We discussed our options further, and made a tentative plan, to go to the temple of magic to be studied, then join the largest Ult collective for at least one journey into the roots. There might be more than one journey, depending, and after that we may work with the Edge Hammers until we're ready to ask for their help on the journey to the edge. One outstanding question was whether the Edge Hammers would accept Jom as part of our party. And if we joined the Edge Hammers it would be possible to take leaves of absence to do other things (go to the crystal temple of the purifiers, for instance).

1827 asked whether we could release the rest of the people in the interview queue, and we agreed that we were done with interviewing, but would like to ask Gallax more questions.

Thymelixsen asked Tam if we would see him after this, and Tam said that it was possible. There were some futures where he saw himself hunting us, when we were doing things that hastened the fall. In those cases, our threads would be gathered, so they wouldn't fall into the All. Tam also had memories where we didn't all fall. I asked whether that was that we didn't all fall, or we all didn't fall? Because I'd much rather the latter... Somehow this lead to a discussion of the fifths, whether they all fall or all go back to the roots.

Not long after 1827 came back to tell us that Gallax had been contacted, Tam left, saying "To the things not yet remembered." Which I hope turns out to be correct.

It wasn't clear how long it would take for Gallax to return, so we went back to our room to eat and talk more about our plan. Since we didn't know how long we'd want to be in the city before traveling with the Ult, we decided that we should gather after a day of being studied at the temple of magic, to figure out how much longer we would stay there. We also wanted to get evaluated by the Edge Hammers, to find out how infected we are with the taint of the All (and know whether we are too tainted to be part of their group).

While we were talking out the plan, May suddenly melted, her nose curled down, her skin pocked, and her face brick red. She was dressed in dark clothing, with some daggers on her as well. She grinned, showing pointy teeth, and in general seeming to be rather more Sunk-like. She started talking in what sounded vaguely like Ovahon, but different enough that I couldn't quite understand it. I kept trying, and spoke simple Ovahon slowly back to her, hoping it was close enough that there would be some understanding. How long was she here? She asked me something that seemed to be asking whether I was a Blessed of the Father. I said yes, and she reached out her hands. I took them, and could immediately tell that she was a Blessed of the Mother. She kept smiling, and called me Wondalarn. I asked who else was with her, and she pointed at Cor, calling him Cor. She pointed at Jack, calling him Kurt. And someone else, too. Jack asked who she was, and she said her name was Hess. Thymelixsen asked in Elix if she spoke Elix, and she answered in something similar, perhaps HighEld. I tried asking what work they'd taken, both in Ovahon, then Elix. Hess said that they'd gone with the Ults on a very fast trip, possibly more than one. I tried to sense how strong she was in the Mother compared to May, and she seemed a bit stronger than May. I asked if they would soon go to the edge, and Hess gestured that the edge was far away. She looked at Thymelixsen as if she didn't know him. She said that he wasn't hers, but they have one like him. Did we have magic for words? No, we didn't have a translator. And then Hess was gone, and May was back.

May told us that their group has Ruzagride, who still had only one arm, and Cor, Wandalorn who was like me, and a Sunk-like Kurt like Jack, but he was not blessed. They had a yellow kafke, who cast some kind of sparkles of magic that let her understand them. They had a list of things to ask when there were crossovers like this, including how long had the crossover been here, and getting Kurt to be quiet. They asked if Thymelixsen were a variant or not, and whether we'd been attacked by edgewalkers or thirds. They had taken many trips with the Ults. May asked about Yallo, and they said he served edgewalkers, sort of. They asked for warnings, and May said that we shouldn't be doing this kind of slippage. They said they were doing research on this. It also seemed like Kurt (and Hess) might be some kind of combination of Ovahon and Sunk, not split.

Metakesh came to the door, and took us to the receiving hall, where Gallax was waiting for us, as well as 1827 and Tam.

Gallax said that that was fast. We said we had more questions. Thymelixsen asked about the quality of the threads they offered, and Gallax said that they were usually from Bove, sometimes others, generally of highest quality. Cor said that we had been approached by a kathel who wanted to go back to the roots. Gallax said that the kathel can't go back to the roots. May said that the kathel wanted to trade threads and travel with us, to become less kathel, to become mortal when we went back. Gallax said that there were others in the roots who try to make paths passing into the roots for the kathel. It had happened three times, and the Creators tried to stop each path after they were made. May asked whether it would be ok for him to travel with us. Gallax said that they'd have to discuss it; the Edge Hammers work on group consensus. Personally, it made him nervous, an attempt at bridging, when he might try to reclaim his heritage; he might be an agent. Gallax asked what generation kathel, and we told him third. Gallax asked if we had any stories about the kathel coming back, and Jack said that we didn't, not specifically about kathel, though there were stories about coming back that were far ancient history.

Thymelixsen said that we wanted to be evaluated after our time at the temple of magic, and Gallax said that we shouldn't go to them, that he would come and get us, since the Edge Hammer headquarters were in a dangerous part of the city. Thymelixsen told him that we were thinking that after being evaluated by the temple of magic and traveling with the Ult to get our threads tightened, we might work with them. Gallax gave us a caution not to do too much with thread craft, that it was dangerous, because one needed more thread to do things than one had, which led to the question of whose to take.

1827 asked if we were done, and we were, so he escorted us to the temple of magic.

It was busy when we arrived. We went in and asked for Voomwan Venver. While we waited, Jack asked 1827 about buying cavenants. Apparently there are many places to buy them, but some are bred to be better translators (which of course cost more). Cor pointed out that a cavenant wouldn't slip through to other iterations, while devices we wore would, which would make it much easier to talk with other iterations. (And cavenants require feeding.)

Voomwan arrived, talking as before in light and shifts of color. She asked whether we had decided, and Jack said we had, that we'd decided to be studied here. She asked whether we were taking the option of boarding here, and we were. She said that was good, because being here helps to minimize shifting. She also reminded us that while we were being studied, we were to minimize our time out in the city, that we should travel about quickly and as privately as possible. I asked that we be boarded in the same room, and Voomwan agreed. She told us that not all of us would be studied at once, and only during the day hours. She went off to ready a room and set up a schedule for study.

Jack suggested to May that we go looking for the stairs down she'd seen in her vision. We all went together, looking at each nook and cranny, but there was nothing. Then Jack climbed into a clump of plants and vanished. An entity gestured to us to move, and 1827 said we shouldn't hurt the plant. Thymelixsen tried to sense where Jack was, but couldn't find him, telling us he might be in shadow, or maybe something else. May suggested that we should stand together to form a shadow for him to come back out, if he were in shadow, since he couldn't stay all that long. And then Jack was back,a nd said that the shadows here were like shooting through a pipe, and there were things trying to get him, but he just flowed away quickly.

Voomwan returned with some assistants. 1827 translated, saying that two could be studied now for some hours, then there would be a break. I suggested to Cor that if we went first, we could then go to the temple afterward. And I asked that we go to the room first, before Jack went off to his temple, so he'd know where to come back to.

We went up many levels, then down a corridor to a mirror that split open to reveal a smooth, disc-shaped chamber that had a window over the city, but pretty much nothing else. We were high above the city.

Voomwan said that the room was now attuned to us, and woul dlet us in. Thymelixsen asked about tables and chairs, and Voomwan said she'd see what she could do. Thymelixsen asked for a guide to find a teacher, and contacts for selling. Voomwan said she would try to find this for him. Then she asked who would be studied first, and Cor and I said we would go first. Jack said he was going to his temple, Thymelixsen was waiting in the room for furniture or other people to come, and May went off exploring, perhaps to the library.

Cor and I were taken back to the library level, then taken in separate directions. I followed my escorts through another mirror door, into a chamber with a high arching ceiling above, and rings of floating blue lights in the center. The edge was sloped, and there were many lights, and striped lines marked on the floor going towards the center. Some marks were red and some glowed. It was bright even though there were no windows, likely because of the translucent celing. There were many figures here, most vaguely humanoid. One gestured to the center. I went that way, and the the blue spinning rings in the center caused a tingly feeling. There were lights, and holographs, coming from the panels that seemed to be tended by the humanoid workers.

"Welcome, relax." said a voice that sounded fatherly (thought not Fatherly). It spoke in Elix. And then I rose off the floor, until my head was in the top ring, tingling. The voice said that there might be a period of discomfort, and I decided I would try to pay attention to the kind of scans they would do for learning more about body healing, if I could (and as a distraction, if I needed). The voice went on, "It is very important to express if there is great discomfort, though lease endure if you can."

Then there were sigils and lines of light as I started to spin slowly. There were pulses from below that shook upward as I continued spinning. The voice said, "If you wish to decrease spinning, try turning in the opposite direction." I tried, and it helped. This went on for a while, then there were harder pulses for a couple of minutes. I was turned so I was horizontal, though still spinning, and there were more hard pulses. For a little while I was in a perfect still silence in deep blue, almost as we were at the tower. Then I came out of that and felt rather dried out, wanting water. I asked about water, but was told there wasn't any here. I was turned over to face down, still spinning, and blued out again. This time there were some clouds as well. I came out of it feeling as if my nose had bled, though it hadn't. Another blue out, and there were not only clouds, but also shapes forming a landscape of the Elix lands. There were trees, a city, shapes growing in the air, and a suggestion of movement. I tried turning my neck, and that movement made me feel all shuddery, quite horribly. I tried just moving my eyes, and sometimes it was as if the whole thing I was looking at moved along with my eyes, causing vertigo. So I tried moving my tail, and that was much less of an issue. I came out, and people were in different places, as if much time had passed. I also came out very dry, and the lights were far too bright. I mentioned this, and the voice suggested closing my eyes. I did, and still the next blue out came in the same way, seeing despite having closed eyes. This time I was standing in Black Bay, though I know I haven't been there. I was trembling with cold. I came out, feeling dry, and now oriented properly. Again, there were different people in the room. However, I was nauseous, and shivering cold. I tried to calm myself, but nothing helped, and the nausea started to get worse. I said I could not continue, and I was let down to the ground, where people came to help, carrying me over to one side (I doubt I could have walked) and comforting me. My vision was odd too, with blurs of color and spinning.

That was rather harder than I'd expected.
I asked Jack about his trip to his Temple, and he told us how he'd gone through the maze, saw lots of odd people having strange sex, and climbed up to the temple at the top, where he went into shadows. There were others there with him in shadow, interestingly, all there together. He prayed about whether to join the army, and got a vision of time running out, not about what to do more specifically.

Thymelixsen said that if we went into the army, we'd likely be separate. And he said that he knew some of who we'd be seeing tomorrow. Jack and I immediately asked how, and he said he'd asked Yallo, his henchman person. Of the ones we were likely to see in the morning, there were four he'd gotten information about:
1. another Inyus, sailing with the Valiant Gold, fighting the All, destroying corrupted places, and bringing back useful debris.
2. a representative of the Forgers, who would offer to look at us, using us to make things, if we stayed here.
3. an Ethka who works for the order of kathel, working to get the kathel back into the roots.
4. an Ult from Pulshanakov, the largest Ult group.

I said that one of the other groups of us Cor had seen had gone with those last. Cor said that they didn't say much about it, but did say it was a short trip, then they were going to the Inyus. (Still, I'm nervous about Yallo, who knows so much and appears from nowhere.)

We went to sleep, and again May went walking with Tam, which she told us about when she woke us. This time they were in a snowy Featureless Plains. She showed Tam the kupar and the shrine of the Mother underground. This time, she recognized some of the Arcoons on the walls. Tam said taht it was a hidden place, and May has secrets. May could see that some of the writing was about the Mother, and about light. Tam said that the weapons was a spirit weapon to be imbued in a person, not a physical weapon, as we'd thought.

When May woke us, the room had changed more, with May and Jack's bed having cubby holes, and a side table by Thymelixsen and me. There was a basin and towels on a table by Cor, though, unsurprisingly, there was no water. There were hanging lamps as well.

Since we had the blue time, we ate some rations and took time to practice. May helped me with resisting layered magic. And then we went down to start interviewing again. Metakesh met us, and brought us to the same reception room, where 1827 and Tam were waiting for us.

The eleventh interview was with what looked like an orange and yellow striped housecat, wearing clothes, though it walked on all fours. It hopped on the table, and Jack tried to pet her, but she hissed at him. (She turned out to be an Ethka.)

Memwenna was a minion of the kathel order. Her order believes that the war can only be resolved if the kathel return to the first world, which they can do, and intervene against themselves to not break the first world.

(Cor wondered whether that would mean no roots.)

Thymelixsen asked what they do. Memwenna said that they work on a careful mapping of the roots, and they would seek to study us to help in that. There is a degree of corruption as indicated by the variety of interest. And the point of origins of all the roots, the nexus, is of interest to them.

Jack asked whether the first world still exists, and Memwenna said that the first world, the roots, all of it are all together, all the time.

I asked about the nexus and how they would do this, and Memwenna said that in the area where the critical nexus is believed to be, a small craft could be injected, though it would be dangerous. Those connected to the Creators would be easier to get into the first world. Then once in, they would signal to the other craft.

Thymelixsen asked how they would get the kathel there. Memwenna said that there were two difficulties. One was getting the kathel beyond the Veil, and the other is finding the first world. Previous efforts were working on getting the kathel into the roots, and now they were working on the other part.

Jack asked about what would happen if the All found the first world. Memwenna said that the All already found the fist world. That was the error, that the kathel brought the All in. However, it is improbable that the All knows where the first world is now, since it cracked when the All was introduced.

Thymelixsen asked about how long the work would be, and what we would be paid. Memwenna said that there would be a period of study, during which we would be paid a sustaining wage, relieving the loss of essence, and paid in highest purity essence too. Room and board would also be covered. We would be studied for about four cycles, then the next would depend on what discussed during that study. Only those committed to their mission would they have on a mission (they do not want people with other points of view), and if one ponders the implications through...

Jack said "we'd never have existed." Memwenna said that he was correct. The breaking of the first world would never have happened. They believe that the kathel were trained to oppose the All, then turned against the Creators, and regretted that when they saw what happened.

We thanked her for her time, and got ready for the next interview; it was an interesting point of view, but no one saw it as a likely choice for us.

The twelfth interview was with what looked almost like a black, almost pillow-sized water beetle.

Tiktik represented the Forges. The masters of the Forges sent an offer to do impression work, using our memories which are now fresh to make new and unique things. They are particularly interested in foodstuffs and textiles. Also we could train in forge work. If we learned well, we could earn two to three times sustaining wage, and room and board. It would take twlve to twenty work clusters to complete training (work clusters turn out to be ten cycles of six work and four rest). Apprentices are dormed and sustained.

I asked whether they would use our impressions at the same time we studied, and Tiktik said that the impression study pay would depend on the value of our memories.

Cor asked whether, once they'd used our memories, we'd forget things, and Tiktik said no, that this was just exploration.

May said that Thymelixsen and Jack would likely have more of those kinds of things than the rest of us, and Tiktik said that however many of us would still be useful.

Thymelixsen asked about whether, if he made other things (his fetishes), whether they would market them for him. Tiktik asked about their nature, and Thymelixsen described what they can do. Tiktik thought it sounded like the work of a possibility tuner. And he said taht it would be possible for the house to market other things, with an appropriate percentage going to the house, of course.

We thanked him for his time.

The thirteenth interview was with a kathel, not as big as Tam but larger than Cor, so likely a third, who was a rusty orange with deep purple eyes. He spoke to us without translators, greeting us all.

He asked if he were the first kathel in the auction, then went on to tell us that he has been through the spiral woods, the over the copper sea, to the bionlear, seen all the cities and the great see. He has gone into the trap and seen the whole of this place, now finding it to be a small box. He said that all kathel want to return to the roots. He offered us his services as a specialist in the this place. He acknowledged that the roots were not created for his kind. The first place was, and he wants to return. However, he has a suspicion about the roots, and the nature of creation. He sees us all standing on bright lines, like seeds of change that have come from the roots, and have changed this place.

Jack commented that this seemed like a big place for us to have changed.

May asked if he were going to eat us, and he said no, he wished to bond with us. He wanted to bind essence with all of us. Somehwere in the bright lines of us, he saw how we were connected to the roots. If we mingle our threads, we gain power, and he gains a connection to the roots. It would make us different, changed in greatness.

Jack asked whether it would be harder to get back to the roots because we'd be part kathel, and he said he did not believe so.

Thymelixsen asked to see one of his threads, and he agreed. He sent one out, and I didn't get a sense of voice. There was a sense of intensity, but not a sense of otherness.

Jack said that this was interesting, but he would have to ask the Creators, since it might not be part of the design. But it might be.

He said that he would go with us on our journey, could go with us to the edge, and to the tower, then getting free. The tower will not let full kathel approach, but by being third, he was less.

Jack asked whether anyone with kathel thread could go back, and he said yes (which makes sense, since the new essence is made by kathel...).

Thymelixsen asked whether, if he gets to the tower with our thread, he would go to our root. He wasn't sure. Thymelixsen asked how many threads he would need. He wasn't sure of that either; he would weave them in, and see how it felt.

Thymelixsen asked how this would not be temporary. And he said that his threads have greatness that would hold.

Thymelixsen asked whether he had done this before, and he said no; others had tried with single travelers, but that failed. But we are many and bright.

May asked what he would do in the roots. He was not sure, but would swim, look into the sky, see the stars.

Jack asked if he expected he would die, and he said yes, he would become mortal if he went to the roots.

Thyemlixsen asked whether, if we agreed, he would expect us to go to the edge immediately. He said that that could be discussed. And that when we went to the ghostlands, he could protect us, that he'd already been there.

And then we finally managed introductions. Jom is this one's name.

Jack discussed wanting to go back to the roots full, so we'd want to earn our way back to full first, which Jom said would be fine.

Thymelixsen asked what the firsts would say if we asked them about this, and Jom said they would be disagreeable, but would not stop us.

I asked whether that was because of not going to the roots, and Jom said some of it was that, and some of it was about choosing to become less. Jom said that being perfect is overrated, and he would rather be in the roots.

May asked whether he would be lonely in the roots by himself. And Jom said he might be. Bust he still wanted to go be free for a lifetime, then die.

Thyemlixsen asked Tam what the down side is, and Tam said he could offer no opinion.

Jack asked whether we would lose the threads Jom gave us, and we were told that we would be more sustained, that those threads would be less inclined to leave the same way.

Jack asked about threadcraft in the roots, given how residents here with fused threads can, and Jom said that he had heard yes.

Jack asked whether edgewalkers could step back from the edge, and Jom said that most fall, but some can step back.

I asked about whether it would be easier to learn with Jom's thread, and he advised against learning threadcraft. He said that greatness come with a knowing, memories.

Thymelixsen asked about the minimum number of threads he'd need, and Jom said more than one, and more would be better.

Thyemlixsen asked who he'd recommend us to work with. Jom said that it depends on our beliefs. There are quicker ways, but they are likley to compromise our beliefs. The most peaceful path would be with the Ults, though the pay is less, and they have restrictions, but they take care, and treat people well. With others, there are more physical risks, and moral risks as well. Some see the roots as a source of income and nothing else. If we go to the roots, we change them, and that change can affect others' lives. What we do can thicken the roots, or make them fade.

Thymelixsen asked how that is different than life in general, and Jom said that the scale is different. There are jobs that earn enough to recover thread loss, though slowly.

The corruption in the roots creates: creation has taken it in and used it to make things. Jack liked the parallelism that if the kathel arrogance shattered the first world, giving up immortality to fix it, by going into the roots.

We thanked Jom for his time. Once he'd left, Thymelixsen pointed out how Jom and Zom offered similar paths. Jack thought that we should pray about this. before discussing it.

The fourteenth interview was with an Ult wearing the mark of Vosh. He was carrying a golden scepter, and had glittering nodules on his clothing.

Jack said that the lumps were pretty. And the Ult replied with a modulated voice; one of those nodules seemed to be a translator. He said that he was from the root craft Green Leaves Turning, an exchange class root craft, from the Pushancove Collective. Thymelixsen asked what an exchange class root was, and he said that it was a trade ship, larger than a hauler. It carries about two hundred people, with thirty of those being crew. It's a heavy cruiser, line station in size. Line stations are flying fortresses, in the line, and back in the roots as stations. The largest of these are life stations, which can have one thousand people on each of them. Only Ult have these, and there are three of them, some beyond the veil in cities that are not in any root.

