They were only a few steps from the enchantery when Hump felt his spellbook shake. He froze mid-step, heart thumping in his chest as he stared down at the book on his belt.
Celaine stopped and glanced back at him. “Everything okay?”
He looked at her, barely containing the massive grin on his face. “Better than okay. My book shook, and I can only think of one reason why.”
Celaine glanced at the enchantery. “You’re kidding?”
“Only one way to find out.” He searched the street—they were on a busy main road, definitely not the type of place he wanted to open his book—spotting an alleyway off to the side. “Over there,” he said, nodding in its direction.
Hump stood with his back to the main road and unlatched his book from his belt, opening it to the middle. Inside, both pages were glowing, the ink still taking form. Even unfinished, Hump recognised the complex formation immediately.
“Gods above. This… this is worth a fortune.” He watched the ink in motion, awestruck. While he recognised a few of the runes, it meant as little to him in his spellbook as it had in the shop. Even the essence that flowed through the runes was too complex for him to follow, seemingly moving in a dozen different directions at once, well beyond the capabilities of a single wizard. There was a burst of essence as the formation fully took form on the page.
Complex Ward – Sheercliff Enchantery
Description: The protective formation over Sheercliff Enchantery and its workshop.
“What is it?” Celaine asked.
Hump held the book flat so that she could see too. “It’s the defensive formation they use to protect the enchantery,” Hump said excitedly. He ran a hand through his hair. “If we sold it… I don’t even know how much this would be worth. Hundreds of gold. No, thousands!”
“You can’t sell it,” Celaine hissed. “Not only would you be arrested if you were caught with that, but not a person alive would believe you managed to figure that out.”
Hump took a breath, forcing himself to calm down. “You’re right. It’s a lot of money though. Are you sure you’re right?”
Celaine frowned at him. “Don’t be stupid.”
Hump sighed. “The moment I catch a break… I can’t even comprehend most of the formation.”
“How did that book of yours even figure that out?” Celaine asked. “Surely something so important would be warded against identification artefacts like your spellbook.”
Hump snorted. “My book can record God Glyphs, Celaine,” he said arrogantly. “How is some small-time enchantery supposed to hold up.”
“Right,” Celaine said, looking at him flatly. “As good as that is, this formation is just about useless to you, correct? It just looks pretty.”
Hump blinked at her. “It is not useless! Maybe I can’t use it right now, but it’s still an incredibly powerful formation. People would pay good money for something like this.”
“Right, but you can’t use it, and we’ve already established that selling it would be a bad idea too, so it’s useless.”
“Why did your book choose to record this one anyway?” Celaine asked. “Surely there were more useful enchantments you could have taken down from a shop that sells them.”
Hump frowned. “That’s a very good question.” He thought back on his time in the shop, on the things he had looked at. “I saw quite a few different formations, but this was the one I really focused on. Maybe it’s about intent.” He turned his spellbook to a blank page and pulled off his bracelet, focusing on the runes engraved across its surface while holding them firmly in his mind. He willed his spellbook to make a copy, and like a spark, the page came alight. The ink spun and swirled across the page, and a new entry took form.
Essence Channel Bracelet
Description: A copper bracelet enchanted with a restricted essence channel.
Origin: Apprentice Enchanter, Lilanda – Sheercliff City
Embedded with a manufactured essence channel that acts as a path to move essence.
Hump laughed. “This is insane. We could make a fortune!”
“Keep your voice down,” Celaine said, glancing at the main road. “Even I can sense you’re using magic right now, and I don’t have any blessings to help with my magical perception.”
“Sorry.” Hump closed his spellbook and reattached it to his belt. “I got a little over excited.”
Celaine smirked. “It is kind of amazing. Do you think you could replicate them to make enchantments of your own?”
“Perhaps some of the simple ones with some practice. I’m not much of a runesmith, and formations require a complex understanding of the fundamental laws that govern them. Each one is different. It’s not enough just to copy them, they must be made with intent, and combined in a way that promotes essence flow. And the more runes you use, the harder that becomes. Kassius’ formation relied on only thirteen, and it had been his intent that had put it together, so I just about managed to use that one. I’m not sure I could replicate it, not without a lot of experimenting at least.”
“What about that bracelet?” Celaine asked. “It’s only common quality. It can’t be that hard?”
Hump snorted. “I can’t even tell how many runes there are on it. Dozens, maybe over a hundred. It’s well beyond my ability to replicate. Enchantments are a whole different study to spellcraft, they just happen to have some crossover.”
