Choose Your Own Adventure 45: A Little Lost
You choose to look for help outside of Alederik — ideally starting from the source of the dangerous spellbook.
You drag Alek the wizard next to a tree, and put a pair of concentric wards around him in addition to a long-lasting invisibility spell. It’ll be a while before he wakes up, and probably longer before anyone finds him.
You consider your options as you mount your stolen horse. You’ll need to work to stay ahead of the people looking for you. They will have people who can use something similar to Grescher’s trick to warn others to look for you, including in Alederik. Letting things cool off while you look for answers is a reasonable decision. But first, you need to know what direction to go.
You ride some distance further from the road, then stop to draw another ward around yourself. You take a seat in a clear spot, and skim through the book you “requisitioned” from Grescher. As he said, the entire text focuses on the method of casting the spell. You recognize nearly all of the runes, including those that appeared on your own skin.
The details of the casting of the spell also corroborate Grescher’s other claim: that two people must have the bulk of the spell cast on them, and that the one who betrays the other is to be cast into what the text calls the “mist of annihilation,” presumably that around Oblivion Canyon. As to its effects, there is little detail, and your limited recall of magical theory isn’t enough to predict the effect of the numerous runes to be used, chants and wards and methods of destroying the wards… no wonder it took days to cast.
But there is no clue as to its origins. Aside from Grescher’s impression that you had stolen it…
Alederik. Home. Home. The memory oozes with a sense of the familiar. A small house, but it is yours. The small, tidy garden has no large bushes to enable thieves or spies to sneak too close. The windows have heavy shutters, capable of keeping out both rain and mid-sized arrows. The door has a second latch, hidden inside its frame, preventing entry from outside unless one knows where to push. The rooms are spare, but you thought the money spent on your thick new carpet was worth it… a symbol of a successful public servant. But not too ostentatious.
A knock at the door. A messenger, again, summoning you to the palace for a meeting with his Imperial Majesty. Just like always. Home.
Your mind skips ahead, to a room you remember from before, with the same thick red carpet and upholstered chairs. You made your most serious oath here. And here again is Dleshan Kaev, your lord and emperor. He stands, but he taps nervously on the walls. “I need you to retrieve an item for me, which I believe is critical to the safety of the Empire.”
“Of course, my Emperor.”
He describes the text to you, its appearance, its dangers, that it is referenced in several other works. That it may also hold the key to a spell to ensure the Empire endures forever. The book you are now holding. It is kept in a monastic library, near the north-western mountains. A good place for preserving books — high and dry, and a safe distance from the greater cities repeatedly burned in conquest, and supported by a small nearby town.
You bow. “Yes, my Emperor. What shall I do with the town and the monastery?”
“The knowledge in that book could also be abused to destroy the empire. I dare not permit it to be known that we have found it. If you succeed in taking the book, burn everything else.”
“Yes, my Emperor.”
You read the book, sitting beside a campfire, the burning buildings still lingering on the breeze. Turning page after page… page after page, marked with pain and sorrow, destruction and death. Oblivion, oblivion…
The image of the map you consulted before you departed echoes in your mind even after the flashback ends. The implications of what the Emperor had you do… and what you may have done… spur you onward.
For the week or so you spend traveling northwest, you only need to avoid a couple of small groups of soldiers and one failed missive from the amnesiac wizard. It seems they were not expecting you to travel this way. You may have bought yourself some time. Regardless, you have also stolen or bartered for less suspicious clothing and other basic supplies.
Eventually, you reach it, after you cross the stream they call the River Shayev. The town of Zajez is near the banks, but not so close as to flood. The monastery is further up the hill.
Everything in the area has been burned to the ground. Given the current state of the ashes, you would estimate that it’s been several weeks, and no one has attempted to rebuild anything in that time. In amongst the fallen beams and scorched bricks, you can see a few things that might once have been human.
[In the event of sufficient excess free time, I’ll actually draw a map of the empire for you, maybe.]
Option 46: Eh, this is going to be a wild goose hunt. Turn back towards Alederik, where you’ll definitely be able to stir something up.
Option 47: Keep poking around here. Perhaps you’ll eventually come across someone who isn’t dead and can help.
Option 48: This is more than you want to deal with. Screw it, head for the eastern frontier and out of the Empire.