A Home for a Tome

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«One Golem to Rule Them All
«A Tearful Reunion
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Welcome back to these halls, Forename of the black. I sense that the dark powers in you are ever burgeoning. Pray tell, where have your travels taken you since last we met?
What will you say?
I traveled to a world flooded with Light. I felled a great mage in battle.
A journey to another world, you say? Intriguing, indeed. Consider me impressed...and even a bit envious.

How you were able to peer into the past of the archmage Nyelbert, and form a bond across the ages with his young friend Taynor. Though the circumstances are not entirely the same, I cannot help but think back to my own encounter with the great Shatotto.

Speaking of which, I, too, have been keeping myself occupied. Why, I have recorded every detail we learned on our last adventure in writing, that we might preserve Shatotto's knowledge for posterity, and avert any similar calamity that may threaten future generations.

Just the other day, I put the finishing touches on the final chapter of the final volume, concluding with Shatotto's departure. There is, however, one lingering...hmm?
Well, fancy that! I come to check up on Lalai here, and who do I find but our old friend Forename.
Well, if it isn't everyone's favorite mutton-headed Hearer. I need neither your support nor your sympathy, but I suppose you've never been one to let that stop you.
Come now, Lalai. You yourself mentioned that you were at a loss for what to do with the records you had scribed, yes? I simply hoped to inquire as to whether there have been any fruitful developments on that front.
...Hmph. So you mean to rub salt in my wounds, yes? There have been no developments, fruitful or otherwise. I consulted with my brothers and sisters at the Order of Nald'thal, but to the last man they refused to even entertain the thought.
You consulted with... Do you mean to say that you are still a member of the Order!? Why, I had always assumed that you had been excommunicated for your pursuit of the dark arts!
Excommunicated!? Simply for the pursuit of knowledge? Perish the thought! Though, to be fair, there are many holier-than-thou types in the Order who share this pigheaded Hearer's opinion...

Irrespective of this, the fact remains that the Order sealed away countless tomes in their vaults when they forbid the art of black magic. Storing my own writings with them, I would argue, is the most logical option.

But no─they are too prudish and prejudiced against yours truly to listen to reason. Then again, perhaps if a thaumaturge in good standing with the Order were to put in a good word on my behalf...
...You may indeed find a more sympathetic ear. What do you say, Forename?
Excellent! Then let us hurry to the Ossuary and see if we can't convince that insufferably stuffy Yayake to see good sense.
A moment if you please, Forename. To tell the truth, the question of where to store her records is not the only matter that concerns me about Lalai of late.

Recently, I cannot help but feel that the aetheric power within her is...shifting, warping in ways that I have not felt before. As for why this is, I cannot yet be sure. Until we discover more, pray look after her, will you?

My apologies, but I believe it best that I remain here until your negotiations are complete. I shudder to think of the consequences if my colleagues at the Conjurers' Guild found out I was conspiring with the likes of you and Lalai. Nothing personal, of course.
I swear, for a veteran of the Order, she has all the sense of a simpering child!
Forename! Well, this is an unexpected surprise. And not an entirely pleasant one, though it is by no fault of your own...

The unmitigated gall of you, Lalai! Did you honestly believe that dragging poor Forename here─against his will, no doubt─would convince me to agree to housing your shameful scribblings in our archives?

I have said it once, and I will say it again. Until the day you renounce the depraved teachings of Ququruka, you will find no friends here. I would see those books burn before I give them a home here─for our sake, and for your own!
I swear, despite that pretentious monocle, you remain as blind as a bat to the big picture. Forename of the black! Talk some sense into this overstuffed secretary!
What will you say?
Should the tomes not be sealed away for safekeeping? Do all in the Order agree with your decision?
...Hm. At least one of us here is capable of communicating like an adult.
I will grudgingly admit that there is one other who shares Lalai's sentiments. In fact, it is none other than our very own guildmaster, Master Cocoba...Cocobe...er, what was the name again?
Cocobuki! Hah! It does not surprise me in the least. Come, Forename! Let us present our case to someone wise enough to understand it.
After all you have done for our guild, I felt you deserved an answer to your query, and so I gave you one. And yet I advise you to proceed with caution. Lalai has few allies here, and I would hate to see your pristine reputation sullied by association.
Who cares if everyone else in this place is an insufferable dunderhead? With the guildmaster himself on our side, the argument is as good as won!
Hm hm hm... I was wondering who might be behind the screaming and stamping that echoed all the way to this chamber. Sister Lalai, was it?

