When Falls the Hammer of Night
<dry> It’s a long afternoon for those searching for leads on the ‘fourth treatise’; while Sissil is able to identify a number of promising potential scholars of the arcane, every inquiry earns basically the same result: there is no fourth treatise. The fourth treatise was never finished.
<dry> Every scholar, every bookstore, nets the same result, and every lead from there only leads to the same dead end. After a long afternoon of walking the streets, however, one last lead remains.
<dry> Most have no idea what might have happened to the unfinished manuscript; ‘lost’ seems to be the general consensus, with ‘lost, who cares’ as a minority opinion from the seedier among those asked.
<dry> However, one final lead emerges after hours of canvassing.
<dry> An old woman who is said to provide healing for those down on their luck, charging various ‘favors’ for her services. The word ‘witch’ is mentioned on occasion, but always with a healthy amount of respect.
<dry> So it is that, searching for this last magic user, Sissil and Bira approach a rundown building in an even more rundown part of town, not all that far from the Darkest Hours…
<dry> [Time: Dark:30. Place: The bad part of town. Free to Act: Sissil, Bira]
<bira> “Why do all the interesting people live in this part of town?” Bira is being generous with the term ‘interesting’ and has spent the last few minutes jumping at noises and shadows.
<sissil> “Tell you what, Bira, I’ll try to explain gentrification to you after we’re safe and sound in the Full Plate again?” Sissil offers. She doesn’t exactly look at ease at this. Maybe Sissil has some superstitious stuff about her after all
<dry> Occasionally a distant noise can be heard, echoing from the alleyways. A soft sob. Grunts. Other noises less suitable for polite society.
<dry> The witch’s lair appears to have once been a multi-story building, but the uppermost floor is in disrepair; lamps can be seen burning cheerily in the bottom and second floors, though.
<sissil> Sissil sighs. “Suppose we have to ask after going this far, huh?”
<bira> “She might be expecting us.”
<sissil> Sissil shivers at
that comment as she walks up to knock on the door
<dry> There is a pause… then, without a further ado, the door swings slooooowly open. No one is visible.
<bira> “See?” Bira says perhaps too brightly, and steps past Sissil and into the house.
<sissil> Sissil follows Bira, keeping her hood drawn up for the time being.
<dry> There is a soft giggle, and the door creaks behind them, gently shutting itself; the room is dimly lit, with shadows dancing everywhere.
<sissil> Sissil doesn’t jump, she just sighs and keeps her shoulders slumped.
<dry> “Little mouse, little mouse… who’s that creeping into my house?” a voice calls.
<bira> Bira looks back at the door for a moment, then adjusts her book in the crook of her arm. “A pair seeking lost crumbs of knowledge, the sort that slips through the cracks in the floorboards.” Maybe the metaphor is a little tortured.
<dry> There’s a pause. “Knowledge?” comes the voice again, this time a bit more attentive. “Harrumph.” There’s a shuffling noise from upstairs, and the shadows of the staircase at the back of the room stir. Someone’s coming down, it seems.
<sissil> “Yes. Knowledge. Of a fourth volume where the world says there are three.” Sissil finally squares her shoulders and speaks.
<dry> “Harrumph,” comes again from the staircase, and a woman shuffles into the dim light of the lamps. “You’ve come a far way from where any decent person should be, looking for ‘knowledge’,” she says. She’s ancient, and not much taller than Bira; a pair of thick glasses gleam in the lamplight, hiding her eyes. She scowls more intently as she peers at Bira and Sissil.
<dry> “What in the gods’ names brings you out here?” she demands, then scowls again. “And no funny business, or I’ll turn you into toads.”
<sissil> Sissil brushes her hood back, and shakes her silver hair out. “No funny business.” She states clearly. “Just looking for a fourth treatise.”
<sissil> “… one written by Aska.”
<bira> “Everyone else says it doesn’t exist, but we’ve found a journal that talks about it as something the writer’s gone and read.”
