Vision: A Vision of Danger (The Keep)eering into your cauldron, you watch carefully as your potion brews. The amber liquid swirls are mesmerizing before your eyes, and as you peer in you almost feel as though the magic is speaking to you. Bending closer, the aroma of the potion drifts upward, and in a flash, you are experiencing a vision. It is nothing concrete, and you see only rushing shapes. Everything is dark and fluid, but the feeling of fear and need rushes through you. Someone, somewhere, needs help. They are close, full of magic, and are reaching out to you. You must go to them. Will you?
Vision: A Vision of Danger (Silva Forest)As you near the edge of the Silva forest, you pause for a moment, considering the paths before you. To your left lies the well worn path most commonly used by students. The beaten dirt leads off in the direction of the direwolves, and offers nothing new to you. You have visited those areas many times before, and although dangerous, they are no longer very interesting. The center path is almost as well worn, and leads directly into the heart of the woods, where unicorns can sometimes be spotted. That trail is a very long one, and one you have trodden before. What catches your attention is the trail to the right, a path almost grown over with various weeds and plants. No one really bothers to explore much in that direction, as the woods quickly grow dark and the way is all but impossible. Without paths, the woods can be a very bad place to go walking, especially when you do not know your way. Still, this path must have been made for a reason, and so it is with only a glance over your shoulder that you proceed in that direction. Your vision has made you believe that the one in trouble can not be found in a common place.
After a few turns, you can no longer see The Keep and have no idea where this trail may lead. It is difficult to make out the path, as the huge trees overhead block out the light. After casting a simple light spell, your way is made a bit easier, but your confusion still remains. After what seems like a few hours, you stop for a break, considering turning back. It seems like this trail leads even further in than you imagined, and night will be falling soon. The decision to remain for the night is perhaps foolish, but you decide to do so regardless, and press on. You hope you will find a clearing larger enough to set up camp, or a tree with branches large enough to sleep on.
A few minutes later, you find yourself at a branch in the path, the only break you have seen since embarking. You have the choice to go either left or right, and you sit down on a nearby rock to ponder the choices. “You don't want to take the left way,” a deep voice says, and you jump to your feet, heart pounding. You peer around into the branches around you, but are unable to see anyone. “Who is there?” you demand, reaching for your wand. You know no one has followed you from the castle, and suspect an enemy is near. “My name is Nythilum,” the voice says again, and this time you are alert enough to hear where it is coming from. Peering into the thickets to your left, you can just make out a shape far too large to be human. “Will you show yourself, perchance?” you ask, sitting down once more, cautiously. “I am afraid not,” the male voice says, and you hear only the rustling of leaves to know that the person has left. Frustrated, you scuff at the ground with a boot, succeeding only in stubbing your toe.
Standing, you think for a moment about following the person, but quickly realize that leaving this path to go gallivanting after a stranger would be foolish. The sun is setting, and you must be able to find your way back out. So it is that after a moment's thought you pick the left way, curiosity overtaking your common sense. Why would you not take this path? The direwolves live far to the west, and you can handle most of the ordinary creature you might encounter. Bears and the such are not large threats for magi who wield powers.
The path you have chosen is difficult to follow, and many leaves cover it. Still, you press on, cautiously listening to the sounds of the forest. You think you hear water, and so you move forward swiftly, hoping to refill your flask. As you step into a clearing, however, something quite heavy hits you on the back of your head, and you see only sparks before the world turns dark.
Upon awakening, you are greeted with a headache of powerful proportions. Wincing, you attempt to raise your hands to feel the bump, only to learn that your hands are bound with thick rope. Cursing, you sit up and look around. The clearing is empty. No, the clearing is empty save for a lone wolf approaching you, teeth bared and eyes angry. A quick search shows that your wand is missing from your robes. Struggling to your feet, you bleakly realize that climbing a tree is impossible with bound hands. Your best hope appears to be the stream to the right, though swimming also seems impossible. Still, you are out of options, and the snarling beast in front of you prompts you to make your way to the water. Your heart leaps wildly as the wolf readies himself to spring, and then you hear: “Kneel!” from behind you, and realize it is the same deep voice you heard before. Quickly you drop to your knees, and look up to see a horse leap directly over your head and attack the wolf. A large hoof hits the wild wolf in the flank, and with that the animal is fleeing for the cover of the trees. As the horse turns towards you, it becomes obvious that it is no horse. Well, part horse. A majestic stallion seamlessly turns into a human torso, and you find yourself looking into the bright, intelligent eyes of what must be a centaur. “I told you not to take the left path,” the man says. “You magi must not be as intelligent as I have heard.” If you were not so scared, you would have chuckled at the being's manner. “Would it be possible for you to free my hands?” you ask. The centaur leans forwards gracefully and does so. “My people will not be very pleased with me for coming to your aid,” the man says. “They wished for perfect solitude among these trees, and yet I let you live.” “And I thank you for that,” you say, painfully aware of your poor situation. The tall man then hands out your wand to you, which you take thankfully.
“I may be exiled for my actions,” the centaur continues, looking grave. “If you were to help me with something, perhaps both of us could live to see another morn.” Rubbing your wrists absentmindedly, you nod. “Yes, of course I will help. I do like to live.” The centaur nods, then continues: “If we are to undergo this task together, we must go now.” “Nythilum,” you ask, remembering his name, “what is it that we seek to do? Perhaps, if you allowed me to speak with your, uh, herd, I could clear this problem up. You see, the magi pose no threat to your people, and -” The man shakes his head sadly. “My people are proud and stubborn. We were forced into this forest by men, and though the magi are said to be peaceful, we do not forget nor forgive easily.” “Alright,” you say sadly, “what can I do to help?”
