Mages' Guild Hall of Babel
A pale reflection of the splendor of the old Guild Hall or the relocated College on Caroban, this tower is nonetheless an ancient, weathered and well-kept monument to the long-lasting traditions of magic on Sinai. It is far from symmetrical, having countless smaller towers, balconies and bridges sprouting out here and there, but here and there, there are attempts at order, as things are often arranged in groups of four, with repeated motifs of the traditional four elements: fire, water, earth and sky. In an attempt at union of the four, the typical room has wide open windows, hanging burning braziers, burbling fountains, and intricate and time-worn stone-work, often depicting fanciful and actual creatures associated with each element, arranged in sets of four.
Envoy's descent down the mountain was slow and tiresome, as would be expected while going on a path of pilgrimage. At least it was all downhill, and there were several rest houses by the wayside to warm up at. At the bottom, she met up with a group of Yodhsunala, who treated Envoy more as some sort of novelty than as a cherished patient to be concerned about. She found out that she had broken several wing bones during her misadventure, much to her surprise. After some bandaging and splinting, an air palanquin was summoned from the Guild Hall to ferry her there to recuperate.
Geometric patterns of red and gold spell out the walls and recesses of a tall chamber that is bathed in sunlight focused through a lens in the ceiling, constructed such that so long as the sun remains over the mountains of Babel, light comes down directly from above, and when that is gone, bronze braziers sculpted to look as if held aloft by flights of tiny dragons hang from long chains from the four corners of the ceiling. Polygrams and circles are described in ornate mosaics in the tiled floor, radiating outward from a raised dais in the center of the chamber. The floor changes levels at several points, with many rises and recesses, and there are many nooks and recesses in the walls, and many perches that fliers could exploit. A pair of double doors of stained thistlebark are guarded by twisting bronze serpents represented in relief on their surfaces.
Envoy awakens to find herself lying upon a bed of cushions, warmed by the glow of a sunbeam its source, the lens, being too bright to comfortably look at directly. About the room are furnishings of imported thistlebark wood, covered with bronze wire-work that speaks of great wealth of whomever built this place, and the care with which these antiques have been maintained … though, inevitably, their antique state is evident enough, what with inescapable signs of wear.
The room is furnished as an exquisite den, study, laboratory and private room. A massive desk is parked against one wall, and bookshelves are built into the walls to either side going up so far as to be impossible to reach without a ladder, wings, or some inappropriate scrabbling up the wall. A roosting cabinet (essentially, a "bed" for those who intend to hang by their feet) can be seen next to a wardrobe and a mirror. A neatly pressed set of amber-colored robes is laid out on a long cushioned bench before the mirror.
Another table has various beakers, pestles and bowls, shelves containing unguents and material components, and more unusual equipment of an arcane nature. A pull-cord of intertwined bands of red and gold hangs down from the ceiling, to one side of the large doors, which are presently closed.
The Exile's body feels much better than she recalls it being for quite some time, save perhaps for the illusory state it is often in when she is asleep. She can make out the sensations of her extremities much better than before, and she is filled with confidence that she should be able to walk and control her body for the most part with much less trouble now.
Her wings, however, are not as well off. While they can be moved about somewhat, and she is able to sense them, they're presently in splints, and she can feel that the bones haven't quite knitted themselves together yet.
Getting up, Envoy goes to the mirror and puts on the amber robes, being extra careful of her splinted wings.
A young bat, startlingly white with pinkish eyes, dressed in the simple rough-woven robes of an apprentice, appears in the entrance of the chamber. "Oh! You're up," she says. Bowing a bit, she continues, looking at Envoy with great curiosity, "Is there anything you require, honored guest?"
"Aside from my wings, I'm feeling pretty good," Envoy tells the apprentice with a smile. "Are there any other tests I need to take, or questions to answer?"
There seems to be a whole host of questions just simmering in the apprentice's eyes, as she tries to decide which one to ask first. "Did you really jump off the ship and escape to a pirate airship to take you to your secret home base island where you're engineering the conquest of Babel?"
Envoy blinks at that. "Well, no. I was possessed by a spirit that had control of me up until the time of the … pirate attack. Then I managed to break the possession, but lost control of my body in the process."
"I was held captive in the Temple of Inala until just recently," Envoy adds.
