Sillen's Tale 5-6
Chapters 5 and 6
Sillen's Other Life
Each step of the damnable beast of burden under me sends small shocks of pain down my spine and flaming agony to my tailbone. Glundel watches me somewhat amused. He frequently seems somewhat amused.
'I hope you're enjoying this, Glundel' I say bitingly.
'Oh, I am. I don't know why Sillen, but I always imagined great wizards to be more... I don't know, rugged, I guess.' He is snickering in delight watching me wince. I can see the smoke ahead of what can only be a great city. It darkens the sky to the east of us. I slowly dismount.
'Is that your saddle creaking or your rear end?' Glundel chuckles.
'You've had your fun, gnome. If you don't want to wake up tomorrow as a toad, I'd let this go now' I say hautily.
'You can do that?' He asks with a twinge of genuine fear.
'No, but it shut you up, didn't it?' and now it is my turn for a smirk.
Walking is something of an effort, but slowly my reluctant legs regain their life. Never let some fool tell you that riding is easier than walking. It's not. It's just faster. Some day I hope to have a flying carpet, or other such mode of transportation worthy of a great wizard. For that matter, some day I wish to BE a great wizard.
'Have you got any idea where a school of magic or some such might BE?' I ask Glundel.
'Not really, but I'm sure it won't be hard to find, even in a city of this size. I think we should find a room first, and maybe have something to eat that hasn't been pickled in brine.' Glundel looks quite serious. I think that perhaps the trail wore on him more than he let on. I have no complaints about the suggestion.
'Why don't we wander in a ways, and see if we can find a really good inn?' I suggest.
'With what we got from those goblin-kin, I have no problem with that. Ah, 'tis nothing better than fine luxuries provided by a goblin's death.' He chuckles.
We travel up the hard packed earth of the road and I deftly dodge the piles of horse droppings. A short way along, the streets are paved in cobbled stone. Not far from that, we find ourselves in a very nicely kept neighborhood, and we decide to stop for dinner.
Glundel sees a fine tavern that looks no different to me than any other, but he seems keenly interested.
'Here we are then, this looks like a fine place, the Crimson Clog' he says cheerily, and clambers down off his horse.
He takes the lead as we tether our horses and proceed in. Inside, it is indeed a nice place with many cheery looking folk about. There are several fine musicians playing a lively jig, and several people dancing.
'A favorite place of yours?' I ask.
'Never been here before.' He says.
'So, why did you pick it?'
To this, he simply points to a curious tattoo on his arm, which looks like a red boot. Then he speaks.
'It's a tavern dedicated to the League of Boot and Trail. I'm a member. If you want information, and a good ale, this is probably the best place in town.'
We slide in at a booth of nicely finished hardwood. A lovely young lady, with more than a hint of elven to her, approaches. We order our beverages, and Glundel then excuses himself and wanders off. I nibble at some unleavened bread and soon my glass of wine arrives. I finally spot Glundel at the bar, talking to the bartender, with a great ledger before him. He seems to be writing something.
I try to keep a casual eye on him, and eventually notice him pointing me out to the bartender. My paranoia begins to creep in. Am I being set up for a fall? I sit back, and let the scene play out. Soon Glundel returns.
'What was that about?' I inquire.
'Members of the league just log events in journals, you know, what we encounter, what the weather was like, that sort of thing. That included a brief mention of the tower, and you as my travelling companion. I hope you don't mind.' Glundel looks a bit apprehensive.
'Why would I?'
'If the other Sillen had frequented this city, which he most likely had, it might sound an alarm if you're name shows up again.' He says, leaning forward rather conspiratorially.
'I guess I hadn't considered that, but I'm sure now that you're right. Let us then hope that no one in the league knows of the other me, or cares of my doings' I say.
Would that my life were ever so simple.
"S'yee-Lay'n" I hear, in a flawless silky elven, the smooth purr of a woman. I turn to see a female approach, a... human. She is about my height, with much more meat on her. She wears dark leather, accented with metal studs. I would call it armor, but it looks nearly like a skintight bodysuit. From her belt dangles a long sword, and short sword on the off hand side. She has warrior's thighs. She is an exquisite beauty, for a human, with dark hair pulled back in a short ponytail, and brown eyes. She is smiling brightly. I think she's waiting for the look of recognition to register on my face. I smile, and slide out from my seat. I bow and she offers her hand. I kiss her hand tenderly, and she pulls me in for a long hug and whispers.
'My love... where have you been?' her tenderness shocks me.
I am... I... I have no idea what to say, so I motion her to joins us. There is an awkward pause.
'Aren't you going to introduce us?' The female asks.
