Avatar of Earth
Note: This is a work in progress.
An attractive young man of about 30. Black hair, fair but not pallid skin, dark intense eyes. 5’8" 155#. His father and his relatives spell his name Moro, his mother and their relatives spell it Moreau. He prefers the latter. He descends from the hill country surrounding Panther Hollow (pronouced “Paint’r Holler” by the locals), where there are large numbers of relatives and cousins of various distances (from kissing to 3rd twice removed), generally known as clan Perault. All told there are probably a couple of hundred people scattered around Panther Hollow and the surrounding villages who can legitimately claim kinship with Moreau. His father married well, even if she was a city girl. The connections of his father-in-law assured his ability to give his children a better life than most. The nature of the business however insures that most of the family’s assets are not liquid. Moreau is a very talented mage, and has been studing at the Biblioteca Magicia. He recently returned home to visit before venturing out to ‘make his fortune’.
|Nebo||Da||merchant: overland transport; treasurer Teamsters Hall; age 55|
|Weena||Mum||only child of Vallo & Vashti; beautiful, dutiful, wife and mother; age 45|
|Gr’da / Vallo Fleming||Maternal Grandfather||ex adventurer / ex sea captain, retired head of the Hall of the Stevedores, age 65|
|Gram / Vashti||Maternal Grandmother||ex adventuress, recently deceased age 79|
|Grandma Perault||Paternal Grandmother||age obscure (Pgf long deceased), would have been the village midwife / healer in Panther Hollow but her grandma passed on suddenly before training her.|
|Janu||Younger brother||bright, strong and industrious, is running the wagon train business, and has been learning the shipping business from Vallo. Married to a hill girl from an allied clan. Lives in Peim’l, age 27|
|Tasa||Younger sister||as beautiful as her Mum and Gram, has her father’s empathy with animals. Learning to take over the stables and ranch portion of the business. 1 level magery, is learning animal husbandry/magic from one of the senior ranchhands. Lives with Grandma Perault; age 15|
|Nabu, Tano, etc.||Various cousins of clan Perault||mostly employed on the ranches, lumber mills and wagon trains out in the hill country. Mistrustful of flatlanders.|
Moreau, the story up to now
Nebo Perault was a merchant of Panther Hollow. While Panther Hollow and the surrounding villages cut the raw timber, Nebo’s wagons and mules took the cut lumber to Peim’l, to feed the ravenous maw of the shipbuilding trade. The profits from the timber in turn bought goods cheaply, for Peim’l is the only major port in the east, and all manner of fine goods pass through the city in rich quantity. These same goods increased vastly in rarity with each plodding step of the mules, became more exotic with each squeak of the wagon wheels, until Nebo once again reached Panther Hollow where he was able to empty his wagons once again, and once again fill his purse with copper and silver. As his profit grew Nebo bought more mules, and ponies (better fitted to the steep hills of the great forests than horses) and spread his service through the surrounding towns. As time passed he was even able to afford to build a small stable he could use as a way station at the edge of the costal plain, where the the timber of several mule-drawn wagons could be loaded onto larger ones drawn by large teams of horses to be taken to Peim’l. Each mule wagon could then be reloaded with goods from Peim’l and be brought directly back to the town from whence it came, further speeding the supply, since Nebo no longer had to visit each town in turn. Thus ever more perishable items were brought to the hinterlands and sold even more dearly than what came before. Some say Nebo’s success was due to his preternatural skill with his animals (in Panther Hollow there is a phrase “do Perault’s ponies pitch?” which is generally taken to mean “No”). While there is no question that the animals trained by Nebo are among the best in the region, it is equally clear that Nebo’s negotiating skills and business savvy allowed him to turn his network of mule teams into a virtual monopoly on timber and lumber shipments to the city of Peim’l. In time Nebo became a wealthy man.
As his business interests grew Nebo was obliged to spend more and more of his time in Peim’l. Though he missed the cool quiet of the forests of Panther Hollow, this was not a great hardship, for it was there that he met Weena. Weena was the daughter of a retired sea-captain, who years before parleyed his sea voyages into a small business empire much the same way Nebo had done with his wagons. Gr’da alway used to say “I’m a tenth the man Florimel Pellennor the Intrepid was, it took me seventy voyages to make my fortune. Worse, I made most of them after I had found my greatest most exotic treasure!” The last bit of this always made Gram smile, for she was the treasure Gr’da was talking about. Early in his career he took on a beautiful young woman as his passenger; the secrets she carried and the enemies that followed her cost Gr’da his ship, and had it not been for her sorcery, and Gr’da’s skill with a cutlass, it would have cost them both their lives. Fortunately when Duke Eastbourne rewarded Vashti for her services, he replaced Gr’da’s ship. They sailed together for several years and had many adventures until Weena was born. Gr’da continued sailing (cautiously and safely) for a few years to cement his ties and bargains with distant ports and then retired to the comfortable life of a shipping magnate. Since he was no longer a working sailor, Cpt. Fleming (ret.) was no longer allowed to represent the council of captains in the town’s Hall Concordances, but after a few years of shrewd investments in warehouses, dock footage and other wharfside real estate, the Hall of the Stevedores put him back in as their spokesman. Nebo profitted well from his marriage to Weena, for that one embrace (“My son”) from Gr’da played as much a part in Nebo’s rise to upper echelons of the Teamster’s Hall of Peim’l as much as all the meetings, handshakes and profits from his wagons.
