Basking in its presence was not enough. I desired more, lusted for more. For years now my curiosity had gone unsatisfied. I have immersed myself in as much lore as I can lay hands on. Many days have I spent in the Tasengaard libraries under not-so-watchful eye. The restricted section isn't particularly difficult to find, nor perilous to access. Upon its hidden shelves lie the knowledge of the ages. As of yet I have only been able to call forth rudimentary magics that do not fully justify my potential. I know there is more power in the dusty volumes than meets the eye, but without proper means of deciphering or translating the dormant power, I am out of options...
A group of bandits from the ruins of the Desert raided a grouping of caravans making their way westward to Corren. I am unsure if the travellers resisted or were just simply executed, but either way their fate is of little consequence. I pity the families of those slain, but their loss is my gain. My father, second in command of Tasengaard's espionage force (the Tasengaard Intelligence Agency) was sent to retrieve the caravan. Though such acts are common, I am frustrated by the lack of knowledge on the subject; my mother refuses to speak of it, I can find no reference to such an organisation in any of the books, and my father simply threatens violence if questions persist. I have been warned under severe consequence not to mention this matter to anyone, though I would not know who to consult in the first place about secretive, seemingly ruthless, probably illicit hidden societies. Regardless, this dawn my father departed for the last known position of the caravans. From the report he created (assuming I would never find the hidden drawer in his desk is an insult) I assume there wasn't much left. All was pillaged and destroyed. A few barrels of ale had been emptied, some spices had been thrown erratically over the floor, any metals were plundered. Not to mention the entire area was covered in blood, and tracks. Father is suspicious about the lack of bodies at the scene, but suggests they may have been carried off by goblins or other such fowl beasts.
My own speculation is followers of Selain are stealing bodies wherever they are found. That Church has come under fire before for such detestable acts, and though cleared of any wrongdoing, I'll swear by Great Unolas' Pointed Ears they are conspiring something against the opposing deities. I make it my business to know what is going on. Perhaps a trait I inherited from my adventurous mother. She weaned me from my ignorance on a thousand tales of suspicion, murder, lies and betrayal. Paranoia is a quality that I suspect has kept her alive as the Kilaran Fields - Tasengaard liaison for considerably longer than the average expectancy. Whoever dragged the corpses away, though, left a gem in plain sight that was theirs for taking. A small satchel of books, bloodied papers, ink and quills made even my eyes roll with the potential repetition of recording every item retrieved. Frankly put, Father is close to illiterate, and can only write when aided by use of a magical contraption wrought by the gnomes from as far ashore as Irilion. I, on the other hand, have lived in this city for sixteen of my ten-and-seven years of life, and have received the thorough education granted to any child with penny-pushing lineage. Almost three shelves have been filled with my handwritten books, occasionally annotated by mother or father.
I digress, though. I do not quite know where my habit of writing down additional, often useless, information originates from, but it seems to please father that his records span back for five years with such verbosity. As I examined the contents of the satchel, I went about my routine of carefully handling, sketching, writing an analysis of, and numbering the objects. Just as my attention wavered, I pulled the leather tome. At that moment my perceptions of reality seemed to distort. The book slid, seemingly by itself, to the centre of the desk smoothly. I felt a pleasant tingling in my extremities as the study became provocatively warm. My eyes went to the crackling fire, which was growing distant, as if it was moving further away on the horizon. The occasional sharp cracks of the kindling died away as the fireplace continued to retreat. For some reason, I dismissed the spectacle, turning back to my desk. It was clearer than I ever remember it. The elegant candlestick (a replica of the ones used in the Whitestone Palace feasts) had disappeared, yet the light remained. The inkwell and quill were nowhere to be seen. Even the opium stains which were incurred several weeks ago, seemingly indelible, had gone. The old sturdy oak was polished to a mirror shine. The only remaining item was the leather tome. And it was obvious, the book was mystical in nature.