May commented that there are so many Ult out of the roots.

He said that long ago, they traveled between the roots, to define nature. They crossed the Veil fairly early, dealt with the kathel, and the war, and so on.

Thymelixsen asked what job they had for us.

He said that Green Leaves Turning was his ship, but there are many more in the Pushancove Collective. They focus on the largest roots, maintaining and tending them to keep corruption out. They work outside, getting corruption that has lodged itself there, extracting it if it has gone in. They work differently depending on whether it is random debris or brought in, deliberately or otherwise. He said that a root is like a rope, with insides of all the flow of opossiblity. A possibility going out from a damaged root can affect other nearby roots.

Thymelixsen asked if we worked with the Collective, how long the initial study then shipping out would take. He said as soon as possible. There would be a three thread signing bonus (I asked about its purity, and he said that it was generated by Vosh), we'd be paid 5 gulwarn/unit in down time, and 30 gulwarn/unit on duty, plus bonuses on completion, which tend to average 2500 gulwarn.

Cor asked about how long the journeys tend to be, and he said that exchange craft take long trips, but smaller craft take shorter trips.

I asked how often ships left, and he said that they left all the time, since they were such a large Collective. I also asked about whether we could use down time to practice our own crafts, and he said yes, as long as we were not in others' employ.

Thymelixsen asked about whether the Collective would market things he crafted, and he said that they could assist.

Thyemlixsen asked about the tuning, and he said that it was done to our physical bodies, and was only done if necessary to enter the root.

I asked about sustenance, and he said it would be provided.

Thymelixsen asked what would be needed to renegotiate, whether it was only about our performance. He said that it depended on how reliable we were, what our useful skills were, and with seniority, experience.

Thyemlixsen asked whether the Collective would have a problem with how corrupted we are. He said that there was no difficulty. Some have different associations, but there was no technical way to get around the taint. Thymelixsen asked what would happen if we were more corrupted than they'd expected, and he said that they would advise us of that, suggesting options for us, and end the association.

Before he left, I asked whether there were translators on board, and he confirmed that there were. And we thanked him for his time, and he was gone.

May asked Thyemlixsen if the next one would be the gold whatever, and Thymelixsen said he didn't know. I noticed Tam noting the exchange...

The fifteenth interview was an Inyus wearing a wide black belt, a white shirt, and gold rings. 1827 translated for him.

This was steward Weltawesk, representing the Sure Cutter, and Inyus medium cruiser, part of a fleet called Valiant Gold. They were dedicated to destroying points of corruption around, on, and in the roots. The fleet wanted us for navigation, and targeting against corruption points. They have fighting ships for fighting places damaged by corruption, if it is greater than a particular level of corruption.

Jack asked whether this destroyed some roots. Weltawesk said yes, this burned corrupted roots before they threatened others. The debris from the destruction is scavenged and sold. They offer a three thread signing bonus, 7 gulwarn/unit downtime, 35 gulwarn/unit on duty time, and there would likely be bonuses of 5000-6000 gulwarn on completion, which would be 10-15 cycles.

Jack asked what we'd do, and Weltawesk said we'd wai to be injected, then go in, and mark places.

May asked what quality threads, and Weltawesk showed us some. I could feel the whispering. They might be 98%, definitely better than 97%.

Thymelixsen asked about whether they would provide food and water, and they would during journey times. And whatever we pick up in the roots, we can keep.

I asked about translators, and Weltawesk said that they have them.

Cor asked whether this meant getting close to the corruption, and Weltawesk said yes. There is risk, including being attacked by corrupted ones.

Thymelixsen asked about tuning, and Weltawesk said that they have devices that help keep us healthy, that they would try to use near the roots.

Thymelixsen asked whether we would talk with root denizens, and Weltawesk said it depended on the mission.

Thymelixsen asked about renegotiating later, and Weltawesk said it would be possible after the first trip.

May asked how often they have ships leave, and he said that they have ships leaving every cycle.

We thanked him for his time, and he left.

We debated our options. 1827 asked whether he should release the others. Jack asked 1827 if any qualitatively different interviews were still to come, and 1827 said that he was not able to answer. Thyemlixsen tried asking another way, if there were other major groups with root craft, and 1827 said that we'd seen the major groups, though there are others.

We debated further, and finaly Cor said that we should see one more today, then break to discuss.

The sixteenth interview was with someone who looked kafke-like, though his his whiskers, ears, tail, fingers, and muzzle were longer. Rather like a vision kafke. He was waering the mark of Bove, in a sharply cut outfit with silver buttons. He had silver earrings as well.

He started talking, and though the intonation was right, the words were completely unknown to me until 1827 started translating. Still, his body language was clear, and he seemed at ease.

His name was Gallax Romkulla. First, he had questions about language, asking 1827 what he knew of Elix (though that was not what he called it, obviously). Next, he introduced himself as the representative of a group called Edge Hammer, which was about forty people who have nearly been to the edge, but not quite. They are equipped with weapons and abilities from the roots. They work inflicting damage to the All and to the ghosts from the edge, but their focus is to assist travelers to get to the edge.

Jack asked whether they were interested in having us join them or in giving us assistance to the edge. Gallax said that some don't wish to go to the edge, to fall, but they come with skills to help thos who believe they can get to the edge. He has seen many go who thought they could, and fell instead. Still, others have returned. He was offering help on the journey.

Jack asked whether they could assess our ability compared to those who survived, and Gallax said that they could do this assessment, evaluating our possibilities.

Jack asked what they would want in return, and Gallax said they asked nothing. They offered positions for those who would wish, as well.

Jack asked whether would could join, then journey to the edge later, and Gallax said yes. The first things we would learn would be to reduce the rate of thread loss. The company is routinely hired by Bove and other kathel to deal with beasts and other things that come to the cities.

I asked whether we'd be paid if we joined. Gallax said that we would get training, and if we joined on missions, those would be paid.

Thymelixsen asked about the type of training, and Gallas said that it depended on the skills we already had. Mostly fighting and some espionage.

Thyemlixsen asked whether we would stay together, and Gallax said it depended on our skills and what was needed for the mission. I asked whether they used healers, and Gallax said yes. Thymelixsen asked whether they have trainers in magic, and Gallax said it depended on the type of energy work.

Jacked asked about how much missions pay, and Gallax said that it depended. Their focus is on good missions, and keeping stable.

Cor asked about how long their training was. Gallax said we'd be deployed immediately, and the training would be on the way. The work was regular.

Gallax cautioned us to be careful after tonight, that we shouldn't travel alone, since the protections given us by Vosh would have gone down, and it will now be dangerous for us.
Tam said that we were done interviewing for today, and would be back tomorrow, then backed away into nothing. 1827 asked if we would need it further today, and the consensus was no. Jack asked 1827 about whether it needs rest, and it came out that 1827 could translate for much larger numbers, like a whole army, so this level of translating is like rest. Most impressive. 1827 left, and as we were about to start talking about today's interviews, Jack said he was hungry and wanted to get food.

So we all went along to the dining area. Metakesh was there, and the red light was on. We saw some other beings ordering by the window, and it seemed there were a number of deliveries going out as well. Once we'd ordered, we grabbed seats at one end of the large table, and started discussing the interviews. It was pretty clear that we were not taking the offer of the All, the candle person (to be tied off), or the possibility engineer. The three that we might consider for later were visiting the Purifiers, the army, and possibly Zom. Thymelixsen said that he knew that other hims had gotten edgewalkers to help, then abandoned the edgewalkers before the edge. Which was interesting, but I'm still a bit unsure about Zom. I thought that going to the temple of magic, then a trip with the Ult, would be a reasonable way to go, as we learn more about here. Thymelixsen agreed that the temple was a good first choice, and we could stay there until we decided what else to do. He wasn't sure about the Ult, since he thought that they would not be alright with the level of taint we have. He pointed out that there were three possibilities so far for travel: the collective, the Inyus, and the Ult. And the Ult had offered the least. In the end, it sounded like Thymelixsen very much wanted to do more interviews, but I don't want to spend all our time interviewing, either. We agreed we'd have some interviews in the morning, but likely not all day.

Jack said he wanted to go to his temple to pray. The rest of us went up to the room. Thymelixsen started practicing some magic in the foyer, and the rest of us wanted to pray. May turned the lights up in one of the rooms, and Cor turned the lights down in the other. Cor had talked about going to the place of the Timekeepers, but I didn't want to encounter the lake of death again, and that certainly didn't feel like praying, nor like connection to the Healer. Staying here, I focused on the thin thread back to the Healer, wanting not only the connection as usual, but also as a connection to home. I thanked the Healer for helping us so far, and asked for guidance towards an appropriated path to get us all taint-free and home. I also aked whether it would be appropriate to learn Purifier knowledge. I had a vision in reply, where I (actual me, not someone else) was gripping stones on either side of me as I endured great pain. I was holding on to allow whatever was causing the pain in my belly to happen, keeping still. There was a sense of the presence of the Father rising and rising.

Cor said he met a him who hadn't been touched by death. That him was alone in the room, the others having gone out in the city. Their group included Fashrun, but not May. They were new in town that day, and were thinking about joining the army. Cor said that that Cor saw Fashrun as a comrade in arms only, which surprised him. And he met another group that had May, Fashrun, Jack, and me, but their Cor had died under Bo's Point. They said they'd lost Thymelixsen the first day to Zom, and they hadn't gotten him back in the eight days they'd been there. They'd done a time of study with the temple of magic, and gone on a short trip with the largest group of Ults. Interestingly, it sounded like their May wasn't quite Ovahon. And it was difficult for that Fashrun to see our Cor.

May prayed about learning about the greater Mother while staying distant enough to go back home. She had a vision of the temple of magic, with a secret place, stairs going down near a fountain, which had a statue of two girls. May touched their hands and said something that she could remember afterward, and there was a sense that that would start something.

Cor said that since he hadn't managed to pray here in the room, he was going out to the place of the Timekeepers. I didn't want to go out, and ended up curling up with Thymelixsen. Once we'd finished, I started drifting off to sleep, when he suddenly jerked about. I asked him what was going on, and he said he'd gone somewhere, though I thought I would have noticed had he gone.

Thymelixsen said that he had gone somewhere that had a table. Yallow was there, and a couple of others who looked like him. There were cards, though he couldn't recognize anything about them. He played the game, acting based on what he felt the cards' effects in the game might be, and won. After that, Yallow pointed out a large window to the inside. Through the window, Thymelixsen saw a sick child, and an adult sitting with the child, presumably a parent. A healer came by, and apparently the healer was some kind of agent that Yallow had placed there on the inside. Thymelixsen said that he had won some of them at cards, and he could feel it inside, that he was not done changing. Also, he knows who is coming for interviews tomorrow. I'm starting to get a much stranger feeling about Yallow.

Cor returned, and said that he had gone to a cold place (Jack also came back around then). He'd asked at the temple where to pray, and instead of going up to the altar, had moved right, towards an entity on that side of him. Taht entity brought him to a shrine on the tundra of the featureless plains. In the shrine, he thought about some of our options. When he thought about the army, he got the feeling that it would be lonely, but also big and strong, easy to pass through the ghostlands, easy to hod on at the edge, and he could even pull back other selves. When he stepped back from the edge, the extra armor bits fell off. Jack said that if we do go into the army, time runs fast, and we wouldn't be able to have enough time to do stuff in the roots, according to what he had learned at his temple.

Cor said that when he thought of the Ult, it felt warm, and friendly, like with family. Other people came with us to the edge, Ults and others. There was struggle, but we got there.
When he thought of the collective, we didn't go where he wanted to go, staying here, rather than going home. He got stuff, and worked towards that, rather than going to the edge.
When he thought of the Purifiers, he said it was like a dream of being back, but with a sense of something missing, something forgotten that he couldn't remember. He did not want this.

Interestingly, while this lead me towards choosing the Ults, he still thinks the army is a reasonable option.
We debated the offer to join the army, and I was surprised at how much positive feeling there was for it. True, we'd not have to worry about our threads, and time here (if it passes at all) doesn't seem to work in the same ways as at home, but it's seemed that we've heard more than once that we should go home as soon as we could. Also, we'd be split up, and I'd rather stay together. Still, it would be doing useful work. I could see doing that, perhaps, but not first, by any means.

Thymelixsen asked 1827 what people knew about us, when they entered the auction. 1827 said that there were sources of information out there, so it's unclear. Also, I hadn't know (but wasn't surprised to hear) that everyone who entered the lottery paid for the privilege.

Somehow we ended up debating yet again about the All visiting us. Tam said that there have been times that we had gone with the All, when we were more tired by the time we got here. Jack asked if we were less, or there were fewer of us in the group. Tam said that there were all of us that we could imagine, though there were some of us who didn't happen because the roots don't always grow.

The fifth interview was with a being that was vaguely like a slender humanoid with a green pod-like head on top, with black spots where eyes would have been. It was wearing a white robe with an orange diamond on its chest. Around its head a silver light was radiating, and I realized that this was a Blessed of the Father.

She introduced herself in a musical voice. 1827 translated that she was Som Wellful, from the Womanevo crystal shrine of the Purifiers. She was here to offer to take us to the crystal shrine, where our threads would be cleaned and returned to the roots, to help the roots. She told us that our essences should return to the roots, because the roots are less without us. She was aware of our corruption from the All.

Jack asked if this would kill us, and she said no. He asked if we'd still be us, and she said that over time, we'd remember ourselves.

The process involves going to the crystal shrine, the body being put into stasis, the essence taken out to scrub, then put back in the roots.

Thymelixsen asked how long it would be between getting to Womanevo and being crystallized, and she said that after the travel to the shrine, crystallization would happen soon after we arrived.

She said that there would be some loss, depending on the depth of our corruption, but the rest would be save.

Jack asked if there would be a chance to choose this once we knew how much we were corrupted, and whether that could be done here.

Som said that it would not be so accurate to check here, since the specialists were at the crystal shrine, but she could do that for us here, to give us a rough estimate.

Jack said that we rather liked being us.

Som said that the more we travel, the more possibility there was of total loss, and greater corruption.

I asked whether there could be Purifiers in the roots again, and Som said that she believed that the notion of Purifiers had been brought out of the roots to here. Each Purifier had been given some of the Father, to stay connected, but apart from here.

I asked whether, if one had great corruption, it would be better to get better first. She said that it was possible to build to more than I am now, but corruption will cause subtraction. And she said that in visions, people of the crystal shrine had seen people returning into a different flow. What is flow? When we go back into time, some things won't have happened the same way, because of the subtraction of self, or won't have happened at all.

Thymelixsen asked if we would have the same physical bodies if we did this, and Som said that it was almost always so. She said that in knowing, we become more known, which means more corruption.

I asked whether, if we went back this way, it would have been like less good, or fewer things done, and Som said that some things would not have happened.

Cor asked if the same thing would happen if we go to the edge, and Som said that few go to the edge and don't all or become edgewalkers. Some few can, and are absent some part of themselves, but otherwise whole. When they go back, it is as if they have had a dream of what happened. Still, they will be less than before.

Thymelixsen asked whether, if we don't choose this path, we could visit the shrine, and Som said that since they were with me, this would be acceptable, and would let us leave again, but there were some from other shrines would would hunt us down and crystallize us.

Cor asked whether, if we could stay us, Som would teach me Purifier Blessings. Som said that while it would be good to have Purifiers in the roots again, but the Father drew Purifiers here to aid in the great battle, and it would mean loss at the front if they taught me the Blessings.

Jack pointed out that the Father had showed me that there were Purifiers, and Som said that it's different in a vision or in stories; that's not the same as giving the power. I should ask the Father, if He wanted this knowledge shared in this way. Which makes sense.

I asked how I could heal others from other roots, and Som said I'd need to be infused with connection to be able to heal those from non-near roots, here. That would be to be injected with crystal. I asked if this had the same risks that May had learned about connection to the Mother here, in all her facets, making it more difficult to go back to the roots, and she said yes.

We couldn't think of more questions, so we thanked Som for her time, and she said she would be in Wanderhold for three cycles before returning to the crystal shrine.

Sixth was an Ult carrying a tall staff with three twining pieces on top. The mark of Gont, the blue triangle on yellow background, was on his clothing. On his chest, he wore a metal and glass object, which turned out to be a communication device.

He introduced himself as Issha, the Greeter, from The Sun Over the Green Hill, a hauler class root ship, part of the Woolotoon Growers, a group in agreement in the ways that the roots should be tended.

I asked what those ways were, and Issha said that root tending was a specialized skill. The roots can be measured and analyzed from without. They travel to afflicted or weak roots. Their group is the second largest of the Ult organizations (Pulshancove being the largest, focusing on the largest roots). This group focuses on smaller roots that may be in decline, to help them grow. Their ship is a hauler, with a crew of about fifty. Ten of those work on the ship, while the rest come for study, traveling (travelers who can pay for their passage), and working in the roots. They meet with travelers who can go into roots that others in the current crew cannot.

Jack asked what they do to tend the roots, and Issha said that they remove sources of corruption that are brought in or fall in (debris from the war).

Thymelixsen asked what work they might have for us, and Issha said that we're unknown, without reputation yet, especially since we might be edgewalkers or others intending harm. However, their initial offer would be two threads to come on board, and 10 gulwarn for each unit while we were in the roots waiting beyond the Veil, or 30 gulwarn/unit while on duty or injected into a root. Our threads would be tightened, because we'd be beyond the Veil, and they would feed us.

Jack asked how often they deployed, and Issha said that it varied, but frequently, usually with three to four cycles between trips. The trips usually last thirty to fifty cycles, and generally there was a bonus at the end, averaging 2500 gulwarn, though it depended on the duration and difficulty. Oh, and the thread they had was pure.

Jack asked how long we'd be injected into the roots. Issha said it varied, but usually ten to twenty cycles. Once the ship attached to the root, it would stay there, and call for help if necessary, since it is very har dot find the same place again.

Thymelixsen asked what sort of teachers were on board, and Issha said that there were teachers of root study, and exploratory types. Our initial assignments woul dbe low key until we got a reputation, and we could renegotiate our contract after the first trip. Thymelixsen asked when they'd ship out again, and they expect it to be about three cycles, perhaps less. Issha reiterated what we had heard before, that there was value in the five of us all together, a large group to come from a single root.

I asked about the particulars of missions, not wanting to find that we'd be expected to get rid of corruption in the roots by killing people who had already been touched. Issha said that they find sources that haven't corrupted further entities yet, so they avoid the issues around purging.

I don't remember how the conversation shifted a bit, but Issha said that entities of our sort (Elix, that is) have seen in history as edgwalkers, not helpful. The All was not part of the design. The design tries to make everything part of it. The roots can absorb some small amount of corruption, incorporating it. On uncorrupted worlds, one race tends to dominate their world. When they reach out, they sometimes accidentally touch the All. The Ult try to reach them first, preventing that. In our case, it could have been that our root had been corrupted for a long time. (Which makes sense, given what we know about the battle the kupar have been waging under the Featurless Plains for so long...).

We asked about how we'd communicate, and Issha said that the ship has tunes to help with communication and other physical issues. Tuners tap into the nature of each root, and our root, and change us as necessary for injection. Not like a probability engineer (Issha seemed horrified by the comparison, but it seemed apt to me).

Issha said that most people who come to Wanderhold don't make it through one day of lottery winners, and we're already halfway through.Issha pointed out that we were not stable now. Not just our essence, but stability in time and space. Other iterations were doing whatever, not necessarily in alignment with us, and those others could assert themselves, making it harder to keep on course.

The roots are growing more time, but here, it was like a stack of disks, and people could slip between them, whether to another disk or actually in between (this explains why sometimes we trade places with our other selves, and sometimes not). Our will can cause the change.

Thymelixsen said that Issha wore Gont's sigh. Issha said that the growers work in association with Gont, since they have similar goals. This is where they find most of their traveler crew, since this is where most active travelers are, the first city of the spiral wood; the other cities are all beyond this.

And we thanked him for his time, and went on to the next interview. (It seemed clear to me that this would be a reasonable option.)

