Rhan dropped down from overtop the stone wall onto the stone and dirt street below.
“Hurry, hurry. They are right on our tail,” Rhan shouted up to the woman climbing over the wall.
“I’m hurrying,” Ninette yelled down. “It doesn’t help if you yell, you know.”
Ninette climbed over with a little less skill than Rhan, but she eventually dropped down beside him.
“You still have it?” Rhan asked.
Ninette nodded pulling a small scroll case from her inner cloak pocket before putting it back in there for safe keeping.
“Well I hope it was worth it,” Rhan said trying to catch his breath.
“This may hold the secrets to your runechild abilities,” Ninette said.
“Yeah, that ‘may’ is what worries me,” Rhan said.
There conversation was cut short when a loud horn started blowing. Several of these horns then followed creating an echoing of horns.
The city guard was blowing off a series of horns alerting the entire city to the presence of two thieves.
It had been a few weeks since Rhan had shown up to Ninette’s cabin to find help with his magical curse. It turns out that this so called curse was actually innate magical ability sealed in runes on Rhan’s body. After a brief conversation, Ninette decided to help out Rhan in figuring out these runes and if it was possible to get rid of the runes. This had lead to Ninette and Rhan breaking into a secured library full of magic artifacts and scrolls. The fight didn’t go exactly as planned, and they both had to run after grabbing the scroll Ninette had came for.
“Looks like they are on to us,” Ninette said.
“You can get us out of here, though, right?” Rhan turned to Ninette.
“I had to use all my magic to get us out of that library,” Ninette said. “I wasn’t expecting that place to be so heavily guarded by magic. I’m going to need a minute to regenerate my mana.”
“So what’s plan B?” Rhan asked.
“We’ll have to escape below the city out through the sewer system,” Ninette said.
“Is there a plan C?” He asked.
“I’m afraid not,” Ninette said before another series of horns went off.
“They are going to be on top of us any minute. We need to go,” Ninette said.
“Well lead the way,” Rhan offered.
They both ran forward weaving through a few people on the street and side-stepping a food cart selling fresh produce. They ran from alleyway to alleyway doing their best to dodge the city guard looking for them. Men and women with heavy armor and sharp weaponry. People you didn’t want to get into a fight with, especially when the magic user didn’t have any magic left. Rhan was decent with a blade, but if two or three city guard cornered them, they would quickly out power Rhan and Ninette.
“Woah,” Ninette said grabbing onto Rhan’s collar and forcing him back into an alleyway.
Just then two men ran by carrying heavy crossbow. They ran by just missing the two of them.
“That was close,” Rhan said. “I’m glad you were paying attention.”
“Me too,” Ninette said. “Now come on. There’s a sewer entrance not too far from here.”
“You sure know a lot about this city,” Rhan noted.
Ninette gave him an annoyed look.
“I used to live in the city before they caught win of my magical talents. Then I feared for my life and was forced to flee. Remember?”
“Oh yeah. Now that you say it, I do remember you saying something like that before we sneaked in to this place,” Rhan said.
“You’re lucky I don’t have any magic left. I’d summon a flock of birds right now,” Ninette said as she rolled her eyes. “Now come on. Let’s get out of here.”
They heard another series of horn sounds as they made their way to a circular stone in the middle of one of the city streets. At this moment the street was empty, but it wouldn’t be long before the city guard made another pass this way.
Rhan lifted up the stone and Ninette slipped under finding some metal rungs of a ladder leading down into the sewer.
“Hurry, hurry,” Rhan said.
“I’m hurrying,”Ninette said through gritted teeth as she climbed down the rungs.
Rhan followed suit placing his feet on the metal rungs as he did his best to move the stone back to cover the hole. A small bit of light shinned down from above, but it was still almost impossible to see.
There was a splashing sound as Ninette stepped off the last rung and dropped down into the water flowing through this stone tunnel. Rhan dropped down next to her making another splashing sound. The water was up to around mid-thigh, but did not move very fast.
“I can’t see a thing,” Ninette said.
“Hold on,” Rhan pulled a metal box off his belt which looked like a lantern.
He opened the box and it began to glow as small, glowing bugs started flowing out of the box.
“And you said this magic item was stupid,” Rhan said admiring the lantern.
