Griften was exhausted. The ambush in Greyhawk, the mental stresses of portal travel… he just needed to sleep.
Not yet. He told himself. They must open their eyes and see… they must be made safe.
The large teleportation room of Rel Mord’s wizard’s guild was familiar by now; its arcane sigils and well-polished stone reflecting the dying midsummer sun as it shone through the narrow windows. As he stepped down, Griften was greeted warmly by the attendants for the Wizard’s Guild teleporting hall; and Griften dutifully walked over to the small lectern for his ‘voluntary contribution’.
“Greetings, m’lord.” the attendant began with a courteous half-bow.
“Good day sir,” Griften replied as he produced from the folds of his robe a small stack of gold coins. Handing it to the attendant for his contribution, the attendant’s eyes grew a little and he quickly glanced at the guards outside the room some twenty feet away.
“Forgive me m’lord, but the contribution is only five gold pieces and a signature.”
Griften smiled from the corner of his mouth and spoke barely louder than a whisper, “My apologies, good sir. I was sure that it was fifteen gold and no signature…” Griften winked quickly from his right eye opposite the guards.
“Welcome to the capital of Nyrond, m’lord.” The attendant quickly covered the gold with his hand and bowed again. Griften turned and quickly stepped out into the hallway, hopeful he had bought himself a head start.
Hurrying now from the wizards guild to the outskirts of town, Griften‘s mind was racing.
Too obvious; might attract attention… Griften thought as he quickly moved through the city. No flashy displays of preternatural speed or psionic ability in the middle of Rel Mord without a cover of darkness. His eyes darted from side to side, trying to catch anything out of place, but he could see nothing. You’re probably drawing attention just by being mindful… he looked behind him much too often. The city was slowly closing; night would soon fall and the anyone hurrying anywhere would immediately be suspicious. The cover of the bustling streets would evaporate.
Good; they’ll both be home. Griften assured himself. It was true; especially living outside the city walls, in these times, it was unwise to be out too late. At least that was something they took seriously…
There was always a sense of peace about the villages outside the capital; the families grew up or moved away, but everything else stayed the same. Griften could see his parents’ home in the distance, with a glow shining from inside as expected. Reaching the door, Griften knocked and waited patiently, more out of formality than anything… it had been a long time since he’d been home.
The door opened slightly and a small woman peeked out from behind it. There was a moment’s pause and then it swung open, Griften‘s mother exclaiming with wide-eyed surprise and launching herself into Griften‘s arms with a cry, “Griften, my dear!” Griften couldn’t help but smile and he embraced his tiny mother; she clung to his neck, her feet dangling in the air.
“Mother… ” Griften let the moment last, and he breathed a sigh of relief that his fears had not yet been realized. He could hear some noise from inside the house, and asked, “… is everything alright?”
Griften‘s mother let loose her grip and dropped to the ground. “Everything’s fine dear; what a pleasant surprise! Come in, come in! Don’t stand out here in the cold by yourself!” Griften‘s mother grabbed his hand and led him inside the house, calling as she did, “Ammon! Your son is home! Stop fooling around back there and come see!”
Griften looked around the house; it was just as it always had been. Everything seemed in order; and he felt a smile threaten. It was like stepping into another time; the furniture, his favourite chair, the wobbly staircase, everything. All of these would have gone further to comfort Griften if not for the growing impatience growing in his mind. Even the oak table his father had made when Griften was young was still the main fixture of the room; Griften could even make out his name and the name of his brother and sister carved by each of them when the table was finished.
Focus! They’re coming. They could already be here.
Griften‘s father came in from the back of the house, greeting him warmly. “Well, well stranger!” Griften‘s father strode over and clasped Griften‘s shoulders in his large hands. Even now, as a much older man, Ammon kept much of his youthful vigor. “You look awful, son. They not feeding you at the temple anymore? Or you off fighting monsters somewhere again?” He grinned broadly at Griften as he lowered himself into Griften‘s old favourite chair. “Yes, it’s mine now lad; you abandoned it! She’s been a good companion to us; a stout mug of ale, a beautiful woman and your chair! Life can be good!” He leaned back in satisfaction and motioned for Griften to sit as well.
