An Adventure to the West

Nathchi

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Lora's warm smile slowly disappeared and shifted to a worried expression. She looked down at her scrolls and turned around to put them beside the bookshelves. Time appeared slow and it took a moment for Lora to answer Ysanne's question.
-"I have heard about it from my father..." Lora started. She was kneeling down with the scrolls and carefully put them down like a newborn baby. Then like a graceful dancer she turned her body and at the same time rose up.
-"I do not really know much myself about the situation of the Heinrhie mountain. I have however eavesdropped on my father as I was to return him some papers. He was in a meeting with one of the drawfs from the mountain. I didn't hear much sadly..." Lora then turned her gaze towards the map that depicted the whole area of Dunswile.
-"But it appears to be a grave situation. I do not know if the autumn sickness have started to spread to Wolhtung as well." Lora sighed. There was a tension in the air. A feeling of worry and an absence of information were clearly visible in Lora's expression and as she turned her eyes towards Ysanne, it was almost like she was telling her 'sorry'.
-"When I ask my father about it, he will dodge the question. Telling me not to worry. I want to trust my father, but the dwarfs seems desperate." Lora then slowly walked closer to Ysanne and started to talk in a low voice.
-"If one want information. The best alternative would be to ask from the source itself, no?" Lora made a small smile towards Ysanne's reaction upon hearing the words. Perhaps wondering why she started to talk in a low tone.
-"If you hurry you may still be able to catch up to one of the dwarfs. I'm sure one of them is still eager to sell their wares, not giving up on the villagers here. If nothing else, perhaps the drawf Gurn may have some answers. I can put away the maps for you to carry if you want to have a look at them later?"
 
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Zarko Straadi

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Ysanne listened with increasing concern as Lora spoke. If there was nothing to worry about, he wouldn't feel a need to hide it from her, would he? When Lora raised the idea of going to ask the Dwarf, Ysanne bit her lip. I couldn't ask Lora to borrow the key...it unlocks the Village's stores for the winter! And if some pickpocket got it while I had it...

"I...need to make a copy of the map that I can write on, then consult the Village records here so I can map out how the Sickness has spread each year. May I ask how long you will be at the task you were headed for when I came to the door? If it will not be long, then I could just come back after I have had a chance to try to speak with the Dwarf. I would not want to be a hindrance to you in any way. You have already been so helpful..."
 

Nathchi

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Lora gave Ysanne a warm smile.
-"Don't you worry. I'll be here for awhile. You see, I need to sort out some documents here since my father don't have the time to do so. I can take care of the key and wait for you here. But if the door is locked, I have with all certainty went back inside." She said with a small chuckle. As the chief's secretary the girl seemed at home with her tasks, like she was born for it. And despite her young age similar to Ysanne, she appeared much more civil and mature than other girls in the village. A not so big suprise coming from someone who was born into a family of wealth and responsebility to take care of the village together with her father.

When walking back outside once again the sunny morning that had been filling the environment with life was now turning to a darker and gray afternoon. There were more grey clouds now arriving from the direction of the big sea and clearly had much rain to drop, yet the clouds hold the rain firmly not ready to let it go. The wind was still calm, so there were no signs of a storm to come any time soon but it would probably be rainfall later in the night. The villagers still worked hard to prepare for the winter to come and now more resources and wagons from the neighbouring villages had arrived to Dur. Most were simple village humans and not many dwarfs could be seen.

It wasn't a suprise however since the travel from Dur to Wolhtung was about an 7 hour ride with a wagon up to the mountains. However it is faster from Wolhtung to Dur with an 1 hour difference because of the downhills from the mountain, making the ride down to Dur a 6 hour long ride which was still a whole day of preperation and traveling. The chances were low that many dwarfs from Wolhtung was left in the village because of the travel and to make it back home in time. However it seemed to be one dwarf that was still very persistent to sell his wares.

It was the same dwarf from earlier, but now stood and bickered with a butcher in a desperate attempt to try to sell his wares. The very fine knifes and cleavers wrapper in cloth resting in the small carriage. It didn't seem like a success though as the butcher, similar to the leather shop owner, very angry declined his offers and closed the door. The dwarf with his paper in hand screamed at the door, kicked it and then turned around and kicked the surrounding small rocks on the ground. The dwarf then sat on his carriage very tired from his outlet of rage and in a very miserable state just sat there with his head looking down at the ground as the surrounding villagers walked past him like he didn't exist.
 
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Zarko Straadi

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But...wasn't she headed out when I came? Ysanne thought, trying to hide her confusion at Lora's response. Maybe she's just being kind--no time to figure it out. "Thank you so much, Lora. You have been a great help to me. If there is ever anything I can do for you, I will do my best. I will be back as quickly as I can!" she said, then hurried out to search for the Dwarf.

To her great relief, she found him, arguing as before, but this time with the butcher. Ysanne hung back, not daring to interrupt their exchange. She winced a little as the Dwarf vented his anger, but then he sat down on the running board of his carriage looking very despondent. Ysanne gathered her courage, took a deep breath, and made her approach.

"Pardon me, Master Dwarf..." she said. "I...uh...overheard your earlier conversation with the tanner...you said 'the Mountain is dying.' May I ask what you meant by that? Oh! I'm...my name is Ysanne, I work for Dheorin the Wizard. I...I'm also friend to Gurn the Tinkerer. Perhaps there is a way I can help?"
 

