Saturday, January 06, 2007

Dorben, entry 27 ---26th Flamerule thru Unknown--- Time keeping becomes problematic on a trip we may never remember

Supplementary Adventure Journal of Dorben Wainfoster
Some time after 26th Flamerule, Year of the Haunting

---It seems I now find myself writing perhaps the strangest journal entries it shall ever by my duty to record. Aedron, Nia and I have been transported to a place known as Shadowlight Keep. It has been revealed to us that this is the place where our Keep sends some of us from time to time to rebuild itself.

We had been looking across a short distance to our own Keep when cascades of rainbow hued light enveloped us. The lights grew more and more intense until I could see only Aedron and Nia, and they me. We huddled together and waited for the energy to pass. Through some turn of fate, this was the first time I had been chosen to travel with my friends through the rainbow lights. We have since ascertained that the rainbow energy is a manifestation of the Soulforge’s power. We were moved through the Soulforge to reach Shadowlight Keep and I would assume it shall be our transport home as well.

The cocoon of solid whirling rainbow light dissipated from its apex down, thus first revealing to us a nighttime sky filled near to bursting with stars. I was immediately struck with several very obvious facts. First; a great deal more stars were present in these skies than in those under which we three had been born and raised. Second; none of these stars were in any familiar patterns. And third: many of the stars were rapidly moving about that dark sky. The nearest physical representation I could think of was if several layers of crystal clear glass were embedded with scattered chips of light and those layers were then to rotate independently of each other on different axes. It seemed that Aedron found the effect profoundly disturbing to his equilibrium, as he was struck with a staggering bout of sea sickness. I gave him a few herbs to suck on to settle his innards as we turned to observe our surroundings.

It seems fitting that our first sight in this new place was the sky, seeing as how we had arrived at the very top of a crenellated roof. We looked about and found that we were standing atop a large castle. Actually, “large” is not the right word. This edifice was, and in fact is, quite immense. As we looked about we heard what at first sounded like a horse’s whinny. Except that the whinny of a normal horse does not generally send a gang of shivers skittering up one’s spine. Although I had never heard one myself before that time, I could only think that what we had just heard must have been a Nightmare; the obsidian skinned equines of the nether realms. Teachers and former colleagues in arms had told me of the creatures before and hearing that noise fit their descriptions. The sound seemed to have come from some distance and we were not attacked, so we continued our examination of our landing area.

As we looked about, Nia and Aedron called my attention to their side of the roofline. There was a lush garden courtyard visible below that appeared to be full of fireflies; or lightning bugs as some call them. As we looked down we realized that we were at least twelve stories from the ground and whatever creatures we were observing below us could be quite a bit larger than we thought.

After a bit of searching we found a trapdoor in the rooftop and used that to descend so that we might further explore our new surroundings. We found ourselves on a covered walkway that wrapped around the building, sheltering several large windows. As we made our way around, we passed a window looking into a room where it appeared that three scribes, all human males, were going about their duties. One was writing something while another was looking over the writer’s shoulder and the third was reading from a large book. The glass of those windows must have been of a goodly thickness for we were unable to hear any of the commentary within. We continued along the walkway until we came to a pair of doors flanked by windows. Within was a foyer or landing of four doors and the head of a spiral staircase.

We entered the landing and considered which way to go next. The sound of foot steps ascending the stairs the stairs rose to our ears at that moment. Aedron found a hiding place; which is astounds me almost every time he does it. I mean really, the fellow is a good eight feet tall and pale as sea foam yet he is able to virtually disappear before my eyes. Be that as it may; he did indeed fade himself into the shadows somehow. Nia was unable to find a hiding spot and I simply did not bother. I am regularly encased in pearlescent white metal from head to toe and have all the grace of a cart horse, so I saw little point. I did however draw my mace and ready my shield, just in case.

A handsome blonde gentleman clad in golden tunic and white hose entered from the stairs. I tried a polite greeting to introduce us calmly but it turned out to be of little need. As soon as the gentleman spotted Nia he called out her name in a happy tone, scooped her up and embraced her in a very amorous kiss. I knew that Nia had quite an affect on most men, but this had a feeling of familiarity about it. This man knew Nia yet she seemed to have no recollection of him in the least; which did not stop her from returning his kiss with equal energy. He then turned to me and said that he recognized me from Nia’s description the last time she was here. To say that we were confused is an understatement. But at the same time, there seemed the ring of truth to his words.

