18 Ring, 6099 RTR (9 Sep 1999) Envoy explores Fortunatis and encounters a bizarre storm.
(Envoy) (Roho) (Space) (Wynona)
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Surface of Fortunatis
Change sweeps across the ridges and plains of the surface of Fortunatis like wind combing through fields of wheat. The changes take place in waves, for the most part, though some places on the ground or in the air pulsate with shifting hues separately from their surroundings. The ground and the sky shift not only through all colors of the rainbow, but through strange moire and fractal patterns, and with varying degrees of saturation and intensity of hue. Although the landscape is mostly barren, every once in a while, some curious feature crops up … a rock that looks vaguely like a human face in profile … a crater that looks suspiciously like a paw print … a mineral growth in the middle of nowhere that is oddly twisted, suggesting the work of a demented artist.

During the initial study of Fortunatis, it has proven to have a breathable atmosphere, and though the gravity is low – much like Morpheus' gravity is supposed to be – it's slightly heavier, such that while a footstep may send up small clouds of dust, the dust soon settles down once more. Still, winds whip up the dust from time to time, and dust storms have forced the group to seek shelter back in the crystal Gateway chamber, or under one of the many rocky outcroppings. When the winds clear, dunes have been shifted around, and the landscape seems to have changed entirely. Navigation is tricky, since there are so few permanent landmarks to guide by.

Once out of the wind, the exile Envoy shakes sand out of her fur into a small paper sample holder. "Between the wind and changing colors, I half expect a tornado to carry us off to Oz," she tells her companions.

"Where is that?" replies Wynona, and then she squeaks as a sudden burst of wind nearly knocks her back, as she crests one of the hills. "Ah! The wind's a lot stronger up where there's less resistance!" She covers her eyes, peering upward and over the line of the crest. "Uh oh. I'm not quite certain … but I think that looks like a storm headed our way. No tornadoes, thank goodness." She winks.

"Oh, it's the Land Over the Rainbow, from a story my first teacher read to me," Envoy explains. "He also read me one about a girl named Alice who might appreciate our situation. Still, it wouldn't hurt to keep a watch out for flying monkeys or small humans and a road made of gold."

Wynona ducks her head again. "Well, I don't like the looks of that storm. Maybe we should seek shelter in that cave over there." She points to a hole in a surface of exposed rock that looks to be not much more than a shallow cul-de-sac. "Korut! Is it possible to set up something real quick to protect us from whatever this storm rains down?"

The Jupani has his eyes firmly shut against the wind, striding after the bat and Exile, relying on his ears and nose instead. "Ah … certainly." He's carrying the group's supplies, since he's the largest and strongest of the bunch. (Plus, that's his job.)

Envoy hunches over to avoid getting blown over by the unpredictable gusts of wind, and heads for the cave Wynona pointed out. "I didn't want to bring this up before… but do you think it's possible that the only way to find where you're going on this world is to get lost first?"

Wynona pauses to blink at Envoy, then says, "That sounds highly improbable!" She then continues dashing for the cave, and ducks inside. "Hurry up!" she squeaks.

Finding a somewhat protected spot against one wall, Envoy quickly checks her sample of sand to see if it has changed since the time she collected it.

Sure enough, the sand has changed from what was originally a fairly plain-looking off-white to a pale blue hue. However, it should be noted that all of her sample changed the same color.

Envoy reseals the sample, and asks Wynona, "Can you tell how bad the storm will be?"

Wynona says, "Honestly … no. I think I'm going to have to observe one, and see how it compares to what I know of storms back on Sinai. Then I can try to get my bearings … and hopefully be a little more useful to our little party in the future, the next time one sweeps along. For now … well, it might be nothing at all, but I think caution is warranted in the face of the unknown."

Korut pads up, last of the group, and sets down his heavy burdens inside the mouth of the shallow cave. He unrolls a heavy tarpaulin sheet meant to serve for the canopy of a tent, and begins assembling some of the poles to turn it into a makeshift cover for the mouth of the cave.

The Exile checks Wynona for any signs of transformation now that some of the wind has been blocked. "By the way, I'm sorry about mistaking you for someone else back in the Gateway Tower. I was slightly disoriented. Have you tried any magic yet?"

