Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 52

Guf smiled as he watched the boulders slowly damming up the stream, changing the flow of water into a slow trickle.  "Just come out," he bellowed.  "Come out now, and I will accept your surrenders. "  He chuckled deeply.  "In a few minutes, you'll WISH you'd taken this deal..."

A head peaked up from the stream.  "You know," said the Sylph who glanced around, "that does sound like a good de--" 

The rest of the Sylph's utterance was cut off by a large boulder smashing into his head, something that swiftly rendered that head into a theoretical construct.  Guf glared at his men.  "All right, I told you, let some of them up before we summarily executed them!  If we kill the first one up, the rest stop coming up.  How many times do I have to explain that?"

"I'm sorry," said a Gnome.  "My ba--"

His fellows watched as he was rapidly buried under a hail of boulders.  "Apology accepted," stated Guf.  He turned back to the stream.  "Now, let's wait.  The water will dry up eventually, and we'll get them..."  Suddenly the earth began to tremor and quake, throwing many of the Gnomes off-balance.  "What... which one of you idiots is doing this?"

"We are!" said a Sylph flanked by a group of Salamanders.  "And also, we aren't idiots.  Actually, on reflection, I should have said that instead of just responding to your question..."

"Quit while you're ahead," whispered the tallest Salamander.

"Right, right," muttered the Sylph.  "Anyway... surrender now.  We have the drop on you."

Guf rolled his eyes.  "It's always something," he muttered as he got unsteadily to his feet.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 51

Glaucus crouched under the stream, glancing up to see the boulders hurl over it.  "They... they sure are tough little bastards, aren't they?"

"They are masters of the earth and soil," replied Phocys.  "Toughness is what they are."

Glaucus rolled his eyes.  "Do you have to correct me about everything?" he snapped.

"Only because you are frequently wrong," said Phocys calmly.  He glanced up. "Hmmm, they've stopped hurling the boulders..."

"That's good," said Glaucus.

Phocys looked at him piercingly.  "Is it?"

Glaucus coughed and turned to their prisoner.  "Right.  Well, this is why we took you with us..."

The Sylph nodded.  "Right, right."  He began to float up beyond the water level.  "Once again, I'm happy you didn't kill me, and kept those evil little things from catching me, so..."    After a second he darted back down again.  "Well, we're fine.  They're just... rolling boulders up to where the stream joins the river."  The Undines all winced.  The Sylph looked around in concern.  "What's... what's wrong?"

"They're going to flush us out," muttered Phocys grimly.

"Only the Maker can save us," said Glaucus dramatically.  He shut his eyes.  "Right, She hasn't appeared, has she?"

Phocys shook hishead.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 50

Vulcan coughed.  "So, you really feel this is the best plan at the moment...?"

Lulea nodded.  "It's our only option."

"I listed... several other options," pointed out Vulcan.  "In fact, this was the option I was the most uneasy about."

"But you left things up to me, and I said this is what we have to do," noted Lulea.

"Yes, you most assuredly did," muttered Vulcan.  "Still, if you want to change your..."

"We will do this," replied Lulea.  "My people and the Undines have been decimated.  The Gnomes are going to take over all the world, and then probably go after the Sun.  And then... then well, who knows what Roquat will do."  She bowed her head.  "We have a duty to the Maker."  She turned to look at him.  "You notified Hyperion and Etain, right?"

"They've both agreed to this," said Vulcan.  "Etain seems... almost eager, which is strange for her.  I think she likes you."

"She has a funny way of showing it," replied Lulea.   "Ehhh, not important now." She looked around the room at Vulcan's subordinates, and raised her sword.  "Let's go kick some Gnomish tail!  Wooo!"

One of the Salamander's blinked.  "Gnomes don't have tails."

Lulea rolled her eyes. "It's an expression.  Would you people please try to get... enthusiastic about this?"

The Salamanders managed a weak cheer.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 49

Polychrome folded her arms before her.  "So, you all failed," she said severely.

The Sylph before her stared in numb amazement.  "That's what you get from this.  I tell you we died in droves, on your orders, and you just... blame us for it."

"Would you say you succeeded then?" asked Polychrome, leaning forward.

"What?" muttered the Slyph.  "Of course not! What does that even..."

"Well, you seem to be insisting that somehow what I was saying was untrue," noted Polychrome, leaning back in her throne.

The Sylph blinked.  "No, I was questioning the appropria..."

Polychrome raised her hand. "Stop.  We've already reached a problem.  You were questioning me.  The Chief Sylph."  She sighed.  "There really is only one way to respond to this."

"Right, right," muttered the Sylph resentfully.  "I'll get right on cleaning the lower levels..."

"Oh, no," said Polychrome, shaking her head.  "This isn't a light insult.  This is treason."

"That-- that's ridiculous!" snapped the Sylph.

"Well, that or sedition," noted Polychrome with a casual dismissive wave.  "Really, I'm in no mood to go into technicalities.  You'll be imprisoned, the matter tried, and then executed."  She clapped her hands.  "Guards!"  A pair of armored Sylphs marched into the room.  "Take him away to the cells."

The Sylph fell to his knees as the pair approached him.  "Aura--Eurus... it's... it's Egoi.  You know me!"

"Sorry, pal," said Eurus.  "Orders are orders..."

Polychrome watched as the pair dragged him from the room, then smiled to herself.  "I am growing as a leader," she declared cheerfully.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 48

The King of Gnomes sat on his throne and listened to the fighting occurring above. 

Then he listened to what the Black Stone told him, and nodded.

Yes, things were going as it said they would.  It had felt... bad at first, betraying the Maker's trust in him, but one got used to it.

The benefits after all, were quite considerable.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 47

Lulea lay on the ceiling, curled up into a ball.  It wasn't exactly comfortable, but it was marginally cooler than the floor of Vulcan's cave, even if she did have to fly to stay up there.  And there was something of a breeze, even if it was as stifling as the rest of the damn cave.  She could shut her eyes and pretend she was somewhere more pleasant.

"Ummm, Miss... Sylph..." came Vulcan's voice.

"Lulea," she said, keeping her eyes closed.

"Well, we cleaned up the sick," he said, "and if you want to come down and look at what's happening..."

"No, I don't," she answered.  "My friends are dying.  Because of me."

"The fact that Lady Polychrome is an arrogant fool played a part," noted the Salamander.

"Yes, but if I hadn't taken the mirror, she'd just be having people... oh, shining all the mirrors in the Silver Palace," said Lulea.

"Yes, if I had returned to the Sun, Etain wouldn't have been sent after me, and you would never have taken the mirror to help her," said Vulcan.   "We can play this game as long as you wa..."

"No, no," she said, perking up.  "That's pretty good.  This is all your fault.  Not mine."

Vulcan blinked.  "Uhh, yes, I was going to point out that it was more compli..."

"Yeah, yeah," said Lulea, floating down to the floor.  "It's all on you.  So, how are you going to help me fix it?"

Vulcan considered matters.  "That was what I hoped to talk to you about, so I will just accept this turn of events as a good thing."

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 46

Glaucus smiled to himself, as he watched the Sylphs slowly withdraw from the field, fleeing in small groups.  "Well, it is proving a glorious day..." he noted to Phocys.

The old Undine snorted.  "If bloody is the same thing as glory, then aye, it is."  He shook his head.  "It is not right, for so many of us that the Great Maker set to serve this world to unmake each other."

"The Sylphs gave us little choice," noted Glaucus, slightly offended.

"You'll not hear me arguing that the Lady Polychrome is not a fool," said Phocys.  "But I will still call this day an evil one, not a good."  He gestured to the body of a slain Undine.  "And for us, as well as them."

Glaucus looked abashed.  "Still... it is a victory.  If for nothing else, I will praise this day for that."

"Foolish Sylphs and Undines!" came a booming voice.  The Undines turned to see a Gnome standing on a boulder that they were fairly certain was not there before.  "You have fought each other, and weakened each other, only for this--to assure my master Roquat's victory!  Soon, you have lorded over us shall bow to us!  We will use Sylphs for footstools, and Undines as chairs!  So declares General Guph!"  The Gnome threw his head back and laughed.

"Who is Guph?" asked a Sylph who'd fled to a nearby cloud.

The Gnome frowned.  "Guph is me."

"You mean 'I'!" said another Sylph.

Guph's frown deepened and he stomped his foot.  "Attack!"  Thousands of Gnomes appeared from out of the ground and rushed towards the field.

Phocys looked at Glaucus.  "Still consider it a good day on the whole?"

"I command you to shut up," muttered Glaucus wincing.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 45

"...Quite surprised when I discovered it," said Vulcan, as he adjusted the various lenses.  He turned to one of his assistants.  "Pyraemon, move the Flavor indicator to 'Strange'."  The smaller Salamander nodded and began to fiddle with a large wheel. "I arrived here for a simple task, but it was so... fascinating that I had to stay, and see what could be done with it!"    He gave a confident laugh.  "And let me say, it has been well worth it!"

"Uh-huh," said Lulea, trying her best to keep from passing out in the heat of Vulcan's cave.

"Why, the things I've been able to do," noted Vulcan.  "I honestly feel I'm starting to understand so many things that the Maker has done now!"

"That's great," muttered Lulea.  "Could... we really need to stop this war..."

Vulcan nodded.  "Right, right.  Sorry if I get distracted."  He tapped a sphere between all the lenses.  "Let's see how the war is going now..."  Suddenly a vast image appeared hovering in the air.  It was a great field--Lulea recognized it from her patrols--and it was filled with Sylphs and Undines, fighting.  Some of them seemed to be wounded, and some seemed to be dead, something she could recognize because of the fact that parts that should be inside were now outside.

Vulcan clicked his tongue.  "Oh, my this is getting untidy.  We really should hurr..." His thoughts were interrupted by Lulea throwing up.   "Not what I was going to suggest, actually."

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 44

War was quickly proving infinitely less pleasant than Ariel had thought it would be.

"MY LEGS! MY LEGS!" shrieked one Sylph, whose name he couldn't quite recall.  "I CAN'T FEEL MY LEGS!"

Ariel considered telling him that this was because said legs were no longer attached to his body, but it felt rude.  It vaguely occurred to him that he should try to do something more helpful, like find the legs.  Looking over the field, he thought he saw them, but on closer examination he wasn't sure they were.

A lot of Sylphs were missing legs now, after all.  So were a lot of Undines.

