Recruiting, part 2

Last week, Tramp’s brought you the first part of this multi-dimensional fanfic-ish adventure, where we saw a swordsman from the world of RPG/CCG 7th Sea sent to another world.  Today, we are pleased to bring you part 2 of Christopher J.P.S. Roberts’ Recruiting, which features a popular video game franchise.

***

Annuncir sat down upon a stone, removed his left glove, and looked at his hand; more specifically at the ring on his third finger. At a glance, the ring did not appear special, just a rough loop of wood, but if you examined it, gazed upon it, you would see the grains of the wood writhe and shift like serpents. Annuncir focused on the ring, clearing all else from his mind. He did not feel the crisp air of the Frostback Mountains, did not see the snow about him, was not aware of the mabari warhound settling down at his feet, did not hear the snow crunching under the feet of his two companions.

Morrigan had given him the ring, and it was a symbol of the bond between them. Annuncir smiled as he remembered the night she gave it to him. She explained that her mother had given her the ring, allowing Flemeth to find Morrigan wherever she might be, but Morrigan had reworked the enchantment. Morrigan then stumblingly insisted that she did not wish to hunt him, simply that it would prove useful should he be captured. Annuncir had not pressed the point, content to enjoy the love growing between them even as Morrigan repeatedly dismissed love as a foolishness. Annuncir cared not what words were used to describe their feelings, so long as they shared them.

When Morrigan came to him on the eve of the final battle and told him of the ritual she wished to perform, Annuncir had felt a storm within him as powerful as any his magic had called down upon their enemies.

Riordan’s explanation of why only a Grey Warden can kill an archdemon, and the price that they pay in doing so, was still rolling in his mind when Annuncir had returned to his quarters to find Morrigan waiting for him. This came as no surprise, as she had shared his bed in Arl Eamon’s estate, but there was something different in how she stood, so stiff and formal, and in her reluctance to meet his eyes. And then she told him her plan.
Annuncir had never considered siring a child. He was a mage after all, and while marriage and children were not prohibited by Circle law, they were discouraged. Annuncir wondered how much of that was the Chantry’s doing, an effort to avoid children with an increased chance of carrying the talent for magic. Nevertheless, he agreed to Morrigan’s plan, knowing full well that she would conceive that night. He loved her, after all. It didn’t matter to him that their child would not continue his elf blood, as all mixed children favor their human parent.

Morrigan was the first mage Annuncir had met who was trained outside the Circle, and he had been enchanted by her unashamed passion for magic. The fact that she also rejected and disdained those who bargained with demons served to throw serious doubt onto the Chantry’s treatment of Apostates.

A sudden pulse of emotion broke through Annuncir’s memories. It was longing, and Annuncir was certain it had come from the ring. He had wondered, if he focused his mind upon the ring and upon Morrigan, if its magic might go both ways. Annuncir had hoped the ring might give some insight as to her location, but still he cherished the brief moment of contact.

Morrigan had told him that she had to leave, and that she did not wish to be found, but she finally admitted her love, and Annuncir refused to let her disappear with their child. The ring’s transmission served only to strengthen that resolve.

“Oh, that is an interesting look, my friend,” said a smooth Antivan voice. “Have I missed something important?”

Annuncir looked up to find that Zevran had just come back down the trail that he and the Dalish tracker who’d volunteered to help them had been investigating. “I felt her, Zev. She misses me.” He reached down and idly scratched the hound behind the ear.

“Ah well, unfortunately we are missing her, too. If you wanted us to find you a mountain hare or two, I’m sure we could do more. She’s covered her tracks well.”

Mordoom barked excitedly at the prospect of a hare. Annuncir shrugged. “She’s a shapeshifter, Zevran. She could have left the hare prints.”
“Oh! I had not even considered that!” The Antivan elf hung his head, and shook it. “I hate to say it, my friend, but we are not going to find her.”
“No,” Annuncir sighed. “There never was any real hope of following her trail. My real hope was in the ring.”

“Well, you said you felt something, yes? Perhaps there is hope in that.”

“Perhaps. There’s a bit of a clearing here, let’s set up camp.”

