24 – “The Gilded Master” – Faloren

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The Guild Rebuilt

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Illustration by Mark Hansen

“Slow down!” Cromdell complained, “It’s not easy for me to get through here.”

Faloren paused and turned around in the underground passage. It was quite narrow, barely wide enough for his own shoulders, and only open a few inches over his head. With a wave of his hand, the floating ball of light swept past him to illuminate the hard stone walls between him and his companions several steps behind.

Cromdell was struggling to wedge his portly frame through the space and his flush and flustered face made Faloren chuckle to himself. 

Behind Cromdell, Jorman wasn’t having an easy time, either. He was a slightly taller man, and had to walk with his head down. At least he isn’t complaining as much. Somewhere behind them both, Thomset followed.

The more Faloren had thought about their idea, the more Faloren had liked it. The sniveling high elves ruled with magic for over a century, almost two. Wizards have been the brunt of all of society’s complaints for years, now, and it’s time we got our due respect. He had shared his decision with them at breakfast that morning. After their quick discussion of options, he’d invited them here, underneath the manor.

When his friends caught up to him, Faloren smiled with smug condescension. “Are we ready?”

“Yes, yes,” Cromdell insisted, waving his hands, “Go on!” 

“Very well. I’ll try to keep it to a reasonable pace.”

The light shifted again, making their shadows spin. As they moved along, Jorman mentioned, “A few stoneshaping nature mages could easily make this more passable…”

Faloren rolled his eyes. Whose house is this, after all?

He stepped down a few stairs, then turned around with the light. “Watch your steps here, these are narrow.”

As his colleagues cautiously navigated the stairway, he continued down the hallway. He stretched his hands out, touching the wall, feeling along its cold and rough-hewn surface. It didn’t take long for him to find the proper stones and to surge his will.

The wall flashed brightly, making everyone shield their eyes or look away. 

“Shaking stones, man, give us a warning when you do that!” Cromdell grunted. 

Faloren smiled and said nothing. When their eyes had adjusted, he gestured to the arched doorway that had just appeared in the wall. “After you, gentlemen.” 

“What is this?”

Faloren just nodded and continued to gesture. The point of light flew into the space beyond, narrowing the illumination and casting new shadows on the hall outside.

Cromdell leaned on the wall and bent to step under the archway.  Jorman moved in place behind him. 

Cromdell shrieked and a soft thump echoed. 

“Oh, dear,” Faloren said with sugared cordiality, “watch your step!”

“Now you tell me.”

Soon Thomset went past, and Faloren was the last one in. He stepped down a few more stairs and into a more spacious room. Still made of rough-hewn stone, the walls were sturdy and the ceiling raised high enough for all to stand comfortably. The light spot sat in place high above them all, quivering like a moth that wasn’t sure where to land. Several low wooden tables stood along the walls with large chests on each one. The men turned and circled looking confused and a little worried.

Faloren smiled again. “Gentlemen, as I said before, I believe you are right. It’s our time, and we, mages all, should step forward and lead this people. One of you mentioned this morning that doing so would be expensive, that it would require enormous resources over time. Mages would have to be recruited, housed, trained, and indoctrinated. Everything, in fact, that the old Wizard’s Guild should have done in the first place, had Jaxil run things properly.”

Still uncertain, the men nodded. Cromdell ventured, “Yes, well, what do you have here? What did you want to show us?”

Faloren waved his hand at the chests and the latches instantly flipped open with echoing snaps. He gestured to them with an inviting sweep of his palms. Jorman harrumphed, shrugged, and stepped to one of the chests and heaved the lid open. 

“By the Creator!” he gasped, stepping back, his jaw open.

Faloren shifted the light just so slightly so as to add extra sparkle and shimmer to the trunkload of gold pieces held inside. The other two men held their breaths as well. Finally, they pointed in wonder at the other chests. Faloren just nodded. 

Thomset jumped to another and threw it open. More gold, up to the rim of the trunk. He opened a third and found the same. He ran his hands through it, listening to it jingle as the coins dropped back into the pile. There were still more than double that many chests yet unopened.

“Where,” Cromdell hesitated, “did you get all… all this?”

Jorman interjected, “You couldn’t have gotten this out of the hall when we were raided! How did you do it?”

Faloren brushed some dust from his sleeve. “I was, after all, the treasurer and exchequer for the guild for all of those years, was I not?”

“Embezzlement!” Cromdell hissed, “You stole it!”

Faloren held his hand to his chest. “ME? A thief? By the creator,” he shook his head. “I merely set it all aside, gradually, a bit at a time. Like I was saving it for, I don’t know, a rainy day.” He waved his fingers in the air, like a damp spring wind. “And now, gentlemen, I have the resources we will need.”

Cromdell smirked, but his eyes still narrowed. “This was the guild’s money.”

“Yes, well,” Faloren sighed, “and now it is once again, isn’t it?”

“As long as you are the Guildmaster?” Cromdell added.

“Yes, Guildmaster, or…” Faloren shrugged, “A mage king?”

Author’s Note: Faloren is reforming the Guild!

Faloren is kind of a slimy guy to begin with, but he thinks that he can regather the wizards of Twynne Rivers and reform the Wizard’s Guild. In the current power vacuum, who knows? Maybe he’ll end up as king….

But first he has to gather all of the wizards from hiding in the city and “convince” them to join the guild. Read on!

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