Sprawling along a riverbank laid a magical town. Lantern lights filled the city and brightened the streets with koi fish swimming through the seemingly endless river. The night sky felt like it was strangely close, almost close enough to grasp it, yet ever so slightly out of reach. It was filled with strange stars and constellations that seemed to change every time he looked away. This was the last stop before the afterlife, and the destination of his journey. “It almost feels like home in a sense,” he said. He chuckled to himself. None of the passersby paid him any mind, he was just another warm soul walking along the riverbank. He crossed a small wooden bridge and watched lanterns flow downstream, with koi fish swimming in circles around them until they disappeared from sight. On the other side of the bridge was a welcoming open door. Above the door was a sign that was expertly crafted. A nine-tailed fox sat atop a rock, spelling out the name Foxire Inn with a letter on each of its tails. “That’s clever,” the man noted to himself, before pushing away the fabric that covered the opening and stepping into the warm interior.
The inn wasn’t crowded, and seats were only spread out sparsely so that the room looked larger than it actually was. People were sitting at some of the tables though, drinking and laughing and being all around jolly. The spring evening was mild and ever present, bringing in waves of nostalgia from the best days of one’s youth. At least that’s how it looked. He knew it was all theatrics. He walked up to the bar where a middle-aged woman with a fox tail and ears was serving drinks to a young boy who quickly scampered off to a nearby table and sat down there with a strange assortment of other patrons.
He took a seat at the bar and waited for a drink to be poured and handed to him. There was no reason to order it, as she already knew who he was, why he was here and how he liked his alcohol. She knew everything. At least that’s what he assumed. A warm smile crept onto his face, pushing the wrinkles of old age even closer together.
“Good evening, mother.”
The early morning sun reached through the small round window above her bed and lit up Liari’s chambers as she slowly stretched her arms and got up. The wooden floor of her cozy room was littered with books and scrolls and she had to tiptoe through them to find her slippers. Everything was still as she had left it the night before, with the book she was reading until late in the night still opened on the final page, lying on her desk. She carefully closed it and started to clean up the mess from the previous day. A lot of the books that were here were ones that she had read before, but needed to check a few things for. Now she could tidy them all up and bring them downstairs. She loved reading with a passion, which was a good stroke of luck, seeing as she lived on the first floor of a massive library. She grabbed all of her books and put them in a small basket, together with a clean set of clothes from the wardrobe next to her bed, as well as a clean towel. She then used her free hand to open her bedroom door and made her way onto the first-floor walkway. In total, there were seven rooms on the first floor. They all had doors leading to the walkway that went in a ring around the building and came together in two large circular stairways that led into the main hall. The rooms on the right side were for Liari and Miranda. The rooms in the back and on the left side of the building were for the guests that visited from time to time. Scholars from faraway lands, as well as tribesmen from the nearby Cel’Narvil tribe regularly visited to learn. Liari looked over the banister and onto the main room, which was filled with rows and rows of bookshelves. The sturdy banisters were all that were keeping her from falling and potentially making a big mess. She followed the banister and used them to lean against as she made her way down the stairs and into the main entrance hall.
“Good morning, sunshine,” a voice rang from behind one of the bookshelves.
“Good morning, Miranda,” Liari replied. Miranda was the head librarian at the Foxire Library, and the only other person who permanently resided here. She was the one who was in charge whenever the founder was out on business, which was most of the time. Besides Liari and Miranda, there were a couple of scholars from the Cel’Narvil tribe currently living here. The Cel’Narvil tribe was originally a group of outlaws that were chased out of the kingdom. When they created a small settlement in the forest, they ended up deciding that living out in the wilderness was more their speed. Several generations later, they still lived there. At least that’s what Liari found while reading through books. Miroc, one of the tribesmen who was currently residing at the library, had told her that it was a bit more complicated than that. She didn’t ask any further questions though, because it seemed like a delicate subject. So there was the Foxire Library, the Cel’Narvil tribe, and then on the edge of the forest was the elven settlement of Larania. Besides those three groups, the Celeran Canopy was empty.
