Archwizard Lerrin Tocsell looked up from the work spread across his desk at the sound of the soft knocking. There, standing in the doorway was the portly shape of Stefan Ostwick, nervously ringing his hat in his hands as he looked into the tidy office. As the Arcane Brotherhoods Chief of Messengers, Stefan was responsible for the safe delivery of its goods, both magical and mundane, between its many buildings and outposts. Lerrin placed his quill in an inkpot with one gnarled and shaking hand, and affected his warmest smile.
Please, do take a seat, Master Ostwick, The Archwizard rose partially from his own seat as he spoke, his back protesting slightly as he gestured to one of the chairs on the other side of his desk. And many thanks for taking the time from your busy day to cater to an old mans needs.
It is no bother, Archwizard. The jowly man went wide-eyed as he spoke. Its an honor to be of service. How can I help you?
I have a rather important package to be deliv- Lerrin began, and then narrowed his eyes as he was interrupted.
Then youve called the right man, sir! The Chief of Messengers blurted out, and then looked sheepish as the Archwizard tried not to let his annoyance show through. I mean, I would be happy to personally deliver it wherever you might need.
I am quite sure that wont be necessary. Lerrin spoke, shaking his head slowly as he forced his smile to return. This particular delivery will need to be made tomorrow afternoon. Its carrier will need to be magically shielded from its contents, so I would need some preparation time with whomever you select in the morning.
Of course. Stefan nodded. I will rearrange tomorrows schedule so that Timmons can be available for you all day. I will send him over first thing.
Timmons, Lerrin pretended to think about the name for a moment, and then asked a question whose answer he already knew. Is he your swiftest messenger?
No, Archwizard, though hes no slouch. Stefan shook his head. Hes been with me for nearly a decade now, though, and Id trust him to deliver my children if the midwife went sick, if you know what I mean.
Lerrin laughed along with the chubby man at his little joke for a moment, and then pretended to look through some papers on his desk. Later, if the Chief were asked, it could be important that he believe the outcome of this meeting was his own choice, so the Archwizard was prepared to walk as slowly as possible through the exchange.
I only ask, Master Ostwick, because the contents of the delivery will be very temperamental, and speed will be of the essence. The longer they take to make their journey, the less effective they will be upon arrival. The Archwizard looked up as he spoke. If you feel that Timmons would be the best choice, I will defer to your decision. You know your staff better than I do.
Oh, well, sure. The other man began, and then his face brightened. If speed is so important, though, Ellywick might be the better choice.
Ellywick? Lerrin asked, pretending not to recognize the name.
Yes, sir. Stefan nodded. She is the newest to my staff, but gets through the city like no one else. Its how she got the job, actually. She just kept showing up every morning and beating my fastest messengers.
Really? Lerrin raised an eyebrow.
Oh, sure. It was funny after a time. Stefan chuckled. Id hand out assignments in the courtyard, and shes be there listening. Then, shed race off to the farthest destination, get there before whoever Id sent, and tell the person waiting for the package that it would already be there if Id hired her.
Thats very bold. The Archwizard smiled. But why was she so intent on working for the Brotherhood?
Turns out she wants to be a wizard, herself, and hopes to attend the Academy. She figures that working for the Brotherhood might give her an edge while she saves up. The Chief of Messengers shrugged, and then added. Of course, shes got an advantage over the rest of my boys when it comes to getting through the city.
An advantage? Lerrin asked.
Sure, on account of her being a gnome. Stefan answered. She can slip through places the others cant.
I see. The Archwizard nodded, knowingly. Well then, if you believe she is the fastest, then send her to me in the morning so that I can prepare her.
Yes, Archwizard. The Chief of Messengers smiled as he rose from his seat. She will be here.
Thank you for your time, Master Ostwick.
