Been awhile, hasn’t it?
This particular write up is all story. I’ve taken liberties with things about the War Wizards I don’t know (whether the College of War Wizards has towers, particulars of the Suzail Writ, Vainrence' attitude towards Nobles and the goings on at the Royal Court) and am still a little confused over when you capitalize “Crown”, “Noble”, “War Wizard” and so on. But for all that I think this is a good write up.
If you spot inconsistencies or have questions, please let me know.
Hope you enjoy it! (And thanks for reading!)
Mindra Theld's eyes opened. Her mind was thick with the fog of sleep, the whole of her body heavy and warm with the weight of a long, restful slumber. She was happy to have awakened. A Wizard of War of her advanced years had far fewer days ahead then days left behind in the wake of time.
She threw aside the large bedsheet and let her legs dangle over the side. The chamber her bed occupied was one of several that comprised the inner spaces of a tall, many-leveled stone tower that jutted up from the grim walls of the College of War Wizards.
Half-remembered thoughts and images played through her mind as she breathed slowly and ordered her thoughts. Memories of concerned junior War Wizards—her apprentices all—bidding her farewell and a safe journey to whichever god would claim her; the last rights administered by a wandering priest of Mystra, Goddess of Magic; a dream image: awakening on a cool, hard surface and the grim, sharp face of a man looking down at her with cold, calculating eyes; a massive, many-eyed and tentacled thing floating before her, gobs of drool falling from teeth the size of daggers as it dragged her kicking and screaming by the leg, one of its tentacles lifting her up and then depositing her into a great, fang-filled maw. Then…here, resting as though from the most peaceful, trouble free slumber she'd ever had.
Ha! The feebleminded dreams of an old, doddering war wizard—one well past her prime and too near to death. Her apprentices would just have to be patient, she thought to herself. Mindra Theld, retired Court Wizard of all Cormyr and senior member of the Brotherhood of the Wizards of War was not done drawing breath in this world just yet.
She stood up and padded along the floor, then frowned as she looked down at her feet. Why was she dressed in brand new riding boots? And why in Mystra's name had someone dared to place a huge, bearskin rug at the side of her bed? The head of the beast was still attached, its open mouth pointing towards the only door set in the wall of her chambers.
As the light of the rising sun washed through the multicolored glass of the tall window that stood opposite the door, Mindra slowly turned and beheld a room that was not of her own making.
The old ironwood desk that sat for years against the curved wall near the foot of her bed was not there. In its place a tall wooden armoire stood, its two doors shut and fastened together by a complex set of locks and dials. Its clockwork arrangement was unlike anything Mindra had ever seen.
Between the great window and the armoire, the stone bookshelf that had long been a repository for her spellbooks, spell scrolls and magic items still stood, but its contents were not hers. Spellbooks resided there, but she recognized none of them as her own. Where a bundle of battle wands should have been, spell scrolls sealed in green wax were piled up. Steel vials of healing potions once stacked neatly on the topmost shelf had been replaced by disorganized piles of spell components.
Uncertainty welling up in her breast, Mindra rounded the foot of the bed to the window and threw the catch. She cranked the window open and beheld Suzail, capitol of Cormyr and seat of the Dragon Throne.
Only this was not the Suzail she knew. The rising sun illuminated a city twice the size of the one she'd gone to bed in. The docks held row after row of tall-masted ships, their sails painted hues of gold and pink in the sunrise light. Warehouses and buildings stood where once small copses of trees and grass stood. The great wall that surrounded the city stood taller—and further out—than she'd ever seen.
Her view included the Royal Palace of the King of Cormyr. The walls appeared to have been built over, with new wings and towers added. The College of War Wizards had seen change as well. Once a single tower housed all the mages sworn to protect the realm. Now four towers of equal height stood, one to a corner of the College.
The Royal Court had grown too, becoming a sprawling, many-winged and towered mass that had swallowed all the land before the great hill upon which the Royal Palace stood.
Mindra closed the window and turned away from the view of a city now alien to her. Sheleaned against the stone window sill, taking in the room and pondered her situation.
What madness was this? Had her chambers already been reassigned. Would they dare remove her possessions and replace them with her successor's, with her dead in her own bed?
Or was this all a mind-image, spellwrought upon her by an overly concerned priest of Mystra, that she might in her last moments see a future Cormyr in all its radiant glory? If this was a dream meant to placate her, it was doing a damned poor job of it.
Whether real or fake, there was little sense in staying in her chamber. She raised her right hand to favor the War Wizard ring she'd worn for almost the entirety of her service to the Crown. Even if asleep or in the midst of an arcane mind trap, Mindra could call upon the ring to carry a message from her mind to all of her apprentices who wore the other four rings that comprised the full set of five.
