As the carriage approached the city limits, before the city was even in view, I knew where we were. Unkempt farmland sat forgotten, and lazy farmers sat on ramshackle porches. Gilded signs stood next to rutty mud roads on which passersby jostled so much they had to stop to read them. The wagon stopped at a lavish inn surrounded by squalor on the outskirts of the city. Miserly merchants used this inn so that they didn’t have to pay the tariffs charged by the House Clynn.
My last time here, just before I was whisked off to Cyclone, was enough to last me, so I stayed in.
Kym Nark Mar 10th
We arose early today, the driver ousting me from the inn with strained ceremony. He rushed us to Shandala, and dropped me unceremoniously at the gate with a yelled, “ ‘ere ye go, I ain’t got paid fer anythin past here.”
I put an alarm spell on my belongings while I procured transportation and ended up buying an old outhouse door for five gold pieces. Five – Gold – Pieces! Luckily I got to White Ash with only one casting of Fly on my makeshift air-ship.
Hmm… I have used many things in my time to fly, and I have been able to make very large objects zoom around the skies with a few passengers. It makes me wonder if it would be possible to enchant an actual sea ship to navigate the skies the way it would the seas? Surely that would strike fear into the hearts of men. It would be the realm of holy adventurers, surely. Notes to follow.
I got home around four in the afternoon… It’s odd, but one would think I would call traveling with CrIsis to be home, but traveling is never home, and I spent barely any time aboard the legendary ship, Matilda, and so my room there felt more like an inn’s boarding. I realized how much I missed it when I saw the ivory tops of stone branches come into view this morning. When I stepped into the entry atrium the familiar smell of talc and soap assailed my nose, and my chest unclenched. I am sure that I will see CrIsis as home when I return, but for now it’s good to be back. I brought my belongings up to my room, and then went up to the top of the tree’s tower to Master Ahab Nemora’s study to check in.
There are no classrooms or dormitories on the first few floors of the White Ash Guild. When you enter, you start in the grand entrance hall, roughly 200 feet square. Two staircases go off in both directions at the back corners of the room, and straight across is the Assembly Hall. The whole thing is made out of living white marble with veins of gold, grown by master earth Warlocks in their prime. Thick rugs that were once grand, but now seem a bit run down, cover the main walkways, and the center strip of the staircases.
Walking forward into the Assembly Hall, you see a raised dais at the back, where the councilors sit, looking almost like a judge’s tribunal, with a raised seat for the head Elder, Master Ahab Nemora, in the center. There is room for benches in front of the dais, but it generally is a clear floor with no ornamentation except for a gilded compass superimposed on the symbol of the White Ash, and in a superscription of runes encircles it, with the words “Coniungens il mundo via scientiem” meaning “Connecting the world through knowledge.” Red, black, blue, green, purple, and yellow tapestries adorn the hall, with a symbol for each method of magical and scientific thought, the individual guild branches, on each. Looking up, you see three balconies for an audience, each higher ring closing in closer as the hall tapers to a narrow tube running the height of the building to a crystal cap at the top.
The stairs encircle the tree’s trunk, and for the first few stories they have doorways onto the assembly hall’s balcony level. At the fifth floor, after the Assembly Hall has tapered inward, they branch off on the outside, leading to the separate studies and rooms. The kitchens are at the bottom of the guild buildings, the first floor above the assembly hall’s balconies. The library takes the spot right above that, and then the individual magical schools have their own hall from there.
I made my way to the very top of the fifty story building. Along the way I thought of the grandeur of the building, and how it contrasted to the current state of the guild. The halls felt empty, and though most of the mages that belonged to the guild traveled the guild halls would still be empty if they were all in attendance. I have read of the Tri-Arcanum guild, and though their guild buildings are larger, they are far less grand. The T.A.G. is infinitely more successful and far-reaching, though. Life sometimes generates these inconsistencies, though. It is to be suspected, I guess…
Master Nemora was not in his study, so I went to the library to see If anyone had seen him, but no dice. I spoke to a balding youth sitting behind a rampart of books. He glared at me around the stacks, and rudely said that Masters Nemora and Sline were in conference, and that they weren’t to be disturbed until after supper. And that if I wanted more information, I should speak with their personal apprentices, not a master himself working on a pseudo-magika-scientum theorem based upon the interaction between the gaia particle and…..
