Bamai

Nowadays

Bamai lives in the south-western part of the city among other working class individuals, the homes there are often single story buildings with flat roofs. He is known among his neighbours for his unavailability and his no-disturbance policy. On his door can regularly be found a sign saying “no one is home; don’t bother knocking”, whether Bamai is actually away is another matter entirely. Bamai could leverage his arcane skills to make a fortune and move to a different part of the city, but for some reason, even after decades, he is still living in the poor district. Sometimes Bamai does take orders for magical services, it really depends on how generous he feels that day. Bamai is well past his sixties, and has lived in Olon’tak for most of his life, he did travel and go abroad in his youth to study the arcane sciences. Bamai does not take part in the politics of the city, it is too much of a hassle for him, he doesn’t like to take sides, and doesn’t like the spotlight. Bamai does meet with Zòko sometimes who is an apothecary in the eastern district, even though their fields are different they see each other as rivals. Bamai is a well-read individual and knows a lot more about the history of his people than most others do. Bamai likes to drink his expertly brewed tea in his dimly lit house.


Backstory

Childhood

Up to the age of ten, Bamai lived in a small house with a flat roof and grey walls in the south-western part of Olon’tak. It was a simple life, helping his mother in the tannery and sneaking into the kitchen of the Riverside Inn to chat with his best friend, a grown up woman. She knew lots of things, and he expected her to teach him how to write someday soon. He was the oldest, and the shortest, of the siblings. A chubby adorable boy who would hide behind his parents whenever they had visitors. He wouldn’t be so shy when he was around friends, joking at their expense, or when he noticed someone in need of help. He enjoyed helping others and basked in their thankfulness even if he disappeared from sight as soon as he wasn’t needed anymore.

That’s how he caught the attention of the mysterious traveller, a woman who came from the desert looking for a room for the night and two warm meals. She tried to pay with silk at the Riverside Inn. Bamai witnessed how she was rejected and offered her his own room instead. His brothers disliked the idea because it was their room too, but the boy managed to convince them. Besides, Bamai’s father was convinced that hospitality was the most important thing that could be offered. The mysterious traveller left the next morning, taking Bamai with her. It was a misunderstanding. He thought he would only guide her out of the city and her colleagues would be out there waiting and would teach him a bit of the arcane language. She thought it was perfectly normal to take him to her home as an apprentice —after all, they said he was older than he seemed to be. When the journey extended beyond his expectations, Bamai proved to be younger and less mature than she had thought, but it was too late to go back. He had to accept her word when she said that she would take him home on her next journey. He was disappointed again when he found out that she only left her home once in a decade.

 

Apprenticeship

In those first ten years, these secluded desert scholars had accepted him like one of their own, and they were exactly the kind of teachers he had been looking for: There were more wizards and apothecaries here than he had ever heard of—twenty of them in total, not including the community that had built up around them. Only the Wise, the leaders of the group, had access to the full extent of their knowledge, and he imagined that to be considerable.

At the same time as he had the chance to go back home, one of the two wizard Wise was looking for an apprentice. Bamai decided to stay and pursue the apprenticeship, so that he would be closer to join the Wise and access their knowledge. He had so many plans! He would contribute to their research first, and later he would go back to his home, and help those in Olon’tak.

He didn’t take it personally when the mage accepted another of the applicants instead. To the contrary, he listened to the wiseman’s advice and continued to study and wait until the other magically-inclined Wise would be able to take a new apprentice. He worked with different scholars for another five years and did his own research with the resources he could find about magic. Eventually he joined the apothecaries, who studied the natural sciences. With them, Bamai learnt not only about healing and drugs, but also a new way to engage with the Arcane—a scientific approach.

In his late thirties, Bamai had befriended the nine apothecaries, and earned their respect. None of them would have guessed that, among other people, he was shy and kind hearted. They only knew him as a boisterous savant, always too busy to mind his peers’ business. Even his closest friends ignored that he had grand dreams of helping the needy, and were constantly surprised by his own thirst for knowledge. He was too focused on acquiring the means to fix every problem he had seen in Olon’tak. There was no time to lose tending to inconsequential problems like decay, body odour, shaving, or the growing disagreements within the community. He only noticed those things until they became a problem.

 

Apothecary and Arcanist

Bamai never paid attention to the scornful words the apothecaries used for the arcanists. And, when he was finally accepted as the apprentice of Vulban, the other arcanist Wise, he didn’t understand the jibes related to his years as an apothecary. He didn’t know that there was bad blood between both kinds of scholars. He hadn’t even noticed that there was such a division; for him, arcane and natural sciences were complementary, and would even converge in certain points. Any scholar meant the same to him: a colleague with whom to share knowledge and work on improving the world; some were his friends, some he didn’t like much, but that didn’t matter. He never managed to understand why they were fighting. When the food was rotting in the warehouse because the different techniques used by apothecaries and arcanists were interfering with each other, he simply thought it to be a logistical mistake. When a disease started spreading in the community and nobody was getting better, he thought it was because their efforts weren’t enough, until a friend came to him, asking him to treat her in secret. Then he found out that nobody had tried to cure them, because the Wise couldn’t agree on which approach to use. Of course, he helped his friend, and everybody else that came after. It only took a few hours to prepare a brew that would get rid of the symptoms and help the body recover. When she came back, she felt better, but now she wanted the medicine for a friend.

