Camrin looked carefully around once he awoke. He was in a small guest bedroom inside a house was sure he'd never been in. He had no shirt on, and his weapons were near the wall. His shoes were next to them. His chest was wrapped with cloth, and small spots of red showed through it. There appeared to be no one around who could have done this, but then he heard someone singing lightly from outside the room. It sounded like the woman he'd had met before, so he got to his feet somewhat unsteadily. His head was spinning, and his chest felt constricted. "Hello, I'm up," he called down to her. Her singing stopped.
"I'll be up in a minute," she called back. He could hear footsteps coming up steps near his room.
In a moment, the door opened, and then shut again. "So, you have awakened. Are you feeling any better? I brought you up some food in case you were hungry." The voice was coming from nowhere in particular still, and he realized that the invisibility spell was still in effect.
"Thanks." She set the food down on a small end table, and it came into focus as her hand left the plate. Camrin eyed the food eagerly. It had been a long time since he'd eaten a good meal. Selenia then stepped back near the doorway, though Camrin couldn't tell. His stomach complained for food yet he did not eat. "If I'm going to be traveling with you, I should know your name."
"Oh, it's Selenia. What is yours?"
"My name is Camrin. As I recall, you were saying something before that unfortunate accident." He sat back down on the bed, his legs feeling week. "I remember you saying that you were going to be with me until we get somewhere, but you never did say where."
"Yes, well, I am supposed to take you to a castle, one much different from the one that you were in. You are the one who needs to get there, but I'm supposed to guide you."
"Who told you all this?" Camrin asked curiously, glancing again over at the soup steaming on the table.
"Someone," she replied. She sounded as if she were hiding something.
"Who?" he asked, more forceful than before. She contemplated whether she should tell him, while Camrin kept looking at the soup.
"Eat the soup if you want. I don't mind. You need your strength if you're to be traveling soon." Camrin took the bowl and spoon and began eating, slowly at first, then with more enthusiasm as his stomach welcomed the nourishment.
"Who told you?" He asked for a third time, his patience wearing thin. He stopped eating for a second to hear her answer.
"Ok, you have to know the truth. A foreteller told me this. She gave me a spell to make the path. It was made to bring someone to the castle. That someone is you. The path's magic allowed me to know your nature. I used this invisibility spell after I figured out what you were like so I could follow you unobserved. Your nature makes you very alert, and I probably wouldn't have been able to follow you without your noticing if I hadn't have had it. The castle and all of the things in it were already there; even the woman with the spell whom you met. I must also tell you that you still possess the portal ability in you. It can be invoked an infinite number of times, but it won't take you to the same place each time. So, you might as well not use it. My house lies in the glade that you traveled to."
"I have another question for you. How did you get rid of the monster and bring me here?"
She replied with almost no hesitation. "I didn't really get rid of the monster. I just conjured us here with one of my spells."
"Where did you get all of these spells?" he asked, amazed that she had so much magic.
"Much of my magic is in bottles and can only be used once. My mother used to have many of them, collected from many different places. I only have to pull the cork out, and it does what it's designed to do. I have a variety of spells in my possession, and with my mother gone now…"she paused a second before continuing, "I guess I can use them however I like." He finished off the soup and stood up again. His head felt better. "Lie down," Selenia said. "You need some rest. My healing spells aren't the strongest, and your wounds were quite serious. I'm not going to have many left if you keep getting yourself in trouble."
"No, I'm fine. We had better get to the castle. What you're talking about sounds serious-even if I don't know why it is. We may not have much time."
"Ok, I suppose. I'll go get the spells that we may need for the journey. Nothing here is ever predictable." Selenia walked through the door and behind her was Camrin, grabbing his staff propped up against the wall near the door. They walked downstairs in silence. Camrin went outside to get some fresh air while Selenia went into a small study.
A few minutes later, she walked out of the house. Camrin jumped back. "I can see you!" he remarked.
"I found a counterspell while I was getting the other spells," she said, answering a question before it was asked. She looked extremely happy.
"I'm glad you found it. At least I can tell where you are now." He chuckled. "Are you ready now?"
"If you are. I have little magic, but what I have is quite powerful. If the need arises, I shall use it. Do not depend on me for everything though." They set off, Selenia in the lead, walking down a narrow path leading from her house.
Feeling lonely already, Camrin decided to make conversation after only a few minutes of travel. "Where do you come from?"
Selenia said," I was born in Thazius. Do you know where that is?"
"Yes, it's about a day's walk from where I live. I live in Sharent."
"Oh, I lived there for awhile."
"Why did you move out here in the middle of nowhere?"
"A monster!" she exclaimed.
"You moved out here because of a monster."
