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A note from TK523

Thanks for everyone who rated and reviewed the story. We are still in the top 10 of Rising Stars. Lots of new stories are jumping up, but there's still a chance to reclaim the front page for a little longer with more reviews.

Update: Back to number 8! Any review or rating could be enough to reclaim the front page.

Entry 14 Part 1: Riloth 19th the 11th

Dear Spellbook,

I got my minions set up much faster today and was able to get back to my room by eleven. I’m not particularly excited about having more time to sit here idle, but an earlier start means that I will have the surveillance up longer. Unfortunately that means my tallies for yesterday and today won't match.

Yesterday—the today before?—I spent the rest of the day reading a book from the Parlor’s small stock of fiction. It’d been months since I had the downtime to read an adventure novel, and at first the experience was—well—novel, but my mind kept wandering and I couldn’t finish it. The library would be sufficient to absorb my mind for the day, but I don’t want to risk disrupting my minion’s reports. Maybe tomorrow I can buy a book at Levar’s.

I thought about it more last night. Something happened to me to make me aware of these resets. I looked through the last week’s memories to see if I could find any clues, but nothing really stood out, which didn’t surprise me much. Whatever happened to change me, most likely happened after the night I lost my parents. Now that you are able to enhance my memories of that time, I should look through them for clues.

Plus, recounting those days has the added benefit of distracting me from the tedium of sitting here.


Illunia 15th-19th Road to Edgewater

We walked late into the night after fleeing the wreckage of our caravan. It had been five days since the river had started to dry up. Trish disguised us as best she could in case we were still being followed. With just plants and dirt, she obscured our features enough that any survivors from our caravan wouldn’t recognize us if we ran into them.

The scene at my parents' camp made it likely I was still a target, and the picture on the stranger’s corpse suggested the same for Trish. She decided it would be best to cut straight east and approach Edgewater from Landing to throw off anyone waiting for us on the path from the Great Lake. The uncertain dangers of the wilds seemed welcoming compared to the potential threat of being hunted. I don’t know why I agreed to continue to Edgewater, but I had nowhere left to go, and she didn’t ask my opinion on the matter. She said we were going and I went along for the ride, still in a daze.

We headed away from the river and the road, out into the wilderness. I don't remember stopping, but in the morning Trish had rounded up a donkey with supplies still in its saddle bags. She did her best to clean the blood of the previous owner from it, but there's only so much you could do with sand. It took me a while to find my voice after that night, and we traveled in silence for days. I don't think I could have spoken if I had tried, and Trish was content to give me time. Between planning elaborate escape plans, from joining one of the floating mat Conclaves of Assuine to becoming pirates, Trish would speak about small things like the weather or a funny story that came to her to try to get me to open up. At the time, she seemed unfazed by it all, but looking through these memories with what I know of her now, she was shaken and coping in her own way.

The plains spread out before us, an endless expanse of rolling green hills, spotted with the occasional farm or herd of sheep. Land on the Continent was abundant and free to whoever chose to claim it, but it took a brave, stupid, or highly capable person to venture out into the wilds. The farms that paid taxes to one of the cities receive protection from the monsters and feralkin, but out here the only protection was what one could provide for themselves. But still, people came to the wilderness in search of freedom. We spotted farms from well off, by their smoke in the day and fires at night, and did our best to avoid being seen. Trish would disappear at night near these farms, only to return with food and clothes to replace our own soiled rags. After four days of traveling by night, the scattered fires of a large camp appeared when we crested a hill. We had finally reached the road that had connected Landing to Edgewater and a camp was set up alongside it. Hiding the donkey and me in a ditch, Trish went to scout out the caravan.

She returned with a report, "We’re in luck. It looks like this is a group of refugees escaping from Landing. It suffered an attack, I don't know what, but we should be able to blend in unnoticed."

It didn’t take a lot of effort to pull off the refugee look. Leading the donkey, we walked towards the camp. Trish was sure-footed and confident walking in the dark but pretended to be surprised by the sentry on duty.

"Stop! Who goes there?" yelled a voice.

A hooded lantern opened up to reveal the area between us and the voice. The speaker was a soldier in the uniform of the Landing city watch. He wore chainmail, with gauntlets and pauldrons, accented with the blue and white colors of the Diabins, the ruling house of Landing.

"Oh, dear! You scared us. Oh, Theral! We are saved, it's the Landing guard!" Trish explained this all in a breath, crushing me in a hug, and introducing that stupid name I have not since been able to shake. Seamlessly, she had adopted the guise and mannerism of a scared refugee. Gone was the confident woman who casually stripped the dead of valuables and planned pirate escapes. In her place stood a scared teen.

