He had been away from his new… friends? allies? companions? He wasn’t even sure what to call them yet… for three weeks. He had ridden hard from Winterhaven and gotten back to Fallcrest in a day and a half. He went about his usual routine, popping his head into different hidey-holes and letting certain people see the big grey hat that was his trademark. He ducked into the Red Dragon, the Silver Unicorn, and the Blue Moon, as well as several unnamed holes where naughty folk might gather to play cards, whisper secrets, and make naughty schemes. Studiously avoided the Lucky Gnome, though. Let Kelson hear that Marius Levant was back in town and wonder why he wasn’t around. After his pub crawl, he reversed his cloak and tucked his hat away. It didn’t precisely make him anonymous, but with a bit of a stoop to his walk, he drew far less attention to himself. He shuffled through the Lowtown market square, made his way through the crowd around the King’s Gate and into the wooded area between the Gate and Nimzoran’s Tower. With a bit of careful searching, he found the hidden path that went up the side of the bluff on which the tower had been built. He wanted this to be a private visit, less obvious than walking right up to the front door.
He paced carefully from the path to the tower, turned left, and took 17 carefully measured steps. He drew his dagger and tapped softly, three-then-two, against what appeared to be a nondescript section of the stone tower. After a long moment, though, cracks appeared and a door swung open to reveal a little bald child, scrawny but clean and maybe 10 years old. The child said nothing, just looked at the lanky adventurer with a pair of bright green eyes. He dropped to a knee and smiled.
“We’ve not met, little one. I am Marius, and I once served Master Nimzoran as you do now. Do you have paper?” The waif pulled a scrap from a pocket of the plain woolen outfit and handed it to him. Marius dug around in his gear until he found his quill and inkwell. The waif turned their back to him and bent slightly, and held a hand up for the inkwell. Marius grinned, knowing the routine well. This one was new.
Nimzoran the Green believed in a very strict method of teaching. First, he believed, potential apprentices must learn to listen. They learned this by being silent — utterly silent — usually for the first three months or so of their evaluation. They must also prove their willingness to obey and their ability to learn. Since both of those traits were hindered by natural pride, the master removed all reason for such pride. Plain clothing, empty quarters, shaved head, and — oddest of all — no name. None at all. For Marius, namelessness and silence had lasted over six months. The bitterness at the core of his being resisted Nimzoran’s attempts to tame it with reason or willpower. Finally the wizard summoned him to the training area and growled, “Boy, you’ll be no mage. Your mind is too hard, your heart too angry, to absorb the subtleties of the Art. But I know who you are — no, don’t speak it aloud — and I appreciate the reasons for your hate. I’ve searched my library high and low, and I believe I’ve found the answer. You read Elvish, yes?” The old man tossed Marius a heavy scroll case. “Read this, Levant. Read it, and tell me if the way of the Dusk Blade will suit you.”
Back with the new potential apprentice, Marius had shaken the reverie away, tapped his quill into the inkwell, and — holding the paper against the back of the youngster — scrawled:
“Master N – Lev. returns with information, and with questions. May I join you?” He inked the distinctive glyph that the wizard had given him to verify any messages and handed the paper to the child.
“Take this to your master, little one. He will instruct you further.” As the door closed, he had sat down and leaned back against the wall, taken a bit of traveling bread and jerky from his pack, and chewed thoughtfully. So much had happened in the last months! First the Blackbrier Gang; then the black-clad elf; the events around Winterhaven… the haunting evil of Orcus and — woven through it all — the horrible dreams of the Red Woman who seduced him and slaughtered him in a new way in every dream. He had learned so much of the Dusk Blade Way, but now his mind was racing with so many questions. He needed help. He needed guidance. He needed a safe place to rest.
The door cracked open again….
The door cracked open again and the young boy quietly motions for Marius to enter the tower.