The Shackled City
Why the sham is this shamming monkey following me around?!
Something of a thief, less of a fighter, Zare is a wizard at heart.
My name is Zare. I can’t remember my last name, but Smith has a familiar ring to it. Much of my past is more a jumble of memories that don’t seem quite right, but this is the best I can come up with to make everything fit together.
I grew up on a small farm edging a forest in foothills that bordered orc territory. My father died before my birth and my mother died giving birth to my sister, Emilee. My older brother Jesua, Emilee and I were raised by our paternal grandfather, Berthold. Life was pleasant growing up, but my grandfather seemed to treat me a bit colder than my siblings. I am not sure why this was, though I suspected it was because I never quite carried my weight around the farm.
My mind was always wandering to the neighboring elves that lived in the forest. They had the life; much more interesting anyway than the life of a simple farmer. Their history was filled with magic and conflict, knowledge that I had no thanks to my disapproving grandfather. Not so far into the forest was a grove where the elves would gather to tell stories of magic and battle. I would sneak there as regularly as I could, taking care to maintain silence and invisibility as I was well aware that the elves had keen senses but I didn’t know what they would do if they discovered a human boy intruding on their gathering.
The speaker, an elder and powerful wizard named Mandalay, was one of the most powerful speakers I had ever witnessed. It was easy to get my head caught up in the clouds thinking that I could wield powerful magic too when listening to someone like him.
My grandfather died shortly after my eleventh birthday after suffering with Filth Fever for nearly a year. A plague was going through the area but only the elderly seemed to get the worst of it. Jesua, at only 16 years of age, had no choice but to take over as the family patriarch. My brother demanded I help around the farm like my grandfather did but was more tolerant of my tendency to stray. I was free to seek out the elven grove a bit more often.
One day, after arriving at the grove and finding it deserted, I came out from hiding to play as though slinging spells at overwhelming forces. I ran and jumped and swung my arms about in arcane gestures I’d seen Mandalay mime. My play came to an abrupt end though when a voice interrupted me. It was Mandalay.
Seeming more amused than anything, the wizard told me that my intrusions had never gone unnoticed. They knew I was on my way before even stepping into the forest but they saw no harm in a child observing them, so they allowed it. Mandalay could see how strong my interest in magic was, so he offered to teach me a bit. Unfortunately, after many months of instruction, I showed no skill whatsoever for the arcane arts.
After my instruction ended I would continue to make the trip to the grove, though less often. On one such trip I discovered a smooth birch stick on the ground. Taking it up, I wielded it like a wand, waving it about and shouting various arcane sounding words. I didn’t expect anything to happen, so, when a small spout of flame erupted from the tip, it came as quite the surprise. Immediately, I ran off, wand in hand. After that I began finding more “lost” items, minor wands and scrolls, on subsequent trips that I would take to practice with. If Berthold were still alive he would label me a thief for sure!
Five years later, an orc uprising swept across the land. They were tired of humans encroaching on their land and sought to take it back. Farm after farm they raided, leaving families slain or scattered, and mine was not immune. Jesua and I returned home one day to find the house burning and Emilee nearly slain. My brother ran off to track down the culprits leaving me to care for our sister. He never returned.
For days I searched but found no sign of him other than the scene of a battle. A dead orc, various orc parts, and the empty scabbard of my brother’s sword were all I could find. Searching for the elves to ask for help proved fruitless as well for the uprising had either wiped them out or sent them into hiding. Eventually I had no choice but to set my family’s affairs in order before continuing the search.
After a month, with the farm and my house destroyed, I was able to set Emilee up to live with Jesua’s fiancé and her family. They offered me a place with them as well, but I declined. The farming life never suited me and besides, Jesua was still out there somewhere; he had to be. My life would be one for the elves to someday tell tales of, full of adventure and magic. So, being nearly of age anyway, I said farewell to my beloved Emilee and set out into the world with nothing but a patchwork sack of clothes, an old filleting knife, and a few “lost” scrolls and minor wands, and if the Gods be willing, maybe I will find my lost brother.
The past couple years are a complete blur. A few nightmarish images pop into my head every so often but they have no context. They are more the kind of things that wake me in the middle of the night sweating from a sound sleep.
Not all the images are horrifying though. Sometimes an image of my friends pops up, but I have no names to associate with the faces. I would probably recognize them if I saw them on the street but I do not know if there is even a chance of that.
I carry with me some pages of ancient parchment. I do not know what the pages are or how I came by them, but I am quite certain they are important. I feel an instinctual drive to keep them safe and hidden. In fact, the last memory I have is of Don (the one face I can put a name to) over me telling me to keep the pages safe and then disappearing into thin air.