Ject stepped out of the portal. The blackness of the Shroud clung to him, its touch was both cold and empty. He tried to brush it off, it bothered him enough that he didn't even realize right away that it was pouring.
The portal had brought him out under the somewhat protective canopy of a giant broad-leafed tree. He looked around at his dismal surroundings, a dense forest bathed in a deluge of rain. The sheer volume of water falling from the sky dwarfed anything he had seen before. Once he had properly situated himself the sound of the rain hit him.
A shadowy figure walked out from behind the tree. It waved its hand and the portal behind Ject vanished soundlessly.
"Ject Hamnon?" it asked.
Ject nodded. A large drop of water landed on his head, and he brought his hood up to cover himself. "Yes," he said nervously, "Apprentice Mage Ject Hamnon, here for my Trial."
The figure pulled its hood back slightly. The weathered face of the Trialmaster stared at him and Ject felt like his piercing eyes were staring straight through him.
"You're late, Apprentice. I am Trialmaster Frann. Come, meet the rest of the group."
Ject felt a wave of relief. He hadn't been told much of the Trial, only that it would be in Torrentia, and he had been worried that it would just be him and the Trialmaster. With more Apprentices there would be less focus on him.
"Yes, sir," he said.
Frann led him around the tree. A small alcove had been hollowed out in the side, and three more cloaked figures were waiting. They stepped in out of the rain.
"This the last one?" one of the figures asked. A young man by the sound of his voice, most likely not much older than Ject.
"Yes, I-" Ject began to introduce himself, but was interrupted by Frann.
"Ject, meet your teammates. A bunch of Apprentices just like you, there names are Ferrah, Jan, and Keldin." Frann didn't seem to care much about the names, or who was who. "You'll be graded based on your individual performances and your ability to function as a team."
The Apprentice who had spoken earlier offered his hand to Ject. "I'm Keldin, Keldin Harford," he said. By the emphasis he put on his last name, Ject could tell he was from some noble family and expected everyone to have heard of him.
"Oh," Ject said, "Nice to meet you. I look forward to working with you, I hope we can all become splendid Mages in the future." By now the rain outside had passed out of Ject's mind. It was a dull roar in the background and his mind was tuning it out.
"I intend to," Keldin replied, "but don't get the wrong idea. I don't give a Faelin's whisker if you pass or not. I'm here for me."
"For Void's sake, this isn't a competition," one of the other Mages spoke up, the voice was that of a woman. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Ject. I'm Ferrah. I'll watch your back, you watch mine."
Ject nodded and passed what he hoped was a convincing smile. "A pleasure to meet you as well," he said. He was beginning to feel like a group would be less easy than he had thought. He glanced at the third Apprentice, Jan, but he said nothing.
Frann stepped forward. "Done with the introductions?" he asked, then continued without waiting for an answer. "We're here on official business. This is a Trial, but it's also a mission from the Council. There's a village of Sporlocks not too far from here that has been very helpful with research in Torrentia, and they've asked us for help defending themselves."
Keldin muttered something under his breath. Frann looked over at him. "Got something to say?" he asked roughly.
"I said, 'why are we bothering with frogs?'" Keldin laughed derisively. "I'm sure they can-"
Frann interrupted Keldin with a swift punch to his stomach. Keldin fell to his knees and gasped for air.
"Don't you ever," Frann growled, "dare to mock the Sporlocks like that. They are an Arcaninc Highborn, and they deserve our respect, the same as any Elf or Dwarf. Your petty racial prejudices have no place here."
Keldin glared up at Frann. It was clear that he was seething with anger, but he managed to hold himself back.
"Of course, sir," he said.
Ferrah extended her hand to Keldin to help him up, but he ignored her and stood on his own. There was a moment of awkward silence as everyone looked at each other.
Ject cleared his throat. "So," he said, "what do the Sporlocks need? I've studied Torrentia a little bit on my own. Is it Neeikers?"
Frann stared at Ject for a moment. Ject wasn't quite sure how to react to this, and wished he hadn't said anything.
