The rain poured down hard on the lone figure walking on the dusty, now muddy path. The man held his cloak tight to try to shelter himself as best as he could. It did not matter how the weather was, he was tasked to deliver the message and deliver it he would.
The courier arrived at a fork on the road. The directions given to him by General Minso indicated that he was to walk off the path and through the forested area at this spot. He kept a hand to the handle of his longsword at his hip within its scabbard, staying ready should any nasty surprises should pop up his way. The courier was less than confident that he would handle anything more than a goblin or a kobold, but he was duty bound to his task and pressed on.
Through the forest he walked, the wind howling at his back with the crashing sound of thunder and the brilliant display of lightning. After about an hour of trudging through the forest, the courier is finally able to make out a house of sorts nearby.
Only a crazy fool would live out here by himself, thought the courier. He walked up to the door and saw a light through a window.
“Well, it could be worse I suppose,” said the courier, talking to himself. “I wonder if he’s as crazy as people say he is…”
He knocked on the door…
He knocked again, a little louder.
Still no answer.
The courier let out a long sigh: “Perhaps I have the wrong place.”
As soon as he said these words and turned, he heard the door open. The courier turned back and looked at the person looking back at him. He looked quite aged, having probably seen seventy winters or more, and was bald, with not one hair on his head – not even a stubble on his chin – save for grey bushy eyebrows. He wore some old haggered robes and held a withered, willow staff looking more like a support for his skinny, lanky frame. The courier could not believe this to be the old wizard, if it was him at all.
“Well what is it? I haven’t got all bloody day you know. If you are here to engage in a staring contest with me, you’d stand a better chance being indoors away from this rain, no?” The old man said irritably, the courier snapping back to attention.
“Umm, my apologies, but I seek a man, an old wizard named Herman who lives here. Are you by chance he?” asked the courier, ignoring the wet rain drops touching down on his exposed head. “I am here on business on behalf of..”
The old man shook his head and interrupted the courier: “Are you another one of Minso’s prospects seeking to be an apprentice? I keep telling them the same thing; I’m not interested! I do not take apprentices, I’m but a poor old hermit with a few parlor tricks. There are much more powerful wizards in this land that you could bother!”
The courier walked up to the old man, holding out a sealed envelope “W…wait, sir… I am not an apprentice, I am a courier sent by Fort Caspien’s General Minso with an urgent letter for you.”
The old man looked at the courier, and rubbed his chin in thought for a minute. He then made a slight nod and took the letter.
“Well why didn’t you say so in the first place, boy? Don’t just stand there, come in, come in! Take a few minutes off from the weather! I am Herman, yes… would you like some tea? i got a kettle going presently.”
“That is most generous of you sir, I will kindly take your offer with great respect,” the courier said, deciding to take in the hospitality. He was satisfied that his task was done, and wanted to wait until the weather cleared up.
“Bah! Leave the formalities for the bureaucrats, boy. Just call me Herman,” Herman said, turning back as they walked into his house. He walked towards the kettle sitting over a small fireplace. The courier welcomed the warmth after walking into the cold rain for a bit.
“Tell me, young one, what is your name?” Asked Herman as he poured the tea into an old ceramic cup, passing it to the courier.
“I am Jecthor Delanis, courier to General Minso of Fort Caspien, si…Herman” the courier replied.
It didn’t seem to him that this crazy old wizard was in any way interested in the letter – or at least presently – since he noticed the wizard randomly tossing the object in question on the floor. He thought better than to question the old man, however, since his job was done and the old man did show him some hospitality.
Jecthor looked at his surroundings and noticed that this house did not resemble what he had expected for the living area of a great wizard. It looked like a typical villager’s house, albeit messy and in disorder, but there was nothing spectacular or magical about it.
Then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a single, open tome sitting at the table with a quill in a jar of ink. Hermit caught sight of it and got up and headed towards the book.
“Here, let me show you something interesting boy,” he said.
Jecthor got up and followed the old wizard and looked at the book. He couldn’t make out any of the writing, but he was able to make out some of the pictoral markings a some kind of animal symbols. There was the head of a bull, the head of a fox, what resembled the paw of a bear, the head of a cat, the head of an owl. There was also one last form, which looked like a form of a bird – an eagle most likely - but the courier wasn’t sure.
Sensing his curiosity, Herman started to explain to Jecthor: “Ah you see this, boy? I am researching old magic. Many, many years ago, magic and spells worked quite different than today. Even potions had a different effect. I am trying to recreate some of these old potions. For example, the bull’s head sigil you see here represents the potion called Bull’s Strength which grants the imbiber a boost in his muscle power.”
“I see,” Jecthor nodded.
“There are several potions here I would love to recreate and have young adventurers like you use them,” Herman continued, reaching over to his cupboard, taking a vial and handing it to the courier. “Here, drink this” he said.
Jecthor took the vial and looked at it for a bit, then turned his eyes towards the wizard.
“Go on, it won’t harm you. It’s not poison you know!” Herman exclaimed, to which the courier shrugged and quaffed the vial down not daring to taste its contents.
At first, he felt nothing, but after several seconds, he felt his stomach grumbled, and then a sharp pain go through his abdomen. The pain was so intense that Jecthor stumble down onto his knees, letting out a loud scream.
The wizards stood by him and grinned.