Half Truths

4220
Blurb -
Striton, a young mage, unknowingly in the service of the king of Ortan, has stumbled through his research of forgotten lore, upon something massive that could lead him across the continent.
Something that all the kingdoms, empires and sultanates of the world will want.
something that could topple the mightiest empires, or build high the lowliest kingdoms.
But that something is somewhere between the darkest evils.
Hidden from the world, seemingly for good reason.
what will Striton do?

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1. Librum De Lore

Striton stood gazing over the gentle waves of the river Etin as they lapped against the shore, the evening sun reflecting lazily back at him from the inky surface. He wore his heavy travel cloak against the cold, knitted of thick wool and dyed to a deep Emerald colour. The thick wool easily protected him from the bitter winds swooping easterly from the sea. His mop of orange hair sat steady beneath the brim of the hooded cloak, slightly glowing in the waning light. Other than his hair, the hood hid his features from the dockland world, so far from where he belonged.

"I hate these dealings", he thought frustrated to himself, drawing his cloak closer against the cold. He'd much rather be curled up in the Arcanum centre with his scrolls and tomes spread open atop of his small desk in his cramped quarters.

"That's the kind of man I am, a scholar, a reader, a writer, sometimes a fool. But I am certainly not someone who meets with sea captains in the lesser docks of the city on the rumour of hidden books, trading his hard earned money for books that may or may not exist to complete his research."

But he was close, he could feel it.

This book would bring him to the end of another chapter of work and closer to finishing with this awful contract.

"Magic hasn't changed since the beginning", he thought, irritated at having to wait, "why I'm searching for some ancient forgotten magic is beyond me". Sighing, he turned to look further down the river docks, watching the boats sway slowly with the flow of the waves, basking in the dying light of the day. Striton had taken this contract out of necessity more than desire, not even knowing the contractor as they had sent a "steward" to contact him. This, on its own, suggested a noble mage, or some lord of the realm who wanted their identity to remain hidden, not uncommon with research that suggested something of this manner.

Striton leaned against a nearby sealed barrel, taking the weight off his aching feet and looking absently at the water flowing slowly downstream, away from the city.

"Magic, long forgotten by man, hidden in the depths of a faraway tomb, a new type, strong enough to topple empires" as the impatient steward had said, "money enough to buy a manor in the country".

That had sold Striton. He was fed up with the roaming life, searching for contracts to conduct research for the lazy and the stupid. All he wanted was to settle down and conduct research of his own.

"That steward never did say how much mone-", Striton was caught mid thought as the figure approached through the evening glaze, back to the sun.

Squinting with a hand shading his eyes against the sun, he watched the figure walk, or stumble, towards him. The figure turned into an older man, wrinkles of a lifetime of sunshine and sea spray sat covering every corner of his face, long greying hair set beneath a tight balaclava wrapped around his head. A scraggly beard with hints of golden brown flecked between the grey hairs, indicating this man to have most likely once had a fine golden mane and long luxurious beard. Alas, age had claimed that beauty, leaving a greying mess in its wake. One particular thing Striton noticed, however, was the piercing blue of his eyes, making Striton's own grey eyes look dull in comparison. They still held that youthful adventure hungry look that all sailors had when they set out to sea, a look holding the treasures of a sailor's life, something few would ever come close to, better yet obtain. The other thing Striton noticed about the mans eyes was the way they couldn't relax steadily in one place. They gently wandered around, following no particular pattern or direction, not too dissimilar from the mans attempt at walking. "Another drunkard hearing promise of money for answers", thought Striton sourly as the man staggered towards him.

"Hello there, are you my contact?" Striton called to the stumbling man.

The man paused, squinting over at where Striton stood. Focusing his eyes took a lot of effort, but eventually he took measure of Striton and attempted to stand straighter.

"Cap'n Gurin, at your service M'lord", the man slurred, "word on the docks is you 'ere is looking for one O' them books on times before the Empire, M'lord".

Striton nodded. "Do you have any such books with you, Captain Gurin?"

Captain Gurin looked puzzled, scratching his bearded chin with a single, bony digit. "Why else would I come, M'lord?" Striton struggled dealing with men of this manner, he thought them below his status.

"Because, Captain, I have dealt with dockhands before and know them to be... unsavoury", the last word rolling off his tongue with delicate precision to encourage the Captain to prove himself and his worth to Striton before money was spoken of. Striton had his ways of dealing with people, enabling them to show their wares or personal traits without realising they had done so.

"Do I look like a bleeding dockhand to you?"

Striton shrugged, shaking his head softly, "no, but they do come in all forms".

The sun had finally set behind the hills, leaving the pair stood in semi darkness as the waning light fled, leaving the weak moonlight to light their conversation. The Captain huffed, then belched loudly, continuing to stroke his beard. "Well, I might be having one of these books you want so badly, so prices M'lord, I'm in need of coin for drinking".

Striton sighed again, "I really should stop sighing, its becoming a habit". He reached inside his cloak and produced a small bag of coin which he jingled lightly at the Captain a few paces away. Striton watched the Captain's eyes go hungry for the coppers that rested inside the small velvet pouch. 

The Captain licked his lips, eyeing Striton with obvious greed, moving his hand without grace to his short sword hilt, revealed behind his long coat.

Striton kindled purple mage fire within his empty hand, the small glow illuminating the walls and barrels around him, causing the Captain to pause, removing his hand from the hilt, one finger at a time, possibly in an attempt to be subtle.

Purple was the colour of Necromantic magic, the magic of the dead. Used to convey with spirits, raise corpses, entrap demons and bind them to the mages will and to cause damage to a persons life through their soul.

Striton's personal magic was necromancy.

"Din't realise you was a Mage M'lord, apologies and all", he stuttered, waving his now free hands in front of him, not making eye contact, looking somewhere between Striton's legs.

"Please stop calling me your lord, I am no lord, nor am I highborn", Striton said, extinguishing the flame, plunging them into the murky evening darkness again. "Now, do you have any books or not?"

Striton was growing impatient with the man. He had spent too much time dealing with people who had no books he needed and were instead looking for easy coin from an idiot scholar with little knowledge of the underworld, but Striton was no such man.

The Captain kept muttering apologies as he drew a small leather bound tome from within his coat, passing it slowly to Striton's outstretched hand. Striton took the book, watching the Captain, then glanced down, gasping in shock.

The title read "Librum De Lore".

Striton's hands rolled over the surface of the book, stroking the bindings and thick brass clasp holding the book shut. It was ancient, older than any other book he had ever seen, or any book he had ever heard of. Even the original documentation of the castle in Ortan, the city which they stood in, wasn't this old. The only reason Striton knew this was because this was the oldest book ever written on magic, the oldest book possibly in the world, and also the only book Striton needed for his research, the book he had searched for months for. 

Hands shaking, he placed the book inside his cloak and tossed the purse of gold to the Captain, turning quickly and running back towards the Arcanum, this was the most important book he had ever come across and he needed to study it as soon as possible, it would finally finish his research and he could be free of this wretched contract. The Captain called something out behind him, probably cursing as the pouch hit the floor and scattered coins across the dock, but Striton was already lost in his mind, thinking about all the possibilities the book could contain, all the things he would do with the knowledge and the money.

Finally his luck was turning.

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