'Oh, forgive my manners, dear, this is Glundel, a locksmith' I say. Glundel is reading my expressions and smiling. I don't know if it's that he's being socially pleasant or bursting with laughter inside at the predicament I find myself in. I fear it is both.
'Well met, my lady. And you are?' Glundel says.
I raise my wineglass and take a bolt, hoping my inability to answer will force her to.
'Anaria' She says. For a human, her words pour out smoothly. She is sitting to my right, and her left hand is massaging the muscles of my neck, at the base of my skull. So gentle, such a tender touch. I run the name over and over in my mind.
'Rootweilder... you haven't answered my question' Anaria begins 'Where have you been for the past two years?' She looks at me with deep concern.
'Has it been two years?' I say absently.
'More than that. I... I was so afraid that some horrible fate had befallen you. I had horrible dreams.' She pauses. Her eyes well up with tears. She pulls me close again.
'Gods, I missed you so much'
I want to tell her that I am not the person she knew. I want to tell her that what's left of that person is lying under dirt now, but somewhere, in some small part of me I scarcely knew existed, I want to be that person she missed so desperately. So I hold her and comfort her, and tell her that everything is all right.
Glundel sips his ale, and tries to find something else to look at.
'I was teleported into another world, Anaria... but I'm here now.' I tell her. I don't want to lie to her. I don't know how to tell her that her love is gone.
'Another world? Where?' she asks
'I don't know. I never learned. There's something you need to understand Anaria. I'm not...' My words are faltering. There is a pale sliver in my mind saying perhaps I had been here, and this WAS my old home, but the ghosts of faded memory torture me with the knowledge that this is not true.
Anaria watches my face, trying to glean what lies behind my eyes. She can see something is amiss, but doesn't understand what.
'Perhaps this would be best left for later. It's a very complicated tale. Would you join Glundel and I here later this evening for a drink?' I ask.
'Sure... sure' she says, somewhat deflated. We eat our meal in relative silence, finally interrupted by Anaria.
'Is it someone else?' she asks.
'What?' I nearly choke.
'Have you found someone else, S'yee-Lay'n?' she asks, looking teary again.
'No... By the Gods no...' I can't go on with the charade any longer. 'Just a moment' I say, and march to the bar to arrange the stabling of our horses for the evening. When I return, I again take her hand and lead her outside. Glundel follows.
'Are you ready?' I ask them.
'For wha...' Glundel begins.
In a split second, a rift opens, engulfing all three of us. A ghostlike version of the world blurs past us and my tower appears. Another rift opens into the normal world and we are released at the doorstep of my home.
Both Glundel and Anaria seem shaken.
'...what the hell was THAT?' Glundel begins.
'I just teleported us here.' I tell him. 'Unfortunately, I can't return us until the morning. Anaria... I have something very ... unfortunate... to show you.'
She follows me apprehensively to a small mound of earth, which covers the scant remains of my other self.
'I don't understand...' She looks from the pile of dirt to me and back.
'I am not the elf you knew. What remains of him lies here. I came from another land. When I tried to get home, I found myself in the wilds near a small village to the West of here. There, I met Glundel, and began my trek to Arhan, trying to find where I was... two days ago, Glundel and I found this tower, which is nearly identical to one I had built in my home world. And inside were the remains of ... another elf, who was very much like me.'
'S'yee-Lay'n... perhaps you have only forgotten who you are. Perhaps this is some foul trick.' She watches me, hoping to see that this is a joke, or that she has made something click, and I'll remember her.
'No' I say softly. Anaria kneels before the recently turned earth.
'I've been here with you before, you know? Why are you throwing away what we had? I know your feelings for me have occasionally confused you, but please S'yee-Lay'n, don't end it like this... not with such a feeble lie' She looks into my eyes.
'Anaria...' I begin, 'there's nothing I can tell you to ease this. The elf you knew is gone. I am only someone who looks like him. Until I met you in the tavern, I had never set eyes on you before. And while all this is true, I must admit that I can see what my twin saw in you. As hard as it is for me to admit, there is something about you that ... that I find very... ' I stammer.
'You never were very good at expressing your feelings.' She laughs. Even with a laugh, she looks very sad.
The evening grows dark, and we go inside the tower. Glundel trots upstairs and Anaria and I are left alone. I scrape ashes into a pale, and set out kindling. A whispered incantation erupts a flame from my finger, easily igniting the dry kindling. I set several small logs carefully on top and turn my attentions to her.
'If you are not S'Yee-Lay'n, then who are you?' She asks.
'Oh, I am S'yee-Lay'n, I'm apparently just one from another place... another world.' I see she's puzzled.
'How is that possible?' She asks.
