You see a hallway lined with framed paintings. There are two doors on one side of the hallway, a row of windows on the other side, and a third door at the end of the hallway. These windows look out on the front courtyard of Thorendor Castle, and the main gate beyond.
You see four framed paintings on the hallway walls.
This is The Ruins of Spireshade, which you recall is tucked away in the coastal dunelands and rolling hills of Aggarwal, a southern region of modern Calbria. In Rildning’s day, it was the final refuge of the Gallerlander tribe that was pushed out of their heartlands by the Brintilian Empire. Master Arasemis said Candlestone’s founders moved their new group to Spireshade as part of the exodus, where the Order remained hidden for a long time before moving to Donovan seven generations later. This area of Aggarwal is also famous for the death of Marshal Hilsingor, leader of the crusade against the tribes, which prompted the imperial armies to retreat from Aggarwal permanently.
Today, Aggarwal is one of Calbria’s hubs for the sea trade, having more ports than any neighboring territory, and having commerce with every southern Pemonian country and many in the Far East. The medicinal ambergris is a primary commodity here, being harvested from the gut of mossland whales that inhabit the Aggarwal Sea.
Among all the busyness, Spireshade is a forgotten place. Except in the memory of Candlestone.
This is The Unshut Halls of Kelmrath, a ruined tribal fortress in the high mountains north of Heingartmer, the capital of the modern Rugen Empire. Originally built as a lookout station by the ancient Raffen tribe, Master Arasemis said the fortress served as a training ground overseen by the early Candlestone teacher Ermosarch, whose portrait is down in the great hall.
Arasemis said the fissured fort contained traps, gaping pits, and sliding stone slabs to test trainees, which inspired the design for the training hall of Thorendor Castle upstairs.
You wonder what it must have been like to train in those cold, wind-swept mountains ages ago. The training at Thorendor is difficult enough in this comfortable castle and bountiful forests.
There is no name on the frame of this painting, but you know it depicts the confrontation between two ancient members of Candlestone, Bevil and Mondralo. Master Arasemis described the fight as one of the worst schisms within the Order of the Candlestone.
It seems to you that this dark time is represented by the black of the dramatic cliffs that crowd around the combatants, and they are separated by a chasm that recalls the schism of the Order itself. This conflict led to the splintering of Candlestone for a time.
Arasemis said this painting is here to remind students of the importance of unity and the fate of those who betray the Order, by treachery or by schism.
This is The Dead Forest of Feronia, a place you recall from alchemy training is a source of many rare ingredients. Master Arasemis said there used to be a vast forest in northern Feronia, which is part of Ovelia. But a disease spread through the vegetation, reducing every tree to a twisted cane and transforming all the undergrowth into rotting heaps. Within a hundred years most of the forest was gone, replaced by a wretched, stanching place.
No one knows how the disease came to be, though most Ovelians say it was destroyed by their gods with a miasma called tomb wilt. But Arasemis said that many fascinating and rare materials could be found there, if one was enterprising and daring enough to go and search. There is, in fact, a band of Ovelian ingredient gatherers that camp among the muck during a span of time each year. They know where to go and what to look for. When their sacks are filled, they take their finds to an alchemy market in a nearby city. Arasemis has a list of things he wants to buy from there.
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You see three framed paintings on the hallway walls.
This is The Labyrinth of Laume River Valley. The Laume area of the Kingdom of Donovan is primarily coastal in the west, lacking the large farming lands of adjacent territories. The modern Hraler Wildermen also prevent the people of Laume from significant mining or harvest of lumber in the mountains in the east of Laume. As a result, the territory is dependent on trade to provide much of its food and building materials. And this trade is dependent either on visits by ocean-going ships, or barges that take passage through the narrow Laume River Valley eastward to Toulon.
Voyages through the valley are sometimes attacked by the Hraler Wildermen on the north bank or by Durgen thieves on the south bank. These dangers require armed protection at all times. The Lord Minister of Laume is responsible for organizing regular and trusted convoys, by road or river barge, between the two major towns that bookend the valley.
Guards that work this route are well trained, well fed, and well paid, but have a death rate higher than more common trade routes. To make matters worse, if any ship encounters problems that force it to throw anchor along the banks, or if any travelers are too poor to pay for a barge and must take the road, they must stay within sight of the river when camping or foraging. The stony wilderness of the valley forms a natural maze of channels, tunnels, and monoliths that have conspired to make travelers lose their way, never to be seen again.
Master Arasemis said this painting was probably made using notes from an expedition organized by the Lord Minister of Laume to map the river bank paths most used by travelers. The idea was to hammer colored stakes into the ground to prevent people from getting lost. But stakes mysteriously disappeared, some members of the expedition lost to the wilderness, and the effort was abandoned.
This is The Strangled Heights of the Island of Elpid. You remember seeing a drawing of the small island up in the map room on the sixth floor of the castle. Elpid is an isolated place, still inhabited by tribes that viciously defend their island from outsiders. You recall Master Arasemis said that Elpid is covered with a choking vine-wrapped forest that reaches into the sea, grasping for more places to colonize. The island is also known for its poisonous adders that inhabit the chilled mountain springs of the interior.
According to Ovelian and Genevarese adventurers who have escaped with their lives, the Elpi people wear leaf masks in public because they believe it shields them from a plague that ravaged them long ago. The Elpi also harvest blue clays from their island to make pottery and other objects, even buildings. The clay contains flecks of indigo which became highly prized and stolen by outsiders.
