The Necromancer’s Daughter – Chapter Five

Raindrops and Revelations

Maharis V
“So what’s next?” Ianari returned to her place behind the bar once more and went back to cleaning the glasses.
“I suppose you won’t allow me to just go back?”
“There are rules to this process and you’re well aware. The only way out of this place is by taking the path to reincarnation.” She gestured at the small boats that sailed down the river and into the endless sea beyond. “There is only one person who left this place through other means and both you and I know how well that went.”
“That’s a different story,” he started. When he saw the look on Ianari’s face he decided to swallow what he was going to say next. He’d defied a god once and he wasn’t about to try his luck a second time.
“No, I think I’ll stay here a little while longer. The drinks are good and the company is even better.” He looked around at the strange ensemble of patrons and chuckled. “Well, some of the company is.” He raised his glass to Ianari.
Ianari shook her head in disapproval. “Sometimes I wonder what my daughter has ever seen in you.”
The old man chuckled, “to be honest, I don’t quite understand it either.” They both laughed.
He stared out the window at the small dock in the distance that Ianari had pointed at before. The boatman was just returning with another empty ship. “Reincarnation, you say?”
Ianari shrugged. “That’s what I’d like to think. Not even I know everything about the process as I’ve never undergone it myself. One day I’ll find out though.”
“I suppose I’ll stick around until then and keep you company. I bet it gets lonely around here.”
She took a fancy bottle from the shelf behind her and poured another round of drinks for the two of them. She handed him one and then raised her glass. “To family.” She smiled at him.
Fesquera smiled back and raised his glass with a satisfying clink. “To family.”

After leaving the open clearing where the library was the forest almost immediately got dense. Despite this their journey started off quite smoothly. The sun was still peeking from behind the clouds although it definitely looked like they hadn’t seen the end of the rain yet. Their sense of direction was a more prominent problem. They had a map of the area and Charlotte had a vague idea which way they were headed, but neither of them was experienced with traveling. It was a miracle that Charlotte managed to find the library in the first place. Neither of them were able to accurately figure out where on the map they were since everything around them was forest. They traveled throughout the day, only taking a break every couple hours to eat something. By the time dusk came around they were quite a ways from the library. Before it would get dark, they started setting up their tent. They had a small two-person tent as well as bedrolls, blankets and other necessities. Moroc and Rimah were expert wanderers and they’d made sure the two women brought everything they’d need. Some of what they needed was in a chest in the library so that Liari could grab it through the magic chest that Fesquera had given her. Liari still wondered how it worked and how Fesquera got something so useful. According to Charlotte this wasn’t something that was commonplace in the outside world, which meant it was probably very valuable. How did a strange old mage in a tower manage to get his hands on something like this? And this strange old mage was her father? Not to mention he was apparently an archmage. In the books Liari had read on magic, archmages were generally some of the most highly regarded practitioners of the art. It was all still a lot for her to process and the long walk through the forest gave her a lot of time to think of it.
“I can get a small fire started if you finish setting up the tent,” Charlotte said. She was already collecting some dry twigs nearby and some pinecones that were lying around. Charlotte spent some of her time at the library reading about how to travel through a forest effectively and she learned some things about setting up a proper camp. That’s why she was digging a small trench around where they would set up the fire, so she wouldn’t accidentally burn down the entire forest floor. By the time Liari had finished setting up the tent, the fire was already heating up and before long they were warming up next to it. Now that the sun was going down and they’d stopped moving it became clear that it was far from a warm spring day. The cold was really setting in and the trees gave a bit of shelter but not as much as they would have liked. The meal they had was simple. There was a chest in the library that had some fruits in it from the few trees that were there so they would have those for a few days to supplement the dried rations and the vegetables they had with them. Still, it was a far cry from the comfort the library had to offer and Liari imagined it wouldn’t even compare to the food Charlotte would have had when living in a palace.
“How are you feeling?” Charlotte put another piece of wood on the small fire. “You know, being away from home for the first time.”
Liari stared into the flames, watching them jump around the smoldering logs and twigs. “I don’t think it’s quite sunken in yet, but so far it feels nice. I’m excited to see more of the world, that’s for sure.” She sat upright and smiled. “But I already miss the library, so I hope that feeling doesn’t get stronger.” She chuckled. “If I wasn’t feeling good already that would be a very bad sign, we still have a ways to go to even get anywhere.” Their first destination was Larania, the settlement on the edge of the Celeran Canopy that Charlotte had gone through on her way here.
“Have you ever slept out in the forest before?” Charlotte asked.
Liari nodded. “Sometimes we would camp out in the summer, but it was often in the little clearing near the library. We’d be close enough to run back if it started to rain.” She smiled. “That’s how I knew how to put up a tent so quickly.” She looked at the tent that was just barely standing. “I could use some more practice though.”
After they finished their meal they tidied everything up and sat by the fire for about two hours. Liari took out a small but thick book and a quill and started writing.
“What are you writing about?” Charlotte asked.
“Just the things we’ve seen on our journey so far. I want to write as much of it down as possible so I can read it back later.”
“You like reading so much that you want to write your own things down to be able to read even more.”
They both laughed. “I know a lot of travelers and explorers keep diaries and I figured it’d be a good way to pass the time. It’s a bit hard to see well with only the firelight though, so I’m only writing a little bit before going to sleep. It’s cold as well, so I can’t wait to get into my bedroll.”
After a little while longer, Liari went to bed. They would sleep in shifts and keep watch while the other person slept. Once they were out of the forest, they’d have to do this a lot less, since it’d be more populated and there would be roadside inns and caravan camps now and then, so for now they’d have to sleep less than they’d like. Lariana should only be a couple days out as well, so they would probably try and rest up there as well before continuing their journey.
The first night went by poorly. Liari was plagued by bad dreams that vanished from her memory as soon as she was woken up by Charlotte. After that she spent her watch hours shivering near the fire, wondering which sounds in the distance spelled their certain doom. She suddenly felt very far from home. But like all bad nights, morning eventually comes and after stretching a little bit she felt a bit better. 

