Entry 4: Riloth 19th the 4th
Today I ordered more coffee than before. Apparently, when you want more than a cup they give you a "pot". Dumb name, it's more of a bronze pitcher. The dark bitter liquid is starting to grow on me, but it tastes atrocious cold. Luckily I can summon fire from my hands to keep the “pot” nice and hot.
Yesterday, I made some progress figuring out how you work. Yestertoday? I kept my list of market activities on a page I’d torn out. I absentmindedly tucked it back into the book and today it was like it had never been torn out. That was a lucky fluke, I almost lost the whole day’s observations.
From my near blunder, I learned that I can return torn out pages and that you will absorb the page back. I did a little more testing, pages not originally from you won't be absorbed if I place them inside you. I pulled out a Daulf doodle, we will see if it is back in the book after the reset. Don't worry, it wasn't one of the better ones. In the past, if I tore a page out and left it, it’d return the next day. Now with the days resetting, are those pages lost or restored?
The coffee is helping, but I need to get back to writing if I am going to stay alert all day. Last time I wrote about our arival in Crossroads, today I guess I'll go over our first day searching for Bearskin.
That first night sleeping in the Parlor after weeks of travel was easily the best sleep of my life. Transcendent. My body melted into a puddle, sinking into the unbelievably soft bed. Even fully dressed in my travel clothes, I’d never slept so well. It was as if I floated freely in a pool of warm water, but with the support and security of a child sleeping in the arms of a parent. It made me question if I’d ever truly felt comfort before in my life. The plan was to spend the entire day there—meals included—and rejoin the group the next day.
I don't mean to wax poetically, but I need to provide context so you can understand how angry I was when Daulf knocked on my door.
"Wake up lad,” his voice boomed through the door. “We got a busy day ahead of us and the sun has been up for hours."
I rolled over, squinting to see the sun. Even with the window's magic, the light hurt my sleepy eyes. Judging by the sun, it was around eight in the morning.
Well, at least he let us sleep in a little.
As frustrated as I was to be woken, I consoled myself in knowing that, Daulf must have extended great restraint in letting the group sleep in till now. I climbed out of the blanket cocoon I’d built in the center of my bed and began to dress.
Don’t get me started on the bedding. The thread count!
“I’m up!” I shouted back through the door. “Hold your horses.”
I bit back a cringe at the saying.
Don’t mention horses.
I opened my door to see Daulf, Roland, and Trish all ready and waiting.
I guess I’m the only one who slept in.
Simon walked away when I stepped out. He must have shown them which room was mine so they could ruin my sleep.
Trish handed me a hunk of bread and cheese, and said, "We all ate downstairs, chew and walk, we got places to be."
“Why are you in such a hurry?” I asked, expecting her to want to loaf around the Parlor as much as I did.
She jerked her thumb towards Daulf at her side. “This guy said I can’t hit the floor until we finish looking for Bearskin.”
I was still dressed from yesterday in my travel clothes and could feel the dust from the road under my clothes. I’d yet to even unpack my belongings, my bags in a pile just inside the door. Weighing the luxury of a clean change of clothes versus the ridicule from Trish if I admit I slept in these, I elected to stay silent and join them without further delay.
We headed out of the Parlor, and towards the front gate and I finished my meager breakfast while we walked. Our first destination was the guard post at the western gate. Roland disappeared before we reached the gate, to Trish’s frustration. Roland tended to disappear, only to show up at meals, rests, and—occasionally—as the harbinger of danger.
“Why does he get to bail on the search?” Trish complained to me.
I shrugged, “I don’t know, but would you rather he be with us?”
Trish and I waited outside while Daulf went in to speak to the guards and see if they had a record of Bearskin's arrival.
"No luck,” Daulf said as he exited the gatehouse. “They said they’d check the logs, but a man fitting Bearskin’s description is the type of visitor the guards would need no log to remember."
We left the gatehouse and walked around the town. If he hadn’t entered through the gate, it was unlikely that he entered the town at all. Subtlety was not an art Bearskin practiced. He stands out like—well—he stands out like an eight-foot-tall warrior, covered head to toe in swirling tattoos—because that's what he is.