Nathchi

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The dwarf looked at the young girl at a loss for words. He was dumbfounded and having been met with rage and negativity all day long, it was a weird shift when suddenly being met with kindness. The small man suddenly stood up on his feet as he took a hold of the rope connected to the carriage.
-"I can tell ya' about it." He said but then looked towards the other villagers that with a mindful eye and curiousity observed the two with suspiciousness. It was clear that the other villagers were weary of the dwarf's ongoing rants and loud arguments with others and it was also clear that the dwarf was now tired of the constant watchout.
-"Let us go somewhere quiet." The dwarf then said as he turned around and started to walk outside of the center of the village. Further down the road which was the same road that leads to the outside of Dur the dwarf made a stop when there were no more people to observe or disturb them. The dwarf sat on his carriage once again. Exhausted he sighed and pulled of his gloves and let them rest on his lap. He then looked at Ysanne.
-"So ya' want to kno' about Heinrhie?" The dwarf asked Ysanne. The small man was tired and it was clear by his voice from all the shouting from earlier. His voice was even more raspy than the usual older dwarf.
-"No one wants to believe us. No one. I tell all the people in Dur, in Freia and in Alkas but no one listens." The dwarf sighed once again.
-"Maybe if I tell ye' that comes from the village, maybe then the damn humans filled with wool in their ears will listen." He said looking down at the ground, shaking his head in disappointment. He then looked at Ysanne once again, but with determination in his eyes.

-"I want ya' to listen real well. Maybe ye' can pursuade the people to open their eyes. I will only tell ya' this once and then I have to make my way back home."

-"I'm sure that ye' from Dur have heard the many stories of our trading business between Dur and Wolhtung? Well even before that the dwarf have since a long time ago taken recourses from the mountain. And now... the materials are even less than before. Because of age of war between Wolhtung and outside forces many weapons have been made, but now ye' humans have started to gather tools as well. Even if I wanted to... there is no saving from a mountain that is starting to be emptied." The man started to look towards the mountains in the distance that looked like it could be touched and yet at the same time was very far away.
-"All of us dwarfs have talked with every chief in all the neighboring villages. Yet they don't listen." He turned his gaze toward Ysanne again.
-"The mountain will surely survive for another 10 to 15 years but after that... all the useful materials from the mountain will be gone if it continues in this rate..."
-"The mountain will be dead."
 
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Zarko Straadi

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"Maybe if I tell ye' that comes from the village, maybe then the damn humans with wool in their ears will listen," the Dwarf said, looking down at the ground and shaking his head.

But what are the chances people will listen to me?! Ysanne thought. Though she served the Wizard of Dur, she hardly spoke for him, nor carried his authority. But maybe I can find a way to help, she thought as she listened carefully to the merchant's tale.

When he finished, she was silent in thought for a moment as she sifted through the things she'd learned thus far in hopes of finding something that could be of assistance. The currents of life flow in circles, she thought, remembering one of the maxims from Torin's early magical training, and some of the applications that went along with it. But what can be given back to the Mountain, in order to keep it alive?

"I will do what I can, Master Dwarf, but I cannot promise that the villagers will take heed. It is too easy to willfully ignore a problem when there is no readily apparent way to solve it. Even if the villagers willingly accept the higher prices you have to charge, that will not restore abundance to your mines.

"But...perhaps there are other ways to give life to the Mountain. You will have many empty tunnels and galleries there, from the mining you have done, yes? I think it would be possible for you to cultivate medicinal mushrooms there, such as the lion's mane, on a much larger scale than we can in growing cellars. Now, this village and the others close by will not provide a large enough market for high-value medicinal mushrooms, but...I have been given good reason to believe that significant improvements in long-distance transport may become possible soon, so that you could exchange medicinal mushrooms for metals and fuel for your industries from further abroad.

"Underground spaces in the mines stay at constant temperature, don't they? We have wine cellars and ice houses here, but you would be able to store wine, spirits, and other products of fermentation in far greater quantity in empty mines.

"If your people's livelihood does not depend solely on limited troves of metals that must inevitably run out, then your prices would not have to be quite so high, and could be balanced by trading for imported metals."
 

Nathchi

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The dwarf was listening intensely to the young girl's explanations. "Even if the villagers willingly accept the higher prices you have to charge, that will not restore abundance to your mines." Ysanne would tell the puzzling merchant dwarf. He would nod in agreement.
-"Aye. Dat's true." He said and continued to listen to Ysanne. When she was done, the dwarf was even more puzzled.
-"Mushrooms ya' say?" The dwarf was clearly not an expert in the area but whatever advise that was offered to save the mountain was better than none. But the dwarf was still pondering about it for a long moment.
-"Ye' talkin' about this transport 'n' importation but..."
-"Aye... I wonder if such a thing is possible." The dwarf muttered. He would sit quietly on the carriage, looking down at the ground until he turned to Ysanne once again.
-"I don't know if it can make the market survive for long and both Wolhtung and the other villages are dependant on the mountain's metals in order to make the tools ye' all need." The dwarf then jumped out from his carriage and took a hold of the rope. The drawf looked up to the young girl.
-"I'll see what I can do. However, it will not be easy to convince the Wolhtung leaders I will say. After all, even if we have these mushrooms ye' speak of, I don't think it'll save the mountain, aye?" The dwarf's once despairingly looks was now turning more hopeful. Although there were still uncertainties, no one could really tell what the future would hold. The dwarf was about ready to go but turned around the second he was about to go his way.
-"Ah by the way." The small man said, one index finger rising.
-"As I've said, I don't know if the Wolhtung leaders will list'n, I don't even know if they will list'n to ya' humans. What with all the ruckus being made. But if ye' old guy Dur could make a trade between us villages. I do not see it to be impossible to make a historical trade again." After his speech the lonely drawf with his small carriage would then continue on the dirty road up towards the mountains. With how late in the afternoon it was, the dwarf would probably have to take a stop at one of the villages by the road for the night before heading back to Wolhtung. The sun was now lower and a chill in the wind gently touched the skin, reminding of an even more horrible cold to come when the landscapes would be covered in a blanket of snow.
 
