How We Roll Winner
A man once approached me as I stood waiting right in front of the Pudding Shop, you know, the one that’s famous for serving those chocolate and tart puddings that melt in your mouth. They do taste so good. Should you wish to visit this shop anytime soon, it’s located in Farmtown, east of Freyweather Hill and I must emphasize upon the fact that their puddings taste marvelous in the winter season.
“Good man,” the man called out to me. “Would you happen to know where I can find the Mages’ Haven here…?”
He was a middle-aged man, well-built and he wore a brown overcoat on top of a plain shirt. His Mage Crest was visible to me as he wore it around his neck, a symbol of arrows crossed inside a circle.
“You’re a Mage…?” I asked him tipping up my wide-brimmed hat and glancing at his face.
“Yes indeed, sir. I am newly recruited and I was asked by the Head Mages to come here. Although, I am quite lost, as you can see. Would you happen to be a Mage as well…?”
“You sure got that right,” I replied straightening up and adjusting my own coat as I buttoned up the front. “My name’s Calen Vahd, Elemental Mage, First Rank.”
I flashed my best smile extending my gloved hand to the man. He took it hesitantly and shook.
“Ah. I am fairly relieved to know, sir. My name is Tounell Hal.”
“Say, Tounel, were you conveyed the message by means of a messenger falcon …?” I further asked him looking around the busy square.
“Huh…? Wha-? No…!” He answered, taking out his handkerchief and wiping the sweat from his brow. The sun was especially harsh that day.
“I got this letter, you see.” He went on as he reached inside his coat pocket and brought forth a folded purple-colored letter that he held out to me. “In here is written the address to the Mages’ Haven.”
I took the letter and unfolding it, cast one last glance at the other man before looking into the paper. I looked on, twisting the paper from one side to another. But by now, it was apparent to me that the sheet was blank.
“Is this a joke of some manner…?” I showed him the sheet.
“Ah… I forgot completely,” He slapped his forehead before taking the sheet and bringing forth his crest, held it to the paper. All of a sudden, words started appearing on the sheet, arranged neatly into sentences and paragraphs.
How in the name of… I thought.
“Magic, see…?” He half-smiled at me as he showed me the letter, now filled with words.
I took the letter and went through it thoroughly. The address was indeed written on it.
“Say, would you mind if I kept it with me…?” I asked Tounell.
He shook his head.
I quietly stuffed the letter in my own pocket as I adjusted my hat.
“Come along, I know the address.” I said before I turned around and started walking down the wide street, Tounell close behind me.
For a while, we walked quietly before I spoke.
“Tell me, have you heard the story of Victor Volent…?”
“I haven’t. Who is that…?”
“Well, just another man like you and me.”
“No, a normal man. But his story is interesting, nonetheless.”
“Do tell.” Tounell was interested, I could tell.
And so I began,
“Victor Volent was a very pleasant man, a man of many qualities, but most of all, he was a kind and loving man. He used to love a girl since his student days, Mary Euford and she loved him in return.
After graduating, they got married, as was expected and lived together in Chevenaugh, a decent bungalow by the hills.
One night, Victor walked into Mary’s room and found her crying by her bed. She held a letter in her hand
“Mary…!” Victor called as he went and knelt by her. “What’s wrong…? Why are you crying…?”
“Victor,” she replied amidst her tears, “You never told me…”
“Told you what…?”
But before she could speak out, the letter in her hands burst into flames and within moments, evil shadows with flaming eyes and sharp teeth filled the room, entering through the doorway, through the windows and through any outlet possible. These were apparitions, summoned by mages who had presently made their presence known. There were three figures, all clothed in white from head to toe and with hoods covering their faces. One of them noticed Victor and approaching him, raised its hand and flicked the index finger up.
Almost as if strings controlled him, Victor stood up and walking to the wooden chair, sat down.
