The Magnificent Spire of Rahn
The Travelers Guide to Aqualon
Read the Previous Column
I am sure you have been anxiously waiting for this column, dear reader. Field journalist and explorer extraordinaire Thadeus Fletcher reporting in from the great Spire of Rahn! If you know your history, you will be aware that where this magnificent and mysterious building stands today, a great, floating hall sat in the middle of Lake Rahn, called ''The Hall of Lake Rahn'', which was erected by the water mages of the Gothenwald domain in the year 235 of the Age of Heroes, during the Great War. They sought to consolidate their power against the invading Nordmen and built the hall to be difficult to access and easy to defend using water magic. Even then it was a last line of defense against Angel Saxons, Kaltani, Skôts, and Gallians, out for Middlish blood. Between the 250s and 310s of the current age, the mages of Lake Rahn raised a great spire of ice around their hall, which still stands inside the heart of what is now called the Spire of Rahn. To make the ice everlasting, they engraved it with secret Angel Script stolen during the war from Angel Saxon master smiths. And now it stands eternally and beautifully. So where to begin its description, which as the avid reader may be able to tell by now I have been putting off? For one: Lake Rahn is a magnificent lake of tremendous size, fed by the melting water of Mt. Toke and its foothills. Glistening in the midday sun, it truly is a beautiful sight to behold. And the spire at its center is equally gargantuan, perhaps as tall or taller than the old pyramids of Arkamanthali, and certainly more pristine and wonderful to behold. I am not surprised at all that tourism is one of the number one sources of income for the city of Aquaris. With such a sight, people surely come from far and wide just to catch a glimpse at the spire. It spirals upwards into a fine point and gleams beautifully in the sun, the ice refracting the light here and there, and little streams of water cascade down its sides here and there back into the lake like a magical fountain. And what appears to be windows made from thinner ice are strewn across the spiraling trunks of the strange architecture, surely providing a breathtaking view from the inside; one I plan on enjoying myself. I am in luck, for my erstwhile employers from the Yamato Black Market seem to have dealings with one of the mages of the spire, meaning I will be treated to a personal tour of the building. If you recall the previous column, last I wrote we were on a magic engine tour boat called a 'Rahn Runner' heading across the lake at a leisurely pace. However, this is not the direct continuation of that story, as we did not head to the Spire of Rahn directly. Shen, one of his men, and I are now at the eastern Twin Harbors, after spending a night at a cozy Inn called the Rahnside Inn in the prestigious Blue Quarter of Aquaris. Shen certainly has connections. Another one of these, his magus contact from the spire is set to pick us up at the harbor, and we soon see him approaching from the direction of the spire. Surprisingly to me, he just walks across the lake on foot, taking some time to actually arrive after we see him. His pace is pretty relaxed and walking across the lake seems to be quite literally a stroll for him. When he finally sets foot on the pier, he and Shen give each other a warm welcome, and I am introduced as Shen's temporary scribe, a man from beyond the Iron Belt. The magus, a wizened man with an almost stereotypical goat-like beard of grey, introduces himself as Arnfried Riedengrass, a scholar of Rahn holding the rank of a sapphire magus. He quickly takes a liking to my learned diction and tales from far away, and we build a fast rapport. I inquire about his title and learn that as mages of Rahn progress in their studies, they are awarded new ranks that usually come with a higher tuition and advanced courses and library access. Beginners are "dewdrop mages", intermediate scholars are called "rahnling mages", advanced scholars are called "sapphire mages", and the highest scholastic rank among those who study at the Spire of Rahn is "cobalt magus", though the special rank of "master" indicates that one is a high ranking member of the faculty, usually teaching one or more subjects. To my delight, Arnfried leads us across the lake with his water magic, and like him, we get to walk across the water. I actually take off my shoes to fully appreciate the experience and it is an odd sensation at least. As far as I can tell the water surface tension is so high that we just don't pierce through. If I carefully stick my toe in, it actually works, because it is a finer point. It takes easily half an hour or more to walk all the way to the spire, which seems to annoy Shen and his man, but is quite to the liking of Arnfried and me. We use the time to talk about this and that and enjoy the stunning scenery. As we close in on the spire, stilted houses actually pierce the lake surface and Arnfried explain that many of them are student housings, grouped by rank, and some are archives holding many tomes. Besides the occasional Rahn Runner, we also see other scholars of the spire walk across the lake on foot. I learn from