'I don't know, but it seems to be the only explanation' I am spared further grilling when Glundel comes tromping down the steps, obviously trying to be heard. It takes me a moment to understand why.
He's carrying the mattress to the small bed, rolled up. It's still a bit awkward for him, but he manages quite nicely. I can't help but smile at the odd sight.
'Going somewhere, Glundel?' I ask.
'No, no... just thought I'd sleep down here tonight. You know... tend the fire... that sort of thing' He is smiling wryly. He deftly slides the mattress under a table and comes near the fire.
'You know, Sillen... that mattress smells a little funny' he notes. I nearly break out into laughter. Anaria obviously knew about the other Sillen's homunculus, and breaks into a fit of giggling. I look at her knowingly. I can feel the warm smile spread over my face.
And the dark voice inside me says 'you know she'll be dead in fifty years... if she's lucky'. I try with everything I have to shut down my emotions. Keep them at a distance. Don't get too attached. It's not working, not this time. I have never felt this way for anyone, let alone a human.
Anaria looks at me, watches me, and finally looks away.
'You are the same elf I knew, S'yee-Lay'n. I hope you understand I find it hard to believe that you are someone else. I know so much about you. I have so many memories of us. Your... pet.' Here she stops and chuckles again.
'And some of what you know may be completely accurate, but that person and I differed in ways, exactly how, I cannot say. I never knew him. I suppose it's time for me to retire for the evening.' I feel very odd, and my pulse is pounding in my throat. 'Anaria, I will show you to the bedchambers'.
'S'yee-Lay'n... I know where they are. I've been here before.'
'Oh, yes...' I say, and hand her a candle in a small brass holder. Again, a flame erupts from my finger, lighting the candle. 'Well... good night then.' I say as I watch her ascend the stairs.
Glundel unrolls the mattress under the table. He looks at me, and then at the stairs.
'Go' he demands. My heart agrees but my mind does not. I am estranged to the voice of my heart, but I relent to its desire. The cynic in me says that no good will come of this.
Finally I climb the stairs after her. As I approach the third floor, I stop.
'Anaria', I call softly, 'May I come up?'
'Yes' she says. As I climb the remaining stairs, she comes into view. She is disrobed, and I find it strangely difficult to take my eyes off of her. She opens the wardrobe and retrieves a long silk shirt, sliding it over her bare body. My throat is dry, and my heart is racing. She turns, and her hair, now released, falls over her shoulders. She slides under the covers of the bed. It is a bit cold, and huddling for warmth...
Hells! I keep trying not to think of this creature before me as a sexual object. I am failing miserably. She watches me, fixated on my form. The scrutiny makes me uncomfortable. I wave my hand and puff a breath, and a breeze blows out the candle.
'Oh, you take all the fun out of this.' She says.
'Anaria... I must admit, I have feelings for you. I... The person you knew obviously didn't live the same life as I. I am... different'. Gods... GODS... I want to be near her. To touch her, to...
There is a slow growing pain as I disrobe. Finally, feeling very vulnerable, I slide into the bed next to her. She finds me in the darkness, touching me softly. The pain grows. She caresses my body. I want this, the touch of another. I want it so desperately, but the pain is horrific. Finally she finds the source of the pain.
'Oh my... S'yee-Lay'n ... What happened to you?'
'I was... tortured... by a great master of undeath. He... destroyed part of me. I am quite lucky he did not kill me.' I am near tears, trapped in a moment of horror. I have few clear memories from before arriving in this new world. This memory is burned into my mind, every excruciating moment of it...
I see so vividly in my mind's eye. In the desolate mountain lair of this terrible lich, I lay shackled and naked on a sacrificial altar. His tight, nearly mummified skin clings too closely to his bones. A smile seems the least natural thing to such a visage, yet he smiles as he stands over my naked form. He raises a skeletal arm, and his fine robes fall away revealing his hand, gray... lifeless, and between his thumb and forefinger, a tiny writhing thing like a giant maggot.
'Do you know what this is?' the lich asks me. His voice is like a whisper and grating stone. It is like hearing a violin string wound too tight. It is hearing the voice of death itself.
'I do, and I don't suppose there's any agreement that can be reached to avoid these unpleasantries.' I say. I wish to sound calm, and very likely do, but I am truly afraid. The thing he holds is known as a rot grub. It burrows toward the heart of any living creature at horrific speed. When the victim dies, it becomes food for the larva laid inside. Near me, my homunculus waits, invisible, silent. I need only get a chance to make my escape.
He sets the wriggling creature on my... anatomy... and turns his attentions elsewhere. As he turns to leave, I can hear him laughing, and I scream. The homunculus darts from it's hiding place and flies toward me, as the lich wanders off, relishing my pain.
