When last we spoke, Kenseth and Angela were getting to know each other when her master interrupted the proceedings. While I would love to continue that conversation, Barbaro tapped me on the shoulder today and said we really should get back to him.
Sifting through his stack of tomes, Barbaro stroked his beard with a mixture of indecision and frustration. There were about ten things he needed to do and they all had to be done in the right order. The problem was, he had no idea what that right order was.
Barbaro had listened to the voice from above, an Immortal he no longer dared name aloud, for fear of the plan he was putting together falling apart from outside interference. Secrecy was his friend, and he needed all the friends he could get.
Barbaro took a moment to stare out his window, he found looking outside to the forest surrounding his modest tower helped ground his thoughts. There was something about nature that was very calming. With summer beginning in just a few weeks, the trees were all green again and the sounds of the forest were very much alive around him.
"I should have been a druid," he muttered to himself, something anyone who spent any significant time around him had heard more than once.
"You should have been the town drunk," said a feminine voice from below. "You would have accomplished just as much, and played an important role in our community."
Barbaro rolled his eyes at that comment from Felicia, his wife and top critic. He rose from his desk and walked to the edge of the loft, peering over the balcony at the room below. "At least I still would have met you," he called back, alluding to her time tending her father's stables, where more than one drunk had been found in the mornings over the years.
"Where do we stand?" asked Felicia.
"At the moment, I have to gather a small group of willing and experienced professionals to perform a task that probably will anger any immortal that catches wind of it," said Barbaro. "The reasons for which you well understand."
Felicia nodded and cast a quick spell, eschewing the stairs and floating up and over the railing. "You've told me you believe what you are doing can restore Alphatia and save thousands, maybe millions of lives. But what about us?"
"What about us?" asked Barbarao, a small smile playing on his face. "We were quite happy before all the unpleasantness began. There's no reason to believe that won't continue. You fear the unknown. I'm embracing it. Now what have you found out.?"
"I dispatched Efraim to Bellisaria to locate the artifact you're looking for. Our Benefactor contacted Angela in Karameikos to recruit a promising individual there, and I've quietly put the word out to research the ritual to get this thing started in several sages' ears."
Barbaro nodded. It was a start, which was all he could hope for at the moment. The events he was putting in motion required absolute discretion. As a result, he and Felicia had stopped referring to their immortal benefactor by name and were making sure no one outside of themselves knew the entire plan. Even the people they were recruiting weren't being given the big picture for now.
"I was thinking we may have to go ourselves as I'm not sure of who we could trust whose power matches our own," said Barbaro.
"I already surmised that, and I'll be ready to go whenever you are," said Felicia.
"Excellent," replied Barbaro. "I'll be down for dinner later."
Felicia gave him a peck on the cheek and floated back downstairs.
Barbaro returned to his desk, resuming his studies of what was needed to get this massive undertaking done. He knew Efraim would have some difficulty in obtaining one of the artifacts in Bellisaria because these things never were easy.
Efraim, an old friend with a particular set of skills when it came to retrieving things, was looking for an artifact called Vanya's Clock. Barbaro resisted going after it himself so as to not draw too much attention to it. Assuming Efraim's success, it wouldn't be noted any more than anyone else who happened to gain possession of it.
The main problem was getting everyone together in the right place at the right time. Once he accomplished that, there would be little the Immortals he feared could do to stop it. His plan was a rolling stone, but it only had just begun to turn. It still could be stopped.
Barbaro turned to a large mirror to the side of his desk and waved his hand in front of it while murmuring the words to a spell. The mirror went dark, then cloudy, then cleared again. Instead of Barbaro's middle-aged bearded face, the mirror showed a much younger man in the prime of his youth with a stylish goatee in leather armor. He brandished a sword and looked to be in some sort of field in the countryside.
"Did I contact you at a bad time?" asked Barbaro.
The man in the mirror didn't even turn his head. "Not really. I think I'm being stalked by the native wildlife, which is the least of my problems. I'm told by the locals this place you're looking for is infested with ghouls."
"If anyone can handle it, it's you, Efraim," said Barbaro. "I thought you brought some friends with you?"
"They pulled out as soon as the last local I talked to said 'ghouls.'"
"How sure are you the artifact is in there?"
Efraim shrugged, his head swiveling slowly around. "How sure are you this mission isn't just a giant waste of time?"
"Time, actually, is at the very center of this mission," replied Barbaro.
"Now that I'm about to go into a den of ghouls, do you think you can confide in me what it is we're trying to do? I think I'm committed enough here that you can tell me," said Efraim.
Just then, a dark streak came through Barbaro's mirror and Efraim reacted, sword swinging in perfect harmony to the jump. Barbaro heard the sword connect and the animal give a shriek before falling to the ground with a thud.
"That was a big cat," said Efraim. "Unfortunately, I doubt that it was representative of the species when it comes to size."
"That looked like an adolescent," agreed Barbaro. "The jaguars in that area have been known to get quite large. You were lucky."
"I came prepared," said Efraim. "I magically enhanced my speed before coming into this field once I realized I might become dinner."
"We wouldn't want that," said Barbaro.
"But I do want to know what Vanya's Clock is for," said Efraim. "And don't try and dissemble."
"Vanya's Clock has but one purpose," said Barbaro. "It's only good for time travel. We're going to go back in time and stop Rad and Ixiom from destroying Alphatia."