"You've got a brain at least," Frann said at last, "but you need to study more. Neeikers are predators, but the Sporlocks are smart. Neeikers end up as food for the Sporlocks more often than the other way around."
Ject looked down at his feet. "I just thought, I mean, it could be a giant one or something..." he mumbled.
"I know what you thought. And it was a good thought. But it needed a bit more knowledge behind it. Keep up your studies and you'll go far, boy."
Ject felt a bit of elation at Frann's words. He stood up a little straighter and took a deep breath.
Not to be outdone by Ject, Ferrah spoke up. "So what is it, then?" she asked. "The Sporlocks wouldn't call Mages unless it was magic related. They're independant enough to take care of any dangers native to Torrentia."
Frann laughed. "I thought this group was hopeless, I suppose it isn't after all!" he said. "That's the thing. The Sporlocks don't know what it is. They just keep losing people to SOMETHING out there, something they haven't faced before."
Keldin coughed lightly and everyone turned to him, but he held his stomach. "Sorry," he said, "just needed to clear my throat." Even though he had nothing to say, he hated being ignored.
"With no details about it, how will we find it?" Ject asked. "We need to find out whatever we can. Is it intelligent, can it be reasoned with, can it speak-"
"It speaks," Jan said quietly.
Ject nearly jumped out of his skin. He had completely forgotten about Jan and was caught completely off guard.
"E-excuse me?" he stammered as he turned to Jan.
"It speaks. I've been listening since I got here. It's been circling us from what I can tell."
Frann laughed again. "And here I thought you had lost the ability to speak yourself," he said. "A hearing enchantment? Lethel's or Barrinan's, I assume?"
Jan shook his head. "No, sir. One of my own design. It isn't as refined as Lethel's, and I don't know much about Archmage Barrinan, but I think it has potential once I refine it."
"Very good, very impressive! Now, tell me about the voice. What did you hear?"
Jan thought for a moment. "It's hard to say. One moment it sounds like a hiss, the next I can hear something more solid. 'Asss' and 'usss' seem to be the most prominent."
"Hm." Frann mused. "And you say it has been circling us? At what distance?"
"I'm sorry, but the spell isn't refined enough for me to tell. It's not close, I know that, but it could be anywhere from a few dozen feet to a few hundred."
"Well, I'm going to assume this is something new," Frann said slowly. "There are many trans-realm creatures, and the hissing sounds like it's an animal of some kind. Talking about 'us' could be referring to some sort of colony or group. If there's more than one of this thing that makes it that much harder."
"I've been in training to become a Battlemage," Ferrah said, "so I can bring some decent firepower to the fight. Jan, I'm assuming you're more of a Sorcerer?" Jan nodded. "Keldin, I'd wager you're a Battlemage Apprentice like me. Ject?"
Ject glanced at Keldin, who had seemingly ignored Ferrah. "No, I've actually been trying for an Omnimancer style. I'll probably end up as a Wizard," Ject said. He felt a little embarrassed, he usually got mocked for his attempt at being an Omnimancer.
Ferrah's eyes widened. "Oh really?" she said. "That's quite a challenge you've signed up for. Still, a Wizard in a pinch is probably going to be more use in battle than a Sorcerer." She glanced at Jan. "Sorry, but it's the truth," she said.
Jan laughed lightly. It was the first time he had done so. "Don't be sorry. I chose this path. I can fight, but you're right. I won't be as much use as Ject."
Frann watched the conversation with great interest. For him it was almost as if he were watching a group of full-fledged Mages talking strategy.
Keldin had enough of being on the sidelines. "This is all good and well," he said, "but let's not forget actual combat experience. I've been fighting since I was a child, and I've taken down dozens of Shroudlings. On my own and in a group." He glanced at Frann. "Are you going to be taking part in the combat?" he asked.
Frann shook his head. "I'm not to take part unless absolutely necessary. And I'll have you know, I've seen Apprentices die before. I can't save you from everything."
Keldin didn't take any heed of the warning. "Then I think that it would be most beneficial for me to take the leadership role in battle," he said.
