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Friday, March 23, 2012

The Gathering Dark - Chapter 13

There's more to the Conclave than Jodah realized.

Chapter 13 - Dangerous Knowledge

The knowledge of the Dark, and of all the ancient eras, comes down to us in dribbles and drabs. Only a few volumes survive, and those often disagree with each other, or refer to still earlier, now-lost texts. The reasons for this lack of knowledge are myriad, including the long cold gap of the Ice Age. But one basic reason for this lose of knowledge is that each age, indeed each generation or regime, wishes that its version of history be the only one that survives to tell the tale. The Church of Tal was merciless in expunging volumes that did not agree with its version of history, and mages nad scholars since then were little better, Through they couched their censorial habits in terms of "modern validity" and "historical revisionism," both church and scholar spoke the same language - It would be the victors who would set down how history truly happened.

-Arkol, Argivian scholar

A still drunk Shannan apologizes for the state of Jodah's shoes, and then asks Jodah to pour out another drink. Jodah tells him to think nothing of it, and continues to refill Shannan's glass while showing him that he as his own glass, despite not really drinking from it himself.

Shannan tells Jodah that he's a good person for looking out for him, and goes on to rant about how despite all the "Friend" this and "Friend" that, hardly anyone actually means it. That too many people are so caught up with being wizards that they've forgotten that they're still people.

Well... speaking of people. Jodah does want to know about two specific people. Shannan is ready to tell Jodah all that he knows about anyone... until he hears that he wants to learn about Lord Mairsil and Barl.

Shannan freaks out, and when Jodah tells him that he's just curious, he tells him that curiosity can get him killed. Jodah tries to convince Shannan to speak by teasing him with the fact that he had a conversation with Lord Mairsil earlier, and he just wants to know why. He wants to know what he wanted from him. And still Shannan won't budge and is ready to walk out. That's when Jodah says that if Shannan won't tell him the information he wants to know, then he'll just have to ask Barl directly. Shannan can't let Jodah do that and caves in.

"I didn't hear it from you," said Jodah.

"I mean, its an open secret," said Shannan. "everyone knows, but nobody says anything."

"Open secret," repeated Jodah.

Shannan held up his now-empty glass. Jodah refilled it.

Shannan leaned close, and Jodah almost leaned away from the cloud of alcohol the artificer exuded. Almost.

"Mairsil is also called the Pretender," said Shannan, in a low, confidential voice that could not be heard more than twenty feet away. "I mean, behind his back."

Shannan goes on to explain how the Conclave was founded by Mairsil's teacher, and then one day his teacher was gone. Whammo!

No one really knows what happened to him. Some think he was killed, others think he fled, and other still think he may have turned into a Fallen .

Jodah doesn't know what that is and Shannon explains that his challenge when he got here was to face against one of those things.

"When a mage holds too much mana for too long he gets burned, right?" said Shannan, not waiting for Jodah to respond. "You burn out too much, you hold too much mana for too long for too many times, you become the Fallen. Nasty thing. Wild and untamed. No eyes, just burning little bits of mana. They still know their spells, but have no control. Move like weasels, real fast. Fight like wolves." Shannan shook himself.

As for how he beat it. Shannan has built a crossbow that could shoot four broad-headed bolts at once. He had to reload twice.

Now will that be Jodah's fate? Shannan has no idea. It's just important to know that everyone is afraid that if they're not careful, Lord Mairsil will do to them whatever it was that he did to him mentor. He's walking into dangerous territory, and he better be careful.

...The next morning...

Breakfast is quite lonely. It's no surprise that Shannan didn't show up, as he's likely still recovering from last night, but as Jodah looks around he realizes he hardly knows anyone at all. On top of that, he notices there is actually very little discussion on magic. Not here in the moment, but as he thinks back he realizes no one ever really seems to talk about it, and he wonders if Lord Mairsil is just looking for someone to talk to about the subject who is new enough not to be afraid of him.

But that's probably not it.

At least the library is a welcome place to be. Jodah is happy to get back to work.

After a time, a mage Jodah doesn't know walks into the library and almost intrusively walks about the place looking for a book that he cannot find. He shakes he head as he looks through the stacks, then comes over to where Jodah is working and hovers by the stacks of books that Jodah is working on. Jodah even gets a glare when he tries to be helpful and explains which stack is complete and which hasn't been worked on yet.

The wizard picks up the book on top of the unread pile and walks away... and then screams.

