Hope for Severos

Severos shook his head, shivering despite the warm air. He felt a need to hold the book, a need to see it. He did not have it and now everything about his body seemed to want to rebel. The plate before him was tantalizingly wafting delicious breakfast and yet the very thought of food was turning his stomach.

"You need to eat," Orla said, concerned at his lack of appetite.

"I'm not hungry," mumbled Severos with a tired sigh. "Why is it that I have this feeling something was more than it seemed?" he said a bit louder, musing about their halfling visitor.

“Of course he was,” Reise stated flatly “But you have to eat. I don’t care if you are hungry or full. Eat. It’s a long trip and we’re not stopping to rest so you can have a snack later. We have important things to do, like I don’t know... getting the book back?! You know the one that could end the world?” Reise said, nearly shouting. “I get that you’re not in your right headspace right now, but focus up,” he told Severos. “You were a lot smarter when we first met, what happened to you?” he said, almost remorseful of his 'tough love' outburst. “Look I consider you a good friend otherwise I’d keep my nose out of this or would have left you behind lying on your floor and gotten the book myself, but this is important to you. See I get that, but we are days behind them now and have zero leads. We need to cover ground as fast as we can, and not stop unless we absolutely have to.”

"It is not important for me but for the world," Severos said, picking at pieces of his egg. "My masters sought to preserve it and to hide it. I know not the reason why they never destroyed it.”

Reise took a deep calming breath. “That is the same thing.” he said, “You trusted yourself to protect it, for the good of the world so you should be hell bent on getting it back.” he stared at Severos. “Do you just want to go home? I’m sure I can just do it myself, if you want to pout, and poke at your eggs we can just end this trip sooner rather than later. You can just sit in your little shack going madder and madder by the day.” He looked to Orla to see any ounce of agreement. “I have done a lot to keep this world safe and put together the best I can. I brought you along because you should be a part of that. I don’t believe in fate, but there are reasons we keep crossing paths. But if you want no part in this, feel free to say it. I’ll find us a door and take you home, and I can get back to doing what I’ve always done.”

Severos sat silent for a moment. The thought of leaving them was not a notion he wanted to entertain. Shade had tricked him when he was at his most exposed, when he had thought he was the last wizard in those parts. He had an equal in a land of sorcerers, someone who had studied academia. And now he had made off with the world's deadliest tome.

What had happened? Why was he like this?

You know why. You should have followed your instincts, he thought.

Reise stood staring at Severos as he was silent. He flung his hands up at no answer and made to grab his things.

"I will continue," the mage said softly. "I just find it hard to move today. It feels like I have no strength." Even as he said that, he forced the now cool eggs into his mouth, feeling disconnected from the movement.

Reise pulled a small glass jar of a red sauce from his bag. “It’s hot sauce.” he said, “It’ll make the cold eggs at least taste a little better.” he said. “Don’t use a lot though it’s really spicy,” he added, offering the jar.

Severos offered a tired smile. "I hail from Amanap. The Zataran spices there can make your throat bleed." He raised a finger and a few dollops of the sauce nudged out. Perhaps he just needed something to kick his mouth for the eggs were good. He breathed fire as he packed with them, reminded of those hot days spent in the library.

"Where are we off to today?" the mage asked, shouldering his bag. He felt a bit better now. If only he could shake this shiver he had.

“We planned to search for an old friend,” Orla answered with a smile. “Someone our breakfast cook seemed to confirm was in the area.”


After half a day's walk, the three reached a treeline that even at this distance they could see opened up most likely to the town they were seeking. In the air was the stink of old burned wood, bits still smoldering on the ground, but most snuffed out by rain.

When they finally made it to the outer edge of the village it was deathly quiet, and still with an inescapable eeriness. The only noises were the small clatters of debris falling to the dirt, and the occasional loud call of a cicada in the distance.

“I’ve seen a lot of creepy things that would scramble your noodles…” Reise said to the group in a whisper, “But this is WAY up there on the creepy factor. Orla...do you sense anyone alive here?” he asked her, scanning the charred ruins like a hawk looking for a meal. “Because, I don’t think that garden gnome was kidding. Whoever did this, left as little as possible.”