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Zarko Straadi

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Heading back to the town hall, Ysanne had a lot to think about. Will the mushroom idea even work? There would be areas with different temperature and humidity as the mining tunnels go deeper, wouldn't there? So there should be at least some places with perfect growing conditions...but what do I know about Dwarven mines?

And what if we can't find another source for metals? Maybe Gurn's prime movers could be used to power some kind of digging machinery, so miners could dig deeper? But even if they could find more metals that way, that would only postpone the problem, wouldn't it? Sooner or later any new finds would run out too. Unless maybe there's more metal as you go deeper? But it might also be more dangerous. Are there ways we can conserve metal, or use less for tools?


She shook her head to clear it as she approached the looming doors of the Chief's house. That's something to worry about after we've dealt with the Autumn Sickness...if we can 'deal' with the Autumn Sickness. Gurn might have better ideas on what to do about the mines anyway. Ysanne reached out to try the door, turning her mind back to the problem at hand.
 
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Nathchi

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As Ysanne waited outside by the doors a small gasp could be heard from behind. It was Lora that was coming from the direction from the right side of the building. A hint that she have been in the cellar up until now. In her hands she hold some papers instead of the scrolls.
-"Ah! Ysanne! I was just about done!" She said as she walked up the stairs. Upon a further look the papers in her hands were older maps including the ones that Ysanne have seen before of Dunswile and Dur. Lora opened the heavy door and they walked inside.
-"I brought some papers with me." Lora said, nodding towards the bundle of papers.
-"I thought that it would be more comfortable to sit by the library than in the cold cellar." Lora said with a laugh.
The interior was extraordinary and there were some larger painting decorating the walls, many that had similar features as the chief depicting older men with broad shoulders and beard with a stern look on their faces. One in particular was standing out more than others with darker hair, he had a meager face with bags under his eyes, however his eyes and body language seemed determined.
-"That is the village's founder, Arregon Dur." Lora said.

The hallway was very short and opened up to a larger area with three doors on each side. In the middle of the room were a chandelier that would shout out about the chief's richness and extravagant nature. The same extravagant nature could be seen with several flower decorated vases that was resting on top of wooden drawers neatly designed with petal shaped features. Several doors were closed and what was hidden behind them was a mystery. On the right side a door was open and inside could the chief be seen sitting by his working space. When Lora called out to her father he only made a small sound to acknowledge them and didn't even bother to look up from his paperwork. Right beside him were papers upon papers that the chief took, wrote on and then put it on another stack of paper and like a machine did it over and over again. Lora sighed, she had a sad look on her face. Perhaps this was a common thing Lora had to deal with.

-"Come, the library is over here." Lora then said and walked to the left side of the large area. Lora opened a door and a smaller room similar to the chief's appeared, however it was instead decorated with several shelves with books. Just like the cellar the room had a wooden table in the middle, although it being a much more neatly designed one with wood that could reflect a persons face. With it were four chairs, two one either side. Lora started to put the papers on the table and neatly seperated them. She turned towards Ysanne.
-"Have a seat." She said and nodded towards one of the chairs.

As Ysanne would sit down Lora put the other papers she had in hand in front of her. It was documented papers of the villages people. Lora sat down beside her and took one of the papers.
-"This one here." She said as she showed the paper. With it were several names and to which family tree they belonged. There were also a date on the upper right corner.
-"This is from 15 years ago around autumn." Lora started.
-"Do you see here?" Lora then pointed towards an odd spot on the paper. Indeed, upon closer look odd place on the paper had only one deceased and it was accidental death. The person was a young man helping with building a house and upon his death his wife had to take care of the economical part for her family with three kids. Lora then took out another paper dated 1 year later.
-"Now see here." Lora showed the other paper and on it the list of deceased went up by 14 people. The years after had similar death count afterwards and one could see the numbers getting higher.
-"Now do you remember me telling you that I said we had records from 100 years back?" Lora asked as she took out another piece of paper.
-"Look at the date." Lora said and pointed. When comparing the years there was always a year when the number of deceased in the autumn was very abnormally few comparing the surrounding years. However going back 50 years the death rate seemed to be normal.
-"Going back futher than 50 years seems to just show very normal deceased rates. However 50 years ago it looks like it started." Lora said as she tried to gather the papers.
-"If we look here from 50 years ago it first goes 7 years with abnormal death rates and then it appears to be a halt with only 3 deaths. Then it goes from 7 to 6 years, then six years to four years, then fours years to 8 years, 8 years to 10 and then to 15." Lora took a breath from talking so much. All the papers was starting to almost make her a bit dizzy but from the look of it Lora had a good time. Perhaps this was something far more interesting rather than taking care of her fathers papers.
 
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Zarko Straadi

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Ysanne smiled at Lora's eagerness. When Lora mentioned the sequence of numbers, Ysanne reached into her satchel and retrieved a small leather-wrapped parcel, unwrapping it to reveal a wax tablet and stylus. "Seven, six, four, eight, ten, fifteen," she muttered as she tallied up the numbers. She tilted her head quizzically. "So, you're including the halting year at the end of each set of Sickness years?" she said. She wrote down "6, 5, 3, 7, 9, 14" under the list of numbers Lora had given her. If it should turn out that there was some kind of numerological or astrological correspondence involved, it might relate only to the years the Autumn Sickness was active, skipping the intervening years when there were no Sickness deaths. "But we don't know if this is going to be a halting year or not," she said to herself, adding a question mark to the last number. She tried a few operations with the numbers, scribbling on her tablet, but no pattern or sequence was readily apparent. Subtracting each number of Sickness years from the number before it almost produced a pattern (1, 2, -4, -2), but the current fifteen year (and counting) streak of Sickness years produced a -5, which eliminated the idea of alternating rising/falling doubling sequences.

