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Twinsoul: The Road


BEvandel walked down the cobbled road north, from Vainemar towards Shae’Ildarae. He measured his steps with a tall staff, topped with a crystal, as was the fashion for a sorcerer’s staff. The hand that held the staff, his left hand, bore the traditional bracer and hand wrappings, but his right was unadorned, showing clearly the azure symbol of Taelri on its back. His blue and white traveling clothes were dusty and worn from the road, and his long sorcerer’s cloak brushed the path behind him as he made his way.

Despite his long journey, his light, unusually tall half-elven frame still bespoke a measure of energy in his stride. His short, messy blonde hair reflected the length of his journey, and his ocean blue eyes reflected a mind distracted by worry.

His boots and staff clacked upon the stones of the path, a sound the half-elf had come to loathe. He knew the road would eventually become a dirt path, and that was what he was waiting for. Cobblestones were easier to walk on, but earthen paths had much more character. Evandel could see footprints in dirt roads, and that gave them a past, a history that told those that walked them to take comfort, for others had come this way as well. The road’s transition also marked that he was again in Shae’Ildarae, his homeland. It had been a long four years since he started studying magic at Solreth, the wizard academy, and the newly ordained sorcerer was looking forward to seeing his home, family, and friends again.

Along the way, the half-elf contemplated what he had learned in the human city. It had been startling indeed when he found that his best friend, Bargo Tramas, was not at the address Bargo had sent to Evandel while he was at Solreth. It had been strange that Evandel had learned that he had moved from home to go to Vainemar, the capital city of the country of Valora, when he could have studied or trained under any instructors just as good at Fisathvanna, the elven city. What worried him the most was that he had not heard anything from Deida Laiken or Zaken Ryts, his other close friends. Deida was the only human girl Evandel’s age living in Tyhal when they were growing up, so she had a harder time than most gaining the respect of her peers. Evandel estimated that she earned this when she had defeated the strongest boy in the village at single combat without getting hit once or even drawing blood. Before that, her only friends had been Evandel, Bargo, and Zaken, who were outcasts themselves. Half-elves don’t tend to get along well with normal elves for the most part, and Bargo had been bereft of an aura, the inner magic latent in all things, since Evandel had known him.

Zaken was an orphan, like Evandel, and on top of that, he was born with the tail of a devil, or at least that was what was said about it. The tail did seem rather fiendish, long and red with a sharp looking, arrowhead shaped tip, but it seemed to Evandel that such a tail could not be found on a nicer person. He did have an impish sense of humor and an affinity for shadowy magic, but those who knew Zaken truly knew that looks could be deceiving.

It was not due to Evandel’s lack of trying that he lost touch with his friends. At least once a month for the past four years, the sorcerer had sent letters to his mother, giving her his latest news and asking for Deida and Bargo’s whereabouts. He and Bargo had kept in touch for about two years, until he had apparently moved to Vainemar. Then, about a month ago, Evandel received a letter from Bargo saying that he had moved and that he was continuing training at Vainemar. Evandel had sent him a reply, asking what he was doing, but still no songspirit, the extra-planar message carriers of Kayledon, had come to him with a letter.

It was less of a mystery as to why he could not contact Zaken; Evandel knew that the young man had left to go treasure hunting. Despite his considerable intellect and talent for aura manipulation, Zaken had no intention of following Evandel and applying to Solreth. He had expressed early and often that he wanted to see all of Kayledon, and that he wanted to become an adventurer. Evandel guessed that when all of his friends seemed to be moving on, Zaken had finally given in to the call of the road. The half-elf had no way to pin down the wanderer, so he could not correspond with him; even songspirits had their limits. He lost touch with Zaken not for lack of correspondence, but because correspondence was impossible. Evandel sincerely believed that he had little chance of ever seeing Zaken again; treasure hunting was a dangerous job, even with Zaken’s considerable talent. Even if he did survive his work, he had to come home in the first place.

