Crevelti stood before Adrian and two other magickers at the front of a large round room, holding in his arm a platter of fresh fruit that Abi had prepared for him. He munched on his snack as his eyes looked over each of his students in turn. Each of them knelt on the ground, with a long glass tube held vertically in their hands. At the bottom of the glass tube Crevelti had placed a heavy metal marble. His students were instructed to move the marble from the bottom of the glass tube to the top. Each of his pupils now muttered the ancient words of the Elves furiously, their heads bent in concentration. Adrian's marble struggled to climb its tube, but he kept his own with Crevelti's other two apprentices. They were much older than Adrian, rivaling Crevelti in age.
Like Crevelti, the older of his students had dedicated their lives to the art of magic. Theirs were the culmination of decades of hard work, meditation, and an indomitable curiosity and drive. And then there was some natural talent here too, Crevelti thought as he looked at Adrian.
Each of the marbles was about halfway up the tubes now, with Adrian slightly lagging behind. His brow was raised with concentration and frustration. Crevelti tossed a grape at his head. His marble quivered as he scrunched his brow. Crevelti pelted a second grape at Adrian's face and the marble began to sink. Adrian ground his teeth. A third grape bounced off his forehead and the marble dropped heavily to the ground. Adrian looked up angrily at Crevelti.
"Concentrate!" Crevelti scolded.
"How am I supposed to concentrate with you throwing fruit at me?"
"If the time should come that you must defend the realm, the enemy will not be throwing grapes at you. They will be shooting arrows and swinging swords. Let me assure you, my young apprentice, those are significantly more distracting than the autumn harvest," Crevelti replied, tossing a grape into his mouth. By this time, Crevelti's two apprentices had popped the marbles from the top of their tubes, and sat back, breathing heavily. "Times are changing fast," Crevelti said. "In my own lifetime, I have seen metal worked in ways I would have never dreamed as a child. Where once armor and swords were crafted came cogs and gears and all sorts of bits and pieces to run new inventions. Ships that row themselves, steam-powered cranes, and who knows what is just around the corner? Do you know why you have such a difficult time moving a little metal sphere up a little glass tube, Adrian?"
Adrian shook his head.
"Magic manipulates numina, and numina is what makes up the natural world. Each part of everything in this universe is natural, but more and more man creates things for himself, melting and combining nature to become his own twisted creation. This creation of man's isn't nature, it is something of his own doing. That's why it's called man made.
"The marbles are made of steel, a mixture of metals that cannot occur naturally. You find it difficult to move the marble because it is altered by human hands, changed fundamentally. You must learn to adapt in the same way."
"So what does that have to do with your throwing grapes at my face?" Adrian asked. Crevelti stroked his bearded chin.
"I don't rightly know," the old magicker admitted. "Concentrate, I suppose? Yes, you must concentrate! Ignore the world around you, focus only on the numina flowing through your body!"
"That's not why you threw those," Adrian said indignantly.
"Who's the teacher here, you or me?" Crevelti asked with a smile on his face. They heard the sound of clumsy iron boots and turned to find a pair of soldiers in the doorway.
"Court Magicker, sir, we've need of you in the provincial jail," one of the guards said.
"The provincial jail? I'm Court Magicker to the crown, my friend. I tend to the realm and the kingdom, not the province. That's Lord Varon's charge."
"I recognize that, sir, and we wouldn't normally come calling you, but…" the soldier faltered. "We've got someone in the jail claiming to know you. He says he won't quiet down until he's spoken to you. He's making such a ruckus like you wouldn't believe."
"And you believed him? He's probably just mad. Or desperate. Or both," Crevelti figured.
"Perhaps, but… he mentioned something about you being in Ridgewood recently. How could a madman have known that? I didn't even know that, until I spoke with your manservant."
Crevelti stroked his beard and looked at Adrian. Crevelti could see in his eyes the same thoughts that dwelled in Crevelti's mind. Could it be that Evlein was in the Amber City? The notion that the young boy had not only journeyed to Rhosven, but done something to get himself thrown in jail, was in equal parts unbelievable and troubling. Crevelti motioned for Adrian to follow him as he crossed the room, saying, "This concludes our lesson for the day. Boros, Quinn, I expect to find you two in meditation on my return." The two older magickers nodded obligingly and bent their heads as Crevelti left the room.
There palace bailey was still dark as they crossed it. The sun had no yet reached above the mountains to touch down on the entrance to the Amber Palace, yet the cocks had crowed and the bells had tolled, ringing in a new morning in Rhosven. Crevelti tottered closer to one of the guards, struggling to keep his pace. "When did my friend arrive?"
