A note from TK523

The last 4 chapters of Book 1 are now available on the Patreon for the lowest tier. 

Entry 30: Riloth the 19th the 25th

Dear Spellbook,

Last night, after writing about Edgewater, I sat and thought about my plans for the future—or at least whatever constitutes a future in a temporal prison. I’d saved Gerald, and could do so again, but to what purpose? I could streamline the process and build it into my routine, but each time he would go back to being trapped.

No, I need to press on. It's been nearly a month, and I’ve made little progress and succumbed to distraction after distraction. I resolved to commit to my plan, and survey the area in search of the source of this occurrence. Maybe the solution is out of my control, and I'll spend the next hundred years worth of todays in a futile search, but what else can I do? What if instead, I’m the only one that can end it?

With that in mind, when I woke, I went through my day with renewed focus. After collecting my winnings, I stopped by Simon’s counter.

I flipped him a gold coin and said—interrupting his greeting, "I need you to pack me a lunch and a dinner. The lunch needs to be edible on horseback, and the dinner at a campfire. If you can do it in the next thirty-nine minutes before I return I will have another gold for you."

Simon caught the coin out of the air and said with a genuine smile, "Of course, Mage Theral, anything for our guests."

Now he’s happy? After I finally interrupted his stupid greeting?

As I was heading out the door, I added, "Also, everything in the meals must start with the letter A!" then walked out without looking back.

The meal’s he’d packed the last two days had been the same cured ham sandwich. If I task Simon each day to make me a meal with some ridiculous condition, I’ll get variety and quality.

When I returned from finishing up with my minions astride Ian, Simon was waiting outside with two bags packed with food. His smile seemed less genuine now. I thanked him, paid him for his work and loaded the bags onto Ian's back. I much preferred the docile nature of Ian to Knot, and planned on using him for the foreseeable future. If the need struck to travel further and faster, I’d need to suck it up, but I wasn’t exactly hurting for time.

My experience with the harpy taught me to be prepared, and I’d decided to bring my father’s sword with me. With only enough training to scabbard it without injuring myself and point it in the right direction, I should at least be able to avoid killing myself with it. Daulf had told me once that it was a good fit to my frame, so I might as well get used to it. He also said something about me needing to pack on some more muscle to wield it properly—not everything he says is nice, but he probably meant it constructively. And he’s probably right. A lifetime of libraries and being tied to trees had not been erased by a few months of adventure and Bearskin’s training. My endurance is great from all the walking—and running—but let's just say it's a bit hypocritical of me to call Cam "Twiggy." It's all moot at this point, since it's unlikely strength training will do me much good in the near future, since the near future is not something I will see any time soon.

With my gear packed and my minions sorted, I set off south at a brisker pace than before, occasionally slowing and walking next to Ian to give him a break. I cast Gale to give us a tail wind, the cooling effect of the breeze being more of a speed enhancer than the force of the wind itself. We passed the turn off for Gerald’s camp an hour ahead of schedule and continued on. Writing now, I could relay every boring detail of the trip, hoping to find any clue with your enhanced recall, but I don’t feel the need to do that. Points of interest seem to act as a beacon when I write in you, drawing my attention to the memories. It's like you, or maybe my subconscious, are screening the memories before I commit them to your pages.

Moving at a faster pace than previous treks down this road, I overtook three separate groups of refugees heading south to Lakeside. For each child I passed, I Conjured a gold coin and tossed it to them, vowing them to silence with a finger to the lips.

I did have a brief exciting encounter which you will be pleased to know I did not initiate. After traveling for a few hours I dug through the lunch Simon had packed for me. It consisted of some apples, which I fed to Ian, a wedge of some crumbly cheese which I assume had some "A" starting name I didn’t know, and some almonds. Aside from the apples—which I still wasn’t eating—it was a fair attempt on Simon’s part, but I will need to figure out the name of this cheese to see if he cheated me.

As I was working on my wedge of cheese, my attention to my surroundings lapsed. The road had narrowed to a mere cart’s width here and the banks rose well above my mounted head. The road was cut through a small butte that was too steep to ascend. Had I been paying more attention to my surroundings than to this cheese I would have been on alert. My parents would be ashamed that I so quickly forgot the dangers of the roads; this was a prime spot for an ambush.