The tiny horror, upon making contact, creates a jet of crimson gore. My flesh and blood spray from me in a plume as it burrows with supernatural speed through my mortal form. My wrists and elbows are torn open as I thrash against the chains that hold me. My body convulses from the agony, like fire, searing through my groin. I can feel it burrow into my abdomen. I begin to gray out. The homunculus sticks its tiny, sharp claw into my belly, just below the rib cage, and digs into my stomach. The world is fading. Finally, it extracts the small parasite, pulling it from me, and I lay dying. From a small pouch, the homunculus retrieves a vial, and pours it between my lips. My body begins to knit the hideous wounds. A second vial and I awaken to a world of utter agony. The magical creature now slips a ring from its finger, and onto mine. With a thought I am free, naked and alone on the mountainside just outside the lich's lair.
The memory ends, and I find that I am shivering, moaning tears into the shoulder of this gentle woman. To be so humiliated, so emasculated... and to bear this truth to someone I ... I love... and to have her there, comforting me... There is such a mixture of agony and relief that I am overwhelmed, and erupt all the more with emotion.
After a time, the emotional charge has spent itself. I am left with a feeling of unparalleled catharsis. In the dim starlight seeping in through the windows, I can see her above me, smiling.
'Are you okay?' she asks.
'Yes...' I compose myself somewhat. 'Obviously, I have not been able to visit a skilled healer since the... incident.'
'It's all right. Just having you back.... S'yee-Lay'n, you have no idea what that means to me.'
I hear it in her voice, the love she had for the other me. We lay there together, and I relish the embrace. I want to be worthy of what she feels. Perhaps some day I will be. Eventually, as humans do, she drifts off into sleep. I lie beside her, petting her hair, listening to her breath. Finally, I sit up, fold my legs, and begin my nightly meditations.
Long before dawn, I finish. I quietly leave the bed, and descend to my study. In the quiet of the predawn, I pour over the intricacies of teleportation, and wish that the secrets of regeneration were known to me.
When I am finished with my studies, I descend to the first floor. I cross quietly to the front door and open it, trying not to disturb my houseguest.
'How was it?' I hear the voice of Glundel, and see his tired eyes in the dim firelight.
'How was what?'
'How was your evening?' the Gnome has a mischievious tone in his voice.
'Uneventful... at least in the way you mean.' I say flatly.
'Please, Sillen... Don't stand there and try to tell me you slept in the same bed with that beauty and nothing happened' he says with utter skepticism.
'Glundel... nothing happened.' I say. If he were more perceptive, he might have heard the sadness, but he's not.
'Rootweilder, you're a damned liar!' He says with a chuckle.
I unbuckle my belt and let it fall with my belt pouch and dagger to the flagstone floor. I reach under my shirt and pull my leggings to my knees, then I lift my shirt, so I can shut the little miscreant up.
'NOTHING happened...' I spit.
Glundel falls silent, and his smile dies, as he stares unblinking at the horrific wounds I still bear. I pull up my leggings and grab my belt off the floor.
'I'm going for a walk' I say. I do not wait for a reply. I also do not bother to close the door gently.
After some wandering, I find myself in the dew covered grass beside the small mound of dirt now only a few days old.
'It's your fault, you wretched villain!' I say softly to the remains of the dead me. Obviously, the mound does not respond.
'I'm sorry.' I hear from behind me. I am somewhat startled by Glundel's silent approach.
'It's all right. You had no occasion to know of my wounds... and truth to be told, had things been different, I would have done exactly what you thought' I turn to face him and lean on my staff.
'Still, I know what such wounds can do to a man's sense of dignity, and I can see the look in your eyes, elf. I can see the conflict in you.' Glundel says. When Glundel is serious, he is unnervingly keen of whit.
'She'll be dead so soon, Glundel. I fear that opening my heart to her would just leave an empty void when she dies.' I say.
'Sillen, I have to say, it's kind of funny worrying about the pain of losing someone before you've even enjoyed the pleasures of knowing them in the first place. It would be like never buying wine, for fear of coming to the end of a bottle.'
I want to be angry with him, but I know he's right. I sigh. I look up at the tower, silhouetted in the slowly brightening dawn. I think of who awaits inside. Something in me hungers to be with her with a strength I could have scarcely imagined. I walk back toward the tower, pondering this change of course in my life.
I stand on the street of Arhan, in front of the Crimson Clog Tavern. There is a gnome to my left and a human to my right. The sun is just clearing the roofs of the buildings. The tavern does not appear to have opened yet.
'Sillen, if you can do that teleportation trick... why did we ride here in the first place?' the gnome asks.
