Jasper of Pillaton

Written By: Stephen Dove

Jasper

The winter of the 805 AS was one of the bitterest in living memory. Jasper was born to poor serfs in the village of Pillaton, on a manor belonging to the warrior monks of Osterlin Abbey. His parents were simple woodcutters, who daily haunted the eaves of the sinister Jewelspider Forest. Jasper was born on the stroke of midnight and his mother, Alice, died a few minutes later, bleeding to death. The child himself was thought stillborn and the midwife took his tiny body and left it out on one of the forest hills, as an offering to the Old Gods.

Yet as the day dawned, the midwife Herrlu came to collect his bones from the hill; to place them on her witching tree, but found the child alive and well. Fearing that he was a changeling, she fed him rowan porridge, but the child did not die, and so she took him to his grieving father Torrold, who could not look at the child who had ‘left him wifeless…’

The years past, and Jasper was a sickly child; useless to a hale woodcutter who reason enough to hate him and sons enough already. His many siblings, for Jasper had eight brothers and sisters, also endless mocked him. So Jasper spent many hours a day with the midwife, Herrlu; an old widow from Cornumbria. She treated his sickliness and fevers, also teaching the boy to read. She grew afraid when Jasper first began manifesting his powers, and beat him regularly, chiding the boy that ‘this magic is Fey work! I never should have left you out that night! But how was I to know you yet lived?’ So she plied him daily with a remedy after that and his powers seemed blunted, probably saving his life.

Herrlu was a strange and solitary person, shunned by the villagers, because she lived alone at the edge of the forest with her pigs and knew the power the Old Gods and the ways of birds and beasts. It was even rumoured that she even went amongst the charcoal burners; a pagan and shadowy people who actually lived within the bounds of the forest.

The serfs were quick enough to come to Herrlu when they needed a remedy or to ease the pangs of childbirth, but none loved her. Yet Jasper saw the kindness and wisdom in her old heart, though she would go days without speaking a single word and often stood out all night looking up at the stars. If she truly knew magic, then she kept it well hidden.

So Jasper’s early days were spent in the forest; and they were happy days in Herrlu’s care, for the boy looked after her pigs and those of his family. The beasts did not love him, shying away as soon as he came near, but did seem to obey his voice as they did no-one else. It was, his father said ‘his one good use when all else about the boy is ill!’ Even his sisters were kind to him after nights when their father raged at him so.

Yet the nights brought no comfort to Jasper; for ever did he hear strange whispers and odd voices echoing out from the forest. The voices were much worse when Herrlu was away healing the sick, for her remedy held them in check. More than once his brothers Edward and Arthur, had to fetch him back from the benighted wood itself; for Jasper often sleepwalked, perhaps because the voices seemed to be beckoning to him. Once he spent hours talking to an old man who appeared around the family farm at dusk, only later to discover that it was the shade of his dead Grandfather, whom Jasper had never met in life. None of this endeared him to his family, and slowly he grew away from them.

It was when Herrlu was burned as a witch in 812 AS that Jasper’s unquenchable anger first began. A sickness was affecting the village cattle and Herrlu could do nothing to cure it, despite working night and day. Instead of thanking the old woman, the village priest accused her of witchcraft and the villagers erected a pyre; the same villagers who she had cured and healed for three decades.

Before she was taken away, the old woman ran to Jasper’s home breathlessly and pressed a strange jewel into his hands, telling him to ‘place this in the fire the day you know you must leave Pillaton forever.’ Jasper didn’t even have time to say goodbye, before they dragged her off screaming.

The poor boy was made to watch as she burned; to see if ‘he’s in her power.’ spat the priest. For Jasper was often absent from mass and had no love for churches or priests, though he was not alone in that amongst the forest people of Pillaton.

Herrlu’s screams haunted the boy for many years; though her shade visited him afterwards and tried to heal some of this hurt. Yet her hut stood empty and forlorn and Jasper had no one to talk to; and the remedy that Herrlu had given him to quell his powers began to wear off.