"So that's what happened! I told Yadza that it couldn't possibly have happened that way, because I heard from my sister, who knows a friend whose mother is a Yodhsunala, that one of them had been called in to see to you in the Temple of Inala," the apprentice says. "And of course Inala couldn't possibly want to conquer Babel, because she's already the most important goddess in it!" This, it would appear, is a Q.E.D., but her eyes widen at this revelation. "But why would Inala want to hold you captive? Did someone say you were even more beautiful than her and then they held a contest with an apple made of gold for the winner, and did you win so she decided to hold you prisoner so no one could ever see your beauty?"
Envoy giggles. "Well, not quite. The spirit possessing me sort of was Inala. I was her Avatar for awhile, which is how the pirates found my ship. One of the Yodhinala had detected my presence, and several others plus some of the Children of Inala joined the pirates to make the raid. They captured me and Wynona Windcaller, an Air Mage."
"But yes, a Yodhsunala did come to treat me, since I couldn't move at the time."
The albino bat's eyes widen. "Wow … I've heard of Wynona! They say that she managed to travel all the way across the world with a spell, and wound up in Aelfhem!" She pauses and then adds, "By accident, though. She wasn't trying to do it." She pauses to take in this talk of 'Avatars' and pirates.
Envoy nods. "She's done lots of important things. She was one of the explorers who found the Gateway tower and made contact with the survivors of Elamoore that were transported to Abaddon for one."
The apprentice nods her head rapidly. "She's great! She's kind of a heroine for all of us here in the college, someone from Babel who's actually gone to all these weird places they teach us about. So she was held prisoner too? What happened then, did she make a lock pick from a pin she keeps in her hair and use it to pick the lock so that you and she could get out, and then you got hurt while you were escaping?"
Envoy shakes her head. "The Yodhinala wouldn't let her try any magic, and even used drugs on her a few times. She was hopefully rescued by the Yodhrephath during the attack on the Temple. I was told a delegation from the College was going to Mount Rephath to see about it."
"Wow, Yodhrephath rescued Wynona from the Temple of Inala? But why Yodhrephath? Isn't she a mage?" This causes furrows from the young bat, and then she looks up as a richly robed bat woman and a white wolf in furs decorated with swirly blue lines approach the chamber, talking to each other in lowered tones of voices. They are still at a fair distance, so the acoustics of the hall make it seem like a buzzing sound. "Oh darn, that's the Yodhbarada who wanted to see you earlier. And that's Gusty, the air mage. I think they have all sorts of questions for you too!"
Envoy smiles and nods. "Well, you can come back to ask more yourself later if you like. All I can say right now is that Wynona looks remarkably like Rephath."
The apprentice leans closer to Envoy and whispers, "You make sure and let us know what happened to Wynona, okay? She's like, the role model for all of us first-year apprentices!" She smiles and waves, then scurries on while Gusty and the Yodhbarada approach.
The wolf ruffles the bat's hair as she passes by and chuckles. "G' afternoon, Mage Envoy. Hope our little apprentices haven't been troubling you, but recently there've been a lot of strange stories going around, and they just want to dig to the bottom of them. Or make up the biggest story they can with what they know, either way. Heh. Kids."
"I can't blame them," Envoy says with a grin. "It's good to see you again, Gusty. Without your help, I'd probably be waiting for the spring thaw up on the mountain still." She also gives a short bow to the unnamed Yodhbarada.
"Sure thing. I just happened to be in the neighborhood," Gusty says slightly unconvincingly. He gestures to the Yodhbarada, who nods a brownish-black bat with gray hair that seems to have been tinted toward blue so that she possesses a certain air of being "silvery". She wears what now appears to be a cloak of rich velvets secured overrobes of lighter-weight silks by gilt shoulder pads, which lock about her neck in a collar which has a symbolic keyhole at the base of the throat. "This is Priestess Davaryna, who was, uh, most interested by the fact that the Yodhinalas seemed to be keeping some pretty interesting secrets."
Davaryna inclines her head graciously, smiling a little.
Envoy smiles to the priestess. "How may I help you then, Priestess Davaryna?"