Up above, on the raised banks of the road stepped a group of four haggard-looking men. One was wearing the colors of the Parlor in what might have once been their security outfit if it had fewer dirt stains and holes. The remaining three wore the ragged red and gold remains of the House Barion’s guard uniform. All insignia of rank and affiliation had been removed.

With a crossbow pointed at my face, the Parlor deserter yelled, "Throw us your coin and that sword and we’ll let you on your merry way. You can even keep that nag of a horse"

Feeling a little confident after my successful combat yesterday, and offended on Ian’s behalf, I raised my hands into the air, holding the cheese aloft.

I shouted, "What?! I can't hear you. This cheese is really crumbly, and I’m a loud chewer—or at least that's what my friends tell me. I think they might be right!"

As soon as I finished speaking I cast Blink, bringing myself behind the crossbowman speaker for the party. Appearing behind him, I gave him and his companion each a quick shove. Their arms windmilled at their sides comically—the crossbow flung aside— as the pair lost their balance and tumbled over the edge. I didn’t have time to watch them land, but it sounded painful. Distracted by their falling compatriots, the two across the way were ill-prepared for the blast of wind that appeared at their backs blowing them over the edge as well.

After some thought on the road, I’d decided on the name Gust for my new directable Slow Fall spell. All that I knew about sorcery told me I shouldn’t have been able to create this spell, but here I was with a spell I’d learned, not through instinct, but through intuition. Had my mother been lying to me, overcautious, or simply wrong? She left caution at home when we set out for training, so I suspect one of the other two—actually, she wasn’t cautious at home either.

Looking over the ledge, I found the fall to have been more than painful for at least one of them. The leader lay dead on the road, neck broken from a poor landing. I Conjured another wedge of cheese from my pocket and started to eat it, affecting a nonchalance I wasn’t feeling. I shouted down to the remaining three, "You have until I finish this piece of cheese to be out of my sight, or I actually start trying to kill you." I called upon the Font of Fire in my non-cheese hand, wreathing it in fire, to add to the effect.

I had not intended to kill any of them, but I didn’t regret it. After goblins, highwaymen are any traveler’s worst fear. While highwaymen can be bought off, sometimes they seek more than payment. The worst a goblin will do is kill you and eat your corpse.

I’d killed thinking beings before, but this was the first time I’d ever killed a human. I had helped fend off goblins dozens of times growing up, but they are little more intelligent than a dog and far more vicious than the most feral of mongrels. At Edgewater, I’d killed forsaken and not thought much of it. In the fortress, I slew a Fallen orc, which is as much a person as a human or elf, and it shook me, but I knew at the time it was the right thing to do. They had been lost to Faust, corrupted, and fully embracing his desire to destroy. Was killing this man any different from killing a Fallen orc? A Fallen orc decided one day to dedicate themself to Faust’s will and in drinking the blood of another Fallen or dragon, became locked in that choice for life.

This man woke every morning and decided anew to kill and maim people for profit. Who is worse? The orc who made a terrible decision once or the man who makes it daily? The orc is beyond redemption, but does the bandit even deserve it?

I don’t know, and I suppose—on some level—it's academic. In an hour that man will be alive once more and if I travel down this road in the future, I will likely kill him again. Could I try reasoning with him? Turning him away from crime? Maybe, but like Gerald, it would only be for a day.

Alright, enough wool-gathering.

At my threat, they fled without even a second glance to their dead companion. No affection amongst thieves it seemed. My ability to terrify children had grown into the ability to terrify hardened criminals. When my heart rate settled and I’d finished wrestling with my soul over the death of the bandit, I looked around the top of the butte. A trail had begun to form into the trees atop the hill from where I stood. Following it led me to their camp, which was disgusting.

Their tents sagged, improperly hung, each looking more like drying-filthy-sheets than places to sleep. Their campfire was a forest fire waiting to happen, with no stones around the edge and debris strewn about. The remains of meals lay dropped everywhere. To the side lay a pile of rags that had once been clothing and were now filthy and covered in mud and worse. On that topic, the latrine was not far enough away to prevent the smell from permeating the camp.

