Disclaimer (Because I will forget): I own nothing, except for the ideas and any characters or concepts that haven't been seen before.
Author's Notes: This was never supposed to happen. But, after getting some kind and constructive reviews on my last work, The Cartographer, and dealing with a moody muse for my own projects, I figured I would take a foray into one of my favorite fandoms again.
Aside from that, the random reviews chiming in on my phone while I was at work gave me the warm-fuzzies, and they were a pleasant surprise.
On a textual note, this is a follow-up to The Cartographer. I was tempted to add this to that file, but I thought that it works better as a standalone. If anyone has any suggestions, please, speak up.
Also, I really appreciate constructive reviews. I like to call myself a Journeyman Wordsmith, so any help will be gladly accepted and returned.
And now, enough chat. I humbly give you…
Walking the World
Thank you for the most recent package you sent me. The map you drew up of North Eastern Angara, the areas around Bilibin, and Morgal is superb. It will be added to your collection that is being stored in my basement as soon as Ivan is done with it. I'm honored that you've chosen me as your archivist.
I have to wonder, though, what was up with the latest carrier you sent? Is the weather really rough enough over there to need an owl for safe passage?
Since we're in an ongoing exchange of information, I have some news that you might be interested in. Matthew, Tyrell, and Karis have recently embarked on a journey to Morgal to retrieve a feather from the Mountain Roc. It's dangerous, yes, but necessary. Tyrell accidentally destroyed Ivan's Soarwing in a fit of clumsiness. He probably didn't think, or simply didn't understand the severity of our current time.
More Psynergy Vortices are appearing, as you've probably noticed. I need to investigate the ruins of Mount Aleph to be certain of my theories and to get clarification about what's happening The answers lie in the heart of Sol Sanctum, I know it. But, I need the Soarwing to get there, and I can't leave my post.
Although the world is growing rougher, I believe that the children are capable of this journey. They were supposed to meet with Kraden at Carver's Camp for guidance on their journey, but there were complications…I've recently heard from Kraden that they were permanently separated at the Konpa Ruins by both a massive Psynergy Vortex and a gang of Tuaparang operatives. Kraden is trapped to the North, while Matthew was given no choice but to head South. We still don't know all of the information, but you may want to backtrack at some point and redraw your maps of the mountains.
Kraden is actually close to where you're at now, andiIs with his apprentice (and Mia's daughter) Nowell . The two of them are en route to Belinsk. Her brother, Rief, was stranded to the south with Matthew. If you can meet up with Kraden, he should be able to better explain the details.
Before I close this letter, Piers, I have another request to ask of you. Please, keep your eyes open for any sign, any hint, of Felix. With the possibility of another Mourning Moon, I need to have everyone accounted for.
If you find him, please make sure he doesn't go astray again.
Thank you, and I wish you the best of luck.
It was a rumor that brought Piers to the rainy, rural town of Taal. Talk amongst merchants and travelers in the nearby Border Town, the literal boundary between Morgal and the now prosperous country of Bilibin, spoke of hikers becoming lost in the mountains that lay just beyond. When they returned—if they returned—they acted as if nothing happened. The only one that returned with any memory was ill from the trek, and unwilling to speak. He's fairy-ridden, the people whispered. Stay away or you will be too.
Piers was never superstitious. Wary, yes. Even ill-informed on occasion. But never superstitious. His experiences on his travels both solo, alongside of Felix's band and, later, Isaac's, made Piers wonder if there wasn't something else that was causing the hikers to disappear. As Kraden would push them to consider, there had to be a rational explanation for the phenomenon. It was only with his gut instincts that Piers paid Taal a visit, otherwise it was barely large enough for more than a passing mention in his quest to map the newly changed Weyard.
The settlement of Taal itself was small, and the population poor. Despite its proximity to Border Town, its location in the foothills of the mountain range that separated the icy northern reaches from the rest of Angara meant that the soil was rocky and tightly packed. The amount of rain the town received annually made the soil too soggy for many crops. Even potatoes and root vegetables, which were able to grow almost anywhere, were difficult to coax into a viable harvest.
The farmers and villagers were fortunate for their location near the border. In times of peace, the citizens could make some money off of travelers between the two countries. Even when the political climate edged into a storm, with Bilibin and Morgal on unfriendly terms and the former completely locked down, the residents of Border Town were more than willing to help the neighboring village.
Even with trouble looming in every shadow and crevice, it warmed Piers' heart to see that strangers still had the capacity to be kind to one another.
"Hey, Piers," a small voice chirped in his ear. Spring, one of the two djinn he kept with him along his travels, and one of his oldest companions, sprung itself from his shoulder and on top of the letter which rested on the desk. It looked up at him with wide, yellow eyes. "If Kraden and Nowell are on their way to Belinsk, shouldn't we get going too? We might miss them otherwise."
"I don't think we need to worry about that," Shade chimed in, still sitting on Piers' shoulder. "Kraden was very old when we met him, and, even with Nowell, I don't think they're going to get there before we do once we finish here."
"I don't know," Spring said, tilting its head as it spoke. "Kraden moved pretty quick back then, and he was exposed to the Sun too. I don't think he's aged anymore than the rest of us."
Shade waved its clawed tail, accepting the comment in silence.
Piers gently pushed the djinni off of the letter and folded it, placing it with the rest of his meager belongings. He didn't want the letter from Isaac to get lost before it was time to move on. "The news about Nowell and Kraden just means we need to make this quick," Piers said, choosing his words carefully. "As much as I'm interested in the strange stories that come out of this town, meeting with Kraden might be more pressing. If Isaac is worried enough to send little Matthew on this quest for the Mountain Roc's feather, that means that he's figured out something potentially dangerous.
