Time in Glantri City
A miscarriage of justice
"What does he mean by 'something sinister'?!" Lana demanded, conscious that the slanting eyes of the Ethengarian judge hadn't left her for a moment. The two guards who flanked her in the stand were muttering as if preparing to take her down in the manner the judge had directed. She gave both of them a pleading look, desperate for the opportunity to consult her legal counsel.
Her magistrate made a curious noise and fidgeted with the collar of his robe. "I honestly can't say, this is the first judgment of this type I've encountered. All I can say is they think you're harbouring treacherous intent toward the Wizard Princes, though you might not be consciously aware of it."
"That's nonsense," Lana protested. "If my mind had been interfered with I'd like to think I'd bloody well know about it. This is a farce! What right of appeal do I have?"
"Appeal?" The magistrate's eyes glazed before something lit in their depths. "That's right, you can appeal of course. The only problem being that the paperwork side can be timeconsuming, you know, there's a procedure and a timescale to that sort of thing..."
Lana was far from amused. During the run-up to her trial she had endured enough Glantrian bureaucracy to last a lifetime. "How long?"
The magistrate attempted, unsuccessfully, to smile reassuringly. "I suppose if the Karameikan Embassy helps fast-track your application... perhaps a week?"
"A week?!" Lana was dumbfounded. "And in the meantime?"
The magistrate avoided meeting her gaze. "I'm afraid you'll have to start serving the sentence the judge has handed down."
All colour drained from Lana's face as the guards' patience wore out and they gestured for the prisoner to step down off the stand. "But he spoke of the Tower of Sighs."
The magistrate nodded as his client was marched away. "I am so very sorry. But rest assured - justice will prevail! I personally guarantee it!"
Taking little comfort, Lana lowered her head and allowed the guards to lead her away. With her hands bound, she was escorted from the court chamber and down a set of dark, winding steps to a jetty where a gondola waited to take her from the judicial complex.
Feeling wretched, Lana watched buildings go by as the gondola passed through a number of waterways before reaching an open expanse where a tall and forbidding structure loomed ahead. It rose from the murky canal waters to block the light of the afternoon sun. The building's shadow was unnaturally chill, causing her skin to prickle and creep. This depressing structure could only be the Tower of Sighs.
The Tower of Sighs
Alighting on moss-covered steps Lana entered the Tower and was led into a cell on one of the lower levels. As the door closed behind her, she gathered her robes and seated herself on a patch of relatively clean straw in one corner. The air was dank and water could be heard dripping. A single window let in a small amount of light which did nothing to alleviate the dread which had settled on her heart. Periodically she heard the sounds of other inmates who were seemingly in worse conditions - pleas for rescue, or for their torture to end carried along the echoing hallways beyond her door. In addition, every so often something tramped past the door, something which definitely did not sound human. Lana shuddered, glad there was a barrier between her and the remainder of the prison.
Now and again the chill of the room deepened and the darkness seemed to strengthen its grasp on her heart. She felt as though she would never be free again, would never again know happiness or companionship.
She lost track of passing time. Every so often a small bowl of gruel would be passed through an opening at the bottom of the cell door.
After an indefinite number of days, the cell door opened unexpectedly and a human figure was cast inside. The door slammed shut again immediately after. Lana withdrew uneasily as she surveyed her new inmate.
"Mam'zelle!" The slender, moustachioed individual gave a sweeping bow, flashing white teeth which dazzled despite the darkness of the cell. His colourful clothing looked expensive if foppish. "Eet eez my grand plaisir to make your acquaintance."
Lana's brow furrowed at his peculiar accent, the like of which she had never heard before. "Well met," she responded courteously, if mildly apprehensive of this newcomer.
"You are 'eer since long?"
Lana shrugged. "Several days. I'm hoping to not stay much longer."
"I was going to say zee same zeeng." The individual gave another grin, glanced toward the cell door then drew a length of wire seemingly from thin air.
This astonished Lana. "How did you manage to conceal that?" She marveled that the item had been missed. The guards had been beyond thorough when searching her own person.
"Eez better if you do not ask zeeze questions, non? Zat way I do not 'aff to tell you zee answers." The man gave a wink.
"You're planning to use that pick to escape?"
The stranger looked at her as if she were deranged. "But of course! I 'ave no wish to stay 'eer?"
A lump formed in Lana's throat. "But if you're caught, the guards... I've heard things these past nights."
The man gave a gesture indicating that such matters caused him little concern. "Do not worry your preeetty 'ed. You are in zee presence of a master zeef mam'zelle!" Heading to the cell door he glanced through the porthole and seeming satisfied inserted his pick into the lock. After some expert jiggling, the lock clicked and the man applauded his own efforts. He cast the door wide and gestured for Lana to exit.
"Would zee lady care to go first?"
Horrifed, Lana shook her head. "You're kind but no... I'll stay here."
"Very well, as you weesh. Until zee next time!" The man flashed one last grin before bowing and stepping through the open door.
Moments passed before a tentacle lashed past the door. The man's scream sounded, then there came a hideous wrenching sound and his disembodied head rolled slowly past the open doorway. Lana put a hand to her mouth to stifle her own scream. Shaking, she got to her feet, advanced toward the door and shut it.
Days passed during which Lana was without company. At night she was unable to sleep, her dreams haunted by nightmarish creatures which denied her any rest. At last guards came to escort her out of her cell and indeed the Tower. She was informed Sir Sergei the Karameikan ambassador had used what sway he held with the judiciary to purchase Lana's release. She would be permitted to spend the remainder of her custodial sentence under house arrest at the Karameikan Embassy. As the gondola bore her away from the Tower of Sighs, Lana felt a great darkness lift from her heart and she did not care to look back even once.
Settling into comfortable surroundings at the Embassy, the staff were courteous and provided for her every need. Yet she felt frustration being confined to quarters and unable to explore the wonders of the city. She wondered what had become of her possessions - in particular, she recalled with great disappointment how the constables had confiscated her carpet, rolling it up and using a particular wand to surround it with an impenetrable red glow.