"We caught him brawling last night. He drew a sword in a bar down in the Boroughs," the soldier replied. Curious. Evlein had not seemed to Crevelti the type to use a blade. Not all magickers were like Crevelti, though. Some used a blade just as well as their magic powers, he thought, looking to Adrian.
The provincial cells were in the second district. The palace dungeons, buried deep within the mountains, safe from any escape attempts, were saved for captives with titles or power and enemies of the realm. All the other scum the guards scraped from the underbelly of the city were thrown in the provincial jails to dry, and when they were sober they paid the fine and were released back into the city. Generally, such petty affairs were taken to Lord Varon, the master of the mountain valley province, but this was a special case, obviously.
As they passed through the palace gates into the third district, Crevelti began to sort the thoughts that crowded his troubled mind. What business did Evlein have in the Amber City's prison? Perhaps his friend Liam had taken him down the wrong path. Friends were a powerful and dangerous influence. From Crevelti's experience, Liam seemed rash and thoughtless, just the type to lead a budding magicker astray.
They reached the provincial jail after a long walk to the first district. Crevelti could hear yelling as the guards slid open the heavy metal doors to the jail. Inside, everything was either stone or metal. The cells were carved directly into the mountain, solid rock on one side preventing escape. Their footsteps echoed through the jail as they descended a flight of metal stairs. The yelling grew louder and more recognizable as Crevelti and Adrian drew closer. The voice was familiar, but it was not Evlein's. "This is ridiculous! You have to let me out of here! Go get Crevelti, he'll vouch for me! Hey!" The voice shouted. "I'm talking to you!"
They reached the bottom of the stairs and stopped before Liam's cell. He stood at the front of small space, his fists clenched against the metal bars. His anger became relief as he saw the old magicker had come to visit him. "Crevelti!" Liam sighed with relief. "Court Magicker Crevelti! Boy, am I glad to see you. Get me out of here, will you?"
Crevelti stared into Liam's face. The boy had had a sleepless night, and a long journey before that. Without breaking his gaze Crevelti asked the guards Liam's crimes.
"Liam of Ridgewood has been charged with drunkenness, disorderly conduct, and baring a blade in a private venue." The guard read from a parchment. Crevelti locked his eyes to Liams.
"This isn't the first time you've let alcohol blur your judgment, is it, Liam?" Crevelti asked the boy. "What are you doing in the Amber City in the first?"
"It's a long story," said Liam.
"Is it worth me paying your fee to hear your story?"
"It depends on how much the fee is," Liam replied honestly. Crevelti chuckled and turned to the guard.
"I want this boy released and all his possessions returned to him. The Royal Treasury will pay all the necessary fees."
After much internal deliberation, the guard shrugged and unlocked the heavy metal door on Liam's cell. Liam was excited as he sprinted up the metal stairs a free man. Crevelti followed behind the rest, his old bones creaking with exertion. Liam's effects were returned to him as they exited the building. He took his red-bladed sword and slid it into the scabbard he had tied attached to his belt. "I paid for your freedom," Crevelti told him. "Now you had best began to explain yourself. How did you end up in jail. Better yet, how is it you've come to the Amber City at all?"
Liam faltered. He tried to form the words in his mind and on his tongue, but they would not come. "I'm not the best person to explain it," he finally replied. He turned and started off down the street. Adrian rushed after him.
"Where are you going?"
"I'm taking you to Durant. He'll be able to tell you the whole story."
Liam led them at an uncomfortably quick pace through the streets of the Borough until they came to a house that seemed ready to tip over. He pounded on the door with the bottom of his fist. Heavy steps on wood could be heard from inside the house.
"Liam?" The sayer from Ridgewood appeared in the doorway. His eyes looked past Liam to Crevelti and Adrian, and his expression grew dire. "Claire told us what happened. You ought to be ashamed," Father Durant said to Liam.
"Is that Liam? I'm going to teach you some common sense, young man…" a young woman whom Crevelti did not know appeared beside Father Durant, marching toward Liam. Her marched dissolved as she too saw the magickers at the threshold.
"Good morning, madame," Crevelti said, giving a quick bow. He gestured toward Liam. "I believe this belongs to you. May I come in?"
"By all means, Court Magicker," Father Durant said, beckoning him in. Crevelti and Adrian stepped into a dimly lit hallway. As Durant shut the door behind them, they heard a voice come from the next room. It was a warm female voice.
