Mage Life Chapter 32

I ached. I awoke on cold stone laying on my face. The light from the window was dim but still visible. My ribs hurt.

Wake up,” a cranky voice from above me said.

I blinked and pulled myself up, the stiffness in my joints slowing me.

You done? You fell asleep on my floor.”

How long was I asleep? I asked as I rose to my feet. I wavered slightly.

Not long, but I’m not happy about you sleeping on the job. I thought you mages were tough.

I’ve finished. It was a big job for one man.”

Pish, the old mages could have done it if they’d wanted. They were more powerful than you lot.”

No they were monsters, controlled by the nobles; they weren’t more powerful, they had less restraint. Violence isn’t power.”

The old woman grumbled at being corrected, and walked off without even thanking me.

I  walked slowly out the door and was greeted by the sight of Sophia standing in the middle of the street, looking around. when she saw me, one of her wide smiles spread over her face

Tristan, where have you been? I’ve been looking for you all over!”she said rapidly

What are you doing here? where is Airis? why aren’t you with Jase and Fion?” I asked with a scowl.

Don’t be so grumpy, I was bored and I wanted to see you. Airis stayed behind to cover my escape. Don’t you like seeing me?” she replied her smile fading as she went on.

I always like seeing you silly! But you’re not supposed to be out and about without supervision – or have you forgotten the gnome?

I remember the gnomes, but they can’t get me here! There are grown-ups all around see?” She pointed at the few people on the street, as if they proved her point.

“That’s not what I mean and you know it, young lady!” I replied sternly, “But for now, let’s just go home – I’m tired.” I held out my hand for her.

“Sure!” she said happily, already back to her usual self, and took my hand with her own, small one.

We walked on unsteady feet down the smooth road. the evening air chill against me sweat dampened skin. the few people travelling the streets were bustling along. I spotted a fellow mage down the way. He was standing outside the doorway of a small house, gesturing wildly as he talked with the occupant. As we got closer, parts of the conversation drifted over to us.

Pay me the damn money…” said the older mage in a threatening tone. I’d never seen him before, but with the sudden increase of mages in this town, that wasn’t surprising. He was rather short, slim and his hair was cut very short. His left eye glowed with a reddish light, which usually meant he was a fire specialist, but that wasn’t necessarily reliable information. More interesting was the large, twisted scar running down the right side of his face, running clean through his eye – it had no glow, but rather a normal, green colour.

The occupant, trying to cower behind himself, replied with a low, terrified voice, “W-we don’t have that much…”

Have the money by this time tomorrow or I won’t be able to protect you anymore, and you wouldn’t like that, now would you?” the mage hissed, his tone filled with anger. He took a single step back, raised his arm and a lance of fire shot out of his finger, burning a deep gouge into the wall of the building.

Please sir mage, we have nothing to spare.”

I  didn’t ask for spares now did I ?” the mage said, his mouth raised in a smirk that distorted the scar even further.

Sophia let go of my hand and ran over to the mage.

Hey you can’t treat people like that!” she shouted at the man

“Piss off, midget. This is none of your business,” he said and, without even turning around, lashed out with his hand, an invisible force knocking her away and to the ground.

I rushed forwards and grabbed the mages arm.

He turned his magic on me, roaring air hit me. I clung on, my teeth clenched. his arm came around, he wasn’t stronger than me. but he was better rested. My anger at seeing Sophia on the ground gave me strength when I needed it most but it wasn’t going to be enough as I felt myself weakening. I used my already depleted power to shift the stone beneath his feet. His balance shifted. I swung my fist. I connected just under his chin. I could hear his jaws click together. He actually looked at me then. I don’t know why he hadn’t before.

Walk away mage boy, this is your last warning, this isn’t your concern” he said.

You hurt my kid. You threatened this man. You’re my concern.” I hissed out as I readied a blast of my own.

You can’t take me boy, I’ve been doing this all my life”

Doesn’t matter if I can win, what matters is that I fight.”

I sent raw power down my arm, no fixed element or concept just the rawest unformed stuff, it was all I could manage.

