I FALL UPON THE EARTH, I CALL UPON THE AIR, BUT ALL I GET IS THE SAME OLD VACANT STARE: in which a burden is lifted and a bargain is struck

I was squinting across the snow at a ramshackle goblin operation in the distance when I heard the Aegis scraping behind me. Awk would close his eyes and step closer, then Harry, distrustful, would drag the chunk of metal away from him. This went on for several iterations. Awk approached; Harry retreated.

“I know you’ve been keeping your eyes on it,” the monk said, sternly locking eyes with the gnome and dragging it away again.

Perhaps it seemed mean, but truthfully I agreed with Harry: it has been more than enough for me when Awk and Felegum lost their connections to their magic thanks to this sucker and I had no idea why Awk was in such a hurry to mess around with it again. I’d only come into my magic recently and I sure as hell wouldn’t want to risk it being taken away from me, for any span of time.

Sensing that Awk and Harry’s standoff would be a long and fruitless battle, I carved off a bit of our leftover saiga meat and swept out toward the goblins instead.

It was, indeed, the Goblin Shopping Network.

I had some doubts at first, since I could only tell that they were goblins at a distance, not recognize Farwyn or anyone I’d met earlier, but as soon as a complicated crane structure collapsed spectacularly in on itself, I knew I was in the right place.

Some chatting with the goblin-in-charge revealed that they were building an outpost just outside the city limits of Paripas, since the city wouldn’t grant them permits to build inside. Both the goblin and I expressed our distaste with the superfluity of forms, and I learned this goblin was Norman, head of the GSN’s construction crew.

Their outpost seemed to also be of the genre of the convertible caravan-like vehicles we’d seen them before in, and as we spoke another crane came careening down. Norman asked why I’d come to them, if I had business (and sure, I did, who doesn’t want to scope out the Goblin Shopping Network for wares), and I offered the saiga meat piece.

At once, all activity on the construction site ceased. Goblins poked their heads out of various scaffolds and from behind oversized tools, each pair of eyes fixated on the saiga. “Snack?” echoed through the ranks in a flurry of whispers.

Norman took the meat from me, and with some of the most beautiful knifework I’d ever seen cut it into bite-size pieces for his crew. I tried to observe and learn from him, but it was so quick and elegant I just had enough time to be in awe of it.

I did learn that Farwyn, the goblin who had been in charge of the Goblin Shopping Network the last time we’d encountered them, had set up shop in the Merchants’ Quarter and was making a name for himself and the Network by undercutting his competitors. Apparently, there were quite a few people unhappy with him, but he was more than keeping busy with an influx of orders.

At this point, I went back to the camp, collected Lankin and Awk (who at last allowed himself to be pried from the Aegis) and the rest of the saiga, left Harry to guard the Aegis by himself, and once again rejoined Norman. Lankin was eager to help them build after introductions, and Norman announced that this structure would be their first for handling not-roads.

“Like amphibious?” I said.

“Like,” he paused, “not road. Water next.”

Lankin was deemed to be about four goblins strong, and we reached an agreement to trade services for the opportunity to buy some wares from them. And also, you know, because it would be a nice thing. Awk transformed into a giant beaver and helped them to drive piles for their cranes (which they admitted was very helpful but also that they were likely to never use in practice themselves), and Lankin was indeed four goblins strong.

When it was time to take a break for the night, we divided our meat between the three of us and Norman and his crew. The goblin delivered his judgement as I prepared our meat: “You cut slow.”

“I was trying to learn from you earlier!” I said, somewhat exasperated.

“Learn better!”

“Okay.” I didn’t really know how that was going to work, so I just fed Kheryph a small cube of saiga.

There were about thirty goblins in total in the construction crew. Lankin made some offhand comment about the amount of wood that a woodchuck could chuck, and Awk felt obliged to hurl a log through the air for distance in beaver form. He actually got pretty far, managing about thirty to sixty feet.

After dinner, the goblins admired their new foundation, once again mentioning that they were unlikely to keep up this new construction practice. We helped out a little more, and then I bought a new set of GSN-brand lockpicks to replace my broken ones. It was more expensive than I’d have liked, but it wasn’t like I was about to buy picks inside this place, at least not while we were making an effort to not attract the attention of the law.