Wynona says, "I'm not that brave. You might have learned this about Mages already, but we tend to develop a knack for sensing when active magic is going on around us."

Envoy blinks, and asks, "Does that mean you are sensing magic in this place?" She looks around at the walls to make sure they don't change into anything dangerous.

Wynona says, "And 'active' magic is when someone's casting a spell. I don't mean 'passive' magic. Well … this whole place is at least a little bit 'active'. Like this whole world is one big Forbidden Zone." Her nose twitches. "Uhm … and, frankly, it's starting to feel a lot more active."

The walls seem to be just stone. The rocks themselves are iridescent and seem to glow faintly in spots, and the colors slowly shift from time to time … but it doesn't seem that anything more bizarre is happening just yet.

Eyeing the canvas barrier that Kurot has put up, Envoy asks, "Do you think there's a connection? Between the Forbidden Zones and Fortunatis, that is. I wonder if anyone's plotted this world's orbit in relation to the positions of Forbidden Zones on the surface of Sinai."

Wynona puts a hand to her cheek. "Hmm. That's an interesting thought. I'll bet someone's tried before, though. Fortunatis has the most bizarre orbit, and it's been the subject of so much speculation for all history. I wouldn't be surprised if there were some sort of connection. But I'd just wonder if it'd be a connection we could make any sense out of."

Envoy shakes her head. "I don't think you can think about such things with a linear mindset."

Wynona looks curiously back at Envoy. "Linear? What do you mean by that?"

The winds pick up, causing the tarp to flap. Kurot hastily drives some stakes into some packed dirt, to secure the tarp in hopes that it won't get blown away.

"You tend to work magic in a step-by-step process," Envoy says, "where each step builds upon the last, like cause and effect. Chaotic systems can't be modeled by that sort process, since a small change in initial conditions could expand to a very large actual effect. You can't order chaos, basically. That's why I wondered if we'd have to get lost first in order to get anywhere."

Wynona blinks. "I suppose … but Chaos Magic isn't my strength. I mean, I know a little of the principles involved, since Air Magic is closely related. You'd think they would have gotten a Chaos Mage to come along, but it seems that they couldn't pin one down on a commitment for the trip."

Envoy giggles at that. Then, abruptly, she asks their lupine guardian, "Korut, what is your favorite color?"

Korut looks at Envoy. "Ah … I'm color blind." His ears droop in embarrassment.

"Really? Is that why you were picked for this mission?" the Exile asks, and shows her sand sample to the Jupani. "What color do you think this sand is?"

"Uh … red?" guesses the Jupani.

"What color do you see, Wynona?" Envoy shows the Eeee the sand as well.

"Red. Lucky guess?" offers Wynona with a shrug.

Envoy looks at the sand as well.

Red.

"I guess the odds of that would be … uhm … Well, assuming an even distribution of colors across the color wheel … and leaving out 'white' or 'black', since he'd pick that out anyway, and if it were really dark blue, we'd probably give him credit for guessing 'black' anyway … I guess his odds of guessing right were somewhere close to one in six, right?" Wynona shrugs.

Resealing the envelope, the Exile asks, "What color do you think it will become next, though?"

The wolf ponders deeply, then throws up his hands. "I've no idea! But … just to guess … ah … let's say next time it'll be … uh … blue?"

Wynona says, "Assuming that my previous calculation was right – which is a big assumption – I guess that'd mean that his chance of being right next time is still one in six … though getting it right twice in a row would be one in thirty-six, as a complete feat. Right?"

Kurot just nods dumbly at Wynona.

Envoy looks to Wynona and nods. "What do you guess it will be?"

Wynona giggles! "I'm putting my bets on what Kurot says right now. I figure he's lucky." She winks. "Blue."

"Amber," Envoy proclaims, making her own guess. Then she opens up the envelope so that everyone can see the sand at once.

The sand, this time, is blue.

Wynona blinks. "Well! That's highly unlikely. Hmm. But, then, considering that three of us were guessing, and if I'd bothered to choose a different color, then it would have been a fifty percent chance that one of us would be right, which wouldn't be all that impressive."

