Entry 5: Riloth 19th the 5th
This coffee stuff is growing on me. I didn’t expect it to. Since my body seems to restore itself to this state of misery every day, I assumed that I would be unable to develop an acquired taste.
Show me the doodle I ripped out the today before.
Maybe you don’t like my terminology?
Show me the doodle I ripped out yesterday.
No, it looks like we lost the page. That's good to know. Before when I ripped pages out they returned at dawn the next day. This at least tells us that the reset occurs before dawn. Last night I fell asleep immediately after writing, but woke up again briefly around twelve thirty before drifting back off and waking up today.
I need to take a nap one of these todays to figure this out. I have another day of surveillance ahead of me. I have my coffee, my breakfast—a glazed sticky cinnamon bun with a hard-boiled egg the size of my fist—and my clock. Time to surveil the market and write.
I wonder if coffee or sugar stains will persist after a reset?
The morning of the seventeenth, I was not woken by a thunderous knock—Daulf being busy single-handedly educating the world’s children—but got to sleep in until nine. The first thing I did was ring the room service bell to see about getting a bath.
While I waited, I finally unpacked my belongings, sorting out the items I’d have the hotel launder, and the ones I’d need during my stay. I put my father’s sword, which had been hidden in my bedroll, under my bed for safe keeping.
Simon was not on duty that day, and the attendant who arrived was not one whose name I knew. When asked about getting a bath drawn, he informed me that the Parlor had its own baths attached to the facility behind the dining hall.
Why wasn’t this in the opening pitch?
What I expected was a small private room with a wooden bathing tub. What I got surpassed my wildest dreams. Well, my wildest bathing-related dreams.
It was the single most magnificent thing I have seen in my entire life, and I’d very recently seen dragons fighting in the skies above me. The bathhouse was made from the same marble as the rest of the Parlor, but free of rugs and furniture. Without obstructions, I could see that the material truly was flawless, free of dirt, cracks, or even seams. The only time I’d seen seamless stone construction like this had been the dwarven built bridges and fortress north of Edgewater, but those had been granite, and still had the natural stone pattern. This marble was an unnatural and unblemished white.
A long pool took up the entire floor beyond the entryway, save for a small area between the steps and the locker rooms. Along each side, spaced evenly, stood a dozen of openings to private bathing areas. My first step in was magical. I’m aware that I can literally do magic, and I am telling you—a possibly-sapient-book—that this was magical. This was better than magic. Magic is boring. This was divine. If I could cast Clean, I would still come here every day just to experience it.
I wonder if you are waterproof. We’ll find that out later too, I suppose.
The water was just on the edge of unbearably hot, and smelled wonderful—like a mix of roses and fresh, crisp winter air after a snow. Fresh water continually poured in along the walls, out of the mouths of marble stone dragons. Steam constantly rose from the surface of the water, but from these dragon's mouths it billowed—as if smoke from a real dragon’s flames. The steam was so thick in the air, that visibility was limited to a few paces. It took a thorough exploration of the room to take in all its magnificent features.
The private bathing areas were eight-foot square enclaves along the edge of the pool. Stone benches sat submerged in each private room, and enchanted metal discs were affixed on the wall that you could ladle water over to fill the enclave with even more steam. The cost of a single enchanted item—even one this simple—could build Daulf his orphanage. I counted twenty in the baths. I had balked at the two silver entry fee; after seeing the facilities in full, I’d become convinced I’d under paid.
I may have gotten carried away with the description of the bath, needless to say, I stayed there till lunch. I only left because they refused to deliver it to the baths, even though the kitchen was right there. Simon’s second betrayal of many.
After a long bath and a quick lunch of ham sandwiches—which I won't bore you with the details of, aside from mentioning that the garlic aioli was a real eye-opener for the potential of cured meats—I headed into the town to find if they had any libraries. With my companions off doing who knows what, I had decided to get to work translating the passages you’d shown me.
I asked at the front desk of the hotel and was directed—not by Simon—to the Parlor’s own library, located in the wealthier district of town. For a town of Crossroads size, the library was out of place. I speak from experience, having seen nearly every library of any worth on the Continent and having read books beyond count.
Don't be jealous, they didn't mean anything to me.
