The last of the requirements burns about his ear-tips. He needs
a familiar to be accepted as an apprentice. He can do
everything else. But, until he has that familiar in hand, he
cannot even put his name on the roles. He needs that
Angel-fire-consuming familiar. He is better than the “real”
apprentices. They bring tiny creatures with a fraction of their
lifespans – some will not live out their apprenticeships. There
has to be a better familiar. There just has to be. If he can
find it and bring it back, he would get the coveted spot, which
he deserves, as Master Starbreak’s apprentice. Then he can use
Starbreak as his professional linage, and then earn the title,
“ama’ji”, to be added to the middle of his name. He rolls his
name with the embedded title around his tongue and enjoys the
sound of it.
There is a problem. To get a worthwhile familiar, he needs to
travel outside the Knight’s lands. While usually safe, there
exists an unsettling propensity for travelers to suffer from
random fauna attacks. He needs muscle to fend off the dangerous
and unwanted while bonding with his familiar.
“Edward,” Rafferty speaks the words which have cost him so much
“I. Need. … Help.” Explanations and requests for
assistance are for lesser practitioners. But here he is
without the final necessary ingredient, and the last hour sands
are trickling away. He swallows. He has come this far, he has
committed too much to be stopped by this last minute
requirement. He presses on, "In order to become an apprentice,
I need a familiar."
Squire Edward Rolland, the bastard son of a landless knight,
nods once as he leans on the mucking broom. In the morning, his
gang of misfits will set off on his latest of their grand
adventure: to find a familiar for Rafferty. Surely this far
from the Capital, there should be something of interest. "Wait
here." And, he slips out of the stables.
The Back of the Residences Over The Outrageous Angel Inn.
One of the sets opens and Kaelo, the daughter of the wealthy
tavern owner, appears. Annoyance is plain upon her face which
quickly changes to a warm smile. "Good evening, Squire Edward.
What brings you to my window on a fair spring night?"
Edward swallows. Even at this distance her presence threatens
to overwhelm his tongue. “I’m….” He mentally kicks himself
for using the vocal tones from the capital. He drags back his
hard won village drawl, "I am going out with a hunting party
tomorrow. Will you be our scout?"
She studies him for a moment. Perhaps a hint of disappointment
plays about the corners of her mouth. "Very well. An hour
before dawn?" and closes the shutters.
A Hollow in the Endless Sea of Grass
Beyond the edge of the Knight’s lands, The Road abruptly turns
to dirt and mud and ugly sliding ruts. The grasses grow beyond
the vertical reach of men. Insects buzz and humm in the wind
ruffled mass of grass. The winter dry stalks rustle and rattle.
Anything can hide a few feet beyond the twisted, warped, and
Smoke clings to a roadside hollow even as the stilted breeze
waves the ten-foot-tall grasses. Eight smoking husks of caravan
wagons, once in a semi-circle, are either on their sides or
with twist iron wheel rings spinning in the air. Smoldering,
broken crates of rotting meat untouched by flies lay scattered
upon the ground. Molten chains cling to scorched skeletons -
some human but most monstrous. And metal cages – bent, broken,
smashed, and wrenched open – protrude half-buried out of the
Between the wagons and the fire pit, smoking hunks of meat wear
smoldering skins of armor.
In the grasses, insects buzz, but within the smokey hollow,
silence reins, except for the mewling of a sole survivor – a
Kaelo approaches the hollow and freezes. She surveys the scene.
Gestures to the Squire and the slips into the grasses
surrounding the hollow.
Squire Edward and his body servant, Magnes, walk upon the
scene. A certain sense of excitement builds within Edward — he
is far enough away from the capital for something to happen!
Rafferty follows the cries, and Apolonis rushes to check on the
A few years younger than Edward, Magnes, takes in the sight and
upon seeing something becomes shaken.
