Summer Distractions and Treason

Fathers Kevin and Carmine pray with me and seem to enjoy my help around the church. Nat says we need the gods to put this war to rest, so I’m going to do everything I can to get the Dawnmother’s help. I spend hours and hours praying to her. I attended every service, every day for three months straight.

I don’t hear her, not like when she was right there in front of us in the time bubble, but I can feel her. I can feel her presence around me, watching me. I find I can channel this feeling into magic. It’s not like the other spells I cast, it helps people. I can help someone with a small task by asking for her Guidance. I can stop Remy from bleeding out when he knocks himself unconscious with his experiments. I can even do a tiny bit of healing like Dalish, but at much lower a cost. If I take my time, I can even help multiple people.

The Fathers say they have never seen the like before. I can feel the strain, too. The Dawnmother seems to be pushing against something to watch me, to help me. It isn’t easy, but I believe she is trying to help. If she is trying, maybe the others can help, too. Nat will have to help us figure out how to contact them, though.

It takes me a month of evenings, working with Xin Yue to get my bond back. She helps me through a purification ritual to reconnect with the earth and renew my bond. When I am finished, my hair has also grown back, long as ever, to signify the pact is complete. I know I can harness thunder and lightning through my bond with the earth, but I’ve always leaned away from these forces. They are so much more destructive than the air. With this renewal, however, I feel the pulse of the earth stronger, now.

I feel the storm coming. It’s never a good idea to stand against the storm. So, I’ve leaned into it. I’ve learned new ways to harness the earth magic. To imbue my strikes with thunder, to call lightning from the clouds. I’ve even figured out how to move longer distances than the noisy Thunderous Step, and send my words on the wind to go further.

The others spend the summer researching and creating new spells. Gerhardt works on some potions, as well. Remy trains and spends time with Aranea. I don’t know what he’s going to do, she’s going to kill him if he can’t find a better way. We help out here and there with small investigations. Pyrus gets elected as the new Prime. Everything settles back into a normal routine as the beginning of the next presumptive school year draws closer.

Then Klyce comes to us one day, two weeks out from school. Philomena didn’t come home when she was supposed to. Her boat didn’t arrive. We try sending spells and scrying spells, but nothing connects. Everyone dives into action. Dalish and Maribeth go dig up information on the boat and the company that owns it. Remy asks his family about anything they might know about vacation spots in Italy. Klyce keeps going down to the dock. Several days later, the ship arrives, without Philomena and her family.

The captain tells Klyce that he waited several days, but they never showed up. Captain Barnes tells him the name of the town they departed from near Rome. Klyce asks about his schedule and getting passage on the return trip to Italy. It’s going to be a little while for him to unload his cargo and get new.

Klyce reports back and Remy goes back to the Maiden’s Folly to talk to the captain about chartering the entire ship, sans cargo, for a return trip as soon as possible. Barnes says he can leave in two days, and it’ll cost 1500. Remy asks about a discount if we can help the ship go faster. I help with that negotiation, and we agree to pay in full up front, and get 50 back for each day we take off the week-long trip. Gerhardt goes to his party and gets Tongues in exchange for future service, as none of us speak Italian. Dalish reads up on Italy and lets us know that magic is not welcome there.

Dalish then goes to tell Rictus that we plan to go to Italy to rescue Philomena and her parents. He forbids us going as we are government officials under his control. We all sit down for a big discussion. Klyce is going, but he doesn’t expect any of us to risk Rictus’ wrath. I point out to everyone that disobeying Prime Rictus in this manner could get us all arrested and executed. I don’t care, but some of them have family to think of. Maribeth says she can’t risk it, she has to take care of her mother. The rest of us will go, consequences be damned. But we convince Dalish that he needs to stay with Maribeth, keep her safe, and maybe keep Rictus off our scent for a few days.

Philomena sends Klyce a message. Her parents have been captured. She’s going to rescue them, and isn’t sure she’ll make it back. He replies to her, letting her know we leave for Italy in two days, and should arrive in Ostia within nine. He asks her to send her location if she can, and to meet us if she is able. Klyce then asks Maribeth and Dalish to try official channels to get her parents back while we set sail. He doesn’t want either of them to lie to Rictus, just try not to mention it for a while. Aleria wishes Nat a good fishing trip when she tries to go leave a note.

Two days into our voyage, Dalish appears on the ship, spellbook in one hand, and pajamas on. I send a message to Maribeth that Rictus is in our house, and just teleported Dalish to us. I don’t get much of a response other than shrieking panic. This is not what we had hoped for, but at least Rictus didn’t come himself and whisk us all back home.

Down to the Mines

Nat wakes up the next morning, confused by being in bed at home. So, we explain all that happened after the attack. Just as we decide it’s time for breakfast, Kendrick comes in and shoos us out to talk to Nat. So, the rest of us head on down and have lots of bacon and orange juice. I don’t know why it creeps out some of the guys so much, it’s delicious.