The gentleman introduced himself as Marcus and told Nia that Angelique would be overjoyed when she learned that she had returned. His proclamation was momentarily punctuated by the sound of somebody charging their way up the stairs. A lovely young woman hurtled from the mouth of the stair and wrapped Nia in a warm embrace. Marcus had only a moment to introduce his daughter before she virtually dragged Nia down the stairs with a proclamation of her desire to go riding.

Marcus smiled as the two young ladies departed and then turned to us. Aedron had emerged from his hiding spot while we had been distracted by the ladies’ exit. Marcus smiled and asked that we accompany him, as his grandfather, the chamberlain of this castle would certainly want to meet with us. Marcus led the way and we followed.

As we descended into the castle, Marcus informed us that this place is known as Shadowlight Keep. His family had been its caretakers for some time. It was also during that initial descent of the stairs, some of which apparently moved of their own volition, that Marcus told us that time did not pass at the same pace here as back in our own world. He made some attempt at an explanation but I’m afraid his efforts were in vain as far as I was concerned. My grasp of chronomantic relativistic matters was never better than passing at best and those lecture series are some years in the past now. Suffice it to say that Marcus assured us that we needn’t feel pressed for time while we were here. The Soulforge and our Keep would return us to our home world and our companions at the point when we were needed.

We descended several levels down into the very heart of Marcus’s home until we came to a wonderfully well appointed study. There we were introduced to the castle’s chamberlain, Christof. A gentleman of fine bearing and wise demeanor. Master Christof verified that this was indeed our destination when our Keep sends us off on its errands. Unfortunately, for some reason none of us has ever been able to retain any detailed memories of our adventures here. Also, our nothing from here will return to our world with us. With that in mind, I promptly asked if I might be provided with writing and art supplies. At least this way I am able to leave behind journals, notes and diagrams so as not to have to begin again from square one. Our new friends were happy to meet my requests.

Master Christof further explained that there are several research libraries here in his castle which would be available to us at any time. He said that there were in fact many versions of our Keep available here and doing research might help us o not pick the wrong ones. For instance, if we were to choose the wrong version of the stables, we might provide Blackblades with his personal steed. That brought the value of this research home to me as I for one did not relish the idea of that, creature, being more mobile.

It was explained to us, as it seems it must be explained each time any of us is once again brought to Shadowlight Keep, that we will have to delve into the catacombs below Shadowlight to “claim” parts of our Keep. The deeper one goes down into the catacombs, the more the different planes of existence overlap and interact. My guess would be that Shadowlight Keep rests upon some nexus of existence and serves as its guardian.

Before we left Chamberlain Christof he mentioned that Aedron’s “Lady” had sent a gift for him. It seems he had in some way pleased his goddess and some proxy of hers had delivered a gift. Christof handed over a small bag from which Aedron drew forth a necklace and small amulet that certainly appeared to be made of ice. Being a gift from the Frost Maiden, I certainly did not wish to make any closer examination of the item than was necessary. I continue to remind myself that the Frost Maiden’s worship does not necessarily entail any evil. Aedron is a spiritual fellow and being from where he was raised, he was left with few choices. I will judge my friend by his actions, not the deity to which he prays. Upon donning the necklace, which was then almost completely covered by his beard, Aedron underwent a minor transformation. His hair has always been the palest blond but now it had become the purest snow white. But most startling were his eyes. There was a glacial property to the color of his eyes. As if two rings of the bluest glacier ice had been set within his orbs. Only slightly disquieting and thankfully there did not appear to be any change in his personality.

After departing from Christof’s study, Aedron and I went our separate ways for what became the rest of the day. He had spotted a snow covered courtyard from the rooftops and wished to go there to give prayers of thanks to his goddess. I was guided by Marcus to one of the reference libraries. The library is truly on scale with the rest of the castle, with multiple levels and grand arching ceilings. Marcus introduced me to the research assistants and left me in their capable hands. I was not the best of the researchers amongst my fellow students but I was also far from the worst. I greatly enjoy the journey of discovery that one may sometimes find available only through the printed word.