It was all so... untidy.  Another Sylph turned to look at him and said things he couldn't make out, then stared, as if expecting a response.  Ariel waved at him and walked away.  The man seemed to follow for a while, but then stopped.  That seemed comforting.  Yes.  Yes, he must have gotten the answer he was looking for after all.   Ariel felt suddenly light, as if every bit of weight he carried was suddenly gone.  As the ground rushed forward, he was aware that he seemed to be bleeding...

And then, he wasn't.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 43

Lulea awoke in a flickering cavern, her head pounding.  After... well, she wasn't sure how long, but  a good long time of wishing herself away from the sun's heat and light, she wished herself back.  This place had light and heat too, both far more oppressive than the golden shimmering light of the sun.  The air seemed stale, and heavy--Lulea felt sluggish and slightly ill here.  And somehow, for all the light, there were menacing shadows everywhere.

"Ahh, you're up!" came the voice of Vulcan.  "Excellent.  I really wasn't sure how to wake you!"  Lulea turned and then stared as the Salamander made a shrug.  "I haven't had any Sylphs to deal with, after all.  It's something of a mystery to me!"

Lulea simply continued to stare.  She'd assumed that the image of Vulcan she saw exaggerated his height--in fact it downplayed it.  The Salamander towered over her, the tallest one of his kind she'd ever seen.  She assumed, from what Etain had told her that it had something to do with his enviroment, and that in another setting, he would be a more normal height--still it was unsettling to look at.  "Well, you are a tall drink of water, aren't you?" she blurted out.

"More pitch,"said Vulcan.  "I wasn't aware you Sylphs drank water, though..."

"Dew," muttered Lulea.  "It's... more a saying.  From the Old Court."

Vulcan nodded absently.   "Ahh.  I never really paid much attention to things there.  Had things to do."

Lulea shifted.  Things were still uncomfortable, but she seemed to be getting used to it, horrible as that seemed on some level.  "Like what?"

"Let me show you," said Vulcan with a grin.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 42

"So this will work...?" asked Lulea. 

"Oh, certainly," said the image of Vulcan looming over her as she stepped between the mirrors.  "Why it works when I do it with the lenses, and these recent events show us that the mirrors work on the same principle."

Lulea took a relieved breath, as Etain adjusted the mirror she was holding.  "Ahh, so you have done this before..."

"Oh, yes, and the rocks wound up exactly where I sent them," said Vulcan cheerily.  "Well, except that one time..."

Lulea's eyes spread in shock.  "Rocks?" she said.  "You've only done this with rocks?"  And then her eyes went wider.  "Wait--what do you mean 'that one time'?"

Vulcan had turned, his arms waving about in the chamber in a way that suggested he was doing something... wherever it was he was.  "All right, that should do it!"

Lulea turned to look at Etain and Hyperion.  "I am really, really uncertain about th--"  There was a sudden flash and she had vanished, the image in between the mirrors gone as well.  The two Salamanders were silent for a moment.

"Yay!" declared Etain at last.  "Something happened!  That can only be good!"

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 41

"So... this will work?" said one nervous Sylph.

"Absolutely," answered Ariel, quelling any and all doubts he was feeling.  "Before, they've been attacking us while weren't expecting it, with weapons they had prepared.  Now, we are attacking them, in a place where we have an advantage."  He gave a positive nod as he repeated what Polychrome had told him.  "The Undines are about to learn a painful lesson."

"What advantage?" asked the Sylph, puzzled.

Ariel blinked.  "We--we're on land."

"There's water right over there," said another Sylph, gesturing at the river.

"And also clouds!" said a Sylph.  "Those have water in them!"

"They do not!" snapped Ariel.

"Yes, they do," said that Sylph.  "I've checked."

"Listen, the clouds and the river don't have enough water to let the Undines do the things they've done to the Silver Palace!" declared Ariel.  "Now, we can fight the Undines here, and beat them, or we can go back and clean the Silver Palace!  Anyone want to do that?  No?  Good!  Now, let's get ready to charge those Undines over there!"

As the Sylphs fell into formation, Ariel congratulated himself for showing talent as a commander, and avoiding having to clean the Lower Levels again.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 40

The Sylphs were gathering on the plain, sharp spears and clubs in their hands.  Glaucus frowned.  "There are more of them then I thought."

Old Phocys snorted.  "What did you think?  The Sylphs cover this whole sphere, while we must lurk in the murky depths."  The Undine sighed.  "That is what happens when you send a boy to do a man's work.  Still, the lady has her favorites..."

Glaucus frowned.  Phocys was old by the nature of his people, created from the old primordial waters, something he never ceased to remind others of.  He bristled at being under Amphitrite's command, and quite frequently insisted on giving her advice.

Which is why Glaucus was the commander of the Undine forces.  "We've done far better than they," noted Glaucus.  "The Silver Palace has been battered and smashed, while we are safe and secure.  It is sheer desperation that they face us like this anyway."

"Hmmph," grunted Phocys.  "And it was from the Gnomes we learned of this plan?"

"They have been trying very hard to gain Roquat's trust,"answered Glaucus. 

"The more fools them," replied Phocys.  He spat.  "And the more fools us, if we believe him."  He gestured at the Sylphs.  "Tell me, Commander, do you think those Sylphs might also have been given information by Roquat?"

Glaucus gave a weary nod.  As annoying and ambitious as Phocys was, there was a reason they kept him around.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 39

Lulea stared at the strange twisting lights in the center of the room forming between the two mirrors.  For a moment, it seemed to be something like a woman--then it shifted and it was a plain on which tiny figures moved in formation, and then it shifted again, and the great glowing form of a Salamander appeared.  The Salamander shifted about, as if trying to line up something.

"Vulcan?" whispered Etain.

The image of the Salamander froze.  "Etain?" came a voice far lighter than Lulea imagined coming from the figure.  "What are you... How are you appearing in my lenses?"

Hyperion stepped forward.  "Lenses?  What is this, Vulcan?  More trouble?"

Vulcan seemed to frown.  "Ahh.  Hyperion.  You're there too, eh?  I'm not coming back. I thought I made that perfectly clear to Etain..."

Etain coughed politely and forced a grin on her face as Hyperion glanced at her.  "She didn't exactly..." began Hyperion.  He shook his head. "We've been preoccupied.  Look, we should probably try to catch up with each other instead of talking past each other."

"Well, make it quick," snapped Lulea.  "This is very unpleasant on my arms."

Vulcan glanced around.  "Who's that?"

"Another thing to explain," said Hyperion with a sigh.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 38

"I believe we may move soon, sir," declared General Guph positively.

Roquat nodded.  "Excellent.  The Undines and Sylphs will not know what hit them."

The Chief Steward sighed.  "I suspect they will, sir.  We are a rather distinct bunch."

"It's a metaphor, Kalliko!" snapped the Chief Gnome.  "Goodness me, it is so tiresome to have to deal with you sometimes."

Kalliko gave a dull nod.  "Your Lordship speaks for our mutual situation well."

Roquat grimaced at the Steward and turned towards his General, who it should be mentioned had previously been his gardener.  He disliked Kalliko immensely, and only kept him around because he'd been Steward for so long as to make himself indispensable.  He greatly preferred Guph, a Gnome who knew where his future lay. 

"I agree with the Steward," said Guph.  "His Lordship always summarizes things well."

Roquat sighed.  True, he wasn't that bright, but then that kept him from getting bothersome ideas.

One really couldn't get everything in a subordinate, after all.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 37

"I have to admit," said Hyperion as he took them into the tiny alcove, "I'm not exactly certain this will work. Vulcan thought it would, but he never really got a chance to test it..."

"So, we're just going on the theories of your crazy brother that everybody is spooked by came up with, that he never bothered to check," said Lulea.

"Oh, yes," agreed Hyperion.  "But thing about Vulcan is, he's brilliant."

Etain nodded.  "I mean, we frequently can't follow what he's saying.  He's that smart."

Lulea stared at the Salamanders for a moment, then sighed.  "So what's the plan?"

"Well," began Hyperion, opening the cabinet in which his mirror was kept, "he always maintained that if he got his hand on another mirror, if we used in conjunction with another mirror...  If you would just stand here, miss..." Lulea stepped before it as he indicated.  "Well, it could produce all sort of effects... Now please, raise the mirror." 

Lulea slowly did so. "How far?"

"Until it catches my mirror in itself," said Hyperion.

"How will I know if...?" began Lulea, only for the mirror to begin to glow.

"Ooh, I think it's working!" said Etain.  "This is just like the last time it did that!  Remember?"

"Yes," whispered Lulea through gritted teeth, as the mirror vibrated in her hands.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 36

"I first heard about it from Lord Roquat of the Gnomes," explained Hyperion.  "He was attempting to get my support for his own plans, which were in fact quite intriguing." He gave a frustrated shrug.  "But sadly, my concerns about Vulcan's activities kept me from signing on."

Lulea winced at that. "I hope you didn't tell him that."

"Of course not," said the Salamander.  "I think."

"What is he doing?" asked the Sylph.

"We can't tell you," said Hyperion.

"Right.  It would make Vulcan mad," noted Etain.

Lulea blinked in puzzlement.  "Why does that worry you?"

The pair merely stared at her for awhile.  "You've never met our brother, and it shows," said Hyperion at last.  Etain nodded in agreement.

"So, back to the war..." noted Lulea.

"Well, apparently the Sylphs tried to steal the Undines' mirror, which set the whole thing off," began Hyperion.

"Ohh, that's because you took the mirror!" said Etain, pointing at Lulea.  "That you still have."

Lulea shifted awkwardly. "Uhh, yeah."  She looked at Hyperion.  "I'm guessing this is important."

"A bit," agreed Hyperion.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 35

Lord Roquat of the Gnomes sat on his boulder, and regarded the two emissaries before him with amusement.  "So, you Sylphs feel I should align with you, as the Undines have treacherously attacked your home?"

The Sylph nodded eagerly.  "Indeed, oh great and wise, and really terrific Lord of the Gnomes."

"And you Undines feel that I should align with you because the Sylphs treacherously attempted to steal your chief's mirror, and would have attempted to steal mine, had they not thought I was far, far too devious to be an easy target?" continued Roquat, looking ever more pleased with himself.

The Undine gulped.  "This is most true, Great Roquat."

Roquat sat back on his boulder for a moment, beaming, and then laughed.  "Well, for now tell your principles that I will... consider things.  But I will provide them with an answer.  Soon.  Very soon."  He nodded to himself, and chuckled. 