We don't even know for sure that there were no Autumn Sickness deaths before fifty years ago. If there were just a few, they wouldn't have stood out from the rest, she thought. Unfortunately, the scribes were spotty in recording individual causes of death, except when there was a notable story involved or the deceased was in the prime of life, as was the case for the construction accident during the last halting year. Deaths among the elderly or cases of child mortality were treated matter-of-factly and recorded as a lump sum. "In the year fifty, a terrible wasting sickness carried away many," the scribe had written that year, along with a brief description of symptoms; but he had only recorded the total of all deaths for that year. Statistics got a bit better as time went on, and the Sickness became known as a recurring phenomenon, but even then the kind of precision data Ysanne needed for her chart of the Sickness' spread was mostly lacking.

"Wait...the halting years are sort of a pattern, aren't they? I mean, a normal flu or plague will come, stay around for awhile, then maybe go away for awhile and come back, but they don't pause for periods of exactly a year and then come back again, and do that over and over... Do you know of anything unusual that happened 50 years ago, or maybe a few years before that? Especially anything that might involve magic?"
 

Nathchi

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Astonished Lora observed Ysanne writing and mumbling to herself. Back and forth the numbers would go on the tablet and to Lora it was like Ysanne had an invisible field surrounding her, making it difficult to not disturb her focus. Lora could see the thoughts going around and round inside the girls head until Ysanne asked Lora her question.
-"Magic?" Lora said in a questionable tone, putting her finger on her chin. She thought for a moment.
-"Sadly I don't know anything about it. But I think it was a fructuous year for all the villages here in Dunswile." Lora then went up from her chair and searched for something in the shelves but came back empty handed.
-"I'm sorry but I can't find anything right now. But from what I have heard from my father I think it was a year in which all the villages had it very rich with trading, especially from Wolhtung. I could ask my father about it?" Lora then once more gathered the papers of the village deceased report. Looking through it, she couldn't find much information going from the lists. As she started to look through them one by one a knock could be heard from the door. It was Lora's father. His early cheery attitude was now replaced with a very exhausted and tired expression.
-"Lora, my daughter. Would you be so kind as to escort our guest out? It is getting rather late and we have dinner to prepare." Lora's father nudged his head to the window and indeed it was now getting darker. The sky in the horizon was now an orange-pink color and the sky above had a dark blue tint.
-"Ah.. uh, one thing before that could we ask-" Lora was about to ask a question but her father interrupted her.
-"Could we please take care of that tomorrow? We have dinner to make." Her father said, rubbing his eyes as he let out a tired sigh. Lora then with a quilty look nodded and turned to Ysanne.
-"I'm sorry, could we continue with this tomorrow? I can try to gather more information till then." Lora said in a low tone. Lora then lent Ysanne the two maps and a small bundle of the records from the deceased list that could be of aid. After that Lora escorted Ysanne to the door as asked. Lora, a bit sad that it was already over looked down over to her right.
-"I'm sorry.." She said. It was clear from her expression that Lora had a lot of fun during their time together.
-"B-but I can help you tomorrow again if you'd like? I can ask my father about what happened 50 years ago and also check the cellar if there are any hidden documents about it." The girl had a determined face and was a bit too close to Ysanne's face.
-"Can you make it back home without my help? It can be dangerous to go around in the dark." Looking around it was now getting dark fast and the orange hue in the horizon was getting thinner.
 

Zarko Straadi

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"Please don't apologize. You have helped m---helped us so much! And could you please pass on to your father our gratitude for letting me come in and have access to the records? I'll come back tomorrow if I can. I really enjoyed...getting to spend time with you," Ysanne said nervously, hoping Lora felt the same way. As much as she treasured her friendship with "Uncle" Gurn...he could never be a girl her own age.

...

"Concentrate, boy! How are you ever going to be Wizard after me if you can't even master the Stone?" Dheorin's voice made Ysanne hesitate at the door of Dheorin's laboratory. She worked the latch slowly, carefully, then cracked the door open enough to squeeze through, and shut the door behind her as quietly as she could.

"There you are." Dheorin's voice made her jump and spin around. "Took you long enough," he grumbled, trying to keep his voice low. He cast a scowl over his shoulder into the meditation chamber, then made his way over and waved her to follow him out into the garden. "So? What have you got?"

Ysanne pulled out her wax tablet and started explaining what she'd learned, showing him the pattern of Sickness years and halting years, excitement building as she spoke. "Was Torin able to learn anything from the astrological charts?" she asked. "If we could see what the charts have for these halting years--"

"And what would you know about astrological charts? Hmm?"

"...Uh..." she stammered, lowering her eyes. "...Sorry, I meant, if you and Torin could see what the charts have for these halting years..." Feeling the Wizard's gaze upon her, a change of subject was definitely in order. "Master Dheorin, would it be possible for me to go back to the Chief's house tomorrow? Lora said she could ask her father about anything that might have happened fifty years ago that might relate to magic and the start of the Sickness."

"Hmph. How's any work gonna get done around here if you're always out gallivanting around town?" Dheorin snapped, grimacing and rubbing his temple.

"I could stay up later and--"

"Bah! I'll set him to your chores. If he doesn't have what it takes to be a Wizard, we'll see how he likes being a serving girl!"

Ysanne's eyes widened, but she dipped her head. "Thank you, Master Dheorin. I hope Lora and her father will have something useful. She said that the year at the start was especially fruitful for all the villages in Dunswile. Could...could someone have done something...like try to cast a spell to bring prosperity, but it backfired after the first year and brought the Sickness instead?"

Dheorin frowned. "That would be powerful magic indeed. That would have been before there was a Wizard in Dur. I suppose the village Alchemist might have--what am I talking with you about this for, girl? Feed him if he gets hungry, I'm going to bed."

"Yes, Master Dheorin." After the Wizard left, Ysanne cast a glance toward the Library. If he's in bed, and Torin is meditating with the Stone--
A moan of frustration coming from the meditation chamber interrupted her thoughts. I'd better not. If I got caught in there, they'd kill me.