The seventh interview was with a floating gelatinous sphere that had danging appendages. Inside the sphere there were floating silver and gold sections, and flashing lights, which seemed to be its form of communication with 1827.

This was Voomwanvenvair, sent from the temple of magic to greet us. She was also sent to ask for time with all of us for study of our nature and our root.

Thymelixsen asked whether the temple would study us, or whether individuals would. She said that some individuals are important. In our group, there was a high number of those touched by the Creators (blesseds), and a high amount touched by the All, especially considering we've gotten here. And Thymelixsen has energy manipulation that is curious to them.

The surveying and questioning would be in the temple of magic. I asked for how long, and she said that it was unclear, depending. We'd be paid 30 gulwarn/unit that we were at the temple but not studied, and 120 gulwarn/unit that we were being surveyed, with it being expected to have three units of surveying per cycle per person. I asked if it would be consecutive, and she said that it wouldn't necessarily be.

thymelixsen asked whether while we were waiting we could do other things, and she said yes, as long as we weren't giving information to others. The pay is for initial access, while it is new. And when asked about communication, she said that there were translating technologies that could be used.

Thymelixsen asked if the temple of magic could help him find a buyer for magical objects he might create, and she said that while the temple itself is not involved in trade, there were individuals who do. Thymelixsen asked whether we'd have access to the library, and she said that we'd have access as to the general public, libraries, scholars, and shrines.

Cor asked whether the temple could provide clean essence, and she said that the temple did not pay essence.

Thmelixsen asked how many units we'd be at the temple, and it turned out that we'd be staying there, though we'd have to provide our own food. We'd only be paid for the units we were at the temple, and though usually it was expected that we'd be there the whole time, it could be negotiated that those of us with connections to other temples could visit those places to pray.

Jack asked whether, if some chose not to come to the temple, it would still be valuable to them. Yes, though less.

Thymelixsen asked what protections there were that this information didn't go to the All, asking who got the information. First, it would be those at high levels in the temple, and later it would go to the library.

We thanked her for her time. I think it would be convenient to let the temple study us for a few days, then join the Ult ship. But Thymelixsen was ready for the next interview.

A waxy figure came in, like the ones that 1827 had said had lost their familiarity with home. There were no sounds or motions, but somehow communicated with 1827. This was Ehalen, a member of the cleansing order. The cleansing order has been around since the time of the firsts, and know how to thrive here, and how not to fall off the edge. It offers to aid us.

Jack asks if this aid would be to tie us off, and it says yes. Jack asked if we'd become candles, and it said that the loss of root form comes from a lack of reinforcement, which should not be our fate. If one is alone, one can become disconnected over time.

Thymelixsen said that he'd heard that being tied off would keep us from growing. It said that one can see it that way, but it also keeps one from losing, and each moment involves losing potential. Replaced thread is not the same as what was before. If one is tied, one is tied to current potential. One can reforge the self within what is available now, which includes many options.

I asked whether tying off would mean staying here, and it said that the nature of tying off is to stay. They believe that by staying, they gain redemption for having gone beyond the Veil, which is counter to the design.

Thymelixsen asks whether this offer to tie us off would be for no charge, no ties. And it said yes. They seek peace and contemplation, seeking to be able to return whole. Others could join the order if they chose, but there is no obligation.

We thanked it for taking the time, and wished it good day. There was little discussion afterward: none of us wants to stay.

The next interview was with a huge, seven foot tall being with a dense body, wearing pale blue shiny clothes. It had fur, a long muzzle, and lots of jagged teeth. Its limbs weer smaller than its body, the face rather rat-like. It used noises rather like the Ult sounds, and 1827 told us that this was Normus, a Bewoken of the FronGran Collective. They are a mixed species group of shippers and extractors. Their fleet includes a medium cruiser, three haulers, and twelve midclass craft, and their collective has been organized since the second generation.

Jack asked about the cruiser size, and Normus said that it was a combat ready cruiser, for protecting the rest of the fleet in transit, if necessary, when the situation at the Veil warranted. It is dangerous to punch a hole in the line, if there are many crystals, but having a cruiser makes it more feasible, giving that option, rather than just the option to run, making it safer for their fleet.

Thymelixsen asked what work we would do for them, and Normus said that they'd evaluate us first, then determine where to send us. We would receive four threads up front, with 10 gulwarn/unit of down time and 30 gulwarn/unit of active dute, plus a cre share upon return and sale, which is usually on the order of 5000 gulwarn.

Jack asked about the nature of the thread, and Normus pulled out a rod with a coil of thread on it, and hooks on one end. There must have been hundreds of threads on the rod. He handed it to Jack to look at, and expressed surprise that the Ult hadn't offered the chance to evaluate thread when Jack said it was the first time he'd done so. After Jack, I took a turn running my hand along like cloth to evaluate it, and when I did, I heard what seemed like faint echoes.

Jack asked 1827 how pure this thread was, and 1827 said about 97% pure. Ult thread would be about 99% pure. On the open market, 97% pure thread is about 300-400 gulwarn, rather than the 500+ for 99% pure thread.

I asked whether this meant is was cleansed thread, and Normus said yes. Normus then pointed out that the Ult thread was a mix of created and repurposed thread as well. (I definitely dislike the idea of repurposed thread.)

Thymelixsen asked what they trade in, and what our purpose would be with the ship. Normus said that they journey to gather materials, such as sustenance, metals, earths, woods of values, sometimes animals and artifacts. We would give navigational assistance by our nature, as well as whatever other assistance.

Thymelixsen asked how long their trips usually take, and Normus said that it's a bit more than a ycle to the Veil, then it depends on how far to our roots.

Cor asked how long a typical trip lasted, and the average is about 20 cycles.

Thymelixsen asked about our quarters on ship, and about food. We'd share crew quarters, which varies depending on the vessel, and sustenance would be included.

Cor asked whether the ships have room for training, which they do, and Thymelixsen asked if there were space for magical training, which would depend on the nature of the energy work (though they are not essence weavers, so that kind of training would likely not be available).

Thymelixsen asked if we accept when we would start, and Normus said that they have departures routinely, so it is flexible on when.

Thymelixsen asked about translation, and about personal safety. Normus said that they have devices to help tune, since physical attunement takes too much energy. Thymelixsen confirmed that the rates quoted were initial rates, which could be renegotiated later. And he asked whether the collective helped the roots in any way. Normus said no, that that is Ult work. The collective works to sustain the people here.

We thanked Normus for his time before he left.

We debated this a bit: Cor liked that their offer had a greater rater than that of the Ult.

The next interview person looked like some kind of human, of a race unknown to me, with a square jaw, shiny black hair, and a mustache. He wore regular clothes, if rich looking, and a fancy rapier. Not quite like home, but almost. He slpoke, and we understood; it took a little while to realize that each of us understood what he was saying in different languages.

He said, "I appear to be the last for today," and complimented us on still taking visitors. He looked intently at each of us, nodding particularly to Thymelixsen.

Jack asked if he were an edgewaler, and he said that it depends: he has been to the edge and survived. Jack starts talking about edgewalkers we have met, and rather than give all sorts of information, I interrupted to start with introductions.

Zom said that "edgewalker" is a rude term, and they prefer "complete" or "eternals" (which sounds rather presumptuous to me, comparing onself to Creators or the bionlear, for instance, but I said nothing). When one gets to the edge, one needs to find a comfortable place, and Zom is comfortable and short.

Zom offered us study in threads. He said that some scare off from this notion. Most haven't been to the edge and survived, so he sees things differently. He can offer three threads each, at 98% purity.

He is trying to save the world from oncoming doom.

May said that she didn't want to go over the dge, and Zom said that was why he was walking. Jack pointed out that some assume that just means one will fall later, so just enjoy the now. Zom said that if one knew, one would spend one's time differently. He jumps around, trying to introduce more into the different possibilities. He wants to avoid the death of the roots, the end of everyting. He is trying to find how to extend the end, to be farther away, questing for a little bit more time.

I asked whether he shouldn't go back to the roots, and Zom said that once one goes to the edge, it is hard to go back to the roots. It is possible, yes, but those who do dream of what they saw forever after. They can free themselves from being seen (by the All) and go back to the roots, but they end up haunted. Some do that, though. And some walk the edge. And many fall.

Jack said that he was going back, and it could be that that return would add time at the end of the roots.

Zom discussed retative time and Thymelixsen, and I asked whether Zom had entered the lottery because of Thyemlixsen. He hadn't known, but he had suspected.

He pointed out that every one that fell off pulls their thread out.

Thymelixsen asked about the nature of the work, and Zom said he would look into us, and teach us thread work. There are those who advise against it. We could go on journeys into the roots for thread tightening. We would make a fine tuning point for people taking us on missions. He can rise up into the roots, but it helps to get a bead on something.

Jack pointed out that we'd been repeatedly warned that edgewalkers might eat us, and Zom said that depended on trustworthiness, which is impossible to prove or disprove. He said he'd first teach us to stabilize our threads. Jack asked how much that would slow thread loss, and Zom said not much at first, but it would get better.

And then there was more discussion with Zom about the nature of going to the edge, getting rid of the taint, holding hands all together and not falling, and so on.

I was tired by the end of this tenth interview, rather glad the day was done.
Thymelixsen said that tomorrow we want to find a job for us all, and also someone who could sell his magic. We talked about the interview process. I reminded the others that we shouldn't say yes to any proposal until we'd all discussed it alone. And it would be good to take a job all together. Jack said that we should stay focused on getting to the edge and home again, as the Man in black and blue in his temple had said. After a bit more discussion, we went to sleep.

Or at least, to our own pursuits. I took some time to thank the Healer for protecting us so that we've gotten this far. The connection felt feeble, and will likely get worse as we travel farther, though if we travel back to the roots, any roots, I think it will be stronger, since anywhere in the roots is closer to home than here.

And then, to sleep. I curled up with Thymelixsen and Cor, whil May and Jack curled up together.

I woke up in the blue period, and realized that there were blankets, and a room that seemed more comfortable, the part where I'd been sleeping more bed-like. It seemed there was a radius of more-home-like around where any of us had slept. I remain impressed by the magic of this place.

May said she had been woken up by a kathel, Tam, who was one of the older third generation kathel, a dark blue one, who said he'd be watching to make sure no one would steal May's essence during the interviews. Which made me wonder: why May, particularly? Still, I'm glad someone's paying attention.

Cor said that we need to earn back our threads, and when we get back to whole, we should go to the edge, then home. That sounded quite reasonable to me.

Thymelixsen got ready, then we all went down to get food. Metakesh greeted us, bringing us to the dining room near the kitchen. It thought at us that it would be 10 gulwarn each for a standard meal, or 12 gulwarn each for a different one. We were all curious, and opted for the different meal. I'm very glad I did: I was served a late with orange and red crescents, that turned out to be bread like and meat like, respectively, and a spicy pie that turned out to be something like a raisin pie. Cor got a plate with three bones coming ou of what looked like a hunk of meat, but turned out to be more like dense fish. That was surrounded by blue baked apple-like spheres. May and Jack got plates with pancake-like golden disks (though more spicy and dense) and little mounds of orange that were rather like roasted marshmallows. As before, the food didn't appeal cross races.

While we were eating, Jack was suddenly on the other side of the table. It seemed like another Jack, though there weren't any obvious visual markers, like other May's silver cloak. There was time to find out that he had made a trip to the roots and had now been back three or four cycles, and was going to work for the Ults in the next cycle. He wasn't surprised by any of us being or not being there, just surprised that we were on the wrong side of the table, so it seems that he's either a near-future Jack in which we'd changed sides of the table, or a near mirror Jack. He was gone before we could find out more, though. When our Jack came back, he said that he hadn't been anywhere. Which makes us all wonder how our other self travel works.

It was getting to be time to start the interviews (later, 1827 told us that it is possible to learn to tell time more precisely from the place on the wheel in the cycle, which would be useful), and before we went down, Cor reminded us all that we shouldn't give information away. And then we headed to the meeting room. I thought of 1827 being there, and it felt like he was already there. Also there was Tam, the kathel May had talked to in the night. There was a table with some chairs, ready for people of different heights to sit at it. 1827 was at one end, and Tam to one side.

Tam asked if we were prepared, and Jack asked back if there were anything we needed to do, and what the procedure was. Tam described how people would come and go, and explained how he'd be a guardian. We would interview until we were done, and we could call people back, whether to accept the offer or to ask more questions. Jack asked why Tam needed to be here to guard us, and Tam said that he was not a first, so he needed to be here in space, though he could remember when he could see into the city from the ring of the firsts up above.

And then it was time for the interviews.

The first person to come in looked rather like a booted, coated, purple-top turnip, wearing a hat, and a curly, root-like mustache. It also wore a belt with two crossbow-like things. Its speech was like knocking sounds, which 1827 translated without difficulty. This was Steward Quomorree, here representing the Beautiful Rise, an Inyus midclass root craft (mid-size vessel taking crew to the roots). The steward said that the ship mostly gathers treasures and materials for trad, and the crew is mostly travelers like us. They go to roots that can be poisonous to crew members, but they identify to whom this is poisonous before entering. He said that it was dangerous but profitable work, and appreciated having won the lottery and seeing us first.

Jack asked whether the steward was asking for our services for one trip, or for a period of time with many trips. The steward said that they would want time to investigate the nature of our abilities, and to investigate the root area for treasures that would be useful with our abilities. Thymelixsen asked how long it would take to study the roots to find appropriate ones, and the steward said it didn't take long. Thymelixsen persisted, asking how many cycles, and the steward said that it would take a cycle for provisioning, three cycles to get to depth in the roots, then it depends on what they find, then they'd bring us back.

Jack asked how they would inject us into the roots, and the steward said that that was rootcraft. Also, we would be paid first for study, and mapping, and per cycle, and for our time in the roots, and the journey time back. Jack asked about how much for the root time, and the steward said it depended on what our abilities were. Jack asked if it were possible to be studied, then not work for the ship it we're not helpful. And the steward basically said, though very diplomatically, that no, all knowledge was useful, and everyone has abilities.

Thymelixsen asked if we'd work with other crew members on extractions, and the steward said it wasn't likely.

Cor asked what we would be paid for travel and for study. The steward said that the standard is 10 gulwarn/unit for travel (11 payable units in a cycle), and 300 gulwarn for study. Travel to the edge takes less than a few units, and we'd stop losing threads when we passed through the Veil, though we'd have to evads things while passing through, because of the war.

May asked if our threads would be supplemented for travel to the roots, and the steward said yes. I asked how they'd study us, whether it was more like the kathel looking at us more more like a doctor probing, and the steward said that there are medical devices for studying people from the roots.

Cor asked how clean the threads are that are used to top us up, and the steward said that their threads were legitimate, not repurposed, and were as clean as some threads gotten from some Ult.

Thyemlixsen asked whther on the ship they would provide translators, and the steward said that they have crew members who can translate. Cor asked whether we had to provide our own food and drink, and we would, due to our natures. The steward said we could keep anything we found in the root for sustenance, as long as we got them what was asked for.

And we were pretty much out of questions at that point, so we thanked the steward for taking the time to see us, and it left.

We talked a bit about the offer. I thought that it sounded like we'd be joining Inyus pirates, given how they were after stuff, and I was not alone in that thought. Though perhaps the Ult traders would also sound similar.

May asked 1827 if there were a way to find out about the reputation of employers, and it turns out that there are ways, but we'd have to trade for the information, and we'd have to trust the trader. Thymelixsen asked about certification, and 1827 said that some might have the insignia of Gont, and over time, we'd find houses that we trust, and are more in alignment with our values.

The second interview was with someone who was rather short, and had a small, mouselike face. He had rings on his fingers, and tools and pouches hanging from his belt. He walked quickly towards us, then pulled a metal thing from one of his pouches and put it on the side of his face fur. It spun, and spun, until his squeacking became speaking.

He introduced himself as Quindo-something (far too long to catch, especially from someone who spoke at least as quickly as Jack), a possibility engineer. Jack was curious about the translator, and Quindo told him that it was something he'd made for now, and then he'd tuned the possibilities until it worked. Quindo makes tools and crafts weapons, among other things, and does welll at it, so he can afford to do his experiments. He was excited to see so many of us from the same root, because that would give him five points of reference to one root, which would help tune in on the root. He explained further, saying that the reason he was here was that he had made a root alignment injector, and he needed a lot of entities to be able to tune in on one space-time.

Jack asked if this meant Quindo would inject us into the roots directly from here, and Quindo said yes, though even though it's against how things are designed. Thymelixsen asked how we would get back, and Quindo said that that was part of the experiment, but first there would be shorter, closer experiments. He'd pay for our time, whether waiting (15 gulwarn/unit) or being scanned (in a scanning chamber, whatever that is, at 400 gulwarn/unit). And then after studyg, there would be range tests, then aprtial association, and reassociation. There would be the chance to negotiate for prices, bult likely 600 gulwarn for local tests, and more for more distant ones.

Thyemlixsen asked if Quindo had lost any people yet, and he said no, but when May asked how many tests he'd done, he admitted it was not many.

Jack debated costs with Quindo, pointing out our costs for essence, as well as room and board, and so on. It went back and forth, and Quindo said that we should not demand so much. He said that he had contracts that involved essence acquisition, for instance, using gathered thread, which he could make cleaner by tuning the possibilities. Jack asked 1827 whether this were true, that reprocessed essence could be pure, and 1827 said it wasn't his area of expertise. So Jack asked Tam, who said taht even the purest thread has a touch of the kathel. Reprocessed essence dpeneds on the skill of the processor. Though there are those who clean essence and release it into the roots, as purifiers do. And anyone can look at the purity of threads.

Jack turned back to Quindo and said he would want to check Quindo's reprocessed threads.

At which point Thymelixsen got us back on track about the actual work, asking what would happen next afte rthe range tests. Quindo said he would send us into the roots, lose to home, or even home directly. Hrm.

We thanked Quindo for his time, and let him leave.

In talking about the offer, Thymelixsen said that the injector was not a good idea, and that though Quindo seems honest, it sounds like risky work (which, coming from him, makes me doubly wary). I also didn't want reprocessed threads, which should be going back to the roots, as purifiers do, sending wholly cleaned (if less) essence back to the roots.

The third interview was quite different.

Tam rose to fill one side of the room, shifting as if to prepare for something. Jack asked why, and Tam said it was time.

There was a swirl that seemed like the shadow of a murder of crows in the doorway, which then formed into a slender guant coated figure with deep eyes of all colors.

It looked at me, and I recognized him as the figure I'd seen and negotiated with in the shields, part of the All. It said to me that it remembered me, and I said I remembered too. It welcomed us to beyond the veil, and said that we were all here now, have had time to consider. And that we'd made many errors. Which Jack contradicted. It looked at him, and I think Jack didn't much like the experience.

Cor asked if it were the one that shot him, and it said that Cor did ti to himself.

Thymelixsen asked why Vosh let it in, and it said that we are all equal, that while it seems one apart, it is one while being All. It was here to get us past the deception.

Thymelixsen was being deliberately obtuse, I think, when he said that he wanted his thread back. It said it could draw us in and make us whole again.

Jack said he likes not knowing everying. And the All said that we were so corrupted, forgetting what we knew. It offered us return to the Alll, making it a pleasant journeyjourney, rather than a horrible end. And it said that we should understand what we are doing to ourselves, that we are killing our own bodies.

Cor said that everything ends, and it said that those were the words of the deceiver. And that it offered a vision of understanding. Jack asked if this were like a preview of the All, and it said it was a way to see. Jack didn't want to, and it said that it was part of his design, and clever design. Jack said that that's how we're made, to want to go back.

And soon after, we got it out of the room.

I thanked Tam for being there, while Thymelixsen said that Tam should have warned us. Tam said that he could protect, but not advise or warn. He did say that this was the third in the lottery, but the only reason it entered the lottery was because it knew us.

The fourth interview was with a large, cleanky beaing, rather like an enormous person wearing spiked armor of scintillating darkness, the size of Tam (or a small elephant). This was Warrior 4487, sent from teh void point.

Jack asked what that was, and the warrior told us that in the last significant attack (back in the time of the first generation of kathel), a tear had happened in the spiral wood, that let other things creep in. There was the opportunity for battle at that point, to fight with the All, at that edge, and to become great warriors, given enough time. Joining the battle would mean that our essence would be hardened, though we'd hold a core, and a shell around it that would be hardened, and we could grow around it.