Edward is about to call them back — those who attacked the
caravan might be hiding in the thick, tall grasses waiting to
attack the unwary. At least the two guards from the Wizard’s
College went with Rafferty.
“Master,” Magnes says in a revere-the-dead whisper. "You can’t
drag those unaccustomed to war into potential dangers such as
these. Especially a lady. If her mother were to declare her
death your fault, she might accomplish that which not even your
father can — force a noble-born out of the nobility."
Squire Edward Rolland looks about the hollow, and it is a bit
too easy to see Kaelo, with her blond hair charred black,
laying upon the ground, and smoldering, but he holds his
Nothing disturbs the grasses about the hollow’s edges.
Edward studies Magnes for a moment; his man has never spoken
As a man not allowed to carry weapons, Magnes has always been
cautious even as he enjoys these outings, and he even praises
the adventure Kaelo would bring into Edward’s life. Through it
all, Magnes never shows any political awareness, and now this.
Following the cries, Rafferty finds the crying child – not a
child in the elven sense but mostly in a troll sense.
Beneath a partially overturn wagon, the reddish brown child
cries in pain as it is bruised and battered, chained and caged,
with swollen lumps upon its back, and sear markings from heated
cage iron on its flesh. It shivers and whines as it curls into
a fetal ball inside the ruins of its cage. The troll child
looks up at him, fear widens its eyes. It whimpers as it
struggles to hide deeper within the cage and under the
partially-overturn wagon. It cries out in pain and surrenders
to the inevitable.
Rafferty bends down to look more closely at the trollish child.
And for some reason the thought, "No one else will have a
troll for a familiar," springs to mind. "They live like
400 years in the wild. I would only need one."
And it sure looks like it is begging for help.
“Do ya thin’ we woul’ fin’ mandra’e roo’ ou’ here?” Caspin asks
“No, ya bloody idiot,” Sparis snaps back. "There ain’t any
blood spilt here. No blood, no mandrake. ’Tis that simple."
“Pity. Ain’ any carro’s either. Say, is tha’ a troll?”
“Course it’s a troll.”
“I though’ they were green, on a coun’ the elf’s bloo’ being
“Elven blood ain’t green!”
“Oh. My mis’a’. Sorry, Raffer’y.” Caspin hangs his head and
shuffles a bit to the side.
Sparis stares up at the sky and utters an oath ("By the
castrated balls of the Angels!"). Then he walks over to Caspin,
Caspin shakes his head, “I don’ know these things.”
“Rafferty,” Squire Edward says. "What are you thinking? Do you
want the troll? If you want him, I will pull him out for you."
Rafferty glances at Edward, and waves him back a bit. "I am
going to try something," and reaches to open the cage.
While opening the cage, Rafferty begins to form the spell
needed to bind the troll-child to him in his mind. How hard can
it be? Other, less talented nacent wizards have done it, and
certainly something with hands that can walk upright is more
useful than a bird or cat. They will see and understand that he
deserves the apprenticeship with Master Starbreak.
Apolonis kneels beside one of the smoking chunks of meat
wrapped within smoldering armor. He stares at the missing
features of what should have been its face. Beneath the
warped-metal helm, he finds traces of black hair. He sits back
on his heels, pulls around his satchel, and pulls the incense,
the brazier, and the blessed oil. He chants the prayer of the
dead as he dampens his fingers in the blessed oil. He touches
the charcoal forehead.
The oil ripples, shimmers, and spreads across the forehead.
Apolonis stares at the oil. “That has never happened before.”
Taking his time, Rafferty begins to cast the spell that will
bind his chosen familiar to him.
The ancient symbols of power drift over his tongue and etch the
air between him and the troll. To his eyes, they glitter like
jewels strung on a cord from his heart to the beastís heart.
And then pain washes back through the strung runes. Anger.
Spells upon spells to diminish, cripple, and prevent press down
upon his familiar. The troll child cannot heal the damage done
to it and is made less than what it is.
Even through the pain and spells, there is a keen intelligence.
