His parents lived a ways outside the walls of Aleto so the walk would take him till dusk to get there. Hopefully the spirits were still in hiding. He would spend the night there, no reason to risk troubled dreams for his own bed. Spirits outside the city were a little less predictable. Not in concept but more in where they lurked. They tended to hang out in places where emotions ran strong, which really could be anywhere. But his dad had taught him some general guides. For example, a place where animals hunted, or where something had given birth would call spirits to observe. The sides of less traveled trails seemed to be appealing. If there was war or plague then there were usually no spirits there. They didn’t long for reminders of death, like a graveyard. Often they were skittish of places like caves or small, tight spaces.
Oren’s parents’ house was larger than most this far outside of the walls. Its location was on some open land where his parents had livestock grazing. The house itself was good stone construction in an L-shape, and two stories tall. There was a one story tall fence connecting the corners resulting in a triangle shaped enclosure. His parents had turned this area into a garden, and often used it for receiving guests. From the main road a pathway lead to the gated entrance in the fence. It was halfway down this path his father spotted his arrival. Oren’s father had been out at the shed returning to the house.
“Good evening dad. Spirits have been giving me trouble today. I had a few questions that you and mom may be able to help with.”
“Always glad to help when it comes to those spirits. Today they have left me alone so I should be able to focus today.” Oren’s dad was 62, twice as old as Oren. He had a full head of grey hair and emerald green eyes, the same as his son. He still stood tall at six feet and a couple inches, just a bit taller than his son. His full name was Flynn Velgrey; in his youth he had been far less home bound and wandered the kingdom of Iseb working for numerous merchants and even a small period in a mercenary core. This is where his current wealth, and therefore most of Oren’s, came from.
The mercenary group had a chance encounter to fight for King Hannon. He was assigned to be part of the rear guard during a campaign in the Jacobo Plains. As such, they took a heavy beating as the main force retreated during a skirmish in the pouring rain. Long story short, they eventually were able to turn the tables on the pursuing forces and the King’s forces were able to regroup and win the battle. The pay was high and to be split by the mercenaries, but by the end of the day the company had shrunk from fifty men to only fourteen. Flynn had taken this as a sign it was time to leave the mercenary life and moved into commerce. From there, life had been quite good for him.
“These are questions about what would cause a second urge in desires to pursue something. Also if mom can concentrate, Grandpa Armiger.”
“She is having a good day today, but first let’s go prepare dinner. We can talk while doing that.”
Dinner was going to be a beef soup; the broth had been simmering most the day already. What was needed was seasoning and a bit more vegetable to make it a bit hardier. As Flynn rummaged through some bins he asked, “So what were they causing you to think about today?”
“Well, something about a Dawsil of the Wolves, Baron Eitelwulf. Then it moved on to Lord Auben. But I think the final goal was to learn something about Grandpa Armiger. But it was like I was touched a second time by the same spirit. Like he was not satisfied by my results and wanted me to try harder.”
Flynn continued to mess with the soup, “Well like I have said before there are many spirits and each is different. I had hoped you would never encounter a spirit that fixated on you. This one sounds like it may have, at least for a short time. I had never encountered one myself, but your Uncle was not so lucky. He seemed to attract them all the time and in the wrong places. One time, he scared away his dog for a week as he felt like he needed to bath him every two hours.” He paused smiling to himself at the memory. After setting the lid down on the pot, he continued, “But I think you are going to be fine. If it left you be after the second book then it probably got its fill of following you.”
“Maybe, I hope it is not still in the shop tomorrow. There is a Maiden of Neffian doing research again, and this one was definitely a nobleman’s daughter at some point. Only way she would have treated me like her servant and forgotten I had given her the privilege to do her work there.”
It was now that Oren’s mother, Evie, decided to enter the room. She looked well for 63, no older than her husband. If one did not know better they would assume, aside from being a little underweight, she was in better health than Flynn. Her hair had not changed from the chestnut brown of her youth. Oren noticed the brown of her eyes was clear; she was working in the present today.
“Hello Oren, Did you say something about the Neffians? They talk to the dead you know?”
“Hello mother, I hope you are doing well,” Oren said slightly surprised. “You did hear correctly, the where one of the followers doing research at the shop today. She also was asking about your father.”
“My father, I hope you said very little. Besides I have said before you shouldn’t let them in your shop.”
“All I said was he was dead and buried in the graveyard, same as anyone in town would have. But you never say why I shouldn’t let them in. Further, if I did kick them out then they would complain to the town guard and then I have to pay bribes or be harassed for not letting them in.”
“Oh, they may try to contact him. No good will come from this. After all, he isn’t buried at the grave marker. No, the Enchanters would never let one with so much knowledge be buried in public like that. I just hope they didn’t put up any harmful wards on the grave when they collected the body.”
“What?!” This was all news to Oren. He had been to the grave several times to pay his respects, often with his mother. “What do you mean wards? And why didn’t you ever mention this before?”
