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The Mystery of Arksmonten

Page history last edited by Michael 4 years, 8 months ago

back to the Index, or to Chapter 40:  Along the Serpent's Tail Trail

 

Chapter 41

The Mystery of Arksmonten

 


 

9:30 Dragon, 8th Day of Draconis - Spring

 

     Weather:  cold weather continued. The moon was waxing past half-full.

     It was about two in the afternoon. Our party consisted of Bran, Eornan, Alpheus, Landon, Travis, and Mads Ovedotten, plus some freed Avvar slaves, and a slaver, Jarl. We had just slain the other slavers, and spent a while healing injuries, searching and properly sending-off the dead, and pondering the strange properties of the tunnel we were about to enter. A token was needed to enter it; Landon could enter himself (token level 1) but we needed Jarl and his tokens to traverse the tunnel. He had a #5 and a #20 token.

     By 3:30 or so, the mages had meditated a bit, and Mads had been given what supplies we could spare -- she would be escorting the freed slaves overland into the Lowlands (or at least away from this part of the Frostbacks). Some of the slaver's gear had been distributed among the slaves.

     Bidding Mads and the slaves farewell and good luck, the rest of Our Heroes entered the strange Imperial Tunnel. There were dim, magical lights every 10 yards, but the strange, seamless, perfectly straight nature of the passage got on our nerves. The air and surfaces inside were all comfortably warm. Jarl claimed passing through the tunnel normally took ten or twelve hours.

     The passage led slightly upwards ... perhaps gaining 6 feet in 100 yards. At one point we stopped for a rest, but didn't dare sleep long -- more slavers were due at some time.

 

9:30 Dragon, 9th Day of Draconis - Spring

 

     Weather:  cold weather continued; the night sky was clear.

     We finally emerged from the tunnel, after midnight, probably one or two thousand feet higher than when we entered. There was a small, seamless stone building -- it could have been mistaken for a plinth or solid stone, except for the stone door in one side. Jarl said that supplies were stashed in there; and also that we were only a half-mile east from Arksmonten. Tall poles along the roadway flew large blue-and-silver banners, bearing a dragon symbol.

 

the highway with banners 

 

     We decided to wait until dawn to approach Arksmonten. Once the sun rose, we followed the path around the mountainside, and gazed upon a magnificent, dream-like castle-city.

 

approaching Arksmonten just after dawn

 

     Landon was fairly sure this was the city he'd seen in his dreams. After gazing in wonder for a bit, we noticed that the path led around a rock pinnacle, and up to the wall -- but there was no visible gate or door. A group of five persons was walking from the castle, along the road that led eventually to where we stood. We followed the road around the rock pinnacle, which hid us from the citadel, and met the group from the castle. Three of them were elven men, armed and wearing armor.

Caeli guards

Arksmonten spear

 

     One of them was clearly a mage -- another elf:

 

Ryath, a spirit healer/blood mage

 

     Lastly was another armed man -- a elf named Narien. Before we could do more than say hello the elven mage invoked dark magic empowering an until then unnoticed magical circle drawn beneath the snow -- upon the three warriors -- which slew them instantly! He quickly explained we were expected, and were in peril; he was part of the Tratadores (teachers -- or traitors). He used his spell again to kill Jarl, and told us to act as prisoners; we handed some of our weapons to Narien, and tied our wrists unconvincingly. The dead warriors, and Jarl, were mutilated a bit to make it seem as though they had died in (non-magical) battle.

     As he led us into the citadel, he told us that "Her Perfection" ruled the city; and that the Custos (i.e., Landon) was, "A villain to those who stayed, and a hero to those who left." Much of this was confusing to our party.

     Almost immediately after we entered, we encountered a small group of people -- "Her Perfection", along with the seneschal Tamaris (apparently a mage) and a couple of guards.

 

Her Perfection, the Praesul  Elysia, ruler of Arksmonten

 

     Ryath was clearly tense in the presence of Elysia.  She was a beautiful white-haired elf; the seneschal was also an elven woman. We were greeted courteously, and invited to follow the Praesul. Our barely-credible bonds were removed by Ryath, and we were invited to retain our weapons and gear.

 

language in Arksmonten

     The language used by almost all of the population was a mixture of Elven and Korcarian, and thus also related to Arcanum (aka Ancient Tevene). The inhabitants call it Caeli; fortunately Landon knew both Old Korcarian and Elven.