It was a magical item that produced an almost unlimited number of glow bugs creating a source of low light.
“There are much more efficient way of creating light that summoning magical glow bugs,” Ninette said.
“Then why don’t you create some light,” Rhan said.
“I’m. Out. Of. Magic,” Ninette said clenching her teeth even harder.
“Well I guess bugs win this round,” Rhan said taking a step forward in the water. The light of the glow bugs followed him as the lantern continued to create more and more of them. Soon they were in the air and clinging to the walls.
“They are getting everywhere you know,” Ninette said swatting one away from her face.
“Someone’s just jealous of my awesome new bug friends that make light,” Rhan said.
Ninette let out a groan but continued to follow Rhan and his lantern of glow bugs down the sewer tunnel. Eventually it dumped out to a nearby river outside the city walls. The horns were still barely heard over the sound of the rushing river.
“We made it,” Rhan said closing the lantern and closing off the light.
“We still have a little bit to go in order to get back to the cabin. Let’s not jinx it just yet,” Ninette said.
“Right, right. Let’s get back to the cabin so we can check out that nifty scroll,” Rhan said.
“Yeah it’s nifty. What’s wrong with that word?”
“You humans all have the same problem. You can’t stop talking,” Ninette stormed past Rhan and lead the way back to her cabin.
It was a quick trek through the woods following an old deer path until they broke out of the forest and into a clearing. There was the wooden cabin perched upon a large pile of lumber. Black birds sat on the roof preening their feathers.
“Home, sweet home,” Ninette said.
The black birds turned their heads and began to caw.
“Those are good sounds, right?” Rhan asked.
“You still nervous?” Ninette asked back looking at Rhan out of the corner of her eye.
“Since you almost killed me with a flock of them? Yeah that still makes me nervous,” Rhan said.
She waved her hand and the lumber twisted into rudimentary, wooden stairs leading up tot he door of the cabin.
“So you do have a little magic in you still?” Rhan asked.
“That’s a basic encantation. Doesn’t expend anything,” Ninette said as she climbed the stairs.
Rhan and Ninette made it inside the cabin, which was much larger on the inside, and crashed down in the living area.
“I’m glad we’re back,” Ninette said.
“Me too,” Rhan said pulling off his water soaked boots.
Ninette pulled the scroll case from her cloak and placed it down on the coffee table in the living area.
“Why don’t you get a fire going? I’ll start on dinner and after we eat, we can look at the scroll,” Ninette offered.
Rhan nodded and then proceeded to start a fire in the large, stone hearth. Ninette then went to the kitchen to pull small leaves and other ingredients in order to prepare a stew. Over the next hour, Ninette made the stew while Rhan changed into a dry set of clothes. It was a blue coat with a variety of leather straps that wrapped around his torso. He then sat down in the living area with Ninette and ate the stew. It was a basic vegetable stew but it was delicious and filling. It felt nice to have some downtime after running away from highly powerful magicians and a whole city full of guards that want to capture them.
“So should we look at the scroll?” Rhan asked.
“Yeah, I think that’s a good idea,” Ninette said.
She pulled the leather cord off the scroll case and it opened revealing a rolled up, paper scroll. To Rhan, it looked like a basic piece of paper, but Ninette could feel the magic radiating off of it.
“So what is it?” Rhan asked.
“A magic scroll,” Ninette said. “I believe it may have the ability to unlock your abilities as a runechild.”
“Unlock? I thought it was supposed to get rid of the magic runes on my body,” Rhan said.
“Rhan, you have magic energy flowing through your blood,” Ninette said grabbing Rhan’s wrist. “The magic manifests itself on your body in the shape of runes. This then allows you to use the magic to cast spells.”
“But I don’t want to cast spells or have magic blood. I want this stuff gone. You told me that this would get rid of my markings, my curse,” Rhan said.
“It’s not a curse, Rhan. It’s a blessing.”
“It’s a curse! I don’t want it. How hard is that to understand?” Rhan asked pulling his hand away from Ninette. “When I came to you, you told me that you could help me get rid of this. That’s why I helped you get into that library today. That’s why I helped you get this scroll.”
“Take it, Rhan.”
“No, Ninette. I don’t want it.”
