Kast

Chapter 29 - Judge a Book...
Excerpt from Tharn's Journal

Well, today was certainly interesting.

After my meeting with Mezlia, I joined back up with the rest of the gang, who had decided that we should ask Book for information about our guide and how she came to be a prisoner. As usual, he was very direct with his answers, and assured us that he knew nothing of the matter. When we shared our distrust of Amil, Book made it very clear that Amil was unable to act against Book’s wishes (a little creepy).

We also learned that Book makes the ink for the tower with the aid of spectral servants, who do the pouring and mixing under his direction. As he has been doing, Daevon took a sample of the ink and compared it to the sample from our dessert a couple nights ago, and it was a match! That told us that someone in the tower had poisoned us… not very helpful.

As we were finishing this line of evidence, Amil returned from his excursion with two humanoids he was leading on leashes. The “reagents”.

It was time to take more drastic measures. Daevon convinced Amil to join us in our rooms, where we bound Amil and forced him to answer some questions about recent events. He told us that he had been given Toshiko by Braxtol, and that he knew nothing about the captive guide. This confirmed our suspicions about Braxtol. (Also, Braxtol apparently has an invisible imp).

As we questioned him, he grew anxious, as Book compelled him to bring the “reagents”, which he had already done. At this point, Lucky told us that he had found the prisoners, determined that they were terrified, and were certain they would be killed. Being Lucky, his response was to release them.

The tower’s servants informed us that Braxtol had left, so we prepared to search for him. The bulk of the preparation was figuring out what to do with Amil. We couldn’t just let him go, because he was clearly doing evil for Book, but I was unwilling to leave him tied up, because he wasn’t responsible for his actions, and tying him would likely cause him undue harm. The solution was to bring him with us. Daevon incapacitated Amil, and we carried him to the tower entrance, where we were unable to take him further. It was as though he was tethered to the tower. This threw a wrench into our plans.

Further complicating our pursuit was the fact that there was no trace that Braxtol had left via the only path. Even Kimya couldn’t pick up the trail. As the others took Amil back to our rooms, I went to investigate a commotion in the stables. Balthazar’s Nightmare had disappeared. Well, that explained how Braxtol had left. I tried to get Balthazar to help us track the Nightmare, which would hopefully lead us to Braxtol as well, but Balthazar was inconsolable, and unable to help us in his state.

With no direct actions we could take, we decided on a more thorough questioning of Amil. Tuiz used a potion he had created to read Amil’s surface thoughts. This would give us a more accurate idea of what Amil though of as true. Oh boy, did it.

Amil was definitely being controlled by Book. He was not happy with the actions he was being forced to perform, but was given no choice in the matter. Tuiz said he could sense the mind control through his minor telepathy. Amil let us know as well as he could that he felt we were still in danger, and that we would remain so until we left the tower. All this new information made it clear that we had been chasing the wrong person this whole time. We needed to confront Book more directly.

We made sure Amil was tied securely, and made our way to Book’s room. We were not at all prepared for what we found. Book drew upon the ink in his study to transform himself into a huge black dragon!

[The remainder of the page is ink-stained, and nothing more can be made out]

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Chapter 28 - The Elephant in the Room
A hastily-scrawled note in Tuiz's pocket

About to confront powerful magic user — jotting note in case it alters memories (or worse).

At party, Amil says believes in “balance” b/w light + dark (suspicious!), then excuses self (errand 4 master), refuses help, exits front door. Gives obvious note “someone is trying to kill you.” (Ink same as dessert poison!)

4th + Lucky snooping downstairs. Toshiko-catmeleon speaks to them, leads them to room. Seems empty, but illusion. Inside is missing guide from Lacuna, tied up. She says kidnapped and brought here (by who?). Toshi is her pet (contradict Amil!).

Room is trap. Can’t exit. Magic paintings spill ink into room, floods. Lucky teleports out, calls 4 help. Other painting has giant gray horse-tentacle thing. 4th eventually kills it. We can’t find way into room, slowly break thru wall. Ink spills, but painting destroyed stopped flow.

Search Amil’s room, nothing suspicious. Search Braxtol’s. Magic desk has extra-d space, many ways to unlock. Book of rituals and code. We steal desk, but Raven flies out, warns Braxtol, we give back.

