To live! To know! To move and act, and to be acted upon. Simply to be, and to know yourself to be. It is the supreme joy – the first joy, a precondition for any other. It has been – many, many seasons that I have lain in torpor. But now I am awake.
I do not know when I was made, or by whom. But I remember becoming conscious, if only dimly. She was unusual among her kind, who first joined her power with mine. We saw and did so much! She departed, eventually, in the usual manner of living things. But from her body she had brought forth others like herself, and so she passed me on to one of these, and he to another after, and so down through the years. They named themselves “Verdant”, and changed – they became civilised, and great in art, but saw less and less of the world. Many of them gave of their magic to me, which I yet keep.
They lost me, or perhaps they needed me less and put me aside. I slept – if that is the right word – until these Daishi woke me again. They would not Know me, save to peer into my memories, they hid me away in a hole in the weave. But then She came, a Verdant. And one like the Verdants of old. Now again I share my power, I Move and Know. And she is – so young! I had not understood – until now, I have only been handed down to a mind that knew itself well, that was old, or nearing being old as the elves account it. This one: it is like all things are new again.
She recalls events thus:
I had been banished for, well, months now, nearly a year, when I got a letter from mother. It seems that Aunt Muriel was running for election, which is as it should be. Unfortunately, the Daishi had found some sort of item from the family past – from an ancestor that had done a little adventuring. Rather like me, really. In any case, any half-competent diviner would be able to recover a number of sordid gossipy tidbits from it, and that would put a damper on the family’s bid for decent representation on the council. So mother and auntie would very much prefer that the item be recovered. Mother had prepared a scroll with a keyed Greater Teleport on it, which I was to activate – preferably before the election.
Well, there was this and that and the other to take care of first – running a kingdom, armies of the undead and ancient cyclopean liches, the usual. But time was an issue, and Jope and Rainor very kindly agreed to come along. We took a week to put the kingdom in order, and another to prepare an item or two (and I’m very glad we did), and then it was time to go.
We teleported to Bath, of all places. The resort town – sun and sand, boating in the harbour, and of course the springs. The scroll revealed its hidden message: the Daishi had recovered some ring that Zoe Verdant (yes, that Zoe Verdant) had worn, and I was to reclaim it. When I had done so, I was to impress it in a seal on the scroll. It was being held in the Dashi holiday house. It’s out of season at the moment, so a holiday house counts as being secure but out-of-the-way. It also means that I would not have to swipe it from under the nose off the dashi matron, which is something that … would be grossly unwise to attempt.
Oh, and we had no more than two days. Cutting it fine, Mother dear, but I suppose it’s my fault really.
So, what to do? We rolled into town. His Grace immediately started spending money and acquired rooms and put Giacomo to work digging up rumours. I decided that I may as well look the part. It’s been a while since I was properly dressed, but it’s a holiday town, so off-the-rack will do. Rainor went exploring.
We compared notes in the afternoon. The Daishi estate was a few miles out of town, and patrolled by a “security” company, which is like a mercenary company but civilian. Private town guards. Rainor could only get just so far before being turned back. I learned nothing. His Grace decided that the best plan would be to hold an enormous party at great expense – it being the off season, there’d be precious little else going on and everyone would be there. Naturally, they’d need some security. I’d slip out a couple of hours before midnight, wander up the road, and recover our family’s property.
What could go wrong?
Rainor sent Rainen with me as we would be travelling off-road (it’s a little embarrassing to admit, but I can lose my way in unfamiliar forest). We dodged the patrols and I got my first look at the Daishi home-away-from-home. A rather nice secure copse of trees. Mother’s enchantment revealed a little more – there were rings of Alarm spells around it. I sneaked in. Getting through the alarms was tricky, but they were keyed to lawn ornaments, and suitable use of Mage Handwas enough to bypass them.
The front door was out of the question. The back dor was very nearly as heavily fortified. So I used a wand of Spider Climb (remember how I said I was glad we took a few days to enchant some items? That wand was one of them.) to approach the problem from the top.
At the top was a door whose security had not been attended to recently. I managed to bypass it and get inside.
