The Knight and His Squire 3
Copyright© 2015 by Spherical Spoon
"Sir Rohea? Wake up!" Pyar's voice called over clouds that had filled Rohea's mind.
Rohea shook his head and cleared it. He opened his eyes, and saw Pyar standing over him.
"Pyar?" Rohea asked, sitting up. "Where's Maes? What has happened to her?"
"I don't know," answered Pyar. "I only just arrived here. I went to Yaklo as your message from Fleomr said, and heard that you had begun your march to Ciiar. I rode as quickly as I could, and learned from Lieutenant Kaliv that you had headed out here."
"Mages!" Rohea said suddenly. "Mages caused this."
"I know," Pyar said. "The Mage Council has explained it to me. That is why I now know the counter-spell."
"Why have you not awoken the rest?" Rohea said, looking around and realizing that the six soldiers remained asleep.
"I am under strict orders from the Council not to interfere with their matters," Pyar said cryptically.
"Why free me then?"
"I believe Maes may be in trouble," Pyar answered. "Wasn't she with you when this happened?"
"She was," nodded Rohea. "Did she fall to the same spell?"
"No," Pyar said. "She is not here. She must have been captured by the mages."
"Why would they capture her and not kill her outright?" Rohea asked. "They've been out to kill her in the past."
"I don't know," Pyar said. "Perhaps they realized she was a healer, and not a dark practitioner."
"Wouldn't that cause them to kill her too? Mages have always hunted healers."
"What did the Mage Council tell you about their reasons for doing this?" Rohea questioned.
"I cannot say," Pyar replied. "I am sworn to secrecy. All I can say is that it is a noble goal."
"Argh!" Rohea shouted in a frustrated manner. "I hoped that you could give me a straight answer, but you're just like them!"
Pyar narrowed her eyes. "I did release you from the spell, Sir Rohea, against my orders. Shouldn't you be at least a little grateful for that?"
Rohea calmed down and nodded. "You are right. I am sorry, Pyar."
Pyar smiled. "Apology accepted. What should we do now?"
"Are the mages doing this to the enemy's soldiers as well?" Rohea suddenly asked.
Pyar kept quiet.
"I see," Rohea said, taking her silence as an affirmative answer.
"We will return to the soldiers, and I will send a messenger to the enemy. We will discuss a truce," Rohea said.
Pyar's face brightened. "Peace! That would be wonderful for the people."
"Only a temporary one while we figure out how to deal with the mages. It seems like both sides are under attack by mages," Rohea said. "We can have a proper war after this issue has been resolved."
Pyar's face fell. "B-but, that's completely against what the Mage Council wanted." She put her hands to her mouth, realizing that she had revealed too much.
"What about Maes?" Pyar asked.
"The lieutenants can handle brokering the truce with the enemy. We will ride out in search of Maes," Rohea declared.
"Where would we begin?"
"Surely you know of where mages in this area would go," Rohea said. "Towers? Hide-outs?"
Pyar thought for some time. "I don't know this area, but there is something I can try. I detected Maes the first time when scrying. Perhaps I can do so again."
Pyar sat down on the grass cross-legged, and closed her eyes. She focused on her inner eye and travelled effortlessly across the plains. She spotted the old mage and his two apprentices in the distance. Tolas was carrying Maes on his back, and it appeared that Maes was afflicted with the sleeping spell.
Pyar informed Rohea of what she saw, and he asked, "How far away are they?"
"A day's ride, or less," Pyar answered. "They are travelling on foot, while we have horses."
Rohea thought for a while. "We need to head back to the troops now, and set off for Maes."
"Shouldn't we go directly to Maes?" Pyar asked.
"My duty to Wollior comes first. Since they're on foot as you said, we can still catch up with them," Rohea answered.
Rohea and Pyar quickly mounted their horses, and rode back in the direction of Yaklo.
Rohea and Pyar arrived at the marching troops, and Rohea gave Kaliv his orders. Kaliv nodded in acknowledgment, and looked warily at Pyar.
Whispering quietly to Rohea, Kaliv asked, "Are you sure you can trust her, Sir Rohea? She is a mage."
Rohea answered, "I trust her. She is the one who freed me from the spell, and is the only one that can find Maes and the mages."
Kaliv replied, "Very well, Sir. Would you like some soldiers to accompany you on your quest?"
"No," Rohea said. "We will travel faster as a pair, and attract less attention."
"Good luck, Sir! May you return safely to us."
Rohea and Pyar rode off towards where Pyar had previously scryed the location of Maes.
"What are your plans once we catch up to them?" Pyar asked.
"Will they attack us on sight?" Rohea asked in return.
"I do not know," Pyar said. "They may notice my mage robes and not attack."
