Togian stared straight-faced at the grey-eyed man sitting across from him. The two of them were seated at a small, but well-made table in a little homey dining room just outside a kitchen of nearly the same size. Half eaten plates were before them, the endings of a morning’s breakfast. The man scrutinized Togian carefully as he stroked his braided, beaded beard. The sun was bright outside, but the heavy curtains were pulled closed, darkening the room considerably. A stout woman bustled around them, pouring tea or offering more to eat.
“Would you like anything else dear?” the woman asked Togian.
Togian looked at her with a light smile to break the seriousness of his face, and replied, “I’m fine Mrs. Wallace.”
“Are you sure? There’s plenty to have.”
“I’m sure. Thank you.”
Mrs. Trewsar motioned her kettle towards the man, but he casually waved it away. With that, Mrs. Trewsar went back to the kitchen, most likely to tend to the sweet cakes she had in the oven.
One of the man’s eyebrows lifted. “How can you be sure so many will rally to help you in your cause?” he asked.
“Jereed, though twenty is not enough, it is also not much,” Togian replied. He paused to think for a time. “And I won’t need all of them, only the best after I deem them fit.”
“Hmm… I see. Well, there are many of those who may be willing to join you if to get revenge.”
“No. None will I take if they are only committed to striking revenge. I will only take those who will aid me for the cause of justice.”
Jereed stroked the beads of his beard once more, brooding over these words. Togian waited for what he would say. The man was wise; Togian had come to rely on his word for the past two weeks.
“A very prudent decision to make,” Jereed said “I may know several who might help.”
Togian released his tense statue and sat back within his seat with relief. “Even if there are only two, I can make this work,” he said. “My worse fear is not finding the information I need to find her.” He fell silent and then quietly added, “She could have been executed for all we know.”
Jereed slowly shook his head. “There will be more to come to aid than that and no she wasn’t executed. She’s far too valuable for that.”
“Valuable? How so?”
Jereed sighed. “A long story my boy. A long sad one. Perhaps some other time, I wouldn’t want to spoil my morning.”
Togian nodded, more of to himself, slipping into deep thought. He had so many things to get done. He felt the need to act but he had to wait for the events to take place and more importantly, for solid information to be retrieved.
‘You may have the army, but without intelligence, you may as well drive them off a cliff,’ he thought and sighed at the advice of his father.
“Drink your tea son,” Jereed told him. “It’ll do you good.”
Togian reached to take up his mug, ignoring the sharp pain in his side and seat back into his seat again. He took in a waft of its steam.
“Lemomine,” he said nearly inaudibly.
Jereed looked up from his cup with a slightly perked expression. “Yes,” he said. “The wife grows some in her herb garden.”
“It was the tea I had with the last meal she gave me,” Togian said looking into his cup. “I told her she should have given it to someone else and to let me die, but she wouldn’t have it.”
“And she saved your life giving you that tea. The blooms of the lemomine bush have many healing qualities. Without it, your fever would have consumed you long before you arrived here.”
“Yes, I know and I’m grateful for her thoughtfulness,” Togian said and then sipped his tea. He smiled to himself as he remembered his last meal received from her. But the memory was dampened some by reality and became twisted into a bittersweet remanence. Sighing, he placed the nearly filled mug back unto the table. He would never be able to look back on those memories again without regret until he found her and she was safe.
“Togian, there is something I would like to ask, if it’s not so much,” Jereed said. Togian lift his gaze to the man and perked his brows asking a silent “What?”
“You never mentioned how you came to be in the war camp Silvius.”
Togian casually eased back in his chair. “If you are asking if I was fighting for the Invasion I had the pleasure of saying no, I wasn’t. I enlisted into their army but had the mission to infiltrate and gather intelligence about their ranks. The information I sent to my commander. To explain how I came to be stuck in the Silvius, that would be on the account of my daring and desperate escape.
“I had learned that the platoon I was assigned to was to be deployed within a week before my scheduled escape. Not wanting to have the blood of my own people on my hands, I chose to take a risk. Unfortunately, it didn’t go so well and ended with me drifting down an icy river barely able to cling to life.”
“I take that icy river to be the river Dentor,” Jereed muttered to himself and then asked Togian, “So your escape explains the wound in your side?”
“Mm… and from the injury type it was inflicted magically, yes?”