'Well, Glundel, you have to understand that I can't teleport to a location that I haven't been to before.' I tell him. 'So, I was able to take us to the tower instantaneously, because of our earlier visit, and return us here likewise.'
'Well, they're not serving yet, so we might as well put the time to use elsewhere' Anaria says.
'Agreed' chimes in Glundel.
Anaria turns and brusquely walks off. We start to follow, and finally Glundel belts out 'Hey lady, if you're going to walk so fast, do ya mind carrying me?' She turns, and realizes Glundel's predicament.
'Well, see Glundel, your mother was right when she told you drinking would stunt your growth' I say.
'That was feeble, elf.' He says flatly. I look to Anaria for support.
'Sorry, love. That was pretty pathetic' She says, smiling.
'I guess it's good I gave up my aspirations of a career as a bard then' I say.
'Yep.' Glundel says, patting me on the back.
'So, Anaria... where have you got us trekking to?' I ask.
'The temple of light, over there' she says, and points at a spire jutting high above the surrounding buildings.
'Oh...' I say. I suppose the healing thing needs taken care of.
The city is relatively quiet at this time in the morning. Even so, there is a fair amount of people bustling to and fro. Glundel is nervously shifting his gaze, watching people near us.
'What's wrong?' I ask.
'Just making sure we get to where we're going with all our stuff.' He says. I must say, I feel better about not getting pilfered with someone as experienced as Glundel watching over us. Even so, I remain on guard as well.
Soon, the temple stands before us, and I hesitate at the steps. Temples make me uneasy. They always have. Priests, at least the skilled ones, have always made me feel like they're piercing into my soul, trying to find something. Anaria sees the hesitation, and takes my hand, pulling me up the steps toward the gleaming white marble pillars at the entrance. Inside the temple, more white marble glistens. The floor and walls gleam with it. The ceilings are covered in mosaic tile work. As we walk farther in, we can hear the echoing chants of worshipers at the main altar. To our left is a silver font, with holy water. I try not to think what it's worth. I can see similar thoughts going through Glundel's head. A young man in robes approaches.
'Can I help you?' He inquires in his best soothing voice.
'Well... I hope so. I was wondering if you have a healer here who could assist me.' I say.
'What's wrong?' the human asks.
'I had a limb injured, and was wondering if you had a priest capable of possibly regrowing it.' I say, feeling quite stupid about discussing these matters with total strangers.
'If you follow me to the rectory, I'll see if I can find someone to assist you.' He says, and turns to lead us down a cross-corridor.
He escorts us to a quiet sitting room, lined with old texts and scrolls. The scent of old paper and parchment hangs in the air. It's a smell I find rather pleasant. It reminds me of the vast knowledge of the ages. Every library smells like this... wonderful. While we wait, and I look over the titles of the books around us, I see Glundel staring off blankly, and Anaria looking like she may fall asleep from boredom.
'Good morning, I am Proselyte Camtheus.' Says the human that finally approaches. 'I was told that one of you needs medical attention'.
'Yes... that would be me. I was wounded some time back and suffered the loss of body parts. I was wondering if you can perform some ritual to repair the damage.' I say.
'Perhaps... we are quite skilled healers here.' The priest looks me over, and takes note that both of my arms seem well intact.
'Have you lost a leg, sir?' He asks.
'No, I'm afraid I'd need to show you the injury in private.' I tell him. I can feel my face growing flush with embarrassment. To his credit, he presses the line of questioning no further, and leads me into a small room, just a few doors from the sitting room. There, I show him the injury.
'By the Bright One... what caused this horrible wound?'
'A rot grub' I say blankly.
'A what?' He looks up from the wound to meet my eyes.
'They're small creatures which burrow at supernatural speed toward the hearts of their victims.' I say.
'How did one... get there?' He asks, a bit confused.
'I was tortured by a lich. He put it there.' I finally say.
'Oh... I am sorry for your pain.' He says. He seems sincere, and concerned for my well being, but I am again struck with the feeling that he is trying to look into me, to see some imperfection in my spirit. It makes me uneasy.
'Unfortunately, I cannot help you with this, but I will see if our high priestess is available. This will require more powerful healing.' He pauses for a moment. 'Sir, you do understand that we will be asking for a sizable donation to the temple for such a service, don't you?' He says.
'Yes. Set your price.' I say in a straightforward manner.
'It would be about a thousand gold crowns.' He says. I retrieve a platinum coin from my pouch.
'May I pay with these?' I ask, presenting the coin to him.
'If I may take this coin, I will make sure it meets with our church's approval, and return with the high priestess shortly.' He states. He leaves the small room, and I am left there for nearly an hour, during which time I retrieve a sizable sum of my platinum from my portable hole. It is easily two thirds of the coins I carry. I hope I can get a reasonable exchange for the crown I carry. It appears I'll soon need to venture out on another expedition if I wish to finance my magical studies much longer. Not that there's really any 'if' there to consider. Until I know all the secrets of arcana, I don't know enough.