Only the ring was not there. She quickly raised her left hand and found it bereft of rings as well.
But her hands...these were not her hands! Mindra had walked for nearly six decades in this world, forty of those in service to the Crown and these were not the hands of the old, near-to-death crone she'd become. They were not stained by spell inks from the countless spell scrolls she’d penned, nor did the shape of her finger bones show through paper-white skin that should have been wrinkled and sagging.
These hands were flush with youth, the skin taught and tanned.
She reached to unclasp her robe and found that it was of a burnt orange color, with a round red badge over the right breast. A black sphere with five wavering tentacles was depicted on the badge. Each tentacle carried one item: rod, staff, wand, sword and crown.
This was no heraldic device she'd ever seen. Nor was this the robe she’d gone to sleep in, thinking—nay, hoping—this would be her last rest in these chambers. The robe had pouches sewn along the inside where spell components, wands and small weapons could be concealed, but all were empty.
She hastily threw off the robe. Underneath she was clothed in a simple cotton shirt and pants held up by a belt with extra loops that could hold magical rods, wands and a sword scabbard. A potion bandolier looped over her chest from left shoulder to right hip. She could feel thin but comfortable socks clothing her feet inside riding boots that felt well worn, but looked entirely new.
This was garb for battle, not a funeral. By Tempus was there a war on that nobody had informed her about?
She took one last look at the outfit before she sat on the bed, kicked off the riding boots and removed the bandolier. Then she stood and disrobed.
She turned from side to side, taking in as much of her naked form as she could with her eyes while feeling the shape of her body with her hands. This was
her body, but years younger. The scars along her right arm where she'd been blasted by lightening were there, as were the trio of white marks that showed where she'd taken three crossbow bolts in the gut. But the deep, puckered scars that should have run the length of her thigh and up her hip where the hydra had bitten her did not exist. Nor the ragged scar where her thigh bone had burst forth as the hydra crushed her leg. The white slash of a scar on her left arm where she'd stopped an assassin's blade meant for her throat was absent too.
Mindra was thrilled to find the ever-present aches of age were gone. She stood straight up, the hunch in her back absent as though it had never been. Her breathing was no longer a ragged labor. She could actually lift her arms over her head and even bend them at the elbows to touch her back between her shoulder blades. She brought her hands up to her hair and lifted it up to her eyes: it was long, brown and thick, with just a hint of the grey that would turn silver in time.
The delight of newfound youth was replaced by concern: what game was this? How had she come to stand in a younger body, while all around her Cormyr appeared much older?
A bolt was thrown and the door it held shut opened partway. The sounds of bustling feet and voices flowed into the room as Mindra dashed forward more swiftly then she'd moved in the last twenty years, gathering her robe, clothes and bandolier and pulling them down to the floor at the side of the bed.
The confident voice of a man mingled with the din in the hallway beyond and rolled over the bed to Mindra's ears. "I care little what the patron of the Truesilver family has told you. The Suzail Writ binds King, noble, war wizard and commoner alike. If Lord Truesilver believes those commoners who farm his lands have banded together to steal a portion of his crops and sell them for their own gain, then a crime has potentially been committed outside the jurisdiction of the nearest local lord. By law a war wizard and not the King’s Lord of Arabel—or of Eveningstar, for that matter—must be sent to oversee the creation of a jury to determine whether Lord Truesilver's accusations are true.”
“But,” said a lesser voice, “Lord Truesilver has declared he will only accept the judgment of men he’s ridden into battle with.”
The voice of the man at the door became stern, “The power of judgment belongs to the jury, within the bounds of the Writ as adjudicated by a war wizard and not whichever local lord the aging head of the Truesilver family has gone to battle with.”
“Couldn’t whomever of our Order is assigned to the Truesilver family adjudicate this matter?” the young voice asked.
“Yes. But, as Ganrahast has told us all, the War Wizards are to remain as neutral as possible in all legal matters over which the Writ holds sway. Another must adjudicate this matter and that war wizard is you, Thurldinn. Lord Truesilver anticipated your appointment which is why he dispatched a messenger to warn you away.”
A brief pause, then the voice added, “Find a saddle and requisition an escort of Purple Dragons. Lord Truesilver's holdings are far west of Arabel. You'd best be on your way and stay well ahead of his lordship's retinue. He's not known for his patience and will likely leave Suzail to try and outrace you once he learns at this morning’s session of Petition and Redress that I have already dispatched a war wizard to oversee his complaint.”
Mindra tensed at the sound of someone stepping into the chamber.
