When they referred to this guy living on the edge of time in the deep Ethereal, they actually meant it. Not only was his tower right up against the edge of a portal that went directly into the plane of time, we were told under no uncertain circumstances by our guide not to get sucked into the thing because undiluted, chaotic, swirling time would tear us, our ship, and our minds apart even as it aged us past death into ashes before we could scream about the pain. Although time being what it is, he added, we could be stuck in that instance in our minds for an eternity. We all decided not to try that. Unfortunately, Kenari’s vision from the chrono-lily had us doing just that, seemingly on purpose. Still, we’re not suicidal so we decided to try to meet with this Aionius guy, first. Lenata once again had to do some fancy maneuvering to keep us right to the edge but not touching the maelstrom.
We knew we reached the correct place when the flickering image of the tower appeared. It seemed to squat right there on its floating rock at the edge of this giant mouth of doom. There was even a spindly-looking staircase that went from the tower to another rock situated even CLOSER to the place that every instinct within me screamed to run away from.
So here we had a conundrum. We were still in the Ethereal, on the edge of time, but the tower where we were supposed to go was only semi-real, or semi-solid. It was still flickering, dammit. We batted ideas back and forth for a while, not really getting anywhere with it. Then it hit me: if time is a plane—for real its own damn plane—then we might, with the right nudging and adjustments, get the planar sails to bring us into proper alignment with the tower and its inhabitants. I spoke without even thinking twice about it. Hey, we were brainstorming, and here’s the amazing thing: it actually worked! Kenari did that voodoo she does so well with the sails, and all of a sudden, the tower came into focus and there was a huge shout that went up from those who hadn’t passed out from the mind-numbing terror of being so close to rippy havocky madness.
Then the flesh golums came and we let Kenari do the talking, as we do when there’s shmoozing to be done. The golums left with the message and then returned to let us know that only three of us were supposed to come meet the crazy wizard who actually chose to live in this godsforsaken place. So Lenata remained behind, being the senior pilot on the boat and it was the kitty, the barmaid, and the bouncer again. I was all ready to go up into the nice, stone-walled tower and get away from the howling and the ticking, but instead they took a turn TOWARD the source of my unrest. I kept thinking ‘they can’t actually expect me to walk down those obviously unstable stairs, can they?’ But yes, they did. The cat and the bodyguard didn’t even flinch. Kenari could find her feet on a wet noodle stretched across a moat in a rainstorm, so she just bounced right on down without a care. Ef-Utan only ever shows fear toward the Lady of Pain, so I had no ally in misery there. I swallowed, gripped the rail, and prayed the stairs would hold me.
About halfway down, I saw the guy (Mad Wizard, I presume?) feeding what appeared to be 10’ iron poles into the swirling mass of time. You know the saying ‘I wouldn’t touch that with a ten foot pole’? Well, apparently, he would. Then he pulled it out: rusted, twisted, destroyed from where it went in. He studied it for a moment and then tossed it on a pile of similarly twisted poles, muttering ‘Hmm, slower by a quarter of a second.’ It was then I noticed the fresh pile of unbent poles on his other side and began to relax. This was routine for him. The stairs had been tested and he’d been out her for who knows how long interacting with undiluted time and he was fine. I regained my composure before we reached the base of the stairs and began to stare, fascinated, into the maelstrom. I’m ashamed to say I missed half of what was said, but I’m pretty sure most of it was recap of how and why we got here for the Aionius’s benefit. Next thing I know, he’s taking us totally seriously and wants us to go into his tower while he figures us out. I tried to tell him that it’s been tried before, but you know how wizards can be. So we sit in his nice cozy tower in his library (whereupon Kenari starts drooling at the books) drinking his lovely brandy and being glad that we got here in one piece. That’s when I pulled out my diary and started to write and now he’s coming back so I’ll have to write more later.