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A note from TK523

Dear Spellbook is sitting high on Rising Stars, super close to hitting the front page. If you like the story and want to help, please consider rating or reviewing the story!

The shout-out today is for The Hedge Wizard. If you like D&D inspired stories about non-classically trained wizards with magical spellbooks, then I think you might like this story as well.

Entry 7 Part 1: Riloth 19th the 7th

Dear Spellbook,

I’m feeling particularly frumpy today. Each morning, I continue to feel worse than the day before. I know it must be in my head, but it's my head that hurts.

So far nothing has changed on the square. I can’t do another day of staring at the market. If someone was here, I’d have seen them do something. Right? I'm going back to sleep.


It's very late. I slept most of the day and I feel a lot better—not great, but better. I don’t know what to do. With the nap, I should be able to stay up for the reset. I’ll order some coffee, and dinner—I’m starving—and see if you can shake any clues out of my memories.

Riloth 18th

Whatever kept Daulf from acting as a wake-up service on the seventeenth didn’t save me on this day. Once again, a heavy knock broke me from my slumber, and I rolled out of bed to see all of my companions waiting outside my door with breakfast to-go in hand.

A life lived traveling grew me accustomed to early rising, but these people are relentless.

That's what I was thinking, at least until I looked out the window to see it was almost noon, and my to-go breakfast was a to-go lunch.

Maybe I've grown a bit indulgent of late.

Outside the Parlor, the market square teemed with the bustle of thousands. Some urchin children pestered a dwarf who looked to be passed out drunk under one of the carts near the Parlor's steps.

“Leave the poor man alone!” Daulf said, in the tone of a stern school teacher, causing the kids to scatter.

We walked around the edge of the market, avoiding the dense throng and it brought us to a tent where a man hollered, "Come see the giant goat, biggest goat on the Continent, see it for five copper, feed it for ten!"

Roland stopped in his tracks. "Let's go see that goat," he insisted, to everyone's surprise.

"That's a bit steep to see a fat goat." I said.

"Not a fat goat, a giant goat." Roland replied, a bit of stern teacher creeping into his voice as well.

Without waiting for us, he walked up to the tent, tossed the man a silver coin, and went in.

He was in there so long we eventually relented and decided to go in and check on him. After handing over fifteen copper we walked into the tent to see Roland standing there, admiring the giant goat. I don't really know how else to describe it. It looked like a regular goat in all aspects but scale. It stood as tall as a large plow horse, but had the lean proportions of a goat. We stood there trying to see where Roland's fascination stemmed from, but to no avail.

Eventually, Daulf said, "Well this was magnificent, worth every bit, but we have to get moving. We already lost the morning, don’t want to dally."

Roland gave a wistful sigh, and then took in a deep breath of the stink filled goat-manure-air, which he seemed to savor before walking out with us.

Passing the man running the "show" he grinned and flipped him another silver coin saying, "Majestic creature you have there. Take good care of her."

I don't understand this man at all.

The plan for the day was to “canvas the area,” as Daulf put it. Which means we were going to approach people at random and ask if they'd seen Bearskin. Not our most sophisticated plan to date, but we’d decided to take a page from Bearskin’s book and forgo subtlety. We divided the town and split up once more. Daulf went back out to the camps, with a promise to not get distracted, Trish took the wealthy district with a promise to not get too drunk, Roland disappeared without even a goodbye, and I was left to explore the town around the market square.

I began my search in the square. I found, in an odd turn of events, that getting people's attention in a crowd was quite difficult. I’d spent my whole life trying to lie low in crowds just like this. I never realized how hard the crowd was trying to ignore everybody else. It didn't help that—with a spellbook strapped to my side—whenever I made eye contact, people suddenly stopped in place and remembered they actually meant to go the way they’d just come.

Stupid Tower wizards, ruining the reputations of imposter wizards across the Continent.

The few people whom I managed to corner—after they realized I wasn’t about to harm or transmute them—had seen no sign of our large friend. With the crowd proving a bust, I moved to checking the shops, with their counter-bound proprietors who couldn’t flee at my imposing wizardly figure.