"It was hoped that you could enlighten us on certain things about which the Yodhinala have been keeping quite tight lips," the priestess says in a richly cultured voice that suggests she is either born of nobility or associates with them frequently. She glances toward Gusty, who doesn't seem inclined to go away, and suggests, "Perhaps we should adjourn to another chamber to discuss these things, Magess Envoy? It might cause quite a stir if you were to speak of, ah, your association with Inala before some of the fine students of the Guild who are devotees of hers."
Looking to Gusty, Envoy asks, "Is there a chamber available that is more secure?"
Gusty makes a face. "Well, when in Babel, respect their beliefs, I guess. Yeah, conference room, down the way. Quite a bit, I'm afraid, 'cause well, you're in the part of the Guild Hall for guests. This is a residential area. Unless you want to talk in a bathroom or something." The wolf grins quirkily and gestures toward the entrance of the room for them to follow.
Envoy starts towards the door, then pauses and asks Davaryna, "I don't suppose you know Savanite Sign?"
The priestess glances toward Gusty obscurely. "Indeed, just as when in Rephidim, one respects the Captain-Astromancer and his … famed ability to 'control' the path of their sky-island, hmm? Or so I have heard." Davaryna quirks an eyebrow. "Savanite sign? No, I am not." Her tone implies that a normal person has no need for such knowledge.
"A shame," Envoy says as she continues out into the corridor. "It isn't something that can be overheard, after all, and nobody bothers to keep secrets from slaves."
Davaryna chuckles throatily as she walks along. "Perhaps we should import some Savanite slaves then, and give them to those upon whom we'd like to keep greater tabs?"
"Espionage is not my specialty," Envoy says, as she follows Gusty. "Please forgive me if I make silly suggestions."
"Eeees," Gusty mutters as he guides the Yodhbarada and the Aeolun toward the faculty section of the guild hall.
Minor Conference Room
In keeping with the rich ornamentation of the Guild Hall of Babel, while this room is intended for just a small group to gather and confer about diverse subjects, it is supplied nevertheless with a fireplace next to rich stuffed chairs set about a table veneered until it fairly captures the light of the fire in its edges, carved to suggest four small wooden bats are holding it up where a simpler table would have legs. Curtains drape over the small round windows high in the white-plastered walls. A tea service sits on the side table.
Gusty pulls out a chair for Envoy, and Davaryna slinks into another one next to it. The wolf-mage plops unceremoniously into the last, a mug of some reddish fruit juice sloshing a bit in front of him, taken from the service.
"Before we begin," Envoy says, "has compensation for any information I provide already been worked out with the Guild?"
Davaryna smiles, sitting up a little. The Yodhbarada murmurs, "Let's say that some information to which we are privy will not be revealed in exchange for our access being granted. But perhaps you are interested in more … personal gain? We are of course prepared to pay you in wealth of various types should your information prove sufficiently interesting."
The wolf gulps his punch and looks vaguely disgruntled. "As long as anything you learn isn't used against the college, I've got no quarrels with that, miss. No matter how much money they offer you, eh?"
Envoy nods. "Well, I suppose you can start your questions then." She does her best to look friendly.
The priestess turns and smiles to Gusty. "Of course not, dear. A bargain is a bargain, after all. So then. Would you like to start?"
The Aeolun nods to Davaryna. "Ask away."
The air mage scratches behind an ear. "Let's start at the beginning, Envoy. Last we heard from you, you'd been let to travel to Ur, so you could start gettin' some answers on, uh, what was goin' on around here, then you got waylaid on the way. What happened?"
Priestess Davaryna smiles secretively, and says nothing on the subject.
"Well, it all started on New Year's Eve," Envoy explains. "I was in the Dream Realm, as part of Rephath's hunt for Captain Rockmore. Meanwhile, Inala had taken over complete control of both my physical and magical capacity, and apparently was able to fool even the monitoring spell that was placed on me. I was pretty much a puppet until the raid on the airship, which was triggered by a priestess in an outlying temple detecting my presence as Inala's Avatar. After that, the Yodhinala conducted the raid. When I finally noticed what was happening, I took extreme measures to break Inala's possession of me, and was captured along with Wynona by the Yodhinala and brought to the main Temple. I was unable to control my body at the time, and I still haven't recovered my magic abilities."
Envoy says, "Wynona was to be made up into the likeness of Rephath, to amuse Inala, and I was given the choice of remaining a prisoner of the Yodhinala or becoming a full, honorary Priestess in exchange for saying that I did so of my own free will, and that the College shouldn't come after me. I chose the former, and was allowed to have Wynona kept together with me instead of separately, and was also granted a request to be treated by a life mage. In this case, a Yodhsunala was brought in."