It always stung Griften a bit when his father joked like this. So many years had passed… so much had happened, and Griften had kept it all from them. How do you say these things aloud? How do you tell your parents you might be the harbinger of death? For years, Griften allowed them their illusions, but that time was over.
They need to know the peril they’re in.
“What’s wrong?” Griften‘s mother asked when he didn’t sit.
“We need to talk…” Griften began. Amazing; he had no idea how to begin now that the time was upon him. For years he had imagined this conversation… the Temple in the Sunless Sea… the Clones… the Codex… life and death… and no longer having the luxury of denial that he was a part of it. How to begin?!
“Please sit.” Griften gestured to the table he had eaten at as a child. His parents sat slowly, keeping their eyes on their son. What must this be like for them? Griften wondered. To see me with a parents’ eyes and remember me as a boy?
“Some things are happening now that are hard to explain.” Griften knew that none of this would make sense, no matter how careful he was. “When I was a boy, and we decided that I needed to get trained how to… you know… use my power… well, that was the beginning of a story that I’m realizing now is starting to unfold.” Griften could see the furrowed, confused brows of his parents meant that vagueness would no longer suffice.
“I’m involved in something, and there are some people who want something I have. These people are very bad, and they’ll do terrible things to anyone who stands in their way. To get to me, they’ll even come after you two. You’re in danger.” Griften paused to allow his parents to say something. Ammon reached out and took his wife’s hand in his; looking at her with concern; trying to peer into her mind to see what her reaction would be. No one spoke, so Griften continued:
“We need to leave, and leave quickly. Minutes could be the difference, and I don’t have time to explain; not now.”
“I… I don’t understand…” Griften‘s mother finally stammered. “Who would want to hurt you? Why? Did you do something?”
“No, mother… well, yes… but not in the way you think. It’s what I might do that is why they’re after me. Or, perhaps what I might not do.” Griften let his eyes fall as the complexity of what he was trying to explain even sounded ridiculous in his own ears.
“What are you TALKING about?!” Griften‘s mother raised her voice slightly. “Did these monks get you in trouble? Are you in danger because of the Monks we brought you to!?” Griften could tell as she continued just how in the dark his father had allowed her to remain all these years. She knew, of course that Griften had powers, but Griften had always been careful never to display them with the family. Griften‘s mother was a simple woman; she wanted to see her family grow, and some things were better left unsaid. But now the time for naivete was over.
“Mother, I wish I could explain more now. I will, but just not now. You and dad need to leave with me right away, and we only have minutes to get your things together. I’m sorry.” Griften knew his words carried little weight; that only full understanding could possibly justify such a change. Griften saw his mother’s hand clench a little on the arm of his chair; her hand feeling the familiar fabric and smooth it out unconsciously.
“Now don’t be silly, Griften. I won’t have any more talk of this. You and your father have these delusions of grandeur, and you get each other all worked up; the world is always out to get you, and you react so strongly to these things! If we’re in trouble, your father will go to the city guard and ask for solace inside the walls. The royal guard has dispatches that spend nights in the villages all the time! Whoever is bothering you won’t be able to get you then.” Griften‘s mother nodded her head once with a sense of finality that she had figured it out. She stood, smoothed out her dress and turned Griften‘s old chair around again as it always was. Satisfied, she started towards the kitchen. Griften‘s father followed her with his gaze and then quickly gave a meaningful look to Griften. Ammon nodded once and Griften knew what he meant.
It was time.
