Vincent returned home shortly after noon. His mother was sitting at the table peeling potatoes for dinner. She greeted him with a warm smile. “Hello dear. Oh, I almost forgot,” she adds. “Dear Betham sent a runner around earlier for you. Said he has something he would like you to take a look at. Said it was something he knew you’d be interested in.”
“Thanks Mom. How long before dinner? Do I have time to go for a visit?”
“Oh, several hours yet. I am making stew so it will have to simmer for a while. Go ahead.”
“Mm, stew. I can hardly wait. I’ll try not to be too long.”
It’s a beautiful early spring day outside, one of the first truly warm days of the year. The streets are bustling with people running errands or just enjoying the mid afternoon warmth. The shop is about a half hour’s walk away. Vincent covers it in a little over twenty minutes, good time and he is only slightly out of breath when he steps inside.
The shop is a squat building at the junction of three streets. Tall enough for humans, it is designed for its occupant with mostly gnome sized furnishings.
As Vincent steps inside Betham is sitting behind the counter examining a small tome not much larger than his hands. He looks up, recognizes the silhouette in the doorway and a warm smile breaks over his face.
“Betham my friend, any customers today?”
The gnome looks much the same as he always has. His brown skin looks weathered, but Vincent knew he hardly ever saw daylight, much less got fresh air. His slate gray hair serves as a resting place for his abused, and largely unused, spectacles. “He’s probably lost them again, right on top of his own head,” Vincent thought.
“Today…hmm, no. No one today. But, I had an interesting purchase a few days ago.”
“Go on, you know something don’t you.”
“Ah yes. Yes, I do. I do indeed. Vincent, my boy, before we get into this, I don’t want you to get your hopes up. This might turn out to be nothing, but then again…”
“Dear friend, that’s all I’ve had for months. Anything is better than nothing.”
Betham pulls out a large, square bundle wrapped in a dark cloth. He sets it on the counter and rests his palms flat on top of it. “Alright. Well, a few days ago a local man came in to sell me a book he had come by. Nothing out of the ordinary about it really. Just another man selling a book. Except, that this was a spellbook—a blank spell book. Nothing terribly unusual about that, I guess, except that some of the pages had been torn out. I suppose those types of things happen in dark places.”
He glowers, probably wondering about the type of horrible creatures that would deface a book like that. “So I bought it at a decent price, figured it’s only a matter of time before a young wizard comes by and takes it off my hands. Didn’t think much about it. And then I noticed something. It’s a tiny, innocuous thing. If you didn’t know what it was, you’d never pay it a second glance.” He starts to unwrap the book.
“I am listening.”
“It is a marking. It blends in well with the surrounding decorations on the spine of the book. Now most booksellers wouldn’t have ever noticed it, I don’t think. Not that I consider myself keen-eyed, but I recognized the marking. Recognized it from personal experience. But I couldn’t remember where I had seen it before. So I did some research and now I know where I have seen it before.”
He pulls out a red leather spellbook with decorative work on the spine. He points to a tiny marking about the size of Vincent’s pinky nail.
“You don’t recognize it, do you?”
Vincent did not. “What is it,” he inquired.
“No, I suppose not. It was a long time ago and it’s not exactly something you give out, like your name. That, my boy, is the marking of the of Neverhalf family. I did some more checking and to be specific, it is the personal marking of one particular Neverhalf…”
Vincent’s heart rate picked up. “This was one of Trinket’s books?”
“Yes. This was, at one time, Trinkit’s spellbook. Or one of them, at least. Now I’ve looked the book over thoroughly, but I’m afraid I can’t tell you much about it. I can tell you it was made over a decade ago, but I’m not sure that tells you much.”
“Do you remember the man? Who was he?”
“Yes, I remember him. He has been in here before. He has come in perhaps a half dozen times with various books to sell me. He never buys, always sells.”
“Did he say anything that might tell you where it is from?”
“No, he didn’t tell me much about it. Honestly, I didn’t bother to ask. Had it been a true tome, then I would have inquired as to its provenance. But, since it was blank I didn’t see the need.”
“Do you know where I might find him?”
“All I can tell you is that his name is Kanley. He’s a local man. He seems reasonably well dressed, but not wealthy I’d wager. I wish I had more for you, but it might lead to something. I hope it’s not another dead end.”
“Do you know how many pages were taken from the book?”
“Ah yes. Well these spellbooks typically have a hundred pages. I counted, twice, and this one is missing about a dozen pages. And they weren’t blank. You can still see scraps of the written text on the page stubs. They were not removed delicately.”
“Do you mind if I study the symbol marking for a moment?”
“Dear boy, the book is yours. Do with it as you need.”
“Glittergold fill your purse, old friend.” Vincent’s gnomish was a bit rusty, but Betham didn’t comment.
“Thank you. I hope Fharlanghn guides you to your father.”
“I thank you for this old friend. I promised Mom I would be back soon. I will keep you informed, but for now I must go.”
“Of course. Take care, and by Garl be CAREFUL!”
“I will, and you my friend, don’t take any wooden sheaves.”
As he departed the sun was just setting. He still had a few hours before dinner. He set off toward the docks. There was no better place to ask questions.
Concern was evident on his mother’s face. Though she tried to conceal it, it shown through in her demeanor and her voice. “Vincent, I want to find your father as much as you do…but this…will probably lead to nothing. I don’t want to discourage you, but I don’t want you getting your hopes up too much either.”
“I understand, but what harm will it do? Please don’t worry about me. I’ve got my head on right.”
“I know. You’ve turned out to be just like your father. He would be…WILL be so proud. Go on. Just promise me you won’t do anything he wouldn’t do.”
“I promise, and if you don’t mind would you save my dinner?”
“Of course. Now go.”