Myshik goes to Castle Briarcliff, sent by Joctiy to help those looking for the Thein of Theins daughter Amalthea. There he finds them searching into what seems to be the heart of the unseasonable spring ice storm which has gripped the land for a month. There is a sealed ---, possibly binding a spirit. One hall is entirely frozen, and there we find the dead body of the Nefari Lord Feldspar (with 8 rings). Further in, we find the holy well of the castle has a serpent-like demon in it, pinned by a sword which is throwing out cold. Ruephat and Salaomer together grab the sword. Focussed, its powers create a mile-high column of ice which shatters the castle, and throws the two back with their arms encased in ice. We escape as the castle collapses.
We carefully sneak into the court of the Thein of Theins to get to him and inform him that his daughter is a fake. However, we find that he already knows this, because Thea (the shadow's) dreams are not her own. We determine that the original ("Amal") is in Loiborra, and convince the Thein of Theins to send us with Sephirath and Thea to retrieve her.
We travel back to Tynody and visit the Oracle, dealing with a relative of Amrek's along the way who sought revenge. We kill the ogre who is besieging a small castle in the Loiborran woods. Kohoth is brought out of a coma by Alagen -- but she then falls unconscious. Sephirath thinks that Kohoth lost half his soul when his double was killed - since in his coma he dreamed of the land of the dead. Alagen may have given half her soul to Kohoth. Amal and Thea meet and like each other. We travel to Tynody and stop briefly there. Salaomer stays there with his friends; he will try to find a cure for Alagen. Myshik sees the Great Fish, and a vision of Thea (or Amal?).
Note: It is clear that Amal is more mature, active and responsible than she used to be. Thea is more passive, and refers all questions to Sephirath, who has taken an interest in her education.
We stay in Gandiope waiting for the Thein of Theins to arrive. Myshik acts as messenger to him. Thea, Amal, and co. ride to meet the Thein and his wizard Ruememal. Thea discovers that she can communicate (it's not talking - no language) with the shadow spirit that makes her disguise. We agree, for a time, to act as the Thein's agents. Our first mission is to investigate the closely space fire of a public granary and the death of a clerk in the national grain office in the winter capital, Chandiope.
Sifting through the wreckage, Myshik's psychometry reveals that the grain warehouse burned down because a rope in a pulley accidentally happened to strike sparks as a weight fell during the night.
Shekur talks to his friend about the High Priest's party. The clerk, Hoi, was killed by a spring thrown out of a carriage demolished by a stone gargoyle. The gargoyle fell accidentally without interference from wind spirits or apparent magic we can understand onto the wine cart which killed Hoi. We talk to the high priest himself. Math and Hoi were fighting at the party. She was snubbing him, and he was trying to persuade her to listen to him.
It is wise, when engaged in casual swordplay with Sephirath, to wear armor, and to ask him to pull his punches, as Thea finds to her dismay in a practice session. A grain hulk - owned by Math - is wrecked in the harbor, close to shore. Shekur organizes the crowd to pull it next to the quay. Sephirath saves some unknown guy in the water. Sephirath consults with the Rahadain, who advise him to talk with his friend Abiaso. Shekur talks with Math briefly, suggesting that they meet later to discuss the wreck.
That night we go to investigate further, when an arrow comes out of the sky aimed toward Sephirath but Shekur pushes him out of the way. It was an "accident" from an archery contest in the inn courtyard. Could we be too close on the trail of the Criminal Master of Destiny? We investigate the wreck of the grain hulk, diving under to see how the leak sprang. A bit of scintillating wit: As we investigate the wreck, underwater, with a blade glowing with blue light: "Orcs!" "No, that's orcas, you fool!"
Sephirath's theory about the accidents: A mage, if he knew all the secrets of Nature, could realize fully that he is but a limb on the great World-Tree, and thus he could manipulate objects outside himself as if they were a part of his body.
Myshik's theory: The mage is a Master of Destiny. He can manipulate the fates of people so that they meet one possible fate rather than another --- even if that fate is very improbable.
The group is set upon at night be a bunch of thugs, who are defeated, one gravely wounded by Shekur's arrow. Upon questioning, we discover that they were hired to attack an albino Andorran - but not Shekur. Another "accident"? The thugs are ex-Sea-Raiders, former followers of the infamous pirate named Crimson. They were hired by a wizened old man at the bar, Traveller's Rest.
After some checking, Shekur happens upon the other albino Andorran -- a collosal man named Gatur with the physique of a sumo wrestler who claims to be a simple merchant.