“Just take it.”
“Just take it!”
Ninette shoved the scroll case towards Rhan. He instinctively jumped off the couch and backed up to the wall closest to the door.
“If that thing can’t get rid of these runes, then I want no part of it,” Rhan said.
“You are so foolish,” Ninette yelled. “This can help you understand your powers. Manifest them.”
“Magic is your thing, not mine. I just want to return to my normal life without these things on my body.”
“Yeah? And what life is that? A life of luxary? Are you some king or something?”
“What? No? But -”
“Are you some famous knight? Some hero or something?”
“I’m not anything like that. I’m just a normal guy living a normal life.”
“Normal? You’re just going to settle for normal, when you could have an amazing life?” Ninette asked thrusting the scroll forward again. “That is a waste.”
“No! What’s a waste is the fact that I came here. Obviously I was wrong when I thought you could help me,” Rhan said. “I’m leaving.”
Rhan opened the door and was surprised to see that there was a small crowd gathered. There was a group of armored knights on horseback surrounding the cabin with torches in one hand and weapons in the other hand.
“Uh…Ninette…” Rhan stood in the doorway.
“You know, you were surprisingly easy to follow,” The man in the center yelled out. “We just followed the glow bugs all the way here.”
Ninette stepped into the doorway beside Rhan to observe this crowd.
“Now step out and return the items you stole. If you do that, I can promise that you will have a fair trial back in the city. If you do not surrender, we’ll be forced to kill you here,” The man shouted again.
“Please tell me you have your magic back,” Rhan whispered to Ninette.
“Not much,” Ninette replied in a hushed tone.
“So what will it be, witch and thief?” The man asked.
“But you still have magic,” Ninette said holding the scroll.
Rhan let out a sigh.
“Give it to me,” Rhan said.
“Well?” The man asked.
He was getting impatient and the knights around him prepared to strike, but they did not get their chance. As they raised their weapons, Ninette slammed the scroll into Rhan’s hands. Instantly, Rhan could feel a burning sensation climb up his arm and fill into his chest as the magic radiated from the scroll into his body.
Rhan’s eyes lit up as the magic runes all over his body ignited in light. The wind whipped up around him as small pieces of debris were lifted into the air. Inside the house, papers and scattered ingerdients began to fly up and join the typhoon building outside. Rhan lifted up off his feet as the wind continued to spin faster and faster.
The armored knights shouted orders as their horses let out cries, but it was all drowned out by the wind. The runes flashed again and large runes burned in front of Rhan.
“Begone,” He said with what seemed like two voices.
The storm continued to grow in strength as large logs began to rise up as well as swirl around him. Many knights were knocked off their horses or were killed instantly by the flying debris.
Behind him the magic holding the house together started to fail and the structure began to fall apart and get sucked up into the storm.
“Rhan! Rhan!” Ninette grabbed onto Rhan’s wrist, right above his clenched fist that was holding the scroll.
Even though the wind was loud enough to drown out Ninette’s cries, Rhan turned his head and made eye contact with Ninette. His expression changed from stern and powerful to worried and remorseful.
He slowly let go of the scroll and the wind instantly stopped. Rhan fell a foot down onto Ninette’s level and a variety of trees, lumber, people, and horses fell from the sky onto the ground with a series of loud thumps. Around him laid every member of the army and their horse was dead and lumber was scattered all over the valley.
Rhan stood there for a second as the scroll fell to the ground before toppling over into Ninette’s arms. The magic runes on his body stopped glowing and his eyes returned to normal as he slumped into her.
“Hold on, Rhan. We’ll get you out of here,” She said looking around the rubble of her house.
She swirled her hands in the air and the black birds seemed to return to her, unfazed by the large storm that just occurred.
They came to her and surrounded her it a cloud of black feathers. Then they seemed to vanish leaving Ninette in the form of a large, black bird, eight to ten size bigger than the regular black birds.
Ninette let out a caw before grabbing onto Rhan’s unconscious body. She then bent down and picked up the scroll in her mouth. She flapped her large wings and they took to the air. Higher and higher she flew as she held on to Rhan before heading off towards a deep, dark part of the nearby forest.
Header Photo Credit to Wizards of the Coast