Chapter 21: Penny Show

“Our next contestant is Keenin. He’s going to show us his talent with illusion.”

Breathe. Their eyes were on him now, the rich, poor, and intoxicated. Keenin could hardly believe that Dia had convinced him to do this, but he gathered fire between his cupped hands and opened them to reveal a small flaming bird nestled between his palms. Keenin met the eyes of his audience as they watched a little closer.

From the back table, Dia made a tossing motion with her hands. He tossed the bird and it fluttered desperately before exploding into a multitude of sparks. Such small details were difficult and would not keep the audience captive so he put out his right hand and created a sphere of flame, the size of a rubber ball a child would play with. He gave it a spinning toss-up, letting it unravel out into flat ribbons. He grabbed one of these strands and pulled and swung it out towards the audience where the remainder of the sphere broke apart into a cloud of butterflies. With his audience distracted, he made a sweeping motion with his hand and the flames dropped to the ground, their impact spreading in rings like ripples of water quietly dissipating when hitting a wall.

Keenin looked up. His audience had also raised their heads.

“Thank you,” he told them.

They whistled and cheered as he stepped down off the stage while he kept his head low to hide embarrassment. Dia stood up and made her way towards him as the announcer introduced the next act. He walked towards the table where Clide and the soldier traveling with them were sitting.

“You were nervous, hu,” the soldier said setting down his mug of local beer.

“Yes,” Keenin admitted.

He regarded Clide who was drumming his fingers over the table and seemed to be deep in thought.

“Was it all right?”

Clide ceased the motion and looked at him.

“You’re asking the wrong person,” Clide told him.

“It was great,” Dia said giving him a surprise hug.


She let go.

“Room discount here we go. I’m going to pick it out if that’s alright with you guys.”

She said that, but looked at him.

“Sure,” Keenin said putting his hand on the back of an empty chair.

She hurried off and he sat down.

“Nice sacrifice kid,” the soldier told him.


As long as Dia didn’t attract unwanted attention with that enthusiasm of hers, he was fine with anything. The soldier slid over his mug of beer.

“Is this supposed to help?” Keenen asked him.

“Try it.”

Keenin picked up the mug and sipped. It tasted bitter with a nutty aftertaste. He slid the mug back across the table.

“Tastes terrible. I can’t believe you would waste your money.”

“Still a kid. That reminds me though.”

He bent down and pulled something out of his travel pack.

“You left this behind,” he said setting the book on the table.

Legends of the World. It seemed that nobody else had noticed the real reason behind Keenin’s stress. The section on “Chosen Heroes” had kindly informed him that… It is not unheard of for some to be chosen by gods, much as we are chosen by the elemental spirits, but not all such people are beloved nor recognized at the time. And to those who would resent the changes brought, I would remind you to be grateful the gods care for this world at all. 

“You know, I did that on purpose,” Keenin told the soldier.

He didn’t want more reminders.

“I know, but it’s a waste when you can sell it.”

Sell it. Keenin laughed. He laughed till his head hurt and his eyes watered. The thought of so easily being rid of his troubles was…ah…he calmed himself down.

“Are you all right?”

“No. I mean yes. Thank you for that. You’re right,” Keenin said pulling the book his way. “I’ll sell it.”

“Oh,” the soldier hesitated. “Good.”

The soldier lifted his mug to drink. They sat quietly together, the soldier sipping his drink, Clide sitting back to watch Dia hustle the room attendant. Keenin looked around, trying to make sense of his new surroundings. It had been a while since he had been in town. By the stage, the announcer was giving the closing speech. Guests were warmly exchanging the last bit of news with friends before they too had to leave for home. Here he was waiting, his head dully throbbing. He rubbed at his temples.

“There she goes,” Clide said.

Keenin looked up.


“Dia’s gone up to the room. Are you all right?” Clide asked him.

Keenin lowered his hand.

“I’m just tired that’s all.”

“Maybe I’ll get going then,” the soldier said pushing back his chair.

