Uri 14 1333 YS
To my love Calliope,
Firstly. I finally succumbed to the curse of the lamp. It will take me some time to put to words what happened while I was gone from this realm. I will detail that story when I have a bit of time, in another letter. We will be aboard a ship for the next few weeks, so I should have time my love. But I will tell you this much about my little… side-adventure:
I spent about a week in what Kumori calls The Impossible Palace. It was a splendid prison, lacking no accommodation. When it spat me out, it did not return me to my companions on their way to Io, and the great Oracle of Meridimnus. No, I found myself once again in the company of Bellflowers, this time in the midst of occupied Aetrelia, and fighting for my freedom and my life, of which I partially failed. My love, I hate to say this, but I lost a gift. Luckily one of the Bellflowers was a Fair Fellow of Aymara. Oh you would love her, for she is so much like you. She is a bard as well as a cleric, they call their priesthood Fair Fellows (isn’t that absolutely adorable?). Singer Aldonna (Singer is her title), was fair-haired and graceful, despite the hardship of their times. I say was, because the damnable lamp sent me back in time, nearly 500 years – I later discovered. Singer Aldonna and all those I fought beside for the nine months I had been captured by the curse are all gone now, and it makes me wonder how futile it is, all the things we do and worry about on a daily basis. They are nothing, it seems, after we’ve been taken to Maal for judgement.
I died in the second month I was there, and spent a while recovering emotionally. I have seen countless battles since then, and have the victory scars to prove it. It is odd. These things all change perspective when looked at through the spyglass of time. It was real, what I did, what we did. I made a real difference in the lives of so many, rescuing family after family of enslaved bantami and transporting them into free northern Drusas. Who knows, perhaps one of those families might even be my own ancestors.
I am not the same person I was before my foray back in time. I think I am wiser, and harder for certain. In any case, I will be sure and send you a detailed account of my travels via the lamp. I wanted to prepare you ahead of time, however, that it will be lengthy and gruesome. The Phthyans have changed little in all those years, save there was a greater profusion of them, and they had a much stronger grip on the world then than now. Were I not engaged in my current mission, I would join those, like the Warlord Kypris of whom Dorak speaks fondly – a former traveling companion – and try to extinguish the fire of that awful tyranny for good.
When I finally returned from the past, I awoke – not in the lamp – but directly beside my old associates, my friends. They had traveled all the way to Meridimnus and were awaiting their oracular reading the following day. It was a shock to see Smriti though. I was rumpled and sleepy and disoriented – I thought I was still in the Bellflower encampment – and looked up to see a shaven-headed woman looking down at me and blinking in disbelief. I tell you my love, I have never been so happy to see anyone (and I truly wish the lamp had deposited me into your arms instead). I felt a bit of loss for the war-ravaged bantami I left behind, but was glad to be in a place of relative safety where I didn’t have to constantly be on guard, and sleep with one eye and one ear at attention.
We all walked with Kumori up the grand processional to the Temple of Apollo. These people, the Ionians, are amazing. They are classical, in every sense, and I can see that the Phthians for all their art, culture and architecture, merely copied the forms of the Ionian standard. They even copied and renamed the Ionian’s gods themselves. Here I used to be impressed with the grandeur and culture that the Phthian peoples possessed, now to find out they were merely imitating a greater form of perfection. The meticulously paved walkway was lined with statuary and small shrines honoring Apollo and the other gods. There were travelers from all over the world there at Meridimnus, not just Ionians. Most of the visitors were not even there to consult the oracle. Most had come to socialize and learn and spread news of the world. It was such an impressive gathering that, for a while, I forgot the horrors of the war I had been fighting for so many months.
At the top of the processional was the largest statue I have ever seen (although as I stood gape-mouthed at its magnificence, Ian informed me it was a trivial thing compared to the great Lighthouse of Paerus outside of Athenopolis, which was at least twenty times larger than this colossus white marble statue before me. At last it was time for Kumori to enter the temple and consult the oracle. The rest of us were not allowed inside for we were not supplicants (and women other than the oracle herself are forbidden to enter. I guess they don’t want any competition or something). When he exited the massive pillared temple, he held a scroll in his hand and a perplexed look on his face. The scroll was in Ionian, and cryptically written as well. Not even our resident linguist Dorak knew half the complicated words scribed down on that scroll.
Luckily there were learned men present, once we left the temple grounds, who specialized in transcribing the oracle’s prophecies for foreigners. The one we met was a gentle Ionian who was quite helpful not only in the translation, but in deciphering some of the more cryptic meanings. He said he’d done this hundreds of times over the decades, and was very savvy at it. Still, he warned us, the oracle’s words are often misinterpreted, not by any lack of skill on behalf of the linguist, but because they are specifically written (translated by a priest who attends the oracle in her insane-sounding ravings of prophecy) to be confusing. Kind of like that last sentence, although I did not intend for it to be gibberish. It just was.
I won’t get into the details of the prophecy, for security sake. But needless to say, we have have been instructed to travel a great distance, to get a shopping list from a very powerful creature. After that, we need to go on a scavenger hunt to locate said items on the list, then return with all of them to this… powerful creature. Next, this “lucky fish,” as it was described in the prophecy, will tell us where we can go to find a tool to put things right in Kaidan, and give us a means to transport ourselves there. The bottom line, what this means for us, dear Calli, is that I will be gone a very long time. The items on the shopping list are spread across the length and breadth of the world, and will take a long long time to find. I know we should be passing relatively near Drusas on our way, and I am going to insist that we visit you. I just need to know where you will be. You can send word to any Explorer’s Lodge along the lower portion of the silk road, and I am sure we will find any message left. Address it to Dorak, and he will surely get it.
As I write this, we are at a well-used inn at the very base of the mountain where the oracle resides. This place is called Icus, a small village only used as a waypoint for travelers to the oracle. We have a ship waiting for us, called The Westering Moon, that will be taking us to Phthyanopolis and the silk road. I think we will be going to Smriti’s homeland as well, in Kushar. Like my jaunt into the lamp, that accursed thing has brought her far into her future, and all her kin are long gone, just like Singer Aldonna and the Bellflowers I came to love. I can now relate to what she has gone through, and wish that some day, the lamp may send her back home. Of course, being cursed, I doubt any such thing will be possible.
I will see you as soon as I can, my love. And if the group decides we cannot afford a detour to Drusas, I will still come. I will leave them for a while, and come to see you. I miss you terribly and just want to feel your lovely arms wrapped around me. You can even explore all my newfound scars that I obtained 485 years ago. Write soon. I miss hearing from you.
Your eternal love,