We set out for the castle… and once again we encountered some sort of transition. Vall, going first, stepped across some invisible boundary and was suddenly drenched. As we followed, we also crossed into cold and rain, with lightning flashing overhead. A bit of experimentation suggested that the bad weather was centred on the castle.
Observations: transitions are not all alike. In the case of the time-distortion effect we recently encountered, we could clearly see the centre of the zone from a distance (once we overcame the aversion effect that initially prevented us from looking in that direction), and it looked the same close up. But in cases like this, the interior viewed from outside looks quite different to that viewed from inside. And in this case, Chrysta saw things the same way as the rest of us, whereas on other occasions (like the avoidance effect we encountered recently, but also on the approach to the Divine City) she saw things quite differently.
As castles go, Castle Dracolivius (for so it was named) was on the small side, but still nothing to be sneezed at. (Note to self: how much do castles cost, building, staffing, and upkeep? Are they practical?) The outer walls were two storeys high, with a taller section whose name escapes me just now. Through the rain we could see lights showing through the windows.
We approached; Vall knocked at the main door and then hid, while Faye and Zakaroth stood ready. It was answered by a servant, a solidly-built man who looked to be in his thirties or forties, and who let us in when we asked for shelter from the rain. We stabled our animals and then headed inside.
The servant told us that we were in Lord Salamien’s castle. While my companions talked to him, I tried to analyse his speech to get an impression of date and origins… and realised that I could not understand it or even recognise it. On further listening, I became convinced that there was no true language at all, just meaningless noises. Some sort of illusion/telepathy effect? Interestingly enough, when I mentioned this to Vall, he did not experience the same effect; he was still able to understand (or believe he understood?) the servant.
At this point, I was starting to think about the vanishing castle/magic school that we saw shortly before Qurell’drel.
Pondering: many of these transition zones seem to be associated with powerful illusion, or perhaps even parallel reality. They seem to have appeared at the time of the cataclysm… and Savana, goddess of illusions, is a new god.
I wonder where she came from.
The servant, named Adam, showed us into a green-themed room and made to leave. As he did, I asked Chrysta to scan for undead, and she confirmed my suspicions: Adam was undead, but not evil. My best guess is some kind of ghost; he may not even realise he’s dead.
(A wolf howled outside.)
The room was decorated with paintings of people, who looked to be related and bore a device with a dark flame that I don’t recognise.
Adam returned with a young lady in archaic clothes. This, apparently, was Mary, and she was also undead. I couldn’t understand Mary, and she couldn’t understand me, without somebody to relay our communication. I had Mary bring me a goblet of water, which I spilled on a pretext as an excuse to touch her hand; it was cold, but solid.
We were shown to two red-themed guest rooms (one for Vall and Zakaroth, one for the rest of us). With some prompting from me, my companions asked Mary a few more questions. She told them “I am of the household staff, I do what is required”; “I was raised by the household, this is my home”. How many others work here? “Maybe fifty.”
She gave directions to the library and told my companions that it was otherwise best if we stay in our quarters. Something about the master having intentions to find a wife? She said he has just gone down to town and should be back soon.
(Hmm. Considering the power with which he exploded – assuming that he was the glowing man at the centre of the wreckage – it’s quite possible that bits of him are back already.)
We asked about the season, and she mentioned that it was only a few days since Midwinter. Meanwhile, by what I shall call Standard Time, it’s about three months after the spring equinox.
She showed us to the library, hurrah! I was relieved to find that although the books were in an archaic script, I could read it. The master had an eclectic collection with a mix of religious texts from different viewpoints, theoretical magic, local history (this got Chrysta’s attention), and spellbooks.
Granted, there was a ribbon tied over that section of the shelf, and they radiated abjuration magic, but nobody had specifically said we couldn’t look at them.
Chrysta found that the castle was indeed an upgraded manor house, which had had some dubious occupants in the distant past. The book ended about 150 years before the Catastrophe, although it was in good condition, certainly not over a thousand years old.
Vall came back and investigated the spellbooks, confirming that there was a magical trap on them. He attempted to disarm the trap on one but was caught by it instead, setting off some sort of alarm spell as well as teleporting him away. He found himself in a dungeon downstairs, but was quickly able to pick the lock and find his way back upstairs; evidently the creator of the traps had assumed some sort of guard force would be present.
I was quite relieved when he came back into the room unharmed; I think we were very lucky the protective magic wasn’t any worse, and perhaps I should have been more cautious.
Shiny points: 25 carried over, +1 for summary, -1 spent = 25.