Varis stepped out of the door hanging in the air onto the top of the wall. With a small pop, the door vanished into nothing. He looked out over the canopy of trees before him as far as he could see.
“W-who’re you?” a voice asked to his right, drawing his attention. A guard stood, holding a crossbow leveled at him. “How’d you get up here?”
“Just an unwilling field data collector,” Varis replied with a shrug, turning back to the blanket of green. He pushed magic into his vocal cords and spoke, “What’s your name?”
From the corner of his eye, Varis watched the guard relax his grip on the weapon and stand up straight.
“Derrek, sir,” he replied.
“Nice to meet you, Derrek. You should go inform your superiors that an attack is coming,” Varis said, putting his hand above his eyes to block out the sun. He could see a black wave washing through the trees. “I’d say you have about ten minutes.”
The guard backpedaled for the door to the watchtower, fumbling with his weapon as he opened the door and vanished inside.
Varis produced a small notebook and quill before he began taking notes of what he was seeing. The darkness washed over the tops of the trees as though a tidal wave were rolling over the hills. He scribbled furiously as he noticed that the more it encompassed, the deeper it became. He stepped forward and looked down the side of the wall as the door to his right opened once more.
“This is him, Captain,” Derrek said.
“I’m Captain Stonehearth. What’s this I hear about an imminent attack?” she asked.
“Look,” Varis said, pointing to the wave that had covered nearly half the distance since Derrek had gone. “I think I overestimated the time.”
The wave slammed into the wall and shot skyward, hundreds of feet above their heads. Varis continued to scribble in his notebook as he watched the top crest and begin to roll over itself.
“Interesting,” Varis said as the wave slammed down over them and washed into the city.
As the darkness passed over him, he noticed the color around him bleed out and leave the world in greyscale. Captain Stonehearth and Derrek turned and entered the tower once more. A moment later, a signal fire was lit, and bells began ringing from above.
Varis turned to look into the city and saw that beyond the greyscale world was a wall of white that was rapidly filling in as it swept its way forward. He tilted his head to the right as he watched the far wall materialize in the distance.
“Must be some sort of planar shift,” he muttered as he wrote another note, “Impressive, but to what purpose?”
People screamed from below as they emerged from their homes, stumbling into the street. Their arms waved wildly as they spun and tried to swat away something Varis couldn’t see clearly enough.
Varis waved a hand and muttered a word, charging his voice with magic once more as he stepped forward. From his perspective, the distance between his steps increased a hundred feet as he stepped from the wall to the street. From this vantage point, he could see that shadows clung to the backs of the people.
“This simply won’t do,” he said, closing the notebook. He pointed up and said the celestial word for light. As though the sun had suddenly come much closer, the street became blindingly white. The shadows seemed to fade to nothing as the people covered their eyes. As the light dimmed and vanished, people began getting to their feet shakily, the shadows nowhere to be seen. “Much better.”
“What are those things?” a nearby woman asked.
“Shadows,” Varis said, “light is the best way to fight them. I’m not sure how well it works here, though.”
“Seemed to work pretty well to me,” a man said, shaking his head and blinking furiously.
“I’m not so sure about that,” Varis said, thinking hard about what he was seeing.
“Where’d all the color go?” the woman asked.
“I’m not sure,” Varis replied, opening his book once more. “How do you feel? Did anything other than the shadows change when the color went away?”
“I feel the same, I think,” she replied.
“What’s your name?” Varis asked, “For my notes.”
“Gabriel. Why are you taking notes?” she asked.
“Doucel doesn’t let me back in the study unless I bring him information to study. He dropped me here, so I’m assuming he has questions about this phenomenon.”
“You’ve seen this before?” the man asked.
“No, never,” Varis said, “and your name?”
“Hugh,” the man replied.
“I wonder, Hugh, what purpose this has,” Varis said, motioning around him. “What is the end goal? Will it return to normal, or are we in some sort of alternate dimension? Do you have any thoughts?”
“W-what?” Hugh replied, scratching his head.
“I’m trying to figure out what’s happening. Obviously, everything went to this, and then the shadows attacked, but who or what is causing it?”
“That would be me,” a light melodic voice said from behind him.
Varis turned around to find a young halfling girl standing twenty feet from him. She wore dark robes with a skull in stark contrast emblazoned on the shoulder.
“Could I have your name?” Varis asked, “for posterity, of course.”
“What are you doing here?” the girl asked. “You shouldn’t be here.”
“You know me?” Varis asked.
“Varis Moonwhisper, my name is Saoirse Goodbarrel, and you are not supposed to be in this town,” she replied.
“Doucel sent me here, but why do you think I shouldn’t be here?” Varis asked, noting things as he spoke.
“You reek of interplanar travel. This is my master’s realm. You shouldn’t be here unless you want to be sacrificed to him,” she said.
“Your master didn’t exactly pick a terrifying representative,” Varis said, pausing his notes, “Can I ask, you’re two-foot-four inches?”
“And you’re a dead man,” Saoirse replied with a smile as two massive shadows grew from her cloak.
Varis looked down and poked his midsection, “I think you’re mistaken. I’m very much alive.”
The shadows descended on him, wrapping him tighter than he expected as they tried to bite his flesh. Varis waved a hand and tried to get them off his face, but his hands moved through them. He sighed and closed his eyes, letting the magic rise once more inside him. His book suddenly flashed a brilliant white, forcing the shadows behind him to save themselves.
“I don’t think you understand, Saoirse, I’m here to take notes, not to fight you,” he said, lifting the book over his head as the shadows screamed their breathy cries of agony.