After their journey took them a bit further west, the duo stumbled upon a clearing. The clearing was surrounded by thick oaken trees that looked out of place. It’s as if someone had commanded the trees to form a perimeter and they’d all sheepishly accepted the command, moving out of the area that now formed a clearing. At the center of the clearing stood a small hut with a little bit of smoke billowing out of a thin and long chimney. The door was slightly ajar.
“Do you know whose house this is?” Liari asked.
Charlotte shook her head. “I don’t remember seeing any strange huts on my way here, but I’m also confident we’re not taking the exact same route anyway, so it could be something I just didn’t see.”
“Want to go take a look if someone’s home?”
Charlotte looked at Liari horrified. “Absolutely not, we have no idea what kind of person would live in a hut in the forest. What if they’re a criminal or some crazy person.”
“Well I live out in the forest and I’m not a crazy person.”
“Apparently you are, if you just want to go knocking on random doors.”
“Aren’t you curious?” Liari looked at the hut. Compared to how clean and neat the library looked, this was barely more than a shack that was being held together by twine and dreams. There was a pelt that seemed to be drying from one of the eaves sticking out between two planks. On a small windowsill stood some potted herbs. The smell of the incoming rain mingled with strange herbal scents that Liari didn’t recognize.
“You’re free to take shelter from the rain if you want to,” a voice appeared behind them.
Charlotte almost jumped from the unexpected sound.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” Behind the two stood an elderly man, holding a basket filled with leaves and blackberries. “I can make you some tea if you’d like?” He smiled.
“I’m sure the rain won’t be too bad,” Charlotte said, making haste to carry on. The moment she said that, thunder struck in the distance and raindrops started to fall from the sky.
“What sort of tea?” Liari asked.
The man’s face brightened up. “I’m so glad you ask.” He reached into the basket he was holding and pulled out some leaves. “I’ve these new herbs I’ve been growing for a while, supposedly they make for a very soothing flavor.” He stepped past them. “I’m going inside, the rain’s about to pick up and I’d rather not get soaked.” He stepped into the small hut, leaving the two standing outside.
“We really shouldn’t be going into strangers’ houses,” Charlotte said.
“But it’s a good way to hide from the rain.” Liari argued. “Besides, it’s one old man, what’s the worst that could happen.”
Charlotte let out a deep sigh. “You’re going to get us both killed long before we ever get to the Academy.” The rain picked up in intensity and the two made their way into the small hut.