Cor asked how we'd fight, and the warrior said that there was training at the void point. The point had been driven down to a smaller point through this generation, and with effort and new warriors, the void point could be destroyed, the fabric restored. The kathel remember it happening, before the fourth generation.

Cor asked if we'd have to fight until the battle was done, if we joined, and the warrior said yes. We would not be paid in bulwarn, but in hardening and in growth instead. In a hardened state, it would be easier to reach the edge, after our years of fighting.

Thymelixsen asked if we would be able to stay together, and the warrior said that if we joined, we'd be dispersed into the army, in whichever ways emphasized our strengths.

Thymelixsen asked what forms of magic were used, and the warrior said that all forms of magic were used.

Jack asked if many who went to the battle were now dead, and the warrior said that many who go to the battle have warrior spirits, so many of them live, though they are wary.

Thymelixsen asked how long it would take to learn what was needed, and the warrior said it would be a while, but we would be maintained.

I asked about whether there were Purifiers with the army, and the warrior said that they were in a different battle.

Thymelixsen asked what happends after hardening, and the warrior said that we'd start by fighting smaller corruptions, and advance as we learned to fight greater corruptions, getting closer as we gained skills. So it could be a long time.

Jack asked if beings age in the beyond, and 1827 said that we would not decay or cahnge as at the rate at home.

Cor asked 1827 if we managed to go back to the roots, whether it would be the same time as when we left. And 1827 replied that it is said that if one is complete, one goes back to the same time (though perhaps not the same place).

Thymelixsen asked the warrior what he wished he'd known as a recruit, which made the warrior pause for a couple of moments before saying that he had always been proud of his choice, though there were always some lost. He wished he'd focuse faster, learned faster. He had been arrogant, and the void point taught him much he didn't know.

Cor asked if, when the battle was over, the warrior had a root to return to, and he believes so.

And once he left the room, we started a debate about joining the army, much more seriously than the other offers had been considered. I still think that the army will be there, but it might make sense to do a trip or two with the Ult. Cor pointed out that it was good to be different, and none of us had seen us as fighters in the void point battle (though perhaps that just hasn't happened yet). Thymelixsen is intrigued by the magic, and Cor by the fighting. I do not want us to be separated into the army, and while healers are useful to armies, it is not what I most want to be doing here.
Cor and I took the public track back from the place of the timekeepers, discussing what we'd seen. Cor thought that we might have seen things from teh Creators' point of view. I wasn't sure it wasn't from the All's point of view.

It had been a hard experience, and all we wanted when we got back to the room was to relax; we took advantage of the others not having returned yet.

Cor had fallen asleep and I was almost dozing when Jack woke us, telling us to come downstairs because May and Thymelixsen were both unconscious. We hurried downstairs, and when we got to them, I saw that the beetles were working on them in some way with their claws, as if they were drawing out invisible things. I figured they knew what to do far better than I did, and watched, trying to see what they were doing. The room was crowded, and there were light morphing creatures about, without fixed bodies, that seemed like they could pass through things, but did not pass through people (because they couldn't, or as a courtesy? I don't know.)

Make woke up first. Apparently May had touched something being brought to one of the light creatures, and passed out. (Thymelixsen touched her when he found her, and passed out as well. Jack arrived next, and was careful to touch neither of them.)

There were crowds of people around, with more solid beings in the dining room. I noticed there was some cross-species talk going on that didn't seem to use any form of interpreter, which was interesting. The crowds looked like the one I'd seen when I jumped forward, and I told May to check for the earlier me. She did for a bit, then Metakesh pulled us out to the main room, where Thymelixsen was awakened.

Thymelixsen said that we should talk to the other kathel now, because they will talk to us during our grace period, and might not later. The other first generation kathel in the city, besides Vosh, are Vampure, who deals with the workers in the buildings, Bove, who handles security (who Jack had talked to), and Gont, who handles trade. Jack said we shouldn't go without a reason, and Cor pointed out that we could find out what they want.

It wasn't going to be a quick conversation. We got some food (exactly the same as the last meal), and brought it up to our room to figure out what our plan would be, and what we'd already learned.

Thymelixsen said that he learned more about how to make his magic better. May said that she'd talked with a Blessed of the Mothe, from a place that didn't have babies anymore. That Blessed told her that cavenant shouldn't cost more than 300 gulwarn. And when she prayed, she was reminded of the secret light, in the underground temple where we'd brought Jack back. She remembered the secret thing, that when we went to Gaukelarems in Bionlear's Skull, she'd brought him something, and brought something back. (Not that she said what.) Cor asked her where the not-nice version of her prayed, and she said that she prayed in the same place.

Jack said he now knew why he couldn't go into the place of the timekeepers: long ago, the Shadow Lord took a cloak from the Lord of Time, and the Lord of Time has not forgiven him (The Shadow Lord stole song from the Mother, but she thought he'd use it well, and forgave him). He also learned that here the Shadow Lord is friends with the Lady of Secrets. Also, the Shadow Lord is something of a loner/outcast, not part of the rest of the gods, and he is not a Creator. The Shadow Lord is also friends with the Lord of Youth/ the Avenger/ the Purple Knight.

Cor told the others what we'd seen, and said that the crack in the All, that's the secret, that can't be let out.

Jack said he saw the tower of possibility, a big mirrored tower, stepped like a fancy cake. It's in an area where there are old Ult houses, and this is their central place, since the Ult have no central government. Of note: the lingua franca seems to be a form of pidgin Ult.

Jack also asked the Shadow Lord if I could learn to be a Purifier and bring that back home, to our root, and he said yes. I wonder whether there will be time, and whether I should make time, or if this is a big distraction from getting home again...

Jack described the place of the Shadow Lord, which was a huge tree covered in bits of metal, a maze around the central trunk, and many layers in the branches, with ropes between the branches. Some areas were for performance, some for meeting, and the temple itself was at the very top.

Jack went in, and found a room with many books, where the lamps cast many shadows. He sneaked up on a man who might have been the Shadow Lord, given how he looked (a mix of human races, also very well dressed) and acted. He was reading a book on plants, that seemed to be in some form of Kraymerrian, though the plants were not familiar to Jack. He told Jack that the edge pulls on us because it sees us, sees the All in us. When we get that out of ourselves, we will feel the pull of home, and won't be distracted anymore. He said that we can learn to feel the taint, but that could be bad, if we fell into the hole of taint and lost ourselves. He also said that the purpose of beings is what fuels the kathel's abilities.

The man said that we have to remember ourselves, and that is helped if we stay together, like having ahome environment. When Jack asked about what is important, the man said that we are, and getitng back to the roots is very important. All of us in all the roots, are important. If we gathered ourselves all together and all stayed here, it would make the roots weaker.

(Jack also said that the temple went down many levels, going down to the other side, to the ghost side, so he was warned not to go down, because there were dangerous ghosts down there. And that he shouldn't drink unless a temple servant gave it to him, because they would know whether the drinks were ok for the drinker.)

May said that she'd found out she could be in touch with the Mother here, but if she did, it would be harder to go back to the root (to go back to the version of the Mother who is in the root, perhaps?).

Jack said that the Shadow Lord seems the same here, not like the Healer or the Mother. He didn't know whether he'd be able to return to the same room he'd found this time, however.

Jack made it up to the temple at the top, and found a fourth generation kathel there, Kern, who was basking,a nd didn't eat Jack (obviously). Jack said that the temple part was a bit like the one in Bo's Point, tented with many folds and drapes. He found his way to the center and prayed about what to learn to serve the Shadow Lord better. He was answered with the idea of a blessing about branching luck. He then found a blessed who knows this, who is willing to teach him. Interestingly, the person is an otherwise-unaffiliated Ult.

Thymelixsen talked with an Ult, who'd said that today was better for us to talk to the kathel, if we asked. He also said that we have a lot of value in what we know and have seen.

I pointed out that I'm not nearly so useful here as at home, since the blessings of the Healer I use affect people directly, so won't help most people here, from other roots. Thymelixsen pointed out that I know a different version of the Healer, which is useful.

Thymelixsen pointed out that there will be a lot of lpeople coming to see us tomorrow, and 1827 is a translator, not a negotiator for us. We talked about options for translators, ranging from earning Ult translator gadgets to buying cavenants, and more. None of this will be cheap, of course.

Cor said that it is important for us to be different, that that helps us.

Jack asked if we had to go to the ghost lands, and was told no, but we'd learn more by going, because it was a dangerous trip, so we'd get closer to the edge by learning on the way.

Thymelixsen said we needed to go to the roots to tighten our threads. We debated what the optimal plan would be. If we work for the Ults first, they'd take us to the roots, and our threads would be tightened. Still, many options seemed useful. We talked a bit longer, and decided that we should go see Gont.

We headed out, and Metakesh pinched at us, as if telling us not to go, as we went by.

The city was still awake, much of it, when we went out. Thymelixsen had already thought about 1827, and 1827 arrived soon after. We got more information: there was a lottery of people who had wanted to see us, and that had already happened, with people starting to arrive tomorrow in the yellow period. Thymelixsen said we wanted to see all three other kathel, and 1827 said there likely wasn't enough time. Gont was the closest, and the most relevant, since he dealt with trad,e and this area of the city, so we decided to visit him. This time was asked about using faster transport, and 1827 arranged for us to go by yaga, which was a large coach with blinking blue lights. It was 10 fulwarn total for us to use the yaga, 4 each. There was no driver, but we could feel some kind of probing thought coming from it. Thymelixsen thought at it that we were going to Gont, and that we were all paying.

It took us to a shaft of light shining down, with blue lights edging the path. We went up (as we had going to see Vosh), and arrived in a woody chamber, with a counter on one side. There were some triangles behind the counter in the colors of Gont, like the triangular servants of Vosh. Some corridors left from this room.

I touched the counter, and it was pulsing with life, feeling like wild wood. I called Thymelixsen over to feel it; it was so nice to sense that.

1827 talked with the triangles, then said that Gont would see us. We followed 1827 down a corridor with irregular alcoves along it. Some had windows, looking out at woods and roads. Some had statues.

We came to a place with leaves, which opened, making metallic sounds, then closed behind us. We were in a large golden wood chamber, with a carpet ahead. Up in the air, floating above the carpet, was a kathel, shiny and black. There were triangles tending him, and motes of light around.

It felt like a huge round room, but really, it was dense forrest instead of walls, with blue sky above. It was such a safe space here.

Gont turned, and started talking, telling us it was too soon for trade, so what were we here for. Jack said he didn't want to be a half glass (having fewer threads of self), and Gont said that if we work with the Ult, who are experienced travelers, they would 'top' us off with slightly dirty thread, so we wouldn't be less while in the roots, though that would be taken back once we'd done their work. Jack asked if we'd then be paid in thread, and Gont said that payment was usually in gulwarn, which could then be traded for clean thread. Once we showed we met their work qualifications, showing that we were not foolish, not lost in time, not edgewalkers, we could earn more. Gont also said that others of us had worked for him or his fellows. Jack asked who Gont wanted us to work for, and Gont replied that the Ult were the safest first choice.

Jack asked why a kathel would need anyone to work for them, and Gont siad that the advantage of being us, not him, is that smallness is useful for not being seen, rather than our particular skills.

Gont told us that he seeis threadweaving as dangerous (though others will disagree). He also said that that the place here is what we make of it, and that the city has already changed because we have arrived; he can't remember what is was like before we arrived.

Jack asked who else we might work for if not the Ult, and Gont said that among the Inyus, there are some who are trustworthy, second after the Ult, though there are some Inyus who are pirates. They tend to have riskier work, which leads to greater pay.

Gont said that the work in the roots that we would do would be based on our natues. Sometimes it involves getting stuff, but mostly it's about going into change the direction of the root's growth. This could involve teaching, or killing, or something else entirely.

Gont warned us that we need to learn how to look at raw thread, to see that they're all clean. Cor asked what the current price of clean thread was on the market, and Gont said that today, it was a bit more than 500 gulwarn for one. Cor asked about how much we'd earn with the Ult, and Gont said that we'd start with about 10 gulwarn per hour, with the rate likely to incrase once our reputations went up. Gont also said that we lose thread at a progressive rate, and as we get closer to the edge, the rate gets more variable.

When I mentioned my blessings only working for those in my own root, Gont said taht they would work in roots close to our root, which was a relief.

Gont told us that there are way to learn how to lose thread less quickly (not by the Ult), but it took a long time to learn.

Jack and Thymelixsen were concerned with learning here, and Gont said that we would be able to make choices when we went back to our root, about what we'd learned here.

Gont also told us how the lottery worked, and how many translator issues worked. He suggested that we don't accept the first offer, because we can continue to see people from the lottery until we accept and offer, and talking with more people could be useful. He said that the Ult houses are not equal, and we could learn more at the tower of possibilities, where they will tell their truth.

And soon after, he extended his hand, and we were back in our room.
May and Thymelixsen stayed at the temple of the Mother, while the rest of us, including 1827, went back to the public track and on to the place of the timekeepers, which turned out to be rather icy and crystalline. There was a narrow path leading into hazy mist, through icy parts, to a dark opening that looked like a crack in the ice. There weren't people coming and going, unlike the place of the Mother. Jack asked 1827 if it was ok to go in, and was told yes, but he didn't belong there. 1827 continued, saying that the trick of time affects us all, but we are not all of it. If it hurt, don't go in.

We stepped onto the path, and a slender cone of a figure came out of the mist, looking rather like a tall column of fog. Off the path was unappealing, looking black and decayed. Jack said hi, but got no response. Cor said hello, and a chill like the glacier spirit asked what our need was here. Cor said that our needs were many, including prayer, and learning more about the trick. It said that we knew of it. When Cor asked if he could enter, it disappeared.

We went forward to the entrance. We started in, but when Jack got to the entrance, he felt very cold. He told me that he shouldn't go in there, showing me how cold it had made him. Being Jack, he stepped in anyway, and was hurt. He jumped out immediately, and there were frost patterns on him, and steamy vapoers coming off him. Cor and I bandaged him up, thinking about how odd it is that Jack is seen as opposed to this place, while I am not.

Cor and I went in, and were in a corridor of ice that reflected. There were many odd layers and facets, showing me ghostly reflections of myself in the ice, but each reflection was slightly different. I assumed that each was a me from a different root. Some kept moving when we stopped. The closer ones looked familiar, while the farther ones looked armed, with swords, as if warriors, in both directions. The closest ones to me seemed to be closest to me in time or in root. Interestingly, I could see all these mes, but no reflections at all of Cor, while he said he saw many hims, but no reflected mes.

Some reflections had gone on when we stopped to talk. Would I meet them inside? There was only one way to find out.

We passed under a metal arch in the ice, and beyond there was a ghostly blue glow above. We continued down the corridor of metal arches in the ice, and, oddly, it felt homey.

There was a doorway up ahead, which was closed and covered with iron knobs and such. It opened as we approached, into pitch darkness. I heard eachoes of footfalls coming closer. We walked in, and the darkness was thick. I couldn't see anything after a few steps, so I stopped, realizing that not only could I not see anything, I couldn't hear anything either, not even my own voice, nor the sound of my staff when I tried using it as a blind person's cane. I reached out to hold Cor's hand, wanting to know where he was, and stick with him. The place felt defended, like a fortress, and once we held hands, we started forward again, sliding our feet ahead slowly to find any obstacles.

Since I couldn't even hear my own voice, I assumed Cor couldn't either, and tried thinking at him instead, saying that I was here, but couldn't hear sounds. He replied, and 1827 said that we didn't need to hold hands to talk in thought. I said it was for reassurance, not communication.

Cor thought outward, asking if anyone were here, and the reply was that many were here. He thought about the room, and part of it lightened as a crystal radiated, though it shone less than I'd have expected, dut to the extra-thick darkness. It seemed to be an ice flower. I reached out, and never quite managed to touch it, getting ever closer but never there.

Was there anyone here who was not us? It wasn't clear. I am all here, all together.

I heard sounds that all sound like Cor, all around the room, so it was likely that all of me was here too.

Cor suggested praying, and I agreed. I prayed to the Defender, sending thanks for getting us to Wanderhold intact, and asking for help to find the edge while defending us from wrong choices.

There was a rush of presence, and I died. And died. And died. And died. And died. Over and over and over and over again. In all ways I can remember, though the deaths were not all my body. I kept dying and dying and dying, and dying, and then I was floating above a lake of all deaths (the surface of which looked like oil, somehow). And I wasn't me, nor Cor, but the one floating above the lake of all deaths, which was All, all together at once, in the dark. "I see," I thought to myself that is the All.

The Cor part thought of the trick, and of pieces of the All breaking off and becomingindividuals, and the response was thoughts of circus magic tricks and slight of hand tricks.

The Quechian part thought about the roots, and got a sense of a tree growing out of a graveyard, drawing life from the buried bodies, drawing enough nourishment to send out fruit.

The Quechian part thought about whether the All had an edge, and got an image of the cleanness of totality, and a skin on the totality, which was somehow a flame shape. Outside the skin, there was a prickly tingliness, like night air, but nothing distinctive outside.

The Cor part thought more about sleight of hand, and ways to fool, how to understand by looking inside. The response was about changes from something great but not comprehensible to something understandable, but less great. Like a great clockwork, perfect, ticking, and a tiny washer spun off its stalk, and fell into the works, and in a chain reaction, that whole section started to seize and freeze.

The Quechian part thought about the bionlear, and got an image of the All walking beside the bionlear over grassy ground. It was a starry night above, and the bionlear was talking about something unclear, trying to guide the All, to help the All. But still, the All did not understand. The bionlear spoke in the old way that he speaks, which is hard to understand.

The Cor part thought about the broken machine, and the crack in the boulder, where the crack might be in the All, where the roots come out. The All was award that that, itself, was the secret. Best not to think about the secret.

The Cor part thought about the end of the All, and saw that everything ends; that is the requirement.

The Quechian part thought about the ones who join, and the ones who don't join. For instance, there's the Jack hole. Some Jacks join, and some don't. There was a windy place, rainbow dust swirling, arms outstreatched. Jack was a Sunk, then an Ovahan, then almost human, and he's all of him, greater together, whole, yet weeping. Each time, he's offered the choice to become All, to go forward.

The Cor part thought about Thymelixsen in the same way, and we saw Thymelixsen and Murr together. Thymelixsen was lying as if dead, while Murr touched his head, sad because he'd failed this time, because he didn't make it many times.

The Cor part thought about the times that Thymelixsen did make it, and it was he, himself, finding equilibrium, a painful pulling back, and no Murr. Somehow he was also joyful and gleeful and many other emotions as well.

The Cor part thought of himself, and many of him fell. Som eof the rest of us were there trying to help him not fall, or him helping us not to fall. He was falling from the weight of his body and threads. Some were dead, some were standing pulling back. Cor focused on those who were pulling back, and they were different, all of them. And that's the essential quality, the differentness. While the ones below were not.

The Quechian part thought of Quechian at that point. And there was a time when me and my brother were there togherer, with armies. The brother was like Cor, or perhaps my twin. The troops' lieutenants kept coming up to us, and we sent them to do different things, especially to hide and be quiet. Some of the tasks given to the lieutenants were odd, such as being the color yellow, or being sunlight at dawn, or being the place by the brook.

And then I felt Cor was separate from me, and it was over. We were outside, and Jack asked if we were going to go in. I said that we'd been in there forever.

Given how the public tracks work, we all continued out to the place of the Hidden Lord (since that was what we'd paid for), with the thought that 1827 would stay with Jack, while Cor and I would return to the inn and figure out more of what had just happened.
We talked about Yallow's invitation to Thymelixsen to go to the meeting of himselves, and Thymelixsen said he didn't know enough yet to go to that meeting.

We were hungry, so we all headed down to the room where we'd been etched, looking for dinner. Except that on the way through one room, May changed, now wearing a silvery cape, and talked some strange different form of Ovahon I'd never heard before (perhaps like Ovahon on another thread, where perhaps it was the lingua franca, rather than Kraymerrian), though I managed to understand what she was saying. She was glad that Jack, Cor, and I weren't dead, especially Jack, because he's dead then-now, though obviously not now-now. She said that this would happen more as we go along (and something about 12 to 15 times that I don't remember).

