As eager as Cɪrthsta was to embark on her quest, too few people were eager to tag along with her. She had to concede for the time being, instead directing her attention swiftly towards coaxing as many Watchers back to the Academy as possible.
To that end, she made use of the Gateway Gazebo. She sat herself down, cross-legged, eyes closed, and everything, facing the three ancient Gateways that remain in various degrees of decay deep below the Gazebo. She remained there for three days straight. When she reappeared, she informed us that a handful had heard her call – after complaining about being so hungry and thirsty.
In the meantime, M. I. Arregz and his band members departed again to do their traveling wake-up band thing and I resumed teaching Thiere about the Iron Jacket and a couple other important meditative practises.
The Academy also received two new visitors that day, when Cɪrthsta re-emerged from the Gazebo. Two Anthropes named Dassan and Kessen. Apparently, they’d just stumbled across the place. Cɪrthsta, though, was sure happy to see them; they had met previously, briefly. I noticed the first thing the duo each did when meeting up with her again was to fist-bump one of her mammaries and say to them, “good to see ya again!” I almost laughed.
On catching sight of me, Kessen, the steppe-wolf, blurts out, “dude, you’re overcooked!” I let out a chuckle, but inside I was laughing so hard. These two will be perfect for comedic relief around the Academy.
Days later, the first Watcher to return was an eccentric-looking woman called the Witchdoctor. Her skin’s as dark, or even darker, than mine, her hair is wild and conceivably uncombable, and her slender body is covered in feathered bracelets, necklaces of shells and bones, and garments from leopard skins that serve only to cover the bits that need covering. A purse of leather is slung over her shoulder, and her hands clasp a wooden staff topped by the skull of some creature that I personally have never seen alive. She can speak our language, but with a heavy accent.
The next day, a girl dressed like a jester arrived and shortly proved to be more eccentric than the Witchdoctor and Peregrine combined. The Merry-maker…. She and the Peregrine were quite a sight together, arms wrapped about one another and hopping happily in place; so much boobage could be seen bobbing about and being smooshed together that I was actually shown proof that there really was such a thing as too much. The Merry-maker also showed she could bounce about the halls of this place more than Princess ever could.
A week or so later, a third Watcher made it to the Academy. Bharkou, he calls himself – also known in lore as the “Mortal God.” He is often depicted in old artworks as a lion-headed king clad in spectacular armour, but generally this is seen as symbolism – his courage and fortitude were like a lion’s, as a mainstream scholar would say. I’m sure, though, this man really does have a lion form that he can shape-shift into at will (since the mainstream believe he’s long dead, yet obviously he isn’t). He’s more composed than the other Watchers, it seems, which I’m glad to see.
After shaking Cɪrthsta’s hand, he immediately requests an assembly so he can discuss some important information he received while on his way here. Within the hour, he had his assembly.
“First and foremost,” he begins as the last of us takes a seat about the center of the Great Hall, “I heard the fragment of a message from Azhseg, that Alien you were friends with for a time during the Five Waves, Cɪrthsta, saying the Dark are planning something massive. Even the Librarians are unaware of what is happening. There was also some mention that forbidden relics were recently stolen.
“Next, the Way-farer said he was going to make his way to the Academy though it will still take him another week or so to make it here. I have yet to hear anything from the Tinker or the Apothecarian. Unfortunately, our dear friend Ashtanni, who was devastated by your disappearance, committed suicide despite over a century of trying to convince her otherwise by the rest of us.” He then takes a breath. “Also, we fought one last battle against the Archivists after your absence; but, we lost the fight and we lost my dear little brother in that fight as well.” He then takes a seat by the Witchdoctor, and the place goes very quiet for some time.
“Let’s make sure those losses aren’t in vain, then!” says Cɪrthsta with a go-get-‘em kind of attitude. The Merry-maker then assumes a similar attitude, in agreement with her.
“Azhseg’s message, however incomplete, bothers me most,” Akei speaks up. “Aguyu and I were taught, once, about the so-called ‘forbidden relics,’ which are weapons that were made by some of the Universe’s oldest races and are arguably the most destructive relics in all of existence. For them to be stolen by someone, or entity, or race, that even the Librarians do not know exist, is potentially very worrying indeed. Especially if that someone, entity, or race has Dark intentions….”
“Thankfully, Azhseg is on her way as we speak,” adds Cɪrthsta, giving a thumbs-up. “She also so happens to be piloting the Archivists’ worst enemy, which will prove to be crucial, tide-turning asset for us.” How she knows that…; I have my guesses, but I’m glad regardless.
“Wot’s next, dehn?” asks the Witchdoctor.
“We need an army of Light-bearing souls,” I state the fact of the matter. “We need such an army, that has no authority figures leading it yet is organized enough to stand as one, when it matters most, against the Dark and, by acting as Light-bearers, vanquish the Forces of Darkness from Eyaye – perhaps for good.”
“How are we to build such an army?” asks Bharkou.
“The army has already been assembled,” I answer. “Our only task now is to coax the members of this army into realizing that is what they are. This is why I founded the Freemen. The best way to coax the army of Light-bearers into their own power is for them to be coaxed by people who were once like them. Once they see how easy it is to wield their own Light, the dominos will fall such that the Dark cannot stop it. Best of all, not a single shot need be fired in the process.”
Aguyu jumps in. “I am quite concerned about the stolen relics, and what might be done with them. I hope Azhseg will be arriving soon.”
“I’m sure there are already tools available to us, that we can use against such relics if that is what must be done,” I look over to Cɪrthsta as I speak. A knowing smile forms on her pretty face.
“I smell a quest!” she cheers excitedly. “Once the Way-farer arrives, I think I’d like to lead a team to the center of Eyaye so we can get our hands on those ‘tools’.” The Merry-maker claps her hands together, while giving a sense that she doesn’t fully understand what’s been planned.
The center of Eyaye…? An interesting proposition…. Eyaye’s interior is taught nowadays to be completely solid, with a core that’s too extreme in temperature, density, and composition for anything to survive exposure to it. However, what Cɪrthsta is implying throws that into question.
I should join the quest, so that the Freemen can learn to operate in my absence and so I can see for myself how Eyaye is actually put together.