"False alarm! It's just more refugees!" the guard yelled back to where soldiers were gathering. "Go on through, we have no spare tents, so you will have to make do with what you’ve got."

We walked past him into the groups of huddled masses. The camp had about a hundred refugees: men, women, and children alike. Guards were scattered around the camp, but there couldn’t have been more than twenty. The mood of the camp could generously be described as grim, the sound of sobbing only broken by the occasionally shrieking wail.

We found a spot by a fire near the edge of the camp, its inhabitants not sparing us a glance as we settled in. I tied the donkey to a nearby cart and we bedded down near the fire.

Trish whispered, "No one looks to be in charge. We just need to lie low until we hit Edgewater. From there, I can get word to my friend."

Trish had settled a plan to join up with a pirate crew she knew. In my fugue, she took my silence as tacit agreement and she began to plot from there. The sketchy plan—as best I could follow—was to get in contact with the captain of a ship she had once crewed. They were based out of the coast near Edgewater. As far as I knew, there was nothing off the coast near Edgewater, but that didn't seem to deter her.

Trish and I huddled under the single blanket we had found in the donkey’s pack, and alternated watches from under the cover.

I was awake when the alarms broke the silence that had eventually fallen, "Close in! Feralkin in the night!"

The camp broke into panic as all the refugees screamed, running every which way. The guards quickly gave up trying to instill order and formed a large circle around the largest fire in the center of the camp. The more level-headed ran toward the guards, while others still fled out into the night. A group of children at our fire froze in fear, huddling together with no adult to guide them.

"Come on! Follow us!" I shouted to them—breaking my silence—but they stood still in fear. Behind them, I saw shapes circling in the shadows.

Trish looked from me to the children, as if deciding, before she ran to the smallest of the three and tried to drag him towards the camp. "You heard the man! Let’s get a move on it!"

The child screamed when Trish approached. Drawn by the screams, shadowy figures charged into the light of our fire; the figures were small wretched creatures, malnourished and dressed in the tattered remains of their previous victims.

Goblins.

One of the failed creations of Bilieth and Erebog, goblins look like a twisted cross between halflings and orcs, with brownish green skin and short limbs as suitable for running on all fours as for walking upright. They scrounge and scavenge like packs of feral dogs, but with enough intelligence to use the weapons of their victims.

The goblins screeched, brandishing large knives that looked like swords on their small frames.

Trish threw the child she held behind her and stepped between the other two and the advancing monsters. I rushed to stand beside her, hand held out before me. Eight goblins had entered the light and were coming at us. Trish drew a knife from within her shirt, and threw it at the lead goblin, striking it square in the chest and dropping it in a single blow. Undeterred by the loss, the others continued their advance.

The fire light was dim, and our bodies blocked it from reaching our enemies. I began to form the construct for Light with my Will.

So much for lying low.

From my time on the road, I knew goblins to fear bright lights, and be fairly easy to kill if you can land a hit, despite their feral savagery. Landing a hit was the problem.

When the goblins were a dozen feet away, I released the Light between us a dozen feet off the ground, causing them to recoil in surprise. Taking advantage of the aborted charge Trish threw another knife. She struck her target in the eye, killing it instantly, it’s body falling limply to the ground to join the first.

The remaining six goblins let out a shrill cry and spread out to surround us while shielding their eyes from my spell. As soon as I’d released the Light spell, I’d begun casting a Firebolt and threw it at one of the encircling goblins. The fist sized ball of fire streaked across the battlefield, its flames a faint orange glow in the harsh white light of the Light spell. It hit my target, bursting into a plume of flame and rancid stink as the goblin fell to the ground, writhing in pain but not yet dead. The other five had continued their advance undeterred by the loss of their comrades as I began constructing my next spell. With eyes shielded, the goblins charged under my orb of light. Once they had passed the light and regained their sight they split and approached us from both sides. In response to this advance, Trish and I separated to better protect the children.

The children screamed behind us as the enemy came, just a few more screams lost in the chaos of the night. I released my second Light, this time anchored on my own head, which once again robbed the goblins of their vision as they were forced to shield their eyes, but still they charged. Trish stood with two long knives drawn prepared to meet them.

Where did those come from?

The goblin slashed wildly at us, forgoing the shielding of their eyes to attack. Three had gone for Trish, but she parried their blind attacks easily. I activated Mage Armor in time to narrowly avoid a slash to my thighs. With no weapon, I could only kick at the other two small creatures and trust my armor to deflect the attacks I couldn't dodge.