And then the silver-caped May was gone, and our May appeared across the room. She'd gone somewhere that Thymelixsen was, in a crowd of people who seemed to be flickering in and out versions of themselves, and he told her to talk fast when the crossovers happened, because they didn't last long. That him asked whether we'd left going north, to the ghost lands, then warned May that we shouldn't go until we were ready. If we did go into the ghost lands, we could come out to tighten up our threads.

We got to the kitchen area, which was busier now. The blue beetle at the window tapped twice, then went away. An older, silvery beetle cames to the window, and put out feelers or mandibles or whatever towards my face. I put out my fingers, not wanting pincers on my face, and it pinched those (it hurt), but kept going for faces. Cor lifted May, and it ran pincers on her face a bit, then over Cor's, then mine. It stopped, clicked, then went back to the kitchen.

Metakesh came out, and showed us to a table.

Cor mentioned thinking about having the room full of people, and the rest of us tried the same thing.

And then Thymelixsen and I were in the same room, but the light was redder than yellow, and dimmer, and there were lots of people of all shapes, making the room crowded and noisy. Thymelixsen had overset a beetle when we arrived now ("here" doesn't seem quite right for moving time-but-not-space), and it jabbed at him. We saw May, and she asked how long it had been since we'd gotten here, and from where, then told us not to move, saying she wasn't sure if this would work. And then first Thymelixsen, then I were pulled by the big blue beetle back through to our own when/where, though we were now both covered in blue slime (which frustrated me: I'd finally been clean, after all that travel!).

The blue beetle went back to the kitchen, and Metakesh came out and started picking slime off me as we went back to the table to talk. Thymelixsen sensed magic on the blue slime, and said that it was oil of time, with both layered and spiritual magics, along with time. He also said that there was a magic user in three schools in the kitchen, and some object that made acids, perhaps for people who consume such things. As the blue slime was being picked off, it changed, which reminded me of the goo that we arrived in, however many days ago now.

A beetle came with bowls, pulling each of us to a particular bowl. May and Jack's bowls tasted to them like a vegetable stew, and Cors tasted to him like a meat and vegetable stew, though neither tasted anything like that (nor like anything good) to me. Thymelixsen and I had a lovely dish that tasted like grape cobbler, though the others found mine as unpleasant as I had found theirs. Which is strange, since usually we eat the same foods happily. I wonder what those beetles sensed.

We talked about time loops, until my brain started hurting. I don't think we have the right words for talking about all the things we're finding out about selves in different times and different roots and such...

The grooming beetles continued their work, and I wanted to wait until it was as gone as gone could be, even though the pincers sometimes hurt. While we waited, May wrote out some Arcoons to show us.

Once we were clean, we went down to the entrance, but 1827 was not there, though the street was busier. Cor and May thought about 1827, then said the 1827 knew and was coming. We just watched people as they went by for the 10 minutes or so until 1827 arrived, and they seemed curious about us as well.

Thymelixsen asked 1827 about traveling in time, and 1827 said that it was unsafe until we were familiar with it, lest we return to a different time than we started, or a different time that looked similar but wasn't. I told 1827 about how I'd made a misstep with the big blue beetle etcher (named Vutesvack, as it turns out), and 1827 said that blessings don't cross threads, so entities from other threads cannot be touched by my blessings. But if there were the same deities?1827 said that the creators in separate roots are separate. Blessings that touch things (like the Wall of His Will) would still work, but ones that touch someone's spirit wouldn't work across roots. I asked him to explain the situation to Metakesh, with my apologies, to pass on Vutesvack.

1827 said that we were allowed a time of peace, because we had just arrived in the city. Now, the disk above was yellow, time for work (about 10 hours), then it would change to red in the time of rest (another 10 hours), and then blue when it is time to rise (two hours). Until the next yellow period, we were not to be interfered with or bothered. At that time, there may be people who would want to hire us, or study us, or seek audience with us, or ask for information, and so on. We are in a time of peace because Vosh is watching us as guarded gusts, and kept from harming ourselves (which is why Thymelixsen and I were pulled back).

There are no purifiers in the city. They send emissaries from their place, but those do not stay overnight in the city.

Cor wanted to see the place of the timekeepers. I asked 1827 if there were temples in the city, and it said that there were, but not a temple of the Healer, though there are temples of the Shadow Lord and of the Mother. As we discussed where we were going to go, and what was closest (the temple of the Mother, then the place of the timekeepers, then the temple of the Shadow Lord), I asked 1827 whether there was a temple of the Father, if not the Healer. 1827 asked the nature of the Father, and when I said defense, 1827 said to ask at the timekeepers.

It would have been too far to travel on foot to all of these places without using too much of our rest period, so we asked 1827 about other ways to travel. One that is relatively cheap but faster than walking is about 20 for the trip, 25 with the extra stops (when manual labor would earn us 5/hour, which is unlikely to be our last resort). We agreed that the time savings was worth it. 1827 arranged it, and a platform with front and back ramps and lampposts in the corners of the fences on the sides came by. People got on and off using the ramps. A gray metallic creature seemed to be driving, and 1827 puffed at it. We all had a sense of drawing 5 gulwarn each.

The platform moved faster than walking, but not extremely fast, as it had to dodge traffic. Eventually we saw the place of the Mother, with crystals glowing in many colors, and plants and paths around it.

I felt a sense of weight on my shoulders, and 1827 said that we should get off the platform. I still had a sens of the public track we'd ridden on.

We walked towards the temple, and there seemed to be many people there, and many ways of communicating between them, using boxes, speech, wands, colors, motions, and more. There was no sense of presence as we went onto the holy ground, oddly. 1827 took us to a temple denizen, in side a huge, diamond-shaped room with doors, and ramps up, starlike shifting colors above, all scintillating, though still without the feeling of presence. There were alcoves along the edges of the room, with little shrines, all different, with different representations of the Mother. May found one from home, and 1827 brough a tall green scaly figure over, a servant of this place. The green one looked at us with yellow eyes, stopping on May.

May asked if this place felt empty because it was far from the roots, and it replied that it feels empty because it is unfamiliar. If May opened, she could find the whole of the Mother's presence here. May asked if she wanted to, and it said that this was a wise question. Many say no, because if you do, returning to the roots becomes harder. The core of the Mother is different than what she has sent into different roots, each root with different intents of the Mother. It also said that we should not make a mistake: this is not greater or lesser, just different. Each root is equally great.

Thymelixsen asked about magic, and a good place to meet those of differnt sorts of magic, of different groups and guilds. This one said not to do that during the time of peace, since even if it were just for conversation, it would be prejudicial once the trading begins tomorrow.

The green one asked if any of the figures were familiar. May said that some were, but only a little. Then the green one asked if touching were permissible, and May reached out towards it. The green one said that they did not have ones like May where it came from, all smooth and soft. And that May had the mark of an egg-eater (which seemed obviously not so good...).

Thymelixsen asked if there might be other sections for ones like us Elix, and we went around to find one. Thymelixsen foudn a different shrine with humans and Elix that felt more magic to him.

We left May and Thymelixsen at the temple of the Mother, and the rest of us went back out to the public track.
It was time to go down from the ring into the main city, to get lodgings. It was hard to figure out how to get down; all 1827 said was "be down". It didn't take too long to figure out how to will myself down, though Jack was a few moments later than the rest of us. He said it was longer than that, that he'd been somewhere very different, rather squicy, with a glass ceiling, where he'd found a black kathel who didn't eat him (because Vosh had said not to), and sent him back to us.

Jack also said that there are five main factions in the city: tenders (who work with the Ults), penitents (who think they are here because they did something bad), sharpers (who are those who weave thread to get power, and intent to hurt others), and servitors (who serve the kathel).

1827 said we should move before we got consumed by wild magics, so we followed 1827, asking questions as we went. Someone asked about the local currency, and 1827 said that we would be etched with 1000 gulwarn, but we'd run out of those if we didn't earn more. 1827 also said that the spires were make for the kathel, who are mostly now living in the ring above, though some still remain in the towers. Apparently we look new, with none other new ones like us in the city. 1827 couldn't describe exactly how it was obvious we were new, but said it was clear to everyone.

As we walked to a particular inn, 1827 pointed out places where there were markings delineating areas without air, which we should avoid. 1827 said that it was good to have a home-like environment, or sense of environment, to help us keep our selves self-ish. We passed six people who looked rather like they were made of melted wax, and 1827 said that they were ramblers, who'd lost most of what they were, lost their association wtih their root, their environment, having been corrupted by other roots and auras. This can happen only when the threads are loose, or if tied. Only going to the roots makes them tight.

We got to the inn, which was a three or four story building grown of tree roots, with hollows and such. 1827 said it was a travellers house, a safe place. However, 1827 wouldn't go in, since it was not his place. We started in, and there was a yellow globe light at the end of some roots that May said were sunny. Near the entry was a white-shelled beetle, about Jack-sized, which also had some translucent bits. 1827 pulosed at the beelte, which replied in chirps. 1827 said that Metakesh would be attending us. We weren't sure how we'd communicate with Metakesh without 1827. 1827 said we'd be etched here, marking in our threads what we've earned. I noted that this wouldn't be good for pickpockets...

We followed Metakesh in, and there was what seemed to be a meeting area inside, with seating for perhaps twenty or thirty people. There were empty root bits, and more yellow lights. I touched the root, and it was like wood, unlike the fleshy trees of the spiral wood, but not connected to the All-Wood (unsurprisingly, since this is fairly domesticated, obviously). It felt like being in a park, not woods. It was pleasant, but not woods.

Metakesh gave us a tour all around the room, then took us to the next, an oval room with an oval table in the middle. There were openings to other rooms along the walls. Through those, I could see beetles of other colors (but otherwise the same kind as Metakesh) doing what looked to be food preparation and other inn-like work. It seemed that some food was being delivered places outside the inn.

A large blue beetle came through the door, limping over to us. Metakesh circled us, then got Jack to sit on a stump. The big blue on limped to Jack, feeling and poking at him, then does something that caused a green-blue spark, which Jack said put a box in him. Then he said that he had 1000 gulwarn in the box. May went next, while Thymelixsen sensed magic during the process.

When it was my turn, I tried to act out, somehow, helping the blue beetle by healing its leg. That didn't work, and it withdrew when I tried to reach out. I raised the Purity Within, hoping that somehow the voice of the Healer would communicate my intent, but while it did cause the other workers to pause, the blue one was not reassured, stepping back when I took a step forward. I wish I could have figured out how to communicate with it. But I didn't, and it was quite leery of etching me, staying as far from me as possible.

Once we were all etched, Metakesh brought us up some twisty ramps, up a couple of levels, then went around some twisty corridors. There were different shapes above each door, which I found impossible to remember distinctly, though they were all different. Metakesh went to one door, touching it, then went back, and touched it again. The door opened onto a round room, with two littler rooms off it. There was a light in the middle, as if via a skylight. Metakesh showed us the inner rooms, which were vaguely spherical, with things that could be furniture, and a window in each, looking partly up. I got the sense that the roots could close over the windows.

Thymelixsen tried touching the door, and nothing happened until he thought about it closing. The light worked in the same way, ranging from dim blue to bright white. The furniture, however, seemed stationary.

Thymelixsen mimed with Metakesh, asking about water and food. It's 20 gulwarn to get a waterskin filled, and 10 gularn for food. It's 80 gulwarn each for the room, but for some reason tonight seems to be free, both room and board. I wonder why.

After Metakesh left, we started talking.

Jack said he'd looked at the Jack who had made it further, to the edge (who was a figher, not a blessed). He saw that Cor, Fashrun, and May made it to the edge with him; Thymelixsen had convinced me to go away with him (and apparently in other worlds, we are close lovers). Mur came, and the others saw things from the All's poitn of view, which made internal sense. And then Mur took them all into her, to keep them from being part of the All, keeping some form of equilibrium. Jack saw some versions where he was blessed by other gods, and Cor and Fashrun were together.

Cor said that he saw the group with Fashrun, and Mireshan had died.

May said that only three of her were blessed, and of those, one might have been of the Hidden Lord. She got attacked by the ghosts after the other Mays had been attacked.

In Jack's story, May got them through the ghost lands, despite Thymelixsen not being there, by sending out glowing thread as decoys. He had the sense of years of work before doing this, however.

The Hidden Lord May had worked for Vosh.

Jack had worked in the cities, and for the Ult in the roots, flying in some of them.

Cor said that Jack had died in Fashrun's future, trying to hide from odd rainbow things, and failing. And the gorup he saw made it to the edge, and Thymelixsen wove their threads into himself, killing us all (Fashrun, May, Cor, and me), or at least, Fashrun. In that story, the more that Fashrun and May saw, the more they thought that Thymelixsen was becoming more like Mur.

Cor also said that when he looked at himself, he could only see up to the current present, not past it.

Thymelixsen said that he had looked at himself. Then he said that edgewalkers are as big, observant, and aware, as some kathel. When an edgewalker focused on something, things became obvious. All the Thymelixsens came together, gathering their essences, then May became special, all bright.

Something odd was going on with Thymelixsen. He seemed to have a strange mix of delight, concern, curiosity, fear, excitement, and conflict. I asked him what he was afraid of telling us, and he said nothing. Then he said that there are other people who don't need to know. Jack said, "about edgewalkers?" Yes. Thymelixsen said that the edgewalker he saw pulled strong threads into himself to better fight the All, and that edgewalker was extremely interested in us. All of the Thymelixsens are interesting to Thymelixsen the edgewalker. And he's looking to rekindle a love (with a me-analogue, I think). Apparently our Thymelixsen is the closest the edgewalker had seen so far. And it's easier to travel through the ghostland than with other configureations to get through.

Jack asked why it was easier, and Thymelixsen said because of love, with me.

Thymelixsen thought we were being observed, so the less said the better. We can be watched through our threads, some of which are much thicker than others, and of more interest to edgewalkers (among others). Those thick threads the edgewalkers use to keep out of the All. Some powerful threads stay in the roots, some in people, which can be gathered.

There is a temple of purifiers in the desert.

Jack said he saw the All, and what it thought was happening, that if we five were pulled in, it would live, and if not, then the All would die, and the roots would die. Which is the first time any of us thought of the All being afraid of dying. And it's interesting that the All sees the roots as being dependent on it in that way, whereas the kathel think that the roots could live independently of the All. We talked about this for a while, then came back to our more immediate plans in the city.

There was a knock on the door, and a skinny albino not-quite-Ovahon was there to fetch Thymelixsen to a meeting of all the Thymelixsens in the city, over at the tower. He seemed, as so many others have been, bored by the questions and noncomprehension, but willing to over things again, realizing that this might, in fact, be the first time Thymelixsen was meeting him. Yallow introduced himself, told Thymelixsen about the meeting, then faded out as he left.
Leaving Vosh was wrenching, as it was when we left Tussef. We were all feeling bereft when we arrived back in the teleport room. 1827 was there; he hadn't been with us up above.

We debated seeing the stories of our other selves, though I knew I wouldn't; that glyph I'd seen was not one I'd like to learn more about (and it doesn't seem like such a good thing to have more of myself together, anyway).

So I thought about purifiers instead. There were many symbols left, but then I thought about home, and there were only three. I thought about Elix, and only one remained. I dropped into that memory.

I saw memories of an Elix who lived in Krayzen about 20,000 years ago, when the Elix were greater in the world than we are now, when the cities were much larger, and the stone-tree structures were in other lands in addition to our own. This one had a life of humility and healing, though also some violence when dealing with humans. There was a long time of peace other than that. But a war came, and the Healer's purifier gifts in this one included battling rot and decay as well as poison. She sent out streams of energy to people to drive out spirits or defend from spirits. There

There was much struggle in the world, and murmurs that those high up had been given visions of the end of time. Despite peace negotiations all over, there was vivid spirit visitation. This one went up to a stone place of the Healer, and saw a kafke of golden light, threads of light streaming out, a spirit from the Healer with the ability to speak in words. The spirit said that it was time to go away to the war. Where, here? No, beyond. Did it mean for her to die? No, not this world, but beyond it, going to serve by defending all Creation. She remembered how naive she was then, how much less all of Creation seemed to be to her then, and regretted her lost innocence. Not that she would have chosen otherwise, even so. She went.

The first was was with what seemed to be great kafke, but were kathel. It was a place beyond the fiery land. Just beyond: the fiery band was just behind. The warriors of the gods, from all the roots, had an encampment there, and just beyond was a beautiful blue place, from which the kathel would emerge, six to eight at a time. The warriors were tiny in comparison to the kathel. The kathel glowed with rainbow essence. When the kathel fell, rainbow crept out and put out the fires. She and the other purifiers put the fire essence of life into them, which made them regularly mortal, and therefore, assailable.

When the kathel were driven from the veil of fire to the place near the storm, the kathel emerged encased in crystal, and the warriors fought them from flying stations. These crystal kathel, and the rainbow kathel, were not like regular kathel, but bad ones taking the path against the roots, creation, and their parent creators.

The rainbow kathel took on 'blessings' of the rainbows. She used bolts to purify them into crystals that would crack. She pushed the essence of life into the rainbows/kathel (as Thymelixsen had done with Tek Tek Turka), and they became knowable, normal, and therefore able to be destroyed.

Beyond, there was a land created for the kathel, which had rings within rings within rings. When she arrived, there were bones first, then rooted, tentacled trees in the second ring, which broke kathel bones, shattering them to dust, spiraling them into the storm, and from there to the roots, feeding the soil. The kathel that fell into the roots became part of the roots, which she thought might be a way the gods had given the kathel a way to return. This way all had tiny fragments of the first creation, and yet still could be in the roots. Most didn't understand thigs, or didn't want to give up their wholeness for the roots, but to have it all. So the trees digested them, and sent the dust to the roots. (Kathel who chose to give up their weapons could be whole in the roots, however.)

After the desert, there was forest, which they passed through easily because they were many and armed. They went to the cities because the war was mostly over, just some small raids left. They were going to try to engage the non-rainbow kathel, who were agreeable, but she noted that they had lost much of themselves in the fighting, losing the sense of vast possibilities that they previous had, due to their injuries.

They went to Feshamist, which is quadruple the size of Wanderhold, ruled by Dest, who wasn't injured in the same way as the others. There was glory in seeing her memoriy of Dest, making me cry again. Dest was holding the line against the All, fighting to hold, hoping the roots would succeed, despite feeling that it would be for naught, that the roots would fail.

Many had come and settled, but there is a problem with settling here and being from the roots. Edgewalkers make themselves whole, gathering themselves together, thereby withdrawing themselves from the roots, which is tragic for the roots. They can't kill them, since that would give them to the All, and since they'd pulled themselves out of the roots, that would also give a connection to that root to the All, which could then consume that root, pulling it into the All.

So they have to capture the people who come, putting them into stasis, and take them back, cleansed of their notions, back into the roots. They lose a lot that way, but stay in the root.

Interestingly, the recorded memory went past the time when Vosh asked her to record the memory, to the end of her life. That end came when a ray from a crystal kathel hit. Her threads were gathered when her physical body was disintegrated, and they were cleaned and injected back into her root. It made me think that somehow Vosh sees things we can't yet see. But that doesn't include how things might branch later. It makes me confused.

When I came out of the memory, Jack was missing. I asked 1827 about him, and he said that Jack had been taken into the ring and might not come out; he'd done something that got Bove, who is responsible for the security of the city, involved.

Thymelixsen seemed sad from what he'd seen, and hugged me; I petted him.

There was a swell of blue, and a shimmer, and Jack fell out.

Cor mentioned fighting things, having looked at this self, and May said she'd looked at another her. Jack had looked at the not-Jack hole in the All, which is when Bove rescued him, after the triangles scanned him. He talked with Bove, who also watches over the troublesome parts of the city, and apparently Jack tends towards troublesomeness...

He also asked about Ult things. Others travels the roots, and are pirates, who attack Ults. So if we had had Ult things with us when we arrived, the Ult might have assumed we were pirates, until they'd questioned us. It's valuable stuff in the troublesome area. Still, the Ult are focused on working for and strengthening the roots.

Thymelixsen was sad because of the stuff he'd learned, but said it was very complicated, and didn't give more detail.

