Chapter 10: The Clerics of Cloakshadow
The School of Illusion was large but well hidden, a testament to the cloak and dagger insignia of the Trickster God: Baravar Cloakshadow. Not many students were chosen to attend the school, and even fewer were wont to seek it out. Roon sought it, not out of desperation, as most others would have, but out of a combined sense of boredom and curiosity. He did not display any inclinations towards magic. Nor was he the type to fight for a cause. Well, that wasn’t true. He had a cause: to be a trickster. That’s all there was. He didn’t need vengeance on any fay natured creature, he wasn’t looking to save a damsel or duke. He didn’t even care about governments or empires or their laws, so long as he wasn’t caught breaking any. Jail was more of an annoyance than anything, but he still wanted to avoid it if he could. He was young and new to travelling, and while he knew a few games and tricks from his brothers, he could always do with a few more.
“Arden, wait up!” Roon called, racing down the stone steps and grabbing the wall with one hand to pull himself into a sharp turn. He leapt over the last two steps, gasping for air and looking down the long hallway in front of him. The corridor was empty. “Damnit,” he swore, and just as he started to run, a hand darted out of a doorway and pulled him inside, slamming it closed behind them.
Arden threw him against the wall and put a warning finger to his mouth. Heart pounding, Roon pushed his ear next to the door to listen. Sure enough, a few moments later there were loud, clacking footsteps of someone descending the stairs.
“They can’t have gone far, whoever they are,” Cleric Sorin’s voice echoed clearly down the hall. “Check every room. And send someone upstairs to clean up that mess before Cleric Dewar arrives!”
There were some mutters and the flapping of wings.
“C’mon,” Arden said, nudging Roon and quietly making his way through the dark classroom.
Roon followed in the dim light as they skirted around empty tables and dusty shelves. Arden pointed to a portion of the stone wall that, on second glance, looked to be out of place.
“What is it?” Roon hissed.
Arden smiled and winked, then flourished his hands in a wave and shot a piercing light at the stone, which shimmered and disappeared. “You should really get to know your illusion magic better,” he lectured Roon, not for the first time.
Roon rolled his eyes and got down on his knees to crawl through. The space was barely large enough for Arden, who was a halfling and four feet in stature, to fit through. Just as the door opened, Arden shot up both hands and the illusion of the wall reappeared. Globules of light were sent into the room, followed by Cleric Sorin in his long, wispy gray robes
“Won’t he know we’re here?” Roon whispered.
The old man looked around the room with glaring eyes, grumbling, then retreated, the globules of light bobbing behind him. The door clicked shut.
Arden shook his head. “Trust me, Roondock, I’ve been here since I was only a foot tall, and I’ve only scraped the surface of all the trickery in this place. There’s no way that old man has figured it out.”
Roon smiled wanly, “you’re such a know-it-all.”
“And you’re so little,” Arden said, patting Roon patronizingly on the head with a grin.
“I’m only a year younger than you,” Roon grumbled.
“I meant your height, little gnome,” he teased.
They were both in their late teens. Roon had left Evermeet only six months ago to join the Clerics of Cloakshadow. Arden had grown up in the old castle.
“It’s kind of cramped in here,” Arden said finally.
“Where does the tunnel lead?” Roon asked, pointing his chin into the darkness.
“Somewhere with rats, probably,” Arden sighed, then stuck his big foot up and wiggled his toes in Roon’s face.
Roon smacked his foot away. “Get those hairy, smelly halfling feet off me! How did you do it?”
“Do what?” Arden shrugged, leaning against the stone and putting his arms behind his head as if he were lounging on the world’s comfiest chair.
“See the illusion magic when even Cleric Sorin missed it.”
The halfling boy thought for a moment, then shot Roon another wicked grin. “I can’t give away all my secrets. Especially not to you, rookie.” Then, he sighed again and said, “give it time, Roon. You have the gift, I could sense it on you as soon as you got here.”
“I’m impatient,” Roon said back.
“Impatient’s better than impotent.”
“What’s wrong with being important?” Arden asked, sitting up.
“Important people can’t hide in shadows,” Roon said seriously, scratching a nail into the stone beneath him, thinking again about his brothers in Evermeet.
Arden reached out a hand and placed it on Roon’s. He looked up at him.
“I think it’s safe to go now,” Roon said quickly, and Arden pulled his hand away, nodding, then turned and crawled out of the illusory wall, Roon following. Arden grabbed his elbow and helped him to his feet, and their eyes met again. “Will you teach me all your tricks?” Roon asked.
“The ones that are teachable,” Arden smiled, then folded his arms, “though it would help if you paid attention in class.”
Roon wrinkled his nose. “I never did like taking notes.”
Arden reached into his pocket and took out a deck of cards. “C’mon, let’s go upstairs. I can teach you the best part of trickery.”
“Cards?” Roon asked, raising an eyebrow.
The halfling flashed him a smile. “Gambling.”
“I don’t have any money,” Roon said.
“Liar,” Arden said back playfully. “You know, Roon,” he said, suddenly serious in the dim light of the empty classroom, “you’re probably the best friend I’ve ever made in this place.”
“So are you,” Roon said honestly, “even if you do insist on making terrible puns all the time.”
Arden grinned. “It’s my best quality.”
“One of many,” Roon laughed, and the halfling turned to lead him out of the door, then stopped and turned again.
“I hope you stick around.”
“Of course I will,” Roon said, “like you said, I have a lot to learn. Besides… I have nowhere else to go.”
Arden nodded appreciatively and pulled the door open, quickly checking the hallway to see that it was clear.
Roon felt a strange warmth in the hand Arden had touched as he followed his friend out, his fingers tingling.