No one connected the vengeful boy with spate of fires that broke out in Pillaton that year. Jasper would go out at night and sit staring at the priest’s house, his rage boiling inside him. Then one night he felt a rush of his old power and the house caught ablaze. The priest’s screams were as sweet music to Jasper’s ears and he was almost caught as villagers ran from their houses to try and save the prelate; in vain as it turned out.

The blacksmith followed soon after; he who had denounced the old woman though she’d saved his wife from fever just a winter past. He burned and so did his wife; but Jasper’s rage was not cooled.

It was the voices that finally made him use the jewel; for a month after Herrlu’s death, they grew to become insistent and somehow sinister. Jasper got not a wink of sleep from dawn till dusk, dozing in the day instead, earning him a thrashing when the pigs strayed into the deeping wood where men dared not go. Even when the charcoal burners brought them back was his Father’s rage not quelled and Jasper knew it was just a matter of time before he killed his Father with his magic.

So he used the jewel; lighting a fire one night in a woodland glade. He dropped the gem into the flames and suddenly it took flight, flying high into the night’s sky to hover there for several nights, like a new star.

Jasper thought no more of it; thinking the spell had somehow failed, but an old peddler came through Pillaton a few days later. He bartered for Jasper, paying his Father a gold crown for him and together they left; neither Father nor son discomforted at the sale.

Jasper was not afraid, for he felt his powers growing and knew he was special. The peddler named himself Ulric and told Jasper that he as a Sorceror. He asked the boy how he had learned the summoning magic, and Jasper told him of Herrlu. Hearing of her death, Ulric was angry at the people of Pillaton and sent a flock of ravens to plague them, and eat their seed as they tried to sow their fields. Jasper smiled evilly, for the boy had grown sour.

The next few weeks were the best of Jasper’s young life. He travelled with his new Master and learnt many wonders from him, including ways to shut out the voices. Ulric was intrigued by the boy’s power but grew frustrated because he realised that Jasper could not control his power and was now only able to work magic when he was angry or otherwise emotional. Still they travelled, visiting the hold of Sengool the Enchanter in the eastern lands and other Sorceror also. As they journeyed, Ulric instructed Jasper in the Sorcerors’ Code; a set of laws that governed what the Gifted might do that prevented them from interfering in mundane affairs.

Jasper thought this time would go on forever; just him and his new Master, but eventually their wanderings lead them back to Ulric’s tower in Jewelspider Wood. The Tower was no mere mundane construction though, but had been raised inside a Fey Gloaming; a sort of tiny separate world that touched the waking world only briefly, when the moon was full. Jasper first entered the tower in the winter of 813; Ulric warned him then that he would leave behind all that he had known once he stepped foot across the threshold.

Inside the tower however, were many other apprentices, old and young; and they did not take kindly to the latest ‘newcomer’. Jasper soon found life in the tower as dull and humiliating as it had been at home. The other apprentices replaced his brothers in sneering at him and the work seemed very mundane. He left the tower a few times in the next couple of years; usually to get supplies in Saxton, and each time decades seemed to have passed in the waking world, though only a few months had gone by in the Gloaming.

Ulric seemed to have little time for his apprentices; usually making ridiculous requests of them or sending them off into the outside world. Many never returned. He rarely sought Jasper out and occasionally seemed not even to remember the boy’s name. He would also rage at Jasper when he could not grasp his lessons or work a particular spell and several times even flogged him in front of the others. Jasper grew angry and spiteful and took it out on the other apprentices, some of whom were now in his charge. Jacob and Cullain were his particular pet hates, for these two boys delighted in humiliating Jasper, playing cruel tricks on him and mocking him.

Yet slowly, did Jasper learn magic, as the years in the tower lengthened to decades; and a century or more in the world outside. He had grown resigned to his lot as a glorified skivvy and lickspittle, but secretly longed to find a way to prove himself. Yet deep in his heart he wondered whether he and the apprentices were here to learn magic or were just being held prisoner to ensure that they did not become wilder-wizards and invite the wroth of the church or others.

That was until one day……

Session 1     

Session 2      

Session 3     

Session 4

Maelee

Carroe

Malvol

Sven

Leave a Reply