We split up with plans to meet at the Parlor for dinner. With a promise to not get too sidetracked, Daulf headed out to the camp outside the walls to search for signs of Bearskin. The Landing soldiers would know of him, if only by reputation if not sight. Trish headed to the inns to do what she called "passive interrogation," which I called sitting at a bar and eavesdropping while getting drunk. I planned to speak to people in the market from the outlying areas who were in town for the day. If Bearskin had bypassed the town, those were the people who would have seen him.
The market, which had been deserted the night before, bustled. Every stall held wares and vendors stood between them, blocking off pathways and further fostering the chaos. I have always felt comfortable in a crowd. The roar of the people talking over each other, the mass of bodies going every which way—it all feels like the perfect place to get lost. Everyone in a market is busy and unconcerned for those around them. Strangers in a market are obstacles, not individuals to consider. Living my life in constant fear of being singled out, a crowded market gave me a place I could go when I wanted to feel small and insignificant. To disappear.
Unfortunately, that day I had a mission, and anonymously browsing stalls wouldn’t help complete it. Not that anonymity was possible any longer. Since acquiring you, I'd taken to carrying my spellbook on my person. Before that I’d kept my "spellbook" stashed in a bag, always afraid I would drop it to reveal my doodles and noticeable lack of spellforms. Now that was not a concern. No one would confuse you for anything other than a spellbook. While necessary as cover when I am going to be casting spells, the opportunity and need to cast spells hadn’t been a daily occurrence until very recently. I bring this up to explain how people began to react. I do not dress like a wizard, which is to say I wear no robe, have no enchanted rings or belt of wands. These are the trappings of a Tower wizard and people know to steer clear and show deference less they be "identified" as a sorcerer. I typically wear travel clothes in the style of the ship clans to sell the disguise of a ship clansman on a walkabout. Sturdy boots, leather jerkin over a canvas tunic, and thick canvas pants, with a hooded oilskin cloak. Amongst the ship clans, the Stormcaller dress is practical, so the disguise worked well to identify me as a Stormcaller if the need arose to start casting spells. I have since lost my typical ship clan outfit and have had to make do with the travel clothes acquired in Edgewater.
Whereas a ship clansmen walking around with a spellbook identified me as a Stormcaller, a random man in nondescript travel clothes walking around with a spellbook meant nothing. People didn’t know how to react to this.
I completed a circuit of the market looking for anyone who seemed like they lived on the outskirts of town. I walked through the crowd unnoticed at first, but soon people saw you. They stared, muttering amongst themselves and making room for me. Where I had to push my way through the crowd before, it began to part before me. A man, pushing his way through the crowd, stepped into the opening around me and knocked me over as he passed.
"Watch where you’re going!" he yelled at me as I fell.
When he looked down to size me up, his eyes fell on you and widened. "I umm, uh," he stammered. "I am so sorry, I ah. I'm so sorry."
I regained my feet, and we both stood, staring at each other. Him terrified and me unsure what to do.
After what felt like minutes, but was only a few seconds, I gave a curt nod. At the nod he turned and fled through the crowd, perhaps fearing I’d change my mind. The circle of observers that had formed around us dispersed..
I continued my circuit, with an even wider berth now. A stall selling herbs I knew to grow in the forest caught my eye. I knew a little about herbs, enough to identify the common ones, but not enough to concoct anything with them. It was not an art either of my parents practiced, but ever the scholar, I’d interrogated herbalists in markets before to learn where they found their wares. The ones on sale here primarily grew in the woods, and didn’t do well with too much light.
The woman working the cart must have noticed my attention because she yelled, "Any herbs I can offer you, young master wizard?"
Startled from my thoughts, I blurted out the first thought that came to mind, "I'm actually looking for a big man."
My face grew warm as it reddened in embarrassment when the words made it to my ears.
"Now that's not something I can get for you, but I got a variety of beautiful smelling herbs and flowers here you could use to catch his nose," she said, playing up my embarrassment, clearly not intimidated by my grand wizardly air.
I faked a cough to regain my composure, and said "Sorry, no. I meant that I’m looking for a friend, who's a very large man. I wonder if you saw him while out gathering your herbs. He would have passed through in the last week."
"Well I'm sorry to say but I can't help you with that either. I haven't seen anyone out there lately. But, the woods have been a strange place of late. Just last week I saw a bear that looked to be dancing. Can you believe it?"