The first figure then drew a dagger from underneath its robes and standing Mary up from the bed, thrust it silently into her chest. Victor watched this horrible sight but couldn’t even utter a scream or move his body for he was under this curse. A single tear crawled down his cheek as Mary dropped to the floor, dead.
“Leave him. Burn the house.” A whisper from the third figure commanded as with shuffling sounds, all three exited the room followed by their apparitions. Victor was left alone in the room with the dead body of his wife.
Shortly, Victor noticed that he could move his arms again but it was already too late. He had lost his love. There she lay, murdered by mages.
“Mary..” he whispered as he dropped onto the floor where he curled up.
The door burst open once again and this time, a figure clothed in brown entered the room with a black cloth in his hand. Lifting, Victor off the ground, he blindfolded him using the cloth and shoved him out of the room where a fire had just started to rage, having consumed half of the house already.
“It’s burning…. everything is burning…” Victor screamed for even though he couldn’t see anything, he could smell the inferno well enough.
“I know. Now shut up and keep walking if you want to live.” A raspy voice commanded.
The night passed on with the house being consumed in a raging inferno and two figures walking away from it-”
“Wait wait…!!” Tounell interrupted my story as we turned into an alleyway. “Is this the right way…?”
“It is.” I reassured him. “A shortcut to get us there quickly.”
“I am a bit worried, though,” Tounell looked around the street that we walked out into. “This looks like a pretty unsafe part of town.”
He beckoned to our right where, upon turning my head, I saw a lone man hard at work. He had a spade in his hand and he was digging a hole in the muddy ground where a substantial amount of the pavement was broken.
“Oi Heath…!” I called out. “How’s the hole coming up…?”
The man turned around and smiled, a toothless smile.
“Nicely,” he chittered back in a strange voice that sounded like he had a bad throat. “Just getting it finished, hopefully in time.”
“Good. Keep at it.” I shouted back with a wave of my hand.
We turned to the right and continued walking.
“Why was he digging a hole…?” Tounell asked me as he once again wiped the sweat from his brow. He was becoming uncomfortable.
“Relax, since we don’t have much surplus space in this town, we bury our waste under the pavement.” I answered him calmly, further tapping the pavement with my foot to show that it too was shaking.
“So, you mean the whole pavement is a giant lid for a waste pit…?”
“If… you’d like to put it that way.” I was amused.
“Strange town. But please continue with the story.
“Alright. So where was I… Ah. Victor’s saviour, right.
Victor woke up the next morning, having survived the previous night thanks to the man who now stood over him.
“Good morning, son.” the old man muttered, for he was old enough to be Victor’s father. “Slept well…?”
“I have to go.” Victor threw off the blankets and sitting up, started reaching for his boots.
“Woah woah…!! Easy there, son. Whatever has you in a hurry. Your house got burnt down, remember…?”
“I am going for those witches…”
“Mages… and do you know where to find them…?”
“I’ll figure it out.”
“I’ll go back to the house.”
“And do you know which way to go…?”
Victor stopped all of a sudden. He had been blindfolded when he was brought here.
“Take it easy. I know where to find them.” The old man put a hand on Victor’s shoulder. “Rest now, you’ve been through an ordeal.”
“I don’t want to rest. Take me to them… NOW…!”
“And how exactly will you kill them…?”
“I DON’T KNOW…!!” Victor broke down as he burst into tears. “Oh… Mary…”
“Listen, boy. I hate those mages as much as you do. Infact, I’ve been after them since I was half your age. They destroyed my family and I’ve been on them ever since. If you want, I’ll go with you, but not today. Today’s a full moon and mages are at their strongest today. We’ll go tomorrow. How about it…?”
Victor raised his head, vengeance in his eyes.
“I’ll take that as a yes. Now, knowing’s half the battle so…”
The old man walked up to the bookshelf and pulled out a book from the shelf and tossed it over to Victor who caught it.
