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Borderland - The Marketplace (Holt-Lindeck)

Stephan Hornick

Community Goblin
Staff member
Wizard of Adventure
Wizard of Combat
Wizard of Story
28.05.1021 NL - Holt-Lindeck

He stopped for a moment. Exhausted, he put down his heavy burden and swiped his head. Stretching his back he caught the last glimpses of the evening sun. Dusk settled quickly over Holt-Lindeck. It became quieter and all the people went to their homes. But he had none.

What a day, or rather, what a week!

Eremis had just passed the King's Gate before it closed for the night. Nine days ago, he had departured with his three companions into the wild, in search of magical artifacts. Now, he was alone. But luckily - and indeed it had been luck! - they all made it out alive. There had been some really close shots. But somehow, he had kept them all alive. And that was something he was quite proud of.

On their return, Bausum, their half-orc scout had stayed behind in the wilderniss. Teodvik, the strange magician, had been eager to return to the Free College. And although he had complained the last hour about his aching legs, once inside the city walls, he went off quickly to study those books that they had brought back as if he hadn't walked the whole day. And then there was Jacob, Benedikt's brother. The lad had been trouble all the way, besides his skills with traps, and again, as Eremis turned around to wish him a good night, he had just vanished as if he was also a magician.

A tankard of ale, a soothing bath and a nice massage... yeah, that would be great now. But first, I have to bring the loot to my room.

That was, when he saw a stream of fire rising into the darkening sky like a comet rising. Flames flickered in the distance. Eremis' eyes widened with surprise.

A fire?? Oh, no! And why now??!

Disappointed that his evening's plans had been destroyed, but instantly back to action, Eremis hurried towards the origin of the light, pushing himself forward, overcoming his exhaustion with sheer power of mind. Even from the distance, he heard that people had gathered. Speaking over each other, they at first seemed frantic or worried, but then some seemed to be enjoying the spectacle. The flames turned out to come from the marketplace. As he reached the old bridge and passed the former tax house, he found indeed many citizens gathered on the broad open space that was used as the marketplace in the mornings. Now, all stalls were gone, the cobblestones cleaned, and the tax house that was nowadays used as a guards house completely empty.

And there she was: A petite, slender figure, dancing within the flames that rose from her palms. He was instantly reminded of the first time he had seen Nichuan dance. It was still a magical moment. And not only because she was calling forth actual magic, but rather.... I probably shouldn't have crept up on her that evening, watching her as she was thinking that she was alone. His heart was beating faster and faster. Only by thinking of that moment in the Caravanserai of Salsee.
Now, as he was watching it begin - and it was still just the beginning as he knew - he affirmed his previous thoughts, that it didn't really look like when jugglers juggled with fire. It almost seemed that there was an actual entity she was dancing with.

But it suddenly ended, when the potter Heriguld called: "Isn't that the fire witch?" Horrified, the old washerwoman Orilia made the sign of Solus and backed away calling out to the people around her: "Be careful, people! She will burn the whole area down! Just like her master twelve years ago!"

Nichuan was shocked and angry. She stopped and turned around. People inhaled quickly and some actually backed away as if she would burn them for what had been said. Then she noticed Eremis and turned away, her steps quick and miserable.

Then, a deep baritone voice echoed loudly across the marketplace: "Never again, you will call my friend a witch! Else, your chin will land over there. Got it?" Eremis face was contorted with anger. Then he turned to Old Orilia, who everybody knew as a pious and talkative woman.
"You know nothing about her. If she wanted to, everything would already be burned. She is surely able to do this. But she wouldn't. Nichuan is an artist, a dancer, who tamed even fire to dance with her."
Then he turned to everybody else, locked eyes and spoke urgently to them, as he approached the center of the marketplace.
"Before you open your mouth, at least first take a look: She studied for years to show you something from her homeland that you would otherwise never see in your life. It's absolutely safe with her!"
Letting his heavy backpack slide off his shoulder with a thud, he gazes after Nichuan, to see whether she's already gone or whether she stayed. Luckily, she stopped as she heard his voice protecting her. Unsure of what to do though, she looks at the ground before her feet, then up at Eremis and back to the expectant mass of people, who had come together as she was training.
A sole "Thank you." is all that purrs from her mouth.

Eremis walks over and greets her with an exuberant hug. He feels happy to have met her at last. In the last days before his departure he hadn't had the chance. Not even to say goodbye. She had surely been too busy with her studies. She wouldn't have avoided him, but it almost seemed so.
"You won't believe what we have found in the Tower! But all in good time. Don't be intimidated by those people. Show us what you can do!"
Now, seeing her sound and safe, the last burden drops from his shoulders. With a friendly smile, he settles down in the dust of the street and looks expectantly up at her from below.

