Sword & Sorcery Volume 1 – Chapter 1

Thakeo yawned as the cart moved slowly down the road. Laying on top of it, looking at the sky had been all he had done that day. Not that there was something wrong with taking it easy but the speed at which these carts and coaches moved were very slow, even more so when compared to the instant travel that magic circles allowed but such a thing was not available all the way out here in the countryside.

Thakeo turned his head and looked out over the fields covered in the golden color of wheat ready to be harvested. A gentle breeze blew, making the wheat move slightly back and forth with only the sound of the wheels creaking as it proceeded down the narrow road.

It was so peaceful that he had spent most of the day just relaxing without having to worry about anything. Of cause it would seem so to him giving his normal surroundings at school but Thakeo knew that for the peasants who worked these fields it was not just a pretty sight but also where their homes were and it was their lively hood.

It sounded like a simple and easy way to live but the amount of work these people did was a cornerstone in the country’s economy.

Most of the goods produced in these lands were shipped off to various parts of the country in the form of flour, bread, meat and what not, sustaining the population of the country wherein they lived and it was not just limited to that.

Everyone, master to servant needed to eat food, have a place to sleep and drink water or wine, whichever they preferred, all in order to survive.

Yet, without the peasants that would not be possible, something many nobles and higher ranking people did not seem to understand and saw people living a simple life as being lesser than the aristocrats.

In this country there were not many like them but they existed but other nations and lands had other types of government ranging from republics to dictatorships with various laws and rules or none at all but in the end it all came down to the simple things: eat, sleep and drink, that was all it was about.

Thakeo sighed and looked at the sky once more. He could not help but feeling depressed over… well, his own depressing thoughts as a matter of fact.

“I see the town up ahead!” Said a man all of a sudden, causing Thakeo to sit up and look ahead.

“Oh my… Is that the town of Qriphia? It certainly has grown a lot.” Mumbled Thakeo with a hint of a smile on his lips.

In the distance a small town, protected by walls and towers appeared and slowly became bigger and bigger.

“It seems they finished the gate house since I was here last.” Said the cart driver, a young farmer who was sitting in the front while his young wife holding their young girl was sitting to his left.

“Big! So big!” Said the girl excitedly as she pointed at the gatehouse even though they were still a bit away.

“That was built to protect the citizens from bandits and monsters.” Said the mother with a gentle voice.

“Monstars?” Asked the little girl confused.

“Not Monstars, Mon-ster!” Said the mother gently, correcting the child while the father was smiling.

Thakeo could not help but smile at the scene in front of him. An idyllic family life, simple as what it may be it was something which enriched everyday life for all races, man, beast, elf and all the others.

A short while later, Thakeo jumped down from the cart after having safely passed through the city gates. Next, he grabbed the bag he had brought along with him.

“I hope that the ride was smooth enough for you.” Said the cart driver.

“It was fine. You really helped me out. I would not have reach here until nightfall if I had to walk all the way.” Replied Thakeo and smiled.

“Ah! But you were the one who help us when the wheel was broken. I can’t thank you enough for that. How much do I owe you?” Said the driver next, reaching for his coin purse.

“That was nothing that needs payment. As I said, you also helped me out and people should help each other out right?” Replied Thakeo, gesturing the driver to put away his coin purse.

“Well at least can we offer you some of this?” Said the mother from behind her husband and held out a piece of bread and a small bottle of wine.

“Eh? Ah! Well, if you insist I guess it would be rude to reject.” Said Thakeo while scratching his neck. He was not used to being appreciated like this.

This was due to the harsh student environment and constant testing he was subjected to on a daily basis so it made him feel a bit awkward.

As Thakeo took the goods he mother was offering, someone gently tugged his sleeve. Thakeo turned his head at look at the little girl.

“Are… Are you magician?” Asked the girl and looked up at Thakeo.

“Ah? What makes you think that?” Replied Thakeo back.

“That!” Said the girl and pointed to the symbol embroidered on the coat Thakeo was wearing.

“Oh, I see! Well no, I am just a student but I hope to become a mage someday.” Said Thakeo and he kneeled down to make it easier for the girl.

“Ohhh! Can you show me? Can you?” Said the girl with glimmer in her eyes.

“Eh? Ah… Well… That…” Mumbled Thakeo surprised.

“You should not bother the young mage! I am sure that there are rules for when he can and cannot use magic.” Said the mother with a firm, yet gentle voice.

“Uh? Ah! Th-that is correct! Mages cannot go around and toss magic left and right. It would be chaos by the end of the day and chaos is bad, okay?” Said Thakeo, slightly dejected as he said this.

“Hmm? I don’t understand…” Mumbled the little girl confused.

“Perhaps when you are older you can be a magician too? Would you like that?” Asked Thakeo while stroking the girl’s hair.

“Yes!” Replied the girl with a smile as big as her innocent heart.

Thakeo could not help but simle over this sight, after all kids were cute, as long as they didn’t cry or that was at least his expierce.

“Oh well, I better get going. Oh and if you go to the guy I told you about and mention my name he will give you a good discount. That wheel rim needs to be replaced.” Said Thakeo as he stood up and looked at the driver.

“As soon as we have unloaded our goods, I will head there. Once more, thank you for all your help.” Said the driver and bowed slightly.

“No problem! I will drop by him later myself, we might meet again.” Said Thakeo and raised his hand to bid farewell to the driver and his family.

As Thakeo walked down the street he quickly noticed that some people were staring at him and whispering amongst themselves but where some might be surprised or outright concerned, Thakeo did not react much because he knew the likely reason.

