A note from JMWebb

Thanks for reading! Any comments appreciated!

We left Dew’s Flat along the main trade road the day after the lizard whispered the spell of unnoticing into my ear. However, we were now wary of the dangers the innkeeper from many weeks ago had spoken of so we sought the protection of a caravan and its guards along with battered peasant families displaced by the war of greed and power. We were fortunate that the caravan was also to cross the river Kalipanoinin that takes greedily of the dirt and dust and traverse the thundered plains towards Arimens. The caravan boss, a merchant named Urostyne, assured us that if we paid him many threnits we would reach Arimens unscathed by bandits and that we would avoid disease, liars, and desperate men for him and his guards had traveled this route for many years and knew of these hazards.

I did not practice the whispered spell during the first week of travel, for I held anger towards Kalitian. “Kalitian in her condescension has taught me the useless magicks of the skald, for my lack of patience. It is not for this spell that I did risk my life and risk touching yew, nightshade, or water hemlock, for I was patient for many years to leave for Arimens and study magicks and do not need more lessons of that skill.” I would say, for I was a foolish child that did not understand magicks, patience, or peril. It was after the first week of travel that Ynguinian did sit next to me and ask me of the spell the lizard whispered to my ear. I told him of my spell of unnoticing, and how I would not practice it for I had been condescended by the third saint. “Nayinian, even if you cannot use the spell to impress upon the wizards of Arimens you would do well to practice it, for it is rare that a saint speaks directly and to scorn a gift given freely by one is to bring misfortune.” Which is true.

It was due to Ynguinian’s assurance that in the second week of travel I began to practice the spell of unnoticing that the lizard whispered into my ear in Dew’s Flat. Each morning before the caravan took down their proud tents would I try to cast the spell. But for each morning that week the spell would do nothing. Each evening as the caravan lit the fires to camp and sit in the wildgrass would I try to cast the spell. But for each evening that week the spell would do nothing. My frustration grew over the seven days, but at that point I was determined to learn the spell as a matter of spite, for I erred and believed Kalitian had condescended me. Sitting next to the small fires on the knolls of wildgrass during the evening I would tell Ynguinian that I would show the third saint that her condescension was foolish, for I was a child of the double moon and because of that I believed great things were meant for me even if a saint did not acknowledge the auspices of my birth. Ynguinian, being a man of patience, did not rouse me to more anger and simply shook his head in silence each time I spoke of my frustration towards Kalitian.

It was in the third week of travel that the caravan boss, Urostyne, told us we were to dine with him for breakfast and supper, for we had paid him many threnits. We were grateful to eat better food than the battered families that rode in the carts. It was also in the third week of travel that the caravan boss Urostyne told us we were to no longer ride in the carts full of these battered families, but to join him in his carriage, for we had paid him many threnits. We were relieved to ride and dine with the master of the caravan, for his food was the healthiest and his carriage was the safest from attack as his guards were fiercely loyal.

It was also during the third week of travel that the battered families fleeing the war of power and greed fell ill. It was on the third day of the third week that we saw many of the men, women, and children wore black pox on their hands, held a pale sweat and shivered in the heat. It was on the fourth day of the third week that we heard the coughs and the groans of pain from illness. Finally, it was on the fifth day of the third week that the caravan master did not allow us near the carts and tents that were not his, for it was obvious that the battered families were plagued. “I forbid any approach to these families” he would say “for they are sick with plague, and plague spreads quickly to those who sleep next to it.” Which is true of plagues. So, accepting the caravan master’s logic and wishes, I did not approach the families for fear of bringing Decay and bitter things into my life once more.

In the beginning of the fourth week did I succeed in casting the spell of unnoticing. As I have said before: Each morning and each evening I would try to cast the spell and fail, and I had not stopped in the fourth week for I was foolish and insisted that Kalitian had condescended a child of the double moon and because of this I intended to spite her. Yet, when I did finally cast the spell on the second night of the fourth week I did not notice any difference. I believed the spell had not worked as it had not for every other casting I had made of it. It was not even when I woke up the next morning to the caravan gone and Ynguinian calling for me did I realize I was unnoticed. Nor did I realize what I had done when I ran up to poor, crying, Ynguinian as he screamed to Borrinean directly to my face for fear that his search was in vain and that he had broken his oath to Ghalstorin. I spoke to him, “Ynguinian, you oafish knave, I am standing here in front of you so we must stop playing games and head back to the caravan before we are found by bandits, liars, or desperate men.” He did not acknowledge me, and it was at that moment I knew I had cast the spell of unnoticing in the evening before I slumbered. Quickly, I undid the spell and embraced my worried friend. At first he was cross with me, for I had let the caravan leave us behind as he looked for and we were now on an unsafe road of bandits, liars, and desperate men. Once I explained to Ynguinian of my unknowing magicks he became less cross and we started down the trade road to Arimens to find the caravan that had left us behind, since we still feared bandits and other things of the roaded and needed protection.

