The voice came at once, without warning. It was not unlike my own voice, but with no source or direction. Someone inexperienced with the sensation might think it be their own, but I know better.

“Westclaw Keep in danger. All available Arcanists prepare for siege.”

My heart sank.

There are those who wonder why I chose the path I have. Usually the role of a Keeper is reserved for those who have retired from the field, no longer fit for confrontations with the ethereal.

But I chose my path with my eyes wide and knowing. As a child, I had been seized by the unyielding grip of a Reacher, an entity that eludes any description I can offer. I felt it draw out the very light from within me, replacing it with fathoms of hopeless cold.

Before I was too far gone, I was saved by an Arcanist. She brought me to the Archives, where I learned the ways of the Arcanists. I did well in my studies, learning all known glyphs and spells by heart, and even surpassing many of my peers. I still write the spells every day, as part of my care of each Implement that sleeps here. Though when I was finally given the opportunity to earn my own Implement, I declined. I simply could not do it.

Nor could I do nothing. So, I live my days out here, a remote keep which protects a cache of Implements, should they be needed.

There are normally Arcanists stationed here. But not today. Our numbers have been dwindling. And a small keep like Westclaw could no longer warrant a dedicated security detail.

I have barricaded myself within the antechamber that seals off the Implement vault. I selected an Implement whose name feels appropriate. I can’t help but wonder if maybe this would have been the Implement granted to me, had I stayed on the path.

There is no one else. This is where I will make my first…and final… stand. Oddly, I am at peace. The familiar fear that had once bound me has found no purchase upon my heart.

Long ago, I stood by, helpless. Today I stand, mustering strength through magic of realms known and unknown. A mountain of spells, ink still drying on fresh parchment lies beside me. They were never meant to be cast, but now they are our only hope.  

I am ready.

Let them come.

Material: Box Elder Burl

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