Trophy Wife – Chapter 2: The Orc is Loose

Sharn strode into the small house at the edge of Immenor that she had claimed for her own. She nodded briefly to the small gnome she shared the abode with as she stalked into one room, dropping her equipment to the floor with a loud thud and sprawling on the massive fur-covered bed. “Good hunting, Sharn?” the gnome asked quietly, bringing her a bowl of stew.

Sharn grunted slightly and sat up, taking the bowl from him. “It was fine. We managed to force the hill giants to retreat further into the mountain; had to kill more than a few. Got back to town, and the wizard headed for his tower before he got his share,” she grumbled. “The rest got theirs and made for the big city, I think they’re worried about how old Herodius is, but it’s not like he’s swinging a sword.” Pausing, she added softly, “Thanks for taking care of the place and feeding me, Musk. Anything good happen while I was gone?”

Musk patted her knee gently, “Not to worry Sharn, I know you won’t abandon him.” Musk shrugged. “No, nothing to speak of. A couple of bandits were sighted out of town, and there’s talk of some massive bears roaming the woods but nothing definitive.” The gnome shrugged again. “Oh, the caravan came through right on time and I traded for some new cookware, used the last of the venison to do it, so will need to go hunting soon.”

Sharn sighed and handed back her bowl which had been quickly and completely emptied, “Alright, I’ll make plans to go hunting later this week, give me a list of what we need, I’ll start getting us stocked up for winter.” She patted Musk on the head and then stretched out on her bed. “I’m going to catch some sleep,” she said, the tiredness edging her voice, “then head over to the wizard’s tower in the morning to give Herodius his share. Betcha I make at least one try to hide.”

Musk chuckled at the thought of Herodius’ pupils, none of which was anywhere near as big as the half-orc female, “Sucker’s bet. Sweet dreams, Sharn.”

Perianor woke the next morning to the familiar sounds of birds cawing through the open window. He sighed heavily as he blinked himself awake then, realizing where he was and that he had not finished his notes for his class today, pushed himself back from the table, knocking the stool he was sitting on over onto the floor. He raced to the wash basin and threw a couple of handfuls at his face to wake himself up further, then quickly dried his face and dusty brown hair and raced back to the table and began scribbling furiously, trying to finish before the class arrived and was ready. About half of an hour later, he gathered up a moderately sized stack of loose papers and walked out of his room and down the stairs to the main floor where the lectures usually took place. Afterward, the experimentation and practicum would be held in the basement, which he would also proctor.

Most of his students were already there and they acknowledged him quietly as he strode to the front of the room and the wrought iron lectern. As the last of his students trickled in, he cleared his throat, “Today, we will begin studying the forms of non-trivial spirit and demon abjuration. Please, may I have your attention.” Raising his hand, he muttered a few unintelligible words under his breath and his fingertip illuminated. Writing in the air, he traced symbol after symbol that hung there, glowing with an inner fire as he talked, explaining the theory behind the magic to the students that were hurrying to take notes in their fledgling grimoires.

Sharn rolled out of the bed and thudded to her feet. She stood and stretched for a moment then, scratching the back of her head, she grabbed her clothing and a towel and headed for the public bathing hall, intent on cleaning the grime from her and getting breakfast before she went to scare the wizards. After she had done the first two and returned to her cabin, she hefted the second bag of coins and checked it once more before grabbing the book from her pack and, carrying it and the bag, walking with a steady but slow gait towards the wizards tower, an old fighting song hummed under her breath.

While not as afraid as they used to be, most of the people walking around Immenor on her way gave Sharn a wide birth, despite her attempts to be somewhat friendly. She pounded on the door to the wizard’s tower, the sound of her knock reverberating through the building, a loud booming echo. At the booming knock, Perianor sighed in the middle of writing out some script and looked at his class. Quickly making a decision, he pointed with his opposite hand, “Terrik, get the door. Quickly now.”

Terrik stood and nodded, “Yes, Primus.” He moved to the door and opened it, immediately stepping back as the orc that stood there crowded in on his space. “Y… Yes, Sharn? C… Can we help you?”

