Phantasmagoria - Chapter 13

Author: Albie


“So close, Stone. I was so close…” the Alchemist complained, his demeanor calming from the rage of just moments ago. “If only I hadn’t been so quick to ask the name.  Her suspicions were aroused; just as anyone’s would be…I would have had it!”

“I tried to warn you Thomas.  You always do that.  Demand the information rather than waiting the few extra seconds for finesse.  I understand, you were excited, who wouldn’t be?” 

“I had to know!  What a gift that would have been.  I’ll search an eternity for that tiniest lost piece of lore.  That is my vow.”  He glanced in the direction of the forgotten alchemist’s grave.  “My whole life was changed by a single action.  What at first seemed bad turned out to be the greatest luck.  Kismet was certainly with me that day.  Who knows what might happen if I can get him his name back.  I might turn out that people will remember what he looked like, what he sounded like, all the things that make us who we are.”

“No one will remember him anyway.  Everybody who was around when he was has passed on, for the most part.  I do understand how important it is to you though.  Just remember, a seed takes many years to become a tree.  Next time you are on the path to the information, don’t rush it.” The druid looked out the window of the Alchemist’s shop, his eyes filled with worry.  “When do you think Chells and Kelloran got blasted to? And what do you think the Telltaler wanted in that period?” 

This is the second time “today” I’ve climbed this hill,” groaned Kelloran.  “This better be worth it.”  The two templar adherents trudged through the waist-high field grass, sweating more from carrying the bundles of their winter gear than from the cooling autumn air.  The shadows were lengthening as the sun slowly sank below the tree line, hastening the steps of the two priests.  As they finally topped the rise of the Fallenstar hill, they were greeted by the sight of the familiar townscape.  Relief swept over the two, but was taken away just a few moments later, as they noticed things were not quite what they expected.  A few differences here and there were enough to set the friends back on their heels.

“This isn’t right Kelloran, be on your guard,” warned Chells.  “Look, the Temple of Thorns isn’t built yet, and some of the other shops are missing too.”

“The tavern is here, and that’s a good place to maybe gather a bit of information... and maybe a beer or two,” joked the Restorer.  “How far do you think we got sent back?”

“Can’t be too far, I would guess...I don’t know twenty to thirty years.  What would the Telltaler want here?  He has to know he’s older than this.  He can’t still be looking for his story after all of this time.  Just following random leads he should have found something by now!  I told Stone he was bad.  There’s no way someone who mucks about in time can be up to good things.  Remember to keep a low profile while we’re here.  We can’t affect the future, but there’s nothing to say we don’t get killed here and just not know about it.”

Kelloran and Chells slipped into the Tavern, climbing the stairs and keeping an eye on everyone around them as the place filled up for dinner.  Quickly the two adventurers took the chairs at Chells’ usual spot.  The din of the place was amazing.  Over it all they heard a shrill commanding voice: “That’s not even a problem.  The Fist of Fallenstar will handle it.  Hadest!  Go get Fredrick!  NOW!  See if you can locate Dasket while you’re out too.”  Chells and Kelloran looked at each other and started to laugh.  Of all the markers in time, they certainly came across one they both knew well.  The Fist of Fallenstar was a name that only one person in all the known realms used: Anatee. 

“Chells, we can’t talk to these guys can we?  They won’t recognize us now, but what happens when we get back to our time?  I’ve always been chummy with Dasket, but I don’t think it’s because he knew me in the past, merely that he and I share a passion for the same things…do you think he knew me all along?”

“Doubtful.  You can’t create a time loop like that.  Time is fairly settled.  You can’t go back and change anything that has a known effect in the future.  For instance, a scroll is buried with a person and you divine that in the future someone will use it for evil, so you shoot back somehow, take it and hide it.  That’s fine.  As long as no one knew the location, and the event hasn’t already happened yet.  Once that casket is opened, and the scroll is known to exist in the “present”, then you cannot remove it in the past.  The universe will stop you at every turn.  Events will rearrange themselves to smooth out whatever problems you are about to create.  Your time spell will fail, the scroll will be replaced somehow, and you will always fail.  We cannot change known present by altering the past.”

“While that seems bad Chells, it works both ways right?  So, although we can’t change a tragedy to better, people like Necronias, Thadun and the usual gang of evildoers can’t alter the past to tip the balance in their favor either.  So it works out, sort of, in the end.  What my question was, is that Dasket might have known us all along, but never let on that this was the case right?  That wouldn’t cause any paradoxical situations, and it wouldn’t alter anything in the future either right.  He would know us “before” the present, and that doesn’t change the past.”