In due course, about a year later, Moreau was born. For the next several years Nebo and his family lived in Peim’l. However once Moreau was old enough to safely travel, Nebo took his wife and son to visit the rest of the Perault clan back in Panther Hollow. Weena fell in love with the ‘ancestral estates’, but business called and all too soon they returned to Peim’l. Several more years passed as Nebo continued to establish himself as part of Peim’l society. Nebo soon realized that while his acumen earned him respect, that the taint of a Panther Hollow-born bumpkin would ensure that he would never actually rise to Hallmaster. On the other hand he also realized that his connection to Vallo and Vashti assured that he would always be in the second or third tier of the Teamsters Hall’s hierarchy so long as he spent a token amount of time on the matter. His position both limited and assured, Nebo had the luxury to please himself and his wife. Thus every summer when the heat reached the point that all of Peim’l began to smell of fish, Nebo and his family would set out for Panther Hollow only to return with the last wagon train before the snows.
It was during one of these idyllic summers in Panther Hollow that 8 year old Moreau nearly killed himself, his Mum and Da, and several of his younger cousins. It was the drought of 974, where it had been so dry that bed linens crackled like leaves when you moved them. Some folks said that even the sawdust in the icehouse would’ve burned it was so hot and dry. One night well after bedtime (on a night so hot that no kids could possibly sleep) Moreau and his cousin Nabu decided that if they were this hot and unhappy that Bibbit, their frog, probably wanted a drink. Bibbit was out in the barn, and it was a moonless night. Nabu was unwilling to venture out in the dark, and Moreau was unwilling to go alone. So Moreau lit a lantern. Because he didn’t want the light to wake Mum and Da, he hid the lantern under the bedsheets while he lit it. In mere minutes the whole house was aflame. It was no small miracle that everyone escaped unharmed.
The house was lost, but that was readily replaced a month later in an old-fashioned Panther Hollow ‘barnraising’ that was a party remembered for several years. The good news was that the fire was successfully contained and neither the town of Panther Hollow nor the surrounding forests that were its life’s blood burned to ash. Once the panic subsided Da started asking the children who had started the fire, and they all pointed to Moreau.
“Did you just burn our house down?” Nebo asked.
“I guess so”, answered Moreau.
Smack. “Didn’t I tell you you weren’t supposed to play with lanterns?”
Smack. “Didn’t I tell you I didn’t want you burning yourself pulling coals out of the kitchen fire?”
Smack. “Then, why did you do it?”
Smack. “Don’t lie to me.”
“But I didn’t.”
A raised hand was caught by Weena. “Didn’t what, dear”, she asked.
“Didn’t lie (sob). Didn’t touch any coals (sniff)”.
“Ween”, Nebo said, “it’s not like an eight year old could use a flint, he got a coal from the kitchen fire to light the lantern with. I won’t have him lying. I’m an honest business man, and I intend to make sure that he will be too when I’m gone and he’s running things.” He shook his hand free of Weena’s grasp and turned back to Moreau, ignoring the murmuring crowd that had moments before been members of the fire brigade. “Son, if you lie to me, I won’t smack you, I’ll get a paddle and you won’t sit down until we get back to Peim’l. If you didn’t get a coal from the kitchen, how did you light that lantern?”
“I talked to it and pointed just like Gram does”, Moreau sobbed.
Nebo, Weena and the crowd were silent. A long silence.
Weena asked, “Dear, could you do it again?”
Moreau blubbered, “But I’m not supposed to play with lanterns and I’ll never do it again, and I’m sorry, I just wanted to make sure Bibbit was OK, and I’m sorry and I’ll never do it again, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…”. At which point the crying was sufficient to render any words incomprehensible.
Weena put a crying and sobbing Moreau to bed in a hay rick, and the crowd dispersed. The next morning, Moreau’s parents were waiting nearby when he awoke. Weena once again asked Moreau if he could light a lantern the way he had the night before. More than a little suspicious, Moreau pointed out he wasn’t supposed to play with lanterns and that he had learned his lesson. Nebo was visibly annoyed at what he assumed was an evasion, but Weena pulled a straw from the pile and told Moreau that it wasn’t nice to have to learn about how dangerous fire was quite this way, but that it was a very important lesson. She went on to tell him that it was equally important, that if he could, he should light this straw the same way he lit the lantern. Moreau nodded and took a deep breath. A knife-edge clarity of focus passed through his eyes. He spoke and gestured and the whole straw burst into flame. Nebo was speechless. Weena turn to him and said, “Mum always said it skipped generations.” That night, the grownups met to talk about the matter. Grandma Perault expressed her regret that her grandma had passed on before she could teach her any of her “midwifin’ cantrips”, and that she didn’t want the boy to be denied his due. But apart from that no one was sure what to do with a eight year old mage. Ultimately they decided to table the matter until they could speak with Gram Vashti. Not completely content with that Grandma Perault made a point of taking Moreau with her when she went to gather wild berries, and check the game traps. For his part, Moreau seemed to forget about the whole thing. Which was no surprise since there were birds to chase, trees to climb and chores to do, until the leaves fell and Moreau and his family returned to Peim’l.
When they returned to Peim’l, Gram sat down with Moreau and had him light a candle for her. And then a joss stick. She made him do it several times until Moreau was so tired he could scarcely keep his eyes open. When she asked him to do it again, and he couldn’t, Moreau was so exhausted he just started crying because he knew he had disappointed Mum and Gram. Gram told Moreau that she was very happy that he was so clever, but that little boys shouldn’t be setting things on fire, because it was too easy for accidents to happen, and they sent him off to bed. After Moreau was tucked in Vashti and Weena discussed the matter and decided that an eight year old boy was still to rambunctious to be cooped up indoors studying, and they would wait a few years before starting his studies.
