Chapter 1

Birds flew overhead, their presence accentuated by the street light reflecting off the morning fog.  The past few days of rain kept an aura of mystery around everything.  He was on his way to work, like every morning.  Like every morning, he saw the spirits hanging in the shadows waiting to reach out to someone with their memories, their desires.  He wondered what they would impart on him today.

Normally it was a flash of intense emotion that was lost as soon as he tried to focus and follow its meaning. Occasionally they connected with his own memories, leaving him lost for hours or days.  Reminiscing on what had been or longing for things, people or opportunity lost by a moment’s choice. On rare instances they inspired and made a world of difference to brighten his day.  But all these outcomes were up to which spirit he encountered in the predawn hours.

The spirits were always more clustered where activity wasn’t and yet held on to cities as if they could never leave them.  These early morning hours were when they roamed.  No longer huddled down in dark allies or under the overpass, they were out in the open looking for someone to share their burden.  Not malicious innately, there were some that would drive those with a weak mind.  When a corrupted mind encountered a strong urge, the urge too could be corrupted or take hold and that is when they were problems.

He, however, was not one such mind. Oren Velgrey was of a perfectly fine mind and today he would encounter a spirit like most mornings one that would both inspire and rouse.  As he walked into the bookstore, Oren was touched by one of the spirits.  He knew it by the acute musty smell that one would normally associate with old books.  Except Oren was a very tidy person and would never allow such a smell to be so engrained in the store that it would be perceived by any customer.  The individual books, however, were another story, with some tomes older than the stone building itself. It would still be sometime till the lingering effects of the encounter would take hold, so Oren went about opening his shop.  Lighting the hanging lamps, he changed out the wicks on a few and refilled oil, all the while wondering what today would bring upon on him.

Oren had come to know this experience well at an early age. His father told him the family had a propensity for encountering spirits.  He had learned the signs of the experiences weren’t easy to figure out.  Per his father for some they were smells, as in Oren’s case, or for his own father a feeling of Deja vu.  They had little consistency between different people but for an individual they were always the same. The sensation could be pronounced or subtle as a feather.  Most people would occasionally have encounters and may chalk it up to nothing.

The warmth of the store’s oil lanterns would soon attract someone in the city once they choose to venture out of their home; in the meantime, Oren went to the side room and started a fire to dry the air out a little.  Ms. Celia, the tenet above the store, would more than likely enjoy the morning fire’s heat radiating up. She was a more common city person, slept in late always had something to do and places to go.  She had been a bit spoiled by her now deceased husband, and continued to be such by having not a responsibility in the world.

The feelings started to creep in before the sun could cut through the fog.  It would best be described as feeling off from one’s normal self, but no identifiable feeling.  Then the emotions, which could be anything from laughing uncontrollably to curling up and thinking the world may end.  But today it was excitement, followed by an inclination to go over to the section of hand written journals and search.  Correction, not search, he thought, but hunt down.

Memories of a childhood story from his mother spoke of Dawsil of the Wolves and the vague recollection of some journal by a Baron Eitelwulf and his encounters in the Drémore Vales.

Oren would have to find it.  If he had been stopped by anyone at this point, he would have gone completely mad.  Kicking and screaming that he must find the journal. Lucky for Oren, there was no one to hold him back.  He sifted through seventeen stacks of books for the journal of Eitelwulf.  It was nicely bound with sinew, clearly originally done in the field and then cleaned up at a later date.

He began leafing through the journal; it contained mostly casual observations or comments or campaign progress, dry material by anyone’s standards, but the most exciting thing in the world to Oren at this moment.  He was looking for Dawsil or any reference thereof.  After about half an hour the drive started to fade, and Oren was gaining control again.  But try as he might he knew he would have to come back to looking for the connection or it would be a tormenting day and night with no rest or sleep.

Still engrossed in field reports from the Drémore Vales, Oren sat at his desk while the periodic customer came in to browse.  It was a simple business for Oren. A few coins to browse the store, for a few more or some collateral a book could be borrowed, and finally if you were wealthy enough you could buy the book.  Naturally, he was willing to consider buying from anyone.

As he flipped though the journals, Oren came to the realization that Eitelwulf was highly detailed when it came to the flora and fauna, but seemed almost indifferent to the campaign he was on.  It took a half the journal to reach the accounting of events in the vales. He skimmed over the theories on why the rabbits were nowhere to be seen but rats were abundantly under foot.

They were tracking Dawsil of the Wolves due to raids on the Eitelwulf holdings. From what Oren could gather, the Wolves was the name of a mercenary group that had gotten hit by hard times and turned to banditry.  What made Dawsil annoying was the lack of trail to follow. He would appear, striking at random, and then disappear into the Drémore Vales leaving no sign of passing. There were rumors of enchantments being used.  If he had an enchanter working for him, then who knows what was at his disposal.  Eitelwulf believed it was only a charm or talisman in his possession and nothing more.

After reading this last bit, the excitement resurged inside.  This puzzled Oren, as normally it would have faded.  He started to worry if the spirit was corrupted and it had tainted him.  He would have to consult his father this evening if the feelings continued.  The desire to find another journal was setting in.