The inside of the shack was just as chaotic as they expected from what the outside looked like. There was a single table at the center of the room with several completely different chairs standing around it. The back wall had some cabinets below a countertop. Every piece of space that was available was covered with something. There were herbs and plants all around. There were old books strewn around and the table had several strange objects. At the center of this chaos stood a small glass bauble on a metal stand. The older gentleman was in the back near the counter, pouring some hot water into several chipped cups. He turned around and smiled.
“Please, take a seat.” He walked over to the table and sat down, putting the two cups in front of Liari and Charlotte. “So what brings two young women to the middle of the forest?”
“We’re on our way out of the forest,” Liari said. Charlotte was still looking at the numerous strange things in the hut. Some objects looked so alien to her that she didn’t even know what they could be called.
“I see, you’re on your way to Larania then?”
Liari nodded. “We are, how did you know?”
“It’s the first village outside of this forest. At least in the vicinity.”
“I see, that makes sense. What are you doing here?”
The old man stared off into the distance for a moment that lasted long enough to make Liari wonder if he’d not heard her question. She was about to ask it again when he spoke.
“I’ve been wandering for quite a few years now. I’ve only moved in here about a year ago. This is a peaceful place and there’s good tea leaves in this area. I expect to find a new place to live soon again though, it’s getting boring.”
“So you’re a traveler?” Charlotte asked. For some reason the hairs on the back of her neck stood up and she felt like someone was standing right behind her at all times but whenever she looked there was no one there. Something was very wrong and they shouldn’t be here. Although the old man appeared like every other old man she’d met in her life, there was a part of her brain that screamed at her to run away from him as fast as she could. The man seemed to notice her worry because he smiled at her and said. “Is the tea not to your liking?”
Charlotte shook her head. “The tea is fine, thank you. I’m just looking at all the interesting things you have stalled out in your house.”
The man’s face lit up. “I’ve been collecting trinkets for many years now.” He reached forward to the glass bauble on the center of the table. “This is probably my most valuable possession.” He showed it to them.
“What is it?” Liari asked.
“It’s a seer’s vision orb. It’s made from a rare type of volcanic material that’s only found in a certain region very far away. It allows those with a lot of innate magic to see visions in them.”
“Like the future?”
“Sometimes. Magic is a fickle thing. Seeing things you aren’t supposed to be privy to is even more fickle. It depends on your conviction, your morality and your capabilities. Sometimes the orb lies, it twists things or it shows you information you’re not interested in. But some great disasters have been prevented with the use of these things.” He held it out to Liari. “Want to have a look?”
“I don’t know if that’s smart,” Charlotte interjected, but Liari took the orb from the old man’s hand and looked it over. “It looks pretty but I can’t say it’s showing me anything other than my reflection.”
The man looked at Charlotte and shrugged. “Well, it’s rare for this kind of trinket to actually work when you first look at it. Even I can’t really get it to work.”
There was an implication there that all but confirmed Charlotte’s suspicions that this man was dangerous. He could use an artifact so rare and strange that she’d never even heard of it.
“Well, it was interesting looking at it but.” Liari stopped in the middle of the sentence. “Wait, what’s that.”
Charlotte looked at Liari and didn’t see the look in the old man’s eyes that barely contained the grin that had been building up.

“I see something. There’s a massive stone building, maybe some sort of castle and palace. There’s a woman with a gnarled staff and dark brown hair walking towards it. Around her I can see the earth tearing apart as if something from another world is trying to push through. There’s a throne ahead of her, which has a figure sitting in it. There’s someone next to the woman with red hair, but I can’t see her all that well. The figure on the throne is saying something. I can hear him say ‘the red demon and her vile witch.’ There’s laughter coming from the woman. There’s thunder and lightning and from the ground I can see large trees and vines sprouting. The castle is being torn asunder and I can hear screaming.” Liari started speaking faster and started to stumble over her words. A look of panic hit Charlotte’s face as Liari was talking. Before she could react the old man reached forward and grabbed the orb from Liari’s hand. “That’s enough of that for now, we wouldn’t want you to get hurt,” he said.
“What just happened?” Charlotte put her hand on Liari’s arm who still seemed to be in a sort of daze. She shook her head and looked around.
“I believe your friend here was able to see some sort of vision in the seer’s vision orb. That’s extremely rare and shows you have some very powerful innate magic.” He sighed. “I apologize, if I had known the orb would actually show you something, I wouldn’t have handed it to you. Untrained access to these sorts of powers is dangerous, but I didn’t expect someone I randomly saw in the forest to be able to use it.”
Liari looked at Charlotte. “A woman with red hair,” she said quietly, but not so quiet that Charlotte didn’t hear her say it. “What does it all mean?” Liari asked.
“Like I said, the orb shows all sorts of weird things to people. It’s hard to glean any real meaning from what you see. But it has meaning, that’s for sure. It’s up to you to figure it out though.”
“It looks like the weather has cleared up a bit,” Charlotte said. It looks like it was only a short rain shower. “We should continue our journey.”
The old man nodded. “I understand you’re in a hurry, so don’t let me keep you for much longer.” He stood up and looked through some of the stuff on one of his shelves before grabbing something. “Take this as an apology.” He handed an old looking book to Liari. “It’s a book with stories about the seers that made this orb. Perhaps it can give you some insight into what it does.” Liari took the book and looked at  the ornate letters on the front. Shari’lar Seers.
“I’ve never heard of these people before,” Charlotte said.
“That doesn’t surprise me, their people live very far from here.”
They thanked the old man for the tea and made their exit. Only after they left the clearing and the hut was completely out of sight did Charlotte let out a deep sigh.
“Never make me do something like that again,” she said to Liari.
“He was nice enough though,” Liari countered.
“There was something incredibly eerie about this man, and I felt uncomfortable the entire time we were there. And besides that, the strange orb he made you look at without any regard for your safety? Don’t tell me it was just a simple mistake. No one has such rare artifacts and doesn’t know how to treat them properly. That was some sort of demon or something, you can’t convince me otherwise.”
Liari shrugged. “Well, what’s done is done, let’s get some distance in before nightfall. If all goes well we should reach Larania in the morning.