The shopkeeps too had seen no hide nor hair nor hulking tattooed bulk of Bearskin. Each greeted me with an uncertain welcome, eyeing the spellbook at my side. It would not be out of character for a Tower wizard to take wares without paying, instructing the merchant to bill it to the Tower. In a city with a Tower presence, there was a good chance they would eventually see payment, but out here it was as good as theft.

Needless to say, the chance of theft on top of the ever possible accusation of sorcerous blood made shopkeepers less keen to open up to a wizard than those out on the street. At first it was like pulling teeth to get them to talk.

I should have left Spellbook in my room.

I berated myself, but leaving it—you—unattended would have brooked suspicion. Standing in a chandelier's shop I resolved to purchase a satchel to house you in the next leather shop I saw. Through trial and error, I eventually found the right things to say to get answers. By the time I got to a leather shop I greeted the shopkeeper’s wary smile with a rote script.

“Hello, I’m an apprentice Stormcaller traveling with some adventurers. One of my companions has gone missing. He’s about eight feet tall, covered in tattoos and carries a massive club and bearskin cloak. Have you seen him? Chances are fifty-fifty as to whether or not he was wearing a shirt; they are hard to come by in his size.”

This introduction dismissed their wary concern with a flood of information. Stormcallers, if not common, are known by all to be the few “wizards” outside of the Tower. Adventurers—which I’m not, despite appearances—are defined by their willingness to help the common folk. These coupled with the bizarre description made people open to answering, and uniformly they hadn’t seen Bearskin.

The leathershop’s proprietor had no leads on Bearskin, but he did sell me a plain, but rugged, satchel that fit your new reduced size perfectly. It even had pockets on the inside for quills and vials of ink. I paid the man two silver coins, and moved onto the bakery next door.

On the front door, hung a wooden plank with a big red “x” painted on it. At first I thought it closed, but through the window spied a young kid in ragged clothing standing at the counter buying a large basket of bread.

A bell chimed when I walked in. Behind the counter, a flour covered burly man looked up from the table on which he was twisting dough into some strange loose knot the size of a saucer. To the side, the baker’s apprentice managed a sale to the ragged boy.

With you hidden in my new satchel, I was greeted warmby the baker, “Welcome traveler! What can I do for you?”

“Hi, I’m looking for a friend. I'm hoping you’ve seen him. Also, I’d also like to know what those are.” I answered, as the baker tossed the knot he’d just made into a pot of boiling water.

“Pretzels, have you heard of them? I recently learned to make them from a passing halfling merchant. It’s a cultural treat from their homeland. The merchant taught me the recipe in exchange for a cut of the profits. Franchising I think he called it. Anyway, I took him up on the offer, not expecting them to sell, but boy was I wrong. With a little salt and a mustard cheese he taught me, they sell faster than I can make ‘em. When I have a batch ready, my apprentice flips the sign on the door around, and they line up around the block.”

“Any chance I can try one?” I asked hopefully, always interested in new and novel foods.

“Sorry, no. If word got out, I’d never have a moment’s peace. You should have seen the place before I put up the sign,” he answered with real regret. “So, what was it you said about a friend?”

“I’m looking for my friend Bearskin. He’s about eight feet tall, covered in tattoos. Have you seen him.”

“I can tell you for certain, I haven't seen anyone close to that description,” the baker answered.

I bought a sweet roll and headed out bereft of—wait a second. When I described Bearskin, that urchin boy I’d seen through the window grew very still. I’d been tuning out the conversation of the boys at the time, but now I can picture the whole scene in far more detail than I could while living it. The urchin had brought his own baskets, old, worn and mended in a dozen places. At the mention of my friend's height and tattoos, the boy stopped talking mid sentence, placed his money on the table, and left with his baskets of food. The food alone was strange. The boy was certainly a urchin, judging by his mismatched ragged clothing that was either too large or too small and skinny frame. What was an urchin doing buying baskets of food?

Very odd. Could there be a lead on Bearskin here after all? This was not the type of lead I was expecting when I started writing, but I won’t pass up the opportunity to find my friend. I mustn't lose sight of what brought us here to begin with. If I do, it might contribute to the despair I expect to gnaw at me if this situation lasts as long as I fear it might.