It has become dark and there are no clouds in the night sky. A few stars begin to shimmer into existence. Slowly it is getting a little cooler. And some people are even starting to shiver.
 
Last edited:

Rardian

Feature-Keeper
Beta-Tester
Wizard of Combat
Wizard of Story
His exuberance caught her off guard. Too surprised, Nichuan let the embrace wash over her unable to enjoy the protective feeling of his strong arms around her slender figure. After Eremis let her go she briefly looked at him, the light of the first stars reflecting in her golden eyes. Then her gaze shifted to the small crowd that had gathered in anticipation of a show.

"Peoples have fear," she finally said. "Because the stories they heard ..."

Her words trailed off as she looked back at Eremis only to find him sitting in front of her feet, smiling, and looking as expectantly as the crowd.

"People that have always been afraid of fire," he explained, "will only talk of fire in fear. But if they see how beautiful it can be, than maybe, someday soon, they will also talk about it in good ways. Come on!" he urged her. "I know you can do it. I will never forget that night in the Caravanserai Salsee."

Nichuan gathered her thoughts for a moment before she looked Eremis straight in the eye. "Some heard story in Cauldron. Of girl who killed infected with fire."

Eremis frowned briefly. "Do you mean MY story? I've performed our adventure a few times, but..." He shortly scratched his beard. Had the bard retold his story differently, maybe in a demeaning way? He tried to remember how he himself had phrased his story and how it could be of relevance now, but came to no definite conclusion. "Well, if you are referring to my story, then all the people should know how you can be trusted! Unless you mean a story someone else told ...?" He had grown visibly uncomfortable while talking about this and seemingly uncertain of what she was aiming at.

"You ..." she looked aside for a moment, "you said I've been terrible. People should be afraid ... of me. I heard myself." Eremis couldn't tell if she was offended or hurt but she was clearly shaken by what he had told the people in the Dancing Cauldron.

Eremis raised to his feet in shock and looked at her. His gaze grew compassionate. Carefully, he reached for Nichuan's shoulders to emphasize the importance of his following words:

"No, Nichuan. I may have said that I find your magic frightening, how easily you can do things I don't understand. But I never said that people should be afraid of you! At least in my presentation, you have saved our lives on many occasions." His earnest voice shifted slighty to an even warmer tone. "Nichuan, I know you have been struggling with the fact that you... killed the infected. But even though Benedikt called it 'rashly', I still think it was the only possible choice. You acted quickly. And appropriate."

He let his words sink in before continuing, knowing that she still wasn't a fluid speaker of Common, and he wanted her to understand what he meant and how he felt:

"Your magic frightens me, yes. No, please hear me out! I don't understand it and I don't know much about it. Do you remember? I told you once: I grew up in a land where magic was only heard of in legends. You are the first magician, flame dancer even, I have met. But I would trust you with my life!"

Nichuan's expression was brightening while Eremis was talking. "I don't want magic scare you!" she exclaimed. "I show beautiful magic, yes? Show all people, yes?"

She looked around the market square, only to find that the small crowd that had surrounded them had dispersed for lack of a show. Only one old man stood a few yards away, hunched by age. He had narrowed his eyes and was staring over at the two of them. Expectant? Bored? Hard to tell with that wrinkled face. For a moment, disappointment showed on Nichuan's face, but not for long. She turned back to Eremis.

"I can show you and man over there. Don't be afraid!"

Eremis smiled with relief as the misunderstanding seemed to have resolved. "I am looking forward to see a beautiful performance. And that will attract others again, don't worry. But just to perhaps make this clearer: My fear is based on how little experience I have with magic. It's like when people tense up when they suddenly see a drawn dagger in a person's hand in the room. For a mercenary like me, this is no reason to get nervous. I am used to weapons being drawn around me. But I have no experience with spells. I can't assess them." He shrugged for lack of fitting words. "It might just be a matter of time."

Nichuan grinned. "Dagger can carve beautiful things in wood!"

