Homecoming by Christopher Hughes

Story name: Homecoming
Author: Christopher Hughes
Date: Spring 706 CR

Overview

Chris is visited by an old friend, and returns home to Ellcaran to see his ailing father.

Summary

The page Alec informs Chris that there is a man in the courtyard for him, that "the jester had come". It is Jester, a childhood friend whom he hasn't seen in eight years. He tells Chris that his father Eduard is dying, and he wants them to ride out tomorrow. Duke Thomas is hesitant to give his subject leave for a ten day's journey unescorted into the Midlands, and so Chris has to explain the story.

He wasn't close to his parents; the last he heard from them was before leaving for University. The city they lived in, Ellcaran, had been heavily hit by the plague afterwards; he assumed that they hadn't survived, and he didn't feel close enough to bother checking.

Jester was the man who inspired him to go to the University of Elvquellin, as he was the only person he was close to. When he announced his intentions to his father, he gave him a sum of money and told him never to see him again. At first he served as Jester's assistant, but he squandered his money. In two years, he was penniless and was forced to leave the University and Jester. After a year of alchemical labor, he moved to Metamor Keep.

Believing that his father has felt remorse and wishes to make amends, and adding that both he and Jester can protect themselves well, Chris finishes his case, and Thomas gives his blessing. As Chris and Jester pack, Wanderer stops by to give a few parting words.

Chris shifts into a full bear, using magic to speed his journey while Jester's own steed follows until night falls. At camp, Chris asks Jester if there is more to him coming than just his father's death. Jester replies that Chris's mother took his departure hard, and her healing abilities suffered; within three months of the plague's arrival, she took ill. Eduard had survived by locked himself in his laboratory. For the last two years, though, his health had been failing; his heart gave out last tenday, and was bedridden for three days before Jester left. Chris stares at the fire, guilty over the distress he'd caused his dear mother, and cries while Jester embraces him.

After another three days, the two reach Ellcaran, but Chris is suspicious. They've travelled on the main roads but have never been stopped. He suspects Jester has put a spell on him to prevent people from taking notice, and asks him to remove it. Jester does so reluctantly. The guards recognize Jester but immediately distrust Chris. Only by Jester's intervention are they allowed through.

Jester remarks that he could have handled the situation himself, and Chris rounds on him, demanding to know what other protections he'd put up, like not telling his father he'd return or where he was. Jester replies that he thought Chris would want to make up with Eduard, since he'd failed to do so to his mother. Enraged, Chris accuses him of always trying to play the hero, and charges down the street without him.

The woman who meets him at his father's house is Nyssa, a pupil of his mother, now his father's caretaker. She is surprised, but recognizes something about Chris, and welcomes him in. She dismisses the reactions of the guards as the fears of ignorance. Chris waits in his room for his father to wake. An hour later, Nyssa enters to talk to Chris. She reveals that Eduard had felt remorse the day Chris left, but did not know where to find him, as he still refused to speak with Jester. Chris is frustrated that Jester would be like a brother to him, yet still treat him as a plaything. Nyssa muses that mages will treat anyone and anything as a plaything, but never to harm people, while Chris is the one who stayed away solely to spite his father.

Chris's father reawakes, and Nyssa and Chris rush to his side. As Chris reunites with him, Eduard begs to be forgiven with his last breaths, which Chris does. The next morning, Nyssa and Chris travel to the inn for breakfast, where the townsfolk have mixed reactions to them. When Chris asks Nyssa about her future, Nyssa is shocked, and asks why he has no room to think about his father. Chris replies that he barely knew his father after all this time, and he still does not love him. He is glad to have at least put his father's soul to rest.

As they leave for the funeral, several of the guards have gathered around a table, muttering in distaste. One of them, Corin, was at the gate yesterday, and believes that the bear has ensorcelled Jester and killed Eduard. One of the older guards, Jared, has seen Metamor Keep himself. A young soldier named Nathan is nervous about the discussion, and wonders if the bear really is Eduard's son.

The funeral is simple, and Chris is the only one not to cry. Afterwards, Jester invites him and Nyssa to his house for the execution of Eduard's will. After the estate is divided, and Nyssa and Jester's father leave, Chris apologizes to Jester for his recent behavior towards him.

They are interrupted by Nathan, who tells them that Corin and the guards are coming to kill Chris. Jester is ready to fight, but Chris has a plan to leave. He suddenly remembers his pack, and Jester casts a spell on Nathan to travel quickly to Nyssa's house to retrieve it. As the guards approach down the street, Chris bids farewell to Jester, and snaps the chain from his monocle.

The spell activates, and Chris teleports back to his study in Metamor Keep. His assistant, now changed into a woman, finds him, and tends to him. Impressed by her healing arts when he awakes, he pulls out his father's certificate of deposit, and asks if she would be interested in studying at the University of Elvquellin.

