The Realms: A World Apart

Nofi the Sage

Chapter Eight, Part Three

The next morning, Orjulun, SeLiem, Melias, Percy, Red, and Rastorn awaken feeling refreshed and ready for a new day. They luxuriate in their soft beds and take their time getting ready for breakfast.

Arturus wakes with an incessant muffled horn blowing loudly in his silent room. The dim light from under his door shoots him in the eyes, creating painfully colorful explosions to blind him. Closing his eyes too tightly closes his skull around his brain and squeezes it, so he focuses on keeping his eyelids only lightly closed. That dims the colors a bit. Feeling around, he learns he is on the cold floor and the floor is wet and the wet is chunky in spots. He tilts his head down and his skull fills with blood, like a bloated wineskin weighing him down and threatening to burst. Lifting his head too quickly, the blood splashes to the back of his head then rolls like a tidal wave back to the front of his face and furiously ejects from his mouth. His torso is excruciatingly squeezed by a giant three times, the entire room is spun like a top, then he collapses onto the warm, wet, chunky embrace of the floor.

Lil feels renewed. She gets out of bed early to fit in a bath before eating.

Red shows up to the dining hall wearing her chainmail and backpack. She’s a little embarrassed when others come down in common clothes, so she returns to her room to change.

Percy does the same, but he neither feels embarrassed nor changes. In fact, he had worked on his weapons and armor for an hour before coming to eat.

Lil is wearing the leather pants she had gotten from Melias and Fino’s tunic. Her smile is so strong it remains even when she talks and eats. Her hair is still wet, but pulled back into a ponytail.

“I cannot wait to start exploring this famed city,” Rastorn gushes. He asks each person at the table what they have planned to do today, as if deciding what he will do based on their responses.

Red says she will go wherever the rest of the group goes, since she really doesn’t have any plans.

Percy will go searching for a church, a weapon-smith, an armory, a money-changer, and anyone with news about Homeland.

Lil says she has business to attend to, but might first spend some time looking for more appropriate attire.

“Don’t take this as an invitation, Rastorn, but I’m heading over to the Sage’s Guild. You’re welcomed – nay, encouraged, to get lost,” Melias says as he nibbles on his morning toast. 

Rastorn lowers his head, then glances at SeLiem out of the corner of his eye.

Melias tells Percy, “There is an election of some sort going on in this city, Percy. I know it’s probably a low priority for you, but if you hear anything about it, could you let me know what you learn?”

“Alright. I’ll meet you tonight, here, for dinner. Don’t forget to pay for another night,” Percy answers.

“Sages?” Red says, with a side-ways glance at Melias. “Aye think aye will be following the lass.”

“Actually, Red, I’d like to spend the day alone, if you don’t mind. I’ll be back for dinner, though. We can have one last night, before I head out to revive my old mates,” says Lil.

“Then, Percy, ye be mae man today!” Red exclaims, with a wink.

“Well then, I guess you and I can study that book today, Orjulun, and then see what magic we can procure in town or trade amongst us,” Rastorn says, cheerily.

Orjulun listened closely while everyone said what they were doing in town. He made mental notes and nodded between bites, trying to remember where everyone would be if he needed them for some reason. When Rastorn piped up about the book in an abnormal, peppy sort-of-way, Orjulun smiles and says, “Well, that sounds fine Rastorn, but it’ll have to wait until the afternoon. I’m accompanying Melias to the Sage.”

Rastorn smiles and nods, then stabs his ham hard with a fork.

“Excuse me, Lil, could you tell me what these bracers do?” Orjulun asks, as he places the magical bands on the table. “And everyone, Rastorn has expressed a desire to have these. Anyone have a problem with that? As they were given to the party by Lil, I think this should be a party decision as to who gets them.” He smiles a very wide smile.

Arturus falls into a seat beside Orjulun. He’s dressed in clothes almost identical to Lil. The clanking of silverware on plates and all the talking smashes through his ears and stabs his brain, which already swells against the inside of his skull as it agonizingly grows and shrinks with every heartbeat. The concept of eating is offensive. He wonders if he should return to his room and take care of the naked woman on his floor. If nothing else, he should at least clean her up. He’d need to refill the water basin he used, though. Instead, he closes his eyes – lightly – and tries to hold perfectly still.

“Orjulun, I gave them to you. You keep them. They help you defend . . . like wearing chain armor, but without the added weight,” Lil answers.

“It’s sounding like she wants ye to keep them, Orjulun,” Red says.

“Yes,” Percy states, looking angrily at Rastorn.

