The Enemy Within
Noa was an orphan for as long as he could remember, out on the streets in Altdorf. There he set himself apart intentionally from people and was never close to anyone. Instead Noa watched and listened and made many loose friendships based on the needs of the day.
Having grown up on the streets he learned about how to survive. He knew that you had to be part of a group, because there was strength in numbers. He learned that the strong only lasted as long as their bodies, and everybody sleeps sometime. He also learned to adapt to situations on the fly. For some this meant being quick with words, and others it meant being quick with their blades. For Noa it meant being quickly forgotten. This meant practiced quiet and careful observation of your surroundings. It was at times taxing to be so on guard most of your life.
Noa had many loose friendships throughout Altdorf, but no big strings to pull. One day as he was pan-handling for a group he saw a man in a large, grey robe. It wasn’t the robe that caught his eye though. It was the fact that Noa almost hadn’t seen him. There was a quality to the man that gave Noa the feeling that if he looked away for a moment he might lose the man from memory altogether.
Following the man through Altdorf he seemed to be lost. Noa counted at least five different occasions where the man had doubled back and looped on his path. As the man walked into the poor district Noa noticed it was raining. And in the heat of the city during this time it was a welcome reprieve. Relaxed for a moment Noa looked back and wondered what he was doing. What could he have come to the poor district for? They don’t have the gold here that they do in the Palast district, so why…?
A few weeks later he felt a familiar feeling. The one of being watched. In fact, he’d had it for a few days now, come to think of it. Looking around for any clear danger he came up empty. By chance his eyes caught a grey cloak facing his direction. The man from the Palast! He was looking at him, and while he couldn’t see his eyes he could feel the gaze under the hood. A hand on his shoulder caused him to jump in such an intense moment. Turning around was an older man of middle age, and good looks.
“I am Rowan, a man of the palace. I noticed you following me the other day. Why?” The man’s voice was soft and airy, but full of tenor like somebody forcing cheer into it. He was smiling with a look Noa had seen before. Right before somebody was stabbed. Looking quickly for an exit, Noa realized the man was directly between the exit and himself. With nowhere to run Noa said “Serr, I’ve got no coin for myself. I ask for all I have. I meant only to see where somebody like you got into the palace. Maybe someday I’ll make it there myself.” giving away more than he meant to.
“Haha!” the man laughed a full-throated laugh that broke the tension in the air. Again quiet and calm “I am a wizard of the grey college. I’ve only recently been brought to the palace” and he flashed a piece of paper with a golden seal “and I’m in need of somebody to do some small jobs for me. Can you read and write?” Noa shook his head. “Have you ever handled yourself in a fight?” Noa again shook his head. “Really? Never had to I imagine. You see Noa, I’ve been watching you for a sometime now and I’d like you to come with me for just a little bit. I think you’d be a good scribe for me. I’ve seen you only ask, but never plead. You’ve looked, but never taken. And you only speak when you’re looked at. How old are you Noa?” “I don’t know serr.” Noa was still trying to figure out how Rowan had come by his name.
After a reluctant moment Noa followed Rowan. Some time after that Noa was tested for what Rowan called the gift. It was apparent that he had it, because after that day Rowan lost his smile. He was only ever happy again in front of the company of those in the palace. Under Rowan Noa worked hard to never be seen or heard. When his time came to learn real magic, that was when the work began though. Master Rowan expected things from Noa that he was unsure Master Rowan could do himself sometimes. In an effort to stay out of his way Noa busied himself with his tasks. In the quiet moments, between all the work and the tensions of the day and Master Rowan’s constant look of somber disappointment Noa would think to himself “How did I get here? How do I work this? This is not my life. My god, what have I done.” And the days just went by, same as it ever was….