"I requested to meet a Yodhblakat, and one came to see me shortly after Wynona was taken away for a reason not revealed to me. It was my meeting with the Yodhblakat which probably led to their raid on Inala's Temple, especially after I mentioned a certain chamber that existed in Inala's Paradise within the Dream Realm."
Envoy pauses, then adds, "Do you want to know about my activities in the Dream Realm during this time as well? I did meet with the representation of Rephath there, and told her about Wynona, which is why the Yodhrephath were there to take her out of Inala's Temple during the raid."
Gusty groans. "For an Exile, you do manage to find your ways into the most interesting situations, don't you? Maybe there's something to the idea of the Chaos Mages asserting that Exiles're natural trouble magnets."
The Priestess looks quite interested in this revelation. "I'd heard of that incident and wondered why Gariazadze took such extreme measures in obtaining the aid of a Yodhsunala rather than ask the College's assistance in this matter. Do you have any theories on why you were being treated with such especial care despite your abjuration of Inala?"
"I could only assume that Inala wished me fully recovered before the Yodhinala were to begin torturing me," Envoy says with a shrug. "Or something just as bad as torture. Gariazadze did hint that Inala had some sort of plan for me, since she hoped I was given to her after Inala was done with me."
"Then again," Envoy adds, looking thoughtful, "it may just have been to have some sort of insurance against the College interfering with the dream ritual."
"Very interesting, very interesting indeed," Davaryna murmurs. "If they were grooming Wynona to be an image of Rephath, well, as a mage, you're well aware of the powers of similarity. You mentioned a 'certain chamber' as well?"
Envoy nods. "Inala has several chambers devoted to particular kinds of pleasures in her version of Paradise. One of them is a room devoted to the joys of combat. I mentioned this to Blakat and she was quite understandably upset, since Inala could be competing with her for the devotion of warriors."
Gusty's brows draw down into more of a frown. "Who cares what they do in their back rooms? From what I've heard, they're even worse hedonists than the Black Emir was in his heydays." He looks at his mug and mutters about needing some good, healthy booze. "What's this about a Dream Realm, anyway? What with half the dream mages gettin' knocked out of action, then startin' to wake up again, they've been all over like vermites on whiskey: 'morphic propensities of the ether', 'self-organized stimulation of natural subconscious imagery'… Worse than Chaos Mages, they are. What's up with that?"
Davaryna murmurs to the Aeolun despite Gusty's outburst, "Indeed, even were it not so blatant a violation of another Goddess's prerogatives, Blakat and Hers require few excuses for struggle and conflict. They are quite fond, you know, of taking prizes as well. It symbolizes to them that through battle, they grow stronger."
"It is about the whole Dream ritual that has been going on for over five years now," Envoy says. "As Rephath explained it, it took the beliefs of everyone in Babel and manifested the Seven Sisters from them. Don't try to tell them that they were created by magic, though; it only makes them angry. The whole purpose of this seems to be to give these representations of the goddesses the ability to perform miracles, so that this power could somehow by harnessed by the mages when the ritual completes." To Davaryna, she says, "You've probably noticed that Barada has been quiet lately. You'll find that Gorphat and Zakaro are also not talking to their priestesses at least, no more than they did before the ritual began."
Envoy adds, "Rephath has somehow managed to remove herself from the ritual, probably because the Rockmore dream gave her enough independent reality. Inala, Blakat and Sunala are still tied into the ritual, but that could change if the mages were interrupted."
The Priestess raises one eyebrow, then the other, as Envoy tells the story of the ritual. "While other Temples may be oblivious, we of Barada have been aware for some time that there has been an effort upon certain mages to create a ritual which draws upon the imagery of the Goddesses, yes," she says in a sugary tone that one might use to explain to a child that no, they aren't there yet, it's just a little farther to the town. "While there has been much dispute on the subject, I believe that our official position will be that these apparitions are but shadows of the true Goddesses." A smile flickers across Davaryna's muzzle. "Besides, quietness is good for the keeping of secrets, don't you know?"
"So then, your order has no intention of interfering with the ritual?" Envoy asks. "Even though the other Temples will benefit from the apparent miracles they can provide?"
