Goodbye to Dunmar

In the morning, Burgher Fargas gathers everyone together in the great hall. This space was created in the Academy for situations like this one, where everyone needed to hear something at once. Great wooden pillars and beams define the room, with polished wood panels between. The floors are oak plank cut tongue and groove. If time and effort are a replacement for skill and experience, this room is a living testament to it.

Hundreds of tables, each three feet square with four braced legs litter the floor in a hurly-burley reflection of the social organizations they represent. Some of the young men and women are loners, while some are joiners. Some arrange themselves according to profession, and some by more functional groups.

The young men and women sit, at once appearing to be relaxed, but with an air of tension. There isn’t much noise. A whisper here and there, perhaps… a cough into the hand… the occasional sniffle.

The Burgher raises his hands for silence, the realizes the pointlessness of his gesture and quickly lowers them. “Lads and young ladies,” he begins, “I’ve no doubt that many of you witnessed the strange weather we had last night.”

Nervous chuckles break out across the great room. “Ay it was strange. You could call it unnatural because that’s what it was. It was no work of nature and none of the Sleeping Ones either. Something very powerful caused those clouds and that lightning. I have spoken with the master of the library and neither him nor his scholars recall reading anything like it in the histories or in the prophesies. This is something new–something different. Of course we cannot know if it is for good or ill but, by its nature, it does not bode well.” Murmers of agreement are heard. The rooms seems a bit darker than it was a moment ago.

“An observation that you may find very discomforting is that our physicists and mathematicians conjecture that the phenomenon occurred very close to Arbordan, if not directly upon it. Now Arbordan is a big city, well-protected and with stonework fashioned by the Dwarves. But the simple fact is that you cannot prepare a defense for that which you cannot foresee coming. We do not know what fate has visited upon that fair town.”

“Young Master Gilroy, please stand,” the Burgher gestures toward a too-handsome fellow in armor polished to a mirror shine. Gilroy stands and walks purposefully to go join the Burgher and executes a sharp, military about-face then bows deeply to the hall. He stands straight. His face is a study in confidence and humility.

Now the important thing is what is about to be said, but first, you must understand this young fellow, Gilroy Astershance.

You can’t stand him.

You all hate him. Everyone you know hates him. You can’t think of a single person you know that would given him the benefit of the doubt, or knows of another who takes a charitable view on Gilroy. This is not without rationale. Gilroy is good at everything. He is courteous. He is generous to a fault. He is cooperative. In fact, Gilroy never does anything wrong. He never cheats. He never curses. He’s never stolen in his life. He never complains. He always tells the truth, no matter how much it hurts himself or others. He is, in short, insufferable, and nobody cares to suffer him.

Young Master Gilroy is a Paladin of Guydan, an exemplar of all that is good and wholesome, but without the temperance of fault. When you look upon him, you see all of your flaws writ large upon their absence in him. Your disgust for him is only made worse in that you know he doesn’t deserve it. Even your reaction to him is an illustration of how he is better than you. Maddening.

“Master Gilroy came to the council of elders last night and told us that, back in the choosing, he had a terrible dream,” a loud groan emanates from the mass of students, “Ah yes, he explained to me that it is a common, no, universal dream among you. He told me that it is like a sacred bond between the lot of you, and I understand that, and that it was not an easy thing to cast that aside and tell me or anyone that is not one of you, but he believed the import of what he saw in the sky was a greater thing than this unspoken pact to maintain secrecy. I cannot decide for you, but I will tell you that I agree.”

“He told me that what you saw in the dream and what you saw last night were related in some strange way, and I believe it is true. I think it important that you all set out straight away back to your childhood home, and help them with whatever foulness is afoot. You all know there is little love lost between us mountainfolk and the city folk. That can’t be helped I suppose, but this I know: there isn’t a one of you here who is not at least as much a mountaineer than those who were born here. We all feel like you are our children, all forty-seven dozen of you, and we are proud parents. We know that, whatever happens, whatever befalls you, you will never forget what you learned here. You will be as a light into the darkness that long ago befell the peoples of the cities, those who hide behind their mighty edifices of crystal magic that they barely begin to understand. You will remind them of what they have banished from their presence, and in doing so you will rekindle a torch that Ember has long forgotten.”

The Burgher pauses for a moment and looks around the room. His face is at once sad and proud.

“My, I do go on once I have the bit in my teeth,” he chuckles, and not alone, “I would remind you that each and every one of you were chosen by the Gods for an important purpose. Does any hear doubt that?” Nobody  speaks.

“Those whom the Gods touch have a hard path, and the Gods do not make them safe in it. You must be strong. You must maintain faith. You must be true to your values and your principles. I could tell you that it won’t always be easy, but the truth is that it is never easy. The easy path is the one the fallen must take because they have lost the righteous one and do not care to find it. Stay the course my children, stay the course. Now, assemble and prepare for the march back to Arbordan. May the Gods make fleet your boots and long your stride!”

The room explodes into a cacophony of shouts and yells as people start moving in all directions at once. You look for you mates, but it’s a hopeless cause. You’ll rendezvous with them later, when you can. For now, you head back to the barracks to pick up your things, already packed and ready to go. It takes the better part of an hour before everyone is gathered and ready to march. The path from the mountain is often narrow, so your formation is by twos.

Suddenly, trumpets sounds from the square nearby. Everyone in the entire town is present, tossing flowers and ribbons at you as you begin marching. A few dozen of the most capable town folk set out to accompany you, though they are mounted. The one in the back has spare horses strung together on tethers. Your heart tugs. For your own reasons, you will miss this harsh but beautiful place.

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