(The Élas calendar usually uses indexes into the seasons and a year dating from the founding of the local city. Narya uses After the Consolidation of the Labyrinth because its one of the older dates in the Élas system and she grew up with that one.)
Wouldnt you know it, but a quick scouting trip to look at an unusual cloud formation turns out to have a whole new island thatll show me not to leave Durak without my diary. Well, another island, another book... and what an island!
The mountain here is incredible. (Sketch of Rayleen on facing page, showing different colors and guilds, arrow showing rotation and note on how often.) Ive seen the Dragon Mountains above Throlaia in Élas, but this is ridiculous. How do they deal with erosion? (Not very well, actually; there are bare patches of Truestone up there...) I just hope the mountains base is enough that it never falls over.
I havent seen any direct symbols from my dream, but I figured it was likely metaphorical. Since I didnt bring the description along from Durak, I better jot it down again in case I get knocked on the head: standing in a river, braced against the current, with an armored knight in my hand. Hes hacking at my hand. Its vitally important that I not drop him, but hes hacking too hard and I have to drop him into the water, where he washes away.
There werent any signs as we landed and paid to stow the airship and bribed a young urchin to show us around and tell us why they color their mountain differently on different levels. (What a bureaucracy! Fisherman need licenses from the Merchant guild to sell fish! How can they get anything done here?) But Lokon says that the runoff from the lubricant they use on the tramways is killing fish and that the price is fixed. Oh yeah, Lokon.
After we had the urchin show us to someplace to get food they certainly know a bunch of creative fish dishes here Cherise and I hiked over to a nature temple and had a chat with a priestess of Kor. Apparently, there are a lot of things to worry about. There havent been any explicit prophecies that we can wave at people, but the ecosystem certainly seems threatened. Theyre trying to feed too many people in one place, and they seem to be using magic to try and compensate for a lack of territory. It apparently took mythic efforts for people to plate over the island with living rock in the first place, and continuing efforts to bring in more living rock to deal with erosion... and the cost is too high for people to pay today, so their future suffers.
The locals follow some interesting religious practices where they study the lives of people with the same name from before, and they even take on names in hopes of emulating past heroes, so we hiked up to the big Library of Historical Lives (though it said Library of Historical Lies when we got out, so I think Nemo has been doing a little creative vandalism, bless his chaotic heart or whatever hes got in there). Apparently theres a special name, Falvar, used for strangers who come in and mess around. It seems to be masculine and feminine, singular and plural, and it seems to have superstitious significance around here.
Given that Im likely to be messing around, I guess Ill call myself Falvar with the Big Stick and hope someone has the speak softly and carry a big stick proverb. Sliphas seems to be content with Falvar of the Rainbow Fur, Nemo with Falvar of the Many Shapes, and Cherises Falvar of the Violet Wings is really enigmatic for a young woman with black hair and violet eyes. I cant wait to see the expressions when Falvar of the Violet Wings turns into a violet-scaled dragon. Buttons wont come to Falvar of the Mighty Paws, unless Im waving a fish at him. Tavarm insists on being Tavarm. Lazy wizard. Anhir hasnt made up anything either; I should ask him if Enlightenment priests dont go in for Falvardom. [Did Jade get a name?]
Did some poking around in the Library and it looks like there certainly were some ecological crises in the past. [Insert data from Johns notes here.]
As I was walking down the hall in the library, a book jumped off the shelf at me literally! so I looked into it. It was about people named Lokon, one of whom actually provided some sensible leadership during one of the previous ecological crises including hiring Falvar to help out. I figured it would be a good idea to keep an eye out for Lokons, and sure enough, one turned up. I was looking for the meddling sybil who prophesied for Sliphas, in case shed give me something enigmatic to mull over. Sure enough, she was haranguing a Lokon! He was apparently in the Adventurers section of the library trying to find some data on adventurers to hire, so I got the group to stand over in front of some empty shelves in the Adventurers section and wait to catch his attention.