It hit him but washed back on me. I let got of his arm in pain. My fingers felt burnt. I didn’t look, I focused on the mage.

He took a step back, a sneer on his face as he looked at me. In his hands was a ball of bluish white flame.

I pulled all the power I had left over my body in a makeshift shield. the bracer sigil in my mind tried to come forwards, but the ball hit before it could.

Flames washed over me, my shield burning through quickly. the heat hit. the air felt like lava scorching my lungs. I screamed.

The fire stopped, I couldn’t see. I could hear scuffling. there were voices.

I blinked my eyes started to clear, my magic must have protected my most delicate parts.

the mage was a few yards away. Surrounded by a mob, a small mob, but mob none the less.

I could feel the magic pouring out of them. Eight men and women of varying ages and sizes pouring out every shred of power they had . I could feel their links strain at the load but no one’s broke. The mage on the other hand was trapped in a circle of magic not his own, held by eight people. He threw fire and air in wild blows against them, as a team nothing touched them. The circle of power they had conjured held against it all. The sounds of him raging filled the early evening air. I turned my head to see Sophia picking herself up from the stone. I pulled myself up and stumbled over to her.

You okay kid?” I asked.

Yeah. He’s a bad man” she said. I caught sight of where he had caught he, a large bruise was blooming on the side of her face

He’s a ventrasus, that’s worse. we have enough problems without them” I said anger burned through me at the sight of her injury.

I held out my hand and she took it. we walked slowly over to the circle. I looked from face to face. each one looked grim but resolute. the mage in the middle was spitting and snarling promising all kinds of vengeance against them their families, everyone and everything. it soon reached the point where he made no sense. my anger refused to settle.

Sophia, could you look away please,” I asked gently.

Why?”

I have to do something. It’s important but not very nice.”

You’re going to kill him aren’t you?” she said. She raised he had to touch the swelling bruise on her face.

Yes” I said simply.

I will look away.”

Thank you” I let go of her hand. Then I called the dregs of my power. the stone rose from the street into a slim pillar about the hight of my waist. I touched it small cracking sounds came from within and then I wrapped my hand around the now shaped hilt of a single bladed sword. Thin and serrated, made of white stone. I pulled it from the shattered remains of the pillar. It was far lighter than I would have otherwise thought. I stepped forwards to the circle sword in hand.

The mage saw me. He started to laugh.

Going to kill me boy? I think not. You have no right.” he spat.

I stepped forward to the edge of the circle. the knacks holding it shuffled around to give me space.

I have every right. You threaten the peace of the mages. you abuse the citizens we are sworn to protect. even now they are the ones who hold you, not I

That because you’re weak. They are chattel”

And worst of all you harmed my apprentice” I said ignoring his comment.

He paled at that.

Under the laws of the awakened; to harm another’s apprentice without leave is a death sentence. What is your name?”

Selac Freant” he said defiantly. He set his feet and squared his shoulder. His mismatching eyes locked on mine.

I inclined my head not in respect but in a formal motion that the solemn moment required. “Mage Selac Freant I name you Ventrastus, oath breaker, justice has come for you. May your next cycle be better. Go in peace.”

The circle was lowered and I swung the sword.

Mage Life Chapter 31

We went down to the meal hall, I hadn’t used it much as an aspirant I’d spent most of my time in my cell, but it was a large room filled with benches and tables there were a few mages and their students scattered about. Lunch was a short but satisfying meal, Sophia and Airis were quiet as if they had much on their minds, a few times Sophia opened her mouth as if to speak then closed it again with a thoughtful expression.

Say it,” I said to her.

Say what?” she asked.

Whatever is on your mind. I’ve been watching you.”

She blushed at that, then asked, “Where was Lyphia when I woke up?”

I looked at her, she looked back innocently, her green eyes bright. A faint smile, very faint. I could be imagining it, but no. There it was a glimmer of mischief in her eyes.

You already know,” I said, I could feel my face burning.

