The Magus is still hiding in his cabin, so Gloria and I have the day off. I did some snooping around after breakfast, and I found out what Mr, K does all day. He sketches. It's amazing to watch him work, although at first I'm sure he knew I wasn't there. He has a little easel set up at the other end of the ship, and he draws the scenery as we pass it. The speed and precision of his technique are impressive.
My dad commissioned a family portrait once, and it was horrible. The painter took forever and we had to stand there all day as he captured all the little details. I bothered him while he was working later, and he showed me how it had been done. He broke us all down into little shapes and drew them separately, one after the other, until the geometry disappeared, and we became the whole picture. It was really interesting to watch. What Mr. K did was nothing like that. He didn't draw shapes to make the landscape, he just transfered it. He started at the top-left corner of a page, and worked steadily up and down it in quick strokes of his arm, so fast that I could barely see it. And every line was perfect, like it was second nature to him. And when he was finished, it wasn't like a sketch so much as an illusion. I could see every single detail captured perfectly in lead and paper. He should have been an artist instead of a teacher. I told him so, and he jumped. He chided me for sneaking up on him.
I sat down beside him, and we watched the mangroves pass. The river there was swampy and desolate. I said so, and he laughed, softly.
"What's so funny," I asked.
"Oh, it's just a human foible. There's more life out there than in any of the human or dwarven cities, but you say 'desolate.'
"Well, it's not a city or anything, it's all giant lizards and stuff, right?"
"Stuff. There's a small tribe of Lizardmen out there, and some goblin nests further from the river. They all mostly keep to themselves. So you are from Lithia, yes?"
"No, well, originally, I'm from Hydraal. My grandfather was a great hero in the Orc wars, before the, you know, the big one."
"Really? He was a soldier?"
"Not officially. He was a wandering swordsman. That's actually how Gloria and I know each other. Her grandmother and my grandfather were cohorts."
"Really? Most of what I know of Magus Boflin is from her brief stint as a professor. What was your grandfather's name?"
"Joachim Vernes. He was know as Dragon-Talker Vernes, and he carried a magic spear carved from a gold dragon's fang."
"He was a dragon lord, that's passing rare, in a human." He was genuinely surprised. Maybe he wasn't a dragon in human shape, if he didn't know that.
"Well, I don't really know the details. It's not one of the stories he told often. As I understand it, in his early adventures, he protected a clutch of eggs from orc patrols in the high mountains. That is how he earned the their respect, and his signature weapon. I've been writing about his adventures a lot lately."
"Why is that?"
"Oh, homesickness I guess. In the battle against the bandits, my father was using one of grandpa's weapons, so I've been thinking about the stories."
"I would love to hear it, if you wouldn't mind."
"Really? Well, alright." We sat and talked all through the morning. Really, mostly I talked. I told him about the magic crossbow, and the dark elves, and their plans to block out the sun.
"So they had a shadowstone." He said when I had finished. "It was a lucky thing that they stopped them. The whole world could have been swallowed by the shadow plane with one of that size, given enough time.
"The shadow plane? What's that?" I asked.
"Oh, this is advanced, planar geography, but I'll try and explain simply." He turned to a new page in his text book and sketched a great circle, with a smaller one inside it. "In the first age, their was the material world," he said, tapping the central circle. "And there was the Spirit World, which surrounded, bound and existed just beyond the world we know. All things, all spirits and magic creatures, existed in the Spirit world. Then, the Golden Age ended. The Old Gods, died, or vanished, or ceased to be. The legends differed. What we do know isat the strain of the end cracked the heavens themselves, and the Spirit World, dissolved into the many and different planes." He sketched a few lines, and the outer circle was cut like a pie. Now, there are many different planes of existence beyond the physical: Realms of fire, and endless oceans with no surface. Heavens and hells, each one different. And on some of them, the new gods dwell, and dictate their will. Do you follow?"
"Yes, I said."
"Good. Now it gets tricky. Some of these realms touch the material at different times, and three of them, the Astral, the Etherial, and the Shadow, can be easily reached from our world. They are the gateways to the planes beyond, like paths, or seas."
"So the cloud of darkness was the shadow plane?"
"Not exactly. The stone was a solid chunk of shadow matter. Normally, planar matterial can't exist on our world. It's too different, or it has too much energy, and explodes. They had managed to get some stable, and they were using it to copy the traits of the shadow onto the material. If they had succeeded, then they could have conceivably merged the two together, destroying the earth, but making the shadow plane that much greater. Who knows what could have happened. Your grandfather was truly a great hero for saving the world. Do you know many of his adventures?"
"Some of them. He told them to me as bedtime stories, so I think he cleaned them up a great deal."
"Even so, I think you should keep at it, Lizzeth. Write them down. I can't think of anything as sad as a story that becomes lost forever. History, and geography. These are the focus of stories, and stories drive them. Do you understand?"
"I think so," I said.
"Excellent. I very much would consider it a personal favor if you would tell them to me some time." And that is how I have become my grandfather's biographer. When we get to port, I desperately need to write my father a letter.