The next year Moreau started riding out with his father on some of the wagon trains, so he could start to learn the business. Moreau learned how to water and feed the animals, how to mend tack and eventually how to pack and drive the wagons. He even helped the wheel wrights tack up temporary highwalls to the wagons and build crates for packing things in. At night in the camp his father made him do his sums and figures. His father also explained to him why it sometimes made more sense to let Janu water the mules, while Tano and Moreau loaded the wagon, even though Janu was stronger than Moreau and would have loaded faster, if only Janu and Tano wouldn’t waste so much time wrestling. This made for a long day on the road, so each night when Moreau went to bed, he was very tired. No matter how tired he was at the end of each day, Moreau remembered how he disappointed Gram. He discovered that if he picked something that couldn’t burn, like a spare horseshoe, he could do his trick without actually lighting anything on fire. At least he thought he was doing his trick. It made him tired just like that day back with Gram. So every night he set his horseshoe on “fire” over and over again until he couldn’t keep his eyes open. As time went on he was pleased to noticed he could do it more and more often.
When Moreau was twelve the day came that Gram called him to her study. It was time for him to learn about magic. Da kept him busy as well. He wasn’t on the road anymore, but instead helped Da at the Hall delivering paperwork, and copying parchments. He got to meet a lot of important people including the Mayor of Peim’l, as well as all of the route masters for Da’s wagon trains. Mornings and evenings he would spend time with Gram, and the afternoons with his father. His studies went well as Gram taught him the principles and practice of magic. She improved his handwriting until the people in the Hall would say that his copies were sometimes nicer than those from the Scribes Hall. Gram taught him the odd dialects and jargon of the Mages, and worked on his posture and bearing so he could make his gestures precisely and sharply, with no wasted motion. She drilled his diction so his enunciation was clear and his words carried the conviction of purpose required to convince reality to bend to his will. When he finished learning the fundamentals, she began to teach him spells proper, starting with the root spells of the Four Elements. Vashti was surprised when Moreau was able to tell her, in a matter of fact way, where to find arrowroot in the wild. She went over some of the other materials needed for different spells, and Moreau told her where they could be found. He explained to her how Grandma Perault had shown him how to find plants and other things, this plant near water, this one in the dry rocks, shale and coal near clay, rodent bones under trees or barns where owls roost, and so on. Vashti shrugged and said it’s easier to buy them at the apothecary, but allowed that it would have been nice on occasion to be able to replenish her supplies in the wilderness. As the weeks went by she also showed him how to Detect Magic, and to counter someone else’s spell, as she would light the joss stick and he would try to stop her. She also taught Moreau how to make sticks and stones glide past him rather than hit him. She also began to teach him techniques for relaxing so he wouldn’t tire as easily during his lessons. It was a lot to learn, and time went quickly. When he was fifteen, Gram went to visit Moreau’s father.
“Are you telling me you’ve taught him everything you know already?” Nebo asked.
“No”, said Vashti, “but it wouldn’t take long at this rate.” She went on, “If I did continue to teach him I’d ruin him. I was a sorceress adventurer. Everything I know is tricked-out shortcuts to get the spell out before someone kills you. He has the potential to be a true Magus, if he’s taught properly.”
“So what do you suggest?” asked Nebo.
“I want to see him fulfill his utmost potential. He has an immense talent. People with that much talent aren’t often accidents. The Powers That Be watch and guide them to greatness.” Vashti paused, “I’ve been in touch with some of my old classmates. They didn’t have the restlessness I did, and they are still teaching at the Biblioteca Magica.”
“Restless!” Nebo interjected, “As Gr’da tells the story you were fleeing for your life.”
“Same difference”, smiled Vashti, “Anyway, I’ve arranged for an entrance examination, and Vallo says he’ll help with tuition if you can’t manage it alone.”
“If he’s that good, we’ll find a way to pay.” Nebo paused,
“Does he want to go?”
“I didn’t ask”, Vashti said as she opened the door and a crouching young man tumbled in ear-first, “I just sorta assumed.” When he picked himself off the floor, Moreau joined the others’ laughter.
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[Dave will eventually write up something cool about the entrance exam]
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The first year at the Biblioteca was dreadful. So many people, and Moreau didn’t know any of them. He made a mistake once of joking about his name, “I’m Moreau, but my cousins call me Moro”. Upon hearing the short backwoods version of his name he was almost permanently labeled a hick. He hasn’t used Moro since. Worse he had to start his studies all over again. All the basic principles that Gram had taught him he had to learn once more. Because, the teachers said, “You will learn magic The Biblioteca Way not the hedgeway”. Even those things he did right merely inspired his teachers to demand still more of him. The pace of learning was much faster, Gram was many things but she wasn’t that good a teacher. Since students were expected to study late into the night and that many torches and lanterns would swath the libraries and lecture halls in a permanent sooty cloud, he was obliged to learn spells of light that he could use to read by, and took his turn each week replenishing the light spells in the corridors and classrooms. He was taught how to extend his ability to detect magic until he could actively dissect and identify all sorts of spells and effects, so they could examine new spells “in vivo” as well as the casting instructions in their copybooks.
Even so sometimes things were, uhm, exciting. With so many students and researchers trying new spells, mistakes were inevitable. When things went wrong it was impossible to guess what the bungled spell came out as. Most all the students who could learn it were taught to remove spells they didn’t know. Since he had already learned enough different spells working with Gram, Moreau quickly became ‘fire marshal’ for his class, dispelling the mistakes of his classmates before they could hurt anyone. If anybody noticed that these mistakes happened more often when Moreau was around, they didn’t mention it to him. Eventually Moreau learned how to get his spells to lay dormant or subside on command.