When Camtheus returns, he has with him a very old woman, with gray hair and bony fingers. Her deep-set eyes seem warm and wise. They both see the neatly stacked coins on the desk. The elderly human waives a finger in the direction of the payment, and Camtheus counts the coins quickly.
'A hundred platinum coins, Zenith Halshara.' he states. She smiles just a bit and comes forward. She begins a ritual unfamiliar to me, chanting and gesturing, finally holding up a sun symbol, and her hand begins to glow. Her touch restores the injuries to me before my eyes. For a moment, something flashes in my mind, a thought that perhaps my father's devotion to priesthood was not such a waste after all.
'Thank you' I finally say,
'And thank you for your generous contribution to our shining temple' Says the high priestess.
I dress again and start to gather my things. Camtheus stays behind.
'You faced a Lich?' He asks, when the high priestess has wandered off.
'Yes' I say flatly.
'You must be very powerful to have survived' He states.
'Camtheus, is it? I only barely survived. I didn't defeat him'. Camtheus is looking deep in my eyes again, and I am filled with that odd sensation that he's trying to see into my soul.
'What is it you're looking for, Camtheus?' I ask. He looks a little vexed.
'Might I have your name, sir?' He asks.
"S'Yee-Lay'n" I tell him.
'Sillen... Let me be honest with you. I do not feel that I am serving the bright one here to the best of my abilities. There is little reward to healing those who are not in great need. I wish to bear the bright flame into the darkness... I wish to...'
'You wish to crawl into the belly of the Earth and smite all the evil therein.' I finish for him.
'Yes... yes, precisely!' He says, and I see a glimmer of hope in his eyes.
'What about your duties here?' I ask.
'We have more than enough skilled healers and other people capable of leading prayers. Sillen, please... if this is what you do, take me with you. While I am usually very good at reading the hearts and minds of others, you are closed to me. I don't know why, but you are. And still, you do not seem to be of an evil heart. If your cause is just, I can help you.'
From under my tunic I retrieve an amulet, and remove it.
'If you are indeed capable of telling one's heart, do it now. And if you still wish to join with my gathering, it will be so.' I tell him. I feel the metal of the amulet against my palm, still warm from lying against my skin. It has kept me hidden from any enemies I may make. I don't take it off often, and don't know why I'm doing it now. We need a healer, but is that enough reason? Is this some sick attempt to shock this idealist?
Camtheus looks at me, staring into my eyes, and I can feel his presence touching my soul. His bright expression of optimism saddens. He looks troubled, and finally looks away. I place the amulet back around my neck and turn to go. Before I have taken a step, Camtheus speaks.
'Sillen... There is much that troubles you. Your soul is burdened, and you have a great conflict raging in you. You are lost, and seeking a way home. But within you there is a bright star. It ever seeks to pierce the clouded mind.' He turns and looks at me, and again there is the sensation that he is looking deep indeed.
'You stand at the twilight, or the dawn. I can't tell which, but it would honor me if you gave me the opportunity to travel with you. I would seek to sway that to the light.' He looks at me soberly.
'Very well then. I don't expect my tasks here in Arhan to take more than a couple days. I will meet you at the Crimson Clog in two days, at dusk. Agreed?' I say.
'Agreed!' he beams a smile at me. Idealistic zealot... wonderful.
I gather my comrades and we head back to the Crimson Clog.
'Are you all fixed?' Anaria asks.
'Yes.' I state flatly.
'Good' she purrs. At this, Glundel bursts into laughter.
The three of us finally arrive at the Crimson Clog, and sit in a nice booth. The sun is high enough for lunch.
'I need to find a library.' I state.
'No problem. I'll go talk to the bar tender.' Glundel says.
'Glundel, could you also go through the ledgers they keep here. See if there's any mention of me. Start about two years back.' I say.
'That'll take a while' He says.
'I know... don't worry, you can have lunch first' I chuckle.
'And what should I be doing while you two are spending the afternoon reading?' Anaria chimes in.
'Would you like to get provisions ready for an expedition?' I ask.
'I guess. How long will we be gone?'
'Good question. I'm not sure. Oh... we'll also have another person coming with us.' They look at me surprised.
'Who'd you pick up?' Glundel asks.
'Camtheus, the priest we spoke to back at the temple wishes to accompany us. I assume there are no objections' I say.
'So... you want me to get provisions for four people for a trip of unknown duration, into unknown terrain. Do I have this about right?' Anaria asks.
