By now, the Skeleton Crew had their usual traditions when they broke camp. Talsinew would stroll, quietly improvising an aimless ditty on his panpipes. Harbek would sit in his tent, making notes and small corrections in his spellbook.
Tonight, these options were no longer available for the pair. So it was no real surprise that they wound up drifting towards each other like two mismatched magnets, each lacking a charge.
“Evening, my friend.”
Harbek was finishing with the last pole on his small tent when he saw the bard standing a short distance away, smiling at him. He nodded back a greeting.
“I’d like to use your expertise,” Tal continued, sitting on a small lump of stone by the tent. He was clutching a few reams of paper and writing tools.
“Yes? What can I do for you?” Harbek asked, as he slid the final slot tentflap into place.
“You read the lore of the first chamber,” he said, “I want to see what it says.”
Harbek gestured back eastward in the direction of the room full of Elvish lore and poetry. “The gate between rooms two and three is closed. I bet three-four is up next. We can’t take a stroll that way.”
The bard grinned. “With your permission, I want to walk through your memories with you.”
“Oh.” There was a pause. “That’s a thing?” Talsinew nodded. “OK,” Harbek said, beckoning the halfling into the tent, “That might be neat.”
The Yorranise tent was small, but so were the seated duo. Talsinew’s tiny figure folded cross-legged near the entrance, facing the wizard. “Even if you just gave them a cursory glance, I can help refresh them. You can remember every detail, down to the smallest curlicue. And then… we inscribe it.” He placed his paper stack down next to him.
“I’m willing,” Harbek said, adjusting his seated position.
“Great! OK, hold still.” Talsinew pulled out his triple pipes and blew a few chords, experimentally. “I’m doing this with my voice, I just like to have a pitch.” He took a couple breaths in and out before humming a low note echoed by the pipes. Seated cross-legged in front of Harbek, he looked the dwarf straight in the eyes. When he spoke, it seemed to echo beyond the boundaries of the canvas walls.
“Prisiminti,” Talsinew said.
When the world finished going white, Harbek stood in the first chamber of the Barrier path. He was not alone.
Around them the Skeleton Crew stood, scattered and investigating. This was before the arbalest had punched them full of holes, so most of the group were unharmed. Heath’s frowning gaze, Viper’s impassive smirk, Adrie’s slight scowl, Rasmas’ lithe stance… everyone stood stock-still, like figures in a diorama.
Harbek stood where he had stood at that moment. He took a step out and turned. A shadow of Harbek stood in his place — vaguer than the rest of the room, with the face impassive and blank.
“Clear memory,” Talsinew’s voice said, breezelike. “You see everyone else pretty well, but you don’t look at yourself, so all you remember is a vague image of self.” Harbek turned and saw two Talsinews.
The first was frozen like everyone else, laying a hand on a small rat by the portcullis. The second, however… this Talsinew floated a few steps off the ground, and was smudgy, like he was an oilcloth painting of himself. A thin silvery cord wrapped around his waist and drifted towards Harbek’s direction.
“Clever, huh? I’m not really here. Think of me as your mind’s co-pilot.” The floating Talsinew drifted up towards the walls of the chamber, coated in lines upon lines of text. It was all in Common — of course, since this was after the spell had been cast to translate them. That’s what he remembered.
The text was still legible, but grew faded and vague with the enormity of it. Floating Talsinew rose up, took a look at it, and reached up to the script, making a slight dusting gesture.
The ones under his hand grew shiny and intricate. Like wildfire, it spread across the walls, burning and sharp until the entire chamber was illuminated in clear, legible text.
“There’s a lot of writing here,” Harbek said, gazing up and around, “Are you seeing this with me?”
“I am… sort of,” Talsinew said, “But when we step out of your mind, I won’t hold onto it. It’s too much. A few tiny details, I can grab. Something this massive is beyond me. That’s why I need you. When the spell breaks, you will have all of it.”
“Hmmm,” thought the wizard. His thought was vocalized without him trying. “I’m going to have a lot of writing to do.”
Talsinew grinned. “Not only that, there’s a second part… the original runes, in that Elvish form, before you translated them. I can have you recall the shapes and positions of them, since you perceived them both ways.”
He raised his other hand, and the room rewound. Figures walked backwards in place. The rat that the other Talsinew held exploded and blossomed into Grök. Smoke suctioned down into the central bonfire. The runes on the walls shimmered and turned back to their untranslated form. With another wave, the memory froze again. The bard began clearing the dust of ignorance from these runes as well.
“It’ll be two or three days of transcribing,” Talsinew admitted, “but having so much text in two different forms might practically teach you this language.”
Neither dwarf nor halfling spoke for the next few minutes, as they walked around, examining the shining, shimmering walls and the frozen Crew. After an uncountable time, the room began hissing, like a deflating balloon.
“Time to go,” the floating Talsinew said, as he dove downwards to Harbek. The universe went white again.
“_-iminti,” Talsinew was saying.
They were seated in the tent. Talsinew was out of breath, as if he’d just run a marathon. Harbek blinked and closed his eyes for a second, searching his memory.
Walls of perfectly-arranged runes greeted him. Whole books of text and script in two different languages. All of it as clear as if it sat in front of him.
He opened his eyes. “I’ll start writing things out. Might take a few days, though.” He picked up a parchment folio and laid it out smooth. “I’ll get back to you when I have something for you.”
“I’d appreciate it,” Talsinew said, “Thank you, my friend.”
The duo sat for a couple hours — the wizard scribing lines and verse, while the bard slowly sorted and categorized the notes, humming a steady song of meditation. It wasn’t the same as their usual camp routines. But it was good.