Their next strikes were easily deflected by my spell, as the two goblins went for stabs at my seemingly unprotected chest. Mage Armor sent the attacks wide, their diverted momentum sending them to either side of me. I took the opportunity to kick the goblin on the left while it was overextended and felt a disturbing crunch as I shattered it's ribs. The creature collapsed and I was left with one foe.

Before I could turn to attack the other goblin, Trish appeared at my side, stabbing her knife into its chest, interrupting it as it tried to make another ineffectual swipe at my shield.

With the immediate threats taken care of, I surveyed the area. Trish had cleanly killed each goblin with a single strike in the time it had taken me to disable one. The ground was covered in the blood of the goblins, black, even in the illumination of my Light. The acrid rotting stench of goblin blood had drowned out the foul odor of burning goblin flesh. I turned to check on the children, and saw that one of them had been bitten on the leg; blood was pouring from the wound and the child was whimpering in pain. Near them lay a ninth goblin with one of Trish’s knives sticking from its back. I pulled my shirt off as I rushed to his side and used it to secure the wound.

I tried to reassure the boy, "Shhh. It's okay, you are going to be okay."

The screams or the blood—probably both—drew more goblins. They gathered around the edge of my lights’ reach. Dozens, at least, milled about at the edge of the darkness, waiting for one brave feralkin to start the charge. I looked up and saw Trish as she tried to keep them at bay, throwing the crude knives of the dead into their ranks. I cast another Firebolt blindly into the darkness, but I had to remove my hands from the child’s wound in the process. The boy’s wound needed constant pressure if he was to survive the battle and receive real care.

"Hold the cloth over the wound!" I shouted to the other two children, but terror had frozen them.

I didn't know what to do. I could let him die and help save the others, or keep him stable and pray to Riloth that Trish could protect us. As I was about to give up tending the boy to help Trish fight the creatures, the thunder of hoof beats grew audible over the din of battle. It grew louder until a mounted man in gleaming armor and a white tabard charged into the light, trampling goblins under his mount’s feet. His armor reflected both Lights, and he shone like a knight out of legend. He jumped from the horse—which continued to stomp the goblins with its armored hooves—and rushed to my side. He tossed his helmet aside—striking a goblin with the throw—revealing a weathered face that had seen many battles. His skin was dark, and scars ran from his cheeks to his shaved scalp.

The man gently took the child from me, and at a word his hands glowed with a blue light, and before my eyes the child’s skin knit back together. He leaned over to inspect his work, and my light revealed his eyes were the same crisp piercing blue as his magic. I then noticed the emblems of a Tower Seeker emblazoned on his pauldron.

Flood, I’m dead.

Instincts beat into me by my mother screamed, but I saw the goblins still attacking the refugees.

I can’t flee and leave them. If he is going to kill me, I can’t stop him, but I can help others before I die.

Resolved, I picked up a large branch from near the fire and fought my way to Trish, clubbing a goblin out of the way when it tried to intercept me. Her back was to the Seeker’s horse while she kept the goblins at bay with one of her long knives and a goblin’s knife she'd recovered. The goblins were gathering around the pair; the horse was bleeding from wounds all over its legs, attracting their attention. I summoned a Firebolt in my hand and held it longer as I channeled more power onto it. When it'd reached the largest size I could maintain, I threw it at the nearest goblin. The ball of fire the size of my head exploded on contact with the goblin, killing it instantly in an eruption of flame and knocking the feralkin on either side to the ground in the explosion. I ran through the opening in the ring and joined Trish at the horse’s side.

"Idiot! You weren’t supposed to jump inside the circle!" she scolded me.

"Sorry!" I said, somehow able to feel ashamed as I lit another goblin on fire with a Firebolt.

A sharp whistle rang over the sounds of battle, and the horse at our back reared up and charged out of the circle of goblins. Without stopping the mount, the Seeker leaped atop its back and began to ride through the goblins surrounding us. He killed five with a single swing of his bastard sword, their bodies falling to the ground in pieces. Seeing the destruction he wrought with a single swing, I used the last of my Will to summon a Light anchored to him, the goblins encircling us having fled back into the night.

He made quick work of the remaining goblins and left us to help others in the camp who were still battling. The few surviving goblins fled from the shining knight as he traveled through the camp, and were cut down by the soldiers as they ran.

Exhausted from the brief struggle, I collapsed to the ground next to the fire. It was still burning, oblivious to the battle that had just been fought around it.

"Well, you didn’t tell me you knew how to do that,” Trish’s voice said from behind me. I turned to see her collecting her knives off of the dead goblins and, after deeming the goblins' rags not up to the task, she wiped them clean on her cloak. "You know Clean right? Every good wizard knows Clean."