The study was underground, concealed along with several other rooms behind a bookcase in a design not listed in the building records. It was laced with anti-spy measures, both magical and physical in nature. I looked up at the old grey stone, as the marks for concealment and protection flashed across the smoothed wall in an azure blue. The room itself was locked, and neither father, mother, or servants would be interested in the study for several hours at least. The book demanded my attention. I ran my hands over its soft cover. I had to forcibly stop my hands from shaking, even my thumbs wanted to rotate in their sockets as I caressed the book. A buzz ran through me, as the adrenaline combined with my state of awareness, which sent me higher than the wiles of any person could ever achieve. The urge to squeal in delight was great, but I pushed it down. A grin lit up my face though, as a hand moved for the lock.
The solidity of the lock didn't damper my spirits, though. As I tugged at it, the mysterious metal simply evaporated. The book acted of its own accord and threw open to a random page, as if compelled by an invisible wind.
Once again, my spirits soared and my joy rose to a level I simply could not resist letting out an effeminate squeal. My hands clapped together in excitement as I watched the blank pages of the book fill with freshly inked lines.
In an instinct, if archaic style, words began to emerge.
As I write this, father is thundering around in the study. The occurrences over the past couple of weeks have been strange indeed, several animals (ranging from rabbits to deer) have been found mutilated in the woods. Some sycamores were also discovered with imposing black marks, possibly the result of fire damage. Once again, my father was dispatched. He returned a few hours ago, and seemed exceedingly angry at something. His report doesn't detail much this time, and with no items to be found my cataloguing skills have not been requested.
I turned to Sharteel today, one of the local harvesting force. Though concerned with the trouble in the woods, she stated that 'it would take more than a few crispy fry-ups to scare an old harvester like me off the resources'. It works to my ends though, Sharteel is indeed aged, though I do not perceive any noticeable wisdom in her speech. My ruse of trying to arrange trades with the barbarians of Kilaran Fields seems to have gone down well. The tome has instructed that I shall need a rather plentiful supply of minerals and flowers in the coming days. I have also requisitioned the use of a private mixing facility in the Magic School. How ironic. Father may have restricted my access to the arcane lessons, but nobody said I couldn't try out my potioning experiments.
Over the last few weeks, I have made a considerable leap in ability. More so than my family ever wished I had. Destructive magics of any power are still beyond my skill, but I have grown quite accustom to the usage of mind bending and espionage techniques. For the record, I do not wish to harm anyone while practising, but one cannot push the boundaries without risk. Balthasar, the chief serving-man's son, has been left mildly dazed today as I momentarily entered his concious mind. The ordeal only lasted a few seconds, not enough to arouse suspicion, but drained my mental stamina and left me in a breathless, elated, mood. The book described such a reaction. I shall wait a week, and attempt to hold Balthasar's mind once more, possibly while the servants attend church.
People around town appear to be growing slightly wary of me. Ever since I found the book, the majority of my waking-hours are spent down in the study, reading. It has given my skin a slightly pale complexion, and I suspect my muscles are being reduced as the exercise of turning a page is not sufficient. I have deceived them for the moment, under the convenient story of research into political affairs between Tasengaard and Kilaran Fields, reflecting my mother's position. The library contains many tomes detailing the subject, and I can think of not a one who would willingly sift through them, or even enter the section they are held in. Still, it is not a solid excuse, and soon I shall need to devise something slightly more cunning. Perhaps the book can assist me.
I have plans for tonight, though. A ball is being held at the school, and my presence is mandatory by way of father. There are a few people I have been neglecting lately, but the majority of the guests are mere acquaintances, people kept at arms length. Normally I would go, cheerily, with relatives or friends, but tonight I feel it more of a mission than a social cause. Attending such a whimsical formal would surely elude anyone's suspicions of me. I have already sent word to a few dignified people. As when the night begins to grow and the time hits half-on-the-hour of seven, my mission shall begin.