We headed back to Harry and camp, where Felegum had emerged from the city. Zeno, no surprise, and Helli were going to spend the night inside the city where it was warm, and the mage had ventured back out to make us a dome to sleep in, which was pretty considerate of him. He gave us the update that we had a meeting set up with Letitia for the next day, and we settled in for watches. Lankin asked after Kheryph, which was very kind of him, and the lizard poked his head out of my warm furred boot to say hi.

I woke up a little early to talk more with Felegum on his watch about familiars.

Kheryph’s condition did not seem to be improving over time. While whatever I’d spoken to in Nightscale’s lair had returned to Kheryph all of his limbs that had been melted off in the fight, it had not been able to restore my lizard to his full health. I’d tried a healing potion, Zeno’s healing magic, and my own healing magic, all to no effect.

In speaking with Awk about it, the druid-warlock combo meal had said that I’d need divine help for this one and that I probably needed a priest.

It was truly unfortunate how many of my problems seemed to want divine solutions.

I was gambling on mages not liking being shown up by higher powers, but it seemed a safe bet. There had be an arcane workaround.

To that end, I spent an hour chatting with Felegum about familiars and how he’d summoned Dronie. His process had involved ritual spells in his book, and Dronie hailed from a different plane than this one, the plane of clocks or order or something like that. Very Felegum, whatever it was.

Ultimately, the sorcerer’s verdict was that I was likely to run into difficulty trying to make Kheryph into my familiar since he was native to the same plane as I was. I chewed on my lip as I thanked Felegum and bid him goodnight as I went to wake up Lankin for our dawn shift.

Kheryph being a familiar would certainly help abate the problem I was currently facing of him getting utterly annihilated in battle. I was no animal trainer; that much was clear. Awk, possibly having abandoned his plans to liberate Kheryph from me, did seem most likely to be of help here, but he’d also destroyed Dronie so many times that I wasn’t sure I really trusted him with an all-too-mortal Kheryph.

If I could make him my familiar, I could just snap him out of danger, like when Felegum snapped Dronie back to the plane of infinite forms and regulations. And if the worst came to pass and I couldn’t keep bad things from getting to Kheryph (like ice knives or other black dragons, for example), he would never be lost for good– I could just resurrect him over a brazier, after I’d murdered Awk or whatever else had killed him previously.

It sounded like a pretty sweet situation. The other problem was: how the hell was I supposed to pull something like that off?

At best, I was a novice at magic. I could do some pretty tricks with illusions, but none of my stuff would hold up to too much scrutiny, except maybe my Disguise Self spell.

I sighed and watched the dawn creep up with Lankin.

“Where are we going from here?” the elf asked.

I shrugged. “I don’t know, maybe overseas?”

Lankin sat upright, excited. “I want to go on a ship!”

We spent a good part of our shift talking about ships and water travel. Lankin had not been with us when we’d visited the merfolk taak at Lake Norka, and I wasn’t sure whether any of his gladiatorial fights had been underwater. Fighting on a ship didn’t sound half-bad, though.

Provided, you know, the ship didn’t meet the same fate as The Wind’s Pride. But hey, there couldn’t possibly be water tendrils twice, right?

The rest of the night was cold and passed without event. In the morning, Harry and I sat out next to the Aegis to guard it, but we needn’t have bothered: the chill kept most other people in their own campsites, away from us. The dome came down after eight hours, but a sleepy Felegum went through his traditional casting chant (“omni doomladay hooblodoo”) and popped another one back up before catching some extra sleep.

“It’s too cold for crime,” Harry said, scanning the middle distance for threats.

I snorted. “It’s never too cold for crime.”

It was about at this point that Zeno and Helli returned, with Zeno’s two zombies in tow bearing warm coffees and pastries to us fresh from the city proper. I was a little jealous that he’d spent the night in a warm bed versus in a dome, but at the same time it’s not like him suffering it out in the cold with us would have accomplished much. Also, his performance slippers, the only footwear he’d had for a while, had been in desperate need of repair after over a week on the road.

He cast a Prestidigitation spell on our coffees to warm them back up and I glanced at his feet. New boots. Not bad.

Meanwhile, Felegum had woken up and was working on writing something into his spellbook.

“I take it your negotiations went well?” Harry asked Zeno as the bard headed toward the dome and the others.

“Oh yes, they did,” he said, hands in his coat pockets and clutching his Prestidigitated coffee for warmth. “We’re finally getting Milto’s stuff, to Set’s delight. Also, they have good info. Turns out they’ve also been researching the conduits. And the red eyes.”

I almost spilled my coffee. “Red eyes have been around before?”