That night, Victor went through the book absorbing as much knowledge as he could on Mages and their various spells and even though half the content seemed like gibberish to him, he did figure out some of it.
Unable to process anything more, Victor walked out into the backyard where he found the old man digging a hole. He further noticed that the backyard was littered with mud mounds where the ground had been filled up previously.
“Don’t ask kid, ‘cuz I won’t tell.” the old man replied as he worked without pause. “Go to sleep. Gotta wake up early tomorrow.”
“So… what was the old man’s name…?” Tounell asked as they stopped at an abandoned square.
“I don’t know.” I replied. “Doesn’t say.”
“It’s a scary story, I’ll give it that much.” Tounell shivered as he adjusted his overcoat.
The weather had turned dull. Dark clouds had covered the skies and hidden the sun from sight and the wind was beginning to pick up. Not a soul lingered in sight.
“How much more to the Mages’ Haven…?” Tounell asked.
“According to the address, it should be right around that corner.” I pointed two blocks away. “And we don’t have much of the story left.”
“Alright. Let’s finish it, shall we…?”
“Very well then.”
“The following day, Victor and the old man arrived in Farmtown…”
“Wait a minute, here…?” Tounell looked at me, his eyes widened in surprise.
“They headed straight for the Mages’ Haven which was a highrise building easily consisting of 20 or 30 storeys.
“That’s an illusion, Victor.” The old man cautioned. “Don’t be fooled by it.”
“I see the edges. They are shimmering. Nothing of that size exists in Farmtown.”
“Very good. Now keep in mind. Don’t lose yourself if you see the mages. Their spells are dangerous and need to be broken before they can be countered.”
“You leave that to me.” Victor answered drawing his dagger, it’s blade built of Orichalcum, one of the three earthly materials that ward off magical effects and spells.
They walked into the massive building and upon entrance, found themselves in a courtyard with a single water fountain at its center. All around them were solid walls, they were trapped.
“Curses…!!” Victor kicked the wall as frustration took the best of him.
“Easy, boy. No illusion is without a flaw. A tell.” The old man looked around patiently. “Listen.”
Victor was puzzled. But after a while, he quieted down and listened.
The fountain, although there was nothing peculiar about its appearance, it was a peculiarity in its complete existence. A fountain, while visually is a simple structure that channels water through it such that it sprinkles out in beautiful forms, has one more dimension to it. The sound.
A fountain emits a sweet sound whereas here, one would find that the sound of flowing water was continuously fluctuating in its intensity such as a structure never does, and so it was clear that the fountain was-
“An illusion.” Victor concluded successfully as he stood up from his position and walked straight into the fountain, disappearing. The old man followed shortly.
They now found themselves in a massive hall.
“Watch out.” The old man said as he drew forth his crossbow from the satchel that he carried.
The hall was mostly plain apart from the gold columns that lined both sides and the dome shaped ceiling which was lined with gold and silver trimmings. The floor had a beautiful polished marble look with art on it that kept shifting and changing continuously.
Before the two could take one step, the old man was suddenly surrounded by three white figures, the very same ones that had appeared at Victor’s house that night. The figures grabbed the old man by his shoulder and dragged him into the ground with them leaving behind only his crossbow.
“Hey…!” Victor stood alone now.
“You…” a voice from the other end of the hall caused Victor to turn around once more.
There, at the other end stood a solitary figure in black, her hood did not cover her face-”
“Calen…!” A voice that I was all too familiar with interrupted my story and caused Tounell to look behind me.
We had finally arrived at the spot that I had shown Tounell to, the story here on out was his to tell.
And he was here.
He walked out from under the shadows, dressed all in black, with a black coat buttoned all the way up covering his body and a satchel slung across his chest, this man was famously known as the, the Ghost of Farmtown, The Chevenaugh Count and most famously, The Mage Hunter.
“Mage…” his voice boomed out across the empty street resounding around the square.