Celaine opened her mouth, but Hump interrupted her first.
“That doesn’t mean it isn’t useful,” Hump said. “I might not be able to make them myself right now, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get someone else to, or learn to make them. There are also ways to sell things like this discreetly.”
“You realise if someone finds out about that spellbook they will stop at nothing to take it,” Celaine said.
“I do.” He glanced at the crowd on the road, suddenly nervous about who might be watching. They were at the heart of the city, surrounded by Chosen and adventurers, next to the enchantery he had technically just stolen from. “And I think it’s probably best we move along before someone gets the wrong idea.”
“I don’t think anyone will figure it out by sense alone,” Celaine said.
“Neither do I,” Hump said. “But we’re a man and a woman hanging about in a dim, dark alleyway.”
Celaine blinked, peeking over Hump’s shoulder in a hurry. She wasn’t often bashful, so seeing it now, Hump couldn’t help but laugh.
“Shut up,” she snapped. “Come on, let’s get going. We’ve still got the Adventurers’ Guild to go to.”
The Sheercliff Adventurers Guild’ was massive, the grounds housed within a walled and gated complex. They showed their medallions at the gate and were waved inside. A wide stone path wound its way through the grounds, flanked by well-made buildings of white stone and dark wood: shops, offices, and of course, taverns. There were few places in the kingdom where one could find such a hub of adventurers, but with Sheercliff situated in the western centre of Alveron, it was an appealing location for budding adventurers to find their start. They were far enough from the Fallen Lands to avoid the truly powerful monsters that broke through the northern fortifications, but close enough that the region still suffered frequent monster attacks. While Hump had never been to the city itself, he and his master had spent some time questing through the outer regions.
It grew more crowded as the road opened up into a courtyard marketplace. Most of the adventurers here would be iron rank, with a few bronzes mixed in, though Hump doubted many of them would have been as powerful as Lantheer and Joslin. A city of Sheercliff’s size likely had a good number of silver adventurers, almost all of them would be Chosen of the nobility. While the saying went that the gods cared not for gold, as far as Hump had seen, they certainly cared for blood. Sure, there was the occasional commoner indoctrinated into the ranks of the Chosen, but it was far from proportional. And as far as practitioners went, only the strongest weapon-masters and wizards reached silver.
Hump spotted another apothecary shop nearby and made a note to check it on his way out. The guild imported goods from all over the kingdom to maintain vital supplies, but often that meant premium prices. Chances were good that Hump could find the final ingredients for wizardfire there, the question was whether or not he could afford it.
“I’m so glad we didn’t book our rooms here,” Celaine said. “There are far too many people.”
“You don’t like crowds?” Hump asked.
Hump smiled. “No, I suppose not. Growing up on the streets, crowds meant pockets and coin.”
“You stole?” Celaine asked.
“I stole, I begged, I did everything I could to find dinner.”
“Surely your churches have people to help lost children though,” Celaine said. “They can’t just leave you to starve, can they?”
“You’d be surprised,” Hump said. “There are a few shelters, but it was usually safer on the streets. Gangs controlled who got the beds in those places, and there was a lot of shady business going on inside.”
“It sounds horrible.”
“It is. I was one of the lucky few that made it out in one piece, most get caught in the web of gangs and violence and never escape. It’s safe to say my master did more than teach me, he saved my life.”
“He sounds like a good man. You were lucky to have him.”
“Yeah, he was. Not Bud’s level of good, but he was a decent man making his way through the world.” Hump looked at her and forced a smile. “Come on, let’s go find the information desk and get out of this crowd.”
The guildhall was across the courtyard, a prestigious old building that was a story taller than everything else around, with a clock as big as a carriage embedded in the wall above the entryway. Inside was a crowded lobby with finely polished wood floors and stone walls. Notice boards hung on the walls, organised by the type of quest and the required rank to partake. From the number of monster hunting quests, Hump guessed the region must be having an issue with infestations. Against the far wall, a long counter was staffed by a handful of people, handing out assigning quests and rewards along with any number of other tasks.
Walking up to the counter, Hump caught the attention of one of the clerks. A man with dark, tanned skin and dark black hair.
“Hello there,” the man said. “I’m Timond. What can I do for you?”
“Hi Timond,” Hump said. “I’m looking for an acquaintance of mine. The last time I heard from her was a letter to say that she’d settled over at Fishers Lake. I’m hoping she registered here first.”
“I can certainly have a look for you. Do you mind handing me your medallion?”
