Formula of Eternal Life

All the riches could save us
My child collect and discuss
Silver for a disease or curse
Pestilence gone with Jade in your purse
Gold against enchantment
Pearls for containment
Emeralds keep a spirit safe
Agate keeps away the wraith
Moonstone to keep your dreams
Lapis will focus you schemes

A few more to help you keep score
Affordable if you don’t mind a dirt floor
Rubies help against haze
Jasper prevent your daze
Opals to clean the eyes
Turquoise to find a prize
Tin to clean up your ail
Platinum for where others fail

A shipment of each
There is nowhere out of reach
Fetch each I beseech
Together their power I will teach

Wealth will misery end
Smell the future down wind
With each precious acquisition
You ascend to a new position
Choice you are now granted
Bias toward you they are slanted
In your days give each away
Regaled will your name stay
Upend the class to which you rise
But give too much and meet demise.

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Prison

The Saj-graf prison was one of the original buildings of the city.  It had been expanded over the years to accommodate the growth in population.  Its proximity to the single room court had not changed in that time nor had the size of the court.  The oldest parts were made of well-aged wood, slowly being patched with stone and mortar. The newest additions had been the second subbasement that was under construction.  This new addition had resulted from finding several attempts to dig out from the prison and finding another purpose than simply filling them in.  The top floor, which was the third, was meant to hold people temporarily and was often crowded with multiple occupants per cell.  The few lucky ones were deemed in need of solitary confinement on this floor.  Commonly it was those sleeping off their vices or those that were not fit to socialize with the common residence.

Justice in Saj-graf was doled out by two judges, appointed by the mayor. The process was so whimsical that if a spat of good weather or a feast day came up you would wait that much longer for your hearing.  The judges heard cases as they saw fit.  The hearing usually consisted of whichever judge heard your plea and accounts from the town guard.  Naturally witnesses were allowed to be presented, and given the haphazardness of the hearings, only those with coin to spare or dear friends would you be guaranteed their appearance.

It was on a cool late evening that Cerridwen sat at one of the cell doors. It was through the its small window she could see Sartow sleeping in a corner.  “That the one m’Lady?” asked a sleepy guard.

“Oh yes, that is him.  And this if for your troubles,” she slipped him a small pouch. “Now it is probably best you find a corner to curl up in.”

“Yes, that sounds like a lovely idea,” the guard yawned.

“Sartow, darling, how did you end up in here?” Cerridwen said in a sweet voice.

He rolled over on to his side and looked at the door. “I don’t have time for wenches,” he snipped.

“Oh dear is that who got you stuck in here?  I am not here to offer my services; rather I am in need of yours.  Yet in here you serve no purpose, perhaps you would like for me to let you out so we can discuss business?”

“I have no business, just my time till they set me free.”

“And that would be when?  Has it not been thirty days since you took up residency here?  You know a certain lord has some say in the courts and I do not think it best you go to trial.”

“Speak quickly or I may call for a guard to bring me water.”

“The job is outside of town and as a leader of men.  They aspire for your renown and your skill.as a leader.  I can take you to them, but only tonight.”

 

The Missing

They went missing. It was the last line of the story and it felt rather unsatisfying to the old man. He paged through the parchments again, skimming for details of the Ardent Order and their final marches against the Cloudervan. They were victorious, and the story said as much. Yet beyond that the details were just not there. The recount was quite bloody going into how the captain lost an arm to the beasts razor sharp claws or how a sergeant was impaled fifteen times before no longer marching forward carrying the company’s standard. Yet not a word after the slaying of their opponent.

The descriptions of the beasts pains were just as graphic. Copper guilded blades glistening in the evening sun as the cloudervans’ blood hissed on contact. Each precise slash by one to the Ardent Order meant another cloudervan crying in agony, encouraging the company to march onward against a foe that had slaughtered thousands. The only regret of the order was not arriving sooner to save more of the town of Saj-graf.