The emissaries glanced at each other, a brief flash of sympathy on their faces as each realized that they were in the same situation, relying on this manifestly unreliable figure for aid.  They might have even struck up a conversation if Roquat had not coughed then.  "Please.  I thought just made myself perfectly clear that the present discussion is over, and that you will have to wait for a future discussion for my answer.  Thus I kindly ask you to leave."

The pair scurried out.  When the Lord of Gnomes asked you to go, it was best to do so, quickly.  He could get unpleasant if you didn't.  Unpleasant, and creative.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 34

Lord Hyperion grinned loftily on his throne at the prisoners before him.  "So, your pathetic effort to flee has been thwarted!"

"Because I surrendered," muttered Lulea.  "And dragged your loopy sister with me.  And let me say, I do not know why the Great Maker put such a nutty family in charge of the sun and Salamanderkind."

"Oh, we wonder too," said Etain with a nod.

Hyperion ignored his sister, and instead stared menacingly at the Sylph.  "You dare speak to me in this manner?"

"Obviously, yes," muttered Lulea.  "Now, please, unless you have something constructive to tell me, just put me back in the cell.  I need someplace quiet and dark."

Hyperion turned away to look at the floor, nonplussed.  After a moment, he recovered enough equilibrium to manage a sinister laugh.  "Ah HA!" he declared.  "So, my great power has broken you so completely that..."

"It's more all this damned glowing," replied Lulea.  "But if it makes you feel happy, then, yes, yes, it was your mighty power.  Now, please, let me go.  I'm tired, and you're really not that good at gloating.  Lady Polychrome could give you some pointers, honestly..."

"Oh, like she is in any position to with the war..." muttered Hyperion.

Lulea blinked.  "What was that?"

"Ummm, a statement that has no bearing at the present situation at all," said the Chief Salamander.

The Sylph sighed.  "You are definitely her brother," she muttered, with a nod at Etain.

Etain shook her head.  "Well of course.  We told you that."

Hyperion looked at his sister.  "Are all Sylphs like this?"

"She seems to be a special case," answered Etain.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 33

"This is pointless," muttered Gerra, glancing at his fellow Salamanders.  "You know how clever the Lady Etain is.  We'll never find her"

"She's not that clever," replied Gibil.  "More persistant."

Gerra gave a dismissive wave.  "Call it what you will," he noted.  "This is a fool's errand."

The Salamander guards were startled by the sound of a scuffle from the bushes ahead of them.  This alarm increased when the fugitive Sylph emerged from them, dragging the Lady Etain with her. 

"Right!" shouted the Sylph.  "We surrender and throw ourselves on your mercy."

"No, no!" said Etain.  "We can still make it!  I can think of plenty more places to run and hide!"

"Quiet you," said the Sylph.  She coughed.  "Look, I'd like to be treated mercifully for this.  Though if you decide to stick me back in the oubilette for awhile--well, I'll get some rest.  I really need it."

"Uhh, well," said Gibil, "that's not our job.  It's all up to Lord Hyperion..."

"I figured that," said the Sylph, "and I don't care.  Now, please take to some place that is not bright and glowing.  Please. I am getting a headache just standing here."

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 32

"Why do they keep following us?" groaned Lulea as she and Etain rushed through the woods.

"That's their job! said the Salamander.  "I mean, wouldn't the guards you Sylphs have do the same thing?"

"We don't have guards," snapped Lulea.  "If Polychrome ever needs someone chased, she just asks one of us to do it."

"Hmm, that explains a lot," said Etain.  "Like why we're here with the mirror right now.  You Sylphs really don't plan well, do you?"

Lulea thought about arguing this, but seeing as her choices had resulted in her running through these glowing woods with Etain for company, she didn't feel confident that she could make a good one. 

"Lady Etain!" came a shout from one of the guards.  "Just turn yourself in!  Please!"

Lulea paused briefly.  "They... really seem kind of reasonable."

"All a lie," snapped Etain.

"Your brother just wants to talk to you," said the guard. 

"You have a brother?" asked Lulea.

"Salamanders can have brothers," said Etain. 

"He just worried that Vulcan's turned you against him," continued the guard.  "If you'd just show him that this wasn't the case he'd calm down.  You know that Lord Hyperion has a stressful job..."

Lulea blinked.  "Wait, Lord Hyperion is your brother?"

"Maybe the guard's talking in a metaphorical sense," suggested Etain raising one sizzling eyebrow.

"But he isn't is he?" said Lulea.

Etain glanced abashedly at the ground.  "Not, really no," she muttered.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 31

The Silver Palace hung in the air, a glittering jewel that shone with a pale light all its own.  The Sylphs who lived there all agreed it was a wonder--a marvel built for them by the Maker, to delight and cherish.  There was no place in all creation they liked more. It was a place where Sylphs could go after performing their duties to Creation and rest.

Thus they were quite shocked when the waters of the world began to shake and massive waves swat at it. 

This was startling.  Startling and new.  And as such it required an explanation.  As the waters of Creation did not do this on their own, it meant something was making them.  The obvious answer was the Undines, but most Sylphs couldn't see why they would.

The ones that did see why did nothing to shatter the former group's ignorance.  What both groups of Sylphs knew was that this changed everything.

And not in a good way.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 30

Lulea panted as she climbed the tree, which like everything else on the sun was golden, shining and much too hot.  "No," she said at length, "I have no idea what that was about?"

Etain looked down, disappointed.  "But it happened because of things you did!  You should know what it meant!"

"That would be preferable," muttered Lulea.  "But I don't."   She glared at the Salamander, while trying to maintain her unsteady perch on the branch she was presently resting on.  "I don't know a lot about this situation.  You keep promising to explain things, and then shutting up whenever you get enough time."

"Well, yes," said Etain.  "That's because I don't want you to know things!"

Lulea shut her eyes, and leaned her head back against the tree.  She could almost imagine it was comfortable, in these conditions.  "You actually tell me that."

"Well, you've clearly figured it out!" chirped Etain.  "And it's much better then telling you how Hyperion and Vulcan fought, and so when the Maker needed a job done on the world, Vulcan went there, only now he won't come back, and Hyperion is getting worried."  The Salamander gave a satisfied nod.

Lulea cracked an eye open."Well, I have to say you're full of surprises."

"Mmm-hmm," declared Etain.  "I'm like a stinging thing nest that way!"

Lulea couldn't argue with that.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 29

Etain and Lulea shuddered on the ground, as a great pillar of light rose from the mirror. "Wow, I think I was wrong!" said Etain cheerfully.  "You should wish badness on the mirror more often!  It makes it do interesting things!"

"Shut up, Etain," said the Sylph quietly.

"Right, right," answered the Salamander.  "Still--think it's a good point to make!"

"That's not..." began Lulea, only to freeze as a great black spot emerged from the center of the pillar.  It shifted strangely, only to reveal a bright spot in its center.  As she stared at it, Lulea realized it was a great eye.  And she realized that not only was she staring at it, but that it was staring at her.  She shuddered to herself.

And then it was gone--the pillar of light, the strange eye--all vanished at once.

"Well, that was interesting!" said Etain.  She pointed towards the horizon.  "Oooh!  More guards!"  The Salamander jumped up.  "Let's start running again!  Hmmm?"

"I... I should get the mirror," said Lulea, rising unsteadily to her feet.

"Yes, you do..." said Etain, already running away.

Lulea grumbled to herself, and picked up the mirror.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 28

Iris shivered as she moved through the halls of the Palace of Pearl.  Sylphs did not enjoy moving through water, though they could do it in a pinch.  She felt so uncomfortable.  Still, it was better than going underground, which is why she was trying to take Amphitrite's mirror and not Roquat's. 

She grimaced as she hit a dead end.  Did the damned Undines not understand how to make a palace?  The Palace of Pearl didn't resemble the Silver Palace at all!    Iris nodded to herself.  Just another sign of how Undines weren't as clever as Sylphs.  She'd get the mirror soon, return to Polychrome, and possibly, just possibly, no longer have the Chief Sylph hate her. 

That was very important because Polychrome was powerful, and could have a Sylph she didn't like do things like clean out the basement of the Silver Palace. Which was a very  unpleasant thing to do.

It was as she thought on how unpleasant that was that the Undine guards caught her.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 27

"And that is why, oh, great and powerful mirror, you should help us," finished Lulea.  She gave a polite cough and waited fitfully.  After several moments, she gave a frustrated groan.  "Is it doing anything?"

"It just blinked at me!" said Etain.

"That's because you just blinked," noted the Sylph.

"Ooooh, right."  Etain nodded.  "Well then no."

Lulea glared at the mirror.  "Damn it!"

"Ooooh,  now it looks really angry!" said Etain.

"I am sick of this thing," snapped Lulea.  "I need the Maker's help to get out of this mess, and if the mirror can't give it than... badness to it!"

Etain gasped.  "Oh, not badness!  That's not good!"  She wagged a finger at Lulea.  "You mustn't wish it on the mirror."

"And what's it going to do?" seethed Lulea.  "More of what it's done for the last few hours?  Absolutely nothing?"

Suddenly, the mirror began to glow.

"Ooooh," said Etain.  "It looks like your question is going to be answered."

"It was rhetorical," whispered Lulea.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 26

Polychrome paced fitfully around the throne room.  "There must be something we can do!" she stated.

"Well, I'm certain that if you begged the Maker for..." said Iris.

"By 'we', I mean 'you'," answered Polychrome flatly.

"Don't the other Chiefs have their own mirrors," noted Ushas.

Polychrome's eyes widen.  "They do!"  She frowned.  "But they are all so difficult to deal with.  And we can't go to the Salamanders.  They're all on the sun."

Ushas smiled.  "Ahh but they are not the only Chief you could go to."

Polychrome snapped her fingers.  "Of course!  The Undines and the Gnomes!  I'm sure one of them could be persuaded to... assist in this matter."  She bit her lip.  "But, no, no, Amphitrite hates me.  And Roquat is such a sneaky little thing..."

"Then perhaps you simply shouldn't ask," whispered Ushas. 

Polychrome considered that for a while.  "Yes, yes," she said at last.  "A simple... arrangement.  After all, they don't need it, the way I do."  She turned to Iris.  "You go get a mirror from one of them."

"Why me?" said Iris.

"Because I say so," replied Polychrome.

Iris stared at the chief sylph beseechingly.  "But I think this is a terrible idea!"

