Choose Your Own Adventure 41.5: We Never Had This Conversation
Since the two votes for “third options” on the last post weren’t incompatible, let’s combine them — spy on the mage Alek Grescher before you meet, and then make sure he doesn’t remember talking to you.
After some discussion, you and the wizard Alek Grescher find a point where you can meet the next day — a rocky outcropping some distance from the road, the first sign of the rising hills further to the west. Alederik is further to the south and west from here, south of the mountains.
You use his own spell against him, with a few whispered words to reverse its direction. You don’t project your own image along it. Instead, you simply look around inside Alek’s wards. The image of himself he sent was clearly cleaned up. His clothes are noticeably stained from travel, and there are dark circles under his eyes. He has a small pack inside his wards, but no horse that you can see. He spends a while studying from a book filled with magical runes, although they are difficult for you to read through the firelight and the scrying link that he constructed. You don’t see him calling or meeting with anyone else.
You cut the link before he notices you.
You reach the rock first, of course. You have a horse, even those he was somewhat closer to the site. You tie up your stolen horse some distance away, then sneak around behind where you expect Alek will be coming from, covered by your best invisibility spell, and a second spell to dampen any sound you might make.
You find him easily enough. He has the back on his back, and is clutching the book to his side. He looks back and forth nervously as he goes. When he reaches the pile of rocks, he relaxes for a moment. You become visible and audible at exactly that moment, preventing him from preparing any additional spells to cast on you.
“Good morning,” you say drying, startling him.
He drops a monosyllabic expletive, then says, “They didn’t tell me you were that good.”
“If I wasn’t, I’d be dead by now,” you answer dryly. “What’s the book?”
“That’s the spell I was told to cast on you. I’m a specialist in lengthy protective spells, but-“
“The whole book is the spell?”
He shrugs. “Yes, although I was only ordered to cast it once.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s a weird spell. The same section, most of the book, has to be cast on two different people, with some bizarre specifications about how the two people must be associated. It requires that the person who goes into the canyon have betrayed the other somehow.”
“I’m not a traitor,” you hiss.
He raises his hands up and stands back. “Hey, I didn’t choose you. I was just following orders.”
You nod slowly. Following orders. You were following orders once… “Fine. What happens to the other one?”
“I’m not sure. It’s the most complex spell I’ve ever cast, and I’m still not sure what all the effects will be. It doesn’t look good.”
“Then let’s see you take it apart. And no funny business. I know the difference between antimagic and fireballs.”
“Yes, ma’am. Stand still.” He flips through the book, stops at a page near the beginning, and says a few words. Simple runes you recognize, for revealing hidden things. A more advanced version can be used to strip away invisibility spells. This one merely… causes a densely packed set of runes to appear all over your skin. They glow a dim, misty gray. You understand why Grescher found the spell disturbing — the runes you see most frequently repeated are those for power, force, death, loss, forgetfulness, and pain, among others. Of course, your temper is not helped by seeing them written on your skin, or knowing what must have been done to place them there.
Grescher starts walking in a circle around you, chanting slowly and precisely, while carefully drawing runes of nullification in the dirt around your feet. At first, nothing happens. Then the runes on your skin itch. Then they slowly turn an angry red. Then they start warming up.
He chants a bit more furiously. The runes on your skin respond by glowing more brightly and starting to burn. You have to move out of the circle and lob a small fireball at the wizard to force him to stop.
“Sorry,” he says, jumping back. “I thought it was working…”
“It wasn’t,” you reply. The runes on your skin have disappeared… except for the red marks left behind where they burned. A few words of your own is enough to banish them. Then you turn back to Grescher. “Show me that book.”
He finds a conveniently short rock, sits down, and opens it. He points, and says, “This is all the details of the setup for the spell here. Here’s the part where what I cast on you starts, and it goes nearly all the way through, to here. This symbol — the one pronounced like kadasnai — it appears everywhere, but it’s not one I ever learned…”
Something about the book itself, it worn edges and exaggerated calligraphy, triggers your memory. “Oblivion.”
“That symbol. It means oblivion. If you’re used to working defensive spells, that’s why you haven’t seen it. It’s a part of several particularly nasty and rarely-used destructive spells.”
Alek looks at you and gulps.
You continue on. “This book. Do they have copies?”
“I don’t know. This is the only one they gave me.”
“Good. Do you know where they got it?”
He frowns, and give you an awkward look. “I… they told me you had stolen it…”
After a pause, you add a few more words of your own. Alek only gets so far as, “What are you-” before you tap him on the back of the head and the spell knocks him conveniently unconscious. He’ll be out and asleep for several hours at least. You take part of that time inexpertly wiping his memory. Detailed messing with someone’s mind is not your strongest point, although you are able to smash through the mental defenses he has in place. When you’re done, you’re not sure how much you’ve removed. You might have erased as much as several days’ worth of memories. You may need to take precautions to prevent him from calling you again.
Before you leave, you look at the book more closely. The oblivion rune is imprinted into the front cover. Flipping through it, you remember… finding the book, dusty in a stack of other tomes. Fire. Fire licking up walls, consuming shelves of books visible through the window… just following orders.
Option 43: Well… you still feel sorry for the guy. A little. And if he gets found right away, he might still give away things that he knows. Dump him somewhere fairly safe, and cover him with a long-lasting invisibility spell and a ward. Then, on to Alederik.
Option 44: Upon reconsidering, leaving Alek alive to be found by the searchers — and perhaps forced to help kill you and recast the spell on someone else — is not appealing. Kill him, dispose of the body, and move on to Alederik.
Option 45: This is a mess. Hide Alek, and rather than going to Alederik to confront whoever was probably behind this mess, seek out more knowledgeable magical help elsewhere. Finding the library this book came from would be a good start.