A/N: Originally published on March 14th, 2013 on A Purple Panda. – Alixa
THE DAGGER OF EXION
It took me so many days to get to Heilam, I lost count. I was by foot and the road was long. Every morning, I would wake up with the sun, and every night, I would sleep under the stars. Once in a while, I would stop at a village to replenish my supplies. I never ran out of gold, as I could work different jobs to earn it back when in need. I took it slowly, one day at the time. I wasn’t in a hurry. All I needed was to get to the royal city and I was going to get there eventually.
To be honest, I was really grateful for Silva. I met some people every now and then, but most of the time, it was only the wolf and me. It could be a little lonely, but the cub was full of energy and life. He was growing too, and fast. Soon, he wasn’t so defenseless and he bit me by accident. I grounded him so hard he never dared doing it again, but he knew how to use his natural weapons for hunt. We ate well, and enough, though it wasn’t high gastronomy. I talked to him, though I hadn’t have much to say about myself. I think he understood me, most of the times. He had this way to look at me, with his shiny eyes. He was smart.
One day, I saw something glittering in the sun. It was Heilam. So beautiful. The city was reflecting the sun’s light just as its name would suggest. It was like a piece of the ocean was there, shiny diamonds. The kingdom was at peace, so I got in the city without any problems. From there, it was easy to find the customer of Joster’s blacksmith. He was of a noble family and his name was well known. He thanked me for the delivery with a generous compensation I knew would be of use if I was to stay here. I had no idea how I’d get settled, but I’d find a way.
The second person I had to find, for Meriel’s letter, was a little more complicated to locate. People didn’t know him and I didn’t have an exact address. I didn’t want to knock to every door to find him. I went to the only place I knew I could find information: the tavern. This was a big city and so there were many of them. I only had to choose where to begin. My first pick was one that looked quite wealthy. The customers weren’t every day’s travelers, I could tell by the quality of the place. People were polite and answered my questions, but they didn’t know much about the common world. They weren’t very helpful overall, though I kept in mind some names of possible employers. I would need a way to make money if I was to stay in Heilam. I wasn’t quite sure how to start the search of my true identity. First, I needed to find the recipient of this letter, a certain Kirieth.
I went in a couple of establishments before finding any lead. Finally, one of the customers in a more popular tavern looked at me and joined the conversation I was having with the innkeeper about local people.
– Isn’t Kirieth that crazy mage? He’s quite a loner, we rarely see him. Apparently he’s conducting some research and experiments for the king.
The innkeeper frowned, shaking his head.
– I don’t think he is in a mission for the king, but he is clearly dealing with magic. Or so we heard. As for his sanity, I haven’t spoken to him so I can’t judge, but the rumors are that he might have lost it in one of these experiments you’re talking about. I think he lives in the western part of the town, in a tower-like house. You can’t miss it, really.
This was getting interesting. I was now curious to meet Kirieth. I knew better than believe any rumors, but I knew they had to come from somewhere.
– Anyways, said the customer, what business do you have to do with him? There are many other safer mages to work with if you need something, you know! Plenty of shops in the market district!
I smiled, amused, before answering. I had no idea magic was so common, how could I have known? To me, it was wild and foreign. People manipulating the four elements, floating stuff around… I didn’t know it was more complicated than that.
– I know nothing of magic, and I am not sure I want to get into it. I am just a messenger, I have a letter to deliver.
– Why don’t you just use the couriers, then? They can do this for you for a decent fee and you wouldn’t have to get involved with him.
– I’d like to do this myself. It was a favour for a friend.
They both nodded, understanding. They didn’t ask any questions. I liked that about people around here. They seemed to respect others’ reasons and privacy. Maybe it was just luck.
– Well, if you need anything, come back to The Crystal Boar. We will be more than happy to lend you a hand.
– Thank you, I said.
I left my newest friends at the bar, having now the information I needed. I headed towards the western part of town, which was a mainly residential area. Lots of houses, few shops. And it wasn’t the bad part of town either, it looked pretty decent. Well, what else to expect from a royal city? I was sure there was a shady district, but I didn’t plan on going to see what it looked like, unless I needed to. Everywhere I could see, guards were patrolling in their shiny armors, keeping peace.
I couldn’t miss the house, how could I? In the midst of all the crystal, the white and the organized cleanliness stood the tower, crooked and repaired in many places. It looked out of place and the house attached to it was just the same. I knocked at the wooden door, unknowing of what Kirieth would look like. Surprisingly, the man looked quite young. You would imagine a bearded old crazy man, and though he did have a dark beard, he didn’t look crazy at all. He wasn’t very tall and he wore glasses, I noticed right away. He looked mostly annoyed by my interruption.
– What can I do for you?
– Kirieth? I asked.
– I have a letter for you, from Meriel.
He lit up as soon as I pronounced the name of the beautiful innkeeper. He was almost jumping of joy, startling me. I wasn’t expecting such a reaction.
– Meriel! Haven’t seen her in so long! How’s my favourite niece? Oh, come in, come in, young man!
I lift an eyebrow as he called me young man. He looked younger than me. And how could Meriel, who was my age, could be his niece? Full of questions, I stepped in the house as he made way for me. It was just as messy inside as it looked from outside. Books, potions, plants, objects were lying everywhere, anywhere. However, Kirieth seemed to live perfectly well in this mess. He moved swiftly between piles of books or objects that looked fragile. I dared not to move, afraid to break something. Silva was still outside and I was thinking it’d be best if he stayed outside when the mage noticed him.
– What a cute little fella! He can come in too!
He seemed quite pleased and was clearly waiting for me, still standing in the doorway.
– Please, follow me! I want to hear everything you can tell me! Is her inn still running well? Ah, I haven’t had silver fish in so long! You know she’s the only place that serves it, right? I mean with her special recipe, of course. No other can make it taste so delicious!
Seeing I was hesitating to go in further, he smiled and made a quick hand gesture. Everything moved suddenly, finding its rightful place on shelves and tables. The floor was suddenly clear and I could move without fear. He led me to a large room with couches, a table and a fireplace. He bid me to take a seat while he brought some tea. It was a comfortable room, warm.
– Would you like a cookie?
I shook my head, thanking him, and then I gave him the letter. This is why I was here, after all. The conversation was only polite.
– Later, later. Tell me, my friend how is she?
And so I told him the little I knew. She seemed fine to me, gentle and working hard to keep her inn running during low season. He nodded while listening carefully. I didn’t mention details about my own life, and he didn’t ask. After I was done, I thanked him for his hospitality and was about to take my leave. I wanted to find a place to sleep before dark, if possible.
– Why don’t you stay here, my friend? That’s the least I can do to thank you for the news you brought me.
I hesitated. The house didn’t seem so big from what I’ve seen and I was quite sure I’d be more comfortable in an inn. However, it also seemed rude to refuse, so I agreed. He showed me to a room, which was decent sized and clean, and left to me rest. After all, I was quite exhausted from my long journey and felt relieved to be able to stay somewhere for a while. I like the roads and meeting people, but a break was welcome once in a while.
Later on, I shared his meal; a nice broth with meat and vegetables. It was nice and simple, somehow enhanced with some spiced I didn’t know of. My meals on the road were mostly unflavored and the change was nice. I felt so full afterwards I thought I would fall asleep right away.
– I read Meriel’s letter. We will need to talk, you and I, but tomorrow. For now, sleep, my friend. We will have time for questions and answers, I am sure of this.
I nodded, already drowsy. I went straight to my bed, not bothering undressing. Silva curled into a ball and slept against me, as usual. We were in Heilam, finally. First step of many to the mystery of who I was.
To be continued.