Polychrome stared at her balefully.  "What part of 'because I say so' don't you understand?" she stated.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 25

The pair stared into the mirror.  "So... how did it work last time?" said Etain at last.

"I looked in it, and showed me the Road," answered Lulea.  "Eventually."

Etain considered things.  "Hmmm, that sounds unduly complicated," she said at last.  "Maybe if we hit with a rock."

Lulea glanced at the Salamander.  "This is a precious treasure granted to the Chief Sylph by the Maker Herself."

"Okay, okay," muttered Etain.  "We lightly tap it with a rock."

Lulea merely stared at her.

"We tap a rock with it," said Etain.  Lulea still did not reply.  "We lean it against a rock."

"Why does a rock have to be involved with this?" snapped Lulea.

"They just solve things!" said Etain.  "You wouldn't believe how many things you can handle by bringing rocks into the equation.  It boggles the mind!"

Lulea stared at her flatly.  "Give me an example.  Just one."

Etain grinned.  "Easy.  This other Salamander was bothering me.  So I..."

"Stop it right there," said Lulea raising her hand.

"Ahh, but it's a neat story!" said Etain. 

"Nope," said Lulea.  "I've gotten the gist of it."

"There's barely any blood in it!" offered Etain eagerly.

"Still no," said Lulea flatly.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 24

"And here we are!" declared Etain grandly as she stepped out into the light.  "Outside again!"

Lulea winced in the bright glare.  "Excellent," she muttered through clenched teeth.

"Yeah, it is pretty great," agreed Etain. 

"So what's the plan now?" asked Lulea, trying to hide in the shade of a tree--difficult because trees on the sun didn't give off shade but glowed with a sparkling light.

"We run and hide some more!" answered Etain. 

Lulea stared at the Salamander.  "That's it?"

"I know!" said Etain grinning ear to ear.  "It's simple--but elegant.  It's perfect."

"Well, I'll give you... simple," muttered Lulea.  "I just wish you had something... more detailed."

"Give me a break!" said Etain with a shrug.  "It's not like I've got that mirror of yours to help get me out of this situation!"

Lulea blinked.  "Ahh, yes.  That."  She drew the mirror out of her shift.

"You still have it?" said Etain.  "And you haven't tried to use it?"

"I barely know how!" snapped Lulea.

"Yes... but... you were in a prison," said Etain.  "You had a better chance to try than when you were in the air with the... thingys."

"Birds," noted Lulea.  "They were birds."

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Whither Goes the WInd--Part 23

"Have to say I'm impressed," noted Etain as the pair wended their way through the tunnel.  "Most Salamanders just lose it in there.  All dark and cold."  She shuddered.

"Yes," said Lulea.  "I have nerves of steel, under it all."

"Oh, I can tell," agreed Etain.  "I'm glad to have gained you as an ally.  It's the only hope I have in this terrible situation I'm in."

"Is there any chance I could get some details on this situation?" asked Lulea.

"What situation?" asked Etain cheerily.

Lulea froze for a moment.  "You just... mentioned one..."

"Did I?" asked Etain.

"Yes," snapped Lulea.

"Oh," replied the Salamander with a nod.  "If you say so, I must have.  I get distracted easily and forget things."

Lulea gulped as she realized that not only was her existence in this being's hands, but that she had no way to be sure if Etain was lying or not.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 22

The oubliette had quickly proven at least partially a pleasant surprise to Lulea's mind.  It was a small, cool, darkened chamber, apparently one of the only places on the sun that didn't glow with unbearable light and give off an unpleasant heat.  The Sylph was enjoying it, and taking the time to enjoy as much of a nap as she could.

As her thoughts were routinely haunted by the thought that she was likely going to be taken from the place soon it wasn't much of one, but in these circumstances every little thing counted, to Lulea's mind.  And so she tried to wear down this fretful wakefulness by count numbers forwards, and sometimes backwards, despite the rather poor performance of this plan.

"Are you counting?" said a familiar voice.  "Because noonteenth is not a number."

"Etain!" declared Lulea brightly.  "I thought you'd abandoned me!"

"I did," answered the Salamander.  "But then I felt guilty about it.  You did help me after all."

Lulea smiled at that.  "Why yes, I most certainly..."

"Even if you did try to betray me to the guards back in the woods," stated Etain cheerfully.

"Ahh, yes," muttered Lulea, glancing away.  "Sorry about that..."

"Oh,  you can't help it!" said Etain.  "You Sylphs are so funny looking, I'm not surprised at anything you do."  She turned away.  "Now come on!  I happen to know a secret way out of here from the last time I was here!"

As Lulea followed the Salamander, still trying to figure out the exact extent of the insult Etain had previously uttered, it occurred to her that Etain had once again let drop some rather disturbing information, when it was considered.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 21

Lulea glanced around the throne room.  It was arguably the brightest, most golden section of the sun she'd been in yet.  Which was saying something, as the sun was proving to be so very bright and golden that she would happily live in a dark spot with no gold at all for the rest of her days.

And as a Sylph, she'd been given to understand that in most circumstances, the rest of her days would be a long, long time.

As she managed to focus her eyes on the throne before her, she saw that it had an occupant, a tall male Salamander who seemed to gleam almost as much as the room.  It didn't take her much effort to guess who he was.  "So," said Lord Hyperion, "this is Lady Etain's little... ally, hmm?"

Lulea's escort all fidgeted at this.  "So far as we can tell," stated one.

Hyperion leaned forward.  "Well, then, Sylph, answer me--are you in the employ of my brother?  And has Etain betrayed me to serve him?"

Lulea gulped.  "Ummm... I have no idea about any of this, and am badly out of my depth."  She managed a hopeful smile.  "How's that for an answer?"

"Take her to the oubliette!" declared Hyperion.

"Yeah, that's what I thought," said Lulea, glancing at the horribly bright floor.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 20

Lulea trudged along, arms bound behind her back, Salamanders flanking her.  She glanced side to side trying to get some lay of the land. It was hopeless, however--the sun was simply so... different from what she was used to that trying to figure out where she might be was impossible.  She let out a cough.

"So... where are you taking me?" she asked.

"Prisoners don't talk," said a Salamander.

"Orders of Lord Hyperion!" noted another.

"So--you're taking me to Lord Hyperion?" she asked.

One of the Salamanders let out a disgruntled sigh.  "You really don't take hints, do you, thingy?"

"I think it's a Sylph!" said the second Salamander who'd spoken. 

"Well, it shouldn't be here!" noted another.  "And what was it doing with Lady Etain?  That was damned suspicious to my mind?"

"We really shouldn't be talking like this," noted the first Salamander.  "Might give it ideas."

As the group continued again in silence, Lulea had to admit she was not reassured by what she'd heard in the least.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 19

The steady peal of the bell rang out on the plains of the Sun as Etain and Lulea raced away.  "Well, it sure is loud," said the Salamander.  "It really makes you admire Lord Hyperion's skills as a planner, eh?  I mean, I would never have thought to prepare for a potential rebellion right off the get go, but he did!"

Lulea grimaced.  "You know, I preferred it when you were miserable!"

"Well, duh! You were in your Sylph home!" said Etain.  "Every thing was happy for you there!  Just like everything is happy for me here!"

"We're running from your own leader's people!" snapped Lulea, stopping to pause near an outcropping.

Etain shrugged.  "I meant aside from that.  This is where we're supposed to be, no matter what Vulcan says!  We feel better here!"

"You keep mentioning Vulcan," said Lulea.  "I'm starting to think he's pretty damn important."

"To us," answered Etain.  "Not to you.  And we should get moving again, I think..." 

"I still need to catch my breath," muttered Lulea.  "Which is a new experience for me let me..."  The sound of tramping feet interrupted her.  A group of Salamanders rushed into view, and leveled their spears at her.  Lulea panicked.  "No, no, you want..." she began, gesturing to where Etain had been.  The young Salamander was gone.  Lulea wilted and fell to the ground in exhaustion and despair.  "Of course," she muttered. 

As the guards approached, she realized that the ground here was uncomfortably warm.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 18

"See!" said Etain spreading her hands wide.  "Isn't exactly as I said?"

Lulea squinted--the Bell was like everything on the sun exceedingly shiny.  "Yes.  Great and golden and... bell-shaped," she muttered.  "What's it for?"

Etain stared at her, baffled. "What?"

"Why do you have a massive golden bell here?" asked Lulea.  "I assume it's got some purpose, besides... you know... existing?"

Etain's stare shifted to blank puzzlement.  "I have no idea, and have never asked."  She turned to the Bell. "I mean, why would I?  It's just... great!  This is the neatest thing on the sun! We all love it!  We come here and stare at it, for hours on end!"

Lulea nodded.  "You Salamanders have very dull lives."

"Only on the sun," said Etain, glancing on the doorway.  "Now come on, let's move.  Some more people have come in."

"What you're not going to give me time to... take this in," snapped Lulea.

"No, because that plan I mentioned of avoiding Hyperion involves avoiding people in general..." said Etain, as she rushed the Sylph out of the chamber.  "He can get real upset when people do that.  Unpleasantly so."  A loud ringing started behind them.  "Hmm.  So THAT'S what it's for!"

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 17

Lulea came to with a sudden feeling of warmth surrounding her.  Her eyes opened unsteadily, and then shut again--wherever she happened to be right now gleamed in a way that hurt them.  Eventually she managed to get them open again.  She was in a place of rolling golden hills, and shining red lakes, a place that sizzled and snapped.  "Oh, you're up!" came a familiar voice that seemed... slightly deeper then she remembered.  "That's good!  Welcome to the sun!"

The Sylph turned to see Etain standing nearby.  At least, she assumed it was Etain--the Salamander she remembered was tiny but this one was far larger than Lulea.  Still the face was the same... "Are you... Etain's sister?" she asked--that seemed like a probable answer.

"Oh no! It's me!" said Etain cheerily.  "Here on the sun, we don't have to worry about food, so we can let ourselves be as big as we want!"  The Salamander gave a cheerful nod.  "It's so much more pleasant than being tiny!" 

Lulea nodded.  "Ahh.  Well..."

"So do you want to see something around here?" asked Etain companionably.  "I mean, you're the first Sylph to visit here, so I'm sure you'll find plenty of things interesting!  We could visit the Great Golden Bell!  Or the Eye of Wisdom!"

Lulea fidgeted uncomfortably--this place felt wrong to her.  "That...  Don't you have a message for Lord... Whathisname?"