Orla pressed two fingers to her temple, concentrating. “There is someone else here, a thinking mind...”

“A survivor?” Reise asked, looking around the rubble more urgently.

“No, I don’t think so… for whoever it is… isn’t fully alive,” she told him, distracted as she strained her mystical psionic senses to try to get a better reading.

“Not fully alive?” Reise’s eyes got wide. “Orla, I think that’s our friend,” he said excitedly. “Severos, be on your best behavior. I don’t want you freaking out. So I’m going to prep you before we go find her..or him…” he paused, “Not sure, but they are a necromancer. But not like your book guy, they are more just like a medium, but for real.” Reise took a deep breath. “You’ll do fine.” He patted Severos on the back.

Severos raised an eyebrow at all of that. He guessed the person of importance was a necromancer of some sort and knew the stigmas of such individuals. Ones that were rightfully earned. However, young Aven was of the minority that knew better than to judge a book at first glance and steeled himself for this encounter.

The wind moaned through the empty village, fields and groves completely overrun by nature and her everlasting grasp. Some raccoons jumped at their passing and scurried up the walkway of a hut. Severos glanced about himself and saw something from the corner of his gaze. He momentarily stopped as he gazed in that direction.

What he thought to be a scarecrow was a long dead body dressed as one. It hung there, crucified in the fields in eternal vigilance. Something appeared to be on his chest, to which Severos decided against investigating. He quickly continued his walk, pace soon meeting them as he shivered a bit. He felt cold.

"We are definitely in the right place," Severos said, suppressing another shudder.

As they followed the pathway of the dirt road, they rounded a berm to be presented with a battle site. At least, one that seemed to have been over quickly. Three bodies lay mummified upon the ground, weapons not even drawn from their unsullied scabbards. "This was about as recent as these fires…" Severos noted, stopping to observe. As he stooped down, he felt his body suddenly twitch against his will with a sudden onset of shivering.

Stepping away was his first thought. It did not help in the slightest as he shivered again. His second thought was of the book; how he would give anything to just gaze upon it. That certainly made it worse as he fell to his knees. The shivering was body wracking as he clutched at his chest. He thought he heard someone say something but he could not focus on anything save for how cold he felt.

"I am cold… so cold…" he stuttered out of his shaking.

Without being asked, Reise pulled his coat from his pack and offered the furline cloak-like fur trimmed coat to him, but his eyes never stopped scanning for danger. Orla stepped forward and helped poor Severos’s arms into the sleeves.


The sudden clanking of plate armor filled the air. Like someone running, though not to them even if it was coming their way. It was more like the person causing the sound was running from something.

Down a street about four or maybe six houses away. It was hard to tell when it was just piles of wood, a figure broke into the intersection. But suddenly stopped, as if his foot was caught in mud. The fully armored man was a Burning Knight. His head snapped back down the road he’d come from, then down to his leg. Trying to pull it free from whatever held it in place. His behavior quickly went from panic to animalistic fear, as black vine-like tendrils oozed up from the ground and coiled around his armored boot, creeping between the breaks in pieces.

It was then the screaming started, or would have been. It certainly looked like he was screaming. The struggling motions from before were replaced with quite thrashing. His armor even, it wasn’t making a sound. That moment stretched for what felt like a lifetime, and the tendrils snapped back into the ground where they’d emerged in a blink, and the burning knight crumpled into an unmoving heap. And once again the air returned to a haunting silence.

Reise was on alert, putting his hands up to tell the other two to not move. As an unfamiliar voice creeped into the dead quiet. Talking to...it seemed like themselves.

“You’d think by now he’d stop sending people to check on this place,” The voice said, pausing a moment. “Yes, true.” Another pause, “Well, would YOU keep sending people to an obviously cured ruined town that never came back?” Another pause, “Fine, Fine. You made your point.”

A figure with long blonde nearly white hair, in black robes stepped into the intersection and crouched over the dead knight. “To the Nine Hells with you,” she said, obviously spitting on the armored figure, though the three couldn’t see it at this distance

“Hemlock?” Orla wondered questioningly.