Jereed’s question put on Togian on alert, but he reminded himself to remain casual.
“Yes, it was,” he replied, but was tense with vigilance and anticipation.
“Hm… yes, I see… and I believe the Dentor is where and when my niece found you?”
Togian nodded, but still hadn’t eased.
“None of us would have ever thought she would’ve gone there,” Jereed said thinking to himself once more. “But then it was just a hospital before the Invasion took it over…”
Togian was watching the man, calculating. How could he have known that his wound was magically inflicted. Many people knew of those who were magically capable–you were a fool to have not known–but to actually know how the effects of magic looks, that was a rare thing to know indeed. Togian was a part of that small rare few, but how could Jereed have known?
It could have been that he had simply gathered the knowledge that living life grants at times, but no, Jereed said that he was just a simple man that had lived in the village for his entire life. He could’ve been a wizard… but Togian didn’t think so. Wizards had certain habits and ways of carrying themselves. And they weren’t usually married. But he had to know somehow!
Suddenly they heard heavy knocking at the door. The two men looked at each other. Jereed nodded. Togian quickly got to his feet, cleared the table of his dishes, and went for the stairs leading to the second floor.
Quietly, he climbed the stairs until he reached their end and went into the first room on his left, which was Jereed’s study. There he placed his dishes on a small shelved table, removed a thick blue book from the table’s lowest shelf, and felt along the empty space. What he was looking for wasn’t very hard to find. He brushed against a small lever and gave it a pull. Somewhere, the ceiling above him clicked.
Afterwards, he replaced the book and took up his dishes. The lever controlled a hidden trapdoor leading up to a small space in the roof. He pulled the trapdoor down, along with its foldable ladder, and climbed up. The small space in the roof wasn’t an attic, neither did it qualify to be even a bedroom, so Togian came to call it a loft. Though it was tiny, it was the only place Jereed and Mrs. Wallace could shelter him safely.
Once he had pulled the trapdoor back up, he crawled over to the curtained window, parted its curtain open some, and peered out of it. From the outside, the window he peered from was seen as a lamp, and it was. In Togian’s case, however, it was a window. It hadn’t been used in some time so the glass was frosted with age.
Out in the early morning rays, standing on the path of the front yard were three men clad in armor. Their horses were tied to the front gate. Togian’s heart leapt to his throat once he recognized the soldiers wore the insignia of the Invasion. Did they know he was there? Impossible. He was only allowed to come down in the early mornings or late at night. What could they have known?
Togian continued to watch as Jereed came from the house and greeted the three soldiers. He could hear the conversation clearly…
“Good morning gentlemen,” Jereed said merrily. “How do you fare?”
“We are here on the account of your town’s chart keeper,” one of the soldiers said, disregarding Jereed’s warm welcome.
“Really? This must be of importance. Would you like to come inside?”
“We have no businesses entering your premises. As you know every citizen of this town has been granted a ration of previsions by the esteem High Lord.”
Jereed interjected muttering, “Blessed he be,” and the soldier continued.
“Over the last two weeks, the chart keeper has noticed your household requesting the maximum rations allowed for medicine. Your records before this period show minimum requests. An explanation is required in person at the One Court. We will escort you.”
“Such short notice. Very well.”
The soldiers waved him forward. Togian watched helplessly as Jereed walked down the stone path accompanied by two soldiers. The third stayed behind most likely to be a guard. Soon the three men were galloping down the road headed for the inner town.
Togian wondered what would happen to his benefactor. His trust made him doubt Jereed would expose him, but he made plans accordingly just in case. The world and the people in it were distorted in the ways they appeared….
As he waited for what would happen next, Togian watched the soldier standing guard. Soldiers of the Invasion were well disciplined and he knew he would stand his post as ordered. Why he was left to stay and guard was what rambled within Togian’s thoughts.
‘Perhaps they suspect there is a refuge of rebels here,’ he thought. ‘If they do, then they are right and if they chose to act on their suspicions, I will have to be most vigilant.’
And so Togian waited in the little room loft of the attic with nothing but his calculative thoughts to keep him company. Eventually his thoughts exhausted themselves and he began counting the seconds, adding them into their minutes. Those minutes became an hour and a half before he saw Jereed’s return on the far end of the road. The man looked unharmed and actually quite victorious.