"No! A monster is coming. I can hear it off in the distance. Listen." He did so. A soft rumbling noise came from his left.
"Let's get out of here!" He said, grabbing onto her hand. She seemed more than willing to follow. "Selenia, where can we go to get away from the monster?" he said, already panting.
"The monster is gaining on us."
"What kind of monster is it?" Camrin was getting tired. He wasn't used to this much running, and his recent conflict with monsters hadn't helped. Selenia didn't show any signs of exhaustion though.
"I think it's a... a... a... I don't know what it is. It looks like the same monster as we encountered before."
"Where can we go to get away from it?" he asked again.
"Go back to my house. It has a monster repellent spell on it."
"Ok." Camrin angled back in the direction of her house. He could barely see it and knew they had to hurry lest they be caught.
They made it back just as the monster came within feet of them. It shied away from the house though, as though balked by an invisible brick wall. They walked silently into the house. Camrin collapsed into a chair, breathing hard. "I haven't ever run that fast in my life," he joked. "We're going to get some rest before we set out again." Dropping the staff beside the chair, he moved himself into a more comfortable position and was asleep in less than ten minutes.
It was nighttime when Camrin woke. Selenia was asleep in another chair across the room from him. He got up and went into the kitchen to get something to eat. He found a dinner spell in a cupboard and uncorked it. Suddenly there was a complete dinner on the table, steak, peas, pasta, and what looked to be an excellent roll. He sat down and started eating, starting with the steak. It was juicy and delicious. He moved on to the peas. They had the taste of freshness. The roll, although it must have been ages old, was as fresh as the day it was baked. He ate it and then some noodles that tasted different. They weren't bad; it was just that he'd never had anything quite like them. He finished everything off and then went back out into the living room. Selenia was tossing and turning but was still asleep. He tried to wake her. She sprung awake when touched. "What?" she said.
"It is morning now," He told her, gesturing toward the window. Orange light sprinkled in to fall on her face, as the sun just peeked over the horizon. She got up and went into the kitchen. She got a breakfast spell and opened it while heading over to the table. She had eggs, bacon, and sausage. Camrin thought it looked almost as good as what he had eaten. "Do you like it?" he asked her as she began to eat it.
"Yes, it's good. Why don't you get one too?"
"No, I had a dinner spell before I woke you up."
"Oh. So, do you want to try again right after I finish my breakfast?"
"Well, ok, but I want to know what kind of spells you are taking with us on the journey."
"Well, I'm taking four breakfast, lunch, and dinner spells, a restriction spell, and a conj...."
"Wait a minute. Did you say you had a restriction spell?"
"Did you take it last time?" he asked her.
"Yes, why?" He gave her a few minutes to ponder her own question. She thought of an idea and looked up. "Oh, we could have used it to freeze the monster. Then we would have just walked past it."
Camrin nodded his head in agreement. "Right. Now, what other spells do you have besides those you already named?"
"I'm taking a conjuration spell to take me back home after I see you safely to the castle, and I'm taking an enchanted campsite complete with a tent."
"I hope that it's enough. We'll probably need every one of those spells before we arrive at the castle. Good, let's go, maybe the monster has moved on to another place."
"Just one moment. I have to grab my pouch." She tied it around her waist and let it hang. It didn't seem to bother her when she walked. Camrin's own was tied at his side, through his dagger belt.
They walked outside just moments after; they had needed to get the rest of their supplies ready. Camrin looked up. The sun didn't seem as bright as it usually was. He wondered why, but dismissed it quickly. He could also feel the ground trembling very faintly, but not the same as when the monster had been running. He couldn't explain why that was happening either so he forgot about it. He ran down the steps to join Selenia, and they felt better off this time. They decided that they had a good chance of getting to the castle unharmed. At least he knew now that we had a spell that would defeat a monster, should another one come. They went on toward the forest.
They listened warily at the edge of the forest. Not hearing any ground noises or roaring, they assumed that it was safe, for the time being anyway. Assumption was not always good though, so they were extra aware of every noise as they proceeded to go into the forest. Camrin looked up at the sun again and decided that there was definitely something different about it. It just wasn't as bright as it had been before he'd come through the portal. So, he decided to ask Selenia about it. "Would you happen to know why the sun seems strangely dim? It's been bothering me." She shook her head and shrugged her shoulders. "Can you feel the ground trembling?"
"Yes I can." She sounded puzzled.
"It doesn't feel like a monster. This is constant. Do you know what it is?"
"No, I don't."
"Hmmm. Let's continue through this forest before something happens." They wound their way through small shrubs, ferns, and trees, looking this way and that for anything threatening.
Soon they broke out of the cover of the trees into a smaller glade. It was surrounded by forest, so they weren't quite out of it, but it was still a fair-sized glade. "Selenia, do you know anything about this glade?"
