It was a lonesome figure traveling down the worn, dusty road. Map opened as far as she could hold it, eyes squinted slightly in the failing light. Robes covered in a thin coating of the dust that covered everything else. Occasionally, the call of some type of bird drifted through the hush. Soon the sun would be properly set behind the rolling hills, and the woman trying to find her place on the map would be entirely out of luck. As if she sensed it, her head came up and she squinted at the sky for a good moment.
"Of all the godsforsaken places I could get lost, it had to be here." Disgust laced her tone, nose crinkling at the very thought. Our cantankerous traveler is Elana, a Master mage of the White Winds who had set off for her Journeyman's adventure and just never stopped. All the friends she'd started her studies along side had long since found a place to settle down, some with Lords a few in various mercenary companies, and they all looked at Elana and asked why she'd yet to do the same.
Traveling the countryside in search of work doesn't leave much time for studies, after all, and if she were set on achieving Adept ranking then Elana had better get started on that. Elana snorted at that train of thought, once again raking her eyes over the obviously outdated map she'd picked up in the last town. According to what she could see, the road she was on shouldn't exist. Of course I'm going to be camping out tonight. They only told me that the next village was not even a day away.
Elana stopped dead in the middle of the road. If she was going to be caught out in the dark, then she'd better get started on a camp, while she could still see. Folding the useless map and stuffing it back into the pack strapped to her back, Elana searched the sparse vegetation bordering the road. The hills she found herself lost in were not only rolling, but they were covered in grass. Very few trees took up residence in the area, and even fewer bushes. Not much cover for someone not wanting her throat slit while she slept.
With another snort, Elana walked over to the closest tree. Switching to Mage Sight, she took a closer look at the little space under the tree. The boughs were full, and heavy judging by the way they hung towards the ground, leaving little sunlight for undergrowth. This left a clear space before the first of the bushes made an appearance, so with a bit of enhancement Elana could use it as a shelter. Traveling alone, even as a mage, was something moderately dangerous. Adding valuables into the equation was tantamount to suicide.
This is why Elana tried to leave everything of real value in her rooms at the School. It was very rare for her to be found there, true, but Adepts were always telling her that she had a home there if ever she needed it. Unfortunately there was one thing she couldn't leave behind, and Elana kept it on her person at all times. It was her focus stone, unset, a carefully cut blue topaz gemstone roughly half the size of her palm.
Over the years that Elana's been traveling she's picked up quite a few tricks. Her favorite is building a simple multi-purpose shield tied into the stone for a night at a time. Nothing as elaborate as the shields at the School, which kept anything the mages didn't want in, out. It didn't even prevent things from entering the small campsite, it simply made anything that got too close want to be anywhere else. A very light, very gentle nudge in a different direction. And by building the shield right before bedding down for the night, Elana could tie it into her fully charged stone so it could power it while she slept.
It had been a long, exhausting few months before she had stumbled upon this solution. Paranoia had finally prevented her from sleeping at all, and all it took was one exhaustion fueled incident to make Elana decide to find a solution at all. Thankfully the building that had collapsed was due to come down anyway, so the owner could put something else up in its place.
Placing the stone in the center of the tiny space, Elana unrolled her bedding and prepared to curl up for the night. With a final thought, the shield snapped soundly into place and Elana settled herself into her nest.
The morning had dawned bright and early, as it usually did, and Elana had stretched as she emerged from her cocoon. Packing up camp had taken no time at all, and soon Elana had found herself back on the road looking up and down it for some hint as to where to go. The view looked the same in either direction, so there was no help to be had there. With a sigh, Elana did the only thing there was to do. She closed her eyes and spun, intent on going in whichever direction she ended up facing. Decision finally made, Elana resumed walking in a slightly better mood than she had been the night before.
It was a good candlemark or two later that she heard hoofbeats on the road behind her. Moving to the side to let whoever was galloping along pass, Elana looked up curious as to who could be in such a rush so early in the morning. A rider was coming up on her at top speed, judging by the state of his mount, and seemed not to see her until he was nearly past. Pulling the horse up at the last moment, he turned in the saddle to face Elana and a hopeful expression crossed his face as he took in her robes.
