In the White Shadows

Chapter III: Session II - This place smells fishy...let's read alot

Enriched of Mind, Taxed of Digits

Finally, the DFAs reached the Archives. They camped along the cliff-side without incident (although fervent dreams returned to some), broke camp, and made the short journey to the Archives in the morning. As they circled the high stone walls, they found a heavy metal gate sealing the Archives from the outside world…

Two massive, surly human guards approached the gate and asked the DFAs their business. Taj and Bino scoffed at first when Faustus asked for Headmaster Luden. What the hell were these four armored fools doing here this early in the day? Eventually, Luden’s letter was passed through the grate and the portcullis was raised.

The party eagerly entered the campus and began peppering the guards with questions. Unsure what to make of these strange visitors, Taj gave them a simple map of the area (how did they not have one??) and pointed them towards the mess hall — pretty much everyone was at breakfast.

The Karenguuld Archives was a large complex with several multiple-story buildings tucked inside its high walls. The Historical Record comprised about half of campus, while the other half was covered with various dorms, classrooms, and use facilities deployed for the training of young acolytes. The party quickly found the mess hall tucked in the corner of the school building…

As they entered, a gaggle of schoolchildren in white frocks ate at long tables. Behrtogg was instantly alarmed by their garb — it seemed like that of the young girl in his dreams (he didn’t see her here, though). However, the other DFAs’ eyes were drawn to more startling items that the children were wearing. They all had tiny adorable animals perched about them!!! Instead of brimming with cute overload, the DFAs were inexplicably sprinkled with brow-furrow powder. What were these creatures? Why would children have animals as pets? What is this black magic??? So’Khra detected magic in the air but realized these were not typical familiars or spirit companions. He hadn’t seen anything like this before…

A number of school teachers were milling amongst the children, and one approached the DFAs as they entered. Naria Salva introduced herself to the party as the Assistant Headmaster. She regretfully informed the DFAs that they had just missed Luden, who had left on business several weeks ago. She explained that he typically went on such missions to range for bright students, rare supplies, and tomes to supplement the record. As she spoke, a large hound bayed at her side and prompted another question about animals from Faustus. She explained that the children were learning responsibility and care techniques by use of their pets, and that several teachers had adopted the practice as well. It was a new teaching initiative that she implemented on taking over from the last Assistant, Swiften Banterlock (!) who had left abruptly several weeks ago. Children were paired with animals upon arrival at the school, and she gave a “natural fit” explanation for what drove the pairing process. Studying Naria’s face, Faustus could sense some fear behind her eyes, but she didn’t wish to speak further.

Suddenly, a commotion broke out in the mess hall. Drezan noticed that one of the students had handed another a slab of pork, causing the teachers to titter with fury. Taj and Bino burst through the doors, grabbed the boy—Yezka—by the arms and hauled him out of the mess hall. The teachers nodded approvingly, while the grisly cook shook his head, “Can’t share food, boy. You know that.” With that, everything returned to normal. Behrtogg grew increasingly wary, as he recalled Yezka as the troublemaker named in his dreams.

Faustus asked Naria why sharing food was prohibited. First, she informed him of five cardinal rules:

1) Don’t share food;
2) Attend all classes;
3) Be in your dorm at sundown;
4) Don’t lose your familiar; and
5) Keep your books organized and return them on time.

She also explained that food must not be shared, because children are kept on a strict nutritional regiment. Food is the best way to spread disease, she informed the Cleric. Naria then offered the DFAs a place to sleep (in an empty classroom) while they conducted their business, as long as they didn’t disturb the learning process. The party graciously accepted and contemplated their path for the day. Miggy, the surly cook, provided them with a quick breakfast of pig shank and oats. They ate greedily and left the mess hall.

Before they left the school building, Behrtogg suggested the DFAs stop by the Courtyard therein. The courtyard was a beautiful arched room with a skylight and exotic flora throughout. In the center sprawled a beautiful lucid pool inhabited with a number of fish. Normal fucking fish. The room was probably used to teach the children herbology. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the beautiful courtyard matched that of Behrtogg’s dream precisely.

Behrtogg approached the exact poolside stone on which his dream girl had been crying. Sure enough, even a Goliath could feel some disturbing energy. Behrtogg looked to So’Khra for explanation who ruminated that displaced spirits often leave behind some trace energy. Perhaps they could communicate with it. So’Khra placed his hand, seeking images of the past. He saw the mountain in which the stone was forged, the building of the pool, and other images of the stone’s past, but nothing of the girl. As the DFAs pondered on how to connect with the girl, Behrtogg realized he could always see the night sky in his dreams. So’Khra confirmed that timing might matter greatly in reaching her, and the party decided to investigate after nightfall.

The DFAs then got what they came for. They approached the Historical Records marble-pillared steps with great anticipation. As they entered, they saw a oaken desk topped by a huge tome, behind which sat a withered old dwarf. At first glance, he looked like a gnome. A cat, Stephen, lay purring in the dwarf’s lap, as he introduced himself as Mido, head librarian. Behind Midos, the group could see seven bookcases — the special archive — and a sprawling hall filled with rows and rows of tomes and manuscripts behind them.

Midos asked them how he could help. So’Khra explained he was looking for a history of the Primal Elves and Giants, clues to his past, and some unnamed town. Drezan asked for information on his now-lost hobgoblin culture, and Faustus was interested in learning more about his father and Nusemnee’s presence. Behrtogg seemed genuinely disinterested — it looked like he was daydreaming of his hunting lodge.

