I needed a moment to even form a coherent thought in my mind, the sheer awe I felt at the being next to me stunning me. I knew the being, the voice familiar but despite that fact, I needed a moment to gather myself. Even the connection to my body shook, the urge to simply let go and lose myself in the experience tugging at me.
“Greetings, Grandmother.” I managed to say, my voice vibrating in a strange yet beautiful manner. It was similar to the manner of speaking used when chanting spells, the words less important than the mental image, merely a way to convey something that our minds might grasp but the simplicity of the spoken word could not encompass.
Taking a deep breath, not so much for oxygen but to gather myself, I focused on the form I had formed for myself, trying to create a mental framework for a conversation that my mind could grasp.
It worked, somewhat.
We were still in the Astral River, or the Nexus of Neyto, the difference not something I could truly understand but I had managed to use the memory of the Nexus to form a silvery surface, its look reminding me of Liquid Moonlight, causing a sudden flash of realisation that I filed away for later. On that surface, I had created two armchairs, not quite copies of the Throne ´my Avatar was sitting on but more like the original version, with a small, round table next to it. To top it off, and maybe in a flash of whimsy, I had created an ornament, a glittering crystal out of hard ice, multi-faceted and breaking the light into shimmering rays. Maybe not quite on brand for me, but it was the best I could come up with.
“Please, have a seat.” I asked, as if we were in a house somewhere, having tea. It was more than a little surreal but somehow, it felt right.
The Grandmother must have agreed in some way, as she chuckled to herself before coalescing her presence into the form I had seen before, the young woman with the ancient eyes. It was just another casual demonstration of her magical ability, here I was sitting, merely using a form roughly shaped in the same way I was, made purely from silvery, Ice-Astral Power, while she was easily capable of taking her normal shape. Or maybe it was the other way around, that the indeterminate shape of continental power was her real form and she merely used the guise of a young woman to move around on Mundus.
In a surge of pride, I focused on the surrounding Astral River, drawing some more Darkness Astral Power and Blood Astral Power, not to absorb as I normally did but to add some hair and a little colour to my form. While I didn’t have the skill to even try forming a circulatory system in the shape I had formed, I could form a glossy mane of pure shadow, wearing it like a wig. With another whimsical thought, I formed a wedding-dress of pure crimson around me, without a doubt the bloodiest bride ever imagined.
We both took a seat and the Grandmother caused a small pot of tea to appear on the table I had created alongside teacups and a small platter with cookies. Chuckling under my breath, I reached out with my mind, causing two vines to sprout from the table, carefully taking the pot and serving tea to both of us, more vines reaching out and forming what amounted to coasters in a convenient place to reach for either of us, so we could place our cups on them.
“You have come far.” the Grandmother stated, as I was carefully using magic to perform the mundane task.
“Thank you. I wasn’t quite sure if that would work and, just like the first time we met, I have to ask for forgiveness first, just in case I have caused offense by moving into this space. If so, I apologize but I wanted to talk to you and this was the only working way I could come up with.” I explained, causing her to raise an eyebrow.
“You say working way? What else did you try?” she asked, curiosity in her voice, reminding me of a teacher, quizzing their student.
“I did try to form a scrying focus near the village, allowing me to essentially knock on your wards, hoping that it would get your attention without intruding into your space. Sadly, I just don’t have the power to make that spell work, yet.” I admitted and she nodded along, urging me to continue.
“The other idea was to use the wood Kallista gave to Adra, which she fashioned into a spear, as a scrying-focus, allowing me to connect with the grove around the Nexus and thus with Kallista, asking her to act as a go-between. But I’m afraid my ability to work with wood is abysmal.” I continued, causing her to chuckle.
“Yes, I can see that. Your abilities develop nicely but you are clearly more suited to the darker paths, for death and destruction. Don’t think that that is a purely bad thing, always remember, without death, there can’t be life. Without destruction, there can’t be growth.” she explained and it was my turn to nod and take a sip of the magically conjured tea. It was delicious, the flavour simply out of this world, especially for someone like me who tasted magic. Coming here had been worth it, just for the tea.
Letting out a blissful sigh, I decided to explain why I was here.
“But why I came here is a different matter. You once told me that you disliked people playing with the natural order that you’ve thrown a few people into the Barrow Den for such actions.” I began, remembering the tale of the Snow Queen, Sally.
“Some distance south of you, there is a city named Kolyug, quite the marvel of magical architecture, at least in the eyes of one such as me. We have been there about a month ago, just passing through, and completed a quest, hunting down a strange specimen of bear. It turned out that the bear in question had been modified by someone else, pushed over the first divide by implanting an enchanted orb of Eternal Ember in its chest. I think it might have been an experiment to merge an affinity for Fire with one for Ice but that is purely speculation.” I paused for a moment, taking another sip of tea.
“I have no idea is such a merge is even remotely possible, but when I saw the orb and felt the power contained within, I decided that I wanted to have nothing to do with such madness, especially not when the experiments are performed by someone quite a bit more powerful than me. We reported the quest, turned the mess over to the local Adventurers’’ Guild and their Guard and decided to get away from the town as fast as our Spirit-Golems could carry us. “ I continued, causing her to chuckle again.
“But now, I have heard rumours over the communication-channels of us Travellers that the experiments are much more widespread than I thought, that Nature around Kolyug is heavily affected and fiery monsters roam the land. I just thought you should be informed of the problems, just in case you wanted to take an interest.” I finished my retelling, taking a cookie and nibbling on it. The taste was as incredible as the taste of the tea had been, different but just as good.
The Grandmother looked at me over the rim of her teacup, her gaze measuring me, once again. “But there is more, isn’t there?” she asked, the question simple but I knew better than to try obfuscating the truth.
“Well, yes. Someone, I assume that same spellcaster responsible for the experiments, tried to kill me this morning. He used a projection through the Astral River to attack me, the projection taking the shape of a great, fiery serpent. I managed to survive thanks to a bit of luck and the fact that he was hundreds of kilometers away but still, he tried to kill me.” she nodded again, a smile on her face.
“And you thought that by telling me, I might decide to restore the natural order and destroy that problem for you?” she asked, her eyes piercing me. I would have blushed, if the silvery shape I was wearing would have been able to, but it was not. As I realised that, I started to wonder how I had been able to drink tea and eat cookies but before my mind could go down that rabbit-hole, I filed the question away, for later.
“It would have been a satisfactory resolution, yes.” I admitted, wondering if I had made a mistake in trying to use the Grandmother, she could be mercurial after all. And if she decided to strike me down, no amount of distance would save me.
“I always liked your honesty. And I remember little Kol, he was a nice young man. I might go down to Kolyug, just to take a look what his descendants have made of the place. And I’m always happy to see someone I taught, if only for a day, make progress, which your ability to come here demonstrates.” she paused for a moment, pondering.
“Yes, I might even teach you a little more, at least as long as you are able to maintain your projection here. Consider it another test of your ability.” she said, still sounding quite amused.