“Oh, when you are an enchanter people always come to look and commune with your essence. Sometimes, the dead reveal many secrets they would hold on tight to in the living world. No, the Enchanters either burned the body or have him in some private cemetery that only they know about. Even if I had tried to stop them from taking the body, they would have eventually found a way. We should have cremated him, but that was not his desire. He was worried we would not do it properly. As for wards, they usually put something in so whoever sets them for the Enchanters Guild knows someone is trying to talk to the deceased. Sometimes though, they put in traps as a warning to keep those who are looking away. But like all enchantments they can also be done improperly and then someone ends up dead…or maybe that is them working properly.”
“Oh Oren, your grandfather would have loved for you to be an Enchanter,” The subject changed as though she had said all she would. “But you were like your father, with your controlling spirits. The Enchanters do not take your type, always suspicious it may cause you to use the powers improperly.”
“I have another question though. The spirits led me to some journals today. And they brought me to the hunt for Dawsil of the Wolves, and a Baron Eitelwulf, and a Lord Auben. He traveled with them, the Baron and the Lord. What were they looking for?”
She smiled, “Oren you heard this twice before and do not remember?” She paused thinking for a second, “Oh but you were a little child and asked for so many stories then. I will tell you this one, one more time, as it is something you should know before encountering the Neffians again.”
“Now in his later years your grandfather was a respected enchanter. Not only could he create all sorts of talismans and charms, but he was skilled at identifying others work and function. He had some catalogs of the markings and brandings crafters used. The catalogs were destroyed in a fire a few years before his death. The lands along the Drémore Vales were subject to many raids, but he was not concerned with them. What he noticed was that Dawsil was targeting specific manors that were known to hold talisman. Talismans can hold a variety of powers, some simply helping with directions when traveling. Others can help give a slight edge to a craft; these are more frequently called charms. There are also ones that will keep one safe or out of harm’s way. But there are others which are used for less honest goals. One such goal is cloaking your actions or intentions. There are some that can even make you seem more charismatic or obscure your presence despite being under someone’s nose. ”
“Dawsil was tracking down such talismans that gave powers to himself and his men. In all, he had about thirty of them when he was caught. Some of the worst were ones that gave him the strength of three men and another that allowed him to scry on his enemies just by knowing a name. However, till the day he passed on, your grandfather assumed they had not found them all or the worst of them. There was allegedly one that allowed him to control the mind of another person and one that allowed him to travel great distances in a single step. But most were skeptical Dawsil had these as no one knows of any record of the craftsmanship of such items.”
“Of course the story I told you when you were younger was filled with more action and more beasts. But you were young and that was what you hung on to. This version I believe has what you really want to hear this time…”
“Thank you,” Oren responded. “I wish I had gotten to know him. He led an interesting life. You had also said something about the Neffians. What do you know about them?”
“Oh they are generally a harmless lot. They are after knowledge and catalogue it in their records. However, it is also just as easy to join and leave the order as it may suit your fancy. Though once you are out you are out forever. There have been many occasions they have been used for spying by governing factions. But the order generally doesn’t care as long as you are contributing proper information to their collection. Do not get me wrong, they will clean house as needed if their reputation is threatened or if they feel they are abused. More than likely they know where their clergy’s’ loyalties lay.”
“In addition to knowledge, they do collect artifacts and talismans, so their interest in your grandfather is not surprising. Most lords and ladies allow them limited operations in their realm, but expect a tribute paid and access to the Neffian’s resources. Their temple in Gromdash however is still not officially sanctioned. It will be interesting if King Hannon the second will let them stay. His father never trusted them.”
It was conversations like this that lead Oren to question what was really going on with his mother. He pondered if she was really losing it or up to other ethereal endeavors. At times like this, he felt like calling her out to stop the charade, but feared if it was not an act it might be what pushed her out of reality for good.
“So enough on politics, Oren. When are you going to finally leave your book shop and go see the rest of the kingdom?” Evie had clearly decided to move the conversation on. “Your father could easily set you up with a caravan to travel with to another city. If you are going to take over the business, you will have to establish your own trade network.”
“Maybe it is time, this spring when the roads open up again. I would rather not travel in the winter when the frost sprites roam the roads.”
“Glad to hear it,” Flynn said. “But not to worry, I can easily help you find someone to manage your shop. I know you wouldn’t give it up as it is like your child.” Oren and his wife had started the shop with funds given from Flynn. “It has been three years since Sonia’s passing and I was worried that her death was still weighing you down. She was a good wife to you, and we all miss her. But you do have to move on with things, and stop dwelling only among books.”
The conversation went from here to the normal ruts that family chatter ends up in. It was several hours later that they called it a night. Oren spent the night in his old room. His parents had left it for him as his visits were still a common occurrence. He went to bed with thoughts racing of happy memories of Sonia, her warm embrace on a cool night.