The old man knew there were some of the order still in Saj-graf today. Yet he had never heard of these stories and if not for the books given to him to research it would still have been lost. He quickly noted his findings and sealed them in an envelope. He slid the envelope out under his door, and like so many times before heard the steps of the one in the hall walk down and retrieve his writing.

The panic in the below streets were of no importance to him, in his own world. He again counted down the days till his contract was up. Would the sun feel better that day than through the window? Would the fresh air be rejuvenating or would he miss the must of the stacks? He had started to long for the sound of cracking open hundred year old books. Yet simply the option to savor a walk in the rain still made him smile, He wanted a day of choices made all freely by himself.

Evenings

Late in the evening, when the north wind blows down through the alleys by the Chalice Gate, one can hear a calling.  Some would say it is the voices of the past, while others would claim it a haunting of the dead.  To some it is a comforting wind and others it sends a chill down through their skull.  Many a child has gone chasing to see where the voice comes from and return none the wiser.  The guard patrolled the alleyways for a year at the beck of the residents to put an end to the noise and no cause was ever determined.

It was in these narrow pathways that Zahar met an old man.  He seemed at ease with the way he limped toward Zahar. “Young man, I have been looking for you,” he spoke up.  “Easy there, not you per se but someone of you youth and agility.”

Zahar could see the man was missing a foot as the space between the two narrowed. “As a member of the Ardent Order,  I am happy to assist one of our towns seniors.  What can I do for you?”

“I live up in the mountains and with the recent collapse of the monolith I think it best to reside in the city now.  However I cannot drag a trunk down by myself.  Would you be able to assist me in retrieving it?”

“Zahar who are you talking to?”  asked Katranna as she rounded the corner. “You know we are in a hurry.”

“Katranna, I am helping this man with a question.”  Zahar glared over to meet her rounding the corner.

“Who?  The rat scurrying away down the alley”

“Yes, the rat,” Zahar looked back to at the nothingness.

“I should really just let Crevan have you full time.”  Katranna said squinting in the dark to see if anyone still lurked.

Lyrical Legion

The sword song was the first lesson that Crevan had learned from his master and it was now what he tried to teach Kit.  It was a rhythmic chant which accompanied movement of the sword.  The key was to swing with the right exhales, not the one your opponent would expect.  The nuance would take at least a year of daily practice before Kit could move to the next concept.  In five years or so Kit would be able to move beyond a sword to other weapons or something in his off hand.  Crevan had told him Kit his voice needed more work than anything else.  Kit responded laughing saying he just needed a better song to sing.

A mandate from Alvin meant Crevan was free to start teaching at least three new pupils.  This was an unexpected change since the king of Iseb had banned the school from teaching when Saj-graf had come under his domain.  Yet with the monoliths protection gone, Alvin was willing to bring back the fighting style to protect the city and boost moral of his ward.  In addition to the Forest Walker, Crevan had received an inept student named Zahar from the Ardent Order, and  a young teenager by the name of Aryne.  The other two pupils were not as eager as Kit to learn, and had not shown up today for their lesson.  Aryne’s actions were slightly more excusable as his youth was as fault.  Zahar would rely on the pressing needs of the Order as his excuse.  It was a weak one as Crevan knew no such demands existed.
While going through the paces again, Crevan thought back to when he had been a teen. The Lyrical Legion had not been disbanded and the Saj-graf Marshal was more than just a spiritual seer.  Volka’s master had had that privilege for only three years before Iseb had taken control.  Iseb knew the spiritual leadership they provided was a strong symbol for Saj-graf.  They toyed with destroying the Legion all together, but bid their time when the wounds of war were still fresh.   In the end, only the position of Marshal was retained.  Volka’s peers had been sent from the city to preserve the teachings.  A few were still around and Crevan would need to find them to help build the ranks up again.  Crevan only had some much knowledge and experience to pass on

Crevan smiled as he came back to the present.  A young boy by the name of Groth trying to mimic the two of them.  The lad was too young to take in as a proper soldier, but was now an aspiring apprentice under Crevan.  It pleased Groth’s father to see him learn the old ways, and to have a strong interest in skills his ancestors had practiced. For now though Groth contented himself running errands and learning the laws of being in the Lyrical Legion.  Crevan returned his focus to Kit.