The yearly magic festival known as the Arcanium took place during Lana's house arrest; her disappointment at missing this event eased when the Embassy staff offered to run any errands Lana wished them to. They reported back that a number of low-level magical spells were available for purchase; thus Lana was able to acquire a scroll of Detect Magic.
Freedom at last
After a further week's confinement, good news arrived - the evidence gathered during Lana's trial had been reviewed and her appeal against the finding of treason had been allowed. Her belongings were returned to her from the Tower of Sighs on condition that she would obtain all necessary licences to cover spellcasting and all items she owned. Without delay, Lana took a gondola to the House of Ministers. After much gruelling paperwork she was informed that her licences would be ready for collection in a couple of days (a day longer than normal on the account of the following day, Parliament Day, being a public holiday). In the meantime she was advised to refrain from spellcasting, but was at liberty to explore the city.
Thus on the afternoon of 2nd Flaurmont 1006 AC Lana stepped out into the open air of Glantri City, a free woman.
The Citadel Pass she had purchased from guards outside the House of Ministers permitted her entry to the open area known as the Alexander Platz but would expire after a day or so, therefore Lana decided to head there first of all. Upon reaching the plaza she spent a long while observing and listening - many well-to-do people were out strolling in a leisurely manner and Lana took in as many of their mannerisms and accents as she could, noting the outlandish fashions they wore. In addition to the well-presented folk, many younger and visibly less affluent individual were crossing the square in the direction of an enormous gateway - this, Lana realised, was none other than the entrance to the Great School of Magic, reputedly the foremost centre of magical learning in the Known World.
Gathering her robes, Lana hastened toward the entrance but found her way blocked by armoured guards. The men crossed pole-axes in a defiant gesture, bidding her step back. She did as she was instructed, asking whether she might be permitted entry as a guest. The response was a blunt no - unless Lana could produce admittance papers or some other sign that she was already enrolled then she would be deemed unauthorised personnel and had no business on School grounds. The guards were unobliging and refused to divulge whether they knew Karnus. Lana could not comprehend their unhelpfulness - how else was she to locate her friend? He had not informed the Karameikan Embassy of his whereabouts within the city. As a last ditch attempt, thinking she was probably barking up entirely the wrong tree, Lana asked the guards whether they knew Karnus' ward and travelling companion - the willowy half-dryad Betula who had accompanied him from Karameikos. To Lana's surprise, the guards' demeanour changed and they exchanged knowing smirks. Noting this, Lana asked to be told Betula's whereabouts. Betula was not a student of the Great School, therefore the guards saw no harm telling Lana what they knew of her and directed her to a private residence known as the Hostelry of the Unicorn, managed by the Sisters of the Private House. They would say no more on the subject. Unsure what objects the Sisterhood promoted, but having an inkling nevertheless, Lana hailed a gondola from one side of Alexander Platz and asked to be taken to the address the guards provided.
Arriving at the residence, Lana rapped politely on the front door which was answered by two burly males who looked her up and down in bewilderment. Mildly unsettled, Lana enquired whether Betula was at home and was delighted when a voice like the forest wind rustling through leafy boughs answered, ordering the guards to step aside. Lana and Betula embraced, having not seen one another since parting in Darokin City many months ago. Since then, Betula had blossomed into womanhood and was looking strong and healthy. She invited Lana into her parlour which was decorated with a pleasant assortment of furnishings. The two seated themselves on one of several plush settees and began exchanging news. Lana told her friend why she had travelled to Glantri - to ask Karnus to return to Karameikos for a mission of importance to the Karameikan State. Betula informed her that Karnus had left on an errand for one of his instructors at the Great School, just the day before, and wasn't expected to return for at least a week. Hearing this, Lana was disappointed. Betula offered to put her up in case she required lodgings in the meantime - she and Karnus rented a dwelling in the northern end of the city. The fine surroundings in which the pair were sitting did not belong to Betula but were owned and maintained by the Sisterhood. When quizzed about the Sisterhood, Betula revealed that this was a profit-making organisation established to allow men to spend time in female company. Lana's eyebrows rose on hearing this - whatever would Betula's parents have thought of such an arrangement! Betula reassured her that the contact she had with her gentlemen patrons was tightly controlled, and rarely went beyond conversation; guards were present throughout and she used her innate enthralment ability to allay any inappropriate urges in the minds of her patrons. Feeling unsettled nevertheless, Lana stayed for light refreshments then departed when she learned one of Betula's regular clients would be calling soon.
Time for sightseeing
From speaking with staff and checking maps in the Karameikan Embassy, Lana had compiled a shortlist of attractions she was keen to investigate. Foremost was the need to acquire some local fashion as her Thyatian-style robes were causing her to stand out as a foreigner. Lana made her way to the Kash Flow and located the studio of an up-and-coming designer by the name of Jean-Paul Tutier. This flamboyant individual hailed from Nouvelle Averoigne, which served as a worrying reminder of Lana's fellow inmate in the Tower of Sighs. On viewing Lana's drab Karameikan attire, Jean-Paul declared that they would have to go. After taking her measurements with meticulous precision, Jean-Paul instructed Lana to return in two days' time when he would have an entire new wardrobe ready for her, in the most cutting-edge fashion. Delighted, the pair exchanged kisses on both cheeks and Lana headed to her next destination.
Second on her list was the Monster Hunters' Union situated on the Main Waterway. Their premises turned out to be a museum exhibiting a staggering selection of dead - but unblemished - specimens of monster types encountered within Glantri. The collection was an impressive array of all manner of creatures - dragons, giant animals, humanoids, slimes and other horrors. Many of the corpses had been enchanted to feign signs of life, which after careful observation could be seen to follow repetitive patterns.
The sage who accompanied Lana on her tour of the premises informed her that the Union was on the lookout for undamaged specimens of particular species, in order to complete its collection. Among them: male White Ape, Cockatrice, male Giant Weasel, female Troll, female Owl Bear, Frost Salamander, female Dark Wing and Roper. In addition, the Union expressed an interest in sea creatures of all sorts as it only held a couple of giant fish and a giant sea snake at present.