"I, uh, don’t know that one, sorry."

Looking at the fresh goblin stains all over her cloak she said, "Well then, I guess this is a lost cause," and cleaned the rest on it before tossing it into the fire.

The burning goblin blood smelled even worse than their burning flesh. Your enhanced sensorium isn’t working for senses, but it was rank and I feel I can almost taste it now without it.

The smell forced us to gag and drove us away from our campsite. Trish ushered the children along and gave me an apologetic look.

What little cohesion the camp had, had been destroyed in the raid. People crowded around fires, sobbing. The soldiers had torn down all the tents to improve lines of sight, and some people futilely tried to reset the torn cloth and shattered poles while some of the able bodied gathered the wounded and dead. Somehow our donkey had survived the slaughter, and was being herded to a central location with the rest of the camp’s pack animals. I moved to help with the effort after seeing the children safely to the fire, but Trish pulled me down, sat me on a stump, and began pretending to bandage my foot. Somehow she’d gotten our bags off of the donkey before it’d been collected.

I tried to resist. "What are you doing? I'm fine. I should help them."

"Sit still magic boy, and hold this," she whispered and handed me a leather-bound tome. I opened it in confusion to see it was a merchant’s ledger. "So what's your cover? Deific bloodline? Got a little demon blood? Or are you still pretending to be a Stormcaller?"

I paged through the ledger, I discovered that the merchant was very bad at math, and he was attempting to write a romance novel between entries. Eventually her words sunk in.

She knew I was a sorcerer. How? And more importantly, she didn't care. Why?

"Don't look so shocked." She started counting items off on her free hand, "You know magic, you have no spellbook, you haven't freaked out over the loss of said non-existent spellbook, and you haven't told me you were a Tower wizard a dozen times. Oh yeah, and you keep glancing over at that Seeker like you have something to hide. Stop that."

"I do not." I said with the same air as a petulant child refusing to admit they were not wearing pants, when it was clear that they were not.

"Alright fine," I admitted. "But how do you know I don't have a spellbook?"

"Easy, I looked through your bag—which I should mention you haven't done once—and you just had a journal filled with some made up gibberish. No spellbook. Relax, I don't care. But Baldy over there will. Get your story straight, he's coming this way. Try not to openly lie."

I looked round in a panic and saw that the bald knight was in fact coming this way, my Light still shining above his head.

"Thanks for the assistance out there," he said, pointing to the Light. "Also, you may have saved that boy's life, so doubly thanks. I owe you a debt. My name is Daulf."

He tossed me a shirt, which I caught and put on slowly in order to buy some time to think. My mother had taught me to pass myself off as a Stormcaller if this day ever arose. I knew what to do, and I’d done so a dozen times in less dire situations, but knowing and doing are very different things when there was a Seeker staring at you.

Poking my head through the hole in the shirt, I saw Daulf standing there patiently with a warm smile. From the lines on his face, it was a well-worn expression.

"Theral. Call me Theral, that is. I'm called Apprentice Stormcaller Farvoyage." I said, giving the fake clan name my mother had provided and had called me on occasion while playing a role—so not technically a lie.

"Well well, a Stormcaller, that is a rare and fortunate sight in our current predicament. On a walkabout I suppose, I think you chose a bad time to visit Landing," Daulf said, gesturing to the camp, smile replaced with a somber expression.

"Yeah, I lost my master in the—" I paused, both from the real grief of losing my parents, and being uncertain as to what to say to avoid a lie. I knew not what had caused the refugees to flee, but I couldn't reveal that or bend it to the truth for my own purposes.

"Say no more, you are not alone in your grief this night. If you can manage, I could use a man of your talents to help keep the survivors alive as we make our way to Edgewater. After the dragon and its sorcerous minions destroyed Landing, it's the closest thing to a city this far north."

Dragon?!

I struggled to hide my reaction to the information that should not have been news. Thankfully Daulf waited patiently for me to regain my composure. When my mind finally got over that realization, I was overcome with a mix of relief and dread. Relief that my deception had worked, and dread at the prospect of traveling to Edgewater with this Seeker. Not only would I be travelling with a Seeker, but also with a group that just escaped death at the hands of sorcerers. If my identity got out, I was doomed.

The rest of the night was a blur of activity. I had no Will left to aid, but Daulf put me to work tending to the wounded, his own powers to heal also exhausted. Eventually I found myself in a tent, and was asleep as soon as my head touched the ground.

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TK523

  • United States

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

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