Yes, it is true. I find myself rather convinced by the young lady's argument. It is all but impossible for us to prevent any and all from studying the dark arts.

Why, then, not keep this dangerous knowledge close at hand, where we keep an ever-watchful eye on those who would pursue it? And yet, I fear that my own view is not a popular one, and my power to influence the others is far from absolute.

And so I would offer a proposal. Let us state our case directly to the head of the Order─to Prioress Dewlala herself─that she might pass judgment.
You and Lalai shall argue in favor of accepting the tomes, and those opposing shall argue against. Should all go well, the prioress will agree to the proposal, and the tomes will have a safe home.
And yet, the plan is not without risk. Should your argument be less than convincing, there remains a chance Dewlala may expressly forbid any further research. Why, if she is in a particularly foul mood, your very place in the Order may suddenly become...quite tenuous.
Hah! As if there is a chance my words could be anything but persuasive. I accept! Pray summon the prioress at her earliest convenience.
Well, that settles it. We'd best hurry and prepare our argument─out of our enemies' earshot, of course. Come with me, Forename!
For whatever it avails you, I shall voice my opinion in favor. No doubt Prelate Yayake will take her place at the head of the opposition.
On another matter, is Lalai quite all right? I could not help but sense the aether within her swirling in a most unusual fashion...
Lalai seems to be in unusually good spirits─I trust the negotiations went well. And yet, something concerns me...
This is our chance, Forename! We simply must convince the prioress at all costs! The future of our art depends on it!
...Hm? What is this curious sensation?
Lalai! I knew something was amiss. The aether within you is transforming in a most unusual way...
I must admit, I have not felt quite myself lately. My head...it feels as heavy as stone...
...No, this will not do. I'm afraid I must insist that you submit to a full examination before the hearing commences...

Lalai! Lalai, c-can you hear me!? S-Someone fetch a healer or a...wait, that's me!

Th-This is no time for p-p-panicking, friend! We must c-carry her to the Phrontistery with all speed!

I fear it is as I suspected. The aetheric balance within her has broken down entirely...and unchecked energies are now eating away at her from within.
I can only assume that playing host to Shatotto's memories has put a terrible strain on her─one from which she has yet to completely recover.
Yes, it would seem that her mind and spirit are in mortal peril. I have never witnessed this degree of aetheric imbalance before. I do not suppose you have...?
What will you say?
I saw a world consumed by Light... I saw a man transform into an unholy abomination...
...I see. I can scarcely imagine all you have witnessed in your travels, but an imbalance of aether similar to what I now observe in Lalai would appear to be behind the phenomena you describe.

If we can assume that the memories of Shatotto taking up residence in Lalai's corporeal form stimulated her aetheric flow, causing it to shift violently in an astral direction...then it only stands to reason we could restore balance by introducing a counteracting umbral aspect!

By the Twelve, I think I've got it! And yet, the process will not be quick...nor easy. I suppose we've no choice but to ask Master Cocobuki to delay the hearing...
Delay the hearing!? Have you lost what little wits you had!? Why, if word got out that my condition was the result of my pursuit of the dark arts, it would all but seal Yayake's case against me!
No, we must proceed as planned, before our opponents are the wiser. Forename, here is my magnum opus─the fruits of all we went through together. I leave them in your capable hands. Go on ahead, and I will be along in due time.
Are you mad!? You can't possibly mean to attend the proceedings in your current condition.
Of course not.
Fortunately, I just so happen to know a Hearer who─despite being an insufferable stick-in-the-mud─has proven himself more than capable in the healing arts.

Very well...leave it to me. I will see that you are back on your feet before the judgment is rendered.