At Lana's specific request, the sage led her to view the Union's pair of Beholders - among their most prized possessions. Lana shuddered as twenty two dead eyes stared lifelessly at her and her guide. The bloated spheres were a horrid mottled purple. One had a pinkish tinge to it. They were bigger than Lana had envisioned - around four feet in diameter. Their gruesome maws gaped wide. Lana found herself theorising that she could have fitted her head inside however the thought didn't appeal. Her guide explained that Beholders were greatly feared in Glantri owing to the Anti-Magic of their central eye. They were known to be incredibly intelligent and to consider themselves superior to all other lifeforms. The powers of the small eyes were known to include magical sleep, enthralment to the Beholder's will, petrification and spontaneous death. There was debate amongst sages as to whether the abilities of all Beholders were identical.
From viewing a geographical chart Lana noted a northern mountain range - the Wendarian Range - where dragons were reported to be rife, or historically that had been the case until generations of the Drachenfels family and other hunters depleted their numbers. The spur nearest to Aalban was rumoured to be home to groups of primitive subhumans including the mysterious Sasquatch. Her guide informed her that these were strange times for Glantri, and that she might encounter any type of creature were she to venture north - all sorts of monsters had been appearing in the wilds of Glantri, seemingly out of nowhere. There had been many attacks during the last few months in the Aalban in particular. Lana made a mental note to investigate this.
Satisfied with the enquiries she had made, Lana left the Union headquarters and stepped gingerly into a small gondola outside. It rocked and she had to sit down quickly to avoid an unfortunate scene, still unfamiliar with the Glantrians' preferred means of transportation. Lana turned to the gondolier and said "The Temple of Rad please," slowly and deliberately. The man said something in return. When Lana failed to respond he repeated himself. The third time she finally understand. "Which one?" he was asking.
She spread her hands wide. "The b-i-g-g-e-s-t," she said, pronouncing the word deliberately. The gondolier nodded and poled the craft east down the canal, turning right into the Citadel Waterway. The massive dark red building loomed ahead, before it a marble walkway and huge bronze doors. Before drawing too close the gondola swung right again keeping close to the far side of the canal from the Citadel. The waterway narrowed as it passed between one of the Citadel's towers on the left and residential buildings to the right. Once past this passage the canal widened into an open expanse of murky water. A single, lonely tower could be seen rising out of the water. Beyond that was a strange tower with a burning roof that she had noticed when first arriving in the city around a fortnight before. In her pidgin Glantrian she asked the gondolier what the building was. His response - "Alkmitzts". He only shook his head when asked whether the fire ever went out.
The gondola pulled up to a landing port to the north of the first tower. Lana looked up to see a large, ornate building of purple stone - if nothing else, Glantri was the most brightly coloured place she had ever seen. The building was fronted by a large tower. There were windows high up on the tower but no door.
The Temple of Rad
Paying the gondolier two silver sovereigns, Lana disembarked the craft to the sound of ringing coming from the building up ahead. It sounded again, then again as she ascended steps to the entrance which was not particularly large but was dominated by an impressive stained glass window showing three blue hemispheres connecting to form a triangle with their bases. The ringing continued as she entered the building. Inside, a marble hallway led past closed doors and a small group of men and women on their way out. They smiled and nodded in greeting but said nothing. The ringing sound was growing louder. The hallway ended in a great chamber with a vaulted ceiling supported by marble columns. Suspended on chains, hanging from the ceiling, were hundreds of bronze discs, each about the size of a large dinner plate. Surrounding the hall were a series of alcoves in which stood golden statues of men and women, depicted holding books, staves, wands and other items of arcane power. Candles sat on tables in front of these statues.
Sitting on cushions on the floor, in groups or alone, were perhaps thirty man and women. Some sat quietly, their eyes closed. Some held their arms aloft while chanting. They would occasionally break from chanting to reach out, grasp a disc and drive their heads into it. This, Lana realised with surprise, produced the dull ringing she had been hearing.
As she stood taking this all in, a middle aged woman walked past - approaching one of the alcoves, lighting a candle, bowing her head, murmuring something, tossing a coin that clattered against the statue, turning and leaving.
A man in golden robes was approaching. The top of his head was completely bald though thick grey hair clung to the back and sides of his skull. A crystal talisman hung around his neck. Lana bowed courteously before the man, introducing herself before launching into a series of questions about her surroundings.
The man held up a hand and smiled - "So many questions child and in the Imperial tongue. It has been a while. Do you not speak common Glantrian?" Shamefacedly, Lana answered that unfortunately she did not.
"No matter. This is indeed the Temple of Rad. I am the High Shepherd. The gongs are an aid to meditation. Have you a problem upon which you seek guidance? If so, I will find a Shepherd to offer counsel or to assist in your meditations so that you may find your own answers."
Lana described her journey to Glantri, mentioning the forces of the Master of Desert Nomads which besieged Darokin City, to the immediate south of the Principalities. The High Shepherd's response was terse:-
"This so called Master is no threat to Glantri or the Wizard Princes. His actions are of no great consequence."
When Lana provided Karnus' description, he shook his head. "I do not recall such a man but hundreds come to this temple every day."
The High Shepherd looked around the hall and beckoned to a younger man in a simple brown robe. He approached as he was bid. He was in his late twenties, tall and very thin with closely cropped blond hair. He also wore a crystal talisman.
"This is Deytar Rusmin. He speaks Imperial Thyatian. He will be able to assist your meditations and answer your questions about the temple."
The High Shepherd proceeded to bow and went on his way.
Lana began by asking about the Shepherd's talisman. "It permits me to learn the will of Rad," the man replied in a soft, distant tone.
She noted this. "Who is this Rad and what ideals does he represent?"
Deytar frowned slightly as if disapproving of the manner in which Lana had phrased her query. "Rad is the Light, the source of Knowledge and all Magic. All questions can be answered through Rad."
Lana considered this. "Tell me then - I am a native of Karameikos and I have traveled through many of the countries of the Known World, why have I never heard of Rad being venerated outside of Glantri?"