“That’s what I said!” Zeno gesticulated at me with his cup. “Apparently they were seen like a million years ago.”

We had a moment of quiet thought on that. It had mostly certainly not been a million years since we’d encountered Durnen and his merry slithering band. Awk brought Felegum his coffee, since Zeno and Helli couldn’t enter the dome because they weren’t inside it when it was cast (a constant logistical problem), and the mage finally completed his spell transcription. I’m kind of excited: the last things he transcribed were the dome and the disk spells, so it’ll be cool to see what he busts out next.

Zeno and Helli brought us up to speed on the Letitia situation: we’d done well in not bringing the Aegis into Paripas and Letitia would be around a few hours after dawn to collect it. We’d had some discussion along the way to the city about whether or not we wanted to entrust the Mage’s Guild with such a valuable artifact, considering the power of the conduits, some of us wondering if the potential for Letitia and her cohorts to wield it for personal gain or bad intentions was a risk worth taking.

The truth was we needed this thing out of our hands and reliably, too, out of the hands of Team Red Eye. The Mages’ Guild was powerful enough that I felt comfortable that Durnen probably wasn’t going to be able to get the Aegis from them without a fight; moreover, the hulking bureaucratic machinery of Paripas would probably ensure that we’d have some lead time at least if he made a legitimate attempt.  

 Anyway, two hours after the advent of Zeno, Helli, the zombies, and the coffee, a vortex of snow kicked up a bit away from us, revealing Letitia and four others. This hadn’t been what I’d expected, and the four cloaked figures gave me incredibly bad vibes. Something was wrong and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

I put my hand on a dagger, and next to me, Harry subtly palmed a dart.

And then I felt like shit.

There is really no good way to describe this part. The moment the four cloaked figures approached me and Harry in front of the Aegis, it was curtains for my poor breakfast. I was spared total embarrassment when I looked up being pukes to glimpse Zeno also looking nauseous.

“Ah,” Letitia said mildly in the midst of all this gastrointestinal chaos, “I see you have met my nulls.”

Had we just been royally screwed over? All I could do was groan in pain as my stomach emptied itself. If we were fighting back, I had nothing.

I seethed into the dirt, utterly wrecked.

Somehow, Zeno managed to be charming despite looking a little green in the gills and spoke with Letitia. According to her, transporting a magical artifact of this caliber required nulls, or people who nullified the effects of magic. The four nulls lifted the Aegis either using their powers or their physical strength—give me a break, I was barfing—and Awk and Felegum helped me away from the Aegis.

I barfed on Awk.

Meanwhile, Letitia explained that the nulls would be taking the Aegis to a safe place outside the city that would be hard to access by most mages.

“Even I would have difficulty retrieving an artifact from a place like that,” Letitia continued to Zeno, then gave me a nod of sympathy. “They are not very comfortable for me to be around either.”

“We’ll leave it in your capable hands,” Felegum said.

My sickness passed as the nulls walked into the distance with the Aegis, getting smaller and smaller, and then vanishing into the snowy line where the horizon and sky blended together.

“As discussed preciously,” Letitia continued, “we will liberate Milto’s goods. You may also take an official rank in the Mage’s Guild. There are four magical aspects, and it seemed like you had wanted rank in our last conversation. We can discuss further if you’d like to take dinner with me on the twenty-first floor of the Mage’s Tower tonight at sunset.”

I wiped vomit from the side of my mouth. “Oh sure, dinner sounds great.”

“Yes, young one,” Letitia replied, “it goes away after a while.”

I felt kind of bad for being a turd to her. Maybe a little bad for barfing on Awk. Or hey, maybe my stomach was just still feeling bad in general. Hard to tell sometimes.

Anyway, Letitia did her cool whoosh snow circle teleportation spell and peaced out, leaving us to break down camp and head back into our favorite warm, climate-controlled, form-filled city.

“Here, have these cloves,” Awk offered as we walked toward the outpost.

“No,” I said, walking faster.

Somehow, the gnome managed to keep up. “Do I need to wrestle you into eating these cloves?”

I narrowed my eyes at about the same time Felegum cast a banishing spell on Awk. Unfortunately, it failed, but I thanked Felegum for his noble effects on my behalf. Awk persisted with the cloves, Felegum unleashed some ice crystals in Awk’s direction, and I swung a leg over the broom and right on out of that situation.

I was probably lucky that Awk didn’t think to turn into some sort of flying creature and come after me.