Korut sniffs at the sand. "You're not just trying to pull a fast one on me, are you?" He sneezes, having inhaled a little too deeply.

Envoy checks on the colors glowing within the stone wall to see if they follow any kind of sequence. "I think we will need to come up with a more telling experiment. Any idea why all of the sand changes to the same color at the same time?"

Wynona says, "Not really. But if every grain of sand changed color independently, the sand would just look brown from a distance."

Rain patters on the tarp.

Envoy grins. "Exactly! It's not chaos after all. Normal sand is very irregular, so no two grains should reflect light in the same way. So the surface of every grain of sand in the sample is realigning at the same time, and all in the same direction. Unless there really isn't any change happening at all." She takes out another sample envelope, and puts some of the sand from the first into that one. "I hope that isn't rainbow-water raining down out there."

Roho's large ears hang down a little, streaming with rainwater. I don't remember walking out here. Wherever here is. In fact, I don't remember waking up. I'm probably still asleep. Better at least keep dry, or I'll catch cold when I wake up. He heads for the sound of the water on the tarp, and ducks under, wringing out his ears. "Hello?"

Wynona says, "Well … I – EEK!"

Roho rasps, "EEK!"

Kurot jumps high enough to bang his head against the roof of the cave. "OW!"

Envoy blinks slowly, three times, at the damp figure.

The rainwater drips off of Roho. As it breaks up into droplets, each drop is a different color … but as the water pools together, it shifts to form one (apparently random) color per puddle.

Roho regains his composure. "Um, hello… Sorry, I just was caught out in the rain. I'm not sure how. Do you mind if I shelter he – " He sniffs the air, and blinks. "Wait a sec… "

Wynona says, "Doctor Roho? How did you get here? First Ones! Maybe we never left Sinai at all!"

Music blares from outside. It sounds like a parade going by.

Roho pulls his tail around to wring it out as well. "Wynona! I thought that was your scent. And… Envoy, too?" He lets his tail slosh back around behind him again, and shrugs. "I wouldn't know. I thought I was in Aelfhem, but I just woke up walking here."

"Aelfhem?" the Exile asks, and ventures to peek around the tarpaulin.

As Envoy peeks outside, she comes face to face with another Aeolun staring right back at her. No, wait … it's just a reflection on the falling raindrops, forming a rather convincing mirror image. Very unlikely.

Roho shakes his head. "It's not Aelfhem, definitely. Doesn't smell right for that. Don't even ask me how I got here."

Envoy suggests, "Well, you could have stepped through a looking glass, or fallen down a rabbit hole. Or we could all be hallucinating."

Wynona says, "I'm afraid I can't resist. How do you think you got here?" She peers around the tarp. Her ears pale. "I vote for hallucination."

Wynona puts her hands to her head. "Oog. I'm feeling something very active going on now."

Roho tilts his head at Envoy, a not-insignificant amount of water streaming from his ear as he does so. "What would a mirror or a warren have to do with anything?" He touches the tarp lightly. "I can't even guess. I don't sleepwalk, and this would have taken some sleep-flying at least. I'm nowhere near where I was when I went to sleep." He chuckles. "And if I'm hallucinating, then it's nice of you to point it out, as my hallucination."

"Nowhere near?" repeats Wynona. "I'll have you know, Doctor Roho, we are on the planet of Fortunatis! If this was a sleepwalk, then I definitely want your dream documented!"

Envoy hmms. "What was the last thing you remember before going to sleep? It wasn't in a circle of mushrooms was it? You didn't go bowling with any little men did you?"

A white Lapi struggles in under the tarp, pulling a brass watch out of his vest coat. "Oh! Look at the time! I'm late!" He rushes past Envoy, heading for a little door set in the stone wall – one which Envoy hadn't noticed before.

Wynona steps back in bewilderment at the Lapi, then asks of Envoy, "Where do you get these explanations? I say that this is all an illusion, really."

The Exile just stares after the rabbit a bit before answering. "Our minds are being read. What were you thinking of just before Roho appeared, Wynona?"

