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Gearlan Chronicles
Book 1: Plight of the Magi
Jim Bowie (c) 2010
Chapter 1
first reunion, trouble in paradise
The man’s long, black cloak reached down to his feet, nearly blending him into the night.  It
was the trademark of the Gearlan guild, a group of mercenaries famous for their unique combat
style: devilishly fast swordplay with the assistance of the mystical arts.  Gearlan warriors,
often called spellblades, are known everywhere by their cloaks.  In some of the unfriendlier
neighborhoods, this often gave the Gearlan a chance to practice their skills and prove their
worth in front of a group of drunken tradesmen.  Unfortunately, the event usually ended with the
deaths of said tradesmen.  Fortunately, it helped to line the Gearlan’s pockets.  Not to mention
the hesitation from even the bravest of men when considering an act that goes against a
spellblade’s wishes.
Tonight, however, this mercenary was not looking for a fight.  The unknown spellblade walked
through the roads and alleyways of this small country town as if he belonged there, despite
appearances that led to the contrary.  If any of the citizens actually strayed in the streets at
this time of night, they would have stopped in their tracks in the sheer awe of his presence.
However, no one was in the streets on this night.  And even if any were there on that night, it
was the one day in the town’s history when they wouldn’t question him.
The figure stopped for a moment in front of the local tavern, the one building he had come
across that didn’t lack any signs of life.  Candlelight flickered brightly through every window
and the muffled gossip of the patrons could be heard from anywhere within the block.  The
mercenary glanced the all too familiar sign over the door, which read ‘The Silver Goblet’.  It
had faded over the years, but there was no mistaking it.  He was in the right place.
Thaze stepped inside and paused a moment for his eyes to adjust to the light.  In contrast to
the deathly silence outside, the inn was vibrant and lively; full of activity.  slowly lifting
his dark hood and uncovering his equally dark hair, the spellblade began to take in his
surroundings.
The room was about fifty feet square and housed a large number of guests of every ilk.  He
counted five serving girls desperately trying to serve the crowd of at least seventy.  Each of
the waitresses were blonde, female humans wearing tight-fitting clothing and the shortest skirts
imaginable.  Typical of a mostly human settlement.  Most of the patrons were humans as well, but
Thaze was shocked to see a large party of elven druids and a large table seated entirely with
dwarves.  It appears that the Goblet has more than it’s usual clientelle tonight.
The elves, all of which easily over six feet in height, were wearing the trademark green and
white robes of high clergy, the druidic order from the elven capital city itself, Laynoth.  None
had their hoods up, clearly displaying the trademark pointed ears for all to see.  They were
definitely legit.
The dwarves, on the other hand, seemed to be war-bred tradesmen.  They were dressed in keenly
worked armor, probably made themselves. The silver sheen was barely indistinguishable from the
color of their long, scraggly beards.  The Gearlan noticed that the girls working the croud
weren’t avoiding the dwarves as much as would be expected in an establishment like this.
Perhaps they appear more often than first thought?
“Can I help you, sir?”  Thaze was brought back from his subconcious to see one of the
waitresses staring at him, a quizzical look on her face.
“Of course.”  Thaze hesitated for a moment.  “I’ll simply have some ale.”  made another broad
sweep of the room with his eyes which did not go unnoticed my the server.
“Looking for someone, love?” the waitress inquired.
“Actually, yes.  Short fellow, around twenty-three years of age.  I believe he’s a regular
here.  Goes by the name of Ruari.”  At the mention of the name, a look of suprise flashed upon
the girl’s face, followed by one of confusion.
“You sure it’s our Ruari, love?  He doesn’t deal much with,” the waitress stopped for a
moment, considering how to word it.  “Your ilk.”  Thaze left it, knowing too well the prejudice
that his guild received in these parts.  There’s a reason why being a spellblade is a solitary
profession.
“Yes, I’m sure.”  Taking one last glance around and being unable to spot the man, he
continued.  “He’s an old friend of mine.  I was born here.  I heard this town was in a bit of
trouble, and I want to see what I can do to help.”