“You’re going?”

Keenin had thought he would stay with their little group.

“I wanted to meet with someone,” he explained.

Then there were just the two of them.

“Finally,” Clide said standing up. “If Dia asks I’m out hunting. Oh, and take that up with you.”

Keenin eyed the walking stick left leaning against Clide’s chair.

“You’re serious.”

Clide knew that the staff would make elemental spirits such as Calendor visible on contact.

“It’s covered,” Clide said simply. “I think you can manage not tripping.”

Keenin wasn’t so sure about that, but he couldn’t leave the valuable object behind.

“And Keenin,” Clide called back. “If you aren’t in a hurry you should invite her to see the ocean. I wouldn’t mind seeing it myself.”

Keenin smiled as Clide left, but gave up on the cheerful act when he was alone. Despite his troubles, Keenin had wanted to see the ocean with Dia, but not like this. Keenin’s head still hurt from his lack of sleep last night and he rested his head in his hands.

The scrape of a chair told him he had to wake up. Keenin reluctantly lifted his head. A woman with large eyes and nearly white hair sat across from him. It was always possible that he was wrong, but Keenin was confident in his bad luck.

“Let me guess,” Keenin said. “You saw the performance and think I’m worth getting to know. My illusions looked useful.”

“That’s right. It was an impressive display, illusions or not. I was wondering if you were headed to the capital.”

“No,” Keenin said. “Sorry to disappoint. We’re visiting our parents in St. Anabella. Just waiting for the next boat.”

She smiled nicely.

“You know. They aren’t letting everyone across right now. Word of the undead has made St. Anabella close its ports. Nobody wants to get involved. And you aren’t the only one waiting for a chance.”

“Still. Better to take my chances there,” Keenin said.

“Naturally you would think that, but if you ask yourself where the most protection lies, then it’s obviously that place. The City of Meladona has magic and fighters. And they have a port further up the river with supplies still going across the ocean. I could recommend your group to cook and guard one of the ships if you help me out.”

Still. They all only wanted to use him. Such deception wasn’t getting past him again. Not since Bodwin.

“Find someone else,” Keenin told her. “I’ve got my own problems.”

He put his hand out to take the book and leave, but she put her hand on the other side to hold it back, her sleeve pulling back to show the thin tattoo of a lotus.

“Wait,” she said. “If you really don’t want to be found. There is one more place. My group The Lotus Guild can take you in. Be it criminals or those with difficult pasts, we can give you a different name. A fresh start. In fact, admission requires your secrecy.”

“So that’s the real reason,” Keenin said.

“Of course. You have talent in magic, but I do need to move the cargo. The war being as it is, they need all the potions we can smuggle over.”

“Potions. Do you teach that?”

“Of course. Rune casting. Artifact crafting. Potion making. Well, it would be a waste of your gift, but nobody could stop you.”

“Fool me thrice, deaths on you,” Keenin said.

He knew she forgot to mention the Lotus Guild took on shady jobs, but maybe these people had ways of passing his burden to someone else.


Someone thumped down the steps from the second floor.

“Keenin you have to see the room,” Dia said running over.

She saw the woman sitting with him and stopped.


“I’m Vindice,” she said holding out a hand.

“She’s interested in hiring us to guard cargo in exchange for lending us her seaside home. Just one more trip before we settle down,” Keenin explained.

“That’s right,” Vindice said going along with the story.

Now that Keenin thought about it, it would be nice to secure a home for his friends.

“And if you want it to be just girls tonight you can share my room,” Vindice said.

“Really. Keenin how do you find these people. I mean talking horses and ghost lovers. And now some pretty lady willing to give up a house.”

“It was her proposal,” Keenin said.

“Well, lady, just know that our big brother won’t let funny business slide.”

“Of course. I’d love to work with all of you.”

Vindice smiled like she had not just been blackmailed.



Chapter 20: Silhouette

Chapter 22: The Hero’s Troubles