Rastorn’s smile falls from his face, then reappears even larger. “That is fine, young Mage, then we shall meet tonight after dinner. I need to get some Identify spells cast, anyway.”

After eating, the group pays for another night and prepares for their various city adventures.

When Arturus returns to his room, he finds a maid cleaning the floor, but the merchant he had met the night before is gone. He checks his backpack and bags, but nothing is missing. Finding the Super Heroism Potion, he pauses, then remembers Rastorn trading with him. As the maid completes her cleaning, he hands her a gold piece, while avoiding eye contact, then collapses onto the bed. “I’ll take a bath and wander the city after a short nap,” he says to himself.

Red and Percy are the first to leave the inn. Lil is taking her time getting ready, so she will likely be the last to leave the inn. Melias was given directions to the Sages Guild from Fino the previous night, so he leads Orjulun there. 

Melias had learned much from Fino during their private meeting the prior night and Fino had learned a lot from Melias. That was the purpose for their meeting, after all. Upon first seeing Melias, Fino believed he was a rogue and when Melias reciprocated a Thieves Cant greeting that belief was verified. Melias did not react to the local Guild Cant, which relies on use of card game slang in normal conversation, and that let Fino know he was a rogue, but not a member of their Guild. This meant a meeting was necessary. Melias understood this.

Their meeting was brief, but Fino arranged a meeting that night between Melias and the Master of the Thieves Guild of ASU, where he would be questioned about his business while in ASU and told what the Guild’s take would be on any profit he made from less than legal means while within the city. Melias was surprised to see the Master of the Guild was a friendly female Hobbit and the relationship the Guild had with the ASU governing body was quite comfortable. It was far more above board than he expected. He had no way of knowing that ahead of time and that is why he had Orjulun follow him to the meeting and stand ready in case anything happened. All of this was decided during dinner, without either speaking a word. Orjulun had left the table in order to use magic to read Fino’s thoughts, but when he discovered Fino’s thoughts were magically blocked, he delved into Melias’ mind where the plan was laid out.

During the meeting with Fino, Melias explained what each of his group had planned and gave some background on each of them. In exchange, Fino offered his help in not only setting up the meeting with the Thieves Guild Master, but also in assisting him with locating The Chosen Ones, whom he was worried about and happy to let someone hunt down who was not looking for Lord Darkoth’s reward. He told Melias about Nofi, to get him started.

During the day, the city is loud, crowded, colorful, diverse, and frenetic. Merchants are everywhere, selling any imaginable item or service and musical performers are on every corner.  The people, as a whole, are cheerful and friendly.

The Sage’s Guild is a large stone building with dark windows and a single door in the front. A sign above the door reads, “A.S.U.S.G.” in large, metal letters.

Inside they step into a narrow area with a large desk the full length of the building blocking the entrance deeper into the one room building. Aged men are slowly reading books and scrolls within the main portion of the room. They are surrounded by books and bookshelves, some of which effectively cut them off into their own cubicles. One gentleman stands and greets them, “How may we be of assistance-” he stops talking, when he gets a good look at Melias. “Yes, well, what service can we provide one of the forest folk?” he forces out, as he recovers his wits.

“Your courtesy is appreciated,” Melais tells the Sage. “I’m seeking the one known as Nofi, the memory man. Can you point me in his direction?” he inquires, as he looks around at all the books lying about and packed on shelves. These men lived to read. What a dull life that must be. He doesn’t speak these thoughts, though.

Orjulun’s fingers practically itch to get his hands on the storehouse of knowledge found in this building, but he manages to keep his composure. He nods and adds, “And I wish to speak with that fellow over there.”

“Why that is Nofi,” the Sage says, a little confused. “He’s very busy right now, but we will make an exception for you. Go around to the back of the building and I’ll have him meet you at that door.” Looking to the back of the huge room, Melias and Orjulun see a small door, so they travel around the building and find the bookish young man waiting for them, with the door held ajar by a stack of books.

SeLiem walks around in the massive city for hours looking for a temple of his deity, before he thinks to ask someone. He stops a commoner and asks, “Do you happen to know of a temple that hosts my god, Kubri the Loyal?” He is directed to the temple, where he makes a tithe and visits with the Priests there. Those of lower rank then he are polite and helpful, while those of higher rank treat him poorly.

“Oh, no,” Lil tells herself, “I don’t own a backpack anymore and I’ll need one this morning.” She knocks on a few doors and eventually gets Rastorn to answer. “I’m getting ready to go and I need a backpack or bags. Do you have anything I can use?”