This is Hatarix, Pride of the Nake. You know a lot about the Nake tribe, the descendants of which still live in the mountains of Merbredel in the Kingdom of Donovan. They worship stones in the belief they are gods. Monoliths, and any oddly-shaped natural rocks and outcroppings, and especially large stones that balance on others, are all worshiped. Hatarix, buried inside a small vault near the top of the monolith, was a queen of the Nake and is now considered by them to be a prominent goddess.
The Nake believe that these and other gods speak to them through naturally sanctified stones, meaning those that are discovered in their peculiar shapes or seemingly impossible poses, such as a boulder balanced on precipice. The common folk cannot hear the speech of the stones, so shamans interpret their messages. The Nake believe mankind was created from the pebbles and sands of the earth, the remains of primeval gods themselves. And that the powers of the earth are embodied in particularly unusual rock formations, which they call motherlodes.
You are fascinated by these people, and you’re glad there are other writings, paintings, and objects from their culture here in Thorendor.
You walk into a room the other students call the shrine, though Master Arasemis has never called it this. He said the room is dedicated to the founders of Candlestone, more as a memorial to remember the past and a contemplative place to consider the future.
To you, yes, it does look like a religious shrine, though Arasemis practices no religion. He is dedicated to a higher ideal: the return of the pure, primeval society of the Agnesci, with Candlestone as the means to that end. That sounds good to you, as long as you get to learn the ancient arts.
You see the candle-lit altar in front of you. Master Arasemis comes here to ground himself, to remember, to meditate, and to think on what lies ahead for the Order of the Candlestone.
Among the stacks of books on the altar, you see one with an interesting cover. It’s an old book written by Taurevan, a Brintilian apothecary, alchemist, ingredient hunter, and ship’s doctor who accompanied Rin during the Age of Exploration.
You remember from your studies that Taurevan was among the first and most prolific Brintilians to discover, describe, and catalogue many New World plants, animals, funguses, and other ingredients that were previously unknown to Old World scholars.
You flip to a page bookmarked by Master Arasemis.
Moss Kingdoms and Other Hidden Wonders (Taurevan, 2214)
…There the banks of moss were layered like thick, deep blankets, hiding tiers of insect and plant worlds in light and dark dampness. Germinating seeds. Submerged and rotting twigs. The tiniest of crickets. Delicate, dismembered wings.
But there was also true treasure beneath these moss-pillows. Not the gold and silver sort loved by explorers and miners of the earth. Rather, the fermented acorns coveted by bog squirrels. Copperback beetles. The eggs of fungus frogs. And maelmint, a lichen whose tendrils thread the mosses of this land and whose taste is like wild mint and smoked salt.
It is places like this that hold unfathomable bounties. Limitless ingredients that are a blessing to the alchemist, and a curse to the reliability of his memory...
The plaque says this is Rildning. He was, of course, the primary founder of Candlestone. He spent most of his life as a Brintilian colonial knight, only to join the side of the natives of Pemonia as the empire pressed further and further into the interior of the continent. You and other students have read much about Rildning under Master Arasemis’s careful instruction.
The plaque says this is Eniri. She was a Gallerlander princess and helped lead early Candlestone. She helped prevent her tribe from completely collapsing in the face of repeated defeats by the Brintilian armies, and helped to broker alliances with other tribes. Master Arasemis said she was an inspiration for so many during dark times.
The plaque says this is Harsen. He was a Brintilian woodsman, trader, and friend of Rildning. Although he was a colonist, he was among those who fostered peace with the tribes of Pemonia while others planned the carving up of the continent. Master Arasemis said Harsen’s loyal friendship with Rildning was an unbreakable bond, leading them through many hard times. Harsen lived to an old age, one of the steadfast leaders of Candlestone’s early years, and a guardian to Enildir.
The plaque says this is Owerdir, a prince of a minor Gallerlander clan who became a close friend of Rildning. Master Arasemis said it was the bravery of Owerdir that helped secure alliances with other tribes, and his contact with the Naren-Dra that eventually led to that tribe’s sharing of shroud alchemy with Candlestone.
This is Good Revelations, a painting of a sky omen as understood by the ancient Gallerlander tribe. Master Arasemis has taught you and the other students a bit about the signs that they saw in the day and night skies, which helped govern their decision-making. In this painting, although the sun looks like a waning moon, it must be daytime. With peak-wispy clouds during a period of electrum harvest, the Galleranders expect to receive good revelations about the future.
This is A Dire Omen for Eglamour, which Master Arasemis said depicts the abyssal cloud as the ultimate bad omen. In this case, the cloud begins to center above the grand city of Eglamour, the Brintilian Empire’s capital of colonial Pemonia, and the ground fogs seep along the streets and outlying farms.
It was the ultimate hope and prayer of the Gallerlanders that this omen would be seen above the city, or perhaps hovering over the colonial Frontier Corps as they massed to attack the tribe, but it was not to be. Eglamour still stands today as the capital of the modern Kingdom of Donovan, and a primary target for the Order of the Candlestone. You smile as you think about the great tasks that Candlestone has completed in Eglamour, and the tasks yet to be done.
Tribal omens aside, you wonder whether it would ever be possible, with the best alchemy accessible to Arasemis, to create an abyssal cloud on the scale of this painting. You imagine the fear and panic that would be caused in Eglamour, or in any of the capitals of tyrants, if it were possible. What a terrible, glorious weapon it would be for Candlestone.
As you step through the little hallway toward Master Arasemis’s quarters, a floorboard shifts underfoot and a spring-loaded iron door thrusts out from a wall pocket. The way is blocked. Unless you have the master’s key, you’ll have to find another way around.
Have you found the key? Use it here.
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