Soon enough came the time for students to pick their specialties. Moreau started off saying that he wanted to learn it all, but his advisor laughed and said “Nobody lives long enough to learn everything, except maybe Elves. If you want to be an excellent mage you must focus your studies.” Moreau briefly considered the College of Fire, but concluded that fire was too easy, after all he learned that spell before all others when he was only eight. So instead he picked the College of Air because Gram had always said her air spells had served her well. He did well at first, but his attention began to wander. Moreau found limiting his studies in this way difficult. After some months of study, he discovered his mistake. An upper classman was talking, and not only had his advisor been more or less wrong about funnelling him into a single college, Moreau was told that in order to progress in the College of Enchantment, you needed to demonstrate skills in Ten different colleges! Not only that, since enchanters made items of all sorts, they frequently learned spells almost haphazardly from all the colleges, based on nothing more than what they thought would be the most useful of magic items. Posthaste Moreau applied for and transferred to the College of Enchantments for his next year.
Moreau’s first lesson in the College of Enchantment was the motto “We make things”. This was when he discovered that in addition to his magical studies he was expected to learn a trade craft as well. He of course asked why, and once answered the reason was obvious. “If you need a 5 carat ruby embedded in your wand of fireballs, you don’t want to waste 200 days merely to find out the jeweler substituted a 6 carat garnet. You need to be able to confirm these things yourself.” Moreau was less impressed with the continuation, “Besides, The Biblioteca Way dictates that enchantments are more stable and elegant if they are woven into the making of the object itself.” Moreau was becoming somewhat disenchanted with “The Biblioteca Way”. Regardless, Moreau decided that while he technically could pass the requirements for tradecraft with either his leatherwork or wood carving, that it never hurt to learn something else so he signed up for the appropriate jewelery lessons with the goldsmith.
Since he also was missing a college, Moreau went with the obvious. “If we make things”, he thought to himself, “then the College of Making makes sense”. The spells there certainly made many of the smithy assignments easier, and for perhaps the only time in his career at the Biblioteca, Moreau’s teachers were happy with the way he fit in to The Biblioteca Way. They even nodded approvingly when he learned what he needed from the School of Motion to have an Air Golem work the bellows in the silver smithy.
Moreau settled into a routine. You go to smithy. You go to class. He learned the new fundamentals of the rituals and conventions needed to work in the large groups. Without these groups even small items took years, assuming the enchantment took. He learned to make scrolls, not just because it’s a useful skill, but because it only takes days instead of months, and as such is a welcome respite, from the months it took to learn the basic ritual of enchantment. Still time drags on, and to while away the time between enchantment sessions Moreau signed up to be a teaching assistant. He only got to teach spells he already knew (in The Biblioteca Way of course) but he got to teach enough students that even though you don’t learn other spells, you learn of them based on the students talking about the spell they learned previously or the next ones they sign up for. Bit by bit Moreau was able to piece together a mental picture of what most of the colleges had to offer, and how they related to one another. Unfortunately bit by bit Moreau turned most of his students against him. It wasn’t until he was teaching that Moreau began to realize that not everyone was learning as quickly as he. When he pushed them harder they complained he had unreasonable expectations. When he showed them techniques he learned from Gram to make the spells easier, they learned more but he suffered disciplinary actions for polluting The Biblioteca Way. Challenging the discipline reports only made things worse, as it brought him to the attention of Masters he needed cooperation from, but it showed him in a bad light, as a troublemaker. His applications to other colleges to learn other spells, normally rubber stamped for members of the College of Enchantments, were being denied. Sick to death of The Biblioteca Way, Moreau had no choice but to soldier on. There was still much to learn.
Time passed. And then more. And still more. You see when a spell takes 30 or more days to cast, it takes a couple days to try it out for the first time. And then a week to work through from the beginning to the next problem. Then you hit the tricky part on day 25 and that takes you 6 tries to get right, and it’s still not perfect. A year flees by, and you’ve finally cast the spell more or less correctly the three times it takes for a Master of The Biblioteca Way to pronounce you proficient. Then you take the month to make a wizard’s staff one more time, this time taking every care in the world, to make it as perfect as possible, because this is going to be your staff. And you see your life running away from you not hour by hour but weeks and months at a time. Then you move on to powerstones. At least this time the hard part is on day three of the twenty, and there isn’t much else new in the spell, it only takes three or four months to learn, and another two months to pass the proficiency qualifiers, and now you have a flawless 4ST powerstone, which is taken by the university for use in lectures and demonstrations. Then, if you are Moreau, you decide that The Biblioteca Way isn’t just annoying, it’s downright criminal.
