“How long are you going to sit there, staring?” Leansethar asked.
Her twin sister hadn’t moved since at least before the mid-day’s meal, as her plate and cup sat, untouched, on the sideboard.
Rowena sat on the small throw-rug, her knees drawn up, chin resting on them. She was still in her nightwear, her long silvery-gold hair still sleep-tousled. Her toes nearly touched the half-polished surface of the stone block that sat in the corner of her room.
Rather than staring at her reflection, or that of the tower chamber behind her, though, the surface of the black rock showed what could have been the desert that encircled the remains of the City of the Gods in the lands far to the south, the view to the horizon lost in a shifting haze.
Leansethar stepped between her sister and the block of stone, and as her reflection stepped into view, the otherworldly image rippled behind it, dissolving back into the far tower wall, the tapestries, and a scowling princess.
“I was watching that.”
“It’s a desert. During a sandstorm. There is nothing to watch.”
“It was very nearly clear.”
“You told me those storms sometimes last for months. Did you plan to sit here that entire time?”
“I was just—”
“You missed the morning’s breakfast. Luncheon has come and gone. It is past the quarter-sun, and the Fetch is expecting us for tea and lessons. Do you plan on going like that?”
Rowena blinked, leaning over and examining her smoky reflection. She ran a hand through her hair, wincing as fingers met snarls. As she turned to fish for the hairbrush on a nearby side table, her reflection lingered, smoothing its fingers through its hair, sticking its tongue out.
“Behave,” Leah said, to the glossy stone, “or I’ll cover you up.” She bent, reaching for the heavy red velvet drape.
The reflection of her sister flashed a pout, and then once again began mimicking the motions of the other girl.
Leah threw the heavy cloth over the stone anyway, tried to ignore her own reflection’s momentary scowl, the baring of sharpened teeth. She suppressed a shudder, and then helped her sister dress, relieved that neither of their reflections in the silvered dressing mirror acted up.
“I don’t know how you can see anything through that stone, anyway,” Leah grumbled, tugging at the brush. “It’s like trying to stare through the morning mists off the bay.”
“The skyshield must be — ow!” Rowena turned, glaring at her sister through a tangle of curls, and the two of them wrestled with the brush — Leah to free it from the tangles, Rowena to keep her sister from pulling her hair out by the roots.
“I was counting on the skyshield being just like this one,” Rowena said. “So when the stone fell through, the heat didn’t polish it as much as I’d calculated. I’d estimate it’s off by a focal curve-distortion factor of—”
Leah waved a hand. “Save it for the paper that you’ll no doubt submit to the University.”
Rowena stood so quickly, she nearly clipped her sister’s chin.
“You’re right. But a guess won’t do. I need to work the precise number out,” she murmured, reaching for a quill. She began ticking items off with the fingers of her other hand. “And then, I can calculate the wind-resistance differential, which will lead me right to the skyshield density, so my next—”
Leah slapped at her sister’s hand, grabbing her wrist and tugging towards the door. She ignored the dispirited wail.
“Your numerics juggling can wait. We’re late for tea.”
The meteoric bombardment that followed the Damoclean Catastrophe very nearly stripped Sarimaar of its skyshield entirely. What is left, even thousands of years after the event, is barely enough to keep the world alive -- if the condition to which the planet clings can be called "alive."
Though Sarimaar, like Mystara, has an axial tilt and therefore seasonal changes, winter's grip on the planet only briefly loosens its hold in the hottest part of the Sarimaarn year. It is only bitterly cold during the Sarimaarn summers. The very hottest of days might be enough to allow a brief rainfall, perhaps even enough for that rain to reach the parched ground.
Humans were not meant to thrive on the sandy wastes, and thus they must take extensive precautions when venturing out of their sheltered domes and habitats. Death from exposure to the icy temperatures of the Sarimaarn surface takes only a few minutes, and if the cold does not immediately kill, trying to breathe the thin, cold air may very well finish the job. During most of the Sarimaarn year, unprotected exposure to the environment calls for Constitution checks* every round, to resist the numbing cold, and PCs will not be able to breathe, due to what little air there is freezing in their lungs. (See "drowning" rules in the Cyclopedia, p. 90) Wearing heavy winter gear, the need for checks falls to once per hour, but only while the sun is up. Temperatures plunge -- quickly -- once the sun sets. Failing a check inflicts 1d4 CON damage.
Conditions are only slightly more favorable during summer months: Constitution checks are needed once per day, and once per hour during the night. Failing a check drops a PC into the "exhausted" state (Cyclopedia, p. 88). A subsequent failure inflicts CON damage as above.