He wasnt too happy about the entrapment, but with books jumping off the shelf at me Im not going to deny signs from the gods. Anyway, he hired us to go clean up problems on an island, Anrinil, which apparently got hit with a nasty chaos storm and hasnt been habitable since. (The outlying islands around Rayleen are all used for farming, and the seas for fishing. and theyre having big problems supporting the population here. If they had the brains to stop controlling the price of fish, maybe people would move to other islands and relieve some of the population pressure.)
Not a lot of progress today, but at least we have some leads. Looks like the local government has a lot of bureaucracy and a whole Senate that will need to be convinced if were going to get the people to clean things up. Lokon has plenty of sense but is frustrated that he cant get people to clean up their acts.
Spending the night in an inn; well take ship in the morning.
Moons Day, 36th of Autumn, 1433 ACL
Seconday, ??, 6073 AF
Anrinil was devastated. Burned to the ground. We killed some shadows, rather similar to the one that Nemo is imitating right now, and found a diary of a girl who died after the chaos storm that wiped things out. Some very puzzling divinations. We found a snakeskin that made Cherise and Sliphas sneeze. Sliphas did some divination about the last moments of the people who died and found some odd things, like one person getting killed up on a hill when the island is virtually flat. (At least, the leg muscles were exhausted like after climbing...) The deaths involved a lack of sensation spreading upward one person saw a bright winged figure at the end.
On the way back from Anrinil, Lokon let us know that he really hired us because his merchant colleagues are acting strange conspiring together, apparently possessed and so was one of his trusted bodyguards. Anhir went around checking all the seamen and Lokons bodyguards for some sort of possession and the bodyguard who had been acting strangely lately jumped into the water and began swimming away. We tried to stop him, but somehow he managed to immolate himself.
The mages on this island must be mad. They have enchanted devices everywhere! You just pour in a little of this colored activator fluid, the item powers up, and you can heat water, cook food, all kinds of stuff. You just pay for the activator and it channels power from some central source where theres some kind of master enchanted item, and the one in your house gets enchanted by sympathy or something. Lokon says he doesnt know of anyone whos been eaten by elementals or had weird blowups happen, which is the sort of thing Id expect from anyone using magic like this, though there are apparently times when the guards and wizards have to go kill some sort of supernatural creature that pops up and the power system fluctuates at that time. Are they just storing up all the mystery and wonder and terror in magic someplace? What kind of loons are they?
Apparently, this means they dont have to worry about fuel for cooking, washing, and so on. Theyve got steady wind and rain, so they should be able to do all sorts of things with windmills and water wheels to provide elevators for travelling up and down such a tall and narrow island... but the population density here is amazing. A city like this on Élas would need miles and miles of surrounding farmland and woodland to support it. Here, theyve put everything into food production, so there arent many other plants in to help balance the soil. No wonder they have an environmental crisis: they have far more people here than they can reasonably feed!
Sliphas and I discussed using his chaos magicks to create a new breed of mosquito whose larvae eat the magical lubricant that is killing the fish. That would make food for the fish and lots of annoying mosquitoes that the locals will want to eliminate. Im not sure it would be enough to clue the locals into the fact that theyre ruining the ecosystem they have to live in, though.
Staying the night at Lokons Im taking first watch because I catnap pretty well.
What a day! We do routine bodyguarding, going all the way up to the merchant districts and all the way down to the docks. Jade and Cherise found an interesting little magical plant called greyflower apparently the one that was brought back from the Land of the Dead by Varthil a couple thousand years ago which zaps your brain if your head is exposed directly to it. Fortunately we can handle it behind cloth, but it must be a pain to get them to grow well. They apparently like being near chaos or in graveyards. Apparently they were farmed on Anrinil, an interesting connection. (The plant is supposedly good for some healing efforts and magicks in addition to being an addictive drug.)
