by Bartholomeus - April 2020
A grook boy of approximately eight years of age was walking down an empty street in Delos, casually playing with a long stick he had picked up in the forests of Ulangi on his way, pointing it at random objects and muttering under his breath as though casting spells.
He stopped suddenly in his tracks and narrowed his bulbous, toad-like eyes as chattering noise in the distance piqued his curiosity. He tilted his head, while walking ever closer towards the sounds, trying to discern exactly where the commotion was coming from. His expression tuned into one of eagerness as he passed by several cottages to find himself standing right in front of the grand statue of Silvestri Carnivalis.
"I must be getting close now!" He thought as he forged on with the stick still grasped firmly in his hand.
Adventurous young Toban had come all the way from his home island, Ulangi, without permission from his parents to ride on the "Duckie Wheel" he had heard grand tales about. He was not new to adventuring and was accustomed to regular reprimanding from Glenda and Toban Snr for not staying in the hut and doing what he was told. This time however, he took his insubordination to the extreme by venturing further than he ever had before. As far as Toban's parents were aware, he was in the village library, studying and reading like the brilliant young scholar he was, however the truth was that he had crept off through the swamp and into the forest before sneaking onto the only ferry that traveled from Ulangi to Shastaan, a town on the main continent of Sapience.
A feeling of excitement overtook him as he caught his first glimpse of the huge Duckie Wheel in the distance, rising up from behind the Carnivalis Institute of Jestering, a sacred monument only ever heard of through tales told by those fortunate enough to have visited the city of Delos.
"But where were the mimes?"
"Where were the jugglers, the jesters and bards?"
The delicious, buttery smell of popcorn was not enough to raise the spirits of Toban who's heart sunk as he made his way towards the wheel that was spinning slowly, changing colours as it rotated without a single soul on board. As he drew closer, he hoped to see the famous mushroom woman Tamma, who would let him take a ride, but she was nowhere to be seen and the wheel kept turning on its own accord.
He peered into every ducky cab as it passed him, hopeful that someone would perhaps stop and let him on, but the whole area was an eerie ghost town, save for the distant commotion that still echoed upon the winds.
The young, ambitious grook had spectacular dreams of one day being a powerful mage. Despite his love for adventuring, he really did spend a lot of time in the library, but some would say he was a little too ambitious. He had a long way to go before being able to move to a big city and further himself within one of the great Houses of Sapience, however given the slightest chance he would do whatever it took to jump right into the fray, boots and all.
Finally abandoning his wheel-riding desires, he decided to follow the sound of voices that became louder as he drew ever nearer. Careful not to be spotted, in fear of appearing suspicious or being mistaken for a roaming orphan, he drew the hood of his tattered cloak up over his head, as though it were a cloak of invisibility and stalked his way towards a collapsed wall where he ducked down.
Peering over the wall, he was bewildered to see a large chamber filled with a vast array of adventurers, dragons and even animals gathered in the center, babbling excitedly between themselves.
"I don't think he's gonna do it! He doesn't have what it takes!" Exclaimed a burly dwarf man with a barrel belly.
"Give him a chance! Don't listen to him Prof, you can do it!" A siren woman said encouragingly as she gave him a light pat on the back.
Either he was charmed by her otherworldly beauty, or he genuinely meant it, but the Mhun man referred to as Prof cleared his throat, stepped valiantly forward and said loudly, "I am not worried dear Rosanna. I will be putting my name up for consideration and will prove my worth to each and every one of you."
With all eyes and ears on him, he strut slowly towards a large box that was positioned in the center of the chamber as though putting on a show for adoring fans. He held out what appeared to be a neatly sealed letter, gazed around intently and said, "I am wealthy and I am powerful. For each vote cast for me, I will pay each of you ten thousand golden sovereigns!"
A gasp of disbelief echoed throughout the chamber and frantic muttering ensued once more before Prof held up a hand to silence the crowd.
"This is but a small price to pay, to prove to you, the people of sapience that I do indeed have what it takes. Vote for me and let there be wealth and prosperity for all!" He said as he finally dropped the letter into the box.
Further cheers echoed through the chamber as he removed large amounts of golden sovereigns from a burlap knapsack and spilled them all over the flagstone floor. There was a rush as everyone made for the gold and all chaos broke loose as people pushed each other out of the way to pick up as much of the clinking coins as they could.
