The Rune Carver
By EM Malachi
Julia set two cups of tea on the small table and pulled a second stool over from her workbench. The tinker’s calloused hands brushed a few springs and gears off the table into her apron. She smiled at her friend as she heaped sugar into her cup. Mariah sipped at her own tea and looked around the room. It was far less cluttered than the mage remembered it, with only a lone stopped clock in the corner. “Has work been slow?”
Julia shook her head. “My projects are handed off to other tinkers, smiths, and rune-carvers. I’m glad the artisans I helped train are able to keep Minoc’s forges lit. What about you? Keeping busy?”
Mariah relaxed in her chair and started telling Julia about her studies with the gargoyles and the new spells she was mastering. The story of an unfortunate Flam spell in the Lyceaum made Julia laugh and caused Mariah to casually remark, “Why don’t we do this anymore?” She gasped when she remembered the reason.
Julia went pale, as she was the day she died. A shaking hand touched the shoulder where the troll’s club had crushed her heart. Her fiery red hair dulled and faded until it was ghostly and translucent. The abandoned workshop around them showed years of cobwebs and dust. Julia gave a sad look before answering her friend, “I am sorry for the pain this meeting brings, but there is a reason.”
The shade of Julia floated over to the workbench where there appeared eight uncarved stones. As she ran her hand over the stones, each revealed the sigil of a Virtue. “I made these for my king so he could keep watch over his shrines. So long ago. They are missing and need to be found. You and the others must find them.”
The ghost of Julia returned to the table and gave Mariah a hug. It had all the warmth Mariah remembered. “I miss you too, my friend, but I need to go.”
Mariah woke up sobbing.