More trouble in Tasengaard. As of two nights ago, three scouts went missing. And I haven't seen Sharteel since last week. I dare not venture past the protected gates of the city, as no progress has been made to identifying the cause of these mysterious disappearances. The mayor's guard seem particularly anxious, as there is talk of sending important officials into hiding. Some are convinced there is nothing to worry about, but even as people still willingly travel the streets at night I sense they are cautious that a shadow remains behind or in front, never on top.
Indeed, it seems a dark cloud has descended upon our home. In one case this works to my advantage, as my research doesn't carry nearly as much risk as it did with people looking not looking. However I too feel the anxiety. It is no secret father has mentored my in basic swordplay, but other than a few basic strikes heavily dependant upon my own speed being greater than my foe's, I fear they will be of no use. The book has instructed me to a point where I am able to heal and protect myself, but I still lack any useful destructive abilities.
I have taken a few items left over in the private halls for protection. A few amulets, sapphire and ruby embedded rings and some other miscellaneous objects. The old sword my uncle gifted me with two years ago has found its way to my standard attire, too. The mayor has increased patrols, drawing guards from the school. It will be much easier to conduct my tests without the interruption of clumsy guard hand every few hours.
The book has given me a formula to prepare a special potion, one which replenishes not the physical condition of the drinker but the spiritual. I find whenever I consume a vial, my tired mind becomes active and the weariness retreats until I once again begin focusing intently on the arcane. Father himself almost caught me as I prepared a protection circle last night. He is growing more and more suspicious as I spend time in the school. The sun shines brightly through the glass windows, and has restored a somewhat normal colour to my skin.
Writing of which, the ball went rather swimmingly. I believe nobody suspects me of any foul play, but I must constantly stay on the alert. Father has been increasingly busy, and other people are usually too concerned with their own safety to pay any heed.
Alas, this town grows more deceptive by the minute. People are beginning to panic, and casting their suspicions in all directions. My potion brewing has taken a hit, but I should have enough stored to outlast the winter. At least, if I can access the hidden chest where my precious blue vials are contained. Parts of the school have been partitioned and sealed from the public, and I've noticed a definite decrease in the number of public appearances by any of the Tasengaard Council.
Three eves ago, one of the missing scouts was discovered. Flesh and some bone fragments. The body had been completely hollowed out and dumped. It had also been cleaned, there wasn't a speck of blood anywhere. I must admit even I was shocked, though the Book had described some summoning techniques which require all but the protective skin of an animal. I'd never dreamed they could be used on a human, and the purpose of such techniques used on a human makes vile rise in my throat even now.
As if that discovery wasn't wretched enough, a child of mere nine years discovered some peculiar stains on the underside of the toadstools. Dried blood, and lots of it. I don't quite understand how it arrived on the underside of the toadstools, but from the demeanour of the professor assigned to study it, it wasn't of any ordinary animal variety. I fear Tarsheel may be long dead.
The Book itself has continued to guide me in the ways of magic and sorcery, and I have mastered a few incantations that would grant me the ability to call up some of the more destructive forces of nature; fire, ice and wind. I doubt they would be of much use against a skilled mage, but they will grant me an edge if I ever do get into any fights. I have also taken the basic steps to the art of Summoning, as I am told calling forth rabbits is the first steps in this field. It is outlawed by civil tongue, though it is dubious that if I were discovered I would face serious punishment. Still, it best remain secret for now. Father would definitely not be pleased, though his presence is becoming increasingly erratic.
Thinking of it, father's moods are becoming erratic. He is now much more volatile than before, and though I try to avoid his wrath, sometimes it comes with even the most simple of movements. He had been spending time alone, though I suspect he is recording something I am not to know about. I will need to circumvent the security around his study once more, fortunately I have grown rather accustomed to using dark magic, and the shadows of my home can grow quite excessive late at night...