Something about this library seemed not to fit the town. I had seen larger libraries and fancier libraries, but never one so large or grand in a town so small. The library was built in the same style and colors as the Parlor, but only four stories tall. The steps leading up to the front door were a miniature version of the grand stairs leading up to the Parlor. Above the entrance, a sign read "Crystal Dragon Book Repository." The sign showed a dragon coiled possessively around a hoard of books.
On the door sat a carved a notice, "Books cannot leave the premise." I opened the door and stepped in. The open door revealed the threshold, which was inscribed with intricate symbols I’d never seen before. At the time I hadn’t even noticed them, but now I recall them perfectly, as if I’d studied them up close and set them to memory. These must be runes—or a ward? Wards are long term magical effects meant to, well, ward against something. I know wizards can create wards with spells, and I’d heard that runes could be used to create similar effects. Honestly, I know little about either field of magic, but I know enough to recognize what I don’t know. These must be runes at least, the effect would determine if it was a ward or something else. Strange that these are here. Runes are a dwarven art that they have deigned not to share with the surface world. Who could have placed them? And more importantly, what do they do?
Inside stood a sign on a lectern with the same message.
An elderly man sat behind a desk near the entrance and greeted me as I entered. "Good afternoon, welcome to the Crystal Dragon Book Repository. Books cannot leave the premises. How can I assist you today?"
He was dressed in a less fanciful variation of the uniform worn by the Parlor staff and was working on a book's binding as I walked in. He looked me up and down, and I saw recognition flicker in his eyes.
"Oh yes, you must be Mage Theral! Kine told me to expect you. I have the honor of being the caretaker of this wondrous collection. You can call me Jarreth. What can I help you find? An epic? A romance? An epic romance?"
He said the last with a wink.
I'm not sure how she got word to this man so fast. Kine, apparently the name of the woman at the desk, must have some magical means of communication with Jarreth.
This is another odd quirk of yours. I couldn't remember Kine's name while writing about speaking to her at the Parlor, even though I learned it later and have since forgotten. I could have told you the number of buttons on her shirt had I tried, but not a name I hadn't known in that moment. I suspect there is something going on here beyond simple memory enhancement. Some of the things I'm remembering don't seem possible for me to have perceived—even passively—while the events occurred. The runes on the door for instance, I know I wasn't looking at the floor as I crossed the threshold because I read the sign as soon as the door opened.
I digress. I get distracted easily, as you are learning. But you also are a book and are incapable of caring.
So back to the library. In answer to Jarreth's offer of aid, I pulled out a sheet of the unknown text which I’d torn from you that morning—sorry.
"I’m afraid my pursuits are a hair more academic in nature. I'm looking to translate this text. Do you recognize it?"
It seemed like I'd come to the right man.
He studied the page intently and began to speak his thoughts as he did, "I can't say that I have, but this is fascinating. This could be a pre-Flood script that didn't survive the trip to the Continent—outside this sample of course. The writing implement seems to be some sort of dull tipped quill, which rules out the Dwarves and Gnomes and any other deep dwellers who developed writing using sharp chisels. The elves have records from their original written language, and that used brushes and looked nothing like this. Orcs didn't write before—well, they still don't really write, but when they do they use quills. The demonblood script is known to me and is most certainly not this. And that script, like the elves, has survived the ages unchanged. Halflings never had a script of their own, and the seafolk don’t write at all. This isn’t the Forsaken script, thankfully." He stopped and took a breath.
"So what we have here is either a lost human language or—" He paused, maybe to think, but I suspect it was for dramatic effect, "a script of an otherly sapient race."
An otherly sapient race is a very scholarly way of saying monstrous race. Minotaurs, sirens, centaurs, ogres, and so on. The races on Kaltis that exist somewhere between man and beast, though not to be confused with the Forsaken or Feralkin, which are the twisted creations of Bilieth and Erebog.
Some of these monstrous races were created by the gods in their pursuit of men, but most were created after us. Some were even made by us. They were once referred to as the unblessed sapients, but this was proved untrue in a few notable examples.
He continued, "I am afraid to say, but no book here is going to help you identify this language, but you're free to see that for yourself. I recommend you start in aisle four D. If you have any more text like this, I’d love to see it."
"Thank you for your advice. I think I will try anyway. Unfortunately, that page is all I have,” I lied, “but I will keep you in mind if I find more, or translate it."
He seems to know what he was talking about, but I better look around all the same.