The town of Qriphia was located far towards the south-eastern part of the empire and was thus far away from the main road network. This in turn led to fewer visitors and traders coming to town from the other parts of the country, especially mages and magic students.

“That boy? A Sahpine Magic student? Out here?” Mumbled someone around him.

“Oh? From that famous school?” Said another.

“He must be quite privileged to study there!” Said yet another voice.

Thakeo smiled soft as he heard these words, however, inside his heart and mind he could not help but being depressed over these words of flatter the locals used amongst themselves. They might think that he seemed like a rare animal or someone whom his parents could be proud of.

It was true that he was attending Sahpine Magic Academy, one of the most renewed and famous magic schools in the world, however it was hardly as glamorous as most common people thought it was and had several downsides.

First of all, becoming a mage was not easy. It involved many years of study, reading, testing and what not. It was a great mental challenge even for the brightest minds in the world and involved a lot of stress as results was a key point of a mage’s job. The more achievements, the better profit and position would become available.

Thakeo was more affected by this than others as he wanted to study the boring stuff the teachers laid out as he did not have a need for it due to his… Condition.

The second downside was that Sahpine Academy was insanely expensive, even for rock bottoms such as himself. They had to pay for food, clothes and accommodations as well as school materials. This all added up. Of cause the school did offer various monetary incentives where students could pay off the cost over time if needed but the majority of students came from wealthy families or families with connections so they did not need to worry as their families paid for their education.

Sadly, Thakeo was not in such a good position as his father had stated that a man should earn his own keep and all that sort of independent stuff so Thakeo had to pay for himself and it was barely manageable due to the cost increasing each year but so far he had managed by doing a ton of part time jobs but it was tiring.

The final and most critical issue was one which was unique to Thakeo. The ability to wield magic weapons and tools, tame magic beasts and perform magic incantations all came down to one’s ability to command and control the flow of magic itself, which was something Thakeo had no ability in what so ever.

In fact, Thakeo was famous at the school for his inability to cast spells, regardless of element and potency as they would always backfired in smoke and noise. His skills were so bad that even the kids in grade school level commanded better magic than him, something he was reminded of each time he saw them cast magic.

Thus, Thakeo was surrounded by people whom admired mages and magic without having a clue that the one in front of them had serious, almost comical issues with casting even the simplest spell.

Having reminded himself of these facts, Thakeo had manage to make himself depressed and thus, he stopped walking and instead leaned against an old stone wall as he was trying to find a way to reassemble his shattered soul.

“How cruel man’s good intentions are…” Mumbled Thakeo with a sigh as he dropped the bag on the ground with a depressed look on his face.

While some at school was taunting and teasing him, most felt kind of sad for him, but no one did so more than himself. In fact he was angry as he did not have any magic control skills and to make matters worse, as he had mentioned to the card driver, the reason he was in this town of Qriphia, was in fact due to a school assignment.

Technically he was supposed to have vacation from school but had at the last minute gotten an assignment he would need to complete otherwise he would likely face detention for the rest of the year. Of cause the teachers likely did not expect him to even try it, however this time he had a plan which should solve the issue with his lack of control.

As such, instead of being home with his family, he had spent the past few weeks working around the clock to earn money in order to buy a certain item he had ordered. Of cause he had made the order long before he even got the school assignment but now was as good as any to finally break free from the cursed fate which had befallen him.

Another bonus was that he would finally be able to meet some of his father’s friends, people whom he considered family, for the first time in over a year and that was the first destination of the day. He had even brought something from his father to said friend. This would be followed by a visit to another friend who would bring what he had ordered so it would likely turn out to be a good day.

“Okay! That is enough with feeling depressed! Time to get to work! Got to go get that map!” Said Thakeo to himself with a firm voice in order to raise his own spirit.

Thus, after he picked up his stuff again and proceeded to walk down the street towards the first destination of the day which was the local Land Office in order to obtain some maps of the local areas.

Of cause, it was not hard to find as the build was just within viewing distance, or rather, it was impossible not to see it due to the very unique architecture mixing every known style Thakeo had heard about. It was a large building painted in green and black with several floors. The entire building was enclosed by a tall foundation constructed from massive stones which had been used in the buildings construction long ago whereas the other floors seemed newer and thus, made of wood.

All of these features made the building one of a kind which could easily be identified, of cause the large sign which hang on the outside with letters in white marked ‘Qriphia Library & Land Office’ also played a part in finding it easily.

“Hopefully buying a map won’t be too expensive.” Mumbled Thakeo to himself as he rummaged through his pockets, looking for his coin purse.

“Ex-excuse me… Anyone here?” Asked Thakeo as he opened the door and walked inside the land office.

However, he received no response but could instead hear snoring from somewhere behind the counter.

Thakeo walked over to the counter and looked into the reception area where an extreamly old gnome was sitting on a tall chair, snoring while still holding a pen and ink in his hands. This man was likely the local archivist but he seemed to too busy snoring to even notice that Thakeo had shown up.

“Oh well… Guess I’ll let him sleep.” Said Thakeo and smiled softly.

Thus, Thakeo proceeded past the counter towards where a large wooden board hung from the wall containing all the current offers and requests for either sale, lease of purchase of various lands in the region.

However, this was not what Thakeo was after but rather he was looking for a larger map for a better overview of the entire region, however it seemed that it would not be easy to find and with the archivist sleeping, he would just have to find it himself.

“Hmm… I wonder if they have a layout of the building.” Mumbled Thakeo next as he looked around the nearby area but could not find something of the sort.

Just then, a thought appeared in his mind and returned directly to the counter where the old gnome was still happily snoring.