Midos flipped open the huge tome, which seemed to arcanely spell out exactly where such information could be found. Drezan and So’Khra ran off, eagerly repeating row and shelf numbers, while Faustus and Behrtogg stayed behind to converse with the librarian.

So’Khra quickly found a shelf of four books (wait, Midos expected five?) and began to sort through them. It seemed the dust was disturbed on this shelf. With a strange sense of familiarity, he noted “Train them in an Ivory Tower” by Slatine Syndegaard. He spent the morning pouring through this tome, which contained methodology for instructing young wizards. Of note was an illustrated coverlet which showed Slatine’s tower and several recognizable landmarks in the background. As So’Khra read, many of the techniques seemed inherently sensible to the wizard: harsh, yet morally sound. He’d have to check out this tower sometime, he thought.

Next, he turned his attention to a book on Primal Elves. It contained little more than what he had previously learned in Kievstal, but, again, the name Udacha seemed to come up as the last location of Primal Elf descendants. The DFAs had been to that shitty little knoll, and there was nothing magical about the place, yet here was the name again. After many pages, speculation arose that Udacha had perfected society, causing their city to lift into the heavens to sit amongst the Gods. Perhaps this is why the “new” Udacha was such a nascent town, founded by trumped-up pig-farmers and darling port-keepers.

Drezan then approached So’Khra for help. He had found a tome on the Orc Reserves, but couldn’t read it. So’Khra scanned the book and learned that the Elfland States had been subject to a power vacuum as the Primal Elves and Giants disappeared. Forest elves, hobgoblins, and orcs all vied for control of the rich forestland. Far outnumbering the others, the elves took control, rounded up the “lesser species,” and forced them onto the Orc Reserve. Cruelly, the elves established no sustainable space, supply lines, or government — hobgoblins and orcs would have to figure it out. Unfortunately, the orcs were able to unify before the hobgoblins, who were summarily slaughtered. The tome also described the Stand of Merzak Stonethorn, the last remaining hobgoblin chief who died nobly in battle. Before he died, he supposedly shouted, “This is not the end! Hobgoblin blood can never be defeated.” Some orcs interpreted the saying to mean that some hobgoblins had escaped and gone into hiding…

To his credit, So’Khra (an elf himself) told it true to the Hobgoblin. Drezan was pleased to learn this information and (fortunately) focused on the immediate orc actors.

With that, bells started ringing. Lunch had arrived, and Drezan skipped back to the mess hall. While the party refrained from eating again, Drezan grabbed Stephen a saucer of milk. The cat slurped it down greedily.

Meanwhile, Faustus had been engaging Midos for much of the morning. They first spoke of Midos role at the library — he had been recruited by Luden many years ago and had remained at the Archives ever since. Midos was no wizard, but boy did he know a lot about the world from his time here. He spoke of the previous assistant, Swiften, who had departed suddenly. Swiften had been a stern, albeit effective, Assistant Headmaster. He had only been around for about a year, before he just up and left. His departure seemed to greatly anger Luden, who promptly left on business within a couple of days.

Midos didn’t know much about the children, Naria’s teaching techniques, or wizarding practices. He grew a little angry at Faustus’s persistent questioning in those areas, and Faustus again sensed the deep-seated fear he had glimpsed with Naria — Midos was holding something back. Knowing a conflict may be unproductive, Faustus set out to look for his books and found them.

Faustus found some lore about the religious ordinances of Nusemnee’s devout. Of particular note was a small excerpt on his grandfather, Emit Salva, who built a temple of some renown to Nusemnee in the capital city of Penetook, the kingdom to the West of Kildengaard. The Salvas still have a presence in Penetook, although their influence has diminished to some degree as supply routes through the Upper Underdark have become more perilous, decreasing the mobility of many Nusemnee worshipers.

At this point, Behrtogg was bored. He began to wander through the special archives wishing he was climbing a tower instead. He did think he saw a rat atop on shelf. More interesting than words, a stuffed rat might make a fun doorknocker for the lodge — Behrtogg decided to climb up and get it. With that, the entire bookcase fell backwards (5 on percentage dice) and crushed Behrtogg’s left hand (1 on save). Faustus quickly ran to his aid and healed the hand, but fingers two and four seemed to be lost at the knuckle. Cursing his luck, Behrtogg vowed to become literate.

So’Khra pulled out Slatine Syndegaard’s book and compared it to their map. After much study, turning, holding things up to the light, and muttering, he couldn’t quite pinpoint where the old tower would have been, but pegged an area southwest of Obsidian as a best guess.

Eventually, the DFAs made for the exits, but not before Midos called out to them. They would need to check out those books if they wanted to keep them. The Records loaned out items for seven days. For each day late, a fine of five coppers would be levied. Upon thirty-days tardiness, an arcane construct would be sent to forcefully retrieve the item — users assume all risk of beheading or maiming in checking out items. Recalling the earlier discrepancy, So’Khra inquired about the missing book. Midos flipped through the checkout tome and discovered that, shortly before leaving, Luden had checked out “Then and Now: Udacha’s Fall from Cultural Haven to Pig Farm.”

A few more questions ensued, with Midos indicating that the symbol in Drezan’s dream was probably of a religious nature. He was unsure which religion. So’Khra asked about Slatine, and Midos scoffed. Slatine had been a contemporary of Luden’s, but his practices were strange and harsh. Midos hadn’t heard about him in a while and wondered if he was still even around.

With that, dinner bells rang. The DFAs left the Archives, enriched of mind and taxed of digits. They had work to do that night…

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