Monday, 24 January 2011

Their Fated Travels...Chapter 22 - The Magister Path

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Their Fated Travels…

RPG Party events as told By Robert James Freemantle

Chapter 22

The Magister Path

The streets of Altdorf shined with a glaze from water on the ground. Showers had poured down earlier that morning.

The sun was now glowing with enthusiasm, thought Maestro, or mocking him at the very least as he and Tobias squinted their eyes – making their way towards the Celestial College once more.

Tordrad had been left at the front gate, but even though he was standing practically next to the College, its magical influences managed to make it hide away from the Kislevite’s mind once more. Tordrad could only guess where he had last seen the building and stared in that general direction waiting for Maestro to re-appear. He soon got bored with that and wandered off to find a tavern.

As the two robed fellows made their way around the garden paths, Tobias’s face was full of serious discipline guided by concern. “Maestro, this is your final test, a chance to prove yourself to the Sirs. I can only do so much for you. If you complete this you will be a magister at long last.”

Maestro sighed with the great weight on his shoulders as together they made their way through the servants’ entrance before doubling back and coming through the front door instead, giving each other a knowing look.

“Remember”, said Tobias, “You don’t have to win, just impress them.”

Maestro commented, “I’m sure nothing I do will impress them Master Wilwart.”

Tobias cocked his head and looked at the man, “Why not? You’ve impressed me.”

Maestro stopped in his tracks and began to get left behind, his face a mask of shock. Tobias had gotten quite a way ahead and looked around, seeing that this was getting them nowhere he quickly added, “Sometimes, only sometimes of course.”

Maestro began stepping forward a little as Tobias spurred him on, “Come on Maestro, we’re supposed to be there quicker than it would take if we came through the back door. Hurry up.”

Maestro snapped out of it and caught up as the haughty halfling hurried on without him, his quick little feet padding along the beautifully designed marble floor in this section.

Maestro didn’t have much to say. It all felt like a dream. He never thought he would actually be here, being tested to become a full magister - a master wizard of his order.

He had passed the other tests set out for him. He had proven his mastery and adaptation of the higher spells. He had proven his nerve for battle and his growing confidence in his own abilities. He had studied and passed the tests to prove his knowledge of the world. He could speak at least six languages and had some minor knowledge of others. He had even started a museum within the College, collecting some of the items he had acquired from adventures so far. Every single master, except Magnamus had betted against him yet here he was, about to face the final test. It was a dreadful shame that Magnamus himself couldn’t be present. His bright wizard leanings might have thrown off Maestro’s focus of the heavens lore energies – the winds of azyr which was a hazy mist like substance that floated about in the upper atmosphere, which he would view through his witchsight and telescope.

The shocking thought hit Maestro, that if he did become a master, he too could take on an apprentice. He still felt like an apprentice himself! Yet others were impressed with him now. Perhaps he had always been so disconnected with the idea of advancement that he had created an unbalanced overestimation of what even a journeyman’s power level should be, let alone a master. There was no time to debate these things with Tobias. The halfling would no doubt shout at him, telling him the same. He would tell him to concentrate on the task ahead, to make sure he doesn’t end up at Morr’s Gates by not focusing his protective wards correctly. He decided to save time and not say anything.

Soon they had arrived at the Magister’s Halls. Their contact, one Master Tharich waited for them, facing a hallway that he expected them to emerge from. Maestro and Tobias had emerged from a different side however and were now approaching the man from behind. Tharich had never liked Maestro. He disliked his lazy attitude and today was an uncomfortable circumstance for them to both find themselves in.

“Hello Sir” started Maestro from behind the other wizard.

Tharich looked around in surprise, horror on his face at being wrong. He questioned them, “But…but I divined your entry through the service quarters. You came that way to throw me off, like the old lessons. You could only have come from that passage over there.” He pointed with a slightly shaking finger at the corridor he had been facing.

Tobias grinned at last.

This was made worse by the fact that Master Tharich had been Maestro’s teacher in several subjects, including lessons of ‘cognitive future sight’ of which he was a specialist.

Maestro replied, “Ah yes, but I divined that you would divine this and hence I came through the front door instead.”

“You…divined…ME?…” spluttered Tharich. As the realisation washed over him like a cold torrent of water, he shivered before taking a deep breath of acceptance and continued as professionally as he could, “I am to escort you to the final assessment chamber and answer any questions you might have.” as he pointed at a wall a short way down the corridor. Maestro and Tobias could plainly see that it was only a normal wall.

Maestro looked questioningly at the master wizard but as soon as he had looked at the wall again, it had changed. Stairs now led down through a rounded opening. Maestro gasped and Tobias laughed heartily. This was truly the reason he remained in the job, for he got to see such wonders every day. He would sometimes explain that his title was ‘Magical Misconductor’ as opposed to Maestro’s ‘conductor’ of magical winds.

As they walked down the stairs that led to two large doors Maestro started, “There is not supposed to be doorway here, I’ve been past here lots of times and never have I seen one.”

Tharich smirked, “So much to still to learn, that is precisely why you never saw it, because it’s not supposed to be there.”

As Maestro pushed the double doors open Tharich stated, “Before you enter this room, be sure that you are ready. This will be the final test. You do not have to win. How could you possibly win anyway? Inside will be a wizard to duel you, to test you, but make no mistakes, he will be better than you are. You need only perform well to impress him, then you will pass.”

Maestro looked at Tobias who gave him a re-assuring nod. Tobias was putting it on to keep the wizard at ease. Maestro couldn’t tell. He was more concerned about which magister he would be fighting inside. At least it wasn’t Tharich, he thought. Tharich was a stern combatant. He had put several students in the infirmary. Although it was normal in magical ward practice lessons for students to be harmed, in this case they were sometimes blasted so hard for such a distance that they did end up literally in the infirmary, through the window that looked out on the training ground. At least they wouldn’t get shattered with glass, because the staff quickly caught on and kept the window open during training lessons…

Maestro pushed the great doors open quickly and stepped in as fast as he could, before his feet could find the time to argue against it.

He was standing inside a large room. Its exact size was indefinable because the edges disappeared off into shadows. What he could see though was a long way back indeed. He realised that the walls were in fact painted black, or at least those by the door had been but…where was the door? Maestro turned right around and couldn’t see the door anymore. He was standing in the middle of this vast room, surrounded by grey marble pillars that had electric blue veins running through them, spaced across the room at regular intervals as supports to the massive ceiling above. None of it made sense. This room couldn’t exist here, thought Maestro, it was too big. As the wizard stared up at the ceiling, he could see it had painted stars, planets and moons upon it. It was so lavishly created that it looked almost real. Maestro saw movement up there on the ceiling suddenly. A tiny shooting star moved down from the ceiling and into the room, descending just past his overly large nose. He went cross-eyed trying to follow it and then snapped out of it, realising the danger he was probably in. This feeling had been brought on by the sensation of something closing in on him. He couldn’t shake the feeling that he was being watched. He was scared. At last he would have to fight a magister and he would be on his own. No Tordrad to step in front and take the blows for him. No Rissandrea to use her warming influence and healing abilities to keep them on track. No Dieter to…to do whatever it was Dieter did. As he thought about it he realised that he couldn’t quite think of what role Dieter actually played in their party. The more he tried to think of what Dieter actually did, the more uncomfortable it was to concentrate on. Again, he realised that all of this had been another mental distraction as he felt the presence closing in once more, like a magical garrotte. This time he snapped out of his thought process just in the nick of time, realising that whatever it was, it had gotten too close this time.

Maestro quickly moved behind a pillar and hid. He reached out with his senses and felt nothing. His witchsight couldn’t make out any specific fluctuations within the room because the entire area was flooded was an overabundance of azyr, the blue winds of the Heavens. Trying to look at his surroundings with witchsight only made the room harder to concentrate on. There was too much visual stimulus all around him.

A voice behind him made him jump, “You can’t hide from fate Maestro.”

Maestro’s heart was beating fast, but before its second beat Maestro had already turned around to face the person who had crept up on him. He had perfectly masked his presence within the energy flows. Maestro didn’t doubt that the man could have walked right up to him and stood beside him at any time. Perhaps he had been already.

Within a fraction of a moment everything became apparent and Maestro was surprised again. Standing before him was someone he didn’t expect to see: Stern Glanzend - the Magister Patriarch. Standing there was no master wizard. It was a wizard lord. The most powerful chosen of all celestial wizard lords in the old world. Maestro couldn’t help but feel honoured, not realising the implications as he asked, “Gosh, it’s you Magister Patriarch. What an honour that you would come here to referee my bout against the master I am to fight today.”

The old man was of considerable age, yet the power level he exuded was on another level completely, more than Maestro had ever witnessed in any wizard, ever. He stood resplendent in the blue and grey robes of their order, holding a staff that was painted as black as the night sky upon the ceiling above them. Upon his head he wore a skullcap, adorned with magical gems that pulsed eerily. His fingers were decorated in rings of varying colours. Small lights of energy that ran surplus from his body danced off and into the air only to dissipate into nothingness – a continual aura of magical magnificence.

“Yes” started the old Patriarch, “I will be your judge. But there will be no magister here to face you, Maestro. I will be your opponent.”

Maestro laughed dismissingly and with a wave of his hand he replied, “Now that’s a good one! Hahha. Seriously, who am I fighting Sir?”

“Me” answered the Patriarch sternly, who for some reason wasn’t laughing along with Maestro’s joke. It was at about that time that Maestro realised that there was no joke.

The cowardly wizard jumped in fright, his entire body a picture of exclaim as he hurriedly enquired, “No no no there must be a magister to fight. It is unprecedented to have the Magister Lord Patriarch fight, especially against an unproven journeyman such as myself.”

The old grey haired man squinted one eye and leaned forward to emphasize his point, “Precisely. But you are an unprecedented student, Maestro Rophel Illefescion.”

“…In the flesh” added Maestro.

“Yes yes, in the flesh and all of the other titles you will be one day known by” came the Patriarch’s reply.

Maestro considered this and quickly retorted, “Why does everyone always have a problem with me anyway? They say I might be dangerous.”