"The rest of the world is ignorant. They cower before vain Immortals who demand to be worshipped and expect answers to be handed to them instead of seeking knowledge themselves."
"A companion of mine who studies at the Great School of Magic has spoken to me of paying his 'daily devotions' to Rad - should I be doing likewise? In what ways can I best honour Rad and what can I expect in return?"
Deytar nodded. "It is good to hear your friend attends the morning meditations. When I was a student, many of my fellows would try to avoid the required time in the Temple. I always attended and I was a Wizard before any of my contempories made Sorcerer. Unless you are a student at the school, an officer in the Grand Army, a Constable or other public servant you are not required to attend the Temple. However, all good citizens do so when they can - Arcaners and Mundaners alike. If you wish to achieve clarity of mind and seek universal knowledge then you should come to the Temple regularly. One 'honours' Rad by honouring the Magocracy and recognising the ultimate power of magic over ALL things. When you ask what you will get in return it saddens me. Rad asks nothing of you. Ask nothing of Rad. I will teach you mantras and techniques of meditation. These will bring you closer to Rad. Once your mind is properly attuned you will find you can solve your own problems. I will listen. I will guide. I will help you to find the answers you seek within yourself."
Meditation, mantras and migraines
Having grabbed Lana's interest, the Shepherd led her to a cushion and directed her to sit. He seated himself opposite. A gong hung between them. He invited Lana to speak of her problems and concerns, and listened attentively while she spoke of her concerns and other matters on which she sought guidance. He then instructed her focus on this whilst repeating the mantra: "Knowledge is light, light in the mind, I mind the ways o' Rad, Rad is the source o' Knowledge." Then he instructed her to bang her head on the gong to drive the 'lesson' home.
Obediently, if slightly doubtful, Lana did as she was instructed - she stated the matter on which she wished to achieve enlightenment, being that she believed there were powerful forces in the world seeking to use the war between countries to further their own ends, and she wished to see the greater picture in better detail.
"FEEL the vibration on your cranium," the Shepherd murmured, "HEAR the sound in the air. Focus on bringing the two together. They are one and the same. Now speak the mantra again."
Lana continued her mental gymnastics in the manner she was bid.
"Strike the gong. Attune your thoughts to the sound. Focus!"
He paused. "And again."
Feeling a chronic headache coming on, Lana enjoyed a brief moment of mental clarity but then became mentally exhausted and felt unable to continue. Noting this, Deytar instructed her to stop and relax. "Hmm. You found that difficult, yes? Very few get close to the light to begin with. It may take time for the answers to come. Do not be discouraged. You have done well for someone coming from an unilluminated land."
The Shepherd had been meditating on Lana's query and spoke from his own perspective:-
"You worry about the desert nomads and the aggression of Alphatia. Allow me to ease your concerns a little. The nomad armies are uneducated barbarians. The Master has long wished to extend his reach into the civilised lands so I do not think that his troops' recent moves are surprising. Their advances may appear alarming but they are a disorganised rabble who could not hope to stand against the elite magical training of the Glantrian Grand Army and the mind of Prinz Jaggar von Drachenfels. Even if they caused problems for the army, the combined might of the thirteen Princes would crush them in an instant. Alphatia is admittedly a greater concern but the Wizard Princes have long foreseen that the Alphatians would grow jealous of Glantri and have been preparing for a confrontation. The lies and treacherous acts of the Alphatians come as no surprise to us. They know that through the light of Rad, Glantri has surpassed their ancient empire in magical learning. They therefore seek to crush what they fear. There is really little mystery when you think about it. That is not to say there are not others who seek to benefit from this war. History is filled with powers behind the throne who seek to influence their leaders. Who benefits and why are the questions you must answer yourself. Further meditation will help. For now I will wish you a good evening."
Lana sat for a while reflecting on what the Shepherd had said. He had done little to allay her concerns. She could not help but recall the Alphatian Proclaimation and the 'forbidden magics' Empress Eriadna accused the Glantrians of studying within their Great School. Other thoughts came to mind too - such as the Glantrian geomancer Maurenus Varezeno and the movements of the Master's forces - yet she was too fatigued to continue meditating therefore she decided to return to the Temple at a later date.
Rising from her cushion she took a short while to inspect her surroundings - noting that the many golden statues appeared to represent great wizards of Glantrian history. Many of the other Temple-goers appeared to light candles as a symbol of the light of knowledge and respect to the wizard (or wizardess) of their choosing, optionally adding a few words of praise for their achievements and making donation to the temple. Feeling she should emulate what the others were doing, Lana drew forth a handful of the Glantrian ducats she had exchanged in Trintan and deposited these at the base of the nearest statue - this happening to be "The Lady Jianne Tathat, Duchess of Hightower, 883-912 AC".
Emerging back out into open air Lana stood waiting for a gondola and realised that the hour was growing late. She had yet to arrange lodgings for the night. It was unlikely she would be permitted to continue lodging at the Embassy. Her first proper day of freedom had been a full one.
Eventually a gondola pulled in allowing Lana to step onboard. After conversing with the rough-looking gondolier, the craft set off across the water, passing the Alchemists' tower with its flaming roof then turning right into a narrow canal where the waterways were illuminated by glowing globes set atop iron poles. A sharp left and the craft passed another Temple of Rad - slightly smaller and without the large tower fronting it. The canal wound its way past residences and warehouses before turning into another, even narrower canal with a paved walkway on the left running alongside the water. Crowds of people walked or stumbled along the pavement, laughing, joking and shouting at one another. Several constables were about, the familiar red eye emblazoned on their black attire; Lana resisted the urge to Magic Missile them. The gondola passed under a bridge, turned left, passed under another bridge which echoed with footsteps tramping across it then headed along the canal to a four way intersection. One more left and the gondolier pulled over toward a large building on the right, poling up to the landing port. Lana alighted, paying eight silver coins for the trip. She climbed the steps to the entrance. The lettering on the sign outside the establishment glowed brightly as it shifted through a variety of languages. It displayed Elvish script before the Thyatian came up: The Mages' Hostelry.
