“The sun is setting soon. Curfew goes into effect in one hour. Light the street lanterns and make sure that there are no night owls about. Until we find a solution to the infestation of my city, no one leaves their home after dark unless they wish to meet a most unfortunate death.” the old king spoke in a soft but dry voice. The concern in his tired brown eyes was evident even across the court where Arlo knelt. “Once again, the young man you see before you is Arlo, the sole exception to the curfew, and he is not to be interrupted on his patrols. I assure you his research is paramount to our shadow sprite problem. Arlo, you may leave to your duty.”
“Thank you, your highness. Your confidence is well placed.” the man asserted as he rose from his knee. He then turned and exited the room through heavy wooden doors into the main castle interior. Arlo looked and felt out of place among the other men that visited the king. Here people were either royal family, wealthy nobles, or decorated soldiers. He was a penniless wanderer some weeks before he offered his help to the court; he wore simple clothes that were well worn and his hair was loose and unkempt.
On top of the clear class divide between him and the others, the inhabitants of this city did not normally invite a magic user like himself on royal ground, they distrusted magic and those associated with it. But Arlo was lucky to meet a king that had grown just as wise as he was old. The court needed him, and to some extent Arlo needed them. There was not often such a lucrative opportunity to earn money for a wizard in a human settlement, and food has it’s price even for a hungry traveler.
The sun had just begun to set when Arlo left the castle, and soldiers were herding civilians back home before sprites would start manifesting once again. He too would have to prepare for the night ahead, as the situation was indeed a nasty one.
Arlo first arrived at the city a few days ago, at dawn, where he witnessed the aftermath of the night before. A woman lay dead just a few short steps from her home. Her clothes were torn apart, her hair plucked from her head in small patches, bruises covered her skin and blood dripped from her lips. She died slowly in twisted agony, from what Arlo was shocked to be told was caused by a swarm of shadow sprites.
They were small pitch black creatures that were near invisible in the dark, about the size of a rat but humanoid in shape. They became rather aggressive at night but they were harmless and easily driven off by a strong enough light. Arlo had never seen or heard of a group swarming someone like this, and his curiosity would not be sated until he found what caused it.
Arlo kept his gear in the small housing provided to him by the king for use during his stay, traditional style Leveret mage robes that his mother had made for him as a parting gift. A black hooded outfit complete with a horned headpiece made from the skull of a beast his father claimed to have slain when he was younger. And one item he had crafted himself as a channel for his magic long ago, it too made of bone material from an unknown donor. Large and circular he wore it on his back secured by leather straps where it lay flat against him. He could cast magic without it, but his own style was easier with the enchanted device to help him focus. He slid the robe on over his clothes and tied the leather strap fixed to his headpiece around his neck so that it would hang on his back. This way should he need to he could pull it onto his head quickly along with his hood should he need to.
"Just one more thing," Arlo thought. On the bedside table there was a small sheet of paper, adorned on it was the king's seal. He grabbed it and rolled it up to place inside his robe. "just in case a soldier doesn't recognize me."
He left his housing and strolled down the road leading away from the castle, waiting for the sun to set. He planned tonight to see if there was an increase of sprite activity in certain parts of the city over others, hoping that it might lead him to the answer he was looking for.