With only two days before our next unwelcome departure, I suddenly had to prioritize all the research I intended to do. I decided to focus my attention on a new spell. With access to Master Vontaze‘s notes, I thought I could find a way to accelerate the work. Of course, by relying so strongly on his notes, I was allowing him to select my next spell. Given the time constraints, I didn’t really have a choice. As I poured over the pages, the silence of the study gave way to a soft scratching sound. I dismissed it as rats and continued my study. I scribbled a few notes, and then heard the scratching again. It occurred to me that the scratching sounded like a quill on parchment.
I pushed away from the desk and looked around the study. The sound seemed to come from behind some books. I ran my fingers across the spines of the books on a shelf, surprised as my fingers disappeared through some books. An illusion. A hidden compartment. My hand abandoned my mind and plunged into the illusion to find the treasure I knew must be hidden there.
A blast of shocking light sent me sprawling across the floor. I laid a moment, waiting for the ceiling to come into focus. The fingers on my left hand were blackened and painful. Dadrigor knocked urgently and came into the study upon my summons. Soon after, he spread a poultice on my fingers and wrapped them in bandages as I told him about falling for one of Master Vontaze’s tricks again. A trap in his own study? I wouldn’t have guessed it, but I should have.
With an herbal brew to deaden the pain, I began my study again. I had found a spell with notes simple enough for me to understand. This, whatever it was, would be my next spell. I added my own symbols to help with the pronunciations and added more notes, when again I heard the sound of a quill on paper. My head jerked around and my eyes sought a source. Not again, Master Vontaze! I pulled out my spellbook and cast Mage’s Hand. With the hand at a safe distance, I grasped a pointer near his maps and dragged the tip across the backs of the books. As expected, I found two illusory books hiding a small area. I used the hand to guide the pointer into the cavity and probed around. When nothing happened, I dropped the pointer and pushed into the space with the magic grasping for an unseen object. When I sensed something in the grasp, I pulled the Mage’s Hand back and saw a small journal in it’s grip. Still suspicious, the hand laid the journal on a book pedestal, where it fell open to the most recent page.
I dismissed the Mage’s Hand and looked at the pages that laid open. A smooth, rounded script read, “Malacai, I’ve not heard from you for some time.”
Below that, “Are you there?”
Finally, “Malacai, answer me!”
Three lines. I had heard three scribblings. My mind reeled. Malacai was the first name of Master Vontaze. He had a secret correspondence with someone? And, presumably, he could write back. How? I thought about the process of writing a scroll…focus on the writing while you focus on the capturing of the energy. I suspected this was similar. Focus on the writing while focusing on sending the energy. I grabbed a quill, and focused.
“Malacai is no longer available. I am his student, Robinov. Who is this?”
After a brief eternity of self-doubt, the curling letters drifted across the page,
“For now, you may call me ‘E’.”
“But, who are you relative to Malacai?”
“An old friend. Is he safe?”
“No, he is…passed.”
“That is an old name.” The writing paused. “This is dreadfully inconvenient. These are dangerous times. I fear a darkness approaches. I may need you to do something for me.”
“I have already been given a quest. I am trying to save Hammer Hill.”
“Save from what?”
“An unknown enemy that uses goblins, hobgoblins and possibly orcs for pawns.”
“A damned good one.” I was losing patience with E.
“I must go. We must speak again, soon. Be on your guard!”
No reply came. I threw the quill down. Riddles from an unknown acquaintance of Master Vontaze. This was not helpful! A dreadful inconvenience? Did this, E, have helpful intentions? I had to assume so, just based on the friendly tone of the first few lines. I picked up the quill again.
“E, I am off to the far north to seek help from the dwarves. I will bring this journal.”
I packed the journal in my pack and looked suspiciously around the study. I couldn’t study more without knowing what other secrets made a home here. I cast Detect Magic and did a slow sweep of the room. Although the room had a general aura of magic, there were two brighter auras, one in the bookshelves – possibly another trap – and one in the desk. I jotted down the locations for later so that I could get back to them.
At that moment, an easy knock rapped through the room. I called to the door, and Alexey slipped through with hardly a sound. This gave me an idea. In my defense, I warned Alexey. I told him that Master Vontaze likely trapped the desk, but we were both curious now. A few minutes later, I helped Alexey to his feet. His eyes were unfocused and his fingers were slightly singed. After settling him in a chair, I searched the desk again and pulled out a clear, glass vial filled with a greenish liquid. A note, in Master Vontaze’s writing, identified the potion as Cure Moderate Wounds as mixed by a level two alchemist.
Alexey and I both protected our hurt fingers, sipped our pain-killing broths and decided we wouldn’t explore the other aura in the office just yet.