It was during this walk, when the sun was still crawling skywards that Ynguinian asked a question of me: “Nayinian” for that was my name before I drank the milk of the yew, “I know you are skilled in apothecary, for you have told me of your plans to study magicks and purchase the apothecary in your village and you nursed the widow in the house with no door back to health. Why do you not use your skills to treat the plague that has taken to the families?” I spoke the truth, which was that I feared only Decay and bitter things would come to me if I tried. Ynguinian was insistent, however. “I have heard a father cry out to Borrinean for his daughter” he told me “and I did see him try to leave this morning and the guards stopped him from leaving. The father pleaded with the guards but they would not let him leave. I have seen bodies thrown to creeks, and I have seen children cry over their parents. Nayinian, you are the only way these people can get aid, for not even Borrinean will answer their prayers.” I was hesitant, for if I did get sick with the plague would bring Decay to myself, the caravan, and the battered families. In the end I did submit to Ynguinian’s suggestion, telling him that we would both keep our distance, touch no one, and that he would have to gather the roots and herbs for me again. I did not tell Ynguinian he was to gather things to help me avoid touching yew, nightshade, and water hemlock. I did not tell Ynguinian that it was for my hubris that I prayed to the thirteenth saint and because of that I feared Decay.

The day was waning and it had just reached the hour in which the light of the sun makes all things radiant when Ynguinian and I had reached the caravan and approached the carts full of battered families and plague when the guards did prevent us from getting close enough to observe. I spoke to the caravan guards that we would not approach the ill directly, and would leave herbs for the sick at a distance so they may touch no one. However, the guards rebutted me, “Girl,” they said “The ill are not to leave the cart, for Urostyne has forbidden it. You are not to approach the ill for Urostyne has forbidden it, for the illness will only bring plague and Decay the caravan if it spreads.” I spoke bitterly towards the guards, for they had condescended me: “I am not a girl, for I am in my seventeenth year and apprenticed in the apothecary. If the ill do not receive treatment all of the men, women, and children will perish and their deaths will bring much worse than plague to this caravan and its people.” The guards were steadfast in their denial: upon Urostyne’s orders we were not to see or speak to the ill.

It was the twilight hours of the next day, and we were to reach the river Kalipaonin the next day for crossing, when the cuts of Ghalstorin began to reveal themselves upon night’s viel that I suspected we were in the company of the liars and desperate men the innkeep had warned of. We were dining upon seasoned lamb, as Urostyne had brought much meat with him, when I recognized the two men who drove the carts carrying the men, women, and children fleeing the war of greed and power supped with us, away from the ill. In haste I excused myself and Ynguinian to our tent, where I whispered low of conspiracy and poison. “Ynguinian'' I whispered carefully to him for fear that others may hear “if I am wrong to come to a judgment in haste, set me upright for you are a man of virtue. I believe this illness to be false, and that Urostyne is a scoundrel. If you do not object, I will cast the spell of unnoticing upon myself so I may seek and observe those battered souls in the carts of pestilence, that I may know with certainty that Urostyne is a man of cruelty and greed.” Ynguinian did not object to my subterfuge, but bid me to be patient for he knew I was hasty in many things I did (even if I did not) and he knew that judgments made in haste are those likely to hurt the honest man and not the scoundrel. I heeded his caution and cast the spell of unnoticing upon myself and absconded to the tents of the battered families to know with certainty that Urostyne was a man of cruelty and greed.

Stagnant near the ill women, men, and children I observed. Upon their bodies I spotted again pox of black and yellow sweats, their cough dry as vellum rips only to be drowned by the throes of pain and cries for their health to be returned. These things I observed first with my eyes and ears upon ill, and it was with my nose that I smelled death, familiar to me. Among the pestilence I witnessed a widower thralled to the pain of grief as his tears fell into his pox-stained hands, for his daughter and his wife lay prostrate as Decay had come for them. The corpse of his wife was pale, and with her long hair of rough flax and the stern visage she held in death did she remind me of Synwye and my hubris. I thought to turn back, but knew better. For if this was a plague I would bring it upon Ynguinian with my return, and I had promised myself and others to spite the thirteenth saint and Decay so that I would never again cause bitterness and death in my haste. With temper did I tread the border of the tented ill under guard, for even if I had the spell of unnoticing cast upon myself I knew I must be patient in matters of exposing chicannery.

It was once I came upon the potted stew of peas and beans that I confirmed the merchant’s treachery, for it smelled of a rare but potent root that grows near the gravestones in Harinese Mounts. Synwye had told me of Cuarinis root, for a young girl had swallowed it in the village once and it was my business to know of the proper treatments for all poisons Harinese children swallowed. She informed me of treating the poisoning thusly “Nayinian, it is of import that you should know this, for children of the village occasionally ingest the funerary root: the only treatment for Cuarinis poisoning is hunger, clean water, and time.”

