We continued our discussion with the elves. One of them told us “Midsummer has passed over ten thousand times since we were thrown out [q: from where?]… since we were lost.” They do not remember the portal stones being active.
Ten thousand years ago, they told us, the land was cursed, the gods stopped talking to them, and they were banished to this small area. The other races died out, and there were no animals (give or take insects worms etc. which are actually animals but people seem not to count them for some reason).
We sent Vall off to the Divine City via portal stone, to talk with the gods about what was going on, and Chrysta returned to the capital to fetch meat for a barbecue (I’m not sure it’s a great idea to give meat to people who’ve been vegetarian for millennia, but her eyes practically glowed at the prospect of kindling a fire. She needs help.)
Both of them were gone for quite some time. I went on talking to the elves, making some notes on their language. It seems to be an old version of Sylvan, but the grammar has been forgotten, and it has occasional words that seem Dwarvish or Gnomish.
A few more elves appeared – they are quite hard to see, the eye slides off them – and went off to their huts to cook. Faye attempted to perform for them; it wasn’t one of her better efforts but they seemed interested nevertheless. One of them sang, and I got the impression that he had memorised the sounds without knowing their meaning. (Fairly standard: guy tries to impress a beautiful woman. Some things never change.)
About five hours after Vall ported out he reappeared, in considerable pain. He whimpered for quite some time.
I was beginning to have some suspicions, and he confirmed that he’d only been away about thirty minutes of his time. Although the sun had been high in the sky here when he left, it was close to nightfall in the Divine City when he got there. The travel out had hurt, like a short sharp punch to the entire body; the travel back had been the same, but much more protracted.
He had talked to Pharas-Calis’Ir about the elves, and the gods had told him that the world itself is not ten thousand years old, so the elves cannot be that old. Then they referred him to Gosreh, who could sense the area we’d visited, but couldn’t see it.
Faye volunteered to assist with a little experiment: she would port to the capital, count to ten, and come straight back. When she had left, I also started counting at the same rate, and (as I had expected might happen) I reached a little over a hundred before she returned and immediately passed out.
So it appears the time within this little region passes ten times as fast as in the outside world; that would account for how the elves have been trapped here ten thousand years by their reckoning.
I considered the commercial possibilities; I could take magical commissions in the capital, work on them here, and get them done ten times as fast from the buyers’ perspective. However, it wouldn’t be any faster from my perspective, and from my friends’ description of the experience travelling to and from this portal stone I am not very eager to do more of it than absolutely necessary.
Vall collected some botanical samples and braved the portal again to take them back to Gosreh, who told him he’d hardly been away any time. Gosreh examined the samples and confirmed that they were from our world, containing some of Gosreh’s essence, but didn’t recognise the plant that they came from. Vall suggested taking some of Gosreh’s essence back (as we had done previously, on behalf of all the gods) but Gosreh declined, not wanting to be further weakened.
Next Vall consulted with Savana, who told him that this effect had to be anchored somewhere, and speculated that it might be due to Nethys’ disappearance.
(Meanwhile, Chrysta returned with large quantities of meat, and was knocked unconscious by the return trip; some time later, Faye woke, shouting “TEN!” I thanked her greatly for her courage in the service of science.)
Night had fallen, and I studied the stars. The constellations seemed the same, but the season was wrong, early to mid-summer instead of the early spring that we’d come from. Perhaps it would be possible to find the boundary to the zone by travelling out, and watching for the point where the stars change?
The elves told us that if they travelled for more than about a day’s walk in any single direction, they found themselves coming back to the village again.
In the morning, once Vall had returned and Chrysta was awake, we set out to do some exploring. We’d established that the centre of this little temporal anomaly was a little bit northeast, and we headed thataway.
As we got close Chrysta saw us veering off course, and we lost sight of her altogether for some time, until she stepped towards us and suddenly became visible. (You’ll remember something similar on our first visit to the Divine City.)
Once again, Faye volunteered for an experiment. We had her hold hands with Chrysta and follow Chrysta’s lead. Once again, Faye saw Chrysta disappear; from Chrysta’s perspective she was still holding Faye’s hand, but Faye couldn’t see her.
Next, we had Vall fire an arrow towards the centre of the zone – but Chrysta saw Vall turn before firing. Some sort of mental avoidance field? Does Chrysta’s part-construct nature make her immune to this?
Next we tried tying ourselves to a rope and having Chrysta lead us. When she disappeared, I closed my eyes and told her to pull. She felt some resistance; I felt the rope dangling loose in front of me, and then I “tripped”. I suspect Chrysta had pulled me over, but the effect had made it impossible for me to sense her pulling.
When I opened my eyes I could see a big hole in the ground ahead of us.
Chrysta went back and carried Vall across with his eyes closed; everything felt wrong for a moment, and then he came through. Last of all, Vall and Chrysta pulled Faye through on the rope, and we turned our attention to the hole in the ground.
It looked like the foundations of a large building, with scorch marks around the area. Vall found himself unable to see the bit in the centre; his eyes kept skipping over it. Chrysta looked, but saw nothing. I had difficulty seeing it – my eyes, like Vall’s, kept glancing past it – but with some effort I managed to overcome the effect to see a human figure, levitating a couple of feet off the ground and glowing. It seemed frozen in an unhappy expression. With my guidance Vall was able to see it, and with eyes better than mine he told us it was an old man, robes blown to shreds, screaming in anger or pain.
I detected extremely powerful magic emanating from whatever-it-was, encompassing all schools of magic, and we thought about what to do next.
Shiny points: 23 carried over, +1 for summary = 24.