<dry> The old woman is silent for a moment, scowling further. “A fourth treatise of Aska? Pah! If there was such a thing…” she pauses, then shrugs sourly, “…it’d probably be ignored just like the second and third. Everyone’s all about the first. But it’s poppycock, regardless.” She scowls. “Who sent you out here? Was it one of those hooligans trying to annoy me again?”
<sissil> “… No. it wasn’t. A man either died or was kidnapped, researching things that maybe should have been left alone.” Sissil ponders something, then sighs. “Besides, where would a hooligan find an Iron Hand to hire to annoy a lady who obviously has wisdom enough to keep her head down and not make trouble for no reason?”
<bira> Bira emits her own “Pah!” and grimaces. “Only idiots ignore the second and third treatises. Even beyond the intrinsic value of history, the three are a set and should be treated as such. The fourth included, perhaps.”
<dry> “Hrmph.” The old woman scowls at Sissil and waves a hand. “Trouble doesn’t always trouble itself to present a suitably troubling face.” Bira’s comment draws a look of interest, though; the old woman crosses her arms and harrumphs again. “Well. Maybe you do have a speck of wisdom about you,” she concedes grudgingly; after a moment, she sighs.
<sissil> "… a student of history should ignore no source, no matter how rarely referenced. Knowledge sometimes hides among what is percieved as not of worth.
<dry> “Too many pups out there learning to shoot fireballs and lightning bolts—” she waves her hands, and sparks of light erupt before fizzling into nothingness, “—without bothering to understand why they should. Or shouldn’t.” She shakes her head again. “Fine, I won’t turn you into toads.” She turns and starts to shuffle into the back, gesturing with one hand for the two seekers to follow.
<dry> “Come into my parlor, dearies,” the old woman cackles, in a disturbingly saccharine voice…
<sissil> Sissil follows, slowly. Perhaps she’s hesitant. Perhaps she’s just paranoid.
<bira> Bira follows with confidence.
<dry> The witch’s ‘parlor’ seems like more of a workroom. There’s a little more light (it does the woman no favors, making her look another twenty years older than she already did), and a few spare wooden chairs. There’s also an old iron stove with a small pot bubbling atop; the woman throws in some… something, but says nothing for a time while it bubbles.
<dry> After a few minutes, she digs out cups and fills them, handing a cup to Sissil and one to Bira. “Something to wet your throats,” she says, once the whatever it is is finished brewing. “Now. Someone was kidnapped or killed or… something, you say, and you read about this treatise in a journal. Since I’m awake anyway, might as well hear about it. Tell me the story.”
<sissil> Sissil sighs. “What do you know about ‘dreamstone’?” Sissil starts with. “Because I need to know how far back to start this story at…”
<dry> The woman is silent for a moment. “Start talking.” Her voice is quiet like the calm before a storm.
- Sissil starts at finding out that the alchemist in town was researching possible raw dreamstone ore, explains the events that happened at the lab, but glosses over the fact that there is a suspect currently who is a resident. Sissil keeps to the factual bits that she has to work with.
<dry> The old woman interrupts when Sissil names the alchemist. “Rellis Sterton?!” she asks, then laughs, sounding… relieved. “Foolish pup. I heard that he’d retired from the Arcanum after that hullabaloo. Damn fool.”
<dry> “Always wanted to believe the best until the worst bit him in the arse; if he’d been practical, he’d have seen how bad the politics were getting before—well. Still. If someone was going to take things over, better him than some of the pups I’ve seen… pah.”
<dry> She shakes off her reverie. “Still, if he’s the one researching it… well. Better than some of them.” She falls silent again as Sissil continues, her face darkening.
<sissil> “… Was researching it. He’s the one missing. We found some of but not all of his journals. Which lead us to seeking this fourth treatise. And in the long run, to this parlor.” She frowns a moment as she tilts her head. “… Oddly, I think this is the first time I’ve had a wise woman not try to incite a mob to chase me out of town…” She gives a complete ad lib
<sissil> “… well.. Missing. Or dead. And the ore, dreamstone or other, is missing.”
<sissil> “… if it
wasdreamstone, it’s missing. Cuz otherwise the townwould be missing.”