The stacks were spectacular. Each shelf reached the full height to the ten-foot ceiling, and against each laid a ladder set into a track that ran its length. The shelves themselves were made of slabs of marble that left me with many questions as to their construction method.
I fought my worst nature and surveyed the recommended section. To my father’s endless frustration, my typical "strategy" when entering a new library involved wandering aimlessly until something struck my eye, reading it cover to cover and then picking something new.
After a few hours of skimming, I made a discovery: Jarreth was correct. None of the books had anything close to the language in your pages.
But the time wasn't a total loss. I learned much about the evolution of the written languages, and the divergence of dialects in my reading. I’d always wondered why Rilith was spoken so widely, and now I knew. The Midlothian Empire’s Imperial Rilith became the dominant dialect post Flood, from the simple virtue of the Empire being the largest human population with ship building capabilities. The coastal cities were lost to the flood first, and anyone with shipbuilding experience took to the seas as soon as they lost their home to the waves. The non-Empire nations found ways to survive the Flood, but no single group could match the number of Empire ships, and the language became the standard of the sea.
One thing about the library is coming back to me now—which I hadn't realized at the time—each book had a small gemstone set somewhere on the book and these stones were surrounded by runes. At first glance, the runes appeared to be ornamentations often found on books. Purely decorative and as such I discounted them without a second glance. Now, knowing of the presence of runes in the building, I noticed them for what they were. I will need to look into these further. I doubt I’ll get the chance to study runes again—assuming I ever escape this situation.
The rest of the evening was uneventful. Since Simon was off duty, Kine brought dinner up to the room. While the room rates were extortion, the meals were fairly priced. Expensive for sure, but worth every copper bit. I spent a lovely evening alone in my room, enjoying a meal of seared aurock steak that could have still been breathing, it was so rare. Alongside the steak came a seaweed salad and roasted bitter sprouts.
After eating, I eventually decided to study the spellforms in your pages. I tried to decipher the Light spellform, but I couldn't figure it out. Its appearance didn't match the lessons my mother taught me or the crude examples she’d drawn. Each spellform, or so I was taught, is drawn on a frame of three concentric circles. The outer frame is the anchor for the construct. The middle ring holds the gate you must align your bridge to so that your spell enters the Arcane Realm in the correct location. The inner ring holds the Font you are drawing from. Between the middle and inner rings lies the path your construct must travel to get from the gate to the Font. Each of these is represented by complicated swirling curved lines that mean nothing in-and-of themselves, but somehow Wizards can use them to transfer the knowledge of a spell. They can do in hours, what has taken my mother a lifetime to impart to me.
The spellforms in your pages are wrong. Sorry if that offends you, but they look incomplete. They have only two framing circles, the construct and the Font. Furthermore, the construct is far more complicated than it should be for a cantrip. I'd say my mother's lessons were completely wrong, but the Font is identical as she described.
I struggled over the text and spellforms all night.
Who was your previous owner? Maybe if I can figure out what's written below, it will shed some light on the mystery.
I took a stab at trying to translate that text by treating it as a cipher but quickly gave up. I hate cryptography.
I made no progress, and eventually threw you across the room in frustration before going to bed. Sorry about that, I promise to treat you better going forward. It's just so frustrating to have spellforms in hand and not be able to use them. I’d always assumed I would be able to figure them out if only I had some to study, but here I was with spellforms bursting from my hold and no progress to show from it.
If I could learn spellforms, it would change everything. The Will constructs of wizard spells are horribly complex, and cannot simply be built on the fly, so wizards build mental templates which they store in their mental vaults. When the need arises to cast the spell, they shape their Will to match the template, and send it on its way into the Arcane Realm on a set path. Even I have those templates in my mind, but the difference is how they got there. I spent years building each template under my mother’s careful tutelage. Years of trial, error, and endless lectures. Work that a wizard could accomplish in a day, if they had sufficient skill.
Stored in my mental vault lies the culmination of a decade of work, and if I’m not diligent in maintaining them they could all be lost with no hope of recovery. If that were to happen, I’d be left with just my sorcerer spells which—let me tell you—were a lot more painful to learn. Wizard spells may take a spellformless hedge wizard like me ages to learn, but the risk of dying in the process is low. My mother taught me sorcery through literal torture.
