Nar Zalaam and Toradeen Folgamer
arantis hadn't changed as much as Nar had hoped. It was still... well... Tarantis. To him it was a hometown, but not home. Regardless of this, he was still glad to be back. The streets were absolutely packed, which was nothing new. Around the milling masses, the dizzying glare of the marble scorched its way into Nar's retinas. Nar pondered how drunk the architects would've been to consider building this.H
e walked through his old neighbourhood. A fierce nostalgia drew closer with every step he took, before rearing its head in front of his parents' old house. Posted on the exterior wall was a sign: For Sale. His parents... The meekly furious thought floated by, Is despair contagious?
. He hadn't even been there for their funeral. Had they a funeral? It wasn't that he surprised that they weren't around anymore, it was that he wasn't there. He curled up in front of the house for an hour until a guardsman told him to leave. He didn't want to start shit, so he left. Spilling blood on his parents' doorstep wasn't something he felt inclined to do.W
andering pointlessly for a time, he found himself outside the arena. Two meatheads were going at it in the center with wooden swords to cries of "No, X is the greatest warrior in the kingdom!". It seemed pointless to him. One duel isn't enough of a sample size to determine anything, let alone the greatest warrior. Saying that wouldn't prove anything, so he let them have their fun.S
omething much more interesting happened in the market district.
The black carriage stopped with the grey horses skidding to a halt making strange rasping breaths which released plumes of almost smokey exhales, similar to how breaths are visible a cold day, all while the air around them was reasonably warm.
As the carriage had moved through the district the people had gone silent, several had moved inside and were nervously peeking through windows and doors.
The door opened and out from it stepped two smoldering daemon knights who oozed ember filled smoke, they stood ever at attention, holding the blade down in front of them like statues, their movements rigid and inhuman.
They stood at guard on each side of the door. From the same door, an ancient wizard clad in deep blue robes had trouble moving down the stairs of the wagon, his shaking hands guiding the staff and cane which he used to balance himself.
It was none other than Toradeen Folgamer, perhaps the most renowned battle mage alive. Or perhaps one should say infamous.
Many recognized the stories, some were terrified, some were simply spooked.
The aura of despair could be felt all around him, his old gaze still held a precision and purpose which made even the most resolute waver.
Folgamer recognized the reactions, always the same. The reason he had stopped was simple. Men have many needs, and right now one of his was to go to the loo, he hoped he could borrow the one at the inn which he stopped in front without making too much of a fuss.
With troubled steps he moved forth, the hellknights moving in perfect synchronisation to flank him on his sides.N
ar watched this wizened man with something that could only be described as wonder. He was ancient, but still held immense power. That despair was instantly recognisable. There was no doubt that he was the mage in Fool's Pass. He felt a fresh, deep sorrow rise in his throat for Fiona, and for Teth. The sorrow from his parents had never left him. He would have retreated into the faux comfort of loneliness to escape these horrid feelings, but it never worked for him in the past. Instead, he scrutinised these emotions, hoping to glean some insight. As with before, just a clean slate of nothing. That's okay. Maybe this man would have his own insights into despair?D
eciding it would be a good idea, he strode up to the Old Man. Despair was slowly backing off, but it'd never be totally gone. He was now only ten paces away, and in the least startling voice he could manage said, "I saw you at Fool's Pass. It was impressive, to say the least."
. The soft words seemed loud against the backdrop of silence that had previously surrounded them.
With mirrored movements, the knights took two steps forth and raised their weapons to a guard pose standing between their charge and Nar.
The heavy footfalls and creaking metal overpowering the scene and some would have ran on the spot.
With a sigh, Folgamer muttered, pushed on the shoulder of one of the knights with his staff, and let something akin to 'Can't have a calm second in my life can I' and 'Get out of my way you oaf' before standing in front of his bodyguards, quickly adjusting his clothes and facing Nar.