Instead, she glided quietly toward the door of the meditation chamber. Torin sat on a cushion in the center of a Circle of Contemplation, a complex geometric diagram centered on an interlaced 12-rayed and 7-rayed star. His back was to her, blocking her view of the altar, and the stand for the Scrying Stone of Dur, the village's only true magical artifact.

"I bet you think that's just hilarious, don't you?" he snapped. "Come to gloat?"

"No. Could I ring the singing bowl for you? Maybe it would help?"

Torin huffed. "Don't bother. You've got a big day tomorrow, and I'm not gonna be able to focus on this dumb thing anyway." He got up, and she was able to steal the briefest glimpse at a palm-sized disc of black stone set on a stand of intricate gold filigree before his approaching form blocked her view.

...

Though the back of her mind worried about the grudge Torin would probably hold against her for having to live a day in her life, the cool morning air and colors of sunrise lifted her spirits. A smile came to her lips as the Chief's house came into view, and she quickened her steps to reach the door and give a knock.
 
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Nathchi

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-"Father..." With twidling thumbs Lora sat by the dinner table, it was now early morning with the sun in the horizon painting the room with light and the breakfast with which Lora have made were neatly put together on the table. A thick loaf of bread, potato mash, butter, a sallad with tomatoes and a very fine currant drink from the neighbouring village Alkas. This very fine breakfast would make any farmer's mouth water and with so much on the table, it would also make any farmer filled with jealousy. But that was not relevant for the village's chief and especially not to his daughter that is raised in this every day normal nature. With a firm grip around the knife Lora's father started to cut the bread and put a slice on his plate. Lora unsure if her dear father have heard her was about to call again when her father, still looking down at the bread and now butter knife in hand said;
-"Yes, my daughter? What is it that you want to tell me?"
-"Ah.. uhm.. well.." Lora now very nervous had lost her made-up manuscript in her head and tried to sort out the questions she had in mind.
-"Do you... know of what happened fifty years ago?" Lora asked as she took a slice of bread to her own plate and now she finally had the attention from her father that now looked straight at her with a puzzled look. It was clear that Lora's question was not something that he was prepared for. Lora's father looked at her for a moment, trying to figure out why she would ask such a question, then he remembered that Lora was sitting together with Dheorin the wizard's servant together with a bunt of papers just some hours ago. He sighed as he was just about done putting the potato mash in the side of the plate, making sure it doesn't touch the bread.
-"Well.." He cleared his throat.
-"What I have heard from my father and grandfather is that it was a fructuous year for all the villages here in Dunswile. Back then the dwarfs had found a lot of iron along with other metals from Heinrhie mountain and there where a lot of trading between the villages. That summer was also perfect for the crops to grow and it was believed that the gods of nature have listened to our prayers. I do not really believe of these gods but it was indeed a very perfect year for Dunswile. Almost too perfect." He said, taking a bite from his bread. Excited Lora leaned forward to hear more.
-"So you have questioned the nature of that year?" Lora asked. Now her father started to get a big flustered.
-"Ahh... w-well, why yes of course Lora. I have asked both my father and grandfather before he left, may he rest in peace the old man, but I have never gotten a clear answer." He then took another bite of his bread and then cleared his throat.
-"Anyway, it was a very long time ago. An-" He was about to change the subject but Lora would not give up and interrupted him right away.
-"Do you think it could be a cause of magic? With what the autumn sickness and all." When Lora started to speak of the prohibited subject Lora's father started to cough and almost choked on his piece of bread.
-"Now now, Lora." He said with a cough after drinking his currant.
-"Please leave such matters to your old father here. Now, on other subjects have you spoken with that young lad, uhm, what was his name again? Corin? From the Richard family in Alkas? I have heard from his father that you haven't-" Angrily, Lora got up from her chair.
-"Oh please father, why do you not take me seriously?" Lora then would go away from the table.
-"Lora!" Her father called but to no avail. Now the birds could be heard from outside the window and alone he sat by the table.

--------

Sitting by the library she could hear a knock from the locked door, it was her father.
-"Lora..? That servant of Dheorin's is here to meet you." He called from the other side of the door. Then like a flash Lora got up from her chair, took the paper and got out. Excited she opened the door and saw Ysanne outside waiting for her.
-"Ysanne, hi!" Lora then took a hold of Ysanne's hand and together they went into the library again. Lora started to lit some candles before sitting down at the table and unlike before Lora now had with a different paper in hand to show off.
-"When I looked through the library I found this." Lora showed the paper to Ysanne. It was old and a bit ragged and the person's handwriting was very sloppy but readable enough to decipher its contain.

...Looking through the victims of the seasonal disease we have found a small portion of unnatural liquid in the blood.
It is very tiny and hard to decipher what exactly it is but we believe that this might be the cause of it all. Analysis of this substance is required.

Date Twenty third October

After two weeks there have been no luck with bringing an analysis of this substance. We have tried to mix herbs in order to get some sort of reaction and also tried alchemy from our best doctors. We have already seven deaths from these past two weeks including a family of three.
The infant died almost instantly. Yet we can see these small spots of darkblue liquids in the blood.

Date Twenty fifth October

One of our alchemy doctors believes that the substance can be from a magical source given the circumstances when analysing it.
There are however no definitive proof and we are still checking for reports.
Another one died yesterday.

The writing then ends.
-"I could only find this paper, I have no idea where the rest might be. But from what it seems they must have left everything on hold. Or perhaps didn't have the tools to continue the analysis." Said Lora with the paper in hand.
 
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Zarko Straadi

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Ysanne felt a jolt when Lora grabbed her hand and pulled her back down into the Library. Lora's excitement was contagious. It felt like the start of some thrilling quest right out of a tale. Or maybe it was the way Lora was treating her as a partner on the adventure, rather than a servant who ought to be seen, but not heard. Then Lora showed her the mysterious manuscript.

