The lamplight flickers in the densely packed inn of the Broken Wheel. Gu’ar sips the luke-warm ale in front of him; its contents refreshing and full-bodied. He catches several words from conversations around him and is reminded of how different the world is when compared to his home at the monastery. The problems with money, land use, and work were foreign to him. At the monastery, it was only about survival and finding a harmonious balance between the physical realm and the ethereal; perfecting the body and mind by meditations and prayers to the ancient gods of lore.
While Gu’ar was lost in thought, a man bumped into him attempting to pass by another table.
“Excuse me there- o-oh! Sorry to trouble you, but may you be from the low lands of Gar’Shan?”, he asked politely. The man was wearing a rough leather tunic with a high collar, soft textured cloth pants and high-worn jackboots.
“I am – well, the monastery at least”, replied Gu’ar. “I am here to learn more about my kind – a great city such as this one is sure to provide me with the answers I seek” he added after the man’s eyebrows rose towards his hairline.
The night wore on and the man ended up sitting and chatting with the half-orc. As it turned out, he was once a spice merchant from Tumlan who frequented that part of the trade route. The man was actually very aware of the nature the barbarian tribes had and quite often traded goods with them. When the trade lines in that region began to dry up, he used his vast network for military contacts and correspondence in the capitol and was eventually over several years promoted to Battalion Commander.
“Tell you what”, he proposed. “I will give you a place to stay, food to eat, money to spend, and all the information I know about your clan if you join our ranks for a short time? We could use a level-headed individual such as yourself, and I am certain you could teach some of the recruits a thing or two about advanced hand to hand combat!”
Gu’ar thought for a moment and pondered the opportunity. He didn’t have a course yet, and the monks taught him to follow the path of life; to flow like water around river rocks and react swiftly with change. Perhaps this chance meeting will give him the answers he seeks?
“I agree to your offer…umm?” Gu’ar just realized, he had never asked for the man’s name.
“Arthur Greenwald, or I suppose now it would be Commander Greenwald”, he laughed.
Another note is scrawled into the reference book Mertimil has been working on. The Head Librarian, Mr. Mandragon, has tasked her with recording all the books that have anything to do with High Void Architecture – perhaps to glean an understanding of the floating nodes spread across the planet? Either way, it was a daunting task that Mertimil was certain to complete within the month. She had explored the most of the library during her stay, but it every once in a while, she would lose her way and discover a new wing or room she never knew existed. For this reason, she slowly began to rely on her arcane abilities to track the library and mentally develop a map.
She set the heavy tomb she was just working with down on the flagstone and stood up from the seat by the old mantle fireplace. The long day of short movements and staring at pages began to wear on her, and Mertimil thought a short walk might relax her slowly stiffening back. It was growing late and the library was beginning to flush out – but the wing she was currently in didn’t see many visitors. The sky outside was gold with the fading sun and shone through the tall stained glass windows; adorned with imagery of great battles long past and famous historians of old. The high arched ceilings were imposing and grand. Her mind floated away as Mertimil walked down the aisles, the melody of colors washing together as she passed row after row.
The light faded further and the gentle glow of Biesbron ivy slowly lit themselves; their tendrils weaving over the stone columns like veins pumping with gold. Mertimil paused to marvel at its artful appearance and how much it looked like script. She suddenly remembered what she was supposed to be doing and looked around her. The spell finding charm wasn’t activated and the area she was in looked unfamiliar! With quick steps, she skirted over to the nearest main walkway – it was unfamiliar as well! Had she accidentally discovered another wing? While she was thinking about this new fact, a silent but barely noticeable click was heard just behind a couple rows; near the exterior wall shelves. When Mertimil rounded the great stone column and looked towards the source of the sound, she stared in awe as a section of books recessed into the wall and formed an opening. More Biesbron ivy could be seen in the now accessible room. Carefully, she entered the space and saw that it was a great observatory with a giant brass looking glass of odd proportions suspended in the center. The observatory was circular and the walls were covered with more ancient looking books – several of which were decaying and covered in thick layers of dust. They had obviously been neglected and she was going to immediately take it upon herself to clean them up.
She reached up and dusted off another book with her hand; she was covered with cobwebs and dust particles floated through the air like an early morning mist. Something appeared to be above the book and she strained to grab it from the ladder rung that supported her. If only it was just barely closer… and then she remembered who she was: a wizard. How foolish this must seem, Mertimil thought to herself. As she began to whisper the words of power, two things happened in quick succession. A book landed in the middle of the room beneath her – not like it had fallen, but as if it had been thrown, and secondly the magic words were almost complete and as she turned her attention back to the shelf only to see that several of the books were beginning to glow blue; getting brighter with every word!