Ject had no objections. He wanted to prove himself, but he had no intention of taking up a role that he was unsuited for. He looked at Ferrah.
"Fine by me," she said, "as long as you don't put me in undue danger."
"Sounds like a plan," Keldin said with a smile, "and don't worry. It would reflect poorly on me if I were to let my teammates die."
Jan looked around. "It's getting closer," he said.
"Can you make out any other words?" Frann asked.
"Yes... It's just one word," Jan said slowly. "It's saying... Asmodeus. But it's HISSING as it's saying it."
Frann looked puzzled. "I've never heard of anything by that name," he said. "Perhaps it's the name of some god that the monster worships. Perhaps we're to be sacrifices." He laughed lightly. None of the Apprentices laughed with him.
They spent the next few minutes discussing combat. Keldin revealed a sword strapped to his side, and Ferrah held up a mace. Jan shook his head when asked about a weapon. Ject, feeling quite proud of himself, summoned a staff with a flash of Void-light. It had taken him a long time to learn how to keep things in a Void-realm of his own, and it always made him happy to be able to show the skill off.
After weapons, they discussed magic. Keldin was primarily specialized in fire based magic, which would have very limited use in Torrentia. Ferrah opted for physically enhancing herself through magic. Jan used mental and spacial manipulation spells (mostly of his own design), and explained a few that could potentially be useful.
Ject felt that this was his time to shine. As an Omnimancer in training, he had access to a wide variety of spells. Aquamancy would be the most useful, of course, there was an unlimited supply of magic-soaked water in the area. In the end, they decided it would be best for him to try to freeze whatever creature or being that was out there in ice.
At length they were ready to move out. Frann gave them a warning before they did, "I'm here to guide you and grade you," he said. "I typically don't involve myself with the Trials, but given the unknown element to this one I may help you out in a pinch."
Keldin stepped out of the hollow first. He glanced behind at his fellow Apprentices for a moment. "Jan, I want you to be right behind me. Ject, you're next. Ferrah, you protect our rear. Any problems?" The three shook their heads. "Good. Jan, you keep that listening spell active. Let me know where this thing is."
The rain had been relegated to nothing but a dull noise in the background, but as Ject stepped out the sound hit him just as it had when he had arrived. He looked around, he hadn't really taken the time to appreciate where he was before.
Torrentia. The realm of Eternal Rain. One of countless Void Realms, populated by Sporlocks, Neeikers, Kall, several species of Bestials, and countless other creatures. Despite the years of research into the Realm, there was still far too much unknown about it.
Such as the creature they were hunting now. From the limited information they had, this seemed like something new.
Ject felt a shiver run down his spine as he walked. He looked around uneasily. Aside from the grim atmosphere of Torrentia and the Trial, he felt very on edge.
"Did you hear that?" Jan asked. "It just got closer."
"I don't know about hearing anything, but I certainly felt it," Ferrah said.
Keldin glanced back at Jan. "Direction?"
"Straight in front of us."
"Good to know. Maybe it's waiting for us." Keldin held up his sword. "Be ready for anything," he said.
They continued to walk forward. Most of the trees nearby were small compared to the giant one they had been under before, and there was an abundance of small brush. At length the ground began to get rocky and uneven as a long ditch opened up before them.
With the constant rain it would have been a riverbed in any other realm, but the spongy ground of Torrentia absorbed every drop of water. The only areas that saw any buildup were patches of rocks or large root networks.
Keldin stopped at the top of the ditch. He looked around in distaste. It was an open area, which could be helpful fighting, but he didn't like the idea of fighting something that had a high ground advantage over him.
"Location?" he asked.
"It hasn't made a sound since we heard it before."
"Great." Keldin glanced at Frann. He had no intention of asking the Trialmaster for help, but he hoped the older Mage would offer some of his own accord. He looked around again.
The entire group, including Frann, jumped. Keldin nearly fell into the ditch. The voice was loud and close, far too close. Each of the Mages brought their weapons up warily and moved back-to-back.