“Certainly, Lil,” Rastorn answers, “I’ll be busy all day buying and selling items, having things Identified, and that sort of thing, but you can have mine. I plan on purchasing a new one today, since mine is unusually heavy. I’m predisposed to studying my spells at the moment, but I will unload it and set it outside my door on my way out, if you can wait a few minutes.”

“Great. I have to apply some color to my face yet, so I’ll be back in a little while,” Lil replies cheerfully. She wonders why Percy and Melias always seem to treat the nice old Wizard so badly. He was always pleasant to her.
After a while, Lil finishes getting ready, picks up the backpack and is on her way to make preparations to have her friends all raised from the dead.

Melias and Orjulun’s conversation with Nofi the Sage is what Melias will later refer to as ‘overwhelming’. “Hey, they, hey, they say you’re from the group that landed in town on a flaming chariot last night, but there were eight then, but, hey, yea, I’m always willing to talk to an Elf, we get so few in town and, yea, I’ve only had four visitors in the nineteen years, four months, and fourteen days since I’ve worked for the Guild.” The thin, pale Sage talks fast and excitedly. “What, yea, I’ve been reading up on prophecies lately and there’s a lot of them, yea, and, well, a lot, I bet there is one about you eight if I can narrow it to, let’s see, ah, um, eight of you, yea, yea, eight has a few references, yes it does, but coming in on a flaming chariot, well that whittles it down, now, doesn’t it, like, well, what a coincidence considering who was last to do it, yea, y’know, ha, we’ll then we look at make up, yea, yea, and well there is a lot of them about Dwarves and Elves together, but most have already happened or are not set for much longer in the future, yea, so I’m thinking I can, like, get it down a little more, right, so all I need to know is are half of you from a royal bloodline and, like, y’know, the other half from the poorest families in all The Realms oorrrrr are two, I’m guessing two, of course, are two of you being hunted by your former associates while all the others are the sole survivors after watching their former associates all get killed, yea, well, yea, huh, what?” Nofi nods emphatically and rattles right into an answer, “Well. I’m, y’know, not supposed to give out free knowledge, but, hey, yea, hey, I know that there is, I’ll just give you the gist, hey, there is a, well, it is from Soothsayer Syam, he’s been dead for twenty-one years, four months, and six days, well, and likely about nine hours, depending on which, ha, which account you believe, yea, ha, well, he was from Miragia originally, although most Sages mistakenly say he was from The Lost City, which is, ha, laughable, because he, yea, if you think about it, ha, yea, he’s not nearly old enough, but, yea, he had a lot of important prophecies and an accuracy rate of eighty-five percent from what I can calculate, assuming I’ve read all of his prophecies, yea, well, ha, I may have missed one, at the most, because he seemed to do yearlies and I researched it well, and yea, well, the one about you could be the one he told on his sixty-seventh birthday, it would have been, let’s see, raining on that day according to the weather journals I’ve read and, well, he was in ASU by then, y’know, it wouldn’t be raining in Miragia, ha, well that goes without saying, but, ha, it hasn’t rained in Miragia ever, as far as the history books go, except the time it rained fire, or, well, I could go on, but, the important thing is that, y’know, he said that, I’ll just give you the gist, okay, right, roughly, eight will come on flaming chariot to where everything comes together, he used that wording before and I’m eighty-nine percent certain he is referring to ASU this time, too, when he says ‘where everything comes together’, after all – we are the center of the continent and of commerce, and, well, and then he says, ah, their past some wish to bury it, while others change like weather, ha, all will be haunted or hunted by their last associates, as they witnessed their deaths or their death is sought, entwining their troubles and entwining their fates, sole survivors in a group with those not yet caught, yea, see, and, ha, not yet, ha, well, they look for a way to make wrongs into rights, a group drawn from mountain, death, and forest it be, while they fight another’s fights, they know not that they already hold the key.” Then, he just nods for a while.

Melias rubs his temples as they start to throb from the excessive information. “That’s all well and good, Sage Nofi, And I appreciate the information . . . but, that’s not why I came.” He straightens his back and tries to keep on the edge of conversation lest this man break in with another long-winded anecdote of unimportance. “You say you only had four visitors in nineteen years . . . and it’s one of those visits I have come to ask about.” He checks his surroundings, to be sure they are out of earshot from anyone, then says, “There was a group that came to you, I guess they’re known as the mind-hoppers. I have it from a somewhat reliable source that someone in ASU can tell me where to find them, and I was hoping that someone might be you.”