Oren got up from his desk to go retrieve the writings of Lord Auben; this was one he was familiar with.  He was a Lord of lands some 4 days travel south. He had passed away recently, a couple years back, maybe three.  Oren had been invited to the estate for an auction off to pay some of the Lord’s indiscretions so that the family would no longer be bothered with the trifles.  Overall the auction had been a slight disappointment from the book perspective.  All that he had managed to acquire was the journal and it had been mistakenly delivered with the lamp he had bought; now hanging in the front half of the shop. Oren was still driven to find something about Dawsil and the Wolves in that book.

Oren had taken but a few steps away from his seat when in entered a Lady…that or a well-dressed woman in a rather elegant dress with tan hair.  She had the proper bearing to go with the attire.  She clearly felt herself of great importance, possibly more than due.

“Hello,” she spoke in a slightly higher pitched voice than expected. “I am here to do some research on behalf of her grace Lady Selene.  I need a table to work at and some writing materials.  I expect not to be disturbed.  Do you have a page that can fetch my books for me?”

Lady Selene was one of the Neffian temple heads in the city of Gromdash.  Their temple was more a temporary structure at this point.  The Neffians arrived two years back from the north and in general seemed tolerant of everything.  Trying to convert new followers didn’t seem to be the goal they had in mind. Every few months someone would pop in claiming to do research.  Oren couldn’t make heads or tails of what it was they were hunting as there was no consistency in the requests.  One time they wanted anything with poetry and the next time they were so into ogres you would think they were mythical beasts.  They did pay well for the research but at times they were simply unbearable.

“I am sorry, no pages.  I can direct you to where the book is or help further if needed.  However if someone else shows up I must attend to them as well.”  Oren cleared out a spot for her to work, a nice out of the way place.

“Very well, young sir. I will tend to my own work” she spoke elegantly trying to mask a sigh. “Bring me anything you can on Enchanters and how their craft works.  Do not edit out anything you think is too advanced for me.”

Oren poked around form a few areas in the store and plopped down a stack of ten books. “Get through this and I will bring you more.”

Finally Oren could be free to go look up the journal and put a rest to the tension building inside.  He briskly walked over to shelves grabbed the book and went back to his desk.  Auben was no better a writer than Eitelwulf. His journal covered a wider variety of things from daily life, though far more random in topics than Eitelwulf.  This was the first in depth look Oren was taking at the journal since his acquisition.  It was obvious that Auben was no saint from the overly descriptive records he left.

It would take Oren a good hour, including breaks to fetch books for the Maiden of Neffian, before he reached what he thought was his goal.  Auben had been a young officer under Eitelwulf in the Drémore Vales. He recounted more the daily life and struggle in the forest.  The company lost one person to some wood sprite, and near the end of the campaign, they were questioning the real purpose of the man hunt.

Skimming through the details, it finally jumped out what he was looking for.  An enchanter was part of the party hunting down Dawsil.  Dawsil had stolen quite a few talismans from him, but the enchanter refused to go into detail as to the cause.  His words of doom and foreboding events if they were not recovered were reason for the chase.  The enchanter’s name was Vargas Armiger, Oren’s grandfather, on his mother’s side.

The Armigers were not from this city, Aleto, and Oren had never even met his grandfather.  Maybe this was what his memory of his mother’s story had stemmed from.  It was all so hazy like wisps of dreams you try to hold on to.  The harder you focus on them the faster they evaporate in to nothing.  Oren’s mother would not be the best resource; her mind had been slowly fading the past five years.  There were moments of clear conscious thought, but it was as if she spent most her time in another world.  Her conversations were with those not present or about events that were not transpiring.  Oren paused a moment to shake the gloom coming over his mind.

“Excuse me, but do you have any other books for me?  I am quite done with what I have here.”  The annoying female voice again raked through Oren’s ears, disrupting his stream of thoughts.

So went the rest of the day with a patron or two more at a time. Oren was left to wonder what his parents may be able to add to the story.  He went back to the journal from Eitelwulf to see if he could gleam any further information from it other than the biodiversity of the Drémore Vales.  He was able to tie the intersecting portions of the journals together despite their differing accounts of events and the author’s choice on what details were important.  Eitelwulf made no reference to an enchanter but rather mentioned a trusted advisor guiding the hunt, which maybe was Vargas.

As the day wound up, the Maiden of Neffian was still there.  She had now accumulated a pile of notes for herself and had been through every book on enchanters that was in the store.  She had paged through more volumes than any previous visitor and yet still seemed unhappy with what Oren had brought her. With Oren’s urging finally wrapped up her work.

“I will be back tomorrow.  You still have books I have not seen my way through.”  With that, she collected her papers and settled up her account for the used supplies.  “Perhaps you can tell me if a Vargas Armiger still lives in this city.  Our records in Gromdash indicate he lived here a while back.”

Oren thought for a brief moment which way to answer.  He knew way too little to have trust in her, but he also knew no reason to withhold his knowledge. “He is dead.  He passed on before my time, if you wish to pay your respects to him; he is buried in the graveyard outside of the city.”

“I see,” she calmly replied and then turned to be on her way.

“If I may, what is your interest in him?” Oren poked

“He was an enchanter.  I had hoped to learn some information on it if he was still around.”  She left without giving further pause for Oren to probe further.

What an odd day, Oren thought. At least the motivation from the spirit encounter this morning had passed without further surge.  Oren packed the two journals into a bag and slung it over his shoulder. He was now off to call on his parents.  Maybe get some answers to his family’s past as well.

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