 

     Within the citadel was a city of about three thousand people, the Caeli. The air was warm and pleasantly-scented by trees, flowers and grass; the architecture was amazing, with large amounts of (apparently) silver, white stone and blue tiles or patterns. The emblems, statues and sculptures, banners, designs and artwork often depicted dragons, swans, maternity, the rising sun, and Elysia (or at least someone closely resembling her). There was no sign of decay or garbage; the lamps gave off light without any smoke or odor; none of the masonry, cabinetry or furnishings showed any signs of wear or tear.

     People were passing to and fro, in light-weight clothing, mostly in pale colors. More than half of the Caeli were elves, but none with tattoos or piercings; and none seemed to be slaves -- in fact, the elves seemed to be better-dressed than the humans, if anything. There were men and women, and many children -- but apparently nobody over about the age of forty. There were no beggars or cripples; only a few warriors were seen.

     Birds, and a few cats and dogs, were also present -- but no droppings, puddles around pillars, or other signs of animal leavings.

     Our amazement at the city -- cleaner and more perfect (ahem) than any we had seen before was almost enough to put our hunger, injuries and fatigue out of our minds -- almost. As we came upon a market, with stalls of foodstuff spread before us, a young human messenger girl (Siona) approach the Praesul, to report that a child's foot had been crushed by a cow, and that Her Perfection was needed to attend.

     Elysia asked for our understanding, and left us in the care of the seneschal, Tamaris. Bran tried to purchase some food with Ferelden coins, but the vendors were puzzled and unwilling to accept silver coins. Their own coinage was apparently made of electrum, and denominated in elven terms for periods of time -- hours, days, weeks, etc. Before we could puzzle this out, the seneschal asked us about our needs -- medical help was the most important.

     We were taken to a hospital, unlike any we had ever seen. It didn't smell of herbs, illness and squalor -- there were twelve beds, with clean sheets. Perhaps Hounds Hall was up to this level of cleanliness, but nowhere else in Ferelden. Five patients were already present, including the young boy whose foot had been crushed.

     The chief doctor, a human man named Ladarelan, quickly treated our injuries; his assistants cleaned our other minor wounds, and brought fresh clothing. The doctor mentioned that he had studied with Turpin (the chirurgeon at South Reach).

     The doctor told us that the young boy's crushed leg could not be healed; and that tomorrow at dawn he would be Renewed. We did not get an exact description of that process, but the doctor -- and other people -- felt strongly that "An imperfect body will lead to an imperfect soul." The lack of any old folk, cripples, one-eyed persons, or even ugly, out-of-shape people seems to point to an ominous conclusion.

     The medicines available in Arksmonten extended to the removal of scars; Bran took advantage of this. We were brought to a refectory, where fresh food, water, cider and ales were waiting for us. Again, the foods were all of the freshest nature, the water clean, and all cooked or presented with loving care.

     After we had eaten and drunk our fill, we washed up and were taken to see the Praesul again, several hours after we had arrived. She gave us a tour of the city, while answering some questions about its history.

 

  • What gods do you worship? "None, although we honor June ." -- June (Joo-NAY) was the elven god of craft.

  • Caeli is the name of the language and the people

  • Kortkarim was the mage who founded the city, about five centuries before Praesul Bene ruled it.
  • Elysia awoke circa 4:35 (during the Fourth or "Black Age" though the Caeli do not use the Chantry calendar -- they used the Imperium calendar until they began their own in 4:35), when she discovered the Truth and the Secret -- "Live a good life, seeking truth and purity."

  • other questions and answers from the Praesul can go here ...

     

     We saw a statue of Garahel, the elven Warden responsible for killing the Archdemon of the Fourth Blight; he was depicted mounted on a griffin. the Praesul made an odd mention that she was fond of him, as if she knew him. We passed by a wedding chapel, where two young -- about thirteen years old -- elves were being joined in marriage. We saw a statue of another Praesul, a male elf. As we strolled about, it was clear that the Caeli - except Ryath and Narien -- were content, and pleased with their lives and ruler.

     From a tower, we could see several nearby plateaus, each surrounded by a wall, and some of them covered by greenhouses. Fields, pastures, farms, orchards, fish-ponds and other agricultural areas were present on the plateaus. Long, narrow stone bridges connected the citadel to the plateaus; the entirety of Arksmonten was clearly impervious to attack by any army that didn't fly or dig tunnels.

     The Praesul brought us to a suite of rooms in a tower; each of us had a bedroom, with an attached bath. The room for Landon was larger than the others. The central room had bookshelves, two fireplaces, and tall windows of unbroken, smooth glass which gave us a view of the western sky.