The book had grown teeth and has clamped down onto him and working its way up his arm. Jodah rushes over and tries to pull it off his arm, but the mages flailing is too wild to accomplish anything of the sort. Jodah scolds himself for once more trying to find a physical solution to a magical problem, and then quickly and efficiently disenchants the book. Instantly the book stills and falls to the ground.

Nedda quickly runs up to the still screaming mage and apply some leaves from one of her plants and performs some spells of her own to begin the healing process.

Afterwards, Nedda tells him that there could possibly be more books like that. There's no telling where all the book they acquire come from. Jodah realizes that maybe new members of the Conclave are placed at this duty for a reason. They're a bit more expendable. But he also thinks that it can't be a coincidence that the very next book he was going to work on, happened to be the one that might have killed him. In fact, he was sure he hadn't seen that book the day before.

Jodah decides to take the rest of the day off.

...In the halls of the Conclave...

An angry Shannan waves his bandaged hand in Jodah's face and tells him it's all his fault. He had to go work despite how much he drank the night before, and as he was working the saw when shaping a new cog... Whammo!

There were plenty of mages present so his hand will heal fine, but he has to spend the next four days gardening until then.

Jodah is of course sorry, but then he also tells Shannan about what happened in the library. The fact that two such accidents happened on the same day doesn't sit very well with Shannan.

Then Barl walks up and addresses Friend Jodah and Friend Shannan, and asks about the state of his hand. After some pleasantries, he passes a message to Jodah that Lord Mairsil wishes to see him in his study after dinner.

...After dinner...

Jodah enters Lord Mairsil's study, and after politely asking about the incident in the library and commenting on the dangers of magic, he tells Jodah that he's summoned him to talk about his ancestor, Jarsyl.

What does he actually know about him?

Jodah shrugged as politely as he could. "I am afraid I don't know much. Most of what I know was from my grandmother, who was but a child when he disappeared. She said he was a powerful magician and could work great spells, and that he was responsible for many of the early improvements on the manor, but I am afraid that is all that has lasted from then to now."

Mairsil templed his fingers in front of him. "He was a mighty mage," he said, "but you don't know anything he's done?"

Jodah blushed slightly. "Such has been our family history. He engaged in a number of studies and kept a tower at the corner of the family lands."

Unfortunately the tower is gone, and after he disappeared, his apprentice took most of his writings with him. In fact the tower was so thoroughly cleared of magical writings, that there was an instance when the Church of Tal came and investigated the tower, and while they were expecting the wost, the Church ended up leaving without a word. As far as he knows, when Jarsyl disappeared, it was to investigate something to help him with his research.

Lord Mairsil takes it all in and tells Jodah that he wants him to look into what happened to him and what he was researching. And he wants Jodah to help him.

Mairsil taps his finger on a book and explains he did some research on himself about his great-great-grandfather, and he found him.

He tapped the black cover again. "Friend Jodah, this is the diary of Jarsyl the Mage, your ancestor, who discovered the Dark Lands of Phyrexia after the Brothers' War," siad Mairsil, clearly pleased with himself "With his help, and with yours, I intend to discover that land again."

* * *

It's a Trap!

But who set it? It's believable that maybe Mairsil and Barl would want Shannon killed after speaking out against the High Lord Mage, but clearly Mairsil doesn't want Jodah killed. So who set up the trap? Was it Nedda? Is she jealous that he's getting personal attention from Mairsil and/or does she feel threatened? Is it some sort of automatic booby trap that sets up anytime anyone talks conspiratorially about the Usurper? Or perhaps it's something that was set up by the absent Rag Man because while he may be Lord Ith's only hope if it looks like he's swinging over to Mairsil's side then he's now become a liability?

Whatever the answer, hopefully it's answered soon.

It's Phyrexia!

Solid confirmation that Phyrexia is involved. The nightmares that Lord Ith was having was too familiar that of course it's Phyrexia. The question is... how much does Lord Mairisl know of Phyrexia? Does he have dreams of his own? Is he hearing promises of power in his sleep? Or does he only just have vague knowledge about it and he doesn't really know what he's getting in to?

Another question... I can see how Jodah is connected to  Phyrexia by way of history within his family line... but why is he now a possible solution to opening a gate to Phyrexia that Mairsil thinks he may no longer need Lord Ith? Is it simply because of his knowledge of his family? Or is there something biological there that's the key?

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