Nobody is in the parlor when I come out this morning, so I head downstairs to the dining room. Auntie Emma is placing a platter of pancakes on the table. There are already some scrambled eggs and bacon out, and the explorers are chatting and eating. “Good morning, everyone.”

Pleasantries are exchanged, with Auntie Emma waving her now empty hands at me. “Sit and serve yourself, I have to get the syrup, and I’ll be right back!”

Mason smiles at me and says, “I’m sure you could magic some up, but she likes to heat it up, so it pours easy and melts the butter!”

Laughing and taking a seat, “That’s fine. I don’t feel obligated to magic everything I can; I want to because it’s new and fun!”

“We’ve all been where you are now,” Auntie Emma says, returning with the syrup. “Now that we are all here, fill a plate, and let’s talk. While we were chatting last night, Nirvana gave me some information to share. Based on what snippets I caught, there’s probably plenty of that to go around. I’ll start since I don’t think I have as much as the rest of you might.

I’ll be performing two ‘miracles’ on Nirvana’s behalf today. I’m to raise an island out of the ocean first and then assemble a temple as the second. She would like you to come to the temple tomorrow night, Jeb, to recognize you when the oracle announcement is broadcast globally. It would probably be a good idea for us all to spend tonight at the new temple as many things will happen tomorrow. Might want to bring some comfort items in your inventory if you do decide to stay.

Nirvana suggested that you three,” indicating the explorers, “let me ‘grant’ you classes as a bit of cover and to ‘smooth some ruffled feathers.’ Don’t know what all of that is about, but if it lets you get some things done easier, you should take her – or me, I guess, up on it,” smiles Auntie.

Gilden says, “I guess Nirvana told you we were planning on giving you one of the handbooks.”

“She did,” Auntie said, “but you don’t have to. The temple will come with an altar that has a copy of the manual and will be able to grant the spellcasting classes. I will be putting new acolytes to work scribing spell scrolls that we will sell to make the temple self-sufficient. We’ll also accept donations from patrons who want to touch the alter and see if Nirvana will grant them a spellcasting class.

“I’m guessing Nirvana has a doctrine for her church, symbols, and iconography.”

“Yes, and you will be able to see it all tonight,” Auntie replied. “She will use the endless knot as her ‘holy’ symbol. If you aren’t familiar with it, here’s an example,” and she placed a porcelain figure on the table.

“Ok, I have many things I want to do in town today. I don’t need any of the explorers to go with me.” Looking at them, “Your obligation for that is fulfilled; you can accompany me if you choose.”

Grumpy says, “Ok, that works for us as we wanted to help Auntie. We do have a few questions, though. This feels a little uneasy in our burgeoning relationship. Are you in a hurry to leave, or do we have time to coordinate a little bit?”

“We have time. I wasn’t trying to push anybody off. I like you guys, and I understand why you would be a little shaken. After all, you’re right, a lot of stuff happened yesterday that will have long-term impacts – and it sounds like even more will today and tomorrow too.”

A little relieved, Gilden says, “Good. That’s all we three wanted; you to know that things were happening fast and leaving us concerned for the future. And not just ours; if business is disrupted enough, there could be others unable to pay their hosting fee, which could result in a ‘true death.'”

“I am going to go out on a limb since I don’t know exactly what Nirvana has planned. This appears to be part of a plan that will help her identify people she wants to be sure will be able to do something. I don’t believe she will let anyone die a true death as a side effect of finding who she is looking for. Some way out will be provided.”

Grumpy says, “You are likely right. I’ve never heard of anybody dying a true death who didn’t want it to end. I’ve several stories from people who wanted it to end, and she didn’t facilitate.”

Auntie joins in with, “I think you will hear something about this tomorrow at the temple dedication ceremony. I can’t elaborate further because I only have a hint about it.”

“Ok, is the Explorer’s Association going to be folding or something?”

Mason, shocked, says, “No! Whatever, gave you that idea?”

“Nothing specific. Everybody was tense last night, and you are all pretty solidly behind Emma. I wasn’t sure if the changes were making you think to put the EA on hold or something.”

Mason smiled, “Oh, no. We’ve all known Auntie since either she joined Nirvana or we did – whichever is shorter. We’ve helped each other with many little things, even a few big ones. For example, Grumpy put up the money to buy this house and let Aunite pay it back.”

“It was just sitting in the bank, not that big a deal,” says Grumpy, a little red-faced.

“Really? Very nice, Grumpy! Since you brought it up, that’s one of my tasks today; house hunting.”

We figured based on your exclamation last night,” said Grumpy. We have a few things for you to consider. We think the graveyard will still be a big payout and are willing to loan you money against that. We also have rooms at the EA, and, of course, Auntie has space here.”

I started laughing. I couldn’t help it. I got up and moved a few seats down the table to where it was clear, held out my hand, and started dropping gold coins on the table. I stopped somewhere around 700 and turned to look at the group. All of them were staring wide-eyed at what was on the table.

“I don’t need a loan, and this is a drop in the well. I doubt I will ever need any material item while I am in Nirvana. Some items might require a few days of planning and preparation. But material wealth isn’t my goal and probably the only reason Nirvana is letting me cheat so much.”

