Entry 13: Riloth 19th the 11th
Last night before the reset, clear headed and free of pain, I sat dreading its arrival. Under the effects of the potion, I couldn’t sleep to avoid it, but the invisible countdown put me on edge. Knowing that any moment I would lose consciousness and be returned to a world of tiredness and pain robbed a lot of the joy from relaxing. I tried to convince myself that the knowledge that respite was at hand would make the morning more bearable
I was wrong. After knowing comfort, the pain is so much worse.
The transition from awareness to sleep is unpleasant as well. There is the briefest instant of pain through my whole body, then nothing.
No, not nothing. Writing now, I recall more. I experienced something in between. No senses except a sense of self. I don’t know how long this state lasted. No sight, no smell, no sound. I had an awareness of existing and time passing in the same nebulous undefined way I experience time in the Arcane Realm, but no body. It was much more unnerving than the Arcane Realm, at least there I have senses of my surroundings, even if they are just a construct of my own mind overlaid on the unfathomable power of the Fonts.
As suddenly as it happened, I was back in my bed, sleeping. What's weird is I didn’t wake up when the reset occurred, but I remember no longer being in that void space. I’m going to need to study this more. Maybe I can unlock more memories if I write on the transition further.
In the morning I woke up, miserable, but didn’t immediately run downstairs. Instead, I washed up in my room and dressed in my travel gear before heading down. I made it to the floor with a good minute to spare to place my bet. I didn’t need the clock anymore, after living the bet twice and recounting it here, timing it was not a problem. Even with the hangover and exhaustion.
At Levar’s I purchased the potions of forgone sleep, and three potions of clarity and came back here to finally plan with a functioning brain. I’ve been going about this all wrong, but I had a great idea, no time to explain, but I'll need to borrow some pages. Thanks! Be back soon.
It's around noon and I just returned from executing Operation Minions. Last night, staring at the clock, I came to a realization. Why was I repeating the same actions every day when there's a whole town of people out there doing just that? I formulated a plan last night and set out to perform it this morning.
First, I had to twin a whole bunch of pages, then I ran around town collecting my potions and other supplies. Once all that was settled, I acquired some minions.
All the good sorcerous villains in romance adventure novels have them, why can't I?
Last night, I reviewed my to do list and determined which would be useful to assign people to watch. I would give twinned pages to the watchers and had them count the number of people who entered or left, and write descriptions of anything that happened of note. Then, at the end of the day, I just needed to compare each minion’s observations with their previous reset’s observations. If I find any discrepancies, then I know someone else is around with awareness of the resets. If nothing changes, there's a good chance that no one around here is aware and I can stop being so cautious—not that my recent behavior at Levar’s showed much caution.
For my first minion, I chose the urchin girl who I’d spied stealing a purse during my window stake out. I stood by the spice vendor, and watched her approach her mark while he browsed the wares. With a deft cut of her knife, she liberated the purse from the man, and walked towards an alley. I followed her at a discreet—or so I thought—distance. Just before she entered the alley, a commotion broke out from behind us as the victim discovered his lack of funds. The girl continued without looking back and disappeared around the corner.
I was traveling a dozen paces behind her, and jogged to catch up once she was out of sight, but when I turned the corner, she was gone. I scanned the boxes and debris in the alley, but she was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly, a clod of dirt—alright, it wasn’t dirt, but if I call it dirt, you won’t enhance the smell. A clod of horse byproduct struck me in the head, and I looked up to see the girl standing atop a two story building at the end of the alley. She had a coil of rope slung over her shoulders and, after sticking her tongue out at me, ran when we made eye contact.
How did she notice me following her?
She disappeared behind the roof’s edge, and I was left with little choice in my means of pursuit. Focusing on the roof, I harnessed the power of the Font of Space, and cast Blink. With a slight woosh of air flowing to fill the void I left, I disappeared from my place on the ground, and appeared a few feet above the roof. Landing, I nearly fell over, but caught myself with a hand. The girl stared at me in wide eyed surprise, only pausing for a moment, before leaping off the edge of the roof.
I crossed the roof in time to see her emerging from a pile of hay. In anticipation of my own leap, I began to reach for the Font of Air to cast Slow Fall. Normally, the spell summons a massive updraft of wind below me and the area around me, turning a deadly fall into a painful but survivable landing for me or anyone nearby. This time however, as I began to shape the power of the Font with my Will, a part of the shape stuck out to me in my mind, and I felt as if I understood its purpose. In a moment of recklessness, I tweaked my shaping, and focused my attention on the girl instead of myself.
What was sufficient to slow me and my family as our cart fell off the side of a cliff, was more than enough to blast a small child a dozen feet in the air. The girl flew up with the spell's opening blast of wind, but then descended gently—if not gracefully—to the ground where she laid in surprised terror.
What I did with that spell shouldn’t have worked, but somehow it did.