I backed away from my spot as Tounell looked at me, an asking look, asking for help.
“Who… are… you…?” Tounell was literally shivering in his coat, so much that he even dropped his ‘kerchief.
“Weren’t you paying attention…” the man walked out into the light. “... to the story…?”
Tounell’s eyes widened in horror.
“Let me finish it for you.” the man grinned. “Listen well.”
“Her hood was drawn back and she stood there, all alone, her face, unmarred, her look, as dead as the flowers that now lie charred at Chevenaugh. My young wife. Oh, so sweet, just as I had seen her on the very first day of our meeting.
“Mary…” I had said. “You… you…”
“Died…?” She said what I couldn’t. “Yes. The day you decided to hide from me that you were from a family of Mage Hunters.”
“I didn’t know you were a Mage.” I had replied helplessly.
“Would you have hated me had you known…?” She pushed on.
“Never…!!! I loved you.”
“I didn’t. The day my Mages found out that your family was against us, I, as a Master couldn’t bear it.”
“How did you know…?”
“I have been keeping an eye on your family since the day I met you.”
“But why…? Did you not trust me…?”
“I didn’t trust anybody.”
“Then why marry me…?”
“Because I was waiting for this very day.”
And then with that fell swoop of her arm, figures flew out from behind each of those massive columns and floated in the air before me. Bodies. My father, my mother, they were all there.
I was angry. Oh I was very very angry.
So tell me, Tounell. Who am I…?”
Tounell was on his knees, begging for mercy. He was muttering something that I couldn’t hear.
“S… Spare me, sir.”
“Who. Am. I…?”
Within the blink of an eye, an arrow had whizzed through the air and lodged itself in Tounell’s left foot.
His scream rent the air but there was no one who would hear it.
He collapsed on the spot while clutching at the shaft sticking out of his left foot.
“The… the building…” he wheezed as he raised his shaking arm to point at the highrise building that I knew towered behind me. He then looked at me, tears in his eyes.
His lips shook as he formed the words… “Help me…”
I averted my eyes as Victor walked over to him.
“As for the old man, he did survive, but he was driven mad by your kind. You wanted to know his name, right…?”
“HEATH…!!” Victor called out.
Out of the shadows hobbled the toothless old man whom we had seen digging the hole at the square.
“Yes sir…!” He replied with a crazy look on his face, drooling at his mouth.
“One more for your hole.” Victor swept his hand at Tounell.
Heath broke out into a mad cackle as he grabbed the crying and pleading Tounell by his left leg and turning him around, dragged him into the dark alleyway where after a moment, both the cackling and the pleading died out.
“The letter,” Victor walked over to me with his hand held out. I placed the blank letter in it and Victor held up Tounell’s crest to it. Once again, the words appeared out of nowhere.
Victor held the sheet up to his nose and smelled it quite a few times, testing it. Then he looked closely at the crest.
“The words have been written with liquified lodestone, the kind that can only be found near Brukesfort. This is volcanic, rare and strange. The only two volcanos in our region are at Brukesfort and Verringham. We’ve cleared out Verringham so Brukesfort is where we’ll find the answer to all our questions.” Victor explained.
He then tossed the crest to me but before I could catch it, it dropped and strangely enough, whizzed through the air and stuck itself to my iron bootstraps. I pried it off and looked closely at it.
“A magnet…?” I enquired but Victor was busy reading the letter.
“Tounell was a loose end. I wonder what he’d done to deserve this false trail. The Mages know that Farmtown had been taken, yet they led him here.”
“To be hunted.” I continued. “Disgusting.”
“Loose your pity, boy.” Victor warned me with a pat on my shoulder as he walked by.
“And what about you…? Do you have none…?” The question I had been dying to ask. It finally escaped my lips.
Victor paused for a while before turning his head to look at me.
“I killed the only woman I ever loved. Isn’t that enough…?”
He walked away while I stood alone, listening to the howling wind.