As he chewed on a simple supper, Annuncir found himself wondering if perhaps Wynne had been right, in a way. The senior enchanter had cautioned him against persuing his relationship with Morrigan, citing the likelihood of separation, and distraction from Annuncir’s duties as a Grey Warden. Wynne had eventually changed her mind, and yet here he was, separated from Morrigan, and spending time searching for her when he knew the darkspawn threat was not over. The archdemon was dead, its generals were dead, and Fereldon was united, but there was still work to do. There was evidence that some of the more potent darkspawn had survived, and were starting to cause trouble again. Yet Annuncir found that his heart was no longer in the fight.

… perhaps you are in need of a new fight …

In a blink, Annuncir was on his feet, and the Staff of the Magister Lords was in his hand, magical lightning crackling along its length. The voice had come from the shadows beside him, and its ethereal quality reminded the mage of the demons and spirits he’d encountered.
“If you have something to say to me, spirit, then say it,” Annuncir announced, noting that Zevran and the scout had vanished into positions of stealth.

… indeed … my master seeks allies … your heart grows weary … you know that you will not find what you seek … perhaps you can find meaning in my master’s quest …

“And who is this master of whom you speak?” Annuncir spoke the challenge boldly, confident of a truthful answer. Spirits, as a rule, do not lie: it would compromise any bargains made.

… a master of magic arts … i am not permitted to speak his name …

“And what is his quest?”

… a search … for a place long lost … and the knowledge within it …

“Is he a mage of the Circle?”

… he is not of this place … his magics have seen you from afar … very far …

“Is he Tevinter?” The name of the Imperium dripped with venom from Annuncir’s lips.

… farther …

“Did he then send you with some means of transporting me to him, should I agree?”

… indeed …

“And should I refuse?”

… i shall depart … and you shall likely … hear nothing of him … again …

Annuncir paused. The offer was intriguing. His travels had taken him to many places and taught him many things, uncovered many arcane secrets. But there was so much more to learn. Who knew how many traditions and techniques might have been lost, or might have been developed in far away lands?
“If I agree to go with you, and speak with your master, am I committed?”

There was no answer at first.
… my master would not ask you … to blindly agree … without meeting him …

“Are you actually considering this?” Zevran asked as he stepped from the shadows.

“Yes, Zev, I am. The spirit is right. Perhaps I do need something new. I am tired of the darkspawn, Zevran. Maybe that’s really why I’m here. I knew we couldn’t track Morrigan, and if I really believed that I could find her through the ring, I could study it on my own, or at the tower. I think I really came here because I’m trying to escape.”

“Well, I certainly understand the need to escape, my friend,” Zevran spoke with sympathy, if also with regret. “I do not suppose that I could come with you.”

… no … my master’s offer is for the elf mage …

“No,” Zevran continued. “I thought not. Well, try not to have too much fun without me. Perhaps I will travel … I think I heard Isabella was seen in Orlais.”

Annuncir smiled. “Farewell, my friend. I will see you again.”

“Oh, of that I have no doubt. If neither I, nor an archdemon could kill you, I doubt anything can.”

Annuncir crossed his arms in an “x” over chest, and bowed to Zevran, who returned the gesture. Annuncir then turned to the shadow again. “I am ready, spirit. Work your magic.”

A vaguely human-shaped shadowy form detached itself from the darkness at the edge of the fire and touched Annuncir, and then quickly enveloped him. His world became darkness, empty and formless. He could not say how much time had passed but, when it was over and the darkness receded, he found himself looking upon a castle of black stone. A full moon was high in the warm night sky. The shadowy spirit was either no longer there, or had concealed itself.

Annuncir drew in a deep breath, and knocked on the wooden double doors with his staff. The door opened inward, creeking, and Annuncir found himself looking at a girl the likes of whom he had never seen. She looked to be about twelve years old, but she also had a decidedly feline cast to her features, and Annuncir was not willing to trust his approximation of her age. Her ears were triangular, like a cat’s, though they sat where one would expect a person’s ears to be, poking out amidst shoulder-length white hair. Her features were pointed, though not unpleasantly so, She wore a sleeveless dress, and the outsides of her arms were coated with a light grey fur.

“Good evening,” she greeted him in a kind voice. “Welcome to Selinthaoist. You are expected. Please come in.”

The feline girl led Annuncir down an entry hall lined with fine tapestries — some of which had a decidedly elven style to them — and through a door into a cozy sitting room.