“Hah! Thought so!” Said Thakeo triumphantly to himself as he quickly found what he was looking for on the other side of the counter.

It was a large book with hand written entries but unlike other books this one were detailing the various content of the Land Office and associated library. While it did not go into exact details it did contain the location for the mapping section in the east end of the 1st floor.

Thus, Thakeo closed the book and proceeded upstairs at great and noise, headed directly towards the Mapping Section. However, as soon as he arrived he noticed that the entire section was one giant mess. Piles of papers, scrolls and books were spread   across the floor, tables, chairs and everywhere in between. It was a royal mess to put it plainly.

“Woah… They should hire a maid… How could anyone find anything here?” Mumbled Thakeo, scratching his neck as he observed the mess.

Unsure where to start, Thakeo began to look around for a map which suited his needs but due to the sheer amount of paper it was like looking for a needle in a haystack however after some time, Thakeo finally found a bundle of papers which had drawings looking like maps and thus, decided to focus on them instead.

“Hmm… Wrong county… Wrong town… Woa… Wrong continent!” Mumbled Thakeo as he browsers through the pile of papers yet he was unable to find the map he was looking for.

However, there was one very old looking map which did catch his eye so he picked it up and took a closer look. It appeared to be some old diagram of the old sewer system of the city from back when it was founded. While it was interesting as Thakeo had an interest in ancient ruins, then this would not help him now so he put the paper aside and continued looking.

“Mmm… Can’t find anything…” Mumbled Thakeo.

“Excuse me young man…” Said an elderly voice all of a sudden form behind, causing Thakeo to get a shock.

“WOOOOOAAH!” Cried Thakeo out loud and instantly spun around to face his would be attacker.

“What are you doing here?” Asked the man or rather, the old gnome once.

“By the gods, you scared me… Erm… I am looking for a map of the local forest.” Said Thakeo as he took a deep breath.

“This is the wrong section. The mapping section was moved to the west side last year.” Explained the elderly gnome.

“Eh? But the directory said it was here…” Said Thakeo confused.

“The directory is wrong… It needs to be replaced, when convenient but I am a busy man. Please follow me to the correct section.” Said the Gnome as he turned around and very slowly led Thakeo towards the correct section.

Once they were there, the old gnome slowly turned around and looked at Thakeo.

“What were you looking for again?” Asked the old gnome.

“If you have a map which details the forests, roads and rivers of the countryside that would be a big help.” Replied Thakeo and smiled.

“Hmm, you as well? Seems that everyone wants to get maps these days.” Mumbled the old gnome and walked over to a nearby cabinet and began to roam through it.

“Eh? Are there many people who wants maps now a days?” Asked Thakeo confused.

“No… Well… There is one pair of foreign nobles who routinely come back to make references to some maps but as long as they pay, I don’t mind.” Replied the Gnome.

“Spe-speak of payment… How much would a map cost?” Asked Thakeo next.

“Well… Depends on the map… Ah! Here it is, my last one too. Please check and see if that is what you were after.” Replied the gnome and fished out a folded piece of paper and handed it to Thakeo.

Thakeo took the paper and unfolded it and took a look. It was a very detailed map of the entire region, including names, roads and rivers, just as he had requested.

“This is perfect, how much for this?” Said Thakeo and reached for his coin purse.

“For that… 5 Copper Coins please, but please come to the counter.” Replied the gnome and proceeded, once more, at a very slow pace downstairs and back to the counter.

Here, Thakeo found his purse and slowly took out the 5 copper payment for the map and put them on the counter for the gnome to confirm the amount.

“Thank you for your business.” Said the Gnome as he slowly moved the coins into a small register of sorts.

“N-no problem… have a nice nap!” Said Thakeo as he walked towards the door.

“Hah! I never sleep on the job.” Replied the gnome however before Thakeo could even turn around, the gnome was sound sleep again.

Thakeo shook his head with a smile as he was about to open the door, however someone opened it right in front of him and rushed in, completely ignoring Thakeo.

“How rude!” Mumbled Thakeo and walked outside the land office.

Some people now a days were just unbelieveable, not even caring if they hurt someone else as long as they get what they need. Thakeo hated that sort of people as they were often reckless and did not consider the possible consequences for their actions.

Thakeo shook his head once more in disbelief and decided to check the map again just to be sure before he folded it and put it in his pocket, thus he intended to resume his track towards his next destination.

However, he had only managed to take a few steps when he suddenly saw a shadow overhead. By instinct he turned around and looked upwards and saw a person jumping over the wall with ease.

“Impressive… Huh?” Mumbled Thakeo and in the split second they looked at each, the other person seemed just as surprised to see Thakeo there.

But that was not the issue which should have popped up in his mind.

No, the real issue was that said person was on a head-on collision course with Thakeo, however, just before impact the jumper switched position in midair.

“Wha… GYAAHAH!” Cried Thakeo as the jumper hit him dead center in the solar plexus with the result that Thakeo bent over like a foldable pocket knife and collapsed to the ground on all four completely out of breath. He didn’t even have time to tighten his abdominal muscles and thus the hit had much greater impact.

“Don’t get in the way!” Yelled the jumper at Thakeo, as the latter laid on the ground, nearly unable to breath. The jumper then let out some curse in another language before running down the street and disappearing in the crowd.

“Wh-why m-me?” Cried Thakeo as he laid there on the ground while people around just looked on in surprise while the jumper was running off with a long bright red and white scarf blowing behind him.

“A-are you okay young man?” Asked a random by stander.

“Eh? Ah… Yea… I think so at least.” Replied Thakeo as he slowly got on his feet, still looking in the direction where the jumper had run off towards but was unable to find him anymore.