As I mentioned before, keeping track of time while we stay at Shadowlight Keep is sometimes problematic. I have my natural body rhythms to keep me on some schedule but the sense of the passage of days does not always feel quite right. And there is no relative calendar here. I have passed several days in research and note taking while Nia has enjoyed herself, riding with Angelique during the days and activities of another sort with Marcus during the evenings. I believe Aedron has been exploring the grounds. He has always seemed a more solitary sort than many of the rest of us, most likely from his years as a tribal hunter and scout, and yet he works so well as part of a team. Again, I know that I am blessed with fine companions such as few have known before.

I do not mean to imply that my time was consumed with naught but books and notes. There have been splendid meals and engaging conversations with our hosts. And so that I am not caught unawares on any future visits, I must make note here that I have spent several very enjoyable evenings in amorous endeavors with young Lady Angelique.

Angelique has also engaged me on a few occasions to join her for a horseback ride. This was to prove one of the more interesting and startling encounters of my days here. Angelique introduced me to her two favorite steeds, Belle and Beast. Belle is a nightmare, very likely the source of the spine quivering whinny we heard upon our first arrival here. Although she is to all appearances a true physical example of that nether race, her personality is most certainly friendly. Angelique explained that she was the latest of several generations raised on the castle grounds as guardians. Their personalities had eventually adapted to their environs. I thought I might try another steed but Angelique explained that the only other available was Beast, and he is evidently a bit territorial and perhaps jealous. She then proceeded to introduce me to Beast. I am unsure of the species but Beast is apparently some sort of unicorn; blood red of coat, with a curving obsidian horn and the teeth of a predator. The look in his eyes upon spying me left me with no doubt that any who rode with beast was well guarded. Yet he was as gentle as the kindest cart horse with Angelique. His look also left me with the definite impression that if I crossed his rider, I would be on the dinner plate. The riding outings were quite exhilarating, especially the first time Belle decided to charge directly THROUGH a rather large tree with me on her back. I had not been aware of that ability of her species but at the speed Belle was covering ground at that point, I had only a split moment in which to panic before we were already through to the other side. Yes, quite exhilarating.

Aedron, Nia and I got together on several occasions to discuss what we would and would not be looking for in our quest for the next bit of our Keep. Since we were unsure of what parts of the Keep proper had already been established and did not wish to “reset” any of them, we finally decided to make our try for one of the outer towers; although we would actually be questing for the base first and then need to establish each of the subsequent levels on their own at a later time. Our thinking was that a good strong base level room with a stout door could provide a good strong base of operations and retreat point for our further explorations of the Keep back in our world. In fact, it is quite likely that we will find ourselves exploring whatever tower base room we find upon our return.

Each subsequent round of discussions led to further days of research. We established the basic dimensions, thickness of walls, the need for a firepit and perhaps some basic accoutrements such as bunks and perhaps weapon racks. We also did research into several exotic materials; hoping that we might be able to make the edifice somewhat resistant to the rigors of the environment. And thus it has come to pass that I have lost some track of the passage of days as I have been very busy and did not actually begin this journal until now. But I believe I have brought everything at least current to now. We have established what we are looking for and will make our play for the tower base on the morrow. By my Silver Lady’s grace, I shall write again soon.

*****

Supplementary Adventure Journal of Dorben Wainfoster
Some further time beyond 26th Flamerule

---We seem to have been quite successful. Of course, judging from what parts of the Keep are already in residence back in our own world, our compatriots have been quite successful in their earlier endeavors as well. But this is my first time and I feel it is worth recording, if for no other reason than to give reference for later endeavors.

Once we informed Marcus that we felt ourselves fully prepared, he made things ready and we made our way toward the lower depths of the castle. We descended stairs that began as dark set stones to single pieces of glossy black stones until finally we were to all appearances treading upon crystal encased blackness. Marcus led us deeper until we came to the “bottom” which looked to be wide open empty space. Empty, that is, except for multiple thin lines of white light that criss-crossed and extended off into the far distance. Marcus produced a metal rod, concentrated for several moments and then released the rod. The rod dropped and then upended itself on one of the lines. The rest of the lines faded away as that one began to shine brighter. Marcus said that this was as far as he could accompany us and he would await our return above.

The rod led us some ways into the distance until we came to a large crystal floating in space. Aedron and I stopped to consider for a moment but Nia could not stop herself from promptly touching the crystal. She was instantly drawn within the crystal and we had no choice but to follow as quickly as we might.