After canvassing the market I headed out the west gate to look through the camp to find Daulf. I’d spotted a Tower wizard with his pet Seeker while in the market square, and with my task complete, I was feeling vulnerable. The tent city had come a long way. Rows of tents sat in neat orderly lanes with wide roads between them. Clearings with communal campfires stood evenly spaced through the site and I could see work beginning on the digging of wells.

In one such clearing, I came across a group of people packing up a wagon in preparation to set out. A Landing guard—former Landing guard I suppose—stood nearby and I asked him what was happening.

"This lot is heading up to Edgewater. That new Mayor Torben said he'd take any refugee who'd be willing to work some land or had a trade. No taxes for a year too! I suspect that town is set to be overrun with the displaced. People don't seem too keen to go back to Landing after the, ah," he paused "incident."

At that, the light-hearted nature of our conversation died and I deemed it best to move on, grateful that the guard hadn’t recognized me and not wanting to linger in case he did.

I circled the town, the refugee camp now completely surrounded it, looking for Daulf.

When we’d first arrived, the tents were exclusively the canvas military variety salvaged from the Landing garrison, and donated from the town. Now, every bolt and scrap of cloth had been reappropriated for the purpose. The tents, while uniform in shape and placement, were a vibrant mix of colors and materials. Children ran through the colorful tapestries, and stitched together robes giggling and adding to the cheerful feeling of what ought to have been a sad sight.

I wonder how these two escaped Daulf’s schooling.

Humans made up the bulk of the tent city's population, with a few orcs and halflings mixed in, but near the north of the town I spied a group of dwarves. The demand for firewood drove the tree line ever back, but at it’s edge sat a group of wagons. Picketed around the caravan grazed a herd of the hearty mountain goats native to the Continent’s mountains, and domesticated exclusively by the dwarves.

Dwarves are a rare sight on the surface. Before the events at Edgewater, I’d only ever encountered them a small handful of times throughout my travels. To see a dwarf was rare, to see an overland caravan was unheard of. It's rumored that they have their own subterranean roads that they defend fiercely from the other denizens of The Torack.

The Torack is the subterranean world they call home. It comes from the Torcish word Tor, which comes from Torc, and refers to the planet itself, and ack, which means dry. Before the Flood, I imagine they just called it all The Tor or something along those lines.

My curiosity piqued, I altered course for the wagons. As I got close enough to see their faces, I realized that they were not welcoming. In fact, they almost looked hostile. Not wanting to offend, I decided it would be best to not approach and completed my circuit of the camp in search of Daulf, but to no avail. I didn’t want to wander around and risk encountering the Tower personnel, and a bookshop caught my eye as the perfect place to kill some time until I could find Daulf at the Parlor.

I re-entered the town through the east entrance, which found me in a much more affluent area than where I’d exited. A bookshop sat a few blocks from the Dragon’s Den Hotel, which I remembered passing on our first trip through. Like most shops in this district, it was a two-story building with a storefront on the ground floor and living quarters above. The sign read "Levar’s Books and Alchemy'' with a painted carving of a stack of books with a glass bottle atop it, and a rainbow bursting behind it. The crest of the Alchemist guild was carved into the bottom corner of the sign—a leaf inside a vial.

A bell rang as I entered and a voice from the back room yelled, "One moment please!"

I looked around the shop while I waited for the source of the voice to emerge from the back. An assortment of jars filled with powders and liquids covered shelves and tables in the front of the shop. They were neatly organized and labeled with descriptions and prices. Very, very, high prices. Powdered unicorn horn, fifteen gold per ounce. Preserved hag’s eye, ten gold per eye, two for eighteen. On and on, the preserved monster parts and plants filled shelves with enough wealth for Daulf to educate the whole of the Continent. Scroll racks and book shelves filled the back of the shop, with tables and baskets filling in gaps between them, all piled high with books, scrolls and sheafs of paper. While the alchemical reagents were neatly organized, the reading material was the cluttered mess of a busy mind. Behind the counter sat a small assortment of jars and vials filled with potions. The colors varied from deep black to a vibrant shimmering silver and all colors and opacities in between.