“Well I’ll be.  First a spellblade is old pals with our boy Ruari, and then he wants to take
on a job for free.  Well, I guess lightning can strike twice.”  Thaze smiled after the remark,
although the waitress seemed not to notice.
“Is he in?” Thaze said after a brief pause, almost impatiently.
“When is he not?”  Thaze smiled again.  “Ruari’s in his usual spot, over there by the
fireplace.”  She pointed over to the corner, where lone man sat at the table; his back to Thaze.
The man was just barely over five feet, short by human standards and yet still a foot taller
than the dwarves across the room.  He was clad in a simple shirt and trousers, nothing ornate on
his person other than his belt.  Thaze recognized it instantly as the man’s coming of age
present, and was suprised that it still fit.  Even when Thaze had left town, the man had never
taken it off.  It was embroidered in gold and held up a large array of pouches including two
sheathes for his set of twin daggers.  Judging solely by their uniform position, it was clear
that they weren’t just for ornamentation.
Thaze bade a quick thanks to the waitress and made his way to the corner of the room where
Ruari sat, choosing to take to the side wall and don his hood to avoid as little unwanted
attention as possible.  Passing the elven clergy, he entered the aura of warmth emitted by the
fireplace and sat down directly across from his childhood companion. Lost in his drink, the man
failed to notice the return of his former companion.
Thaze waited patiently for Ruari to look up.  The man’s long, brown hair draped over his eyes
and fell short around his neck.  The appearance of the Gearlan at his table filled him with such
shock that he lacked the motivation to push it back.  It wasn’t more than a few seconds before
dread evaporated into a feeling of distaste.
“What are you doing here, spellblade?  These damnable goblins got us in enough of a mess
without your lot parading about your false promises.”  Ruari was about to get up and leave his
reserved seat when the Gearlan removed his hood, revealing his face.  Ruari paused mid-step, the
color slowly began to return to his face.
“Tha-,” he stumbled upon his own words, “Thaze?  To the gods, how long has it been?  And
since when are you a Gearlan?”
“Five years, Ruari.  Left when we turned eighteen, remember?  It’s good to see you.”  Thaze
smiled, but Ruari still lacked a mental grasp on what he was seeing.
“But, but Thaze?  Why in the name of the Sacred are you a spellblade?”
“Heh, I thought you’d say that.  You know, we aren’t all that greedy.  There are more noble
among our order than common thieves.”
“If that’s the case, then what you be doing here, lad?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad you’ve
come.  But why?  Your home town lacks much to offer as of late.  Ilder is in trouble, lad.
Goblins everywhere, many of the folks have already fled.  Another month and I doubt you’ll have
a town to return to.”
“I know.  In fact, that’s why I’m here.”  Thaze paused as the waitress returned with Thaze’s
ale.  He tossed the girl a coin and then continued, taking pauses to drink in the nostalgia.  He
hadn’t had an ale that good for five years.
“You know why I left Ilder in the first place; I had a lead on what had happened to my
parents.”  Ruari rolled his eyes.
“You’re still on that, lad?  They died in a house fire when we were five, it was tragic, I
know, but it was innocent.  There wasn’t no conspiracy, lad.”
“Not as innocent as you think, but I’ll get to that eventually.  In any case, I became a
Gearlan partially for the extra training, partially for a means of living, but mostly because of
the access to information; again I’ll explain later but for now you need to tell me everything
you know about these goblins I’m here to kill.”
Ruari laughed heartily at this last sentence, so much so that Thaze became weary of the
attention of nearby tables, in particular the group of druids.  “That’s a hoot, lad,” Ruari
spurted out after gasping for air, “There’s got to be at least a couple hundred of ‘em.  A small
army of the things has been raiding Ilder for the past couple weeks.  I don’t care if you are a
Gearlan, there’s no way you could do it yourself lad.”