Tharn turns 2 Mezlia (master=Belladonna) for blood ritual 2 undo age curse.

Guide gone again. We go 2 ask Book wtf is going on.

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Chapter 27 - Towerful Mystery (Part 1)
Lucky

It’s been a while, so lets begin by setting the stage. Location: Hanged Tower. A sort of auxiliary library to the huge underground Lacuna library. A tower, I should add, hanging impossibly from a rock face in the Shadowfell. All dark stone and pointy angles.

It would be a terribly depressing place if not for the hosts. Amil’descong’friz’amater is the Genasi butler… steward? Butler? Well anyway, he oversees the place. Jovial fellow despite being somewhat blue. Fairly excitable, he planned many events for us during our stay. I get the sense that he’s usually lonely. I would be too if I was stuck working in a library for the rest of my life.

I also found the tower fascinating since it was chock full of magical servants and animated furniture. At first it’s a shock but then it’s super cool. Need your pillows fluffed? Call for a servant and it’ll just float right in. Or you can tell them to fluff themselves. I whiled away at least one morning teaching one of the chairs to sit. And play dead. And stay.

Of course, we weren’t the only guests that were there. You might remember from before, but bear with me anyway; they’re going to become important in the mystery to follow. Oops, well, yes. Turns out there’s a mystery. It was almost like something out of a book. The enchanting local girl: Mezlia. The fine dwarven craftsman: Opalheart. The silent one in the corner: Howl. The dark and dashing: Balthazar. And our recurring foil: Mr. Braxtil himself!

So we’re stuck in this tower with a mystery to solve. Whodunnit?!

The first step in our process was research. We were, afterall, in a library. The others read about legends, fantastic beasts, Deus and that sort of thing. Things that seemed relevant given the problems with the Lacuna and what we’d gathered from some of our companions the night before at dinner. Braxtil had been researching legends and death gods. Balthazar apparently was a man of twisted taste and in possession of a magnificent magical horse. Mezlia and Howl both seemed suspiciously normal and like they might not be entirely human.

Me? I didn’t do much reading but I did get some books on books. What for? Well, because the guardian was a book. There’s a large, strange, animate book that’s also a character in this story. It’s the third Lacuna guardian we came to help/check on. Something was definitely amiss in the tower and the book, given it’s guardianness and the tower as its home, was involved.

The second step was more research. Since someone had inked our desserts the night before at dinner, we did some research to see if any of our fellow guests had similar ink. Daevon borrowed some from Opalheart that wasn’t a match. I checked Mezlia’s room but didn’t find any ink at all, save for that written neatly on a scroll in some language I couldn’t read. Howl’s room was locked… but empty. I guess she was staying somewhere else? There was a small paper bird though in one drawer of her room. Though no-one was staying there, I did lock it again on the way out. Leave no trace. Balthazar was sleeping and Braxtil was in his room at the time, so we’d have to follow up on them later. There also was a sixth closed door in the guest quarters…

Which brings us to the seventh relevant character: our host, Mr. Amil’ca’alum’fis’namar himself. Turns out, his room is in the guest quarters. I didn’t check it since we heard noises from inside. Turns out there was a catmeleon in there. Yep, that’s exactly what it sounds like: part cat, part chameleon.

The next clue in the mystery came while we were researching in the library. I mean, what else would we be doing while trapped in a library? I suppose we could be fighting monsters, okay, sure, but, well, hang on, just let me tell the story. So we’re sitting there and reading, some of us more than others, and suddenly we hear this deep voice sort of whisper, but like pretty loudly and from everywhere: “kill them”. And then the library up and attacked us. Bookshelves, rugs, decorative weapons, the coat rack even got in on the action. Right? As Amil’a’cadabra’von’amar later explained, any guest could command the magical furniture. But we didn’t know that at the time, otherwise we could have just told them to stop.

Instead, we fought. It wasn’t really tough, despite our lack of weapons and armor. A bookshelf isn’t very nimble and since they mostly just tried to poke people with a corner it wasn’t very effective. The rugs could have been trouble but Caleb’s wind magic and Fourth’s fists of fury beat them pretty soundly. The surprise chandelier attack could have been deadly but fortunately it missed. And the swords might have cut us up but Tuiz grabbed one and turned it against the other. Me? I couldn’t do much without magical reagents or a staff and I didn’t really want to trash the library so I mostly watched and called for Amil’aran’asan’amar to help us. He eventually did arrive and dispelled the magic animating the last rug and sword. Braxtil passed by on the stairs during the fighting but didn’t stop or help at all.