Lil picks up the backpack and leaves for the bank. She gets directions on the way and is soon using the secret password to gain access to her party’s treasure. She loads the pack with gems, scrolls, and a few other items then leaves for the church. 

At The Church of the Sharing god, she is led to a small private chamber where she is to wait for the High Priest to meet with her. Growing tired, she closes her eyes, drifts into sleep, and dreams of Fino and her party and Otto . . . and then she is woken.  A hand comes from nowhere to cover her eyes and mouth as a dagger slits her throat wide open. She dies, again, without ever seeing her murderer.

Rastorn strides through the city spending and trading freely and acquiring a great deal of magical treasure. One of the first things he purchases is a new backpack. He pays the son of a merchant to help him make the shopping trip as quick and efficient as possible. He is back to the inn long before the others return for dinner.

Nofi chuckles nervously and answers Melias, “‘Mind-hoppers’ – that’s new, Onif the Diviner calls them ‘special’, but, hey, do you know who coined ‘mind-hopper’, I’d be curious if, well, nevermind, hey, yea, they visited me a while back and got me in a little trouble, I don’t know where they are now, but, hey, I can tell you all of our first conversation since it was documented, I, I memorize them, like, uh, like everything I read, I read a lot y’know, it’s my job, to read, that is.” He swallows hard and continues, “Would that help? Can we trade that information for, say information about The Elven Nation or any books you may have or other historic information?”

“Well, that explains the ‘memory-man’ reference. If I told you who called them mind-hoppers, you may think me mad,” Melias chuckles. He takes a deep breath, then tries to speak as rapid-fire as Nofi, “Well, maybe not. It was an owl that told us about you and them, as well as Onif. And from that conversation, I know that whatever you told them, they decided to head to Darkuth. I’d be very interested to know what you have memorized on the subject. But I’m afraid I only have one book, and it’s not a very good read. I’ll share my information with you, though – whatever I can help you with. There’s this one family of the Nation in particular that I’d like to expose. It’s a long and drawn out story, but I’m happy to contribute anything I can to our cause of finding these ‘special’ people.” He pauses for a moment. “And perhaps if it isn’t too much of a burden, you might be able to help me learn how to read. The common letters just seem so alien to me, you know?”

Nofi accepts Melias’ offer of information and writes down everything he tells him about his family. He does not have the time to teach him to read Common, though.

Nofi takes a while to tell his story, but the facts are:

  • The party came to him from Cultury and the Priestess was friends with his cousin, so he visited with them.
  • They asked about Giants (because they had just slain one) and then about ASU and prophecies concerning ASU and connections of those prophecies to Darkuth.
  • He told them about Guildmaster Lincont, essentially the ruler of ASU. He told them he follows Raim, about the great improvements he has made, and his moment of apparent cowardice. 
  • He told them about Darkuth, Lord Darkoth and his Inner Circle, the 100 year Pact, and the Undead Wars. 
  • He never got a chance to talk about prophecies, because they asked more questions.
  • They asked about Rube G. Howges (who is running against Lincont) and what the ‘G’ stands for. Some say it stands for Goodman, but no one knows. He was a city guard for a short time, but often left his post and was known to drink, but he has become rich off precious raw material trading. He is not from ASU.
  • They asked about Taber the Entertainer, when he mentioned that Backus Taber was his son. Backus is one of The Eight – Darkuth’s official Adventuring Group.
  • He told them how The Cube of Power allowed Terrorek, Lord of Undead (whose name is not normally spoken aloud) to stay on this Plane during the Undead Wars and how Lord Darkoth and others stole it and that the Cube (against the wishes of the Dwarves and Elves) was hidden away after that and not destroyed. Of those who hid it, only Lord Darkoth was still alive and would have any knowledge of where it was, but he would be the last person to want it unearthed.
  • On a whim, they asked whether the Lost City was real, It was.

“So it was you reading The History of the Sentient Relics, and The Undead Wars,” Orjulun says, thinking out-loud. He looks at Nofi and continues, “I had a dream. I think it was a dream. I saw you holding these large books, and suddenly a white, glowing number 2 appeared at the end of the Undead Wars title, as if another Undead War was on the horizon.” He switches his attention to Melias. “I also saw my former mentor, Lickmer, speaking with King Zane of Dumas. They are sending someone after us . . . after me. I’m not sure why all this is happening, but we are in danger.”

