Episode 1: The Horn And The Owl

I’ve been wandering the wilds of Novopan for six straight months until I ventured into Coetus for Breves Dies, an annual celebration of the first and only time the people of Lunopan communicated with us, some 415 years ago. At least I assume that there were people living on Lunopan. Nobody really knows for sure.

Finding lodging in the Artisan District in The Red House Inn. I managed a hot meal and several pints of lager before I headed up to my room and drifted off to a well-earned sleep and the strangest dream I’ve ever had…

A large square room with stone walls surrounds me. In each of the four corners there is a mage, busily attending his research and experiments. I choose the eldest mage and walk toward him. I can hear myself speak, “Do you believe we may ever be free of…” but before I can finish I hear a sound I’ve never heard before and notice a blue light emanating from behind. I turn to see an archway in the middle of the room with it’s threshold filled with a layer of glistening water. I look around at the panicked mages and, as if rehearsed, they simultaneously cast a spell on the arch. The liquid threshold becomes a violently turbulent liquid curtain and the eldest mage turns to me and yells, “Run! You are the only one with the knowledge to protect this world. Go and find help.” I hesitate as I look at the mage one last time and with great pain I turn away.

All of a sudden I’m no longer in the room with the mages and the magical archway. Instead, I’m flying through stone halls towards a light, feeling free but weak as I finally emerge through a doorway. As I fly up and away from whence I emerged, I can see that it was a simple temple crumbling inwards upon itself. I hear loud and familiar horn.

Again, I’m in another place. Another stone room, but more grand and lavish, filled with books and trinkets. A thick layer of dust covers everything, making it seem long forgotten. 

Now I’m sitting at a a desk piled high with books and potion bottles. I look down and I’ve written something on a solitary page. “You must help me, I cannot do this alone,” it said. Then I was pulled back fast from my chair as though I was falling horizontally and then I was standing still in front of an unrecognizable figure reading parchment at a solid oaken desk. Then I’m being pulled backwards again through dark and crumbling halls of stone. Left and right and over again. After what seems to be endless hours, or was it just a few seconds, I fall transversely out of the final hall into the light as I see that these halls were all inside an ancient ruin. I get pulled backwards and upwards until I can see the entire Novopan continent. Mount Gloria catches my eye and it looks tiny from this elevation, and moving further and further as I ascend. I can see the metropolis of Coetus below as I trace my route from the ruins with the figure and the desk. My ascent suddenly stops and I fall towards the city below. Faster and faster, I brace for impact, as I approach the clay rooftops, anticipating a quick death. At the moment of impact, which never happens, I find myself floating motionless in a room above a bed with a sleeping figure, as if I fell through the roof and just stopped.

At first I am confused but quickly realize that this sleeping figure is me, but before I can fully comprehend the situation, my sleeping self opens his eyes, stares at me, then says, “When you hear it, go to The Sphere. The only way to help, is to leave.” As I wonder what this means, I hear the loud horn again and I’m jolted awake but, before I’m fully conscious, I hear the following phrase, echoing in my head over and over again. “You bring it round to it’s final place, the shortest path the sun shall trace.”

Fully awake and reaching for my notebook, I recall everything from the most vivid and memorable dream I’ve ever had. Sitting on my bed for quite a spell, recounting the memories of the dream, I finally realized that I was hungry. The Red House Inn provided modest lodging but the appetizing odors from the kitchen were extravagant, to say the least. I gathered my gear and headed down for breakfast. As I ate, my mind wandered to my childhood and my parents, Fern and Eddie. They were the only interracial couple in Urfa and, given that this picturesque farming village was populated by only ten families, they were thought of as unusually sophisticated. Squirrel was the name they gave me and it was well earned, or so I was told, because I had an affinity for stuffing my cheeks during mealtime.

By the time I finished breakfast, it was already late morning on the shortest day of the year. Sopitam 1, year 12,417 was already off to an interesting start. Spending the day in the district I wandered into many shops and absentmindedly looked at varied displays of curios and baubles, because my mind kept replaying the dreams. Before long, night had fallen. Looking for new lodging, I heard it. The same sound that I heard twice in my dream. The warning horn of Coetus had sounded and I knew immediately what to do.

People scrambled along the streets, looking for loved ones and heading towards the safety of their homes, as I started the long walk south along the main boulevard, toward Simul Park and the statue of The Great Flaming Sphere. I felt both excited and uneasy.

Statue of The Great Flaming Sphere
Statue of The Great Flaming Sphere in Simul Park

Two hours elapsed before I found myself approaching the abandoned square. Abandoned except for two lonely figures standing near the statue, looking confused. One was a human man and the other a halfling woman. Both, like myself, were equipped for a long journey.

I approached and introduced myself. The man, named Hawk, seemed affable and turned out to be younger than my 18 years. The woman, Pincup, was older, and possessed an enlightened aura, or so it would seem. Our discussion was quickly disrupted when a grey owl swooped in and landed on The Sphere, seemingly out of nowhere – definitely not a common occurrence, in my experience. It perched and purposely stared at each of us in turn. I was enthralled by the bird’s behavior and Hawk even tried to feed it something.

The owl remained motionless until it suddenly it flew up and headed for the roof of the nearest four storey building where it landed next to a man. He looked like he was trying to shoo it away when the owl flew back to the statue, this time landing on the stone ledge above the triangular crystalline date pointer, currently set to Sopitam 1. The owl then reached down with a talon and gently rotated the triangular pointer, unlocking the magical device, and causing the two dials to spin freely. The owl took flight once more and vanished into the darkness of the rooftops.

Dumbfounded, the three of us just stared at each other, when a rough looking, dark-skinned man appeared from behind the nearest building, asking why our owl was bothering him on the rooftop. Courteously, I introduced myself and found out two things about the man from the roof – that his name was Haragoo and that he was drunk. More introductions and pleasantries followed when the topic quickly turned to dreams as Hawk just couldn’t take the tension any longer. All of us had similar dreams last night, but each hearing their own message, a different part of a puzzle. It was a set of instructions for The Sphere and, after some scribbling in my notebook, we figured out the proper sequence.

  1. It’s the second time but you must start, when light and dark are equally apart.
  2. Far from last yet not quite one, so much time in the sun.
  3. Almost there the end is near, yesterday is yesteryear.
  4. You bring it round to it’s final place, the shortest path the sun shall trace.

We rotated the dials on The Sphere in sequence and the pedestal immediately shifted to expose a staircase leading down beneath the street. Without hesitation I excitedly made my way down the stairs, followed by Haragoo and Pincup. Just as Hawk was about to follow, I heard a new voice from above. It was a member of the city watch. He briefly spoke with Hawk about the horn, the riddle and the tunnel. The guard thought that we needed to take the tunnel to see where it would lead, believing there to be a connection with the horn. Small dark creatures were testing the wall’s defenses, he told us, but that’s all he heard.

We bid him farewell and headed down the stairs which quickly flattened out into an Eastward stone passage. We didn’t talk much as we walked and, after what seemed like several hours had passed, we came to a set of stairs which lead us up and out into a clearing in a forest, well past the city walls. After we all stepped into the clearing, a magical force covered the tunnel with surrounding foliage, making the entrance effectively disappear from view. It was quiet and peaceful here and, looking up at the full moon, I guessed that it was just past midnight.

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