The Mages' Hostelry
Lana entered excitedly, finding the interior packed with men and women - human and elven. Most appeared young. Styles of dress were varied but robes were certainly common. Tapestries depicting wizards battling terrible monsters hung on the wall. The pictures seemed to shift and change but only when not directly looked upon. Lively music filled the air despite there being no visible sign of any musicians. Lana watched a tray of goblets drift past her to settle itself on a nearby table. The occupants of the table grabbed their drinks and toasted one another while the tray floated off again. The lighting was obviously magical. A young couple was spied in a booth along one wall; the man snapped his fingers and the illumination at their table grew dimmer. Lana politely but firmly pushed her way through the crowd to the bar where a shortish, rotund man with a moustache and oiled black hair seemed to be giving instructions to a drinks tray hovering in front of him. The tray went on its way then the man turned with a smile to greet his newest guest. When it became apparent Lana did not speak Glantrian he switched to Thyatian though not as Lana was used to hearing it. The man's tongue was not so far removed from Common Thyatian as Glantrian or Darokinian but was nevertheless a peculiar dialect that Lana found herself needing to concentrate hard upon in order to understand.
"Ah WELcome to the a MAges HostELry. Ah'm a Alcino Televici. Ah nota knowa your face but it a preEttY one. What can Ah a doa for you?"
Smiling, Lana explained that she was looking for a room.
"Ahma sorry but we's a fully booked. Still lots ova folks from the ArcAnium. No room until a Moldain. Can ah getta you a drink?" He gestured to a board with a bewildering array of drinks displayed. "Might ah suggest a Mandrake liqueur. Eetsa vEry popular with the a students."
Alcino directed her to take a seat, saying he would attend to her meal personally and arrange for a stalker to deliver it to her table. Lana thanked the man before considering what he had said. Had he referred to a stalker, or had she misheard? The few sips she had taken of her aperitif were making her light-headed. In any event Alcino had bustled off into the kitchen.
She looked around. The only empty seat in the whole place was at a table where two dark-haired elven maids and a young human woman were sitting. She approached, bearing her drink with her, and enquired in Elvish whether she might seat herself. The trio were happy to let her join their table but were deep in conversation which they proceeded to resume, speaking in rapid Glantrian. Lana was unable to grasp much more than the fact they were all students at the Great School.
As Lana reeled merrily from the effects of her drink, a voice startled her. "YOUR MEAL MISTRESS." The voice was deep and solemn, sounding like wind in the branches of a Dymrak Oak. A tray set itself down on the table as if guided by an invisible hand. Lana surveyed the dish before her with approval - it appeared to be some sort of meat shaped into balls, covered in an aromatic red sauce with chunks of vegetables on a bed of a strange doughy threads. Famished and ever the gastronome, Lana tucked in contentedly. The taste was hot - full of spices, herbs and peppers - but undeniably tasty.
"AHEM. WILL THAT BE ALL MISTRESS." The voice startled her again. It transpired the tray had indeed been brought to her by an Invisible Stalker! Astonished, Lana deposited silver coins onto the tray which was floating expectantly in mid air, and asked a few questions - whether he was being kept here against his will, whether he was fairly remunerated for the service he provided, and whether he was having difficulty repressing his innate urges to kill, slay and rend asunder? The stalker was happy to respond:-
"THAT IS MOST KIND OF YOU MISTRESS. I DID NOT COME TO THIS PLACE BY CHOICE OR BEGIN MY EMPLOYMENT HERE WILLINGLY. HOWEVER, MASTER TELEVICI IS MOST KIND AND GENEROUS. HE TREATS US WITH RESPECT AND PROMISES TO RELEASE US AFTER WE HAVE EARNED ENOUGH AND WE ARE PERMITTED TO KEEP SOME TREASURE FOR OUR OWN USE. I MEET MANY INTERESTING HUMANS HERE SO I WILL HAVE MUCH TO TELL MY FRIENDS WHEN I RETURN HOME. 'KILL?' 'SLAY?' 'REND?' I HAVE NO SUCH VIOLENT URGES. (said in a distinctly sniffy tone) MANY WIZARDS SEEK TO USE WE SSHAI AS ASSASSINS AND SOME ROGUES MAY EVEN ENJOY SUCH TASKS BUT WE ARE NOT A VIOLENT RACE - AT LEAST NOT WHEN COMPARED TO HUMANS. NOW IF THAT IS ALL, I HAVE MY DUTIES TO PERFORM."
The tray and its bearer headed back toward the kitchen. Lana took a few more mouthfuls of food then, amid a lull in the conversation between the other people at her table, politely enquired about their studies at the Great School. The trio were happy to engage the outsider in conversation (speaking with the same elven dialect as Don Hippolyto de Belcadiz whom Lana had encountered on her way to Glantri City) but declined to answer any specific queries about the School, saying they were not permitted to divulge such information, least of all during the time of war with Alphatia. To do so would risk expulsion and/or a trip to the Tower of Sighs. Lana shuddered involuntarily.
They did however point out that Lana was currently sitting in the School's most popular laboratory - where students were permitted to conduct experiments for the various Useful Magic-Use in Common Life courses.
Mindful of her purpose in having travelled to Glantri, Lana asked whether any of the trio knew Karnus or where she might find him. Regrettably none of the students knew her friend personally although one thought she recognised his description. When Lana mentioned that she had yet to secure lodgings for the night, the students recommended the nearby Watertower Inn - one of the city's most exclusive establishments (with a price tag to match).
Thanking the students for their company, and trying to ignore the minor hallucinations and drowsiness her drink was causing, Lana stood outside waiting to hail a passing gondola. There was a bit of competition as a small crowd had gathered outside the Hostelry. Two young men were jostling in a light-hearted fashion by the water's edge. They ended up falling in the canal and their friends had to overcome their laughter in order to help them out. Eventually a gondola became free and ferried Lana the short distance to her destination.
The Watertower Inn
The Watertower Inn turned out to be located at a point where several canals met - a large circular tower, surrounded by water on all sides. Two turrets rose up from the main tower - one taller than the other. The overall structure dominated every other building in the area, like a Cloud Giant surrounded by Halflings.