Wynona says, "Oh! That's a good idea. Uhm … well … actually … I was just thinking that I really should have packed some more herbs for my nose, just in case my sinuses act up again. Oh!" Her expression brightens. "Doctor Roho, do you have any of those herbs handy for my allergies?"

The Lapi seems to get smaller as he heads for the door, and then he disappears inside, shutting the door behind him.

Roho starts rooting through his medbag. He nods, pulling out a wad of herbs, tightly bundled. "Got some right here!"

A reptilian head reaches up out of the bag, and grabs the herbs from the fennec's paw. It gulps, then disappears back into the bag.

The doctor blinks. "Um… or not."

The earth starts to shake beneath the feet of those in the cave. "Earthquake!" barks Kurot.

Wynona snaps her fingers. "Aw … phoo! But you might be on to something, Envoy!"

Envoy closes her eyes, and tries to imagine the ground not shaking, to see if it makes any difference.

Hmm! Maybe Envoy's on to something. The tremors calm down … but now rain spatters down on Envoy's head.

"EEK!" squeaks Wynona. "Illusion or not, I don't want to get wet!"

Reflexively… or what passes for reflex in Envoy… the Exile looks up to see what happened to the roof.

It's not there. Envoy is looking up at multi-colored raindrops coming down from a swirling, multi-colored sky … and she's also getting a good view of a squad of penguin paratroopers in tuxedos coming down from a red biplane.

Roho sits on the ground, apparently just waiting for the oddness to pass. "What was the last you were doing before you ended up here? Do you have any idea where here might be?"

Wynona says, "We're not the ones lost. You're the one on the wrong planet!"

Just then, a big metallic cube floats by. Beams of light shoot out from it, vaporizing a school of flying fish.

Roho momentarily turns mauve. "You're saying this is the right planet for you two? What on Sinai is this place?"

"Fortunatis!" squeaks Wynona, sounding quite frustrated. "Didn't I say that before?"

Something seems to itch on the top of Envoy's head. Actually, it feels like the itch is coming from the tip of her horn.

Envoy hmms. "Calm down, Wynona. We don't know how this place will react to emotions."

"In the naaaaaavy! In the naaaaaavy!" sing a bunch of weasels, as they ride by on a bicycle built for twelve.

The exile grabs the tip of her horn with a look of panic.

Roho nods. "But what is Fortunatis? And what is that smell?!" He turns just in time to catch a giant tub of movie theater popcorn upending over Envoy's wings. With artificial butter flavoring!

There appears to be a flower sprouting from the tip of Envoy's horn.

"A bit bucket," Envoy grumbles. "Dream buffer. Dumping ground for the variances in probability that would upset the balance of the system. Is there a flower growing out of my horn?"

Wynona reflexively raises her wings to shield herself from the cascade of buttered popcorn, as it spills over Envoy and herself. "Give me just a moment… " She covers her eyes, then peeks out. "Uhm … yes. There certainly is."

Roho blinks at the scent of pollen from Envoy. He walks over, and plucks the flower from her horn. He sniffs it, then hands it to Wynona. "Eat the petals. It's the same as what I make your allergy herbs from."

Wynona squeaks loudly! "ROHO! That came from Envoy's horn! What if that contains part of her mind, or something like that?"

Roho blinks. "Why would her horn flower contain her mind?"

Wynona covers her mouth. "Oh, what am I saying?" She gingerly reaches for the flower with a trembling hand … "Ah … ah … I'll … just hold onto it … thank you… "

Wynona protests, "Why in the world would there be birds in tuxedos raining down from the sky?"

Roho shrugs. "Because they want to? I'm pretty sure I'm still dreaming anyways!" He smiles, looking relieved now that he knows what's going on.

A shark fin sticks up through the sand, outside where the cave used to be, and begins skimming about, to and fro. A deep bass chord melody plays.

Wynona says, "Doctor Roho, it seems like everything is just going crazy! All sorts of things are going on that shouldn't be happening. It must be some sort of … illusion … but it feels perfectly real. Smell, sound, sight … and the buzzing in my head is telling me that there's a lot of magic going on. It keeps coming in … waves, I guess you could say. I wish I could make sense of it."