Does that mean we get to keep her?” Sophia said, fighting her laughter down.

I had no words.

Sophia erupted in peals of laughter. Even Airis was smiling.

Right, this is serious. I don’t want you to be teasing Lyphia about this, I really like her,” I said fiercely.

Calm down Tristan, we would never…”  Sophia trailed off, lost for words.

I thought about my reaction for a moment. It was slightly overblown and aggressive.

I’m sorry,that came out wrong. I would prefer if you didn’t tease Lyphia about our relationship, its new,” I said apologetically.

Don’t worry Tristan. We won’t say anything, we want you to be happy,” Airis said.

Yep, didn’t mean to upset you,” Sophia said. She was nodding as she spoke.

Good then, if everyone is done…let’s find Jase.”

I had no idea where to find Jase. It had been a day or so since we had gotten back from wherever we had been, he should be all better now, we mages heal quickly. I took a wild guess, which was his lab. It turned out he wasn’t there but I needed to have a good look around to make sure. as we were poking around the scattered debris of collected junk that collects in a mages workroom, something moved.

I pulled power into my hand, and called out, “Sophia Airis, get in the centre of the room.”

I was on high alert, tension thrummed through my body as I scanned the room. My eyes were wide, looking for anything, movement.

I activated my reading, light almost blinded me.

Note to self, don’t use very sensitive magical sight in a Mage’s work room, I thought.

Chunks of threads bound into enchantments blazed in every corner of the room. The natural flows of energy were distorted, drained into too many devices to count. But there, in one pile was something that moved.

I readied my mind for some high level magic, for me at least. A binding.

The thing moved, how I don’t know, now that I got a good look at it as it emerged from the piles of junk.

It was a book, large and square. Thick, it had chains wrapped around it, that bound it shut. It fought against its captivity in snarling savage movements.

Don’t move kids,” I called.

I sent a stream of power, water based, at it. drowning it is raw magics.

Its movement slowed but didn’t stop.

Release me,” it whined.

It talks, oh my, will the wonders never cease.

I stood stunned in open mouthed shock for a moment

Why are you bound?” I asked warily.

“’Tis my nature to test all who seek knowledge, I bite. That boy, Jase Aleres, bound me. He has not renewed the binding. I seek a new student,” it said, in a dry rustle of pages.

I looked from the book to Sophia and Airis, Airis had shifted to his stone form and was standing over Sophia shielding her from all harm.

Are you dangerous unbound? If you are I will bind you here and now,” I asked resolutely. I couldn’t have a biting book near my students, but the temptation of knowledge was strong.

No, I merely test. I swear I will do no harm to you and yours,” it said, I could see an eye shape embossed on its front cover, part of the pattern.

I wavered for a moment before deciding to trust my sight, there was a wavering in the magic as it swore its oath.

I relaxed my hold on my power.

We will take you from here, but I make no promises beyond that.”

That is better than I would get from anyone else, I thank you.”

Airis, could you pick up the book please,” I instructed.

The grinding as Airis shifted from his golem body came from behind me. The now boy walked over to the book, shot a nervous glance at me.

I nodded.

He picked up the book and tucked it under his arm.

If we are don’t here we still need to find Jase, I need to make sure he is well.

The boy is damaged?” the book asked.

He was he should be fine now but he isn’t here. So we should ask at the reception. I forgot my mirror and I don’t have my pendant anymore,” I said. I found myself scowling and scratching at my chest as I recalled the events around my pendant.

Aww, it’s a talking book,” Sophia said. She walked forward to touch it.

Don’t,” I barked.

She looked at me suddenly frozen in mid movement.

We don’t know its requirements for a student yet, we should be wary,” I said in what I hoped was a reasonable tone.

Oh, but look at it, that can’t be comfortable. It’s got chains on it,” she said, her hand inching forwards again.

I could feel a headache growing behind my eye, a Sophia shaped headache.

Just listen to me, Don’t touch the book,” I said sternly.

Tristan, it’s a book. what could it possibly do?” she said. her eyes were telling me I was being stupid.