"Void take it all, this isn't right," Keldin hissed. "We aren't hunting this thing. It's hunting us."
"Where is it? Where did that come from?" Ject found himself nearly shouting. His heart was in his throat and he felt more afraid than he had ever felt before.
"Quiet!" Jan hissed. "It's behind us. I heard it moving. It just came in for a moment, it backed up."
Kelden leaped down into the ditch. "Come!" he called. "We need to prepare."
Ject shrugged and followed him. He could hear Jan, Ferrah, and Frann jump down after him. He caught up to Keldin, who had stopped in the middle of the ditch.
"What are we preparing for?" Ject asked.
"This thing is a predator," Keldin said slowly, "we knew that much. But this method of hunting, I've experienced it before. I know I have."
"With what, and where?" Ferrah asked. "I'm not feeling very secure with the plan thus far. That did not sound like a very small creature!"
Ject shuddered. It was definitely farther away now, at least. But that voice was terrifying.
"It was a giant Meerikt, about seven years ago," Keldin said. "Nasty type of Shroudling. Like a cat, but more arms and more claws. A hunting thing. Designed for killing. I was in a group that went out to kill it, it felt just like this. It made noises to lure us in, then came in close to pick us off."
"So, WHY are we in the middle of a ditch to fight this Meerikt?"
Keldin glared at her. "This isn't a Meerikt. I don't know what it is. But without something solid to have our backs to, we need our backs to each other. Whatever this is could come from behind a tree or from the branches. Open space is our ally, even if we're on the low ground."
At Keldin's instruction the five Mages stood back to back several feet apart. Frann followed Keldin's orders without a word, but Ferrah expressed some doubt about the plan. Ject and Jan glanced at each other and stood stock-still. Jan still had his hearing spell active and was trying to listen for any movement of the monster.
The seconds ticked by. Ject ran through his mind every type of monster that he knew of and how he might fight it. He inadvertently began to channel ice magic through his staff, freezing a good portion of rainwater over it.
Ferrah looked around in distaste at their formation. "So," she said at length, "do we just stand here forever?"
There was no response from Keldin, so she remained silent for a while longer. "Well?" she said.
"I'm trying to come up with a plan," Keldin snapped, "that doesn't involve sacrificing someone as bait. Unless you'd like to take that role, please be silent."
Ject accidentally fired off a blast of ice. By now, he was trembling quite a bit in fear. He heard Jan sniff quietly next to him, likely holding in some tears. He didn't blame him, Ject felt like crying himself.
"Where?!" Keldin hissed. "I couldn't tell. What direction did that come from?!"
A large drop of water landed on Ject's head, followed by the patter of rain ceasing. He looked up, along with his comrades as they each felt the rain stop over themselves.
Time seemed to stop as they stared upwards. A giant shadow extended directly above them, with glowing yellow eyes that kept them transfixed.
Faster than a lightning strike, there was no time to react. Frann was gone in a fraction of a second. The monster's movement was nothing more than a blur, then they were alone.
For an instant nobody moved. Then the four Apprentices fell to the ground. Ject found himself unable to move as he listened to his comrades.
"Frann! FRAAANNN!" Ferrah was shouting.
"What was that?! WHAT?! Those eyes! What was it?!" Keldin was gasping.
Jan was muttering to himself, "calm, stay calm, focus, focus..."
Ject's mind ran wild. He had only a glimpse of the creature, whatever it was. It was serpentine, the eyes, the shape, the movement. It could be a Dragon... no, not quite. A giant snake. It had to be. But he had never heard of a snake like this. Not this big.
He stared into the sky. He didn't even blink as drops of rain landed in his eyes. Then water started to run down his nose into his throat and he choked. He sat up and coughed.
"Keldin," he gasped. He looked over at Keldin, who was holding his sword with both hands and shivering as he knelt. "Keldin," he said again.
Keldin looked over at him.
"Keldin, what do we do?"
Jan and Ferrah stopped their mutterings to look over at Keldin.
