A cold October rain fell hard on Derrienport. The trip had been miserable, but finally he was almost there. While he was certain he was being watched, Elemix had not been attacked. Travelling with the Baron’s patrols and attaching himself to larger caravans had helped that he thought, but with fall ending and winter approaching, caravans would be few and far between.
“Magus,” a female voice called out through the rain. Elemix recognized Magus Gillian Alix waiting for him with a servant girl, a redcap, and two guards. “The Duke’s guards noted your arrival. We are leaving for the manor, please join us.” One guard grabbed Elemix’s travelling bag and took his horse to the stable while the other led him into Alix’s carriage. Joining them were the redcap, whom Alix introduced as Tibault, and her major domo M’selle Giselle. After a short discussion with the guards they were off.
“I trust your journey went well,” Alix asked. “Do you have any questions about the conclave?” Giselle took note of the conversation and wrote down details. The redcap Tibault simply looked at Elemix with attentive interest.
“No I can’t say I do. I am glad to see a conclave has been called. Everything on the agenda needs to be discussed. I am hopeful we will be able to develop a clear strategy for how we intend to support dealing with these issues. As a resident of Uzec now I have even more interest in helping to resolve these issues.”
Elemix paused for a moment. He was pretty certain Magus Alix was not yet aware of the fief the Baron had granted him. After a moment he continued. ” I for one have some unique experiences in dealing with the goblins, hobgoblins, tianites and even the hags. I look forward to working with yourself and the other members on these issues.”
Looking out the window, Alix sarcastically remarked, “yes, your months of experience will be critical.” Turning towards him she added, “Magus, your voice is welcome, but be aware you are the youngest and least experienced of us all. I congratulate you on winning a small favor from the Baron and all that, but a touch of humility may serve you well in the company you will be meeting.”
Alix did know something, something critical. Elemix could feel it.
Elemix decided it was best to placate her again. “I shall differ to your years of experience Magus. Your advice is noted,” he replied simply.
Elemix had had about enough of her. She could treat him poorly if she chose, but it would come at a cost if she kept this up.
She had made it very clear she did not want to be his friend. What was it she was hiding though?
Alix noted the subtle vitriol in Elemix’s voice, “You no doubt see me as the enemy – good. You should not trust anyone. But Magus, at this conclave I could be the best ally you have. There are some at the very house we journey to that would take the aquila I know you are carrying. If you come off arrogant or overconfident, then they might have the ammunition they need to seize the aquila and any glory or knowledge you wish to acquire. Indeed, assassins as well were tracking you as you journeyed over the ridge at the border. You must have confidence, but with humility.”
“Of course,” returned Elemix.
I know how to speak with my superiors he thought. She could learn how to speak with her equals. But he knew she didn’t see him as such.
He turned to her then. “I knew someone was following me closely. How did you know? And how do you know they were assassins?”
“Because I had them killed, save one. Thanks in part to TIbault here.” The redcap nodded. Alix continued, “I have many little birds who tell me many little things. Including that you were being watched and followed. They were planning on ambushing you and your guards, killing you, and taking the aquila. They were commissioned to do so and return the aquila to a location in Breven. My agents are going there now, but both Tibault and I believe that they were watching in some manner, so it is likely they will flee and then come at you at a later date.”
Elemix wasnt about to thank her. She was only doing her duty in the matter. As he would have done were he in her place. Instead he responded with, “We knew they would try something soon. Coming to this conclave was a risk to be sure, but it was necessary to try.
As you probably know we have dealt with their group on more than a few occasions. Only a few days ago they reappeared at Calder falls keep warning us to turn over the Aquila. They left before we could deal with them.”
“If you knew an attack was imminent, why did you journey in the open with little in the way of escort? Several of Tibault’s men were grievously injured protecting you, one nearly killed. Magus, with all due respect, you have got to be more careful. We won’t always be there,” she replied.
For a moment there was a flicker of genuine concern in her eyes. But only for a moment, “I suppose we can discuss safe travel in these parts another day. You are here now and we have much to do. Do you have any questions?
