Through a Cat’s Eyes – 9.1

Autumn Harvest, Trader’s Day 5, Year of the Lion number 427; September 24, 1738 Agathon

Today we arrived in Swarmgarde. Swarmgarde the island. Swarmgarde the city. It’s good to stand on dry land once again, though I felt like I had to adjust to it.

Let me start out by describing this place. It’s built on hills overlooking a harbor. Most buildings are made from stone and brick, and the entire city is an economy of space. While buildings are closely huddled together, with only the narrowest gaps between them, they are built tall. Four and five stories are common. Some reach higher in the sky. Among the tallest are the palaces and temples, but the tallest pinnacle belongs to the Wizard’s Guild. Not only does this city exemplify wealth in all its forms, I’m told it is home to one of the two active colleges of wizardry in the world.

Hundreds of years ago there were colleges like this in every major city. Through events too numerous to describe, they have all been closed and forgotten except this one and the one across the sea in Queensnotch, Aimach.

The current headmaster of this school is Ronisa Avibur. I’m told she comes from a long line of arcanists; she is surprisingly incapable of casting. Yet, her depth of knowledge on the subject is said to be unparalleled.

As we came onshore, I and the crew was welcomed by artisans and traders and street performers and villagers and… Mak said to keep my hand on my money pouch because there are some here that would quickly separate me from it, and I would be totally unaware until I went to pay for something.

And to my surprise, I saw a small tent, tucked in the shadow of a temple, three Tabaxi! I went straight to them and greeted them happily. Their’s was the darker, grey-and-black fur pattern more common in the western forests of Czethai. We talked for some time; they were traders and had originally come from Sharpdrake. They seemed to be interested in my stories and likewise, were willing to share theirs with me. Perhaps I’ll write about them in this journal, but for now, I want to stick with my own experiences and impressions.

We parted ways. I promised to visit again before the Outlaw Girl sets sail again. Captain Silverkeep said we’ll only be here a day or two.

Since I was in the area, I marveled at the temples. Great structures with spires and peaks that rose high in the sky, gilded with gold and silver, and colored glass windows. Men and women in bright robes stood on the front steps to share their gospel with those of us who passed by. I listened to one priestess as she spoke about the peace and love she received from her goddess, Freya. I was sorely tempted to go inside, but I just couldn’t see myself as a devotee. I’m a chronicler, not an evangelist. I was, however, drawn to the amulet she wore. When I had an opening, I asked her about it. She told me it was a holy charm that protected her from disease. “May I record it in my journal?” She unclasped it and handed it to me. I sat right there on the steps and added its image and description. When I finished, I returned it to her, thanking her profusely. She smiled at me, gently touched my forehead and gave me a blessing from Freya.

Up the hill I found myself walking along the narrow streets between fanciful mansions. Many wealthy merchants chose here to retire. The weather was always nice, though it if weren’t for my dragon card, I’d consider it a bit warm. There is a stormy season, but it is short. Violent, but short, I’m told. Great storms brew north of here then head west to strike the shores of Aimach and Antarrow. This island would feel the winds and rain, but avoided the worst of it.

Privately hired guards stood at the gates of many of the mansions. They silently watched as people hastened by, going to and from destinations only they can know. Swarmgarde is crowded. More crowded than Wailee. The difference, if I can describe it, is that here, the people are alive. They seem excited to be here and are happy about what’s going on. They feel safe from the toils and troubles of the world around them in their seeming isolation.

At the end of the long, winding road, at the top of the highest hill, I finally reached my own destination: the Guild. I stood outside the gates of its walled compound and looked up at the main tower. It seemed to climb so high in the sky that one could touch the stars or the moon from the topmost window. The gates were open, attended by two young acolytes wearing light-brown robes. As I approached, one of them stepped up, blocking my entry. “Welcome, Tabaxi. Before entry, we must know your business with the Guild.” I thought for a moment. I just wanted to see what was going on, but I wasn’t sure that would be sufficient. I pulled the dragon card from my pocket. “I have come into the possession of this magical artifact. I come seeking knowledge about it.” The acolyte looked closely at it, examining it visually, but made no move to touch it. “You will find what you seek in that building on the right.” He pointed to a small building for my benefit, then backed out of my way.

Of course, I walked to the building. As I walked, I watched as some young students practice various spells under the close tutelage of their instructors. The plaque over the open door read “Calatar’s Enchantments.” I walked into the insufficiently lit building to see a small figure sitting on an elevated stool, leaning over a table, reading a large tome with a magnifying glass, under a flickering lantern. At first, I thought he was a halfling, but he was much skinnier that I expected and had a beard of green hair that was as long as he was. If not longer. He didn’t seem to notice me as I entered. I waited quietly for a few moments. When he leaned back to turn a page, I cleared my throat. He held up one finger at me, but before I could react, he set down the glass and pivoted on the stool to face me. “Welcome, Kabize Vipertree. I am Calatar. What can assist you with today?”

“I, uh, how do you know my name?”

“Come. Come.” He pointed at his book. The top of the page read:

“September 24, 181, 4:22 PM: M’Raana Kabize of the Vipertree Clan, Daggerclaw, Czethai (Kabize Vipertree)”

“What?” I exclaimed.

“I was given this book by the greatest oracle of our time. It lists the name and origin of everyone I meet.”

“That must be some powerful magic! I came here because I want to know more about this.” I still had the dragon card in my hand.

“Ah. White number four. That would be Averthamar. He was one of the most evil of all the chromatic dragons – he takes great pleasure in hearing the screams of his victims. Only… He is cursed. He cannot hear. Not the loudest thunder of a raging hurricane nor the softest flutter of a butterfly’s wings.”

I looked over at his book, and noticed that more words had appeared under my name: “White #4; Averthamar. Trapped since 333 Agathon.” I asked, “I saw that someone else had a card like this, and I’ve heard tales of others. Have you seen, or do you have any others?”

When he smiled, the hair on his face twitched. “Ozenwood, Gold number two, is here on this island. Here in the Guild, actually. Headmaster Avibur keeps it in her chambers.”

“I would very much like to meet her and see it.”

“Ronisa is very busy these days, with the war escalating in the Dragonborn lands, and the rivalry between the Linne witches growing more intense, I don’t know that a meeting can be arranged. How long will you be in town?”

“Only a day or two,” I admitted.

He shook his head. “I will do what I can, Miss Vipertree. One who possesses such an artifact has importance, even though you may not know it. If only I could see into Propheta’s mind and unravel her riddles.”

“Propheta?” I’d heard the name before. I wanted to flip through my journal because I know I wrote something about her already.

“One of the Linne witches. She lives in Norrod, Antarrow. Perhaps if your travels take you across the Raubian, you should visit her. Though if you could figure out what she means when she says something, you’d be far better off than I.” He laughed aloud. I told him where I was staying with the rest of the Outlaw Girl crew and said I’d be back each day we were in port.

Once back in my room, I found where I’d written the name before: Shader’s Day 9. Fifty-six days ago. Kreon, one of the guards, had come across the sea on her advice. He was dead now. His prophesy was unfulfilled.


Previous: Through a Cat’s Eyes – 8.4

Next: Through a Cat’s Eyes – 9.2

(Author’s Note: I noticed that WordPress navigation is somewhat unreliable. To that end, I’ll be updating all the posts in this story so that you can navigate forward and backward more easily, as well as jump to the first entry in each chapter. Remember you can get to the first entry in each chapter from the main menu as well.)

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