There was, of course, the dwarven kingdom of Zargahal to the east, in the aptly named Zargahal Mountains as well.
“Liari, I’ll have a job for you later, if that’s okay.” Liari had started putting back some of the books onto the shelves they came from when Miranda peeked around the corner to ask for her assistance.
“Sure thing, I’m not busy. What would you like me to help out with?”
“There’s a scroll on my desk that I need you to bring to Fesquera’s study. Could you do that sometime today?”
Liari nodded. “I’m going to have a quick dip in the river and then I can get that done. Will he be around then?”
Miranda shook her head, but then paused. “Well, he might be, but I haven’t seen him yet. It’s just something that he asked me to look into while he was away, and it seemed important. I’m guessing it won’t be long before he comes back to check up on it, but who knows what goes in that man’s head.” She shook her head once more and went back to work. Liari giggled.
Fesquera was definitely an odd figure. He basically raised her, to the best of his abilities. His talents laid with magic and history, and not so much with parenting per se. He lived in a tower that was about half an hour away from the library itself. He often said he preferred the quiet space there, and it helped him focus. The library wasn’t much busier, Liari thought, but perhaps that little bit made a difference to him. He would then go on and talk about the days when he was still at Astrianara Academy. He would often complain about the number of times people would barge into his office to ask for his advice on something. Liari didn’t mind, the few times he was here it was a small effort to walk there, especially when the weather was as lovely as it was today.
She made her way down the path to the nearby river. She put her clothes on a nearby tree stump and carefully touched the water with her left foot. It was definitely cold, but not so cold that it would be uncomfortable. Her rippling reflection stared back at her. Yellow piercing eyes and a healthy-looking face. Her light brown, bordering on red, hair covered her shoulders and reached almost halfway down her back. Her furry pointed ears stuck out above her hairline and her bright, fluffy fox tail was hidden behind her back. She was a bit short compared to most other women she’d met, but she was only in her early twenties, which for elves was young enough to still grow a bit more. She took a deep breath and resolutely stepped into the cold water. Once she’d gotten in, it wasn’t that bad. After a couple of minutes, she was ready to get dressed. She quickly grabbed her towel to wipe off the cold water before getting dressed. After glancing at the water one last time, she returned to the library.
“Liari, good morning!” Miroc and Rimah greeted her after she made her way back. They were sitting on some tree stumps outside the front entrance into the library, their three-year-old son playing with some wooden blocks in the grass.
“Good morning to you too,” she replied as she sat down on another one of the stumps, putting down her basket with wet laundry.
“You’ve been cooped up in your room for a few days now, have you been busy?” Miroc asked.
Miroc and Rimah were two of the scholars from the Cel’Narvil tribe, and they had been at the library for a little bit short of a year now. They were studying herbalism and alchemy, with the aim of becoming healers for the tribe. Liari had gotten to know them quite well over time and really liked them both. She got along well with most of the people that visited, but these two were a bit younger than most scholars, so they were closer to her age.
“Yeah, I’ve been looking into magic a lot lately, and it’s interesting stuff but it’s also very, very complicated.”
Rimah smiled. “Oh, are you going to follow in Fesquera’s footsteps and become an Archmage at the Astrianara Academy?”
Liari laughed. “I think that’s a bit out of my reach, but I want to at least learn some of the basics.”
“Is there anything in particular you’re reading about?” Miroc asked.
“Well, I started with a book on the origins of magic, but the more I read about the topic, the more I realize that it’s not quite as simple as one single origin. From what I could find, there are people who can just do magic innately, there’s people who use complicated spells that consist of scrolls and exotic materials, and there are also people who enchant weapons and the like. And that is only the beginning, apparently there are many offshoots and different ways to apply these magics.” She let out a sigh. “It’s complicated, to say the least.”