Lets not find out. Just listen and do as you’re told. You don’t know the dangers of a Mage’s work room, Jase’s worst of all. It’s a bloody mess in here. He should know the risks of that.”

I did warn him,” the book offered.

Great, can we go find him now please,” I asked, no I pleaded. a tinge of desperation coloured my voice.

Yep let’s go find Jase,” Sophia said, she ran to the door. where did she get the energy? I asked myself.

I followed her, Airis coming up behind.

The reception desk held a receptionist that I had never seen before, a young woman, blond. immaculately well dressed in a uniform that echoed but didn’t imitate the mage uniforms. she had purple eyes which intrigued me. I’d heard of them but never seen any.

I’m sorry sir, I can’t give that information out,” she said apologetically. “ I can leave a message for you though.

She had repeated this several times.

I was gritting my teeth in frustration, also trying not to shout at the poor girl.

Sophia was giggling.

Sophia do not poke the book,” I said without looking behind me, I knew she would be.

I’m not,” she said.

She is,” Airis informed me.

Airis no one likes a tattle tale,” I said. “Stop gloating Sophia. Now miss, I’m really sorry about this but I need to see him urgently.”

Sir you have told me this, I can’t give you the information.” the receptionist said.

Fine, put me through to Orb,” I said with a grimace. Just asking for Orb left a bitter taste in my mouth.

Which Orb?”

I looked at her a moment, she looked serious. more than one Orb? I asked my self.

The local Orb, I don’t know any other designation. Does it have a name?

Yes, the Westhaven Orb, not a real name but its its designation, sir.” She tapped at her screen.

Tristan, what’s the problem?” Orb said, his voice coming from the desk the receptionist was sat behind.

Hi Orb,” Sophia said, she even waved.

Where is Jase?” I asked shortly.

Where he should be, resting. In his quarters,” Orb said.

You heard that, Orb has now given me the information, now give me a wisp to take me there,” I said.

A look of indecision crossed her face, she looked between me and the screen on her desk, her fingers hovered for a moment over the display, I knew all she had to do was push a glyph and a wisp would appear.

It’s fine, please give Tristan what he asks for,” Orb said. “ Tristan could you call in to headquarters when you are available, I know you have been granted a short leave, considering the trials you have been through, but we could do with your help.” There was a far more mortal quality to Orb’s voice when it was acting outside of his official capacity.

I will think about it,” I said,

That is all I can ask, for what its worth, I’m sorry I put you in the position I did. I had no control over it, but the words came from me.”

I stood, clenching and unclenching my fists as my chest heaved, my breath grew ragged, memories of the choice that had been forced on me, burned through me.

You asked, no, ordered me to give up on her, I can’t forgive that so easily,” I forced out through gritted teeth.

Of course, you can’t. I never expected you to. I apologised because its the right thing to do, and I would change what happened if I could.”

Apology accepted, but this is not forgotten,” I said, for Sophia’s sake.

Thank you Tristan. Now I believe you were hunting master Jase, this young lady will help you now,” Orb said.

There you go,” the receptionist said as she pushed the screen

A golden coloured wisp appeared to our left

Sophia ran after the wisp, Airis looked at me then took off after her too.

I nodded to the receptionist, then followed the children.

I hesitated outside Jase’s door, my hand raised to knock. thoughts of what I could say to him ran through my mind. many possible conversations that needed to be had. I stood frozen.

Tristan, knock already, I want to see Jase,” Sophia whined.

I turned my head and looked at her.

She smiled and made a knocking gesture.

I couldn’t help but smile back, the other stuff could wait.

I knocked.

Don’t just stand there boy, walk in.” the book thing said. “What are you waiting for? an invitation. Show some spine. Heh”

I cast my gaze over the book that was tightly held under Airis arm.

Oh shut up. You have no understanding of what’s happened.” “how is it talking?”

I don’t know. I’m holding it as tightly as I can,” Airis said.

I don’t talk with my cover, that’s for biting.” the book said. It ruffled its pages with menace.

