As the party talked anxiously about their plans, Sheldon nodded, stonefaced.
They all had plans, they had been places, they knew people. Cabins, abandoned stores, they had ages of experience. Sheldon had been to Harkenwood... He couldn't hear them anymore, just moving mouths in a circle. "I can take Sheldon," he heard someone say. "He'll be safe that way."
"This is because of you, husk..." the whisper said in his ear, a tendril of smoke, unnoticable in the night. "They will die because of you..."
"That's not true," Sheldon said quietly. No one was listening to him, anyway. He was the child. They had their own discussion about what he should do. "We're all fighting together."
"You brought them together. You are killing them."
"That was never true. They all know what you are. They all know deep down that you will end them all. Just no one has said it yet. You can't be friends with your death."
"It's not me they're afraid of, it's you."
"And you think that you can stop me? I will devour their souls while wearing your face, husk. Or is it you have not realized who you have summoned?"
"A devil... A stupid devil that let himself be caught by a teenager with a book." Sheldon looked at the faces around him. The strong minotaur, the nimble halfling, the wise mage, and the bold druid. "You can't push me around anymore, we can stop you."
A chuckle lifted eerily from the smoke. "You haven't have you? Let me give you a hint..." The dark shadow whispered three words into Sheldon's ear that made the teenager's eyes grow wide.
"Alone! I'm going by myself!" Sheldon said, startling the gathering. "It's final, I've made up my mind! I'm going alone! The iron ring is after us, and it's all because of me. One tiefling is easier to hide than 2 anythings! I've written down where you guys said we're meeting once things cool down, so I'll be fine. I'm me, you know? I'm getting really good at my magic and that stuff and, yeah, I'm going to be fine. I've got this. You guys... I'm really set, but man, look at the time. There's no time like the present!" Sheldon grabbed his knapsack, and ran off into the darkness.
Sheldon took off throught the forest. It was dark, but he'd seen darker. North. He went north. Easy to find, easy to keep going. He ran through marshes. He crossed rivers. He tried hunting for his own food, but he was shite at it. He found money through trade of skill, working as a scribe for travelling merchants he came across. Not much, but enough to keep him fed. He kept moving north. He skirted a desert. He ran, but not once since that night did he hear the voice of his shadowy companion.
He began hearing of a city in the north. A city of learning- a city of knowledge. He was excited, and he hadn't felt this way in a long time. Not since before the book, before the bullies. What had become of him to make him forget who he was? Was it the running, the fighting, the one who he was now attached to? He sought out the city of Silverymoon. He spent the last of what he had on an inn. He applied for a job at the university's library, but didn't get it. This was a city of scholars. He was merely an educated adventurer. He instead found work at a local accountant's shop, keeping the books. He was alright with math, and his handwriting made the ledgers easy to read. It also kept him out of sight from the patrons. While most in Silverymoon were accepting of all races, there were still a select few who still held tieflings and other less "normal" races in suspicion.
He had been working at the accountants for three months when it happened. He was walking from the market back to the shop when a call caught his ear.
"THIEF!" the woman called again. Sheldon turned to see a half-ogre running towards him, with a small chest under his arm. "Somebody stop him, please!" Sheldon's body reacted as it had many times in the past. His hand raised, fire surrounding it. A splash of flames licked at the leather armored hooligan, who kept running.
"Stop," Sheldon said, nearly a whisper. "Please stop."There was no way past the young tiefling in the alleyway except through him. He lowered his shoulder like a ram and charged into him.
A single ember caught the thug's eye, floating on the slightest breeze. Time had stopped for the briefest of seconds. The tiefling was frozen in front of him, hands held up to brace for impact, an odd look on his face... Was it fear? No, the tiefling's face had a look upon it that belied the bravery of his outward appearance. It was a look of begrudging acceptance. What could have caused a look like that on one so young, the thief did not know.
Time came rushing back, and the half-orc barrelled into the adolecent. Like cheese against a grater, he combusted against hellish flames. The scent of brimstone was the last thing he sensed before his entire body was rendered to ashes. The small box clattered to the ground. Sheldon moved to stand up, and felt hands grab his arms. He was lifted up to his feet. "Are you okay?" a voice asked. "You stopped him, you did it!" said another. "Did you see that, he must be at the university!" "'At's a brave ting you did t'ere, laddie!" "Get him some water, will you?" Sheldon found himself sitting down, a crowd from the market gathered around him.
A man came to him, "Whose class are you in, boy?"
"At the university, or are you apprenticing?"
"No, sir. I've just trained myself. I can't afford the university yet, but I spend a lot of time in their libraries."
"This... What you've just done. You should not be anywhere near the level of proficiancy that you show. Those magics are not only high leveled but also quite rare. Not many can weild them."
Sheldon shrugged, rubbing his elbow where he had fallen to the street.
"I'm going to nominate you for a scholarship, child. Those magics you possess- you could become great. Tell me, what is your name?"
Sheldon looked up at him, knowing that this was what he was meant to do. He had been brought here for a reason.
"My name?" Sheldon paused before giving the man the name he had been using to conceal his identity since he had left that night 6 months ago, the coolest name that he could think of...
"My name's Ace, Ace Steele."