A sorcerer doesn't learn new spells through study and patience. They manifest spells when faced with a life-or-death situation. To "teach" me, my mother created situations where I believed my life to be in danger. Manufactured life or death situations have lower efficacy than real ones because part of your mind knows what's happening, but all that means is that it takes longer—and you need to try more often. And since the consequences of failure must be real, you still get hurt and often almost die.
My mother taught me Lightning Bolt as a wizard spell. To learn it, she talked me through it for years, coaching me through the process, until one day the template was complete, and a few days practice had me casting arcs of blue white lightning from my hands.
I learned Firebolt when my mother elected to let me handle a pack of wolves that had found us during our training. This was an instance of real peril. Like any good parent, she was always on the lookout for “teachable moments.”
To learn to harness the wind in the form of Gale, she tied me to a tree, and lit a fire upwind, letting the smoke induce coughing fits until my power manifested and I summoned a strong breeze to send it away. That took a month, and we needed to hunt down a Blessed with healing abilities afterwards from all the blood I kept coughing up. I remember she complimented me on how quickly I’d mastered that, saying that it had taken her two months herself. She was amazed at my proficiency with the Font of Air, both with how quickly I learned the spell, and how many times I could cast it. When she learned Gale, the cost in Will was about twice that of a Firebolt, while for me, I could cast Gale twice for the same amount of Will it took to cast three Firebolts.
Inspired by my apparent mastery of the Font, she moved right on to “teaching” me to cast Water Breathing. We spent the next three months with daily trips to the nearest river, where she’d hold my head underwater, slowing increasing the time with each dunking until I passed out. I never learned the spell, to her great confusion, but I did become very good at holding my breath.
Around this time, I started to suspect that maybe my mother ran away from home instead of being cast out.
She threw stones at me to teach me Mage Armor while I was once more tied to a tree—I spent a large portion of my adolescence tied to trees. Instead of learning an armor spell, I teleported away. While most parents would have viewed their child learning to teleport as a success, she saw it as a failure on my part and tied me back up—this time blindfolded. Eventually I learned the spell, and the rocks were deflected away from my body.
I learned a spell or two the old-fashioned way. Real, un-manufactured, peril. Firebolt, as I mentioned, and Slow Fall. When our donkey got spooked and dragged our cart off a cliff, I saved us by slowing our fall with a focused upward blast of wind. Unfortunately, I could only save my parents and me, the donkey didn’t make it, and thus began my tenuous relationship with mounts.
I don’t want you to think that my mother was sadistic. She wasn’t cruel, she was preparing me for the world. Though I grumbled, I knew she meant well—despite the manic grin she sported during our “lessons.” Without being able to replicate the standard repertoire of any Tower trained wizard or Stormcaller apprentice, there was no way I would survive on my own roaming the Continent. Not if I wanted to make use of my abilities, that is.
A huge red flag that a "wizard" is actually a sorcerer in disguise is a lack of variety in the abilities they display. If all it took to fool a Seeker was lugging around a book of doodles, there would be a lot more sorcerers running around. A sorcerer’s power manifests as a spell that best solves the problem at hand, but if you can already do something that will almost solve the problem, the spell you manifest is likely to be a growth from that.
For instance, if I got attacked by a horde of goblins, I’m much more likely to manifest Fireball than an area effect spell of another Font—assuming I’d progressed enough in my mastery of the Font of Fire. When all you have is a hammer, everything is a nail. When all you can cast is Firebolt, most of your problems begin to look awfully flammable. Once a sorcerer gains access to their first couple Fonts, they rarely gain access to a third. As such, narrowly focused “wizards” are on the Seekers' short list of suspects. Being able to cast Firebolt and Lightning Bolt is often enough to deter suspicion.
- Find a way out of these resets
- Find out if I am alone here
- Find a way to wake up earlier
- Cure this hangover
- Learn the capabilities of this book
- Learn the language of the spellforms
- Learn how to read spellforms
- Discover the secret protected art of spellform writing
- Figure out time of reset
- Look into House Barion
- Look into the giant up north
- Check out the outlaws in the forest ruins
- Investigate the runes in the library
- Take more baths
Before writing, I’d have said that the day was uneventful, but those runes are certainly something I need to investigate. Runes are extremely rare outside the dwarven holds. It’s another lead that's unlikely to lead to the cause of this prison, but it’s an oddity that shouldn’t be overlooked, and a big opportunity.
Needless to say, the baths also require further study.
I have another pot of coffee on the way. I’m going to try again to stay up till the reset.