Residence on Javelin Lane, South Hill, Marrowshire
Morning Bell, Payday, 17th of Postharvest, Year 1126
Valdegarde “Rhyval” Crowninshield stopped with the spoon half way to his mouth. Heart thumping, he probed the surroundings to catch a hint of what had made the cold chill go through him. Fried oat meal dripped back into the bowl in the quiet. From the balcony, reddish rays of after-dawn light streamed into the bare confines of his hearth chamber. In the distance, hammers plinked on metal down at the smithy. Birds chirped in the eves. His gaze tracked to the front door and the pulsing golden illumination visible through the cracks.
With a slow hand, Rhyval reached out and wrapped his fingers around the hilt of his sword Lextalionis leaning against the table. He lifted the gleaming weapon, keeping it oriented on the door. That gold light didn’t bode well. Had they finally found him? He was just getting to like this town. The training was excellent, the people were varied, friendly and entertaining. Most importantly, he’d finally found a reasonable source of funds!
He pushed out of his chair and sidled over to the opening. He listened. At the very threshold of hearing he detected a tinny humming. He sensed no presences. Odd.
Drawing a breath, he gripped the door ring and eased it free. Light streamed in as the opening widened. Rhyval felt it tingling on his skin. Magic—strong magic.
He swallowed and peered around the jam. His breath caught and his rushing heart slowed. He sighed in relief.
Hovering at the door stoop was what appeared to be melon-sized glowing egg. A family messenger orb.
He stepped out on the porch, glancing both ways down the quiet lane. The other buildings in the quad were quiet. Still early, nobody moving around.
Rhyval turned back to the orb and leaned down. “Valdegarde Crowninshield,” he said aloud, directing his voice at the orb. “Shrikefire over the seventh moon.”
The orb made a clicking sound and the golden glow winked out. He caught the metal device as the magic animating it dissipated. He ducked back inside, and shoved the door closed. He thudded his shoulders against the wood.
He held up the message orb to eye level. He had definitely been discovered. He frowned. An official communication. Where were the house guards?
Setting his sword aside, Rhyval pressed the release on the side of the orb. The device split open with a soft hiss. Above the lower half of the globe a distortion appeared in the air. He reached into the interdimensional space and felt around. The first thing that came to hand was a roll of parchment. He moved over to the table and set it down. He reached back in, his fingers found a handle. Taking hold he extracted a full-sized dinner basket. The air of the house was immediately permeated with the memorable scent of warm Jhedarworld spice bread, obviously recently pulled from the oven. His favorite. Who else but his baby sister Belind would send something like that?
He reached back into the orb-space and probed around to see if there was anything else inside. After a moment he located something metallic. What came out was a tablet of stamped platinum; a Crowninshield token slab. He surveyed the voucher amounts feeling his stomach tighten. So much money, how had his sister…? He felt a chill worse than his fear of being dragged back to the head clan and forced to officiate to the council.
Rhyval picked up the scroll and unfurled it. Looking at the gold emboss, it was indeed from his younger sister. She had found him again. How did she do that when the house guards could not? The writing in this note looked more formal than the other ones that had found their way to him.
I trust this note finds you well and in good health. The house is not the same without you and I miss the times we often spent together. Mother misses you, but puts on a brave face when your name is mentioned. Father still fumes over it, and vows you will scribe the lineage text one thousand times. Though I understand your leaving after Dereth’s death, I am still angry at you for leaving Mother and Father in their time of grieving. Dereth was a good brother and no matter how much you despised the magostocracy, you should have shown more respect for his memory.
You will be happy to know that in your absence that the council has finally accepted me as the representative heir. I am now Counsel pro tem Dannik Crowninshield Belind, officiate of siege magicks and logistics. While I have accepted the title in your stead, I was not able to countermand the warrant. You remain a fugitive on Jhedar, and the elven worlds of the primary ring. Grand aunt Elsbeth takes abandonment of a post very seriously, and she will see you punished on principle alone. I will continue to lobby for a pardon but getting her ear as well as her forgiveness will take time.
This letter is to send you my love and to impart to you that it is now critical that you do not get caught by the guard. Prior to my being assigned it is likely you would have simply been forced to accept the title and the training (after a brief stay in the brig). However, after defying our aunt’s authority for this length of time and with me filling the role, there is no detriment to punishing you to the full extent of the mandates. That would make neither of us happy. Leave us avoid that if at all possible.
Please be patient during this time of adjustment. I know it hasn’t been easy for you making due in the fringe worlds with no support. Please accept the scrip and a taste of home and keep yourself safe.
As a last parting advisement, please find yourself some better scrying protection. If I can find you, the guards can as well. Since my appointment, their diligence is greatly reduced. However, grand aunt Elsbeth still has your recovery on her agenda. There is no telling when she might crack the whip again. So please prepare yourself appropriately.
With loving regard,
Rhyval furled the scroll, poked into the basket and lifted out a spice roll. He bit into the spongy mass, letting the sweet buttery taste of home fill his palate. Good news and bad news. Good that he might eventually be able to return to Jhedar. Bad, the punishment for fleeing the draft to the council post would now be much more serious.
He ran a hand over the platinum scrip. He already had the best over-the-counter scrying defense that could be purchased. The magic of the crown worlds was so powerful, even with the scrip he doubted he had enough funds to get something strong enough fashioned.
He glanced out the balcony to where he could see down the lee side of south hill into Marrowshire. Much of the town’s wealth came from crypt running. While his tastes ran to more legitimate work, joining one of the raid teams might be the most expedient means to make contacts and acquire funds.
Of course there was the whole situation with the incursion coming from the delving. He would have to stay alert to that and see what opportunities if any that afforded. He would not further disappoint his sister and parents by ending up in his grand aunt’s stockade…