Trivanna watched as Twyl blink. He raised his hands and wiped at his eyes as if blinking had hurt him. She wondered how long it had been since he had blinked, or even attended to a physical presence. At least he had eyes in his head, and not the dark skull holes that were there at the start of the dinner. He caught her looking at him, and she held up the turkey leg and made an enjoying growl.
Elistar sat close to her side, and she turned to smile at him. The long table had Master Vastar next to Twyl and the rest of the adventurer's scattered down it's long length. One of the newly freed Spider Centaurs, Larim was invited to dine – but had declined.
The chit-chat had been a dichotomy. Pleasant talk about weather, sleep and small news seemed in total contrast to their current situation. For some reason, handwriting and it's analysis became a topic. But Twyl had backed away from being Death, and had come back to the man she knew.
Carefully, Master Vastar turned the conversation to current events. Twyl did not shy away, but the conversation turned slowly. Weather here in the Daggerlands. The sleeping arrangements. The meal was long done by the time the conversation began to be interesting.
“There is so much I need to learn here, in order to make the best actions choices.” The Master ran his hand through greying hair. “I'll snag a secretary type from Trivanna to make schedules until I find a mage apprentice.”
Trivanna nodded, “We actually have a number of people who really shouldn't be holding the end of a weapon. I'll find someone who fits for you.”
“I'll need to speak with some of the locals, the older Slices, to learn better the lay of the land. Even if we can find the way home, this falling destruction must be investigated and stopped.”
Elistar raised his hand, and Master Vastar nodded that he could speak.
“You can't get home.” Elistar looked at his mother. “Only those of us addicted to the White Noise can cross, and then, we must come back to the sound.”
Trivanna kissed him for the hundredth time. “They haven't run into us before.”
“Elistar, can you take a message home?” He made the question simple. “And bring me back a reply?”
“I can try. I don't know where I will come out. I don't know if I will find anyone I know.”
“Kernite will be listening for you, of course.” Master Vastar nodded. “I might have some magics to help. But it will be up to you.”
“I... am at your command, sir.”
Trivanna cast an approving look at her young son. She nodded, and he grinned back.
The Mage Master continued to plan, “From the reports these adventurers have provided me, I can only surmise the simple course of action. The addicted army goes out to raid, upon returning – they enter into some trance of their addiction. This is the best time to walk in with the music of the Spider Centaurs. If we can walk the SliceLord into a corner, we can keep him there. If he can not command, the army may not be lucid enough – or motivated enough – to act against us.”
Trivanna said, “I can get the army ready, but when?”
“I know when.” Elistar said, excited to be adding so much to the situation. “I can feel it. Like a call.”
“Good.” Trivanna said, “You tell me when the call happens, and the army will all go. We can then move in.”
“At the General's command.” Master Vastar said.
Trivanna gave him a sharp look. “I am not use to the idea of commanding you.”
“This is a fighting problem.” He evened his hands out in front of him. “I will waste no time in arguing who should lead. Especially when others have chosen so wisely.”
Trivanna picked up a wine glass and tilted at him. “You will let me know when you fall out of my command.”
The conversation turned for a while, and Twyl finally set his wine glass down. “I must leave soon. It was a pleasure being me again. Same time next week? If you would like, I will answer something that cross the lines.”
Master Vastar set his wine glass down as well. “Thank you my friend. If I could, I would ask if Mayhemanti is with Gary. I would ask if Keemara and Jandari were free to act. I would ask if the Magic University still stands.”
“That's three things.”
“I concede that it is, so instead I would ask, if I could, how things fair at home.”
“Ah. Invoking my thought patterns. Is that the question?”
“So, Twyl – How are things at home?”
“Home is in terrible shape. People have had to move in with friends, some as far away as Waterfall City but those left have gone to the elves. Even the Dragonsoul and Eldest are uncertain how to get into the twisted shape that is the Magic University.” Twyl pulled a shadow about him, making it a cloak. He carefully lifted a hood over his blonde hair.
“Same time next week.” Vastar held out his hand to shake. “I will have an entire week to compose the next question.”
Twyl shook the hand. “I don't know. I thought you did pretty well.”
“God go with you.”
* * * *
The beat of the white noise came, and Elistar recognized it.
The resistance army of DarkFawn slipped easily into the cavern. There were a few guards, but they were easily overcome. Various traps and contingency plans were set in place in the huge dome. Master Vastar set to investigating the odd sorting spiral in the floor.
Elistar had told them the SliceLord of the Cutting Edge 'lived' at the back of the hall. The spider centaurs set themselves inside the inner corridor. One of the adults was a tunnel spider, and said she could easily weave a 'plug' to hide themselves behind.
The simple plan was to leave a small party of adventurers inside the inner corridor. When the SliceLord came back and the army was hanging in their addicted stupor – they would act to corner the Cutting Edge SliceLord. Trivanna and the resistance would give them an hour or so – and then come in to aid or fight.
There were plenty of volunteers to stay, and in the end – Trivanna made quick assignments, and ordered a retreat. Her worry was that now that the addicted and the Lord were tipped off, they would be on guard. With home-ground advantage, and crazy addicted behavior – there was a greater chance of this all blowing up in their faces.