Looking around nervously, Thaze whispered, “Look, those elves over there are clergy, Laynoth
no less, and none too fond of the cloak on my back.  Chances are, about half of this room is
just waiting to pick a fight with me, no matter that I’m trying to save you all.  Those druids
can fight, and even I can’t take eight at once let alone some thirty others.  It’d be no use
talking sense into this lot, even if they knew I was born here.  Just keep it down, ok?”
Ruari nodded and began breathing regularly, finished with his bout of hysteria.  The elves
turned back to their table, and continued with hushed whispering amongst themselves.  Thaze gave
a sigh of relief and continued his own conversation, although both he and Ruari proceeded with
lower voices.
“Hundreds, you say?  I expected about twenty to thirty at most.”
“Then perhaps your news is old, lad.  They were numbered at thirty two weeks ago, and we had
sent a squad of militiamen to eradicate the lot of ‘em.  Not a single one of the poor souls
returned, and the next wave we had to deal with easily over a hundred slimy little bastards.
Only the Sacred knows what happened to ‘em, lad.”  Ruari paused, to chug the rest of his ale.
Thaze did the same, setting the empty mug on the table with nary a sound.
“I was there when the army first attacked, lad.  I’ve been stuck fending off their advances
with the militia for the last two weeks, me and the dwarves.”  He tilted his head in the
direction of the traders.  “Some good fighters, them.  They ran a smithy down south and were
heading to a trade show in Kandor when the first wave hit.  They made the sorry mistake of
staying the night in this place, too bad they didn’t get the chance to escape.  You may not have
been attacked on your way here, but their wagons full of supplies would be a target the goblins
wouldn’t miss on their life.”
“I was wondering why they were here.”  With an eye to the elves, Thaze asked, “Know their
story?”
“Not as well, I’m afraid.  Only some rumors, nothing to be certain.  Some say they’re
ambassadors of Laynoth, probably true if what you said is right.  Some say they’re on some kind
of pilgrimage to the ruins up north.  Either way, when they heard our predicament they
volunteered to stay in Ilder and tend to the wounded.  Some creepy folks, lad.  I don’t really
care for their teachings, but if it weren’t for their support Ilder would be no less than a pile
of rubble.”  Ruari paused, swallowing his pride.  “I would be dead by now.”
“Good,” Thaze said, pleased.  “I had hoped they were allies.  Still, it’s best not to provoke
druids.  I’ve heard tales where they’ll beat a person to near death for their ‘crimes’ only to
heal them in an instant and do it all over again ‘til their spirits break.  They may refuse to
kill a man, but they know how to do much worse than that.”
“Aye, lad.  But none of ‘em carry any weapons, not even the traditional quarterstaff.”  Ruari
paused to again brush the hair that had slowly crawled back in front of his eyes.  “They’re an
odd lot, I’d say.”
“Anyways, back to the subject at hand.  How well armed is this army?”
“Not well, lad.  The small ones like to run around with these painfully rusty daggers and
knives; the bigger ones charge in with spiked clubs.  Barely any armor, but they’re fast and
skilled dodgers.  Not a shaman among them that we’ve seen though, it looks like they don’t
really have any magic-users backing them up.”
“Well that’s good, no ranged attackers.  If those elves can find some bows, we could pick off
half their forces before the battle starts.”  Thaze was doubtful, however.  Although elves were
trained with swords and bows at an early age, druidic practice frowned upon the use of most
weaponry, including bows.  However, it wasn’t unheard of.
“Their leader, though lad.  That’s what we’re all worried about.”
“Why?  What’s he look like?”
“There’s the problem.  We’ve got no idea.  Not seem hide nor tail of anything resembling a
leader.  Some think he isn’t even a goblin.”
Thaze sighed, disappointed at the lack of this crucial information.  “Well, what do they
think then?”
“You’re not gonna like it, lad.”  Seeing his friend’s conviction, he continued.  “Some think
it’s a Gearlan.”