Gusty pfffts. "Shadows of true Goddesses, yeah right. Anyway, a lot of us have heard about this ritual, but no one I've talked to around here seems to know anything about it, an' every time I go around sniffin' for magic, I just come up blank. If there's some kinda ritual going on, they're doin' a pretty good job of keepin' it a secret." He eyes Davaryna. "Hey… "
"I have an idea about that," Envoy says. "The base of the Tower of Babel was protected from the boomer because there is a labyrinth of Sifran crystal running throughout it. Any rituals conducted in there would likely be well shielded from magical detection."
"Secrets are our business, dear Envoy," the Yodhbarada replies sweetly. "Barada's reign is not through flash and dazzle for the multitudes, but through the whispers in the night. However … I did not say that we intended not to interfere with this ritual."
The wolf scratches under his chin, pondering Envoy's mention of the Tower of Babel. "Yeah, I thought of that, but it's like a funhouse, mirrors all around, so when you look one way, you see yourself reflected. Leastwise, magically speakin'. They could be running around somewhere deep under it. It's got so many levels that they could be holdin' circuses down there and we'd never know."
Envoy hmms, and says, "You should know then, Davaryna, that while I was in Inala's Library, it told me Barada's biggest secret, the one that none of the other Sisters knew."
The Yodhbarada raises an eyebrow. "A library in a dream, or within the Temple of Inala? And what did it purport this grand secret to be?"
"That the manifestation of Barada knew about the Dream Ritual, and what its goal was. She knew she wasn't the genuine Barada," Envoy says. "That manifestation was destroyed before its knowledge could be further explored, however."
Davaryna laughs musically, like a series of glass bells. "I think that my seniors in the Temple of Barada will be secretly relieved to hear that, Envoy." She waves a hand to Gusty. "Do be a dear and fetch me some wine, will you?"
Gusty grumbles, "What do I look like, your handmaid or something?" Nevertheless, he stands and heads toward the sideboard.
"Are there any other questions you'd like to ask, Davaryna?" Envoy asks.
"Did you discover anything else in the Temple of Inala that might prove interesting?" inquires the priestess. "And however did you manage your escape? I would suspect that even with the distraction of a raid by Yodhblakats, the Yodhinala would have taken care to secure you and Wynona well."
Davaryna adds to her question, her hazel eyes glinting, "Even to the point of preferring to kill you rather than surrender you as a trophy to the Yodhblakat… Yodhinala have quite a bit of pride, you know."
"They did try to secure me … but the Yodhblakat arrived before I could be dealt with, although I did receive sword wounds, and in my Blakat-induced madness caused the death of the Yodhinala that was serving me. I did end up running into Gariazadze though, and ended up killing her in self-defense … again with Blakat's help. I wandered outside and managed to meet up with Gusty here on the pilgrim trail before the surviving guards could find me."
"With Blakat's help? Are you speaking of the help of the Yodhblakat, or did … her magical image herself directly assist you?" inquires the Yodhbarada with great curiosity.
"Yeah, lucky, that," Gusty asserts as he pours wine for Davaryna from a jug on the sideboard. "I just happened to be lookin' around in case I might catch a break on the hunt for this ritual business. When I saw all those Yodhbarada flittin' over to someone else's Temple, hey, I figure trouble's brewin'."
Envoy says, "The manifestation lent me the berserker rage and strength that she grants to the Yodhblakat, and I was able to cave in the High Priestess' skull before she could stab me through the chest."
Davaryna looks intrigued. "She must have considered you, goodness … practically an honorary Yodhblakat, then. Even Yodhblakat must work fairly lengthy rituals to achieve such strength, you know, and with their odd credos, well, I couldn't imagine that Blakat herself would ever give anything to anyone except one of her own. In fact Yodhblakats are forbidden to take anything from one another. So did you take away any trophies from Inala's temple yourself then? Something suitably interesting?"
"The urge was upon me," Envoy admits, "but I suppressed it. I was not too happy with Blakat then, and I had only visited her in the hopes of destroying her in the first place."
"She was pretty lucky to just take herself away from 'em," the wolf says as he comes back with the wine and sets it before Davaryna. "She looked pretty beat up, even besides the sword cuts."
