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A note from TK523

We dropped below 10 yesterday, so  I think our Rising Stars front page days are over. Thank you to everyone who rated and reviewed. 

Enjoy the chapter, next chapter returns to the "present" story line.

Also, Happy Groundhog Day!

Entry 14 Part 2: Riloth 19th the 11th

Illunia 20 - Road to Edgewater

The next morning I woke to find a burlap sack over my head. The sunlight shone through the cloth—revealing its rough woven threads.

The Seeker kidnapped me! That Riloth-cursed flooding bastard! Damn him to the Fauell! I knew his act was false!

I thrashed around wildly trying to break free of my restraints—only to find that no restraints held me. I removed the sack from my head to find that it was just a piece of burlap cloth, and that I was lying on the ground in the midst of a bustling camp, my tent having been taken down around me.

"Morning sleepy head," Trish greeted me, sitting at the foot of my mat eating an apple. "The big guy told everyone to let you sleep so you were topped off in the morning and ready to burn some miscreants. I'm paraphrasing."

Still groggy, I asked, "How late did I sleep?"

She pointed up to the sky, where the sun was directly overhead, "Late."

I sat up, stretching, and she sidled close to me and continued in a whisper, "I did some recon, it looks like Landing was attacked by a white dragon and its cult of sorcerers, just like Baldy said. Can you believe that? It's like a trashy novel, but tragic in a bad way. The whole city burned and the locks that feed the river from cliffs above the town were frozen completely solid. Tall, dark, and sexy over there," she gestured to Daulf, "rallied the defenders after his Tower charge died fighting the dragon."

Her speech grew more animated as she told the tale, "They say he killed two dozen sorcerers leading this group to the gates of the city. As he fought, people fled from their homes to join in his mad dash out of the city. The magic of the sorcerers bounced off him like I imagine a coin would bounce off his ass—that last part was also paraphrased. Then at the gate he chose to stay behind and fought so the group he’d gathered could escape! Everyone thought he was dead, but then in their hour of need, he valiantly came to our rescue."

She stopped to recover her breath and added, "So it's a good thing you fooled him with your ledger there. You’re welcome."

"That's a lot to take in. A dragon. Like, a real one? That wasn’t an exaggeration on the Seeker’s part?"

"Yeah, it wasn't as big as the legends say, but it was big enough to swallow Lord Dabian whole. Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that part, Daulf wasn’t around when it happened so it wasn’t as interesting." She stood up and shooed me off the cot. "Anyway, Illunia's Chosen over there told me to let you sleep and fetch you when you woke. I forgot to mention that too, didn't I? He's the flooding Chosen of Illunia. I didn't even know she had one! Good luck!"

She took the burlap cloth out of my hands and left me standing there—somehow with the core of her apple in its place.

I looked around for something that could save me from having to approach Daulf. Everyone was busy repairing wagons, sorting through their contents, and preparing stretchers for the wounded. Daulf was at work securing his warhorse to a cart meant to be drawn by a creature half its height. He turned to look at me, as if sensing my eyes on his back, and gave me his possibly-earnest smile.

"Good morning! I hope you feel rested. I thought you could use the extra sleep, but now that you’re up I have some tasks you can help with."

Reluctantly, I walked to his side, wondering what I could possibly do to help. Daulf gave his horse a reassuring pat on the neck and whispered something into its ear before leading me away.

"We fixed up most of the wagons. They were already in poor condition last night and the attack didn’t help. We were able to get six together in working order, but two had broken axles. I was hoping you could do something to help with that."

Years of hiding almost led me to say, "Why would you think I could help with that?" but I stopped myself.

Why did he think I could help with that? Could he read my mind? Is he reading my mind now? Your codpiece is undone. I am a sorcerer! Trish is obsessed with your butt.

Daulf watched me patiently with no reaction to my mental taunts.

Alright, he probably can’t read my mind. I should probably say something.

"Uh, yeah. I can probably help with that. I can cast Mend three times, but any more and I’d be spent till the evening."

Since he can detect lies, I couldn’t exactly play my cards close to my chest when asked directly for aid like that.

"Splendid, go over and give Davin a hand, he's the wheelwright working on those two wagons." Then he walked off to see to more aspects of our departure.

Up close, I recognized Davin as one of the wounded I'd tended to the night before. Gone were the worst of the slashes and bite marks he had sustained defending his family from the goblins’ attempt to eat them.

When he saw me, recognition lit up his face. "Mage Theral! I wanted to thank you for tending to me last night. Daulf told me that you may have saved my life when you cauterized my wounds," he emphasized the statement by wiggling a now three-fingered left hand. "Illunia be praised Daulf was able to fix me up, I still lost the fingers though."

I frowned at the sight of his missing fingers, sad for his loss.

"But he assured me that was not because of your work, it was just beyond him." He added quickly, reading my face for any signs of offense.

I gave him a smile.

"I’m glad I was able to help, and that Daulf was there. I feared you wouldn’t make it to morning. So, where is this broken axle?" I asked, rubbing my hands together in anticipation.

He brought me to the axles, and I cast Mend on them, one after another, as he held them in place. Each one took about a minute, during which I felt extremely exposed.