"Wow...that's...amazing, but also sad. Do you know who wrote it, or when? Would it be alright if I made a copy?" Ysanne said, opening her satchel so she could access her scribal tools and parchments. "I wish they'd explained what alchemical procedures they'd used in greater detail..." she muttered to herself. "Oh! Did your father say anything about what happened fifty years ago?"
 

Nathchi

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" Wow...that's...amazing, but also sad."
-"Indeed." Lora stated in a sad tone.
"Do you know who wrote it, or when? Would it be alright if I made a copy?" Ysanne asked as Lora made a nod to her last question but then put a finger on her chin. She was thinking hard.
-"Sadly this was the only thing that I could find this morning and there are no reports of the year. It is either smudged or removed altogether." Lora then rose up from her chair and started to check the shelves. When Ysanne then asked Lora the last question Lora's face dropped a bit and a sad expression emerged. First she made a small sigh as she continued to looking through the shelves as if nothing had happened.
-"Oh, it was mostly what I have already told you before regarding that year being very fructuous. Apparently the dwarfs had found a lot of iron and other metals from the mountain and the farmer's around the different villages had a perfect summer for crops to grow thus making trading productive." Lora started to take out one book, looked in it and then put it back into the shelf again.
-"My father was very skeptical upon hearing these stories from his father and grandfather. He never got a clear answer and when I asked him about it oohh... he had the nerve to-" Trying to hold in her feeling of anger Lora started to clutch her hand together and breathed out.
-"Just because I'm his daughter doesn't mean I am incapable of dealing with these sorts of matters. But no! My role will only be to marry a man I don't even like as he will take care of the village while I will just bear the name of the next chief's wife! Isn't it also part of my responsibility to look after Dur?" In her anger books fell down from the shelf onto the floor and she started to breath heavily. After Lora's small tantrum she started to calm down and were quiet for a moment before she spoke again.
-"...Excuse me for such uncouth behaviour. It was on the spur of the moment." As Lora would pick up the books that fell onto the floor a paper could be seen sticking out. Out of curiousity Lora picked it up and started to read it.
-"Ysanne. Have a look at this!" Lora with a beaming look put the piece of paper on the table. It was another note.

Date Second December
After futher research our best alchemist Dunmil Rumblewing have found a connection between the mysterious substance and magic.
Upon a small reaction from the magical stone together with the mysterious substance it has now sparked an interest of further analysis.
It is still however a mystery as to why this substance is found in the blood stream.

Me and Dunmil have our suspicions if it can relate to Heinrhie mountain since it is believed that magical stones have been found there.
Futher analysis is required.

Date fifth December
Upon speaking with the village chief, he rejects our further analysis to the mountain believing it to be "harmful" for the reputation between our villages as well as for the trading business. When speaking of our hypotheses regarding the reaction between the magical stone and the substance, the chief suggests that we will have to choose another method of approach.
Until further notice I will disregard our chief's order and head up to Heinrhie mountain in order to find clues.
Dunmil will continue his research here.

-"Dunmil... Rumblewing?" Lora said in a confused tone.
-"Isn't he one of the farmer's closer to the forest? Never in my mind would I have believed that that plump bearded old man was an alchemist." Lora then took out the map of Dur village and pointed to where his house was.

Illustration_mappfDur_point.jpg
 

Zarko Straadi

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Offering a smile to Lora's nod, Ysanne dipped her quill and started to write. Under the current date, she wrote:

Scribe: Ysanne of Dur, Servant to Magister Dheorin, Wizard of Dur.
Certified by:

Scribal Note: This is a transcription of an older document by an unknown author, found in the library of the Village Chief of Dur. The original remains there. The date of its writing is also unknown, but it must have been less than fifty years prior to the date of this writing, as it makes mention of the Autumn Sickness, which is first recorded as of that year. I have copied the document exactly as written and made no changes to its text..
Then she set about meticulously copying the note letter by letter as she listened to Lora. When Lora mentioned that the Dwarves had also had a very prosperous year finding iron and other metals, Ysanne's eyes brightened. But then Lora's words turned to her own life, and Ysanne felt her heart go out to her. By instinct, Ysanne remained silent through Lora's little outburst. Though in Lora's case, anger was closer to adorable than threatening.

"'Uncouth?'" Ysanne said. "Maybe you should get angry more often if it proves to be such an effective way of finding needed documents," she said, giving Lora a little smile. "If it helps...I know exactly how you feel. I learn everything I can about the Arcane Arts, but no one thinks I am good for anything but laundry and household chores. You are your father's secretary. You already know more about how things run here in Dur than any random fellow..." Ysanne blushed, fearing she had already said too much. She stopped to write another note before copying the second document:

Scribal Note: This appears to be another page from the same document. It is written in the same hand.
"Oh! Do you remember that Dwarf from yesterday?" Ysanne looked over her shoulder to make sure Lora's father wasn't standing in the doorway or something. Then she started speaking quietly, for Lora's ears only. "He said 'the Mountain is dying.' They are having trouble finding metals, so he had to raise his prices. And that's causing friction between the Dwarves and the people here. It seemed strange to me at the time that the Mountain could be running out of metals. I mean, it is a mountain, and we are just small villages, and the metals we need would have to be very small compared to the processes that make a mountain. Though I know nothing about mining.

"But if magic is involved, the troubles of Dur and Heinrhie could be related, and could have the same solution! Now, magic wouldn't necessarily have to make metals disappear from the Mountain. That would take tremendous power, beyond anything a human Wizard could accomplish. But it would be possible, at least in theory, to cast a curse that would misdirect the minds of the Dwarven miners, so that they dig in the wrong direction, and think that the Mountain itself is 'dying.' It makes sense that a curse directed against us would strike the Dwarves at their ability to produce metals, and us Humans at our physical vitality, since we live by farming and the work of our hands.