Envoy grins. "I heard from Yffryn in the Dream Realm that Caroban thought I was dead?"
"Well, Blakat is hardly one to avoid such conflict," Davaryna observes. She sips the wine and smiles up at Gusty, who just scowls back.
The wolf shrugs. "We figured that if they wanted you dead, they'd have just knocked you off right there. They wanted you for something, it was pretty clear; we just didn't know what. But if you gave up this bein' an Avatar business, it's even more of a mystery why they didn't just bump ya off."
"Perhaps Inala was beginning to believe me about the fragility of her existence," Envoy suggests. "I did get to visit Sunala's realm after severing my connection to her, though which brings me to a request I would like to make of the Yodhbarada, if Davaryna is willing to entertain it?"
"Of course," Davaryna says with a smile.
"When I arrived in Sunala's realm, it was barren for some time before the Sea of Souls rolled in like a tide," Envoy explains. "Later, Morpheus told me that the Sea is somehow contained within a living person, so that it only exists in the dream version of Sunala's realm when that person is asleep. I would like to find this person."
Davaryna arches her eyebrows again. "Interesting. I wonder if… " She sips her wine and considers.
Gusty looks disgruntled. "What's this all about? Sea of Souls? Someone living's got some kinda attachment to this ritual that makes her, kinda well, an embodiment of Sunala? Like what happened with you an' Inala?"
Envoy hmms. "Not an Avatar, no. Sunala's presence in the Dream Realm is too minor for that to be the case. This person is a component of the ritual, I think."
"For obvious reasons, I have not tried to inquire of the Yodhsunala in this matter," Envoy says with a grin. "Especially after the Yodhblakat hinted that they forcibly suppressed any stories or myths where Sunala was defeated."
"They may well believe they have succeeded," Davaryna says with a smile, swirling the wine about in her cup. "It would not do to suggest otherwise. But if there is such a vessel of Sunala, whether a component or an Avatar, the most obvious choice would be … a Srinala. Have you heard of them?"
Gusty shakes his head.
Envoy puzzles over the term. "A … zombie? Undead?"
"No, zombies are well known to be antithetic to Sunala they deny her a soul who should be rightfully dwelling within the Sea of Souls. But sometimes it will happen that an Eeee cub is born comatose, a state of being … alive, yet dead to the world," Davaryna explains. "Such a child cannot care for herself, and must be cared for by dedicated providers, usually by magical means as well. Yet she is cherished as well, for she is believed to be a good omen, and a force to turn away curses of Sunala as well, because it is believed that she is part of Sunala's realm." The priestess ticks her fingers along the rim of her goblet. "Sometimes a Srinala may speak, because being empty of a soul for if they held a soul, they would be alive, would they not? a departed spirit may choose to speak through her mouth."
The wolf shakes his head. "Dagh, what a bunch of… On Rephidim, they'd be sendin' for a life mage to try an' helpthe li'l baby, not turn her into some kinda fetish!"
"That doesn't quite fit, though," Envoy says after a moment. "A comatose person doesn't wake up and go to sleep again."
Priestess Davaryna turns a calculating smile toward Gusty and adds, "A Srinala is never allowed to live beyond young adulthood. At that time, and at a time propitious to the elements, she is sacrificed to Sunala. It is said that Srinalas are always born in Sunala's image: black of fur, white of hair, and eyes without pupils." She shakes her head to Envoy. "They do not wake up, it is said; they merely speak." An eyebrow is lifted elegantly. "It would not surprise me if some Yodhsunala were, of course, 'faking' a speech here and there from a Srinala. It would seem to me their naturally empty state should make it even easier than it would be to cause a normal person to speak."
Gusty looks sick at this revelation. "You Eeees are a bunch of sadists," he mutters and stands to go fill his mug with something more alcoholic from the sideboard.
"You should visit the Empire sometime, Gusty, or Gallis," Envoy says. "In any case, I'm sure this person has a waking and sleeping cycle, whereas a comatose person would always be asleep. These Srinalas never wake up though, or at least would certainly be noticed if they did, correct?"
"Snakes I can deal with, they all look like they're up to something, and poodles, well, who cares what a bunch of poodles think?" the wolf growls as he pours himself some wine.