At a party, we follow Math and Zadior. Math claims that the argument Hoi had with him was over the differences of Holy Land customs with Theinorran. Following them invisibly from the party, we discover that all three of the major grain merchants plus the captain Hevay meet to play cards at Math's house late at night after one party. They are playing a poker-like game with hexagonal cards whose arcana include: The Fish, The Eye, The Torq, The Throne, The Storm, The Flower, etc.
After losing, Shinab is struck down by a meteor while walking away from the house.
The trio come across Salaomer. Being a Theinorran, he remembers that there is a ban on gambling within city limits of Chandiope. Researching the history in the Rahadain library, we discover that this law was passed by Noah on the advice of the Oracle of Tyn. Gambling was associated with the destruction of two cities in the past.
Myshik and Shekur track down the wizened old one-eyed man who hired the thugs to chase after the albino Andorran Gatur. He hired them at a bar called the Traveller's Rest, which they discover is a very rough place. At another (The Broken Loop), they discover that there is a large reward for his capture.
Some time later, we notice a red-haired woman following us. After Myshik's attempt to magically tag her fails, Salaomer attempts to distract her, but she encases Salaomer and Myshik in ice and escapes. Later, we discover that the woman (Renah) is secretly working for the Justiciar's office, gathering information for him. The Juticiar demands (and gets) the meteor given to him.
After some debate, we turn over our evidence to the Justiciar's office, including the full information of how Math and Zadior violated the law against gambling, thereby threatening themselves and the safety of the city. We left it in the Justiciar's hands to deal out the punishment (most likely banishment).
Returning to the Thein, we are informed of a new problem. Batrachs are a Nefari slave race, easily controlled by magic and thus perennial hazards as some sorceror gathers and army of them to do evil. There have been increasing attacks of the Batrachs on caravans and others in the area of the swamps south of Theinorra.
Beyond the swamp is the newly-founded harbor town of Komahof, current population ~2000. This is a planned settlement to make a new port for Theinorra. It is a semi-military fort, being south of the Southernmost Theinhold. The party fits up for a journey down the river to look into what is causing these attacks.
The party goes into a swamp-edge settlement in the Theinhold of Hitobitsah (the southernmost Theinhold). There it is a short portage to the incomplete canal and causeway begun by the mad Thein 10-15 years ago (a total of two weeks by river from Gantiope to get to the canal entrance). Hundreds of people were conscripted into forced labor to make the canal, which would open up the harbor town of Komahof, and those that fell (from disease and leeches) made the causeway a mass grave. In a bar at the settlement over drinks of swamp-pear mead, we hired the guide Sham.
In more recent times, the Batrachs supposedly wiped out a small village within the swamp (1 and 1/2 months ago), with no survivors. The party travelled a half-day down the canal and then cut through the swamp for several hours to get to the village. There we found no blood or bodies, but there was some clutter and broken objects suggesting a disturbance. No preparations stood out (fortification or packing as if to leave). That evening, in the pear orchard outside the village, we encountered a group of Batrachs. In an armed standoff, we asked them what happened to the village, and they said that the "Terror" from the center of the swamp had come to claim them. Their answers suggested that fear of this "Terror" might be what was pushing them beyond the swamp's boundaries.
We spent that night in the village, with no harmful effects. Returning to the canal, we set a trap by one of the trading points. There we caught and interrogated a lone Batrach which had come to collect the goods. Notably, this Batrach failed to confirm the reports of this "Terror" and evidently knew nothing of the sort.
Coming into the harbor town of Komahof, we had two meetings. The first was with the Portmaster Pilaz, who was accompanied by his second wife Korothah, a Lorelei. He was aristocratic-looking and stuck up, but did not leave much of an impression overall. The Military Commander Judab was extremely gung-ho about wiping out the Batrachs, and informed us of his powerful contingent of iron war golems. However, these were restricted to entirely defensive duties since they were near-impossible to take through the swamp. His enthusiasm seemed far greater than his practicality.
We convinced Judab to let us have a crack commando squad of 6 men to go with us on a reconnaissance mission into the center of the swamp. While waiting to meet up with our men, some of our band viewed the tournament that was going on, while others got together equipment. While at the smith's, we picked up a new servant - a darby named Larabi. Like most of his kind, he was extremely eager to please and was evidently driving the smith so insane he was glad to get rid of it.