"A mage?" He asked, the hopeful note ringing in his voice as clearly as it was stamped on his face. "Yes, sir. What seems to be the matter?" He waved the question off, however, as he gestured for her to get on. "No time, come on." Elana hesitated a moment, it wasn't that difficult to cart someone off under false pretenses after all. It was the relief clear in his posture after having found someone who could be help that decided her. Mounting up behind the man, he spun them around quickly and started his horse galloping back up the road.
Elana had never learned to ride. This was the key reason why she walked everywhere she wandered, the less immediate issue of not owning a horse being her close second. Of course, not having a horse is a poor excuse when you've made more than enough gold to afford a decent one over the years. Clinging onto the man in front of her, and praying to every god who might be listening that she didn't lose her seat, Elana wondered what could be so urgent that someone would waylay anyone in the street who might be able to help.
It was as the were approaching the walls surrounding the small village that she saw exactly what. Their ride had backtracked Elana all the way to the beginning of the hills, where there was still a deep forest sending equally deep shade to a leaf strewn ground. The village was nearly hugging the edge of the forest, its walls clearly intended to prevent anything nasty from wandering out of the forest and onto the main road. Just before the gates that allowed entrance into the village was a pack of wolves, and they seemed to have no intention of moving along any time soon.
"They came up outta the forest some time las' night." The voice was so low it hummed in his chest, and Elana could feel it from where she still hung on. "We was waitin' for 'em to leave on their own, but they've been sittin' there all mornin'." Elana peered around the man, trying to get a better look. "Haven't you a few hunters in the village? Or someone good with a bow?"
"They can' get a hit." His face twisted in agitation. "No matter if they aim dead center, the arrow always bounces off." Elana frowned. The only way for that to be possible was magic, but who would bother shielding wolves only to have them sit outside a village all day? It would only disrupt travel, and only as long as it took someone who could fix the problem to arrive. Half a day isn't that much time to lose while moving goods, and can be easily made up if the rest of the trip was planned carefully. Of course, they couldn't have known that Elana was moving through the area at the time.
Waving off her thoughts, Elana switched to Mage Sight and studied the wolves again. There was a shield covering the areas easily attacked with a bow, but she couldn't see where it was getting the energy to do so. No other mage energies were in the area, so the caster was safely out of range, but something had to be keeping the shield up. The only way to tell was to get closer. Elana wasn't sure whether to be scared witless over having to get closer to dangerous wild beasts, or annoyed with whoever this was disrupting her morning. Deciding that being witless would be useless, Elana sighed again before dismounting stiffly.
Moving slowly toward the four wolves easily spotted in front of the gate, Elana took a moment to erect her own shields to prevent anything from getting too close. It was a steady drain on her reserves but if it kept anything from pinning her down and ripping out her throat it was well worth it. Reaching out with her mage senses Elana found a ley line running through the village and tapped into it, feeling it restore whatever the shield expended.
As she crept closer to the immobile pack, she saw the thin line of energy that still connected the shield to the caster. It was barely visible, being stretched so far, and this made it very simple for Elana to snap it with a focused mental twist. The shield failed, blinking out of existence, and Elana readied a levinbolt to fling at the closest wolf. Taking a deep, steadying breath Elana struck. The first wolf went down with a choked off howl of pain, catching the attention of the rest of the pack who saw her and leapt. Reaching into the ground with her mage sense, Elana found an underground spring that fed the village well and pulled it to the surface. The mud pit that formed mired the wolves before they could get too close, and the fire Elana promptly threw in their faces hardened the mud.
Threat taken care of, Elana carefully restored the spring to keep the well from running dry. The villagers, who had been watching from over the walls, saw the pack trapped in the hardened earth and all the hunters who had failed to hit their targets immediately let a deadly rain fall down upon the road. The arrows bounced harmlessly off Elana's shield as she walked back to the rider, who was slumped over in relief. "There was a mage involved here. You wouldn't know of anything the village offers that would warrant a siege, would you?"
"We trade in furs, mostly." He said, giving the wolves a wide berth as he rode towards the village. Trappers, then. The marksmen must be purely to defend the village in case of situations like this morning. Unless, of course, a third party decides to tip the scale in the beast's favor. Following the man into the village, Elana frowned as she thought, wondering what could be here worth all the trouble. The people were grateful for her timely rescue, though they'd been the ones to actually dispatch the wolves, and Elana found herself bustled into the inn. After a meal had been placed before her, Elana finally managed to find a lull to ask her question.
"Would someone happen to have a map I could take? The one I've got is horribly out of date."