“Most things that are worth the time spent on them tend to be.” Miroc suddenly stood up. “Jygia, don’t play with that!” His son had grabbed a large bug from the ground and was shaking it around.
“Anyway, I think if you keep at it you will get enough understanding of it eventually. You’re clever enough, after all.”
Liari blushed. “I appreciate that, Miroc.” She waved the family goodbye and walked behind the building. There was the main entrance into the actual library hall, but around the back was another door that led into the kitchen. Outside this door was a small table and chairs, as well as some twine to hang wet clothes on. She carefully distributed her wet clothes before going inside for breakfast. The kitchen had the lovely smell of freshly baked bread always present. The room itself wasn’t too large. Some of the walls and floor were actually replaced with stone. Most of the library was a hollowed out tree stump. Liari often wondered what kind of humongous tree once stood here. Now there was no tree, just a stump refashioned into a library. The kitchen was fire-proofed, which was for the best, since it was fitted with a fireplace. Liari quickly made herself some breakfast before going to find Miranda.
“I’m going to the tower for a bit with that scroll you gave me, I’ll be back shortly,” Liari said to Miranda, who was dozing off in a rocking chair in front of the library.
“Be on your way now, dear, I’ll hold down the fort.” Miranda winked and went back to sleep.
Liari followed the forest trail that led to Fesquera’s tower. She’d walked this path numerous times before, and although it wasn’t quite a clear pathway, there were signs that made it easy enough for her to move through the dense forest shrubbery.
After about twenty minutes of walking at a brisk pace, she reached the forest clearing that the tower was in. The tower itself was made out of red and brown bricks, and looked quite shoddily built. It wasn’t even standing up straight, but at a bit of an angle. Liari had often joked to Fesquera that if he sneezed too hard, the tower would fall over. But it was sturdy enough apparently, as it had never done so. There were three windows visible from the outside, although they were tinted in a strangely dark way that made it impossible to look through them. Knowing Fesquera, it was probably some sort of magic that made them that way, because when Liari was inside the tower, she could clearly look out of the windows without issue. The door was made from thick oak planks and creaked ever so slightly when she pushed it open. There was no lock on the door, since no one would ever come around here and wander into a tower like this. Besides that, all of Fesquera’s valuables were inside, behind magically locked doors that only he and the ones he explained the trick to could open. A cloud of dust welcomed her, since the place had seen better days. Spiders and cobwebs were everywhere and Liari made sure to not step too close to any of them. She wouldn’t want one of the creepy crawlies going up and down her legs. The stairs creaked even more than the door did, and she felt like she had to hold on to the sides of the wall in case one of the steps broke. But nothing of the sort happened and she reached the first-floor door without issue. This was the door that was normally locked. Fesquera had let Liari in on the secret to opening it. If one touched the orb in the center with only three fingers and closed their eyes briefly, the door would open. Spirals that looked like long-limbed dragons were engraved into the doorframe and there was no handle other than the aforementioned orb. To Liari’s surprise, the door was already unlocked and slightly opened. As she reached the top of the steps, a voice sounded from behind the door. “Who’s there?”
“It’s just me, I came to deliver something from Miranda.”
“Ah, Liari, good to see you, come in, come in.”
She pushed open the heavy door and a warm interior greeted her. As usual, the study was a complete and utter mess, with books, scrolls and strange objects scattered around the place. The walls were covered in shelves and bookcases, all of them filled to the brim as well. Behind a desk that had a pile of books high enough to hide his entire figure sat an elderly elven man. Grey long hair he wore in a braid and a short but thick beard hid some of his wrinkles, but when he smiled, he couldn’t help but show his age. He had dark green eyes with a hint of brown in them. He wore simple brown clothes and a wooden cane leaned against his desk next to where he sat. He looked at her and smiled. “It’s been a while since I last saw you, how have you been?”
Liari smiled back at him. “It’s good to see you too, I’m doing well.”
He stood up and reached for his cane. “Have you been keeping up with your studies?”
