Today’s snippet, titled “Tears, pt IV”, is a piece I wrote about my PC in Mark’s new (Good) Pathfinder Campaign.
Be forewarned, there are mature themes and naughty language below.
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“That’s it, there! You’ve done it!”
Nîda clapped her hands. The look of awe and joy on Monica’s little face touched her and she wondered if she had ever been so innocent and prideful of her power. Though it was nearly forty years since she had first come to study with Master Sorvanir, she remembered the early days as if they were a fortnight past. I was not perhaps the wide-eyed ingenue that Monica will be, but I know I felt such pride and utter fascination for the whole process.
Despite her years and the rank that would have allowed her to assist older, more advanced apprentices, Arcanist Nîda preferred to teach the earliest lessons to the new arrivals. There was a satisfaction in teaching a youth their first simple cantrips that no amount of powerful spells could give her; once the wonder was gone from the students and the Art was reduced to nothing more than a few rote gestures and some memorized incantations, Nîda no longer saw any magic in practitioning magic.
A knock on the classroom door startled her eldest student, an elven boy called Gorsha (short for a name that put even her own to shame – Gorynel’wasathaswyn Reumbaelielnaroth), and he lost his focus. The spark incantation he had been working on fizzled and the foul curse that slipped from between his lips made her struggle to keep a straight-face.
“Enter, Mistress Yanagar!” She left Monica’s side to greet her old friend and escort the priestess in. “Prentices, take your seats please. Attend, this is Mistress Yanagar, second to the High Priest Matthew.”
Six eager pupils slipped into their seats and turned their eyes upon Yanagar. The tiefling was showing her age this spring, Nîda could not help but notice. She alone of Nîda’s first friends remained at the Legion’s compound. Eber had been killed by a Dretch at the very beginning of the Fourth Crusade; but death in action had earned him a permanent spot on the Litany of Heroes. Bamalang had retired just three winters ago, returning to his village in Five Kings Mountains. Rosabee had died in childbirth just a few years after she and Harry had married and left Kenabres to raise their family and Harry had never returned to the city, choosing to bring the surviving children up away from the horrors of the Worldwound.
She could not blame him.
She did, sometimes, but she knew she should not.
“…and so it is crucial even those apprentices who shall one day be Arcanists study with the holy texts of Our Lady.” Yanagar had a tendency to drone on and several of the younger students were already fidgeting in their seats. “With that, I invite each of you to sit in on Divinist courses whenever your schedule allows. I know all too well, of course, how our Arcanist Nîda likes to keep her prentices busy.”
“No time for mischief that way, Mistress. I seem to recall an incident some forty years ago involving a fish bladder, some twine, and a cupful of fresh white pepper!”
The old woman blushed and chuckled, coughing a bit at the memory. “I maintain that was not me. Harry was- Oh!”
Nîda’s smile faded at the name but as Yanagar muttered about forgetting something and shuffled back to the door, her curiosity washed away the momentary annoyance.
“…would lose my head if it weren’t stuck on,” the priestess was saying from the hall. She shuffled back into the classroom, dragging with her a smallish figure. “Arcanist Nîda, meet your newest apprentice. This is- er… I am sorry, what was your name again?”
The boy was no more than three feet tall, but he carried himself well. He stepped into the light and swirled his mottled brown cloak with flair.
“Jovi Bluetoes, my lady, at your service.” He reached into a pocket of his tunic and pulled out a roll of parchment, still sealed with creamy white wax. “This is for you, Arcanist Nîda.”
She accepted it with a wan smile and tucked it away, trying to conceal the sudden trembling of her fingers. Later, once her class had concluded and each of her pupils had successfully used the Spark incantation to light something on fire (most of them kept the flames contained to the provided scrap parchment, but Monica had accidentally set her neighbor’s wimple to burn and Jovi, with surprising intuition, nearly set his whole table ablaze) Nîda locked the outer door of her chamber with both the mechanical device and a spell.
She sat on the edge of her bed and regarded them plain seal for a long moment. Terendelev’s profile, very well rendered all things considered, with a crossed staff and longsword behind it. Nîda remembered the first time she had seen it, adorning the official announcement of Harry and Rosabee’s nuptials. They had mingled their chosen paths with the sigil of the Legion, intending then to stay in Kenabres and fight the good fight. Nîda recalled how little she had seen of Harry after his wedding and how sheepishly he had apologized for the distance, when he came to tell her that Rosabee was with child and that they were moving out of the city. Don’t worry, Nîda, he had said, flashing that grin she never could stay mad at, I’ll write to you. And once Rosabee drops the wee one, we’ll like as not come home to the Legion. I’m destined to the Crusades, ain’t I?