“A bear?” I asked eagerly at the possibility of a lead. “Are you sure it wasn’t a man with a bearskin cloak?”
“No, I’m old—and maybe crazy—but I’m not blind. It was certainly a bear. It roared and everything.”
She then gave me some leads on others who may have seen Bearskin in the woods.
I thanked her, and moved on. The next man I spoke to was a farmer in town to sell some of his harvest. Mary—the herb seller—told me he had a farm half a day’s walk north, where the forest ended and opened up to the plains. This time I planned what I was going to say to avoid any more awkward introductions.
"Greetings sir! I am looking for a friend of mine who may have passed through your farm, he's about yay tall"—I reached up to show Bearskin's eight foot-something height— "covered in black patterned tattoos, and carries a massive wooden club with obsidian blades fastened to the edge. You don’t recall seeing him do you?"
The man looked at me for a moment, as if still trying to process my words, before saying, "No, I’m pretty sure I would remember if I saw a man who matched that description. The only big man I have seen as lately has been the regular giant variety. Darn giant near tore down me barn. Lucky to have made it out with my life, luckier still he left my horse alone."
"Giant?" I asked, "A giant tore down your barn?"
The man answered "Yeap, and it weren’t just mine. All my neighbors had the same thing happen. That same giant came, tore the roofs off of their barns or sheds, and then just walked off, not touching nothing. ‘Cept my roof that is. Strangest thing I ever heard of, 'til you told me about your friend that is. And Mary’s bear.—that was weirder still. What's the world coming to?"
He got quiet and stared at me expectantly. Not wanting to get dragged into any "adventuring," I bought an apple from him for two bits, thanked him, and ran off.
After that I spoke to a few trappers and hunters, but none of them had seen Bearskin either. One trapper reported that someone had taken residence in one of the abandoned ruins in the forest. Dwarven ruins, it seemed, were very abundant in the region. He didn’t get close enough to provide any details.
Speaking to other vendors from outside the town took up the rest of the day, and I headed back to the Parlor when done. I approached the group in the foyer as they spoke to a man with a shaved head, of average height. He had three gemstone earrings in his right ear, and wore travel clothes in a style similar to my own, but much nicer. Elaborate embroidery of gold thread covered the sleeves and collar, and the outfit didn’t look to have seen much travel. He was speaking to Daulf and they seemed to be hitting it off.
As I drew closer I heard Daulf say, "Again I must thank you for the complimentary room."
"Nonsense" the man replied, " I owe a great deal to Illunia, and I could not countenance her Chosen sleeping outside in a tent."
"Well,” Daulf started hesitantly, looking to the side of the man as he spoke. “Since you mentioned tents, I was hoping to convince you to assist more out in the refugee camp."
The man thought for a moment before speaking, "I’ll tell you what. When I say I owe a great deal to Illunia, I mean it. Truly I seek to repay her." At this Daulf gave a subtle nod, something I’ve noticed he did unconsciously while using his Blessing to detect truths. "If you swear on your goddess that you will only use these resources in service to her will, I will open my coffers to any work you do here."
And with that, we lost Daulf’s aid for the remainder of our time here. He and the man, whose name I didn’t get but was later told was Tilavo, walked off to discuss the details. The rest of us headed to the restaurant to eat a fabulous meal on Tilavo’s tab. I told Trish and Roland of my failed search, and they in turn recounted their lack of results. I could smell the fruits of Trish’s search on her breath while she regaled us with the local gossip she’d overheard. Roland had gone through the woods, looking for signs of Bearskin’s passing and “Asking the locals if they’d seen him.” He hadn't turned up any leads either.
While the conversation started on a down note, the meal lifted our spirits. I’d only had the apple for lunch and had grown ravenous. The main course was a seared aurock steak seasoned with cave pepper corns, served with a side of mashed rock potatoes and a seaweed salad. It was easily one of the best meals I’d had in my entire life. Granted, my mother mostly cooked and she’d learned to do so at sea and never bothered to learn about any new ingredients when she moved ashore. But, I could confidently say this would be up there for even a noble or wizard. A real wizard that is.