 

“Again, and this time try not to butcher the refrain,”  Crevan barked.  He cleared his voice and started with Kit, “I strike when you make fit, but that is not where I hit”

Chasm

Sun light cut through the haze that still rose from the ground.  The chasm had cut the city, running a jagged line from the Saj-graf Monolith to the Chalice Gate.  It swallowed not a soul the day it formed, but left many hurt in its creation.  Nothing came flowing out though the top of a spire fell in. Many a basement now had light.  The Locked Chancery had a new window to the world and lost a large amount of beer to sate the chasm’s thirst.

Hector walked with Corvus along the length of the chasm.  Hector had been asked to evaluate the best places for bridges to cross the gap by Mayor Alvin.  He hit the ground with his staff trying to judge the response.  The two were discussing what the lack of a monolith meant for the city and debated how long it would be till Ogres or a manticore showed up to threaten the city.  Their conversation paused as they watch a couple of teenagers run and jump a narrow point of the chasm.  Corvus shook his head at the foolishness while Hector laughed at the teens’ success.

“I still cannot think of anyone in town that would do such a thing.  Hewing the best protection we have and then no other follows through.”  Spoke Hector.

“It is probably the work of some group of mercenaries looking for work.” Corvus responded.

“Then they should go work for one of the trade houses, or volunteer for the wars in the south.  There is no reason the people of Saj-graf need this burden.”

“I agree, if the city is attacked I am expected to muster at least a hundred men, well ninety-nine if I choose to serve.  I think that would be every person I have working in the fields.

“Do you think it could be an agent of King Vincent?  He has always had his eye on Saj-graf as a port town with access to the Vertrive Sea.  That seems more likely, but why would he not coordinate with his corsairs’ attack on Port Gertrude. It would have made more sense.”

“Lord Corvus, have we taken to admiring the City’s new feature?” A voice spoke up from behind.  It was Gabriel, walking down the street in one of the few times during the day.  Walking alongside him were Martell and Kit.

“Yes, and talk with my brother Hector, he is charged with management of the city’s infrastructure you know.” replied Corvus pondering what Gabriel was after. “Have you taken on a personal guards?”

“Them?  No we are on our way to talk to Ardent Order.  They are interrogating a bandit named Sartow for his motives in the city.  He was roughing up some patrons at a tavern when the guard arrested him. Best of luck with your civil service.”  The trio continued on their way.

“War would alter the power structure in this city,” Hector mused. “Surely a few of the nobles will seek glory in battle in fail, freeing their lands to be distributed.  Corvus, are you the one they call the Prince?”

Corvus burst into laughter. “Hector, if only I had the brain for such planning.  No, I am far too petty for that job.”

Fenshorn Manor

Siwaldh looked out from the balcony of the Fenshorn Manor.  From there he could see the glistening Saj-graf Monolith protecting the city. The marble floors were a nice contrast to the inconsistent wood of the inn he spent his nights at. If Siwaldh had the luxury, he would spend every night in a place with so few drafts, and filled with the aroma of a garden below.  Grabbing an apple from nearby he savored the freshness and lack of bruises on the flesh.

Unfortunately, as an uninvited gust of the Fenshorns, Siwaldh would only have some much time to make preparations and fell the monolith.  He had chosen the manor because this enchantment required a line of sight to work.  With luck the Fenshorn family was residing in their country manor so he only had to deal with a few servants for access to the place.  No doubt the family would miss their loyal maids and butlers, but witnesses were not part of the contract from the Prince.  He needed only two days to complete his task, plenty of time to be out before the neighbors should notice anything amiss.

