Where am I? Am I still floating? No, now they’ve got me in some sort of container… What is this stuff surrounding me? My entire body is still vibrating… What did they do to me in that temple?
My enthusiasm at the prospect of finding myself back home once again is waning, now that I realize that is not the case. I’m lying in some sort of open pod, half-filled with a soft gel-like material that, ironically, makes me feel as if I’m floating. A white robed figure smiles down at me. It is one of the Veilwardens, a woman named Tralla, of the Order of Griviss. She asks of my current condition and explains that I am recovering in the Guardian Womb, the pyramid shaped building guarded by the giant automatons. I ask about my teleportation device, and Tralla indicates a bench nearby on which it sits. I could see the midnight stone had not been replaced. The device is still nonfunctional and I’m still here in Lostrei. What had they done to me in that ritual?
Tralla helps me out of the pod and back into a white robe, much like the one she and the other Veilwardens wear, and like the one they dressed me in for the ritual. I notice I’m still wearing my medallion with the symbol of the Order of Truth, however. She takes me to a dining area and presents me with fresh fruit and fish. I have nothing close to resembling an appetite, or so I thought, until I begin eating what’s in front of me ravenously. After the simple but surprisingly wonderful meal I am led to an area with many other white robed figures, where we are welcomed as new members of the Order of Griviss. I learn that a pilgrim becomes a Veilwarden simply by participating in any of the ministerial functions in Cheloh and because I had undergone the ritual in the Kileti-fior I am now considered a member. Speaking of which, what happened in there? They said I would be able to teleport after having undergone the ritual. Did something go wrong or did it not work as expected? Something happened to me in there, but not what I was hoping. I ask this of my fellow Veilwardens but none seem to have an answer for me.
Tralla leads me around the Guardian Womb and I am invited, or rather encouraged, to tend to those in need. Most of the people that need attention are pilgrims who have become injured or sick in the course of their journey to Cheloh, or they have run out of food and water and have arrived malnourished and dehydrated. I watch as the Veilwardens apply healing tinctures and employ a cypher that mends bones and cauterizes open wounds. I witness them sharing food and provisions to starving and needy pilgrims. I see them provide encouragement to those who have suffered hardships and call upon their spirits to bless the people, their towns, families, and the lands.
What would High Father Calaval say to this? Everything I have seen in Cheloh has unraveled all that I have been taught about the Spiritlands by the Order of Truth. These Gaians, these people, are not some culture of aggression bent on the espousing of ignorance and the destruction of reason. Their belief in the nature spirits are of no threat to the Order. I’ve come to the conclusion that there must be a deeper reason for Pope Durranet VI to foster anathema toward Lostrei. Could the Amber Pope be trying to unite the Nine Kingdoms under the threat of a common enemy, even an unconfirmed one? If so, to what end? What am I missing here?
As I speak with the pilgrims and the Veilwardens I’ve come to a dangerous realization. If the amassed might of all Nine Kingdoms comes up the coast or finds a way to cross the Cloudcrystal Skyfields, the people of the Spiritlands are doomed. From what I’ve learned the simple folk in the disparate towns spread across this region hardly know of one another, much less the Nine Kingdoms of the Steadfast. The Gaians will be drastically ill equipped to deal with their assault.
In learning of the relatively peaceful way of the Gaians, I may have unveiled a lie, a program to disseminate propaganda against these people. I certainly cannot divulge to the Order what I suspect. I will be considered a tergiversator among the loyal Aeon Priests and the duped laity. They will find a way to eliminate me to preserve the deception. If I maintain my silence upon my return to Qi and the Durkhal, my disillusionment will eventually show itself and they will learn that my faith in the Amber Pope and the Order of Truth has been damaged. The Order of Truth….heh, I cluck my tongue at the irony as I stand here amongst the Gaians who show such hospitality and benevolence.
Nevertheless, I do need to return to Qi. As gracious as are the people here, this land is not my home. I’m not sure how I will accomplish that, as the teleportation device is as useful as a griffalo’s leg bone at this juncture. I doubt I would survive the long trek across the wasteland of the Cloudcrystal Skyfields. I may have to find a way to the coast, perhaps try my luck at securing passage aboard a ship and return home by way of the Corare Sea. In speaking with the locals they tell me I can take a boat up the Armand River to reach Magon Bay on the coast, but they advise I avoid the city of Seavel at all cost.
Two families of pilgrims will be taking their boat back down the river, headed to the coast. They tell me it is just over one week’s travel and they have granted me space aboard their boat. One of the wives is still rejuvenating in one of the pods though they expect we’ll be able to head out in the morning. They tell me the Veilwardens will be kind enough to provide a few extra rations to me, at least enough to-
…wait a minute. I’m feeling a bit strange… what is happening to me? I… wait! I know this feeling! I’m teleporting! It’s working, without the use of the device! I’m returning home! I’m going home!