We discussed the old magical school that we’d seen almost a year ago, on our way down-river, and agreed that it might be time to pay it a return visit. I had some commission work to do: a private commission for a noblewoman whose name I shall withhold, and a set of magical glasses for myself that give me dark-vision the equal of Chrysta’s, as well as looking rather sophisticated. So the others headed out to activate portal stones while I completed my work.
Just as I was finishing up, I heard a telepathic message: “We’re at the big glowing hole in the ground castle, please join us.” I walked out of my workshop, and to my surprise found myself outside, in a forest, with my companions standing nearby. At first I wondered if one of them had discovered some teleportation magic, but no, there was a god involved.
Behind me was a ruined arch, and behind it a large crater. My friends filled me in: after some sort of fracas with spiders and teleporting dogs, they had arrived at the site. Once again, the magic school stood there, with its two guards; once again, Chrysta had dispelled it with a burst of positive energy, leaving only a large crater. Zakaroth had walked into the crater and started to fade out of existence – apparently quite an unpleasant sensation – before returning; fortunately Chrysta’s healing had restored him to substance. Somewhere around then, Savanah had shown up and facilitated my prompt arrival.
(Note to self: must ask later what form the transparency took. Were his internal organs &c. visible? Or only the outer layer?)
I detected an overwhelming aura of magic, the most powerful I’d ever felt, and after the business of the exploding time-mage that’s saying something. It appeared to form a sphere, albeit very slightly irregular, with the centre quite some way above ground level.
While we talked, Savanah had disappeared, as gods of illusion are wont to do. We agreed to wait until morning, in case the castle should reappear, and in the meantime I decided to test my new Arcane Eye for scouting the neighbourhood, in case of more spiders or similar.
Viewing the area from above, I saw bits of rubble and a magical glow. Some cellars were visible in the crater, and I also noticed the lack of debris around the rim; it looked more as if the ground had simply been cut out by the magical sphere, rather than blown outwards by an explosion.
Looking further afield: the forest. It ended abruptly near the crater, and at the back of where the castle had been, I saw some patches of difference. Under the canopy I found an old barn; evidently this patch had once been farmland, explaining the slight difference in foliage here.
After some minutes scouting, I decided to bring the eye back and send it through the ruined arch, into the magical effect. I woke up some time later with a throbbing head; apparently that was a bad idea.
Meanwhile, the castle had reappeared. On consideration, it seems that this happened every time we all took our eyes off it. Perhaps this explains the lyrics of the old ballad by Andrew ye Eldritch, “Whann Thou Seest Not Me, Thanne Do I Not Be”… although I suppose this is the reverse of that.
Faye tried throwing rocks, which bounced off the walls. Chrysta send an eagle through a window, and when it didn’t die, Faye took a grappling hook and climbed in, followed by yours truly.
The room looked like a scholar’s bedroom – a small cot/bed, desk covered in papers, scrolls, parchment etc. It didn’t look like it had been there for a thousand years, and soon enough we found out why. Every time I picked something up, it reverted almost immediately to its old state – books that I’d picked up to read returned to the shelves, etc. etc. Faye opened the bedroom door, and a couple of seconds later it was closed again, which might have been extremely nasty for anybody passing through.
I scanned the papers on the desk – those that were exposed to sight – and was not very surprised to find that they were mostly concerned with magical theory, written in an old dialect. In a cupboard we saw several sets of robes, and a very shiny outfit. Faye grabbed it briefly; before it reappeared in the cupboard, we saw it to be old-fashioned clothing.
We wondered what would happen if something from inside the room was taken outside the sphere. Faye grabbed an inkwell and threw it; it shattered against the wall, and then the shards and ink vanished. I tried pouring ink from my own inkwell, and it vanished from the floor, which raises some questions – at what point does newly-introduced matter become subject to this time-loop magic?
The others joined us, and we decided to venture further into the building and look for the centre of the sphere. Checking rooms along the way, we found a library – thousands of books, and of course none of them readable due to the magic looping behaviour. What a way to torture a mage.
We climbed up a level and found another library (gaah!) and then another level. Here the whole floor was a single meeting room with nine sturdy chairs around a table… and a feeling that there was something in the room I couldn’t look at. Familiar, eh?
Chrysta told us that it looked as if each chair was personalised for the person who sits there, and in each chair was a glowing humanoid form – some human-shaped, some dwarf, some elf, some gnome.
At this point Zakaroth showed up and bolstered my will to the point where I could see the concealed forms. I saw that every chair was marked with the insignia for one of the schools of magic, with the last having all eight. Seems appropriate for a council of mages or some such. The spacing of the figures offered an explanation for the not-quite spherical shape of the effect, as if each of them had generated their own sphere, overlapping the others.
Interesting point: the front door of the castle, and the two guards, are outside the crater and hence outside the spheres.
We remembered how the last glowing mage had exploded, and decided that detonating nine at once might be imprudent without divine aid, but before seeking that out we thought we might as well explore a bit further.
In the basements we found kitchens, storage… and a torture chamber. Charming. Returning to the meeting room, we found that two mages showed up as strongly evil; contrary to Certain People’s prejudices, neither of them was in the “necromancy” chair, but rather divination and abjuration.
Best guess: at the time of the Catastrophe, the mages had attempted to take the school out of time, which had not been an unmitigated success.
Having seen all there was to see, and resigned ourselves to a lack of opportunities for looting or reading, we decided to go back outside and have a word with the gods.
While we stood outside the castle, Zakaroth stood in communion with Asmodeus… and then, without warning, opened fire on one of the guards. They charged with considerable speed, and one hit Zakaroth with considerable force, leaving him seriously weakened. The others managed to kill one of the spectres, and I cast a spell that stopped the other in its tracks, giving us time to prepare both protective and offensive magics before bringing it down. At that point, the castle vanished once more, this time for good.
On thinking about the reality excursions that we’ve encountered to date, it occurs to me that
ZAKAROTH AND FAYE DO NOT READ THE NEXT BIT
ACTUALLY CHRYSTA DON’T READ THE NEXT BIT EITHER
VALL YOU’RE PROBABLY OKAY TO READ THE NEXT BIT
FAYE I MEAN IT DON’T READ IT
each of them has been anchored to a specific creature or creatures – the spectral guards here and similar undead in that underground one, the exploding mage, and so forth. Presumably if we ever needed to end one in a hurry, the most expedient method would simply be to kill everything in sight until we found the anchors?
FAYE I DID TELL YOU NOT TO READ IT I THINK CHRYSTA HAS SOME BURN OINTMENT
Shiny points carried over: 26, +1 for summary = 27.