“You might” came the old man’s reply.

Maestro continued, “They said it was safer that I remain out of the city.”

“It is” came the Patriarch’s reply.

Maestro was a picture of obvious questions, his face was easily read. The patriarch beat him to it, “You have always been considered different, an outsider. You were always feared. Even the Emperor feels unsafe around you, doesn’t he? You’ve asked around, lots of times. No one will ever tell you, will they?”

Maestro nodded solemnly.

The old man continued, “It was better for your development into a magister, to not know.”

Maestro almost exploded with nearly two decades of frustration, “Not know what?!”

The old man smiled with some satisfaction, “Perform well, impress me to become a magister – then I will tell you what you want to know.”

A look of new determination appeared on Maestro’s face. He then realised again the futility of such a feeling. Here he faced the strongest wizard lord of his order. Maestro’s voice shook nervously as he asked, “When does this fight begin?”

The Patriarch looked serious for a moment and then spoke with a voice like the cracking of lightning, “Now”.

At once the old man’s azyr control erupted around his body in a huge burst of energy. He appeared to channel and cast two spells, all at once, as his body sparkled momentarily with one hue then another.

Maestro began to fall back at once as heard a familiar incantation being recited. He knew he still had enough time to duck behind the pillar. However the weavings of the spell proved to be faster than he had ever thought possible. The Patriarch’s speed was awesome to behold, channelling with one hand and committing two handed magical weaves with just one hand to cast one spell while speaking aloud to incant the other.

The energies formed into a spell which fired out and struck Maestro, blowing his robes back with aethyric force just as he ducked behind the pillar.

He stood concealing himself behind the pillar knowing that he had been afflicted with a curse spell. He did not have the power to dispel it either. Already he would be at a disadvantage in his every action from here on.

He cast the second portent of amul on himself, so that he might foresee key events with extra clarity. A sort of de-ja-vu brought about on purpose. He did not doubt that the Patriarch had done the same already.

Maestro then shrouded his body in aethyric armour, as Master Tharich had taught him. It would absorb at least some degree of damage taken, for wizards would not wear actual armour. Every wizard knew - one of the first things they were taught - wearing any sort of armour would mean a drop in one’s control of the aethyric energies, as it would interfere with it flowing in and around one’s body.

Maestro prepared himself and gulped once to swallow what felt like his heart in his throat before coming out from behind the pillar speaking the words of a curse spell. The Patriarch was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly he could feel the ominous presence he had felt before looming in towards him again. His opponent was going to attack him and he didn’t know where it would come from. He was practically a sitting duck out there. He knew that no-matter what he chose to do, the Patriarch will have already foreseen moments before, so he could choose the correct moment to strike. It was also this thought that gave him his solution. Instead of using the second portent of amul to read his opponent’s next action, what if he were to read his own actions before he’d made them? Surely those same actions would be the same images seen by the Patriarch at the exact same moment!

Maestro gazed quickly into his mind’s eye and there saw himself walking to the right, looking for the patriarch who appeared suddenly from behind a pillar behind him.

After seeing this image Maestro began moving right, just as he had seen, but stopped one pillar short and faced the opposite way, to the direction the Patriarch appeared from in his vision. He decided on this new course of action and took a step forwards ready to look behind the pillar but changed his mind suddenly. Quickly he stepped left and away from it before turning around and walking towards a different pillar entirely.

Maestro gazed into his mind’s eye once more, this time seeing the Patriarch appear beside him on the left before blasting him with lightning. It looked painful, so he hoped that wouldn’t happen. He had to trust the idea.

Now away from the vision again, he began walking forwards and then stepped right a few times and started running forwards quickly only to randomly decide a direction of left to turn at the next pillar. He quickly saw a vision of the Patriarch appearing behind him soon when he doubles back on himself. Maestro knew that the Patriarch understood what he was doing, but that didn’t matter. He chose to ignore the future of doubling back on himself and kept going instead. No footsteps could be heard, other than his own.

Maestro was alive with concentration. Beads of sweat appeared across his face as he quickly then decided to double back on himself instead. He came up behind the Patriarch who was creeping up towards a different pillar. The old man snapped around and began channelling a spell but Maestro was prepared this time. He had maintained his channelling well all throughout this entire gruelling process and loosed off a curse spell to the Patriarch. It connected. Maestro quickly forward rolled behind another pillar and took cover against an attack that never came.

Maestro had concealed so many multiple bluffs within his bluffs by reading his own future movements that when he had changed his mind and those changes had been perceived, he then changed the changing of his mind and did the original thing again. All of these actions had stacked up enough to confuse his opponent.

Maestro refreshed the portent of amul spell on himself and stood out in the open, with eyes closed. He put one hand forward, facing palm outwards, his energies were channelled and ready. The azyr warned him of a vision, of his lying on the ground being choked by the most vicious silence spell he had ever seen. He began nervously laughing. The laughing grew louder as the Patriarch appeared and cast his silence spell. Tendrils of aethyric power clutched at Maestro’s mind telling him that a hand was choking him. His own laugh cut short and he gagged. At that moment he fought an internal war of willpower.

The laughing started up again, much to the horror of the Magister Patriarch, who was still reciting a spell. It was clear on his face as Maestro’s own eyes snapped open and he spoke aloud, “It isn’t as easy as that to shut me up, believe me, many have tried.”

From Maestro’s extended palm shot a silence spell of his own. It took the Magister Patriarch by surprise and he suddenly found that he could not speak. Whatever it was that he had cast though had already finished.

Suddenly a strong wind blew up around Maestro and knocked him to his knees. He supported himself with this staff, trying to not be blown over. The Patriarch stared grimly at Maestro, wincing now and then as he tried to remove the spell from himself internally.

Maestro unleashed an electric bolt of pure aethyr towards the Patriarch. It hit, most of it was absorbed by the magical wards he had cast upon himself, but some had gotten through. The old man looked impressed with Maestro and smirked. It had been a long time since any wizard had made him feel pain. His look of growing interest in the younger man turned into a look of fright suddenly when he saw Maestro was casting another lightning bolt. This time the old man whipped his robes up and around in a frontal circular arc which absorbed most of the attack. The rest arced away round either side of him harmlessly.

Maestro struggled to leave the vortex of wind he found himself in. He was standing once more but couldn’t move. He even had to incant the words to his lightning bolt spells with his head cocked to one side so that the torrents of aethyric wind didn’t take his breath away.

The Patriarch stepped backwards once and side stepped three times to the left where he vanished out of all existence. It was as if he had stepped behind a brick wall that had been painted the exact colour tones of the room behind it. Maestro wondered how this could be, considering that it might have been a spell he left in place from earlier, or perhaps it was one of the natural elements of this strange room itself. As he pondered these things and still failed to escape the raging winds about him, the Patriarch recovered from the silence spell that had afflicted him. His body had been scorched with the one shot that had gotten through and the old man didn’t want to risk another making full contact contact. Though his body was weaker than younger men, his strategies, his techniques, his defences, these were superior. He decided he would combine them altogether to finish the wizard as quickly as possible. He suddenly realised how impressive Maestro was in a fight, to force him to have such thoughts. Regardless of how talented he was though, the Magister Patriarch was regarded as the number one master combat strategist wizard in the Empire. His remote meditative guidance in the storm of chaos had proven the downfall of Archaon recently. One of the major reasons the Everchosen’s attack wasn’t as strongly supported at other walls as it should have been. More pressure on other walls would have diverted defenders to spread thinner.

The Patriarch had his plan now. It was just a matter of picking the right moment to execute it. Before he could though, his invisible wall shimmered and evaporated in front of him.

Maestro had no idea where the Patriarch was. His silence spell would have faded by now and he knew counter-attack was imminent.

The younger wizard came to a decision, casting a spell towards the ceiling. Something about it interacted with the stars that were part of the astrologically themed paintwork, making them shine brighter than they ever should until their glow emanated down into the room for quite a way around them in a large circle of effect. Suddenly a shimmering of “nothingness and somethingness tussling for existence over the same spot” drew Maestro’s eye as he spoke those words quietly to himself with intrigue.

The wind vortex stopped at last as Maestro thanked his lucky stars, then chortled at the joke he’d accidentally made. This momentary lapse in concentration was all it took for him to lose sight of the Patriarch once more.

Suddenly from behind a pillar to the side the older wizard stepped out swinging his staff skilfully.

Maestro only just raised his own wooden staff in time to block the attack that was aimed for his throat. The old man pressed the attack and Maestro was immediately on the defensive, parrying and blocking as best as he could. He brought his staff high at one end and low at the other, fending off every upper body attack from the old man.

The patriarch swept low suddenly and dragged his staff around in a low arc. Maestro had the sense to jump over it, but as he landed, the old man’s follow up leg sweep made contact, sending Maestro sprawling onto his back. As Maestro tried to get back up, the Patriarch pointed his finger towards Maestro’s staff and it flew out of his momentarily weakened grip across the room, clattering some distance away against a far off pillar.

The Patriarch quickly brought his staff down onto Maestro’s shoulder and he felt that arm go dead. Maestro took a step back, getting ready to grab the next lunge but the old man simply cast a lightning bolt! It was at an alarmingly close proximity. Maestro didn’t even have time to scream, as he was sent flying backwards across the room. As he hit the polished floor he kept sliding along on his back.

Maestro felt a familiar power source coming up on his left at any moment. He reached out and grabbed his staff back again as he kept on sliding.

The bolt of lightning had been massive. His hair was singed and more of it had turned grey in two places (although he didn’t know that yet).

His body ached with the burnt feeling. His senses had been fried and he had been subjected to such pain the like of which he had never felt before. His face was blackened, worse towards his lower jaw and chin. One piece of his long hair that ran down the side was actually on fire. He only realised that when he smelt the smoke and quickly waved and patted it to put the miniature blaze out before it could catch his head on fire, or so he thought.

Maestro commented aloud, “I can’t afford to be hit by one of those again or it will blast me to high heavens…oh, hah I made a joke there without realising.”