She turned away from him. Her bouffant skirts bobbed up and down as she danced into the centre of the square. The hoops on her ankles and arms began to loop and shingle. Where her feet touched the ground they left small lambent flames, extinguished only shortly afterwards. An indeterminable source of light began to illuminate the area in the middle of the square where Nichuan began to whirl around in rehearsed but seemingly spontaneous sequences of steps making the silken veils on her arms stick out horizontally. Sounds of an alien-sounding horn started filling the night, aligning with beats of bright drums and jingles, and the air began to shimmer around her. Flames flickered from her hands up her arms and down again. A flaming arch formed above her head and the the gemstone inside the heart-shaped charm on her forehead began to glow in a green light. Matching the music, flames of different colours flared up into the darkened sky. Nichuan's spinning movements made the tongues of flames dance around each other. Colourful birds emerged from the darkness and flew through slowly rotating rings of flame that had formed above Nichuan's head. Their colourful feathers slid gently to the ground.

Faster and faster the drums were beating, and the horn seemed to have trouble keeping up. Nichuan's steps became just as fast, and Eremis followed the play, literally spellbound, until the drums and the horn fell silent in a grand finale, and all the flames went out with a last beat of the drums. It took Eremis' eyes some moments to adjust to the now dim light, seeing nothing. After a while he could see Nichuan crouched on the ground. Her fur glistened with sweat and he could tell that she was breathing heavily but in a controlled manner from her chest. Eremis looked around. No other onlookers had joined them. Only the old man was still standing nearby, motionless, outwardly unimpressed. Eremis watched him reaching into his pocket and pulling out a coin, tossing it roughly in Nichuan's direction. He briefly looked at Eremis, then turned and, leaning heavily on his cane, disappeared into the night. As Eremis turned back to Nichuan she was already standing again, looking back at him, over her shoulder, just like she did back then that night in the caravanserai.
 

Stephan Hornick

Community Goblin
Staff member
Wizard of Adventure
Wizard of Combat
Wizard of Story
Eremis beamed at her. He had only eyes for her and her performance.
If he noticed the old man leaving them with the rhythmic clack clack clack of his cane on the cobblestones, he didn't show any signs of it.

As Nichuan looked back at him, Eremis nodded approvingly.
"This was fantastic, Nichuan. I could watch you for hours! Really. A pity that no one came back. On the other hand, I don't really mind. Here. You're probably exhausted."
He had reached into his big backpack and was now offering her a drink from a canteen. "Don't worry. It's just water. I must have dropped the one with ale." He didn't seem to think that he dropped it though.

Looking at him now, Eremis seems to have come through a lot. On his face and neck small rivulets of sweat had formed banks of baked dirt and dark grime, his hair untypically unwashed and he himself had quite a stench to him, mellow men's musk, leather, blood and cheese. But there was also something else... if she was not mistaken, he also smelled of something reptilian and of Bausum. His potion belt, normally holding the vials of healing when he departed on an adventure, was empty, the waterskins at the side of his backpack barely filled. Although extremely muscular, his backpack was unproportionately big, with 2 more sacks and rope and grapnel and pots and so on attached to it from the outside even.
If this is what he had carried all the way, what did the others carry?

Assuming that she takes it, he rummages through his backpack, sets a big sack with heavy items to the side, and carefully unrolls his blanket on the ground. He gets down on one end, motioning her to join him. Now leaning back against the guards' house, he looks up at the stars, visibly relaxing from the long journey. After a while, without turning to her, he says:
"Say, these sounds of drums and horns... this was also you, right? A new form of magic? What.... what is it exactly that you can do and cannot do with magic?"
 

Rardian

Feature-Keeper
Beta-Tester
Wizard of Combat
Wizard of Story
Nichuan beamed from the praise as she sat down on the blanket with Eremis. She was glad that she could show him the beauty of magic and gain his interest. Interest and curiousity were always better than fear and mistrust. She took a swig from the canteen. The stale water was refreshing nevertheless.

"No ale?" she asked mockingly. "Must be very hard for you. Thank you for water!" she exclaimed as she handed the canteen back to him.
"Yes," she continued, pausing from time to time to find the right words, "I can make sound and other things. But not real! I think allusion is right word? I also did when I was a girl. Was big fun for sisters when with caravan and we still had name. Mother said I go to academy of Liskan later. But then we get poor."

Nichuan fell silent for a while. Although she spoke cheerfully, Eremis realized how difficult the time in Liskan must have been for her and her family. She looked back at him and continued.
"Then I met Gonzen. He was wizard. He showed me new things. How I float, and I can move things. He gave me book. You know? That now Master Berling has."

Eremis nodded, remembering how unfair it felt for him that she had to give away the book she had held dear for the whole journey north. Then again, he knew close to nothing about magic and its values.
"Move things?" he asked her, raising a brow. "What do you mean?"