After a good examination with a blue light dancing across his eyeballs, Folgamer spoke with a gruff voice."Impressive? Murdering weak people is impressive? I guess one could see it that way, see it as a sign of honor or glory.... pyromancer.... "
He gave a slight pause and coughed slightly before resuming his response. "I don't recall any mages that day, when I think of it I recall me sparing about ten people, and none of them were you... I also come to think of that I probably shouldn't be spouting military secrets... so, who are you? What do you want from me? If it is help in a battle you can forget it. If it is an enchantment to claim vengeance on some bullying fool the answer is the same. You are wasting your time."
Nar watched the old man turn. It would've been pitiful if you didn't know he was the greatest warmage alive. Or rather, the greatest warmage with one foot in the grave. He noticed that the older mage was putting him under much scrutiny, and allowed as much information to ooze into his body language as would fit. Folgamer spoke pure spite. Words full of suspicion and contempt. Nar figured it wouldn't be a good idea to act indignant, so he attempted to seem wise. He leaned to the right, and looked straight down into the old man's eyes."It is impressive. Maybe not totally ethical, but impressive."
, he raised his right eyebrow and gave a slight smile before continuing, "I wasn't in Fool's Pass, luckily. I was several leagues away, but I still felt your power. And don't worry, I wouldn't ask others to do my dirty work. I'm far more than capable of dealing with that myself."
. He cast a few furtive glances around, before reaching into his back to pull out the Book of Ishamel, and presenting it to the old man to ponder. "So... this is something I'd rather discuss without so many ears around. Do you know a spell to hide our words?
, he said in a lowered voice, before putting the book back in his pack, and taking another glance around.
Folgamer raised an eyebrow and took a second glance at the younger mage.
He wasn't intimidated, that meant he was probably a fool. No matter, he didn't want things killed and was reasonably polite. On top of it the pyromancer had presented a rather interesting spellbook he seemed to want to discuss."I know the best spell, choose a good table in that inn, we'll buy some cider and we can discuss... but first... I have business to attend to."
With that, Folgamer moved past Nar with the hellknights close. One of them turned its head ever upon Nar while otherwise mirroring the others movements. It was able to turn its head just a bit too much, further betraying its inhuman nature before it resumed a look straight forward.
With that Folgamer got inside and demanded access to the facilities, so to speak. The whole scene looked a bit odd with two hellknights guarding a toilet. Luckily it was out of sight.
After a while Folgamer returned to see if the pyromancer had gotten a good table or left because of boredom, many pyromancers tended to be impatient like the flame so Folgamer expected this one to be no different.
The disapproval was practically oozing off the older mage, but actions speak loudest. Nar decided the best way to prove this man wrong was to... well... prove him wrong. He sat at a windowside table that allowed the occupant to see the inside and outside of the door, just in case they needed to hide the book quickly. He called over a barmaid and ordered two glasses of an above average cider. He wasn't poor, but he wasn't filthy rich either. He thanked the waitress when she brought the cider around, and made a point of waiting for the old man to return before he began to drink. As he waited he contemplated his next line. He figured an introduction would do it. A handshake, too.
The old man slowly shuffled across the room before taking a seat across from Nar. He took his time, but it was only a few minutes tops. Absolutely no price to pay for a master's opinion. Nar waited for him to settle in his seat before speaking up. Wouldn't want to anger him. "So, before we talk business, let's talk introductions. My name is Nar Zalaam, and some call me the Wandering Pyromancer."
, he said with a smile. He held out his sooty hand for the old man to shake. He didn't want to introduce the old man for him, and he really didn't want to feign ignorance as to who it was, so he let Folgamer take the initiative.
After eyeing the hand Folgamer returned the handshake, it was firm and with a single shake. After it he did pull out a handkerchief to wipe off the soot."I am Toradeen Folgamer, I am known by many names, you probably know many of them Nar. I prefer magelord the best though... one of my least known titles..."
The old man's last words were bitter and quite.