Rohea glanced down at himself. "I am not wearing mage robes."
"Yes," Pyar answered. "But you are my companion, under my protection. They may respect that."
"And what if they do not?" Rohea asked.
Pyar was silent. Rohea patted his sword sheathed on his side.
"No matter, I will deal with the mages if it comes down to it."
"Is your sword the answer to all your problems?" Pyar questioned.
"No, of course not. Many times it is better to resolve things with speech. But I have learned that mages seldom want to talk to me, and my sword makes quick work of them."
"You speak of killing mages, and yet I am a mage," Pyar commented.
"There are a handful of mages that I trust, and you are one of them," Rohea said.
Pyar blushed at the compliment.
"What do you know about wights?" Rohea asked.
"Wights?" Pyar questioned, bewildered at the change of topic.
Rohea described how Maes had revived Puccar, and how the mage Toas had said that Puccar had become a wight.
Pyar gasped. "But wights can only be summoned by dark practitioners!"
Pyar remained silent for a few minutes, deep in thought.
"Of course! I get it now!" Pyar declared.
"What?" Rohea asked.
"Dark practitioners and healers are the same thing!"
"Didn't you say that it was impossible for healers to be dark practitioners?" Rohea questioned.
"I did," Pyar admitted. "I think there was a conflation of the term after Trevaq and the healer purge."
"Go on," Rohea said.
"I believe Trevaq was originally a healer. Somehow, he summoned a wight and caused many deaths. That led to the creation of the Mage Guild, and the healer purge."
"How do you know this?" Rohea asked.
"Trevaq was not listed in our mage records as ever having been a mage. I noticed it when I was studying our history, and questioned Master Cyler about it. He did not know the answer. I'd always thought Trevaq's name was purged from the records when he became a dark practitioner, but now that I think about it, the later dark practitioners had their names present in our records."
"What about the later dark practitioners? Were they mages?" Rohea questioned.
"Yes, they were. They were all listed in our mage records." Pyar said. "But no one ever summoned a wight after Trevaq. That's why I believe the term dark practitioner has been conflated."
"Hmm, that seems like a stretch," Rohea said. "How were Trevaq and his wight stopped?"
"The history books do not say. There is very little that is said about Trevaq and his wight, other than that they were stopped."
Rohea was silent for some time.
Pyar asked, "Do you think Maes really summoned a wight?"
"I don't know," Rohea replied. "She did revive Sir Puccar from the dead. I thought he was really back at first, but his actions later..."
"How will we stop the wight?" Pyar wondered aloud.
"We will figure it out when the time comes," Rohea said. "Perhaps Maes did not actually summon a wight but something else."
Pyar shuddered slightly. "I hope it's nothing worse than a wight."
"Are there things that are worse?" Rohea questioned.
"In our books, there are talks about different planes of existence. Wights come from a plane similar to what we believe to be Hell, and there are many worse creatures that dwell there," Pyar said.
Before Rohea could comment, Pyar continued, "I don't know how such knowledge came to be, or if there is any truth in it. All I know is that someone wrote a lot about such things."
Pyar suddenly pulled the reins of her horse and stopped. Rohea quickly followed suit.
"What's wrong?" Rohea asked.
"Someone is scrying on us," Pyar replied. "It could be the group of mages that captured Maes."
"What should we do?"
"Scrying allows a mage to see, but not hear. Look less threatening, and let me try this," Pyar said, dismounting and grabbing a nearby stick.
Pyar waved the stick around in the air, as though she was writing something. She repeated the motions for a while, and put the stick down with a heave of relief.
"There," Pyar said. "The scrying stopped. I hope they got our message."
"What were you trying to tell them?" Rohea asked.
"I drew the symbol of the Mage Guild. That way, they should allow us to go to them without any issues," Pyar replied, sitting down on the ground. "I will now scry them in return to figure out where they are."
Pyar closed her eyes and concentrated. Her inner eye flew across the land in an instant, and picked up the group of three mages sitting inside a cave an hour's ride away from their current location. Maes was tied up and laying on the ground asleep, while the three mages sat in a circle around her discussing. The old mage looked up towards Pyar, shocking her since he could tell exactly where her inner eye was, and smiled. He beckoned her over with his hands. The other two mages looked like they asked him what he did, and he replied something to them.
Pyar opened her eyes, turned to Rohea, and said, "They look like they are friendly to us. They're an hour's ride away. Shall we go?"
Rohea's eyes narrowed. "What if it is a trap?"
"I don't think so," Pyar replied. "The old mage looked sincere and friendly when he detected my scrying."
"How was Maes?" Rohea asked.
"She was tied up and asleep, but otherwise she looked unharmed," Pyar said.
"Very well," Rohea said. "Let us make our way there."