The Patriarch’s stern face came into view once more, through Maestro’s blurring eyes that were straining to correct themselves amidst the irritating smoke that poured up from his robes. Maestro fired a magical dart at the old man which he knocked aside with ease, with a swipe from the back of his hand.

Maestro desperately fired another bolt of electricity from his finger tips. The shocking blue aethyric bolts struck the ground where the old master had been standing but he was nowhere to be seen. Maestro considered the possibility that he had disintegrated from the attack but threw that idea aside as being silly.

As the younger man looked around trying to find the Patriarch’s location, a sudden cracking splitting sound above him made him look up. An aethyric thundercloud had gathered overhead, much larger than anything he had ever seen, let alone created. He started to run but the effects of the lightning storm were far and wide, as far as his eyes could see, about the room. The air around him was positively charged and within moments a bolt of lightning was bound to hit him!

He had to think fast. He supercharged the metal fastenings that were shaped like sharpened talons at the tip of his staff. Their purpose, to hold his cobalt coloured powerstone in place at the end. Once the metal had started to glow with a positive charge, he threw the staff up into the air. It penetrated the storm cloud and pushed back out of it, remaining levitated in the air. The positive charge in his staff was just enough to keep the positively charged lightning bolts from striking down on him, while he remained below the staff.

A single thunderclap of applause rang out through the great room of contests. The Patriarch’s voice was loud, coming from all directions at once, “Very impressive work Maestro. You are a genius. Just think, if we had never made you leave to find your life outside of this city you never would have discovered just how brilliant you were.”

Those words were of little comfort to Maestro right now, for he knew that the old man still meant to do him harm. Maestro had to rely on the electrostatic repulsion effect above and wait for the next move.

Suddenly his spectacles cracked on the left side. He took them off and threw them away, reaching into a sack inside his backpack where he pulled out another pair. After quickly examining them he put them on commenting, “Ah, my mountain climbing spectacles, well these will just have to do” to no one in particular. The different spectacles that Maestro wore for seemingly eccentric uses were a topic of some debate throughout even the wizard’s collegiate community. Maestro would procure or steal lenses from the Celestial College’s telescopes and use his own talents of engineering to create different spectacles. It was argued by some that perhaps Maestro’s belief that the spectacles were improving a particular area of his sight was enough for them to seemingly work, for him at least. Another argument held that due to the magical nature of the objects the glass was removed from, surely there was a chance that each was somehow imbued with some otherwordly property. Whatever the reason was, nobody ever seemed to conclude that he should be punished for theft and vandalism to the College telescopes.

Maestro could not see the Patriarch, but the great wizard lord recited a spell under his breath and quickly levitated off the ground. He continued to float up as high as he could.

The Patriarch’s disembodied voice rang out again, “You have given up your staff. Now how will you defend yourself, student?”

Maestro’s face became grim. He reached his hand behind his lower back, gripping the handle of his sword, keeping it firmly sheathed for the time being.

Maestro had stared at the Patriarch for long enough during the encounter to now recognize his unique effects on the aethyr around them. Before, it had been impossible to identify, for the azyr had all looked the same but he was now almost completely sure that the old man’s presence had a unique trail leading to it. He decided to trust his own guess and he quickly searched the room, looking not with his eyes but with his newly honed witchsight. Everywhere he scanned, the energy readings of azyr were erratic, but none matched the particular erratic pattern that belonged to the Patriarch. How was this possible? He had no idea. It could only mean that the old man had either left the room or he was no longer around him at all. It quickly dawned on Maestro that the old man couldn’t be on the floor and so had to be above him.

Maestro drew his sword, river’s edge. The handle was interlaced with bands of thick durable rubber that wrapped around a khaki coloured gripping cloth of fine material. The handle at first seemed like any other blade, but drips of water made the floor wet and within moments a torrent of water was running up and down the blade like the motion of a chainsaw. Maestro could hear the loud and purposeful recital of a silence spell again, as he concentrated his own willpower on the sword he held. The length of it started to adjust, with it growing in size due to the water itself stretching out further. The metal itself could not grow. Maestro knew that the Patriarch must have used a wings of heaven spell to levitate above the greyish black thundercloud and hide out of view so that he could snipe Maestro with a combination silence spell then blast him freely. It would all be over soon, he thought. He cast a lightning bolt spell just as the silencing effect hit him. This time the commanding presence inside his head was too strong. The will of the old man was absolute. He strained to fight it but his own tongue suddenly felt like a lead weight. He had finished the spell in time but did not manage to weave it into an outward attacking bolt. It remained trapped in his hands, where it re-absorbed elsewhere, as a spell like this always would if not unleashed quickly enough – as it was a natural element that of course could only behave as a natural element could.

Maestro fancied that his mountain climbing spectacles would give him the edge at perceiving movement from above him. The bi-focal element on the glass indeed was placed on the upper part of the lens for starters!

Maestro suddenly saw what he was waiting for: the Patriarch’s mighty lightning bolt that tore through the cloud from the other side and came rapidly towards him.

Maestro raised river’s edge so that its watery point connected with the lightning bolt first. The watery sword had been negatively charged by the failed lightning spell from Maestro before. The bolt that had made contact was positively charged!

The Patriarch stared in disbelief as the lightning erupted and burnt on the surface of the water and in an instant a counter charge from the water’s current jumped back through the lightning which led right back into the Patriarch’s fingers.

There was a massive electrical cracking sound followed immediately by an explosion.

The Patriarch fell from the sky, through the cloud and hit the floor. Maestro ran over to the supreme wizard lord and placed river’s edge to the man’s throat. The Patriarch’s fingers were black as soot and his hands were burned.

“I concede to you” he said. Maestro sheathed the sword once more. The droplets that had escaped onto the floor quickly made their way in reverse back into the sheath too, just before the sword’s hilt locked the opening off.

At once, several attendants appeared and pulled the Patriarch back onto his feet. He stared at Maestro in disbelief stating, “I would not have believed it lest I saw it with my own eyes. You are now a magister, you shall now be known as a Sir or our order.”

Maestro smiled and said, “Oh good, that means I can concentrate on some other pursuits next, like getting back to my engineering studies.”

“Well, ahh yes” said the Patriarch, a little shakily in his voice, “There is that. Now that you are a magister, you may define what sort of further title you have. There have been magister engineers before, indeed. The final rank for you attain, lord will still be some way off. Your depth of comprehension will still need to grow, so I give you permission for now to study whatever you see fit.”

Maestro punched the air in triumph. At last, he thought, at least he had conquered fate’s plan. He realised he’d said that last part out loud when the Supreme Lord Patriarch answered, “How do you know that this wasn’t the plan all along?”

Maestro gulped at the enormity of such a suggestion. He quickly pushed that down though and asked, “You said you would tell me why I have been treated differently all these years.”

The Patriarch sighed, “Indeed, yes I suppose I did. Ah well Maestro. Have you ever heard the stories of supreme wizard lord Wilheim?”

Maestro thought for a moment and then replied, “Ah yes, one of the only humans to actually master high magic.”

Magic in its purest form was normally only controllable by the elves. It was called: High magic. Evil wizards and mages would often channel a near variant of high magic called “dhar”. This negative form of high magic was the pure stuff of chaos, unrefined, undisciplined and un-metered. All magic in itself originated from the chaos dimensions. Users of dhar were those who wanted the fast track to power. Such magic was near the level of the elves for little effort at all, but it carried a whole host of new dangers as a result as well. Practitioners of these dark arts would often go insane or be subject to a fate far far worse than that!

Humans were not anywhere near gifted enough to use high magic. Their only path to access was dhar, which explained why necromancy and chaos magic was rife amongst mortals who had turned their backs on the Empire and its lawful minded neighbouring countries.

Magic in its purest form was the mass collection of eight different channelled energies that the elves called “qhaysh”. Humans would spend their entire short lifetimes just mastering a single element, a single wind of the eight lores. Furthermore, because of the natural restrictions of a human body, the further a wizard studied down the path of a particular school of magic, the less attuned he became to reading the others.

Wilheim, for some reason was the exception to this rule.

Maestro looked a little confused, “Why do I want to know about some old story that was probably made up like most of the others then?”

The Patriarch gasped, “Because Maestro, it was only too true. Not a fable to impress the younger students into joining our order. Not a story to tempt would be students away from the path of hedge wizardry. He was real.”

Maestro considered the words, “and how do you know that, Sir?”

“Because Maestro” answered the Patriarch, “Because you are his descendent. You are his blood - albeit thinned down now, of course.”

Maestro’s jaw fell open.

The master lord continued, “On your mother’s side, because of course your father’s father hailed from Bretonnia, hence your name.”

“My mother…” started Maestro, “she…”

The Patriarch looked grimly at him and clarified, “Your mother did indeed end up in the infirmary, that was no lie. But you were never told the reason why I’m afraid.”

Maestro quickly stated, “It was the pressure and disgrace of that that made father stand down from his role as financial advisor to the Emperor…”

“Yes” said the Patriarch, “but her ‘insanity’ was a result of her bloodline’s natural element, gifted affinity with magic.”

Maestro looked shocked on a new level with each word the old man spoke as he continued to explain, “Yes, your Mother became gifted with magic. It came on suddenly though and in her older years where her developed adult psyche could not handle the strain. Most are lucky enough to receive the blessing…”

“Or curse” added Maestro grimly.

“Or however you look at it” answered the Patriarch, “at a younger age when their minds are more adaptive to change. Because of course, their entire bodies are constantly changing anyway. Your mother developed a sudden outburst of dhar and that was that. All who went near her were in danger. She was wholly destructive but couldn’t help it…”

“And there she died…” added Maestro, his voice full of melancholy.

The Patriarch looked embarrassed at this and looked down and away choosing not to even reply to that remark before continuing, “So you can imagine how the higher powers felt when you developed your magical attunement. Your initial discovery of the power combined with your case file was even enough to spook the Emperor. It is because you are a descendent of Wilheim that you almost have the attunement of high magic about you. It is why you pick up on other wizards’ attunements when they are in your vicinity. Your natural blood gives you that much, but because you are a late descendent, the blood is now watered down so much that you will probably never attain high magic like he did. So if you have the capacity for high magic without the gift to actually wield it, what do you think your masters, your teachers feared would happen to you Maestro?”