"The Dwarf also made mention of a war, when Wohltung had to fight against outside forces, but didn't say when that was or who the outside forces were, so I don't know if it could be related. But it could provide a motive for someone to curse us. Or maybe the 'curse' could be an effect of the magical stones, not something someone did on purpose."

By this time Ysanne had finished copying over the second document, and checked over her work. "Could you please compare this with the originals and verify that I have not made any mistakes, then sign your name here?" she said, pointing to the 'Certified by:' line. "Then maybe we could go to see Dunmil Rumblewing?"
 
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Nathchi

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Upon hearing Ysanne's encouragement Lora smiled back.
-"Thank you." Was the only thing she said. But she really meant it. Perhaps because of her earlier small outburst and to finally have someone listen to her inner feelings or that someone else also could have the same feelings as her, whichever it was Lora felt a feeling of relief and kinship. But when Ysanne started to explain what she had heard from the dwarf from the other day Lora had a hard time to catch up. As only a simple secretary for a village consisting of mostly farmers, subjects of magic and curses was something outwardly and complicated for a young girl like Lora to understand. When Ysanne asked her to check over the information and signation Lora started to stutter and a bit clumsy took the papers and looked at Ysanne's chalk. When everything looked to be in order she wrote her name.
-"Well, I do not know much of magic or curses but if it can help us solve whatever the cause may be, I am more than willing to help." Lora said smiling. Before the two would decide to go and visit the proclaimed alchemist Lora and Ysanne started to put back the books into the shelves and cleaned up the library as it was before they sat down. As they walked outside Lora's father were nowhere to be seen and the room to his office was closed.
-"He is probably inside his office, working. He should still think that I'm angry at him and don't want to be disturbed." Lora commented with a chuckle.

Lora opened the door and outside they went and the sun greeted them with wamth. As usual people where busy as children could be seen playing by the smaller hills and the butcher was giving out a bag of livestock and talking to his customer. Some women were working by the large fields farming as their husband took care of the larger animals cultivating the earth with help of tools going from their behind. As Lora and Ysanne started to walk towards Rumblewing's house Ysanne started to notice something odd. When they walked a lot of the people where very cheerful and greeted them, waving and smiling to them or rather, to Lora. Wherever she went the folk would greet Lora with wide smiles and offer small gifts though Lora kindly denied them. For Ysanne who would often be met with one or two greetings at most and more often ignored to be cast as another one in the background, this kind of environment was out of the ordinary.

In order to remind the people of who is in charge the surrounding of the chief's house were on a higher hill so that most people could see the top of the building from any side of Dur. Rumblewing's house on the other hand were further down in a slope and there weren't a real road going to his house other than a thin pathway. When they walked on the thin pathway the crunching of gravel echoed and the wind made the higher grass gently rustle. Lora knocked on the wooden door and out came an older woman.
She looked to be near her 60's and had a very firm and plump body structure. She was the kind of older woman and mother figure with an aura of confidence, that would outright tell if something was wrong, to tell her more spoiled kids no and they would stop and listen to her, but at the same time she also had very gentle features with white short curly hair and small round glasses accompanying her round body and cheeks. She was both firm and gentle looking and when she saw Lora she smiled wide and started to warm up like the sun.

-"Oh, Lora my girl! How are ya' doing?" And when she noticed Ysanne she greeted her as well.
-"And you have a friend with ya' as well!" She said happily. Lora blushed a bit.
-"Her name is Ysanne, she works under Dheorin the wizard." Lora told the woman and she snorted when hearing of Dheorin's name.
-"To have such a sweet girl working for such a grumpy sour fruit. Just what is he thinking? And he had the nerve to yell at me when I just accidently bumped into him a bit. Pah!" The woman was clearly not in a good relation with the village wizard.
-"Oh but where are my manners? I'm Loggunda Rumblewing, wife of Dunmil Rumblewing." Loggunda said and shaked hands with Ysanne.
-"Would ya' like anything? Milk? Water?" The woman asked and invitied them both inside the house. Lora gestured her hand and backed a bit from the door to let Ysanne in first. It was a simple one floor house yet cramped with lots of tools and decorations. A table was right beside the kitchen area and one door was open and inside two seperated beds could be seen. The home, like Gurn's was very cluttery yet inviting and friendly and the smell of food filled the house. On the stove a large saucepan had a vegetable soup boiling to be ready for lunch time.
 
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Zarko Straadi

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"It is a pleasure to meet you, ma'am," Ysanne said, giving a curtsy. "I apologize for my master's discourtesy. We do not want to impose on your hospitality. Actually...we are here because Lora found documents in the Chief's library pertaining to your husband's search for a cure to the Autumn Sickness, but I suppose he is out working? But if you are his Soror Mystica, perhaps you would know?" she said, carefully removing the parchment she'd made from her satchel. It was not uncommon for Alchemists to work in married pairs, because the Great Work required the ability to balance the polarity of masculine and feminine energies and other polarities symbolically associated with them. "I have read The Alembic and the Athanor, and I am familiar with the basic laboratory procedures it describes, though I have not been initiated into the inner mysteries of the Alchemist's art." She said this so that Loggunda would know how much her answers would need to be simplified for her understanding.

"Would you know who wrote the original of this?" she said, unrolling the parchment so Loggunda could read it. "They were working with your husband, and went to Heinrhie to search for clues. And would you know anything about the substance found in the blood of Sickness victims, or perhaps the magical stones said to have been found in the Mountain?"
 

