Part 2: Chapter One: A Green and Living World
Chapter One: A Green and Living World
My name is Brian, son of Bartholomy.
"Brian.." the Grand Abbot says, his voice old as an oak-tree, "Even though I've begged you not to leave, you still say you must go after your father."
"...missing for a month. No wonder you are worried about him."
My father is a brave man--and mighty. I grew in his shadow, but his shadow nurtured me more than the sun. When I raise my staff and loose the spirits within, I feel as if he stands over me, warm and happy, urging me to reach ever-higher
"Contained in the words of the book is a power that exceeds human knowledge. I wonder who could have possibly stolen it from the crypt of the Monastery? If an evil person should use it, the country and all its citizens would be destroyed, the spirits' blessing will disappear, and Celtland will once again be visited by a Day of Grief."
No man or woman outside of the Monastery knows the Eltale Book has been stolen. Were the men and women of Celtland to know, I can only imagine the widespread panic and chaos that would sweep our land. Who could be safe when the engine of creation and destruction itself was in the hands of an unknown malefactor?
"Bartholomoy's disappearance may mean he is caught in the fight over the Eltale Book. If you go, you may find yourself in danger as well. If you still insist, begin by going to Dondoran. I'll ask the king of the castle to protect you."
I am as surprised as anyone that the Grand Abbot is letting me search for my father. I know the monks of the monastery are impressed with my abilities, but I feel honored that they trust in my skills for such an important quest.
As I wind down the spiral stairs, I feel a strange sense of nostalgia--perhaps even a little dread. I've never been beyond the village; I will be walking a strange new path into a world I have only seen in illuminated manuscripts.
I pass through the libraries, briefly pausing to converse with students on the elements. I'm glad to remind passing students of the basics of the elements, but elemental lore is as familiar to me as the feel of my feet pressing against the fertile earth, the cool breath of the wind, the rejuvenating taste of water, and the burning fire of life in my chest.
I bid the high altar a final glance before stopping by Deacon Cerius. He offers me his blessings:
"Spirit," he said, "please protect this young lad. Light him the way and watch over him. We'll make offerings for your safety until you return." I thanked him for his blessing, and left at last.
With a heavy heart, I approach the doors leading out. I speak with the High Guard Marmaduke before leaving. He said, "Leave now, Brian. In his last letter, Lord Bartholomoy said he crossed Loch Killderey on the way to Larapool. Be very cautious; evil creatures lie in wait beyond these monastery walls."
I could not have left on a more beautiful day. I run out to the horse's stables to bid them a farewell, too. (And to bide more time until I have to leave. The canyon is deepest at the lip.)
In the corner of the stable, peering from a pile of hay, is nothing less than a stray spirit! From time to time, spirits will bundle together in a wafting curl of opalescent bubbles; a spirit tamer may draw these spirits into his phylactery to increase his spiritual skill and power. For all my potential, I am still only a novice; I draw the spirit into the water element of my staff. I believe I shall funnel my power from stray spirits into water at first, that I may soon acquire its healing magic, before nurturing the other elements more or less evenly.
Melrode is a peaceful little town by the sea. It's not known a day of strife as long as I've lived. I fear what misuse of the Eltale Book may bring to this peaceful little town.
It heartens me to see the children of Melrode so happy and playful...
...though their parents are more mindful of the threat monsters pose to their town. I wonder if anyone suspects the surge in the monstrous population is anything but a simple high-tide.
I find another stray spirit; against my original plan, I draw this one into the fire element. The first water blast is criminally low range, and I need some distant bite to ward off monsters at a safe distance.
Before I leave, I decide to stay one last night at the inn--compliments of the keeper as a farewell. But... there's someone new. We haven't had any visitors for months, not even pilgrims or new students. She's...
She turns to me. She has the ghost of a smile. "Hello, Master Apprentice. I'm Shannon." Her voice... "I've been traveling hither and yon, all over Celtland. I see you're setting out on a quest, too. I trust we'll run into each other along the way." She moves subtly and with a strange, stiff-necked grace.
I've never seen a woman like her in my short life at the Monastery.
I rest for the night. My sleep is slight and furtive, roiling with thoughts of the enormity of my quest, worry for my father, and some wonder about Shannon. I wake not far into the night, and try as I might, I cannot return to sleep. Taking my stave--and a set of Yellow Wings to speed me back should I become too injured--I leave Melrode for the first stop on my journey. If I dawdle much longer, I may never leave.
The night is cold and smells of the sea. The scent keeps me going as much as the heart-shaking nervousness. I have a map to the castle-town, but this path is unfamiliar to me...
And here my first obstacle emerges--a pack of Were-Hares. These are curiosities of magic, hares that act at the behest of the wind-spirits possessing them. They have a semblance of intelligence, but are mere puppets for the spirit-parasites in their brains.
These are wind-elemental creatures; their spells are not difficult to evade, and they fall quickly to any of my spells. Even children are unafraid of these creatures.
More ominous are the Hell-Hounds. In times past they emerged from Gehenna to haunt the heels of hedonists, but lately they have been quick to punish all living things. Their fiery breath is difficult to evade.
I trace my way both by the road and by stray spirits I find along the path.
I am ambushed by a Parassault and a Bumbershoot. They are twin spirits, taken straight from the fable of the sunflower and the frost. The fire-type Bumbershoot is more dangerous, though the Parassault's icy bolt is more difficult to evade.
Along the path I come across a tiny hut in the wilderness. Curious, I knock on the door, and a small voice invites me in.
Inside is a stray spirit and an elderly mystic.
The mystic's name is Marion. She lets me take the stray spirit; she is no longer a practicing spirit tamer. With her current study in magic, she is wholly self-sufficient and content. She offers me a fortune, and I accept.
"Travelers don't show up here very often. It seems that it isn't safe here anywhere on the road these days. Hmm..." She gazed into her crystal ball; it swirled with wind-magic. "I see a future for you fraught with danger no ordinary human could meet. It isn't clear, but your destiny awaits you at the end of the longest road." She invited me to stay the night, but I declined. I caught my breath and returned to the road, promising to visit in time. She seemed sad to let me go.
Further along the path I encounter another beast native to the region--the Big Mouth. They are only dangerous up-close, but the crushing burst of water they spray from glands set in their gums can shatter bones. I hang back and punish it with fire magic.
The dawn comes at last, and despite my rest, fatigue is beginning to set in my bones. The ambient life of the land fills my reserves of spirit energy, but where the spirit runs, the flesh limps.
Speaking of the flesh--the Man-Eaters are the most-feared of the monsters in this region. They pummel their foes with earth-magic until they are disabled, then digest them whole and alive. I loathe these creatures; being light on my feet, I easily dodge their spells. Their putrid forms resist most magic, so I smite their flesh with my energy-charged stave, banishing them from this earth.
I take a look back at Connor Forest. My journey will take me through there soon, but I must first rest and see the king.
I approach the castle-town, body aching and heart racing, ready to see what lies beyond its gates.
Next: The castle and the first charge.