Mason stutters, “ARC can grant you money and things?”

“Yes, there are some daily limits, and they don’t matter when it comes to ordinary things and the daily necessities of life.”

Gilden looks forlorn, “You could have had that, Mason, and you would never have to worry about anything again.”

Mason frowns, “I think that what Jeb just said only proves that it wouldn’t have worked for any of us that way. Plus, Solomon is the best kitty ever!”

Gilden just stares at me wistfully as I put it all away. “A man can dream, right?”

Grumpy just shakes his head, “So it wasn’t how much a house costs last night; it was how valuable what you can do is.” I nod, and he continues, “Then what is it you want?”

“I want a base of operations where I can do private training, set up safe teleportation spots, and come and go without drawing much attention.”

“The EA rents rooms to travelers and adventure teams. It has a staff that looks after the daily needs of the place and handles selling loot for adventurers. You may not need the last, but if you had a suite, you wouldn’t have to worry about cleaning and staffing it. People come and go all the time, and we have a training yard that hardly anybody uses, and you can rent. Does that sound like it meets your needs,” asked Grumpy?

“Yep. Shall we go by and work it up?”

“No,” says Gilden. “Go there and tell the receptionist your name. Instructions to issue you a member badge were given to the desk yesterday. It’s why we weren’t there with Grumpy at the start. Make all the arrangements there with the staff. If one of us shows up or gets involved, the rumors will fly, and you won’t have the same level of anonymity. You’ll have to reveal your real name, but only to the receptionist, and they take an oath, so it’s unlikely any of them will talk, even after the announcement tomorrow. You might get approached privately for a favor, though.”

“Sure, that’s sound advice. I plan on using a magical disguise, so I’ll do that before I go so that all they will see is my altered appearance. I’ll use that whenever I enter or leave to give myself a small amount of privacy. Better idea, I’ll pick up my badge, then go back in disguise to arrange for the suite. Nobody will associate Jebediah with Pretty Kitty then.

I’m excited – shall we get started on our tasks then?” Receiving various affirmations, I turn to Emma, “Auntie, I would like to buy all of your wine glasses and any other clear or blue-tinted glass you have – if we could collect about 7-8 pounds of it, and I also need about two pounds of pure silver. An Oracle should have an amazing staff,” I said, grinning at my friends!

“Oh! I want to see this,” exclaimed Emma! “I’ll get the candlesticks, Mason, you grab the cobalt glassware collection out of the den. You two help her! So exciting! Jeb, just take the wine glasses off the shelf there.”

Soon we’re all reassembled with a small mound of stuff stacked on the end of the table we weren’t using. I hand Emma 10 gold pieces and say, “I am sure it didn’t cost this much, but please take it anyway. It will be harder for you to shop and replace it in the near future.” Mumbling to myself more than talking to them, “Such a rich blue…I’ll need some clear to dilute it…I could swirl it…no a DNA helix of clear throughout the blue and a core of silver to add glint and glimmer.”

Gilden interrupts me, “If that’s why you wanted the silver, do not use the candlesticks, I have some mithril. It won’t tarnish or lose its luster. I have a bar; it’s worth 500 gold.”

“Done! Thanks, Gilden!” After the exchange, I study the example of the endless knot and declare, “I’m ready – stand back a little. Holding one hand out toward the materials and the other indicating where the creation was to appear, ‘Fabricate!'” Slowly from the ground up, a one-and-a-half-inch diameter staff begins to assemble. The first two inches are a rounded butt of blue glass. Then a bright one-millimeter wide wire appears in the center. A clear glass DNA helix, three millimeters wide on the outside and one millimeter wide on the inside against the wire, curls around the wire along the length of the staff. Cobalt blue glass fills in the rest until a seven-foot four-inch staff is in hand, then the top flares out to make an endless knot that is eight inches tall and four inches wide, matching the same one and a half inches in thickness that the staff has for a diameter. The millimeter wire runs through the center of each strand of the endless knot, just like it does in the staff. I’ve left the clear glass about half a millimeter shy of the surface of the blue glass and made a pair of matching groves offset by 90 degrees in the blue glass so that the surface is not completely smooth, providing some grip and reducing slippage. It’s beautiful. And the others agree with me. “One more spell, ‘GlassIron.'” A clear, high-pitched chime sounds in my ears. “A final step,” with a flourish, “I present before you, ‘Dawn’s Darkness.'”

“So dramatic,” Nirvana says without appearing. “I like the double eights, though, and the DNA helix is a lovely touch. Emma, how about one like it in deep greens, banded like agate, instead of the blue?”

“That sounds lovely,” Emma exclaimed! And then she was grasping a staff.

Nirvana said, “Since Jeb started the alliteration, its name is ‘Gia’s Grace.’ Very well, now you both have symbols of office, and I’ll enchant them with the following effects. It will be soulbound to you while you hold your office. Hold it and say, ‘wand’, ‘rod’ or ‘staff’ to change its size to 16″, 32″ or 8′, respectively. You may use it as a holy symbol in any of those forms. Finally, while they are made of glass, they will be as hard as adamantium. Bash heads as you need to!”

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