The party sets out, heading for the capital city of Fol Thron to the west. The road between Fol Thron and Della Minera is very busy. They are in the heart of the Alidian territory now, and they see many people along the road as they travel.
Fol Thron is a massive, sprawling city full of stone towers and bridges. If Dwarves were to make a habit of building cities above ground, they would doubtless look much like this one. Canals carry a bit of the river through the city in key areas, where mills and other enterprises might make use of its strength.
The city is a semicircle, built in concentric rings eminating from the dark Citadel on the northern edge of town, along the river. Most of the major streets converge on a central district just in front of the Citadel.
Eomer the Rogue, Thordek the Fighter, Enoch the Cleric, Thu’fir the Blade Lord, Endo the Monk, and Beck the (former) first mate of Ocean’s Majesty, all enter the town on horseback. As they enter, their papers are examined and they are questioned thoroughly by the gate guards. At last they are allowed to pass.
Once inside, they stable their horses. The party intends to head for the central district and see what use they can make of the few hours of daylight they have left.
Beck bids them good-night. There are shabby (but affordable) lodgings available here near the gates of the city. Despite the generous donations the others have given him, he still prefers to live meagerly, hoping to save as much as possible. His mind is still on Talla and the coming baby, and he wants to make sure he has enough to provide for them.
The others wish him well, and head down the broad cobblestone street that leads to the heart of the city. More than once bridges cary the street over the canal as it winds through the buildings. As they proceed, the buildings change from simple two-story human dwellings to ornate and impressive structures owned by various businesses or the governing body of the city.
At last they reach the central square (which, as in Crossway, is called such despite being circular) and stare upwards in wonder. They are now at the feet of the great dark Citadel of Fol Thron. The building bears the frame of Dwarven make, although many sharp spikes and pointy towers have been added on since the initial construction, giving the place a malevolent appearance. Many bridges and balconies cling to the sides of the towers as they reach ever upwards. While it once had many hundereds of windows looking outward, they have now all been bricked over or covered with sharp plates of metal, embossed with the symbol of Queen Alidia:
The citadel seems to be on an island all by itself. All around it is a deep, empty chasam. A lone bridge, blocked by a single massive door, allows travel from the central square to the gates of the Citadel. The doors are shut and guarded by a group of severe Alidian soldiers.
Also in the square is the tower of the Mage’s Guild. It is a simple spire of brown stone, crowned with what looks like an observatory. In any other setting it would have looked tall and impressivle, although it looks diminutive in the presence of the Citadel.
Elsewhere they see the Archives; the city library, a church of impressive proportions, a sprawling inn with many wings, and a number of unidtentified government buildings. Around the edges of the square are several specialty shops and booths.
Eomer and Endo check into the Inn. Endo in particular looks tired and in need of rest.
Skeeve heads for the Mage’s guild. Thu’fir and Thordek look for a blacksmith. Enoch visits the Archives.
The city Archives is a simple building of smooth grey stone positioned opposite the Citadel. It is easily the largest library on the island. Inside, the gloomy light of late afternoon drifts in through the many tall narrow windows, forming fingers of light through the dusty air. There is the murmur of hushed voices from among the shelves of books as Enoch enters. To his left is a large circle of chairs that seems to be some sort of council meeting area. A large set of windows encircles the chairs, wrapping them in pale afternoon light. Opposite this area is the scribarium, where a dozen or so young alcolytes work in silence, making copies of books that have become worn or damaged. Directly ahead is the library proper, where towering shelves of books stand beneath the great arched ceiling above.
As Enoch enters, one of the keepers emerges from the shadows and bows respectfully. His deep voice intones, “Welcome your holiness. How may I be of service?”
Enoch casts his eyes about the place, unsure of where he should start. At last he answers, “Well, I’m interested in books.”
The keeper raises and eyebrow, “Indeed. Well we do have some books here. What sorts of books might you be looking for?”
“Well, any books dealing with defeating Mordan?”
The keeper chuckles, thinking Enoch is speaking in jest, “Oh indeed. I suppose if I were after Mordan I might need some help as well. But come, what is it that you truly need?”
Enoch insists, “I really do need books on Mordan”, and then after a moment’s reflection, “”For a… project I’m researching.”
The keeper is a bit alarmed at this, but nevertheless he leads Enoch back into the maze of towering shelves. After a polite moment he finally asks, “If I may sir – Why are you researching… him?”
Enoch follows as they wind their way, deeper into the library, “I’ve been working on translating a book.”
The keeper is intrigued by this, “Oh indeed? What sort of book?”
Enoch produces the Book of Norvus and shows it to him.
When his eyes fall on the book, the keeper is delighted, “The mysterious book! You’ve managed to make some headway!”, he thumbs though the translated pages, “More than half of it, by the looks of things. This is quite exciting. Councilman Relnar will be delighted.”
He stops and gestures about the library, “Most of the members of the council have tried their hand at the book, and none of us could manage to crack it. Everyone has their own theories about what the work contains. I myself suspect that it is a recent copy of a very ancient work. But wait. Let me summon what council members are available and you can tell us what you’ve found.”