Honestly I tuned out. Is that how I sound? Throwing around needlessly large words and acting gruff toward anyone who dare interrupt? I sincerely hope not. Anywho, I took the hint from the Master Librarian’s upturned nose and pained expression, and took a bath in my rooms. A hot bath after a day of travel is one of those things that few things can beat.
Smelling of my rose-scented perfume, I went down to the kitchens to procure something to eat. I had forgotten completely how much I love Mistress Chef Taikatalvi. She grew up in White Ash, and started as a scullery when she turned ten. She isn’t the head chef, since the head chef is always a Master Chef, and the Master Chef is always a man. But Master Chef Ramsey Gordonson is a slouch at the kettle, and does little more than drink in his tipped-back wooden stool. Anyone that had spent more than a minute in the kitchens knew that, and knew that Mistress Chef Taikatalvi’s spoon was for little more than tasting dishes, and swatting bottoms or hands.
“Ooh, Deery! It’s master Azariel! As I live and breave! It’s been far too long, Azzy. You must sit down an’ ‘ave a cup o’ wif me.”
I snacked on some sweet bread and spiced wine as I watched her rule her kitchen with a motherly hand of tyranny. She would pat someone on the shoulder with one hand as she swatted another’s hand with her spoon. It all brought back memories of times long past now. Though, I think I may set some time aside each week to come down here and help.
Mistress Taika asked me to put the cabbage soup together for tomorrow, while the rest of today’s dinner was finishing up. It was a great recipe, so I copied it down for future use.
“Caboches i(n) potage. Take caboches & q(ua)rter he(m) & seeþ he(m) in gode broth wiþ oyno(u)ns y mynced & þe white of lek(es) y slyt & y corne smale. & do þ(er) to safro(u)n and salt & force hit wiþ poudo(ur) douce.”
Mistress Chef Taikatalvi reads and writes normally for the middle and lower class, but for my future ease, and any who read my journal, here is the translation.
Take caboches (cabbage) and quarter them and seep them in good broth,
with onions ye’ve minced, the white part of leeks sliced, add saffron and salt. Season with poudour douce (powder dust)
After dinner, I passed by the Master’s study, and he called through the door to come back tomorrow morning.
Kym Nark Mar 11th
I went up to Master Nemora’s study, and the door was locked. I knocked and there wasn’t an answer. Ahab has a certain flair for the mind game, so I started to see if there was a trick he was trying to pull.
First, I pulled up my invisible sight, and saw that there was a phrase written upon the door I had not seen before. It read, “Knock and it shall be opened up for you.” And below it was written an identical copy of it. I knocked once on the door, and waited. I turned to go, but then thought I had cracked it, so I turned back and knocked three times on the door. On the third knock an electrical shock racked my hand, paralyzing it for several seconds. I sighed, and knocked twice. The door creaked open, as if there was never a lock on it. Instantly I heard Ahab’s impish giggle slide through the crack in the door.
I pushed the door open, chagrin most definitely on my face, and I walked to the Ashtapada table Master Nemora was sitting at. From a glance at the board I could tell he was studying his win, possibly over Master Sline, and was working his weaknesses out.
“Ah, young “Summoner” Azariel. So, what is it this time, eh? Decided to give up Wizardry and joined the clergy? Wouldn’t say it surprises me. You switch classes like a Lady switches suitors!” A booming basso washed over the game board, and made his belly dance. He wasn’t weak or flabby, especially for an old man, but any time sitting for a living has a tendency of adding a layer of fat to your gut… especially in Mistress Taika’s kitchen.
“I was hoping to start Diabolism, actually, Master Ahab! I hope to become an Alchemist, and that is the next logical step. I know I haven’t mastered Wizardry or Summoning yet, but that isn’t important for a fledgling Alchemist, now is it?” I jabbed at him. In his youth, Ahab Nemora wanted to become a master of every branch of magic. He hasn’t quite reached his goal.
“Only winners can become Alchemists, and you haven’t beaten me yet.” He gestured to the seat across from him, and started setting up the battlefield of Ashtapada.
One win and several losses later, I learned that Master Juran Sline was currently teaching a group of young apprentices, and their graduation day was set for the end of Set, so my speedy crash-course would have to be put off for two months. Ahab gambled two magic spells over a match of Ashtapada with me, so he’s stuck teaching me. When will he learn?
