Shojin moved to the table farthest from the bar and just sort of dumped himself into a chair. He looked totally dejected. I had no idea what was wrong, but there would be time for that later. As I made my way to the bar it occurred to me that the bartender had to have the friendliest appearance I had ever seen on a human. At least I think he was human.
He looked to be taller than most elves and was built like a brick outhouse. I smiled and wondered quickly if he was single, but pushed that thought away. I don’t know if he saw the smile for what it was or just thought I was being friendly but he smiled even wider back at me.
I asked him what this place was and he waved an arm around the room and declared this place we were and said again that “Everyone is welcome at the End of the World.” I got it this time. This tavern was the “End of the World”. I chuckled at the clever word play of it. He beamed at my getting the joke. It was clearly something he was proud of.
Ok, so what about this place of islands floating in a sea of nothing. Apparently this village, such as it is, is known to those that know of it as The Archipelago. This place was just full of jokes. I was so curious how this place came to be here. We exchanged introductions and I learned his name was Jerry. It fit him well.
This is what Jerry told me.
‘Some time ago a woman, who might not actually have been a woman, and she might not have been from this world or even plane of existence, wanted to escape the world. She was escaping debtors or an evil husband or was abdicating a throne or was living a life in exile, came upon a small cave hidden behind a rock near the base of the mountain, much as everyone who came to this fantastic place did, and decided “Why not?” and so she made this place her home. However a simple cave wouldn’t do and so she made it more… interesting. When she was done the place looked much as it does now, however at that time there was just a keep-like structure on the center “island”. And over the years a handful of others, always escaping from where they were on a journey of one sort or another ended up here. There were maybe a hundred people living here.’
I’ve mentioned before that some of my gifts weren’t working since we got here and was told that this place has some special properties. First, this place exists a bit outside the normal flow of time and space. A week in here is a day out there. This was useful if you were trying to puzzle something out and needed the time to do so. The flip side of this was that most gifts of an arcane or holy nature failed to work here, but that didn’t leave people unprotected completely. This entire place was a sanctuary to those within whether they wanted it to be or not and there was something powerful that protected all in the Archipelago from harm so long as they were here. The only ills and injury one could sustain were those incurred simply by aging. That was reassuring in a way, but not being connected to the Lady was something I felt inside me and I didn’t like it.
I asked if there were any shops in this place and the man said that there was one but the cost was…odd. Apparently the cost varied from person to person so it was hard to say what it was at any given time. He said the only way to know for sure was to ask when we got there. He gave me directions and I thanked him. I asked if there were accommodations to be had at the End of the World and he just smiled and said but of course. For a slightly overpriced room, I did get a commemorative “I’ve been to the End of the World and all I got was this handkerchief” handkerchief for the cost. So there was that.
By then I’d realized I had wasted enough time in not finding out what was up with Shojin and wanted to deal with that before anything else had happened. Plus based off of how Jerry had explained time worked here it felt like we had some time. So I ordered a bottle of wine, got glasses for each of us and headed over to talk to Shojin who was currently being comforted by Gnoman, which was the easily one of the top three most terrifying things that I had seen in my entire life.