A strange wizard is summoned into existence by a priesthood, so that he may investigate a strange new evil in the land. To accomplish this, he hires three mercenaries, and commissions a bard to write, rhyme and sing about their quest.
"It will walk on two feet with a semblance of man,
It will come from the woods with the pace of a deer,
Wizard it will call itself, and change will follow its wake,"
—except from The Coresskan Tome,
Psalm Text IV: Primary Narrative
Narrator: Lehrann de Quende
He was an odd man. All of us knew this from the moment we each first saw him. I was on-call for the town guard, but one of my acquaintances was on duty. This friend of mine, he told me that something seemed to pass fully in front of the sun at the moment they spotted the stranger down the road. It cast a shadow over everything, in a shade of purple seen only by us in the blossoms of flowers and the spots of poisonous mushrooms.
Nobody else but the two guards on duty witnessed this sudden eclipse.
I reckon it was the moment the wizard was first perceived by a mind greater than a common beast's.
He kept walking toward them, at a frightening pace. He came from the forest's edge, not the road's path. He was unfazed by the magic of his clout. Perhaps he was used to it. Perhaps he, too, saw it not.
His face was like none other. His cheeks were graced with scars like war paint, that bristled with white hairs. Yet despite the colour of his hair, his countenace exuded youth and energy to rival any local farmboy's. And his eyes were orbs of empty black. He frowned and smiled at the same time, from beneath an off-white traveling cloak, without stopping his steady gait.
"Halt!" said my friend's companion. And both guards, so I am told, blocked the way to the east wall's gate with their polearms. A voulge and a berdiche, some of the best we had. Polished blades shining in the sun.
The wizard looked at them, stopping, and when he did they saw all colours in his eyes.
"What business, traveller, do you have in Quende?" my friend recalls asking in the Coresstongue. But I imagine his accent was thick, his grammar was wrong and his words were misused such that an understanding was hardly gleaned. We do not speak Coresstongue much in Quende, though we have been subjects of the Coresscrown since before I was born.
The wizard stared at them.
"Well?" said the other guard.
Then the wizard surprised them by speaking in the Eastongue which we still cherish in Quende. He spoke it with an ancient alacrity and smoothness, as I'd later hear and envy. "The Coresska summoned me to investigate an anomalous phenomenon in the northeast part of Coress. I am in need of services in town, primarily that of the Mercenary Guild."
The guards eyed him suspiciously, "What's your name, traveller?"
The wizard tilted his head to the side, baffled by the question. "I have not decided yet." A silver diadem hung behind the bangs of his white hair. Its frame twisted and curled with the shapes of feathery leaves.
"Pardon me?" said my friend, now comfortably speaking Eastongue.
"My apologies, gentlemen. I am lacking a name to give," he told them.
The other guard began to chuckle. However, that ceased when the seriousness on the strange man's face betrayed his lack of jest.
Then, my friend put a hand on his partner's shoulder, calming him. "Are you also lacking papers from the Coresska Priesthood? Without documentation of your charge, we have no choice but to levy a passage fee despite your supposed employ."
"Always by the book, Ben," muttered the other guard.
"A fee in currency is beyond my monetary wealth," said the wizard. "Perhaps I can be of service so as to earn my passage?"
"Not even a dozen coppers in your pockets?"
He lowered his head, in a land where that meant 'no'. It was an ancient gesture, almost lost to the Coress. But to people of Quende, from such a man, it surely evoked a subversive sense of intrigue.
Yet, the wall stood thirteen legs tall, fortifying Quende with a security known to our people only under the Coresscrown's rule. It came with a price of upkeep.
"Err... give us a moment, kind sir..." my friend told him, taking the other guard aside with his arm over his shoulder. They huddled against the gate's mesh of rusty iron bars.
"Is this man as daft as his eyes?" whispered the other guard, rubbing the dust from his brigandine.
"I don't know. Maybe he's just not from around here?"
"Well, creeps like him make me wish the captain would station us on the other side of this gate. Were I any sorta scholar, I'd question his humanity."