"To the tavern! All drinks on me!" He shouted as he strode purposefully out of the chamber followed by his entourage of adoring fans, the statue of a dark haired, scale-wielding woman upon a silver throne watching them through her crystalline eyes as they departed.
"What was all that about?" Toban thought as he walked into the now deserted chamber, looking around in bewilderment at the impressive marble pillars supporting the glass mosaic ceiling above. He stopped a few steps away from the box to pick up a single sovereign that had been unclaimed by the greedy hoard. Taking a closer look at the box, he saw words scrawled upon its surface which read, "Conclave Applications," and as he pondered it for a while, he remembered a time when he was sitting in the library, engrossed in a book he thoroughly enjoyed.
He remembered reading about the mighty Conclave, an organisation headed by the powerful and fearsome dragon Yudhishthira and until that very moment, it had seemed like nothing but a distant dream beyond anything comprehensible that existed only in legends. Next to the box lay a newspaper, with the title, "The Conclave," which he carefully picked up as though it were made of precious gems and as he unfurled it, he began to slowly read the article on the front page:
"Conjurers, Sorcerers, Witches, Hedge-Wizards, and non-magical peons, It is with great pleasure and only mild disgust that I address you all today as the superlative First of the Conclave, here to make an important and, for one of you, life-changing announcement.
The Conclave is recruiting.
With Maklak perpetually indisposed by gelid circumstances, we have found ourselves with an empty spot suited for only the most talented amongst those who have tamed magic with their great powers.
This is an opportunity that can only come but once in a lifetime for that one of you with the mettle to join us. My Conclave's accomplishments long since came to outnumber those of all else upon this Prime world. It was we who raised the Goddess Makali into existence. We constructed the barrier that held the Tsol'teth at bay for dozens upon dozens of years until some fool dared to meddle with that they do not understand. The Conclave possess knowledge, and power, on scales of which mortals can do naught but dream of. We envy none save the Immortals of Creation, for our mastery of mysticism both fair and foul has long since brought us toward the heights of mortality. And we will push yet further.
Unquestionably, many of you will dream of this honour, but only some of you will be worthy of it. If you believe you are qualified to stand within our ranks, place your letter of application in the box at the ancient altar within the city of Delos with the following information:
1. Name 2. Profession 3. District of residence 4. Magical area of interest and expertise 5. Your greatest accomplishment 6. Two reputable references.
An arduous selection process will follow once all applications have been processed, and the deadline to submit these is the 18th of Glacian, 825 AF by the Sapience calendar. Extraplanar entities may inquire for date conversion services.
Those of you lacking in magical acumen are encouraged to seek your superiors and urge them to apply for the betterment of mortal knowledge. Quid-pro-quo arrangements between applicants and their supporters are left to the discretion of those involved.
First of the Conclave."
"Life changing," he thought as he re-read the article a few times, taking in every word. His imagination began to race as he pictured himself sitting upon a tall throne, surrounded by the most powerful mages in existence. The image of a mighty dragon burst forth from the mouth of the volcano of Polyargos and bestowed unto him powers beyond his wildest dreams and in that moment he considered the endless possibilities and his whole reason for being.
A young grook of only eight years old, wielding a stick, initially only seeking to fulfill his childish desires of going on a joyride, now stood before an old, sacred altar, the eerie silence around him enveloping him in the alluring embrace of destiny.
Surely it was no mere coincidence that he happened to find himself in Delos at a time when such a unique and specific opportunity should present itself?
Reaching into his travel sack, he pulled out an old piece of parchment and a quill with a bottle of ink that he carried with him at all times. Kneeling to the floor he began to scribble on the paper and wrote:
"My name is Toban Gallivan.
I am an aspiring mage and I am able to channel at least two elements, namely water and air and I'm also able to light up my surroundings.
I live in Ulangi.
I wish to be a Magi, and am interested in learning the arts of Elementalism, Crystalism and Artificing
My greatest accomplishment..."
He paused for a moment, thinking back on his short life, what he had achieved so far and what he hoped to achieve. Despite being so young, there he was doing what no other eight year old would dare to do. What if he never got this once in a lifetime opportunity again? What if that was the one and only time that he stood any chance at all of fulfilling the greatest dream of all? Call it destiny if you will, but somehow Toban knew he had to put that parchment in that box. Come what may, he had nothing to lose by trying.
"My greatest accomplishment is this." He wrote.