"I..." Keldin looked between them for a moment, then turned and threw up. "I, I can't, I can't do it," he choked. "I can't, I can't take it, it's too much for me."
"WHAT?!" Ferrah snapped. "You're the LEADER, take charge! You've been on monster hunts before, what did you do then when something bad happened?"
"Nothing like this! Never anything like this!" Keldin whimpered. He was crying. "It looked at me, it looked right at me and I saw it, I saw my death, its eyes, I saw my death in its eyes..."
"We ALL saw its eyes!" Ferrah stood up. There was a vacuum in leadership, and she was taking the role. "I'm not going to put up with this. We need to do something. The Sporlock village should be nearby, we'll go find it. Let's move!"
"What if he's still alive?" Jan said quietly.
"Eh? Speak up!" Ferrah grabbed Ject and Keldin and roughly pulled them to their feet.
Jan stood up. "What if Frann is still alive?" he said.
"Then he'll die later. We aren't going to even attempt to save him, we have no chance."
Keldin threw up again as soon as the voice was heard. He fell back to the ground, crying "no, not me, please, not me!"
Jan, Ject, and Ferrah were on alert. Ject was trying to cast whatever spells he could think of to protect them. Ferrah readied her weapon and began enhancing herself with magic. Jan stumbled over Keldin and kicked him roughly.
"Get over it!" he hissed. "We all saw the eyes. We can make it through this!"
"No!" Keldin snarled. He glared up at Jan. "You saw its eyes. But it wasn't looking at you, it was looking at me. I'm next."
Jan stared at him for a moment. "Tell me," he said, "tell me how you know this. We might be able to figure out-"
SNAP! A tree up on the side of the ditch broke and crashed to the ground. The Apprentices turned as one to look, and the shadow of the monster rose up over the fallen tree. The vile eyes stared at them.
Keldin screamed, then turned and tried to run. He only got a few steps away before the monster took him- just as fast as Frann had been taken, all that was seen by the others was a black blur moving past them.
But they could make out slightly more of it this time. A scale or two could be made out in the darkness. Then it was gone, and Keldin with it, all that remained was his sword on the ground.
Once again the Apprentices fell to the ground.
"I see," Ferrah said. She fell to her hands and knees and began to cry. "So that's it. That's what he saw. No wonder he despaired."
"Ferrah!" Jan hissed. "Tell me. Tell me or we'll all die. What did you see?"
"Death. My death." Ferrah shuddered. "In its eyes. It looked at me. Just at me." She curled up on the ground. "I... can't do it. Run, both of you, run."
Jan grabbed her roughly and stared into her eyes. "There was something there, something magic," he whispered, "and I need to figure it out."
He held her by the hood of her cloak with one hand, and with the other he began to manipulate magic. It came in sparks and flares of Void energy, a negative light that was darker than night and blacker than black. Ferrah flinched as the magic struck her, but she did nothing to stop it.
"What... what are you doing?" whispered Ject.
"Karthing." Jan said harshly. "There aren't any spells for what I need to do, so I'm making them up as I go."
Ject felt a ripple of awe in the mass of fear that surrounded him. 'Karthing' was the act of creating the fundamental basis for a spell, and it was generally done with significant preparation and in a very controlled environment. The fact that Jan was able to do it here was nothing short of astounding.
"What are you trying to do?" Ject asked.
"Silence! I need to concentrate."
Ject glanced around. He had temporarily forgotten about the rain once again, and felt it on his skin as if it had just started. He hoped that Jan would be able to figure out something before the monster came back. If Ferrah was correct, she would be next. After that, either Jan... or him.
After one final flash of magic Jan let go of Ferrah. She fell back to the ground and curled up once more. Jan turned to Ject and held up his hand, which was still glowing with magic.
"Don't move," he said, "I can't guarantee what this will do, but it's our only chance at survival."
Ject winced as the magic enveloped his vision. For a moment he could see nothing at all, then it faded into the dripping hand of Jan in front of his face.
"Can you see?" Jan asked.
"I- yes, I can see. What did you do?"