Nichuan smiled again and closed her eyes to concentrate. Small translucent flame tongues spread quickly from her forehead where her emerald that was surrounded in a green shimmer. The tongues were reaching out for Eremis' hand and became invisible. The canteen in his hand jerked a couple of times until he opened his hand in surprise. The canteen floated in midair and moved slowly into Nichuan's paw.
"Move things!" she laughed and took another swig.
 

Stephan Hornick

Community Goblin
Staff member
Wizard of Adventure
Wizard of Combat
Wizard of Story
"Indeed. A couple of days in the wilderness and my throat just yearns for bittersweet ale as diversity to water and stale bread. But really, I couldn't have carried any more."

He shortly padded his backpack, but didn't quite yet indulge in his tale of the magic tower he just came from.
Rather, he listened to her explanations concerning HER magic. It felt... more personal.

"Where... where exactly were you born? Not in Liskan, right? I don't know much about the Golden South, really. Sorry for that. Would you care to enlighten me?"

Listening to Nichuan, carefully treading around the topic of her family getting poor - for now - he opened one of the pockets of his backpack and carefully took out a slightly drenched handkerchief. Opening it up, he produced some bright-colored, freshly collected berries he picked at the forest's border this morning.

As she told him about her mentors, Gonzen and Master Berling, Eremis nodded. He remembered how she had told him about her price of being instructed at the Free College as they had arrived in Holt-Lindeck. The name is just a joke. There was nothing FREE at the college!
It felt unfair then, and it still did. She paid dearly with her first tome of magic. And for what? He hoped that it had been worth it.
She had to give away the book she had held dear for the whole journey north.

As though as not having heard her right the first time, he realized that she had just said that she could move things? His eyes widened with surprise.
"Move things?" he asked her, raising a brow. "What do you mean?"

And she showed him.
"Now THAT is some useful magic, Nichuan! Never again you need to walk over to the bar to get a drink. You let it just come to you! I wish... nah! Forget it. But wait, what did you mean with 'it is not real' before? If you create a sound through your magic. And I hear it. Isn't that real? Please tell me more."

He looked back at his backpack and carefully took out a tome of magic and a leather glove made out of a dark red leather. As he held it nearer, she could see small scales on it and realized that it was no common leather, but rather hide from a big scaly reptile.
"Just coming back from that Tower of Augustinius, I told you before. And I want to tell you everything about it. I mean, as far as I understood at least. There were many magical things, I still don't understand. We definitely need to go back there. We met a cat-like demon... But first, I would like to hear - and see - more about YOUR magic."
 

Rardian

Feature-Keeper
Beta-Tester
Wizard of Combat
Wizard of Story
"I cannot say where I was born," Nichuan said. "I was born in caravan. This was home for me. In Girinan 'home' means 'place where family is'. Banurdu. We were mostly in caravan, my father big trader. Sometimes big cities, sometimes only tents in desert. My father always find way."

She continued telling tales of the Golden South, of the nomadic tribes roaming the sometimes fertile, sometimes dry plains, of some big cities like Liskan which was the capital of the powerful Tirkachi Clan, and about the caravans linking tribes, cities and the North. She was glad that she could tell Eremis about her past. It made her happy to recall the good old times.

Then Eremis asked more about her magic, and this steered her tale back to the present.

"With my magic?" she began. "You remember dinner? I made Giriwach tent. But you couldn't eat fruit. Just look at it. Fruit not real. With sound, the same. You hear drums, but no drums! So is real? You tell me!" She laughed and showed Eremis examples of her powers while explaining them.

Nichuan enjoyed how Eremis reacted to her magic with a child' curiosity. When he started telling her from his adventure to the Tower of Augustinus he mentioned a cat-like demon and she froze.

"A Cat Demon?" she asked. "In the tower? What did they do? You must tell me," she insisted.
 

Stephan Hornick

Community Goblin
Staff member
Wizard of Adventure
Wizard of Combat
Wizard of Story
"Banur-du," Eremis repeats solemnly. He liked that sound. But he wasn't sure what this would mean for him. He was far, far away from his family. He wasn't even sure whether his family was still alive. Or if they thought about him. Here, he had found another 'home', but would it ever feel like 'home'?

Eremis loved to listen to her stories of the Golden South. He had come to like the South, even though he once almost died in its desert. The way she searched for words and began to use Riksharr words instead made the story more and more exotic and let his fantasy create a world that was probably far from what she had wanted to convey. But nevertheless, he enjoyed it much.