Thakeo could not help but wonder why the jumper seemed to be in such a hurry but in the end it was just speculation so he did not dwell on the matter to long, at least not until he began to pickup his stuff which had been spred out across the street.

“The map? Where ist he map?” Mumbled Thakeo as he looked around for it on the ground but it was no where to be seen.

“Don’t tell me… That bastard stole it?” Growled Thakeo as he once more looked in the direction the jumper had run off too, realizing that the map was now out of reach.

“M-my 5 copper coins…” Cried Thakeo, nearly burting into tears over the loss.

Normal people might not bother about a mere five copper coins but for Thakeo even that tiny amount that represented a significant amount of cash for him as all his funds had already been spent on other projects.

Thus, Thakeo no longer had the map he had just purchased but it was not like to could catch up to someone he could not even see and thus, unable to afford a new one, he could only resign himself to having to try and find a new map as the landoffice had alreay run out of maps.

– ₪ –

A while after the encounter with the wall jumper, Thakeo had resumed his walk around town quite grumpy and annoyed over being assaulted like that, however he did not feel it would be a good idea to head to his next location in a foul mood.

Still, it had been a good kick but it had utterly ruined the good feeling he had just regained prior to being hit and left him with a very sore stomach and bruised ego, but what was done was done and whining about it would note that fact.

Instead, Thakeo was focusing on the town itself as it surely had changed a lot more than he had expected. As he walked he noticed that the style of the buildings changed and the narrow road he had originally be walking on had become much wider with a more open feeling and warm feeling to the area.

The biggest shock came when he reached a wide open plaza which was covered in various merchant boots, shops and what not. A large amount of people was walking back and forth, looking at the various goods which was being offered for sale.

The ground seemed to be covered in new, large cobblestone and the plaza itself was surrounded by a lot of new tall buildings, trees and other greenery. It defiantly was not the town he remembered from his childhood.

As he was observing all this to took notice of a particular stone bench nearby. The bench was made of solid granite and was hand carved with precision in a very detailed style resembling that of the ancient carvings he had seen while at school. Even the small fence next to it was made from quality wood and with great craftsmanship.

“Wow, things really do change in just a few years.” Mumbled Thakeo to himself.

As Thakeo was studying the bench he noticed that construction of a house was still ongoing however it was not being built in the usual style one would see from humans but he could not put his finger on the style.

Thakeo could not help himself but wanted to take a closer however the area was cordoned off by a plank wall, likely to reduce noise but also keep people out for their own safety. As such, it would be impossible for anyone to enter.

Thakeo sighed, having to miss the chance to see such a grand construction but it was not like he had to time to watch it being completed.

Instead, he turned around and headed towards the magistrates office which should nearby, at least as far as he remembered, however before he got far he nearly ran into, causing them to lose their balance and fall to the ground.

“Oh, I am sorry, are you okay?” Asked Thakeo and reach out his hand, however the one he had known over, seemingly a low wage worker, did not take his hand, but merely got on his feet and walked away.

“Sorry!” Yelled Thakeo after the man but as he turned around once more he noticed others, dressed in the same ragged clothes just walking by him, one by one in the same strange manner.

It seemed like they were not even aware that he was there but merely continued to walk by him. Each and every one of these workers had the same absentminded look on their face, like they were in some kind of trance. Thakeo knew not what it was but he did not have the right to bother other people so he thought nothing of it and instead returned to his own business.

Soon thereafter, Thakeo found himself standing on front of the magistrate’s office or rather, now it seemed more like a small castle. It was more than twice the size he remembered. Of cause it was many years ago but still, for it to grow so much.

“Hey you! What are you doing here?” Said a stern voice all of a sudden.

Thakeo looked left and right, confused as to who had shouted and to whom.

“You! The kid with the fancy cloak!” Yelled the voice all again.

Thakeo turned and around and pointed at himself.

“Yes! State your business here! What are you doing here?” Said the person again.

Thakeo looked at the person speaking to him. It was a big, muscular man with arms as wide as logs and at least two head higher than Thakeo.

“Y-you are…. Uncle Hasti?” Asked Thakeo surprised while he pointed a finger at the man.

“Bwahahaha! So you still recognize me kid! Good, very good!” Said Hasti and roughly padded Thakeo on the shoulder all while letting out a loud a deep burly laughter.

“St-still as loud as ever I see…” Mumbled Thakeo with a smile as his shoulder was beaten to a pulp.

As Thakeo was rubbing his sore shoulder, he took another look at the man known as Hasti.

Hasti’s full name was Hastilani Geardoe but since it sounded like a girl’s name, he only went with the first part.

Hasti was the magistrate in this town and also an old friend of Thakeo’s father from back in the day when they were both traveling together however unlike his father, Hasti was not an eccentric nutcase but rather a down to earth guy, despite his tough looking build and facial expression.

“I thought you would not come until this evening.” Said Hasti as he walked towards the magistrate’s office.

“Ah, well I got a lift from a farmer who had issues with his wheel.” Said Thakeo as he followed Hasti inside the building.

“Oh? Helping those in need is always good!” Said Hasti and smiled, showing his approval.

“Eh? Ah of cause that was one of the reasons… The other being…” Said Thakeo

“Oh right! You still can’t use magic correctly so no broom for you.” Said Hasti and laughed again.

“Right… Thank you for remind me… Besides the fact that mages don’t ride brooms you are correct… In any case, how is life? Anything new?” Asked Thakeo in order to change the topic of the conversation.

“Same old as I am sure your father have told you. Business in this town is good, almost too good. They even want to hold a festival in a few days time or something.” Said Hasti as he sat down at a large desk, to which Thakeo followed suit.

