Setting up camp in the middle of the largest wall ever constructed was not the norm for the Skeleton Crew. Though it wasn’t the weirdest place they had done so either. This time, the most noticeable difference in locale was the silence. Harbek would normally set to work unpacking his tent to the random tunes Talsinew would be spouting off. But tonight, it was only the quiet of shuffling of feet and murmuring voices.
“Evening, my friend.” Talsinew appeared on a nearby rock. He held a few writing tools and a large stack of paper, and a smile that Harbek recognised as the ‘about to ask a favour’ face. Harbek gave him a nod, knowing that a request would be soon to follow. “I’d like to use your expertise.”
“Yes? What can I do for you?” Harbek considered his present lack of spellbook as a hinderance on his expertise, but he wasn’t about to let himself feel completely useless. He put the final tent flap into place, before focusing on the musicless bard.
“You read the lore of the first chamber. I want to see what it says.” Talsinew gripped the papers a little tighter. There was clearly an academic purpose for the request, which Harbek could appreciate.
Comprehend Language was still a spell Harbek was prepared to cast. It would be a simple matter to read out the elvish literature for Talsinew to transcribe. Harbek turned to look towards the first room, and came to realise a minor setback. “The gate between rooms two and three is closed.” Somehow the gate had lowered back into place without a sound, “I bet three-four is up next. We can’t take a stroll that way.” Harbek felt a little deflated.
Talsinew’s smile twitched ever so slightly, assuming the ‘I’m about to amaze you’ position. “With your permission, I want to walk through your memories with you.”
Harbek turned to face the Halfling. “Oh.” He tried to recall the first room. Blazing pyre, closed gate, embarrassing freakout. “That’s a thing?”. Talsinew nodded. Harbek had to consider the pros and cons of the situation. Was dozens of pieces of elvish text worth risking Talsinew seeing Harbek in moderate panic? “OK.” It wasn’t the worst personal detail Harbek had been keeping to himself. “That might be neat.” Harbek gestured for Talsinew to follow him into the tent.
Harbek shuffled in towards the back of the tent. Talsinew stopped and took a seat near the front. The the length of the paper stack would just barely fit in the space between them. Talsinew set out the writing tools and squared his shoulder. “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 slapped the blank pages down with a thud. He was clearly excited about having new stories to tell, that few non-elves before him had known.
Harbek took a deep breath and tried to relax, knowing that the weaving of someone else’s magic would be an unfamiliar feeling. “I’m willing.”
“Great! OK, hold still.” Talsinew produced, as if from nowhere, a set of triple pipes and blew a few test notes. “I’m doing this with my voice, I just like to have a pitch.” He took a few deep breaths and began to hum in the same pitch as his instrument. Harbek watched, waiting for further instruction on how to proceed.
Talsinew’s eyes locked with Harbeks. “Prisiminti.” The word began as most words do, filling the air between the two of them. But by the half way point, it had expanded out past the walls of the tent, echoing on itself. Before the single word had been fully articulated, it had grown beyond the walls of the great room, perhaps beyond the entirety of the barrier itself. With the massiveness of the word’s expanse came a whiteness of vision, and the interior of the tent faded from view. Before any other word could be spoken, Harbek was once again in the first chamber.
Harbek looked around with some amazement. Everything and everyone was exactly how he remembered it. The surprise was short lived though, quickly replaced with the realisation that a scene recreated from his memory would be exactly that. He took a tentative step forward, then another. The world remained fixed at one point in time, but he seemed free to move about. As he turned to examine the memory, he noted a shadow of himself remained where he had originally stood.
“Clear Memory.” Talsinew’s voice seemed airy and light, not quite filling the air like it had a moment before. “You see everyone else pretty well, but you don’t look at yourself, so all you remember is a vague image of self.” There were two copies of the bard in this room. The memory copy stood frozen, addressing Tiny Rat Grok. The other floated a few feet off the ground nearby, tethered by a silvery cord to Harbek. “Clever, huh? I’m not really here. Think of me as your mind’s co-pilot.” Balloon Talsinew floated upward to face a wall covered in writing.