Menace? How the hell does a book do anything with menace? It’s a book for Star’s sake.

I was saved from having to deal with it.

Come in” Jase called through the door.

I told you to walk in” the book said.

I ignored it and opened the door.

Jase’s apartment was identical to mine, although in greens rather than blues. Gentle greens, the carpet was like moss, even the wooden furniture had a green tint. Jase was seated in a deep arm chair in the far corner. His familiar smile was gone, replaced by deep lines. his eye were bright with magic, not with emotion. He looked a shadow of his former self,almost grey with fatigue.  No signs of his injuries remained, whether that was from his own healing or a healer I didn’t know.

Come on,” Jase called. His voice wavered, he sounded like an old man.

I led my little group over to Jase.

Take a seat. what brings you to me today?”

Well, for one I wanted to see how you were? you were in a bad way when I last saw you?” I said.

Jase spread his arms, a small but false smile plastered onto his face.

Sophia jumped off the sofa, then ran into Jase’s arms. she snuggled into him.

Jase wrapped his arms around her. he lowered his head and murmured to her.

I couldn’t hear what they were saying but I could see a tension melt out of Jase.

Sorry to break up this lovely moment, but the we didn’t come for this. thanks for locking me up alone by the way,” the book said.

Shut up, Book. Seriously just be quiet.” I  snapped

Jase’s eyes widened and the tension came back. He tightened his hold on Sophia

You don’t know what that book is capable of. You have to take it back.”

Don’t worry about the book, worry about yourself, we need you back on your feet.”  I  said.

But Tristan…”

No, we will deal with the book. We have much to talk about but that that can wait for now. Sophia is safe. You’re getting better. I  know this is a lot to ask, but if you’re well enough, could you keep an eye on Sophia and Airis? I  would ask Avery but …” I trailed off uncertainly.

Avery, how is she?” Jase asked.

I don’t know, I haven’t been able to ask anyone yet. But it didn’t look good. Her link is gone.”

Gone? I’ve not seen that since the….” Jase hesitated.

Yes since the waves.” I  looked away. Airis was watching me. he nodded. the node had a bit of information on the waves.

I need to see her,” Jase said. he pushed Sophia off with a gentle movement and stood. he looked braced his feet and squared his shoulders as a tremor ran along his limbs.

His eyes glowed brighter as he inhaled deeply. a flush of colour washed through him. health and strength seemed to radiate from him.

Jase, you shouldn’t be doing that. You know the price.” I  said.

Shush, it won’t be a problem for now. its just a bit of help.”

but Jase…”

Enough! Tristan, I  know what I’m doing. I will not be lectured by you on caution” Jase said. his features twisted by an anger that wasn’t his own.

Sophia shrank back from him, her eyes wide and her mouth open in shock.

Reel it in Jase, you’re scaring the girl” the book said,

Jase looked at Sophia, the anger faded.

I’m sorry Sophia, I  didn’t mean to frighten you. I need to see Avery, she is very sick.” Jase said to Sophia.

Sophia nodded and smiled tentatively at him.

Tristan if you need to, I  will take them with me, Fion can keep an eye on them while I  speak to Avery, I  shouldn’t be long,” Jase offered.

That should be fine,” I  looked to Sophia and Airis. “How about it then?”

Don’t worry, I will keep them out of trouble” the book said.

Airis held it tighter in response.

Sophia looked between Jase and I, before nodding firmly, as if deciding something.

I hope all goes well. I really need to get to work, the wave has done some damage, and …”  

Huh?

Have I really only done two official tasks?” I  held out my hand and raised my fingers one at a time as I counted. “One, the irrigation system. Two, the gnomes,”  I stopped and looked between Jase and Sophia.

You got promoted to representative, you dealt with the foundry explosion.” Jase pointed out.

Yes but the foundry wasn’t an official task and the promotion is clearly political. Neither of which are normal mage work, are they?”