As you and your new companion near the edge of the forest, you are able to see a village, not too far away. “The problem is this,” Nythilum says: “a small foal wandered away a few days ago. We saw her get trapped by the humans of this village. That is why my people treated you so – humans have brought nothing but pain to us. I dare not enter the village – I would also become enslaved. You must go, bring other humans here, and free our foal. If you do this, my people will no longer wish you dead. They may even perhaps grant you our friendship.” You nod in agreement. “A friendship between our people would greatly aid us all. But I must insist that you let me speak to these villagers before we return to The Keep. If the matter is as urgent as you say, the trip would be valuable time wasted. I may be able to convince these people to let the foal go.” Nythilum bows his head and paws gently at the ground, carefully considering your words. “I accept,” he finally says. “but I must warn you that these humans are not kind. They often slaughter the forest deer when they have plentiful herds. I urge you to be careful.” You nod at him, and once you've assured him that you will be wary, take off for the village.
The village itself is old and somewhat neglected, with ancient straw roofs. Children are busy playing around the outskirts of the town, and once they have seen you, run for their parents. The adults start to come out of their houses to meet you, their faces stern and harsh. You do not think this will be an easy mission. As you near the center of the village, you spot the foal, tied to a stake and rather frightened. You try to send a smile in her direction, but the little one sees you as just another human. “What do you want?” a large man asks, stepping forward, out of the growing crowd. “What business do you have here?” You turn towards him, and easily identify him as the leader of this town. “You have a captive centaur.” The man wipes large hands on his trousers and frowns at you. “Suppose we do. What concern is it to you?” You take a step towards him, gesturing at your robes. “I am a magi. Magical beings and creatures are my concern. Why do you keep this foal here?” The man spat rudely on the ground, shaking his head. “This freak was on our land, talking to our horses. It means no good.” You shrug, and reply: “Have you spoken to her? You know not her business. She was lost.” Some townsperson laughs at you, and you turn to the woman. “The thing trespassed. Is it not our right to protect our lands?” You nod. “Of course it is.” You have become increasingly aware that perhaps Nythilum was correct; these people are difficult to persuade. Perhaps... “If you take such interest in magical creatures, perhaps we can make a trade? We have wondrous alpacas at the castle. They would make great contributions to your herds. Their fur -” the burly man interrupts you. “We don't want your things. You should go now and leave us to our own affairs.” You sigh, and pull out your last idea: “Gold, then? Perhaps some coins can change your mind.” The man squints at you, tugging at his sparse beard. “Perhaps. How much coin are we speaking of?” You think quickly. “Would fifteen thousand be enough?” The man nods quickly, and does not haggle with you, leading you to believe these people do not often see that much gold. "I'm afraid I don't have so much money on me. If you let me leave briefly, I will be able to get it easily. But you must promise not to hurt the little one while I am gone. Do we have an agreement?" The man nods, and you turn to leave.
"Well?" Nythilum asks. “she is not with you. Have they hurt her?” “No,” you reply, and quickly tell him what transpired. Once you have finished, the centaur smiles down at you, and says: “We must find fifteen thousand gold, then.” The two of you set off, and as you begin to tire, you ask: “Would it be possible for me to, ah, receive a ride from you?” The taller man stares down at you. “On my back?” “Well, yes,” you reply. “It is a long way.” The centaur laughs at you and counters: “And perhaps some time I could ride upon your back? I think not.” And so you resign yourself to a few more hours yet of walking.
Vision: Return to the Town (Silva Forest)"What do ye think I am, daft?" the town leader says, scratching at his stomach. "We agreed upon the sum of fifteen thousand gold. If you don't have it, I'll be keeping the foal. We could use another horse around here, anyway."
You quickly count out the gold and pay the town's leader. It makes a small pile which the town leader quickly takes. The man grunts and two large lads haul the coins away. You smile at the man, and say; “I have fulfilled my part of our agreement. I presume I am free to lead this foal away?” as you step towards the frightened centaur child, the man positions himself in your path. You become quite aware of how broad and tall he is. The lads that took the gold away move to stand behind their leader. “Is there some problem I am not aware of?” you ask. “In a matter of speaking,” the man says. “We're keepin' the thing. Might be useful.” You shake your head. “Such a creature does not belong here among you. I must insist -” “You'll be doin' no insisting here!” the man booms. “Now take yourself and your steed out of my town, lest you wish for my boys to assist you!” In a quick moment of anger, you whip out your wand, and the man falls like a tree. The crowd is instantly in turmoil, women screaming and everyone fleeing. You take the chance to dash forward and untie the little foal, who stares at you with wide eyes. “Come, Nythilum is waiting!” you shout, and she runs for the woods alongside you.
Once you have reached the shelter of the trees, you dismount from your horse and watch as the little mare gives Nythilum a huge hug. “It's alright, Nikka,” the man says, smoothing back her hair. “Let's get you back to the herd, alright?” The three of you start on the journey back to the clearing. As you near, the foal takes off and runs ahead. Nythilum turns to you and says: “I am in debt to you. You did not need to help us so. Even if my people do not grant you friendship, you will always have mine.” “And you shall have mine,” you reply, embarrassed. The two of you reach the clearing, which is now full of centaurs gathered around Nikka. The largest centaur steps forward, and you can't help but notice his large spear. Or the fact that most of the females are carrying lethal looking bows. The man stops in front of you and Nythilum, and turns towards his brethren first. “Nythilum,” the centaur leader says, “your actions before were dangerous. Humans have always caused us harm.” You swallow, afraid of being attacked again. “But,” the man continues, “the fact that you and this... magi... so bravely went forth and rescued my daughter is honorable. I pardon you, brother. And you,” the chieftain says, turning towards you, “I grant you our friendship. You answered the call of my child, for which I am grateful. If you ever have need of our aid, we will give it to you as you have selflessly given us yours.”