Lana stepped out of the gondola and wearily climbed the steps. A stern looking man at the door looked doubtful about letting her enter but decided in her favour, admitting her to a grand entrance hall furnished with rugs, paintings and tapestries. Behind a large desk stood another man - small, fat and bald with a carefully groomed beard. He said something along the lines of "Bon Swarr Mamwazell." Struggling to keep from falling asleep on her feet Lana apologised for the lateness of the hour but asked to stay in the fine establishment. Speaking in very slow deliberate Glantrian the man made clear that there was only one room available which was a double. Lana was prepared to pay the cost of forty ducats a night, therefore after a short ride in a strange, ascending chamber which travelled between the magically illuminated floors of the establishment, she fell asleep amid very fine surroundings.
Waking refreshed the next morning she surveyed her lodgings in proper detail. Daylight flooded the spacious room with a large double bed, windowed doors leading onto a balcony, an ornate fireplace - no fire but it had not been a chilly night - and a wash basin. A miniature Gargoyle was attached to one wall above a porcelain basin - its mouth gaped open and a tiny lever protruded from its head. Curiously Lana poked it and water began flowing freely from its mouth. Another flick and the flow stopped. The room was well furnished, with a writing desk and quill, parchment and ink supplied. Tapestries and paintings decorated the walls depicting a beautiful mountain scene, gondolas on the canals, the Parliament building and a noble-looking wizard - apparently Sire Charles d'Ambreville. There was a glowing globe on a bedside table - she had fallen asleep without covering it with the dark cloth folded neatly by its side.
There was also a map of the district on the wall showing the location of the Inn. It appeared to stand in Circus Pool - the point where the Princes' Way canal joined with the Barons' and Earls' Gates. Those watergates opened on to the Vesubia and Isoile Rivers respectively. Other places of interest were marked on the map (in a variety of languages) - Actors' Lane, a Temple of Rad, a Guard Post, the United Artists' Guild, Fireworks Arcane House and the Metropolitan Theatre. Many buildings were marked as taverns or eating houses, others as being galleries.
Stepping out on to the balcony it was a beautiful, sunny day and Lana took a few moments to savour the fantastic view north over the rooftops of the city and its magnificent skyline. Mindful that she remained unlicensed, her fervour to explore the city was nevertheless high. Stopping by the reception counter she reserved her room for another night, noticing a parchment list headed 'Rules of the Inn' which listed a great many spells which were banned. In addition there was a special notice: 'Guests are asked to report any signs that the Management's enchantments on enthralled staff may be weakening IMMEDIATELY'. She also noted that breakfast was included in the price of her room, being served on the Main Tower roof Flaurmont through Sviftmont (weather permitting). Otherwise it was served in the tap room on the entrance level. Dinner was a fixed price of eight ducats and was served at the top of Crystalview tower. A free gondola service was provided for guests, offering free transport anywhere within the Entertainers Quarter, or as far as the East Port or Towerbridge Plaza.
The sounds of other guests at breakfast could be heard. Lana ascended a nearby flight of stairs and emerged on the tower roof. A tall well dressed man with a neatly trimmed beard gave her a slight bow and led her a table on the south side of the roof, where waiting for her was a selection of breads, pastries, cold meats and cheeses. Whilst eating she took in her surroundings. Below, the canals were busy with gondolas. Looking south something seemed wrong. After a few seconds she realised it was the fact that the colourful, magical walls she had flown over on arriving in Glantri were no longer there. Instead she had an uninterrupted view onto the rivers south of the city and the lands beyond.
The other guests were all well dressed and spoke in a variety of tongues. None were dressed in an obviously 'wizardly' fashion but that may have meant little in Glantri. This roof was not the very top of the inn - the two more slender towers loomed high above, connected by a bridge extending from the roof of the shorter tower to a point one or two floors. The taller tower was crowned by a great transparent dome that shimmered in the sunlight.
After breakfast she took a lift down to the entrance level, arranged her stay for that night and stepped out into her second free day in Glantri.
Departing the Inn, Lana stepped into a waiting gondola and asked to be taken to the nearest Temple of Rad. She only needed to repeat herself once before the gondolier nodded and poled the craft north, then left into Kash Flow before pulling up outside a temple on the right hand side of the canal.
She recalled passing this temple on the way to the Mages' Hostelry last night. Like the temple she had visited yesterday this was constructed from a purple hued stone. It appeared smaller but on its interior was no less ornate. One brown robed Shepherd was leading a group of disciples in their meditations. The sound of their mantras and gongs echoed around the temple walls. Four more Shepherds were seated together, involved in an intense discussion. Not wishing to linger too long, she decided against approaching a Shepherd and attempted to imitate the scattering of visitors who were meditating privately. She forced herself to focus on a thought which had been pre-occupying her for some time - what to do about the Karameikan necromancer Maximus, reportedly now a student at the Great School of Magic. She was unable to tell whether her mental exertions succeeded or not, certainly others nearby seemed to enter deeper trances than she was able to. To her disappointment, no great moment of illumination enveloped her. Turning over her own thoughts, she did however conclude that if Maximus was now a proper resident at the Great School as Karnus seemed to indicate (his account had been frustratingly free of detail and decidedly disinterested in tone) there appeared to be little she could do for the moment. She decided she would need to determine what he was doing in Glantri and whether he had allies, before letting him learn of her presence in the city. Beyond that - Teldon's face appeared in her mind, his expression one of displeasure, reminding her that she had more immediately pressing concerns.
Pausing to throw a few coins into a nearby alcove, she exited the Temple through a different door - stepping out onto the long walkway that was Actors' Lane. It was very crowded and it proved something of a challenge to negotiate the jostling hordes without falling in the canal. Recalling a map she had inspected at the Inn in her mind's eye, she turned left and crossed a bridge upon the sides of which a pair of acrobats were performing precarious flips and handstands. Lana's destination was fixed however - she was making for the Metropolitan Theatre to secure tickets for the night's performance. As she walked, she passed taverns and open air eateries where folks were relaxing, sipping colourful drinks and enjoying the fine Spring day whilst watching the performers who lined the route. There was a knife juggler, a handsome troubador, a piper with a dancing Kobold and a street magician. There were also a number of beggars who were largely ignored by the passers-by. Lana could have spent a while wandering the Lane but decided against lingering and pressed on.
