While there was light in the sky, Ziedon stopped occasionally to gather wild roots and herbs, which he would use to brew poisons, compresses or salves.
On the first night, Ziedon stopped at a farmhouse, and used his magic to secure one of the rooms for himself. Although the farmer and his family heard the strange noises coming from Ziedon's room as he experimented with magic, they knew better than to disturb the wealthy merchant.
Ziedon was practicing the use of a spell he had hardly ever used, which could create a mild force that could move around and manipulate objects. The spell had been created for use as a sort of magical servant, performing menial tasks for the wizard such as fetching objects and sweeping floors. Ziedon decided it had to be more useful than that. He discovered some of its limitations quickly. It could carry small objects, as expected, and it could pour a liquid from one container into another, but when he tried to make it carry an uncontained liquid, the liquid spread out in the air and spilled off the sides of the force. Several times, Ziedon tried making it carry a pinch of dust. Most of the time, the dust blew away pretty quickly. Only once did the magical force carry the dust to the far wall of the farmhouse he stayed at without losing all of it. It did a little better with a pinch of crushed herbs, losing only about half of it on the way to the wall. The servant could open unlocked and unstuck doors, but it could not slip through keyholes and open doors from the other side.
Ziedon then tested another of its limitations. He opened the room's shutters just a crack, and tried to get the servant to squeeze through. Having failed at that, he tested it on successively larger openings until he figured out that at minimum, it could compress itself into about a six inch cylinder. As a final test, Ziedon wanted to see whether it could climb walls. He gave it a copper coin, and watched as the coin reached to the ceiling. The ceiling was only seven feet high, however, so Ziedon tried again outside. Whether near the wall or not, the coin stopped at about eight feet. Over a rusty wheelbarrow, he managed to get the coin higher, so the force could climb on top of things. He did not have a ladder handy to test that to an extreme.
Late the next day, Ziedon encountered a wagon train going in the opposite direction, carrying two families of merchants and their cargo. He stopped his horse in front of them, and soon they too rolled to a halt.
Ziedon looked down at the merchants from his horse and said, “you there… What news from Maelbourg? Come now, speak up.”
The headmerchant smiled and ignored Ziedon's arrogant attitude. “The mines are doing well, and the cloth is some of the finest I've seen yet. Not to mention the music, which is always good, but there's not much trade in that. Looking for anything in particular?”
“Yes, yes… I've heard all sorts of talk about some sort of unrest, people being put in prison and the like. Very gouche. What do you know about that?”
The merchant laughed. “Maelbourg politics. Never could understand it. I imagine most of those Morenthians don't know what's going on either. So, two old customers had been locked up since my last visit, and two new customers were anxious to buy. All's fair in business.”
Ziedon frowned. “They don't triffle us foreigners with their domestic squabbles, do they?”
“Oh, I don't think they'll bother you… unless you're planning on making trouble. Any news of Dunweig, while we're passing around stories?”
“Dastardly deeds there. Murder and mayhem don't you know. A string of unexplained murders. Something about a man in black, definately a place to be on your toes.”
“Murder? What, were the townsmen fighting over fishing rights again? It's never come to murder before, but it was bound to happen eventually.”
Ziedon shook his head. “Townsmen? No, no… One was a butcher, one was the Master of the Baths; not sure about the others but no townsmen that I recall.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Who knows?”
“When that's a little disconcerting.”
His wife chipped in. “We could go back to Maelbourg.”
“Without anything to sell?”
“We could go back long enough to resupply, then go right to Huerten.”
“I don't know. That'll put us days behind on our route. We'll talk it over. Thanks for the warning,” he said to Ziedon.
“Oh,” Ziedon added, “and the final straw on the mule is the death of the merchant… what was his name… Willabourne, yes. That had the town up in arms. Dreadful place, good thing I was only passing through it. I would hate to have to spend time there. Oh, how far to Maelbourg from here?”
“I'd say a day and a half at most, if this weather holds up.”
