“You? Are you Oren?” The inquirer was a black haired woman a foot shorter than Oren. She was wearing what looked like leather armor, and had a set of swords at the hip. The armor had the emblem of Neffian on it. “What did you say to Allison yesterday that made her go to the graveyard in the early hours of the morning?”
“I am sorry, but who is Allison?” As the question was uttered, he had finally connected the association. “And who are you?”
The woman lowered her tone to a more civil level, possibly realizing the fright she may have caused in her initial query, “I am Lady Martell, Neffian Knight and guard to their travelers. Allison was the Maiden in here all yesterday. I have looked through all her notes and see nothing mentioning the graveyard of Aleto. So the only person who may know why she went there is you.”
“Well Lady Martell, what I do know was she was looking up items on enchanters all day. Then, before leaving she asked about Vargas Armiger. I told her that he was dead and buried there. She left before I could say another word.”
“Stupid Maiden, I would have warned her against such things. They are given quests for knowledge and then they don’t think through the perils. Books don’t hold everything…,” she trailed off, looking around the room for a moment. Something had her attention, like she had heard something talk or whisper. “Is there someone else in the store?”
“No, I am the only one here.”
She drew her shorter blade and held it pointed out. She then closed her eyes, and her face took on a look as if she were focusing. Slowly, she started turning the direction her blade pointed. She walked over to the Oren’s desk, eyes shut. It was as if she knew the layout of the store by heart. She reached into the bag.
“What are you doing with my stuff?” Oren’s voice rose in concern, clearly hesitant to act, as he was in no position to stop her.
Lady Martell reached into the bag, pulled out the Lord Auben’s journal and thrust her blade through the pages. Oren could see a green aura form around the book. She held it in the book till a light snap was heard. She opened her eyes and removed the skewered book. “Oren you have the works of interesting people in this store. Whatever did you do to gain their attention?”
“What was that you did?” He muttered. Her comments had not broken through his shock. “What is it you do again?”
“I have killed off a Scry Sprite. They are not of this world, and only are servants to those that can reach beyond. Do you know where you got that book, as they may not be after you but the previous owner of the book?”
“The prior owner is dead,” Oren said, buying some time while trying to guess where her loyalties and trust lay. His thoughts raced, lie to her now and she may refuse further help…but say too much…and she may be working for whoever sent the sprite. “But I do not think the sprite was in the book till more recently.”
“Why not? Was this a book you gave Allison for her research?”
“No, it had been on a shelf for years till yesterday when I finally looked at it.” It was now that Oren realized a distinct aroma. He wondered how long it would be till something overtook him.
“Then why do you doubt the prior owner may be the target of this sprite? Who was the previous owner?”
“Lord Auben, he passed on a couple years ago. I got it in an auction, with the lamp over there.” He gestured to the light hanging above the door.
Martell smirked, “You really have interesting dealings. You have a book possessed by a Scry Sprite and then have the audacity to have an Invoker’s Lantern hanging casually above your entrance.”
An Invoker’s Lantern was used by enchanters and others inclined to practice the craft as a focus for crafting talisman. They cast a nice light clearly, but from what Oren could recall, when they were activated with the right incantation they would allow a talisman that had been placed inside to be enchanted, modified, or repaired. Looking up at it he now saw that what he had assumed were ornate carvings and place to attach hanging chains from might also have a slightly more practical uses.
Oren felt a distinct calm roll over his body. With the serenity came a flood of questions, “Lady Martell, how do you know so much about all this? You say you are Knight of Neffian, but you know far more than just how to transport a scholar between two cities. That is a task easily assigned to a caravan. What are you really after here in Aleto? How are you able to sense such things as a Scry Sprite, is it the sword or you? And if you know so much about enchanters, why not just tell Allison, instead of having her spend hours here?”
“So full of questions suddenly,” Martell had not planned on going on the defense so soon, it showed in her eyes. “Well to start, Allison was a low ranking maiden. The first year as an initiate is spent as scholar, what you learn is dictated by your teacher. The reason I said nothing, is I can only assist if asked directly by her and I did not know her topic till I found her notes.” She took a pause and pondered why she was so willing to answering the questions. “But enough about the Neffians, you can always join if you want to know more.”
Oren felt a desire to ask more questions, since he was at least in control this time. “And what is the source of your knowledge?”
“That is not for me to share with you,” she replied, clearly raising her guard. “But how does one end up with all these books? There is quite a fortune here, yet it is only such to the right person. The tomes you let Allison look through, she did not understand half the knowledge in them. Are you an enchanter yourself? The son of one?” Questions stopped flowing as in her mind she had come to realize the answers. Memories somewhere in her mind started to link up.
“Your name is Oren Velgrey. You are grandson to Vargas Armiger. I should have seen the resemblance sooner, your face is a little fuller and less wrinkly than his but otherwise I bet he looked the same as you when he was your age. My knowledge comes from him. Well not directly, but he taught my mentor. Your grandfather is well known down near the Drémore Vales. He was the one who finally listened to the pleas of our village, Avo. While there, my mentor volunteered to guide him and in exchange your grandfather taught him much about enchanting. Not how to enchant, but how to spot it and the tools it required and stuff like that.”
Oren sat stunned, perhaps a bit much to take in before lunch. Was his grandfather really this much the hero? If so why had he died here in relative seclusion? Why did his parents choose not to tell him of all that had happened, or did they not know? More questions he longed to voice, but at least he had control over what he let slip out.
“I have to get on with my investigation. Will you join me after you close your shop up at the Cloak and Frog tavern? I have more to discuss with you.”
“I suppose I can.”
Martell left the shop and his mind drifted back to the lamp. Maybe that was what the Sprite had been talking about. But now with the Sprite dead would whoever his master come looking for him? Could he still have enough information to track down Oren? Finally Oren grunted in frustration, stupid spirit’s touch would have to be waited out before he could think again.
The afternoon went by quickly for Oren. A brisk flow of customers help pass the time. In between them, he sifted through some of his books for more information on the Drémore Vales and the surrounding history. This region was historically used for farming and milling grains. Though the eastern edge of it disappeared into thick woods, the more mountainous sides to the west and south of it had been mined forever. Relatively peaceful region as the only trace of trouble Oren could find about it was in regards to the Wolves or Dawsil.
It was in the last hours of the day, he found record of a series of strongholds in the eastern edge. This was from the kingdom of Drémore that had fallen several hundred years back. They had been built to fend off the ogres and sprites of the forest, keeping the vales safe. The network had been built prior to the current system of wards the enchanters had set up to keep such beasts at bay. Though from what Oren gathered, they had most likely been reclaimed by the forest with where his grandfather’s maps showed the wards to be located.
With the last of the customers gone Oren gathered up the maps and book he had been flipping through in to his bag. He wanted to continue his research at home, and tomorrow would see his parents again. Oren was forming more questions and wanted to tell his dad which caravan he would take in the spring. Spirits seemed to be calling him to Drémore and he aimed to figure out what was calling him.