Nathchi

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Upon hearing of the autumn sickness and the transcripts of alchemy the woman looked at Ysanne with a serious look. She read from the parchment and gave it back to her.
-"I was only very new to alchemy back then. My husband was my tutor at the time you see. If possible I would rather not talk about this matter." But before Loggunda could say anything more her husband stepped inside from the back of the house into the kitchen.
-"Is that your very own vegetable soup I smell, darling?" He said as he took off his muddy boots and walked inside to see the two young girls.

-------

Sitting on the dinner table Loggunda had now gone outside and on the other side of the table sits Dunmil himself, smoking a cigar. Like Lora had once before described him he is indeed a plump man like his wife but with a beer belly going instead. His white hair was going around the back, leaving the top bald. His nose was wide and he had a small white beard going and he reeked of smoke, mud and sweat. To anyone outside he looked to be just about any ordinary old farmer, way older than his wife that is living of his last years taking care of the animals with brown pants and a simple shirt on the top. He looked at Ysanne's parchment after having heard of Ysanne's explanation of the situation to him, like how she explained for his wife. The once kind old plump man now had a darker look in his eyes. He puffed out a smoke from his cigar. Lora who was sitting right beside Ysanne was looking a bit uncomfortable with how serious Dunmil was compared to his earlier personality when entering. It was like a bit of his older self was coming forth, an aura of a mysterious alchemist, albeit not looking anything like it at all.
-"So..." He said and put the parchment on the table in front of Ysanne.
-"You have read of the basic work of alchemy I take it? Regarding alembic and athanor." He said with a serious tone, trying to figure out the situation at hand. Lora on the other hand got more confused.
-"Indeed it is as the texts tells. I was working back then to analyse these strange fluids as explained there." Dunmil said, pointing at the parchment.
-"But that was probably more than 40 years ago or more, this old man here have lost a sense of time now. But it was me and one of the best doctors of Dur woking with this back then." He said and Lora was now getting more curious.
-"Who was it?" She asked him. Dunmil made a small sighed.
-"His name was Finniger. He was one of the best doctors here at the time and tried his damnest to work with the cure." With how he said was made Lora nervous and it was clear of what he was going to say next. Lora asked anyway.
-"So... Finniger writes that he went to Heinrhie. What happened?"
-"It was just early December and the snow was very bad that year. I don't even know how far he made it, but his wagon was found a week later burried in snow and his body missing. It wasn't untill later that the dwarfs found what is to believed his body in the spring on the side of a cliff. Apparently his wagon couldn't handle the snow and he died before he could even get there. The dwarves had no memories at the time of that man ever visiting them. So it was clear that he died in the snow before he could ever get to Wolhtung." Upon hearing the story Lora gasped, she didn't know what to say. The man looked at Ysanne.
-"You asked me regarding the substance found in the blood of the victims, and of the magical stones said to have been found in the Mountain, yes?" Dunmil adjusted himself on the chair and let out a small grunt.


-"This is gonna be a lot of information, so do write it all down... Ysanne, was it?" The man said, directing his attention to Ysanne's parchment. He then took another smoke from his cigar and cleared his throat.
-"When Finniger started to go through the bodies from the autumn sickness he found small traces of dark blue spots in the blood. It was dark blue and very hard to see. The herbalist tried everything they could to find some sort of reaction from these fragments but to no avail they couldn't find anything to connect these spots with. Finniger at the time tried his best with the elixirs he had but the pile of bodies started to grow. It took a toll on him. Seeing both close friends and people he have greeted on the street falling from this sickness. Of course it started to take a toll on me too..." Dunmil said and let out another smoke.
-"You have worked really hard, mister Dunmil. I'm so sorry for the loss..." Lora said out of the blue but Dunmil smiled for her big heart and concern.
-"You are a very kind soul Lora." Dunmil said as Lora smiled a little.
-"As told in the text I eventually found the connection in early December. But that was pure luck I tell you." Dunmil then put out his cigar.
-"Do you know of the black stones, Ysanne? I'm sure your master is working with those kinds of magical stones a lot?" He looked at Ysanne and continued.
-"Those black stones are called Dúr sarn in the world of alchemy. It is a pure form of obsidian that is found deep in the ground imbued with magic. They are the more common of magical stones and used by the wizards because of their easy accessibility to gather magic. Or as elves and wizards would refer to as easy gateways for magic to gather. The high elves call those stones something else, but they are the same kind of stone." Dunmil then made a cough.
-"Hu-urm... Anyway. As to the pure luck part I will tell you. I had a Dúr sarn stone right beside the table where I was working. I had bought it from a merchant from Wohltung. So I was working with the blood of a victim and it accidently fell onto the stone and it started to turn blue for a small second. That was when I started to make a connection. Through all of november I worked until it was made clear that the stone was definitely reacting to the dark blue parts of the blood but also to parts which didn't have those spots on. It was weaker but still made a reaction to the blood. And the rest is history." Dunmil finished.
 
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Zarko Straadi

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Ysanne stiffened when Dunmil's gaze went from jovial to stern, but she did her best to bear up under it. As soon as he began talking, she pulled out a blank parchment and started writing on it in shorthand. She paled when he described Finniger's death, but kept on writing. Finally he finished his tale.

"I am also very sorry for your loss...and...for how Magister Dheorin must have treated you since his coming. I...do not think he would have been kind to perceived rivals," she said sadly. The very fact that an Alchemist was now a peasant farmer made it seem rather likely that he had been run out of his position once a "real Wizard" arrived on the scene. Then an idea came, and Ysanne bit her lip. If Dheorin found out, she would probably be thrown out on the street. But...

"I am only a servant to Magister Dheorin, and I do not think I would be able to keep him from trying to claim full credit if a cure is found. But if...if I were to write up a complete testament of your and Master Finniger's work, and of his sacrifice for the village..." she turned to Lora, "could you see that it is placed in the Village archives?" She turned back to Dunmil. "I think that those who come after should be able to hear your voices, to know your names and deeds."