She sent a portion of her army back to their base. If they all were killed or sorted in some way – then some would remain to carry on. She sent a small band back to the odd town with written information in case things went deadly wrong.
From their hiding place, they watched as the army flowed into the cave entrances. It was like watching ants. Some with bundles and some flowing together the way people don't.
They watched. She counted. They must give the others their chance. It was the strength of DarkFawn. Her mind wished for her husband and an earthblood. She counted, and counted, and counted.
At last, they moved.
The sardine school of the addicted army was breathtaking to see, but more welcome was the Spider Centaurs and adventurers waving eagerly for them to come in.
The SliceLord was imprisoned by the music. The army communing with their senselessness. In a way, she was disappointed that she could not strike back against them – helplessly high in their drugged state – as they were certainly guilty of so many atrocities. But, she kept in mind her son's helplessness and could not paint them all as evil without knowing exactly who had done what deeds.
Trivanna quickly set to organizing and blocking the doorways. If the army snapped out of it's stupor, they needed to make certain they could not get out so easily to re-start their raiding. Master Vastar's abilities were a god-send. She left one doorway open – so they could talk to the SliceLord, or investigate the floor. There was so much more to be done – but it was one step at a time now.
* * * *
Elistar held his mother's hand as Master Vastar threw various spells on him. He really wasn't certain how this whole thing was suppose to work – be he appreciated the flight spell most of all. There were five people in his group, and they figured that he was kinda the leader as people on the right side – the DarkFawn side - would be actively looking for him. None of them had ever 'ridden the edge' before.
Packets were given with notes. They were to be left on the ground if necessary.
Elistar could be brave. He took his hand away, and stood as tall as he could. He didn't even wave when he walked to the edge and gave himself to the white noise.
* * * *
The addicted army rippled, but made no move.
The SliceLord railed in languages that no one understood – if it was language. But he would not cross the music.
Trivanna had trailed a chain of watchers along the edge, waiting for the addicted DarkFawnians to return. How long could they stay away? Did they even figure out how this crossing ability worked?
She counted the time with pacing. No one stopped her. Not even Master Vastar, who had taken a tent next to hers and was spending all his time talking to the locals. She had to remind herself that the long Elistar was away, the better it was. The more time he had with his father. The more time they would be able to spend sending communications later.
It was early in the morning when the commotion attracted her. Her son, returning with his party – carrying the sword her husband had made for her years ago.
* * * *
“And Kernite found us right away! And Dad, Pel and my twin, and Keemara hugged me, and Jandari, he – oh! Town! It's all folded! The house. The Mountain....”
Master Vastar pulled the boy away from his mother's embrace. “Take a breath. Stand up straight. Sort everything carefully in your mind. We will want to know everything that happened, but you must first tell us the important things, then the whole story. This is the way you Report. Highlights, then the body of the story.”
Elistar nodded and took in a deep breath. “The white noise lets us walk in space. It carries us to where the spaces fall together. Kernite 'heard' me, and she and father came and got us. We went to find Keemara near town. Thark is folded. The river flows like Master Tahir's house. Everyone is happy to hear from us. I gave them the scroll.”
Master Vastar held out his hand, “They gave you one back.”
“They did!” Elistar produced it and handed it to his 'grandfather'.
Taking it, Vastar passed it along to Trivanna. She seemed startled to receive it, but realized that this was the chain of command. She opened it, and saw Mayhemanti's handwriting.
Elistar continued giving his report. “I stayed as long as I could. I didn't want to leave, but then – I couldn't stop thinking about the white noise. Then, I wanted to go.”
Trivanna handed the scroll back to the Master. She looked at her son, “That is what addiction is. It is not your fault, and you can use it so we can talk. You have done well. Very well. Good job.”
He looked down, “I yelled at Keemara.”
Several people chuckled. “She likes that. Shows her you're serious.”
He flattened his hair with his hand. “Can I get some sleep or something? I feel weird.”
“Yes, my son. Come into the tent. We'll get you settled and the noise will make you feel better.” Trivanna was alarmed when he started to sway. She took him into the tend and made him lie down. She put a heavy blanket on him to keep him floating. By the time she had finished and returned, the others of his party had also slipped into a stupor.
“Are they settled with honor?” Trivanna asked the crowd. They nodded in the affirmative. “There will the others we sent out. They might be floating now, but they should be back in the noise by now. I want them back in camp. Safe and Sound. If they have scrolls, we want them here.”
Master Vastar was busy reading the scrolls.
Trivanna walked up to him, She failed to keep a smile hidden, “Master Vastar, Report.”
Vastar did not miss a beat, “General. The collision of the Daggerlands and DarkFawn produces a folding effect. It is not certain if the effect is actually a distortion or destruction. They would like to know as Thark is enveloped. Popular opinion suggests a time dilation destruction.
“No one who has crossed into the effect has ever come back. The raiders are hard to kill as they just retreat into their effect, and no one wishes to follow there. They seem stronger there and are confident inside their own element.