"Yes, I remember it vividly. I haven't been through here in years. I don't actually know much about it though."
"Well, let's continue. This adventure has already become perilous enough, and I don't think that it's over yet"
"Whatever you say." They had continued to walk as they talked, and were now in the middle of the glade. Camrin glanced to his left and spotted something that glinted like a piece of metal. He ran toward it, wondering what it could be.
"Hey Selenia, look at this. It's a book." He picked it out of the weeds and brushed it off.
"I wonder how a book has gotten out here. No one's been here in at least four years."
"I do too. I wonder what's in it." I skimmed through it. There were three lines of eight letters inscribed on the second page in pen, nothing more but a poem in the very back of the book. It looked like there were five lines on each page. He read the poem aloud so Selenia could hear:
To make these lines of letters work,
Find a staff where monsters lurk.
In a patch of blue so deep,
Lies the staff that you must keep.
Hold the staff above your head,
A line of letters then is said.
Each line of letters denotes a spell,
Say it right and all is well.
This will help you on your quest,
So do not lose it, try your best.
He finished reciting the poem to Selenia and looked at her. "I guess I'm supposed to find a magical staff. I already have one, but I don't think this is what they're describing. It says that I'll find it where monsters lurk. The only thing remotely resembling a monster where I found this staff was a human who'd been transformed."
"I know a place that contains monsters. It's right in the middle of the forest. We'll be passing relatively close to it, so I think we can detour. It's going to be risky though; hundreds of monsters gather there. It's a feeding ground. There is a spring right in the middle of the area, which is probably why they chose that spot. I doubt we could even get in there, let alone find the staff."
"It's a risk I'm going to have to take." I said to her nervously. "We should go at night."
"Why?" Selenia asked, bewildered.
"Well, the monsters should be sleeping."
"No they won't," she said simply. "The monsters sleep by day, not night. At night, the monsters are fully alert to hunt their prey. We should go before nightfall."
"If we're to make it by then, we should go. I don't want to have to spend a night around here with them hunting." They ran across the rest of the glade, reaching the other side in nearly five minutes. Then they resumed walking, partly because they were out of breath, and because they didn't know what to expect in the forest again.
Very soon, they arrived at something they didn't expect. It was a wooden sign, driven into the ground near a very large tree. It reminded Camrin of the one he'd had seen when he was in the castle, but this one was a little different. Golden letters were written on the front of it. The letters themselves reminded him of the book he had found earlier. He brought it out and looked at the first page. He didn't have this configuration of letters. The letters were C, A, A, C, D, D, A, C, in that exact order. He wondered how he could get it into his book with the others. He had nothing to write with. Then he noticed a little crevice in the sign that the book could fit in. He closed the book and held it against the sign in the crevice. It was a perfect fit. When he removed the book, the letters had disappeared. "Oh great, just what I need. I just lost a spell. It was probably a useful one too."
Selenia tapped on his shoulder. "Why don't you look in the book? Maybe it's in there."
"Good idea Selenia. You have been much help lately, and I know this is rough, but we will get to our destination soon so that you may be rid of me." He looked in his book. It was there, on the fourth line of the first page. "Only one more to go until I'm finished with the first page," he told Selenia.
"We should go now before something bad happens. It's been a good day so far. I don't want to hang around and have something ruin it," she said. They were at the base of a narrow dirt trail now. Camrin lost the desire to ask her what had made this trail lest he find out for himself. They jogged down it silently.
After another hour, they found the end of the small dirt trail and moved onto a cart path, deep ruts made by years of traveling wagon wheels. It was the first real sign of civilization that Camrin had seen since leaving the castle. Ahead of them in the distance down the worn and wining path was a large farmhouse, quite old but well kept. There was light shining through the windows. "Someone lives there, and it's getting dark. Maybe we can spend the night there instead. I always enjoy a house out in the open rather than a tent. I've lived on a farm all my life, and this would make me feel more at home."
"Yes, I suppose we could spend the night there. Besides, I know these folk. I've been here many times, and they are nice, friendly people. We can set out to find your staff tomorrow." They walked down the road toward the house, taking in the sights and sounds around them. A small sparrow chirped, and they spotted it perched on a fence post. Another flew overhead and said its greeting. The wind blew threw Selenia's hair and then moved on, searching for something. They walked carefully, avoiding the ruts and rocks that made up most of the road.
It didn't take them long at all to reach the house. As they walked up the small path past a barn, they saw cows still out to pasture on their left, and a horse whinnied to them from the right. They moved on, glancing at the flowers still in bloom wherever the animals couldn't reach them. Two small boxes set on the house's windowsills, filled with red and yellow flowers. Selenia stopped to smell them while Camrin went on.