Deida seemed to have simply disappeared from the face of the earth when Evandel left. His foster mother, with her ability to locate others’ auras, could not get a hold of her. Evandel worried that she had run off in secret to some distant place, despite the fact that she loved Tyhal and the Elderwoods. He felt that such an act was against her nature, and there was no evidence to point at that particular outcome. Still, he had a feeling that there was some secret that she was keeping, something that would drive her to silence for four years. Her plans when Evandel had left had been to stay in the village, and become part of the militia. Someone was not telling him the entire truth, and that bothered him.

His staff touched an uneven spot on the road, jarring him from his thoughts. He cast his eyes down briefly, still keeping his stride. He smiled softly as his feet stepped onto the dirt path at the end of the cobblestone road. Down the road, he could see the tree line of the Elderwoods. In less than a day, he would be home. Perhaps, by the Festival of Dawn’s Blessing, he would find his answers.

Evandel’s pace relaxed considerably when he began his approach to Tyhal from Fisathvanna. After a night in the Elven city and a day spent in Vainemar a week ago, Evandel cringed at the thought of being in a city for any longer. He greatly appreciated the simple, friendlier atmosphere of the Treehome village. It seemed as though no one outside of Solreth had any patience for a half-elf, even a sorcerer. At least at Tyhal he had family and people who knew him.

His mind still lingered on the state of his friends’ whereabouts. He hoped that he would see them at the festival, but he was quickly realizing that such a dream was a childish one. If his friends had indeed left home, most likely it would have been for good. He had already prepared himself for this mentally, and wished his friends well in whatever endeavors they would take on. Still the thought that he would not see them again was a distracting one.

He was almost distracted enough that he nearly missed the darting shadows in the trees.

Evandel slowed down, readying his staff and concentrating on the surrounding elements. His magical training allowed him to sense the presence of other auras and their Principle element, whether it was one of the four natural elements: earth, water, fire, or air, or if it was a higher element, light or darkness. Very few people had light or darkness as their Principle, but some creatures had naturally occurring higher Principles.

He could sense an abundance of earth and water, the usual combination for a fertile forest. Every now and then he glimpsed an air aura as a bird flew overhead, but there was one concentrated aura of darkness hiding among the trees. When he used his eyes, he could not see anyone or anything, but his aura sense was certain that a dark aura was among the trees.

While darkness did not necessarily mean good or evil, Evandel decided to take the initiative. He held his staff in both hands, and the crystal tip began to glow brightly. His eyes flashed with blue energy, and he concentrated on the water in the air, in the earth, and in the trees. When he found enough, he started bringing it toward him. He willed the moisture to gather in the air together in a tight spot, not thick enough for ice, but dense enough to make a strong impact. In less than a few seconds, a globe of water no bigger than his fist floated in front of him.

“You’re very good at hiding yourself, whoever you are,” Evandel said aloud. “However, you cannot hide for long from a sorcerer!” With a wave of his staff he sent the globe streaking through the air toward the dark aura.

His target must have been expecting his move, because it dove behind a tree at the last   moment. He changed the globe’s trajectory at the last second, blasting it into the side of the tree and splintering the wood.

“Whoa, now,” the dark aura spoke in a male voice Evandel clearly recognized. “I’m not going to ask how you even saw me, but that’s not a very friendly greeting.” The man stepped out from behind the tree, dropping its invisibility aura. Evandel could see him clearly now. The man had black hair cut short and straight, much like the dark clothes he was wearing. He was at least a head shorter than Evandel, and his gait spoke of confidence and experience. His eyes were pale blue with a silvery sheen to them, which had always reminded Evandel of a hazy, winter sky. His features were sharp, with high cheekbones and pointed nose and chin, giving him a sinister look. His skin was darker than that of a normal human’s, as though he had spent a great deal of time on the road.

There were two things that gave him away. The first was his smile. That disarming, roguish grin was something Evandel remembered very well from his youth. That smile meant trouble, and at the same time it meant his near future was going to be eventful. 