Either the interior of the crystal was much larger than its outer shell or we had been shrunk to fit within. We found ourselves in a lit chamber surrounded by a wall of thousands of facets, and within each of those facets we could see the ground floor of a tower represented. We had to look a bit closer to see that each was a different building. We looked with our eyes, not our hands, and I kept hold of Nia’s hands to guarantee just that. All the towers visible fit the basic criteria we had considered; octagonal shape, a decent size, thick walls, and a fairly high ceiling. From there we had a great deal of variables to consider.

We began to eliminate and elaborate on our desires and as we spoke of our desires, certain facet pictures would disappear. After we had observed for some time, we noticed that if we concentrated on a specific facet, we were able to exert some bit of control on the point of view. It was almost as if we were trying to guide the focus point of a scrying spell while slightly drunk. As we controlled the view focus we were able to look within the towers and from there gain more insight and ideas as to which tower to select. But even after we had exhausted out ideas about layout and basic furnishings, including a firepit in the center and trapdoors and stairs leading both up and down, there were still a great deal of facets to choose from.

With nothing other to consider, we began to think broader and speculated that perhaps magical facilities or specialized materials might be considered. When that thought was aired a good deal more of the choices were eliminated. Looking closely and considering, we found a good deal of the edifices appeared to be constructed of materials that might offer us extra protection from the colder elements of our current home. It was during these considerations that we found that we could only make selections from visual clues. The views did not change simply from our mentioning the desire for said material, only when we spotted visual clues that the material was perhaps there and voted to eliminate those that did not include those elements.

After a bit more minor debate and discussion, we found our choices narrowed to only five. Since it seemed that Aedron and I had been making most of the choices to that point, we asked her to make the final choice. Of course, she chose the one she considered the prettiest. We all agreed and then touched that facet together. We found ourselves instantly transported to the interior of the tower base. All appeared more or less as we had chosen. We recalled that Marcus had instructed us that there would be something we needed to accomplish to claim the tower but we had no idea what.

The first thing we noticed outside the realm of what we expected was that the fire seemed to be guttering near to going out. Letting the fire extinguish did not seem a good idea. We worked together to keep the fire alive, Aedron adding wood from a stack we spotted nearby. When the log caught and the flames proved to be of unexpected colors, we paused. I examined the logs and it appeared that they had been alchemically treated. At first I thought there was simply some additive to create the lovely colored flames but then we noticed that there was more to it than that. It seemed to me that the logs had been made to contain a certain amount of magic; as like a scroll or potion or perhaps some combination.

We quickly found that some magic did indeed seem to have been sparked as the weapons resting in racks about the interior walls rose to attention as if carried in the hands of ready wielders. We also noticed at about that moment that there was some noise from outside the tower. As we all readied to fight the animated weapons if needs be, Nia edged toward the door and looked out through the peep hole. She announced that a rather large group of orcs charging towards the tower at that moment. The floating weapons seemed to be awaiting orders and since they had only animated after the log had been placed on the fire, we thought that the magic of the log must be their driving force. Since Aedron had placed the log upon the fire, we assumed it must be he to give them their orders.

It was only when we saw the look upon Aedron’s face that we realized that he might think that the weapons were being wielded by spirits. Nia and I assured him that the weapons themselves were animated by magic, not spirits, and he needed to be the one to order them to defend the tower. Nia threw open the door, Aedron martialed himself and bellowed the order to attack, the weapons streaked out through the door to meet the orcish charge, and I bolted across to the tower door and slammed it shut. We next barred the door and we had intended to go to the tower roof to add our ranged attacks to those of the animated weapons but that was not to be. As soon as the beam was in place across the door, we found ourselves transported back within the gem. The way out was lit behind us and we made our way back to Shadowlight Keep.

Marcus and Angelique and the rest of the occupants of Shadowlight Keep have been wonderful hosts. It is a shame that we will not be able to retain memories of our time here. Since no materials from this realm will return with us to our home world, I have begun this supplementary journal. My collected notes, diagrams and drawings from our research will remain with this secondary journal and I have also set down several letters of introduction in my own hand, addressed to myself and each of my companions. The letters will remain here in hopes that they will ease and expedite our transition whenever we might return here to our friends of this other realm. Marcus informed me that there is no guarantee of the permanence of any rooms that are unoccupied so I shall leave all in the capable care of good Marcus. I hear Angelique thundering up the stairs to retrieve me for dinner, so I shall end here. By my Lady’s grace, I shall write again soon.

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