Excerpt


Headquarters would like to remind you
every message must be properly encoded.
Leaving messages in plaintext, even
purposefully hidden at line breaks,
undermines communications protocols.
Stay encrypted, stay secure.

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Long before the Murqs had sailed up the Cablefjord, in the great days of old when Cablehaven was a thriving hub of merchant shipping to the Untamed West, the Hourglass Folly had gone up. Few remembered anymore that shipping magnate Jon Havngard had been the one who financed its construction, which took 7-8 years. Fewer still remembered why he had built it.

It was for his twin daughters.

The great viewing windows underwater had been planned for the very outset to thrill the girls once they were old enough to enjoy it, and indeed from what little was written of that time, it seems that they thrilled to the sealife that frequented those waters. So much so, in fact, that the elder of the daughters by five minutes, young Sjn, had been practicing swimming in secret.

Her plan was to dive down to the Hourglass Folly’s lower glassed-in area to surprise her parents.

And surprised they were, to see her struggling amid the torpor that takes all who dive so deep in the cold waters. Though Jon Havngard himself dove in after her, young Sjn sank into the abyss of the Calbefjord before human hands could reach her. Her father was pulled unconscious from the water and lingered only a few weeks before succumbing to pnumonia. Lady Havngard and Sjn’s twin sister, Ljn, donated the folly to the city and left for Covenbard.

But the hauntings prove that the Havngards never truly left, at least to those who subscribe to the tale. They will never end, so they say, as long as young Sjn’s lifeless body, preserved by the deep cold of the lowest reaches of the Cablefjord, rests on the gnarled roots of ancient and drowned trees in the abyss.

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The haunting takes many forms. Most notable are the lights on the water, taking the form of everything from dolphins to supernumerary moons, but always reflections of something impossible, either through their motion or what is imparted. The glassed-in corridors of the Folly often echo with sourceless laughter, as well, and no small objects are left within because they will disappear. Only the luckiest of those who have lost something will witness its fare: flung into the Cablefjord as if from a catapult, there to sink into the oily, dark, and cold waters.

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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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