“The effect ranges across the planet with no linear 'dagger' pattern. There are victims from.... Tivalera. Jira. Alderly. Storn shows effect.” Vastar paused in his report and made a thoughtful face.
Trivanna nodded. “People?”
The black haired man continued, “They are pleased to hear we are alive and well. Amongst notable missing is Ben Airider, Arctheon, Dariss, Tahir. The Pheonix Josicanna. There are several other names with continent notations. Keemara reports that Clove will not stay away from her rider for much longer.”
“A series of people will probably be willing to cross over now that they have heard from us.” He flipped through several pages. “They look forward to establishing regular communication. They ask if there are supplies we need.
Trivanna nodded. She reached for the papers, but Vastar sorted the stack and handed her one. Glancing at it, it had her name with Mayhemanti's handwriting on it. It was folded and sealed. She found herself holding it against her heart.
“Go and get some sleep, General. The worry does not help you or us. I will make best sense of these.” Master Vastar turned to his tent, motioning for the secretary to follow.
Trivanna retreated back into her tend, sat next to her boy and spent the next few moments just looking at the letter. When she came back to herself, she wiped tears from her face and opened the letter.
* * * *
Days went by. The DarkFawnian's measured the days by the sun that stabbed through the overlap cut in the sky.
The addicted army still waved peacefully in their sardine school. They did not have to eat or drink – being sustained by the white noise in some way.
The spider centaurs worked out a pace of the singers. They took turns in their singing and watching, but they also left themselves some away time to re-coup their strength.
Trivanna's main camp moved to the cliffs outside the Daggerpoint. It was easier to guard the one door, and floatsum from the continued slicing of DarkFawn turned up there first. The people were brought into camps and the things collected depending on their usefulness.
Trips of the DarkFawn addicted began to be made regularly. They didn't have to answer the 'crescendo' of the white noise – but they did have to spend time inside the noise. The crescendo seemed to be the best time to cross – but it was all new to DarkFawnians. The Addicted band divided into teams, making the communication with the Eldest easier. Elistar went in his turn.
Vastar spent his mornings talking to the CuttingEdge SliceLord. His afternoons was busied with the locals he could wring information out of. He tried to talk to the Sardine army some afternoons. He read all the scrolls that came and went back-and-forth. Evenings were often spent brooding and spellcasting over the spiral floor.
Three more SpiderCentaurs came across the Noise. Apprentice Reed was amongst them. Vastar set his student to singing as well as mage duties. Their under ground city had been hit by the slicing as well.
Trivanna knew that sooner or later this Red Duke was going to come and investigate why his power supply sorting had stopped. She drilled the troops and kept people afield.
* * * *
Vastar called the adventurers to the edge of the army's patrol area. He stood in the darkness of the early morning next to a simple cart. His dark grey eyes took in the party's details.
“Sit.” It was more of a command than an invitation. He looked at Keer, but spoke to the group. “What I say here goes no further.”
That certainly set a sobering mood.
“There is a place here called 'The Graveyard of a Thousand Gods'. Locals do not go there, but there are many legends that fester. I believe that some religious types are sorted there - the way mages are sorted to ChokeMaw Tower. I believe there is something there that is impeding the clerics, the karma flow and the gods themselves.”
The Master paused for the implication to sink in. “Something in the Graveyard of a Thousand Gods has been eating gods. It is now eating our gods. Evidence, Rick's ancestor spirits no longer attend to him.”
The adventurers looked around at each other. No one said anything, although the questions hung thick in the air.
“With your tracking dog, you will be able to find the exact location of this graveyard. You will leave a trail that the layman can follow, and a marker that I can trace with magic. You must make an excursion into this place for real information – not mere rumors and stories. You will return to the magical marker so that I may collect you and return you here.”
The group began to nod, understanding this was an assignment.
“You must do this all within the three days I have left before Twyl comes to dinner. The implication is that if this thing is killing Gods, it will kill you – if you disturb it – and I will still have some access to your information.”
From the bag at his side, Master Vastar pulled a piece of stone. This he handed to Rick. “Here is a stone said to be from the Graveyard. It is all I have to give for your tracking dog. If it is a fake relic amongst the legends, you must make the way as you best can.”
He reached in again and pulled out a number of torn scraps of fabric. They were dyed yellow, like the sun of DarkFawn – a nod to the flag that Trivanna was having made. He handed these to Rashoni. “These should mark the trail for a layman. Tie two close together to mark the direction of the travel. Do not waist them trying to go from eye-line to eye-line. Above the reach of normal men, so they will hopefully stay tied. Fabric is a highly desired barter item here.”
He handed his Master's Knot to Kimbria without statement.
Finally, Master Vastar turned to the cart and pulled off it's contents one by one. Treasure, recovered from either the new shoreline or the walls of the Sardine Army's prison. Careworn hands pulled the items with grace and handed them to each intended person. With each item there was a card in his handwriting. “I have gleaned the best of the work available for you. I have tried to match them to your needs, but it is a sorry mess and I have had only so much time to explore. Take these, claim them – and go.”
He did not repeat his words of caution not to speak of their mission. He did not stay to explain the function of the magic items. He did pat the dogs head, and then he left.