Part 72: Perplexed

8 to Wakening Sun, Inalis, 43 days remaining

Whoops, I got that wrong! My floors are out of order. A lot is going on. The Orrery is going to happen, but we went to the Atheneum first. The room here, like the library above us, was lined with bookshelves and more books than I’ve ever seen. Twelve shelves in particular were gathered around the center of the room where a shadowy pillar rose from the ground. Sokrates announced that our job was to dispel the shadow to reveal the stairs. We split up and start looking around.

Tragically, Torag punching the shadow wasn’t as effective as punching the mural when we first entered the archive. He ended up a little hurt, but shook it off. I think he was disappointed, though. Instead, he saw the clue to the puzzle here: five skills, five souls. There were symbols around the shadow and we surmised that we had to stand on certain symbols in order to deactivate the shadow. But which ones were correct?

Clio and I found a bunch of books about astronomy and astrology. Briar tried moving some of the shelves. Theophilus found a symbol on the floor with an axe symbol and stared at it for a long time before announcing he was trying to… intimidate it? Theo reminds me of Actaeon occasionally. Shadow and Rendu guarded the stairs leading back to the library above us, eager to watch our backs. Eventually we saw some “words” (I use that word very loosely here) appear in the smoke, and that helped Clio figure out the solution. We stood on the symbols for barbarian (rage), bard (inspire), rogue (sneak), paladin (smite), and ranger (mark). With that, the shadow dispelled and the stairs appeared to us.

Okay, now we’re in the Orrery! Sorry about that!

I learned what an orrery is today. It’s a place where one models the worlds of the astral sea with a model of our sun in the very center. The sphere for Xerender was quite pretty to look at. I could make out the shape of Ylisse! Though I’d never want to go back there again, it was interesting to look at it. Other worlds were around the large model. I wonder what those worlds are like?

Torag moved in here first and approached the center of the orrery. There were hand-sized prints here and he pressed them immediately. I wonder what was going through Briar’s head when he did that. Something something ox don’t touch that. Actually, I wonder if she said this part out loud? We’re all so used to it that maybe I just heard it in my head. Anyway, it activated the orrery and an inscription appeared in front of him.

In darkness it starts and in darkness it ends
It burns as it rises and as it descends
In-between places grow warmly, you know
But not like the apex, the highest it goes
Follow its path as it travels above
From start until finish, all colors thereof

As Torag read this poem to us, the room suddenly began to fill with pale, flickering lights. Will-o-wisps appeared and bore down on us. I got surrounded pretty fast and cast a spell to get them off me. Rendu, though, really kind of got into this. See, Heath, wisps are undead creatures. They’re like angry little souls that never moved on, or something like that. Rendu seemed very happy to fight some undead creatures again and absolutely obliterated one. But when it died, a little colored glass orb dropped down onto the floor, sparkling in a beautiful red light!

The other wisps went down pretty quick too, though I admit I got a little careless and took a nasty injury. So did Torag, but that’s… kind of expected. Briar mended him and me back up while we tried to figure out what to do with the orbs.

The orbs were purple, red, yellow, blue, orange, and green in color. Oh, and we had a few duplicates. There were eleven in total. The orrery had slots for seven of them, and the clues were in the inscription poem. Clio and I came up with a plan. The poem sounds like a day and night cycle, which would make sense considering the room we’re in. “Darkness” sounds like the darkest orb, so that means purple. Sunrise and sunsets are very reddish in color – hence the color of my cloak as a Dawnbringer. Yellow goes in the center because it’s the apex of the day when the sun is the brightest. And the color between red and yellow is orange! We set the spheres in their slots and the door to the next floor opened up!

We decided to rest a bit before descending. Briar had been injured by the wraith upstairs, and Torag and I were both a little shocked still from the wisps in here. While we were resting and drinking from our canteens, we saw off to the side another puzzle. I neglected to mention we had found some keys earlier, each with a different number of teeth (that will be important later!). Another key was here, hidden behind a magical barrier. But there were actually four keys here, some of them fake and one that was genuine.

The trick was figuring out which one was which. A trio of wands were laid out before us, one that could create a spectral hand, one that would shoot out a splash of acid, and another that shot out a puff of poison. Each wand would do something to one of the keys. One key was a mimic that was pained by poison, which Theo threw into his cloak’s inner pocket. Another was a little strange construct that was apprehensive of acid, which Theo also threw into his cloak’s inner pocket. With those two keys done, we figured out which of the other two was the genuine one: with a quick grab of the spectral hand wand and we got it. That makes three keys!

Oh wait, I’m forgetting something amazing. While doing the key puzzle, Clio came back to the party, her face as red as a blushing tomato. I asked her what was wrong and she just pointed at a nearby bookshelf. The entire shelf was completely filled with erotica. The entire shelf. Most of it was… how do I say this? Most of it was educational in nature, and I kept seeing the word “sensual” written on many book spines. But I had an idea! I gave a wink to Clio and pulled a random book off the shelf. When the rest of the party was distracted, I spoke to Sokrates and asked him if it would be okay for me to hide this book in Shadow’s belongings. Sokrates, perhaps misunderstanding me, took note of the book and gave me permission since I apparently felt Shadow was lacking knowledge on the subject.

It was only while slipping the book into Shadow’s satchel that I noticed it was titled, “Mating Patterns of Seahorses.” I just about lost it snickering to myself.