Hump pulled out his medallion from beneath his shirt and handed it over to the man, who inserted it into a mirror reader. The mirror swirled with essence, reflecting off Timond’s face. “Humphrey Woodrow, I presume?”
Hump nodded. “That’s right.”
“Perfect. All looks good here. Who is it you’re looking for?”
“Wizard Vivienne Loresse,” Hump said. “She’s a Bronze 4 adventurer.”
“Not many of those going around,” Timond said. “I’ll see what I can do for you. Give me a few minutes, I’ll need to take a quick look at our logbooks in the back office.”
“Thanks,” Hump said. The man nodded and walked into the back room.
“Are you sure they’ll have something?” Celaine asked.
“No, but this is the largest branch in the region,” Hump said. “Unless she purposely wanted to stay hidden, she would have probably informed them. She still needs to receive mail after all.”
The man returned shortly. “We don’t have a record of where she is currently staying, I’m afraid, however up until six months ago Wizard Loresse was frequently visiting our branch for our postal services.”
“She’s not been back since?” Hump asked, suddenly a little concerned.
“Not as far as I can tell. Also, I took the liberty of looking for any information on Fishers Lake and found this.” He slid a quest notice over the counter. “A request for our services coming directly from the mayor in fact. Apparently, there have been sightings of ghosts, and more recently, two young women have gone missing.”
Hump took the slip and read through the details. “Iron rank, a two gold reward for anyone that can find out what happened to the two women.”
“That doesn’t sound like a coincidence,” Celaine said seriously.
“No, it doesn’t.” He frowned, a sinking feeling in his stomach. He’d spent many months travelling with Vivenne and she was close with his master.
“You said Wizard Vivienne is a Bronze 4 though,” Celaine said. “She must be very capable.”
“She is. But something must have happened if people are disappearing. And this is too much a coincidence to ignore. Has anyone else taken on the quest?” Hump asked Timond.
“There’s been some interest,” Timond said. “A few Chosen in fact. You know how the churches get the moment ghosts and spirits become involved. No need to worry though, there’s no limit to the number of takers if you’re interested.”
Hump turned to Celaine. “I want to accept the quest.”
She nodded. “I agree. If the town is haunted, at least we can make a little money from the trip, even if Wizard Vivienne isn’t there. Also, I’ve never seen a ghost.”
“I have,” Hump said glumly. “They’re not pretty. The people that leave behind ghosts usually died horrifically.”
“All the more reason to take the quest then,” Celaine said. “If they really do have a problem, we should help them.”
Hump nodded. “This will count toward our promotion to bronze too?” Hump asked the man.
“Absolutely. All iron ranked quests are taken into account when considering someone for promotion.”
“Okay then,” Hump said. “We’ll take it.”
“Perfect,” the man said. “Madam, if you’d be so kind as to pass me your medallion as well, I’ll have you both officially assigned to the quest.” She handed it over and he added it to the same reader. “There’s a Robert Blackthorne registered to your party too. Will he be participating?”
“He will be,” Hump said. “Does he need to come back and register too?”
“No need,” the man said. “As long as he has his medallion with him when he returns, he will be able to hand in reports or claim the reward. You’re all set up. I’ll have the quest log updated so you’ll be able to hand this in at any of our branches. Is there anything else I can do for you?”
“Not unless you have any suggestions to help us find my friend,” Hump said.
The man sighed. “Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do here. Perhaps the Magic Society can help you with a tracking spell.”
“That’s alright, Timond,” Hump said. “We’ll figure something out. Thank you for your help.”
“You’re very welcome, sir. Stay safe out there, times are dangerous. Fishers Lake isn’t the only place struggling with spirits of late.”
“I did think there was an unusually high amount of monster hunting quests,” Hump said.
“It’s been rather hectic,” Timond said. “We’ve been unable to deal with the demand, so head office has stepped in and requested additional adventurers come to reinforce. In the meantime, the churches have been taking on quests to help protect the nearby villages.”
“We’ll be careful,” Hump said. “Thanks for the warning.”
“Of course, sir,” Timond said. “Anything I can do to help. You’re the one’s putting your lives at risk to help people after all.”
“We’re adventurers,” Hump said. “Keeping people safe is what we do.”
As they left, Celaine smirked at him.
“What?” Hump said.
“We’re adventurers!” Celaine said, impersonating him. “Keeping people safe is what we do!”
Hump cringed. “Yeah, that was a very Bud thing to say, wasn’t it?”
Celaine laughed. “Maybe. I think you made a good impression though.”