Maestro replied with a sense of awe and realisation in his voice, “Dhar. I might have succumbed to Tzeentch’s will. I…I actually understand now.”

“Yes” said the Patriarch, “the less you knew the better, but remaining in the city as you were, was a dangerous course as well, for you at least. It wasn’t that we were picking on you, even though you were a lazy little blighter if I do say so myself”, the Patriarch coughed and set himself back on the track of his point, “but that remaining uncultured in how to harness, how to control the stronger winds of magic would leave you susceptible to it if it flared up naturally on its own, into the next level, as it did with your mother.”

Maestro shook his head from the enormity of everything he was now trying to take in. This was truly life changing for him. Part of him wished he hadn’t asked, yet another part was glad he had. A tear formed in his eye, made all the more ridiculous as he still wore his seemingly upside down spectacles. The single tear parted a way through the black soot on his cheek.

“You are naturally talented, Maestro” added the Patriarch, “But unmotivated as well. You have grown under our advisement and are all the better for it. You are a master tactician if ever I did see one. Do you have any more questions?”

Maestro was silent for a moment then replied, “None Sir…”

“Then let’s be off with you eh? You are now a master and are deserved of a servant to run you a bath at the very least.”

Maestro quietly nodded and left through the now opened door before him. So much had changed this day. He had at last learned who he truly was. It scared him. Who was he again?

Once Maestro was gone and the door had shut again a strange second old man stepped out from behind a pillar. He looked very old indeed but somehow there was a striking likeness between he and the younger wizard who had just departed from the room.

The newcomer said, “Hmmph, I used to look like that did I?”

“Yes, it seems so old friend.” answered the Patriarch.

The newcomer added, “No wonder no women liked me.”

The Patriarch stated, “Do you forget? You were the one who had a problem with women, not the other way around?”

The Patriarch considered something for a moment and asked, “Why did you come here though? Why did you feel the need to see this one more time?”

The newcomer, resplendent in the robes of the Celestial Order smiled gravely, “I am soon to depart this mortal coil. I have foreseen it. I wanted to relive the one moment that meant most to me.”

The Patriarch commented a little more sympathetically than before, “I too am not long for this world. I have less than a year here. It was dangerous though, I don’t have to tell you that. If he had seen you, everything, all you were, all you have become would have been put into jeopardy. All certainty would once more have become uncertainty within the time stream.”

“Well it worked out all right didn’t it” said the robed newcomer as he bit down on an apple before adding, “I’ll see you around. Make sure you watch over me.”

“So that you won’t have to, of course I will” answered the Patriarch.

“Thank you” said the elderly newcomer, “I can go in peace at least.”

Meanwhile as Maestro padded down the hallway he muttered quietly to himself, “I wonder who that old bloke was hiding behind that illusion wall spell. Oh well, it’s of no consequence to me, not today, nothing is!”

…Not today. Nothing is.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Seperating Labels For TFT

I've gone into the Their Fated Travels...editing section on the blog and seperated the video spoken word updates from the written word ones. That should make it easier to follow for you now. I think I've got them all. If I missed one somewhere, then I'm sorry. I was dealing with a lot on a long boring looking list to tick/untick - heh.

All the best and hope you enjoy the continued updates.

Their Fated Travels...Chapter 20 (Spoken Word Version) Part 1

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Their Fated Travels...Chapter 21

As always, you can read it at here -

or read it below, with all of the spacial formatting that blogspot brings to the piece.

Their Fated Travels…

Written around the events taking place in the RPG book ‘Spires of Altdorf’, containing this group’s contributive efforts told from an alternative original stand point. Written by Robert James Freemantle

Chapter 21

The Council of Seer Magisters

Approximately 150 years ago –

The Celestial College –

At a time when the College was structurally much smaller than it appeared in modern day, as over time the magisters commissioned yet more and more towers to be annexed upon its upper reaches, jutting off and out at some fairly unusual angles – all indeed in an attempt at simply getting closer to the star constellations that the wizards of this order, Maestro’s order held in such importance. With each new tower built upon the college, telescopes would soon be seen jutting up out from skylight windows. Maestro once figured that its appearance was reminiscent of a huge snail with multiple antenna stalks all over it. He then considered that this could be perceived as heretical thought processes on the subject of mutants and stopped trying to think it at all.

But back then, around a century and a half ago, inside the old College, down the passages and halls, past various secretly hidden doors, deep down within the sub-basement of a sub-basement level was a secret chamber.

Clandestine meetings would take place here, attended by only the highest ranking and trusted magisters of the order – who formed: the Seer Council.

In these early days of the College’s foundation, the council was seen as an extra protective element to mankind, attempting to gather their future-sight abilities in one place and divining the probable outcome of the future.

This was done first as an attempt at deciding what elements of the College’s structure should be and should not be built. Into the future, if it was divined by the council that a new tower would crumble and fall, or bring about some terrible mishap, perhaps someone important accidentally falling to their death from an upper window, then invariably the construction of any new tower or architecture there would be halted.

“That is obviously a rogue magister coming to meet them! But they appear to suspect anyway…What happens next?”

Council Magister Artwieb stared at Council Magister Viez, for he was becoming a little too excited by the happenings of his string of future vision. Magister Viez looked around and saw the expressions of the other Council Magisters looking at him sternly. He shifted uneasily, suddenly looking small in his great oak and metal clasp bound chair, a style that was replicated around the Council Chamber for each member to sit their posterior upon – that’s when they weren’t suddenly standing, convulsing, or doing some other strange physical action as a result of a particularly strenuous portent.

Council Magister Artwieb continued to speak, “It doesn’t matter what happens next. We are at present concerned about more important things, councillor.”

They had gathered within the chamber tonight to view the matter of Altdorf and Nuln’s potential destruction from flood a long time away in the future – weighing up whether the actions of a human called Felix Jaeger and a dwarf slayer named Gotrek Gurnisson would be enough to stop this disastrous possibility.

They fixed their attentions together upon a large azure blue crystal, twenty four feet tall. This was placed in the centre of the chamber so that they could use it as a focal point in attempting to divine together for more accurate results.

Council Magister Viez looked down in embarrassment and stated, “I couldn’t help it I’m afraid, I was drawn to their story. I will try to concentrate on your joint effort – I apologise.”

“Don’t fret it, Councillor” came the reassuring tone of Council Magister Abt, “His scheme doesn’t pay off. The others don’t fall for it, that much I saw.”

Suddenly all eyes were upon the new speaker, sterner still in their reprimanding glance.

“Wonderful” started Magister Artwieb, “another one. It’s becoming infectious is it? This story? This thread of future?”

The other magisters shuffled and looked around nervously. One of their most senior members, Council Magister Ehrlichmann, a wizard with a long white beard that would garner the respect of any dwarf spoke up, “I think none of us can deny – as much as we would like to that there is something of their story pulling us all towards it. I can see it in your minds eyes, all of you, that you have seen elements of their travels in your visions. The fact that this particular string of fate is coming to the fore is perhaps too much of a concurrence to ignore.”

The other members of the congregation solemnly nodded their heads in agreement.

“Well that does it then” retorted magister Artwieb, “It looks like the fate of Altdorf and Nuln will rest solely in the hands of Gotrek and Felix. May the emperor preserve us.”

Artwieb then took a good look around the chamber at the other magisters whose eyes were now fixed upon him, a look of hope in them as they waited for him to continue speaking. This compelled him to continue, “Then we must investigate why this silly string of fate is coming all of to our attentions, if only to keep it from deterring our real work safeguarding the timelines before us.”

Council Magister Viez spoke again, “From that which I have seen, of the strings of fate that the other honourable magisters present have witnessed, it seems there is one person within this group who continually ties events together –“

- “Maestro Rophel Illefescion!” spoke the always uncompromising Tobias.

“In the flesh” corrected Maestro.

“Yes, always with the title isn’t it, you silly fool of a wizard.” Came the halfling’s response, “If you were to simply focus your aethyric senses upon it, you would find that all is not as it seems. I am a halfling, with no magical senses whatsoever and even I can tell that this item is not simply mundane.” With that, Tobias sighed in frustration.

Maestro stared again at the looted item they had procured, dropped from the daemon when it had attacked them in the tavern moments ago. They had opened a letter intended for the group and delivered by courier – and upon doing so, the daemon had appeared. There had been a mad scramble inside the Two-Headed Goose tavern of Altdorf, much to the dismay of the barkeep after Maestro and his companions had shown up again and caused yet more trouble for his patrons and staff. But all of that now brought us to this moment, with Maestro looking down into a scabbard filled with water.

He sloshed it around a bit and peered deep into it. He gave it a smell and then made to drink some, before Tobias grabbed his arm and began once more with his chastising tone, “Don’t drink it Maestro, that’s the wrong way to test it.”

Maestro raised a finger as if having a thought, “Ah yes, you’re quite right.”

The wizard then took the empty hilt he had held in his other hand and placed it back where he’d found it, back atop the scabbard. He focused his thoughts on the idea that there should be a sword inside of it. He focused magic into his hands and held that idea as a concrete thought, as a fact, surely the water had to magical, had to be a weapon – yes that was it. Suddenly, as Maestro pulled the hilt out again, the water was no longer inside the scabbard. It had attached itself to the hilt, into the shape of a sword.

Tobias and the others stared in disbelief, but then realised it was happening to Maestro and that anything was possible.

The wizard closed his eyes, as he listened to the magical resonance coming from the gushing water that swirled around inside the sword’s bladed shape.

Suddenly Maestro spoke, “Its name is River’s Edge. I can feel a presence within it. It is relieved to be free.”

Tobias nodded with satisfaction, “Good, now you have it. Most magical weapons have a presence within them, a will of some sort. Only those gifted in the magical arts stand a chance of hearing them and only their true masters will be able to understand them. That you know this much already is a very good sign Maestro. It suggests that you should keep this weapon as your own. Congratulations.”