The rain from the previous day was only just the beginning of what would end up becoming a long streak of spring showers. By the time the two had packed up their stuff after their last night before reaching Larania it was already raining again. The sound of rain droplets hitting the canopy above them had a calming effect on both of them and for the first part of their journey they just walked in silence, taking in the atmosphere. The smell of fresh grass and leaves permeated the area and although they were getting cold from the rain, staying in motion definitely helped.
“It’s so peaceful here,” Charlotte said. “In K’tapur rain was always a miserable time. It means being cooped up inside with a boring lesson. But here in the wild outdoors it’s almost freeing.”
“This is the only way I’ve known rain. I used to sit outside under the cover the tree and listen to the rain and wind while I read my books. Reading outside is much more pleasant than reading inside, and that’s saying a lot since reading indoors is already very pleasant.”
Charlotte chuckled. “It’s a good thing you have such a love for reading. I can’t imagine how bored you would have been in that library if reading wasn’t your thing.”
“I’ve never thought about it that day, that’s a terrifying thought.” They found a tall tree with a particularly dense canopy above it that seemed to keep the rain out. It was dripping down further away from the trunk, where the leaf coverage got thinner. But where the two set up camp it was almost perfectly dry.
“We shouldn’t be far from the village now, I suspect we can get there before dark.”
“It does still get dark early,” Liari said. “But it would be nice to get to a warm hearth.”
“Well, best keep the pace up then.” Charlotte stepped over some plants and continued down the path. They’d mainly traversed some hunting trails and as they got closer to Larania, the trails became more pronounced. By the time the sun started going under the path they walked on could almost be considered a road.
“I really hope you’re right about how close we are,” Liari said. “I don’t like the look of those clouds one bit. We should have waited for the weather to be a bit nicer.”
“We’ll get there today, don’t you worry.” So they trudged on.
It took about an hour more from where they were before they finally spotted the first signs of light. The path leading into Larania was lined with tall torches that were dimly lit. They were spaced out quite far so a part of the road was still quite dark, but it was at least easy to find the village now. The two approached the first of the lights before they heard something move ahead. They both strained their eyes to try and see what it was. “It’s not a wild animal or something, right?” Liari asked.
“This close to town? I highly doubt it,” Charlotte replied. She peered into the darkness until the shadow in the distance walked past a light. Indeed it did not seem to be a strange beast but instead a person. “Hello there,” Charlotte went. They were standing next to one of the torches so they were easy enough to see.
“Greetings strangers, what brings you here?” The tone the guard used was flat but not outright hostile.
“My name is Charlotte, I traveled through here during winter and I’ve now returned. If possible, I’d like to meet with Elder Grahm.” They waited as the guard moved closer. He looked quite old, now that he’d come closer.
“I recognize you, you’re the one that insisted on going into the forest in the depth of winter.”
Charlotte laughed nervously. “That would be me.”
“Well, I’m sure the elders will be glad to see that you’ve made it back safely. Follow me, I’ll take you to them.”
“Thank you very much,” Charlotte replied, and the two followed the guard into Larania under the guise of darkness.

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