Week 12, We're off to see the Black Mage
We left our heroes to eke out a living in Marchford. Wu seeks out the local branch of the magic guild and applies for membership. They are dismayed and appalled at this apparently self-trained magician of considerable power -- late apprentice level or early journeyman -- with little or no discipline. They are very fussy about schools of magic, you see, and Wu's spells, coming from a different universe, don't fit into their schools at all. It looks as if he will have to be a polymath, though they want him to major in fire magic.
The fact that he does magical healing is just another complication; that's supposed to be the province of clerics, who insist it comes from the gods and isn't really magic. The guilds don't believe that, but they tend to leave magical healing alone. But Wu...
Wu sets up as an irreligious healer, thus supporting himself while taking lessons in spells and the Mage's Tongue. Meanwhile, Lorelei hires out as a bodyguard. She uses throwing knives and karate. These are not common in Marchford, so even though she isn't much at fisticuffs or the sword, she manages to impress first the local guard (who must license her) and then a fashionable young lady and her male bodyguard. Lorelei gets a job, plus sword lessons from the male bodyguard and some second-hand dresses from the lady herself, who likes her underlings to look smart.
Christopher, meanwhile, applies to the magic guild for a little instruction in divination, since the Golden Archmage told him that his Dicing talent would be handy that way. The guild is mightily bemused by Dicing, which they've never seen, and teach Chris the local version of mind-reading. Chris was able to do this back home, and so picks it up readily here.
The rest of us continue with our jobs as described previously. Eventually, we spend thirteen weeks in Marchford. By that time, we feel we have gathered as much preparation as Marchford has to offer. We therefore head south, hoping to find the Black Mage, who seems our best hope of getting back to the pantope and/or recovering our goods from Gorlach. Cantrel meets us a few days' march from the city, riding his pegasus, with its mare and two yearlings flying behind. (Alag starts to make friends with one of the yearlings, which makes Cantrel jealous.)
Ten days' travel from Marchford, we are already at the southern side of the Hremish empire. We come to a walled city and find Hremish is no longer the dominant language. The guards at the gate, Hremish soldiers, speak it, but the locals prefer Lapidian. The guards tells us this city is Shadazar. It isn't far from the tourney we attended some weeks back, so Tom asks the guards if there are any high-quality fighters in town. The guards first determine that Tom & Co. want to take these dangerous people (and themselves) OUT of town and further south to the Wild Winds. They then admit that there are some tourney-bums still in town.
The guards also tells us that West Chyoxus, part of the Old Lapidian Empire that lies between here and the Wild Winds, is now in the throws of a dynastic struggle. One Prince Shurban of the Assurid dynasty is battling for the throne. How exciting.
We enter town (except for Cantrel, who stays outside with the pegasi), and look up the Nubian's Arm, a tavern frequented by warriors. Just like in a western, everyone falls silent when we enter. We comport ourselves peaceably, and Tom asks the barkeep if he has seen any cat-like warriors in the area. (We saw a samurai-cat sigil on the walls near the gate.) Yes, but he moved on some time ago. We inquire about fighting talent looking for hire and explain that we are organizing a free-lance Adventure. Our best bet would be to advertise through the town crier.
We do this and eventually acquire two respectable fighters: Hogan the Grim and Beygar the Stick, a swordsman and a quarterstaff & baton man, respectively. They meet with Cantrel outside the city and audition. They're pretty good. But Hogan is not popular in the south and won't travel that way with us.
Meanwhile, we would also like some magicians. (This is a Sword & Sorcery setting, after all, and we need to address both sides of the genre.) Accordingly, Wu and Tom go to the local magic guild. But magicians aren't generally interested in long-term speculative ventures like random Adventures south, much less longer-term ones like taking on a wizard-king single-handed. But we do linger in Shadazar for three weeks, while Wu learns the Spell of Tongues from the local guild.
So Hogan won't go south and no local magicians are interested in our prospects. We shrug, make arrangements to meet Hogan and Beygar in these parts in a couple of months, and head for a coastal road into West Chyoxus. We have heard there is a well-known bandit gang haunting that road. We need money and the good graces of the local authorities. Knocking the gang off sounds like a good way of getting both.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.