Moreau never really wanted a powerstone before, but now his frustration made it a matter of principle. He had wasted most of a year making one only to ‘give’ it away. He didn’t need it, but he wanted one, he would rather have the one he made, but any powerstone was a sign of wealth and status around campus. The Masters tended to look at it as a sign of investment and committment to the art to purchase one for classwork, though Moreau himself just felt it was lazy. Given his current reputation with so many Masters, it couldn’t hurt. So he headed off into town. It was well-known that some of the merchants at the bazaar often had powerstones for sale. Moreau thought that since he had plenty of spending money thanks to his TA position, that a cheap powerstone, even if it was only a one-pointer, would make him feel better about the whole situation. While he recognized that this was foolish and frivolous, he figured that someday when he ‘got over it’, he’d be able to sell it off, maybe at a small profit. So while it wasn’t a great idea, it wasn’t completely stupid or wasteful. Shortly Moreau arrived at the powerstone vendor. One-pointers aren’t very useful, so there weren’t very many, but at least they were all flawless, and should be cheap. Moreau asked how much. “For you oh student of the Biblioteca, I will offer a discount, $140”, the vendor practically sang. Moreau was dumbfounded, “How much?” The vendor looked at him, and smiled, and continued his patter. “I see you are a discerning businessman as well as a student, for this particularly ugly cabochon over here, I can go as low as $120, and that’s my best offer.” Moreau did the sums in his head, and blurted out “That’s less than $5 a day, how do you live on that?”. The vendor paused, the sing-song gone, “First I don’t make them I just sell them. My brother-in-law, he makes them. And even after costs and expenses and my cut, he seems to think thirty some dollars an hour is fairly good money.” “But,” Moreau stammered, “it takes nearly a month to make one!” He looked at Moreau and his pointy hat clearly marked with the symbols indicating the the length of his studies at the Biblioteca. “It’s lunch time” he said, closing up his stall, “let me take you to visit my brother-in-law.”
The vendors name was Wothirok, his brother-in-law was Mefaseal the Enchanter. As he returned to his dormitory, Moreau still had the $600 dollars he had been expecting to spend in his purse, Mefaseal had refused to take it. Moreau had practically begged him to take it, and more besides to teach him once Mefaseal had explained to him about “quick and dirty” enchantment. Mefaseal flatly refused, and introduced Moreau to his apprentices. Moreau was asked to sit to the side and watch quietly. An hour later there was a new powerstone. His apprentices exhausted, Mefaseal sat down and relaxed and poured coffee. “You see Moreau”, he said, “I couldn’t take your money to teach you what you already know.” Moreau nodded and said, “Yes, it’s just the same as The Biblioteca Way, except faster.” “Not quite the same” said Mefaseal, “this way is more likely to fail, and you can’t have as many helpers, which very much limits the size of the making.” Mefaseal leaned back and drifted into the reverie Moreau recognized as mage rest. He waited patiently for his new friend to ‘return’. Meanwhile he talked to Wothirok about business, surprising Wothirok quite a bit because the “discerning businessman” was just a part of his standard chatter. While they found some common ground, Moreau was disappointed that his new friend had only once heard of “V & V Tea and Transport”, and had never heard of “Perault’s Ponies”. The world was small it seemed, but not that small. For the first time since his entrance exams Moreau felt homesick, but his own reverie was interrupted when Mefaseal sat up. Moreau began to make his excuses since it was clear the Enchanter intended to go back to work, but he stopped Moreau in his tracks, “Do you want to help?” Another hour passed and it was now a two point stone. Mefeseal thanked Moreau and pointed out, “Theres the other reason I couldn’t take your money, my apprentices were done for the day, and I got an extra hour of work in.” He winked and bid Moreau a good day.
In his lab, Moreau quickly found the limits of quick and dirty. A powerstone was the biggest thing he could make, and each time he added a level, he would pass out when he finished. But once he had two, he could switch off between them, and after a day to let the stones recharge, he would feel woozy but managed to keep his feet. One day one of Moreau’s better and friendlier students barged in as he was putting stuff away. Curious he asked what Moreau was doing. Moreau had been practically bursting to boast of his ‘discovery’ and given an invitation from Benda’lla (perhaps the only student he trusted), the lecture started. Benda’lla was excited, he was ready to try right away. Moreau said “We should probably do it once together before you go off alone.” Benda’lla agreed to meet after lunch the next day.
Apparently Benda’lla changed his mind. Late that night Moreau was summoned to the infirmary. When he arrived Benda’lla was there, unconscious, choking and spitting up blood. Moreau was told that a healer had been summoned. A janitor was cleaning across the hall from the lab and heard someone cry out. He found Benda’lla much as he was now and had summoned help. The healer arrived, and diagnosed the malady. Runaway mana drain. Benda’lla had apparently gone past the point of good sense and tried burning his life force to supply extra mana, and then lost control of the spell, which sucked off a few more points before spiralling into nothingness. The healer did some conjuration to stop the bleeding within, and then another to push Benda’lla into a restful healing sleep. There was nothing more to be done, so Moreau returned to his room.
Having been awakened during the night and having no classes to teach or attend that morning Moreau slept late, or at least late enough to be woken again by a knock on his door. A senior Archon of the Disciplinary Council was standing outside and demanded he dress and present himself. Moreau was taken to the council chambers. Benda’lla was already seated within.
[I’m running out of time and patience, switching to just the facts Ma’am mode]
- Benda’lla testifies re: Moreau teaching him quick and dirty.
- Benda’lla expelled for pursuing the ‘Hedgeway’.
- Moreau retained after he demonstrates he can make a powerstone all by himself.
- Moreau disturbed by the obvious injustice, but goes along.
- Demonstration awes some few Masters and gains him invitations. However they are the better and more free-thinking ones. Unfortunately the free-thinkers do not hold power so the association is in fact another black mark against Moreau.
- Most other Masters are jealous. Some other Masters are afraid of Moreau (no one man should hold such power). All make an effort to find fault with him, his studies, his students, and his teaching.
- Moreau introduced by some of the free-thinkers to the concept of improvised spells, but at the time passes it off as a vague theoretical notion. However some of the principles make him realize that he could in fact deduce the nature of established spells from first principles.