After the shock of the initial slovenliness, I began to notice signs of casual evil. Amongst the piles of loot I saw items of no monetary—but much sentimental—value: A doll I had seen in the arms of a girl, leaving on a caravan before the resets, was torn in half, a pile of shattered glass that had once been vases or cups, the half-burned remains of a painting sticking out of the fire. What cruel twisted desires drove these men, stealing and destroying for fun? I couldn’t find any evidence of murder, but I’ll admit I didn’t look with any effort after spying the doll. I couldn’t stop every evil in this place, but I suspected I could do something about this.

I left their camp, wishing I had done more to scare the survivors. Ian had found a fascinating clump of grass growing level with his head and was diligently chewing. Using the eight-foot drop as an opportunity to experiment, I leaped from it and reached for the Font of Air. Casting Gust, targeting myself and pointing upward—nearly the original form of the spell—I attempted to modify it slightly. Normally the spell takes a significant amount of Will and covers a large area, large enough to save three people but no donkeys. I experimented to see if I could reduce the area the wind covers, using less Will while keeping the effect on myself the same. Part of my mind in the Arcane Realm, I only fed the spell half the Will required to experience the full effect. When the spell began to collapse, I reshaped it, somehow knowing which parts to modify to keep the force the same, but reduce the area.

A focused jet of air manifested below me to cushion my descent and my fall slowed, but not enough. I could feel that the wind was only covering part of my body, and I landed hard, but without serious injury. A partial success. Next time I would need to expand the area slightly and maybe use a bit more Will, but I could already tell that this would work.

Ian didn’t appreciate my experiment. The sudden loud gust of wind terrified the docile horse, and he took off. Growing up on the road taught me it was never wise to chase a scared horse. We ride horses for a reason, they are faster, and being chased only makes them run longer. So I walked after him at a leisurely pace thinking of the possibilities for my new spell. After about a mile I found him, once more engrossed in a tuft of grass.

The whole ordeal ended around three, and I had another three hours of light left to explore. I saw a few turn-offs to more of the forest farms Daulf had mentioned on our approach to Crossroads. If I'm still here in a year, I'm sure I'll get around to exploring those, but for now I was looking for a big sign that read “Ancient Magical Secrets Here” and these roads weren’t it.

With the sun almost setting, I stumbled upon something that—while not a big sign—was definitely strange. The trees in this forest were ancient behemoths, many with trunks as wide as I was tall, towering hundreds of feet into the air. Close to dark, when I was already on the lookout for a campsite, I noticed that on either side of the road, the tree line had changed. To my left and right, a thirty-foot patch of woods extended where no tree stood taller than a hundred feet and all had narrower trunks than those around them.

Both directions seemed the same, so I chose left. When traveling and at an impasse, my father would always go left. He never gave a good reason for it, but it tended to work out for him. Ian was hesitant to leave the road but eventually complied. Casting Light gave him a start, but made navigating the wooded area easier.

Traveling after Edgewater, our horses eventually became accustomed to my use of magic. Ian, is going to have a traumatic eternity here with me, never expecting my magical use each day. Poor guy.

As an apology, I gave him the last apple from the satchel.

Traveling through the stunted forest strip for an hour brought little progress and revealed nothing of note. Ian eventually stopped and refused to move forward, so it was there we made camp.

Digging into the second bag Simon had packed, I discovered an apple pie, some weird lumpy green fruit with a giant pit and lime green flesh, and some weird spiky green bulb of leaves. I don’t think that last one was even food. The pitted fruit tasted fatty but was pretty good otherwise. It might have been a vegetable. I gave Ian the spiky bulb, which he enjoyed, and I risked the pie. It turns out apple pie was just delicious, no matter how wronged you felt by apples themselves.

I cast a barrage of Lights around the camp to exhaust my Will, and then drank a potion and did it again. I didn’t want to risk a forest fire here and Ian had gone through enough, no need to give him a heart attack from Lightning Bolt, so no practicing my aim today.

A note from TK523

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

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