“No, Kell, I think it would change the “present”.  We don’t exist right now.  When we do in the future, if one of these guys knows us, we will have changed the past.”

“Uh…maybe we should get outta here then…I don’t want to cause any problems…”

“Bag it.  Let’s go.  We should try to figure out what the Telltaler is doing here anyway if we can.  Let’s check out what we can, and try to find a way home.”

“Usually from what I’ve seen, when something gets tossed by an Archeo-Locus, as soon as the Telltaler stops sifting, things tend to go back where they came from, unless they are held onto or become part of the new time.”  Kelloran quickly sifted through his notes for entries from previous encounters with the timequake, but most of them remained in his shop, close in proximity, far in ages.  “Most of what I brought with me was to check out the Nihilus Grove, I don’t have any notes on this stuff.” 

Quickly, the two priests hustled out of the tavern and back into the common.  Tired, hungry and certainly without many options of finding information, Chells and Kelloran debated what to do without trying to draw too much attention to themselves. 

“They’ve been gone for nearly a week now Thomas, and I’m really starting to get nervous.  I normally wouldn’t be too worried, but Chells is just barely recovering from his spirit freeze.  I hope they both went together, so they can patch each other up in a pinch.  Why does Evar have to be gone on such long excursions?  I can’t think of any more divinations that we can use.  All blocked by the Telltaler.  What happens if they showed up in the middle of a blizzard and froze to death somewhere out there?”

Stone paced back and forth through the Morningstar Apothecary.  His heavy coat not stopping the shivers that occasionally coursed through his body.  It was fear for his brother and his friend, not the cold that worried the druid.  He never felt so helpless.  All of the divinations that he tried were blocked, and the magical backlash that he was given each time soon deterred the two remaining friends from trying too many more options.  The trees were of no help either.  Every commune with nature he attempted came back with the same response: “No passers.  Windy today.  Ice in me.”  The trees slow responses were the best he could even muster at this point.  The animals had somehow managed to get into the deep sleep of hibernation despite the red malaise that still hung about the forest.  They few that remained were very reluctant to talk, but none had seen the two wayward travelers.  The spirits that remained awake had little to offer either.  Fredrick was combing the woodlands, and Bobrek stood a silent watch all about the town, looking for any sign or clue.  The Telltalers gravestone was eerily silent, and no spirit was detected within.

The tall alchemist worked hurriedly on his latest attempted potion.  The smoke and the fumes swirling not away from, but into the flask he held boiling over a flame.  Sparks of red mist flashed then vanished from within the alembic he held momentarily suspended over the flask.  “I don’t think they’re dead.  It’s like I said before, they probably found some great historical piece of lore, the lost temple of Rabobabo, or a spirit that nobody’s talked to in a couple of days, and they got sidetracked.  You know how those guys are.  If no one else knows about it, they’ll spend two days just cataloguing the guy’s date of birth, death and knowing Kelloran, resurrection.  Maybe they found some lost bit of lore that can only be read by deciphering a cryptogram that requires knowledge of the elvish language, or some other random thing.  Who knows?  They do it all the time!”

Dropping to one knee, Kelloran’s sword flashed up, the malevolent black tendrils reaching deep into the flesh of the man’s stomach.  On his right, Chells pressed his attacker back with repeated exorcism chants and quick stabs to the head.  Whirling Doomherald in a wide heavy arc, Chells managed to liberate the zombie’s head from his shoulders, and it collapsed in heap atop the fallen cultist.  Blood, burns and rips covered both of the priests’ cloaks, and in many cases even penetrating as deeply as their flesh.  They had been out of healing spells for hours now, and exhaustion was quickly taking its toll on them.  “I never thought I’d actually want the Staff of the Templar, but I filled it with cure medium spells just a couple of days ago…Ugghh that last flame burst really got me.” Sucking his breath through his teeth in gasps, the restorer collapsed to the ground.  “We can’t keep this up Chells.  I thought we couldn’t affect the future.  Seems to me like we’re affecting a lot of people’s futures…like this guy’s.”

“We can’t affect anything that’s known about.  Did you know him?”

“I guess not!  How do they keep finding us?  These woods are infested!”  The leaf litter made a comfortable resting spot for the moments of recovery, but neither man thought they were safe.  If only they hadn’t left the tavern…