After Lokon met with Bartonil, one of the possessed merchants, Nemo shadowed her and followed her to a meeting of the possessed folks. They apparently dont like spicy food, and had a place in the basement where live snakes were being tended in an incubator. They said they were planning to ambush Lokon and take out him, me and Sliphas (since we show up as his regular bodyguards when were outside). This took a while, and he didnt catch up with us with the information until later.
Down on the docks, we found that the city had been refusing to finish out an investigation of a tavern that burned down. We did a little divination and found that it was the result of two fires a lamp getting knocked over, either deliberately or accidentally, and another one getting knocked over as someone ran to deal with the first fire. Odd that the city wouldnt finish things up. What are they trying to hide?
Just after Nemo got in and told us about the snakes, Lokon got served with a notice by the guards that there had been a complaint that he was doing business without a merchanting license, so we had Nemo turn into Lokon and we went over with the paperwork to the guard house to see what was going on, keeping an eye out for ambush all the while. One of the guards was keeping an eye on us in particular, and he got a glazed expression when we were leaving, so we think they can only perform telepathic communication while distracted.
We served dinner with spicy food and a greyflower centerpiece, and three of Lokons servants and all his bodyguards turned out to be immune. We knocked the servants out; Nemo said the bodyguards were OK, so we left them up, though they were justifiably paranoid when we started hitting people. When the servants were knocked out, little snakes jumped out of their upper spines and the servants died. (Anhir was able to perform lifekeeping on them later.) Those snakes are fast! We used a sample snake to find out that theyre related in some way to greyflower.
We left Lokon, Anhir, Pip, and the bodyguards down in the basement while we went over to destroy the snakes where they were being incubated, but Tavarm got a message from Pip that we needed to come back. It turned out the bodyguards were possessed after all, like Id thought; they said it was just strong will, but the greyflower got everyone but Anhir last time. (Apparently they attacked after Anhir uttered one of those things he never remembers afterward.) We got back to find Anhir collapsed and Pip protecting Lokon, took out the bodyguards, and had to kill their snakes. They had bigger snakes, and were better at appearing normal I guess the snakes get better at acting over time. Nemo went out to check on the snakes at Bartonils, and it turned out that theyd packed up and left.
The snakes have some sort of weird illusion-like power to make them hard to detect. It doesnt register as illusion magic; it may be some sort of Life effect. Sliphas had to do a ritual that summoned a bunch of chaotic chi to dispel the effect, at which point we were able to detect things. Its pretty expensive and not good for the health of the person on whom the ritual is performed. The servants also had some little firebombs; the bodyguards had more complicated items that can open portals to summon balefire and darkfire. Apparently, newly possessed people have a lot of fiery humor, so its easy for them to combust to ashes, leaving no evidence, when theyre discovered. All their goodies run on the citys power network, too.
We took a live sample snake, Lokon, and his two remaining servants and headed on over to some temples. We first went to a temple to Cassa so Lokon could get an oracle about what he was supposed to do sensibly enough, he wanted to flee the island. We then went over to a temple to Kor got attacked by a bunch of invisible possessed people, one of whom was a prominent member of the local Crime Guild, and a balefire device and had them look at the snake, and they determined that the snake was allergic to catran dander and dragon scales just as dragons and catran are allergic to the snake. Using an unconscious possessed bum, we were able to ascertain that sniffing catran dander and dragon scales will make the snake writhe visibly under the skin, and that dipping a needle in the stuff and then poking it into the skin of the neck will make the snake eject itself at which point you have to catch it or kill it.
We decided to move on up to a better fortified life temple, and organized a mass exodus. The snakes decided that this would be a bad thing, and turned the city defenses on us. Tavarm was able to wreck the first one, and they had a couple more pulled out and ready to fire, but we scattered everyone and snuck people up to the temple. Cherise pulled up some fog to help hide us from the defenses. Inoculations are happening all around. Some of the acolytes turned out to be possessed, but none of the priests: thus far, it looks like my guess that a possessed priest would be powerless is holding.