The Metropolitan Theatre turned out to be a wonderfully grand old building by a river gate. A large board outside the entrance advertised current performances and upcoming attractions. The evening performance of the moment was entitled 'The Abduction of Lady Sinaria' - the classic tayle of Romance & Adventure Most High, by Willem Tilburg'. Approaching a booth, a pale youth explained in elaborately patient Glantrian that seats cost between five and fifteen ducats. Lana reserved the best seat available and handed across fifteen gold coins, receiving a brass token in return. The performance, she was informed, would commence at dusk.
Leaving the theatre, she began shopping in the market and took a gondola for three silver sovereigns - passing up Actors' Lane, right under the bridge she crossed earlier, past the temple, the intersection with Princes' Way and the Mages' Hostelry she arrived at a major junction in the Kash Flow, in the centre of which stood a large tower. There appeared to be armed guards at the tower entrance. Gondolas swarmed around the tower like bees around a hive. Gondoliers shouted and cursed at one another as they navigated the busy stretch of water. The gondola in which Lana was travelling collided violently with another; Lana's gondolier lifted his pole and poleaxed the pilot of the other craft, knocking him into the water, before calmly resuming his strokes.
With the chaotic junction behind them, the gondola passed on its right an exceptionally elegant house with a high, slanted roof, stained glass windows, ornate balconies and dozens of finely crafted gargoyles. The boat then turned left into the canal called Merchants' Waterway. The canal curved to the right before widening into the market dock area crammed full of gondolas, many big enough to carry animals or large parties of shoppers. Free docks were few and far between but after a wait Lana was able to eventually disembark and look around. The market was busy, even busier than she had seen it on her previous flying (literally) visit. Remembering that today was a holiday for the bureaucrats and Magistrates of the Parliament and House of Ministers Lana suspected that this was to blame for the swollen crowds (she couldn't help but think that they should have been preparing her licences). Still this was her first opportunity for a proper look around the Open Market - the beating heart of Glantrian commerce according to her conversations with Sir Sergei Torenescu. Stalls of every description stood to the right of the docks and in the larger, western half of the market. Inbetween the stall areas, around the docks themselves were wandering traders peddling goods out of sacks, backpacks or the folds of their cloaks. A number of street entertainers occupied this middle ground also. However, people seemed more intent on business than stopping to gawp at a man on a stack of crates, swallowing swords or a huge bare-chested fellow demonstrating his tremendous strength. There were all sorts of people here, from the well dressed to beggars who desperately sought coins from all who would give. Many of the beggars were quite horribly afflicted with boils, pustules or missing body parts. She noticed one beggar who seemed to be blind being dragged away by constables from a red faced woman who was angrily inspecting her torn cloak. She muttered something under her breath and the beggar who was already making a racket began screaming in what was certainly very genuine pain. The undaunted constables bundled him into a building bearing the familiar black sign with the red eye. Lana shuddered, feeling certain the eye was staring directly in her direction.
Shopping, shopping and shopping
After procuring the services of a moneychanger - a gruff fellow with red hair and beard, and more than a slight smell of drink to him, who spoke in a deep guttural accent she could scarcely comprehend - Lana set about the serious business of shopping. On all sides, wherever she went somebody was trying to sell her something. Hawkers attempted to call would-be customers into the shops; stall owners called out their wares at the top of their lungs whilst waved their products aloft. Commodities on sale included: flour, grain, fresh fish (packed in crates of solid ice), a huge variety of fruits and vegetables (some of gigantic proportions, seemingly originating from the Principality of Blackhill), small livestock, weapons, cloth, silk, fine black lace, spices, oils, candles, inks, pottery, ornaments .... and so forth. In addition there were a number of curiosity stalls selling all manner of strange looking things - magical charms, works of art, medicines, powders, 'spell components' plus a few books.
Apart from the guardhouse some other buildings of interest around the market were those catering to the needs of wizards, selling blank scrolls and spellbooks, finely crafted metals, precious woods and gemstones suitable for retaining enchantments, crucibles, flasks and other items of laboratory equipment. Other shops sold magical services such elemental powered heating, or Wizard Lock security systems. There was one shop devoted to books: 'Grimoires Galore.' A stall affiliated to the Monster Handler's Syndicate advertised its merchandise on a board outside - Carrion Crawler Slime, 1 gallon - 35sv / dried Ghoul Tongue - 12dc / a Centaur hoof - 21dc, / Fire Giant skin - 76dc per yard / a Dwarf skull (some damage) 10dc plus much more. The board which was written upon in chalk was evidently subject to frequent change. Next door to this was a small shop whose sign read simply 'Magik fore Sayle'. On the northern side of the market was an expensive looking house that was apparently the Movers' Gyld.
Keen to fit out her tower with furniture of as many styles and origins as possible, Lana approached a number of carpenters and other traders - elves as well as humans. As far as furniture went it ranged from simple and serviceable pine to ornate oak expertly carved by Elven hands. One Elven trader proudly informed her that a chair she had been admiring had taken ten years to carve and the nearby desk had taken twenty five!
Lana spent several hours happily wandering the marketplace, stocking up on furniture to stow within her Bag of Holding and ordering treats from the many street stalls. Her meandering was subjected to only one unexpected interruption, after a couple of hours. The light of the afternoon sun was blotted out as an immense shadow passed overhead - a large flying creature, with a bird-like head and cruelly curving beak. It was not feathered like a bird; instead its body and fifty-foot wings appeared webbed and leathery like a giant bat or dragon. It gave a shrieking cry as it swooped low over the market although strangely the crowd did not appear unduly alarmed at first, only becoming concerned when the creature bared its teeth and extended its claws. Lana ducked out of instinct but was slower to react than other bystanders. A dozen or so market-goers released spells of various types - barrages of Magic Missiles and other effects. With a flare of multi-coloured light the reptilian creature vanished, leaving Lana to wonder whether the creature had been Teleported away or perhaps Disintegrated - in any event, any threat it posed was gone. Applause rippled briefly through the crowd before the day's trading resumed. When Lana asked, none around her seemed to know what the creature was.