Ziedon nodded his head. “Good travels to you.” Lightly spurring his mount, Ziedon continued on the road to Maelbourg. The couple continued to argue behind him.
The wagon train did eventually turn around, but Ziedon easily outdistanced them, and soon they were lost to sight.
Ziedon didn't find a convenient farmhouse until late that night. When he did, a little magic ensured him a place to sleep, even though he'd woken the farmer.
The next day, Ziedon encountered a lone horseman with a small covered cart, who told him that the roads to Maelbourg had just been closed, but he hadn't had time to find out why.
On the seventeenth, fairly late in the day, Ziedon met a pair of wagon-drivers with an enterage of six bodyguards. Ziedon got the impression that their cargo was valuable, though they would not say what it was. They did tell him that it had been very difficult to leave Maelbourg. The roads had been closed as a result of some problems in the town. Many townsmen had been imprisoned for no reason the drivers could fathom, and there was a struggle among those remaining as to who would control the town. There were even rumors of attacks against certain minor townsmen and officials.
That night, Ziedon stopped at a farmhouse about twelve miles from Maelbourg. Two farmers were opening the door before Ziedon finished knocking. The men had similar features, like brothers or cousins, though one was at least five years older and at least twenty pounds heavier. The older one looked to be in his early thirties. Both were well-built, with arms and legs that bulged out of proportion with the rest of their bodies. The older one's forehead glistened, and both men reeked of sweat. They had no doubt just recently come in after a long day's work.
Ziedon stood fast outside the door. “Excellent, you are home. I am on my way to Maelbourg and it is your good luck that I seek a room here for the night.”
“Our good luck?” asked the older farmer, laughing. Ziedon turned back to his horse to pull one of the lighter bags off it, while casting a spell. “Yes,” the farmer continued, no longer laughing. “I suppose it is. Let me get that for you.”
“What sort of gibberish is that?” asked the younger, as Ziedon began his second enchantment. “You'd think he was trying to cast some sort of spell… No matter. We have a spare room, and you're welcome to it.”
Turning back with an exasperated look, Ziedon said, “now, now. My bags aren't going to bring themselves in, and my horse needs to be unsaddled, rubbed down and fed. Let's get a move on. Chop chop. If you don't hurry, how are you going to have time to get my dinner ready for me?”
“Good point,” the younger farmer said. “We should probably get going. Dinner's already cooking, and you can take some if it's ready.”
Ziedon shooed the two farmers into action with a few waves of his hand, then entered the house and treated himself to the best seat. Once his new hosts had taken care of his horse, he had them wait on his desires.
After dinner, the older farmer stood up. “I've got to head off to town to replace a few tools. I should be back before morning. Meanwhile, my brother will make sure you have everything you need.”
“Yes, yes, that is fine. It would do me good to hear talk from the town. Ask around and find out what the latest rumors and talk are in the town before you return and let me know in the morning when you bring me my breakfast.”
That evening, Ziedon looked over the pages of his spellbook, making notes about how to adjust his enchantment to affect emotions instead of rational thought. Then he took the straw bed by the fire, and went to sleep.
Ziedon woke late at night to the sound of the front door opening. He got out of bed, drew a dagger and held it behind his back, then opened the door to his room and looked out. “It is about time you returned,” he said. “What news?”
The farmer was surprised, and hastilly stepped inside and partially closed the door. “No news. I just had to pick up a few things,” he said, though he was carrying nothing.
Ziedon frowned, with a look at the farmer's empty hands. “What things? Or did you pick up some people?”
“Oh, skip it,” said a gruff voice from behind the farmer. The door was pushed open, and the man who entered had to duck to get inside. He was at least seven feet tall, and, though his legs were like sticks, the girth of his chest and shoulders showed that he must have been quite imposing in his day. Even now, the fifty-year-old giant looked like he could take on two or three younger men in a fight, with or without the long sword sheathed at his waist. His eyes and mouth were wrinkled, not in the way of excessive smiling, but not so much the opposite either, and his head was bald except for a rim of gray along the back and sides, a pair of thick gray sideburns, and a pair of equally thick eyebrows that still had a bit of black in them. He peered down at the mage from a distance. “Are you Ziedon?”