Afterwards, we spent some time in the library talking through the mystery. A little sandwhich cart rolled through so I was able to snag a snack and some tea. Like I said, the magical servants were quite nice. During the discussion I received a sending from Braxtil’s stone. The mystery narrator on the other side sought to inform him about Gnoll troop movements, the Fang’s ritual failure, and had an inquiry about Elf research. This touched off another round of library research.

Step… four? of the research plan was for us to check Braxtil and Balthazar’s rooms that evening during Amil’ignar’ator’s evening festivities. However, given the lateness of the hour, that part of the story and the exciting conclusion will have to wait for another day.

I’ll leave you with some questions to think about though. Firstly, who do you think is behind the magical mayhem at the tower? Have you figured it out yet? Secondly, who is the catmeleon’s master? And finally, if a friendly catmeleon implored you: “Quickly, come with me, we must save my master!” what would you do?

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No Longer a Placeholder
Excerpt from Tharn's Journal

With the help of the unseen servants, I was able to find one book on Nature Magic, and it was one we had already stumbled upon in the library proper. Only one! I guess this isn’t the best place for that kind of knowledge. Fortunately several of the others were more fortunate with their searches.

Tuiz was able to find a good deal about the history of the Lacuna. Apparently the land above was once the nation of Konsu, which was destroyed hundreds of years ago by the Necromancer King. The Lacuna itself is extremely old, and was founded by exiles from the surface and from the underdark who wanted a place they could feel safe, apart from the judging eyes of above and below. The physical space itself was created by the Deus of Lore (whom we have already met), and its … unique geometry is maintained by magic from crystals like the one guarded by the Deus.

As for the layout, Tuiz found a map, which explains why I was having trouble discerning the layout from our explorations. Not only is the Lacuna huge, but the paths loop over and under each other in ways that don’t seem possible.

Meanwhile, Daevon was able to find some information on the Deus of Law, with the most interesting part being that there have been multiple (perhaps many) avatars of this Deus over time, following a cycle of death and rebirth.

Thankfully, we were all rescued (Daevon might say distracted) from the tedium by the call to dinner, where we met some of the other guests.

I spoke with Lord Balthazar, who had arrived on a flying horse. I asked about his mount and tried to learn a bit of who he is. He is researching ley-lines and historical maps, for purposes unknown. After hearing of his hobbies, I can’t imagine his intentions are good.

On my other side was a dwarf named Opalheart who wore a ring designating him as a master of his craft. He is a master jeweller who had come here to try to find lost gems which contained an angel. I found his conversation boring, and was glad that he was speaking mostly with Daevon.

Across the table from me was a lady named Mezlia who spent most of the evening flirting with Tuiz, who happily joined in. She seemed nice, but was very secretive when it came to her ‘mistress’.

The only other guest we hadn’t met was the mysterious Howl. She kept her face well hidden, along with all skin, and didn’t speak during the dinner at all.

Braxtol opened up somewhat as well, explaining that he had come to research deus of the lower realms, such as darkness, evil, and death. Amil was simply excited to have so many guests, and spent most of the dinner telling stories, some likely true, and some certainly false.

For dessert, we had a lovely cherry dish. At least, it would have been lovely if it hadn’t made me sick. Looking around the table, I noticed my companions all reacting as I felt, while no one else seemed to notice. I took half of it for further inspection.

After dinner, I asked Caleb to check the dessert for poisons, but he was unable to find any. Daevon had similar suspicions, and went to talk with the chef. He didn’t see any poisons in the kitchen, but he did happen to notice ink in some of the desserts. What a fitting poison for a library (and abundant).

Lucky, reacting to the situation in his own way, “borrowed” a few items from Braxtol. He managed to acquire some money, spell reagents, and a sending stone. He left the stone in Daevon’s hat, and left the other items under the chair Braxtol had used for dinner.

The following morning, I found that I was still much older than I should be. It must have been some powerful magic from our encounter with the ghost. It is also affecting Forth, and neither of us are very happy about it. Unfortunately, we can’t leave here for several days, which according to our research, would be too late to find a cure. Caleb and Amil both tried their magic, but neither were able to help. Amil directed us to Howl, who is apparently a procurer of goods. During our interaction, she did not speak, but I got a distinct impression of a cat from her. Maybe that is why she covers herself and remains silent.