Mend is a wizard spell that draws on the Font of Persona to return an item to its ideal state. The spell works at repairing broken items to this ideal state, but has a lot of limitations. It can only repair things that were crafted in some way, and can’t repair damage that is too old. Long term damage eventually becomes a part of the ideal state. For example, if you scratch your glasses and neglect to Mend it, then some time later they shatter, Mend will repair the lenses to their previous scratched state. Clean draws on this same Font, and I tried to convince my mother to teach it to me first but she refused, since Mend is a necessity among the shipclans and critical to my disguise.

I guess she was right.

The thought of my mother reopened a wound that had not even begun to heal. When the work was done, I busied myself checking the harness on our appropriated donkey that had miraculously survived the night free of wounds.

The repaired wagons were loaded with the injured who had not yet been healed by Daulf, and the now diminished group set off towards Edgewater. Funerals had been performed while I slept, which contributed to the late start.

In the night, Trish and I had stumbled upon the road that led from Landing to Edgewater and followed the edge of the river. We followed along that riverbank the next day, it too had drained of water and ships both crewed and abandoned occupied its muddy banks.

I traveled in silence, reflecting on the past week. In the chaos of the previous night I'd been able to forget; but then, alone with my thoughts, I returned to my silent trudge, a grim expression deterring any company. The journey was uneventful until we reached the Bridge of Three. The bridge crossed the river at the fork where the River Salvation from Landing met the Sisters River to form the Burnam River. As was typical of the structures that predated the settlement of the Continent, it was of dwarven construction and was a seamless piece of stone. A stone pillar rose from the center of the fork, and from each bank a half arc rose to meet in the center. Each was wide enough for two wagons to pass abreast and had chest high walls a foot thick. The most impressive feature was the sheer height of the bridge. At its center, the bridge stood over one hundred feet, tall enough for sailing ships to pass below. With the water gone, it was possible to see the base of the central pillar, which rose straight from the mud of the river’s bottom.

The bridge had been constructed with Earth magic, either from a Blessed of Torc or one of the fabled Stoneweavers. I marveled at the pristine unbroken expanse of stone each time I encountered one of their works.

When the group reached the apex of the bridge a commotion broke out among the refugees. All eyes looked towards the Sisters’ River, as they froze in fear. I tracked their eyes and saw a massive tide of water rushing down the muddy bank.

When Daulf saw, he shouted, "Everyone, continue off the bridge in an orderly and brisk manner!" His voice booming in the stunned silence.

To their credit, they complied with minimal panic. We didn’t all make it off the bridge before the wave struck, but the dwarves must have known what they were doing; the bridge didn’t even tremble as the water struck. The brown wave of debris roared towards us, colliding with the pillar in a mighty crash. The sound of uprooted tree trunks cracking on the supports broke through the roar of the water.

I scanned the water for signs of what might have caused this. It was filled with malformed and twisted trees, but I could also make out the telltale remnants of a sailing ship. Sailcloth, ropes, and crates of goods were all floating in the water; and to my surprise, I saw a man clinging to one of the branches, still alive.

"There’s someone down there!" I shouted to no one in particular.

I grabbed a coil of rope from the back of a wagon and ran back up the bridge. The storm front of debris had continued on past the bridge, the flow turbulent and full of detritus. Somehow the man had clung to the pillar. On closer inspection, he was stuck to the side, like an insect clinging to the sheer surface.

What is he holding onto?

I knew these structures to be smooth, continuous constructions of magically formed stone.

Had the debris damaged the bridge? Is it going to fall?

I reached the top of the bridge, winded and pushing away my worry. Half the soldiers and Daulf trailed behind me. Casting my vision about, I saw that the bridge had nowhere to secure a rope to.

"Hand that here." Daulf said as he reached me. Grabbing the rope, he tied it around his waist and threw the other end over the edge. Below I heard a splash and I leaned over to see the man swimming for the rope amidst the still-debris-filled rapids. He reached for the rope but was pushed under by a log, resurfacing a dozen yards downstream. He made a valiant attempt to swim upstream to the rope, but any progress he made was erased as floating obstacles repeatedly pushed him back.

My heart sank. He was making progress but he had to be exhausted.

As I watched the doomed man, trying to think of a way to save him, his progress continued slowly, relentlessly, ever towards the rope. A dozen yards became ten, then five, before he was once more knocked back by debris. Each foot he clawed through the water elicited cheers from the watching soldiers and refugees. After agonizing minutes of halting progress, he grasped the rope in his hand. The refugees on the bank broke into celebration and the rope went taut, dragging Daulf to the wall.

"Brace! Help me pull!" Daulf shouted to the soldiers.

The men jumped at his command and held him, preventing him from falling. Before they could get better grips to begin pulling in the rope, the shouts of the refugees grew even more excited. I leaned over the wall to see that the man had already climbed halfway up the hundred-foot distance.

Hand over hand, the man climbed the rope as if pulling in a fishing line. In less time than it would have taken me to walk the distance, he vaulted over the wall, revealing a giant eight-foot form that forced my mind to recalibrate the scale of the scene I'd just witnessed. He was shirtless, wearing only a brown fur cloak and tattered leather pants. Swirling black tattoos covered his entire body, seemingly flowing out from a strange symbol over his heart, and rising out above his shoulder stuck the hilt of a wooden sword.

He looked at each of us briefly before saying, "I'm debted," and collapsed to the ground unconscious.

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TK523

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

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