A man, tall and old but well built, met them at the door with a small bucket in hand. "Oh, hello there. What're you doing here?"
"We," and Camrin gestured to Selenia still smelling the flowers, "were hoping that we could spend the night in your humble abode. We can help you if you need it, and we'll only be here until tomorrow."
"Well, I could use an extra pair of hands to help out with the work, and my wife always needs help with the cooking. I suppose it'd be all right if you spend the night." He quickly changed the subject. "Do you have any experience on a farm?" He eyed Camrin up and down.
"As a matter of fact I'm a shepherd. I live on a small farm over in Sharent."
"A little ways away from there you are. What brings you out here anyway?" Camrin was unsure how to answer. He'd never really thought about the real reason for his being here. He had to give some sort of response though.
"I'm in search of something better. I've been roaming around looking for exciting places and interesting things." He figured that ought to be good enough and indeed the farmer appeared satisfied.
"You won't find much of either around here. We tend to do the same things day in and day out. You'll find something though. By the way, my name is Jack."
"Ah, my name is Camrin, and you probably know her already." She paused for a moment to wave and then went back to smelling the many different varieties of flowers. Camrin walked over to her. "We're going to spend the night, but you're going to have to help his wife with some things. I'll be with Jack.
"You'll probably find Helen out in back of the house. She'll let you know if she needs anything. Come Camrin, the cows need to be fed," Jack said. He walked past Camrin and moved toward the barn. Camrin followed behind him while Selenia made her way behind the house.
"Since you've herded sheep before, I probably don't need to tell you how to get the sheep here. Just beware, sometimes they'll get mad at you, and you don't really want to be there when that happens." Camrin just nodded and walked out into the pasture. Some of the cows knew what was happening and started toward the door immediately. Others were more stubborn and refused to be corralled. Camrin prodded them though and they moved reluctantly toward the barn. It didn't take him long to get them all inside.
"Those are some pretty good cows you have there. What do you do with them?" Jack turned with his pitchfork in hand and looked at Camrin.
"Mainly we just butcher them for food, but once in a while we get more than we need and we take some of them to the city to sell.
"What city do you take them to?"
"Same one as you do I reckon. Choel isn't too far away from here, less than a day's walk." Camrin couldn't believe his ears. He wasn't that far away from his home after all. And Choel was so close. They would have to stop there. Camrin had contacts and friends there, and they would be able to help him with his travels. Camrin tucked his thoughts into the back of his head and got a spare pitchfork. He proceeded to feed the cows with hay that was tucked away into a corner.
"Hello, nice to see you again," Helen said to Selenia as soon as she saw her walk around the corner. "How are you today?"
"Oh, I'm well. How are you?"
"I get along. What brings you here today?"
"I'm traveling with someone, and I have to deliver him somewhere. We were just passing through, and your husband was kind enough to let us stay the night here."
"Ah, so you're here for tonight. I'm just beginning supper and if you would be so kind as to help?"
"Oh, no problem. What are you making?"
"I was planning on steaks. We have to get rid of some of this meat soon, before full summer hits. I don't know what else we can have, but pasta seems to be a good idea. I'll go get the steaks, and you try to get this fire started. The wood is over there." She gestured over to a pile of different sized logs stacked neatly against the side of the house. Selenia nodded and Helen walked into the house. Selenia quickly got started with her task. She took two of the largest logs and set them underneath a large iron grill. Then she ran back, grabbed four smaller ones, and put them under there as well. She had to scrape some dry hay together for tinder, and managed to find some wood chips as well. She put them on top in a nice little pile. Then she looked around for the flint. It was sitting beside the grill, and she located it rapidly. Smashing a rock against it, she managed to get it to spark, but the hay didn't ignite. A few more attempts and she had lit the dry hay. She blew on it until it turned into an actual fire. She hunted down a couple twigs and some more wood chips and put them on there to fuel the small fire. In no time, it had become a large fire, its heat forcing Selenia to move away from it somewhat. It was then that Helen returned.
"Got that fire already? I couldn't have done a better job myself. Now let's get those steaks cooking." She put four huge slabs of meat on the grill. "Go run in and grab some seasoning off of the spice rack. It's near the door." She quickly obeyed; glad to be cooking her own meal instead of eating the ones contained inside spells.
They each ate a huge dinner that night, steaks, pasta, and rolls. Helen had also cooked a pie earlier that day and was more than willing to share it with them. When they were fully sated, the sun had fallen below the horizon and they were all ready to go to bed, weary from the day's toil. Camrin and Selenia each got their own room. Jack and Helen's sons had moved out of the house years ago and the rooms had never been redone, so there were still beds. They each got a decent night's sleep, though it would probably be their last for some time.