Study goes well. I started learning the meanings of the words of power today. I had a morbid chuckle at my Horse Lictalon’s name. If I had named him after studying Diabolism, I never would have chosen that name. Nor would I have inscribed it into the leather saddle horn in dragonese.
While studying during this crash course, I have learned that walking helps with memorization and pondering. If your body is doing a simple, repetitive task, your mind somehow is able to focus better on the more complex things like magical phrases, and learning new languages. I guess that is why mages pace.
I have found my favorite place to pace is the guild’s gardens, circling the back half of the White Ash’s hall. There I saw Zinaida Nemora for the first time. I had only heard of her, and even then only in passing hushed whispers. She is gorgeous! Tall for a human, she stands almost at eye level to me, and her body is graceful curves and harsh lines, but not so harsh as to be ugly. She has raven hair and ivory skin, which is always covered by cold-colored satin. Most refer to her as the “Ice Queen.”
I asked Master Nemora about her today, and he grudgingly told me her story. She is sorceress, and years ago she was experimenting with ice magic. In an experiment gone wrong she killed her true love, Ander, freezing him in eternal ice. From his death, she discovered a spell to create eternal ice, but it did nothing to help her broken heart. Her love’s frozen figure now stands in the center of the guild gardens, like a glass sculpture.
She was a member of the Guild at the time of her husband’s death, and Master Nemora took her in like family, having been a close colleague of her husband. That friendship bloomed into love, and though Zinaida’s outer shell hardened and froze, her heart stayed warm. She smiles only when looking at Master Nemora, and laughs only when he tells a joke.
She takes long walks – regally-cold as is her usual – at midnight through the gardens, and has been seen sobbing over Ander’s statue. She has an underground great hall only accessible from the guild gardens, below her love’s feet, whose doors open only when you speak the passphrase, “In Memorium di Ander.” She works closely with the Warlocks of Earth and Water, but most of it is in secret. In the hidden halls, she teaches ice magic and crystal magic to the warlocks.
She’s learned naturally, with no experimentation, how to make crystals and has mastered ice magic of unprecedented destruction and beauty. How amazing would it be to have that innate talent? I sit here, day after day, and night after night, racking my brain to learn the basics of Diabolism.
Zinaida put together a Winter Solstice Gala, with help from the Druids and Warlocks. Though I was only allowed one hour to attend it from Master Sline, it was the best event I have ever seen.
Living ice covered every plant and flower in the garden, and instead of destroying them, the ice seemed to preserve them in eternal bloom. The blue-white Druid’s fire gave everything a cold and ghostly feel, despite the life being preserved by the ice. Strings of crystals hung from every tree branch, and from the archways, reflecting and refracting the Druid’s fire. It was as if cold fairies frolicked among the frozen garden, and threw moonbeams back and forth to each other.
The music was serene, majestic, haunting, and solemnly jovial, played by a group that called themselves an octet. Growing up with my father, Sezar, this strange group surprised me. Bards travel by themselves, playing a variety of instruments, but only one at a time. I sometimes accompanied my father, but that was it. The only other kind of musical performance group I had ever heard of was a full orchestra made up of dozens of musicians. Only eight players, with pairs playing a total of four instruments? Odd.
The decorations were awe-inspiring, but they were nothing compared to the gown that Zinaida wore. It was satin, but there were tiny crystals that seemed to have been grown into and around the fabric, not causing any of the threads to bend or curve, but enveloping them, while still being flawless and radiant. This would have been by itself gorgeous, but the satin’s color was her precise skin tone. The crystals drew the eye artfully to her gracious, and ample, curves. From afar it seemed that the white-skinned sorceress wore not a stitch, and her euphemations were covered by droplets of water alone.
Besides that, the food seemed average, the conversation bland, and the atmosphere muted.
I am halfway through my studies now, and I think that I should be returning to Matilda in only a few months, as long as nothing to crazy comes up.
>>An excerpt from his journal from Kym-nark-mar 10th to Od 21st in the 22nd Year of Emperor Voelkian Itomas II, written by Azariel, Apprentice Alchemist. Acolyte of Osiris and the Lady Luck.<<
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