The figured head whipped in their direction. Shrouded in the dark shade of their hood, raised to standing. Starting a slow walk towards the group. Reise stayed rooted in place. For one he figured this was who the halfling spoke of, and secondly he saw what happened to that knight, they couldn’t run even if they wanted to.

It wasn’t long before the figure was in front of them. She pulled her hood off, revealing a woman, who looked to be early to mid-thirties, very beautiful despite the strange scar on her face and ruined left eye.

Before even Reise could react a hand snapped onto his face. Grabbing him by his chin, turning it this way and that, as if to take it all in. The hand let go as fast as it had snached his chin. Her attention shifted to Severos. Squinting at him, turning her own head, sort of like an owl, getting close to his face then pulling back. Her attention then was locked on Orla. Looking her over quizzically, but then looking at Reise, and back to her a few times a small smile reached the corners of her mouth.

“Good to see you again, Horo.” she said, before taking Reise in for a hug. “You must tell me though. How on the names of all the gods and devils did you get a new healthy young body? Last I saw you, you were held together with bits of string.”

“I got better,” he joked, breaking the hug. “Really it’s too complicated to get into.”

“I can see that,” the necromancer said to Reise before turning to Orla “Orla...” Hemlock held out her arms like a mother would, waving her fingers in a ‘come here’ motion, wrapping her in a hug that was surprisingly warm despite what Orla knew about the woman. “Glad to see you’ve kept his mad man alive all this time.”

“I’m the last one anyone needs to worry about,” Reise said, glancing with concern at Severos.

“I take it that means you are here for your friends then?” Hemlock asked, “Who should I start with first?”

“Friends?” Reise asked, confused, “I’m only here for the mage who is in serious need of help.” He pointed to Severos.

“Oh…” Hemlock said sadly. “Okay. We’ll start with him.” She looked at Severos. “Tell me, where did this curse become attached to you, and do you know what caused it?”

“He’s sort of been the keeper or guardian of this dangerous book,” Reise said, answering for Severos. “The Mortith it’s called, maybe you’ve heard of it? Exposure to it for the past two years has really done a number on him. He’s got the chills, obsessive thoughts, violent mood swings...”

Hemlock exhaled a sigh of disappointment, not anger. “I’ve heard of it,” she began. “Foolish mages decided to use a book as not only a phylactery, but to seal away such an insanely powerful lich as that one. Mind, Body and Soul. But that much dark magic in one place. In a book of all things, not sealed by clerics or other necromancers.They made mistakes, not ones too unsafe if handled correctly. But it would seem your friend here, is on the same magical resonance as the book after all the time he spent in its presence. Like plucking the same string on two different lutes at the same time. Harmonization, The book was tapping into him for fuel, and vice versa. Now that he’s cut off what magic he took in, wants to go back into the book and it’s not working. Do you have that book with you? We could try and put that dark magic back in the book. Otherwise it will simply fester in his body like it’s doing now and eventually he’ll lose not only his mind but his control over his magic, that is until it burns itself out and he’s left catatonic with no access to magic.”

“Wait, so without the book, you can’t do anything for him?” Reise asked disappointedly.

"I can temporarily alleviate his symptoms but do nothing to cure the underlying condition without the book to work with." She looked saddened again. “It’s magic that I have never dealt with as anything more than a concept. I am certain I could cure him completely if I knew the full scope of what we were dealing with. But I only have stories dealing with the book to go on and most might not even be factual accounts. I don’t have access to the extensive records of the Verdish Inquisition after all.”

“But if you had the book you could fix him?” Riese pressed.

“Yes, I might be able to do that but only with this book you don’t seem to have, or have any idea where it is I take it. And I suppose now wouldn’t be the best time for the other bad news?” Hemlock asked, a flinch in her voice.

“There is more bad news? I am getting very tired of this. Just spit it out already,” Reise said.

“This isn’t Orla,” Hemlock told him bluntly, looking at the fae elf, who in turn looked back at her in utter confusion.

(co-post with Thaen and Rosmay)

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