May said she saw a me who got Thymelixsen killed.

Jack said Bove was pleased when Jack said he needed to see all of his self at the edge. Theymlixsen said that we need to look at all of ourselves to get to the edge. We also talked about going through the ghost lands. Jack said that if we went to the ghost lands soon, we'd likely die; we need to learn more first.
1827 told us it was time to move on from the wall, saying to watch the hold. There was a hold in the floor going down to a chamber below. Jack was curious about it, but that was not where we were going. Instead, we went down a corridor that still had lots of moving symbols all over, all hard and slidy on the surface. There was a sense of flying, because of the sense of depth the symbols gave.

There were four green nodes in the wall, breaking the surface effect; the other half of the hemispheres were not visible inside the walls, and the symbols moved behind them. They glowed more brightly in a friendly way when we got closer and 1827 shined rainbow light, as if it were using Astar magic towards them. Tiny nodes of light came out of them to 1827, then went back to the green hemispheres. Jack asked if it were a Deminc communications system, and 1827 said that the word wasn't right, but it was about that.

A vortex formed between the green nodes, and a door opened to a huge chamber inside, larger than I'd've expected, given the ring thickness. Inside there were many shapes moving around. Some had fur, or limbs, but none were whole beings, just parts, or compliations of parts. Some were baffled-looking humanoids. 1827 said that this was the crafting chamber, and led us in. We hollowed into a circular room, with a dome of green glass above. It looked like there was a cloudy, wind-swept sky above. On the left, there was a kathel sitting on the ground, working on something with its hands. It had eyes that were yellow with black flecks, and fur that was gray with touches of black. There were flashes of blue and green light as the kathel worked.

May touched one creature, and said it was like a fur-covered jelly mass, having an ebb and flow of life, but not quite alive.

The kathel was very focused, ignoring us. We saw something like a sheep with very large eyes and paws instead of hooves. It was very cute, and May and Jack went to pet it, but the kathel said they shouldn't. Why? It would likely disintegrate them. Something happened to what it had worked, and it's cute and had the power to disintegrate. The kathel said it was trying to do it right, to make it cute, but without the power to disintegrate.

The kathel asked why we were here today. Jack said we were there to get clean, then see Vosh.

The kathel said something about incarnations, and when I asked, said that we all had incarnations. The kathel asked whwere we were from, and Cor said that he was from Bionlear's Skull, telling about the sull that had been in the town, and the claw and arm of the bionlear, and the rainbows, and the Orem.

The kathel said that we were from a more primal root, given us two Elix in the party.

It turns out that this kathel is Boann, child of Benash Vosh, ruler of the city; she is a second generation kathel. May asked about how kathel make children, and Boann said that second generation kathel stay to one side or the other, but first generation kathel could be fluid, to the extent of having children with only one parent.

She asked what state we'd like to be in when seeing Vosh, clean and presentable. Then she asked if she could see May. She took May in her hand, and examined her, saying that each time she saw that design, she was fascinated by the craft. Apparently Ovahon are interesting to one who creates.

May said something about using a blessing to help Boann learn to create better, which amused her. Apparently kathel can't be touched by gods or their blessings.

Thymelixsen asked if kafke are related to kathel, and she said that we are kathel without the gifts of the kathel, because we chose the root. We are derivative of our accursedness, early in the primal root. Jack asked if katke can die, and she said that it depends on the root source. Thymelixsen asked if it's possible we're from the first root, and she said it was possible. Vosh would know, but might not answer.

Tussef is one of the first generation kathel, like Vosh. A third generation kathel is the one that Cor cut the arm off of. There are fourth generation kathel, but no fifth generation ones. Thymliexsen asked if there will be a fifth generation, and she said that the pull suggested not. Thymelixsen asked whether that was because of the rainbows, and she said that either the All is cracked, so there is no need for a fifth generation, or we all fall into the All. She also pointed out that there's no word for them, since having a word for them draws them in more. It makes them more able to be here, and makes use see them, though it also makes them more like us.

She said that the war has happened and has ended. She remembers it happening one way, but doesn't like how it turned out, so says that there are two possibilities.

Thymelixsen asked why Vosh gathers memories of the roots. She said that knowing the roots is a way to have the roots there. He can see all of what we are and have been and will be and put it here.

Thymelixsen also brought up the question of clean thread for us, about how we could do something for her to earn thread. She said that we would not want thread that she made; she has not enough of the craft. First generation kathel are the ones to earn thread from, and there are four in the city.

However, she can restore us to clean and presentable, using our memory of how we would be, using the lines of order and how we should be. Jack or I said something about the infestation I'd sensed in him again, and she asked to look. She looked at my memory, a wash of stuff, and said that it was easy. She held Jack, examining him, and said that there was a structure in him for reentry, noting that he, too, was a blessed. Thymelixsen asked whether it was his framework or someone else's, and she said that there were subtle hints of frames of the Mother of control on Jack. She held Jack out to Thymelixsen to look. He sensed magic while she watched him do it, saying that that was why he hadn't seen them: Thymelixsen's fram structures were dirty, and left debris. She reached out and did something, presumably to the frame, but whatever she did, he couldn't seem to follow.

In the end, she scooped through Jack, scooping things out, which made him feel better, but didn't see the spirit I'd mentioned.

Boann said that she has the edge available all the time.

Jack asked about time here vs. in the roots. A root grows. It starts at one point, getting thicker and heavier, then having branching possibilities. The start and end of the root are existence. Some say the time to the end of the fourth generation gets farther away, stretching out, not just thicker. Here has its own way, separate from the roots.

Jack said that perhaps here ended in a way people didn't like (the war), but if the root lasts long enough, it might end differently. Boann thought this clever. She said that here only grows because people come here with growth. The Ult and the Orem came here when they discovered the edge of the roots. Some have gotten stuck elsewhere, or opened doors accidentally into the All.

The Ults are of the first to come here by choice, and Boann said that the Ults were wise, experience in the ways of the roots. They see themselves as keepers of the roots, and exert their will in certain things. Jack asked whether this involved the Mother of control, but Boann said they wouldn't know that. There are different makers in different roots, and in some roots they are unseen.

The roots grow out of the first creation. Cor asked what the first creation was, and she said it was made by the creators for the first creations, the first generation kathel. And now here is decimated, the dirt used for the roots to grow from here.

We asked about the bionlear, and she said the bionlear is separate from all, and always has been, though it didn't cause the creators. The bionlera was how it was, and it was beyond Boann's understanding.

The kathel were not allowed to stay in the roots, for crimes against the creators done by the first generation; the choice was to either be here or go over the edge.

Jack asked why there was a wall of fire at the edge of the world, and she said that there isn't. It's all a trick of the mind, like the tricks you play on yourself to keep everything from happening at once.

And then it was time to remember what were were like when we were clean, and the things we were wearing were clean too. She started with Jack, and said that he had odd perceptions, but she could work with it. And then not only was he clean, but his things were back to new. Wow. And so for the rest of us.

We asked if we'd see her again, and she said maybe. A second time? Maybe. (I assume sometimes there is just one encounter, and other times there are multiple visits). She did say that this was the most touched by the gods she'd seen the party. I asked if she saw us with Ruzagride, and she said yes, sometimes. Sometimes with both May and Mirashan, even.

We went to 1827, and said that we were ready to see Vosh. Some lights came out of his head, and then he said that Vosh would see us now.

And then we were pulled up into the blue.

There was a golden-haired kathel, who had the same kind of impact as Tussef, that apparently all first generation kathel have. Nearby, there were some yhellow triangles with a blue field around them. They were all flat, sometimes rotating out of the field. They seemed to be servants, floating around. There were also golden shaped lights, similar to the symbols, at which he'd point an ear or a finger and they'd move.

We were all weeping from overwhelming joy, wanting to fall into his light, but we were all held still, held in safety and comfort. And we'd be content to stay here in his presence.

Vosh touched some symbols, and said he knew we were here. He was tired of answering questions, but would do so anyway, because we need it.

Jack asked if he would eat us, and he said no, he'd recently eaten. Jack asked if he'd heaten us other times, and he said yes, but not this time.

Thymelixsen asked about making us (Elix, I assume) kathel, and Vosh said he couldn't break our previous choice for the roots (for which I am glad; I want home more and the connection to the Healer more than I want kathel abilities, now, anyway). Thymelixsen asked if it were possible that we were from the first root, and Vosh said that we were from an early root, yes. He picked Thymelixsen up and smelled him, saying that our world has many aspects of the first world, so perhaps. The first world is shattered, and now the roots grow from it.

May asked about how to get thread, saying we'd like to do stuff for Vosh.

Jack mentioned Tussef, and Vosh had a moment of silence, perhaps sadness, that passed through us all. Vosh told us to approach.

He said that we (Thymelixsen and I) had a tool for forgetting, the All-Wood, which was useful for forgetting this. I hadn't realized that that would have been another way to have avoided the Veil using the All-Wood.

If we work for Vosh, we'll restore our selves enough to survive the journey back.

Cor asked about the sense of down we'd had when we arrived. Vosh said that that was where the All waited for us. I said that then we saw what we expected to see. Vosh agreed. And underneath? There are ghosts, seeking thread, even momentary thread.

Thymelixsen asked about the forest, and Vosh said that the spiral wood is of here. There is no All-Wood, no forgetting. Something about travel through all layers of perception. Jack asked about how there could be the All-Shadow but not the All-Wood, and Vosh said that the spiral wood has its own layers. The whole wood turns in spirals, hence its name, the spiral wood.

Thymelixsen asked whether, if he learns more magic, he will be able to carry it back. Magic, yes, but essence, no.

Thyemlixsen mantioned the contract of arms, and Vosh looked at him again. This would not be a violation of that contract, and he said he might discover that he's not bound by that contract, and haven't been in some time. It is a trick layered on a trick on a piece of minor stuff. It's still on him, though the real reason for it is no longer there, and there are ways to break it.

Vosh asked if he read Arcoons, since the contract was crafted in Arcoons, and Thymelixsen would need to read them to be able to rework the contract. It's not the original intent, and therefore there's a curse.

Cor asked what the contract was for, and Vosh replied that it was a misunderstanding when the gods were away at the war, especially the god of trade and the mother of control, working together.

Thymelixsen asked if we'd need essence weaving to be able to travel back to the root, and Vosh said that it is more easily dealt with if at least some of the group know it, but no all need to.

Cor asked once we find the edge, and we get rid of the bits of the All (assuming we do, of course), what then? Then we can choose. If we choose to go back, we'll need to travel. All the roots have a tower, linking all the roots.

The Ults bring many things, and Vosh could trad our services to the Ults, so that we could earn thread enough. We talked about how the Ults might take us to the edge of another root, for us to do something there, based on our particular abilities.

Vosh said that there was a shell on the roots, keeping them from growing more. If the All shattered, there would be soil enough forever. Now, there's only the soil of the first creation.

Cor asked whether Vosh knew that the boulder wouldn't crack, and Vosh said that eventually all the roots will wither if the boulder dosen't crack, before the roots reach the limits of the soil. What he has seen is that the fourth generation kathel will try to go to the roots, and the roots will wither, and all will return to the All.

Vosh said that the kathel didn't want to choose. They tried to deal with them, and nearly killed the roots. So they were placed here, and are not what they once were. They cannot grow by the roots. The fourth generation kathel would likely make the same mistake were they to attain the roots, thinking themselves greater than others, and crushing the roots.

But can things be changed? Vosh sees the future as the same. Jack said that if people were bringing change here, could the future change? Vosh said no. What about edgewalkers, seeing different ends? More coming here brings the end sooner. However, Vosh still allows the choice of what to do, rather than just killing those who arrive, because they were given a choice by the Creators, and he wishes to pass this gift along, in the hope that it makes the All crack.

I asked whether the first creator came from the All, and Vosh said that maybe there was a spark, lightning, the fiery one, making a crack in the All, allowing soil and growth. And there was an idea in some stories that the All was seeking to be greater.

Did something create the All? There are stories, but we only know the Creators. First there was the bionlear and nothing, then there was the bionlear and the All.

Cor asked if we could add more thread than we are, and Vosh said that the extra potential would ripple through the root, doing unexpected things. If we go back less, we'd be missing parts of oursleves. If we go back more, there would be things previously undone now done.

Jack asked if Vosh knew what happened to the Orem in our root, and Vosh said that they had been destroyed. A piece of the All fell into the root through the opening they made (aha! the thing under the Featureless Plains is a piece of the All!). and it is slowly being consumed by creation.

I asked about the purifiers' war, and Vosh said that they were mostly drwan out into the All. Some purifiers were still here, having tied themselves off. I asked if we brought pruifiers back, would that be in the direction of breaking or helping the All, and Vosh said he'd never seen it in any future, that it hadn't ever been done. He said that those who were still here were angry, because they had to tie themselves off.

There was a question about whether the first creation would have fallen back into the All without the roots. Vosh wasn't sure, and said that in the other cities, the other rulers might know more, especially VessDest, the ruler of all of the kathel, since the rest of them were damaged in various battles, losing the parts of themselves that fight.

He warned us that as we get closer to the edge, we will see more iterations of ourselves, and some might try to take us over.

Vosh told us to go into the city, find a place to rest, and so on. We should contact the Ult, and 1827 would assist in communication with them. He warned us that the Ult have their own code; they are the oldest of the young, and have done many great things. If we risk the roots, they might secure our essence, rather than let it fall over the edge. And he said that in some iterations, we would be sotred away by the Ults, especially May (which surprised me, that it wasn't Jack).

Vosh said that the Runeshe is the ring, the library of roots. He asked if he could record us. in the library, warning that others could find us through this copy (other selves, and the All). I asked if only one of me might have said yes to his request, and he said yes; that might be why there was that sign I didn't want to learn more about on the wall...

Vosh said that frames warp here. And finding more of the self leads to the All. There are more choices as we get closer to the ege about who we are.

And in the end, when he asked who would add themselves to the library, all of us agreed, none of us wishing to deny him anything, though I know I don't want to look at other iterations already stored here.
We talked about how to cache or dispose of the Ult things we were carrying. Options included digging down, but that would make it hard to find, though I pointed out that if I put the fetish Thymelixsen had made with the other things, it would be easily found. But when Cor dug into the leaves, it wasn't that far down until he found a kind of moss-like stuff. I touched it, and it felt like it was part of the whole life that is the forest. I wouldn't want to disturb it any more than we already had.

Jack suggested burying the things on the path, but that would show. Cor was in favor of putting it in the trees with a fetish; even if the trees move, the fetish would keep things findable. Thymelixsen suggested hiding the things at the farm, perhaps upstairs in the rafters, or in an empty barrel. It made sense, but there were risks, and in the end, Jack tied things up into a bundle that he and Cor tied to a tree.

We were within a couple of hours' travel of Wanderhold, but it had been a long day, and there was no way of knowing what would happen when we arrived, nor how we'd pay for things like rooms or food, so we decided to sleep here. Cor woke me after his watch, and I spent the rest of the time practicing, trading off active watch time with Jack.

Before we set off, I checked everyone's health, and found that the elusive spirit Jack had had in him before was either back, or hadn't been gotten out by the red man after all. I still don't know how to do anything about it, other than warn him that its there.

As we got closer to Wanderhold, we could see how enormous a city it is; I don't know that I've ever heard of anything this large back at home. Not only are the walls higher than anything I can describe, there's a massive ring over the city, with smaller rings rotating, and lights going up and down. There are structures tall enough to be seen over the walls, built more like slender tents than towers.

We got to an intersection with a ring road around the city, and we could see that the not-good part of the sky came very close to the city, but wasn't over it. There was a huge silvery gold statue-like insectoid, perhaps 60 feet tall, at the intersection. And we saw figures in the forest on our left, all different species, all sitting or squatting or lying down, shriveled, some weeping dusty cobweb-like things. They didn't seem dead, exactly, but they certainly weren't fully alive. There were none on the right.

Jack called to Thymelixsen and May, who were walking ahead, and they rejoined us. Then Thymelixsen sensed magic. He said that the statue was not magic, though some of the figures on our left were, in some undefined way. I thought they looked like the ones who came over to the goo when we arrived, though more desiccated, since those had been animate. When Thymelixsen went closer to look at their threads, he said he was almost sucked in; these bodies were starved for threads. They're not dead, but they have no thread left.

We talked about approaching the statue, and in the end Thymelixsen just went up to it. It relaxed, arms coming down and folding, settling in. Thymelixsen greeted it, and it made wing flapping sounds, and the sound of a woman singing. Otherwise, it didn't react to Thymelixsen talking to it. He passed it slowly, and nothing happened. Jack went into shadow, since he wasn't sure about having something inside him and getting by this guardian. The rest of us walked past without difficulty.

When Jack came out of shadow, he said that it wasn't distorted in shadow at all, and had color, and sound, just as it did here. Which was strange indeed.

As we got closer to Wanderhold, we saw cultivated land, not just forest any more. There were plants growing in the fields that seemed, not familiar, but at least somewhat recognizable. There were huts, and farmhouses, and beings of all different sorts, no two the same. There were herd animals, none of which were used to draw the wagons. (I did start to wonder why the other farm we'd been to had to be so hidden away from the city.)

We were noticed, and noticeable, with the pairs in our party. We continued on to the city. There seemed to be a slit in the wall, going perhaps half of the way up, which was likely a gate. Higher up there were light slits in the whites and grays.

We saw blast marks around on one side of the city. The farmland nearby was completely recovered, so it couldn't have been recent, but it shows how useful the tall walls have been to the city.

There was a big crowd by the gate, with all kinds of people loading and unloading wagons they'd dragged. No two were alike, so we continued to stand out.

To the right and left of the gate were tall slender entities, with almond-shaped heads, long green moss-like growths off the back of their heads, and nut-brown faces that had pale blue luminescence where the eyes would have been. They were the first live Ult we'd seen, which was exciting. They had long fingers, as if they had no bones. They touched each person as they passed, and made knocking sounds to communicate.

Jack started forward, and was touched by the Ult. It looked down, then called others over. They surrounded us, and then made a gesture to call something over. A silvery, broom-stick-like being came over, with a crystal ball and spirals on top, tentacles on the bottom. The Ult talked with it, then the ball lit up like fire bursting, and it came over. We heard puffind sounds, and a light shone out, over the whole group. Thymelixsen said that it was Esmic magic. Then it spoke to us, in our heads, in our respective languages.

It welcomed us, saying we'd traveled far. Were we from the same or different roots? The same. In its memory, some were here from our world. It asked about our name for our world, and it hadn't heard of Krayzen. Had we come by design or by accident? Design. It confirmed that it was possible to travel here by accident (which seems difficult from our world, but perhaps is easier in others).

It introduced itself: 1827 would be our guide while in Wanderhold, and would answer any questions. It works for the kathel who runs the city. It was created by the lights of the sky in its root, the 1827th creation of those creators. Jack asked if those were gods, and it wasn't sure; maybe. Each being was created one at a time, with intent, rather than worlds like ours. Its purpose is speaking, as to us. Jack asked if it had found the way to the edge, and 1827 pointed out that it was still here.

We asked about going to an inn, and 1827 said that we would need to be taken to the rulers, to be questioned about our root, so it can be placed. The kathel are curious about the roots (Cor wasn't surprised; we've heard how the kathel want to go to the roots). At this point, we were guests, until after Vosh examined us, at which point we'd have responsibility for ourselves. We talked about cleaning, and 1827 pointed out that for many beings here, it wouldn't matter, since they don't smell. And water is expensive (no surprise there either), so cleaning would be minimal with water; there are apparently other, waterless ways to get clean. 1827 mentioned getting a cavenant if we could afford one; that's a watermelon dog.

What do people use to trade with? Many things, but there's no common currency except for essence. There are many jobs, too. Workers can be paid in blank essence by the kathel if they do the kathel's work.

1827 said that it's possible to to tie one's threads so they don't fade, but then they are forever still, unable to change or grow further. Even if one is reborn, one is limited by the knots in the threads.

The singer we'd seen outside holds those without essence away from the city. The singer makes them rest until they can be taken away.

There are teachers for weaving essence.

When Cor asked about places of death, 1827 thought before saying that there are places of time keepers, which likely are what he would be interested.