I fear this shall be my last log entry within the disturbed sanctuary that is Tasengaard. I have never felt more uneasy within these powerful walls. Denar has gone to fetch my a stead from the stables. I shall west to the Valley of the Dwarves, south through to Nordcarn where I am to meet a mercenary hired by my mother to protect me. From there on we shall make further south to Whitestone, to procure supplies at the City. But I fear I shall find no refuge within the grey walls of the metropolis. A formidable obstacle for evildoers indeed but not insurmountable, I am unsure where the next road will take my mercenary and I. Perhaps there is some safety to be found in Portland City, with its strict immigration laws, rigid militia and people whom have only respect for the common laws.
For the sake of my log, I shall recount the events of last hour. It had just struck the call of one past the hour of ten, and I was relaxing in my abode peacefully. The boards on the hallway outside began to creak as I let the troubles from the day slip away. Were it not for the fact that I couldn't recall anyone in the house -- father being out in the tavern and mother staying in Desert Pines -- I may have dismissed it as imagination of an idle brain and drifted off to a quiet slumber. I am most lucky I did not! The noise grew louder and receded erratically, but my fear was rapidly increasing. I crept the length of my room in silence, never before has it appeared so frightening, and withdrew the training sword from it's scabbard hung over the chair to my desk.
Now, it is no secret I am not the most skilled with a blade, but as the adrenaline began to rush through my veins and my senses picked up I found myself recounting the lessons in swordsmanship gifted to me by father. Lifting the blade and adjusting myself to a defensive standpoint brought another surge of emotion. I was very, very frightened, but also somewhat excited and exhilarated. Even as I stood in my undergarments wielding a blunted, marred and non-spelled sword I felt empowered by the event. The creaking grew closer, and became a dull thudding as heavy steps landed on the wood below. I prepared myself for an attack rigidly, but as the door knob began to turn I felt the desire to rush forward, throw open the door and slice whatever awaited outside. The desire was suppressed though, as the person opening the door repeatedly tried to turn, and released the knob. Almost as if the person couldn't grip the metal for long enough to open the door, whatever it was obviously grew frustrated, as the rattle was suddenly drowned out by a heavy thud on the door. And another, and another.
A wave of fear washed over me, however the adrenaline was enough to secure my thoughts from the panic ridden terror. Just as I noticed cracks forming on the door, the banging ceased, and the knob turned (for the first time uninterrupted) all the way round. The door swung open. At first I swore there was nothing before me, but as my eyes adjusted to the unusual darkness of the hallway I seen a thick mist of dark particles, arranged in a semi-coherent form. The mist advanced on me, as it crossed the threshold it took account of my weapon. Four projections began to appear, as the mist shrunk in size it's density appeared to increase. A moment later something in the shape of a man stood before me. With a roughly spherical head, and arms longer than its legs, it seemed to be glaring at me. The mist it was composed of seemed to darken and transform into a mysterious grey-black ooze. It became more defined, and then I seen them. Two scythes, where the hands should have been. They looked as sharp as a freshly cut warrior's sword, and seemed to absorb the light emitted by the torches around the room.
I tried a lancing move first, hopeful to catch it unaware with my speed. I aimed for the thing's midsection but the sword mostly impacted the right 'arm' of the creature. It cut the surface, but merely passed through the body. What seemed like two-malevolent eyes that were now transfixed upon me appeared to be laughing. Laughing at my weak strike and poor technique. Enraged by its taunts, I swung again. Though this time, my blade flew true. It rather eloquently cut the air and sliced clean through the creature's neck. For a moment I rejoiced in my victory, but the satisfaction was short lived. The blade should have fully decapitated the beast, but where its neck should have been there was only air, its head floating completely unharmed above. Ooze began to retake the vacant space, and I knew it was my time to depart.
I escaped through the third-floor window of my room, but not before parrying two blows and being struck deep in the arm by a third. It has been bandaged and seen to, though I fear the beast will soon return to finish off its work. I am still feeling somewhat rushed from the whole incident, but inside the school I feel much safer. There are wards and barriers that repel even the foulest beast placed upon these ancient walls.