When Nat finally comes downstairs, it’s to tell us why we were invited in the first place. More problems only child-wizards can solve, apparently. This was not the life I thought I would get by going to the Academie, not at all. I wanted magic and parties and fun, not death and fighting and war. Anyway, Nat says people have been disappearing into the mists, or into the sea down at the coast. Nat also tells us that some of the undead in the mine are disappearing, too. She also finally admits to being a girl to the boys, but her father’s missteps when we arrived made it not all that surprising to them. Then she tells us that there are two newborns in town that are showing magic potential, too, which hardly ever happens around here.

Maribeth wanted to see the undead anyway, and since “disappearing into the mists” seems a bit too vague, we head down to the mines. Nat takes us down to meet her great grandfather, Nathaniel. Turns out, he’s just a skull these days, but apparently, the undead down here don’t mind, and still listen to him. Klyce asks about the missing…workers, and Nathaniel tells us that they haven’t slipped from his control, they just aren’t responding to his commands. Twenty-four of them went down to the deepest section, and while he can still feel them, they aren’t coming back. They’ve even sent living adults to go look for them, but those didn’t come back either. Remy asks a bit about the undead down here, and Nathaniel goes into a complicated lecture about bell curves and terrible things with big tongues. I don’t even want to know.

Nathaniel can’t move on his own, so he has a zombie he calls Brokeback, because well… you get the idea, that carries him around. He leads the way down into the mine, while Maribeth and Dalish ask about how he’s still functioning. Life and death isn’t binary, at least not for this family. Unfortunately, the family hasn’t been producing strong necromancers these last two generations, so he had to imbue his remains with his strength and will to keep the mine in order. He can’t cast new spells anymore, but he does keep his control over the undead, at least, he had, until recently. He’s happy to hear that Nat has learned to animate the dead, and says that will be enough, since he can still control them.

The mines are dark and creepy, and full of undead work teams. They don’t pay us any mind as we pass, though. Not until we get really deep anyway. There is a shuffling in the dark, but Nathaniel can’t feel them. It is zombies, though, and everyone digs in for the fight. Little tiny plant monsters crawl out of the fallen and skitter away into the dark. Once they are all down, Maribeth digs around in the remains and finds a dark black seed that’s pulsing. Pulsing just like the ground in my dreams!

The others are talking. They gather the seeds all up and burn them, filling the tunnel with awful smoke. I gust it out of my face, but I’m not listening. The pulsing didn’t stop until they were all burnt up. We’re walking again, everyone is talking about what we’ve seen, and blood magic and the war. Talking about digging deeper because of the war. But all I can think about is the pulsing.

Dalish shuts everyone up because there is something ahead. We creep forward to see a massive bloated body with writhing beneath the surface, standing right in front of a massive mana vein. I grab Maribeth and remind her that mana is unstable, to be careful of her fire. As it staggers forward, I try to lift it off the ground, but it resists, so I retreat and let everyone else take care of it. Once it gets away from the wall, I give Maribeth the okay to use fire, and a good thing, too. It tries to escape down a hole, but they burn it down before it can.

The path stops here, so we check down the hole and find a whole big cavern beneath us. Everyone is nervous of the water below, so Klyce drops down with a rope and swims it to some ground, making us a repel line that mostly avoids the lake. Turns out it isn’t an edge, but an island where we landed. There are dead vines covering the ground. I don’t like this at All.

In the center is a henge of stone. That’s really strange, we’ve heard of these in the old world, but around here it’s just mounds, usually. And what’s it doing way down here? We head up to look at them, and discover a pictographic story around the outside. Hunters and Gatherers worshiping six large figures in white with black dots for eyes and rays of light coming off their heads. Then there is fighting against jagged, horned humanoids with tails. Less hunters return to the six to receive gifts for their victory. There are symbols, too, and they look really familiar, but I can’t read them. I’m not sure I want to.

Nat steps between the pillars for a better look and disappears. We all follow, because what else were we going to do?

It’s suddenly very bright, we’re outside in the sun, but it’s also hazy. We’re in the henge, but there is a market all around us, inside and out. A large vast plain spreads out around the market. The people look like the Natives. At the far end of the henge are three stone thrones. A man sits in the center one, flanked by women on either side. They seem to be receiving people, judging disputes. Around us are six statues: a man in a toga, chin on his hand, thinking; a boulder shaped like a face; a fertility goddess, all green vines and flowers; an armored figure of white stone with flames for a head; a bowl filled with leaves beaing blown about by the wind; and a broken statue, having only sandals on feet and no body.

Someone lists off names they think they are, but I’m barely listening. Gods, these are old gods. I go over to the bowl, curious. I grab a leaf out of the wind and it crumbles in my hand. That does not bode well, but I keep looking at it, willing it to speak to me.

Maribeth goes to talk to the three. They speak in riddles and drain her of mana. Remy tries, and they ask for his light, even just half his light. He agrees and disappears. The others are poking about. A Native approaches the bowl and places a leaf inside, he looks very sad and speaks of a lost loved one. Not to me, he must be praying. I touch the bowl, but no one answers. I want to look around, but when I stick my head out of the circle, I’m right back in the cavern.

I find Remy on the ground, unconscious, and with one eye missing. I kneel by his side, stunned, until the others appear. The statues are gone, but the thrones remain. Skeletons entwined with vines sit upon them. Gerhardt hands out potions and those with full phials distribute motes to those that lost them. Now we have even more problems to solve.