The Twin Kingdoms

Chrysta identified strong evil radiating from the glowing man. We had an extended debate about what we might do next. Somebody started discussing poking spellcasters; I cannot endorse this as a general principle but there are certainly cases where it might be appropriate.

I examined the magic. Fascinating. It was a very complex working, and a self-repairing one, clearly made to last. I have taken some notes; there’s much to learn here.

At that point it occurred to me that (assuming the glowing man and the destruction of the building happened at the same time, and assuming that this coincided with the temporal sequestration of the surrounding territory) the remains of the building ought to be ten thousand years old, and as such to have been completely destroyed by time and weather. Clearly they were not.

We explored the grounds cautiously, starting from the outside and working inwards. The building was old, but not ten thousand years old, and some of the rubble looked newer than the rest – especially towards the centre.

Aha.

We tied a rope around Faye and sent her in towards the centre. Within a few steps, she started slowing down. Clearly time was passing at a slower rate closer to the centre, which would explain the glowing man’s frozen-ness.

At first this caused me some confusion. Letting T0 stand for the passage of time at some distant reference point – say, the capital – then in the elvish zone, time was passing at about ten times T0. Assuming that the glowing man’s stasis was the epicentre of that effect, one might expect time to pass FASTER, the closer we got to the epicentre, but what we observed was the reverse.

The best explanation I can think of is that the glowing man had pushed time out of his immediate neighbourhood, creating a surplus of it further out. Take a tray of flour and drop a ball in it – in the middle is a hole, but around that is a ridge where the flour is higher than it was, because the displaced flour has ended up there. Under this interpretation, the glowing man is the ball, we were standing in the hole, and the surrounding zone was the “ridge”.

This implies that time, or its passage, is a conserved quantity or approximately so: to slow it down in one area, one must speed it in another.

This suggests that with careful measurement of the passage of time in the “ridge” zone and the size of that zone, one could estimate how much time had been displaced from the central time crater, and hence (knowing the size of that crater) estimate how slowly time might be expected to pass there, even without direct measurement!

Unresolved question: was time absolutely frozen at the epicentre, or just so slow that we could not perceive it? And if the former, was it completely frozen only at some point, or in a zone wide enough to cover the whole of the glowing man? That is, would his outsides still be ageing?

Extremely unpleasant thought: if the time gradient becomes infinitely steep at the centre of the effect, then when one approaches it sufficiently closely, the difference in time rates between different parts of one’s own body would become large enough to have physiologically significant effects. Holding one hand out towards the centre, my heart (further out, hence beating faster) might be pumping blood to it faster than it could withstand; meanwhile the other hand, held out in the opposite direction, might not be receiving blood quickly enough, and might wither from that. Meanwhile, it would presumably become difficult to balance.

Note to self: if we find ourselves in a similar situation in the future, keep arms as close to the body as possible.

Further note: perhaps invest in several small hourglasses?

Zakaroth fired an arrow at the glowing man. As it flew through the air it slowed, and eventually came to a halt, suspended in mid-air.

Chrysta confirmed that the evil was coming from the man himself, not just from the magic. One wonders: was he trying to live forever? And did he consider that it might be “forever” only from somebody else’s frame of reference?

Chrysta attempted prayer, and told us that Pharasma’s voice came through very slowly. She was some distance away from the centre when this happened, presumably far enough away to be subject to accelerated rather than slowed time.

Further thought: Chrysta’s magic is on a daily basis. It would be interesting to confirm whether this works on local time or standard time – if she experiences a new day more often than her god does, which one determines the frequency of her spells? I wonder if she would cooperate with an experiment?

Having received magic from Pharasma, Chrysta attempted to dispel the working. None of us were very surprised when the attempt failed; the magic was far too strong. Clearly we’d need some sort of boost if we were to do this.

At around this point I was reminded that Savanah had given Vall a veil, with the sort of cryptic “you might need this” that gods are wont to offer, and we decided to try it with Chrysta.

We left Faye standing at the periphery, and the four of us walked towards the middle. The effects were interesting, if predictable. As we moved into the slower regions, we saw Zakaroth’s arrow moving again, only to slow once more as it got closer to the centre. I tried a scorching ray of heat, but even that appeared to slow asymptotically as it approached.

At around this stage, Faye got bored and decided to charge in. By our reckoning it had only been a few seconds, but by hers it had been two days. She overtook us, approaching the man, and at this point Chrysta attempted another dispel.

I can only assume that Savanah’s veil made a big difference, because the spell started collapsing, stage by stage. I made a suggestion to Zakaroth and he began firing dozens of arrows at the glowing man. They slowed, stopped, and then as the disruption reached the centre and time returned to normal, they all connected at once.

In hindsight, it probably didn’t make a difference, but who knows? It may be a useful trick on some other occasion.

Chrysta yelled “RUN!” I paused just long enough to cast a haste spell on my companions and then we legged it. I didn’t see what happened but there was an almighty bang and something hit me in the back, hard. I think Faye flew over my head and landed some way beyond, unconscious. When I looked around, the surrounding forest was on fire.

Reconstructing events, our best guess – later confirmed by Savana in conversation with Vall – is that the glowing man was a very powerful wizard at the time when the magic went away, and tried to avert the explodey-wizard problem by manipulating time. Did he realise he’d be imprisoning the elves for ten thousand years? If he was as evil as Chrysta says, perhaps so?

Which raises the question… what would I have done in his position? Accepted my fate? Sacrificed others to save myself?

Well, I prefer to think I’d have found a clever solution that required neither of the above.

Anyway, when we picked ourselves up off the ground we saw signs that the time distortion had ended. Some of the local elves had shown up to investigate, and were extinguishing fires.

Acts of heroism and derring-do are all very well, but adventurers have bills to pay, so we made sure to search the region. There were more old buildings around, rather damaged by time and magic, but in what must have been an old tavern basement we found a dozen barrels of varying size holding what turned out to be extremely valuable wine and whiskey.

At the epicentre of the explosion – well, there was nothing left of the wizard, except possibly for some powder of indeterminate origin. But a few of his possessions had survived. A string of beads that, if I’m correct, could be thrown to create fireballs of varying size, and two rings: one that makes the wearer impossible to grapple and so forth, the other that gives some benefit in evading explosions and the like.

(Pity we didn’t have that just a little earlier.)

The rings are both extremely valuable; we have assigned them to Vall and Faye for now, but will need to adjust for their value at some point. I may be able to replicate the anti-grappling effect from Vall’s ring in a belt or some such, at which point I’d be interested in swapping for the ring, but I’ll need some expensive materials!

Vall took the belt back to Savana, and confirmed that the portal stone now worked without the pain that my companions had previously experienced (although there was some clowning as he attempted to convince Faye otherwise). Faye went off to party with Caiden, and returned in a state of extreme inebriation.

We took the barrels back to the capital and made arrangements to auction them. We appear to have lost about a month due to the time distortion effects, and it’s now already mid-Spring. The quality of the booze was such that the auctioneer wishes to advertise and allow time for bidders to visit from afar, so the auction will be held in midsummer.

Meanwhile, we sold the necklace of fireballs to the King for what I consider a very good price, and Chrysta divided up some of our earnings. Vall paid me back the remainder of what he owed me, and after borrowing five hundred gold from Chrysta I was able to further upgrade my headband. I’ve recently completed an enchanted spellbook and a set of lenses to improve my vision – quite nicely kitted out here!

The elves informed us that there’s a ruined castle up to the north-east, so that’s our next destination.

Shiny points: 24 carried over, +1 for summary = 25.

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