     While the inhabitants had already eaten their last meal of the day by dusk, the Praesul told us she would have supper with us at sunset.  With that she took her leave; we had permission to wander the city's streets.

     Our concern about possible surveillance of our rooms kept us from talking too freely. Alpheus used his crystal to check the status of the Fade -- it seemed okay, if a bit "quiet."  He also sent another dream message to Duncan, describing what we'd found and where we were.

     There were still a few hours before sunset; the mages needed to rest and recuperate their mana, but Bran and Eornan decided to explore the city. Wandering the streets, bridges and arcades of Arksmonten, Bran saw a possible gift for his mother.  The shopkeeper quoted two days as the price, to which Bran mentioned he had none of the local money.  The artisan become visibly distraught and quietly urged the two adventurers to get local money before tomorrow's Renewal, directing them to the "Praesul's Field", a wide grassy area for events. There, some of the local warriors were practicing; after a bit of discussion, sergeant Procus hired them to teach the soldiers how to fight darkspawn, paying them a sum of ten days as an advance.

     As the sun set in the west, the sky to the east showed an ominous rusty hue -- the effect of the Blight.

     After dinner, we retired to our suite. At some point, an owl landed on the balcony -- actually Ryath using a shapechanging spell! He had come to bring us, via secret ways, to meet the Filii Orcis -- in short, the rebels. We traveled in strange, maze-like half-finished passages deep into the bowels of Arksmonten.

     Ryath led us into a cock-eyed room, with walls at strange angles, and a few magical lights. There were five people sleeping there, who were gently awakened by Ryath. One of them saw Landon and recognized him!

 

Filii Orcis

Cherish the Seekers of Truth -- Beware Those Who Have Found It.

 

The group's name means "Children of the Rebel'. Residents in hiding are:

 

  • Ianes - younger human male, former laborer with conspicuously mottled skin on his face and hands

  • Sianta - human woman, former mother and cook in her 20s, missing her right hand and a portion of her forearm

  • Iveanis - high functioning 'simple' elvhen boy about six, with beautiful singing voice (adopted and cared for by Ianes and Sianta)

  • Shivanna - Elvhen Erelan Taor (second generation mage) woman on the verge of being deemed barren before she took Banraeus' offer to drop out of society.

  • "Auntie" Vera - Korcarian apostate in her 50s, friend of Landon's family -- particularly Landon's father Wrale. She has been housed by the Filii Orcis since they found her hiding in Arkmonten's storage subfloors about three weeks ago. The language barrier has limited her communication with her hosts.

 

Filii Orcis not in residence:

 

  • Banraeus - rebel movement leader, currently MIA somewhere in the working bowels of Arksmonten

  • Ryath - Thelen of the 10th district. Spirit mage expert in Magicae √Édificium, blood magic, and is apparently capable of limited shape changing (into an owl at least).

  • Narien - Elvhen member of the Atishane (pronounced a-ti-shan-a) peacekeepers. Erelan (first generation gifted with magic) but trained as a warrior.

    • was he the one backing up Ryath when we first met him?

       

Ryath says there are about 20 others from various walks of life on the outside. Unfortunately he is the highest ranking of the rebel members.

 

     Vera had been traveling with a small group of Old Korcarians, separate from those at Gwaren; they had been attacked in the mountains, and she had run off into some tunnels. Vera knew the phrase, "Blessed is the Keeper, for he walks the path alone," in regards to the Custos. Information from Aunt Vera and Ryath:

 

  • Elysia and the Awakened (the senior mages) knew the actual truth -- she had no ability to "Renew" souls into unborn children.

  • The old, infirm, imperfect and rebellious were not Renewed, but instead drained of life to support the Praesul and her projects -- including her long life.

  • In any year, a hundred or more residents of the citadel were Renewed; when especially powerful magics must be cast, standards for "purity" were raised a bit. The suite of rooms Our Heroes were staying in (created only just before our arrival) required the Renewal of four more persons.

  • The Awakened were a council of mages, serving the Praesul. To be selected, they each had a grandchild at least five years old. All of them knew the terrible secret of Arksmonten.

    • "Not all mages who have grandchildren would agree with the secret ... are they not chosen and allowed to live in ignorance; or are they Renewed as threats to the Praesul?" -- They are even not offered the opportunity to go through the year of tests to determine if they are worthy -- L.

  • Tamaris, the seneschal, is also very, very old, and may know many of the same magics as Elysia, though at a lower level.

  • The entire citadel and its contents, except those made by the current inhabitants, was the product of magic, and is maintained by it. Any and all mages (called Erelan) know some of these magics; Ryath himself could easily open and close portals and passages through seemingly solid rock.