It was with this confirmation of poison that I returned to Ynguinian to tell. Many hours late into night, for it was after the first moon set that we did sleep, we spoke low and hushed of aid we could bring to the poisoned families; Ynguinian suggested the fortune of our crossing of the Kalipaonin. “There is a barracks and camp on the island in the river Kalipaonin, and all must pass for the river is miles-wide. Perhaps we will find a paladin or a virtuous man and tell him of Urostyne’s treachery and see him punished.” Thus, our plan was struck. When we arrived upon the island in the middle of the river Kalipaonin we would go for aid.

Just past dawn when the celestial sphere shifts drawing up the sun upon the sky to cast its ethereal rays upon the earth did we look down upon the river. Its waters raged in torrent, taking greedily of the dirt and dust from all that touched its miles-wide flow; and in the middle did lay (and still does) an island, polluted by the war of greedy and power that would, in time, desecrate lakes and forests and streams and meadows and mountains.The waters of the Kalipaonin swayed to the toxins of that war, for much like those of the widow’s creek they were black and foul. Even the island itself had begun to take greedily of that blackness, reeking of sulphurs and ashes. It was upon this island that we did try to enact our plan after the caravan mounted a fragile barge to cross the roiling flow.

But, as when Ynguinian and I had tried to observe the ill families, the hired soldiers of the caravan did not let us pass to the fort, which they claimed would be to prevent plague. Casting the spell of unnoticing upon myself I wandered the halls of the barracks with my oaken stick, seeking a general or paladin. It was with fortune (that day) that good men fight unjust wars, for I did find within the barracks a paladin of the eleventh saint, Ralurusian, whose patron is Memory. I undid my spell of unnoticing, and fell to my knees to seek the aid of the knight of Ralurusian, “Please sir, there is a great injustice you must see to. A merchant by the name of Urostyne has poisoned the people of his caravan and I cannot stop him for I cannot fight. I know it is poison for I have studied apothecary and did smell the root in the food of those who have fallen ill. You must get these people away from the scoundrel so they can drink water and eat no food for three days to cure themselves of the poison.”

The paladin, Raluros, spoke to me: “Calm girl, thy work is done and mine has begun. My patron’s patron is Memory and my patron’s domain is story and fire. I will take the stories of many, and then I will bid the general of this fort to remove the ill from Urostyne’s control for three days as you bid. If thy story be true, and in three days time the illness fades, then justice the merchant will receive. If ye lie before me-and I do not believe ye do- and the merchant is no scoundrel, then justice ye shall receive in his stead.”

For three days we were held in isolation on the island in the middle of the river Kaopolin, and in three days time did the health of those poisoned improved. Urostyne’s possessions were seized and found among them was the Cuarinis root and the tattered coin purses from those who did not survive his cruelty. Urostyne’s parting words I remember strongly: “Only wealth and coin matter, for this war will lead to extirpation, and before extirpation the only good is pleasure, which wealth brings.” Urostyne and his men were sentenced to drown. Rocks were tied to their feet, and they were thrown from a cliff into the river Kalipaonin. Of their bodies, the river took greedily as omen; as it did the dirt, the dust, and the blackness of that dreaded war; engorging the polluted island within its miles-wide flow.


About the author


  • The nameless village at the bottom of the Gray Spine

Bio: John Milhaud Webb: fifty percent author, fifty percent angst, fifty percent pen-name, one hundred percent fake cowboy. Follow me on twitter @AuthorJMWebb

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TwelveGreatApes ago

This is a really well crafted little episode, self-contained and presented brilliantly considering the relatively small amount of words. It's also really refreshing to see characters who act realistically and don't recklessly risk their own lives by throwing themselves into dangerous situations.

    JMWebb ago

    Thanks! I had a little trouble writing this chapter, but I was pretty happy with it. I had a few different versions of this chapter outlined before I decided on Nayinis's first spell, because I could not decide what would:

    1) be thematically appropriate

    2) not instantly solve the problem that was presented with force

    Ynguinian's character really helps ground Nayinis (technically, back then, Nayinian) really helps with this problem. Thanks for reading dude :)

      TwelveGreatApes ago

      No problem! I suppose what I meant to say wasn't that the two of them weren't brave, but just happy that the conflict was resolved in a believable way. No whedonesque quipping about and confronting the overwhelming force head on with little care for the consequences, or stomping the opposition in a flavourless power fantasy, as you see often on here.

      JMWebb ago

      Yeah, this story is definitely NOT a power fantasy

Blind_Watcher ago

I think this particular section of her story will appeal most to the villagers. She literally put her life on the line to save strangers of a similar station to themselves, despite the fact that she could have turned a blind eye to it or backed down.

    JMWebb ago

    Definitely a strong contender for that, however she's still got a lot of explaining to do about the tattoos, the star of mentillian on her hands, the giant yew staff, and being a necromancer summoned by the 13th saint 😅

MrOrangeContinuum ago

It's a small detail, but I like that the paladin speaks in a different manner than the other characters. It really makes it feel like they've travelled a long distance.

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