With a quick glance, Griften quickly swung the kitchen door closed in front of his mother. Startled, she paused a moment and turned to look at the men in the room. Griften and his father said nothing and waited patiently. Griften‘s mother turned back and gently laid her hand against the door to swing it open again, but Griften held it firmly closed. She pushed harder, but the door did not move. Leaning against the door now, she pushed as hard as she could. “Griften Insaith! You open this door right now! No tricks!” Griften‘s eyes lowered knowing what this would do to his mother, but this was no time for games.
“Mother, please listen.”
“No, I will not! You come into this house, tell us this wild story that we’re in trouble, and expect us to pick up and leave!? You’re worse than your father and his blasted chair! I have spent more years in this house young man than you’ve even been alive!” She was wagging her finger at Griften now, “And no one, not even my alarmist son or my unreasonable husband is going to see me just pick up and leave because you have a ‘bad feeling’!”
It was Griften‘s father’s turn. “Renia, dear, please listen to your son.” He stood and moved to embrace her, his tone soothing now, but something in Griften‘s mother had been shaken, and she would not be calmed so easily.
“NO!” She swatted away his arms, moving back into the room now and looked at Griften. “This is nonsense! It’s been a long day; you look terrible, you will stay here tonight and in the morning you will talk to the city guard!” She was very animated now, talking almost more to herself than to Griften or her husband. “This is MY home! I will stay here until I can no longer, and no one will move me!” Griften knew her voice was carrying well outside their small home now. “Ammon, DO something! Tell him we’re not going anywhere! This is nonsense! First one, then Darin, now YOU!?! NO!” Tears were streaming now.
Griften was a sea of emotion. No monkly-training could prepare someone for this. He wanted nothing more than to acquiesce, and do what his mother asked. It would be so easy…
… but she is risking everything without knowing it.
Griften tried to go to her, but she moved away again, continuing to rant. Distraught at what to do Griften turned to his father to do something, but he was similarly at a loss. Raising his voice as well, Griften‘s father tried to help, but things escalated. Yelling at full volume and stamping around the room now, his parents stood yelling at each other; Griften‘s old chair standing as silent mediator between them. Griften‘s mind was spiralling; everyone can hear us… this will change everything… I can’t lose them… my responsibility… Griften felt dizzy. The room spun and it seemed as though this room was Griften‘s entire universe.
“ENOUGH!” With a blast of psionic energy, Griften focused on the chair he loved as a child and the one his father had since adopted and it exploded into a hundred pieces with a huge CRACK! Shards of wood and cloth were neatly directed away from both his parents but slammed into the walls of the room with loud, splintering thuds.
Eyes wide with surprise, both of Griften‘s parents stood silent, bodies frozen in terror as they looked at him.
“I’ve heard ENOUGH! You WILL do as I say!” Griften‘s voice was loud now; but he wasn’t thinking. He could scarcely recall doing it. He was not a monk; he was a son.
Griften‘s mother’s shocked gaze slowly changed. Eyes still wide, she turned her body slightly away, almost in a protective posture, and her eyebrows lowered, then narrowed as she slowly mouthed the words… “… who are you?” She had always been intuitive, emotional, sensitive, but Griften knew she could see… she could see the change in him. Griften knew there was more to him now, knew that he was forever changed. But now, lying exposed in his parents house, she could see it in him.
“You will do as I ask.” Griften lowered his voice now, trying to sound reasonable. “I will give you time to gather some things, but we leave tonight.”
Griften‘s father was also shocked but said nothing. Sheltering his wife in his arms, she now allowed him to lead her upstairs. Griften followed, not willing to let them out of his sight. “Gather your things; things you cannot do without.” Sniffling slightly, Griften‘s mother stole quick glances at him as she and Ammon put together their things.
She will never forgive this. Griften thought to himself despairingly. It is betrayal now in her mind…
It was just a few short minutes for Griften‘s parents to gather their things. Despite all that Griften had been given, all the wealth at his disposal, his parents had always steadfastly insisted on a simple life. Griften took the largest of the items and piled them into his Bag of Holding. Amazed, Griften‘s mother watched as the items disappeared to the safety within. She said nothing, and stayed hidden behind Ammon as if afraid.