150 years ago –

The Celestial College –

Council Magister Artwieb spoke, “Well then, it seems their many investigations will lead them to the College of Light. The dagger artefact they sought lies there. They will go very much around the mulberry bush to get it, perhaps there is something we should prepare in place?”

Magister Viez spoke, “But do they succeed in getting it?”

Artwieb replied, “From what I have seen, ultimately yes they do – ah I see, yes then we can leave them be.”

Extract from the diary of Rissandrea:

Day 75

Oh dear, we have had our tavern rooms broken into and our belongings rummaged through. Who would do such a thing?

Extract from the diary of Dieter:

Day 75

I am glad they didn’t find the body parts, or take my gunpowder bars. Without them, my increasingly worse headaches would be impossible…to handle. I can’t tell what I would do…

Extract from the diary of Tobias:

Day 76

Finally we have unveiled that bright wizard, Wolfgang for what he really is. As we discovered his true plans, he offered us a chance to join him in his malefic schemes. Fat chance! We aided in his departure from this mortal coil. May Sigmar protect his soul. Though I doubt Sigmar could, for the man in question was chaos corrupted.

Extract from the diary of Dieter:

Day 77

Well then, who should we run into but our old problematic friend, Malvanius, Altdorf’s Iron Tower witch hunter captain. Such a displeasure to see him again. I can never tell if he wants to arrest me or recruit me. I’m starting to wonder if perhaps he can’t decide either. He was of some use though, arresting some thugs that attacked us. It was made to look like a petty mugging. We of course know different. I always suspect the worst – that way I can enjoy being pleasantly surprised when everything works out fine. Though of late, I haven’t had much opportunity to be pleasantly surprised.

150 years ago –

The Celestial College –

“Yes.” Began Council Magister Artwieb, “this woman will keep trying to have them killed before she herself is caught by the group themselves no less. But how does she figure into all of this?” as he tried to pull of the pieces of a puzzle yet to happen, together.

Viez raised a finger, his expression a clear visage of someone trying to be helpful, “If I may? All things here are connected now. Each of us are seeing a different part of the story, but fate has connected them. This is turning out to be something threatening to the old world.”

Council Magister Artwieb replied, If the future shows the destruction of the old world, you know there is nothing we can do to stop that which is pre-ordained on so strong a fateful timeline.”

Viez spoke up again, in response, “I would agree with you. There is nothing we can do to stop the future as it is. That is already in place and will come to pass, as did the past and present thereafter. Though my fellow honourable scholars, I would ask you to be mindful of the fundamentals of our secretive order. It is our place to divine major events before us, but perhaps…perhaps there is something that can be done – something that can be put in place by us to help them. For consider this: Perhaps the future we are seeing relies on the fact that we have done as much. Perhaps it is our destiny to do so.”

Artwieb glared at Viez, the younger man had pulled him up on seer protocol in front of everyone else present – he wouldn’t forget that – as he asked, “Then what would you suggest we as a council do?”

There was a long pause in the chamber – as each wizard looked upon one another intently, for signs of inspiration coming to the fore. Each looked as if he was about to speak and then reconsidered the futility of his actions, already hearing the jeering response from the others in his mind’s eye, were he to do so. This was the tricky thing with future reading: So much could be decided beforehand and indeed not even attempted. It of course got more complicated when you had a chamber full of such gifted individuals all attempting to converse. Some chose to willingly switch off premonition for acts of conversation, believing it to stifle their flow of imagination. Perhaps this stifling effect was the reason that no ideas were yet coming about.

Just then, Council Magister Ehrlichmann stood up, shaking with a future vision coming about inside his head. The crystal in the centre of the room confirmed this with its continued pulsing. He spoke aloud, “The…the dagger is the artefact of he who wishes to doom this party. Part of his soul essence is stored within it. The group will obtain the dagger at last. Good…I see them bringing it to a female wizard of the amethyst order. She is holding an…incantatory ritual to nullify its power. She succeeds. The daemon’s soul is now weakened – for when it strikes its final time, it will not be whole as it will have hoped.”

Viez chuckled, “Oh forget all of that; of course I knew they would succeed. What I’m really interested in is how such a stupid bone idle wizard as this is able to rise to such power in so short a time. It seems that everything rests with him does it not? Only someone so pre-occupied by a need to be an engineer and not a powerful wielder of aethyr could remain uncorrupted in the face of things to come.”

The council magister then burst out laughing at the silliness of it all. The others present only smiled politely, for fear of being shown up. Artwieb butted in, “Alright, then how does a fool wizard like this even get to the position where he is allowed to journey out in the world? Ahh, I see, the Emperor of that time, one Karl Franz – he fears the man – fears what he is capable of…oh I see a hat, falling from the Emperor’s head – hit by a spell.”

“Hahaha, yes, that’s it!” laughed Viez, unable to control himself any longer, “But his imbecility is key to the future’s chance at succeeding. We must make sure that the Patriarch allows him continued passage within the halls here – regardless of what…idiocies he will bring about in his stay.”

Artwieb reluctantly sighed, “Yes…unfortunately you were always going to be correct on that point weren’t you? Alright then, we shall send a letter to the Patriarch of that time, date stamped and not to be opened until such time as is appropriate for him to read it. Just what will that wizard do next I wonder?”

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Their Fated Travels...Chapter 20

Read it below or from as always from this link -

Their Fated Travels…

RPG Party events as told By Peter Davis-Parker (primary) & Robert James Freemantle Second Treatment, plot co-coordinating, editing by Robert James Freemantle

Chapter 20

Farewell Middenheim

Extract from the Diary of Maestro:

Day 49

We’ve been up all night and I’ve not had a chance to rest. Worse still, Rissandrea insists that we inform the Verenian temple of Tristran’s fate. As far as I’m concerned I’m done with this whole religious malarkey. I told her she’s free to go do what she pleases but to leave me out of it this time. I’ve seen the inside of too many temples in this city and I want nothing more to do with any of them. Bunch of utter poo-poo heads.

Extract form the diary of Dieter:

Day 49

Rissandrea wants to make sure that Tristran receives a proper burial. Well that’s fair enough, but I would like to at least get some sleep while Morr’s eye is not watching me. At least I was able to acquire this nice piece of obsidian, albeit having had to remove it from that petrified chaos sorcerer and as such he is missing an arm. I do not care what the rest of the group might think on this matter, but I do wonder why I have this faint reminiscence of carrying a blade in the shape…I wish to have obsidian shaped into what I just know is the correct form… I’m sure there is a specialist blacksmith in this city that could perform such a feat.

Extract from the diary of Tobias:

Day 50

It is most strange, I thought my pack felt heavier yesterday but I put that down to fatigue at the time. However upon inspection of my backpack I found several items that Rissandrea instantly recognised as part of Tristran’s equipment. I must say I have no clue as to how I managed to fit most of these into my pack nor do I have the recollection of taking them from him.

Extract from the diary of Rissandrea:

Day 50

I was shocked to find that Tobias had removed several of Tristran’s belongings from his body upon death. I had wondered when the priests had asked us what had become of some of his equipment as it was not present at the time. I had assumed as we had left the site of such corruption that perhaps they had been looted from his body while our presence was elsewhere. I have been noticing that the celestial scholar has been acting oddly only at night - ever since the incident in Altdorf. I did not had a chance to examine him properly at the time but it seems that we might not be leaving for out next destination for a while yet, I will see if I can find anything that could be the cause of this concerning change in attitude. If he lets me.

Extract from the diary of Dieter:

Day 50

It seems that Professor Zweistein has been ‘instructed’ to find out information on this daemon that was imprisoned within the brass skull and of course since we were the most involved in this matter, the most academic members of the group have been asked to assist with the inquiry at the library. Surprisingly Maestro was more than eager to get involved with it. My guess is that he just wants to get away from holy Temples as much as possible.

Tobias looked at Maestro who had his nose buried in a book, trying to get some last good reading done before the sunlight was gone.

“Maestro I must declare that your obsession with daemons is a rather dangerous subject, most people in your position should not show such interests.”

The unofficial journeyman wizard looked up from the book he was writing, “Well actually it’s more of a fact that they might have an interest in me, there was a rather odd occurrence that took place during one of my lessons at the college.”

Several years ago, Altdorf, the Celestial college:

Maestro was sat within yet another lecture. He wasn’t paying total attention to everything the instructor was saying as he was focused on the paper in front of him which was covered in notes. Most of these notes were of rudimentary engineering schematics, although there were arcane marks as well.

Today’s lecture was on the dangers of magic, or rather ways to avoid attracting the ire of Tzeentch. The primary way to do this was with a protective magic circle that allowed the caster to focus the winds of magic more stably.

The master wizard that was tutoring this particular class had a rather odd styled beard in that it was exceptionally long. Within the long strands of hair were entwined metal discs shaped as arcane symbols, some of which the students had never seen before. Maestro fancied that the tutor had a miniature symbol situated in his nose and that it caught the light when the man turned his head – that or perhaps it was a piece of snot. Either way, there was probably some magical answer for it all as far as Maestro knew. This was of course the major problem: Maestro didn’t know very much at all.

The teacher continued his instructions, explaining that the very spot he stood upon was overly magically imbued – a vortex of pressure that swells into the physical realm from the other plane, the daemonic sub-reality attached to theirs. He explained that special magical safeguards are employed here to keep the opening as just a swell and not a fissure. Were it a fissure he explained, then any matter of daemonic manifestation might occur and that is why a magic circle is the only true way to protect one’s self while casting up the eight winds of magic. This technique was particularly expressed to these students who were not yet even at senior apprentice level. The eyes of Tzeentch were particularly watchful for students who were gifted in magic but lacking in the patience and maturity to properly control it.