No they aren’t. Things happen. Get used to it. We are the guardians of the people, We do what needs to be done. You know it wasn’t always like that. Its changed for the better but its a fragile change as of yet.” Jase said as he stepped forwards and placed his hand on my shoulder. “Be the example, set the standard for who the mages are now, One day, others will follow in your footsteps, make them work for it. Look at Sophia, she will be your legacy. Don’t worry about how many tasks or some other arbitrary measurements.”

I get it Jase, I do but I’ve only been on the job a few months. I should really be doing the job as well as what comes up,” I said.

Go on then, I’ve delayed you long enough. I have my business to attend to.” Jase chuckled.

Do something interesting and I’ll write a chapter about it,” the book said.

I ignored it and walked to the door.

Sophia and Airis both waved.

I waved back and then left.

I stood outside the academy, the afternoon sun hidden by clouds. The grey light cast a pall over the town. I was unsure where to go. Headquarters would know where I could help the most but Rysan and Orb were there. It was too fresh.

I looked up and down the street, the damage was invisible in normal sight. it wasn’t like the first waves, they had been fully tangible. Like a tidal wave of translucent flame, they had done massive amounts of damage in both planes; physical and magical. This was just a magical event.

I walked through the streets almost at random. seeking someone to help, something to fix. I caught sight of many people going about their day, a few grumbled about the enchantments being disrupted.

Mage!” a voice from behind me called.

I turned.

From one of the stores, an old woman stood in the doorway, looking at me, I turned my head to make sure that it was me she was after. There was no one else close enough.

Get over here Mage, I don’t have all day.” she looked fierce, her own glowing eyes bright.

I walked over.

What are you waiting for? I’ve got weak walls now, the charms were striped away. fix it,” she told me

I stood staring at her. I opened my mouth to talk but she interrupted me before I could get anything out.

If you have time to talk, you have time to work.” she stepped back to allow me to enter.

The shop was neat, bare walls currently but I could see the marks left by the shelves. there was nothing inside that gave me a clue about what was sold here.

The woman bustled to a corner and raised her arms. A small dust devil formed in the centre of the room. The cyclone sucked all the dust out of the the edges flagstones. The gaps became visible in short order, but she continued, the surface of the stones smoothed and glyphs lightly graven on the surface appeared. The dust devil veered over to the woman before collapsing, it left a pile of dust in front of her.

Get to it then mage.” she said as she walked behind the counter at the back out of the store front to what I assumed was the store-room.

I stood looking around for a moment, the clear windows in the front let in sufficient light to see, but not for the close work this would need.

I knelt down, next to the central pattern. I ran my fingers over the stone. I couldn’t feel the markings. They looked like scratches but my fingers could feel only cool stone, no marks, nothing.

I scratched my head, as I glanced around the room for more markings. There was nothing. I took a deep breath and braced myself then I activated my othersight.

The room exploded in light, fractured threads of broken charms. The glyphic markings on the stones, shone sickly. Their light tarnished by a… well I don’t know what. if they had been metal, I would have said they were rusted but it was magic, energy, it shouldn’t be possible. I couldn’t leave them like this. the connectors were in a dangerous level of disarray, thankfully the few concepts involved were undamaged and disconnected from the rest.

The difference between charms enchantments and spells is a fine one. Charms are simple in comparison to enchantments, they often deal with static things, basic, adding a property. Most bindings are technically charms. Enchantments deal with more complex dynamic things, its more a process. Spells are a different level again. I’ve never done a spell, I don’t have the control or the experience but I will get there eventually. Then there are the expressions:the tree that I’d made in class. Expressions are will and magic, the magic fades as soon as the will or attention is removed. The effects can remain. Earth being moved stays moved. But this is a charm.

I cocked my head to the side as I noticed it wasn’t just a charm. It was a charm running off an enchantment. The glyph stone was the reservoir. I couldn’t see a link, not even a broken one, it must run off ambient.

I let out a breath I didn’t realise I’d been holding. The concepts were intact. I could figure them out well enough even if I didn’t hold them. But if I didn’t have them I couldn’t make them, I would’ve had to wing it.

