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GREY ISLANDS (Dominion of the)

Location: In the centre of the New Alphatian Sea, east of Ionace, north of Aquas, southeast of the Sundsvall Maelstrom. AS

Area: 13,500 sq. mi. (34,965 sq. km.).

Population: 200 scattered on the various islands opened for colonisation, plus stationed soldiers (100) guarding the area (notably the close-by Sundsvall Maelstrom), and students and faculty from Alphatia during the academic year (currently about 200).

Language: Alphatian (various dialects).

Coinage: Alphatian Standard: crown (gp), mirror (sp), judge (cp).

Taxes: 15% income tax on everyone of servant status or higher. Slaves are counted as the property of the owner and the product of their labour is taxed as income for the owner. Nayce collects taxes from its subjects, Alphatia that of its own (school faculty).

Government Type: Military dictatorship, member of Nayce.

Industries: Magical research, teaching of magic.

Important Figures: Dariyana (Student).

Flora and Fauna: All flora and fauna from the Grey Mountains has died because of the brutal climactic change brought by the new position of the land, i.e. oceanic instead of mountainous. Only some underground species have survived (mostly fungi and small insects). Hardy mosses are the vanguard of the future ecosystem that will eventually emerge. On the islands that have seen a small influx of settlers, vegetables and farm animals (mostly chickens) have been brought.

Further Reading: Previous almanacs.

Description by Dariyana.

[Continued from Sundsvall Maelstrom entry.]

Alphamir 16: The priestess awakens me. She says we are there. I sheepishly follow her. My mind is still clouded, I can't think clearly. I just go along.

There is a new yellow sun. Was the death of the old one only a hallucination as I was on the verge of dying? It's too hard to think about that right now, speculating, so let's just drop it.

There's an island, too. It seems rather small, but I'm not used to the scales of that water world. Maybe here it's what they consider a continent. I wonder if it's the only land of that forsaken world. I'm glad to be on land, anyway. I swear, I will never sail again, much less swim.

We are gathered at the small harbour, and led to the school. It's a small school. I'm shown to my quarters. I think I'm gonna sleep for two or three straight sleeps.

Alphamir 17: My diary is still working, apparently it was waterproof. It has recorded the events of-I prefer not to reminisce about them. I wasn't dreaming, then. I may still have hallucinated, though, that wouldn't have prevented the diary from recording what I told it, I think. I am confused, though, things swirl in my head. Is it like that to be feebleminded? There's something odd with the diary, though, it has skipped several sleeps. It seems to have happened right when I was passing from one maelstrom to the other. I'll ask to have the day confirmed; maybe the water did damage my diary after all.

I get up, since I'm awake anyway. I have no idea what time of the sleep it is, my diary only marks the days. There is something wrong-again. It is dark when I look out the window. The sun is gone, again, and there are tiny lights in the sky. This is a strange plane: flat, engulfed in water, with suns that die-and are born?-and are replaced by tiny dots of light. At least magic works. I think.

That's amazing. The birth of a sun! The water spits it red-hot, then it cools off and becomes that dull yellow characteristic of the suns of this world. That's beautiful, indeed.

A bell rings, same sound as at the university at Andaire, meaning we are to gather for class. I'd like to keep watching for the sun going up and up away from the water into the sky. Maybe I'll get some answers if I go to class, though. Okay, let's attend.

Our teacher is wrapped in spider-silk. An Alphatian spellcaster, an anchor amid all that craziness. Good, he's asking for questions rather than starting a lecture, at least he knows what we're interested in-a quality not so common among the faculty, I noticed over the years. The sun rises and sets every sleep, in a succession of "days" and "nights." At "night" there are "stars" in the sky, and the "moon" is more visible. The large body of water that surrounds our island is a "sea." All of this seems unnatural to me. Some simpletons call simple things like a skyship, or magical healing, or turning into a bird a soaring into the sky, unnatural things, but obviously they have not seen a "sea," or a "night" with no suns but "stars" and "moon."

Incidentally, I notice that we are not all present. Maybe some decided to skip class, but I think something much bleaker happened to them on their way to the island. I know all too well what almost happened to me. I shudder just thinking about it.