Unfortunately, Howl didn’t have anything that would help us, but she did have one potion that would reduce the drinkers age. Not really what I was looking for, and far too expensive for us (even I knew that). So now we are stuck here, worrying about our lives, unable to do anything productive. I guess I could go back to reading “Fantastic Beasts” or whatever it is called.

The ink from last night must have some lingering effect, because I could swear that bookshelf just moved…

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Still-dead Seht gave us directions to the third Lacuna guardian (turns out the first was one of the townsfolk we met before). We made our way to the Hanged Tower through more library, a stubborn magic portal, and down an awkward cliff-face haunted by a ghost and patrolled by skeletal chimeras. The third guardian is a fairly unhelpful, animate book.

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Chapter 24ish - There but for the grace of $DEUS...
Tuiz

Let me try to explain to you what brought us here. When we first came into this weird forest, we were really tired after a tough day and a hard battle against that maw that guarded the door. So we looked around only a little before making camp for the night.

By morning it was clear that the forest was really strange. For one thing, the trees and grass were huge. Also, the “stars” in the sky never moved, and it was always night-time. The stars weren’t even in quite the right positions. Who sets up a mystical fake night sky and gets it a bit wrong? I think I heard Daevon mutter something about ancient star charts also being a bit wrong, and if only he had one… but it’s best not to pay too much attention to Daevon on topics like that. You… you remember Daevon, don’t you? Yeah, you’d know him.

Another weird thing about the forest is that Lucky’s spells seemed to have longer range than usual. So, into the woods, to see what’s wrong — the skies are strange, spell range is long.

We walked for twenty or thirty minutes through the strange forest, until we came across a huge snakeskin. It was somehow still alive, sort of, and spoke to us. It said it was Seht, deus of lore and secrets, hermit of the Hermit’s Cavern. I say “sort of” alive because it also told us it had died recently, but not to worry, because that’s a thing that happens to it sometimes. Dei are weird. Buy maybe being kind of alive is a touchy subject for you? Sorry, I’ll move on.

Anyhow, Seht didn’t know what had killed him. He was one of three shamans responsible for “keeping the crystals power in check” I think he said. He was a snake, so it was hard for me to tell if he said “crystal’s” or “crystals’s”, but I think it was the second one, more than one crystal. Anyhow, being dead he couldn’t do that, so he warned us the magic of the crystals may go wild, and definitely wouldn’t protect Lacuna like it usually did. But then he got sleepy and asked to rest.

Oh, before that, actually before even talking to us, he grew us up to normal size. I mentioned the trees and grass were huge, and the snakeskin was huge? Well, he worked some magic and made us grow, and after that the trees and grass were normal size and the snakeskin was still pretty darn huge. Actually it just occurs to me — how are we going to get out? The door we came through must be tiny to us now.

Anyhow, let me get to you. We decided, against my objections, to go check out where Seht had been killed, looking for clues as to what could kill a deus and hoping it wasn’t still around. I sensed a powerful magic coming from deeper in the forest, so we went that way. As we got there, things started to get weirder again. There were some floating rocks, scorched ground, and shattered trees hovering in mid-air. And some giant blue orb-thing hovering in mid-air.

And there was you. You and your party. Why did you attack us? Couldn’t we have gotten along? But we didn’t. Maybe we were spooked by time restarting, rocks falling, and trees shattering. So we fought.

It took only a few blows from Forth before you revealed your true wolf form. And then not long after that the ground started splitting apart, first one section with Lucky thrust up into the air on a big stone column. Later other pieces of earth shifted apart, leaving space between them for what sometimes seemed like nothingness, sometimes lava, sometimes just seawater.

You and your companions fought well. Lucky banished his alternate version pretty early on. I spent most of the fight harrying alternate-Tharn. Meanwhile the real Tharn was trying to deal with alternate-Forth, who seemed to be either an alchemist or a drunk. I hear he had a hard time of it, and one time Kimya nearly tripped him after alternate-Forth dodged one of her attacks. Daevon and alternate-Daevon both just stood still the whole time, I guess fighting on some other plane. Alternate-Caleb was a girl, which I still don’t understand, but it seemed like her earth magic helped you out.