I don’t have a lot of experience with potions—any really. As you might have guessed from the price of a hag’s eye, potions are ridiculously expensive. A potion made from the right magical creatures can replicate wonders otherwise left to the realms of a powerful Blessing. But those wonders come at a cost higher than the average person can make in a lifetime. While there are no spells involved in the crafting of potions, the magic of potions resides in the ingredients, and magical ingredients are difficult to come by. For many, potions are more costly than they are worth. A potion made from the blood of a hydra might allow a person to regrow a limb, but many lives would be lost in the acquisition of that key ingredient.

Spellbook, you might then ask "How does a market for these even exist?" And if you did ask, which you can’t, I’d answer your question with a question. What population of people are often losing limbs, flush with wealth, and encounter and kill magical beasts on a regular basis?

Adventurers.

While looking at the wares, and pondering the staggering wealth before me, the shopkeeper came out from the back with a stoppered bottle of liquid. The potion seemed otherworldly in his hands, as if it didn’t belong in our drab Realm—a small bit of the Arcane Realm encroaching on ours. It was a clear blue liquid that looked like the sky on a bright cloudless day. The man looked to be in his forties, with a thick mustache and a mop of unruly brown hair. Apart from his mustache, his face was shaven, but it looked like he’d skipped a day or two and the stubble was encroaching on beard territory. He wore simple clothes, round glasses, and a green scaled leather apron that looked to be covered in splotches of paint, but on closer inspection revealed themselves to be the stains of alchemical ingredients. Some of the stains had colors more vibrant than any pigment could capture, some actively glowed, and one seemed to perpetually produce smoke.

One of those stains could likely buy a horse.

"Welcome young wizard, sorry I was just finishing the bottling of this clarity potion." He said, gesturing to the stopped vial. "I don’t suppose I could interest you in it, could I? I had an abundance of ingredients that needed to be used up before they turned. This is the third batch I’ve made this week, I could give it to you for a discount, say twenty gold? A real bargain."

"I’m sorry, that's a bit beyond my budget,” it struck me then that he called me a wizard. Self consciously patting my satchel I asked, “How did you know I was a wizard?”

“If you deal with adventurers as often as I do, you get a knack for sussing them out. Not that they are the most subtle of people. Except for rogues, you always need to watch the rogues. That satchel is obviously holding a book, and you have no other visible weapon. Your clothes bear the faint remnants of blood stains and discoloration evident from low level magical repairs, and something chewed on your boots—probably kobolds or goblins,” the man explained without looking as he sorted the potion’s on the rack to make room for his new ones. “Plus, your complexion is in keeping with the Stormcallers, whom I have had the pleasure of traveling with in my younger days.”

I relaxed slightly at his deductions, confident I hadn’t consciously given myself up.

This guy is perceptive. I need to watch what I say around him.

“Well, that's quite impressive. You’re right, I’m Theral, an apprentice Stormcaller.” Hastily I added, “Mostly right that is. I’m not an adventurer.”

Levar gave a chuckle. “Sure you aren’t. I’m Levar, Alchemist by day, scholar of the adventure world by night—and also day. I own the shop so I set my own hours.”

Scholar of the adventuring world. I’ve never heard of one of those, but if anyone can identify a mysterious script, I bet he could.

“I was hoping you’d be able to help me translate some texts, or have some samples of the language I could use to do so on my own.”

Making one more attempt to get the sale he said, "Oh, exciting, I bet I have something that can help. Are you sure about the potion? They are expensive but they make one hell of a hangover cure."

 

FLOOD!

How did I not remember this conversation? I have been sitting here miserable, trying everything and I didn’t think to visit the alchemist!? I begged Daulf to heal me, I drank that sludge from the hotel staff, I ate dirt! And all this time, in the back of my stupid muddled brain, I knew this guy was there with a cure.

I’ll be back.

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TK523

  • United States

Bio: Aim for perfection, but don't try too hard.

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