Nîda fingered the seal, pursing her lips.
She had received precisely three letters from Harry after he and Rosabee left the city.
The first, upon the arrival of their first child, Luda, a daughter named for the deceased Lord Ludovico who had been one of Harry’s mentors.
The second, to announce the birth of their twins, Little Harry and Teren, a pair of boys who were described as having their mother’s reddish curls and hazel eyes, but their father’s irresistible smile.
The last, which had only been partially written in Harry’s own hand, brought the bittersweet news of little Cela’s arrival, and Rosabee’s death shortly thereafter.
She was afraid to open it, immediately worried that another death would be named within.
Nîda cracked the seal with her thumbnail and unrolled the parchment. She held her breath.
I hope you will forgive my lapse. Life is complicated and busy, even here in the safe heart of Brevoy. There is no excuse for it, except the truth, which is that I couldn’t hardly face the world – least of all you – when Rosabee died. And by the time I could, it were far too late to make amends.
How does the day find you?
Can’t hardly believe its been forty years. I imagine you’re still just as lovely as you were then. Can’t say the same for me and mine. Fat and old and white haired I am. Got more hair growing outta my nose and ears than old Master Ronald had on his pate. Bald as an egg, he were. Do you remember him? Some days I recall every day with the Silver Legion like it were last week. Some days I can’t even remember me own name. The physicians say it’ll only get worse.
Bugger them. I will find a way to hold on to my wits until the end, I will. See if I don’t.
This ain’t no time for melancholy. Begging your pardon. But I gotta ask you a favor, Nîda.
Carrying this letter will be my grandson, Jovi. His mama was your namesake, Cela. Cellie died four winters back, in childbed like her own mother. Jovi didn’t ever know his papa. The fellow – named Cory Morrow I think – could not acknowledge the boy out of wedlock, and would not break his Holy Oaths to marry my little girl. He feared to lose his standing in some poncy sun-worshipping Order. What kind of a Paladin would abandon his own wee one, I ask you! Not the sort we fought with in the Silver Legion.
His sun-bitch did not protect him anyway. Fell from his mount on the way to Kenabres and broke his fucking neck. Good riddance anyway.
Jovi is a good boy, Nîda, but he may have a wee too much of the Bluetoe blood. Charms the pants of folk, but doesn’t seem to have the discipline to be a real warrior like his grand-dad.
He says he wants to join the Crusades. He don’t really know what that means, of course. He hasn’t watched his friends be rent by demons or put a blade through the heart of his enemy. Don’t think he’s put a blade through anything but a pat of butter, frankly.
The local school teacher was an apprentice to a hedge wizard in her youth and she says he’s got the spark. Like his grandma Rosabee. And he was raised in a house what reveres Our Lady, the Inheritor. Maybe he’ll be a priest, or maybe an arcanist. Who knows?
Will you watch out for my little monkey, Nîda? The boy is the last Bluetoes in my line. Luda’s children are all Greenharts, Harry Two died without any issue (that we know about – but the boy was a lady’s man), and Teren married a gnome – so there weren’t no wee ones born.
I love that kid as much as any grandpa must, more even. I didn’t fight the good fight, not really. But he will. With your guidance, Jovi will work for Iomedae and maybe when we close that bitch for good – his hand will be one of those upon it.
Don’t know if you ever understood, and it is too late now for rehashing it all, but I always loved you, Celenîdaneth, and I hope you know it.
Harry Thomas Bluetoes
P.S. Do you still wear your wimple?
Nîda folded the letter and lay it upon her lap gingerly. A pair of moist tracks upon her cheeks were the only evidence of how deeply the request had touched her. After a long moment, she composed herself, dried her tears, and crossed the chamber to her desk. There, she began to write.
Of course. I shall be honored to guide and watch over your grandson. You may trust that we – the Silver Legion and myself – will make of him the finest man he can be.
As his grandfather was.
As his grandfather is.
I have always loved you too.
My Warmest Regards,
Arcanist Celenîdaneth Loshenthenniel,
of the Silver Legion
Her own seal was a wreath of stylized elvish script spelling out her surname, with the staff of her rank set diagonally in the center, resting upon a five-pointed star. She pressed the matrix into the warm, snow-white wax.
“It never is too late, Harry,” she told the parchment, as if its recipient could hear her words. “To mend fences. Even if the cows have escaped, they can be penned once more when the damage is fixed.”
She supposed it wouldn’t do to think about how little it mattered to mend a fence, once the cow grew too old and died.
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Note: Image is “King Jagiello Statue Central” by (Mulligand) from SXC.hu; edited by me