"Let's see what he can do for us. Maybe we'll let him through," reasoned my friend.
"The captain won't be happy if he hears of this!"
"He doesn't have to. It'll come off my wages," offered my friend.
"Excuse me!" said the traveler in the off-white cloak. "Is this a coin of your desired currency?"
My friend looked over his shoulder.
The wizard was kneeling on the road a few feet away, having picked up a dusty copper coin.
"Yes," said my friend.
"Then I shall return with... how many?"
"Fifteen, sir," said the other guard.
"Yes, fifteen," echoed my friend.
The wizard flashed them a smile of ghastly white teeth, so white as if never sullied, and then walked off as fast as he had come. Then he stopped, turning on the heel of his staff in a cloud of dust. His cloak spun about in the wind of his movements. And like a dancer, they say he bent forward and picked a silver coin from the road. That was worth ten. And then he left, out of view, searching the road for fallen coins.
The guards began to spar with blunt wooden poles, as they often did. My friend had better technique, so the captain said, but he seldom won. His companion had more stamina, and was built stronger. He remembers being downed, his face in the dirt as his partner gloated, when fifteen copper coins were placed in front of his face.
Getting up, he saw that the other guard, whose name I can't recall, was holding thirteen copper coins and two almost identical silver coins.
"Is this enough?" said the wizard, who had approached unheard and unseen in the midst of their duel.
"Yes," said the other guard, without telling the traveler that it was in fact more than was requested. "I'll just pretend that these two are the right colour." He hadn't requested fifteen each, either.
"Fonda, open the gate!" yelled my friend. His voice carried through the iron bars, into the town.
I suspect that Fonda was asleep at her post, at this time. After all, she wasn't in the barracks with me. There was nobody to pull the chain to lift the gate's door.
"Grrah!" The other guard slammed his weapon against the gate, causing a brief clattering clang of metal. "Lift the plutting gate, girl!"
"Do not castigate her," said the wizard. He approached the closed gate, leaned his staff against the wall and bent himself down low, gripping the bottom of the gate.
At this point, a caravan of mixed vegetable produce pulled up in front of the gate, waiting to enter the city from Quende's outlying farmland.
"What're ya doing?" exclaimed the rude guard, looking down at the wizard.
A glance of eyes full of all colours.
"Get down and help him," said my friend, Bennoire.
"Have you lost your thoughts too?!" he said, though he complied as if to prove his point: "Not even my help will be enough to lift this damn thing. It weighs a ton!"
The wizard shook his head. "I won't be lifting. I am a wizard. My talents lie elsewhere."
The guards began to back away, exchanging a frown.
"No, please, trust me..." pleaded the wizard. Knelt between them, he placed a hand on the upper arm of each guard. "Lift!"
My friend tells me that what happened next was like nothing he'd ever felt before. It came coursing through the wizard's arm like a rushing river of strength. His armour became tight, and his chest swelled with overwhelming power.
The wizard had his eyes closed, and his mouth muttering loosely under his breath. Then his head tossed back and he smiled with his lips closed. It was a dance of his shoulders and his footing.
Over his head, the guards saw each other, and knew they were not alone in their state of empowerment. The strength rose to a crescendo and they lifted.
With a familiar creak, the gate came sliding up with a frightening force. It slammed into place, reverberating with success.
Somewhere nearby, Fonda woke with a shriek.
The wizard let go, as the trio rose to their feet. My friend claims they could feel the giant's strength fading back to whence it came.
Both young men were breathless, sweating with excitement.
"Be calm, you are fallow of magic now again," he told them. Then he walked into town. He waved at the townspeople as if he knew them.
People looked on from the main street with apprehension and awe, a lucky few catching word of his first feat of magic in town. Women wondered where he'd gotten his cloak, such an eccentric fashion frilled so oddly. And men wondered when he would leave. Children in awe, teased each other with tricks of fake magic.
They pointed. They whispered. They laughed.
A wizard had come to Quende.