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The Planar Wars

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"We are the Watchers," the professor intoned before the class. "We observe and record, but we do not interfere."

The students watched, pencils poised over their notebooks as the professor paced in front of the room, his hands punctuating his words.

"These are troubled times we live in, a great turning point in history, and we must be present in order to record this history as it happens, objectively. Without our objective viewpoint, history will be written by the winners, who will put their own spin on things in order to make themselves appear to have been the good guys. Millennia from now, people will read your chronicles, and know the unclouded truth, untouched by those who put their own spin on events. But most importantly, we must never interfere, or we lose that objective viewpoint."

A young man toward the front of the class raised his hand, and the professor pointed at him. "You mean, even if we see children being massacred, we can't try to stop them?" he asked.

"That is correct. You must record the atrocities as they happened, but do nothing to stop them from happening."

An elven woman toward the side of the room raised her hand. The professor nodded to her, and she said, "What if we are attacked?"

"That is a very good question, I'm glad you asked that," the professor stroked his chin. "If you are attacked, you are allowed to fight back, as non-lethally as possible, and travel out of the vicinity as soon as possible. Primarily, this should not be a problem, as you will learn Illusion techniques to render yourself invisible under pressing circumstances. However, some of them have developed ways to detect you anyway, and may react hostilly. We must, however, not allow their antagonism to color our objective viewpoint."

The students rapidly took notes, but in the back of the room, one half-elf girl's pencil was still. The professor seemed to notice this, and looked to her. "Miss Kell," he said. "Do you have any questions?"

She blinked for a moment at being spoken to, and looked up at him. "Oh," she said. "What... happens if one of us does interfere?"

"We should hope that doesn't happen," the professor replied, gesturing. "But if it does, the punishment may be severe, depending upon the infraction. In the most extreme of cases, you will be outcast from the Watchers, and no longer receive our protection or assistance. You chose to be part of this war, so you will be forced to fight it on your own. For minor infractions, you may be confined to quarters for a period of time, or have privileges revoked."

The professor answered a few more questions before dismissing the class, but he turned his attention to the girl in the back of the room. He walked up to the front of her desk and adjusted his glasses, looking down at her.

"Miss Kell, you didn't seem to be much interested in the lecture. Is there a problem?"

Sharina Kell looked up at him, and murmured, "No, no, not at all," and began to slowly rise from her seat.

"If you are having second thoughts at your choice of becoming a Watcher, you may, of course, pull out at any time, and return to milking cows and dodging stray fireballs," the professor said with only the slighest smirk.

Sharina glared at him briefly, then shook her head. She had already passed the entrance test, which only a small percentage of those who applied got past, and she wasn't about to turn back now, in spite of her doubts.

"Very well, then," the professor said. "Move along. If you have any further questions, you know where my office is."

The girl nodded, and gathered up her notebooks, and stumbled out of the room.

It was a pleasant enough day. The sun was shining down upon a green clearing, the shadowy trees framing the open place with their lush branches. Small wildflowers grew beside the corpses laying upon the valley floor. A tiny yellow bird flew in to peck at the blood-stained ground.

A woman stood in the center of the clearing silently, staring down at the corpse of a young man. She did not speak nor weep, nor stir a muscle. The wind lightly tugged at her blue dress and her silken scarves, but her hair was tied tightly in place.

Another woman emerged from the trees, carefully stepping and holding up the front of her red dress with her hands so that she didn't snag it in the underbrush. She looked over at the other woman through small spectacles, and moved over to her as quickly as she could.

"Catherine, you should not be here," the woman in the red dress said urgently, tugging at the other's arm.

"What does it matter?" the one addressed as Catherine replied. "They'll come for us all, sooner or later. There's no use in running and hiding."

The other woman snorted in exasperation. "Don't talk like that, Catherine. Let's get out of here while we still can." She attempted to physically drag Catherine out of the clearing, who didn't put up much resistance.

As they left, the clearing was empty. Well, not completely. Behind a shield of folded light, Sharina Kell was observing. She leaned against a tree, scribbling down her observations absently as she watched them leave. Only a minor skirmish had taken place here, ending quickly in the deaths of three mensch when an enraged silver-furred werewolf had come through the clearing. They were hunters, trying to bring home meat for their families, but the werewolf had attacked them out of nowhere, senselessly. It disappeared as quickly as it had come, leaving the three poor mensch for the ravens.

