Friday 19 June 498
With the Strocchians aboard the Khazok dead, and the dwarven mercenaries freed from the effects of the magical orb, the party discussed what to do next. Garv had offered them the use of the officers' quarters formerly occupied by the Strocchians; this provided a safe place for a private conversation. Where should they go next?
Nigel felt that ultimately the party would almost certainly need to go to Alvera, the island to which the Church leadership had relocated (according to the Decrees from Eulis). "But before we do that," he said, "we probably want to go to Darian. I would like to believe that not everybody at the Darian monastery supported what was happening and went along with it....Whatever else we do, I suspect we are all thinking that we'll eventually have to go to three places: Darian, Alvera, and Stargald."
But there were other concerns: what about the dwarven mercenaries? They had come here ready for a fight; where would they go now? And on a more practical level, what about Tepworth's woodworking shop in Kirvin? Orbin had come to Katon supposedly to deliver a shipment of wooden boxes for Tepworth. At the very least, Tepworth's cart needed to be returned.
But before deciding on their next move, they needed to talk to Michan. They returned to Katon's underground complex to find Michan waiting nervously in his workshop. "You did a good thing today," Nigel told him. "By warning us what was happening, you allowed us to stop the attack on Darian, which would have meant the deaths of all the dwarves and many people in Darian."
"I'm just glad that mistake of mine is undone," Michan said.
With the immediate crisis over, Michan was now able to take the time to give them more detail about what he knew of the Conspiracy. There were four phases, he explained, though he wasn't personally involved in all of them.
The first phase, and the one Michan knew the most about, was the campaign to weaken the unity of the Church of Ilvia by using magic to create the impression of dissent and to force the faithful to hide their affiliation. Michan's primary involvement was in this phase: the glyph-trap boxes, which planted anti-Church hostility in the minds of its victims, was his invention.
The second phase was to counter the anti-magic taboo by engineering positive displays of magic, preferably at the expense of the Church. The events in Randa, where children were seeminly abducted by priests and could be rescued only with magic, were part of this phase.
The third phase, with which Michan had had little involvement, was to undermine the Church from within, through infiltration and policy changes. When Nigel showed Michan a copy of the Decrees, Michan said that he hadn't seen them before, but that they certainly seemed consistent with the aims of Phase Three. He did not know how the Decrees had been brought about: whether the First Prelate had been coerced, or was being controlled somehow, or the Decrees were fraudulent. But at any rate, it appeared that Phase Three had been very successful. He agreed that the choice of Alvera, a former Guildkeep, as the new seat of the Church was surely not a coincidence.
The fourth and final phase, of course, was the military invasion by Strocchia, using the ruse of the dwarven attack as a pretext. This operation had, at least, been prevented, which meant that the Strocchian invasion was now indefinitely delayed.
Michan agreed with the idea of traveling first to Darian, in part because Alvera itself had sheer rocky shores and was not approachable from the water. "Do you know of the teleportation network?" he asked them. They told him what little they knew: how they'd seen mysterious figures disappearing from the old keep near Randa, and how Jazzie had vanished near the ruins of Lenica, only to be discovered many miles away at Darabont.
"That should not have been possible," he said of Jazzie's disappearance. "But it's possible that the gateway was damaged by Heyraud's blast." He explained that the teleportation network connected all of the Guildkeeps, as well as Stargald and Darian, and was used exclusively by the Guild magicians during Heyraud's time. Each Guildkeep had a gateway to the network, which could be operated only by a magician who knew the correct incantation.
Orbin also asked Michan if there was any way to reverse the effect of his amnesia spell, which had affected the adventurers who had found Jazzie at Darabont. "Most of those people's lives were taken away," Orbin said. Michan said that he did not know; it was, he said, a crude spell, a less refined version of the perceptual magic he later used to hide Katon House. "But when I have time, I will research that."
In light of what Michan had told them, everyone agreed that the next step was to travel to Darian, where they could find out the state of things there and talk to local Church people. Then Michan could help them use the teleportation network to travel to Alvera. Michan knew he would be needed to operate the gateway, but he was also determined to go along because he believe that the rest of his people needed to understand what he had learned about the Strocchian treachery, and also that many people in Ilvia might be more receptive to magic than the Magicians had assumed.
"There's so much we don't know," Michan said after they told him of the One Hundred and the origins of the Church. "We thought the Church was founded purely as a reaction to Heyraud's attack, out of hatred for magic." Nigel explained that the anti-magic taboo actually had nothing to do with the Arvan faith, which was devoted to the pursuit of knowledge. Michan was surprised: "There are many among my own people who would gravitate toward that philosophy," he said.
