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I can’t believe I have to say this, but I’m a criminal now. Oh, if only the Elders knew, they’d banish me from Cloudsong!
It all started innocently enough. Doesn’t it always? After yesterday’s travels, I slept in a little. When I woke, I availed myself of the tavern’s bath and then went downstairs for breakfast and to see what I could find out about the scholar I seek. The halfling that runs the place was much more chatty today, and he knew about a possible scholar!
He told me about a man called Jilla Trill, who has been in the village’s jail for the past few rings. Apparently, the mayor hired him to find another silver mine since the old one dried up, but Jilla took too long and the mayor threw him in jail. I got the idea there was more to it than that (why lock someone up for not finding something??) but the halfling wouldn’t tell me any more. I asked him if there was anyone in the village who might know about magic and he just shrugged and told me I could find Jilla in the jail.
I went upstairs to tell Flippy I was going out and make sure she had some food, then I set off to find the jail. She’s not used to being around so many people, and I thought it best for her to stay inside. In the daylight, Winter Rest doesn’t look like anything special. Just normal people going about their daily business. I found the jail easily enough, right off the village square. It did look like some people were setting up for an event in the square, though.
There was a guard at the jail, and I was a little worried he wouldn’t let me talk to Jilla, but he didn’t really seem to care one way or the other, and showed me into the area with the cells. Only one was occupied. Jilla is a human, and I think he’s maybe middle aged for his kind, although his ridiculous beard makes it tricky to tell for sure. I don’t really know how to judge human ages very well. Either way, he was so excited to have a visitor! He started talking to me as if we’d known each other for rings, asking me question after question about where I was from and my trip here. I got so distracted answering his questions, I completely forgot to ask him about the journal! I did let slip about that weird fireball though, and that got him even more excited. It turns out he’s a wizard. He told me that if I could get him out of jail, he would teach me how to use my own magic. He said he thinks I’m a sorcerer.
I asked how I’m supposed to get him out of jail and he suggested I speak with the mayor, claiming that she’s reasonable enough when talking to anyone who isn’t Jilla. I asked what he meant by that but he just shrugged.
So I went to see the mayor. Only problem? The mayor wouldn’t see me. It’s the village’s anniversary or something and her clerk said she’s too busy planning her speech and the celebration tonight to deal with anything else. I didn’t really know what else to to, so I went back to talk to Jilla again. I told him I probably couldn’t see the mayor until tomorrow, but when he heard about the celebration, he came up with a different idea. He suggested I help him break out of jail!
I can’t even begin to imagine why I agreed to help him, but I did! I think the idea of finding out how to control this magic I apparently have has just thrown all sense out of my head. Still, I didn’t just say yes right away. I wanted to know how I was supposed to break him out. For that matter, I asked him, how come he hadn’t done it already? If he’s a wizard, why not just use his magic to escape?
He told me that partly it was because he was waiting for the mayor to come to her senses ( for TWO RINGS???), but also because the guards make sure he can’t. They have some sort of device that keeps him from using his magic. That’s where I come in. Jilla said if I can lure the guard on duty away by causing the alarm to be raised at the celebration tonight, he can use his magic again and pick the lock. Against my better judgement, I agreed. I want to know how to control my magic, and I still need to ask him about the journal. At this point, I had remembered it, but he was way too focused on his possible escape to think about anything else, so I figured I’d let it wait.
I left the jail again, trying to figure out how to draw a guard away from the jail. I remembered when I was little and some of my friends set off a smokebomb in their burrow. Everyone in Cloudsong thought there was a fire and raced to put it out. I walked around the village square for a bit, looking to see if the shops might sell anything I could use to make something similar, but no luck. It’s probably for the best, anyway. I only sort of remember how they made the smoke bomb. With my luck I’d do it wrong and actually set something on fire.
I went back to my room in the tavern to rest and think of a plan. Flippy, being a squirrel, seemed unconcerned that I was about to break someone out of jail. She just curled up on my chest as I napped. I’m glad she’s with me on this trip.
In the end, I decided the best way to draw away the guard was to make people think the mayor was in danger. A little before sunset, I gathered up all of my things and told Flippy to curl up in her pocket of my pack and slipped out the back of the tavern. I made my way to the bell tower across the square from where the celebration was getting underway. A lot of human villages and towns have them, to alert people in the area of dangers like weather or invaders.