“A festival you say? Sounds like fun! But, how can business be too good?” Asked Thakeo confused.

“Well, the boom in town growth is nice but with more people and trade also comes more trouble. I have had to double my staff over the past year. We even had to expand our office as I am sure you saw and with that silly festival everyone from the region is going to be in town.” Explained Hasti.

“Yea I saw that there has been a lot of changes but why? What happened?” Asked Thakeo next.

“Well, I am not really sure but it seems that the dwarfs found some rare metals in the mountains to the north, around half a Vei (note) travel from here. They instantly bought the entire mountain and began digging and well… After that the alliance took notice and began to show up and offering deals left and right, thus starting some sort of trade war, trying to push the dwarves out of their lands.” Said Hasti and gestured to the town outside the window.

“Dwarfs… They really like to dig and build stuff but I guess that is what they are good at.” Said Thakeo while leaning back on the chair.

“That… And eating and drinking! Bwahahaha!” Said Hasti next, followed by another thunderous laughter.

“I am sure you and my old man would be accepted as honorary dwarfs.” Mumbled Thakeo to himself.

“Well in any case. I am still on the job so I only have a short time available until alter tonight but why don’t you have a look around town? I am sure that you will find something interesting or you can head to my home. I am sure my wife will be delighted that you showed up early.” Said Hasti next.

“I might do that but first, here, something for you.” Said Thakeo and placed the wine bottle he had received from the farmer on the table.

“You really went out of your way to get that for me?” Asked Hasti with a raised eyebrow.

“Nah. I got it from the farmer earlier for helping him. He insisted so I could not refuse but I am not really fond of wine but if it is good or not, I cannot say.” Explained Thakeo.

“Oh? Well that will work for me so I shall oblige your offer and pass my judgement on it later tonight.” Said Hasti and grabbed the bottle from the table and put it aside.

“Well, I guess I will see you later tonight.” Said Thakeo and got on his feet and proceeded towards the door.

“Oh that reminds me!” Said Hasti suddenly and jumped on his feet and walked over to a drawer at the end of the room and began coming through it.

“Hmm… Where is it? No… Not that…. Ah! Here we are!” Said Hasti as he slowly turned around and placed the items he had dug up from the drawer on the table in from on him.

“What is that?” asked Thakeo as he walked over to the table and took a closer look at the items.

It was a necklace of some sort, circular in shape and the size of his palm. The surface was smooth had a golden or silvery surface. It was hard to explain the exact color as it seemed to change depending on the angle one looked from.

Thakeo picked up the necklace and held it against the light to get a better look. At the center was a gemstone which reflected light in a variety of colors.

There were also 3 minor gems, hanging from the outer ring of the necklace. They looked like the gem and the center but were much smaller and shaped in the form of a tear drop.

While it did seem pretty then Thakeo could really say that he recognized it as he had not seen anything like it before.

“I got no clue what it could be, do you?” Asked Thakeo as he poked the necklace while holding it in his hand.

“Hell if I know. Your dad sent a pair of notes a long with it. One was asking me to hand it to you while the other note is for you.” Replied Hasti and pointed at the other item which was still on the table.

Thakeo grabbed the paper, unfolded it and read the content, not once, not twice but a whole 3 times before he raised his head and look at Hasti in utter disbelief.

“So, does it say what it is?” Asked Hasti.

“Take a look for yourself.” Replied Thakeo and sighed as he handed Hasti the letter.

“Let us see…” Mumbled Hasti as he read the letter.

‘Dear son, I found this necklace during my travels and seeing that your last letter mentioned a trial issued by the school, I thought that this might help you. Who knows, you might get a girlfriend. Use it well. Love, Dad.’


“I-Is that it?” Asked Hasti surprised as he flipped and turned the paper, searching for more information.

“That’s it. No clues as to what it is, where it came from nor how to use it.” Replied Thakeo and shook his head in disbelief.

“Somehow I find that typical for him.” Said Hasti as he showed and awkward smile.

“Well, knowing my dad he likely got ripped off by some third rate merchant and is trying to pass it on to someone else.” Said Thakeo with a weak smile.

“Well, that might be true but I do think that your father would not send you random junk. I cannot be sure but I think that necklace must have some magic properties.” Said Hasti next and pointed at the necklace in Thakeo’s hand.

“Really? What makes you think that?” Asked Thakeo surprised and looked at the necklace.

“When I got it the first time I got a weird tingling in my hand as I held it. I know nothing the inner workings of magic and the sort but I do know that is a sign of magical properties.” Explained Hasti.

“Oh? That may be true.” Mumbled Thakeo.

It was true that strong magic could be felt even by those without magic powers or even trained in the arts if the magic was strong enough so there might be something to Hasti’s observation.

Thakeo placed the necklace between both of his hands, closed his eyes and began to focus on the item. Even with his lack of skill he could feel that the necklace gave off a warm sensation yet the surface was not being heated by the heat from his hands but remained cold to the touch. Clearly it was magical but Thakeo did not have a clue as to what it could do.

“Hmm… I hope it don’t explode… It would not be the first time that has happened.” Said Thakeo as he opened his eyes and removed his hands from the necklace, and put it back on the table.

“If worse comes to worst, you can always sell it! Bwahaha!” Stated Hasti and laughed out loud once more.

“Hmm… Well that is an idea at least, but sell it as what? Without knowing what it is I can’t really sell it can I?” Said Thakeo.

“Well, you might be lucky and find someone as dumb as your father to buy it.” Said Hasti and laughed again.