Davaryna nods. "Just so, dear Envoy. In any event, the simplest thing to do would be to find out what Srinalas were born in Babel … and what happened to them, or indeed if they are still where they were born. That kind of information will take some time to gather, but still, when I know, I'll be sure and pass that information on." The priestess smiles demurely.
"What about those born outside of Babel?" Envoy asks. "Some of the conspirators we've run into were caught performing related rituals in rather out of the way communities. After all, the Temple of Sunala would keep close tabs on all of the nearby Srinalas, wouldn't it? And this ritual is meant to not be noticed by the various Temples."
The priestess chuckles, then emits a small sigh. "Srinalas can be born in some very out of the way places indeed, dear Envoy, but it takes far longer for such information to filter to our ears. We simply must start somewhere, and within the area of Babel is the simplest, followed by that of Ashdod. Beyond that, well, we can listen, but the whispers may be very faint indeed."
"I'll trust in your resources then, for now," Envoy says.
The wolfish air-mage swigs wine from his mug, leaning on the sideboard and looking annoyed. "Blasted if I can figure out how you find out, er, some of this stuff, anyway. What've you got, earholes and eyeholes in every roadhouse from here to Rephidim?"
Envoy blinks, and looks to Gusty. "Are you talking to me, or to Davaryna?"
Davaryna smiles, standing, and directs a look that seems unmistakably flirtatious toward Gusty. "Better than that, my sweet. Are there any other questions you might have for the Yodhbarada, dear Envoy?"
The wolf's glare toward the priestess seems answer enough.
"Well, I'd be interested in knowing if you have any evidence that the High Princess knew about the boomer attack in advance," Envoy says, smiling. "Rephath would find that very, very interesting. And of course, if you happen to know where any of the mages involved in this grand ritual can be found."
"That might start to cost you," Davaryna says with a wink. "But of course, if that information becomes available, then we shall be sure to let you know. Good day to you, dear Envoy, and you as well, my sweet Gusty."
The priestess allows the wolf to open the door for her, and then the wolf fairly sags against the door as it closes. "Yodhbaradas," he grumbles. "Never let 'em get any kinda hold on ya, I tell you. They're worse than vampire bats."
"Well," Envoy asks, "just what is this hold they have over the Guild then?"
"It isn't exactly over the Guild," Gusty confesses as he sits down next to Envoy and enjoys his wine. "I was a young and foolish journeyman and well, it's not exactly something I want to talk about. So, uh… You look well enough and all, but what're you going to do now?"
"Wait to see if Wynona is alright, and consult a Mind Mage about my mental blockage regarding magic," Envoy says. "Other than that, I still need to deal with Inala, Blakat and Sunala."
"Deal with what're you talking about here, isn't it obvious if you take care of the ritual, all these, uh, 'manifestations' will go away?" says the wolf, looking confused.
"Supposedly," Envoy says, "But there isn't much I can do to affect the ritual directly, and I'm hardly fit to sneak around Babel. There is always the risk that the ritual will complete before it can be disrupted, and I have a personal interest in seeing the manifestations eliminated."
Gusty nods. "I can see that, after one of 'em made a fair hash of yer life up in Caroban," the wolf agrees. "Everyone up there seemed to have a different story about 'life with Envoy'. So, you said Yodhrephath snuck in while the Yodhblakat were makin' happy with Yodhinalas, and took Wynona? Think they'll let you in to look for her then?"
Envoy thinks about it. "I haven't really really cheesed off Rephath yet, so they might."
The wolf chuckles and leans back. "Yet?"
"I'm an optimist," Envoy says by way of explanation. "Still, she's the only one of the Sisters I don't have to fight against, since she took herself out of the ritual on her own."
"Really? How'd that happen?" asks Gusty. This whole business of the Dream Realm seems to puzzle him yet.
"I'm not sure," the Aeolun says, leaning back in her own chair now. "The big Dream with Rockmore was the turning point though, I'm sure. The others needed a special sort of dreamer to face their challenges in order to complete them, so maybe Rephath managed to complete herself instead. Whatever the method, she can't be controlled by the mages behind it all, and she isn't a threat to Morpheus at the moment."
Gusty huhs. "So they need some special kinds of dreamers to … 'complete' them? What's that mean? Like what happened with you and Inala? I get the impression that the other Temples are a bit jealous of Inala recently, an' she's certainly gotten a lot more popular as a patron deity in recent months. An' who's this Morpheus guy?"