Matter of factly Elemix responded. “I journeyed with the patrols that are in place to protect people. I am sure you know I am not as wealthy as some. I would have traveled with guards from our guild guven the official nature of the conclave but we don’t yet have a guild hall in Uzec. Something I am hopeful will be remedied soon.”
He turned then to Tibault. “I am very sorry to hear several of your men were injured. Please thank them for their sacrifice or allow me to do so personally.”
Elemix’s tone changed then to one of a gentler nature. “No magus. I have no questions.”
Tibault nodded. Alix replied,”A Guild Hall in Uzec? I highly doubt the Guild will do so. Getting them to invest here in Derrien is difficult enough. Uzec, it will never happen – two wizards does not a hall make. But you could be of service here.”
The carriage stopped. Tibault and Ana got out. Alix said, “one moment Magus.” Looking back at Elemix she said, “you wanted to know how you could earn my trust?”
“Of course.” Elemix responded, wondering where she was going with this.
She quickly cast a non-detection spell. Whispering she said, “it is my intension to build a Wizard’s Guild tower here in Derrien. It is the center of trade here in the North and together there at nearly a dozen of us in the area. The Duke in fact is building and east-west road as we speak. With a Guild tower, others will follow, but more importantly we will have Redcaps and resources. The Duke is nearly convinced and may foot some of the bill, the land at very least. But, I need at least two thirds of the Wizards to agree. We are close. If you support me, I will do everything in my power to convince the skeptical mages in there to not intervene or harass you on your mission.” She looked at the door, “as I promised, we are at zero. Whether that become a positive or negative number begins when we enter that building. You could also of course use this opportunity to get in my way. That would be unfortunate for everyone as then there will be no Guild hall or tower of any kind. And your goal of an alliance the beginning of trust would fall to dust. You do want that, correct?”
“Magus if we are speaking plainly then let me say I don’t know what you really think of me and whether you will believe me but I shall make this as clear as possible. I want what is best for the guild the people of thalassa and those of this area. I know you think I have ulterior motives or ambitions. Do I want to grow in power and influence? Of course I do – doesn’t everyone? I don’t intend to do that however by making enemies but rather by making friends.
Why would I make things difficult for you as it seems a guild hall is desperitly needed in this area. Honestly I find you to be a very cinical and mistrusting person. I know you feel you need to be and you think I should be more wary and less trusting. Perhaps we both need to move closer to the center of the respective methods in order to achieve what we want.
Who would you have leading or running this guild hall by the way? I think we both know the answer.”
Elemix paused to let his next statement sink in.
“I for one think it should be you. You have put the time and effort into bending the dukes ear and building support. I don’t think this because I want to be your friend. I think this because it is right.
I don’t ask for your help with the Aquila. If senior mages decide to interfere then I will deal with such. If you decide to help me that is your choice and you should do so freely with no expectation of me returning a favor because clearly I am not asking for it.
Trust and friendship by the way is a two way street.
So you have my answer and my support I give it freely. What you do with it is up to you.”
Elemix didn’t wait for a response and abruptly proceeded into the building.
Elemix was obviously incensed at the idea of a tit for tat relationship. He knew it was likely all she knew. Maybe Elemix was different than the others from that perspective. All Alix dealt with was give for a get. Sometimes one had to give simply because it was the right thing to do. It might come back to bite him in the end, but Elemix had to be himself.
Alix smiled and shook her head slightly as she watched the young wizard go inside. So young and idealistic she thought as she left the carriage. It will be the death of him, or his greatest strength – probably both. Turning to Giselle and Tibault, she said, “I wonder if I was ever like that?”
Tibault answered, “in a different way, magus. You did not have Vorn as a mentor.”
“Vorn?” She replied, “Vorn trusts no one save three close associates. For good or for ill, I don’t see much of Vorn in him. He’s far too naive.”
