Nebulancer

Prologue: Pumblo's Final Lesson

Sunlight pours through the open temple windows. Pumblo Vitchpur sits quietly at the feet of his master, Temerin, on a cushion placed squarely in the center of a pool of light on the dun colored tiles.

“As I grow older, I find myself more and more like a cat,” he says, rolling his shoulders under his faded green robe. “Ah.” His long fingered hands rest in his lap, palms up. It is painful for him to make a fist anymore, or to grip even a spoon too tightly. Pumblo has watched his master instead lift his bowl to his lips to drink his evening broth, like an absurd, savory smelling tea cup. His master is not a proud man, but he does not wish to be a burden to his pupils or his peers.

The room is wide, with a vaulted ceiling that rises to the top in a dome of enameled white brick. The room is warm from the sunlight, and the breeze coming through the windows is sweet with jasmine and the sweet cleanliness of the mountain air.

The temple of Karava, a complex of buildings hoisted into the air by the magic of refugees welcomed within the walls centuries ago, does not bob or tremble. It’s foundation is as strong as the mountain from which it was plucked. The temple follows the winds, a thousand feet from the earth, and he wizards and monks work the terraced fields and maintain the bridges between the several building complexes and satellite nodes of rock.

“You look troubled, Pumblo,” says his master. “Tell me, what are the three tenants of Karava?”

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Prologue: The Expulsion
Lane Drexel exits stage left

The Tabernacular Council Chamber of Held Aloft is always a little chilly. Lane drexel enters to find the chamber and it’s octagonal table empty save the Archmage’s seat, which is filled by the partially spectral form of the Archmage itself, Rosal Chenno. Neither fully human, or material after long years of arcane study, the Archmage doesn’t notice Lane upon his entry, or even when he clears his throat.

The Council chamber has a low ceiling of gray rock, built as it is into the base of the largest of the floating rocks that make up the temple of Karava, and the refugee quarters of The Tabernacle. Smokeless torches pulse in sconces around the room, and fire in the hearth roars merrily, but the chill and duskiness permeate. There is the smell of sulfur, of old sweat, of cinnamon, and something less categorical, the smell of nostalgia, or regret.

“Ah, Lane,” says the Archmage slowly, his face seeming to emerge from his partially spectral form, like a living shadow the blue of black powder smoke. He emerges from within himself, takes a more solid shape. “Excuse me, I was completing some correspondence. Please, sit,” he says and indicates a chair to his left.

Drexel sits as instructed by the most powerful wizard in Held Aloft.

“The Tabernacle is very selective about it’s apprentices, Lane,” he says, spectral, but still not fully engaged in the room. “You were taken on as a scribe?” Lane nods, and the Archmage lays a hand flat on the table, punctuates his next words by tapping his fingers gently on the dark walnut of the table top. "You weren’t brought on to apprentice with any of the Masters, or even to study with the journeymen. You were brought here to scribe, and instead, as Cardwill has reported to me, you have been reading forbidden tomes, and have helped yourself to several of our arcane traditions.

“We live on the edge of a knife here in Held Aloft – the monks are gracious hosts, but there are strict limits to what we can and cannot do. Your disobedience, your unwarranted ambition, they put our whole colony at risk. If we were to have to leave the temple complex, even after so long, we would not be welcomed on the ground. The Inquisitors would see to that. Our domain here in the air is as tenuous as a thread, and you have done what no one else has dared – to take a blade to that string and attempt to pluck a note from it.

“Does it sing, Lane? Does putting the Tabernacle at risk please you somehow? Answer me, scribe.”

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