“Hmmm well I…” Began Thakeo but before he could say anything more, someone knocked on the door and entered when Hasti gave the go ahead.

“Excuse me sir but the Aukhewaeseon liaison has arrived.” Said a young guard as he stood in the door.

“The Aukhe… what?” Asked Thakeo confused and looked at Hasti.

“Some high roller within the Alliance, I mentioned that they were here as well. They are the Empire’s rival here in the south and east. The one who is here is a big merchant of sorts and has made many good deals for the town working as a consultant. It was good and fine but now…” Said Hasti and showed a depressed face.

“I thought we were at bad terms with the alliance.” Said Thakeo, feeling perplexed.

“Oh, the empire and the alliance are rivals but this town is far from the main trade hubs so there is great demand for prime goods which that dirt bag will happily provide. They are likely here to complain about some more useless crap about their growing monopoly on trade in the entire region.” Said Hasti and waved the guard off.

After the door had been closed Hasti turned around and took the bottle of wine he had received from Thakeo earlier. Next, Hasti removed the lid and chugged down the entire bottle in one go.

“Ah! I thought you were going to save that for later?” Asked Thakeo with a smile as Hasti dried his lips with the backside of his hand.

“Well I have to listen to that pompous arse from the Auk-whatever Alliance for half a day I would rather do so while drunk and with the crap the aristocrat deals in just don’t cut it. It has no taste at all!” Replied Hasti and sighed.

“Well… Good luck with that. I got to go now and get some things in order.” Said Thakeo next and walked towards the door.

“Hey Kid! Remember this thingy!” Said Hasti and gently tossed the metal trinket towards Thakeo who caught it with ease.

“Bleh! You noticed eh?” Said Thakeo with a smile.

“Don’t dump your fathers junk on me. As I said, sell it or toss it aside but don’t do it here.” Replied Hasti.

“I got it! See you later tonight, if you survive that meeting.” Said Thakeo as he opened the door and walked out the office.

As he walked down the short hallway towards the main door he noticed a rather sparkling looking person, dressed in fancy clothing with lots of gold and silver patterns.

“Who was that child? Was he the reason I had to wait for so long?” Asked the man suddenly, clearly directed towards Thakeo.

“My apologies. I believe he is a friend of the commander who had some urgent business with him.” Explained the guard.

“Hmph! Such garbage should not even be allowed to enter the city!” Said the man next as Thakeo walked by.

That sort of people was everywhere. Arrogant attitude and ignorant banter was something Thakeo was used to from school so he did not react to the insult but merely rolled his eyes as he exited the magistrate’s office.

– ₪ –

Thakeo was sitting on a bench near the craftsmen’s square, eating the bread he had been given by the farmer’s wife. The bread had a rough exterior yet was soft inside and had a delicious taste and one could feel that this was made from quality goods.

“Ah… If I had known this, I would have asked for the recipe.” Said Thakeo to himself as he took another bite of the bread.

As he ate, Thakeo took another look at the stony metal sphere object Hasti had given him. Each time he looked at the stone it somehow felt something was familiar about it but he could not remember where he had seen something like it before.

Sadly, he was not at school so he could not look it up in the vast library there to read up about it and as he could not use magic that well he could not do simply cast spells on it either.

Since this was not a big town they likely did not have any magic library or something like that but they may have a magic shop but he would not know where it was.

As Thakeo was sitting there, enjoying his lunch and looking at the trinket, he also observed the construction of what appeared to be a statue of some sort.

Like the building he had seen before, this one was also covered with wooden planks and the sort so he could not see how the work was progressing.

However when he had asked one of the dwarven craftsmen earlier he had been told that they were repairing an old statue of the village’s founder who had apparently been a famous dwarf several hundred years earlier.

As the statue had decayed over time it was a major job to fix but known the dwarfs, it would not be a problem for them, after all, they were the best builders on the continent, if not the world.

Thakeo knew several dwarfs and was even working with one from time to time. That dwarf was currently in this town on a supply run which was why Thakeo was sitting there, waiting for said dwarf to have time to talk.

Thakeo had first encountered dwarfs many years ago when he was a child and already at that age had been fascinated by their craftsmanship. Not just for houses and castles but also for their excellent weapons, tools and other forging methods.

There was many people who wanted to learn from the dwarfs and at times they were willing to share however there was one thing which they refused to share and that was the ability to draw magic runes and engrave these onto various tools and objects.

While dwarfs could not sense or even use normal magic like the other species, they had discovered a way to carve magic runes and combine these into commands that a tool or weapon could be ordered to use.

Magic runes could be used to make a hammer hit harder when swung a certain way, reinforce a shield for a time or even cause a sword to catch fire when needed and as such, added more moves and abilities in both crafting and combat. However, there were several limitations to runic weapons and tools.

First, the object which had been enhanced could only affect that object itself and not the area around it. Thus, a magic fire sword could be used to start a fire at a camp or a bush, but it would not be able to do ranged attacks like magic spells could and thus, was limited as a close quarter weapon.

The second downside was that there was also a limited to the number of runic enchantments which could be added to a single object and thus runic tool and weapons rarely had more than 2 functions, in extreme cases, 3 enchantments could be added, thus limiting their use.

Finally, the most important downside was the cost and time involved in crafting runic tools and weapons. Due to the way these had to be made was that they required some of the most rare ingredients and was expensive obtain and the rune enchantment also had to be precise or there was risk of failure and the item being lost.

As such, then it could take months to obtain these and craft runic items, all depending on the requirements of the user.

Combined, these limitations, and cost associated with it limited the people who could afford them and thus, it was not uncommon for runic items to be passed down from generation to generation, even to this day.