"Promise me that you won't try to slice them open before hearing them out," Pyar said.
"I promise to hear them out," Rohea said, "but if they attack, I will not hesitate to defend us."
Pyar nodded, knowing that that was the best she could expect out of Rohea.
Pyar's estimate was not far off. Rohea and Pyar rode for slightly more than an hour before the entrance of the cave was visible.
"Over there," Pyar said, pointing at the entrance. "They are in there."
Rohea was about to dismount and walk the remaining distance, when Pyar said, "We might as well ride up there. They know that we're coming, after all."
Rohea nodded. The two of them rode up to the entrance and climbed off their horses. They tied the horses to a nearby tree. Rohea patted Feisty's mane, and discreetly reached into his pack and retrieved some vials. He placed the vials into his vest, and patted his sword sheathed at his side. Rohea was un-armored, but he figured that armor would do him little good against mages if it came down to it. Being without armor might actually give him an advantage since he would be more agile.
Rohea looked at the surroundings and noticed the smoldering fire outside the cave. It appeared that the mages had arrived here a while ago, and set up camp for the night. Rohea and Pyar walked towards the entrance of the cave.
"Welcome!" a voice called from within.
"Hello?" replied Pyar tentatively. "I am Mage Pyar, and this is my companion, Sir Rohea of Wolle."
"Hmm," said the voice. "I welcome both of you, but I'd ask your companion to leave his weapons outside."
Pyar glanced at Rohea, and Rohea nodded. He unbuckled his sheath from his belt and walked back to Feisty, carefully attaching his sword sheath to her harness.
Rohea and Pyar walked into the cave, and it took a short moment for their eyes to adjust to the dim light within. Pyar recognized the sight from her earlier scrying, and Rohea took the opportunity to note possible escape points and places he could defend himself more easily.
The old mage walked up to them and said, "Welcome again. I am Mage Grizol, of Creaol. These are my apprentices, Tolas and Raia."
Grizol looked at Rohea and commented, "Weren't you in the group we put to sleep earlier? The same group where we found her?"
Pyar replied quickly, "Yes, I reversed the spell you cast on him."
"And why would you do that?" Grizol asked cautiously.
"Sir Rohea saved my life from the very same spell. Actually, it was Parym the healer that saved me," Pyar said. "Maes is his student."
"I've hunted Parym for years and still he eludes me," Grizol said. "I've not heard of the name Maes. But she is a dark practitioner. Why would she save your life, Pyar?"
"It is a long story," Pyar replied. "Shall we all sit in peace and hear me out?"
"Very well," Grizol said, gesturing to where they had been seated before.
Rohea asked, "Can you free Maes? She is my squire, and should not be treated as such."
"Your squire?" Grizol asked. "That story you're going to tell must be very interesting indeed," he continued. "But no, I am not going to free Maes. She tried to kill us, and would surely do so again if I free her."
Rohea's eyes flared. "No, she would not. I give you my word that she will not. Now, release her."
Grizol replied, "I trust your word, but I do not trust her to follow it. No."
Pyar chimed in, "Would you trust mine? From what I know, Maes does not seek to do anyone harm."
Grizol sighed. "Ah, you are still a young mage, Pyar. But I agree, if only so that you can tell me your interesting story."
Grizol made some gestures with his arms, and the ropes binding Maes fell onto the ground. Maes stirred a little and Rohea rushed over, kneeling down and hugging her, helping her get into a sitting position.
"Are you okay, Maes?" Rohea asked.
"Sir Rohea!" Maes said in surprise. "Where am I? I was fighting mages..."
Maes looked around and noticed Grizol standing a short distance away. She quickly tried to stand up, but Rohea held on to her.
"Him! He was the one who put you to sleep, and tried to kill me!" Maes spat in anger.
"We have agreed to hear him out, and he has agreed to hear us out," Rohea explained calmly. "Let us see if we can settle this amicably."
Maes looked frustrated but nodded. Rohea and Maes walked over towards Grizol and Pyar, and all six of them sat in a circle.
"Before I begin," Pyar said. "Shall we agree that there will be no fighting or spell-casting inside of this cave?"
Grizol nodded, and his apprentices followed suit. Rohea nodded in agreement as well, and Maes reluctantly nodded.
"Great!" Pyar said.
Pyar described how she had first sensed dark magic when scrying, and how they had led to Rohea being accused of being a dark practitioner. She went on about how her old master Cyler turned out to be a dark practitioner, and how Cyler spoke of his master. Pyar then described how she had travelled to find Rohea, and ended up caught in the sleeping spell.
"That spell was never meant to afflict fellow mages," Grizol commented. "I am sorry that it was cast on you."
"Why are you casting the spell?" Rohea asked as gently as he could.