Melias chuckles, “They’re going to have to wait in line. My sister was first, you know?” After a long sigh, he sits on the small porch and rubs his temples some more. “We’ve been too pronounced in our travels. They’ll have no problem finding us to this point. From here our destination is still unknown. Perhaps for the better.” He looks back at Nofi and says, “If we were to say where we were going, someone would be here to lead the rest to follow.” Placing his hands in his lap, he asks, “What about these prophecies then? The last group was too hasty to find out, but we aren’t. What do the books of prophecies have to say about us?” He holds his hand up for a moment, then adds, “Is there any mention of a Wizard who turns on us?”

Nofi slows down a bit, instead of just reciting words he has to think now. “Um, I never read a book, yea, on sentient relics, sorry, Mister Magic-User-Person. I haven’t read about the Undead Wars in a long time, either. I really don’t need to reread anything, ha, so I can’t imagine that ever happening, y’know.” The twitchy little Sage then turns toward Melias and answers, “I don’t know anything about a Wizard turning against his party, but I haven’t read everything.  Yea, ah, I’ve just been reading up on prophecies since Linus, Eva, and them last visited me.  Oh, should I tell you about their second visit with me?”

“Second visit? Oh, yes, sure. I’m all ears,” Melias says, attentively.

“Well, let me put it into context,” Nofi begins, “The first time, they had left their hometowns. The Hobbit was from Goodmanville, the Elf was from The Nation, of course, well, whatever, anyway, ah, yea, they left having never adventured and joined together in Cultury, where Onif the Diviner told them they were ‘special’, which I didn’t know about at the time, but, yea, well.” He begins to speak faster again. “On the way here they figured out what that may mean when they killed the Giant, but I didn’t know, well, hey, anyhow, yea, they left here saying that they would visit a High Priest that Linus knew, that he saw in town, which could only be Ifon the High Priest of Goodmanville, for a Commune to learn more, but, hey, then Ifon afterwards returned to Goodmanville, but actually was asked by QM to fight Undead, with Frankenfurter of all people, the teacher of Eva and the one that she supposedly stole from, y’see the prophecy Onif told them about may not have even concerned them, but he wasn’t sure, but what they learned from the Commune and whoever else they spoke to in ASU led them to Darkuth, where they tried to steal from Lord Darkoth for whatever reason, but they escaped and returned here to speak with me, but they had jumped again – just like they did when they fought the Giant – and they asked me what they asked me the last time, this is the second time, y’see and I told them what they said and asked and they tried to use that to figure out what they were doing, now that they were . . . not the same.” He pauses to see if he is making himself clear, before continuing (regardless of whether he was clear, or not), “So, then, they argued a while and decided to go to Goodmanville to see where it all began, but, hey, yea, ah, then they went to Cultury to see Onif again for the first time, but he was still gone and that led them to, yea, yea, to here again, finally ending up heading to Lumberton, where they caused problems, found The Cube, lost the Cube to Advisor Stetic, and returned here to speak with HP Ifon again, who chastised them and dispelled their flaming chariot and within days they were wanted and now . . . I hope they are alright. They were nice to me.”

Nofi looks back and forth at the two, as they try to digest his words, then finally asks, “Um, so am I in danger from your sister and Lickmer and this King Zane character?” Then his mind jumps to a new subject and he says, “So, in answer to your question: I don’t know where they are now.”

Melias rubs the back of his neck, glances at Orjulun, then tries to answer. “If she thinks she can get answers from you, she’ll certainly keep trying until she does. If she questions you, the best thing for you to do is to cooperate. I wouldn’t want you to be harmed on my account.” He looks at Orjulun and adds, “I couldn’t say about this Lickmer or King Zane character.”

Orjulun bites his lower lip, but doesn’t say anything.

“I have only a couple more questions, if you please,” Melias says, hoping he hasn’t already overextended his welcome. “You said they ‘jumped’ . . . what does that mean, exactly? Did they change bodies or is this more of a temporal jump?” 

Nofi slows down, again. “Well, I’m not really positive. They changed minds and abilities. They went from inexperienced first-timers, to a group able to kill a Hill Giant without getting hurt.  Then they went from the people I had just spoken with, to people who never met me and acted differently, although they still had the same skills. I haven’t read Onif’s writings on being “special”, but I’ve seen it in action.”

Melias stands and stretches his back a moment. “My last question for you: why is it you, Onif, and Ifon have the same four letters in your name, coincidence or something more? I just find it strange the three of you were so intimately connected with this group, and it’s just a shuffling of your names from one person to the next. I have to ask why. Do you know?”

“I never noticed that. Hmmmm, I wonder if I should research names and their connections. Any more questions? I really should get going, although I’m enjoying the break.”

Melias looks to Orjulun, having exhausted his line of research. 

This chapter concludes next week!

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