The second thing was the long red tail that swished behind him.

“Is that how you say hello to a friend you haven’t seen in four years?” Zaken asked him, his grin broadening.

“By the Five Stars!” Evandel exclaimed happily. “I thought you would have left for good!” He came closer and extended his hand, which was promptly shaken, then drawn closer for a friendly hug.

“You know me better, Ev,” Zaken said. “Nothing could keep me from coming back to my hole in the wall. I may be an adventurer now, but I’m not one to forget my roots—or my friends for that matter! I thought you would have become powerful,” he said, glancing back at   the cracked tree, “but I wasn’t expecting that much.”

“Your power has grown as well,” Evandel said, slightly embarrassed. “Your concealing magic is almost perfect. I’ve only seen a Solreth master perform better.”

Zaken exaggerated a bow. “To be praised by a sorcerer of Solreth for my meager magic is truly an honor. I consider it no more than a survival skill. Truly, what you do is real magic. Not many people can splinter wood with water!”

Evandel smiled sheepishly, now truly embarrassed. “I don’t suppose you were going to stay for the festival?”

“Honestly, I will stay until I am kicked out,” Zaken said, and his eyes became thoughtful. “I’ve seen a lot lately, and I need some time to think.”

Evandel eyed him curiously, but the adventurer shook his head. “Now is not the time for such things. Come now; let’s walk home together. There, you’ll tell me of your time in Solreth, and I’ll share a tale or two of my own.” 

On the walk back, Evandel had to suppress his urge to barrage his friend with a torrent of questions. He wanted to know so much about the other lands of Kayledon, but he didn’t want to press Zaken until they were in more comfortable surroundings. They had all week to catch up with each other, so Evandel contented himself with the notion that he would be able to spend the festival with at least one of his friends.

It then occurred to him to ask Zaken if he had seen anything of Deida or Bargo in his travels. When he asked, Zaken looked at him curiously.

“What do you mean, where have they been?” Zaken echoed. “Didn’t you know?”

“Well, Bargo has been in Vainemar, but I heard nothing of Deida since I left,” Evandel answered. 

“They’re both at the village,” Zaken said simply. “You can ask them when we get there.”

Evandel’s eyes went wide in surprise. “How do you know?”

“I’ve already been back there. In fact, the only reason I was out today was to escort you from Fisathvanna.”

Now Evandel could not stop himself. “What have they been doing? Why don’t they return my songspirits? Where did Deida go that my mother couldn’t reach her? By the Five Stars, why didn’t they tell me they would be here?”

Zaken started laughing, and Evandel halted his tirade. “What’s so funny?”

“You ask like we meant to ignore you,” Zaken said after his laughter subsided. “We never meant to alarm you, friend. We’ve all been busy, you not the least of all.”

“I . . . I’m sorry,” Evandel said, feeling like a fool. “I just didn’t think correspondence would be so erratic with everyone heading off on their own.”

“I’ll let Bargo and Deida plead their cases, but you must know that I travel a lot, and the songspirits need a specific location for delivering messages.”

“You could have sent one to me,” Evandel pointed out.

“The life of an adventurer is a hectic one,” Zaken said, shaking his head. “When it occurred to me that you might want to know how I’m faring, I was concerned with escaping with my life from grimlock cultists.”

Evandel laughed. “Well, then, you are forgiven. If that is a typical page from your stories, I doubt my stories from Solreth are going to impress you.”

“You don’t need stories to impress me, friend,” Zaken assured him, pointing to the battered tree. “You’ve already done that with your magic! We’ve been apart four long years, I would like to know what you’ve been up to, no expectations, no professors to impress, just friends sharing tales.” 

Evandel smiled, and looked up at the sky through the trees. He had forgotten what it was like to be in the company of his old friends.

This story is the property of Tyler Clapp, Author (AKA "Cael") Copyright DarkFireGraphics.com