"Hyperion," said Etain.  "And yes, but it can wait.  Because it's bad news, and I don't think he would react well to it.  He'd probably make me go back to the World again, and I really don't want that."

Lulea simply stared for a moment.  "So... a Great Golden Bell?"

"Yes.  It's very great.  And also golden," stated Etain.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 16

Polychrome glanced around the field.  "She was... just here!  And then she vanished!"  The Chief Sylph stomped her foot on the ground.  "Oooh, this is so infuriating!  Things should stay where they are when I want them to stay there!"  She glanced at her retinue.

The three Sylphs quickly nodded in agreement.  "Especially traitors," said Ushas.

"Indeed," said Polychrome.  "Very good Ushas.  A significant improvement from you."

"I aspire for your approval, Shining One!" said Ushas with a bow.

"As well you should," noted Polychrome with a nod.  She folded her arms.  "This is most grave.  Having stolen the mirror--why, Lulea has committed a crime against what was ordained by the Maker..."

"Of course, there is the question of what you are going to do about the loss of an important item given to you by the Great Maker," muttered Iris.

Polychrome's head snapped toward the smaller Sylph.  "What was that?"

"I was merely speculating how best to serve the Maker," said Iris, glancing away.

Polychrome narrowed her eyes.  "How admirable," she said.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 15

The image shone in the mirror, like a vast thread of gold waving in the wind, reaching into the heavens, seemingly for miles.  "So that's it?" whispered Lulea.

"The Golden Road," said Etain, her voice full of awe.

"Hmmm, don't know about that name," said Lulea.  "Oh, it's golden all right, but not much of a road."  The Salamander looked at Lulea in what appeared to be irritation to the Syph's eyes.  "Well I mean--why not the Golden Rope?"  Etain continued to stare.   "But then, who am I to judge?"  She placed the Salamander on the ground. "Anyway, here we are."

The Salamander made a slight bow, and tottered over to the Golden Road.  She grasped it in a tiny claw, a thick strand of it shimmering into view even without the mirror's aid.  She turned to regard Lulea for a moment.  "Thank you.  You were very kind."

"Oh, it was no problem," said Lulea, as the Salamander turned back and began to glide up the Golden Road.  Lulea smiled brightly, turned, and saw Polychrome flying towards her, accompanied by several rather angry looking Sylphs.  Lulea gulped then rushed towards the Golden Road and grasped it with both hands.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 14

"I am now absolutely certain this is a bad idea!" said Etain, as she and Lulea sped through the air, the Salamander clinging to the Sylph's back for dear life.

"Hey, you wanted to find the Golden Road!" said Lulea eyes flickering between the mirror and what was in front of her.  "This is how we'll do it!  And then, I'll return the mirror, and everything will be fine!"

"We've been gone for hours!" said Etain.  "They'll have noticed it's gone!"

"That's for me to worry about!" shouted Lulea.  "You'll be safe home!  Toasty and warm!"

"Except you don't seem to be finding the Golden Road!" snapped Etain.

"I am working on it!" replied Lulea.  "I really though the mirror would be easier to use!  Maybe..."   She began to shake it fervently.

The Salamander blinked.  "You really have no idea how to use it?"

"Oh, I have an idea," said Lulea.  "It's just... vague.  And completely untested."

Etain was silent for a moment, and then let out a scream.  "Flying feathered thing!" she shouted.

"I told you the last five times, they're birds!" said Lulea as she dodged it.

"Yes, yes, I'm certain it will sink in eventually," muttered Etain, tightening her grip on Lulea's back.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 13

Polychrome strode into the throne room, yawning, several retainers trailing behind her.  "I tell you, these duties are driving me to distraction!" She sighed.  "I almost wish I had not been chosen to be Chief Sylph..."

"Really?" said one.  "Because I..."

"Almost Iris," said Polychrome.  "However, as irritating as it is for me, no other Sylph is up to the job."  She turned and snorted.  "Why look at you!  Listless and witless, the lot of you!  What would you do without my direction?"  There was an awkward silence. Polychrome stared at them, glaring. "I asked a question.  Why aren't you answering?"

One of the Sylphs coughed.  "We thought it was rhetorical, Shining One..."

"See, that's exactly what I'm talking about, Ushas!" snapped Polychrome.  "These weird failures on your part!  Why any of you people imagine you could manage to guard the mirror, for example..." she noted turning to the cupboard.    She stared at it a moment.  "Iris, am I imagining things or is the cupboard open?"

"It most certainly is, Shining One," agreed Iris quietly.

"And the mirror is gone?" asked Polychrome.

"I would assume so," noted Ushas.  "I mean--I've never seen it, because you've never shown it to me, or... any of us, so far as I know..."

"I wasn't talking to you," hissed Polychrome.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 12

"Are you sure this is wise?" whispered Etain.

"Of course it is," said Lulea as she clambered uneasily on the wall.  "The Maker left us the mirror to help us fix problems, and that is exactly what I am doing."  She gave a sudden yelp as she nearly lost her grip on a buttress.

"Can't you just fly?" asked the Salamander.

"Not here!" hissed the Sylph.  "Anyway, stop distracting me.  I need to focus."

"Well, it just--what you said sounds rather self-serving..." muttered Etain.

"Oh, who's the one doing secret work for its boss involving said-boss' sibling?" murmured Etain.

"Hey, I'm a her!" said Etain.  "Same as you!"

Lulea blinked.  "I'm sorry, but I had a hard time telling..."

"You Sylphs are so mean," muttered the Salamander.  "Are you going to tell me all Salamanders look alike next?"

"Well, you are all kind of little and orange," noted Lulea as she reached the cabinet and cracked it open.

"And you people are all kind of big and... sort of bluish," snapped Etain.  She turned to stare at the mirror.  After a moment, her mouth opened wide. "It's so... shiny..."

"It certainly is," whispered Lulea.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 11

Polychrome stared at the large statue of ice before her, pacing about it.  "Hmmm.  I would say.. this doesn't quite capture my... spirit," she declared at last.  She turned to the nervous Sylphs shifting about nearby.  "Wouldn't you agree?"

"Oh, yes, yes, yes, my Lady," answered one.  "It was a total error on our parts!  A total failure!  I told everyone we were going on a wrong path!"  She pointed at another.  "It was Ariel's fault!  All of it!  Completely and utterly his!"

Ariel seemed about to protest when the door to the Great Hall suddenly snapped open.   Lulea stood there, her face grave. "Shining One, I require the use of your Mirror as regards Eta... the Salamander problem.  Could I...?"

"No," stated Polychrome abruptly. 

Lulea gulped and looked about awkwardly.  "Oh."

"Now, as you are interrupting an important discussion," said Polychrome, "I suggest you leave immediately, before I become upset."  Lulea bowed swiftly and ducked out.  Polychrome gave a nod, and then turned to Ariel.  "Now then, as for you... the lower levels do require some cleaning..."

Ariel whimpered.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 10

Lulea sat with the little Salamander, whose name she'd learned at last was Etain, on the roof of the Silver Tower, their eyes on the sun.  Etain merrily munched on its straw, a contented smile on its face.  "So... that's where you're from?" said the Sylph half hoping to be told there was a mistake.

Etain nodded.  "It's very nice there.  Lord Hyperion keeps everything very bright, the way it should be!  And warm!  Toasty warm!  And, oh, we can walk about free, not like Vulcan's place."

Lulea blinked at that.  "Vulcan?  Who's that?"

Etain seemed to be aware that it had made an error.  "Lord Hyperion's brother.  We don't talk about him."  It looked away.

"But you have visited him?" asked Lulea.

"Only for a little while," muttered Etain.  "He was mean.  And when I wanted to use the Golden Road to return home, I couldn't find it again!"  The little Salamander gulped as the Sylph loomed over it.

"Go on," said Lulea.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 9

Polychrome paced around the Great Hall of the Silver Tower.  "This is... bothersome," she declared aloud, despite the room being empty except for herself.  The truth was that Polychrome was quite used to having people about her and thus tended to act as if they were there even when they weren't.  "This Salamander shouldn't be here!  The Great Maker made it a nice home, and it should be there... doing whatever it is Salamanders do!"  She stomped her feet.  "Oooh.  I tell you, when the Maker made me Chief of the Sylphs, I assumed things would be more pleasant."

The Sylph looked around the room, then glanced at a large cabinet at the end of the hall.  She bit her lip.  "Perhaps... Perhaps I should contact the Maker.  She did say that we could do so in emergencies..."  She shook her head.  "No.  No!  The mirror is for dire need!  Not... annoying little Salamanders being annoying."  The Chief Sylph gave a fervent nod.  "I mustn't fail in my grand task!  It would disappoint the Maker!"

She turned to see Lulea standing there, holding a great mass of something that looked suspiciously like grass.  Polychrome stared at her balefully. "What are you doing here?  And... what is that in your hands?"

"It's... straw," said Lulea.  "I... I really don't know what coal is, and..."  The lower-ranking Sylph gulped then rushed out of the Great Hall.  Polychrome grumbled to herself as she left, wondering if perhaps there was some other place far away she could send Lulea to.  Taking care of her fellows was one of her duties as Chief Sylph, after all.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 8

Lulea tread lightly through the halls of the Silver Tower, the whimpering Salamander still in her arms.  "Now then," she whispered, "if you keep being quiet like this I'll..."  The Sylph blinked.  She really hadn't thought ahead to what she would do.  "Give you something you like to eat," she declared at last.  "Assuming you Salamanders like to eat."

"A bit of coal is nice," said the Salamander.  "Or... straw, if you don't have it."

Lulea paused.  "You can talk!"

The Salamander nodded.  "Well, yes.  I... I've understood what you've said so far, haven't I?"  The creature shivered.  "Please miss, I am so very cold.  Everything is so strange here, strange and dark and... chilly."

"Well, I suppose I can give you some blankets," said Lulea, as she continued to her room.

"What's a blanket?" asked the Salamander suspiciously.

"It's a..."  She sighed.  "I'll show you.  Easier to trying to figure out the words, I suppose."

"You're much nicer than the other one!" said the Salamander.  "Even if she is shinier!"  A patronizing smile came to the little creature's face.  "But then, I guess that's not something you can change, is it?"

Lulea considered that for a moment.  "Thank you for the... kind thought," she said at last.  "I guess."

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 7

"Most unreasonable," snapped Polychrome, as she reentered the Silver Tower.  "And uncouth!"  She turned to regard her aides.  "I tell you that little creature is the most... disgusting little thing I have yet to deal with!"  She stomped her foot.  "All that moaning!  As if it isn't the little thing's own fault it's here!"