“We cannot have nobles dispensing their particular brand of justice in our place, Thurldinn. And fear not. Lord Truesilver is more bluster than real threat. He will not have the next uninvited Wizard of War who sets foot on his lands be drawn and quartered."
"May it be as you say. Many thanks, Master Vainrence. I shall depart at once."
"Safe journey, Thurldinn."
The door was closed with more force than necessary. Mindra could hear the one called Vainrence speak an impatient word of magic that caused the bolt on the outside of the door to slam home.
"Greetings, old bear," said Vainrence as he walked past the the bearskin rug to the armoire.
Mindra heard the ticking sound of swiftly turned dials and the winding of gears. Peering around the foot of the bed, Mindra spied thin metal clasps unlock as the two wooden doors of the armoire parted slightly before Vainrence.
The wizard, for he could not be anything else, impatiently opened the right hand door and shrugged off the simple blue robes he was wearing. He hung them on a peg inside the armoire and then selected a formal set of robes striped in black and purple, which he donned swiftly and belted firmly at his waist.
A large oval mirror girded in silver filigree hung on the inside panel of one door. Mindra's eyes grew wide at the sight of it as Vainrence regarded his reflection with a critical eye.
The mirror had belonged to Mindra, once.
“Lord Truesilver is finally realizing his word does not hold sway at Court as it once did,” Vainrence said to his reflection.
An elderly female voice answered from within the mirror, "Lord Truesilver was once a great warrior who served Cormyr with distinction. But the passage of time—particularly the death of Azoun V—has left him bereft of contemporaries.”
“He’s the last of his generation and has no more battlefields on which to fight,” Vainrence stated matter of factly.
The surface along the edge of the mirror rippled as the voice emanated from it. “I cannot imagine one so old as he drawing breath much longer. Fortunately his sons are wiser and more patient than their aged father. The eldest has already put himself in charge of overseeing their holdings north of the King’s Forrest. He will be there when Thurldinn arrives and seek to tame his father before he can do too much damage.”
Vainrence grunted at this as he carefully weighed a pair of wands in each hand. He selected one and slid it into a sheath in his right boot.
The voice in the mirror continued, “Thurldrinn will adjudicate wisely. Consider: no matter how much he might fear offending the elderly patron of the Truesilvers, he is more afraid of displeasing you or Ganrahast. His judgment in this matter will be fair."
Mindra sat stock still, her hand over her mouth to stifle the gasp that threatened to lurch forth from her throat. The voice coming from the mirror was hers! And that could only mean…no. How by all the Watching Gods could she be dead when she was crouched to one side of the bed, hiding like some sneak thief?
Vainrence spoke to the mirror as though it were a colleague, "I would prefer a law appended to the Writ that all male nobles over the age of sixty be put down as a favor to the Crown. Or something to the effect that they be buckled into their best armor, given a sword and sent off on an equally old steed—roped down onto the saddle so they don’t fall off after the first ten paces, of course—to the frontier to do battle with brigands and worse until horse and rider are finally slain. Do you think His Majesty will see fit to add such to the Writ?" he asked the mirror in mock seriousness.
"Would that I had been placed in his Majesty's private chambers, I am sure I could convince him of the wisdom of your ideas," the mirror replied earnestly, playing along.
Vainrence smiled, "You are too valuable to be given over to his majesty. Impatient, battle-seeking Crown mages such as I have long benefited from your wisdom and council down the centuries." Centuries!?
As Vainrence moved to close the armoire the mirror spoke, "Could you leave the door open towards the window? I miss the view."
"You know I cannot leave the window open. T'would render the tower vulnerable to intrusion as the wards over the window will remain inactive."
"Yes, I know. But I miss even the sight of it. I need see only the window for now."
Vainrence looked into the mirror again and sketched a formal court bow, "As you wish, milady."
"Many thanks, kind sir," the mirror replied in the same courtly tone. "May your time as substitute Court Wizard be short, ere Ganrahast returns."
"May it be just as you say, milady. I prefer the wilds of the frontier, where blasting foes to bits and questioning their spirits after the fact are a permissible form of diplomacy. Such tactics, unfortunately, are frowned upon at Court."
Mindra heard the War Wizard called Vainrence chuckle at his joke as he walked to the door of his chambers and spoke a different word of magic to release the bolt outside.
Mindra waited until Vainrence had stepped onto the flagstone floor of the central tower stairway and closed the door behind him before she stood up on unsure legs and walked to the mirror.
The bolt to his chambers closed as Mindra’s reflection, wrinkled and bent with age, regarded her with milky blue eyes.
Each said to the other, "You should not be here."