He took his glass of cider and took a hearty gulp, exhaled loudly and looked in a remarkably better mood suddenly."Ah, finally i can sit down and simply drink some good cider... so, that book you had, you wanted me to evaluate it? Explain a complex part? Translate it?"
His voice was that of man straight to the point and honestly a bit tired.
The meeting could have appeared like a normal meeting between two old wizard friends, if it wasn't for the two hellknights which stood guard at the table, smelling heavily of sulphur and adding to the glum atmosphere.
There was not a single cheer, hearty laugh or song in the inn. Just a few other patrons far away who kept to a low tone discussion.
Nar watched the old man wiping off his hand, slightly more than amused. Over his glass of cider he glanced at the doors, making sure nobody new was walking in. He looked at the hellknights, then to Folgamer."I've heard of you. Didn't want to introduce you for yourself though. I'll spread magelord as best as I can"
he explained. He reached into his backpack, and hoisted the Book onto the table. He turned it so that it would be facing Folgamer, and opened it to the exact page he needed to with a practiced grace. "First off, don't spill cider on it. And yes, this is a spellbook, but a rather odd one. You see, it details the life of an old pyromancer named Ishamel, as opposed to explicitly instructing you on spells. You have to work it out yourself. I've had it for fifteen odd years, and read over it hundreds of times. Until I thought about this passage, I thought I had a good understanding,"
he points to a line near the top of the page. it reads:And Ishamel watched the sun settle. Inevitable cycling would kindly allow it to begin again, but until then horrors would reign. Despair hollowed him from the inside out over this night, and he learned: The coldest ruler can never be warmed by a loving embrace."You see, I used to take it to mean that every hero has their fallen points. Their dark hours, so to speak. Well, when I faced mine I learned a lesson, too: This passage doesn't mean that. I am of the belief that it alludes to something far more profound. A flame powered by Despair."
, he elucidated.
The air around the mages was charged with thought and contemplation. Strange, how time seeks to slow down in anticipation of something. The next few seconds that Nar waited for Folgamer's response were torturous. He took another sip of cider, and felt properly nervous for the first time in this conversation.
Folgamer suddenly got vastly more interested, a perplexing conundrum, a task for the mind. He took a hearty sip and put away the glass so as not to even risk spilling.
He murmured, read the passage several times as he ran he shaking fingers over the words while muttering the words. He pondered for a while before speaking."You have surprised me, I didn't see such an interesting topic coming from a mile away. As for pyromantic essence being fueled by despair, the idea is preposterous, ludicrous!"
He paused for effect."Which is why it so interesting! How did you come to this theory? How do you think it will manifest?"
Folgamer reached for and drank his entire glass before realizing there was no more."Barmaid!!! Bring us a bottle of this!"
Nar watched the old man fill with wonder at the sight of these words, and took a sip of cider. The glass met the table again with a hollow thunk. He looked at the book, reading the passage a few times as he gathered his theory into something succinct."Hm. Well I'm glad to have surprised you. As for how I came to this theory... It's a long story that winds up with me lost at sea, suffering from heatstroke. I think it undid me a little, to be completely honest"
, he laughed. The crows feet at the corners of his eyes showed that he was genuinely amused, too. "From a more logical standpoint, I believe that disparity is a law of nature. Light and dark, earth and sky, flora and fauna, you get the picture. However, something that you'll notice about all of these is the pairings. You see, the pairs they have are dissimilar from them, but not totally removed. Fire... fire does not have one. Water pairs better with shore, ice pairs better with lava, et cetera."
, he said, in a respectful, but lecturing tone.
His brow furrowed as he moved to the next part of his hypothesis, "Now imagine, what could be the disparate twin to passion, the root of pyromany? Apathy was my first thought, but the thing with apathy is that you're still passionate about staying apathetic. No, despair made a lot more sense to me. It leaves you hollow, and totally devoid of anything. On the other hand, passion fills you with exactly what you need. Only thing is, something is off. It might be my approach to the casting of this magic. It may even be the whole thing was based off a fallacy from the start, but I'm not willing to give up this late in the game."
