The Hourglass Folly was perhaps the most famous sight quayside in Cableheven harbor. Built at the harbor’s edge, it ran underwater and provided a subterranean viewing gallery of the Cablefjord and the wildlife that rose from the fjord’s deep, cold, and nutrient-rich waters. It was so named because each story bulged outward where its windows could be found, like a series of hourglasses stacked atop one another, extending even underground. Though it had in the past been used as a fort–Cablehaven had mounted artillery on it when the Murqs of the far south had attacked–the folly was a curiosity that travelers greatly valued and feared.

Its playfully malevolent haunting was the most likely reason.

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This Wyrmentide Day, remember: a dragon isn’t a toy, it’s a 1000-year commitment. 90% of “wyrmentide hatchlings” don’t make it to age 100, and they are also overwhelmingly illegally traded from endangered drake populations overseas or egg farms.

You may find your dragon hatchling cute and amusing, but within 25-50 years it will have grown too large and aggressive for you to handle. And releasing your dragon into the wild is a death sentence; dragons are no more “home” in the wild then they are in your house, especially without an elder wyrm to teach them. With knights errant roaming the countryside and suspicious elder drakes in charge of every major brood, there is no hope.

If you must buy a dragon for Wyrmentide Day, buy a chocolate one. Thank you.

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“So,” Mixy said. “I know that you’re not relaly confident in Celeria’s magic skills, and that’s totally understandable given her past history with you, but I really think you ought to give her a chance, since her disguise spell is getting better all the time and if she can disguise you as Githyanki you should be able to walk right into their fortress without having to fight your way in, and-”

Bryn put her hand over the elf girl’s mouth. “Shh,” she said.

Celeria, for her part, was practicing the necessary incantation when the blow landed, at the exact time that “Womp Rat” was approaching with a tureen of fresh, if foul, soup. When he tripped, the shock of that noise combined with the shock of the bump on the head turned the practice incantation into a real one.

“Womp Rat” was suddenly, and surprisingly convincingly, disguised as a githyanki. “Not again,” he moaned.

Bryn burst into the jail cell and, without missing a beat, she stuck her head in between the bars–it fit easily through the human-sized gap. “Give me your clothes,” she growled in her most intimidating voice. The Githyanki prisoner, flustered, meekly surrendered his prison clothes.

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But…what is the Bulwark?

The Chickasaw knew that, when the rock began to crumble, the hunting in the area would turn bad and any crops planted or food gathered would be of poor quality. The settlers who ejected them from their own lands found that cattle would die when the Bulwark was weak, babies would fail to thrive, and people had a way of disappearing. Reinforcing the Bulwark, even until little of the original igneous rock remained, seemed to put an end to this.

Its current caretakers believe the Bulwark is a place where another set of rules, physical rules, intersects with our own. Without raw matter to hold it back, they think, totally different and alien laws of physics begin to take hold–laws which have a negative effect on anything around them. But they are terrified that, despite their best efforts, the Bulwark is decaying with increasing speed.

Perhaps one could regard whatever is beneath those many layers as exerting pressure, either through natural processes or directed be a malign will. What once held for centuries, even millennia, with minimal human involvement now requires it. But what would happen if the Bulwark were to fail, wholly and catastrophically? What if the “pressure” behind it were to release?

It might allow the physics of an alien space to overwrite those of our own.

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Oral histories from the native Chickasaw say that the Bulwark appeared as a sort of volcanic stone, rent through with glassy intrusions, when their forefathers first came to know of it. Even then, the stones were beginning to crumble from within, and drawings from the 1810s and 1830s show that the feature bulged considerably during that time.

After the Chickasaw were forcibly removed, a local group including some notables of partial Chickasaw descent acted on what they regarded as a misguided but accurate local legend and began to reinforce the crumbling natural stone. Mortar was added in the 1840s, followed by brick buttresses shortly after the Civil War. Concrete followed in 1898, with reinforced concrete following in 1927.

To disguise the work from prying eyes, the small hillock from which the Bulwark protruded was completely bricked in as a warehouse, albeit one that never held any products. Indeed, most of the room inside was taken up by earth and stone and previous attempts to reinforce the Bulwark.

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She lay there, O Dreamer, within the shadows of Atogoza-Zož’s battlements, until one of the monks happened upon her and took her inside. There, they ministered to the traveler as best they were able as her wounds healed.

You may ask what becomes of one when they are so grievously wounded in the dream-realm. Do they awake? Are they comatose, in a sleep beyond sleep? In the case of our traveler, O Dreamer, she remained asleep to the waking world, for the vageries of the passage of time across the slumbering world and into the waking one meant that what were months in one were mere hours in the other.

The monks of Atogoza-Zož were amazed that one with such injuries from the night terrors had not been destroyed. They had buried many such in the communal dreamrest nearby, for those unfortunates had fallen into eternal sleep close enough to safety that itmight have been theirs.

Our traveler, once she was well enough to speak, asked for that high travelers to distant Atogoza-Zož always ask. She asked to fall into the deeper slumber. And the monks replied as they always did: she was free to stay in the monastary as long as she wished, but until she had undertaken to remain there a year and a day, they would not allow her to slip into slumber within slumber.

In addition to allowing time to study the great library of Atogoza-Zož, O Dreamer, this period allowed for careful consideration of the risks. For while the monks cared unceasingly for those dreamers within dreams, they could not help but notice how few returned, and how many slipped away into death.

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Dusty scribblings
Long forgotten
Borne from the past
On library wings
To bear witness
To a new digital age

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