<dry> The old woman is silent. “I see,” she says at last, taking a drink of her tea. She turns away, staring out a window into the night. “You were right to come here. Few indeed could tell you much of the fourth treatise.”
<bira> Bira nods and sips at her own tea.
<dry> After a long moment, she resumes. “The fourth treatise is… restricted. For precisely the reasons I mentioned to you when I spoke of the first.” She glances to Bira. “The first is a study on the laws of Asirian magic; the basis upon which we have built today. The second and third were similar treatments of their history and laws.”
<dry> “All of which touched upon their magic, of course, but not to the extent of the first. This was widely viewed as a critical flaw in her later works; perhaps it was, if only in that it made those two less palatable to young would-be archmagi.”
<dry> She shrugs. “Likely not her fault; not a great deal remains, and much of her work was conjecture and extrapolation based on what was available. Namely, not much. Still, a significant portion of it was later corroborated by some of your records,” she says, glancing both to Bira and Sissil this time. After a moment longer, she sighs.
<sissil> Sissil remains quiet, thoughtfully.
<dry> “For what we call the fourth, she took a different approach. She wanted to try to tie details—and hard magic—back into her work.”
<dry> “She never finished it, of course. Her work took an… unexpected… direction.” She turns, looking at Bira and Sissil with a very hard gaze. “Even I can’t speak too much of it. Few have access to that information, and for good reason. Aska unearthed much. Dreamstone has potential, for good or for bad, but some of the other things she crafted lend themselves to evil far more than good.”
<bira> Bira’s brow clouds. “I can see why they might want to restrict that.”
<sissil> Sissil frowns… then starts giggling.
<sissil> “And those idiots said ‘lost, who cares’. That’s genius.”
<dry> The old woman smiles, not happily. “So long as it remains lost, all is well. It’s if it is found that people will care.”
<dry> “So. You have come seeking knowledge. Very well. I can show you the way… for a price. You are familiar with what I charge, correct?”
<sissil> “Other than ’it’s not money’, nobody wanted to talk about it.” Sissil states dryly… then Sissil’s eyes get very wide.
<sissil> She looks to Bira. “Wait. If he referenced the book in question
directly… there wasn’t a copy there.”
<bira> “His journal did say he’d need to go read it again. So it’s stored, perhaps securely.”
<dry> The old woman eyes Sissil for a moment, snorts a bit. “No. I charge… favors. A useful currency.”
<dry> “Normally I try to keep them fluid, to suit whatever the needs of the moment are. However, in your case… I will be straightforward with what I ask.”
<sissil> “Favors. A very open ended currency, yes.” Sissil has a neutral tone. one hand brushes through her hair, betraying nerves.
<dry> “If I aid you in this… I ask that you do not, under any circumstances, disseminate the knowledge in that treatise, and if you learn of someone trying to do so, you do all in your power to stop them,” the old woman says gravely.
<dry> “The fourth treatise is the fruit of one of the greatest minds ever to study Asirian magic, and what she unearthed has some potential for good… but if misused, the consequences could be disastrous beyond all measure.”
<bira> Bira takes a deep breath as she considers. “That goes against my instincts as a historian, but knowing what I do about the Asirians… I can believe the information is that dangerous. I can agree to that.”
<sissil> “… With the caveat of allowing us to speak with those who are not here with us but helping with this same investigation?” Sissil offers "I can live with that. From my understanding of what we’re sitting on, so to speak, I’d rather not stir ancient hornet’s nests without reasons.
<dry> The old woman nods at Bira; at Sissil’s caveat, she frowns, hesitating for a long moment… but at last she nods. “Speak with them, by all means. But you must ensure that they do not spread what lies within that tome. I have no desire to witness a Reckoning in modern times!”
<dry> The old woman sighs. “Very well, then. Tell me your names. I hadn’t expected to work at this hour, but if it must be done, then it must be.”
<sissil> “… I am Sissil Frostbreath, and, I’m afraid we never did ask your name, rude of us.”
<bira> Bira raises an eyebrow as she was in the middle of taking a sip of tea. Then she sets aside her cup and squares her shoulders. “Bira Tomedelver of Clan Brasshorn.”