"I don't know much about this Tuaparang either, but if they're going around collapsing caverns, that means that they have something at stake in this business too. "
Frequent appearances of Psynergy Vortices, some of which are bigger than any that had been seen before. Interference by mysterious parties. Strange happenings around the ruins of Mount Aleph. Piers chuckled softly to himself. It sounded almost like the old days.
"We'll stay here for a day, maybe two, and then we'll catch up with Kraden in Belinsk. We're heading there anyway because our ship is docked at its port. And, we're almost done with mapping Morgal. Since we couldn't get into Bilibin, that means we're done with this continent for now.
"If we don't meet with Kraden now, we might not have another opportunity for a long while. And, I don't know about you two, but I want to help Isaac as much as I can."
Shade looked up at the Water Adept. "That means finding Felix," it said gravely. The three agents of Mercury fell silent for a second.
"That wasn't a new request," Piers said at length, "I was looking for signs of him anyway."
He couldn't pinpoint when he made that decision, but it felt inevitable. Since his first adventure outside of Lemuria, the drive to travel and explore had become inexplicably intertwined with the stoic companionship of the Earth Adept. His calm manner in diffusing most situations that fate threw at their band and his method of planning their next action included more than just their piece of existence was an anchor for Piers. He had come to rely upon his leader's foresight.
The two djinn looked up at him in attentive silence. He quirked an eyebrow at them. "Did you think I started chasing rumors and fairy tales for any other reason?"
"I didn't even try to understand it," Shade admitted, "but now, I think I do."
"I just thought that your being separated from other humans made you daft." Spring giggled at its announcement.
A knock on the door stopped Piers before he could respond.
"Mr. Map Maker?" Piers recognized the voice as the kindly old Innkeeper. "Dinner's ready downstairs if you want to join me."
"Thank you, Ma'am," Piers said. With a gesture of his hand, the two djinn he had been conversing with vanished from sight, invisible to the rest of the world even if Piers felt their continued presence at the edges of his mind. "I'll be down in a moment."
Downstairs in the common area of Taal's Inn and only Tavern the old woman that ran the establishment was making the final placements at the table. Since the village was so small, she offered Piers a spot at her table for dinner. She was a kind, sprightly old woman that insisted on being called Aunt Anne and, after Piers heard about how she struggled to keep the establishment going in the wake of her husband's death not even a year ago, he understood her desire for company.
"Wasn't there one more person, Ma'am?" He asked her when he entered and noticed that the wooden table was only set for two. Even though he only arrived earlier that afternoon, he swore that he saw another guest at the Inn passing silently through. A slim, pale individual with long brown hair and a serious demeanor.
Anne tutted as she sat down. "Bion? Don't worry about him. He does what he does. I don't think anyone understands him besides the wife of our Chief. And I thought I already told you, Mr. Map Maker, to call me Aunt Anne. Everyone around here does."
Piers smiled. "And I already told you to call me Piers," He said.
"That makes us even, then." She smiled in return as she plated his dinner—a hearty stew with pork, vegetables, and pickled cabbage in a rich broth. Piers wondered for a moment if her marriage was characterized by similar episodes of repartee.
"What did you mean when you said that Bion 'does what he does?' Isn't he a visitor too? " Piers asked, stepping back to the topic at hand. He took a bite of the stew as he puzzled over the meaning, and enjoyed the goodness of a home cooked meal.
The old woman busied herself with her meal as well. "Bion is a visitor, yes, but he's become something of a long-term resident. All I really know about him is that he's polite and very lost, and that he works closely with the Chief's wife. Besides that, it's hard to say. He keeps to himself.
"But enough about the other guests. What about yourself? What brings you to our humble little town?"
Piers answered, and told her of his self-imposed quest to map the world since the upheaval that started thirty years ago, carefully leaving out his own part in the events and any mention of the rumors around Border Town.
Aunt Anne looked at him with eyes alit with curiosity. "Do you happen to have any of those maps with you?" She asked, "Because I'm curious to see the changes myself."
"I left most of them on my ship, which is at port in Beinsk," Piers confessed, "And they are just copies. The originals I've been sending to a good friend that lives near Kalay for safe keeping. But, I do have a copy of the most recent one in my room. Did you want me to get it?"
Piers obliged, and politely excused himself to retrieve the copy of the map he recently sent to Isaac. He mounted the stairs, ignoring the chatter of the two djinn in the back of his mind. His thoughts were focused on Aunt Anne, and the quiet pride he felt in his work.
The thoughts halted when he entered the room.
Sitting on his bed was the slim young man he had been asking Aunt Anne about.
"Bion," Piers murmured.
The young man looked at Piers, brows furrowed. "You're early," Bion commented in a husky voice. "I expected you to stay down there a while longer, and for Auntie to at least make you stay for her bread pudding. "
Piers discreetly closed the door behind him, keeping as quiet as possible so as to not alert their host, and pointedly didn't look at the broadsword which was sitting in the opposite corner. Silently, he told the two djinn to be ready in case something happened. "And I didn't expect to find you until tomorrow," Piers said in return, keeping himself against the door. "Since I heard you were also a visitor, I was planning to ask you a few questions."
"About that," Bion said lightly, standing. He clasped his hands casually behind his back as he spoke. "I'm going to have to ask you to leave first thing in the morning."
Piers stiffened at the request, understanding it as less a matter of politeness and more as an order. "And if I refuse?"
"That's not an option."
Bion was on top of him in a second, with a knife in hand that glinted in the lamplight.
A/N (Again): I really like constructive reviews. If you see some kind of problem with information, grammar, or narrative structure, please let me know.