I talked with a local nature spirit about the coming disaster. It said we have a week probably until the new moon on Seventhday night before a big disaster happens. There are plenty of signs and portents lots of names (Zolos, Zarto, ...) the same as the last big disaster, the snakes, ...
If the island is to be saved, though, were going to have to do something drastic. Theres an ecological disaster in progress as they overfish, overfarm, and pollute their sea. The ignorance that this represents has to be ended, and the only way to do that is to open the eyes of the people collectively. That alone wont do, given the deadline, though: something drastic has to happen, or something even more drastic will destroy Rayleen.
The history of the island shows that kings of the land have sacrificed themselves for the good of the people. Problem is, there is no one here like that. But what if we can encourage the body politic to sacrifice itself by scattering? When people recognize they can no longer live here, that understanding will be the beginning of awareness.
The easiest way I can think of to do that is to destroy the city power system beyond repair. Most of the populace would probably be dead by the time they can get it back online. (I dont doubt that people will die anyway. Their faces will probably haunt my dreams... but the alternative is having all of them die.)
If we can figure out how the city power system works and get to the reservoir of magic theyre using to provide energy for everyone, perhaps we can flush it out all at once, destroying the whole power system. Weve been joking that we can channel it all through Nemo to then provide chaos for everyone, but I think that would kill Nemo and not accomplish our goals, and Id miss him. What would be really handy would be to flavor all the magical energy with Nature or Ecos, and then flush it out. Every appliance in the city would radiate nature-energy as the power system burned out, causing a temporary fluorishing of the ecosystem.
People would still die from that: plants have a talent for inserting their roots into cracks, and a sudden flux of nature energy would likely kill people in falling buildings. But it might avert a greater disaster, and give people time to realize that theyll have to go elsewhere. But how? There certainly arent enough airships... at least right now.
When I was learning to sail on the Sea of Jiyara, I ran into a breed of kelp that stays near the surface, where it can get light, by growing little flotation bulbs. Ive been talking with Sliphas: perhaps we can save the island by mutating such a breed of kelp to have huge flotation bulbs, which can be filled with Truecloud to make giant living airships. (The kelp could even travel that way by building up fiery humors if it grows seeds or spores on the bulbs, theyll scatter when it blows up naturally. Human elementalists could then carefully swap out the fiery humors for Truecloud.) This sounds tricky, but we may be able to get his tutelary spirit to help in this creation. After all, a diaspora of refugees is much more interesting to Chaos than a lot of dead people. If Sliphas and his tutelary spirit, perhaps with my help, can create airships that can then be propagated by nature priests, large proportions of the population of Rayleen could flee to other islands.
The presumption of smashing a civilization to save it is incredible. Is this possible? If it is, dare I do it? I think I cannot dare standing idly by if the salvation of Rayleen, even if its population is unwilling, is within my grasp.
Terrifying revelations today. Better start at the beginning.
Got up late because we were up all exhausted from the exodus last night. First thing on the agenda was working our way up the Crime Guild, using the ring from that guy who attacked us at the temple, a jar with a snake, and a lot of iron needles Tavarm made and the catran/dragon allergens. Sliphas fur has never looked better and Cherise gleams beautifully, what with all the exfoliating weve been doing on them. We scared a bunch of thieves, took out some snakes, told an illegal drug-making operation how to make the inoculations and that for paranoias sake there ought to be repeat customers, and worked our way up to a really paranoid guy called Okonoto who bears a suspicious resemblance to one of the senators. Were pretty sure he isnt controlled by a snake (his neck didnt writhe when he sniffed catran dander), and hell hopefully be helping spread the remedy throughout the Crime Guild. Given that he doesnt want to take this to Kurgon, I suspect Kurgon may be possessed.