'That sounds about right to me. Look, I need a few days to research. You can get pretty much everything except foodstuffs, and don't really need to know how long we'll be gone.' I reassure her.
'Does the priest have a horse?' she asks.
'I don't know. You could go ask him if you wanted' I tell her.
'Well, you're just as bossy as your other self.' Anaria says. I look at her, and blink. I can't read what she's thinking. Understanding humans is tough. Understanding women is worse. Put them together... I sigh.
'Shall we readjourn here at sunset?' I ask. Glundel and Anaria agree, and lunch continues smoothly. Finally, Anaria speaks.
'What should I use to buy these supplies?' I dig in my pack, withdraw a sack, and hand it to her. It contains the coins from the goblin-kin.
'That should cover it' I tell her. She takes a quick look inside and seems a bit surprised.
'I would say so. Alright, I'll be back at sunset. Oh, and S'Yee-Lay'n... don't wear yourself out. You have a busy evening ahead of you.' She says with a smile. Again I feel flushed with anticipation.
I stride through the streets of the city of Arhan, following a hastily scrawled map. It directs me toward a great college of wizardry and their world-renowned library. I climb the steps of the great library, toward the granite pillars flanking the great oaken doors leading within. I am immediately overcome with the scent of ancient tomes upon opening the doors to this magnificent hall. A small foyer has an aged human seated behind a desk, awaiting arrivals.
'Good afternoon, m'lord. May I help you?' He asks in a mild voice.
'I wonder if I may use your library. I am a traveler, and seek information.'
'The library is open to all, for a nominal fee. You may even take books out of the library, assuming you leave suitable deposit, to ensure their return.'
'And how much is that fee?' I ask, loosing the strings on my coin pouch.
'Five gold crowns, sir.' He turns a ledger toward me and points to a blank line. I am expected to sign the ledger. I hesitate, then finally give in.
The old librarian looks at the signature, and then at me.
'Am I mistaken in saying that you used to come here often, sir?' He looks at me quizzically.
'I cannot say. The circumstances of my arrival to this land lead me to believe there may have been another person very much like me who frequented these parts.'
'A person whose name is identical, by my recollection, sir. And taking the unusual definition of your name... and here I mean in the native Elven... I would be shocked to find another who was also christened thusly. I may not remember faces, but words, names in particular, are something for which I have keen memory. But alas, forgive me. Please, enter, and be welcome.' He gestures through the great open doors into the library beyond.
Barely beyond the doors I begin the intricate gestures and soft rhythmic chanting, I weave my own name into those chants, and soon I turn to the first row of texts. In the minutes that follow, I retrieve books from shelves. Selecting with great care only those which stand out, illuminated by my divinations, and containing my name somewhere within.
This collection of some ten books I stack neatly on a table, and sit at the chair provided. Still focussed on the books, I flip through the first, with a sheet of paper in my hand. I find the occurrence of my name, tear a small piece of paper to mark the page and continue. I continue with this task quickly, skipping over several volumes that are only logs to the library itself. These, I only bother to mark the last occurrence of my name chronologically.
Done with the markings, I rest for a moment, and cease my concentration of the magics. I wait for a few minutes as the headache passes. This pain is mostly from the disorientation of moving and looking not at solid objects, but at arcane emanations. I have heard some humans experience similar sensations on boats.
I spend nearly an hour pouring over the texts, taking notes, and pondering over the entries. A pattern immerges of books relating to a specific topic, or containing information on a long-abandoned abbey. As the picture of my twin's activities comes more clearly to my mind, I am disturbed by a metallic tapping on the smooth marble floor. I look up to see the source of the sound so vexing me.
Halfway across the great hall is a tall human of regal bearing, approaching. He walks with a staff of dark wood, bound and capped in silver. It is the floor cap of the staff that rings across the echoing chamber. He is obviously coming toward me, and does not appear to be approaching as a friend.
He stops in front of the table at which I sit, and looks down his nose at me. I fold my hands, interlacing my fingers and lock gazes with him. I see before me a game of cat and mouse, where we each toy with each other, and I come out feeling more lost in the myriad of differences between myself and my twin. My eyes burn from not having blinked enough while staring at the texts, and I don't feel like playing that particular game, so I decide to try something new.
'Let us play a game, you and I. Let us pretend that I have never met you before, and that whatever you may think you know about me is misplaced to another individual bearing a striking resemblance to me. As I am seated, and you approached me, I expect you to make the first introduction.' I state flatly.
Whatever steam the human had been building seems to have totally escaped. He hesitates.
'You know very well that I am Lord Estemure, I was just told that you dared return to Arhan. And now, you insult me further with your game.' He glares at me, and I see his face redden.