<dry> The old lady looks amused. “Most just call me the Old Witch, but if you’re asking… a long time ago, they called me Jagger. Missus Barbara Jagger, the Old Witch (currently of Sylmore), at your service,” she says, letting out a full-throated cackle that sets the flames in the lamps dancing for a moment… then she clears her throat. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be right back.” With that, she heads out of the room.
<dry> She returns with a tray of scones after a handful of minutes. “I thought about working a spell to enforce our deal,” she says, sighing. “But no. I think maybe you two have the potential to appreciate exactly how awful it could be if these secrets leak. So listen closely, Sissil Frostbreath, and Bira Tomedelver of Clan Brasshorn.”
<dry> “Many, many years ago, Aska wrote her treatise, and with her fame and knowledge she founded the Collegium Arcanum. And because she desired more knowledge still, she poured her efforts into research, and produced her second and third treatises, on history and law… and last of all, she undertook to study Asirian society as a whole.”
<dry> “Religion. Practical applications of magic. Social stratification. All of these she touched on, but after a time she ceased her work, locking it away; she lived thirty years more, but she never finished her fourth treatise.”
<dry> “Upon her death, her papers were filed away, as the research of all magi at the College is—in the depths of the Grand Library. There it sits, to this day; the only reason even I know about is because I, like dear foolish Rellis, once held the rank of Professor Emeritus. A lifetime or so ago.”
<bira> Bira raises an appreciative eyebrow.
<sissil> “… the odds of two Professor Emerituses in this town?” She offers to Bira quietly. “And the odds of whoever is up to all this not knowing it.”
<dry> “Harrumph. It’s a big town. And the days when I was somebody are long ago. I didn’t even know Rellis was here, and he sure as hell didn’t know I was, otherwise the damn fool probably would have gotten himself mugged and chopped into giblets trying to pay a social call.” She snorts, shaking her head… but behind the gruffness she seems a bit sad.
<sissil> “… I should note that whoever did… whatever, they tried to frame us for it… and are now trying to pin it on his niece, who may or may not be innocent. And may or may not be strictly speaking alive. And has no problem with this section of town. So…” She frowns. "Pardon if I’m a little worried that you might be in danger?
<dry> The old woman meets Sissil’s eyes flatly. “Let them try,” she says quietly, with no emotion whatsoever… and as she speaks, all the lamps in the room dim, making the shadows stretch and grow disturbingly.
<sissil> Sissil studies the woman, then nods and offers what is obviously a blessing in halfling “… then may good hunting come to us all.”
<dry> The old woman nods. “And to you,” she says, in the same language, and the same dead quiet tone. Then, after a moment, “And if you see Rellis’s niece in this part of town, try and hide her for me! If you can do it, she’s not hard enough to be here!”
<dry> She turns, shaking her head, grumbling under her breath. “Damn girl probably takes after her uncle, doesn’t know the bad side of town from a damn park green…” she mumbles, heading for the stairs.
<sissil> Sissil gives a polite bit of a curtsey. “Shall… we let her have her peace, Bira?” There’s an emotion on Sissil’s face, but it’s somewhat hard to read. A mix of wonder at hearing someone else speaking her native language maybe? If so, it’s combined with a rather grim determination.
<bira> “Mmm.” Bira seems lost in thought, but heads for the door nonetheless.
<dry> It’s been a long, long day—moreso for some than for others, perhaps—but a fruitful one, nevertheless.
<dry> [Time: Midnight. Place: The Full Plate, Common Room. Free to Act: All]
- Seong appears as placid as ever. She’s eating something that’s somewhere between chili and stew, and playing with the puzzle box between bites.
- Zekki has set up a minor engineering marvel of straws and small stones to counterbalance … all for the expressed purpose of giving herself regular little portions of her orange juice just by opening her mouth to sip.
- Bira has an ale and a sausage so heavily-spiced it can be smelled from across the table. And Ambrutus’ head in her lap. Whether he wants the sausage or the ale is unclear.