“Am I 'Ziedon?' How rude. You are certainly company of these folk; no manners whatsoever.” Ziedon sighed and then ticked off two fingers. “First you introduce yourself, then you state your business. Then I _might_ entertain the thought of gracing you with further conversation.”
The large man smiled. “Alright. My name is Uflendol, and I'm here to take you to Maelbourg. Now, are you Ziedon?”
“Uflendol, is it? Well Uflendol, who exactly sent you here to get this 'Ziedon' character, and why do you think I am him?”
His smile quickly dropped. “Look. It's too early in the morning to play games. I know who you are. Now if you want to make things easy on yourself, you'll come along without a fight.”
Ziedon replied, “hmm, Okay then,” and then threw the dagger, mostly to distract Uflendol while he cast a spell he hadn't used since his apprenticeship. The dagger missed, but, as the giant rushed him and Ziedon stepped out of the way, he was able to continue his spell. Even after all this time the words flew quickly from his lips. Uflendol turned and swung a fist, but missed unexpectedly, producing and almost imperceptible shimmer in Ziedon's magical armor. At the last word, a blast of multicolored light shot forward from Ziedon's outstretched hand, enveloping Uflendol.
The giant cried out in shock, and frantically rubbed his eyes and shook his head, trying to restore his vision and relieve the sudden pain. The spell had all but immobilized him.
“It's a warlock,” the older farmer whispered from the side. The younger farmer drew a dagger of his own and threw it. Although it tore a layer of Ziedon's shirt, it drew no blood.
Disregarding two quick plans, Ziedon decided simply to put the man down. He drew his second blade and stabbed his dagger straight at Ulfendol, keeping his wrist loose so he could power the blade with his arm. Luck alone kept Ulfendol safe, when Ziedon stumbled over a loose floorboard and stabbed harmlessly in the air to the man's left. The giant barely noticed the missed attack.
The older farmer called out “Get a torch! A warlock can only be harmed by fire!” His superstitious brother dashed from the room, obeying without hesitation.
On his second attack, Ziedon managed to hit, but Ulfendol's sudden, responsive twitch minimized the damage. Even blind, and stunned by the colored lights, the man had a fighter's instincts. A few seconds later, he removed his hands from his eyes and blinked once or twice, though it was clear that his mind was still trying to recover from the shock.
As Ziedon pulled his blade free, he chanted the words to a well-used spell. His hands glowed an eerie blue. He tried to touch Ulfendol with his hand, but by this point, his other spell had worn off and the man was able to step back. His no longer blinded eyes were open wide, and focused intently on the effects of Ziedon's magic. “Galgewe didn't warn me about this,” he said, drew his sword and lunged. The weapon struck true, digging deep into Ziedon's gut and nearly knocking the wizard to the floor. The wound was so severe that Ziedon could not yet feel any pain, though he could see the blood rushing from his wound.
Placing his glowing hand over his wound to staunch the flow of blood, Ziedon dodged Uflendol's blade as best as he could while chanting a third time. He poured all of his energy and strength into making the spell, which could very well have been his last spell, as strong and focused as he could. With his final word, another blast of color sprayed out from Ziedon's hand, immersing Ulfendol and the nearby farmer. Ulfendol cried out in frustration as his hands shot up to rub the afterimage out of his eyes. The farmer could not even cry out. He collapsed helplessly to the floor.
Then the younger farmer returned to the room with a torch. He lunged at Ziedon, who failed to dodge due to his pain. Fortunately his magical armor shimmered at the touch of the fire, and kept it at a safe distance. The farmer was shocked.
Chanting quickly, Ziedon cast a spell of persuation on the young farmer. “Help!” Ziedon called to the now impressionable man. “He is trying to kill me!” Ziedon mentally held his breath, sending out a silent prayer that his magics would take hold. To hedge his bets, Ziedon lurched to the side, putting Ulfendol between himself and the young farmer.