"Is that Liam? Oh, is he alright?" A beautiful young girl with flowing blonde hair came hurriedly from the next room. She wore a long, thin off-white dress with a sash around her waist. She looked to be about the same age as Adrian. Her glittering blue eyes grew wide to the sight of Crevelti. A fourth voice came from up the stairs, asking about Liam. It was a voice Crevelti recognized quite well. The old magicker looked up to find Evlein at the top of the stairwell, stock still.
"Hello, Evlein," Crevelti said softly. Evlein bowed his head at the Court Magicker. All eyes were on Crevelti, he noted as he looked about. Durant bade he and Adrian into the sitting room, where chairs were positioned in the most peculiar of positions. Durant sat as the rest of the household filed in and found a seat. "Welcome to Rhosven," he said, instigating the conversation. "How long have you been in the Amber City?"
"Long enough for Liam to get arrested," the young woman said. "So not long."
"We arrived just yesterday," Father Durant said. "Court Magicker, this is Risa, sister and guardian of Evlein."
"And what brought you to Rhosven?" Crevelti asked. Durant looked at Risa, who shrugged, then to Liam. Liam shook his head, but Durant turned back to Crevelti with an answer.
"We've come to secure passage to the far north," Durant explained. "We had planned to begin a search for a vessel today, until Claire told us that Liam had been arrested."
"The far north? The place with all the ice and snow and biting cold? I've been there once. I would not recommend it."
"Well, this isn't exactly a pleasure pilgrimage." Durant faltered. He was holding something back, Crevelti could see it. There was more to be uncovered here.
"What business do you have in such a forsaken place as the far north?" Crevelti prompted. Risa leaned over and whispered into Durant's ear. Her voice was too low for Crevelti's ears, but he read the words on her lips like letters in a book. He can help. The magicker leaned back in his chair and awaited an answer to this riddle. Durant looked at him and for a while sat thoughtfully.
"It's a long story," Durant warned him, but Crevelti replied that he had the time. "What do you know of Islesh's Prophecies?"
For the next ten minutes Durant recounted his tale for Crevelti. The Court Magicker listened in silence as the sayer explained the Fourth Prophecy, and how the Angel King Niphus had spoken to them through Evlein. Durant introduced Claire, the blond haired girl whom the Immortals chose to reconnect them with the mortal world and stave off the coming darkness, and Crevelti's eyes fell on Claire. The old magician had his share of unbelievable tales, but never had he heard a story quite like the one the sayer from Ridgewood shared. Crevelti found himself quietly doubting the validity of their claims, until Liam showed him Aedromina's gift: Arobene, the sword that heralded the coming of the Third Age, sitting in front of Crevelti the whole conversation. Durant told Crevelti how the Giant mother had told them to visit the Dwarves in the far north, and he shared his hopes of finding a crew to take them to the Dwarven halls at the top of the world. Finally Durant fell quiet, awaiting Crevelti's judgment. Crevelti strained to his feet and dropped to his knees as gracefully as he could before Claire. He whispered, "I am honored to be in the presence of the one who will save our world."
Claire blushed red and gave him a quiet thank you.
"These are grave tidings you have given me today, Father Durant, Claire, all of you, but they are also joyful tidings. I study the arcane, therefore I have little knowledge in the affairs of the Immortals, but salvation sounds as pleasant to me as it does to anyone. I know that the darkness that is destined to creep into our lives will be repelled by the Immortals, and now I know who I have to thank for that."
"I haven't even done anything yet," Claire said in a quiet voice. Crevelti creaked to his feet.
"But you will," he assured. "My mentor was a mindeye, a seer of events yet to come. If he taught me anything, it is that there are things in this life that are certain beyond a doubt. If there is anything you require of me, Claire of Ridgewood, do not hesitate to ask."
"We could use a ship," she suggested sheepishly.
This time it was Adrian who spoke. "You shall have the finest sailors the kingdom has to offer," he said. Liam raised a brow. Crevelti shared a small smile with himself. My apprentice is just as excited as I am, the magicker thought. He has not seen the evils that crawl this earth as I have, yet he knows full well the good that can come from this. Only good can come from it. "You shall have the fastest ship in the fleet. And we will throw you a feast. A dinner and a dance in the Amber Palace, held in your honor."
"That sounds great," Liam said, sounding skeptical. "But how do you plan to convince the King to hold a feast in his halls for a complete stranger?"
Adrian smirked. "I'm confident the King will listen to endorsement from his Court Magicker… and his son."
A secret for a secret, Crevelti thought. Crevelti watched the puzzled expressions crack the riddle that had been laid before them, and their eyes grew wide with wonder. Crevelti could not help but grin. "Claire, chosen one of the Immortals, I would like to introduce you to the firstborn son and heir of his majesty the king, Prince Adrian Braime."