Sharn gave him her best-closed mouth smile, “Here to see the old man, li’l buddy. He awake yet?” She asked as she stepped through the doorway crowding him back further before pushing the door closed behind her.

“M… Master H… Herodius? He’s… um…” Terrik continued backing up, trying to put space between him and the hulking orc, her sheer physical size not scaring him so much as making it uncomfortable to be in the same space as her.

Perianor called from the front of the class. “He’s upstairs. I think he’s awake, but I’m not sure, so please, knock more softly than you did when you came in.” Eyes down, he hadn’t even looked up from his notes as he spoke, one hand working without looking, writing symbols in the air, the other, turning pages of notes.

Sharn looked Perianor over pensively, then nodded before patting Terrik on the head. “Go join yer class, li’l buddy. I’ll just sit and wait for a bit.” She rumbled softly before giving him a gentle shove back toward the classroom. She stepped a few steps sideways and sank down on the floor, drawing up one knee to rest her arm on it as she watched Perianor teach curiously.

Over the next quarter of an hour, the air in front of Perianor was filled with symbols and images, culminating in a much-oversized diagram of a circle of protection, drawn in such a way that the students could copy the minute details into their fledgling spell books. While the lecture was heady, it was explained in a way that the students were all able to understand, using simple terms while defining more complex ones. It was one of the things that had elevated Perianor over his peers who had moved on to other venues. Herodius saw the teacher in him and knew that it would be needed, so he had persuaded the young pupil to stay and develop that talent with the knowledge that one day, he would become master of the tower.

Sharn tilted her head slightly, then rose soundlessly from her crouched position and stepped up behind Terrik, she reached down and tapped his shoulder briefly and shook her head. “Ye flipped the third symbol, double check yer work, li’l buddy.” She rumbled softly next to his ear before she stepped back to her spot by the wall. Terrik looked up with a start then, at her words, looked quickly back and forth between his spell book and the giant glowing circle in the air at the front of the class. When he saw it, he blushed then looked back at Sharn and looked down, nodding small in thanks, before correcting the symbol in his spell book.

Sharn continued watching quietly, her eyes taking in Perianor as he continued his lecture and teaching the class, twice more she slipped forward soundlessly and pointed out a correction for Terrik then for one other student who had started rushing. She crouched down between them as she watched the lecture, offering careful help and correction, unnoticed by any of the others in the classroom, even Perianor not paying attention due to his focus on the lecture.

Finally, having made his way through his notes, Perianor looked up to the class, “Any questions?” His eyes roved over the students, stopping at the orc crouched between two desks at the back. “I’m sorry, can we help you?” His eyes searched her, then he remembered something way back in his mind, “Um… Sharn is it?” He smiled, though was clearly somewhat taken aback at the interruption to the flow of his class.

Sharn half shrugged, patting Terrik on the shoulder once more and pointing out another symbol to him. “Ye said the old man could still be sleeping. Figured if’n he needed the sleep, wasn’t gonna wake him. Then I noticed li’l buddy here…,” she shrugged again.

“Oh, I see,” Perianor said succinctly. “Well, I’d imagine he’s up and about now if you’d like. I can’t imagine that any of this is even remotely interesting to a non-practitioner.” He smiled slightly, turning it into almost a joke. She could tell that he was not very good with his delivery. Certainly, there was no natural bardic talent there.

She stood slowly and shrugged, “I dunno, watching you draw glowing letters was a bit entertaining.” She grinned at Perianor, still hiding her teeth before clapping Terrik on the shoulder, as she glanced down at him. “Remember to check yer work, li’l buddy. If’n you need tutoring talk to yer teachers. They’re here to help ye and yer classmates too. Ain’t no shame in not catching everything,” she rumbled softly before striding towards the stairs.

Perianor watched her go silently, eyes furrowed in slight confusion, before banishing the look with a brief shake of his head and returning to his class. “As I was saying, any questions?” Several hands were raised, and a half an hour question and answer session followed.