Giselle added,”true, but he has Vorn’s passion magus, but few of Vorn’s idiosyncrasies, save for a certain brazenness and a sense of entitlement. He’s trying despite this to be a good person, like Magus Bella I suppose. He’s the anti-Vorn in many ways, but likely doesn’t realize it.”
(Ooc: accidentally called Giselle ‘Ana’ in an earlier post, that’s Rivanon’s servant. Giselle is Alix’s assistant (possibly apprentice).)
“We shall see, won’t we,” Alix replied as they made there way to the side entrance.
Elemix came out of the rain into the house at the main entrance. There a tall thin servant met him. He looked like he could snap in two given a breeze, but yet there was a certain artfulness to his thin frame. In one hand he held a lightglobe, the other was offered in greeting, “you are the magus Elemix Dungaroon, yes? I am Enzo, the houseman, at your service.”
“Indeed I am he. It is good to meet you,” replied Elemix.
“Which way to the gathering,” he asked.
Ezno replied, “Our host has made it clear that you all should be guided to your rooms first, inspect them, and get settled in. There is a welcoming reception at 8pm, a half hour from now, followed by dinner. The conclave itself starts in the morning where the agenda shall be debated.” The lightglobe lifted from his hand, “you will find your things in the room – the globe will guide you. When it is time for dinner, the globe will return and take your to the dining room.”
The room was small, spartan, but comfortable – the decor simple and unassuming, but of quality material. At the appointed time, a knock was heard on Elemix’s door. The globe floated waiting and as promised guided Elemix to the reception room.
A several wizards were already there including Alix, who was near a harpsicord near the center of the room. She was dressed in fine materials focusing on blues and silvers, but with little jewelry or decorations, looking akin to a noble or Thalassan patrician. She was speaking to an older small, angry-looking bald man who had faded head tattoos, a ragged purple robe and little else save his staff which was wooden with a golden hand clenching a crystal sphere.
Reading by herself while sitting on a sofa near the center of the room was young woman, perhaps 3-4 years older than Elemix, studying a tome and ignoring much of the conversation. She had strawberry hair and wore a rich white silk hooded robe with gold and crimson trim. At her side was a wand of gold. Every once in awhile she looked up in a pensive moment, and then returned to her book taking furious notes.
Entering on the far side of the room was a hooded woman, perhaps elven, in what appeared to be a ranging outfit of old metal, leather and cloth in dark green and black. She had black hair and wore gloves. She walked with a cats grace and made no sound.
Two other mages to Elemix’s left who were deep in conversation as if they knew each other very well. The first (who was doing the talking) was a male mage, perhaps a dozen or so years older than Elemix. He wore his hair short and kept a black mustache and goatee. He wore adventuring gear and a practical cloak of white with light grey trim. His clothing and pose seemed to be purposefully dashing. He wore several pieces of jewelry and looked like someone of a natural cunning. His staff was a double helix of silver with an eye on top. The woman he was speaking with (who was doing the listening) was the same age. she wore a simple silver-white dress with a heavy white cloak with no other adornment save a single ring. He skin was extremely pale and her hair ebon black and very long, draping nearly to her feat.
To Elemix’s right was Magus Titus, looking as gaunt, angry, wrinkled and weathered as ever. He wore a blue-grey wizard’s robe with simple leather belt and satchel. He was looking down at a female (maybe?) dwarf by whose clothing was also a wizard. She wore a green outfit with leather bracers and arm vambraces. Her long hair was braided with silver and gold ribbon. She had many pouches and a combative attitude toward Titus, who seemed to take every word she said with due seriousness.
Lastly, entering at the same time, but from the right door past Titus and the dwarf were Magus Vorn in his usual red-leather adventuring clothing and a man who could only be from Tahlon or beyond due to his dark skintone, but was dressed as a Thalassan artificer like his mother Bella once did. Vorn and he seemed to be in a bit of a conversation as they entered. The artificer was dressed in gentlemanly attire with a leather trenchcoat and dozens of belts, metal plates, gadgets, pouches, and containers on his person. He carried a walking stick with a compass on top.