Roho starts sinking into the ground as it turns into refried beans where he's standing. "Well, this is an interesting development!"

Wynona says, "Doctor Roho! Hold on!" She tries to dive for the sinking fennec … but as she leaps, gravity stops working for her, and she's now floating in mid air. She tries to push with her wings, but she just spins in place.

Roho samples the beans. "Not too bad!" He scoops up a pawful, and offers it in Envoy's direction. "Care for some?"

"Waves?" Envoy asks, keeping her eyes closed.

Roho shakes his head. "Lunch!" He sinks under with a few bubbles, then falls from the sky, landing with a loud *thud* on the air next to Wynona. "Ow!"

Wynona spins in place. "Uhm … yes … something like that. Or, that's the best way I can describe it. I mean, it's hard to describe magic in terms of other senses. And … being an Eeee … I often compare it to sound. It's like there are different waves overlapping each other … and where multiple – EEK!"

Wynona covers her mouth. "I really should stop that. I think I've screamed enough times by now."

"Is the storm still there, Wynona?" Envoy asks. "Ripples. Dimensional ripples interfering to cause dimensional foam? Fortunatis could be meant as a barrier reef." The Exile keeps her eyes closed still, not wanting to influence things by actually seeing them.

Wynona says, "Yes, the storm is still here. We're deep in it – I'm sure of it. Ah … foam? Ah, like sea waves, you mean. I guess that'd work, too… "

A paper airplane sails past.

Envoy sings out a high C-note, holding it for as long as she can, focusing her attention on it.

Roho's ears flatten. "Eep! Envoy, stop with the glass-breaking!"

The note, as it goes out, resonates and seems to subtly shift in pitch as it continues.

A flock of winged buckets flaps by, catching raindrops.

Wynona points at the buckets. "That's it! I don't care what you say, but I'm pretty sure that no planet's ecology would produce flying buckets!"

Roho gets scooped up by one of the buckets in passing. As it glides away, with only a pair of tan triangles poking out from the top, the fennec's voice calls back, "I'm starting to dislike this planet."

Envoy opens her eyes and catches her breath. "I think the storm has a mind of its own now. At least the rocks haven't turned into soft silk pillows. That would be unbearable!"

"Uhm … Envoy … " Wynona reaches out and taps on Envoy's shoulder. "Here. I think it must take requests on occasion." She hands Envoy a soft silk pillow.

A large green bear ambles past, with a grunt.

Some floating words appear, reflected on a screen of raindrops, and a little bouncing ball dances across them. They're too vague to read, but it looks like it might be some sort of song lyric…

Wynona squeaks, "Oh! I think it's letting up! Uhm … I think. I hope."

As the ball reaches the end of the song, it suddenly opens up in two halves, and Roho comes out from inside in a beam of light. He shakes his head. "Eek?"

Kurot just whimpers, curled up under the fallen tarp.

"Do we follow along," Envoy ponders, "or cling to reality? Which is the correct way to go?"

Wynona says, "Well … I suppose it depends on what's reality. Is this all an illusion … or is everything genuinely weird? What do you assume, if you can't trust your own senses?"

A large round stone rolls along, past what used to be the cave, up a hill.

Envoy looks to the Eeee. "I trust my memory at least." She starts to sing one of her alien songs. It's hard to tell if it has any lyrics, or if it's just meant to be sung as tones. The flow seems to suggest the sound of water running over stones, and in the background there might be birdsong, or at least the suggestion of it. In all the surrounding cacophony, it might be anything. But for sure, it's a lot slower and calmer than the activity going on around them.

Wynona's ears perk. "Say … that's nice!"

The penguins finally reach the ground, and land in the back of a yellow pickup truck driven by an orange cheetah. It drives away.

Roho quietly turns into an airy white substance, not unlike styrofoam. He seems undisturbed by this, since he doesn't move at all.

Envoy doesn't hear Wynona, intent as she is on trying to translate an image from her memory into music. She sees Lothrhyn's grotto, with all its myriad streams and gardens, clearly in her mind – something she knows is real.