He didn’t wait for a reply but instead walked into the little kitchen and came back with two cups of tea. There were some pillows and a small table without legs in front of a fireplace and he carefully sat down on one of the pillows, motioning Liari to sit down with him.
“I’ve been reading a lot, I think I’m doing well.” She took one of the cups of tea and started carefully sipping. The fire was on low, which was odd since it was such a lovely spring day outside. Fesquera’s tower always had something strange going on though, so she didn’t pay it too much mind. “I’ve been trying to dip into some magic, but it’s all very complicated.”
Fesquera raised an eyebrow. “Have you now? That’s my domain, I can help you with that if you’d like.” He scratched his beard as he thought for a second. “Yeah, I can get together some good works for you to start learning from. What do you want to learn about specifically?”
Liari had to think about this for a little bit. “I was going to start with just the basics, and figure out what sorts of magic there are and where they originate from.”
“Ah, you’re taking a theoretical approach.” He grabbed a piece of parchment and a quill and started noting down a few book titles. “All of these are most likely available in the library, and if you can’t find them, just ask Miranda for advice.” He handed her the piece of paper. Liari didn’t recognize any of the books at a glance, but she had only recently started studying magic.
“What do you think about what you’ve learned so far, then?”
“I don’t know too much yet, to be honest. I think it’s quite complicated, because there are so many kinds, with all of them having different, often strange origins. I think I already understand why a lot of the books and scrolls start with a disclaimer that the information might be incomplete.”
Fesquera chuckled. “That sounds about right.”
He stood up and reached for one of his shelves. Liari had to jump in to help him, because as soon as he grabbed the book he was looking for, several others came tumbling down. “You should really tidy up this place from time to time.”
“Bah, I have better things to do,” Fesquera replied. He sat back down after they put back the books that fell, and Liari sat back opposite of him again.
“This book could be of interest to you,” he said as he handed her the book he’d just grabbed from the shelf.
‘Spirits and their role in modern magic.’ The book read.
“What is this about?” Liari asked, thumbing through the first few pages.
“It’s a study on spirits. They’re one of several ways to utilize magic and in my opinion – one of the more fascinating ways. They come from a different realm and possess very strong magic. But they’re also fickle and if you don’t keep them happy, they will refuse to help you.” He laughed. “It’s a good way to practice patience and kindness.”
They ended up talking about Liari’s studies and Fesquera’s recent travels for another couple of hours before Liari made her way back towards the library.
After a little while, she caught a glimpse of someone in the distance. The sound of rustling confirmed that there was indeed someone there. Out of the shrubs came a young elven woman. Blond hair covered half of her face and her one visible eye shone a bright blue.
“Oh, you must be one of the people who live here?”
Liari nodded. She had no idea who this lady was, so she ended up staring at her until the lady also realized this.
“Where are my manners, my name is Lisanna, I’m an acquaintance of Fesquera, the owner of this place.”
“Nice to meet you, I’m Liari and I live here.” She almost instinctively tried to hide her ears by making them go flat, but she was pretty sure the lady had noticed them.
“I’ve heard of you before, Fesquera talks about you a lot.”
Her ears immediately jumped back up in excitement. “Does he?”
“Yeah, I can’t tell you how often he tells me about his student back home, who is such a natural at everything. Really motivates anyone else who’s studying under him.” There was a small hint of sarcasm to that last part, but nothing with ill intent.
Liari smiled. “That’s nice to hear. What do you do, that you work with him?”
The two of them started walking towards the library as they talked, since Lisanna had to go there as well, apparently.
“So you are an assistant of sorts to him, and you help him with research?”
Lisanna nodded. “That’s one of a few things I do for him. I also help him with keeping contact with people, since that’s not exactly his strong suit. But enough about me, what are you studying?”
“I’ve started studying magic lately, it’s all very interesting but it’s difficult.”
Lisanna laughed. “I can imagine, I tried studying it at some point as well, but it was mostly beyond me. Only the extremely talented or extremely persistent can learn magic, as he always likes to put it. You need either talent or hard work, and preferably both and even then it’s still a challenge.”