The city is huge. 1827 started guiding us through to go to Vosh's place, pointing out interesting places and giving us useful information as we went. The huge spires we'd seen from the outside were built by the founders of the city when they created it for the kathel, along with the walls and the ring. There are many cities, with a lot of space in between them; it takes a lot of conflicts to keep the kathel distracted.

There were things lashed to what seemed like guy wires off the spires, with all kinds of structures built off those. There were smells of pretty much everything, many of them unpleasant. 1827 pointed out some things to avoid, like a flower that made a cloud of poisonous gas, and anthills where the huge ants would assume we were food if we entered. Unlike outside, here there were some people of the same species.

1827 said that there were people born here who weren't of here. I asked what would happen if May had a baby here, and 1827 said that it would fade in the roots, since its home would be here, unless it took thread from others (which isn't so possible there). And the threads are tied to the kathel. Those from here are always from here.

Thymelixsen asked how many there were in the city, and it took a moment for 1827 to reply: there had been a census once, and the number then was about 200 million.

1827 said that it would be ill-advised to seek out other iterations of our selves. It is possible to sacrifice oneself to make oneself (other iteration) more powerful. Then 1827 said that there was no backwards, no future. All are one, not different iterations, really. Which started sounding very rainbow to me. Especially when 1827 said that it believed that all eventually fall, though there are others who believe otherwise.

We got to a pit that was surrounded by big flat stones. There were engravings on the top of the stones with blue light coming out of them, and yellow light going up from the pit. May recognized the engravings as related to runes she'd learned. The stones were used to go up: Vosh's particular domain is up in the ring above.

1827 stepped forward onto a stone, then into the light. It vanished. May, Cor, and I followed. Jack tried putting a finger in, but it hurt, so he waited. Thymelixsen sensed magic, and was overwhelmed by all the magic going on all around, which he looked at while he came up.

Before he arrived, we looked at the room w were in. It was a golden chamber with moving white markings that looked vaguely like letters, but of some unknown language, perhaps. There was something here that made us feel relaxed, a kind of hum.

May touched a wall. Four letters moved towards he hand, and felt available to her somehow. She moved her hand up as if to go over a letter, then fell back, sitting down. She said she'd just seen a whole root, with images and geneaologies and such.

She suggested others touch the wall, and I did. Some letters came in. I thought about the Orem, and the letters shifted. I thought about Elix, and different letters moved in, looking more like Elix. I thought of my former me, and one symbol I didn't like came. I thought of my current self, and that one symbol I didn't like stayed. There was no way I wanted to push further in and see more, so I took my hand off the wall.

I told the others how I'd influenced the symbols on the wall. Cor put his hand on the wall and thought of Krayzen, then Bionlear's Skull. When he did that, there was one different kind of symbol that drew near. Cor reached out to that one, and fell back. He'd seen the bionlear, resting on the green grass in great heat, in the light. It reached out its hand, using it to spin threads into a start, turning it all around, spinning the star more intense, though never larger. It let the star drift up into the huge mesh above, with floating stars drifting up. Cor said he felt himself drifting away as he watched the roots.

Thymelixsen could see all the raw magic around us, and kept suggesting we leave; it was dangerous. Somehow, the hum made this less compelling than it might otherwise have been.

Jack still wasn't there, and May said she'd go back to get him. Once we were finally together, it was time to follow 1827 to Vosh.
I told the rest of the group about going back into my memories, reminding them of that time a few days ago when my former me woke up in my body. That time, I'd only been an observer back in her time; this time, I was my current self in her body. As I told them about it, I realized that when I came back, I was in a different place than I'd left, and it was likely that old-me had been in my body again this time. I don't know why the greater transfer happened this time, nor why, if this was the first time it happened for her, she was so disconcerted the second time (for her, first time for me). We talked about what had happened, about time travel in general, which seems to be possible, given how Jack was seen by some Orem of long-ago when we were under the featureless plains.

Then I told them about the conversation with Murr. Again, there were lots of theories, but little hard evidence as to what is going on. Cor said that the kathel had told him that Thymelixsen had left his mate behind before, and that Thymelixsen had been contacted by his mate, and Thymelixsen had been the only one contacted, which Cor thought might mean Murr was, or will be, Thymelixsen's mate. But perhaps not. Cor also said the kathel told him that Thymelixsen would betray us to bring his mate back, which is disturbing.

I told them what Murr had said about the bionlear, and Jack thought that perhaps the bionlear was how the gods had originally separated from the rainbow all-ness, which is interesting, and sounds plausible to me, though I suppose it's all theoretical. (Though how the rainbows can be all and everything with such a being as the bionlear always and forever separate from it/them is an interesting question too.)

Cor pointed out that if Murr had gone over the outer edge already, then she wouldn't be here, and would be in history. I think it was later that Cor said she could be now part of the all-ness of rainbow, which fit with how she was talking with me, anyway.

Cor said that time is part of the trick to keep the rainbows out of the roots, since for them, everything all the time is how things are, rather than stretched out over time, the way we're used to.

He also said that it might not be necessary to roll up all the thread, because that could mean that's necessary to become an edgewalker, or to go over the edge (to the rainbows) as a whole, filling whatever hole in the all-ness that each of us forms. I suppose, then, that Thymelixsen is the only other one of us who might have this rolling up of threads, since Ovahon and Human have all their life in one chunk, all together.

There was a lot of discussion of implication and theory, but eventually we got back to the question of what our plan is next, whether we're going to Wanderhold now. We decided that it would be useful for all of us to have fetishes made by Thymelixsen, since then it would be easier to find each other, as well as the help that they give. It would take four hours for him to make fetishes for the rest of us (Cor already had an active one), and Cor said he needed to find a place where the kathel had killed a gatherer so he could talk with the other him he'd talked with before. So he and May went to find a site while Thymelixsen cast. Jack practiced something while I stayed on watch, trying not to find any sense of the familiar.

Cor and May came back a couple of hours later. Cor had been successful, and found his other self. However, this wasn't a future or past self, like I'd seen, but an alternate self, one formed when Cor had made a different choice at a turning point before now (to become a blessed of Death, I suppose, or something similar). Cor B had been beyond the Veil longer, and gone to Wanderhold and back, but was not at the edge yet. (I wonder whether he was with a group or alone...) Cor B thought that he might fail, and go over the edge. However, if enough of the hims succeeded, it would be ok. Some of him were more important than the others, and Cor B seemed to think that Cor was important. He warned Cor that in Wanderhold, he needed to be cold like him, lest he get lost in the shiny and warm. He also said that this was not a good place to get closer to the lord of death, because the rainbows could use him and his new connection to get at Death, who is the one who has kept the rainbows from the roots as much as they have been. When Cor gets to the edge, all of the hims will be there (but this was not the same as rolling up the threads). Apparently Cor B had fought the kathel, but not severed his arm, and the kathel had told him the same sorts of things he'd told Cor. Cor asked about Thymelixsen and Murr, and Cor B said that Murr could have been one of the Thymelixsens who went over the edge and failed (though that doesn't really answer why Thymelixsen would be a human woman...). Cor B said that all choices are made, and you choose which is you. If enough of the rope holds, the rope holds, though losing part of themselves, becoming weaker. Cor B also said that there is a safe place in the city that has to do with another version of the god of Death, that would be safer at least for Cor.
We went back to where we'd hidden the backpack, and Jack and Cor went to return it. The rest of us went back to the path to wait. While we waited, Thymelixsen worked with his threads, May prayed, and I kept watch. After a little while, something seemed familiar, off in one particular direction, though it wasn't noticeably different than any other part of the forest. I walked that way a bit, but didn't want to get out of sight of the other two, especially since I was the one on watch. I looked back at them, and it felt like I was looking out of the familiar into what I expected. I heard something like a sound of motion with clinking and clacking, muffled, from farther on in the familiar direction. It might have been travelers, over a hill. Except that there are no hills in this forest.

I heard Jack and Cor coming back, and that broke the sense of the familiar, so I went back to the others.

Jack said that the workers had been looking for the backpack, so they decided to put it in the wrong hut.

I mentioned what had happened with the sense of the familiar, and Cor suggested it might be the edge. We talked about how that could be, and how it had happened. Perhaps it was because I was, essentially, alone? May said that it sounded like learning to make frames, how you have to be relaxes and not thinking hard about it, to have it work.

That inspired Thymelixsen to try meditating to find that state. While he did that, he lent me a book on meditation so I could learn more about it. Cor and Jack took time to pray, and May went up the road to keep watch, leaving Thymelixsen and I alone enough, theoretically, for this to work again. I used the exercises the book gave for meditation, which was interesting, but didn't get me back to that sense of the familiar.

So instead, I tried watching again, looking for movement in the forest as I had before. And that worked.

The sense of the familiar returned, and I headed in that direction, dragging my staff to leave a trail showing where I'd gone. Oddly, it felt as if I were going uphill, and it got more and more steep until I needed my hands to go up. I put the staff away so I could climb. I went on, knowing I needed to be quiet, and started recognizing the ferns and oak-like trees on either side. There were jutting rocks up ahead, and I had a vague memory of a forest I'd been in before, a sense of deja vu. I climbed up to the lip and looked over, to see what was making the sounds. And realized I was wearing my leather armor, not the metal armor, and had gloves with hooks on the back on my hands. I felt I was climbing into a memory washing over me.

I heard sounds on my right, and saw Orashura there, her fur painted black and green, as was I, presumably for camouflage. I smiled, and she smiled back, and pointed with her ear. I looked over the edge onto loaded wagons at a camp, the whole party Elixen. There were trees above, a steep embankment below, and mountains in the distance. We looked down together. She said quietly "Look at them all. I can taste them from here." The appeared to be loading the wagons, breaking up camp. She looked up at me, asking me if I was all right. "I'm not sure," and she signaled me away from the edge. That question was odd, taking me away from my memory, and the sense of deja vu shattered because of it.

She asked me again what was wrong, and I said that time was folding. She said, "You've been talking to those death people. Smell!" I tried smelling, but couldn't smell anything unusual. She took off one of my gloves to try to hold my hand, and was shocked away, falling back with flames burning her hands. She started licking them, and they started healing. She asked me what that was, and I said I didn't know, though I was starting to have a much better idea...

We retreated from the edge, and she was swift. I was having a hard time; she came back to help me walk down the hill, propping me against a rock. I realized we were in the western Elix kingdom, and this must be before the other time I'd made contact with this former self: Sha is less adept, and we are not yet lovers. It also explains why she is so surprised, and was so much less so before: that was previous for me, but future for her. (Also, that time, I'd been traveling along with past-self, while it sounded like she came here wholly as well. This time I was fully there, not just a rider.)

I realized that the truth would be problematic, making me sound even more crazed, and there likely wasn't time anyway. So I lied and said that I was fighting a spirit. Sha asked if she could help, and I said no. She asked if she should go back? Yes. And get my companion? Yes. She bounded up and away on all fours.

Now that I was alone, I focused on trying to sync up with myself. There might be guards and such set by the spiritualists, so I was careful to avoid where they might be. I looked down, and tried to remember where I came up. I looked out, and sensed where I am. I felt like I was with myself, then panicked, with struggle, and blood, and felt hot, and something rushing, and then I was back in the spiral wood, beyond the Veil, lying on my side, my companions nearby.

I went back to the group, and Cor still wasn't back from scouting, while the others were still involved in whatever they were doing. I tried to think why, both the mechanics of how this had happened and why it had happened then, what I might have learned from that then, that I might need to know now, as I would have had it been a vision from the Father.

I told Thymelixsen about it, and he convinced me to try again with him, to try to go to the edge. We followed the track I'd made, and stopped at the end of it (which was just as flat as the rest of the forest, of course).

I started to think about going back, and saw a slender human woman with long blond hair, like the one Thymelixsen had described. She talked with me. She said that I hadn't finished tying myself together yet.

I asked about how I could reconcile the opposites of my life (blessed of the Mighty and the Healer being fairly opposite, after all), and she said that once one gets far enough away, it wouldn't seem like me after all. My not-me is just closer to me. My not-me can still be in my flesh. This flesh, that she has now, is new and different. Once I get far enough, I'll be her. (Which ties in with what Thymelixsen described, too.)

I asked her name, and she seemed amused, saying that most people never asked that, but giving the name Murr, for now.

Everything will fall together. At the edge, we can be whole, all together, and have access to everything. The me of now or the me of will be will come together. She did some looking through, almost reading.

She said, "There was a time when there was you. It was not a big time, but I found some I remembered. Once separate from that," (she poked me) "I'm easier to find."

I started to say, "If that is my path," and she laughed, saying that it was the path that I am on, that she dreamed, or remembered, it already, so that is not the choice, whether it is my path or not.

She told me that what had happened, the contact I'd had, was about winding in the thread of myself until it was all together, rather than leaving it spread out. Once I could see all of me at once, the thread all wound up and pulled out of time, it would be entertaining to see me. This seemed to be a different thread than the kind Thymelixsen is learning to use, in that it spreads out backward, a thread of my time before.

She said that she could feel the thread pulling over the edge, that this was a constant pull. There would be some time that she would go over the edge (she remembered or dreamed that already), and said that it wasn't the end, since she still remembered (or dreamed) that she felt a bit of her self afterward, after falling off the edge.

It was very confusing talking to her, with all the lack of time. She said something about me and Thymelixsen using the threads of May and Jack, which I didn't care for. And there was something about rolled threads versus unrolled threads.

At some point I think I asked why she was talking with me now, and she said that there was part of her, that was me, that told the now-her I needed to talk. Which got me thinking about how part of her might be a bit of rainbow, especially given how keen she was for everything all together in the ways the rainbows seem to have. The rainbow taint in me called to the rainbow whole of her, or the her that is most of everything, something like that. Which had me more distrustful, and wanting to be careful with my words.

She talked more about the whole of everything, and I asked about the role the bionlear played in all of this. She said that the bionlear was not caught up in this, that it stands apart. It cast shadows through the worlds; we'd think we were seeing the bionlear, but it would just be a shadow of the true bionlear. It is whole, and then there are all of us, separate from the bionlear's whole.

She also talked about how there was no need for time, with everything all together.

[I am so sure I have forgotten some of the conversation; it was so confusing and happened so quickly.]

I had to focus somehow to return to the others, when it was time for her to leave. I don't remember quite what I did, but found myself back with Thymelixsen, who appeared not to notice any lapse in time at all.

I told him that I'd seen the woman he'd seen before, rather than the two of us going back into the familiar (which I suspected wouldn't work, anyway: not only had it happened only when I had been functionally alone, it seemed unlikely that he could go back into my memories unless we'd met before. Which is possible, of course, but less likely. I'm not sure whether he would have known a blessed of the Mighty, and that seems to be the time I go back to now (though perhaps once I have integrated that, I would go to other times instead?)). My guess that the reason it has not happened to him is that he has gone into the trees fewer times.

He'd said before that she'd called herself an edgewalker, and we keep being warned about edgewalkers who would do us harm when at the edge. She doesn't talk about that (and presumably wouldn't want that, quite, if she is us), but if she is the rainbow-hole of me and Thymelixsen and others (like Jack saw a him-hole on the other side), then she's still after things I do not want to give. It feels like she wants me to remember these parts of myself, integrate them, and then become part of the all that is rainbow. (I wonder what would happen if I were to become one with the all before having all parts of myself? Not that I want to try the experiment...) Which makes me think I should resist remembering the past-me, as is proper. Except that perhaps the strength I had is something I'll need to find my way back to our root? I'm so confused.

Oh, also, I remember last time this touching the past happened, Tek Tek Turka scanned me afterward, and found I was noticeably more rainbow than before, which likely should have kept me from exploring this more. It ties in with Murr being of the rainbow persuasion, too. Which would suggest that this is not the path I want to find the edge in myself.
Jack returned with the backpack, dragging it along out of shadows, and said that he had seen one of the younger kathel swimming in the shadows. It seems that they can go into all the realms (shadow, all-wood, likely all-stone...), which I suppose isn't exactly a surprise, given their (lack of) limitations. Swimming in shadow, though, that's odd.

Thymelixsen said that the workers in the field were making motions on the plants like those used in thread working.

Jack said that after he'd killed, or at least, deactivated, one of the workers, he had opened its torso, and hard things had floated up, but there were no threads. I still don't understand the workers, who need to eat, but have no threads, unlike the ones made for the kathel (who are also from here, so it's not about whether people are from the roots or are from here). I'd been thinking that those with threads are those who are alive.

Thymelixsen sensed magic, and while the backpack and contents were not magic, there were two other sources nearby, having to do with regeneration of plants, in the hut where Jack had killed (or not) the two workers.

Jack rushed to the hut, and reported back that the workers were awake, but acting oddly. We decided to leave, regroup, and make a new plan. On the way back to the main path, we hid the backpack. Cor had thought to put it under some leaves, but the woods are so open and uniform that that would not have been very hidden. I suggested putting it up in a tree instead. Thymelixsen would have put a fetish on it, to be able to find it later, but he has none currently. Before we left, I suggested that Cor put his fetish on it instead.

We headed towards the path.

And then suddenly there was a rush of yellow, which turned out to be a young kathel, which hit Thymelixsen with its hand, and Thymelixsen fell over, paralyzed. Then it went after Cor, who fought back as best he could, even severing its arm. But in the end, it hit him too with its hand, and Cor fell over paralyzed. As he fell, the kathel jumped on him, and they both vanished in a swirl of leaves.

I went over to Thymelixsen, but there seemed to be nothing I could do to help him. May went over to the kathel's arm, touching it, then bandaging it; it was still alive. I wondered if there were some way to use kathel powers through the hand to help Thymelixsen, but it seemed not to have those sorts of abilities. Jack stayed up the tree he'd climbed.

And then Cor reappeared, asking for the arm. May gave it to him (she'd been stroking the soft fur), and he pushed it into the leaves. It went in, somewhere. Cor said it was an all-leaf place, with dead things, and he was sending it back to the kathel. Thymelixsen woke up.

Cor told us we needed to return the backpack: there are two Mothers, and the one who likes to control things was the one who sent the vision to May. The kathel had told him that the Hidden Lord sends bugs to sit on the kathels' necks and control them, and the spray kills the bugs. Some kathel say to cooperate with the Hidden Lord, to get back to the roots. In any case, this kathel said to return the backpack to the farm, or be eaten by his friends.

Thymelixsen said that the farm workers had been using Mother magic to regenerate, which also gives weight to this new view of things.

Cor said that the kathel had looked through his memories, especially the ones about rainbows, Bo's Point, and Fashrun. The kathel said that everything was rainbow, then some stepped out, and became individual gods. The gods made the roots. The god of death made a way to keep the rainbows out of the roots. This one was a third generation kathel, who will be in the third wave that will attempt to get to the roots. Time doesn't work in the same way here, and he knows he will be part of that attempt. If they make it to the roots, they become part of the roots, and mortal. Still, many kathel want this. Interestingly, the bionlear is a creator, but not a god. Somehow. The bionlear is always an interesting conundrum in how the universe fits together... Also, the kathel confirmed that the edge is inside us and all around, and we need to learn how to find it.

Cor was shown a vision of humans talking of attacking with the lord of death (Cor saw things from Death's point of view). The lord of death said he'd teach them to make them into different things, and they offered to teach what they already knew. Death's price was that all things will end, that they would be mortal, and all things would come to an end. Cor said there were hundreds listening and talking, and he got the impression that they might have been other gods, from other roots.

The edgewalkers can show us the edge, but can kill us to get power, to get home (sharing the threads they harvest with the rainbows), and there's no way to tell a killing one from a helpful one.

The kathel also told Cor that he hadn't seen Cor here before, but had seen Thymelixsen. And that we don't need much essence to go back, but we would be weaker if we go back with little essence. We can take out others' threads right before returning, but that is risky. Older kathel (first and second generation) can make pure thread that becomes oneself properly (I started wondering how we can be of service to them, to get more threads...).

Cor mentioned that he was the only one who'd cut the kathel's arm off, which made Cor interesting to the kathel. I'm so relieved it worked out that way...
There was time for me to sleep and practice for a while until Jack returned from his scouting trip to the farm.

Jack said that kathel came while he was watching, and they crossed the path (which we had thought they couldn't do, though they could go over it or through the trees). The path came to cart tracks that went to the farm, and the track seemed to be infrequently used. Not surprisingly, it dead-ended at the farm.