<sissil> Sissil meanwhile has a mug of something that smells far too strongly of alchohol to describe as ‘ale’. And she has her deck of ‘cards’ out and is playing some sort of solitare like game. Neither completely hides the worry on her face.
<bira> Bira also has a look of concern on her face and is, for once, not immersed in her book.
<zekki> Ambrutus is most interested in either ale or sausage. Probably both. But there is just the big eyes looking most beseechingly up at Bira. With wet black nose wriggling and hopeful little tail-thumps now and then.
<sissil> Sissil finally speaks, “So. we know
whereit is. And who has access.” Sissil frowns. “…Bira, remind me, in theory, how much trouble we’re staring in the face?”
<bira> “Well, there’s the prospective lich with the materials and knowledge to wipe a city or nation off the map. Then there’s the bureaucracy we’ll have ot go through at the Arcanum. I’m not sure which is worse.”
<sissil> Sissil raises her mug in silent toast to that wisdom, and downs what’s left in the mug in one go.
<bira> “To be honest, I’m not entirely surprised it’s there. If we hadn’t found any information here, that would have been the logical place ot start asking again.”
<corwyn> “So it’s just as bad as it sounds, then?” Corwyn remarks, a poncho thrown around her form to hide her Lucille-esque costume. She’s just slipped into the common room, looking tired as she moves towards the others.
<sissil> “Worse, actually. Our previous worse case scenario has become merely the ‘middle of the road’ case.”
- Seong “I’d love an explanation of THAT.”
<corwyn> “I can’t stay long,” she adds, looking tired. “I shouldn’t stay away from the House too long if I can help it. One of the girls might stop by to see if Lucille’s really back.” She frowns upon hearing Sissel, letting out a long sigh. “Well. That’s fantastic. I hope I’m not luring out more than we can handle.”
<sissil> “The short version: Dreamstone at least has some potential for positive use, and some of the things the old man was digging into…”
<sissil> “Let’s just say I’m trying not to think about what people refuse to talk about.”
<sissil> “Because the possibilities at htis point… are prettttty bad.”
<bira> “The Fourth Treatise is unequivocally dangerous. A thorough study of Asirian culture, full of techniques with more applications for evil than good. It was never finished, and was archived, along with the rest of Aska’s writings, in the Grand Library of the Collegium Arcanum.”
<sissil> “Frankly, I’m sort of surprised they didn’t burn it.”
<bira> Bira looks at Sissil with disgust. “It’s knowledge. Regardless of how dangerous it might be, the task of the archivist is to preserve it. Protect it if need be, but it needs to still exist.”
<corwyn> Corwyn balls up a hand into a fist, hitting the wall next to her. “I fucking knew it.” She closes her eyes for a moment, shaking her head. “In over his head. Like most of them ar-” She stops, narrowing her eyes at Bira stepping towards her, a low growl in her voice. “Where?”
<zekki> “Esoteric forms of knowledge of a dubious benefit find themselves a method of preservation.” Gulp. “It’s why we don’t write any thing down.”
<sissil> “Grand Library, Collegium Arcanum. Known requirements for getting into the related vault is being a Professor Emeritus.”
<corwyn> “The fucking mages.” Corwyn grinds her teeth, looking at the others. She looks to Sissel, then to Bira. “Tell me everything.”
<sissil> “We, and he, are so far past ‘in over our heads’ that I fear this is a good time to note I don’t know how to swim.”
<bira> “Like I said, I’m not actually surprised it’s there. It’s one of the scheduled stops on my historical embassy tour.” she pats the heavy tome leaning against her chair.
<sissil> Sissil, uses a low tone to make sure being overheard wasn’t going to be an issue, as she relates the cliff’s notes version of the search for the treatise, being told it likely doesn’t exist, most people don’t care, then the old wise lady.
<sissil> Who not only knew of it, but explained
whyit was thought lost, and hopefully would stay that way because yeah.
<sissil> “Basically, her fourth book took the parts of the first three, then went for the practical. And she never finished writing it… Which is honestly for the bett…er…” Suddenly Sissil grins. “Hey, Lucille wanted to go to College, yeah?”