My things are being retrieved by a carrier whom I have gifted an entire bag of coins to. He is to retrieve some basic items from my home; clothes, food, my father's spelled sword (I believe my only chance in defeating the creature is with it) and the Book, veiled in a leather bag with some other tomes. My father cannot be found where he said, and though my visit only brief I can find no one with any idea where he might be.
I can hear Denar signalling from outside. I must take my leave from this place urgently, and have requested that nobody say that I have gone. Armed with a sword (though not the knowledge to properly wield it) and an arcane text, I must now face the world.
I'm writing from the innards of Nordcarn city, a city that is most clean and affluent considering its predisposition for harbouring governmental outlaws. I would not think the dwarves capable of constructing such an excellent dwelling: Clean, running water throughout, within walking distance of valuable caves and resources, and well defended from the horrors of the Southern Kilaran Fields. They don't appear to have any notable military power per se, but every dwarf resident seems more than capable of defending themselves. The city isn't well known for its immigration laws, though, which is to say they are practically non-existent. I walked into the city walls without as much as a security check, though with the borders of Valley of the Dwarves and Whitestone I wouldn't expect much human trouble to visit the town.
That being said, after a night or so 'interfacing' with the Book -- I now find that, whenever I focus on a particular object, person, or event, the words on any page of the Book transform and realign into something pertinent to that thought, a most peculiar but extremely useful feature -- I have discovered the name of the creature which attacked me previously. It is described as a lost soul, bound to a paragon of evil, cursed to walk Draia until it's master willingly releases it. A Phantom, yet to take on its true form. I have read that two eves after its creation the beast's misty appearance becomes a dull apparition of its former self, outfitted with armour, a weapon, and a new-found lust for blood as the last remnants of its former concious are swept away. Could this be who I think it is? Could it be Sharteel? I could not imagine her old, but rugged, features on this ghostly visage. She was a kind person, and much liked by the locals. I do hope whatever the reason for going missing, she has not befallen anything as dreadful as permanent enthralment. The mere thought of forever walking this land, killing and reaping, destroying and desolating people's lives and livelihoods gives me shivers.
The Book says Phantoms are easiest killed by a skilled Summoner, before they are truly ordained to full-form. In the event that is not possible, a skilled Mage would be able to fend one off, but it would take some power to completely vanquish one. Perhaps, with a ritual and several hours of secluded meditation I could perform the nessecary magic to tear the essence that binds them to this world, but it would be my will faced against the master's, and I doubt I want to face anyone who would do such a vile act in the first place.
Nay, I shall stay on the run until I am truly ready. My mercenary is off gathering supplies for our trip. He seems like a good man, a skilled swordsman with an adequate magical ability (though I don't think for a second he could match the Phantom, or even defeat me in a contest of spell-slinging) and a knowledge of Seridia. Well enough to avoid the more densely populated regions, yet stay in the relative safety of obscurity amongst the land and animals.
On the subject of lands though, I have not heard any news from Tasengaard. And though I would not expect any, it is odd father has not dispatched a party of huntsmen (if not the Guard itself!) to come retrieve me. Mother wrote me a letter which a young dwarf handed me in the Valley. She has promised to keep my whereabouts secret from father, and anyone else who might be prying, for as long as I deem it unsafe to return home. I fear she cannot actually assist me, as sending some soldiers, or even herself, to help would be divulging precious information to the person who takes account of these things. It seems she will only be a letter and a few days ride away, but even so I do not feel particularly safe. For once, I am at a true crossroads. I fear some day I shall need to face my demons, but until then I can seek refuge in the safest places I can find on this continent, possibly further.
I feel this will be my last log entry, as I find with growing ability my journals be better used for magical sigils, experiments and notes. I may still record notable events, but they will most likely be few and far between.
Let anyone who find this journal know this was the last record with lists my true name under every entry. Hereby, I shall be known as Aphistolas the Walker. Aganazzar, the weak child of Tasengaard, is no longer!
Edited by Aphistolas, 05 October 2008 - 04:59 PM.