Finishing writing her observations, she scanned the vicinity again with her mind, and determining nobody else was nearby, she turned her powers inward to Travel in the direction the werewolf was heading. Her body shimmered for a moment, and would have vanished, had she not already been invisible.

Quickly locating the creature with her mystic senses, she approached it carefully and quietly, double checking that her Illusion was in place. She spotted it laying outside the city, gravely wounded. At the city gates, a group of guards stood in full armor, ready to defend the city. Upon taking a closer look, she saw that the werewolf's wounds, while they would have killed any normal being, were being slowly healed before her eyes.

The werewolf stirred, and stood slowly, sniffing the air. It looked straight at Sharina. She went cold to the bone, preparing to Travel at a second's notice, but the creature did not attack her.

"This is none of your concern," it snarled quietly.

Sharina watched as the creature shrank, the coarse hair vanished, and the werewolf became a man. He was a tall, lanky man, with tangled black hair and lambent green eyes. He glanced over at the city for a moment, then walked over to where she was hiding.

"If you're trying to hide, you'd best learn to mask your scent as well," the man told her.

Muttering to herself, Sharina dropped the illusion. "What do you want of me?" she asked.

"Nothing," he replied. "You approached me, not the other way around." He glanced over at the city gates again. "They are too strong for me to take just yet. But when I grow more powerful, I shall return, and destroy this city of theirs."

Sharina said nothing, merely making a mental note to record later, and wondered what these people had done to deserve this. The city was strong and surrounded by a tall and thick wall, with numerous guards posted at its three gates. Scorch marks and minor damage upon the walls showed that they had survived many battles. Several towers were positioned along the city walls, where she could sense guards keeping watch upon the forest below, crossbows and other weapons in hand in case of attack.

"What is your name?" she asked him, out of an attempt to be polite more than anything else. As a Watcher, she had learned minor mental techniques to skim names of people and places from others' minds, in order to be more accurate in her recordings.

"My name is Luke," he told her. "Luke Ryzan'dinai, Silver Fang Ahroun and follower of Whitefire."

"I really must be going," Sharina said, edging away. Without waiting for a response, she called upon her magic and Travelled.

"Yes, of course," the man mumbled at the empty air, and turned and walked into the forest.

Headmaster Rothyl leafed through a book, a look of concern on his face. "The war isn't going well for either side," he frowned, stroking his long, white beard absently.

"In my observations," a nervous young dwarf reported, "the entropy levels are increasing exponentially. At the current rate, the planes will begin losing cohesion in less than a year. I hypothesize at this time, pieces of the planes will be consumed by the Void, and break apart."

"The Planar Wars are none of our concern," the Headmaster spoke grimly, "but we will have little use if there isn't a world left to watch." He turned to his aide. "Send for our best Security mages. We'll see if we can't find a way to stop this entropy effect without interfering in the war."

As the aide rushed off, a column of light illuminated the center of the chamber, indicating a returning Watcher. In the middle of the large room, there was a circular pattern of runes that served as a limited Nexus. When the light faded, Sharina Kell stood in the room. She pulled her dark hair out of her face, revealing slightly pointed ears, and walked over to the Headmaster.

"Headmaster," she spoke. "I hope I'm not interrupting anything."

"No, go on. What do you need?"

"Do you know of any way to mask one's scent as well as become invisible?"

He frowned for a moment, pondering. "Not offhand. Why would you need to? No intelligent being could smell out a normal person, usually."

"Well, I was just sniffed out by a werewolf," Sharina smirked indignantly.

"Hmm, yes. I could see how that could present a problem," he chuckled. "According to reports, werewolves seem to be becoming more and more common lately. I will inform people of this problem. Thank you for your report."

"So you don't have any way."

"Not at the moment, but we will be working on it. Check back in a week and we may have a solution. In the meantime, try to stay away from those werewolves."

She sighed softly. "Very well. Thank you anyway." She turned back to the Nexus, and Traveled away.

Moments after Sharina had vanished, a kitchen boy came rushing into the room. "Headmaster! Headmaster!"

"Slow down, boy. What's wrong?"

"A small duck pond has appeared in the middle of the kitchen," the boy babbled.

"Oh dear," sighed Rothyl.