Enoch is a bit irritated by this. He was hoping to find help in translating the rest of the book, not give an account of what he’d already done. He says nothing, and lets the keeper have his way.
A council convenes. They meet in the circle of chairs near the large windows. Out of the sixteen available seats, less than half are filled. Councilman Relnar welcomes Enoch and bids him sit with them.
He begins, “So, I understand you’ve manged to translate some of our mysterious book. You know, there’s a reward if you’re able to complete it. This book appeared here, mysteriously, about two years ago. Most of us have tried our hand at translating it and failed. I have to admit that we have been keen to know what secrets it held. The fact that we did not know the source of the book and could not make any headway with it only fed our curiosity. Eventually I sent it north, along with the offer of a reward, in hopes that other scholars might find the book and have better luck with it. So tell us, Enoch servant of Pelor, what have you found? What is the origin of this mysterious tome?”
Enoch stands, “Well, I found the book was written, or at least translated, by someone named Chonicler Norvus.”
At the mention of this name several of the council members become irritated or even openly outraged. They all begin speaking at once.
After a few moments Enoch tries to get some sort of explanation. Relnar waves his question aside and asks, “Very well. So what is the book about?”
Enoch looks down at the book, “Well, it looks like the history of your island…”
One of the other keepers interjects, “Let me guess… a collection of folklore?” The others begin laughing.
Enoch isn’t quite sure what to make of this. Finally Relnar exclaims, “Exile was too good for him.” Others nod in agreement.
Relnar turns to Enoch an explains, “What you have there my friend is a book of banned folk tales, a bunch of heresy and nonsense, set down by a former collegue. He has written this work against both the rules and wishes of this council, in an effort to propigate the ridiculous tales it contains.”
Another keeper inquires, “But why did he write it in such a strange and archaic form? Why not set his story down plainly?”
Relnar answers, “Isn’t it obvious? He did so to conceal the work from us.”
The keeper nods in annoyance, “Yes, yes. But then why did he plant the book here among us, if he were trying to hide it? And what good is the tale if he writes it in a language that none can read?”
Relnar dismisses the question, “Simple enough. The man was a fool. We sould not be surprised when such a man perpetrates foolish deeds. In any event, the archaic language did not conceal the meaning from this outsider. Norvus has managed to pass his heresy onto our guest here.” Relnar then turns to Enoch, “I am sorry you were misled by this. If we had any idea that this book was of Norvus’ doing, we would never have sent it abroad, much less offered the reward. Of course, I will not go back on my word. If you complete the translation, I’ll still give your the reward, although I can’t imagine anyone being interested in it.”
Relnar shakes his head in disappointment, “What a shame. We really thought the book held some great mysteries.”
Enoch asks, “So what makes you believe this is just folklore?”
Relnar frowns at him, “Well, just to start: A mountain that curses people? This doesn’t stike you as particularly absurd?”
Enoch is now defiant, “Have you looked at your country recently?”
Several members snicker, others bristle at his words. There is a long silence. At last Relnar responds, “Well friend, believe what you like. I should warn you that these stories are banned by the Queen. They do not cast her in a good light, and you would do well to keep them to yourself.”
Relnar then gestures to one of the empty chairs, “Chronicler Norvus once stood here and debated this with us at length. I doubt you will have anything new to add to his arguments. Now that I recall, it was six months after we dismissed his arguments that this mysterious book appeared on our shelves, was passed around and eventually sent north. How disappointing. Well, he’s in exile now, so hopefully we’ve seen the end of his mischief.”
The talk then turns to the business of the translation itself. Enoch reveals that his knowledge of a few obscure Dunlock forms was what enabled him to understand the difficult script. Relnar offers a few books (on loan) from the library that should aid Enoch in finishing the book. These books help illuminate some of the other difficult languages in the book, and will greatly speed his efforts.
Enoch then asks where Norvus might be.
Relnar shrugs, “I’m sure I have no idea. We threw him out. Havn’t heard from him since.”
“Is he still around here? I mean…”
“Heavens, we threw him out of the room, not the country! We’re not barbarians. He’s still a learned man, I’m sure he’s made use of himself somewhere…”
“Telling fairy tales!”, interrupts another keeper.
“Writing children’s stories!”, cries another.
The room disolves into derisive laughter.
Enoch thanks them for their time and turns to leave. As he walks out, Relanr gives him a final request, “Good luck to you sir. If you do find him, give him our best and, you know, drop a few coppers into his cup for us.”
Enoch strides out of the room as the council again breaks into laughter.
The Best of 2016
My picks for what was important, awesome, or worth talking about in 2016.
Even allegedly smart people can make life-changing blunders that seem very, very obvious in retrospect.
C++ is a wonderful language for making horrible code.
Do It Again, Stupid
One of the highest-rated games of all time has some of the least interesting gameplay.
WAY back in 2005, I wrote about a D&D campaign I was running. The campaign is still there, in the bottom-most strata of the archives.