A wide arch flanked by two marble gargoyles marked the entrance into the city of Lievestrum. The smell of spiced herbs dipped in wine and potions wafted through the air. Many of the citizens walked around in standard wizard garb, a long flowing robe and a pointed hood, although Forte doubted that even one in three dozen of them had any sort of magical ability. A vast assortment of hats could be seen being worn. One young lady had a live kitten twirled around her pointed hat. The city was bustling and busy, and the shops around here were nothing like Forte had ever seen before. He saw fluorescent sign lights, powered by strange magic. He saw snacks and confectionaries levitating in the air briefly as a street cart pastry seller amused a client. The showmanship in this city was impressive, but he did not see any indications of powerful magic.
The caravan stopped in the middle of the city.
“Here’s 200 silvers for you Mister Hammerhead, and 230 silvers for you Mister Mott. Thanks for the work. Make sure to visit that brother of mine, Forte.” Eric Lockheed tipped his hood respectfully, and then departed.
“Well, ‘twas nice working with you Forte. Let me know if you need my help, and we can work together. For a price, of course. I’ll be here and about.” Horace said, before departing.
“Understood. It was nice working with you.” Forte smiled.
Forte set off to find the eccentric Phillip Lockheed. He sauntered down the crooked alleyways, dodging street vendors left and right and passing by all the fluorescent lights and enticing smells of the city of Lievestrum. He passed a whorehouse, where a pretty girl with long brown hair and hazel eyes latched onto his arm and whispered sweet nothings into his ear. Unfortunately, he had neither the time nor the money to spare, and had to bid the sweet young missus an early farewell. After much trekking, Forte Mott stopped in front of the so-called Mage Guild. It was a shabby affair, a tiny office so ridden with poverty that it looked like a slum in front of the majestically embroidered Merchant’s Guild office across the street. And in the middle of the street, between the impressive Merchant’s Guild and the nearly nonexistent Mage’s Guild, was Phillip Lockheed, vending potions and street wares. The man was dressed like a buffoon, with a long, droopy sorcerer’s hat, a white beard, and a blue flowing robe.
“I take that you’re Phillip Lockheed.” Forte said abruptly.
“Yes… yes… and beg your pardon? Who might you be.” Phillip replied.
“Your brother sent me. I’m Forte. Forte Mott.” Forte answered.
“Well Mister Mott, what can I do for you today? Care for a love potion? It’s twice as potent if you can get a strand of your love’s hair. Only fifteen silvers! Or how about a stamina potion for ten silvers? Although a boy like you, I’d think you wouldn’t need it! Maybe I could interest you in my specialty, a little potion of mine. Drink it, and your tongue will turn purple for an hour. Everything it touches will become purple as well. Amuse your friends! I have one last one in stock! And just ten silvers!” He said, chortling like a snake.
“Sorry Mister Lockheed, but I’m here to talk about your tome. The Origins of Dark Magic. I was your brother’s guard, and saw first hand when it was stolen from your brother on the trip here, under the most suspicious circumstances. A flurry of mice distracted us as the real bandit raided the caravan, stealing only that specific tome and nothing else. Seemed like an organized ambush, and the work of magic. Must have been. Do you have any idea who might want that tome of yours?” Forte said unwaveringly.
The grin vanished from Phillip’s face as he fell deep in thought. “Most suspicious indeed. That is a rare tome, The Origins of Dark Magic. Very few people still know of the dark arts, and fewer still have records, tomes and scrolls of such things. And that chap Bumbus Biggles owned one of the very last copies of The Origins. What a shame, what a shame indeed. I was looking forward to exploring the dark arts. For research purposes, obviously. Of course their practice has been banned.”
Forte racked his memory. Bumbus Biggles sounded awfully familiar. It was the elderly bespectacled mage who recognized his dragon as a black dragon, and who gave him his gravitite greatsword. He detested the sword initially, but it had grown on him. It did not function like a sword, more like a sword shaped mace. Useful for pummeling the internal organs out of his enemies.
Phillip stared uncomfortably long into Forte’s eyes. “You. You are no ordinary person. I can sense the magic in you.”
“I don’t understand what you mean Mister Lockheed.” Forte responded.
Phillip motioned towards Forte. “Come with me. Let me show you something.”
Forte reluctantly followed. They left the street cart and headed into the seedy looking Mage’s Guild. Phillip gave a small nod to the guard in the front, who let them in. They descended a staircase.
“Do you know why the dark arts are called such? Regular magic is a byproduct of the dark arts. The difference is that regular magic saps the stamina out of your body and limbs, while the dark arts… They take more. Performing dark magic requires life force. Only a little bit. But your soul is forever tainted. We don’t know much about the dark arts, but what we do know is just as interesting as it is disturbing. The current king has banned usage of the dark arts, but this has not always been the case. The ancient royal house of Motley-Sinclair was a heavy practitioner of the dark arts. It was their magic that pushed the beasts back into the wilderness, not just fire, as the history books would tell you.”
Forte nodded. He had read about the ancient family in fairy tales as a child. “So what happened to the family?”
“The family disappeared just as the beasts had disappeared. No one knows what happened to the ancient Motley-Sinclair line. They were known to have an affinity for fire magic, which is what allowed them to drive away even the most fearsome of beasts.” Phillip responded. “Ah. And we’re here.”
They had arrived at a ritual site, with six stone pillars of different beasts lined across a rune covered round stone slab. Each step they took echoed through the cavern. The pillars of the six stone beasts grinded to a turn and faced Forte.
Phillip’s voice began to echo. “I cordially invite you to join the Mage’s Guild as a Master.”
Forte laughed. “I accept.”