Saturday 20 June 498
After spending the night aboard the Khazok, the party awoke to find Jalafin -- whom they hadn't seen since shortly after the battle -- at breakfast, apparently recovering from a night of drinking and gambling with the mercenaries. Filling him in on the plan, they returned to Katon to make final arrangements.
The young wizard Darnell, who had not yet left, agreed to take Tepworth's cart and horse back to Kirvin with him. He would also deliver a note from Orbin explaining that the delivery had been made successfully, but because of some urgent news he would not be returning.
They spent the rest of the morning bringing Orbin's mules and cargo (as well as Victor the donkey) aboard the Khazok for the voyage to Darian. It was not practical to try to bring the animals down through Katon's underground complex; instead, Garv had the Khazok sail north along the coast a couple of miles to where a switchback path descended the steep cliffside down to the water. According to Michan, Lord Katon had used this path to transport construction materials by barge to his underground complex (and more recently, the Strocchians had done the same). From this location it was possible to take Orbin's animals to the Khazok using small launches, from which they were winched aboard one by one.
By midday the Khazok was ready to sail, with the party aboard but without the dwarven mercenaries; only the ship's crew would remain aboard. Garv explained that he and his men were weary of sea travel, and being dwarves, they found Katon's underground complex to their liking. "We prefer to stay here until it's clear where our next destination is," he said. "And if the Strocchians return here, we can greet them appropriately. That will also help to make sure this place does not become a threat again." Nigel thanked Garv, warned him about Lord Katon's ghost, and explained to him how to activate and deactive the illusion hiding the harbor entrance. (Orbin also sold Garv all but one barrel of the beer he was carrying.)
They set sail for Darian early in the afternoon; Garv estimated that the voyage would take about two and a half days. The sea was calm and they encountered no difficulties, giving the party the opportunity to relax, if only briefly.
Their first night at sea, after supper, Michan offered to tell them more of what he knew. "I told you earlier what I knew of what was happening," he said. "But I haven't yet told you why."
You know where I came from. Stargald is indeed still there ... well, after a fashion.
What happened at the end of the War, five hundred years ago, was not what the magicians of the time expected. I don't think that even Guildmaster Heyraud intended it.
You know that Heyraud had refused to involve the Guild magicians in King Laurence's war against Galria. When the King made threats, Heyraud withdrew to Stargald. When the King diverted a fleet of ships to attack Stargald, Heyraud issued a summons for all of the wizards who were members of the Magicians' Guild to join him there. But his purpose was not merely to remove them from Ilvia; he needed them.
One of Heyraud's greatest achievements in the art of spellcraft was a technique that no other wizard has been able to duplicate. Heyraud found a way to channel and focus magical exertions of many wizards through himself, thereby making possible spells of unimaginable power. In the past he had used this power to great effect, casting spells that combined the strength of two, or three, or ten wizards.
But now he had recalled to Stargald every wizard in Ilvia, and he asked them all to contribute their magic to the defense of the island. As King Laurence's fleet grew close, Heyraud struck, channeling through his hands the power of tens of thousands of wizards. I suppose I don't have to tell any of you the effects of that blast. It ended the War in a single stroke, but it did much more than that.
Did Heyraud misjudge the power of his own magic? Was he lashing out in anger with a strength he would not have used with a cooler head? I suppose we will never know. But in the aftermath of that calamity, one thing was clear: the Guild magicians could not go home. At first they did not know whether anything even remained of Ilvia. Then a few traveled to Ilvia to find survivors living among the ruins of the Kingdom ... and to find that magicians were no longer welcome there.
And so the wizards remained on Stargald, cutting off all contact from what remained of Ilvia. Guildmaster Heyraud used his magic to conceal Stargald and make it unreachableby navigation, in order to protect it from the hostility of the Ilvian survivors. We did not need them, he said; they wanted only to exploit our magic for their own purposes. We are better off without them and their ways. Magic is all we need.
And for a long while it seemed that it was so. The Guild magicians had brought with them all of their knowledge and magic. With access to such power they were able to provide for all of their own material needs. It was a comfortable existence, though not all of the Magicians were happy about the exile Heyraud had imposed upon them. But the Ilvia they knew was gone, and so there really was no alternative.
With a population consisting entirely of wizards and their children, it was natural that magical talent of varying degrees was, at first, nearly universal among the population. Everyone could perform magic, and everyone was expected to do so. Other occupations were seen as superfluous and beneath our dignity. Heyraud's aloofness and prejudices set the tone, and the Magicians' disdain for nonmagical pursuits was nearly as strong as the surviving Ilvians' condemnation of magic.
It was not healthy. But they could not see this, not as long as Heyraud's strong personality held it together. And Heyraud lived for centuries, magically extending his lifespan through means known only to him. But even he could not live forever.
