"The Sorrowful Scepter"
by Night Visitor
This is the first part of a story of Garrett as a Keeper. Tales on the Northern Coast and how Garret, as a Keeper, fell out of grace with the Order.
Blizzard Harbor! Aptly named, thought Garrett, as he drove one foot after another in the hard driving snow. He had been in the Northern country for 3 days, and had already seen all the white powder he had ever wanted to lay his eyes on. He looked up at the silhouettes of pine trees, their limbs bowing to the weight of the snow and hoped he was getting close to his destination. It had been six months since his promotion to acolyte of the Order of the Keepers and he thought wryley, that giving him an assignment in such an inhospitable place was his teachers way of saying the the next promotion would be a difficult trial indeed.
He rounded a bend in the almost unrecognizable road and spotted a light in the distance. Ah, good, he thought, the end of my journey and the snow on my back will be soon... As he approached closer a large sign proclaiming the letters 'The Brandelburg Inn' greeted him as it creaked in the wind. Hmm, he mused, I wonder if the owners know how to cook up a decent meal?
He eagerly opened the door and stepped inside and concentrated on the patrons sitting at the various tables in the Inn. Removing his cloak, he shook the snow from it and headed toward a gentleman dressed in a grey cloak with a plain ring on the index finger of his right hand.
"Brother Ramos, are you sitting alone with a pint of brew to wile away this bitter night? You will need a soft female companion along with your ale to keep you warm this night", said Garrett.
"Garrett my young friend", retorted Ramos, "I thought you may have got lost in this forsaken weather. Even the Hammerites will not be patrolling this night." Ramos had been in the service of the Keepers for three years and his sense of humour and good nature made him well liked by all the members of the Order.
"What is so urgent that the head of the Keeper Order in Biwick County exhausted three horses and a poor messenger to tell me to meet you here in this desolate place", asked Garrett.
"Desolate isn't the word Garrett! Ever since the war 100 years ago only a very few hardy soles have been able to make it here at all", replied Ramos. "Do you know the history of this place?"
"Only from the notes and hieroglyphs left in the nearest Keeper Library in Blalock, but the information was very sketchy", said Garrett.
"One hundred years ago", began Ramos, "there were many rival lords vying for power in this area. Lord Branad and Lord Justin were two such lords who waged many battles between each other. The major point of the dispute was a magic scepter which would bestow blessings to the people when wielded by the owner. Of course the one who posessed the sceptre would be the most popular and thus have power in the county. Lord Branad had the sceptre bestowed on him by a grateful mage, whom Branad rescued when the mage was passing through. Lord Justin mounted a campaign to obtain the magic item and lay siege to Branad's castle. The battle was going badly for Branad and he rounded up the children under his protection and put them in a supply room hoping to keep them safe. It was heavily locked so that Lord Justin would have a terrible time getting in. No one knows exactly what took place but as Justin closed in for his victory, something happened in the supply room. It was rumoured that one of Justin's soldiers thinking that the last of Branad's army was in the supply room, poured oil under the door and lit it on fire. Others say a spooked horse knocked a barrel of oil into a fire and that spread the flames. Whatever happened, Lord Justin's ears were filled with the horror of the childrens screams as they burned alive in a room he could not reach. Branad ran down the corridor with the wand in his hand to surrender it to Justin, not knowing that the children were doomed. As the last cry of the last child died away the sceptre, always glowing with power in a brilliant light, went dark and dormant. Both Lords hearts were broken and as the sceptre possessed no more magic, there was nothing to fight for. Justin packed up and left, and Branad never recovered from the tragedy. He cursed the sceptre and had it buried deep within the maze of catacombs under the castle. He had more catacombs dug so that no one could find the sceptre again. He boarded up the castle and placed guards there. Some say he even hired a black magician to curse the place and to add haunts there to guard the sceptre."
"Ok. So you've got a useless sceptre guarded by ghosts", said Garrett. "Why are Keepers so interested in this sad tale?"
"It is rumoured that two rival mages have been seen in the area and have been asking questions about the sceptre. It is also rumoured that they know how to restore its power."
"Ah, and so if either of them finds the sceptre and restores it, they can bestow blessings on the people and the land again and we all have a happy ending. What is wrong with that", said Garrett.
"My young friend, part of your training is to study cause and effect more deeply so that a balance between powers can be maintained and to detect the underlying forces that can cause an imbalance of power. It was no accident that you were given this assignment. You are to contemplate more deeply about the consequences of seemingly harmless events!"
"I will give you a piece of the puzzle. Mages are very circumspect among the general populous. People are wary of them and they keep a close eye on what they are doing. It is one way of maintaing a balance with the magical forces in a location. However, a Mage who restores the power of the wand and gains the trust and favor of the local populous will have the freedom to do whatever he wants without the watchful eye of the locals. It could open the door for a lot of trouble."
"I don't see the harm - ", Garrett began to reply, but Ramos cut him off with a wave of the hand.
"That is all I am allowed to say! You are to follow your orders to the letter. You are to obtain the sceptre before either of the Mages can find it and bring it back to the great Vault at Maisbeck! Anything short of that will be disastorous."
Garrett quieted the questions in his mind and nodded to Ramos.
"You are to wait out the storm here and procure what you need to complete your task." Dropping some coins on the table Ramos left quietly into the night.
Garrett looked back at him for a moment, then procured a room from the Innkeeper. He went upstairs and crossed the room and looked out the window into the falling snow. He was not quite comfortable with the motives of the Keepers, but the falling snow provided no answers to his questions. He lay down on the bed and rested for the night.
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