Elemix approached Master Vorn and Tahlon. “Good to see you again,” he said. “This is quite the gathering.
Vorn replied, “I hate gatherings, but I like a few people. My boy, this is Magus Xavier, the artificer I told you about a few years back. He’s back for the winter. With a deep voice Xavier added, “pleasure to meet you. I had heard you wanted to return to Thalassa and practice there?”
“Well met. I have recently been granted a small feif in Uzec. We’ll it is a humble tower really but it is mine tax free so long as I want it. I like Uzec and the challenge it represents. There is much to do to help secure the area for future settlers.
With the tower I will have my privacy but be near enough to town when I need supplies. I will be free to study and adventure at will, and I will have the added benefits of a Baron who is favorable to me and also be relatively near my adventuring companions.
There is much on the agenda to discuss today. Many of the topics I have a unique perspective on having been directly involved. Master Vorn knows well my experiences with such.”
Elemix gazed around the room. “Indeed I am told there are those who feel I may be too young a Magus to deal with some of these things such as the Aquila. I will abide by the judgements of my superiors as is our way, but I will not bow out among respective equals. I learned from the best after all.”
Xavier asked, “interesting. Whom do you consider your superior and whom do you consider an equal? How do you categorize your fellow wizards?”
Elemix thought briefly, “I respect a Wizards circle of power as well as his or her experience. That is why I say I would defer to someone of great experience in such matters and who is far more powerful than I. To my knowledge while there are undoubtedly others of greater circles of power than I in this room today, I know of no one here with greater experience or knowledge about this Aquila than what I have been able to learn.
However I must say I’ve not met many of those here. Magus Alix, and Magus Titus I know. Do either of you know any of the others here?”
Xavier smiled, “some I know, some I have heard of. Magus Elemix, I wouldn’t assume you know more about anything. The first rule of wisdom my young magus is acknowledging you know nothing. So let’s see, over there is…”
As Xavier was about to speak further, Vorn interrupted saying, “wait, wait, wait, what was that middle thing. The part about you and a fief? Are you beholden to this baron? What does he get?”
He gets 40 day’s of service throughout the course of a year. And that I shall come to his aid should the realm be attacked. I thought it a reasonable bargain given that he will lend me aid should I be attacked as a feif owner, and being a resident of the area if it is under attack I should want to assist in its defense.
Technically I am beholden to him for that period each year but I can walk away from the agreement when I wish. Doing so of course would mean I must leave my feif or work out some other kind of arrangement.
Vorn grumbled a bit, “we will talk later, but if that is what you want to do, then I suppose I can’t stop you. It is bordering on the edge of stupid though.” Vorn clearly was the independent type.
“Nonsense Master Vorn,” said Xavier with a smile, “if this young magus wishes to link his destiny with a Baron, that is his decision to do so. I wouldn’t, but good for you.” he said with a pat on Elemix’s shoulder. “Now, you were asking about the others.
Besides our host Magus Alix the Abjurer and Magus Titus the Transmuter, the woman sitting on the couch is Magus Océane Calvet, of the Calvet family of Wizards. Her father is Master Charles Calvet. She is only interesting in studying magic and creating new magics. Knowledge for knowledge’s sake. You will find her very distant.
The one who just stepped in the room as we all arrived is from the western hills and the mountains beyond. An elf, she chose to join the Guild this decade. I believe her name is Lothiel. No one knows how old she is, but she was accepted into the Guild due to her potency as an enchanter of people, monsters, and animals. In reality the Guild I believe wants to keep an eye on her; but the fact is I believe she is keeping an eye on us.
The wizard conversing with Magus Alix is Magus Max. At least that is what he calls himself. Maximian I believe is his real name. He is a profiteer, using magic to help merchants get an edge – for a price. Vorn here can’t stand him.”
Vorn gruffly nodded.
Xavier continued, “but as much of his fees go to the Guild, and he hasn’t stepped over the line so far, most of us tolerate him. He is a diviner but unlike Calvet, is interested only in profit.