At last, after entering the city (and finally declaring my magic, much to Felegum’s joy as he filled out the forms for us), we came to the Spicy Rooster, an establishment that Zeno, Helli, and Felegum had patronized and enjoyed warm drinks at last night.

For whatever reason, Zeno was going through his things and came across a pouch that he’d stowed Chip’s eyeballs, aka the kid whose dead body we’d rescued from that well and who’d also gotten possessed by the crab-lich-spirit thing and accidentally destroyed large portions of Borne. Originally, he’d cut out the eyeballs as a key strategy of the fight, because you can’t cast spells if you don’t have eyes.

We’d kind of made a joke about it, like how we’d collect eyes in HFVNN through our travels, but ultimately other things needed to be stored in there in Nightscale’s lair and Zeno had popped the eyes in a different pouch for safe keeping.

Coming in from the cold, the eye bag was pretty rancid. Zeno extracted one, was promptly and rightfully disgusted by it, and threw the contents of the bag on the ground, where the eyes oozed into the pavement.

I had an extra vial from having used a Potion of Healing to try to fix Kheryph back in the lair. So, I bent down, scooped as much of the eye goop into the empty potion bottle as I could (about half of each eye), and stoppered it. It was probably lucky that I’d already thrown up my breakfast; it was not a pleasant task.

Agreeing to split up until sunset, we headed our separate ways.

On the way, I tipped a letter I’d been working on into one of the mail receptacles. Magic post was new to me, so when I said “to the family of Wizard Sonard” I was half-expecting my letter to get incinerated or spat out, but it wasn’t. I stood by the mail thing a while to be sure it was gone, nodded, and walked on.

We’d talked about doing this before heading to Paripas, but we’d kind of gotten caught up in the mess with Milto and then Nightscale and Mage Trial’s drama, and I didn’t think anyone had actually done it.

It had taken me a while to get right. I don’t have Zeno’s gift of words or Felegum’s acute ability to strike the right tone in a group, but my parents did instill in me a basic respect for the dead. And having a beloved relation just disappear and never come back seemed a much crueler mystery than a kind one.

To the family of Mage Sonard, Adventurer and Wizard:

It is with deep regret that I write you, both of the news I bear and my tardiness in delivering it. 

My companions and I were on an expedition outside of Greenrest, where you were perhaps aware Sonard had also been exploring. She and her compatriots had gone missing, out for much longer than they’d intended, and my group was tasked by the local mayor with investigating their disappearance. 

It is now my most unfortunate duty to inform you of her untimely death. I am sincerely sorry for your loss. Please rest assured that we buried her remains as well as those of her companions and held a respectful although modest funeral.

We have been hunting the entity we believe responsible for her murder, and our pursuits brought us to Paripas. I will not burden you with potentially unwelcome details here. If this missive is closure enough, then I will respectfully wish you comfort. If, however, you would like to meet in person and speak further, a letter will find me. 

With Sympathy, 

Sethandriel Ides, of the Sovereign Dungeoneering Company

Next on my to-do list as the responsible teen angel of death, I searched around for a temple to a god who liked kids, again stunned that all the streets were different from how I remembered them being last time. Eventually I found myself by a small temple to Lathander, god of rebirth and renewal. There had been shrines like this back home, columns with a pool in the center where supplicants made their wishes. No one else was present, no holy people or worshippers.

I knelt by the pool, then stood because kneeling didn’t feel right, then knelt again because standing didn’t feel right either. The water was calm and still, not that different from the shrines back home. I wet my lips.

“I’ve prayed to a lot of gods,” I said. “I don’t mean that in like, a braggy way, but more that I’ve asked more divinities than I can count for help and gotten nothing, so you know. That’s where I’m coming from.”

When I used to believe that gods cared about us, the things I’d prayed for had been endless. Food, water, money, a break from the constant fear and worry. More time to test possible cures. For anything, anything at all we tried to work. My parents and I asked and asked and nothing answered.

I watched friends and their families die, hands still clasped in an attitude of prayer. And if that was faith, waiting and waiting for no reply? Well, count me out.

There were only so many times I could beg and get ignored before I gave up asking. If no god would help me, then I’d bring back a goddamn miracle myself.

Faith was fine for other people. What I believed in was action, not relying on entities seen or unseen who were unreliable at best.

And that had been fine. Action had gotten me to Greenrest and kept me alive. It had worked. Until that cave of glittering stars, amber wings, and a broken lizard body knitting itself back together.

