Phantasmagoria - Chapter 21
The snap of a branch beneath his feet sounded as loud as the town bell in his ears. Kelloran froze and listened. The last thing he needed now was some hostile company. He had managed to avoid the goblins and those creatures infected with Troth’s ire so far. Long moments passed and when nothing moved among the boulders and trees, he let out the breath he had been holding. For the fiftieth time he thought about how much safer this trek would have been with someone at his side. Even so the security it might offer did not out-weigh the fact this was something he wanted to do on his own. The desire to learn the fate of the shaman Krenowan felt like his own responsibility. The visions witnessed in Chells’ scry pool seemed proof of that as well. Each had showed him on these slopes unaccompanied.
There was also his decision about his newly chosen path to consider and this was something he needed some time alone to reflect on. He had been given a none too gentle shove by the Divine to leave the templars and the offer from the Mage’s Guild was too timely to be much of a coincidence. Still he had been a servant of the Gods for his whole adult life. It was a fairly intimidating leap he was about to make from Restorer to a Corpse Mage. He had always known that his desire to understand the nature of magic was more than just an idle curiosity. He had also felt for some time that the road of the faithful no longer fit as well as it had in his youth. So his thoughts over these last few days had contained as much contemplation about the shaman’s fortune as it had about his own future. Somehow his quest to find Krenowan and his resolve to become a wizard had become intertwined in his head.
He began to move once more but the deer trail he had been following was getting fainter by the minute. Soon it would be dark and rather than gain another quarter mile or so Kelloran realized he’d be better off finding a comfortable and safe spot for the night. This high up on Black Mountain it was relatively easy to find a sheltered hollow to block any light from a fire. The nights were warm enough now too that it wouldn’t need to be very big anyway. Before the first star was out Kelloran was reclining on his bedroll, comfortably full from his meal. The embers of his cook-fire crackled lightly beside him.
His body was tired from a long day of skulking through the forests. Too bad his mind was still wide awake. Staring up at the night sky the man thought back to those first days of spring. Stone had been gone virtually every day fighting the pools of divine bile that spawned the RageBound creatures. Thomas had been looking for an alchemical method to destroy the red mold. Chells and he had taken turns healing those wounded from the dwindling number of attacks the town had suffered.
Then a week came, just as the days started to warm, that Chells arrived to the commons for his shift in a foul mood. Kelloran questioned the Believer as to what was troubling him but his friend was either deliberately vague or just would outright not not talk about it. The next day he was much the same and so the day after that. Determined to uncover the source of Chells’ ill-temper, Kelloran decided to tackle the problem head on. As soon as he saw movement in the WhiteStone he headed straight for the graveyard. One way or another he would see what he could do to help Chells with whatever problem was vexing him so.
As he reached the gap in the wall he saw it was not Chells but a young boy who was moving around the boneyard. The youth was named Equue and like Kelloran had been approached by the Mage’s Guild. He was one of a number of children who was being fostered in FallenStar now that the surrounding farms faced the threat of the RageBound. Four of these children had entered in apprenticeships with the heroes of the town. One, a young girl named Dayo now was soon to begin working for him in the traders shop. Tor, a young squire, had started his tutelage with Thomas in the apothecary. Raith had accepted responsibility for a young maid named Ravenheart who would help out with the tavern. Equue was cleaning up the fallen branches and old candle stubs from the cemetery but when he saw Kelloran turn and head for Chells door he spoke up.
“I would do that if I were you, sir.”
“Morning Equue. What make’s you say that?”
“He’s been swearing in there all morning again. I got here before most anyone else was up yet and he was at his divination well already. That means he was probably at it all night. I’m not sure why he doesn’t just give up. If it hasn’t showed him what he is looking for by now I don’t think it ever is going to.”
“Thanks for the warning. Still I think this has gone on far enough.” With that Kelloran rapped on Chells door and let himself in. Sure enough, there was the Believer sitting cross-legged on the floor staring into a rippling basin of water. “So what is bit of lore is eluding you so thoroughly that you have been a growling curmudgeon for the past few days?”
Chells started. His eyes darted to the notes strewn on the floor about him. His expression became so crestfallen that Kelloran felt suddenly a bit guilty about his surprise visit. Then he noted a word repeated across the scraps of parchment. Krenowan. Kelloran still felt the wound of that encounter but he had come to accept that what they had allowed to befall the shaman was necessary. Between the rise of the RageBound, the Wildfire battle last year and the signs from the Divine as to his future as a templar he had not had the chance yet to focus on the what became of the shaman. To find that Chells had obviously been working on the issue for sometime now without him rekindled his annoyance with his friend. “Why didn’t you tell me you were working on this?”
“I was hoping to bring you the story and hopefully some solutions to making it right. I know I could have acted better when Krenowan died. I was so wrapped up protecting the future that I really didn’t take your feeling into consideration enough. This was to be a way to make it up to you.”