The Messier Twins over there are a good sort. Raoult Messier is a magus of the illusionist college, while his twin sister Sigoléne is a conjurer. Raoult is an adventurer of some skill and certainly known for his charm and wit with the ladies.”
“He’s an ass,” added Vorn, “should have been a stupid bard.”
Xavier continued again, “yes, some would see him that way. His sister is very aloof. Not arrogant, but has her own agenda with summoning and conjuration magics, and rarely involves herself in local affairs. However, she resides near Faou and along with the dwarven Magus Skøna was part of the group that took on the hobgoblin threat. I believe she is married to a local knight and is trained in the way of the sword.
That brings us to Skøna. The dwarven magus over there arguing with Magus Titus. She I know little of save that she is about a hundred, this is her second career, and she’d just as much smash your head in as to listen to you. She’s a transmuter like Titus and it said they went to school together. I’ve done some business with both in the past.”
“She’s a firecraker,” added Vorn, “don’t get her angry. She’ll turn you into a mouse and step on you.”
“Now my friend, “ Xavier said to Vorn, “that has only happened once. Anyway, where was I? Yes, so that is everyone save the Tested of Revan, Lady de Cerisey who cannot participate and is not here. I believe M’selle Giselle, Alix’s friend and confidant, is a trained magical spy with her feet both is the Wizard’s Guild and the guild which has no name. Lastly Redcap Tibault is technically a voting member as a senior Redcap in the area. He was invited by Magus Alix to get Redcap endorsement. They have been friends for years.
“Now, does that help?,” asked Xavier.
Elemix almost commented on the matter of Master Vorn having been transmuted into a mouse and stepped on but quickly thought the better of it. Best not to push something like that with him. He surely doesn’t see the humor in it, and wouldn’t take kindly to his former student commenting on it.
“Indeed it does Magus, thank you,” replied Elemix. I wonder what they would say about any of us, he thought.
“Perhaps the aquila would be a good icebreaker with Magus Océane Calvet. If she is interested in knowledge for knowledge sake, (as I am he thought), she may have some keen insight to share and it may serve as a good means with which for me to meet her.
I have talked with Magus Titus before, and he isn’t one for small talk. He is likely upset to even have been requested to attend, but maybe that is just my perception of him as I only met him briefly.”
Then he turned back to face them both. “Is there anything I can do for either of you? Everyone surely knows my connection with Master Vorn and I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, or inflame anything unwittingly. If there is someone I should avoid or a topic I should steer clear of this week please let me know. I am looking forward to meeting everyone here at some point, but I shall take your esteemed advice to heart.
Also, after our meetings each day, perhaps you would be willing to join me for some drinks and discussions.” Again he thought about bringing up the incident with Vorn becoming a mouse, and again he stopped himself short. “I for one would like to hear more of Master Vorn’s exploits, and yours as well Magus Xavier.”
Xavier laughed, “well, we shouldn’t make too many plans. There are several nights for discussion.” Vorn added, “anyway, of me you know enough boy. I’ll keep my own council on the rest. To be truthful, the quicker this is done the better. I have things to do.” Xavier replied, “indeed we all do, including yourself Magus Elemix. If I were you, I’d take this time to meet at least one more person before dinner. Perhaps Magus Calvet the Younger there?” Vorn smiled, “yes, I’d love to see how this goes. hehe.”
“Well then. Steel your eyes Magus – Magus,” Elemix said as he nodded to each of his companions in turn. With that he turned and approached Magus Calvet.
“Greeting Magus Calvet,” he said as he drew near her. “I don’t believe we have had the opportunity to meet. I am Magus Elemix Dungaruun. I have heard that you have an interest in creating new magics. I share a similar interest, though I haven’t had the time I would like to study as of late.”
In a soft voice, with the affected dialect of the Thalassan elite, she replied as she slowly looked up, “I do.”