Even so, for the dwarven craftsman, these items held a great symbolic value and craftsman with respect for their trade would issue a repair guarantee should the item ever break and thus, it was well worth the cost to obtain such a rare item.

Thakeo took another bite of the bread and leaned backwards on the bench and looked into the sky.

He could not help but wonder if that trinket his father had sent him might be something like that. It was possible but he knew that whatever it was, it was not from his family so he could not help but wonder how his father had gotten it but likely he had swindled it off some poor sap.

While the trinket had no inscriptions or like that, it was at least a crafted item but without reference he could not even guess to its origin.

Thakeo smiled to himself. While his father was a fool and a pervert beyond redemption, he was at least able to find some interesting stuff from time to time, even if he just dumped them on his son, even if said son could not use magic spells.

Thakeo did not know why he could not use magic. He had been tested several times and had the gift yet everything always backfired, melted or would just not work yet he could use rune items and had a few items he had obtained due to his curiosity and often traded these to others.

Of cause, it was not like he was completely without magic spells. There was a few which he could use, even if it could be quite dangerous.

Thakeo could use very simple spells, or rather, he could control the initial activation such as creating sparks for a fire spell and thus, could light a fire or a candle. It was not much but it came in handy from time to time.

However, due to the issue he had, Thakeo could not use one of the most common and useful spells for a mage, called Pocket Space.

Pocket space was a small gateway to a designated area where the mage could store their valuables or for magic students, books and pens. However, there was a limitation in terms of range, depending on the mage using.

However as he could not use it at all, Thakeo was forced to be carrying a bag with him as he could not use this but with some luck that should soon be remedied.

Thakeo had placed an order for some runic item several months ago via his friend which should hopefully help him control at least that as well as expand his options. This year was important for him after all as it would soon be time for ranking tests.

Thakeo could not help but feel a bit sad about it as it had cost him all his hard earned coin from the last half year. He had to do a lot of part time jobs and even a few underhand trades and now he was finally close.

Of cause, it was not enough to just use pocket space as even that has limitations such as range and even with that he would still not be able to use true spells like a real mage.

Magic spells, unlike runic items could be used without tools or incantations if the user was skilled enough but this required years of training and great focus to master that.

Due to that, it was decided long time ago to study the runic items made by the dwarfs and slowly over the past century magic tools such as staffs and wands had appeared and were now being used by most magic users as they, in a form similar to runic items they were derived from, to cast magic, even ranged spells could be used.

Wands and staffs were engraved using mage scripture which worked similar to runes however they were not really enchanted but worked more like an extension of the mage itself and used the mage’s own power to fuel the spell and as such, could drain a mage quickly if they used a wand which consumed more power than they could supply.

It was easier to create magic tools than runic tools by using mage scripting. It was the same concept behind it, however mage scripting had more severe limitations than runic script.

However, while the concept behind wands and runic items were basically the same, mage scripting as it was called, had more severe limitations than runic enchantment.

The first was that while mage scripting was considered easy compared to runes then they were also limited to a single spell per wand and once discovered it could be countered by an opponent.

The second was that due to the continued use, wands and staffs would become worn and would break after a certain time and they could not be repaired but would have to be made from scratch. In essence it mean that the more powerful the spell, the shorter a lifespan a magic tool had.

The third was that magic tools had to use elemental ingredients, depending on the spell used and while they were not as rare as runic ingredients they could still be hard to find if one was looking a specific ingredient.

Thus, it was not uncommon for mages and students to replace their wand or staff many times during their career, especially during school where spells were cast on a daily basis.

The good thing about magic tools is that it allowed students and mages to use spells easily due to having a focus point to activate the spell at the tip of the wand or staff and thus, allowed practice with spells on a larger scale.

Also, due to the much lower cost and very few components, they could also be made quickly and this in turn allowed for a wide assortment of wand and spell combinations. Some wand makers even offered blank wands, wherein the mage could add their own spell designs by adding the core, usually a magic gem, into a wand themselves, thus allowing cheap experimentation with wands.

Mage scripting was not only limited to wands but were also used for summoning, making commands for magic constructs such as golems but also for magic staffs.

Magic staffs followed much the same principle of wands but unlike wands they were sturdier and could be used to cast stronger spells, however they also took longer time to channel during which the mage was open to attack so few used them now a days as wands was much faster, even if they were weaker.

Due to this, it was not uncommon for mages to carry several wands with several different spells when they travelled around or went into combat as a broken wand was equal to defeat.

It was the same rule used during tournaments. If a mage’s wand broke, was disarmed or was incapacitated, that mage had lost.

This was also one of the reasons those tournaments were popular with the masses as it allowed the mages to show their skills and no match would never be the same as tactics and strategy also played a huge part. It had been seen that a weaker mage defeated a stronger one by simply thinking ahead or being much faster.

While wands and staffs had become common place, every magic student was still trained in casting spells without incantations.

However, for some reason, spells without incantations were a bit weaker but the advantage was that the opponent would have a much lesser chance of countering a spell they did not hear, magic duals all came down to the five senses after all.

The skill to use spells without saying their name were normal but some were more proficient than others at it and if they could also cast magic without using wands or staffs they would certainly be a tough opponent.

Thakeo sighed to himself. He had seen many magic tournaments but had never participated in one. It was voluntary to do so at school and it gave bonus points if you got a good rating but since he could not use spells it was useless to even consider joining.

“AH! DAMN IT ALL!” Yelled Thakeo out loud as he suddenly jumped on top of the bench, still holding the half eaten bread, into the air as a way to encourage himself, however…

“Mommy, is that man mad?” Asked a child all of a sudden and pointed at Thakeo.