I go watch the sun set. It is beautiful, and so sad, to see a sun die. A sun is born every sleep, lives for a few hours, then dies. I wonder if twins can be born, sometimes.

Alphamir 18: Classes actually start. I have a feeling we have rather intensive classes, aimed at making spellcasters out of us, nothing else. I didn't think I'd ever say that, but I think I'm gonna miss the other classes-history of Alphatia, geography, philosophy, arts, etc. At Andaire I used to dismiss then as lesser classes, and listen-well, sometimes anyway-only for spellcasting classes (and sometimes, basic alchemy or basic necromancy or such, as well), but practicing only spellcasting isn't that much fun. Oddly enough, I long for an introduction to air magics class, or some such.

Alphamir 25: I've watched the sun rise and set several times now, so I decide to tour the school in my free time instead this sleep. The school's small, with few facilities. There is a library, and assorted laboratories, but nothing like a map room, or arts rooms. Some commoners are working on expanding the buildings.

Sulamir 13: Empress Eriadna's Birthday. There are no beggars on the island, so we are given the sleep off instead. I decide to explore the island for myself. It is an island all right, there is water on all sides. I don't walk around its perimeter-it is a small island, but not that small, and hilly, and I'm not good at walking-but enough to confirm that there is water all around. I go back, the sight of all that water is oppressive.

Sulamir 17: But if I am trapped on an island, how am I going to leave it? How will I return to Alphatia? This is not a school, it's a prison.

Sulamir 19: I just realised something. When the academic year is over, we'll leave the prison-school, and return to Alphatia, like the students last year. Okay. But how many ways do they have to send us back? I am not going through the whirlpool again, I'm not. I'm not even boarding a ship. I will be an aristocrat when I graduate, so they can't just order me around and send me to my death.

Sulamir 24: If there was another way home to Alphatia, I think they'd use it for both trips. I made some inquiries, and a gate that goes one way can be made two-ways. The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced the only two-way gate between Alphatia and this plane is the maelstrom. I can't fathom why they can't create a safer gate, but I think they can't. I can't resolve to follow this suicidal plan. I don't think they'll leave me much choice, though, so there's no avoiding it. I'll have to kill myself, it's the only way. I'll die anyway, so I might as well die the way I choose, and not suffer all the water-going, swimming, drowning, and freezing.

Sudmir 13: I think I've seen something. I'm not sure because it was only a black dot on the horizon, but it may be another island. Even on the clearest day from a hilltop on the southern side of the island, I don't think I could see well enough to make it out with certainty. What I'd need is a spyglass.

Vertmir 25: Impossible to find a spyglass anywhere, but fortunately I remembered enough of my astronomy class to devise a crude magnifying glass out of stolen material over the past few weeks.

Yes, yes, it's land. Another island. That's another island! I have to get there. Yes, I will go there, even if there's nothing but death to be found. I don't know how, but I will go there-even if I have to swim my way there, and I'm terrified of swimming.

Tslamir 8: Commoners are my salvation! Well, I hope. Those Alphatians that work here on the island, to expand the school, they don't seem to be Alphatian. I mean, they seem Alphatian, but I think they are full-time residents of this plane. The ship that rescued me from-well-it had a second flag that I could not identify, I think it is the flag of a kingdom or dominion we have here. Yeah, those marines didn't look quite like imperial marines. Neither does the garrison here. I think the workers are also residents of this colony. Since I'm not sure what the garrison is watching but us, I think that, when trying to escape, it's not so much of an idea to ask them for assistance. I stand a better chance with the workers.

Tslamir 10: I hover near the workers. Labourers, probably slaves and servants, I'm not sure they will be of much help. They speak some local dialect of common Alphatian. I'll just take one at random. They stop talking as I approach and avoid looking at me, they probably think I'm aristocracy.

They are grossly uncooperative. If I didn't think they might be useful, I'd bully them into answering me. Since we're kept prisoners here, maybe they're even instructed to avoid us. I've got to find someone more cooperative-smarter would help, too-, maybe a craftsman or some overseer. They don't seem to have wizardly supervision, so there must some freeman with some empowerment somewhere.