“I wonder if your interests also lie with learning about ancient magics, and artifacts. One of the topics of this conclave in fact is to discuss the Aquila that was discovered in the caverns north of the Cairn Falls. If so I would be happy to share with you what I have learned about it, and I would be grateful to hear any insights you might have as to its nature as well.”
Elemix wasn’t sure if she was willing to speak with him, so he hoped offering a course of conversation on a subject that interested her would ease the flow of conversation. He had no expectations that he might learn something about the Aquila, but he did hope he would learn something more about her, and all the better if she did offer a useful bit of information.
There were so few mages in the area, he thought it best to learn as much about each as the opportunity afforded him. He also hoped to eventually possibly even make a friend or two, though he realized that would likely be a stretch with this lot. Still, if he was able to come out of this conclave with even the slight hint of a good impression on these other wizards minds he would consider the meeting a success.
He was also keenly aware that Master Vorn and Magus Xavier were undoubtedly watching the exchange. Elemix subtly glanced around the room to see if anyone else was interested in who he was speaking with while he waited for a response, and perhaps an offer to sit and converse.
“The aquila, may I have it to study?” she asked slowly and with precise words.
Elemix was somewhat wary. “We will be discussing it in our meetings of course. I don’t want to insult our host by going into too much depth prior to those discussions. However, after the group has discussed it, I would be happy to share it with you for a short while. I have actually been sponsored by the academy to follow the trail we have unlocked from within it, so I will not be able to linger long.
Also I must warn you that it is somewhat dangerous. There are shadow creatures tied to, or locked within the device that have attacked me on a couple of occasions when I attempted to use it in my studies. Also, someone has been scrying the aquila. I strongly suspect it to be a fanatical tianite group as they have tracked me and my adventuring companions for some time.
I keep it covered at all times, but I do not know how powerful the scrying magic is. Non-detection works to cancel and block the scrying, but alas I cannot afford to use non-detection indefinitely.
“You should acquire a ring of non-detection. It seems like a good investment.” she replied.
“A ring of non-detection,” returned Elemix. “I had not thought of that. Indeed I haven’t heard of such a thing but of course it makes sense. Thank you. I don’t suppose you would know of one, or one that may be for sale by chance?”
“I could make one in three months. I know the spell. It could be an amulet or a ring. I also have my own in amulet form.” she replied. “It will be many thousands to create.”
Elemix sat down and thought for a moment. A ring of non-detection or an amulet or such would be incredibly useful.
“That is a most kind offer. I would very much like to acquire one, unfortunately I do not have the time at the moment for one to be created, as I shall be departing on this aquila mission as soon as the conclave is over. Indeed my adventuring companions are likely already on their way and I shall need to catch up to them.
Would you perhaps be willing to loan, trade, or even rent your amulet to me for a time? If you would be willing for example, I am sure we could come to an arrangement that would benefit us both.”
It was only then that Elemix realized how forward he was being and he needed to hit the brakes as he did not want to ruin this encounter.
“Please do not take offense to this request as I know it is forward and we have only just met. Magic items are very rare and coveted items I know, so please tell me if it is out of the question and I will not bring it up again.
I only ask because I know something of what we are up against having encountered this group on many occasions. I am sure my companions and I would appreciate going undetected even for a while. The group that is after the aquila is extremely dangerous.”
Trying to lighted the tone a little Elemix added, “The ability to create magic items is quite a skill. Perhaps at the very least you would be willing to let me assist you in creating one at some point. I would be very interested to learn how it is done. And who knows, maybe there is something I could teach you as well.”
She took in every word and said, “I forgot all the other things you said as you talk a lot.” She paused then said,”On your last point, anyone can do it if you have time and training,” she replied. “Do you know the secret of tesseract creation and manipulation across a timespace?”
What did they say about her – that she was distant, thought Elemix. I guess non-detection will have to wait.
“No, but I would like to learn sometime. Thank you for the conversation. It was very nice meeting you.”
With that Elemix stood and proceeded back to Vorn and Xavier. “Do either of you happen to know the secret of tesseract creation and manipulation across a timespace,” he asked jokingly.