Not wanting to lose any more time, Griften asked again, “Is that everything for now?” His father nodded. “Then we go. Follow me and stay close.”
Griften and his father quickly extinguished the candles and locked up the house. With several glances back at the house, they went swiftly back to the city before night finally fell. Griften constantly looked around, listening for anything suspicious and stared at almost everyone as the city got ready to close up for the night. Arriving at the wizard’s guild, Griften was sure they had just minutes to spare. Quickly retracing the steps he made just an hour ago, Griften led his parents finally to the teleportation room. The guards nodded again, recognizing Griften‘s quick return. Griften‘s mother’s gaze was fixed firmly on Griften, however, as if terrified of what might come next.
“And good evening again m’lord,” he replied, “Will you be leaving us so soon?”
“Yes, and I would very much appreciate again your discretion and some privacy.” Griften spoke only loudly enough for the scribe to hear, banking on the previous ‘understanding’ they had established.
“Of course, my lord.” Griften left another generous contribution on the lectern and motioned for his father to bring his mother inside. The scribe swept Griften‘s offering into a small pouch, folded up the large book on the lectern and stepped outside into the hallway with the guards; no doubt having made this kind of accommodation before for others…
“Stand here, and wait patiently, I need only minutes.” Griften said. He knew that he was about to expose his parents to something they had never experienced before, and that their relationship with him would be forever changed. As long as they’re safe.
Remembering his monk techniques, Griften slowed his racing pulse. He recalled the intricate sigils of the teleportation circle at the Temple of the Yellow Rose. With closed eyes and fast focus, Griften saw before him the ghostly blue images shimmer into existence in front of him. With a curl of his outstretched hand, the sigils rushed forward into his palm, dancing and moving through each other like well-trained smoke. With a quick, circular gesture of his arm, the sigils flung forward onto the teleportation dias and rushed to take their position in the archway, lining up like well-trained soldiers.
Griften‘s mother clung still to Ammon, and both of them stared with amazement at their son. Griften knew it; he could feel their gaze upon him. He almost liked it; but knew that was not the old Griften thinking that… it was the new one. Would that these feelings would leave him!
Opening his eyes, Griften furrowed his brow in concentration and the portal opened inside the sigils. Griften could make out the familiar teleportation room at the Temple, and finally turned his attention back towards his parents. Motioning for them to come to him, Ammon carefully stepped forward, keeping Renia in his arms. Griften looked at his father’s face. He was crying, but he managed a smile for Griften. Griften mustered a half-smile of his own but said nothing and handed his parents’ belongings contained in the magical bag to his father.
Carefully, slowly, Ammon pried Griften‘s mothers arms from around him. “It’s ok, dear. Watch me.” Griften knew his father was terrified but understood the gesture. Renia let go and stood unaided, watching with amazement as Griften‘s father stepped up onto the dais and through the portal. His image could be seen on the other side, hazy and indistinct, standing in the middle of the room, gazing around at the new surroundings with the bag firmly clenched in his hand.
Turning now to him, Griften‘s mother slowly raised her hand almost defensively, as if expecting something else to happen. Gently however, as if for the first time… she touched his cheek. Sure now he was real, she dared to place her palm full against Griften‘s face.
“Yes mother, it’s me.”
“My son…” her tears were full now. “So different…”
“Yes. The boy is gone.”
Visibly wincing at the words, Griften‘s mother bowed her head and closed her eyes hard, the meaning hitting her full. Turning to the portal, Griften motioned for her to move with him onto the dais. Renia stepped forward, but looked up at Griften again, pausing a moment. She did not speak, her expression did not change, but Griften knew.
Cradling his tiny, trembling mother in his arms, Griften and his mother stepped through the portal together.