I'm finally shown to the boss. Nice-looking fellow, with a twinkle in his eyes. Intelligence, maybe. He looks up from his papers, reclines in his chair with a wicked smile on his lips. He appraises me up and down, asks my name-how rude, but if I am to get his cooperation... I'm uncomfortable in his presence, I'm clumsy, I can't use my girlish charm effectively on him. I must get him in my pocket, though, he may be my only chance to get away. I'd better end this meeting for today, and get myself prepared to come back to deal with that fellow some other time.

Tslamir 28: I know more about that freeman. I think it's time that I meet again, it's been half of the academic year already. I prepped for this second encounter, prettied myself so I could charm my way.

He doesn't appear surprised to see me. I am friendly and flirty, he is charming and-I hate that-superior. I think he knows very well what the real purpose of my coming is, but intends to take advantage of it so he plays along with me. That's not so bad, though, because if I'm not wrong it means that he might help me, at least.

He announces unblinkingly that he hails from the Kingdom of Horken. I don't know that kingdom, and I bet he knew exactly what he was doing when he dropped that clue that there is some other land somewhere. He's thrown me the ball, now he's waiting for me to throw it back. Very well, smarty, I'd love to visit you in your kingdom someday. That's it for today, to be continued on next round.

Andrumir 9: So, when can I come to visit you, dear friend, you know I'd love to. Of course, he'd be happy to receive me after the academic period, or, with a broad grin, earlier if I wish to. I'll think about it, friend.

That was round two. Real business coming next.

Andrumir 18: We meet in secret, 'cause I don't want the other workers to become suspicious and report my visits to the faculty. We talk and flirt, and I give him what he wants.

Horror, there are no ships at all that come or leave the island during the whole academic period-all traffic takes place during the break only. The only way to leave the island is by way of magic, then. All for nothing. I feel crushed, I weep like a baby. I feel like an abandoned baby, I am so alone and desperate. What will become of me?

He tries to comfort me, I keep sobbing.

What? Maybe there's a way. What, what, please tell me. I'll do anything.

I can't build a crude boat. Yes, I prefer if you do it for me. Hmm, I must clear my mind, listen to what he says. Stop crying, girl. Well, without supervision using some building material to build a raft may work. A raft, yes. No. I can't row across all that water. I would die at sea, that's even worse.

Cyprimir 20: The raft is taking shape. I didn't mention my fear of water. I don't think I can resolve to taking to sea on that hazardous collection of logs. This is no good.

Hastmir 3: The Kingdom of Horken is far to the south, the island I've seen is just another island. It's probably deserted, too. I didn't realise this world was so vast. And all of these lands are separated by large bodies of water, sigh. It is indeed probably not realistic to try to go all the way to Horken, so I'll just try for the next island. It will be hard enough to cross all the way to it already. I hope I won't chicken at the last minute. All that water, brrr!

Hastmir 15: The raft is not seaworthy yet, not safe enough for me, apparently. Frankly I don't see how it can ever be safe, anyway.

Eimir 6: The raft is ready and hidden. I got a look at it, and it doesn't appear any safer to me. I'll have to trust my life to that. That's a gloomy perspective.

Eimir 15: Only one month left before the end of the academic year. The teachers are pushing us so we all cast our first spell by then, and graduate. My mind is set on other things, though. I am secretly learning how to row that floating casket of mine and how to survive at sea. It's very unpleasant, but I grimly train anyway.

Eimir 19: It's my birthday today. I try to act normally, but I am actually completely frightened, because tonight I leave the school island, when the sun is down. I have chosen that day because my friends won't be surprised when I leave my room to sleep over at my lover's, and they'll cover for me when I'm not back in the morning. That'll give me some time before they start looking for me.

My diary will stop functioning in a few minutes, at the exact moment of my birth. Daddy made it to work for one year only. I'll miss dictating my thoughts into my diary. In a few hours I'll board that makeshift boat, and my life is gonna change forever. Good bye, diary, good bye, daddy.