Lana continued shopping for a while longer, her prize purchases being a trio of permanent Floating Disc armchairs which moulded themselves to the body weight and shape of whoever chose to sit upon them, and came with matching silk covers. Then, diverting her attention to a search for books (she was aware the revellers in the recent Arcanium festival had probably picked the stalls clean of quality titles) she managed to acquire a number of interesting volumes across "Grimoires Galore" and a separate curiosity stall - among them "the Forests of Glantri: A Study" (penned by an anonymous Erewan elf pleading for more trees to be planted along the banks of the Vesubia River), "the Ecology of Owl Bears" and three separate volumes entitled "the Amazing Adventures of Baron von Numchausen in Darokin / Ierendi / Ylaruam".
She then approached a stall selling magical heating components for homes, where after lengthy negotiations and charming she managed to persuade the owner to sell her a stove containing a miniature Fire Elemental, paying well over the odds for a Glantrian Elemengineer to travel to her home in Karameikos at some future point to install the apparatus.
Next, Lana entered the small dark emporium calling itself "Magik for Sayle" finding many closely packed shelves inside, all crammed with stock. The shopkeeper was a stooped fellow with thin grey hair and a large nose. He watched Lana with obvious interest and an odd smile on his lips. The shop appeared to sell flash powder, vials of coloured smoke, playing cards that changed their faces, hollow wands that could be filled with various substances to produce a range of dramatic effects and boxes of "conjuring kits". Despite the poor light and bizarre Glantrian spelling and terminology Lana managed to make out some of the engravings on the box lids which guaranteed that the user would "be a Mundaynar no longer" and that "yaw freendes wyl bee astonyshed by yaw new arkane powers".
Stopping by another stall, Lana picked up a delightful door knocker in the shape of a diminutive gold dragon, and a matching gilt-edged mirror. The dragon's eyes were enchanted, so that whoever approached could be observed from a distance via the mirror. In addition Lana purchased some sundry items - quills, inks, candles and the like.
The Studio of Wonder
By now it was late afternoon so she took a gondola back to the Entertainers' Quarter and headed for a location she recalled being marked on the map in her room in the Inn - "Ekystra Renabau's Studio of Wonder". This turned out to be located in a tenement building on a paved side-alley off Actor's Lane. After climbing a rather dingy stairwell to the top floor, Lana found herself before a door with a sign, indicating that she should knock. The door looked as though it had been hacked at with an assortment of crude weapons, messages were carved into it (all violently insulting) and to her extreme displeasure there was a distinct smell of urine coming off the wood. A tattered piece of parchment was sticking out of the surround, embedded by a bloodied dagger. Lana considered making a swift exit but curiosity got the better of her and she knocked. The door opened half way and there stood a tall (nearly six foot) woman in her early thirties. She appeared pale and thin as if she neither got out nor ate very much. Her long, slightly curled hair was a peculiar shade of bluish black. She was dressed in a light, elegant gown of many hues. Lana politely explained the purpose of her visit, causing the woman to smile though the smile was not reflected in her eyes. She did not seem unfriendly but rather seemed to look through Lana, noticing the parchment stuck to her door which she tore off angrily, crumples and then tosses down the stairwell before pushing the door open to allow her visitor to enter.
The studio, in direct contrast to the outside, was light and airy with a high roof. There was a pleasant scent in the air. Paintings and sculptures were spaced out across the floor. A lot seemed to be squeezed in to the studio without it seeming cramped. In one corner was a work in progress. It is to this corner that the woman returned. She flicked her wrist and a brush rose from a table to resume work on the canvas.
Viewing the works on display, there were a number of paintings of the city. The colours appeared incredibly vibrant. The water in the canals shimmered with a sparkling light (much moreso than was the actual case). Some scenes were so lifelike they could have been stepped into. One depicted a pair of giant birds soaring high over a mountainscape. As Lana watched, their wings flapped in slow motion. The largest painting was a portrait in profile of an extremely handsome young man - pale in the same manner as Ekystra with long jet black hair, tied back in a pony tail. He was dressed in a white lace shirt, with frilled collar and cuffs and gold stitching. His eyes were closed as if deep in thought. He wore a necklace set with a large diamond. Closer inspection revealed a light blue mist swirling inside the diamond. The man's chin was slightly raised and rested on the back of a hand decorated with jewelled rings that actually sparkled in the light coming through the studio window. Upon being questioned, Ekystra declared this individual to be Prince Volospin Aendyr - ruler of the Principality of Blackhill where she herself had been born.
Elsewhere in the studio were small crystal spheres showing a variety of subjects and moving images within them. Some contained beautiful but abstract patterns of coloured lights. The sculptures seem to change poses but never when directly looked upon. There was a colourful model of the city which made a faint sound of urban life when approached. Tiny model gondolas could be seen drifting along he canals. In the market tiny model merchants sold their products to tiny customers. In the port, dockers were loading and unloading mirror barges. On Alexander Platz, extra carefully sculptured models wandered around appearing to talk to one another. As Lana's attention centred on any particular area, that area would appear to grow in her field of vision as if she were swooping down low over the city on her carpet. The general background noise changed each time to become more appropriate to the location she was viewing.
Upon being asked about the state of her door, Ekystra explained that she, like Prince Volospin and other Blackhill families, was a pureblood Alphatian living in Glantri and was proud of her nationality. In fact she was able to trace her family back over two centuries to settlers from the distant empire. The war with Alphatia had brought out old resentments among Mundanders and other 'lesser' Glantrians. Her neighbours resented her presence in the building but happily the common mob could do little from the other side of a Wizard Locked door.
Time had been passing and as the light began to fade Lana realised she would need to move quickly if she wished to get back to the theatre in time for the evening's performance. She thanked Ekystra for her time and took her leave.
Read the next instalment - More Time in Glantri
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