  • Temporary changes are made with blood magic; large, permanent creations require life force at a more lethal level. None of the magical creations are permanent, they have to be renewed or maintained. Even the Imperial Highways, Circle Towers, the Tower of Ishal, etc. will crumble eventually. Ryath believes that Arksmonten is maintaining much of the Imperial Highways, or at least those south of the Waking Sea.
  • Long ago, centuries before Elysia had discovered the Truth and become Perfect, the leader of Arksmonten was Praesul Bene. He sent a man named Miles to seek a means to defend the city; Miles found a device or material which could store vast amounts of mana -- we're calling it the Battery. The Battery is now stored within the book Australi Botanico. Miles and his supporters fled, unwilling to have the indestructible battery fall into Bene's hands. This was the same migration from Arksmonten that resulted in the Old Korcarians in Ferelden.   
  • Tiro was the apprentice to Miles, but the form we had seen through an Eluvian was apparently assumed by a Fade spirit -- working with Elysia?
  • There are two "Imperial" tunnels from Arksmonten -- the Manium Iter (Big Tunnel) to the north (we came through that), and the Meridian Iter tunnel to the south (apparently it's shorter). The Old Korcarians are being led to the Meridian Iter tunnel by at least two Caeli agents (Auctor Foras).
  • other questions and answers from Ryath can go here ....

 

     We discussed some plans or objectives:

 

  • Ask Banraeus to help us recover the book. While Landon's sisters share Wrale's blood, they're not mages, and they're not the Custos ... and may not be able to open the Australi Botanico when they arrive at Arksmonten. However, that's all supposition. Banraeus knows the bowels of Arksmonten better than any of the Filii Orcis, and is likely there now as he had not yet returned.
  • Find or rescue Bran's siblings.
  • The rebels could open a pit below Elysia, and have her plummet to her death. If she can get a useful spell cast, though, this might not work. Darkness (so she doesn't know what's going on)? Mana suppression (powerful Spirit magic)? Alcohol, drugs, poison? Tricky in any case; and Tamaris may know some or all of the same magics as the Praesul.

 

     Some notes from previous episodes:

 

  

in Denerim, on First Day

  

     The Korcarian owner of the Fine Fin Inn, Juvo Tratitor, had a chat with Landon about the Korcarian's migration and colonizing plans. According to Juvo, several hundred Korcarians would be leaving in early Draconis, on a ship whose owner had agreed to take them to Gwaren. There, they would meet up with more Korcarians, led by Bela Desus; she apparently had some experience in the Korcari Wilds.

 

 

in Celatus, on 20 Wintermarch

 

     Looking in the Eluvian mirror, Bran and Eornan perceived the faint form of a young man, wearing light armor and a small sword. He responded when spoken to, with an odd accent to his King's Tongue. Landon recognized him as the person in his recent dream, and spoke with him in Old Korcarian ... although it turned out Landon's dialect was distressingly modern. The man was named Tiro, which meant "apprentice" in Old Korcarian; he was apparently a Fade spirit at least a thousand years old.

     He was very insistent that the book Australi Botanico (tr: Southern Plants) should get into the hands of the Praesul (leader or protector) of the Old Korcanian colonists, and was shocked to learn that the book was in Denerim. Thousands of lives were at stake -- the sealed portion at the back of the book would be needed to protect the Korcanian colony during the coming Blight.

     A man named Juvo was the Tratitor (master, teacher... or traitor); the Praesul was a woman named Elysia. Landon promised to get the book to them. The colony was to be established at Arksmonten, in the Frostbacks, as a citadel against the darkspawn. Tiro also mentioned that the original home of the Old Korcarians was far, far to the west, past Anderfels, at the Maris du Volca. There was some mention of the 20th Guardian (when Nocktai Kustos -- a Korcarian holiday -- begins), and of the rebel Miles.

     "Why haven't the Old Korcarians established their citadel before this Blight?"  Answer, "There's never been a Blight this far south before."

     Tiro can only communicate with people close to the Eluvian. At least three of them still exist in working condition:

 

  • deep below the Tower of Celatus

  • undersea, off the coast of Rivain

  • among the Emerald Graves, where the worst of the fighting was in the Dales

 

     Some of the other Eluvians could be repaired, perhaps; they could also be moved (though this one was very heavy). They could be used to contact the elven Dreamers -- mages within the Fade, "the Dreamers of Uthanorra / ones that are in the Thenarra". 

 

 

on to episode 42, The Renewal

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