Begin with entering the swamp straight out of the harbor town of Komahof, with a 6-man "commando" team:
The journey through the swamp was arduous, but helped by magical aids. At first we were threatened by the giant leeches that swam in the waters, after which Cassiaz used his wind spirit Pinshill to create an aura of cold around them which kept the temperate swamp creatures away, while the marsh spirit guided us. It made slogging through the wet swamp even more uncomfortable, however.
One night we were attacked by a group of four "Cloaked Men" -- flat creatures like large blankets with hooks on their inside surface that when upright resemble men with wide-brimmed hats wrapped in travelling cloaks. One of them wrapped itself around one of the men (Chesaphel) before being killed and peeled off. The men were after that ordered to form a circular phalanx to avoid being enveloped.
On a later night, there was a tremendous lightning storm. We set a pole topped with a valued item outside camp to direct away lightning spirits. One eventually hit the pole, at which point Cassiaz challenged and defeated it, trapping it in a quartz block. It was a power 8(!) lightning spirit.
Eventually, we reached a clearing where a wall 15 feet high surrounded the courtyard of a tower, which looked like the twisted horn of some giant creature sticking up from the ground. The windows of the tower were dark, and interior of the courtyard looked deserted. There were locked gates leading into the courtyard, but the first person to lean in towards them appeared to slow down to nearly-stopped while the others had to push/drag them away to bring them around.
After some investigation, we found that by digging under the gate, we looked in on the same courtyard except in spring with strange fruit hanging from living trees in the garden - and lights in the tower. Looking over the wall, we saw the same courtyard in the dead of winter. After taking the night to send word of what we found back to Komahoff, we decided to enter under the gates. After only a few step in, however, twelve giant wolves ran out from behind the tower to attack us.
Starting with the wolves attacking, we eventually defeated the wolves, but one of the commandoes was killed when a wolf ripped his throat out. The rest of the band were mostly uninjured, however. After that, we circled along the wall, keeping under cover of trees until we came to a stream which flowed past the tower. At that point we came forwards straight to the front doors.
The front doors were locked, did not respond to knocking, and seemed unbreakable (made out of the strange horn material). Thea wandered a bit off and seemed to disappear around the tower. We found that walking around the tower clockwise, people ahead seemed to go faster, while walking back a bit (i.e. counterclockwise) people seemed to move more slowly. After making a complete circle in the "fast" direction, we were attacked again by twelve wolves.
Frustrated, Cassiaz loosed the lightning spirit on them, after which they were easily mopped up. The grave of our fellow who died had disappeared as well. We continued around the tower in the "fast" direction to the back, where there was a window 60 feet up. Climbing up to it, we found ourselves in a woman's bedroom.
Down a hall from the bedroom was a door guarded by a damaging glyph, which at the time we avoided. Investigating the rest of the level, we found several more bedrooms, a strange silver-bottomed pit on which items floated, a sparring room with a giant mirror that reflected distortions of people (), a giant mural-room with the painted image of the view over the swamp (whose image updated constantly, although never when you were looking). Finally there was a library and an armory (at which we outfitted ourselves).
After some experimenting (and the loss of a stone spirit), we found that the glyph-protected door had a powerful fire spirit, but it was opened by a key left in the original bedroom. Inside the inner chamber, we found 3 rings, a medallion (an enchanter's tool), a bracer (with the image of two birds), a wand, and a small velvet bag with 3 gems (a forest spirit, a mountain spirit, and a lake spirit). There were also a number of scrolls in a language none of us understood.
After looking this over, we went down the stairs to the first floor, where we successfully tried the front doors. The locking mechanism was unclear, however. At that point, we decided to camp there for the night.
A more thorough search of the tower was made. The findings are detailed more in a separate page on the Tower of Time.
The primary mystery discovered was the 8th floor whose entrance was sealed off by mortar around a tower-horn plug, which proved impenetrable. The outside balcony was only bricked over, however. The ninth floor above it was shrouded in darkness but was found to have a pool of water on its floor. The band started break through the bricked-over balcony, when the sky grew dark and a beacon of green light appeared in the swarp.
Following it to its source several miles away, the group found a Nefari-looking structure which hordes of Batrachs were closing in on. Sephirath daringly entered the tunnels under the dome of the structure and came upon a spindly human-like creature with an enormous head that tried to dominate his mind. Sephirath killed it and fled.
He was chased by a group of faceless leech-men, which took over people's minds by throwing small leaches that stuck to the face. There seemed to be no way to resist this, so everyone did the best they could by simply killing them as quickly as possible. Cassiaz's lightning proved very useful in burning them off.
Wounded but whole, the group retreated to the tower.