Lulea entered with the Salamander nestling in her arms.  The creature still wept and screamed.  "We don't know that," she whispered.

Polychrome whipped around and glared at her subordinate.  "What was that?  Did I hear you disagree with your superior?  Did I?"

"Ummm, I was just... it..." began Lulea nervously, as the salamander yelled louder.

"Exactly what I thought," declared Polychrome with a lordly smirk.  "Because of this insubordination, I leave figuring out what to do about this thing to you."

"But... but... I came to you for help..." whimpered Lulea.

"Yes," replied Polychrome as she stomped away.  "That was your first mistake."

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 6

Polychrome glanced around the grove with an expression of distaste.  "So, this is the Great Continent."  She clicked her tongue.  "I have to say it's not quite as grand as I would have thought."  She looked at her Sylph retainers apologetically.  "Not that I would dare criticize the work of our Great Maker, blessed beyond all others, but..."  She shrugged.  "Well, this is one of the less pleasant parts of it.  To my taste at least."   She turned to Lulea and smiled.  "Now then, my dear, where is this Salamander of yours...."

 Lulea walked towards the tree and glanced inside, seeing the Salamander still within, weeping quietly now.  "Here it  is," she said to her superior.  "I think it's tired."

Polychrome forced a grin on her face as she regarded the little being.  "Hello there," said the Grand Sylph.  "Little thing."  The Salamander looked up at her, clearly puzzled.  "You should not be here.  You do know that, correct?"

The Salamander blinked and then began to bawl.

"Most unreasonable," muttered Polychrome, frowning to herself.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 5

Lulea flew towards the great Silver Tower of the Sylphs as fast as her wings could take her--which was fast indeed. Now this was early in creation, and so the Silver Tower could be reached, as opposed to now, where it lies forever out of reach.  But it was still very far, beyond the edge of the ocean, on the very  tip of the sky, and Lulea was quite tired when she reached it.  After taking a moment to catch her breath, she rushed as quick as she could to the grand throne room, where the Lady Polychrome, chief of the Sylphs, lay directing her charges.

"No, no, my dears," she said to the three standing before her.  "A gentle rain in the west, not a torrent."  She clicked her tongue.  "I say, the Great Maker was quite clear on this.  More such mishaps and there will have to be punishments."  The three Sylphs shuddered and quaked before her, and thus were quite relieved when Polychrome turned to look at Lulea.  "Lulea? What are you doing here?  I had you marked to check on the Great Continent now."

"And I was, Shining One," said Lulea.  "When I found a Salamander there..."

"A Salamander!" Polychrome laughed. "Impossible!  Salamanders should be in the Gardens of the Sun not the Great Continent!"

"That is the Salamander's thought as well, Shining One," noted Lulea.

Polychrome stared at Lulea for a moment.  "Oh, my.  You are absolutely serious."  She bit her lip.  "That is a bother."

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 4

As the little Salamander continued to weep, Lulea coughed politely to get its attention.  (While the world was new, the Maker had gone to great lengths to instill in Her children the idea of manners  It assisted in the managing of things immensely.)  The Salamander did not respond, forcing Lulea to cough a bit more loudly.

It still did not answer.  Lulea, feeling somewhat put out, coughed once again, and then spoke.  "Excuse me!  Salamander!  Why are you crying?  Is this not a glorious day the Maker has wrought?  Why don't you rejoice and be glad in it?"

The Salamander did stop crying at this, to stare at Lulea in a manner that Lulea felt was rather unwarranted.  After all, she was only asking it a question.  "I am lost!" shouted the Salamander.  "I am lost and I want to go home!"  And then it started crying again.

"Oh," said the Sylph.  "Well, that does make sense then.  And where is home?"

The Salamander lifted one arm and pointed at the shimmering form of the sun.

"Ahh," said Lulea.  "That is..."  She coughed once again.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 3

Lulea flew down to a copse of trees, where the sound was coming from, and tried to remember what exactly the sound was.  It put her in mind of singing, something she and the others had done for the Maker in the Not-Long-Ago when the new creation was unfurled.  Lulea chuckled to herself.  That had been most pleasant.

This sound... this sound was similar, but not so pleasant.  It occurred to her that she knew of this sound, that the Maker had taught her and the other Sylphs of it.  What was it...?  Glancing into the hollow of a tree, she saw the source of the noise a small Salamander that had huddled there.  As she stared at the small creature, Lulea remembered what the noise was, a thing the Maker had called crying.  Lulea was quite mystified at this, for crying generally meant one was unhappy, and the Sylph could not think of any reason for anything to be unhappy on this glorious early day wrought by the Maker in all Her skill...

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 2

It was the begining of creation, and all was fresh and new.  The sun rose over the horizon for the first time, as the morning's first dew, as the air smelled with a cleanliness that it would never have again, something very few things in it noticed.

One of those very few, the Sylph Lulea was enjoying it as she flew over the lands.  She had been tasked by her creator with doing a survey of all this new wonder, a job she was greatly enjoying.  Indeed, as she flapped her wings, she noted how much more enjoyable these places that had up and down were compared to those that did not.  At that was when she heard a strange sound.

Now, Lulea was old and wise by the standards of Sylphs, but these were rather easy standards to reach, and so she was quickly baffled by what she heard.  "I will go investigate," she decided at last.  "For that will earn me the praise of the Great Maker."  And so she dove down to the source, determined to find out what it was.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Whither Goes the Wind--Part 1

The child huddled beneath its sheets as the wind blew in the trees outside the window.  She tried to tune out the sound but it continued to howl, even when she put her hands over her ears.  A whimper escaped her lips.  As she heard the door creak open, she realized it was a louder whimper than she had thought.

"Child," came the voice of her grandmother.  "What is wrong?"

"Nothing," she whispered back to the older woman.  "I'm fine."  She forced what she hoped was a smile to her face.

"You do not look fine," said her grandmother, sitting on the bed.  The child opened her eyes, to see the older woman looking at her, filled with worry.

"It's the wind, grandmother," said the child at last.  "It frightens me.  It's so loud."

"Is that all?" said the older woman.  She let her head back and laughed.  "Why, child, you mustn't fear the wind.  At least, not in this house which is safe and secure.  Why, if you knew the truth you'd pity the wind, for it is such a sad and a lonely thing..."

The child blinked and stared.  This sounded... intriguing.  "What do you mean, grandmother?"

"Oh, it is a sad tale, of long ago days, when the world was young," said the older woman. "I would love to tell it to you." She looked around and began to rise.  "Still it is late, and you are doubtless tired, so..."

"I... I think I could listen to it, grandmother," said the child.

"Very well," said the grandmother, sitting down once more.  "Where to begin.... Oh, yes.  'Once upon a time'..."

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Pages from the Cthonique Library: Silver Boot of Kylan

Ancient ornamental boot held to be the work of the Goblin smith, Kylan Cloudtrimmer, who made it as a gift for his beloved, Emyrs Brighthammer.  Alas, Emrys died before its completion.  Kylan left it on his tomb and then, by most accounts, wandered off to die.  The boot was taken from the tomb by looters and through a lengthy chain of owners, came to the collection.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Pages from the Cthonique Library: Glass Bell of Abbe Oglian

Relic formerly in the possession of the Abbey of Pesien, gained by the Dark Lord Shaddad during his sacking of the same.  A fine glass bell used by the Abbe Oglian to announce his arrivals during his travels.  Finely wrought, it has numerous miracles credited to it, though Shaddad never had much faith in them, and was considering selling it during the Retreat.  Thankfully, he did not get a chance to.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Pages from the Cthonique Library: Malevolent Hat of Vral Vrases

Allegedly cursed hat of notorious rogue witch Vral Vrases, who engaged in a great feud with the early Dark Lords of the Castle Terribel.  Considered by some a completely unremarkable hat, with a story invented by a later Cthonique simply to amuse themselves by hoaxing the collection.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Pages from the Cthonique Library: Preserved Head of Nechtan

Head of Lord of the Crossing Nechtan Mongrane, slain in battle against Lleu Cthonique, heir of the Dark Lord Marhat, who was slain later in battle with Nechtan's son.  Both sides took grisly trophies from each other.  Negotiations to return Nechtan's head in return for Lleu's hands are ongoing.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Pages from the Cthonique Library: The Black Mark

Tales of a secret society of criminals and their various plots and schemes.  Loosely connected into a rough plot, the book is widely seen as a bad influence on youth and frequently suppressed.  Despite this, it is exceedingly popular, often with those same youth.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Pages from the Cthonique Library: Stone from the Yellow Wall

Piece of the legendary Yellow Wall of the Dream Palace of Prince Druan Maganza, heir to the Shadow Woods, who was slain by his own brother Huon in a matter involving the latter's wife.  While most of the palace fell apart in the years following Druan's death, the Yellow Wall, so named for its gleaming painted surface, was so cunningly wrought it remained standing for centuries after.  In time it developed into the holy site of a quiet cult dedicated to Druan as an exemplar of personal excellence, which a later Erl King of Goblins worked to suppress, destroying the wall.  Stones were seized by collectors and believers--one eventually found its way into the collection.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Pages from the Cthonique Library: Apeiron Sphere

Mystical sphere created by the sorcerer and sage Matsya meant to gather apeiron, the mystical substance from which the universe is made.

