“I am,” echoed the voice from within the closed helm.
The tall, lithe man gave a quizzical smile at the response. “Forgive me then,” he said rising from the table where he had been pouring over his maps in solitude. “I was unaware that the old seer had taken on a student at so venerable of an age. I only met him the once, and that was years ago.”
“Master Yir regarded you highly after that adventure,” said the calm voice of the armored man, “And that is why I am here seeking your aid.”
“If you seek training in arcana, I’m afraid that I don’t have the time for an apprentice,” Mankyn said while his cool eyes scrutinized the intricate detailing upon the armor’s surface. “By your looks alone I will offer you a bodyguard position, however. We are sadly shorthanded after the affair with the cockatrice…”
“I—, I may take you up on that,” the broad man replied after pausing to consider the offer, “But above all I need your help.” With its closed bevor and visor crafted to resemble a grotesque snarling face, the armor was poorly matched with the quiet throated voice within it.
Stocky and strongly built, Mankyn spied little else on the armored figure beyond a mace secured in its belt frog and a weathered cloak of ocher. “How might I help you?” the long haired man said moving confidently on the soft leather soles of his boots.
“I have witnessed a crime and know of a terrible plot in Zacia. The conspirators hunt me as we speak.”
Mankyn’s quizzical look returned with a tilt of his head, “I am hardly a magistrate my friend,” he said observing a touch of fresh rust on the fringes of the armor. “And the Prince of Zacia is all too eager to see me hang for my person to see you there without trouble. Perhaps you need someone else?”
“A great tragedy will unfold if the conspirators capture me. Master Yir instructed to only trust you in this matter.”
Mankyn came to a stop directly in front of the stranger. He was a thin but fit man approaching middle age and dressed in a fitted shirt, trousers, and suede waistcoat. Bringing a hand to his chin he pondered the man’s words, “What was the crime you witnessed?” he asked the visitor.
“The murder of master Yir,” echoed the soft voice.
“I see,” Mankyn said looming a brow taller than the stout, armored man. Without removing his eyes from the stranger, he suddenly stretched a long arm and hand out to his side. There was a clamor of steel as Mankyn’s sword flew from where it lay on his bureau, knocking quills and scroll cases asunder as it whipped into his palm from across the room. Thrusting the blade at the figure quicker than a viper, he stopped short of striking him. The point of the sword hovered at the breach of the visor’s slit where it cast an enchanted green luminescence over the helm’s surface.
The sorcerer’s intense grey eyes didn’t blink as he gazed at the grotesque face embossed on the closed helm. “Yir the Profound may have been a pompous curmudgeon, but he was also a friend and good man whose arcana were potent. Two months ago his library burned and not a soul within a mile of the flames lives to speak of what happened.” Mankyn glared at the armored figure behind the hair that had fallen over his face, “Tell me who you really are.”
The figure stood silent, arms at its side. Then there was a creak of metal as the visor unlocked and lifted itself without a hand touching it. It slowly revealed the vacant space within the helm where a head should have been. Once the visor was fully retracted, Mankyn observed a perfect sphere of silver metal floating at eye level within the helm. A palm’s breadth in diameter, it had moving longitudinal and latitudinal lines rippling across its mirrored surface. He recognized the orb at once.
“You are Yir’s scrying sphere,” Mankyn said lowering the tip of his weapon, “I knew that you were also an archive of arcana, but not that you were an object capable of will and action.”
“Two months ago master Yir gifted me with life,” the reflective orb said in a calm voice now free of the empty echo of the armor. “He used the fragment of unforged soul you obtained with him. I became aware just before he was murdered.”
The sphere floated noiselessly out from the armor which then sank to its knees, crumpling over like the empty shell that it truly was with a series of clangs. “Yir knew he was trapped in his sanctum and would soon lose his life,” the orb continued, “But he didn’t want me to fall into the hands of his killers. He told me that I was what they truly desired and instructed me to flee and find you.”
Mankyn’s posture relaxed as he ran the fingers of his free hand up and through his loose strands of hair, combing it back while the scrying sphere floated at head level nearby. “You certainly took your time in finding me,” he finally said with a sigh. “Rumors and speculation about your master reached me long before you did, bauble.”
“You are a difficult man to find, even with persistent clairvoyance and some precognition,” the orb retorted dryly. “One could think that you have a number of powerful enemies…”
A smirk parted the sorcerer’s lips. With the wide reach of his arm he extended the sword in his hand straight out to the side. The weapon’s scabbard came flying from an unknown corner of the dim room and threaded itself onto the blade with a snap. Mankyn gave the sheathed weapon a playful toss into the air and caught it by the midsection with his other hand. “I suppose the armor was an attempt at disguise?” he asked motioning the orb to follow him back towards the candlelit table.
“Sadly, I have learned that most view me as treasure to steal or an object to destroy,” the sphere said in the modest meter of its soft voice. “Traveling without concealment is far too conspicuous, even before considering my pursuers. Fortunately, my birth gave the knowledge of the arcana archived within me, and the sorcery to cast it. I have put the animation field to good use with the armor.”
Mankyn looked back at the orb, “Along with some levitation, I see.”
“Yes. I dislike rolling along on the ground.”
The thin man nodded as they reached the table. The sorcerer placed his sword on a pile of maps and parchment before he opened a palm and drew a bottle of mead to it from across the room. “I’d offer you some, bauble, but…” Mankyn let himself trail off as a wave from his hand sent the cork stopper flying into an unlit corner.
“No offence taken,” the sphere said as the constantly changing grid of longitude and latitude traveled across its mirrored surface. The lines collided, merged and separated at individual paces that seemed to be constantly adjusting.
The tall man took a deep draught from the bottle. “Is this the armor of one of Yir’s killers?” he asked a moment later.
“Yes,” the orb replied calmly. “He cornered me alone before I could escape the sanctum. I was still becoming accustomed to thought and motion.”
“How on earth did you ever defeat a Yaleish knight armored for tourney?” Mankyn said falling into his high backed wooden chair with the mead still in hand.
There was a brilliant flash of blue and the smell of ozone as arching electricity shot forth from the sphere. Pulsing light illuminated the room as the arced bolts struck a candlestick with crackling furry. A moment later it was over, and a smoking pile of spreading beeswax flowed across the wooden tabletop.
“I have found that arcana to be useful as well,” the scrying sphere said softly floating above the table.
Mankyn leaned forward in his chair and swept his papers away from the molten wax. “Useful indeed,” he said dryly.
His maps secured, the lithe man leaned back and let his elbows fall to the armrests on his seat. He took another drink while he and the orb pondered one another in the dim light of the remaining candles. At last Mankyn broke the silence as he raised the bottle in his hand, “Aeanna preserve us,” he said with a grin, “Tell me what we’re up against, Bauble.”
Copyright © 2014 Jason H. Abbott, All Rights Reserved.