I slept a dreamless sleep. When I woke, the mess I had made the previous night was gone and the room swept clean. Clean clothes sat on the small bedside table, and a steaming bowl waited for me on the larger table. I sighed, the weight of truth setting onto my shoulders. My mother wasn’t my mother.
Then it dawned on me as I sat up, stretching: Mother could never define who I am. It was my decision of what I do next, and I had kindly been shown the tools to continue forward by Verulus and Sir Aindrias. A wide grin stole across my face as I changed into the fresh set of clothes, a simple rough pale blue dress and a burlap apron. I could possibly finally the world if I so wished.
A knock on the door, a gentle rap, pulled me from my revelation.
“Alys? Are you awake?” Meryl called from the other side, opening the door a crack, speaking softly.
I sat to eat, noticing the chirps from outside and not a peep from below, the noise of the tavern transformed by the coming of day.
“I am awake. Please come in.”
The pregnant woman came in alone, closing the door behind her. She observed me as I scooped the steaming stew, one of beef and vegetables, for a moment before smiling.
“You are in a better mood this afternoon?”
I nodded and spoke between mouthfuls of the hearty meal. “Yes. Please forgive me for my mess from last night.”
She shook her head. “Not to worry dear. It is not the first time a customer has sent dishes flying. On really bad days I myself send dishes to the floor sometimes. Listening to them clatter and break is relieving, and better than busting bones of a certain troublesome wandering wizard. So what has you in a good mood?”
“I’ve come to realize I can now do what I want with myself.”
Verulus snuck out from behind Meryl with a grin on his face. “That is a positive observation, but I still have to take you to Vale.”
Meryl wacked him upside the head, knocking his wizard hat off his head. “Boy how many times must I tell you not to do that?”
Verulus laughed, fixing his hat. “You tell me not to do many things sister. Anyway, Alys, before we venture to Vale, we should head to the market. I’ll pay for you.”
Meryl rolled her eyes. “My brother the gentleman, when he wants to be. Just remember to get her to Vale by nightfall, as you promised. I need to get back to work.”
I smiled at Meryl, walking toward her and her brother. “Meryl, thank you for your hospitality.”
She smiled and wrapped an arm around my shoulder. “If things go well, you’re welcome back anytime. May the gods lead you to good fortune.”
“And also to you.”
Verulus grabbed my hand. “Come on already.”
I sighed as Verulus lead me out of the tavern, into the afternoon light. The path from the Wandering Wizard Tavern brought us to a busy town, lively with folk in a marketplace afore large mountains, free from the wrath of the Lady of Irinis.
“Where are we?” I looked around, admiring the vibrant colors of flora and people alike.
“This is Sungrasp, at the northern eastern end of the Gulskrum Tekros mountain range. We’re going to be entering the Vrovahmn Mines, which-“
“Goes into the mountain Vrovahmn, which was abandoned by the Tekrosian Orcs over a century ago due to how barren the upper part of the mountain itself is. Inside however, it’s rich in ores which the Orcs were incapable of mining. Dwarves later settled here and started the settlement which flourished.”
“You certainly know your history.”
I nod. “Though, this place hardly is just dwarves and humans.”
We passed an acting troupe of Agynan and Corhelian elves, performing a comedy by the fountain in the center of the market. In the stalls around the center, a mixture of elves, dwarves, and humans sold everything from gathered herbs found in the lower mountains to intricate jewelry crafted by only the best of the crafting masters. In comparison to what I was used to, Sungrasp was truly alive.
Verulus smiled. “So, we’ll be spending quite a lot of time in Vale. While Vale has its fair share of various folk and average products, there are also magic enhanced products. Practically everyone who can and knows how to get to Vale is a wizard, witch, the Sorceresses, and the like. It is home to the only official school for learning magic, though groups like the Sorceresses of Herathana and the elves do have places to learn here on the surface, but they only teach to those who fall within their groups.”
“But they do go visit Vale right?”
“Right you are. In fact, to get into Vale you need either someone who has been to Vale to take you to Vale, or a special token that allows the transportation spell to work. The tokens are unique per individual. If you get accepted into the school or become an apprentice to a master, you’ll be able to make your own token.”
“So you can’t show me how?” I frown.
“No, and that’s because I do not have permissions to take on an apprentice yet. When I became an apprentice, he took me to Vale to be examined by the Elemental Masters before my training started. They can check you to see how strong your magic capabilities can be. If you’re not capable of passing the initiate exams, then there is no point teaching you.”
“Wait, there are exams before you can be accepted?”
Verulus nodded and smiled as if my question was more of a joke. “No cheating Alys. I can’t give you the answers.”
I scowled at him. “Just tell me what we need to get before we go…”
“First, new clothes for you, followed by a satchel, some basic potions and antidotes, and some books on herbology and apothicarism. I personally recommend Leaves and Buttered Fingers: A Comprehensive Guide on Apothicarism, and you don’t need to be a witch or wizard to learn how to make even basic potions.”
I sighed. “Alright. I’ll get the clothes myself; I don’t need you peeking in on me.”
Verulus laughed. “Alright. I’ll get your other things and then we’ll be off to Vale. I’ll meet you in the square then?”
I nodded. Verulus guided me to the nearest tailor, gave me several dozen gold Alamer Stags and left. The tailor, a plump man with a tall gangly wife, immediately took care of getting me fitted and finding simple clothes. I thanked them and payed, meeting Verulus in the square.
He handed me a brown satchel and smiled. “I’ve taken the liberty of already putting your stuff into the bag. I’ve put a charm on it that will shrink your items so you can carry more. However, those items, even small, will eventually weigh you down. If you pass the exams, I’ll let you stay at my place in Vale.”
“What happens if I don’t pass?”
“We’ll find you a place to hide here on the surface. Non-capable folk are not allowed to live in Vale. Most folks that live in Vale have two homes anyway.”
I nodded and pulled out the remaining Stags. “Here is what’s left, thank you for your help.”
He shook his head with a smile. “Keep them; a few Gold Stags will get you further than Copper and Silver.”
“Thank you…” I put the Stags in the satchel’s coin purse.
“Ready to go, Alys?” Verulus pulled out an amulet, holding it tight in his hand.
“Grab ahold of me, and don’t let go. If you let go of me before we appear on solid ground, you’re going to fall and probably die.”
I hugged him tightly, nearly shaking. “I’ll come back to life and kill you if I die.”
Verulus chuckled before starting the incantation.
“Nuum mi ny Vylu!” He tapped his staff on the cobblestone beneath us before we rocketed upwards, the world becoming a giant blur.
I closed my eyes tight and held on to the wizard for dear life.