Thursday, May 12, 2011

Grodek Keep

The four companions huddled together before the mage in his cramped quarters. The room had probably been a broom closet before but with so many people crowded into Grodek Keep, every space was now in use. Candles blazed everywhere, illuminating the room and instilling within it a hot, oppressive, air. The wizard's dark curls were matted against his perspiring forehead but he paid no attention, focusing only on the items before him. Chanting softly the man worked his magic intently, weaving his spell with precision; he probed the items one at a time in an attempt to unlock their unknown enchantments. First the smooth, bleached-white, wooden wand then, the gold amulet emblazoned with a stylized tree who's branches and roots were shown bare and twisted in a circle around the trunk; finally, the man turned to the thick book of parchment bound in red leather.

In mere minutes, which felt like hours in the stuffy chamber, the wizard's work was complete. He turned his eyes up to meet those of his four anxious guests.

"These items would be very useful to Captain Herschel and his men." The mage spoke in an even tone betraying no emotion. After a short pause he continued. "The wand holds healing powers and, although I can not tell how many times it could be used, it would be of great use on the battle field." The mage picked up the amulet allowing it to dangle from his hand on a delicate looking gold chain. "This talisman, was crafted by the followers of Lantana. They do not believe in wearing any type of armor and so they use these amulets imbued with blessed magic from the Treemother to aid in protecting their faithful. This," He lowered the amulet to the table and placed his hand over the worn leather cover of the book. "is a spell book. I'm sure you have seen them before. I would be willing to waive the fee for identifying these items in exchange for this book." He raised his eyes to the group. His face was expressionless but, his eyes held an eager spark within their dark depths.

Ademar was quick to speak. "Tell us what magic is within these pages and we will consider your offer."

"I am afraid that I can not tell you that." The mage replied. "You see, magic is written in a special script to prevent those who are not magi from harming themselves or others. If you were a practitioner of the art, I would not have to tell you what is in this book."

The elf frowned. He did not trust this mage, he did not really trust anybody in this whole compound, especially Captain Herschel who had confiscated their weapons before bringing them to Greden Grodek's massive compound.

"I think we will just keep the book." Ademar replied. "What do we owe?"

The wizard looked somewhat disappointed but, his eyes showed hope as he responded. "Two hundred gold." He watched as the elf winced at hearing the price before reaching for his coin purse. "Of course, if you would rather keep your gold and perhaps turn a proffit-" Ademar's hand stopped just short of his belt. "I would be willing to pay you fifty gold in exchange for the spell book and we will consider the debt paid."

The pale elf glanced at his companions yet, found no answers in their expressions. "We will keep the book." He stated again as he counted out exactly two hundred pieces of gold stacked neatly ten high and two rows wide on the wizards table. "Our thanks for your services good sir." The rogue said as he deftly collected the three items and turned from the room. Quickly his three companions followed, all of them happy to be out of the stuffy chamber.

On their way back to the overcrowded barracks the small knot of companions discussed how their newly identified items might best suite their own needs. It was readily agreed upon that the ranger Raell would carry the Lantanan amulet. The other two items were not so easily placed though. Cor'Nal had historically been the protector and healer of the party and it seemed logical that he should carry the wand. On the other hand, Ademar argued that perhaps they would be better served if someone else, perhaps himself, keep the wand in the event that the druid were separated from the companions or incapacitated in some way. When their discussion of the matter ended the only thing they could agree upon was that they would do something with the wand the following day.

As they were nearing the barracks, the fourth member of the party spoke up quite unexpectedly. "Ademar," the voice of Gareth was even and serious. "what do you plan to gain by keeping that spell book?"

The rogue was road weary and mentally frayed from weeks on the trail fighting unknown enemies. All he wanted to do was lay his body on a cot and rest in the relative comfort afforded by their host. He did not want to have this conversation now nor here but, he remembered that Gareth was not yet used to the long life of an elf and he did not yet realize that there would always be another day for such discussions. Rubbing his open palms over his face, Ademar turned with a small sigh.

"I don't know exactly." He turned his emerald gaze upon their stalwart companion trying to show him that his words held no secrets. "I don't trust these men who we do not know and the wizard seemed too eager to have it."

"Perhaps the man is just eager to bolster his ability in order to help defend his homeland." Gareth offered in counterpoint. "Besides, you trusted them enough to take our weapons." He had intended it to be stated as a mere fact but when he heard it in his own ears it sounded like an accusation. The warrior noted a grief-stricken grimace cross the rogue's face. It passed quickly but he already regretted bringing up the confiscation of Est'Perolyne.

Choosing to let the slight pass without comment, Ademar paused a moment and picked his next words carefully. "Call it a feeling, and instinct. I just do not feel comfortable giving away something such as this to a stranger. I can not do it in good conscience." Behind them Raell snorted in quiet derision. Again he chose to let the barb pass without comment. "Let us hold it in safe keeping for the time-being. If a need for it arises we can address it then."

Gareth nodded, seemingly accepting the explanation. Ademar smiled and spoke as another idea entered his mind. "Come my friends, I think there is still a bottle of wine in my pack. We can share it and perhaps find someone inside who has some dancing dice!" Raell groaned and Ademar smiled all the wider.