The Edge of Empire
From that horrible day early last winter, it’s been the most hideous of roads. I still can’t believe my father is dead, burned and the murders still roam free. Every last table, chair, tapestry and blanket sold and yet my my fathers coffers are still dry, to make matters worse a page from the magistrate’s offices delivered a “note of claim” to my father’s home. Apparently, my father leveraged the house to purchase is Tailoring shop “The Silver Talbert” in the merchant quarter. They told me “I was lucky boy… not to be going to debtor’s prison”. I have no place to go, and soon no place to live… I don’t feel very lucky.
The seasons change and a cold wind is upon the land, Summer fades… There had been times in my life when I thought I was hungry but a day like that would be a blessing now. I never felt my stomach rumble so and the filth of the gutters never washes clean. Two days ago I was grab a cabbage that had fallen from a merchants cart…. The soggy leaves were a delight for my dry throat and my stomach was full for a short time. I know not what to do… once you have fallen, people treat you no better than pigs. I know if I were to only get out of the gutters, all would be different; the ladies would be after me again and I’m sure I could find some place of employement. I remember the days of my father urging me to become an apprentice at his shop… how things could have been different had I skills to offer. Now look at me.
My first winter on the streets… I have taken to living in the sewers at times…. There is a bath house near the merchant quarter; the flow of water into the sewer is as hot and reminds me of the sweet as onion soup my father use to make on nights like these. With the snow above, this place is a welcome retreat for frozen feet and frostbitten cheeks. I have made a few friends down here. They have taken to feeding me and an occasional coin if I stand watch for them, it is easy money and you stop caring about the rights and wrongs of life when your body trembles from both cold and hunger.
Winter again… I passed the last test this morning and now I am a full fledge member of the guild. It was difficult at first taking from others but my stomach is full, my bed is warm and I have a smile upon my face once again. It’s hard to believe where I was three Winters ago, and how far I have come. I have focused on becoming the best at what I do but I do know one day I will again walk the right path of life.
A job gone wrong… The job was simple enough; a noble had wronged a merchant under our protection and took something of great sentimental value. Our obligation was to teach this high nose a lesson and recover the possession for a small commission, of course. Well it turns out the noble left town and we set out after him. Many weeks past and had it not been for the assistance of a tracker, we would have never found him in that small hidden stone tower. After confirming his presence, we made a go of it, late late at night, our agreement was to find our prize first then, take advantage of any reasonable opportunities that come our way. We had the guilds best box man, Henry “the Key” and if it were not for his expertise with magical traps I would thought twice before entering the wizards tower. We soon found ourselves scaling to a second story window and we all watched his masterful technique as he gently caressed his tools against the locked shutters and with a faint click the window was open and Henry was in. We all started climbing in and stepped within each other’s tracks. Henry, slowly searched as he moved down the staircase and all was quite. All I remember is a loud piercing sound against my head, blinding flash of light, and all my muscles tighten like rock under my skin. The next thing I know, I am locked in one of many small cages hanging from an open beam ceilings. I see none of my companions… it’s just me, a large lab and a few other strange creatures caged up around the room.
Week after week, month after month, year after year… As time passed, the only thing I looked forward to was the old wizards experiments, I studied Aldaman’s every movement, speech and mannerisms. I notice that he spent a great deal of time assisting other wizards. Most were clad in black and red robes but a few wore white.. in particular, a beautiful white wizard dressed would join him. I believe it was his niece; her name was Izabelle and she was both kind and gentle; she was one of the few who actually noticed my existence, and in fact fancied me. She urged her father to set me free but he was bitter about our break in and said, I needed to serve my time. Over time, I realized the design and runes upon his lab floor seemed specialized for summoning creatures from the far reaches of existence. It seemed that Aldaman was well known for his expertise in summoning familiars and other creatures that were hard to find. And on many occasions he leased out his lab to those who needed use. I often thought he forgot I even existed since it was his servant who fed me a simple cold meal daily. Only on the rare occasion of Izabella visits, would anyone speak to me. She soon realized I had great potential and taught me as much as she could. Over the years, Izabella and I became good friends, I told her all about my unfortunately life and she became quite fond with me and I with her. After all, I was a pretty good looking chap and she would visit much more often and teach me about many things. I soon realize that her interest in me was more than just friendship and my feelings for her were just as strong.