- Effectively banned from several colleges, Moreau starts to ‘research’ an otherwise well-known spell. While trying to help one of his better students past a mental block about some technicality of practice, Moreau draws an analogy to a college he doesn’t officially know based on that research.
- Incident is reported, his research notes seized. In it is discovered his completed version of the spell Foolishness, the base of the Mind Control school. While his research was in fact very conventional, based on the fact that he has never been admitted to the Mind Control College, and a number of insinuations about his associations, charges are trumped up with the disciplinary council that Moreau has been dabbling with the extremely dangerous forces of “untamed magic”, jeopardizing the students, property and worse, the reputation of the Biblioteca. In the face of the large number of demerits already recorded Moreau is discharged from the Biblioteca “To leave thefe premiffes in marked difgrace. To carry thy misfortune and ruin for all to see, never even once more to return. Nor shall thy kith and kin henceforth be admitted unto thefe halls of learned ones, for fear that they alfo bear thy taint”.
Having pronounced their judgment the Archon came forward, removed Moreau’s powerstones (“Again”, thought Moreau) and then took Moreau’s staff. Two junior Archons came forward and held his staff aloft as the Archon raised his staff and shattered Moreau’s. Then the Archon took Moreau’s hat and attached the black tassel, the mark of disgrace. He was given 4 hours to pack his things. The two junior Archons followed and watched him pack. They were fairly young and with surprisingly good nature, they helped carry his trunk to the street.
Later that night in the Four Kings Tavern, a few of his friends tried to cheer him up. They noted that if one was to be kicked out, that Moreau had found a way to do it with panache. They noted that the Wizard Paradaine Cullinan had been sent away with a black tassel. Moreau started to smile at the comparison to the famous necromancer, until he remembered that the exact offense that earned Paradaine the black tassel had been kidnapping young women from the red light district, and sacrificing them on the altar of Mithras in the student’s chapel while researching some dire necromantic spell. Someone else brought this up and was corrected: it wasn’t the sacrifices that got him kicked out, it was that he hadn’t been admitted to the College of Necromancy, and failed to turn over the spells he had discovered to the Biblioteca library as he wrote them up. Moreau drank up and tried to make light of his fortune, and failing that let himself drink until he forgot all but sleep. In his pocket rested the letter that explained to his yonger sister Tasa why her application to the College of Animals was being rejected.
Moreau made his rounds, saying goodbye to his friends in the next few days. Less than a week later, Moreau, wearing his blue cap with three triads, one gold and two silver, and his ten silver icons, anvil foremost, and his two white ones (“I need to add another white for Mind Control”, Moreau thought), boarded the coach headed back to Peim’l, his black tassel fluttering in the wind.
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Moreau arrived in Peim’l just about the same time as Nebo and Weena returned from their customary summer visit to Panther Hollow. Moreau gave them the letter denying Tasa’s admission and explained things as briefly as possible. He went to visit Gram, and told her the whole story. She was severely interested when Moreau casually mentioned that he could make powerstones single-handedly, but sensing his mood didn’t press the matter. When he finished Vashti said, “Some things never change. That’s The Biblioteca Way.” Somehow it failed to cheer Moreau. Gram offered to pick up where they left off. Moreau declined saying he wanted to rest for a while and think. He stayed in Peim’l for a few days, mostly to be polite, since it had been so long since he had seen his family, but as soon as possible, he left with one of the wagon trains headed for Panther Hollow, where he told everyone he was going to spend the winter in retreat and quiet contemplation.
Moreau returned to Panther Hollow where he had a long heart to heart with Grandma Perault. Moreau whines about how long enchantments take, and how he’ll never amount to anything. Grandma P. sez Pshaw, I’m nearly a hundred (more like 80, they aren’t so good at keeping records in Panther Hollow – jAH). Clean living’ll do that. Why Old Healer Merrifield in the next holler over was 220 when the wolf chewed her up while she was collecting herbs. Hell she was still onrey enough she kilt the wolf while he was eating her leg. Pity, best healer we’ve had in these parts, some say when she was at her best she brought a child that drowned in a well back from the dead. This catches Moreau’s attention and he heads over to visit Young Healer Merrifield.
While visiting “Young” Healer Merrifield, (she’s about 50) Moreau gets snowed in / pass closed by avalanche. While there he studies more bits of healing. Young Merrifield has taught herself all she can from her mother’s grimoire, and teaches what she can to Moreau. In the back of the grimoire is the spell “Halt Aging”. Moreau ask about it and is told “stuff and nonsense, don’t werk no’how”. Moreau asks if he can make a copy, as it would amuse his friends from the Biblioteca. She tells him copy whatever you want. Thinking to send it to them as a joke, he makes a copy of the grimoire and teaches her as many spells as he can, learning several healing spells in return. Moreau notes that he can’t teach her all the things she wants to know, she lacks talent and can’t follow all the subtleties.
The R-rated version probably has her making some comment about being old not dead, and not being able to look for sheep in an avalanche, but Jeffrey don’t do romance. She calls it a cabin fever fling, and makes it clear that even if Moreau wanted to stay he wouldn’t be all that welcome, which Moreau finds to be mostly a relief. Spring thaw comes and Moreau returns to Panther Hollow.
When he returns to Panther Hollow, his sister confronts him about her rejection from The Biblioteca. Well-written it could be touching or an enlightening look into somebody’s head, but doesn’t exactly advance the plot, and we’re already at 90+ minutes and people are leaving the theater. Moreau is prepared to continue moping here in Panther Hollow, working in the office at the wagon terminal but Tasa tells him that Gram is ill. Moreau returns to Peim’l.