At just the right time, the barmaid had brought back the cider. She was good at her job, and placed the bottle by the glasses, so it wouldn't spill. She filled them with a generous portion, to which Nar smiled and thanked her for accommodating them."So. What are your thoughts?"
Folgamer didn't even turn to look at the obviously nervous barmaid when he slid a silver dinar on the table in front of her and rubbed the beard over his chin.
He took another gulp from his glass and spoke."Ah yes, the importance of emotion. How a person can get inhuman strength, just from feeling the strong emotion to save a loved one. How spite can fuel your strikes and how loyalty can have you stand far longer than what seems natural. The same way emotion can be used with magic. However, is it really passion that fuels the flame? Or is it any strong emotion? Does not the flames of hatred burn bright as well?""Yes, exactly! Any strong 'fuel' emotion. Which is to say emotions that give you drive. The thing is with some of them, like anger, is that they burn hot fast, and unreliably."
, he stops himself here. He was about to dive into how it can cause undesired collateral, but that was an inappropriate topic to breach with Folgamer."My problem is that despair is as far from a fuel emotion as you can get..."
, Was what he continued with, trailing off as if he had become lost in thought. He shook his head, blinked a few times, and took a sip of his cider. "It is true, despair is not something you fuel yourself with. It drains you, hurts you, until you give up. I assume it would be possible to take despair from other....."
Folgamer realized where his train of thought was heading, he did not like it."No, that is not an option. Even if it would be useful to ease the fear they feel..."
He leaned back and drank some cider, he looked all so very old at that moment.
Nar's eyes widened at Folgamer's suggestion. It was simply genius, although potentially unethical. He let his train of thought run long enough to get through a mouthful of cider. That'd be worth saying, if only to cheer the man a little. The other patrons were starting to give them dirty looks. Even the weakest man can be made brave by alcohol."Ah, but if they give us their permission first. Either way, do you wish to make an exit? These fellows don't look too happy with us. I'm sure we could take them, but I don't think starting a scene would be a good idea."
, he said, eyeing off the other patrons. He squirmed in his chair, and finished his cider in one long gulp.
Toradeen only now realized the grim looks of disdain coming from the other patrons, mixed with fear, mistrust and revulsion.
As he met some of their eyes, they turned away, but one didn't relent, the two held eye contact for a while before Folgamer's eyes rolled with blue energy.
This made the other patron look away, but begin to prepare his things, most alarmingly he fastened his sword belt. A metal plated belt with a nasty looking falchion upon it.
The old wizards reaction was simply a shake of the head."If anyone starts anything it will be their undoing, none here have the ability to stand against my bodyguards, let alone me... but I don't want to ruin this nice establishment, it'd be a waste."
He studied the beams which held up the upper floor, he was almost serene, the fact that an armed man was preparing for something probably regarding him didn't bother him the slightest and if it did, neither Nar or anyone present was able to tell."So Nar, how do you think this power would manifest?"
He asked this while taking a sip of cider, seemingly ignoring the possible danger."I... I have positively no idea. It may be an ice blue flame, but that's a wild guess. But... maybe we can finish this in your carriage? While I'm absolutely sure we can handle these guys I'd very much rather not have blood on my hands here. Of all places."
. He paused, and he seemed to retreat into himself a bit. "At least,not this soon after..."
, he trailed off, then glanced around the room. The other patrons weren't making eye contact, but every single one looked away when Nar looked over his shoulder.
Anxiety shuffled into his head, making itself as comfortable as it can get. It's never truly comfortable because there's always something wrong. Shadows darkened, and the glances thrown their way seemed that bit more hostile than they might've otherwise. In a terrific hurry, he packed the Book back into his bag and left a tip for the waiter. "Come on. We're not killing anyone today."
, and with this he hovered near the doorway, waiting for Folgamer.
As the ancient wizard saw the pyromancer scurry towards the door, Folgamer simply looked with a tired sigh upon his cup.