Siwaldh had seen the monolith from many angles since his arrival and had been able to plot the weakest point.  Research back at the guild of Enchanters, had taught him that this was one of the earliest monoliths and had never received the protection against what he was about to do.  For almost a moment his morals sparked, contemplating the ethics of his action before his mind was awash with details of the preparations.

He knocked everything to the floor from a sturdy desk and started etching into its surface some channels.  Next he poured liquids from various vials he had brought with him. While they sat he dragged over a brazier and started a fire.  It was no Invoker’s Lantern, but it would do the job.

On the second day, Siwaldh was seen leaving the front gate of the Fenshorn Manor by a passing guard.  He stopped him to ask what business he had at the estate.  Before Siwaldh could answer there was a loud cracking noise as stone buckled and sheered. The ground under the city itself shook followed by screams of panic.  Siwaldh waited for the guard to choose his next action, slowly back stepping away.  He then turned and ran, leaving the guard still dazed by what was transpiring.

Forest Walker

Forest Walker, it was never how he would refer to himself.  It was a matter of convenience for him that this is what the people of Saj-graf called him as he is uncertain as to what name he would call himself while in town. His master had always referred to him as Kit.  He always took that as a way of putting him in his place.  For a while he had gone by Eld, and then Erikahn but those days seem distant and the reasons for those names were gone.

Kit reluctantly walked the streets of Saj-graf looking for someone he did not know.  Twenty days earlier his master had a dream of a noble ghost called out for help.  The ghost was guarded by two knights, one made of wood and another unable to speak, and brought together by a third whose face was obscured.  The ghost was in need of help that the three others could not provide. Kit was puzzled by his master requiting him to investigate.  A Forest Walker had little use in the confusion of the city, best he could do was clean a well that had gone awry with taint or disease.

Out in the woods on a calm day, he could mend wounds and ailments as if it were a tailor fixing a shirt.  He needed the calm of the forest or plains, to hear the wind or water direct the flow of life’s energy.  In the city it was all disjointed, a cacophony of noise and a lack of order in the background hindered his focus.  There Kit could not tell if the life force he felt was from a passing horse or any one of the passing people hurrying by.

Kit looked around and realized he had wandered a bit further from the denser portions of the city, closer to the outer walls.  There sat an old house with many unfortunate souls sitting outside.  He heard a hum from inside something; it reminded him of the spirits outside the city, unbound to a body.  It was a pleasant hum; he could see the pull it had on those around the house.  It was as if it was nourishing or healing those around, but lacked a complete understanding of how they worked.  He gave pause to investigate, and then a small bird chirped. The hum now grated on Kit’s nerves.  He sensed a second energy beyond his ken.  Something that was feeding inside the house, but on what he couldn’t tell.  Kit made a quick retreat back to the better populated portions of the city, scared as to what that may have been and thankful to the bird’s passing.

Catching his breath and orientating himself a passing warrior caught his eye, her equipment was adorned with two trees.  Perhaps this was one of the ghost’s guards.

Interrogation

Siwaldh looked around the room.  He saw no windows, no decoration, just himself sitting at small wood table and the two women across from him. One a younger woman, with short brown hair dressed in a loose fitting shirt and pants.  Her hands and feet were hidden in worn leather and a small dagger hanging from her hips.  The second woman looked slightly older than the other.  To Siwaldh they looked related by the green tone of the eye and certain curves in the face.  The older one was lither, with longer darker hair.  The younger one he thought looked familiar, as his eyes focused he realized her as the one called Maeve.  He had failed in his contract on her so far and had a glimmer of hope this may say why.

Siwaldh couldn’t quite recall how he ended up here.  He had been walking back from a conference with Eartle in the afternoon and then was here.  He had several enchantments that they should have not been able to bypass, unless one of them was an enchanter themselves.  Yet neither looked the part nor matched descriptions of those in the higher circles.