Sharn thumped on the door to Herodius’ room, “Hey old man, ye up yet? It’s time to rise and shine before I go annoy yer ‘prentice some more.”

An old voice, slightly cracked, but deep with wisdom and kindness wafted through the door. “Sharn? Is that you? Leave poor Perianor alone. He didn’t get much sleep while we were gone methinks.” The door opened, and the old wizard stood, still in his bed robes smiling softly on the other side. “Come in, come in. Don’t mind an old man’s mess.”

Sharn stepped in, ducking slightly. “He’s a good teacher.” She rumbled, then walked over to the small table, dropping a heavy bag that clinked slightly and a book. “Yer share of the coin, and the book Musk traded for that ye asked him to while we were away. I’ll probably be out a day or two hunting. Ye know if the tower needs anything? Or want to find out before I go?” She rumbled as she crouched on the floor, side-eyeing the chair that may or may not hold her weight.

Herodius smiled as he walked over to her, placing his hand gently on her shoulder in thanks. “Ah, Musk. Good soul that one. Thank him for me, and tell him that I still owe him a roast chicken dinner from the last time he decided to find me a new toy.” He chuckled and picked up the bag. Opening it, he took out a few coins and put them in his pocket, then closed the bag and tossed it back to her. At her confused look, he chuckled, “My dear… I’m an old man who has everything I’ll ever need and then some, and can,” he wiggled his fingers in the air, “magic up anything that I’ve forgotten. What do I need that much coin for?” He smiled at her, “You keep it.”

Sharn huffed, grumbled for a moment, then sighed and tucked the pouch away. “Need to talk about one of yer students though. Li’l buddy is having issues with the symbols. Flipping em and such. He may need a new book to rewrite his spells into with someone to double check before he inks it in.” She huffed, “My people called it flip-reading, I think you humans call it dyslexia. Can be overcome, but won’t be easy.”

Herodius turned and opened his mouth to speak, but caught it. “Dyslexia. Of course,” he murmured. “That explains it all, of course.” He walked back over to her and clapped her on the back, “Excellent, my dear. Excellent! We’ve been wondering what to do about our Terrik for months now.”

Sharn wrinkled her nose slightly, and looked up at him in confusion, “Why didn’t ye just watch him write fer a bit? Y’all are the smart ones ’round here.” She huffed briefly, then continued, “The rest of the group made fer the city. I think they’re planning on resting out the winter, but they was also murmuring about ye being… retireable.” Sharn pouted then, “Yer a grumpy old wizard, but yer my grumpy old wizard. Ye don’t get to retire until you say yer retired. Ain’t like yer swingin’ a sword or nuthin’.”

Herodius chuckled, “Oh, Sharn. So much ye don’t understand, lass. Not all smarts come from books, nor are all minds smart the same way.” He held up his hand and looked at it for a long moment. “And no, I’m not swinging a sword… anymore. But wielding such power is not easy on the body either. I fear I’ve not too many more such forays left in me. The time has come, I think, to start looking to the future of our fair land and finding someone with a bit more… vigor than is left in these old bones.”

Sharn huffed then pouted. “I dun want another wizard, they always get stupid, and sometimes nearly dead until I pull their fat from the fire,” she groused, crossing her arms at his knowing look. “Oh, fine. But if’n we got to take young-blood, we’re doing it with you right there to thump ’em one when they do stupid.”

The old master of the tower smiled and patted her shoulder softly before wandering over to the table to look at the book Musk had purchased for him. “We will see, Sharn. We will see,” he said softly.

Sharn huffed as she slapped her hand down on the cover of the book. “No shiny until ye get me a needs list. Ain’t gonna lose you all day to that book, old man,” she rumbled and stood, wrapping a massive arm around his shoulders and leading him from the room.

Herodius grumbled as she led him away, waving his hand in the air in a vague irritation, “Tut, tut. Fine. Have it your own way, ye obstinate woman.” He waved his hand behind him and a piece of parchment and quill floated quickly until they were in front of him floating in the air in pace with their walking. The quill began writing as he spoke and once again, she was amazed at the strangeness of the abilities of this old man and his ilk.

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