"Morpheus is a … self aware Sifran artifact. The God of Dreams, in the same way that Inala is the Goddess of Pleasure. The Royal Mages captured him in order to power their ritual. The completed Goddesses are supposed to reenact the Ritual of Seven Wounds with him as the sacrifice, gaining his power apparently."
"Ironically, I was there in the Dream Realm when he was captured, discussing ways he could help neutralize the boomer before anyone could use it," Envoy adds.
"Self-aware Sifran artifact? That'll be somethin' the Rephidim Temple will want to know about, sure 'nuff," Gusty says. "You've already told higher-ups in the College, ri " This last causes some bogglement. "Say what?"
"The Temple hired the dream mages that helped me contact him," Envoy says, grinning. "As the controlling entity of the planet Morpheus, he can create structures of Sifran crystal which is immune to the effects of boomers. I thought he might be able to create a cage for it that could be transported through the Gateway tower."
"Shoot, I'm glad I don't have to keep tabs on you and what you're doing," Gusty says. "This stuff would be enough to give a guy white fur if he didn't have it already. Okay, so you reached him by dreams, he runs the planet called Morpheus that's s'posed to be aligned with the Sphere of Dreams if I remember them right, odd coincidence that and he can manipulate Sifran crystal. If I were the Temple, and I knew that Babel was tryin' this kind of an end run to gain control over Sifran artifacts, I'd be there so fast." He shakes his head.
"One of the first things the mages did when they got control was to block off the Gateway Tower on Morpheus," Envoy says. "The Temple seemed content to leave this in the hands of the College."
The wolf scratches under an arm. "Well, they were, but y'know how it gets when you send someone to do something and then you don't hear from them for a while. They're gettin' on the College's back pretty hard about now, they want to know what we're doing about this crazy ritual business, when they can start exploring Morpheus more, so their archaeologists can get out there and start doin' their stuff."
"Okay, we're gettin' off track," Gusty says. He tries to collect his thoughts again. "Where were we?"
Envoy nods. "They probably want spare parts for the Temple from the big crashed spaceship there. I only care about getting Morpheus out of their power."
The wolf buries his face in his hands. "More fascinating information that I would love to know about, but I only got so many hands to do stuff with." He chuckles and sits up. "Seriously, you'll have to tell me that one over a tall cold one at a tavern sometimes, 'kay? For now… " He looks up at the window, as if trying to judge the time from the way light filters through the gap between the curtains. "It's startin' to get a bit late. Hey, you have any messages you want sent back to Caroban? I bet you left some friends pretty concerned there, or somethin'."
Envoy nods! "Iona is probably shedding like crazy if she thinks I'm dead! And I want Yffryn kept out of the Dream Realms too. She's more dangerous than I am."
"Yffryn… Oh yeah, acting Dream Mage dean, wasn't she?" Gusty says, memory jogged. "What happened?"
Envoy says, "She tried a bit too hard to win a duel between her and Wynona to be granted ultimate raw magical power by Zakaro."
"And I don't think she told the High Council where Wynona and I were being held when she woke up, either," Envoy adds.
"Well, fallin' cities," the wolf says. "There's a spectacle to imagine, someone as excitable as Yffryn with the powers of an adept." He shakes his head. "Mail's a little slow between here and Caroban, but I heard they were going to replace her with a more experienced mage anyway 'cause with them waking up, they could catch up and start taking over the work. I'll make sure your messages get through."
"Which sphere was Iona again?" Gusty asks.
"Earth," Envoy says. "She was at Zahirinee's Pool that day too, and got me into the Sphere pretty much."
"She was on the Wandering Roams expedition with me too," the Aeolun adds.
Gusty nods. "Yeah, now I remember." He grins lopsidedly. "I'd have chatted her up more, but my job for the College keeps me a bit busy. Pity. Okay, anything else I can do for you before I take off?"
Envoy nods, and asks, "Does this place have a kitchen? I haven't been able to eat under my own control since before New Year's Eve."
The wolf breaks out into laughter. "Is that what you've been secretly lusting for all this time? Hyuck! Yeah, they do, but it's run by bats who'll take a swipe at your nose with a rolling pin if you try and get in the way while they're tryin' to cook for a hundred students. Okay, why don't we see what we can rustle up for you?"