The farm had six houses outside the road, rather than inside, and not clustered together. Two were on the far side of the field, three on the left, and one on the right. There was a still by each house, each working. While Jack watched, only one drop came out; it seems to be a slow process, with perhaps a barrel filled each month among all the houses. Jack tasted it, and it tastes bad. They had two full barrels, and whatever was in the current buckets.

Jack saw three people working in the fields. Then he checked in the houses. In one, one person was making stew, while another was hitting a third with a hammer. The one being hit was all pipes and green inside, and the hammering sound was like wood on wood, rather than metal on metal. Some pipes were hammered in, then he was sewed up. The fixer took him outside, propped him up, then gave him a drink and slapped him, which woke the fixed one up. Then they all went inside and ate stew; they have teeth that imply they're carnivorous.

Jack went to the other end, and found the wagon, which seemed to be some sort of sledge, not drawn by animals. Jack said it would be easy to break the stills, but it would be noisy. He didn't see the backpack things, though he did see brightly colored skins in one house. The color wasn't unlike the kathel, but the shape seemed wrong.

As Jack debated breaking a still, he saw a kathel kid, bright orange, sitting on one of the houses. When a worker came out, the kathel attacked him, the two rolling on the ground, and the kathel biting a lot. Jack left while the kathel was distracted.

We debated what to do next. Should we do something to the farm? That was what was suggested by May's vision, but that would be a temporary solution, not a permanent one, and might disturb the political balance in the city in ways we can't predict. We could go to the city to figure out the politics, but it seemed unlikely that we'd then make it back(ward) to the farm. In the end, we decided to go to the farm and see what we could do to interrupt the making of this liquid that the Mother dislikes so.

The travel was fairly uneventful, being as Jack had described. At the fork, we could see the city in the distance, with huge walls that curved in, and a donut-shape above, and little rings on the rings, like Ult ships.

We got to the farm, and it was interesting to see that the buildings were made of wood, real wood, not this animal-like wood the trees here are made of. And the dirt is dirt, not something alive. It seems that they imported both (from the Ult traders? from elsewhere here?), at great expense. I wonder how they could have carved the farm out of the forest.

We debated again, about ways of interrupting farm production, and whether that's enough to fulfill the Mother's quest. Thymelixsen suggested that we could spray the field with the contents of the barrels. We'd need a distraction for that, and there are likely 12-18 people here. (Side note: the sky is alright here, but closer to the bad. It's blue, and Jack could go into Shadow here. The city is closer to the edge of the frayed sky; I wonder why that is.)

We went back and forth about what to do, and how to do it so we wouldn't be seen/known as who'd done it (lest we get ourselves killed when we go to the city). In the end, the plan was to get a backpack and poison the field with the spray, which would mean killing the workers. I wasn't very happy with this plan, though it seemed like anything we'd do would end up with some killing.

May put the Guidance of Nature on all of us but Jack, so we could hide in the woods, then Jack went scouting to find the backpack. He went into a house, and attacked the worker he found sleeping there. No backpack, though. Another house, and another attack. In the end, I think he killed three of the workers before he found the backpack.
We were heading north on the path. To the right, the sky looked as if it were beginning to fray from blue into nothing, as if the desert and the trap were closer, or there might be something else there that frays the sky. We continued running along the path, and the fraying got worse, paralleling us, perhaps getting a bit closer.

We debated going to the city or the farm first. Seeing the layout of the farm is useful, though it's unclear whether whatever we do to try to rectify the situation should be at the farm, or in the city, which is the ultimate destination for the purple stuff. Just keeping the farm from making it will anger whichever kathel farms it, putting us into a political mess we're not ready for.

Up ahead there were figures on the road. Seven people were sitting on the path. When we got closer, we slowed down. Jack used his spyglass, and said that they had horns of different colors, dense short fur, and wide-set eyes in wedge-shaped faces. The were wearing patchwork clothing, rather like the red man, and were sitting and talking. As we got closer, we saw that they had square teeth, not those of a carnivore.

One of them saw up, and stood up. When Thymelixsen and I waved, they all stood. When we got closer, they were gathered in a group behind one in front. Oddly, they moved in concert, except for the one in front, who was the most silvered; presumably he was the oldest. He was also the largest. Cor recognized the tracks they were making: these were a group of the fruit gatherers.

We stopped perhaps thirty feet from them, and when the front one gestured to us, I noticed that they had double opposable digits, all thumbs. Thymelixsen gestured back, and said that we use speech. The leader made some noises, and Thymelixsen replied. Their leader tried what was obviously a different language. Thymelixsen tried speaking in Elix, and the leader replied in something that was related to Elix, perhaps a very old version of it. I listened, and it started to come clear as the leader greeted us. He asked if we spoke any other language, and I tried Ovahon, but he didn't know that.

He asked about thread use, and Thymelixsen said that he knew a little. The leader drew one of his threads out, and Thymelixsen slowly drew one out. The leader's thread stayed stable around his hand, but Thymelixsen's tended to float up. He gestured about putting his thread into Thymelixsen, and Thymelixsen should reciprocate. Once the thread was incorporated, they could talk to each other, and Thymelixsen said that it was like speaking Elix, even though the rest of us heard an unknown language.

The leader asked if we were new here, and when Thymelixsen said yes, he was told that there are few new people here, so when new people come, there's celebrations. They, however, are from here, and made here, by the creators of the kathel to serve the kathel, both by gathering fruit and doing other menial labor, and by feeding them (and making more of themselves when the numbers are low). That is their role, and they seem fine with it. The leader touched Thymelixsen, and said that there was nothing of the kathel kids in him. He touched Jack, and sensed some rainbow dust in him.

The leader said that few go home, and if people stay, they must learn how to use the threads. It takes travel and exploring, and that leads to finding the edge within ourselves. Once people see all and want to become all, few choose to come back to the roots. He said that we can work so that we're no longer losing threads, but then we wouldn't be able to go home. To be able to go back to our root, we have to go from where we came drom, by the clouds.

He described how things are run in Wanderhold. Four kathel run the city. When we arrive, they'll choose to eat us or not. They recognized Toosef's name, the kathel who let us through the Veil, but everyone who comes here is let through by Toosef. Ult traders come from some roots to bring things back and forth in trade. They do not use the same gate that is guarded by the kathel, so when they go back to the roots, they may be other places or times than where they started. Still, they remember how to come here.

There are teachers of threadwork in the city. Everyone there works for the kathel, who are for themselves. And all creation is for creation.

Thymelixsen drew the triangles May had seen in her visions, and the leader said that they were the symbols of the kathel who run Wanderhold. The symbols are the same; the color shows which one is which:
an orange triangle on a green circle is Vempor;
a green triangle on an orange circle is Bove
a yellow triangle on a blue circle is Vosh (who is the kathel these gatherers work for)
a blue circle on a yellow circle is Gaunt

He told us that kathel don't oppose kathel, and all kathel are for kathel. This place is all for kathel, where they can choose whatever they want, except that are not allowed to go to the roots. The trap is for those who try to go to the roots. The kathel who choose here are content to stay here.

The leader said that they know of the bionlear, and he could feel the knowing of the bionlear through Thymelixsen's thread. The bionlear is from before the kathel. And the bionlear and the creators are from the same place, and work together. The bionlear could take the taint from us, but where the bionlear lives is too dangerous to travel there; we would die from all the creation energy. From there, the bionlear goes to the roots.

Time in the roots is one way, but time here is all ways. We need to find the name of Toosef's brother, the kathel who guards the way back, who can get us to the proper root in the proper time, rather than the Ult method of going back to the roots, which ends up being hit or miss, in world and in time.

The edgewalkers would take people to the edge before they're ready, making a deal with the rainbows to keep half of the threads for themselves, and half for the rainbows.

Thymelixsen asked about the purple plant May had seen in her vision, and the leader said it was gerelka. It's used to make a drink that makes people happy and go to sleep, though it is poison to the gatherers. Vempor uses the backpacks of purple juice for killing when there are troubles with the workers.

Interestingly, the leader said that we're not servants of the kathel, but children of the creators, made for another purpose.

Not long after that, whatever power of exchanged threads they'd been using to communicate ran out. The gatherers bowed, and headed off into the woods. Thyemlixsen told us all this, and said that the leader had said that he would not remember what he'd been asked nor what he'd said after a while, which is why Thymelixsen asked as many questions as he had. Thymelixsen, too, would forget, so he told us as quickly as he could, and told us to tell him again once he'd forgotten.

We again debated what to do, and in the end, decided that Thymelixse would cast a bird form spell on Jack, who would then go scouting to the farm. We would wait for him on the path, with Thymelixsen able to sense where he was due to the magic on him.
After the excitement of the thundering herd of illusion, we settled back down on the path. Thymelixsen started working on a new fetish of purpose, partly because most of ours had worn out, and partly to see whether this would get another interruption from the kathel in the woods. Cor and May were on watch while Jack and I slept.

May prayed, and was given a vision; they woke us so she could tell all of us at once. Interestingly, she said that she was really there, rather than someone else, though Cor affirmed she'd been there praying on the path the whole time.
It was hard to sense the Mother when she started, and then suddenly she was in a castle with shiny wood furniture. There was a tall woman like the one Thymelixsen's seen, of no specific race, who was pregnant, wearing gold and white and a crown. May was lying on the ground, and the woman helped May up. She looked outside, and saw that outside the tower was changing, showing first the ocean, then a destroyed area, then fields, and so on. Then it stopped, and it was here. The woman pointed, and the tower got closer to a farm with some huts near it, that's not so far from where we are. There were wagons with some barrels on them, and there were other barrels around. The fields were filled with dark purple plants with a spike in the middle. When May touched one, it felt like animals rather than plants. There were a couple of workers, very big and burly, with black fur or hair, snouts, and wearing just pants. They were using knives to cut up the plants they were putting into barrels. Off to one side was a contraption rather like a still, with a low flame underneath, and a purple liquid being made, that smelled vinegary. One of the barrels was leaking foamy purple stuff, and the grass around it was shriveled. May looked in the hut, and one room had a bed in it, while the other had some kind of metal things with nozzles, designed to be worn, that were covered in purple. May used a stick to get some of the purple off, then tossed it in the fire, where it flamed up. The backpack with nozzles had a green oval with three orange triangles, the inverse of the symbols she'd seen on the Ult in her previous vision. Back outside again, the woman pointed to the field, the workers, and so on, and frowned. She put May's hand on her belly, and when she pointed at the metal backpack thing, it upset the baby. May asked if others were making the workers make the purple stuff, and the woman said no. Where did it come from? They went back into the tower, and from there she could see Wanderhold from afar, with enormously tall walls and blinking lights. There was a ring of light above, almost as wide as the city, somewhat obscured by the cloudy haze (more confirmation that her previous vision was set in the city). She could see small shapes flying around, possibly the size of Ult ships. May asked if we could stop them doing this bad thing, and the woman nodded, but when May asked how, she got no reply. Then the woman touched her on the shoulder, heart, and head, then on her cheek and May woke up from talking with the Mother.

May said that the workers weren't slaves, and knew what they were doing. The farm is on a spur off the path, not so far away from us. We talked about possible plans to find out more about the situation, since it's likely that there's more than just the one farm making this stuff (though May saw no others). Which would mean it would be something we should interrupt being used at Wanderhold, rather than the production on one farm.

May said that there were furs in the huts, but it wasn't clear from where they might have come. They were colorful, so they might have been kathel. Or perhaps the watermelon dogs. Another mystery. May had also noticed that the barrels and huts were wooden, and there were sticks around; obviously not from these trees.

We debated what we could do to find out more (possibly putting a fetish of Thymelixsen's on the wagon, so we could find the destination in Wanderhold, or Jack going with the wagon, hidden in a barrel or underneath the wagon (which seemed to be dragged by the workers, not pack animals)).

We didn't reach any conclusions, and eventually went back to other things while we rested. May and Jack went to sleep, waking up later for watches as we traded off through the night. Thymelixsen cast another spell, then slept; casting takes so long that not in the watch rotation when he casts. At least there was plenty of time to practice my blessings.
Cor and Thymelixsen too the first eight-hour watch, and May and Jack and I took the second eight-hour watch. We weren't in the same hurry, now that we know we need to wait a while before getting to the city with some Ult threads in some of us, giving time for them to change over.

There was time for all of us to practice during our watches. I used my active-watch time in alertness, worked on Touch of Purity, then asked May to help me with resisting layered magic.

When Thymelixsen woke up, he found that the bird spell had worn off early. We debated taking the time for him to cast it again now, but in the end, decided to get closer to the city first. I suggested we continue running, since that would leave us the most time for practice, and for Thymelixsen's casting, if that was what he wanted to do.

I changed my clothes around, putting the Ult clothes under my armor and other clothes, so they couldn't be seen; the others did as well. I put the other Ult stuff (bags and belt pouches) into other sacks also. Cor thought we should bury the things, but if they're hidden, I don't think it makes a difference, unless we bury the Ult clothes as well.

May blessed us with Guidance of Nature, and we set out, pausing whenever we needed to refresh that blessing, and for me to heal whatever losses people had from the run.

It was during the third time running that Cor and Thymelixsen noticed motion off to the left in the woods. The kathel children were back, and pacing us. There didn't seem to be anything to do about it, really, other than stay on the trail and continue.

After nine hours, we stopped for the day, which left more time to practice. I was pleased to have the chance to work on two more of my blessings.

We set up the watch for the night, careful to have more than one person awake and at least one person alert, given that we knew the kathel children were out there. Thymelixsen started casting his bird form again, Jack went to sleep, and May stayed on watch while Cor and I prayed.

I'm so glad she did: she saw some large shapes coming towards us in a line. She used Jack's spyglass to see a line of woruckus coming towards us, huge green and brown ones with spiny backs, tusks from their cheekbones, and short trunks. They were huge, the width of the whole path, and it seemed like we'd either be crushed or pushed off the path, even though Cor thought it unlikely that they were real, given how single file they were coming. I had a sudden thought and woke Jack. "Jack, take us into shadow on the path!" Which he did, though it shook Thymelixsen out of his casting. He even took us past the woruckus on the path, and we noticed that they didn't have any shadows: they were, in fact, illusory. Thymelixsen confirmed by sensing magic.

When we came out of shadow, Cor yelled, "Nice try, but you could just come and talk with us!"

Thymelixsen noted that amongst the group of kathel children tracking us, they have Visic, Astaric, Pauchy, and Esmic magics for sure, and possibly more (all kinds, since they're kathel?), and walk in the trees. They can read our minds, since that's how they got the woruckus, from May's mind (the ones I've seen looked a bit different). And distance probably doesn't matter with the mind reading. His best guess is that they chose something that would be recognized by the one person watching.

Why did they do this? To get us off the trail to mess with us further? Or to break Thymelixsen's casting? Or to see how we'd react, testing us? None of us know.
We traveled another hour, then decided to camp. It was at about this time that Jack came back to himself from the effects of the fruit, and said that the rainbow entity was going to make a copy of him to be back in the rainbow plane, where there's a Jack-shaped hole, which could be filled either by Jack or by a copy of Jack (which is to say, there could be different paths towards getting everything there). He's still all here, though, and some of him is copied there. (I wonder whether some of what was copied was what the kathel control magic on him...).

Jack described how it seemed to him: he was sitting in the library of himself in his mind when the Red Man came in with two rather ghostly Ult flanking him. Jack was there, and another, reading-in-the-library-of-Jack Jack. That one looked annoyed, which Jack himself never does. The Red Man took a while to convince the Jack who wasn't Jack to get up and go, gesturing and looking stern. The ghostly Ult flanked not-Jack, and walked him out of the room into a bright place with a machine that was everything. Jack thought that the door might be the edge, that we might be supposed to put the parts of us that aren't us out that door.

This lead to more discussion, of course, of what Jack had gone through, and about the role of the gods, how other worlds do or don't have the same gods with there-specific aspects. Cor thought that when the gods left, it was to fight in the line, which would explain why Krondaliken was the last one back from the line, since he can't leave a fight. Jack thought about this, and suggested that maybe the gods came back because they're holding the line, but it's so close, so high up the roots, that they needed to come back.

The conversation shifted to working with the threads. Cor asked who was taking threads; he and Thymelixsen had already taken some of the Ult threads, and took more. May, Jack, and I prayed. I was not answered, though my gut feeling was that it would be wrong for me to use someone else's life in this way.

May was granted a vision in response to her question about what to do, what path to take here, how to survive.
She had blue-green skin, three toes, and was running on all fours through a city. In the sky there was a ring of yellow glowing. It might have been the place the Ults come from, because she was being chased by Ults, who were wearing orange, with three green triangles set sash-like across their chests. She ducked into an alley, and tried to jump up from there into the rubble, but they shot her with one of their weapons, and her threads were going up. Then they shone a yellow light scepter on her, and the threads went back into her, then up into it. May also said that the Ults' eyes are big, blue, and glowing, and they have no mouths.
(I wonder if this means that they always get sustenance from threads, even at home? We certainly are not able to see/use threads at all back home.)

May said she didn't want to be part Ult, taking in an Ult thread, since they were mean. Cor pointed out that we needed to take our time before getting to the city, so we wouldn't annoy the Ults by being sensed as with Ult threads inside.

Jack, too, was vouchsafed a vision when he asked if it were acceptable to put threads in. He got an answer that seemed to not be a no, but described the effects of that choice.
He was crouched in a windy place, in a long, lean, blue body, that had two-toed feet and two-fingered hands with thumbs. He was with a friend, who was yellow with blue and green, big eyes, and no nose. She was smooth and pretty. They were near the roots: the column of smoke is where the roots are (presumably from the fighting that is happening up the roots). They were hiding from the crystals, matrixes of energy around them, rather like frames. They talked in clicks and grunts. The friend said it was a bad iddea to come here. Jack agreed, but he was ready to go. Ahead, it was totally destroyed, exploded, all rock, nothing glowing, and a frozen column of smoke above many places. On top of a rise was a silver tree, a made thing, looking rather like the tower we'd come her through. It had five branches when it split. At the bottom, there was a door flanked by carved kathel. The one on the left was named Toosef, but the one on the right had no name known, because no one came back from that one. Jack's friend asked, "How can you go back? We're here." He wasn't sure if he could go, because he wasn't sure if he could use his legs as he used to, and he couldn't fly, because that would attract crystal attention. He used his eyes to look around, which felt odd, after using magic to see in all directions. If he went back, he'd be different, but there'd be enough of him. This made her sad, that he'd leave, but she said she'd help, then gate away. Which would attract attention, but she'd be gone by then. Interestingly, they could look at the void above with their eyes, but had to avoid looking at the crystals to avoid attention. They went towards the tree, into or through a smoke column. One of the kathel guards the way here, while the other guards the way back. They charged up to the tree, Jack put his hand on it, and the door opened into blackness. As he went through, all the threads fused into him, the matrix fell into him, and he fell into blue sky. All the other people of those threads fused into him, in his head and in his body. He was falling, twisting, floating towards a golden kathel.

Jack said he thought that we wouldn't remember anything if we went back the other way, but might remember something if we went this way. Cor pointed out that he'd rather get back sooner, so it might not be worth the time to travel back to the smoke column, into where the crystals were actively about, for this.

Jack said that the matrix in his vision was built with thread magic. And he remembered a bit more about the eviction of not-Jack: when the Red Man was getting him to leave, he wrung his ears, like Sunk do when upset.

Jack debated taking some of the Ult threads: if he took threads now, there there would be more of him. If he waited until he had fewer threads, then there would be more of not-him. There was a lot of debate about whether to take in threads. Jack said that there might be newly-made kathel threads that would be more us than Ult threads, which would replace ours without becoming Ultish. Cor and Thymelixsen were for using these threads now. I decided I knew my decision, so it wasn't worth my time to follow the rest of it when I could be veil-tuning. In the end, Jack didn't take any threads, but May agreed to take one. This lead to everyone else practicing with threads (Jack using his own), putting them in or taking them out. Thymelixsen tried to take out an Ult thread and turning it into tea essence to drink, but once he got it out, he couldn't do what he'd wanted. Perhaps he'll find someone to show him how to use threads in Wanderhold.
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