After Jereed alighted from his borrowed steed, one of his two escorts beckoned the soldier on guard. Soon the three were galloping back down the road to wherever they came. Jereed watched them until they were out of sight before entering into the house. Togian heard voices and then footsteps. The footsteps didn’t stop until they reached the study. The trap door clicked, was lowered, and Jereed’s head floated up through the entrance.
“Ah, I almost thought you may have fled,” he said leaning heavily on the entrance’s paneling.
“If events would have unfolded for the worst I would have,” Togian replied.
Jereed nodded, “Come on down. There still may be time for a small chat.”
“They wanted to know about the medicine I used for you,” Jereed began once Togian was down from the loft.
“I heard,” Togian replied.
“Wasn’t much of dispute really. The Chart Keeper simply wanted to know what I had used it for.”
“I don’t think that was the only reason.”
“No it wasn’t….” Jereed stared Togian hard, pensive no doubt.
“Togian, I was asked if I was housing any loyal to the rebel allegiance. I denied that accusation to the fullest and was believed… for now. If I continue to aid you I will be discovered.”
“If you fear for your safety, I will leave–” Togian began, but Jereed dismissed it with a simple hand gesture.
“No, it is not that. If I will continue to shelter you, I must know if it is worth the trouble. Meaning… I must know who you truly are.”
Togian paused before saying his next thought and weighed his options. If he revealed his true identity, he could put himself in more danger than he already was. But Jereed was trustworthy. Why else would Rebekka had sent him to this specific household? As he was deciding, Jereed watched him silently with his pair of wise grey eyes. Finally, Togian solidified his decision.
“I am Togian Bandson, son of Lupus Bandson, and am the leader of the Mainlind army,” Togian said boldly.
“Ah, General Bandson,” Jereed said with a nod of respect. “I figured as much. You look so much like you father.”
Togian got a thrill of excitement up his spine. “You know my father?”
“Not personally. It was such a tragedy to hear of his disappearance years ago. He was a grand leader… Well now that you have revealed to me who you truly are, I think it safe for me to do the same.” Jereed stood taller. “I am Wizard Jereed, belonging to the fifth magical faction.” He pushed up his sleeve to reveal a small red and black glyph in the shape of a rose. “’Poison to become of such beauty’ is our creed.”
Togian listened without surprise. “The Poisonous Rose,” he noted. “The coven of assassins.”
“So, you know something of the magical factions.”
“I was the son of a man who cherished knowledge. There are many things I know, truths about the magical world included.”
“I see. A wise choice of your father to educate his children on broader spectrums.”
“Unfortunately, he neglected to teach me to read or write.”
“Perhaps he did not know how to himself and saw no importance of it.”
“Perhaps…” The conversation slowly lapsed into silence, but it wasn’t long before a question wedged into Togian’s mind.
“Why isn’t Rebekka’s father searching for her?”
Jereed sighed before answering. “My brother in law is a complicated man. Truth is I don’t know if he is searching for or not. Truthfully, I can’t tell you any recent news of him. I haven’t talked to him for years.”
“But you knew your niece had run away?” Togian asked with a lifted eyebrow.
“I knew of my niece’s disappearance because I have the ability to use the Dropling Spell on her.”
“The Dropling Spell?”
“It is a definite location spell that allows a witch of wizard to see the surroundings of only certain types of persons.”
“Oh, now I see. Either a relative or another witch or wizard.”
“Yes, and this should explain, to a degree, her importance.”
“They could possibly use her to find you?”
“I my boy am of no importance and clearly my implication has eluded you…” He began to stroke his beaded beard, “She didn’t tell you, did she?” Togian gave him a questioning look and he continued. “Who was your healer after Rebekka found you?”
“Are you sure?”
“Togian listen carefully. The wounds you were received were inflicted magically. Wounds such as these must be treated using equally magical medicine.”
“But my wounds weren’t healed.”
“No, they were healed partially.”
Togian quickly put the pieces together. “But then that could only mean–”
“Yes,” Jereed said and paused, “Does this deter your resolve to help my niece?”
“No!” Togian replied instantly. “This changes nothing. I am in debt to her and will see to it that is repaid.”
Togian noticed Jereed’s rather knowing look and realized he may have put too much emotion into his words.
He cleared his throat. “I made a promise to her and the men of Bandson never break their word.”
Jereed did a curt nod. “Good deal! I will call for a sitting in three days’ time.”
(to be continued)
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