Wizard spells were consciously constructed by men through years of rigorous trial and error, and as such can be dissected and tweaked to optimize or change their effects. Sorcerer spells are not. Whatever grants a sorcerer their power also gives them an instinctual understanding of how to cast a spell in a moment of need—if they are lucky. A sorcerer could no more explain how they manipulated the Font of Fire to cast Firebolt than a bird could explain the mechanics of its flight. Sorcerers do tend to learn variants of their existing spells over new ones, but not through any conscious decision. Sorcerers who know Firebolt, for example, will often learn Fireball when their experience with Firebolt is extensive and their need to destroy multiple enemies at once is great. But if a sorcerer on the brink of discovering Fireball spent weeks experimenting with the spell Firebolt to expand its effect, they would kill themselves long before they got close to casting Fireball.
Don’t experiment was the first thing my mother told me when I’d learned my first spell. Even at ten she knew my nature. So how did I do this? When I cast sorcery spells, I make the shape as my instincts guide, but today a small sliver of that unknowable arcane form seemed familiar. Can I do this again? Should I? I must explore this more, but later, it’s late.
Back to the chase. I—having changed the target from myself to the girl mid air—landed in the bale of hay. Luckily I had jumped toward it, but even with the bale breaking my fall, my concentration on the Slow Fall spell vanished when I landed. By the time I climbed out of the mess, the girl was still recovering from her sudden flight.
With a slight limp, I closed the distance between us. A coin purse landed between us when I was still a few paces away as the girl crawled away from me on her back.
“I’m sorry!” she shouted, “Take the money, I won’t do it again!”
I held back a smile, knowing all too well she would steal that very same purse tomorrow, and the day after that.
“I’m sure that's a lie, but I don’t care about that. I came to offer you a job.” I said.
She paused in her frantic crawling and asked, “A job?”
I explained the job, sitting in an alley and marking tallies of the number of people who came and went from the Parlor’s front door. I left her with some food and coins as a downpayment with a promise of double that when I collected. Her reluctance fell away when I handed her a bag of pastries from the bakery that’d given me a possible lead on Bearskin.
“So, do you have any friends who’d be interested in a similar job?” I asked, pulling another bag of pastries out of my satchel.
By then, she was holding a bagel in one hand and a lemon square in the other, alternating bites.
Crumbs falling from her mouth she said, “Yeah! Wait here.”
She, Rail was her name, disappeared around the corner, and came back a few minutes later with another young boy. They looked of an age, both around ten years old, with dark dirt brown hair, and thin features. It was hard to tell behind all the dirt but I didn’t think they were related. Gill, the boy, started on his own bag of pastries eagerly as I repeated the instructions. I don’t know what Rail told him, but he took far less convincing to get on board.
I set both of them up with report sheets twinned to your pages, marked the time using Simon’s clock, and told them to count. Gill was set up on the roof across the street from the Dragon’s Den to watch Barion’s men, and Rail in an alley with a clear view of the Parlor’s main entrance.
My next set of minions were tougher sells. By the time I’d set up Rail and Gill, it was just past 10:30, judging by the giant goat wreaking havoc on the market square. The hooligan gang with their lanky leader were reveling in the destruction they’d caused in another alley when I found them.
“What do you want?” the leader, who I’d designated Twiggy in my head, asked as I entered the alley. The chairs and crates strewn with broken bottles told that this small awkward opening between three buildings had been claimed as their hideout.
“I have a job for you.” I answered, ignoring his hostile tone. “Agree, and I’ll pay you without turning you in for setting that goat free. Disagree, and I rough you up a bit, pay you less, and you do it anyway.”
I’ll admit, I’d prepared that speech beforehand and only practiced it under my breath a little bit on the way over. Don’t tell anyone.
Twiggy laughed, and his pimple-faced comrades joined in. "How about we rough you up a little and take your coin for ourselves."
I only had a few years on them, but after facing the ranks of the Forsaken and the dangers of the wilds, their posturing was laughable.
Twiggy advanced on the lead, holding a well turned table leg as a club. His cronies followed, fanning out as well as the alley allowed.
Focusing on the club and my own hand, I sent my mind once more to the Arcane Realm, but this time I stood outside the Font of Force. While the Font of Air exuded the sense of being buffeted by the wind, the Font of Force felt like laying deep underwater. A pressure pressed from all sides. I carved out the familiar shape of the spell Mage Hand. The spell created a crude force copy of my hand at the point of focus.
Spell active, I closed my fist, and felt the resistance as the invisible hand grabbed hold of the club. With my grip established, I wrenched my hand to the side, ripping the club from Twiggy's hand and hitting his lackey in the head. Twiggy starred from his empty hand to the floating club in shock. That move wouldn't have worked on anything but an inexperienced child with the spell’s limited force. But luckily for me, my foes were just that.
I waved the club around threateningly, making feints to attack at the other two which caused them to retreat down the alley.
“Ready to listen now?” I asked in a patient tone.
They’d become fixated on the club, and forgot about me. I brought the club to me, and grabbed it in my hand. While holding the club I produced a flame in my hand, held out before me. I’d reached out to the Font of Fire and poked the smallest hole in its surface to bring forth a simple flame. I couldn’t do anything with it, but they didn’t know that, and the way it lit my face in the dark alley was quite intimidating.