At that moment, a cracking sound caught everyone’s attention. Even Maestro looked up. The teacher stared down at the floor with a puzzled expression and stated, “Alright then apprentices, what you are witnessing here is a conjoined physical to non corporeal emanation. This is likely caused from some…thing from the other side walking over the fault line that leads into our reality. If we did not have the magic circle in place right now, we would be subject to an anomalous emanation of purest evil. That is why…”

His words were suddenly cut off from a loud hissing sound that erupted up from the floor. The teacher looked down at his feet and saw pink smoke billowing up from the centre of the circle. He quickly incanted a spell, summoning the winds about him but the smoke interfered with that. It was quickly taking on a thickly reddish hue as the teacher noticed that it seemed to be clinging to the very magic around it. Every piece of energy the teacher summoned was negated. The smoke engulfed the winds of magic so that the master wizard could not channel. A green crackling spat and sparked up from the floor as flames erupted from the circle and a terrible howling sound wailed into the room.

“Students, evacuate the classroom at once, the circle has failed and we are in the midst of a daemonic outbreak. Sigmar knows what is coming!”

The pupils of the lessons didn’t have to be told twice. Within moments they were all up in a mad scramble for the exit. Maestro was still wrapped up in his doodling of course, for he was used to great sounds of hustle and bustle during such lessons. Usually it was from students rudely running to the front of the room to get a better look at whatever spell had been cast. This time however, Maestro didn’t hear the master wizard tutor shout at them all and tell them to return to their seats. This fact made him look up from his drawing and then he saw it - All hell breaking loose. The teacher was already gone. Endrel, Maestro’s most despised foe, a fellow student in his class was last out of the room. Their mutual hate for each other had gone on since they had first met one another. Endrel was nice enough to inform the teacher that he was the last student in there and helpfully closed the door which was then magically locked from the outside. This left poor Maestro stranded inside the room.

Maestro was up on his feet, running towards the door, stepping carefully around the magic circle and site of the emanation as he screamed, “I’m still in here, let me out, I say, let me out won’t you?”

Some of the other students outside looked to the master wizard in alarm but he smiled casually, “Ah yes, a daemon will do anything, try any trick to be let free, but do not worry apprentices, the walls and door themselves are tightly protected with sealing spells. It will go no further than that classroom, I assure you.”

All of this was no good for Maestro however, who thumped and slammed on the door. He did a quick run up and kicked it with one foot, his pathetic skinny leg showing momentarily under his robes, indicating that he lacked the strength for any such brash action of physicality. Damn that Endrel thought Maestro, as he looked back at the circle trying to determine how it even went wrong. He knew he should have paid more attention in lessons. Just then he spotted something that seemed to be out of place within the circle. Somewhere within one of the many arcane symbols, near the edge of a triplet of triangle like shapes was a shoe print that led to a scuff. This had damaged the drawing’s integrity. As terrible realisation dawned on Maestro he looked down at his own feet. There at the front and soles of his shoe he saw…chalk. “Oh dear” he said aloud, “it must have been when I left the classroom earlier. I didn’t realise they had a silly circle down. While the tutor explained I was probably relieving myself in the urinal. Well I’m not very relieved now!”

At that moment, an eruption of floor tiles and magical heat made Maestro jump into the air, a look of fear in his eyes like a deer in the headlights of a truck. He very almost relieved himself again, in his robes, as he scattered back the other way across the room, fearing to look upon the monstrous abomination present. He could now sense its evil intentions, its malign spirit and will to destroy, making his skin cringe at just the notion.

Maestro ran to the other end of the classroom and grabbed from the window sill a long stick with a hook at the end of it, which was normally used to open and close the high classroom windows. Not here though. Maestro looped the hook into the metal loop attached to the window and yanked it to make sure it was locked. He then left it dangling inside the window loop and began climbing up the pole, the angle of the hook thrust into it funnily enough kept it steady, at least for now, as Maestro was able to manoeuvre his way to the top up the pole.

His legs shivered as he could only guess at which vile monster lurked in the classroom below him. He heard it snorting and felt the eminence of its evil. This was indeed a daemon! He had been trained to recognise the spiritual signatures of them at the very least, even though he had up until now never seen one. He had only ever heard them, here and there throughout the college halls, accidentally summoned or being banished.

Finally, after much nefarious cackling from below, Maestro built up the courage to look down and see his fate. He had wondered why he wasn’t dead yet for a start. Upon glancing at the daemon, he then realised why. The summoned creature was indeed a daemon. Its red skin, yellow eyes, horns and cloven feet an indicator that it was a creature of Khorne – yet it was also only – an imp…A very small daemon indeed, but still frightening to behold, in its own way…

Maestro realised that the creature was not tall enough to actually reach him, despite it trying to jump up and down. Maestro smiled eventually and called down to it, “Well well, it seems that we are at an impasse doesn’t it?”

The creature looked suddenly shocked. This human, this young weak human had spoken in the dark tongue. Maestro had indeed been taught this language by his own master, the bright wizard Magnamus, but he hadn’t realised he had used it here. Something in his brain had automatically made his speech adapt to the situation without him being aware.

Daemons did in fact have their own language, but the dark tongue was a language used by the forces of chaos and beastmen. In speaking it, there was an entry point to talk to daemons too.

Maestro’s smug expression quickly changed to one of dismay however, as the window loop partially snapped from the wooden frame it had been built into. This effectively broke the locking mechanism. The window slowly yawned open and down, drooping Maestro closer and closer towards the imp with every moment.

With all of his strength, a greater deal more athleticism than would be the norm for him about his movements due to fear, Maestro swung from the pole as it too came free from the window completely and he jumped long and far through the air, landing on a desk about halfway back along the classroom. The imp grinned in glee, licking wistfully at a chunk of flesh attached to his claws, from some earlier victim no doubt and then it began to advance, quickly on its short little legs.

Maestro knew that he had to destroy this creature fast, for even though it was one of the admittedly lower denizens of the daemonic planes, Maestro was one of the admittedly lower wizards of the magical order. The wizard summoned as much strength as he could muster, calling for the winds of magic to aid him like they never have before – and indeed they never really had aided him in much…Then with an outward thrust of his two hands, palms outstretched towards his enemy he launched a large magical dart attack that shot towards the creature, only to fizzle out before contact.

Yes considered Maestro, that spell needed a little work. He realised he wouldn’t even be able to mind dart the foe to simply give it a headache either.

Oh how the imp cackled, which turned into roaring laughter, albeit from an exceedingly high pitched voice. The imp bent over forwards, slapped his knee and pointed at the wizard.

Maestro at first considered that he had never before been so humiliated. Then he remembered some of the other things he had done in the College up until now…Well then, he knew there was nothing else for it. He couldn’t fight it head on so he would have to choose one of the smallest spells he could think of, something so diminutive that the Imp’s Khornite anti magical essence wouldn’t shut it down, nor be considered a threat to it.

Maestro summoned his energy again, this time with his hands weaving the signs behind his back. He concentrated hard to make sure that the icons were weaved correctly as they were in reverse, but this delay mattered not as his diminutive foe was still laughing distractedly. Silently the last line of the sound spell was recited.

An incredible roaring voice shot out from behind the Imp, ending its cruel laughter and wiping all of the humour from its face. The imp began to shiver on the spot recognizing the sound bellowing behind him. It was so paralyzed with fear that it did not attempt to turn around and face the apparent newcomer.

Maestro had heard daemons throughout the College halls, but never would he forget that roar and sheer mocking supremacy of a creature he heard bellowing through one of the portals: A bloodthirster of Khorne. This was a creature considered to be the very avatar of its God’s presence and will, higher in scale even than that of a mere daemon Prince. The creature breathed heavily, threateningly. The problem at this time was that while Maestro did have a minor grasp of the daemonic tongue (as much as he was allowed to see), he would not be able to have the fake beast talk convincingly to the Imp and of course if the little fellow didn’t for one moment believe in the authenticity of proceedings he might well turn about and see that it was all a trick, that nothing was there. Maestro therefore did the next best thing. He had the pretend bloodthirster address him instead, speaking in a language he did know – dark tongue.

It began, “Little wizard worm. Oh I know your name Maestro Rophel Illefescion In The Flesh.”

Maestro feigned an impressed nod of his head at the pretend bloodthirster getting his full title correct…The imp wasn’t intelligent enough to pick up on this stupidity.

The bloodthirster continued, “You are mine, wizard, but you are not yet ready for me. You are still too weak, your soul is not yet tasty enough, your belly is not yet fat and suckling enough. But any…ANY who would harm you before you are ready for me…they will suffer in a way of my most grandiose design, that which I would restrict to those who have wronged me or offended me in the worst possible way. Blood for the blood God!”

The imp frighteningly chimed a response, “Skulls for the skull throne.”

A terrifying laugh from the perceived beast made the imp’s knees knock together in fright before it bellowed, “Now begone from my sight, lest I flay you and use you for a toothpick to your own flesh, all of you!”

With that, the little imp ran to the portal, not daring to look behind him before jumping through the vortex like hole in the floor and within a second he was gone, as was the opening as if it had never been there. The apprentice wizard had done it, all with the manipulation of a mere sound spell, worked masterfully like a puppet. He quickly grabbed the chalk from the nearby blackboard and drew the magic circle back in place as it was supposed to have been. He decided that when they’d ask how it had happened he would say he didn’t know. When they asked him how he survived an attack from a creature of the daemonic planes, he would say it was a Khornite bloodletter under bellowed instructions from a bloodthirster too. They had heard it all, after all. That he had survived was a tale that went around between the students for some time to come, yet this only added to Maestro being considered weird and an outsider by his fellow pupils – and the hailed congratulations from the tutors only served to make Endrel despise him even more…

Tobias stared aghast at Maestro as he finished the tale, “You know Maestro, I could quite easily report this in my findings. That you were dishonest and were the cause of the very outbreak you were hailed a hero for resolving. You are a dis…honest…”

Maestro’s eyes fixed on Tobias, for he had stopped talking and a strange expression had come over his features.

The halfling continued, “Dishonest…yes, yes but what was I saying. Gah, this damned robe again, so constricting.” Then he pulled the offending garment off once more, revealing his black thieving garb below.

Ah yes, thought Maestro as he looked up at the moons taking to the sky, Tobias has changed into his alter ego again. What a spot of good luck for me!

Maestro carefully packed the scholar’s robes into his backpack as he always would when Tobias changed like this. Inside the pack though he found another set of celestial wizard robes and a pointy hat. Maestro said aloud, “Gosh, is that your spare clothes Tobias?”