“If you’ll have a seat here, The Magus will be with you shortly.” The girl bowed politely, then turned and left.

As Annuncir took a seat, leaning his staff against a wall, he pondered the use of the word “magus.” Those who wielded magic were refered to as “magi,” an old term from the Tevinter Imperium, but the singular was always the more modern “mage.” It made Annuncir more curious about the land he had come to.

A moment later, however, his host arrived. Into the room strode a man clad in robes of the darkest black imaginable, robes that seemed to cling to nearby shadows. Annuncir had never seen such obviously magical garments before. The man’s hood was pulled back, and Annuncir was surprised to see elf traits in his face. His hair was long and pale, with tinges of blue, something Annuncir had never seen before.

“Welcome to my home,” the man’s voice was rich, and power seemed to fill it. “I am glad that you have accepted my invitation.”

Annuncir stood and bowed to his host. “I am Annuncir, mage and Grey Warden, though I expect that is known to you already.”

“That you were a mage, yes. I confess to not knowing what a Grey Warden is. The magic that I used to seek you out identified you by your skills. Once that occurred, I looked into your recent life, and saw you crusading against creatures tainted by darkness. It did not, however, teach me culture or context. You have introduced yourself, however, and I shall do likewise. I am The Magus.”

“That is a title, not a name,” Annuncir replied.

“True enough. However, it is all I can give you for now. If you do not know my name, you cannot repeat it to those who should not hear it. Perhaps you understand the need for such precautions,” The Magus gestured for Annuncir to sit.

“Indeed I do,” Annuncir conceded as he resumed his seat. “Then will you tell me of this quest of yours?”

“I shall. First I should tell you where you are. You no doubt suspect that you have left your country. It is so. However, more than that, you have left your world.”

“My world? But this is not the Fade.”

“The Fade? I am not familiar with this term.”

“Ah; it is the world of dreams and spirits,” Annuncir explained.

“Hm, no. I suppose you might say you are beyond the Fade. Selinthaoist is a realm between all other realms, a kind of nexus point of realities.”

“Under other circumstances, I would consider any man who made such a claim mad. But I have seen a hint of your power through the spirit you have bound, and never before have I seen a person like the girl who answered your door. Even so, I find I have doubts.”

“I cannot fault you for that,” The Magus acknowledged. “But I will continue. There used to be a great city, a nexus point that would make Selinthaoist small and insignificant. I have made it a goal of mine to find and reclaim this city. However, I have duties that occupy me. Besides which, powerful men have powerful enemies. Were I to be personally involved, it would be noticed. I would like to avoid that.”

“You said your spell identified my skills. Was it just my magic, or something in specific?”

“In specific I sought a healer. Yours was the strongest healing power I could find in a world relatively close. You are also not the first I have contacted. I would ask no one to undertake the hunt I propose alone. I am also seeking warriors of differing skills.”

Annuncir nodded, “I have had some experience in teambuilding. A varied compliment of skills is vital.”

The Magus took a deep breath. “And now we have reached the moment of decision. I can tell you no more without a commitment.”

Annuncir nodded, and thought to himself a moment. His fingers went to Morrigan’s ring, and twisted it on his finger. “In my crusade against the darkspawn, I found that I often had to trust my intuition to guide me through difficult choices, and I have come to trust it. I do not know why, but I trust you. Yes, I will help you.”

“Wonderful! I hope you forgive me, but I dislike repeating myself. With your consent, I will have Amarillis show you to a guest room, and we will speak more of the quest once the expedition is assembled.” With this, The Magus stood.

“How long do you expect it to be?”

“That depends on how many of my first choices accept, but I do not expect it to be long.”

“Very well. For me this is the end of a long day, in any case. I would welcome a rest.”

The Magus nodded. “Amarillis will be along shortly to show you to your room. Good night.” He took his leave.

Annuncir sat and thought as he waited, and wished Morrigan was there, or Zevran, or Shale. He had not felt this alone since the massacre at Ostigar.
“Excuse me, Annuncir?” Amarillis was leaning in the doorway. “This way, please.”

Annuncir rose, and followed. Alone or not, his course was set.

To be continued next Monday…

***

As a quick note,  I will mention that Amarillis, The Magus, and Selinthaoist are the intellectual property of Christopher Roberts, and are not to be reproduced without his permission.  Thank you.

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