"I saved you, hopefully." Jan fell back in exhaustion. "And by extension, possibly the rest of us."
"The rest... Even...?"
"I don't know. Maybe. I have a theory. When it comes for Ferrah, don't look into its eyes! Just watch it move."
Ject looked at Ferrah. She was still on the ground, she didn't seem to care that her name had just been mentioned.
Jan reached over and picked up Keldin's sword. He handed it to Ject. "Remember, just watch. It's going to come for her in a moment."
"Wait! You cast that spell on me, cast it on yourself! And on Ferrah! We can all survive!" Ject looked around wildly. Panic at the voice of the monster was beginning to set in.
"No, I can't cast it on myself. And Ferrah is already under the spell of the monster." Jan backed away from Ferrah and took a deep breath. "I'm next once she's gone. Don't let me run."
Ferrah turned to glare at him. "Run? You can't run. Keldin tried. There is no hope. There is no-"
SSSSSS! From the other side of the ditch came a loud hiss. Ject and Jan fell back, but Ferrah didn't even bother looking. She was shaking.
The shadow of the monster rose up. The eyes gleamed in the darkness once again. Ject glanced at them, then quickly turned his gaze as he remembered what Jan had said. He glanced at his Apprentice companion, and was shocked to see him staring wide-eyed at the monster.
Things didn't happen as he expected them to. Rather than the flash of movement that had happened before, the monster this time moved slowly and ponderously.
It was a serpent, a monstrous and gargantuan one, and it crept up to the three Apprentices. Ject watched as Ferrah and Jan stared helplessly at it without moving. His body screamed at him to run, but he didn't. He stayed still as Jan had ordered him to, and watched.
The serpent reached Ferrah and picked her up in its mouth. It tossed her in the air, then opened its jaws wide and swallowed her whole. It hissed contentedly, gave one final stare at Jan, then slithered away.
Ject waited. It was only a minute or two, but it seemed like an hour. Finally Jan fell to the ground.
"Did you see it?!" he gasped. "I'm next. Oh, by the Void, I'm next. Please, did you see it?"
Ject knelt by Jan's side. "I saw it, it's a snake. It took Ferrah. It swallowed her."
Jan grabbed him roughly and leaned up. "The eyes cast a spell," he hissed through gritted teeth, "that paralyses us. You... are immune."
"What do I do? What can I do?" Ject felt powerless, despite the edge he now had over the serpent.
Jan fell back again. "I can't think," he whispered. "All I can see is my death. You have to stop it. Kill it."
Ject looked down at the sword in his hand. His mind was a whirlwind of doubt and confusion, he had no experience fighting something like this. He glanced at Jan, who had started to weep, and he felt terribly alone.
Then he broke free. The fear, doubt, and confusion left him, and he was left with one single thought: he must kill or be killed. That was all he needed to know, that was all he needed to do.
Strategies ran through his head. Every type of magic he knew, every spell he had memorized, they all came to him one after another. Gravity, time, air, water, ice, earth, life, lighting, every element at his disposal. There were ways to use them, each of them, to do what he needed to do. But he did not know if he would be able to.
As an Omnimancer he had access to a much wider range of spells than other specialized Mages. But that came with the tradeoff that he was much less skilled in each of the magic types as well.
Ice formed along the edge of the sword as he thought through his plan. Magic coursed through him in ways that he had never thought possible. He glanced at Jan, the one who had given him this opportunity. He could do it. He had to do it.
The seconds ticked by and turned to minutes. He prayed that he would be finished with the spellwork by the time the serpent arrived.
Ject leaped back from Jan. He would need a good angle for this. The ice on the sword had become longer and longer, it was now many times his size. It was tempered with magic to sharpen it, and the wind ran along its edge. He held it up carefully, he would only get one chance.
The hiss from the serpent shook Ject to his core. If he failed here the serpent would become aware that he was immune to its eyes, and it would be more careful. This was it, the one shot he had.
He watched as the shadow of the serpent rose up in the darkness. The eyes glared at him balefully, and he could feel the magic protecting him. Jan tried to crawl away, but Ject didn't look, he kept his eyes on the serpent.