Characters

Main Characters:

  • Chris: A tutor of Metamor Keep.
  • Jester: Chris's childhood friend. He was Chris's only friend growing up, and became like a brother to him. He was a talented mage as a boy, which inspired Chris to follow him to the University of Elvquellin. In 702 CR, he graduated from the University and returned to Ellcaran, where he works as a village mage. Chris had not seen him since he dropped out of the university.
    • He is five foot nine, very slim and almost gaunt with a high forehead and blond hair and angular features. He wears a black silk shirt, well-tailored pants, riding boots, a black cape with red or dark green lining, and a silver ring with an onyx stone on his fourth finger. He is five years older than Chris, and has a horse named Methusaleh.
  • Nyssa: A healer, and a former pupil of Christopher's late mother. She became Chris's father's caretaker in his final days. She inherits his house and 1000 gold crowns. She is blond with blue eyes and high cheekbones. At the time they meet, she wears a white robe with a high collar and a silver necklace with a diamond pendant. Chris compares her to a sculpture of ice.

Supporting:

  • Eduard: Christopher's father, the son of Aubran. An alchemist, he never forgave himself for letting his wife die in the plague. Though he is good friends with Jester's father, he does not like Jester himself, and was sorely disappointed when Chris wanted to follow him to University.
    • In his younger years, he was large, overweight, tall, and strong, with a full beard. On his death bed, he is much thinner, but retains some of his strength.
  • Nathan: A guard of Ellcaran, and an acquaintance of Jester. Unlike the other guards, he does not distrust Metamorians. He rushes to warn Chris that the other guards are planning to attack. Jester enchants him briefly with speed to retrieve Chris's bag.

Minor characters:

  • Alec / Alexys: A young page at Metamor Keep, 15 years old as of March 706 CR, and a pupil of Christopher's. He had not yet experienced his change before Christopher began his journey to Ellcaran. By the time he returns, Alexys has become a female gendermorph. She is skilled in the healing arts and in archery, though less so in the arcane arts. Chris offers to send her to the University of Elvquellin as a student.
  • Duke Thomas: The ruler of Metamor Keep.
  • Jester's father: A small redhaired man with a "gentle disposition". He was a business partner and good friend of Chris's father Eduard. During Eduard's illness, he visited twice every tenday with herbs and poultices. He gives the eulogy for Eduard's funeral, and inherits the contents of Eduard's laboratory, as well as his journals and notes.
  • Wanderer: Chris's poet friend at Metamor Keep. He gives a sending-off speech to Chris before he departs.
  • Corin: A guard of Ellcaran. He believes that Metamorian morphs will destroy the city. He leads a mob to lynch Christopher, who escapes before they can find him.
  • Jared: A guard of Ellcaran, one of the older guards. He has visited Metamor Keep after the Curse and before 706 CR, and was horrified by the morphs.
  • Brian Coe: The Keep physician. He checks on Chris upon his return.

Important mention:

  • Chris's mother: A healer. She dreamed of a household of children, but she became barren after Chris's birth. She was strong enough to keep Chris and Eduard far enough apart, but she never recovered after Chris left for Elvquellin on bad terms, believing he would never return. She died when a plague hit Ellcaran three months later.

Referenced:

  • Fox Cutter: The Keep librarian.
  • Michael: A recent arrival at the Keep.
  • Pascal: The Keep alchemist, and one of those who appreciated their change.
  • Copernicus: A resident of Metamor Keep. He asked Brian Coe to supervise Alexys's healing.
  • Aubran: Eduard's father.

Points of Interest

  • Chris is colorblind: his color vision is grayed out, supplemented by memory.
  • Chris's room at Metamor Keep is as follows: his room is an L-shape, with a bed on one end and his desk and bookshelves on the other. At the outer bend he keeps a table with two chairs, and a full length mirror at the inner bend. Chris uses one corner of the wall to scratch his back.
  • The contents of the will are divided as follows:
    • Jester's father is given Eduard's laboratory, instruments, journals and notes;
    • Nyssa is given Eduard's house and a thousand gold crowns;
    • Chris is given the rest, which is apparently enough to live in comfort for the rest of his days.
  • Timeline of events:
    • Ten years ago, at the age of 15, Chris attends the University as Jester's assistant.
    • Eight years ago, Chris leaves the University and becomes an alchemist.
    • Seven years ago, Chris leaves for Metamor Keep.
    • Four years ago, Jester leaves the University and returns to Ellcaran.
    • Two years ago, Eduard's health begins to fail.
  • Here are the landmarks of the port city of Ellcaran:
    • The Wayfarer's Rest, a popular and well-built two-story inn;
    • Eduard's house, one-story and in disrepair, left to Nyssa after Eduard dies;
    • Jester's house, a small one-story house near the edge of town, sparsely decorated.
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