalance. However, there have been many times of great imbalance and she’s never been spotted outside of one made-up story, so she’s made up. Just like the avians.”
With all their questions answered, the party went down to meet Kathros. Or rather, the human in the party did.
Ulfbert returned from downstairs. “Well that guy is unpleasant.”
“Did ye’ learn anythin’,” asked Geldin.
“Yeah, they’re planning to cast a spell that will destroy everything blighted at once. Something looked funny to me, so I stole the plans.” He took a large scroll out from under his armour. Everyone got excited at this, worrying that they’d get caught. Nobody seemed concerned that plans which might help end the very problem they were trying to solve had just been misplaced.
Sillith looked the plans over. “It’s a huge spell. It’s going to need dozens of devoted spellcasters working for hours to cast. They don’t know what kind of energy they’re going for, but once they have that this is pretty much ready to go.”
“That’s the thing,” said Ulfbert. “They seemed like they had no idea what could injure Blight. They had a couple charm whelps chained up down there, but no idea what to do with them. It seemed like this plan was created by one amazing research team, and a totally different one was working on the last bit. If they do decide they know what kind of energy to use, I’m worried they’d be wrong and kill us all.”
Sillith tried to assure him that that wasn’t possible, but Ulfbert didn’t budge. “These plans are too dangerous. We’re taking them with us.”
And take them they did, through the perilous mountain path straight to Haensland.
1 The different spellings Worm/Wyrm are intentional. It reflects an important difference in pronunciation among different speakers in the original language of the setting, which in turn reflect slightly different etymologies. Essentially, people who say “wyrm” are thinking of a proper dragon, but speakers who use “worm” understand the Charm and Blight Worms to be something totally different. At this point it’s unclear who’s right; accounts of the Charm Worm/Wyrm conflict, and nobody claims to have seen the Blight Worm/Wyrm and lived.
2 I could write a short book on the orcs of New Aurora, but here it suffices to say that there would be a noticeable pronunciation difference from “Ouzlack” and “Ouz’lack.” Most contemporary orcs with the name would say “Ouzlack”; the wizard probably does differently because of his interest in history and his orcish heritage.
3 Similar to footnote 2, this pronunciation/spelling is archaic, and its subtext of situating Ara'k-azur as something from the old world was lost on the party.
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