“It’s okay Chells, I get it now. I got it then too. I just hated it. I still do.”
“I know. That is why I wanted so badly to find out where the shaman lies and find out what has been happening with him these last fifty years. I thought it might amend some..”
“I get it.” Kelloran interrupted. He understood the believer’s reasoning. Still he would be more comfortable discussing the facts that the motives. “So why are you having so much difficulty? It seems like it should be a pretty simple question to divine the answer to.”
“It should be but I am being blocked. Remember when I asked Qpalg to show us what would have happened if we had not been in the past?”
“Well we paid for it with the gems and incense in part. The other part was the deal that Qpalg could have either Pazutheok or us, which ever one lost.”
“Yeah I remember that.”
“Turns out that is not all Qpalg considered part of the bargain. Since He showed me Krenowan’s death, He considers that death His due as well. So while I can look at anything event prior to that moment at the altar, any time I try to see anything about us or Krenowan after that the water turns black and shows me nothing. I can scry on us again after we return to the present but anything about Krenowan after the altar is hidden from me as well.”
“Does that mean we cannot help him?”
“Actually it means I cannot help him. The deal was with me. I am pretty sure you have no such boundaries. I have learned a couple things. One is that I see you leaving here is a couple weeks. You are leaving to find him. I also see you returning. You look pretty content so I can assume you will succeed in some sense. I have had to be very careful on my divinations. If Krenowan becomes part of the vision it fades to black but even those black outs can be telling.”
“Wait one sec. There is something else I have learned which was not a problem because it involved the time before we were in the past.”
“What is it?”
“Krenowan did not belong in that time either.”
“How could that be? If he was from our time…”
“No he was not from after that time. He was from before it. It seems the TellTaler screwed him too. The Telltaler sought something in Krenowan’s time. It’s definitely older than 50 years ago. I get the feeling it is shortly after the fall of the Great School . Before the Necromancer consolidated his hold on the world. There are a lot of folks fleeing from his hordes. Krenowan helped a lot of them escape into the mountains. The people who lived on the high peaks practiced shamanism which the Great School considered folk magic.”
“How does it work?”
“Shamans bond themselves to some aspect of power and share their magic with that source. Goblin shamans use the might of Arboleth. There are dream shamans that are hooked into N”Mishka. Krenowan was I guess what you would call a nature shaman. He drew and gave power to the land.”
“How is that different from druidism?”
“Druids can draw a steady flow of magic from nature. With it they can cast about 20-25 spells per day. They can shape two spells at a time and then they need to recharge. Shamans have that same ability to draw magic from nature but they in turn give half of it back to the land so they can only cast about a dozen spells per day.”
“That might explain why we don’t see shaman’s much any more. Druidic magic sound a lot more effective.”
“Yeah except that shamans can shape all twelve of those spells at once. Makes them pretty damn powerful in a fight.”
“They can cast twelve spells at once?”
“Yup. Also remember all those talismans Krenowan had?”
“Well those were hung spells. Krenowan’s style of magic was that his spells took quite a bit of time to cast, anywhere from several minutes to a couple hours depending on the enchantment but he could blow as many of those as he had ready. That is how he was able to wade through all those cultists and Pazutheok in the original past. Also why he might then have fallen to that last band which was big but not that big. . He must have used up all his protections and unlike us once his spells were gone he had no way to recharge them without stopping and fashioning more fetishes.”
“So why was he there fifty years ago?”
“That brings me to my next round of cursing. I don’t know. The Telltaler as usually has muddied things up so much I cannot see what he did that got Krenowan shove forward in time. I do know was a different archeo-locus that caught him that the one that threw us back. By the time that we arrived he had spent a long time trying to get back to his own time. Most likely years. What the TellTaler sought from Krenowan’s time or from fifty years ago is your guess is as good as mine.”
“Well just because you can't scry it out, doesn't mean it won't work for me. Why don’t you power the pool and let me steer?”
“I think that might work in practice but this time we are up against a God’s will. I doubt that Qpalg is going to be that easily fooled.”
“We won’t know until we try. Anyway, I don't know if He would consider himself fooled, just that it wasn't part of the agreement. Especially since what He considers part of the deal wasn't explicitly expressed in the first place. We have just as much reason to want to argue that case.”
The next few hours were surprising and quite entertaining for Kelloran. Chells was not nearly so amused. Mysteries he was excluded from irked the gravetender to no end. Chells could indeed give control over the path of the divination to him, but not only could the believer not see anything in the pool, Kelloran found out that if he related what he was seeing the pool darkened to imperceptibility as well. If he described the vision to Chells once it concluded,the scry well remained black for quite sometime afterward for both of them. So whatever could be learned from the divinations was obviously for Kelloran alone. Chells grumbled as he lay back recovering his magic. He knew he could bend the rules and believe his way past Qpalg’s edict. Even though Kelloran was pretty sure his time as a templar was currently over, he knew such a course would very likely piss off an ancient and very severe God. So did Chells.