When she reached a part in her story where magic had become an important part of her life, he didn't hold back anymore. He questioned her for details as he was completely uneducated on magical things, as he once more openly confessed. He had read about it in books about legends and heroes, but hadn't actually imagined them to be real. Now, it was an interesting but difficult task to connect her words and her knowledge with the things he had read in the past, and he tried to remember what those books had actually said and found that some of those things had to be remembered, corrected and re-remembered, before bits and peaces fell slowly into place.

"Nichuan," he suddenly became ernest and looked at his dirty hand. "we have just come from the Lonely Tower, the magic tower of the archwizard Augustinius. And there were many magic 'things', I want to tell you about and ask for your opinion. We had this new bloke with us, Teodvik, so we were not completely without magical assistance, but I had to save his life twice and I'm not sure that he is as competent as you are. First, the tower seemed to be protected with some magic so that you could only approach along a specific path to it or else would never find it. Our ranger, Bausum, seemed to have cracked the solution and led us to the tower. This is a thing, right? Or do you think that it is but a hoax and Bausum just wanted to make himself more important?

Next we came upon a glade in which midst there was this tower. All around there were skeletons and the grass was growing high. It was then that two ghosts attacked us. As the others fled, Teodvik froze. I had to protect him. Alas, my mace just went through them as if they were just illusions, but their touch brought Teodvik to his knee and drained all warmth from my chest. I felt helpless. We would have died that day, if I had not seen the ghosts fly around the grass and not directly at us as they approached. I shoved him into the grass and behind a protective spell it seems. The ghosts henceforth ignored our wounded mage. I didn't dare enter the protective sphere myself though, less they take on pursuit of my companions. Luckily, Teodvik was able to blast them with some major magic and they vanished. Do you know what these were? Will they be coming back or did we defeat them for good?

I truly expected the skeletons to rise in the next moment. Jacob had heard of a rumor that they did. But they didn't. Instead, we had to cross the hunger grass. We found a way and as we were at the top of the tower - as there were no entrances - we had to put daggers into a form. I had once read about something very similar, so I urged the others to help me do it. Without warning, we were within the tower. It was a queezy feeling as if you are thrown from horseback for the first time. We were in a sort of library. I was going to tell the others to stay alert, but Jacob droned me out and Teodvik ran for one of the books. And - as I had expected - there was a trap. Teodvik was down and bleeding from several dagger wounds. If we had lost him that day, we would never have come out again, I fear. Bausum was quick at his side and tended for his wounds, but there was only so much he could do about it. Luckily, I had packed expensive healing potions from Magister Berling before we departed. Also, a lot of food. The others had laughed at me, but we had actually needed it all. By the way, with the outside skeletons I also found this."


Eremis rummaged through his backpack and took out parts of armor that seemed to be made of scaly red leather, thick and expensive.

"Dragonhide. I wonder how much heat and fire it will reflect. I would like you to check later, if you may. Anyway, Jacob seemed to know a lot about traps and 'rooftops' as he said, and although he was a pain in the arse, he knew what he was doing. At least most of the time. Of course there was one trap that he missed and made him look like a porcupine. That was the time of my last healing potion. Knowing where the daggers would come from I went prepared and with my shield I came to him unscathed. Now, here is the question: How is one to move from one story to the next in this tower? Teodvik suggested that it would have something to do with the elements and magic. I don't know for sure, but when Bausum went through one door, he was suddenly outside and needed to come back again via the roof. And when we found an illusion and Teodvik broke it, there was another door and when Jacob went in, he was in a room with a huge cat standing on its hindlegs as you do. No offense. A fire spewing demon. But once he came back, something changed in the rune on the door and we couldn't go back there. I don't know if it was because of dusk or because of something else, but maybe you do?"

As Nichuan inquired further about the Cat-Demon, Eremis tried to recall the exact words of Jacob:

"Jacob said, and he was the only one who had seen it, that it was a cat monster of 7 feet in height, broad shoulders that couldn't even fit through the doorways, muscled even more than me. It had a giant head of a tiger and red glowing eyes like ambers on fire. His fangs and talons black and long like darkened metal daggers. He breathes flames and can use them to burn you into a pile of ash. Several tails flicked from side to side and it was quick as lightning. And if this monstrosity was not enough, there were also 6-legged cats which came out of the flames and attacked him. Those again were not mere cats, but had the size of mastiffs and seemed to come from everywhere. Only his nimbleness would have resulted in his life, Jacob told us."
 
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