So, my training truly begins… During one dark and stormy night, I was lucky enough to witness a summoning. It was an amazing event, and even more so that things did not go quite as planned; Aldaman was helping a dark mage with an experiment. I remember him clearly because his familiar was very strange in appearance. In any case, the old man was ripping open a portal and as he did so, he noticed a dark powder breaking the seal of the summoning runes. A look of horror fell over his face, and he started to yell something to the dark mage when a large demonic creature slowly poked his head through and looked about. In panic, the old man attempted to shut the portal and as he did so the dark mage quickly started to cast but the demon was too quick. The dark mage yelled in pain as the creatures long and sharp claw wrapped around him and dragged him screaming toward the nothingness. The old man quickly broke the spell and a large surge of energy shot in all directions. As the portal slammed shut an eerie synchronize scream from both the portal and his devilish familiar drifted into silence. To my fortune, the surge tore many of chains that held the cages in place and I found myself still confined by now upon floor. The old man was severely drained and did nothing more than lock up the vanquished mages injured familiar into a fallen cage and struggled to bed. That is the night I was finally able to free myself, you see I found a jagged metal pin and with a lot of patients, was able to pick the lock. Henry “the Key” would have been proud, Pholtus rest his soul. I was ready to take my leave, when I realized I had two problems, the first is that I realized I liked what I was learning here and wanted to be able to do what the these wizard could. Secondly, even if I were going to try and escape, I probably wouldn’t make it past the first magical trap. So what I did that night was try a few lesser magic’s of my own, and to my amazement one worked. From then on, whenever I knew the mage was asleep or away, I would try different spells and so my true studies began.
At last.. free?... Two years had passed and I awoke to see a rather tall mage dressed in black. No doubt another one of the old man’s evil wizard acquaintances using the lab to perform some great magic deed. The mage had brought several animals with him, for what, I know not but it was fascinating… I had seen him last summer when he summoned created his familiar… an ugly little beast that was part monkey part bat, and he had a very hard time taming it. As the night progressed, I witnessed some horrible things… he was attempting to master magic’s that would alter theses animal in horrible ways. It was something he was melding things that were not meant to be combined. Experiment after experiment, success then failure, then success again. I tried not to watch but I could not help myself, it was fascinating. When I saw a baby goat undergo a transmutation that left him skinless bag of blood, I lost what little I had in my stomach. Unfortunately, that is when the tall dark wizard noticed me. A great fear fell over me as I saw him stare at me intently. The tall mage grew a dark evil grin walked intently towards the back of the laboratory. He waved to his familiar and the little beast flew up and watched me closely. Next thing I knew, the chain snaps and my cage magically drops to the ground. As his beast studied me, I notice something else catch his eye. That evil familiar of the lost mage many years back. What was he planning to do… I was to terrified to move, a broad smile grew upon his face and as if knowing, I started to plead for my life but before I could say much he said, “worry not, it will be over shortly” as he started to cast and threw a light dust upon me.. I suddenly felt like I hadn’t slept for weeks and I could not keep my eyes awake….
Horror… When I awoke I was vomiting blood and in terrible pain… It was as if I had been pulled in every direction until my arms snapped, ribs cracked and legs broke in so many ways. I was lying upon a table and I tried to move but the pain was so great it was even hard to swallow the water that was given to me. My eyes were swollen shut and they felt as if they had been gouged out and all I could hear was the old man, I could tell by the shakiness in his voice that he was horrified. I knew he felt responsible for my suffering and did what he could to ease my pain. He bandaged my eyes and for many weeks I lay there. I felt awful but at the same time, I felt something different about me.. I understood things quicker than before and my body seemed stronger for I recovered quickly. It wasn’t until the old man took the bandage off my eyes, that I realized how much that evil wizard had changed me. The evil beast had my eye and I his. The old man said I was lucky to be alive and said that it seemed that the dark mage Bullum was trying to meld you and the Quasit. Fortunately, both of you are stronger in will and magic then he expected for I fear you both would have been lost. I felt there was some special bond between myself and the beast. It wasn’t for several weeks before Aldaman had truly realized my ability and that the beast had been bonded to me as a familiar during the process.
Acceptance… It took me many months to learn how to walk again and even so, It was difficult to walk like I once did. Izabella took great care of me. The old man guilt plagued him and he visited me daily. He laughed at first but when I showed him what magic’s I had mastered from watching him over the years, he was amazed. He knew I was not daft but didn’t realize that I learned the arts so intuitively. That is when he accepted me as one of his apprentices and it was not long after that I became his most promising student. The old wizard’s guilt was eased by my love for the arts and my assistance in the lab proved extremely helpful. I became quite adapt magic’s of all sorts and especially at creating potions small magic’s for sale. Izabella knew how my disfigurement upset me so she was kind enough to create a robe disguised my appearance, so I could walk among the people without being stoned but over time, I came to embrace what I was… and realized that the only way people would leave me alone was for them to fear me, the robe proved useful on both counts for it could enhance my ugliness as well.
So for many years, there I stayed… Although Aldaman and I became close friends, I kept Izabelle at a distance for I knew even though she loved me, at the same time my appearance horrified her. I came to realize that I could not spend my life in this small tower.. I needed to see what was out there… even if all that gazed upon me fell to horror. Aldaman knew my deep love for his neice and recommend I study at an academy to learn more about potions and transmutation magic’s, so I agreed. There was much to see and I planned on seeing it. So after a decade in that small tower, I left,. I told them I would be back before long and messages of my travels will soon follow.