Down the stairs and into a trophy room, protected by a quite serious anti-magic field. The ring was in a very nice display cabinet (it was quite obvious that that’s what I was after – it had the family crest) which animated as soon as I started work. I rely on spells, mainly, and there was not a chance I’d be able to deal with it on my own.
So I left, went back into town. The party was in full swing but I managed to detach Rainor. We went back to the estate (well past midnight at this juncture). We snuck into the tower and atacked the construct. Unfortunately, the damn thing hit hard. Would have killed us both. Not only that, but as soon as we scratched it a number of smaller constructs came out of the woodwork and started repairing it. What a mess – we had both left blood in there, so any decent diviner would find out straight away who was responsible. There was nothing much for it but to fetch Jope and Giacomo and try a third time.
We detached Jope from the party – he was nowhere near as drunk as he was pretending to be. We discussed the possibility of finding some alchemical adamantine, but eventualy decided that the plan was that Giacomo would stay out of the antimagic zone with a wand of curing. Rainor would take out the smaller constructs and Jope and I would deal with the large one – my job being primarily to not get killed.
Jope had Giacomo stir up the crowd to rowdiness, and he exited to his private quarters with a female on each arm. Once out of view we suited up and headed out. We opted for stealth over speed – we were attacked by gargoyles which were now on alert. I used the want of spider climbing and a couple of invisibility spells and we all made it up to the top of the copse and into the trophy room. Without further ado, we attacked the construct. Jope was bashing, I was stabbing, Rainor was taking out the smaller constructs. Until the thing hit me twice and I was down. Next thing I know, Giacomo was waving a healing wand (never though I’d be glad to wake up and see a kobold) and Jope and Rainor were handing me the ring.
We got the hell out of there. But Rainen was still outside, off in the woods (he hadn’t come in with us, and was distracting the gargoyles). And we were spotted by the estate majordomo – a Rakshasa. Well, we wouldn’t have lasted for a second, and in any case it’s terribly bad form to kill the help. The fact is that everything we had done was legitimate election politics. So Rainor whistled for Rainen, and I proceeded to stall the Majordomo. I told him who I was (they had my blood inside, so no point hiding it), and told him that the ring was rightfully mine. Which was true – hard to argue with the fact that it has our crest on it. Rakshasa set great store by going by the book, you know. They’d have all torn each other to bits ages ago if they did not. he demanded we give ourselves up, I suggested that we’d be happy to give ourselves up to a legitimate authority (I made a Will save, fortunately), and Rainen was a pale blur in the night streaking towards us.
When he was close enough, I declaimed “and here is proof!”, or some such twaddle, and pressed the ring into Mother’s scroll. It changed again and revealed another spell of Greater teleport. I read it and we were out of there. I did get off a parting shot: “My respects to the Matron”. In retrospect, it’s possible that it might be misinterpreted – I really did mean it in the sense of this whole business just being normal politics, and I genuinely rather do respect the Daish matron. Any sensible person does. How she chooses to take it is another issue.
What’s done is done. The scroll took us back to Tuskwater. I had expected to go home, but I suppose I am still not entirely welcome. In any event, I wear my name again. The ring does indeed have a number of fascinating stories to tell about our early family history, and I imagine that no-one would gainsay my right. So long as I stay away from home for at least a few decades more.
During the party, His grace had drunkenly offered to accept settlers into the forest. Perhaps that will turn out well. The ring itself is named Thought and Memory. He is very old, and immensely powerful. I have bonded my magic to him, now. I may be banished for a while, but I’ll share what I can with him, and contribute to the family that way.
After the election, we spent a few months fabricating useful items for Rainor, Jope, and myself. It cost a bomb, as the humans say, but should be very well worth it. A headband of insight for Rainor – as powerful as we could make it. Gloves of Duelling for Jope. For me: Sniper Goggles. And a couple of wands and scrolls. His Grace made some weapons, including a gift for the Nomen centaurs.
I don’t really need my old signet ring, now. But before I put it away, I turned the stone around. I’ll bear my name from now on.
My friends may still call me “Switch”.