Arnfried that to apply to the Spire of Rahn as a student, one either has to walk there on foot, already displaying some skill in water magic, or enter through the recommendation of a sapphire magus or higher. The closer the get the more impressively the spire towers up in front of us, and Arnfried explains that, in fact, the inhabitants of the entire city should be able to fit inside in an emergency. In such a situation, the mages of the spire can raise the lake and form a bubble of tough ice around the Spire of Rahn, where the populace can be kept safe during an attack. This has, however, only ever happened during drills, which are held once every ten years. We enter through a great winged door, and Arnfried leads us across a grand entrance hall, which is as pure white as the spire itself, adorned here and there wit weapons, glass case protected scrolls, and curios from all around Aqualon. We arrive at a sort of front desk and Arnfried procures visitor badges for the three of us. Apparently the spire does admit visitors frequently, but spots need to be reserved early and cost quite a hefty sum. Still, I would recommend putting a bit of coin aside for the experience to any traveler. In fact, if you make your way to Aquaris, which you should, be prepared to leave quite a bit of your money right here in the city. Between the Spire of Rahn and the wonderful inns, some of which have spas with water magic treatments to alleviate some of that back ache you've been schlepping around, you'll be treated to wonderful vistas of rustic old buildings and a seafood cuisine that is to die for. Once we are all set up, Arnfried conjurs up a rahnling magus that works under him seemingly out of nowhere to give me a full tour of the most interesting vistas of the spire, while he himself takes Shen and his man to his office to discuss some business which I can only assume is of the most reputable and honorable sort. The rahnling magus is called Tim Trast, and seems trastworthy indeed - if my editor takes that pun out, I quit. He has blue-dyed hair, which seems odd to me, but when I ask him about it, he explains that it is something a number of scholars at the spire do to protect blighters from persecution, as they often dye their white hair to hide their condition. By spreading dyed hair as a fashion statement, those who do dye it out of necessity are less likely to be scrutinized. I commend him for his progressive thinking, and am informed that if progressive thinking is not to be expected at a place of learning, mankind is truly doomed. I give him 4 out of 5 for effort and 2 out of 5 for smartassery. As he leads me up through a winding ramp that leads to the tip of the Spire, we come by hundreds of doors, each for study halls and offices, but also broad floors with desks and potted plants and windows that overview the breathtaking lake and on some sides the canopy of roofs and veins of streets making up the city of Aquaris. Once or twice we turn into a lecture hall or laboratory and Tim explains its use and classes that are typically held in these, and as we reach the tip, there is a broad observation platform built just below it with a thin window of clear ice that is broader than most houses, overlooking not just the city, but the Middle Lands themselves. We are so far up that I can even spot the Tower of Five in the distance and the tip of Mt. Toke to the right. A large telescope for stargazing is also mounted here and it outclasses even the Tenzer observatory on Graanshoof by several orders of magnitude. We sit down at a table on the observation platform and there is a sort of lunch program in place here that caters seafood and other delicious local cuisine to the hungry tourist at a steep markup and the students, who get a solid discount, though it seems that the crowd here is still relatively well-off, if you catch my meaning. After a delicious meal, we descend the spire again, but this time we enter a sort-of elevator. It is a tube of clear ice in the center of the spire, several meters wide, with a broad disk of ice inside of it. Water pushes the disk up and lowers it down again, pumped in and out, as it seems by water magic. I learn from Tim that ''elevator duty'' is something students get for bad behavior and low grades. I ask him if it is wise to put the responsibility for droves of unsuspecting tourists into the hands of students with low grades and he laughs, informing me that if their grades were low enough to warrant that kind of distrust, they would have been kicked off the spire long ago. When I follow up with the question whether he meant ''kicked off the spire'' literally, he just laughs. Back at the bottom, we are soon met by Arnfried and Shen, who have concluded their business. I give my name and the address of my HJT office to Arnfried, hoping he will stay in contact with me in the future as I consider him a pleasant and intelligent person with much wisdom to share. As we leave the spire, this time taking a Rahn Runner back to the eastern Twin Harbors, Shen pats me on the shoulder with a wide smile, and I feel the uncomfortable sensation that he has a struck a good deal on something. What have I gotten myself into? T.F.
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