While we ate and talked, a bard sang a historical song about the Dragon Wars. I’d tuned it out that day, but I find the words are clear in my memory now.
The dragon flew from town to village
She asked each man to join her pillage
Some doomed brave fools came and gathered round
To burn the lands of who’d kept them bound
Many men took heed, rose up
They drank her blood from the cup
And through their veins her power ran
They pledged their swords, their lives, their clan
Across Horizon Break they raged
War on all her horde waged
To Faust’s power their wills did bend
They lost their minds, now barely men
The Tower came in force and warred
At their side some dragons soared
The battles turned the day to night
To the death each cultist did fight
When the war was over and won
The she dragon fled, the Tower outrun
To prevent this war from occurring again
A vow they did make to purge dragons from men
Any sorcerer who they find
The tower will capture, to death they're consigned
Never again will the dragon cult reign
For this threat the Tower has sworn to contain
As much as I loathe to admit it, all my studies of history have revealed this song to be mostly accurate. After the settlement of Horizon Break—one of the many many names given to the Continent by the countless groups that found their way here after the Flood—the Tower fought alongside the remaining dragons not hostile to men, and they were instrumental in defeating the dragon cult's armies of humans and orcs. The dragons had given their blood to their followers and set them loose to destroy the fledgling city states that were being built. Without the Tower’s aid, it’s likely the cults would have won. With their aid, the cults were pushed back to the most inhospitable regions of the mountains surrounding the Continent and the dragons fled. If they’d left it at that, we’d get along great. Fauel, maybe I would have tried to join. Instead, they gave themselves a mandate to hunt down any sorcerer with dragon blood and after a while stopped trying to verify that qualifier.
Sorcerers are anyone with an innate access to the Fonts. Drinking dragon blood is a fast way to gain that, but there are others born with the ability. Most gain it through deific bloodlines left over from when the gods walked among us. Others, like myself, are the descendents of dragon blooded sorcerers. Before the Avatar’s arrival, the dragon blooded—along with the dragons themselves—were not mad, but as it roamed Kaltis, the dragons and sorcerers became corrupted. When the flooding began, the radius of madness decreased, and the prevailing theory is that the water countered the influence. Now the dragon blooded only need fear for their sanity on the Continent and many live lives free of madness out at sea—or so my mother told me. Whatever taint the Avatar had has lingered in it’s defeat. The ship clans have means of countering it for when their dragon blooded Stormcallers need to come ashore, but neither my mother or I know—or seem to need—the trick.
I’m sure early on the Tower had plenty of work on their hands, but until very recently, the only dragon blood sorcerers I’d ever heard of were villains in the pages of trashy romance novels. Any sorcerer they bring in these days—if they’re a sorcerer at all—are just as likely to be some unfortunate deific descendant who didn’t know any better.
Maybe the taint is finally gone. My mother was cast out because the protective spells of the Stormcallers didn’t work on her; she failed some test and was sent away as a liability. But maybe they were no longer needed. Neither of us went mad, despite decades here without protection. Maybe the Tower knows this and kills us anyway.
I didn’t listen to the song while we ate, but it still put me in a foul mood. Mostly thinking about what I just wrote above. After eating Roland disappeared without a goodbye, and Trish made an excuse to leave me to my funk.
“I’m going to go hit the tables, don’t have too much fun without me.” she said, as she left.
I sat there alone for a while, contemplating my anger at both the Tower and the Dragon Cults which had recently returned. Angry at the cults for taking my parents from me, and the Tower at failing to stop it. Sometimes the enemy of your enemy is also your enemy.
That’s enough of that, I don’t want to wallow in this again. Let's update my to do list from the day's events. Spellbook, can you show me my to do list on command?
Spellbook, if I write -To do-, copy my to do list from before down below.
To do list (in no particular order)
- Find a way out of these resets
- Find out if I am alone here
- Find a way to wake up earlier
- Cure this hangover
- Learn the capabilities of this book
- Learn the language of the spellforms
- Learn how to read spellforms
- Discover the secret protected art of spellform writing
- Figure out time of reset
- Look into House Barion
- Look into the giant up north
- Check out the outlaws in the forest ruins
Nice, I hoped that would work.
I'm going to try to stay up till the moment of the reset. I’m so tired. Wish me luck.