‘You arrive late, my good sirs, we have been waiting for quite a long time. Half the bottles have gone dry, the meat is cold and the fire is dying in the grate.’ Bilal, the Scholard greeted the two newcomers into the Keep. They were soaking with rainwater, their robes and cloaks drenched dark. Outside, it was raining as if God were intent upon flooding the entire Nasgaroth. Thunder cackled and lightning blinded. The steady fizzy sound of heavy drizzle was soothing to the lords of House Black. One could read a book by the fire, play a song on the harp, drink his fill of ale, smoke his fill of tobacco whether it be by pipe, cigar or cigarette or simply look out the window as the rain washed away the long accumulated dust on the trees, the shrubs and the grass.
‘We were held captive of the weather. South of here, where the road meets the main passage to the nearest town, there is a blockade made by fallen trees and rain water. You’d think it was a dam if you hadn’t been through there earlier. It was Ser Ibsta’s suggestion that we brave the storm, ride our horses through the water and come here nonetheless. Otherwise, I do not think that we would be here today.’ The Sorcerean who went by the name of Haessan addressed Bilal. Ser Ibsta, who was with Elder Haessan, nodded and took off his cloaks. He proceeded to mutter something under his breath while making a complicated hand sign. Moments later, steam emerged from the wet clothes and they became, at once, dry and warm.
‘It’d be a huge favor, if you did that for me, old friend,’ Elder Haessan said. Ibsta complied.
Ser Ibsta was a knight, but his honored title was taken from him because he had sold his soul to the devil. The King commanded a beheading for Ibsta. And Ibsta, who had sworn his soul to the devil, hung at the noose for two days. And did not die still. Why did he not die? For he was a dabbler in all of the arts and one of them was alchemy and his alchemy lent him tricks, potions and concoctions that would cheat death. His pact with the devil was this: the devil will provide him infinite knowledge of all the subjects he had prior to the pact little to none knowledge in. As a result, after the pact was made, Ser Ibsta was adept in every science he had every vaguely studied. From necromancy to dragon-taming, he knew all about all. And in that newfound knowledge, he found the secret to freeing his soul from the devil. That is a story for another time. In short, now Ser Ibsta was bound by the knowledge of subjects he knew and immortally ignorant to the ones he didn’t. He mastered death with his potions. From there onwards, he was known was Ser Ibsta the Witchmaester. People feared him and respected him.
‘Welcome, dear friends, pleasant be the tidings that bring you to us in a weather this fine. Come dine with us, have beer, eat to your filling and let us rest hearty,’ Saad the Canningva belched. He was obviously drunk as an ass on a Tuesday. For that part, Saad had the ears of a donkey at that moment.
Canningvas are learned wizards who have spent their lives learning the art of transfiguration. Their sole power and their sole adeptness is their ability to morph into any living creature. Other than that Canningvas are also adept in swordsmanship and battle magery. Saad was a Canningva who had broken the record for being the youngest mortal in the realm to achieve his powers. There were scholars who’d spend a lifetime trying to learn what Saad perfected in three years. In his third year at the Glenfarrow academy, he morphed into an Osgilian Dragon. He was more than a thousand meters long and equally high. As he morphed, he perched himself atop the highest turret of the academy and in his victorious mirth, breathed fire that melted the clouds. He was expelled and banned from practicing Canningvaism. As if they could ban him.
‘Much thanks friend, much thanks,’ Haessan spoke as he, with his gloved hands, grabbed a flagon and chugged it dry in one big gulp.
‘Lord! That was the Whiskey flagon!’ Saad exclaimed and started laughing.
‘Well then, all the more reason for me to drink it. ~Lefism~” Haessan whispered that last part and whiskey filled the empty flagon.
‘I wonder which unlucky fellow’s cellar you plundered right now,’ Bilal joked. As a Scholard, he knew that spells pertaining food and drinks merely transferred them from one place to another and did not create them out of thin air.
‘I pictured the Whorehouse’s cellar when I cast the spell and rightly so, this whiskey has the smell of whores seeped in it. All the more reason to drink it!’ Haessan chugged the flagon dry again.
Ser Ibsta found the company amusing. They were golly fellows, troubled with matters of life each in their own regards, but their ability to deal with the problems in a fashion that was praiseworthy was in itself a praiseworthy ability. Moreover, each of these gentlemen had this trait in themselves.
Ser Ibsta lit a cigarette, which he fashioned from his own tobacco and paper. His mistrust of people forbade him from smoking or drinking anything that was not made by his own self. He pitied himself for not learning telepathology, which was the art of reading minds. Ah, it was too late now. The devil he had captured, but the curse of the pact remained strong.