Until something actually answered back.

A single droplet splashed into the pool, startling me from my thoughts. I snapped out of it. I’d figured out this whole god thing a long while ago; no use rehashing it now.

“Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I’m not here asking about something for myself.” I pulled out the vial with Chip’s eyes. “This is all I have left of a kid who deserved a better chance than he got. I’m not going to dump these in your pool or anything, don’t worry. But if there’s anything you can do for him, please do it.”

Sometimes, the ritual is more important than the result. I’ve heard that one of the signs of intelligent species is that we have this innate need to bury our dead, give the endings ceremony and closure. Sometimes, that was all it was.

But sometimes, I truly did wish that something had the power to make all the shitty things in the world a little less shitty.

I uncorked the vial and left it by the pool and then, like a total chump, couldn’t remember if this was one of those shrines where you offered gold or food or whatever at. We’d tried praying to so many gods that they all blended together after a while. Hedging my bets, I took out a gold piece and gently nudged it forward toward the pool.

Nothing. No sign of acceptance or forboding.

I nudged it into the pool, where it disappeared into the water with a small plunk.

Still nothing.

“Well, okay,” I said. A whole lot of nothing, big surprise. “I’m out.”

I was almost at the exit when I stopped. I don’t know what made me turn back. Instinct, maybe. Luck. It’s the same as the impulse to duck into an alleyway to hide before you know you’re being pursued, the good favor of some unseen benefactor, a whisper in your ear saying hey, check this out.

I turned.

The eyes decomposed into dirt and soil, and then in rapid motion a plant sprouted, grew a sturdy little stalk, then a bud, then flowered for a moment before wilting and disintegrating. The vial was empty.

“Okay, cool,” I said softly, then turned to Kheryph on my shoulder. “Sorry. Next time I’ll try to find a place that actually has people who can fix you. Just hang on a little longer, buddy.”

The lizard plipped his tongue out as I was once again lost to the ravenous afternoon streets. In my travels, I came across a leatherworker who was willing to sell me some studded leathers, allowing me to still move as quickly as I was used to, but adding a layer of protection. I’d been envious of Helli’s improved armor for a while and it was nice to upgrade the wardrobe.

Kheryph and I were making faces at each other in the mirror when the shopkeep mentioned the setting sun offhandedly. I swore, paid, and took off at a run.

Weirdly, despite there being a giant tower I was looking for, I just could not find it. Such are the vagaries of city life. I ran in the right direction for a while, abruptly realized it was not, after all, the right direction, and then pulled out the piece of the cube I had on me, hopping on the broom and riding like the wind after the magical pull.

I arrived at the tower just in time and then had to sprint up twenty-one flights of stairs to the banquet room. I was sweaty and exhausted, and when one of our hosts showed us that the magical spigot on the wall could be used to call up any beverage, I got an ice-cold lemonade and shuddered with relief as I gulped it down. Like Zeno, who had gotten bitters and vermouth and some other thing, my drink came with a perfectly cylindrical ice cube.

Harry took a long, meaningful look at his ring, then at the spigot, sighed, and asked Felegum for help. They both got waters, but Felegum got his with a cucumber. Helli had mulled wine, and Lankin had a beer. Awk probably got something too, but I was so busy watching Lankin pile a mountain of bread onto his plate that I wasn’t paying attention.

“A wise old monk once said,” Harry waxed as Lankin strategized, “‘the bread is filler, go for the meats.'”

I absorbed this wisdom. “Yeah, that is exactly it, Harry.”

Lankin proceeded to decimate the buffet tables. When he took the last sausage off a plate, it refilled itself magically. I followed suit, stocking my plate with food, though skewing more toward the meaty side.

At last, Letitia hurried into the room, apologizing for her lateness. “Oh, where to start?” She said, harried.

“Sounds like you’ve had a busy day,” Felegum interjected, “enjoy your food first.”

This is exactly the kind of Felegum tact that I was talking about earlier. I don’t know how he has this stuff figured out, but he does.

Anyway, Letitia gratefully accepted, made herself a plate, and sat down as the sorcerer brought her up to speed on what we’d learned about the conduits, Durnen, and the dragonpriests. Letitia listened, then spoke of some of her own investigations into the matter. “They have several tablets in the Archives. You can inspect them in the morning.”