“Looking at how difficult just the basics are, that sounds accurate.”
They reached the library and they both headed inside where Miranda was waiting for them.
“Miranda, it’s been a while,” Lisanna says.
The old woman smiled. “It certainly has been, I believe you were still a young girl last time you came here.”
“And you still had black hair instead of grey.”
Miranda’s smile vanished. “Alright, that was uncalled for.”
Lisanna laughed. “I’m sorry.”
“Would you like some tea then?”
“That would be lovely.”
The two of them headed for the kitchen after waving Liari goodbye. Liari went to her room to get an early night’s sleep. She had ended up staying at Fesquera’s study almost the entire day and it was quickly getting dark outside. Tomorrow she would search for the books that Fesquera recommended and start reading them, but for now sleep was what she needed the most.
The next two weeks went by in a flash. Liari didn’t get to see Lisanna again after their short encounter, but Fesquera stayed around for a little while longer before he also left. On the day of his departure, he stopped by the library itself. Liari was sitting outside reading one of the books that Fesquera recommended to her, The origin of magic and why this matters. According to the author of that specific book, the single most important thing about magic was to know where one’smagic came from, because without properly understanding the origin of something, one can never master it. The spirit magic that Fesquera had told her about was only one of many different origins. There was also elemental magic, in which people would manipulate the elements themselves, as well as dragon magic. Dragon magic was only possible by making a pact with a dragon and borrowing their might. Those three types, along with alchemy and incantations that required rare materials, were the most commonly known magic types. Although calling them common was accurate in the sense that they were studied a lot, it was still rare to find people who could actually use magic. And to find people who excelled at it was even rarer. She was deeply engrossed in the book when Fesquera sat down in front of her. “I see that you’re very diligently studying.”
She looked up surprised and saw him wearing his long coat and a sack on his back. “You’re leaving again?”
He nodded. “I have some business up north, an old friend to visit and some,” he paused, “other matters that require my attention.”
“When will you be back?”
He didn’t answer. “It was nice seeing you again, and I hope the books I recommended are of some help in your studies.” He got up slowly and started walking off before turning back around.
“Goodness me, I almost forgot.” He reached into his pocket and took out a necklace with an emerald gemstone. “This is what they call a catalyst. You can use it as a focus for magic practice, so to speak. I think it might become of use if you ever want to take your studies into a more practical direction.”
Liari took the necklace from his outstretched hand and held it with both hands. The stone felt strangely warm to the touch, as if it had been lying in front of an open fire for a little while. Not quite hot, but comfortable.
“Good luck on your travels,” Rimah popped out of the library for a second. She apparently overheard their conversation.
“Thank you, and please give my regards to Porlasc when you see the old man.”
“Of course, I will do so!”
And with that he waved them all goodbye and walked off into the forest.
It got a little bit quieter again at the library and it saddened Liari. The times Fesquera came by were some of the more exciting times, and whenever he left again, she always felt a bit melancholic. For some reason his departure this time around felt a lot more final, but she couldn’t quite explain why it felt that way. Instead, as she had done many times before, she devoted herself to her studies again, and worked harder than ever. And in a flash the seasons passed by until the soft spring turned into a hot summer, dreary autumn, and now a snowy winter.
Thank you for reading the first chapter of my new series; The Necromancer’s Daughter. I started writing an iteration of this story probably almost a decade ago, and I have used the name Fesquera as a username online for years, which might make reading this a bit strange for people who know me under this name.
Some of these characters have been in my mind for all that time and it feels strange to finally share them with other people. I want to take this moment to thank Martyna for always checking my short stories, and now checking this story as well. Without her help there would be a lot more commas in strange places.
Please share, like comment, follow and all that good stuff. It would be much appreciated and help other people find my stories, and hopefully give me more feedback. I know I have much room for improvement still, but I can’t do that without help.