After ten days everyone felt better, but the jibes and stares that Bamai had always ignored suddenly turned into a series of heated arguments between the scholars. Even he had to notice that, and it was making it difficult to focus on the things that mattered. He asked his mentor what the reason for the conflict was and, after laughing at his obliviousness to rumours, Vulban explained to him that the apothecaries had distributed a potion without permission. “But it was medicine,” Bamai said, horrified. “And we also had our ways to heal the sick, but when Evèk said we shouldn’t use them because potions were better, we tried to convince them instead of going behind their backs.” Bamai reminded him that people were suffering. Then, he heard something that finally made him understand how bad things were: “And that’s not even the worst part. That sickness was more annoying than dangerous, but those silly grass brewers won’t let us use our magic to actually help the community. Someday that’s going to kill someone.”

He was paying attention to the goings-on in the community after that. That’s how he found out about the plans of Evèk, one of the Wise, whom he had befriended when he was an apothecary like her. She wanted to convince everyone in the community to follow the apothecaries instead of the mixed group of wise people. They had turned the misunderstanding about Bamai’s brew, into a convincing argument for the other scholars to see them as the only viable leaders.

He thought he was doing the right thing when he told Vulban about it, but later he would realise that it had been the worst mistake of his life. Maybe her scheming would have worked, or maybe things would have ended up just like they did or even worse. Either way it wouldn’t have been on his conscience.

 

Taking Sides

As things were, the execution of his mentor, almost a year later, was on his conscience. Vulban had acknowledged his crime even when he claimed it to be an accident. He didn't try to avoid the punishment, which was determined by the Wise and three scholars versed in law from different cultures. It could have been fixed with the expulsion of the mage, or any kind of punishment. Those were unusual measures, the law was to restore what had been taken or damaged, but life is impossible to restore.

When the time finally came Bamai had planned his mentor's escape. But when he came to help him, the former wiseman, full of regret, refused to leave. He fulfilled Vulban's last wish by telling the other wizards that he didn't want them to witness the execution, and not doing so himself. The wizards, who distrusted Bamai because of his closeness with the apothecaries, ignored him and continued with their own plans. Most of them only wanted to speak for their peer, or give him company in the end. After that, the adjudicators became part of the Wise. They tried to balance the use of magic and herbs, but refused to combine them. Bamai felt like a monster for the deaths he had involuntarily caused, but he also felt like a hero when he convinced them to work together again. There would continue to be peace and even collaboration, because most scholars preferred it that way, and neither the arcanists nor the herbalists wanted to leave the place they considered their home. Whatever sour feelings there were between them, would be discussed with a low voice and only among peers. There would be a few issues, but Bamai didn't notice. He was happily focused on learning and deciphering the texts that his mentor had left him. Life was simple again, for a while.

 

Return to Olon’tak

One day, the arcanist Wise came to him with an offer. He wanted to retire and his apprentice wasn’t interested in learning how to work with the apothecaries. He had known Bamai to be a conciliatory scholar with promising prospects. “I've heard how the others talk of you. I know you are ready." Bamai was as moved as ecstatic. He knew he was ready, too. For the first time in years he interacted with his friends for pleasure rather than for work. It wasn’t to celebrate that he had finally reached his goal, he didn’t even share the news. It would be made official in two days, and then he would need to focus on his studies even more than he had done so far. This was his chance to join his friends in activities that weren't related to their studies.

He had been interacting so little with other people— again—there was another sad truth that had been hidden from him. Although this one had been kept a secret from everybody. During the trial of Vulban, the apothecaries didn't interfere in public, but it had been a long time since then, and now that they were all relaxed drinking something that wasn't exactly a potion, one of his friends let slip something suspicious, something that indicated that some of them had influenced the adjudicators. His friend refused to explain more, denying even the meaning of his own words, but Bamai couldn't stop thinking about it.

In the next day, using magic here and herbs in the right teas, he was able to confirm his two greatest fears. First, his mentor’s execution had been both a revenge and a fear tactic, possible because the adjudicators had allowed themselves to be manipulated. Second, he would never be able to forgive that.

He left the next morning, while the Wise were deciding to accept him, in the same inconspicuous silence that had joined him when he left his home. He travelled for a while, looking for other sources of knowledge. But the inherent difficulties of the task were worsened by his newfound distrust in everyone. In the end, the only thing he learned on his journey, was that people out of the desert community weren't too different: they often cared less about their needs than they did about their wants, resentments and ego. He wasn't looking for evidence of the opposite, therefore, he never found it.

He came back to his city, where nobody was waiting for him anymore, and bought what had been his family's house. His only goal was to live there in peace for the rest of his days. Not a monster, nor a hero.

Current Location
Ethnicity
Children
Gender
Male