Eventually, 180 years ago, Heyraud finally died, and Stargald society went into decline. Well, in truth, the decline was already well under way, but under Heyraud's reign such things were not spoken of. As the generations passed, more and more people appeared among the population for whom magic did not come easily. But no other occupations were available, because of the universal contempt for nonmagical trades. Besides, nobody knew how to do anything in nonmagical ways: those skills did not exist. Everyone had to make do with magic, even those who were not good at it.
The society of Stargald began to stratify, and at each level, magic became less useful. Among most of the ordinary population, magic became mundane: people spent their time developing and learning spells to do things that would have been easier to do by hand. Life for these people was hard. Many of them had to struggle with magic, and its inefficient use for simple tasks meant that wizards of lower status had to work long and hard just to live, and to serve their masters in the ruling class. And among the intellectual elite, magic became an abstract and obscure art, producing spells of staggering complexity and aesthetic beauty but very little practical value.
In short, our society began to die because magic had become pointless. As the decades passed, some among the elite recognized this. They came to understand a simple truth: they needed nonmagical society as much as it needed them. While your people here on the Ilvian continent struggled to rebuild a society with no magic, we on Stargald struggled to maintain a society with nothing but magic.
Magic, we came to realize, is not the best solution to every problem, and a healthy society must have practitioners of other crafts in order to function. Moreover, the pursuit and practice of magic is satisfying and valuable only in the service of larger needs. Or to put it another way, magic for its own sake is a waste of time and energy. The Magicians needed a purpose or their society would die. And so, some argued, the time had come to reunite with Ilvian society.
But they did not know how they could even propose such a thing. Not much was known about the state of mainland Ilvian society -- only a few Magicians had ever dared to visit -- but we knew that there was a violent hatred of magic and magicians preached by the Church of Ilvia that now held the society in its grip. The Magicians knew that they had become physically weak and largely unable to protect themselves from physical threats. And so even those of us who believed that we needed Ilvia, and Ilvia needed us, were afraid to attempt any reconciliation.
And then, two years ago ... the Strocchians arrived.
I do not know how it happened. I am not sure even Guildmaster Welnor knows how the Strocchians penetrated Heyraud's obscuring magic. But they did: a Strocchian ship appeared off our shores, and a party of Strocchian leaders landed. As you can imagine, this was a momentous event: strangers on Stargald! It was also, I will tell you, more than a little frightening. Many of us had misgivings. The Strocchians seemed rough, and not necessarily trustworthy. But how were we to judge? We, who know so little of the world?
And what the Strocchians proposed seemed good. They told us that they wanted to see reunification, as we did. They offered to combine their physical strength with our subtle magical powers. They would provide military force and security, protecting us from the hostility of the Ilvian people; we would work magically to undermine the Church of Ilvia, remaking Ilvian society so that it would accept us. Eventually, the Strocchians told us, they would take power in Ilvia, restoring to the continent a unified government and formally ending any anti-magic policy, and paving the way for our return. They had no ambition beyond this, they said. The wanted only to bring order and unity to the Ilvian continent.
I know how this sounds to you. You must think that we were fools, and I suppose we were. But we were naive and desperate. I do not know what the Strocchians' real objective is, but clearly they have no interest in reunifying Ilvian society. They have used us. The great Magicians' Guild has fallen so far that we are now merely the helpless pawns of a brutish regime. And now that we have done our part in weakening the Church of Ilvia, they have decided that they no longer need us.
Having heard Michan's story, the party began to discuss what to do next and what they might expect to find in Darian.
"Even if the leaders of the Church moved," Orbin said, "there is still a building in Darian that used to be a monastery. Perhaps there are still people there who are doing what they were doing before: cleaning the floors, paying the bills, making and selling things. They might know something about what's going on."
"I'm hoping for more than that," said Nigel. He went on to explain that the Decrees had violated everything that the Church stood for. "I would like to believe there are those who rebelled," he said. "That a great many members of the Church would think that this is wrong, and that we can't go along with it."
Orbin pointed out that while those closest to the First Prelate were probably likely to follow along, those a step or two removed might be more hesitant (like Father Thaddeus, the priest in Luiry, who had failed even to post the Decrees because he didn't understand them). The best course of action, he suggested, was to play it straight: Nigel should simply say that he didn't fully understand the Decrees, and had come to Darian for clarification. This would be unlikely to arouse suspicion, because they could hardly be the first to appear with questions.
Monday 22 June 498
After sunset on the evening of June 22, the Khazok approached Darian. Even in the dark, the party could tell that it was the biggest city they'd ever seen.
As the Khazok docked, the master of the ship explained that he would plan to remain for a few days to resupply before returning to Katon. He did not wish to delay longer than that, however, because the absence of the ship might arouse suspicion if the Strocchians returned.
Because of the late hour, the party decided to spend the night aboard the ship. The next morning, they would find out what was waiting for them in Darian.