Twiggy’s confused look faded and was replaced with one of terror. He lifted his hands up and stammered, “We’re sorry. We’ll do whatever you want. Just please, don’t kill us.”
I use my forbidden mystic powers to coerce and terrify children. Maybe the Tower is right and sorcerers are a menace. I’ll find a better way to approach Rail tomorrow, but I might have some fun with these thugs.
To my luck, three of the four goons could write so I assigned them to different parts of the square and the surrounding town with instructions to record any notable events they witnessed.
With two more places of interest to monitor, I made for the camp outside the town. I planned to set a child to watch the Landing Guard’s command tent and count the comings and goings. Thankfully, I knew a guy with plenty of children to spare.
That came out wrong.
I’m talking about Daulf, not some creepy child slaver. I found him at the site of the school, which was nearing completion. He was busy teaching a group of children how to read, conjuring letters of pure light into the air in front of him.
I didn’t know he could do that.
He saw me approach and instructed the kids to practice drawing letters on their slates.
“How did you do that?” I asked, tracing letters in the air with my finger. “And why haven’t you used it to produce light for us in the past?”
He laughed at my question and accusatory tone. “Oh that? It’s nothing. My goddess grants me a certain degree of flexibility with her power if I am using it to teach. What brings you out here? You look great, Trish warned that you might not be out of bed till noon after a rough night. I’m glad you showed some restraint.”
“Er, yeah,” I said uncertainly. “I took your advice and stopped drinking before she brought out the hard stuff.”
Daulf tilted his head slightly, in the way he does when he knew you were lying and you knew you were lying, but he was being polite by not calling you out on it. I decided then to confound his unfair ability to detect lies.
With a wide smile and my hand raised as if swearing an oath, I said, “I swear, I haven’t had a drop of alcohol in over a week.”
Daulf’s face became visibly confused. From his perspective, I’d had a little wine or ale with each meal since we stopped here. His powers were telling him I spoke truthfully, while his own memories told him I lied.
I didn’t give him time to dwell on the enigma and got to the matter at hand.
"I was wondering if you had a student I could borrow for today for an important project. I’ll pay him for his time.” He still looked confused, so I added hastily, ”There'd be no danger involved. And they get to practice counting"
He watched me for a moment, I could almost feel the weight of his Blessing testing the truth of what I’d said. Nothing I’d said was a lie so I was fairly confident he’d say yes, but he spent a few moments contemplating.
I shouldn’t have messed with him
"Sure,” he said, putting the confusion aside. “I think I have a student or two who could use the coin." He replied and gestured for a small boy to come over. "Sam, this is my good friend Theral, he has a job for you, are you interested?"
At the mention of work he perked up, "Yes sir, Master Daulf. Anything!"
I took Sam into my care, and escorted him to a barrel near the command tent while explaining the work. I set him up with some charcoal, checked the time on the clock, and got him to begin tallying people entering and leaving the command tent. As with the others, I gave him a downpayment on the work—a handful of silver and a snack—and a promise to pay the rest when I collected the papers the next day.
Sam settled, I found myself with one twinned sheet remaining, and no plans for which to use it. Sitting along the outside of the wall, near the gate, I spotted a particularly destitute looking refuge.
“Hey, you!” I called to him. “Can you read?”
He looked up sullenly, and gave me a slow nod.
“And write?” I added.
His nod continued.
“I got work if your willing.” I told him, now much closer. “That is if you don’t have more pressing business to attend to.”
He looked around then decided and said, “Sure, why not.”
I led him to the inn with the “No Vacationsies” sign, and he proved his literacy by giving the sign a strange look and a chuckle. Above the poorly written sign sat a carved relief of a owlbear sleeping under a crescent moon and the properly spelled name "The Sleeping Owlbear Inn." I set him in an empty booth, and handed him the remainder of my coin purse along with a twinned sheet and a charcoal writing stick.
“Sit here, order whatever you want, and write down descriptions of everyone you see of note.” He looked around the busy tavern, and to the pouch of coin, and then to the bar.
Reading his thoughts on his face, I amended, “Don’t get drunk.”
His face saddened slightly at that and I turned to leave, but then stopped remembering I’d never gotten his name.
“I’m Tal, by the way.” I said
Oops. Didn’t mean to use my real name. Oh well, he won’t remember.
“Julian,” the man replied. “Thank you for this. Truly.”
He held up the pouch of coin for emphasis, and I left.
After that, it was around noon and I headed to the Parlor for lunch in my room. It had taken longer than I would have liked. I think I can do it all faster tomorrow, but the results might not be the same.
Now to sit back and wait for the reports to come in. I‘ve been watching the twinned pages fill in as they write. There’s not much else to do. I was a little surprised that this worked. They all are at least trying, and so long as I set them up correctly each day, I should be able to spot any disturbances if I stay in my room and don't mess up their observations.
The plan is to stay here for the next few days and compare the results. If nothing stands out, I can move around with a little more confidence.
I've been watching the twinned pages for an hour now. This is so mind numbingly dull. How am I going to do this for a week?
Only fourteen hours till the reset.
Maybe Simon can get me something to read.