Lerrin watched as the portly man bowed awkwardly and then left the office. He shook his head, not for the first time, at the complex plan that was laid out before him. Through painstaking use of Augury, after so many doors had been closed to him, hed learned that the way to achieve his dreams would begin with this seemingly innocent step. Hed hired assassins, tried poisons and potions, and weaved countless curses; all to no avail. So now, he put his faith in the result of his magical inquiries.
Tomorrow, it would be done. This cryptic plan, the costly result of so many castings of such powerful magic, would be set in motion. He wondered, for a moment, what lay in store for the persistent messenger girl as he watched her boss close the door behind him, but then turned his thoughts to more engaging the more engaging matter of his future. Nothing and no one would stand in his way now.
Ellywick cursed softly as another oafish human collided with her, nearly causing her to drop the sealed letter she carried as she worked her way through the bustling crowd. Making it through the gathered throng of petitioners in the palace courtyard was always the most challenging part of her daily route from the Wizards Tower to the Arcane Academy on the other side of town, and today was no exception. Being a gnome in a human city, almost two feet shorter than its average inhabitant, was challenge enough on its own; a constant blend of mocking jibes, being treated like a child, and getting knocked to the ground when they didnt see her. Forcing her way past the desperate men seeking an audience with the Baron, each sincerely believing his problems to be more pressing than everyone elses, made her life all the harder.
But still, shed come to embrace the advantages that her slender build and gnomish grace gave her in the city. She could make her way through crowds more quickly and easily than its common inhabitants, who rarely paid her any mind. It was that ease of travel that had resulted in her current employment with the Arcane Brotherhood, delivering messages and other goods between its many buildings and towers. It wasnt the dreamy life shed imagined for herself when shed struck out on her own and moved to the city, but they fed her and kept a roof over her head, and paid her enough that she could begin saving toward the life she dreamed of.
Even the wizards were beginning to recognize her unique talents. She smiled at the memory of being hand-selected by one of the Archwizards to deliver an important package just a couple weeks before, and wondering at the display of his power when he had imbued her with his magic to protect her from its contents. Reassuringly, she patted the little bulge of her coin-purse where it was pressed between her thigh and soft woolen leggings. It wasnt enough yet, but it was a beginning. In time, it would be her admission to the Academy itself.
At long last, she pushed her way past the edge of the crowd and into the winding alley that weaved between the guild halls. The cacophony of the courtyard was replaced by almost perfect silence, save for the sounds of her soft leather boots on the stone street. At this time of morning, the guild district was always abandoned, its members either jockeying for position to air their grievances in the courtyard or hawking their wares in the Market Square. She picked up her pace, feeling as though a weight had been lifted from her shoulders as she left the crowd behind and followed the familiar path between the impressive buildings.
Veknara Endashi Ohklamm A mans voice suddenly began speaking from the shaded entryway of one of the buildings.
The words themselves were meaningless to Ellywick. But from her many hours spent listening in as the Academy students practiced, she recognized the pattern of speech and the intonation as that of a spell being cast. A quizzical expression on her face, she turned just in time to see a young, blond man step from the shadows, wearing the formal robes of an initiate of the Arcane Brotherhood. She took a half-step back, more confused than afraid, as he lifted his cupped hands to his lips and then blew out across them, sending a fluttering cloud of rose petals out to swirl in the air around her.
The magical energy of the cloud seeped into Ellywick almost instantly. She opened her mouth to speak, but was consumed by an overwhelming need to sleep before she could utter a word. The sealed missive fluttered from her hand to join the softly falling flower petals as she fell abruptly to her knees. Struggling to keep her eyes open, she tried to focus on the initiate as he approached, watching through her shrinking field of vision as he uncoiled a tasseled, rope-like belt from around his waist. She recognized the magic as a sleep spell, one of the basic spells taught to initiates, though this knowledge did not help her to resist its effects or to understand why it was being cast upon her. Her mind reeling, she sprawled forward onto her stomach, unable to remain kneeling or to keep her eyes open any longer as she succumbed fully to the magical slumber.