Thaze wasn’t fazed.  Not by a long shot.  His group didn’t exactly have an honorable
reputation.  “Are there any reasons why, or just rumors?”  Thaze’s inquiry was greeted with an
eerie silence.  The spellblade began to regret asking.
Ruari hesitated.  “Umm…”
“Tell me, damnit.  I need to hear it.”  By the time Thaze saw the shadow looming over him did he realize that he had raised his voice.  He had inadvertantly provoked a greeting from the Druids of Laynoth.
“I hope I wasn’t interrupting anything,” the elf began, speaking their language with a
struggle but still managing to find the exact words he was looking for, “but my group was
wondering what business a spellblade had in this small town, and if he could take it elsewhere.”
Although Ruari rushed to put one hand on each knife, Thaze knew enough of elven culture to
know that although this came out as a threat in their language, it was merely an inquiry
traditionally used to test the position of strangers during troubled times.  This is why, while
Ruari was caught in a state of panic, he looked even more foolish compared to the calm demeanor
shared between the spellblade and the druid.
“Well sir,” Thaze began in elven, making Ruari even more baffled, “I am here because this was
my hometown and I wish to protect it alongside my old friend, Ruari.  I wish not to cause
trouble and to clarify here and now that I am not leading these raids.  If I were, firstly I
would not appear here in person and secondly I would be killing you right now instead of
speaking in your own tongue.  I can also assure you that no Gearlan is involved in this as of
yet, as I had checked with my superiors on the matter before I had left Kandor.  I wish to aid
the town in any way I can, in an effort not only to preserve the safety of Ilder but to clear
the route as safe passage for traders and travelers.  I am sure that, like the dwarves, you are
eager to continue whatever business you had prior to the goblin attacks and would like to end
this battle as quickly as possible with as little casualties as possible.  I urge you to
consider my pledge of loyalty, as I am sure we both know that I am part of the solution to the
problem at hand.”
The elf, at first taken aback by the use of his own language, quickly regained his composure.
Switching into elven himself, he said, “I thank you for using the elven language and apologize
for however my greeting translates, as I see in the reaction of your friend.  I concur with your
logic on many points, but must confer with my companions before deciding on whether or not you
are worthy of my trust.”
“Noble elf, if you were to ask any of the long-standing residents I am certain that many will
recognize the name Thaze Thunderstaff and vouch for my trust.”
“Then we may just may ask some.  Farewell, Thaze Thunderstaff.”  With that, the elf bowed his
head, his blond locks draping down almost to the floor.  After Thaze returned the gesture, the
druid rejoined his table and began discussing the matter in hushed tones.  The spellblade turned
his head to see Ruari gazing eagerly, awaiting the tale of what has transpired.
“Relax, friend.  I simply told the elf what my business here was and asked if his group would
trust in my story, with the suggestion to ask my name around to those who may remember.”
Ruari was clearly displeased.  “Sure that’s grand, but when the hell did you gain the ability
to speak fluent elven, lad?”
“I had a few… missions in elven territory.  I spent close to three years in Laynoth.”
Yet again, Ruari was thrown back with suprise.  “Laynoth?  Ok, now I know you’re spreading
lies.  The elven capital?  humans aren’t allowed in that place.”
“Exactly.  One of the many reasons I needed contacts I could only get through Gearlan.”
“Right lad.  And my left boot turns into a yellow pig whenever I say the word ‘midget’.”
Ruari rolled his eyes.
“I’m serious, Ruari.  It isn’t like you don’t have any proof.”
“Aye lad, it’s just a bit too much to take in right now.  I mean, all I’ve done these past
five years is work, plus a little militia duty when a role will need to be replaced.  Nothing
but making knives for five long years.”
“Then it’s settled.”
“What is, lad?”
“When I leave here, on my way to wherever the clues lead me, you’re coming with.”
Ruari smiled, then nodded in silent agreement.  “Good to be back, lad.”
“Good to have you back.”
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  1. February 12, 2010 at 5:48 AM

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