<corwyn> Both Corwyn’s hands reach up and rub her face. “If it’s somethin’ from those vaults, we might be better off runnin’ an’ not lookin’ back,” she growls. “Everything that’s locked in there is….” Corwyn locks up at Sissel’s suggestion. “No. No.” The words are firm and full of anger, one hand wound so tightly in a fist it shakes.
<sissil> "Is bad news. I happen to
agreewith you. The problem is, we need to know what it is our opposition may or may not have managed to squeeze out of our lovely professor’s head. And possibly other professors… I wonder how many have vanished ‘suddenly’ over the years
<zekki> “I’d say it depends on how close to success they were. If they were really productive, sooner than later, if they were hacks, then a few of the older ones might still be puttering about.”
<sissil> “… also…” Sissil sighs. “I have one last thought to throw on the table that I don’t like.”
<sissil> Sissil looks to Bira. “Given the promise we had to make to get that information… it might be a case that our professor might have been about to talk about a forbidden subject to the public. Which has a rather high penalty attached.”
- Seong “Only one more? With the amount of bad thoughts we’ve got, it won’t be noticed.”
<bira> Bira eyes Corwyn. “Eventually I’d like to know your story, you have some strong reactions to otherwise innocuous information.” The fact that it seems to parallel the anecdote Rellis had related in his journal she leaves unmentioned.
<sissil> “oh, trust me, the idea of mage-assassins of the Library is going to be enough to keep me awake for a while.”
<corwyn> Corwyn eyes Bira for a second. “You know what we know about this, and you don’t?” She clicks her tongue and shakes her head. “Doesn’t seem so innocuous t’ me.” She rolls her shoulders, trying to play off her anger. “Terrible things come out of that Academy, though. This being another one doesn’t surprise me.” She sighs. “What do we do next?”
<sissil> “try to find our missing duo of uncle and niece. If that fails…” She sighs. “If that fails, we’ll need to go read their playbook won’t we?”
<sissil> Sissil sounds grim as she says this. Grim, and with an expression that says she’d rather go take a walk on the sun.
<corwyn> Corwyn pauses for a moments, pursing her lips. “I need to leave soon. I’m going to have a busy day as long as I am pretending to be Lucille. Besides the professors, she was scheduled for… a surprising many jobs. Some private homes, a haberdaschery, a jewelry store…” She huffs. "It’s going to be interesting.
<sissil> “… a jewelry store?” Sissil asks. “that’s… an impressive amount of trust.”
- Seong “I can shadow you, if you want.”
<corwyn> ""Alen Jewels," Corwyn notes. “I suppose it is. But it sounds like she probably earned that trust, I’d imagine well before she got that job.” Swallowing, Corwyn shakes her head. “Maybe later in the day, Seong. I worry what might happen when it gets later. For now, I should go.” She turns, and then pauses, looking back at Sissel. “No,” she repeats again, before starting to the door.
<bira> “Breathe shallowly in the haberdashery. Quicksilver fumes. …Alen?” Bira leans down and hoists her book into her lap, flipping through to her notes. “…Sterton’s journal mentioned a Mr. Alen.”
- Seong “Good luck.” She says in a serious tone. She finally opens her puzzle box. It’s empty. She simply closes it again and sets it aside.
<sissil> “Well then…”
<sissil> Sissil sighs. “Seems like I know what I’m doing tomorrow.”
- Zekki ….reaches over and sneaks the puzzle box. Puts something in it. Closes and locks it up again and returns it to the original place with Seong totally none the wiser. Si- oh darn it she’s out of OJ.
<sissil> “I’m going to go get a tiara appraised, it seems.”
- Seong puts her puzzle box away with one hand, still focused mostly on her meal.
<dry> The day ahead looks to be a busy one. These seekers of the truth have poked and prodded, and now, a single crimson thread hangs loose from the shroud hanging over the mysteries before them—the incident at Sterton Alchemicals; the cargo hidden in the wagon; the vanishing of Lucille.
<dry> But what truth lies hidden within?
<dry> [Strange Whispers] – (0:24/192kbps)
<dry> Next time, on Hammer of Night.