“Are you going to hurt me?” asked not as a question but
as a gauge of planned intent. In its memories, all it knows is
the cage, the spells, the cutting, the pain, and being kept
from healing. All creatures on the outside of the cage want to
Kaelo slips through the wild grasses until she comes upon a
At first glance the trail looks old, as the deep human foot
prints look as if they were formed in the mud from the autumn
rains, and they are deep enough to hold a hint of late winter
frost in their shadows.
She carefully steps into the path.
Now Kaelo sees that the path only runs about twenty feet. It
connects to the hollow and the smoldering wagons and to a
sword-edge straight line of ice clinging to the untrammeled
grasses and across the trail of trampled stalks. Glittering
icicles form a porticullis shutting out the rest of the
Endless Sea of Grass from the trail.
With her feet upon the trail, she sees that the barefoot prints
are thrice as long as her foot and thrice as wide. All of the
gigantic footprints running away from the hollow vanish at the
line of frost etched into the ground. It almost seems that the
line of frost chopped away the remaining footprints.
From here, she sees that all of the wagons are scattered away
from this path. And then a jet of black flame within the hollow
reaches for the sky.
Apolonis screams as black flames erupt from the corpse before
him. He tumbles backwards to get away from the unnatural fire.
Wide-eyed he stares around the clearing. To him it seems that
the other bodies are smoking more. He spins around looking for
something, and finally settles for up. "Solas is about to reach
his zenith!" he shouts. "He will burn all that is evil! Get
away from this place! Get away!" He scrambles to run for The
“Rafferty,” Edward says watching the jet of black flame. "I
think you better hurry up strange things are happening. You
might want to get him out the cage and get clear of the
Across the glittering jewels connecting him to this strange
elf, Theodrax senses scolls, books, magic, and knowledge
scattered as if upon a great floor. Large raging tornadoes of
knowledge and thought whirl through, gathering up things
needed, and flinging off what isnít. And through that whipping
of knowledge, Theodrax feels the rising tide of a massive
external spell. One last thing the orb of light had cast over
the whole of the caravan ñ a complex binding of fire and sun
and things not yet identified by the swirling collections of
Theodrax tries to drag himself out of the cage. He looks at
Rafferty, clearly puzzled — not hostile; puzzled. “Why would
you want my pain?” The black flames coming from the other side
of the wagon make him start, and he redoubles his efforts to
escape the shattered cage.
Rafferty finally notices the flames encroaching, reaches to
As Theodrax reaches the door to the cage, he is pulled up short
by the chain attached to his collar. Following the chain, the
three of you can see it is attached to a thick ring embedded
into one of the timbers of the wagon’s bed. Runes engraved into
the collar begin to glow as thick, black smoke begins billowing
off the wagon. Another body on the other side of the wagon
vanishes in a jet of black flame. Twelve bodies left with two
of them visibly smoking.
Edward grabs an ax and runs to the wagon and begins to chop
the ring from the wagon. "Pull the chain as I cut it loose from
the wagon!" He yells. "Use a piece of leather to grab the chain
Rafferty looks about for something to grasp the chain with …
gives up and wraps his hands in his cloak, pulling hard on the
With a thunderous roar, a cask laying twenty feet from them
erupts with black flame, creates a shallow pit in the ground,
and showers them with small rocks and clods of dirt. Loose
dirt follows, and dust drifts down over them.
A death glyph on the axe that Edward grabbed begins to glow.
Kaelo circles around the flames. Seeing Rafferty and Edward
engaged in insanity, Kaelo makes sure Apolonis is free of the
Kaelo finds Apolonis upon the road staring back at the wagons.
He is huddled in a fetal mass and mutters, "Get away. Get away
from the Night Caravan. Get away…" over and over again.
When something on the far side of the wagons explodes, he
screams and cowers further under his cloak.
From around them, Kaelo hears panicked scratching in the dirt.