Wynona slowly floats back down to the ground. "Kurot … make room for me under that tarp!" She crawls underneath the tarp, shooing out a three-headed monkey.

The Aeolun keeps up her song, summoning her memory of how sunlight feels and how Spring smells, and trying to vocalize them. She seems oblivious to the world around her now, concentrating furiously on her own "happy place".

The rain slowly tapers off … and Envoy can feel the warmth of sunshine on her fur again.

Running out of breath finally, Envoy winds down and opens her eyes again, unsure if she's feeling real sunshine or still just remembering it.

Yes, it's real sunshine … though Envoy's surroundings are Fortunatis, not some distant and remembered land.

Envoy looks around for Wynona and Korut. "Wynona?! Are we in the eye of the storm, or has it passed?"

The storm clouds can be seen retreating in the distance, flashing bits of color in their midst hinting at continued weirdness going on there. In the storm's wake, there are still some signs left of its passing to prove that this wasn't wholly illusion.

Wynona peeks out from under the tarp. "It's … it's gone. I'm sure of it. I can still feel a bit of 'activity', but it's back to the way it was before I – I … Doctor Roho!" She scurries out and rushes over to a styrofoam statue of Roho lying in the sand.

Korut's nose pokes out from under the tarp, sniffing tentatively, and then the rest of the wolf comes out as well.

Envoy blinks at the statue. "I don't think Roho was really here. He didn't show up until the storm was on us, and if it could make penguins… " She just trails off with the thought, and feels the tip of her horn for roots.

A scraggly root comes off of the tip of Envoy's horn … but a quick feeling of the surface of her horn indicates no evidence that the horn was actually compromised by the plant.

The cave is still gone. There is a rocky cul-de-sac where the group is huddled, but it's lacking its roof, and the ridge has changed in shape. Some rocks have popped up where there were none before, and one of them looks like the visage of Elvis in profile. Not that Wynona or Korut would know anything about that. Actually, the other stones look like they might resemble some sort of faces in profile, though – if so – of aliens species unknown to Envoy.

The exile rubs the root between her thumb and forefinger, then fishes out a fresh sample envelope to put it into, and examines the changed surroundings. She doesn't feel as if she's changed any, but asks the others anyway, "Do either of you feel any different?"

Kurot shakes his head. "Just a little more damp."

Wynona nods. "Same here. The water was real enough. Hmm." She stoops down, and looks at some tracks in the sand … about the right size to be left by a Lapi.

Envoy checks the two envelopes she separated the colored sand into, without making any guesses about what she'll find this time. "Not a Lapi. That was The White Rabbit, from Alice in Wonderland. If you see anything that says 'Eat Me' on it, let me know."

Wynona says, "You're going to have to tell me this story in its entirety sometime, Envoy – especially if it has any bearing on what just happened. And … no … I don't see anything with writing on it."

One of the envelopes reveals green sand. The other sample has an entirely different shade of yellow.

Wynona's ears perk up. "I … I hear something."

Envoy perks her ears as well, and looks to Korut to watch his reactions, figuring she'll be the last of the group to hear or smell whatever it is.

Kurot frowns. "Well? What do you hear? I … " He sniffs. "I don't hear anything … but … eh … I keep thinking I smell things, but it could be from all those weird things floating around in the storm."

"Water," answers Wynona, after a moment's consideration. "I hear running water. I'm … trying to figure out just where… "

Envoy's eyes go wide. "We need to get up these walls. It could be a flash flood, or even the sand turning into an ocean."

Wynona's eyes get wider. "Oh my."

Kurot hastily crumples up the tarp, and collapses the poles, sloppily tucking them back into his carry-pack.

The Aeolun tries to scramble up the wall of the cul-de-sac.

The walls are sloped enough that it's not too much trouble. She's now at what is the ridge of the hill … and unlike earlier, there aren't any winds to blast her back.

Also unlike earlier – unless Wynona was leaving something out – it appears that the land on the opposite side of this small rocky ridge is not desert, but rather a grassy valley, with a river running down the middle.

Envoy stands and does a quick survey to see if there really is any danger of flooding.

It doesn't look as if there is any flooding going on.