“Do not look at him! We are leaving!” Replied the mother as she quickly walked down the street, pulling her child along.

Thakeo quickly looked around and noticed that they were not the only one staring at him, in fact several other people who looking and pointing at him due to his sudden outburst.

“Huh? Eh… Sorry about that…” Said Thakeo with a weak smile while he quickly sat down again, wanting to hide his face in shame.

However, as he sat there, he noticed that someone was watching him, or rather, what he was holding in his hand, the half-eaten bread.

“I know you are there.” Said Thakeo as he turned his head and looked towards the person who was looking at him from the end of the bench.

“Geh!” Cried a girly voice, quickly trying to hide behind the bench.

“Don’t worry, I won’t bite.” Said Thakeo with a smile.

Slowly, the girl who was hiding looked out from behind the safety of the bench and looked directly at him, but did not do anything further than that.

“I see, you are shy huh? I can understand that, but here you go anyway.” Said Thakeo, quickly wrapping up the remaining loaf of bread in the wrappings and slowly pushed it towards the end of the bench.

“You can have the rest if you want. It is quite good.” Said Thakeo and smiled.

Thakeo watch as the girl slowly reached out for the bread however as soon as she had it she quickly pulled it and hid behind the bench again. Having removed the wrapping, she quickly started to eat like there was no tomorrow.

“Guess you must have been hungry.” Said Thakeo as he took a closer look at the girl.

She was dressed in old, torn clothing without any shoes. Her face was covered in dirt it seemed to have been alone for a while.

Her apparent age could not be more than 9 or 10 years but it was hard to tell as she, unlike Thakeo, was not human but rather one of the beastkin based on the wolf like ears and tail she had.

What made it hard to guess her age was that beastkin children in general grew up between 5 to 7 times faster than any of the races in the world, however as soon as they reach young adulthood they started to age at a normal rate comparable to humans and lived just as long.

It was unknown why this happened but legends said that the beastkin had been created long ago by an ancient long extinct species using some sort of unknown magic by mixing the strengths of animals with the structure of humans, thus creating a strong new species.

Beastkin was however unable to use magic which could be used against their masters as they were originally a race of slaves to do their masters bidding.

However due to their different looks many people around the world saw them as sub humans and some even hunted them down and enslaved them or worse, simply kill them out right.

It was fact that beastkin were stronger and faster than humans and could easily overpower most of them and while they could not use magic their superior skills had led to the creation of Beast Arts, a series of combat schools training in various styles of melee and ranged combat thus making them much harder to capture alive as they were proud creatures and would rather die than live as slaves.

Sadly, then this did not always apply to the kids who could kidnapped from a young age and raised as slaves, the younger the better it was said.

Thakeo became annoyed over this line of thinking. He could not stand people looking down at others like that just because they had a tail and ears. He knew several beastkin himself and they were some of the kindest people he had ever known as they did not slaughter each other for personal gain like the humans did.

Thakeo once more looked at the little girl who seemed to have finished eating and now looked around to see if she had dropped something before slowly looking up at Thakeo with a pleading look.

“That was all I had so there is nothing left to give you.” Said Thakeo with a smile.

The girl began to frown her eye brows and pout, seeming slightly dissatisfied, at least if she had been a human child but it was hard to identify the mood of beast folk at times so Thakeo did not hold it against he.

However, as he was about to say something, the girl changed her pose and her ears began to move around like she heard something strange and suddenly ran away.

“What was that about?” Asked Thakeo himself as he watched the girl run of and disappear into the crowd.

“You are quite generous today, ain’t ya lad?” Said a deep, slightly hoarse voice from behind him.

Thakeo quickly turned around and looked at the new arrival.

It was a muscular dwarf, just slightly shorter than Thakeo was wielding a mighty orange beard with tints of white. He was dressed in a typical craftsman’s attire with a tool belt which looked as heavy as a plate armor.

“Thragoth? You done already? I thought it would several hours before you were done!” Said Thakeo surprised as he looked at Thragoth, who was a friend of his and also the one whom he had placed his order with.

“What? Ya think I’m an ungrateful bastard whom would not greet me own customers did ya? Besides, you showed up several hours early as well.” Replied Thragoth in a typical highland dwarven accent while he crossed his arms.

“Eh? You seem in a grumpy today. Something wrong?” Asked Thakeo, tilting his head slightly.

“Oh just the usual trouble with them horse-arse faced aristocrats dallying about like they own da place.” Snorted Thragoth as he spat on the ground.

“St-still have a way with words as always. I assume you are referring to the Aukhewaeseon nobles who are in town?” Asked Thakeo.

“Oh ya met them already?” Asked Thragoth surprised.

“Briefly while I was visiting Uncle Hasti at his office. He even sent insults at me for some reason.” Replied Thakeo.

“Aye, I think I know who you mean. I have only been here for a week but I have not heard one good word about him nor his lackeys.” Said Thragoth and nodded in agreement with his own words.

“What are they doing here anyway? Their lands should be some 2 or 3 days ride from here should it not?” Asked Thakeo next however Thragoth did not answer right away but instead quickly looked around before he leaned closer.

“That is something best not said in public so, let us move to the workshop and talk there. After all, you have an item to pick up as well.” Said Thragoth with a low voice.

The seriousness in Thragoth’s tone made it clear that something more was at stake than just simple issues with social status and merely nodded and followed Thragoth inside a nearby building.

note           “Vei” is an ancient norse unit of meassuring distance. It is equal to 11.295km (7miles) and was considered the normal distance one could walk before needing a longer break.

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