It came in slowly. It kept its gaze on Ject until it was right next to Jan. The moment it turned to face Jan, Ject readied his blade.
The serpent opened its mouth and Jan lay paralysed in front of it.
It was now or never. Ject swung the gigantic ice blade down as hard as he could, pouring every ounce of magic he had into the blade. The elements combined in a way that only an Omnimancer could manage, ice in the sword, the water coursing around it, the wind pushing it down, time speeding up the blade, gravity pulling it down harder-
It was enough. Somehow, through luck or fate, the blade severed the head of the serpent. All it could manage was a short shriek as it died. The head rolled over, and the evil eyes glared one last time at Ject. The malice and hatred in them was so palpable that it struck him as though it were a physical blow.
Ject fell to the ground, his body, mind, and spirit completely exhausted. With the last of his strength he turned his head so that the rain wouldn't drown him, then he knew no more.
He awoke in a well-lit room lying in a bed. If it had not been for the strange adornments on the walls, he would have thought that he had just been sleeping in his own bed and suffered a terrible nightmare.
A series of strange 'glorp' and 'glup' sounds caught his attention. He looked to the side of his bed, where a Sporlock was hopping up and down excitedly. The language of the Sporlocks was completely foreign to him, but it was a friendly face at least.
The Sporlock called out loudly, and was answered from another room. There was the sound of a chair being knocked over as someone hurriedly dashed into his room.
Ject nearly cried as Frann walked through the doorway.
"What's the matter, boy, you look like you've seen a ghost!" Frann said with a smile.
"You... you're alive!"
"We're all alive, thanks to you. You and Jan, you saved us."
"But... how? It ate you, the serpent ate you!" Ject sat up quickly, but a sudden rush of dizziness had him lie back down again.
"Easy now," Frann said as he sat on the side of the bed, "you used up all your magic and then some. I've never seen an Apprentice do anything like that before, and I'm sure it was your first time doing it. Your body is acclimating to the new flow of magic."
"Are the others...?"
Frann laughed. "Yes!" he said. "The others are fine. I sent Keldin and Ferrah back to Laenost already. Jan wanted to stay to speak with you."
"How long was I out for? What happened?"
"You've been out for roughly a day. Jan woke up from the monster's spell as soon as you killed it. He pulled the rest of us out, fortunately the serpent swallowed us whole! We managed to get to the Sporlock village shortly after."
There was a knock on the doorframe, and Jan peeked in. "Is he awake?" he asked.
Frann nodded him in. "Yes, I've been telling him a bit about what happened. You can take over, I'm going to go get him some food."
Jan took Frann's place sitting on the side of the bed. "Well," he said, "it looks like my spell worked. Thank you for saving us."
"Ha!" Ject shook his head. "You saved us. You made a spell like that on the fly, and came up with a strategy! You're the hero, not me."
"I'm no hero, just a Sorcerer," Jan said with a smile. "But I do think you were the best of all of us. I hope Frann recommends a good Guild for you."
"Did he recommend one for you?"
"Elegant Mystery. He says it's a guild that'll help me with my talents. Maybe you could join up with me?"
Ject laughed. "I'm not going to worry about what Guild I get into right now," he said, "but I might just take you up on that. Out of curiosity, did the Sporlocks know anything about the monster?"
Jan's face darkened. "Yes. Its name is Asmodeus, and it is a dark god that they have feared for centuries. Had they known that Asmodeus was behind the disappearances, they would have never called for us. They would have offered sacrifices to it instead."
"Really..." Ject wasn't sure how to react to that. He would have preferred to never have had to go through this experience, but at the same time he was glad that they had killed the monster without any deaths.
Jan stood up as Frann walked back in with a bowl of soup. "You know," Jan said, "a Sorcerer and an Omnimancer actually make a pretty good team."
Ject looked down at his hands. He lifted one up and flexed his fingers, urging the magic to flow back through his body properly.
"Yeah," he said, "we do."