Probably some creatures’ nest was disturbed by the latest
racket, and the inhabitants are digging their way up and away
from the loud, ground-shaking noise.
Kaelo grabs Apolonis and shakes him violently. "Company’s
coming, and I can’t drag you out of here. You’re right; we need
to get out of here. Away from the caravan and away from
whatever doesn’t like the noise. GET UP!!!"
Turning towards the rest of the party, she shouts "We’ve got
something coming out to play! I don’t think it’s going to be
As Rafferty pulls the chain. Ewards starts in with the ax.
The ax bites into the thick beams of the wagon as the ax handle
heats up. Edward keeps hitting with the ax until either chain
comes loose or the ax explodes. On the fourth swing, the ring
comes free of the smoking wagon.
Rafferty tumbles backwards, and the troll scampers free of the
cage. And, the troll keeps scampering dragging the chain until
he is in the grass. Once the troll reaches cover, the chain
“Raffer’y,” Caspin says as he readies his staff. "We ha’e
’rouble. All the ’eath runes are going off."
Scratching sounds come from the ground around the clearing.
Lots of scratching sounds.
Another cask vanishes into black flame and showers everyone in
the clearing with dirt and pebbles.
Sparis yanks Rafferty to his feet. "Leave the troll. We need to
get out of here!"
Somewhere on the other side of the wagon, Magnes, Squire
Edward’s body servant, yells, "They are everywhere! Master!
“We are not leaving without the troll! We cannot…. I have my
familiar now," Rafferty says. "Besides, I think it is too late
… something is coming. Get ready." Rafferty pulls free and
dusts himself off. "Come out of the grass. None of these people
will hurt you."
“Maybe not… but I do not want to get any nearer to the fire,
or whatever that ‘something’ which you say is coming."
Rafferty winces. "I don’t think the grass will be safe much
Theodrax stands up briefly, to get a look around. "Safer than
that clearing with the exploding casks… where do YOU think is
“In this world?” Rafferty asks. "Saftey is found with friends
to guard your back."
Theodrax edges a little further forward, so he can see better.
“And if you do not HAVE friends to guard your back?”
Something bites into the back of Theodrax’s leg. He feels some
ooze being injected into his calf muscle causing it to cramp
painfully (-1 BOD / -1 STUN; -1 DEX). He doesnít see what got
his leg among the tall standing grasses and the matted grassy
ground cover left from the winter.
Rafferty flinches as feels the pain spark back through the bond
Theodrax lashes out at whatever bit him, then scrambles out of
“Make some… or accept the ones offered.”
“You might have mentioned what was in the grass. What kind of
friend plays a trick like that?"
“If I had known, I would have told you, but you have to admit,
the grass makes it harder to see what is coming…"
Theodrax curls his lip and grudgingly admits, "It does. But
that does not preclude saying ’I think there is something
hiding in the grass,’ rather than ‘the grass may be dangerous.’"
“Well, I suppose in the years to come we will have plenty of
time for semantic games, you and I, but for now keep an eye out
for further danger, as will we all."
Theodrax snorts, and hisses through his teeth, "’Years to come’?
Years??? I will be leaving just as soon as all this is over."
And he keeps a wary eye out on the grass.
The winter dry grass stalks rattle against each other as
shadows flirt among the fallen grasses.
Raffertyís eyes flash, “Stay or go… the bond is in place.”
“I go where I please. THAT for your bond.” He claps his hands
“Go where you please… but The Bond will always call you.”
Theodrax gives a high, throaty chuckle. "The ‘bond’ will call
me? One might as well say the wind will call me ó and give it
as much credence."
Rafferty smirks, “You feel it even now… as I can.”
“If you think you can talk me into believing whatever it is you
did will hold me, you…." Theodrax sniffs the wind coming from
the burning caravan. “Say, that smells good. You hungry too?”
Satisfied Rafferty has the troll, Squire Edward rushes to help