In short, what Letitia knew was that the conduits of life and death was that they formed a lattice to support a ritual that allowed the elder gods to transcend planes and enter the mortal world. From there, these gods could unify and cleanse the minds of dragons, which were individualistically minded as of right now.

“See!” Awk interjected. “I told you!”

Letitia sipped her wine. “Of course, if something like that were to happen, society it would crumble.”

“Ha!” Zeno rounded on Awk. “I told you!”

“We also don’t know,” Letitia continued, “if these gods would impose their will upon these dragons.”

A united force of dragons did not sound very great. The discussion went on: Letitia knew the locations of several conduits, one beneath the sea and one in a coastal city, where they’d been experiencing some delays in shipping lately.

“Look,” I said, “let’s not beat around the bush. It’s Csipherus, isn’t it?”

“Of course it’s Csipherus,” Letitia said. “That’s the only city that’s completely blocked off. Why do you ask?”

What followed was a long and somewhat tedious discussion of my home, the creeping plague that had struck it, how it affected most races but not aasimar, at least not me and not the one other aasimar I knew, how people were starving trying to find food, how my parents had tried and tried in their apothecary to find a cure, to find something that would make things better, and how nothing had worked. How the black market for panaceas, actual or only rumored, was ruthless.

How the only thing I’d had to go on for weeks was that the fix had to be something divine.

“And none of you have divine power. I have never seen anyone here commune with a god,” I said, well and done with being grilled. “Otherwise, I would have told you earlier.”

Letitia carefully blotted at her mouth with a napkin. “Gods are a crutch. Not all problems require divine intervention.”

I scoffed, because of course now the arcane practitioner would pipe up to assert that their magic was cool too, even though it hadn’t been able to fix the problem either.

Tired of being in the spotlight, I stalked back to the magic spigot and angrily filled up another lemonade. It tasted more like festivals and home and everything I couldn’t have, and I immediately regretted it.

Several envoys from the Mages’ Guild had been dispatched from Paripas to Csipherus and had not returned. Further, the trouble in Csipherus had only started after some initial tests had begun on the conduit there by the Guild.

Everything stopped. My ears rang and the room went deaf.

This had been someone’s fault. Someone did this.

The plague, the hunger, the endless death– all of it had happened because someone had fucked with something they should not have fucked with.

“Did Milto know about the conduits?” I said, coming back to myself, trying to keep my voice even.

“Yes,” Letitia said, “he did.”

So maybe he’d pulled out of the expeditions suspecting what would happen if the team continued their quest for knowledge. Guess we’d have to ask, I’d only spoken with him about panaceas and sickness in broad terms.

A coldness crept over me. Someone in the Guild had done this. Someone possibly Letitia.

Maybe no god would listen to me. Maybe it was too late to save my city if the dead were already walking. Maybe it really was hopeless.

But I still could find out who had started all this. I could have revenge. I had seen so, so much death, and here the magicians sat in comfortable scholarly distance, hands utterly clean of it. They had just wanted to know, the rational part of my mind said. Sometimes you make mistakes when you’re learning how something works. Sometimes you break things.

Maybe my city’s ruin had just been an honest, scholarly blunder.

I wanted to be calm and at the same time I wanted to tear this whole place to shreds. I concentrated on the lemonade, gripping the cup tightly.

The more Letitia spoke, the more we learned that her interest in the Aegis had been related to the conduits themselves. The Aegis was one of three artifacts– the other two were a spear and a rosarius– that could be used to control the conduits. Someone, probably Zeno or Felegum, brokered a deal with Letitia to collaborate on the conduits. She agreed and opened her private library to us so that we could read up on what she knew.

Awk was all ready to dive in and start researching and for a moment it seemed like Letitia might have regretted agreeing to this.

“He probably wants to know who he sold his soul to,” Harry observed.

“I,” Awk corrected, “have a warlock’s pact.”

“That’s very interesting,” Letitia said. “It could be useful, it could be dangerous.”

Probably both. It had more or less proven that already.

Awk wanted to go up to Letitia’s private library and dig in right away, but she had other matters to see to, and also possibly didn’t want to be bombarded by questions from an enthusiastic gnome, so she set us up with a study room in the tower– room 1223 on the twelfth floor– for us to research in if we wanted over the next four days. She also mentioned us taking rank in the Guild and told us to think about how we thought we could be of use and what we wanted.

What I really wanted.

Two paths unfurled before me: retribution, or sucking it up and trying to fix things. It was just too bad that one was right and the other was what I really wanted.

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