Moreau consults with the doctor, and is told that Gram is just worn out. Nothing wrong, just old age. Doc sez Vashti has a few days maybe a few weeks, and then “the clock will just run down”.
Moreau meets with Gram, and she speaks of her regrets about the Biblioteca, and how it may have been her fault, it might have been better if she had just taught him and sent him off into the world to learn more, but now it was too late. She further talks to him about how the Biblioteca treated her when she was there.
Some secrets are revealed about Gr’da. He wasn’t ship Captain when she met him. Gram had been taken captive by a pirate ship while fleeing a revenue cutter and Gr’da was the youngest most impressionable member of the crew. “She batted her eyes, and moistened her lips, and pleaded for her virtue so piteously that the poor boy hadn’t a chance.” said Gram. He ended up challenging the pirate captain to a duel over her. Fortunately for all concerned he won, became the Captain by right of combat, and the rest is, as they say, backstory. But the important part is that it turns out she didn’t know much magic until she and Gr’da were marooned on Ishel Island where she obtained access to some spell books. Like Healer Merrifield many spells were beyond her reach, and others were too terrible to contemplate, but her point is, contrary to their pretentious airs, there are other sources of learning than the Biblioteca, and some of them are in fact more formidable from the point of view of a man of destiny, like Moreau.
Gram is exhausted by her diatribe, and nearly swoons. Moreau puts her to bed. The doctor and the priest make arrangements to be on call through the week, they expect they’ll be back soon. Moreau goes to his room.
In desperation Moreau examines the Halt Aging spell he copied from healer Merrifield and finally realizes why it ’don’t werk’, it requires a greater level of talent than “Young” Merrifield had. Forsaking food and sleep Moreau pushes himself until he learns the spell. One night while everyone else sleeps, Moreau goes to Gram’s room and tries the spell without telling, fearful of raising false hopes. The next morning she feels much better, “Like the hand of time has been lifted from me”. Moreau tells her what he’s done. She looks at the spell and reaches the same conclusion he did about Magery. They decide it’s best not to tell anyone else about this.
Months pass as Vashti tries to teach Moreau all she knows. Apart from the missle deflection spell, she is scandalized to find that Moreau knows no combat spells. (The Biblioteca trains scholars not ruffians and bandits). She adds lightning to his air spells. Then she makes him practice throwing it. Given his DX, the early attempts would be laughable if they did less collateral damage. Most importantly she spends a lot of time training him in the ‘tricked-out shortcuts’. Eventually he overcomes his Biblioteca-trained stylizations and ‘gets it’; practically overnight all of his spells improve, and he is able to eliminate the broad gestures and cast with slight precise movements. Vashti realizes that he still has a ways to go before attaining true mastery, but hoping to give him a leg up tries to teach him how to “hide” his gestures so a careless observer will believe he has at least reduced his conjuration to “Words of Power”. Once again his DX is a limiting factor. Still she tries to train him to make the misdirections automatic and unconscious, so at least he doesn’t draw attention to the fact that he is hiding his fingers. Time and practice may eventually solve one problem or the other.
The other more subtle teaching she never mentioned directly. She tried to talk to him about the people he knew at the the Biblioteca and bring him to understand where he really stood with respect to them. 1) Not a one of them had more talent, it wasn’t possible. 2) Some were smarter, but not many. 3) It is very doubtful that any of them were more powerful? Could any of them make a powerstone unassisted? Vashti was convinced that there is a whole other level of magic out there somewhere in the world. Most of the conventional spells rarely take more than a few points of mana, in part because they’ve been researched to death squeezing every bit of efficiency out of the casting. But, said Vashti, in part because they’re the only spells a lone mage can do. She never met anyone else that could cast a spell as powerful as Halt Aging alone. Most mages require full blown ceremonial magic, with whole circles or covens to do work on that scale. Someone who can cast spells of that magnitude single-handedly, well theres no telling what kinds of spells he could invent. Maybe a whole new college of spell “Power Spells”, she laughed. And maybe there needs to be a new institute to research and teach those spells, and somebody will need to found that school, when they’ve learned enough to pass on to others.
She pointed out he knew most of the skills needed to administer a large organization, that which he hadn’t learned from his father and Gr’da he had learned at the Biblioteca. Only a skilled diplomat and people person could have lasted as long as he did somewhere where that many jealous rivals were trying to bring him down. Sometimes Vashti even got ahead of herself, “in a distant enough land, isolated from regular contact with what we call civilization, a determined man of vision could carve out his own kingdom if he wanted it.”
Moreau’s dreams slowly began to fill with visions of a powerful kingdom of mysticism far off to the east. Where the King’s courts were filled with learned men, and even beggars were carried by spirits of the air. A place were no one had to grow old and die, and the best of the King’s viziers brough forth conjurations so grand and vast that palaces leapt into existence overnight, and the fields gave forth so bounteously, that fruit rotted on the vine for everyone was too stuffed and full to pick the late-comers. Sometimes he was the chief vizier performing wonderous magics for a strong and bold king, and sometimes he was the King, judging and ruling with wisdom and compassion, and meting out justice with puissant sorceries. Although some nights, when Moreau had striven too long with Vahsti, and had drunk a bit too much of the cheap wine, eaten too much of the noodles in spicy red gravy, and went to bed soon after eating that mystical King would unleash terrible vengeance upon those that displeased him. Vast Spells of Power would lay waste to that beautiful land, shriveling fruit and vine, and bringing all that lived there to their knees in subjugation.