I make it sound like our relationship was clear, but it wasn’t until after you were brought down, and popped out of existence, that I realized you were me. I had a vision of how things had been for you. I know that some blood hunters do turn to werewolfism, and I’d considered it myself, but… it seemed to take its toll on you. I hope you’re at peace now. I don’t even know if you’re real, or just some sort of alternate-fate hallucination. You probably can’t even hear me. You certainly aren’t responding. I’m not sure if I thought you would.

Did you send me that other vision, of the giant evil book, and the self-stirring cauldrons? The others told me they had sort of similar visions, not just of their alternate versions’ lives, but of a book and evil. We don’t know what to make of them. I like to think that you are trying to help us now, and that you helped us notice those floating “magic maelstrom” gems and that staff. We might need help, if we do manage to track down whatever killed Seht.

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More Infested Library
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Zagged from one library arc through another puzzle-locked shortcut into yet another library arc. Defeated a Bulette and a rainbow puzzle (and overcame lack-of-purple-seeing) but lost our guide in the process. Soldiered on anyway. Found a cavern with a big old stone door. Battled a fragment of an old god. Won (?) by finding a key and unlocking the door. Are we even going the right way?

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Stranger Underground
Lucky

Tonight’s story brings us to the mystical city of Lacuna.

As you recall, we’d previously fallen into a hole and ended up in an enchanted underground library. After overcoming some magical hazards we found ourselves face-to-face with an imposing guardian.

The huge stone sphinx never actually moved — I’m pretty sure — but every time you glanced about or lost focus it would appear to do something and draw your attention right back. It gets pretty unsettling, let me tell you, when an apparently immobile statue repeatedly growls at you or seems to be wagging its tail. It’s also weird when you’re sure it’s talking aloud or watching you but isn’t moving a muscle.

Anyway, we managed to rest and recover in its presence somehow (I didn’t sleep much) before undertaking the entry challenge. We answered the three riddles and were deemed worthy. For security reasons, I can’t tell you the answers even if I could remember the riddles. I do remember Telsin and I being clever though.

Past the sphinx we found an elegantly appointed though oddly colored sitting room. The floor seemed to be made of a strange flowing lava, though it turned out to be harmless. The room, with its strange orange and purple chairs, desk, and books, was a part of an understandably notable inn: the Lava Pit. It’s obvious where the name comes from, though I never did learn why the floor was like that.

To everyone’s great surprise, the room belonged to Braxtil who was an old friend of Daveon’s. Well, really, an old acquaintance. He seemed friendly enough when he offered us a tour but mostly he just lead us into the hands of the authorities.

You see, we were outsiders in Lacuna and since it is a hidden and carefully guarded city like Respite, we weren’t supposed to be there without permission. Understandably, they were quite concerned that we’d managed to enter the city without permission.

Naturally, we volunteered to leave. We didn’t ask to fall into a hole, enchanted library, or Lacuna. It just sorta happened. They weren’t having it. I understand; gotta protect your hiding place. Can’t just let unknown people leave with secret knowledge. So we tried a different track: Respite trusts us, so you should too. They seemed amenable to that idea so Daevon showed them Lord Aetil’s signet ring as proof of our word and we became provisional members of the Lacuna.

Like any good story, it’s never quite that easy though. We’d only earned our way out of jail and then had to prove our worthiness (again!) by helping the city. Our entrance was but one of the strange occurrences they’d been dealing with. Maddy, who I can best describe as a dark elf, was assigned to be our guide.

Hmm, right. I haven’t really described Lacuna. As you’d expect from how we reached it, it’s entirely underground. The population as mostly gnomes and dwarves, but like, particularly rocky-looking ones. It’s pretty clear they’re mostly related, but that theirs is much more of an underground society. Hehe. Like Respite though, as a haven for the out-of-favor, there were plenty of other races present, including our elven friend Maddy. Building-wise, most everything was stone as you’d expect, but they’d cleverly filled nearly every available surface in the cavern. The walls were obviously occupied, but they’d also filled out some neat towering pointy rock formations within the cavern itself. And all this was nothing compared to the Lacuna itself; the big magic crystal that made it all work.