The halfling stared and concentrated really hard, a look of grim internal conflict on his face as two personalities fought to get to the fore. The scholar’s personality had a brief flash of awakening enough for the halfling thief to respond, “Oh that thing, well you have been performing very well in your duties, that of an…inbetweeny wizard…”

Maestro helpfully jolted in with, “Journeyman?”

“Yes, journeyman, that’s what your lot call it. So I planned on giving it to you so that you should at least look the part that you are ready for…I think”

Maestro’s face lit up. Tobias considered him ready to be called a Journeyman at last. How wonderful. He would at least look the part and perhaps he would get some more respect from people. Then he remembered the reality of the Old World and considered that the defined appearance of a wizard in fact caused fear in people and as Maestro knew all too well, scared people did dangerous things – after all he was a scared person most of the time…

After much research by Maestro and Tobias, the group determined that this new threat, this new Khornite danger still had the worst to come and they managed to track down the position of the next shard of the creature’s essence: It was somewhere in Altdorf.

The (mostly ) ill-fated group decided to take a caravan back to the Empire’s capital city. The view was that there would be safety in numbers. Maestro of course considered that it also meant more chance of meeting “a crank” as he put it. But he also considered that it meant more people to die before him if something terrible were to befall them on the way.

The first day of the journey passed without incident. Dieter sat in meditation next to Ulger who just lay listlessly beside him. Dieter rested a hand to the dog’s ribs to calm it. Neither enjoyed the peace as they both felt the fight was where they truly become themselves.

The few times Dieter opened his eyes, was to spy on his comrades. Maestro split his time between looking through his telescope, presumably trying to understand the future before he really understood the present. Tobias was sat on the back of the caravan writing notes in his book, observations of his journey up to this point. He also kept looking quizzically at the wizard, not remembering giving him the wizard’s robes yet, but he was going to anyway, so he didn’t concern too much upon it. Rissandrea fussed over any she thought might be injured which in this troupe of passengers departing from a war torn land happened to be a fair degree of its patronage. Tordrad still appeared slightly shaken from the events faced in Middenheim and walked slowly alongside, drinking occasionally from his hip flask.

Before Dieter could go back to his musings, he, Ulger and Tordrad sensed something bad coming in off of the wind to the East. A strong animal musk wafted off of the breeze from the forest and was then suddenly disappearing almost as quickly as it appeared.

Ulger pounced down from the caravan with hackles up growled at the forest, while Tordrad drew his scimitar. Dieter drew his new obsidian kris blade from its sheath and stepped cautiously toward the forest.

Just then, three beast men emerged, presumably attracted by the smell of the breakfast not long eaten. Dieter sneered at these abominations and said to Ulger, “There you go boy, seconds for you.” With that he pointed his blade towards the centre atrocity and charged. Although Tordrad did not understand his words, he knew what to do. Ulger pounced on the beast man on the right tearing at the creature’s throat with his own powerful jaws. Dieter smiled as he heard the offspring of chaos scream in a mixture of terror and agony. Dieter dodged the attack from the axe held by the second beast man and slashed at the thing’s weapon arm, severing it. Looking at the blade he felt a familiarity and momentarily saw the world change. He saw in the mist a large figure wielding a long obsidian blade like he himself carried now. The figure turned towards him and extended it fresh from battle toward Dieter who now was dwarfed by the figure before him.

He was dragged out of this sub memory as the beastman struck him about the skull with its other arm before being impaled on Dieter’s sword. The blade glowed momentarily before being wrenched out without a speck of blood on it. Looking to his left Dieter spotted that Tordrad had beheaded the beast and was busy reaching for his canteen.

Dieter shouted over his shoulder, “Anybody get hurt Rissandrea?” whilst he hacked off a leg for Ulger to eat.

“Nothing serious, Maestro just got some magical backlash from a spell he was casting. He will be fine, but please why are you cutting out their horns? Have these creatures not suffered enough at your hands?”

He looked back with eyes of both fire and pity and got back to work on the skulls of the creatures that had attacked them, “This will make them lessen their attacks. This was only a scout force. Besides I can burn some of the horn to ward off others of their kind. I would rather not fight them every five minutes. I know your order is against this kind of thing but I am also sure you do not wish to meet Morr in person before your time.”

Rissandrea replied quietly, “I will meet Morr as soon as Shallya releases me from bonds of duty. Should that be even today, then so be it.”

The would be doctor didn’t listen. It sounded too preaching for his liking. So he finished carving out the horns and hacked off a leg for Ulger to chew on for the rest of the trip and went back to his spot on the caravan.

The incense would take some time to prepare but the fates had already decided that was time they would never be allowed to receive.

Dieter asked questioningly, “Hey Maestro have you had any luck translating that book yet? I noticed you staring at it half of the night, you seemed rather engrossed if I do say so myself.”

While he awaited the wizard’s response he used his scalpel to add more powdered horn to the mix, all the while an ill feeling hung over the forest. It was as though the danger was ever present but not from any one position..

His train of thought was interrupted by the wizard’s high pitched annoying voice, “Actually Dieter I think I may have got it. The answer to the text finally came to me in a dream. It says and I quote from the dark scripture here,” before he continued another scouting group charged out of the forest. “Yes Maestro hold that thought would you.” Dieter ordered Ulger to charge in and the great doberman did as he was told.

Dieter glanced back briefly at the wizard after hearing talking coming from the man, What at first the trainee doctor thought to be recitation of the book’s passages was actually a spell of some kind. Dieter ducked and found himself wishing Morrslieb was high in the sky, since only then was the Halfling of any real use. Dieter’s critical eye turned next to Rissandrea, “Silly girl put the damned gun away, it will do no good here and waste precious ammunition.”

From a near crouched position, Dieter swung the kris blade in an upward arc rending the beastman’s flesh as though it were tissue paper. With but a thought, the blade glowed white hot as he pulled it back along the same arc searing the flesh closed while keeping the creature bleeding internally. “Anybody have an objection to me bringing this entire cadaver back with us? Since I have been with you lot my medical training has lessened between the constant fights.”

Rissandrea looked sickened by the request, “How can you even call for such a thing, that creature, of chaos though it may be, is suffering in the last vestiges of life and you want to use its body to further your own endeavours. Can’t you at least end its suffering? In Shallya’s name I beseech you. Or perhaps you would only listen to Morr himself at this point?”

At the mention of the Death and Dream God’s name Dieter turned on his heel, weapon drawn and strode towards the young priestess in training, his eyes blazing with mal-intent and rage, “You may call upon your mother or whatever she is from time to time and I accept that, you being her subordinate, her vessel on this mortal plain so to speak, however, if you such as mention HIS name around me again…so help me, I will personally escort your soul to him. I will even go so far as to put you on the death barge and sail you through the underworld myself, are we clear?”

Dieter raised the kris blade and saw in the corner of his eye Tordrad step toward him. Before he could lose all control, Dieter threw the blade backwards, sailing through the air and embedding itself into the brain of the till now just dying beast man, snarling at her “Satisfied now?”

With that the doctor strode to retrieve both the horns and his sword, “Wizard, while I am busy cutting out these horns, why don’t you tell us all what that book says. Please.” Glancing backwards, he offered Rissandrea what he thought a comforting smile should look like. It was just a guess.

Later that day, he chastised himself for losing it with the woman. He couldn’t afford to split with them, or cause them to want to do so, lest he be separated from their sides for too long…and he just knew that Morr would then have some agent or another in his service trying to kill the group, just to spite him, yes he was convinced of that. Still though, the temper and anger within was worsening with each passing month. He was having to eat more and more of the gunpowder based cookies just to push down the “headaches” as he called them.

Extract from the diary of Rissandrea:

Day 57

Dieter and I had a startling confrontation today. He always seem to hold back some darker nature, but today my mention of the God Morr caused the chains holding the doctor’s other side to rattle, almost to the point of snapping it seemed. I genuinely feared for my life. As I looked in to those eyes, there was little of the man I had travelled with for the last fifty or so days. What lay just beneath the skin is something of pure darkness, malevolence. I hold a new level of respect and fear towards the man now. At first I believed his aversion to Morr to be a habit of his chosen profession. After all what he does best is keep from Morr those who would normally be welcomed into his eternal domain, but Dieter’s hatred goes deeper even than that. I wonder if he himself even truly understands how he feels.

I only mentioned it because I know he always does anyway. Just when he’s off to take a nap in the day, he reminds us all of how he wants to keep his dreams to himself and not have them defiled by Morr at night and so on.

Oh dear Dieter, what is going on with you?

Extract from the diary of Tordrad:

Day 57

Dieter and holy girl had argument earlier. Things got heated. I thought wizard would ask me to help break it up, but doctor he know better than let it come to that. There is something dangerous below his surface. Must be cautious, for wizard’s sake. Spending too much time worrying about evil of male wizard, I might not notice even bigger peril in group.

“Yes, as I was saying before those creatures so rudely interrupted” started Maestro, “It says ‘The Red Flayer: proud and merciless

This child of Khorne spat in his father’s eye

The Blood God drained his husk

But the essence of the Red Flayer survives

He still lives—in the Brass Skull

He still lives—in the Dagger of Yul K’chaum

He still lives—in the Chalice of Wrath

Trapped and bound, he craves blood

The Red Flayer will rise again.

I must tell you all though, those writers had very little punctuation skills. It made that a bloody hard read. Bloody hard.”

Maestro began to wrap up his recitation as Deiter poured some alchohol and spat some of his special herbal bars into the chalice with the beastman horn powder.

Lighting a flint, Dieter threw a lit stick into the goblet causing a small explosion which blackened his face momentarily. “Sorry Maestro I didn’t interrupt did I? The incense is prepared, it doesn’t smell nice, but it should keep them at bay, for the most part.”

He saw Maestro’s eyebrows rise questioningly. He knew what the wizard was going to ask. He was going to ask how Dieter had learnt such things. These were things that would hint at a person being a hedge wizard: one of the illegal outlaw casters of the Empire. A person gifted (or cursed) in sensitivity to the winds of magic but without training. A wizard without training, as the magisters taught was a danger to the Empire – an easy target for the embrace of chaos. Hedge wizards would be arrested and put to death regularly. But surely Dieter couldn’t have been on of those…surely not…he is a doctor…everyone knows that. One would simply be worrying needlessly.