Until then, I suppose it is up to Forename here. Godsspeed, my friend.
I have heard that we will be pleading our cases to Prioress Dewlala herself. It matters little to me─when she has heard my argument, she will have no choice but to rule in my favor.
Hm hm hm... Lalai will be joining the proceedings a touch late, you say? That is most...unlike her, to say the least.
She has entrusted her records to you? Very well. With any luck, we will be able to use them to our advantage. Now, allow me to see them. The prioress will be here all too soon...
Lalai has not even the courtesy to arrive on time to the hearing she herself requested? I swear, the woman's selfishness knows no bounds! I move that her request be dismissed immediately. It is...for her own good.
Her own good...? Yes...it is as I suspected. You speak from your own experience...don't you, child?
I recall that you, too, once took an unpopular position in support of your erstwhile Master Mumuepo...one that earned you only the ire of your brothers and sisters.
Yes...and what of it!? I fought for a hopeless cause that in the end served only to isolate me from my peers. Is it so wrong that I wish to save Lalai from a similar fate? She must abandon this farce at once and return to her rightful place in the Order!
To this, I cannot agree. In the short time before these proceedings, I perused what I could of these tomes. In their pages are writ not only forbidden secrets of black magic, but accounts of astounding phenomena the likes of which even I could scarcely imagine.
Lalai conducted her research without the support─or interference─of the Order, and the fruits that research has borne cannot be denied. While our guild could not support a thousand others like her, I see little to gain from stifling one woman's passion, and forcing her to work within such rigid rules and regulations.
The merits of both arguments are not lost on me. And yet I must confess a degree of ignorance about the matter at hand. All know that black magic was forbidden for its role in bringing disaster to our world. And yet, you still practice this art. Tell me, adventurer─is this magic as calamitous as the rumors say?
How will you respond?
It depends on who wields it, and to what end. Destruction, too, can bring salvation.
If I understand you correctly, you would argue that in the right hands, even the art of destruction might serve the greater good. And yet, how are we to be certain that this Sister Lalai can be trusted with such potentially ruinous knowledge?
There are times when vast destructive powers are needed...this is your claim? From my observations, I suppose you may be right. And yet, how are we to be certain that this Sister Lalai can be trusted with such potentially ruinous knowledge?
My apologies, Prioress! By your leave, I would tell my tale.

Black magic is an inherently dangerous art...this I cannot and will not deny. Never would I suggest that even a single mage pursue this path without full knowledge of the perils that lie ahead.

That is precisely why I have recorded in painstaking detail not only the arcane knowledge I have gleaned, but every last one of the myriad phenomena both wondrous and terrifying I have experienced in its pursuit.

Unbreakable bonds formed with beastmen we once thought our sworn enemy, bodies and souls consumed by the pursuit of forbidden knowledge, an unspeakable calamity revisited upon our world after millennia...! We must leave this knowledge to posterity, that our sons and daughters do not repeat the mistakes of our past!
Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. This is the crux of your argument, yes?
...Very well. Master Cocobuki, I hereby order you to establish a research organization under the auspices of your guild to further study the impact of black magic. I also grant you permission to store the aforementioned tomes in your archives─under the condition that Sister Lalai oversees them.
...Understood. I will see that both the tomes and Lalai herself find a safe home within our halls.
I am still not entirely convinced, but if the guildmaster himself is willing to accept responsibility...I have no reason to oppose.
Prioress Dewlala, Master Cocobuki...I cannot thank you enough. Mark my words: you will not regret this decision. I will see to it that this knowledge is passed down as it should be─that the errors of our past will never be repeated.
To think the day would come that our art would be recognized once more!
One thing I will say for Lalai: she is passionate about her beliefs. Worry not─I will see that she is treated fairly by her brothers and sisters.
Well, I do believe the proceedings went about as well as could be expected. I suppose this means that Lalai is now directly under my supervision.
Don't think you'll be getting free rein around here simply because I vouched for you, child. I expect regular reports on any and all of your findings─only through transparency will black magic ever be accepted by doubters and skeptics.
Understood. I shall begin to prepare my first report at once. But before that, there is another with whom I'd like to share these tidings. That is...by your leave, Guildmaster?
I believe you know well of whom I speak. He awaits us at the Sacrarium. Come along, Forename.
I am relieved to see the girl's aetheric balance restored. I suppose it was one of your companions who aided in this, yes?
Lalai has already shared the good news with me. Why, I could not be happier for the both of you!
And so, you see... I simply thought that, well...
Whatever is the matter, Lalai? This is your moment of triumph! I would expect you to be more...triumphant.
Of course I am! It is simply that, well... Clearly, I could not have...I did not accomplish this on my own, so...
Forename of the black. And yes, you as well, Zhai'a Nelhah. You have my...deepest gratitude.
Well, I daresay this has been a momentous day in more ways than one. Once again, Lalai, my congratulations. And...you are most welcome.
And with that, I should be on my way. When next we meet, I would introduce my colleagues from Stillglade Fane. Now that you are no longer a pariah, I suppose they would not be averse to exchanging knowledge with you.
...And just when I was beginning to take a liking to that dolt.
At any rate, though my official position may have changed, my mission remains the same: I will do all in my power to preserve our art for future generations. Pray continue to lend me your aid...Forename of the black.