As it has never been proven that apeiron actually exists, the sphere,  like others of its sort, is presently a curiosity though it has been used, with some success, to hold cold drinks.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Pages from the Cthonique Library: A Treatsie on Air

Elementalist philosophic work by the author Egoi that posits the world is itself a speck of dust on the great column of wind that is the universe, amongst other things.  On a more practical note includes numerous ideas on the creation of flying vehicles using observations on such things as birds and witches' flight, largely believed to inspire the Consortium's work with airships in the modern day.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Pages from the Cthonique Library: Feather of the Phoenix

Brilliant red-golden feather, purportedly from the Great Beast known as the Phoenix, which achieves immortality through its own death.  Like all of the Great Beasts, the Phoenix keeps its distance from the rest of the Mother's creation, instead following its own endless cycle of rebirth for its own unknowable purposes.  The feather's provenance remains uncertain--it may very well be a fraud.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Pages from the Cthonique Library: Notebooks of Weylan One-hand

Various diagrams and plans created by a former craftsman employed by the Cthoniques starting with the reign of Kambyses.  Many of the plans are for things that were never built--others for instruments that were in that chaotic and troubling time for the house.  Large portions of the Castle were designed by him.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Pages from the Cthonique Library: Grains from the Mountain

A lengthy course of spiritual exercises meant to wear down the practitioner's pride and attachment to worldly accomplishments.  Authored by the legendary Master of the Hidden Mountain, who also wrote a work on espionage and warfare, being an individual of varied interests.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Pages from the Cthonique Library: The Hundred Curses of the Sage Sarastro

List of curses traditionally unleashed by philosopher and magician Sarastro against his enemies and persecutors.  A certain repetitiveness marks the list, with many of the curses being simple variations of earlier ones (such as "boils" and "sores" being treated as separate curses).  Despite this, a popular book for people looking for ideas on revenge.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Pages from the Cthonique Library: Account of the Leviathan

Anonymous account by an Albraccan sailor describing an encounter with a massive beast that is supposedly the Demon Leviathan, the Beast of Oceans.  Considered highly dubious in many circles, though many details have convinced some demonologists that is a true tale.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Pages from the Cthonique Library: The Maul of Ubba

Supposed weapon of Ogre chieftain Ubba the Short, this massive hammer is nearly as tall as a man, and built of stone and steel, making it forbiddingly heavy for many to lift.

Ubba, after all, was short for an Ogre.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Pages from the Cthonique Library: The Great Way of Peace

Meditations of the Abbe Blaise of the Black Roof Abbey, on the achieving oneness with the Lady through meditation and the ending of conscious thought.  Popular with both serious students of theology and dilettantes. 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Pages from the Cthonique Library: Iron Mask of Lord Pharos

Mask worn by famous Dark Lord of the Blasted Heath Pharos, who briefly conquered the Weeping Waste and southern portions of the Plains of Dread.  Scarred in battle, Pharos wore a variety of masks to  hide these deformities, of this is one.  He perished on an expedition into the Weeping Waste, along with most of his army.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Pages from the Cthonique Library: Apparently Unopenable Box

Large metal box, exquisitely made, that apparently cannot be opened.  Discovered during the reign of Apsu Cthonique.  Rattles when shook.  Attempts to break it open have also failed, and while some techniques would likely work, they risk destroying whatever it is holding.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Pages from the Cthonique Library: Idol of the Red Mountain

Large gold and silver statue depicting a many-armed woman found on the Red Mountain by Ushas Cthonique, which she gave to her brother, the Dark Lord Lugbanda.  The woman holds multiple weapons in her hands, among them a bow, a sword, a whip, and a mace.  Some believe it is a representation of the Darksome Lady--others say it is a local demon of the mountain.  The truth remains unknown.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Pages from the Cthonique Library: Stone of Owls

Large sapphire gemstone capable of summoning numerous owls, of various types. 

Summoning, but not controlling.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Pages from the Cthonique Library: The Bells of Fortress Impassable

Warning bells that hung in the tower of the fortress of a minor Dark Lord, defeated in war by the Cthoniques centuries ago.  Reportedly, they would ring whenever the fortress was in danger.  The Dark Lord Lamek took the citadel by utter surprise, and ordered the bells preserved out of a great sense of amusement.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Pages from the Cthonique Library: Journey Across the River

Popular Mikhelite story involving a group of pilgrims who journey into the Lands of Light to acquire lost Mikhelite holy texts, while beset by demons and enemies as well as various astounding and marvelous encounters.  Based on a true story, though the actual pilgrimage encountered considerably fewer demons. 

They also did not encounter anything along the lines as the baby tree, or many other such marvels.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Pages from the Cthonique Library: Cthonique Funeral Dirges

Collection of dirges for use at Cthonique family funerals, written by various artists over centuries.  The Dark Lord Asshur is among those to write them, including some for relatives he himself had killed during the War of the Tulips.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Pages from the Cthonique Library: The Rattle Of Clodden

A simple rattle, possession of the great wizard Clodden, who could reportedly produce astonishing effects with it, including lightning and thunder.  As no later possessor has been able to duplicate them, many suspect Clodden used other methods for such actions.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Pages from the Cthonique Library: Mysterious Glass Eye

A massive glass "eye" with a metal surface surrounding much of it.  Rumored to belong to one of the Elder Worlds, its purpose is a mystery, though some tales suggest it served as some strange variety of lantern.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Pages from the Cthonique Library: Sword of Lightning Giant

Purported weapon of a "Lightning Giant" claimed to have been killed by the chivalrous warrior Zoma the Hare in an epic battle fought in the clouds, which raged for many days.

Zoma waa notorious liar, however, so one should take tales of his deeds with a grain of salt.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Pages from the Cthonique Library: Preserved Insect of Immense Size

A large insectoid creature of unknown origin, which entered the collection during the reign of Eregal, purchased as a curio.  Possibly from the far south, or the distant isles, though this remains unconfirmed.  One possibility that has been suggested that it is a hoax, though this likewise has never been proven.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Pages from the Cthonique Library: Nightmare of Things to Come, by Snorri Utteson

Lengthy prophetic poem based on the dreams of the famous Troll skald, which speaks of a future time of great strife and hardship.  Many Trolls believe it to be a true foretelling--others argue that the poem is so vague that its champions are being willfully deluded into seeing things that aren't there.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Pages from the Cthonique Library: List of Names.

A scroll filled with innumerable signatures.  Most of the names are unknown--the purpose and origin of the scroll are completely mysterious.  It has been part of the collection for centuries, and is kept at least partially because so many Cthoniques have found it strangely fascinating.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Pages from the Cthonique Library: Plans for Spiderweb Tower

A proposed addition to the Castle, designed by Ariadne Cthonique, sister of the Dark Lord Marhat.  Never begun, the plans remain a fascinating glimpse into the mind of this now little-remembered Cthonique, in her lifetime, considered one of the most important women of the Plains of Dread.  That stated, the extra-large execution grounds remain... alarming.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Pages from the Cthonique Library: Account of the Plague of the Alts.

History of a two year plague outbreak in the Shadow Woods during the reign of Ganelon the Second and its results by an anonymous author.  Famed for its vivid style, and the controversy of its authorship, with many believing that rather then being the work of a near contemporary, it was written decades after the events.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Light the Lamp So Bright--Part 72

The Goblin he'd spoken to earlier--it'd seemed so long ago now--was nervously darting about when Sacripant entered.

"--Can't blame me," she muttered. "I need this job!  You people with the luxury of making choices tend to be unduly hard on those of us less fortunate."

"Don't care," said a familiar voice.  "You messed up."

Sacripant gulped, and did his best to keep the smile appearing on his face from looking unduly goofy.  "Hey, Quiet."

His fiancee turned to him.  "Hey. I was just explaining to this... jerk that she messed up."  The Ghoul turned back to the Goblin and glared.

Sacripant stepped between the pair.  "Now, let's all calm down.  It's been a crazy few weeks on my end, overthrowing the Ancients, and..."

Quiet blinked.  "So that really happened?"  She shook her head.  "I tell you, I had a hard time believing the stories that had you storming the Council..."

"It was pretty easy to storm," said Sacripant.  "Really, all you had to do was walk towards it and be intimidating."

"Ahh, well, that clarifies things," said Quiet.  "I was almost impressed when I first heard it."  She coughed.  "Anyway... it's been busy back at the Castle.  We're at war."

"Yes, I know," said Sacripant.

"No, not the war against Leonais... We at war with the Shadow Wood," explained Quiet. 

Sacripant stared for a moment. "You know what, I figure there's a big story behind all that, so how about this--you come with me, we get a couple bowls of noodles and you explain it all to me."

Quiet considered things. "Are they good noodles?"

"They're amazing," answered Sacripant.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Light the Lamp So Bright--Part 71

"Wut-wut?" said the silly looking puppet.  "I say, wut wut?  I am the Metropolitan, and you all must obey me!  How dare you speak words I don't want to hear?"  The puppet was rapidly struck by a stick to the applause of the children.

Sacripant chuckled, and continued on his way.  He had to admit, Talossa seemed... cheerier now.  Not normal, mind you, nor quite at ease, but much happier than the nervous city he'd arrived at.  But then, that might have just been him.  He'd come here a stranger, and he was now... well, familiar with it.  He realized he would probably leave soon, and a part of him hoped to come back, some day.

But that was the future.  He had business before of him.  A shadow passed overhead.  Looking up, he saw an Emporium airship--the first in weeks.  He chuckled and nodded to himself.  Things were continuing to look up.  He broke into a jog as he headed towards the Emporium shop.  He  had good news to deliver, and mostly likely good news to hear.

After all, what else could it be?

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Light the Lamp So Bright--Part 70

The various lesser Guildsmen were still squabbling in the courtyard before the Hall of Ancients, which had become the de facto meeting place for the new government of Talossa that was forming even now.  Nathan had to shake his head.  Listening to them yell and shout, one had to wonder if it had been worth it all.

Of course, then one remembered everything else that had happened, and one decided 'yes'.  But still, one wondered.

In the end, the remainder of the Ancients had surrendered easily enough, aided by the fact that most were nursing sprains (with a few in such bad shape as to have broken bones).  They also had all cheerfully spilled their secrets, insisting they themselves were but the victims of their fellows.

It was increasingly looking as if even if the Ancients were all released from their present imprisonment, they would still be utterly incapable of reforming the council, not in the least because all now hated each other.

Nathan sighed and shook his head.  Whatever happened it was going to be a rather chaotic time for Talossa in the future.  "No charter any more," he muttered.

"Well, I strongly recommend you avoid all the dressing up in the future," said a familiar voice.  Nathan turned to see Sacripant Fenswater standing nearby.  "I think the masks made it easy for your Thing to start thinking of themselves as something other than the rest of you."

"That's your guide to good government, eh?" muttered Nathan with a smile.

"For a start," replied the Erl.  "Anyway, I've got to head out.  Hopefully, this means the Emporium are going to let me get messages through to my bosses, who..."  He shook his head.  "Well, this is going to be interesting to them."

Nathan smiled as the Nightlander walked away.  "Take care, Sacripant," he said.

"You know how good I am at that," replied the Guardsman with a smile.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Light the Lamp So Bright--Part 69

Sacripant stared out at the crowd and realized suddenly that he was going to have to talk to all of them.  He briefly considered declaring that a giant human-eating thing was right behind them all, but decided against it.  Time to give it his all.  "Right, I'm Sacripant Fenswater, of the Cthonique Guard.  I haven't been in your city that long, but... long enough to come to love this place."  He coughed.  "I mean... it's not perfect, but... no place is.  And you folks definitely try..."  He glanced at the Metropolitan.  "For the most part... to make it run as well as it can.  And so I warn you all--there have been bad and wicked things done by your Council of Ancients, twisting your institutions to their own ends."