It was like it always is, no place welcoming, no place filled with rest.
A loud sigh was heard and he stood up with a few grunts.
As he moved out flanked by the hellknights the guy with the falchion, yearning for a fight to prove his worth ran up and shouted."That's right mage filth, run from us proper men, you are cowards anyway!"
He had a cocky stance where he showed he was ready to draw his sword in a mocking way. Straight back and a smirk, positively gleaming with nervous pride.
Folgamer stopped in his tracks, the knights did a full turn and in sync assumed guard stances. The old man turned, took a good look upon the youngling while the pale blue magelight danced across his eyes."Filth... I suppose that is a fitting way to describe me, murderer of men, terror of war, archmage Toradeen Folgamer."
With his strong loud words several of the patrons grew pale on the spot, one guy seemingly got panic and ran out while panting frantically."He seemed to have heard about me, while you young weak one have not."
Folgamers words confused and angered the man with the falchion who now drew it, albeit with a slight shake to his grip."Although I don't appreciate you calling this gentleman over here filth, nor is coward a good way to describe me."
His words completely calm as he gestured towards Nar, who was visibly freaking out over how the old fool was starting a fight."You don't scare me you old bastard!"
The voice of the young man noticeably was filled with doubt as several of the patrons were hiding and some were gesturing for the man to stand down, hide and apologize.
He began to draw a throwing dart with his left, the motion was fluid and trained. But not as fluid and trained as Folgamers hand forming a circle in front of him which he blew into, blue energies formed a visible magical circle which shot out a pale dart which hit square in the chest of the falchion guy which went stiff, eyes rolled back, straightened up into attention and like a log falling over he fell to the floor with a loud thud.
As the sound startled the guests Folgamer was already leaving."Paralysis, works well on those few with such a weak magical essence as that poor excuse of a man. Let's leave."
He said to Nar. "Ah, lovely... Well. Why don't you folks put this man in a chair so he isn't on the floor when he wakes up. And uh..."
, he paused, taking a deep breath. "Next time it may be a good idea to show some decency to the other patrons, hey? Grow some fucking brains. Bartender! I'd like you to remember the faces of the ones who tried to start a fight in your tavern! We were just trying to leave and this man threatened us with a sword... My associate here was merely acting in self defense. Get him on a bloody seat!"
, as he raised his voice for those last words the other patrons scrambled to pick up their comrade and allow him some dignity.
He followed Folgamer out the door. When they exited the building, Nar spoke, "While they were the aggressors, maybe it would be helpful to utilise your defensive magics in situations like that...
. He tried to be polite about it, but his disapproval was still somewhat evident. He was happy that Folgamer hadn't disintegrated the younger man. That was good of him. He walked slightly behind Folgamer as they walked over to his carriage, attempting to stay out of the way of the hellish guards.
Folgamer made a troubled smirk filled with regret as he said."Defensive magic... you clearly don't know me. Don't you know the old saying."
He turned to Nar as he finished his sentence."Attack is the best form of defense."
He went a few steps and let out a slight giggle of sorts. Pulling forth the cider bottle to study it."At least I get to finish this one."
He boarded his wagon with a bit of difficulty, being helped by his bodyguards."Young pyromancer, I feel we haven't really finished our discussion, care to join me on my trip to the military camp?"
Folgamer was gesturing at the seat opposite him, the side with the back towards the horses."Well if you want both parties to end up dying, sure."
, being a pyromancer, Nar had to say that one a lot. Aggression is fine and dandy, but when you put yourself at risk, a keen opponent will end you then and there."Of course. Huh... Maybe we could enroll. You could try and save your unit, rather than destroying the enemy's."
, he said, spur of the moment.
As Nar boarded, Folgamer answered."It all depends on who you are fighting... saving my unit? Oh right, other mages usually work inside the units. It's easy to forget the trivial things. Haven't done that for years."
With that the door closed without input and the carriage began moving after the horses released a large burst of steaming breath.