I managed to make it to the tower unseen, and somehow, it wasn’t locked. (Serously, the security in this town is apallingly lax. In Clousdong, we’ve got the benefit of blending in with our surroundings, but I know that this far south there are all sorts coming and going. You’d think they’d be more wary.) I went to the top of the tower and got my sling out. I was far enough away that I thought I could hit the mayor without actually hurting her. It took two shots, and I still missed her, but I did hit a lantern behind her, and the pebble kind of exploded the glass. That definitely caused an uproar! I heard someone call for all of the guards as they tried to figure out where the shot had come from, but I was already halfway down the stairs.
Jilla and I arranged to meet in the jail’s storeroom once he was free. On my way to the jail, I manage to run smack into the guard I had seen earlier at the jail! I don’t think he was on duty anymore, but he definitely recognized me. He started to ask what I was doing and I felt that weird tingly feeling again. In an instant, he was greeting me like an old friend and asking if I was all right. I told him I had just been trying to get a better view of the mayor’s speech. He told me that someone unsavory was about and I should get somewhere safe right away. I didn’t stop to question what happened, just thanked him and skedaddled!
I beat Jilla to the storeroom, and thought I’d try to get it open. I’ve always read in stories about people using hairpins to pick locks so I gave it a try. It didn’t work, but Jilla came running up and told me to move. The next thing I knew, a whole bunch of glowing darts slammed into the lock and the door slammed open. He rummaged around for a few minutes, grabbing an empty sack and filling it with everything in a box with his name on it. Then he grabbed a long stick from a rack by the door and said we should leave.
As soon as we stepped out of the storeroom, we found a guard coming into the passage from our intended exit! I managed to hit him with my sling, and Jilla waved his stick around, but nothing happened. Jilla darted back into the storeroom as the guard threw his spear at me. It missed and he ran toward me. I flailed at him with one of my daggers, but it caught in his chainmail. I managed to dart back down the passage toward the cells before he could react. Then Jilla sent more of those glowing darts at the guard, knocking him right off his feet. I checked to make sure he was still alive, and he was just unconscious, thank the Great Mother. I don’t think I could have gone with Jilla if he’d killed the guard.
We got out of there and Jilla suggested we head for the old silver mine to catch our breath and make our next plans. The village had mostly calmed down by then, and there was no outcry about Jilla’s escape yet. We did run into another guard before we left Winter Rest, but he didn’t seem to recognize either of us and I somehow managed to convince him we were just headed to the tavern, even though it was in the other direction.
Seriously. This village needs to rethink its defense system.
We got to the mine and went into one of the antechambers off the main tunnel, just far enough so we could light a fire without it being seen from outside. Jilla told me he thinks I have something called “wild magic” and that if I come with him to the university in Westhold that he and some other wizards can study it and help me learn where it came from. The offer was tempting, but I finally remembered the journal and showed it to him, explaining that I only set out to find its author, if I can. While I do want to know about my magic, I don’t think I can stay away from Cloudsong as long as he seemed to be suggesting.
Jilla seemed disappointed, but also seemed to understand. Also, when he started reading the journal, I think that was enough of a distraction for him. The good news is, he thinks he knows who wrote the journal! While the story wasn’t one he was familiar with, he says that some of the things the author mentioned sound like it was written by Zeyis Dara. She was a ranger who is apparently something of a legend in the southern lands. The last Jilla heard, Zeyis had retired to Southhold, so I guess I will be going there after all. Jilla says that once we get out of the mine (we’re going to have to go out the back way to avoid being seen by anyone in Winter Rest) our paths will go together for a few days at least before he turns to the west. He said while we travel together he should be at least able to help me figure out a little control over my magic.
We don’t know what kind of search party the mayor might have put together once she learned that Jilla’s gone (if she made one, I mean, really, with the way that village runs things, who knows) so we’re not going to stay here all night. Jilla’s resting now, and I’ll wake him up in another hour to take my own rest. Then we’ll eat a little and be on our way. He’s got a map of the mine, so hopefully we’ll be able to find the other exit without trouble. I’ve got my fingers crossed at any rate. He seems really jumpy underground. I don’t know that I like it here that much either, to be honest. It’s nothing like the burrows. Too abandoned feeling, you know? Not cozy at all.