"Stuff and nonsense!" declared the Metropolitan.

"Then why are you here now, and not the man who proceeded you?  The man who was murdered?" said Sacripant.

One of the Knife-Grinders stood up.  "It is true!  The late Grand Master sent men to kill Ancients who disagreed with freeing the Metropolitan!  They used the ritual of the bean, but with fraud, to remove those they targetted!"

Sacripant had no idea what that  meant, but decided to just nod in agreement.  "Is this what you want for your city, people?  Murder and lies in the places of power?"

"It is not murder to kill what needs to be killed," declared the Metropolitan loftily.  "And it is no lie to shelter the populace from truths it needs not concern itself with."

Sacripant stared at him for a moment.  "So... that's your answer to all this.  That's it.  That is... the best you can do."

The Metropolitan blinked.  "What do you mean?"

"Well," answered the Erl with a shrug.  "I was largely viewing you as a well-meaning asshole before this.  But now I view you as just an asshole, who mistakenly thinks he is well-meaning.  So, really, I have no sympathy for you in what's going to come next."

"What are you ta--" began the Metropolitan, only for a group of beggars to seize him and shove him into a sack.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Light the Lamp So Bright--Part 68

The Metropolitan frowned as he saw the crowd there, almost festive in its attitude.  Indeed, he even saw a few Lemonaders walking among those gathered with tanks on their back.  It brought to mind Processions of the Holy Dead the Metropolitan had attended with his father as a lad.  For a moment, he was back in them, hearing the murmur of the crowd, and trying to get closer to see the bier of Great Talos, making his way through the legs of the adults.

He shook his head.  He had not been a child for a long time.  He was a man, and had a man's duties to the gods.  "What has brought you here?" he declared grandly, in the voice he used to deliver sermons.  "Why do you disturb the sacred authority of the Ancients?"

A voice came from the crowd.  "I see a man in the robe of the Master of the Yellow.  But I hear the voice of the Metropolitan--who should be in prison, let alone being a member of the Ancients against custom and law."

The Metropolitan looked over the people, hoping to make out who had spoken.  "And is it in custom and law to imprison your Metropolitan, he who gives you spiritual guidance?"

"You are not the first," came a voice. 

The Metropolitan frowned.  He wasn't sure if this was the same voice that had spoken earlier.  "That error has been made in the past..."

"Down with the false! Up with the true!" came what was definitely another voice from the crowd.  "Talossa, free!  Now and forever!"  There was an appreciative cry from the people.

"Do you truly believe that?" shouted the Metropolitan.  "Can you not look at all this, all that has been done and not see how far this city has fallen?  We have forsaken Leonais!  We have allied with a Dark Lord!  The folk of Night walk this city, unafraid!  Was it like this in your father's day?  Would you have it like this in your son's?" That seemed to wrong foot the crowd--the Metropolitan heard nervous murmurs where he'd earlier heard them calling for his head.  "Go home, people!  Go home and trust in the Ancients to lead you in righteousness!"

"Will the Ancients answer some questions?" came a new voice.  The speaker strode out of the crowd--a tall man, the Metropolitan saw.  And then he noticed the slight oddness in the gait. 

"Nightfolk!" spat out the Metropolitan.  "You dare interfere with our ways!  Leave this place!  By the Holy Light, retreat back to the Darkness."

The Erl stood there, impassive.  "And now that you've said that, I am going to speak."  A slight smile came to his grey face.  "Hopefully you won't find it too distressing.  It's only to be the truth, or... near enough as I figure it."

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Light the Lamp So Bright--Part 67

"I must dispute your understanding of your position," said Lamorac, as he sipped the lemonade he had purchased from one of the Lemonaders who had joined the growing throng in the courtyard before the Ancients' hall.  "No new Grand Master can be chosen until a grand assembly is gathered, at which all Masters and Journeymen of good standing must vote.  Your title is thus a nullity."

The young Acting Grand Master, busily sharpening a knife on the heel of his shoe, shrugged at this comment.  "Traditionally, someone must lead between a Grand Master's death and the selection of the new one."

"Yes, the Master of the Hall of Masters," stated Lamorac.  "If he is not present, then it is for the Master of the Hall of Journeymen, and if he is not present, the task falls to the Master of the Hall of Apprentices."

"All three of whom are dead," noted the Acting Grand Master flatly.  "The last of whom I killed myself, on the Grand Master's orders."  He stuck his knife in the ground.  "You see our difficulty."

Lamorac thought it over, then nodded.  "It is a difficulty."

"Naturally, I will of course bring the matter to a vote as soon as these present difficulties are past us," said the Acting Grand Master.  "As well as filling all these other positions you have mentioned.  We Knife-Grinders have been sadly depleted at the top in these recent months."  He looked at Lamorac.  "We need dedicated members with a strong sense of history, such as yourself."

Lamorac gave a sniffle.  "I am honored by your words, sir."  Camber coughed so severely he nearly choked on the mouthful sausage he was eating.  Lamorac glanced at his partner.  "Are you all right?"

"Just... nearly went down the wrong pipe," muttered Camber, who began looking around for another Lemonader.

Lamorac turned back to the Acting Grand Master.  "My apologies if I've offended.  It's clear that you have only acted as is necessary during this existential crisis for our ancient and worthy brotherhood."  He glanced towards the Hall of the Ancients.  "Oooh!  Look!  I think an Ancient is coming to talk to us."

"Which one?" asked another Knife-Grinder.

"Don't know," said Lamorac.  "He's got yellow robes."

Camber frowned.  "That really doesn't narrow it down much."

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Light the Lamp So Bright--Part 66

The Metropolitan glared as the crowd marched down the Marble Path.  He had long considered himself possessed of a certain mental equilibrium that had seen him through life.  Where other men panicked and made things worse for themselves, he stayed calm, trusting in the Seven and tradition to see him through.  And so far they had, through a Church career that had taken him to the upper echelons of the faithful, and even his recent imprisonment. 

Staring at the crowd making its way to the Hall of the Ancients, it was hard to avoid feeling that this lifelong tendency had failed.

The Metropolitan stiffened.  No.  He could not give way to despair.  To do that would be to show the same folly as the men who'd engineered his imprisonment, or the fools now groaning in the garden below, after their panicked attempt to re-enter the Hall had caused the overloaded balcony they were on to collapse.  Those men had failed to stay true to the Seven, mistaken their own lack of faith for realism, and been punished for it.  He was going to remain true. 

"If the Holy Light be with us, who can be against us?" he muttered under his breath.  He turned from the window, and made his way down the hallway.  His hand went to that foolish mask the Ancients had made him wear to be counted among their number, and tore it off.

He would face his opponents unmasked, in the guise his Gods saw. 

And he would finish them.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Light the Lamp So Bright--Part 65

The Ceremonial Guard stood at the Gate of Truth, continuing their head counts of the crowd that was gathering there.  While each was coming up with a different number, all had no disagreement that said numbers were very, very large.  Rather worryingly so in fact.  And this was leading the Ceremonial Guard to ask themselves many questions, such as could their ceremonial armor protect them from a knife blow, or, just as hypothetically, a very large rock. 

Many suspected the answer to both questions was 'no', which only added to that growing sense of unease.

And then there were the Guard's weapons, some very long pikes.  This sounded excellent and deadly, but unfortunately said pikes were both very heavy, and rather old, with blunt, dull heads.  Further, no member of the guards had in fact ever practiced fighting with said pikes--on top of that, most members had little practical combat experience, the Ceremonial Guard being something of a sinecure.  After all, it was widely agreed that the citizens of Talossa would never raise their hands against the Council of the Ancients. 

And yet here they stood.  And so the outnumbered Guard faced their potential foes with weapons they didn't know how to use, and that they rather doubted the usefulness of if they did have such knowledge.  They were increasingly aware of how angry the people looked.  And how cold it was.  And how nice a drink would be now.

A Lamplighter stepped forward from the crowd.  "We come to petition the Ancients, for we bring news of dire happenings, and demand they explain what has transpired, as is custom."

The members of the Guard shifted nervously. As uncomfortable as all this sounded, it also sounded like a way to get out of this without having one's head split open, something most of the Guard was hoping for rather eagerly. After a moment, Serjeant Alberico stepped forward, having decided he was probably the most senior member of the Guard, or close enough.

"How grave are these matters?" asked Alberico, in what he hoped was a suitably grave voice.

"Very grave," answered the Lamplighter.

Alberico considered for a moment--or appeared to--then nodded and stepped out of the way.  "Very well.  Petition the Ancients."  The rest of the Ceremonial Guard followed his example.

So ended what would later be called the Defense of the Gate of Truth.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Light the Lamp So Bright--Part 64

The gradual trickle of Ancients to the balcony had become by degrees first a steady stream and then a flood, to the present point where there were more men on the balcony then were in the hall. Indeed, initially there were worries that it would be unable to hold them all, but then the Walker of the Flowery Path recalled the time that it had had an entire orchestra on it.  That had settled things, though most were still keeping their ears open for a creak that might suggest it was giving way and calculating their distance to the exists in such an eventuality.

"I never really thought of it before," said the Keeper of Three Ways, "but there really needs to be a reform in the way the Council does its business. Too much foolishness has been added over the years, and it has to end."

For the first time in its history, the Council members assembled nodded in agreement rather than pointing out the importance of tradition.  "Really," said the Wearer of the Mask with Green Eyes, "it's gotten worse because we skip most of it, but leave it on the books.  In the future we must trim, and trim mercilessly."

There was another general murmur of agreement.

"What about the Metropolitan?" whispered one.

"We'll... we'll bring him around," said the Keeper of the Three Ways.  This resulted in another round of muttering and agreement, albeit one that was a great deal less assured.

"My goodness," said the Master of the Five Knotted Cords.  "There are quite a few people gathering out there."  He pointed beyond the Gate of Truth, at a large, scruffy-looking crowd that was growing larger and scruffier-looking by the minute.

The others began to mutter amongst themselves.  "Perhaps we should send someone to check?"

"The guards will keep us safe," said another.

"First the fire going out, and then this," said yet another.

On the whole most of the Council was coming around to the idea that these truly were grim times.