Harbek tried to take in the enormity of the text that surrounded him, but he felt like his vision was playing tricks on him. He could clearly tell that the walls were filled with words of common, but his eye’s couldn’t settle on any of it to read. He was ready to say something to that effect, when the airborne Talsinew began to brush the walls with his hand. Harbek’s eye’s found their footing, and suddenly the letters ordered themselves into line. Within moments the walls were filled with lore and poetry, clear as the moment he first used magic to comprehend them. “There’s a lot of writing here. Are you seeing this with me?”
“I am… sort of…” Tansinew drifted sideways along the wall, examining bits and pieces of the text. “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.” Harbek had briefly hoped he would have help in transcribing the extensive literary collection, but apparently it would be all up to him. “I’m going to have a lot of writing to do.”
Talsinew turned to Harbek with an amused grin. “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.” With a flourish of his hand, Talsinew turned time backwards. His friends shuffled backwards, Tiny Rat Grok stepped back into Big Normal Grok, and the shadowy half memory of Harbek reeled back his magic. The translated text faded into a mess of incoherent swirls. Talsinew once again brushed the walls with his hand and the elvish runes locked themselves into place, perfectly remembered in form, but not meaning. “It’ll be two or three days of transcribing, but having so much text in two different forms might practically teach you this language.”
Harbek felt the weight of the task before him. The double workload seemed somewhat daunting, but the potential benefit of having a Steel Elf to Common dictionary in his head, or even just on paper, could prove useful. Harbek considered this as he wandered around the room, examining the details he had hardly paid attention to the first time through. Even now, he could close his eyes and remember both versions of the wall perfectly. After some time in the remembered chamber, it was hard to tell how much, there came a hissing sound. Harbek looked to Talsinew’s floating form, half expecting him to be deflating.
“Time to go.” Tansinew dropped down from the wall and drove straight at Harbek. The Room disappeared in a flash of white. “-iminti.” The word that had once filled the world collapsed back onto itself, shrinking down to its proper size just as the last syllable left Talsinew’s tongue. The interior of the tent faded back into view, and the pair were once again seated face to face. Talsinew looked out of breath, as though he’d just been sprinting.
Harbek closed his eyes once more, and cast his mind back to the first chamber. Every word in every line of text was crystal clear. Swapping between the two languages was no trouble either, with the mysterious elven script standing equally as confidently. “I’ll start writing things out.” Harbek opened his eyes and picked up a handful of blank papers, choosing a comfortable looking writing tool to accompany them. “Might take a few days though. I’ll get back to you when I have something for you.”
“I’d appreciate it. Thank you, my friend.” Talsinew gave a grateful nod. Harbek nodded in return, bringing the conversation to an end, and dismissing Talsinew to return to his usual wandering. Staring down at the blank page, Harbek concentrated on the image of the wall, and allowed his mind to overlay the writing onto the paper. His hand followed effortlessly, and word by word, the memory was brought to reality. The first page was filled within moments, and Harbek moved to place it on the floor to dry…
It ended up in Talsinew’s lap.
Despite the conclusion to their exchange, the bard hadn’t left the tent. He quickly, but gently, turned the page to begin reading, wide eyed with anticipation. Harbek opened his mouth to protest, but caught himself. Like Harbek’s spellbook, Talsinew had given up his beloved panpipes to satisfy the challenges these chambers had presented. They were both left without the one item that kept them busy in the quiet, resting hours. The transcription task was the only thing they both had to occupy themselves for the time being. Harbek nodded to himself, and resumed working.
Hours passed as Harbek scribbled out words both familiar and not. Talsinew hummed quietly, a tune that perhaps only the two of them could hear. It wasn’t the norm for either of them, but in the end, they both appreciated the company.