A Lantern Broken

Session #3: The Justice Tree

Reason Enough

Ambrose looks at Alton expectedly. Something isn't right about Alton and he wants answers. The waitress looks a bit upset at Ambrose. "I'm sorry. That will be all for now," he says to remove her. She nods hesitantly and walks away. "She probably thinks you're crazy," Alton chimes. "I might be crazy unless you can explain yourself" Ambrose starts to eat his food to calm suspicions. "You shouldn't sell the lantern." "You've said that." "Aye, but let me explain. The lantern holds a dark secret that you need to know." Alton seems uncertain on how to proceed. "You know that the lantern has four colored panels, aye?" Ambrose nods, while Alton seems uncomfortable. "Well. Each panel is like a ward, or barrier. Each one holds back someone sealed inside a long time ago. "How can you know all of this," Ambrose asks quietly, looking around at the tables near him. Alton shrugs and gestures towards himself. "I… you could say… am the white panel."

Ambrose's eyes widen in disbelief. "How is that possible?"  Alton looks to the table, "The lantern was made to seal away powerful god, and to do that they had to sacrifice three others. I was one of the three. They put me in last, so I suppose I'm the first one out. I'm supposed to help keep the lantern from falling into the wrong hands, and letting the evil out." Ambrose takes it all in and looks to Alton, "And how do you plan on doing that if only I can see you, how can you keep the lantern safe?" Alton shrugs, "I don't know." "Did you give me that terrible spell?" "I suspect that was a piece of the dark god's power that slipped out." "Did it cause the lantern to crack more?" "Probably, it's likely. But I expect the lantern to slowly deteriorate away. The world you live in now is much different from my time. The lifestyles of the people I've seen would be enough slowly break away at the lantern." "So even if I hide the lantern away from everyone, the seal will still break?" "It might take years, or maybe decades. But I believe that eventually the seals will vanish on their own now." "Is there a way to stop it?" "I don't know. But I might know someone who might." "Who could possibly know that?" Ambrose scoffs as he finishes off his meal. Alton pauses,"I don't know their name, but they're inside the blue panel."  

Ambrose nearly chokes on his wine, "The blue panel? You want me to break another panel to stop the lantern from breaking?" Alton leans forward, "It's the only way I know of." "So I need to crack the blue panel? And that's it?" "It's not that simple, there is an order to it all. White, blue, red, black. The lantern was designed to break away in that order." "You sure seem to only know something when its inconvenient," Ambrose remarks. Alton chuckles, "But whatever you choose to do, I can't do anything to stop you." 

Ambrose decides he needs to sleep on all he's learned. Alton stays at the table, and watches Ambrose climb the stairs up to the room he rented. It's difficult for Ambrose to fall asleep, and when he finally does it's a restless sleep. Again, he dreams of the black skeleton. The sun hits Ambrose and he wakes up, he looks around his empty room and decides to prepare his spells for the day. After finishing his meditation, Ambrose feels it's time to find where Alton has gone off to. "Are you ready?" Alton's voice comes from the corner. Ambrose turns to see him leaning on the wall in the corner. Ambrose doesn't visibly react, but he is startled. Another reminder that Alton isn't real. Ambrose tells Alton that he's decided to go to the mages like he planned, but he wants to see if they can help him learn about Alton's civilization. 

After some investigation in the street to learn the location of the library he heard of the day before, Ambrose learns that the library is in the Queen's castle. Hopefully he can get in. It's easy to find the castle, it's visible from nearly any street in the city. The white-stone keep looms over Illivan from the center of the city, atop a hill. He approaches one of the castle's public gates and sees a guard in polished armor who carries a gilded halberd. Before he can pass the gate the guard questions him where he's going. A brief conversation occurs, and the guard explains that the library is the only public area of the castle and not to wander. Ambrose affirms the guard and passes the gate and enters the walls. After passing through some luxuriant gardens he enters the castle and finds the library. He enters into the presence of three bespectacled, owl-eyed men. Odd in their years, the men are delayed in they way the react and are speak. Ambrose requests to see the oldest manuscripts they have about the civilizations from before the founding of Illivan. There is some argument between the library's keepers until they agree to show Ambrose to the section he seeks. As he is ledthrough the library, Ambrose looks to see if Alton is nearby. He tries to get Alton's attention without alerting the owl-eyed men. 

The librarian reveals the alcove that contains the oldest manuscripts, Alton is already there pointing to the scrolls. Ambrose pulls it out and opens it. DVNO. Four capital letters, printed in gold. The manuscript is written in an old language unknown to Ambrose. He asks the owl-eyed man if he could read it. "Certainly". The man hunches over the scroll and begins to slowly read pieces. Alton is shaking his head, "He has no idea what that says." Ambrose tries to motion to Alton to read the manuscript while the owl-eyes man isn't looking. The man stops reading, "Did you find my translation satisfactory?" "It was very insightful, I'd like to take some time to look over it myself some more." The owl-eyed man backs away and Ambrose returns to the scroll with Alton. The apparition reads over the scroll, "That's wrong… that too…" Alton tuts. "What is it?" Ambrose whispers, attempting to keep attention away from himself. "It's a history of my culture. It appears someone had found some artifacts from my time and made assumptions on what they were for. The language it's written in is similar to mine but it's off. I'm thinking it's from a descendent of the survivors of my home. So my time is lost even to the oldest records." Alton appears upset. 

It's clear the scroll won't be able to help Ambrose find a way to control the lanterns deterioration. He thanks the owl-eyed man and leaves the castle. "What can we do?" Ambrose asks. "The only thing that's made any noticeable change in the panels was when you cast that spell." "No. I don't ever want to go through that again." "It's all there is to go on." Ambrose sighs, although he can't find the spell in his book, the memory of if it etched into his mind. He feels he could cast it at any moment he needed. Ambrose looks to Alton then around him. They are alone near a park, "I'll see if I can cast it on that tree." Ambrose braves himself and focuses on the tree. Nothing. 

Ambrose remembers the entry from his spell book. For use on enemies. "I guess it only works on people," Alton surmises. "Great, where am I going to find someone vile enough to be sentenced to death by black flames?"  They continue down the path into a square. There appears to be a rally; nearly a hundred people have gathered together, cheering and joyous. At the center is a platform, backed by the waving, red and gold banners of Illivan. A circle of guards surround and branching iron pole that beaches into many smaller limbs. At the end of each limb is a strip of paper tied around its end. An elder guard, white-haired with Illivani styled mustaches, approaches the edge of the platform, "Are there any who might take up the tasks of justice? Any who might do good?" Ambrose taps the shoulder of an onlooker at the back of the crowd, "Excuse me, what is all this?" Men and women climb the platform and begin to pick papers off the tree. "Not from here? It's the lottery!" The man is excited. "Lottery?" Ambrose relies, confused at the explanation. "Yeah, they decorate the Tree of Justice and hold the lottery. The papers are the names of murderers and evildoers. When you go up, you pick your paper and," the man the puffs up a bit and seems to impersonate the guard that spoke before, "Are tasked with enacting rightful justice upon the guilty." A bounty lottery, what are the chances.

The volunteers on the stage start to dwindle, but many papers remain on the tree. Ambrose looks to Alton and they share a nod. Ambrose takes to the stage down the large row that divides the crowd. By the time he is on the platform it is just him and the guards. "Thank you, kind son. Take your time and choose," the elder guard speaks to Ambrose. The magus approaches the tree and selects a paper from higher on the tree. He unties it from its branch and unfolds the paper to read it. 'GIRIDHARAN. MURDER. WEREWOLF." Great. 

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