'Lord Estemure,' I say while standing, and bow. 'While I do most sincerely apologize for any inconvenience you suffered in the past, I can only assure you that I was not responsible. The person you knew is not who stands before you now.' I stare at him with an expressionless face, and give nothing away by my vocal inflections.
'What is your game S'yee-Lay'n?' He asks, angrily.
I sigh, seeing that nothing will speed up the necessity of this conversation. I sit again and gesture to the chair across from me. The wizard sits.
'You have not seen S'yee-Lay'n, the Rootweilder for two years or so. Is that correct?' I ask.
'True, I was beginning...' He starts.
'THAT...' I interrupt, ' is because he died about two years ago. I am only someone who resembles him. Whatever experiences you had with him are unknown to me. Whatever debts, animosities, or rivalries the two of you may have shared are none of my concern. Now... I too am named S'Yee-Lay'n. But I come from another land. I have no quarrel with you, and would like to start out our relationship on a positive note. With that being said, what can I do for you?'
Thoughts play across his face and finally resolve, returning to the angry sneer.
'Do you expect me to believe that?'
'Honestly, I don't care what you believe. I don't care if you like me, and I don't care if you think that I'm the embodiment of all the world's ills. I told you the truth.'
His face contorts in anger, and he hurls a ball of something at me he had been hiding under the desk. It is like a living rope, and quickly ensnares my hands and constricts around my throat. The speed of the attack takes me utterly by surprise and I nearly topple backward in the chair. He reaches for a case on his side and begins to draw a wand. I close my eyes and visualize the buildings surrounding this library.
With a thought, I reappear on the roof of a building across the street from the main entrance of the library. The rope is left behind. Nearly to the second of my calculation, the wizard springs forth from the library, hastily scanning the street for me. I begin the incantation, and focus on the wizard before me. Another pepper is consumed in a puff of smoke, and the wizard screams in agony, doubling over. Unfortunately, he is still alive.
I begin my second incantation, and emerald bolts of pure arcane power streak toward him. Just short of striking him, they burst into little fizzled sparks. He has some protection against my spell. He also sees me, and points the wand he holds, launching a bolt of electricity which despite my best efforts to avoid still crackles through me with enough energy to leave my clothing smoldering. My limbs barely respond through the tremors convulsing me. I peer over the ledge of the building again, and release magic from my ring, another spontaneous combustion. This time, he coughs a gout of black smoke, and I see a flicker of flame from his darkened eye sockets.
I step from the ledge, and drift to the ground. People of the city stand aghast, having seen the tremendous electrical bolt erupt. The peasants part as I approach the body of my adversary. Even as I watch, the wizard's wounds heal. With great effort, I drag him up the steps into the library's foyer. The aged human seated there gazes in wonder as I prop him against a wall. I wait until his breathing returns to normal and then strip all the rings from his fingers.
'Sir, I must protest these actions...' He begins.
'This vermin attacked me, summon a constable' I say.
He retrieves a whistle from a desk drawer, and steps outside the foyer, blowing it loudly several times. I see my attacker's eyes flutter a bit. I begin a simple incantation, and wait to see the magical auras it reveals. I remove all the items that show any mystical power, and set them aside. The wand in particular, I make note of. I also strip the wizard of his dagger, and belt pouch.
I use a bit of rope to bind his hands, and gag him. Then I slip the ring back on his finger. His wounds begin to heal again, and soon he seems on the verge of consciousness. I remove the ring again. His eyes open slowly.
I see out of the corner of my eye several soldiers coming up the steps of the library. They approach warily.
'Do not fear, men. I will not harm you. Come in' I say. I realize I am still in clothing that is scorched all over, and the smell of burned flesh is obvious to me now.
The next few hours are spent with legal issues, speaking to an investigator, and finally a priest, testifying under oath. The final verdict by the captain there is that I am to be released, as I did not start the incident, and the wizard is a guild member and will be dealt with by them, which I know means nothing will come of it. After two entire containers of healing salve, I am still covered with burns in various places, and find some of my equipment beyond repair.
After gathering my notes, I begin to leave once more. I stop in the foyer to speak to the human seated there.
'I hope you'll accept my most profound apologies for the disturbance. I can not imagine a wizard so twisted as to start an altercation in a place so sacred to us.' I say.
'S'yee-Lay'n... it appears you have some people in this city among the wizard's guild who do not take kindly to your presence. I would advise you to leave here as soon as possible, and perhaps it would be best for you not to return.'
The words do not appear to be a threat, only a suggestion of a prudent course of action.
I walk wearily through the streets and finally hail a carriage to finish the trip to the Crimson Clog. I absently peal sheets of dead skin from the back of my hand as I ride, and think how close to death I came today.