After that, we went on up to the top of Rayleen. We used a dander blizzard (with Tavarm providing the wind and me enhancing the yield of Sliphas dander) to break up a fight between two pairs of wizards, one of which were possessed, and then broke up a fight between two trios of wizards who were just confused. With eight wizards in tow, we snuck across the mesa at the top of Rayleen, avoiding the city defenses up there, ducked through the lake, took out the guards on the palace and worked our way through there. We knew the person in charge of shift assignments was possessed because it seemed every pair of guards had one possessed one.
We broke into the council chamber with another couple of dander blizzards. I had recently found that my chi was strong enough to perform the exercises for the Torrent of Fury, but this was the first time Ive ever used it. I must have taken down about fifty possessed secretaries and clerks while my comrades took out the bigger threats. The sensation was incredible, like being caught out in a downpour and being the downpour at the same time. The sense of time was strange, both as if it took ages and all happened in a single heartbeat. I can remember my blows raining down even as I looked for the next person with a writhing neck, my feet running up the wall while my staff reached out for a snake victim...
Knowing the snakes are possessing people makes my conscience twinge: evicting the snakes will kill them, and even if priests can get to them in time to perform Lifekeeping (almost impossible for someone who has been possessed for a while), it is unlikely that these menials will seen as meriting a battlefield resurrection. I know the snakes are the ones doing the killing, really, but the soul doesnt flee until the snake leaves, so I still feel guilty. And if Varthil comes back with necromancy, we probably need to mulch them all to prevent them from being raised as zombies...
They had thirteen out of their seventeen senators there; twelve, after we finished inoculating them for snakes. They also had High Administrator Akelo and High General Zarto, as well as the High Generals daughter Gerenil (who seems a very sensible young woman not Queen of the land, though my divinations report shes connected somehow). We convinced High Wizard Zolos to shut down the city power system because the snakes have too many toys.
Fortunately, Nemo is very curious, and he found room V23 in the power room, and when we asked why it was magically defended. Zolos opened it up so we could find out what was in there. The senators were rather amazed, too. Apparently, Varthil departed two thousand years ago in her black airship... and about three hundred years ago, a small icy island was found with Varthils remains and her diary, and lots of wonderful bits of magic theory. Magic theory that made their power system possible.
Apparently, they dump all the parts of magic that make it mysterious out into other dimensions, surveying it to make sure bad things dont spring up and come back along the connection after their sorry wizardly asses. This lets them take care of a much larger populace than would be at all possible under ordinary circumstances... so their ecological disasters are massive and unstoppable, rather than something that they can cope with using merely drastic action.
The Varthil diary says that she repented of dabbling in necromancy and turning a third of this island into undead, and that she died in her middle 200s. Her theories were apparently far in advance of anything the local wizards have... and they permitted them to create the city power system and build a civilization dependent on violating the balance of nature. There was even a device that was supposed to produce food from the raw elements the sort of thing that Élas wizards do to prove a point, spending hundreds of gold and days of rituals to create a loaf of bread to show it can be done. Of course, its apparently broken and no one has yet figured out how to fix it... but they think it must be possible.
Of course, they consider it preposterous that Varthil, being the genius that she was, could go out and work up a vengeance on the island that chased her off, working on a timetable of centuries. Such a brilliant mind could never be guilty of carefully crafting her theories to lead the wizards of Rayleen down the primrose path to building a civilization dependent on her inventions... which would then be utterly destroyed when they found the flaws.
It looks like theres a main reservoir well, one big one and three smaller ones that could be flushed, as I had considered. Apparently the blue buildings that say keep out are turning the chi of falling water into the chi to power the city... but since theyre connected with the reservoir, hopefully blowing out the reservoir will take the other stations with it. Zolos would be livid, and would certainly try to kill me if I let on that I might try this. Most of the population would prefer to pour yellow activator in their magical blankets and hide under the covers than consider doing without the tools that make their way of life possible.
Tavarm says that if they dont want our help, we should just exterminate the snakes and leave them to their doom. I can see his point all too readily... but I swore to maintain the balance between sentient life and Nature. If I can stop a greater disaster with a lesser disaster, I must do what needs to be done.