“What?” the younger farmer asked. “Of course he's trying to kill you!” He looked suspiciously at his torch and lunged again. This time, Ziedon was able to step out of the way. He lunged a third time, and again was resisted by the necromancer's shell of magic. “What are you?” he asked.
Ulfendol blinked his eyes, still struggling with the afterimages of the light but no longer blind, and tried unsuccessfully to locate Ziedon. Ziedon lashed out at him from behind, drawing some of the giant's strength into the ether. The combination of pain and weakness jolted Ulfendol out of his stunned state, and he swung around to face Ziedon. The younger farmer tried one more time to burn Ziedon, and hit the shimmering force again. He took a step back, not knowing what to do.
Quickly running out of options, Ziedon quickly chanted the words to his last spell of persuation, targeting Ulfendol. He silently hoped that the loss of physical strength would have an additional effect upon Ulfendol and allow Ziedon to bring him under his control. Ziedon said again, “he is trying to kill me!” in the hopes that his spell would find fertile ground on Ulfendol's mind and that his sword arm would be put to good use on the farmer and not Ziedon.
“I don't want to kill you,” Ulfendol said, apparently unaffected. “Just come along to Maelbourg –” he dropped his sword and rushed at Ziedon – “and there won't be any more trouble.” Ziedon was able to step out of the way, but couldn't hit Ulfendol with his glowing hand as he passed. Ulfendol then grabbed Ziedon with both his giant arms, but Ziedon was able to squirm free. That left his own arms free to complete the motions of another spell. Just as his hand started to dim, it brightened again, and this time, Ulfendol was so close that he couldn't avoid Ziedon's draining touch. He gasped in pain, and his massive arms drooped slightly as their weight suddenly became more difficult to hold up.
The older farmer groaned from the floor. The younger looked at Ziedon, then his brother, and decided to set down his torch and drag his brother to a safer part of the room.
“I could use some help here,” Ulfendol said when he saw what the farmer was doing. He then tried to grab Ziedon again, but Ziedon struck his hand as it was coming for him, and Ulfendol jerked it back. This time, there was no obvious loss of strength, but Ulfendol's face became pale, and he suffered greatly from injuries that he couldn't locate on his body.
The young farmer got up, hesitated a moment, then ran into the battle, hopping over his torch. Fending off both men at once was too much for Ziedon, and the farmer managed to grab Ziedon and hold his arms, then hit him hard with a thrust of his knee. Ziedon was barely able to stand, with this recent injury combined with the bleeding hole in his belly. Somehow, he gathered up enough strength to tear his arm free and grasp the farmer's side, sending a powerful chill up and down his body and expending the spell. A look of shock came over the farmer's face as his blood cooled and receeded, leaving him as white as fine porcelain. He slowly released Ziedon and slid, twitching uncontrollably, to the floor.
“I don't know what the hell that was,” Ulfendol said, looking at Ziedon's dimming hand, “but it's gone now. Give up while you can.” In response, Ziedon took a step back and tried to throw his dagger point- blank, but Ulfendol swiped at his arm and sent the the weapon flying into a roof-beam. “Frankly, I don't know how you're still standing.”
As Ulfendol came forward, Ziedon quickly searched out the most likely place he could do debilitating damage, and struck the giant in the neck with his elbow. Ulfendol staggered back, coughing and choking.
Ziedon feigned a stagger and followed up with another intentional debilitating attack. Ulfendol was ready by this time though. He put his left arm up to block Ziedon's blow, and then hit the wizard flat in the nose with his right. After all his previous injuries, the bloody nose and shaken head were more than enough to drop Ziedon to the floor.
Ziedon went up in level! HP: +2, for a total of 12. BaB: +1. Saves: +1 Will. Skills: Ziedon can distribute six skill points. Spells per day: 1st, 2nd. Spells: Ziedon now knows Invisibility. He can't prepare it until he has time to write it down. Please select your spell to learn for level five. It may be a 1st-3rd level spell. Bonus: As a level 4 character, Ziedon can add one point to any attribute.