As Jothal entered the warm embrace of Mainstay, she couldn’t help losing herself in the relief that being at home brought. To her left and right were empty stalls that would sell delicious foods, hand-woven fabrics and clothing, and any kind of exotic ware you could imagine when day came. Jothal felt safe under the gray, smoggy sky. This was a welcome change from the darkness at Farthingsor. She inhaled deeply, smelling fresh earth and ore. The smoke of many metal chimneys rose up high, mingling with the air. She took a road to the east, winding through crowded buildings. The raucous noise of a popular tavern drifted above the sleeping homes. Soon, an iron sign came into view. It had beveled edges and was illuminated by orange Raon stones. In copper lettering, it read “Master Hebak’s Blacksmith Shop.” Jothal crept up to the door and slowly unlocked it with a tiny key. She quietly pushed open the door, so as not to wake her master.
The entrance to the shop was where the Master sold his goods. The inside of the house was almost entirely covered with metal in some form or another. There was a long metal counter where transactions took place and wares could be shown to prospective buyers. Behind the counter were racks of weapons, display cases packed with armor, and shelves lined with metal trinkets and toys. A hatch in the floor led down to the basement, where one could find the privy, basic storage, and a few rats. A staircase led up to the smith itself. A large round furnace sat in the corner of the room, surrounded by a number of anvils, hammers, a trough of water for quenching, and bags of coal and charcoal for fuel. Metal ore was thrown into one of a few unorganized cabinets that lined the wall closest to the stairs. Another set of steps, located beside the ones leading to the downstairs, led up to the living quarters. Two beds were fashioned from a metal frame and straw mattresses. A small table and kitchen were the only other furnishings on this floor.
It was here that Jothal found her master slumbering. She felt rather tired herself, but as she looked out of a tiny window at the mostly sleeping town of Mainstay, she caught a glimpse of the temple and remembered the warning she had for the High Priest. Jothal gingerly set down the rest of her gear near her bed and crept back down the stairs and out the front door. It must have been very late, or rather very early in the morning, for the smoggy sky had begun to lighten and turn ever so slightly pink with the rising of the sun. Jothal yawned, but quickly found the main road leading to the temple. Running purely on adrenaline, she approached the massive copper structure.
The temple was the heart of Ithoan culture. Made from the hull of the large metal ship in which the Ithoans had traveled to Lithilen many years ago. It was somewhat spherical and very large. Much like the gate to enter Mainstay, only an Ithoan knows how to access the temple. This temple was heavily guarded, for it housed the High Priest and his attendants, students, and advisors. The ceilings were high and almost entirely illuminated by Raon stones. The interior glowed a warm orange.
“I need to see the High Priest immediately!” Jothal whispered frantically to one of the attendants to the Priest once inside the temple. The attendant was making his rounds about the temple, watching over the meditating students and making sure that everything was in its proper place.
“The High Priest is occupied at the moment.” The attendant replied, nonchalantly. “I’m afraid you will have to wait until morning.” The attendant turned to walk away, but Jothal grabbed his shoulder to stop him.
“I don’t think you understand… The lives of our people are at stake. I barely made it back from my journey to Farthingsor.” The attendant sighed and motioned Jothal to follow him. They walked in a clockwise motion around the central alter to the Great Creator and stopped at the north end of the building.
“Wait here.” The attendant commanded, disappearing behind a sturdy door with a complicated lock on it. Jothal waited outside, trying to keep her weary brain alert. Shortly, although it seemed much longer to Jothal due to her weariness, the High Priest of Industry emerged from behind the door.
High Priest Tacims was an elderly man with a thinning, dark gray beard and bushy eyebrows. His head resembled polished stone and his eyes were wrinkled and wise. He wore a long silver robe, trimmed with gold thread swirled in intricate patterns by a fine craftsman. His skin was exceptionally pale due to not leaving the temple very often.
“High Priest.” Jothal greeted him, bowing slightly.
“Good morning, child. What brings you to my doorstep at this hour?” The Priest blinked in the orange light now flooding his vision.
“I’ve just returned from my journey to Farthingsor…”
“Ahh, yes. You are a Journeyman now, are you not? Hebak must be proud.”
“Yes, I suppose… but there’s something… something wrong out there. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s just this darkness that smothers all it covers. Like a giant sinister cloud.” Jothal found it hard to put her thoughts into words, but the High Priest smiled, placing a hand on her shoulder comfortingly.
“Yes, I know of this darkness. It is troubling indeed. While you were on your trip, some travelers visited me, speaking of this same darkness over their island homes, but you must not worry the people. Not yet. Not until we’ve figured out what it is and if we can stop it.” Tacims’ voice was hushed. “Until then, I have a job for you.”