Wynona scrambles up to the top as well, using her wings to half-hop upward. She blinks. "You know … maybe it's just my imagination, but I think the gravity changed." She shrugs. "Not like this should surprise me. It's not like any of the other laws of nature seem to be obeyed here! Oh!" She catches sight of the valley at last.

The grass is green … though as winds blow across it, that soon changes – in waves, just like the sands do outside the valley. Flowers growing here and there shift colors as well, though their colors are consistently the complimentary hue of whatever the grass is beneath them.

Looking towards Wynona, Envoy says, "I doubt these worlds are any more natural than I am, personally. Do you think the wind is what brings the changes, or that it's just a side effect?"

Wynona says, "It does seem as if there's some sort of connection there. Hmm. Of course, it would be hard to determine the cause and effect relationship. But I do think there's a link."

Envoy frowns, watching the waves propagate. "The sand changed color in the envelopes, where the wind couldn't get in. It seems that proximity passes the effect along, though. But we don't seem affected by any of the changes. I know a Rath'ani Chaos Mage who has color-changing eyes, though. Maybe he ate something from Fortunatis? Fenter would eat anything… "

Wynona frowns. "Well … that might suggest that we really shouldn't drink the water here. It might make us more susceptible to what happens here. We'll just have to make sure we don't lose our way back to the stocks dropped at the crystal gateway."

The valley is full of grass and flowers and a river that shimmers in many colors … but there are no signs of any living animals or insects. No trees, for that matter.

Envoy says, "The wind must be pretty frequent. Nothing grows tall. Not even anything for the Cheshire Cat to perch on."

"Cheshire Cat?" echoes Wynona.

"From Wonderland," Envoy says. "Sometimes it gave Alice advice. At least, I think it was advice. It could be pretty cryptic."

Wynona shudders. "I could sure use some right now."

Envoy grins. "We could try asking the statue of Roho."

Kurot seems to be deep in thought over something. "Uh … Mage Wynona … this may be really stupid … I mean … I'm just a Guard and all … but if the wind is magic … uh … "

Wynona sighs. "I almost forgot. I'll go fetch Roho. We'd better keep him along. I mean … what if it is Roho? And … mm-hmm?" She turns to look at the wolf.

Kurot fumbles, "If the wind is magic … and the wind is, like, air, right? Well … we breathe air … so doesn't that mean we're getting all this magic in us? Could that be bad?"

"Good question." Envoy also looks to Wynona. "Does anyone know why people born on the surface of Sinai are sometimes altered? Could there be change-winds like this down there too, only too subtle to detect?"

Wynona shudders a bit at the wolf's suggestion, then nods to Envoy. "That could be. Maybe this is all some sort of uncontrolled manifestation of magic. Well … not entirely uncontrolled, as it seemed to respond to us every once in a while … but not something reliable, either."

Wynona says, "As for mutations on the surface … that's often been held to have something to do with the higher incidence of magic down there. I mean, machines don't work as well down there … and you might think of the body as kind of a living machine … so maybe the same principle applies. You know … little things get messed up."

Envoy suggests, "Maybe the First Ones wanted a battery of magic they could draw from whenever they needed it, and it's just leaking now."

"You mean … a reservoir?" queries Wynona.

The exile nods and smiles. "Yes, a reservoir. If Ylem is a reservoir of raw material, Fortunatis could be one of raw chaos magic. Or vice versa."

"Aha," responds Wynona.

Kurot sets down his pack again. "So … if it's not going to flood after all … do we set up camp somewhere?" He wags his tail hopefully.

Envoy sits down near the supplies. "I'm for setting up camp. That storm was very stressful."

Wynona nods. "Well … hmm … I wonder if it'd be safe enough to use the stream down there for washing clothes, at the very least, if not for replenishing our canteens."

Kurot needs no further encouragement, and starts assembling poles, preparing to pitch tents.

Envoy grins, "At worst, our clothes would get all colorful. As for the water… well, you could always use a little more color, Wynona."

---

GMed by Greywolf

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Today is 12 days after Harvest Tide, Year 25 of the Reign of Archelaus the First (6124)