She was so alarmed that Mertimil lost her balance and began to fall backwards off the ladder. Her hand reach out for the rungs and accidental grabbed a glowing book as she fell to the floor. She hit the hard stone floor with a thud and the book fell open next to her. The pages were unlike any she had ever seen: they were stiff and somewhat hard. With another blink, Mertimil saw that the writing and images on the pages were moving.
’What are you doing here! This is a restricted section!" came a shout at the room opening. Three guards and a short squat turtle of a man emerged. “Guards, take her away! See that this little magical snoop finds her way to the barracks.”
“B-but I’m assistant to the Head Librarian! I didn’t know this was off limits – Just ask Mr. Mandragon!” she pleaded. The small man quickly stooped down and slammed the book shut and the blue lights went out with a soft chime.
“I’ll have a few words with him, my dear. But for now…” He jerked his head and the guards scooped Mertimil up and drug her out of the library.
After four days of interrogation, Mertimil was told she would be released under reassignment. Not a word from Tom Mandragon in all of this. How could her employer, her friend, a man of such kindness leave her in this place?
“Mertimil Allanar”, said a tall imposing guard with a high point cap, “you are to be reassigned to the barracks and trained as a battlefield magi. Your skills and cooperation with officials have given you pardon, and it has been decided to place you under the direct supervision of Commander Arthur Greenwald of the Ivory Knights. Your work as an assistant in the library has proven valuable, but you are needed by the people of Mannon. The belongings you had in the library quarters have been moved to your new bunk within the Barracks and your finances have been transferred to the city Vault under your name. They may be accessed at a later date once your training is completed. Good luck and may the gods keep you.” He raised a fist to his chest in salute and walked away without another word.
Maximus weighs the sack of gold that was handed to him. 36 pieces of gold, not a bad deal, he thought to himself.
It was only yesterday that the price on his head was about that much – and now, his punishment is abolished and he is getting paid more than the price for his head…
…for a book.
It was 4 days ago when the man in black approached Maximus grovelling in the streets for food; stealing what he could and killing for the rest. The proposition of gold seemed too great to pass up, and his stomach was urging him on. He needed food AND wine, and not the trash they sell off at Gelding’s Corner. This would be top shelf, and cleaner than a kings goblet.
Stealing a key into the Grand Library was enough, but getting through the library unnoticed was another. His gloved hand palmed the leather patch that was given to him. The patch contained a map of the library and had the location of a secret room said to contain the book he needed. Whatever was in this book, he didn’t care. With the thought of fresh wine, food, and a warm body next to him to boot, who cared what a damn book had to tell him?
Once he was able to get the most immediate issues taken care of, he could… no, there was no time for that. The blade was back in his hand, still stained with the blood of his parents. Their screams fresh in his mind, but their faces faded by time. He was not ready to find the men that murdered them, but would there ever be? he thought to himself.
The Biesbron ivy pattern on the column lead him to the next wing, just as the leather scrap said. He searched for the stained glass image of Carnath Bashiro and took to the far left row of books; just as instructed. As he reached the books on Agriculture in Westoros, Maximus thought he heard someone out in the hall. Quick as a shadow and quiet as a fog bank, he peered around the row of books. There was someone standing just around the corner with their back turned, but it appeared that were too preoccupied with something else. He slithered back over to the books and hastily searched for the book labeled Plants for Ponies and Portholes by James E. Fullman of House Burns. Third row from the bottom, and right between two shelf columns he found it. Just as the leather patch described, he pushed on the label and the spine of the book opened like a door; revealing a keyhole.
The troubling thing was he didn’t have a key, but no matter. The lock-pick set he carried on his thigh and the skills he picked up on the streets would make quick work of this. Just before he successfully picked the lock, the device produced a louder-than-expected click and Maximus rolled back quickly; thinking it might be a trap. It was a good thing too because not a second later, someone rounded the corner and looked down the row. Maximus hid behind a row of books knowing that if he looked now, he would be spotted.
The search for the book was going badly. If only he could have some peace and quiet…alone.
He laughed at the thought. Peace and quiet to steal something! What a dream.
Before he decided to enter the room and dispose of the unwanted intruder, Maximus would check to see if anyone else heard the noises; someone who might be more trouble. The coast looked clear, until he saw the glint of armor….
He waited until the surprisingly good looking young half-elf was hauled away before he moved to the opening of the room. Maximus saw a book in the middle of the floor. But before he could move, an armored hand was resting on his shoulder.
“There is my little rat”, the voice behind him said. Maximus closed his eyes and muttered a curse.