The worst was something about a drunken orgy in that mystical King’s bedchambers, which looked an awful lot like the student chapel back at the Biblioteca, but when he had tried to kiss the women they vanished, and he found himself swimming for his life in a boiling hot lake of thick red gravy. He found a metal island and climbed ashore, only to be spooned out of the broth into the gaping maw of a laughing skull with flames for eyes, which is when he awoke. Apparently he had been calling out in his sleep, for his mother was knocking on the door.
They talked for awhile. Before he could tell her of the dreams she said he was like his father. In the early days of his business, his father had been troubled by dreams as well, particularly when he worked too hard and ate poorly and late at night. She said these mostly came when there were big decisions to be made, like add another route to a new city, buy another pony ranch, or fire a cousin who wasn’t pulling his weight. She told him not to take the bad dreams too seriously, for those were just his body’s way of protesting the abuse. She told him to focus on the good dreams for they were messages from the gods telling him his heart’s desire. He wanted to tell her the dreams, but she shushed him and said you shouldn’t tell anyone your dreams, until they come true. If you speak before that, the laughter of the ignorant and petty will sap away your hope and will. But tell people of the bad dreams, they may have answers for the questions you ponder. And if you don’t then those questions will eat you alive like poor Mr. Thildestern the Hallmaster, and you’ll have to have the healer in twice a week to make your stomach stop bleeding just like he does.
Moreau spoke and told his mother that he would probably be going traveling soon, like Gram & Gr’da had. And that he would miss everyone so much more than he had at the Biblioteca, because there he was safe, and traveling, well he might not live to return home. And didn’t want to let father down, since he was counting on him to take over the business. Weena asked where he was going, and he answered, “There is a place I’ve seen in my dreams that I want to find.” Weena told him then go, we’ll manage, your brother has learned the business well while you were away already. And we will all be here waiting when you return to tell us all about your dreams. Moreau spoke no more of dreams to anyone, or if he did he hid his words cunningly so that others thought he spoke of some legend or story told by a minstrel from some tavern or another.
Knowing nothing of these dreams, Vashti continued drilling his speed and confidence. Both grew by leaps and bounds. History will decide which increased to the most appropriate degree.
Eventually they reached a point where Vashti had taught Moreau all she could of theory and had drilled him as well as can be on a practice field. More improvement would not come until he had been blooded. Vashti bit her lip at her memories of the first time she had to kill to save her own life, and blinked back a tear for Moreau and his first yet to come. But he had decided to take to the road, and she knew she was hugely responsible for this, but she could not stand to see such potential wearing a bridle and tethered to a mule cart.
Her dreams were mostly filled with an hourglass on its side slowly tilting erect and sideways again. Each time it moved one more grain of sand would tumble to the bottom. She couldn’t see clearly enough to count them, but she could tell she had more fingers on one hand than grains of sand. Each time the aging spell lapsed she could hear time and death howling their outrage at being cheated. So they drilled on, not because she thought it would help, but because it gave her an excuse to spend her last days with her favorite grandson.
The anti-aging spell worked but, as the grimoire had warned, it was somewhat erratic. The first time it lasted a full moon, the next only two weeks. Each time the spell sputtered out and Vashti felt the hand of time squeezing the life out of her they would take a day of rest from lessons and Moreau would reapply the spell.
The last time Moreau cast it, all seemed fine, and late that week Nebo asked Moreau to escort a wagon with some extremely valuable cargo to a customer’s estate a days journey from Peim’l. No sooner had he returned, than Moreau was told the Gram was feeling ill, and had been asking for him.
When Moreau entered the chamber, Vallo was there, ashen-grey in pallor. The spell hadn’t even lasted a week this time, Gram was gone. Vallo looked up and said “She said to tell you, that you both knew that each hour was borrowed.” Gr’da might be younger than Gram, but looking at him Moreau knew that he would not outlive her by much. Deprived of his greatest most exotic treasure, Capt. Vallo Fleming had nothing to hold him to this life. Moreau knew that if he went traveling as he planned, he would never see his Gr’da again. Quietly he left the room to bring the news to his parents. After the funeral, Moreau retired to his room, and for the first time denied time the right to touch his body.
The next couple of weeks were a frenzy of activity. Moreau pulled together whatever favors he was owed, and monies due from the small loans he had made various friends and cousins, and tied up loose ends at the Hall. Nebo offered to sell the share of the business that Moreau would inherit so that he’d have funds to travel in style, but Moreau insisted that it stay in the family. He told Nebo that he trusted his brother and sister to take care of business for him, so that he’d have a comfortable place to come back to when he retired. After all both Gram and Gr’da eventually found greater pleasure in paperwork than traveling. Da was pleased with this, even though it was clear he’d rather Moreau stay. Moreau did buy a small wagon of the type used in the forested hills and valleys, and one of his father’s best sure-footed young mules. When his preperations were nearly complete, Vallo came to talk to Moreau. He had small bits of advice about traveling, and said he would offer more, but they mostly applied to a life at sea. But Vallo was emphatic about one point, “No matter how good you are, you need someone with you when you travel in unfamilar lands. Even if they’re unreliable, cowardly, or even outrightly traitorous pirates, having even one other person around gives your enemies a choice of targets. If you’re alone they know who to attack. If someone else is with you your enemies may attack them first, giving you the option to tack, jibe, fight or flee. If you can make that choice yours, you at least double your chances of survival.”
Moreau thought on this carefully, and began to contemplate where he might find company for the road ahead.