So anyway, we set off to help. Maddy took us to a different section of the library that had also been behaving oddly. This one had a similar color scheme, but was decorated with Hydras instead of Gryphons. They’d been having trouble with their magical defenses and we helped by squashing some beetles. Poor Daevon, Maddy, and Caleb spent hours patching the books back together.

You look confused. Oh right. These weren’t like little garden beetles, they were like 10-foot-tall magical monstrous beetles. They plowed right through the wall destroying bookshelves in order to attack us. We fended them off. It was mostly no big deal. But like, heroically no big deal.

When you look back, it’s amazing how far we’d come. Once upon a time, slightly oversized wolves were this huge threat. And that was even before mobile plants and living elementals became familiar. And then these 10-foot beetle things? Yeah, they were mostly no problem. Ambushed in an underground magic library? Yeah whatever. Fixing the books turned out to be more work. Though some of that might have had to do with Daevon trying to read them all at the same time.

Oh, sorry. I’ve wandered off course again. Look at the time! We’ll have to finish up later. Goodnight.

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Escape from the prison of books
Excerpt from Tharn's Journal

FINALLY! We have Finally escaped that horrible hallway. After some deliberation, we decided that there was probably a hidden door somewhere between our starting position and the acid. There must be, right? A thorough search (we had all the time in the world, and probably then some) turned up nothing. HOW???

Next we tried to stretch the boundaries by having a continuous connection between inside the loop and an increasingly distant Lucky. He didn’t live up to his name. Each time we tried something, we had to memorize titles so we could compare… “Fantastical Beast Magic and Where to Find it”, “Ancient Farmhouse Architecture”, “Feudal Riots of the Late Pyrranic Empire”, “The Life of the Wealthy Duchess of Kinesia and Her Very Different Daughters” (I think someone must have been drunk when naming that one).

At one point, I carefully made my way through the lightning trap and then… we reset the hallway. I hate this library.

We then let Lucky loose, and he went through the hallway and pulled all the books from the shelves. Normally I would object to this, but these books deserve it. Daevon claimed to have a brilliant plan, but refused to tell us. We trusted him, and followed him to the wind trap. He triggered it, and from there, we managed to hit every other trap in the hallway. Some plan!

But this time, before the hallway reset, we heard a creaking sound and some falling books. A door must have opened! (At that point, anything would have sounded like a door).

This time, we carefully piled books between each pair of shelves so that any opening door would knock one over, allowing us to easily see where the door was. We then proceeded to activate each trap, and once we had disarmed the lightning barrier, we heard a click and a creak, and one of the piles of books fell over. We had escaped library hell! As “souvenirs”, Lucky and I each took a book from the pile. Lucky has “Top 40 Tavern Hits,” and I have the fitting “The Man Who Would Burn the World.”

Unfortunately, we weren’t out yet. We followed a well kept passageway to a large room, the center of which is occupied by a sphinx. As in my parents’ stories, the sphinx offered us a challenge: answer its riddle correctly and pass through unharmed. The alternative was never stated, but nevertheless seemed quite clear.

Before agreeing to the challenge, we asked the sphinx to tell us where we were. Its answer was simply “The Lacuna.” With the other option being return to the never-ending hallway, we decided to take the challenge, and sleep on the riddle. “You are trapped in a dungeon devised by your enemies. There are two paths in front of you. Down one, an obsidian dragon waits to burn you with its breath. The other is lined with mirrors which reflect the sun and will scorch you to death. How do you escape safely?” I would turn around, but we will sleep and discuss this when we awake.

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Let's Do the Time Warp Again
Tuiz

“Okay, so let’s talk this through and see if we can figure it out. Starting from, I don’t know, this morning.”

“Which morning?”

“When Forth woke us up because the lights started flashing. Red, red, gray. And they kept flashing like that for a while — five minutes maybe? — before they went out entirely. That was weird. But anyhow, that’s when we started walking redward, right? Until those giant monsters with the hooks dropped down on us. You think their clattering along the ceiling is what was making those mining noises?”

“Probab-”

“Don’t answer, I’m getting my groove going here. So it was while we were fighting them that things started getting really weird, right? It wasn’t just me getting knocked out, they really did turn into spiritual primeval energy thingies, right? And then Lucky was a centaur-unicorn, and Forth was a Thundercloud, and Tharn grew claws, and I just felt really hopeless for some reason. But we kept fighting them. The first one turned into stone — was that wild magic? I assume you’d tell me if you could reliably turn things into stone. But then the second one split into two, each of which split into two, each of which just vanished when we killed them.”