Once more, Dieter’s strong ability of constant hypnotic suggestion, words and actions that tricked and played upon the subconscious mind to make it miss certain things it might otherwise see, did their job. He always had the group in a mild constant state of delusion – and there was nothing they could do about it – because they didn’t know it was happening. Dieter then sealed his technique home with a distracting question, “As a celestial wizard you can sometimes access the future can you not?” At this Maestro used his telescope to better grasp the azyr and began to scry the future, relaying the information he received to them as he himself was reading it. While he would use the aligments of the stars above as his basis, he did not perform the feats of an astrologer per se. For the stars were merely the ever shifting yet undeniable constant as a basis of inspiration, of focus. The powerful wind of azyr was like a thin mist that rose into the sky upon its arrival into the physical plane from whence it came. This blanket of raw azyr power could be read across the stars and spells then could be cast basing around their aligments as a focuser.

Maestro began, “I see… I see a barricade on the road. Lots and lots of beast men standing around it - yes it must be a trap. I also see a broken wheel. One on this caravan has broken near the back. Our lanterns are out and there are many enemies closing in. No this can not be right, I see a bright wizard.” The Wizard began to come out of his trance, slightly giddy before continuing. Well that is all I saw. I hope I was mistaken because I would hate for us to fight so many beastmen.

Dieter glared at the wizard through hooded eyes. He thought of telling him that the bright wizard was already here but thought better of it. Something about the man reeked of danger and something else that the trainee physician could not place.

Dieter was sat on the lip above the wheel with his back to the caravan while the wizard read quietly, almost to himself now, from the book, his burlap sack of horns dripping along the road. That in itself was of little concerm since Ulger kept pace and lapped at the blood almost before it hit the ground. The sense of danger and his headaches were stronger now, taking the wizard’s low mumbling as a good cover, the doctor called upon powers he didn’t fully understand and placed his staff on the caravn itself, where it stood, seemingly as though held in place by some unseen force.

“Don’t worry Maestro. Ulger shall protect you as no doubt will Tordrad. I’d say if anyone were to bring you foul of harm it would be Tobias. He seems to be of fickle thought and fouler of mood as of late. Especially in the evening.

They were now aware of the presence of a man amongst their caravan, a man who didn’t look it but was identified as being a wizard. Dieter subtly pointed Maestro in the right direction. Maestro then proclaimed to the group that he had discovered the whereabouts of this wizard at last, amongst the travellers.

Dieter had mentioned then that the man gives him a bad feeling.

The halfling shuffled up to Maestro, standing between the doctor in training and the wizard, “You know Dieter, just because he has not helped us, does not mean he is bad. He has clearly finished a tour on the front lines. We can hardly expect him to fight such lowly creatures as those we fought earlier.”

Dieter thought on his words and just grunted, “I suppose you are right. How do you feel since our fight with Blackrot? I must say, you seemed to hold your own quite well. At least against the smaller myriad of forces.” Dieter grinned at this last but decided that he should give the halfling a break. The undersized moot dweller deserved at least a short cessation from their oft times mutual hostilities.

Rissandrea spoke, “I must say I feel the gods themselves smiled on us, allowing our mutual forces to push back the tide of chaos. For as long as it might last anyhow.” Dieter glared at the woman who now stood behind the halfling to stay just on the edges of her awareness for now. He Felt tired both mentally and physically and it was hard work keeping up this heroic disposition – the bunkem hip-hip horay for the Empire mentality that was expected from most adventuring men. He limped to the back of the caravan to gain some space and more importantly peace in which to meditate, leaving his staff leaning against the middle procession as he did so. Ulger began to follow his master but was waved away. His eyes and Dieter’s met and the dog jumped up on the lip of the vehicle, curling up around his human pack leader’s staff.

The rest of the daylight hours passed without incident.

Later, after the sun sank below the rim of the world and Morrslieb shone brightly upon the group, the cart that led their procession was forced to stop as the rear wheel warped and cracked. Remembering what Maestro had said, the group jumped into action. The crew of the parade were decisive and the wheel was replaced before there was so much as a sign of attack. To feel secure, Dieter relit the basin of crushed beastman horns and the group travelled alongside the procession.

A mile ahead, they came across a barricade blocking the road, but no sign of the apparent beastmen who had surely constructed it, based on its crude design.

All of them felt uneasy. Had Maestro been wrong in his vision or was this part of the trap? Ulger stopped and looked behind them, growling low in his throat. “What is it boy? What do you hear?” Dieter needn’t have asked as he already felt it. A large mob of the creatures they had fought on and off that day. The beings had been following them, being kept at bay only by the power in Dieter’s clandestine spell - and the formula which slowly cooked in the bowl.

Maestro further kept them at bay, using sound spells and marsh light conjurations to confuse and worry the easily manipulated brutal beings into thinking an army of men were approaching on their flank then added, “Now I do suggest that we put out our lanterns and proceed as quickly and as quietly away from this area as we are able.”

The past – The Moot

Tobias stared at the lights as they came closer. He had let his brother out of the cells earlier that night. The torches were moving from the cells out towards the forest, to where he himself now hid. The halfling felt obligated by his own perceived guilt to see his brother to safety, but as they crossed the boundary from the Moot proper, the alarms sounded.

Tobias was torn now, if he returned or more likely got captured he himself would be jailed. If he kept running, he would be considered an outlaw by his own people. The militia were close enough now that their voices could be heard and the escaping halfling was forced into desperate action. The young Wilwart struck himself about the head and loosely bound his own wrists, falling to the ground with barely any time to spare. Immediately they were on him “Master Wilwart. Are you okay? Can you tell us what happened?” it was at this point that the halfling counted his nobility as a blessing for the first time in his long – though still short by halfling standards – lifetime. He rubbed his head and thought for a moment. Before he was able to answer, a runner arrived.

“Young Master Wilwart. I bring grave news. Your father has been gravely attacked and his laboratory ransacked.”

Perhaps it was the shock of hearing of his father’s attack, the situation with his brother or maybe even that he had hit his head a little too hard with the stone but Tobias Wilwart fell unconscious.

The room swam into focus and Tobias recognised it as the infirmary by its antiseptic smell and white walls. Looking slowly from side to side and taking note of the stiffness in his neck, he saw his father to his left. The elder looked across at his son with anger and betrayal written across his face as surely as if they had been tattooed on there. “So I see you are awake. Do not try to move Tobias, the restraints might hurt you if you struggle. It is you who are to blame for my condition, by your actions even indirect as they may be. Do you believe I am unaware that it was you who got your brother hooked on those damnable substances in the first place?”

The younger Wilwart was stunned into silence, taking a few moments to formulate a response. “Father please, it has torn me asunder knowing that I am in part at least responsible for Frederick’s predicament. If I could travel back in time I would do nothing the same.”

Cut off by a gesture from his father Jeremiah, he watched as his father was racked by a coughing fit and noticed the blood that escaped his mouth with every cough. “Do not deem to call me Father or deflect from the level of your guilt Tobias. The guild found me deep in my work whilst you had my militia chasing you across the Moot. They wanted the formula. The same formula they wanted Frederick to acquire. I refused them to protect you both…Were I to have smashed the beaker on the floor, they could have taken samples still, or pulled up the floorboards themselves for study by their alchemists. That formula is the pride of our family. My greatest accomplishment in alchemy and now I am dying for it.”

Tobias stared into space, the shock reeling him. His eyes began to fill without warning. He asked his father, “How is it that you are so gravely sick…father?”

The older halfling coughed again and took his time with the reply, finally saying, “I put the contents of the potion in the one place that they could never access it. I drank it, son.”

A look of horror tore across Tobias’s face. His father shook his head in a dismissively stern manner, even in such an ill state as this, “fool of a boy, you will never be an alchemist. You have no talent for that which is your heritage, boy. My body is breaking down the ingredients via my digestive system. Churning them away. My final grand gesture of transmutation for the potion - through my own body.” He coughed again before righting himself and continued, “I have one thing left to say to you before you are sent to the cells to take your brother’s place. If you take the knowledge of the formula and keep it safe within your head, I will allow you to leave these lands, not to return under punishment of death. From here on you will be of House Wilwart in name only. Your selfishness has cost the life of your brother once the men find him and shortly myself too. So you are given the choice, the freedom of banishment or life imprisoned and the guild riding you ‘til your last breath escapes your shell.”

His father died minutes later. Tobias spent one night in the cells wracked with guilt for the lives he had ruined through his own addiction. By next morning there was no sign of the last of House Wilwart in the boundaries of The Moot.

Of Frederick’s fate, there was no knowledge.

The Present – An Inn one day’s travel from Altdorf.

Tobias was still sat on the wheel arch of one of the caravans where Dieter had placed him - after picking him up in his semi conscious state. “What? Where am I? Where is the small army that tried to attack us from the rear?” asked Tobias.

Dieter was quick to pipe up angrily, “Go back to sleep mongrel creature. And remember, you freeze like that again and I will leave you to whatever the fates have concocted for you. Thanks to the wizard and his quick thinking we managed to get to safety. We are staying at the inn here until morning. We will all be home by noon tomorrow. I waited out here to ensure your safety, foolish as it might be. Now let us go inside before you catch your death of something...” Dieter waited for the halfling to enter then grabbed his stave and followed behind. If anyone else were about they may have spotted a shadow of it burned into the wood of the caravan.

As the pair entered they were greeted by Maestro and the rest of the group. The bright wizard Wolfgang Scheunacht stood behind Maestro and seemed to be very interested in all of them now gathered. Dieter quickly saw a flash of some dark energy emanate from within the wizard and from the guarded looks on Maestro and Rissandrea they too noticed something with their magical senses. They were old hands now at spotting something wrong in a person. Dieter wondered how he’d gotten away with it for so long, in that case. Ulger looked uneasy under the table.