“Maeve,” the older one said, “I believe your job pays more so, you can go first.  I do so like when we can work together.”

“Very well Cerridwen,” Maeve responded. “Siwaldh, You are a hard man to locate and track so we are holding you here till we have our information.   It has come to my employer’s attention that you are causing problems for several merchants in town.  I am, at my discretion, to find out whom you work for and what your goals are.  If you provide what I need I will release you to Cerridwen who will settle her business with you.”

“You ask for cooperation when I have no guarantee of safety from your sister.  What if she is paid to kill me, where is my motivation?”

“I will not kill you,” Cerridwen commented not masking her disinterest.

“There you have it.  So answer now or we have to step up motivation to talk.”

“Those who employ me cannot be less powerful than the ones who have hired you.  Once they find out that you have taken me captive…”

Maeve cut in, “Yes, yes I get it.”  She walked over and placed the blade of her dagger on his left thumb and nicked it.

“Point taken,” Siwaldh replied. “However I am bound by oath and enchantment to not talk and cannot talk.”

Cerridwen stood up and walked over to behind him.  She reached in amongst his hair, grabbing a tuft close to the neck and yanked.  As he creamed out, she commented, “There, I think the bond is broken.”  She dropped the pile of hairs to the floor.

“Woman, do you know the first thing about enchantments?”

“I know you should answer questions, when a young lady asks nicely.”

“I said before I cannot say that the Prince and Earlte…”

“I think you fixed his problem,” Maeve smiled.  “Go on, you were saying?”

Siwaldh was flummoxed as she had broken the enchantment.  His protection was gone and he said more than he had ever planned too.  He paused weighing his situation, then responded. “They have odd jobs for me to do.  I don’t ask for their motives as that lowers my pay.  I am here for two weeks of service than gone.  Cerridwen are you an Enchanter?”

“That is all I needed,” Maeve answered.

“I need only one thing from you Siwaldh.” Cerridwen stated. “Where do you keep your enchantments?”

Before he could stop himself, he answered, “Various places, a few on me and others hidden in the room, each a puzzle to open and each with a different puzzle to use.”

All went black for Siwaldh after he spoke.  When his vision came back in focus he stood in the middle of the street on his way back from Eartle.  He tried to recall who he talked to and it faded like a dream on waking.  As he tried to grab details they pulled back faster.

The Grousing Porcine

The Grousing Porcine is a small tavern just west of Saj-graf.  It has been handed down for three generations now and each has had the privilege of expanding the building to accommodate more people.  It was two days after the tournaments that Einden was starting to hope the crowds would ebb soon.  They had more than broken in the new tables in that time, but he did not care as he had more than made back any damages he would find.

The stories going about how a Forest Walker by the name of Arkith defeated Sir Corvus in the final were the excitement.  Following it in popularity was how Lady Kala had to bow out after Arkith had a word with her.  Einden had missed the fighting, as he was not one for a regulated fight.  Yet in the past two days he could have recreated the whole situation as the town remembered it.

“Another round here for us,” Jaspert called over to Einden. “To the rest of you I have now told you the story of the Incursion of Port Gertrude.  And if you had not all been at the fight yesterday I would entertain you with that. Yet I now need a new story, so let me tell you of the old man in Anjin Col. He lived up in a cave in the mountains east, with few trusted contacts practicing in the forbidden art…”

Eiden did not have time to listen to stories, but Jaspert did seem to have some good ones and patrons kept buying him drinks.  Eiden was waiting for someone else to show up. Crevan was to show up and give him guidance for the future.  Crevan’s advice was not cheap, but the man was accurate.  He could read your future with a few questions and a short consultation of the heavens.  He would show you the path you were on and tell you when to change.  What Eiden wanted to know was if his fortune was tied to Saj-graf or if he should sell the place and move on from here.  Ertle had given him a nice offer that he could live on the rest of his life.