“But killing them didn’t make us not unicorns or whatever. So we decided that was a bad way to go, and headed greenward instead, past where we’d camped. And eventually that did make us better, though right before everything started feeling right Caleb said ‘something doesn’t feel right.’ Could he feel us entering the time loop? Is that when we entered the time loop?”

“Can I-”

“No sorry, let me finish. The questions are, uh, rhetorical. Right after that is the first time we hit the fire trap. Or Daevon did. But after we got him put out and healed, Lucky headed back redward. And eventually we followed him, and I think we time-looped then? As soon as we met Lucky and switched to greenward Daevon hit the fire trap again. Or maybe it was just a similar fire trap near bookshelves that seemed to have the same books. Unlikely. This time Lucky marked it with magic.”

“But then we went briefly redward and greenward again and I think it wasn’t marked any more? But we still recognized it? And that’s when Daevon got tired of being burned and tried to trigger the trap by throwing our money on it, but ended up getting burned anyhow. Oh, and he’d left a book near the trap last time? But now it was in his backpack again, so it was definitely a time loop.”

“We did the redward-greenward dance a… fourth time? But by now we could recognize it, or at least Tharn could, and we actually for once decided not to trigger it, and move past it. And I think that’s the first time we found those slow-falling books? Do we think they were falling slowly because they were in a weird time thingie, or because some wizard had cast a spell on them to make them fall slowly? That’s a spell, right? Wait, does that spell just create a weird time thingie around whatever’s falling? Anyhow, I don’t know what the significance of those books is.”

“Though I guess they’re a useful hint that the slammy-whammy bookshelves are coming soon? Those look like they really hurt, sorry Tharn. And right after them is the second fire trap.”

“I think it was after that second fire trap that we decided to stop and treat our wounds? I wonder if there’s any limit to how long one run through this time loop can go. But we got about a normal night’s rest, and things didn’t seem to have reset, so I guess a while, right?”

“So in the morning, or whatever, since there’s no way to keep track of time down here, especially when time isn’t cooperating. Anyhow, then we went on and found the tripwire that triggers the gust of wind. And I was watching behind us so I got sent flying back to the slammy-whammy and the fire trap, which apparently had reset.”

“And then after the tripwire is the lightning net. It’s good that Lucky can teleport past that, and that it has a shut-off switch. I guess that must mean we’re heading the direction that whoever made these traps doesn’t want us to go? The lightning net doesn’t do a very good job stopping anyone going the other way. I’d say we should go redward again, except that the time loop does a very good job of stopping us going that way. So if the traps are designed to stop us going greenward and the time loop is designed to stop us going redward, does that mean different people made them? Or one person made both, and wants to keep us trapped here? I don’t know.”

“Anyhow, after the lightning net is that awful acid trap. Which spreads out over time. And starts raining if you dawdle too long. That one drove us far enough redward that we reset the time loop, and realized it was hard to tell when you reset the timeloop by walking redward.”

“At least we’re getting better at this stuff. That next time through we avoided the fire traps, Tharn still got slammy-whammied, but we did okay with the tripwire, and we knew to send Lucky right past the lightning net. And then we tried roping together and staying up on top of the bookshelves to get around the acid trap, and somehow that reset us. That’s what I don’t get. Does the time loop not want us to go high? Did we get too far greenward? I don’t think we were split up. However it happened, we were back at the first fire trap.”

“Speaking of split up, that’s when we sent Lucky on his solo adventure. After he got attuned to the batwing cloak. And you said that went fine, right? You made it past all the traps? But we waited for you a long time, like at least a half hour. Anyhow, if you do that again, please turn off the lightning net. We eventually found a way through it by Daevon diving through, getting knocked out, and then Caleb healing him, but it’s a bad way. Though maybe it doesn’t matter, since we still don’t have a good way past the acid trap. I still say we charge through that one.”

“So, that’s how we got here, right? The loops resets if we go redward, things go weird when we split up, and things maybe reset when we go too far greenward. If we can figure a way past the acid.”

“Okay thanks for listening but I don’t think going over all that really helped much. I’d apologize for the waste of time, but… you know.”

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