I stood up, placed my feet squarely on the central glyph stone, then concentrated. My power flowed out in a gentle swell. The tattered threads became saturated with my power. then I pulled it all back, a bit at a time. My channels tingled as the foreign taint was absorbed. My skin crawled at the sensation.

Sweat started to bead on my forehead, my breath came in fits and starts as I strained harder to pull all the remaining power.

My sweat dripped off my face, the light patter of it falling on the stone knocked me out of the trance. The light from the window had faded, shadows filled my normal sight

The easy part was done.

I looked down at my feet, at the central enchantment. The tattered threads were all gone. The three concepts stood out in a stark contrast to the freshly sterile area. I studied them for a few moments using the time to prepare myself for the next part.

I spun threads from the reservoir throughout the entire foundation then up through the walls,to carry the effect and the power then I created the charm to strengthen and reinforce the building and wound it through the threads. I felt a pulse of feedback as the charm initialized.

Now to make it permanent.

I sunk to my knees and laid my trembling hand on the stone. The concepts near vibrated with eagerness, the connectives came to mind so quickly it was if someone was whispering instructions to me, but I couldn’t hear the magic’s voice this time. It was closer to whispering to myself. My tired mind unable to connect where the information came from.

I felt the moment the last link fell into place.

The dregs of my power drained out of me. My vision clouded and I felt myself fall. I couldn’t move my arms up fast enough. I landed on my face.

It should’ve hurt, but I was beyond feeling.

A bit of begging.

This post is equal parts begging and nagging. I know you all read Magelife and some, very few, of you actually vote on top web fiction.

So this is me asking you, my readers, to vote for MageLife.

It really does help bring in new readers.

 

Im just going to leave this here. Vote 

Mage Life Chapter 30

I awoke to a rather loud snoring, right in my ear. There may have been dribble there too but I ignored it.

Lyphia was sprawled across most of the bed including my side, her soft leg over my own, her arm across my chest.

I smiled to myself as I remembered the night we had shared together. Lyphia was passionate, I’ll give her that. I ached all over, but it was a pleasant, satisfied ache. Now I had to figure out how to get out of bed without disturbing her.

I decided the best option was to move quickly, she would settle back down.  I wiggled her arm off, then I rolled. Right out of bed. She didn’t even notice.

I stood looking at her for a moment, even like this, she was beautiful. Hair splayed out. Limbs everywhere. I could stand here all day watching her sleep, but I had a job to do.

I went into the bathing chamber, had a wash then got dressed. I didn’t put my boots on, I carried them, then snuck out of my room, closing the door quietly on my way out.

I walked to the main room, Sophia’s door was open as I passed.

That meant she would be in the main room. she was, so was Airis. It looked like they were in the middle of a game of tag. I stood in the doorway a moment, watching them run around laughing and shouting at each other. Then shushing themselves when they got too loud.

“What do you two think you are doing?” I shouted at them.

They froze then slowly turned to face me. The guilty look on their faces was priceless.

Sophia looked at me then down to her feet, Airis just looked at me.

“I hope you were having fun, because its lesson time soon. Sophia, you’re now a mage with barely adequate suppression of your power, we need to give you more information so you can understand, that, I think, is the largest thing missing. Once your understanding catches up, I hope you’ll make great strides,” I said to her.

Sophia looked up at me with wide eyes, then nodded.

“Airis, you are Sophia’s companion, you will join her in all her lessons from now on, you will help each other to learn. You will support each other. You will protect each other. and hopefully you will care for each other, I don’t want this to be a distasteful idea to either of you,” I said to them.

Airis nodded, shared a glance with Sophia, smiled then looked back to me.

“Good, now I want some breakfast, can you two please go get what you think you will need for class, and get changed into something better than nightwear,” I continued.

They ran straight past me, I walked over to the table, picked up a bread roll, bit into it as I sat in the nearest chair. I pulled my boots on then finished the rest of the roll. I grabbed another one while waiting for Sophia and Airis.

Sophia had changed into a mage training uniform. when had she gotten that?

Airis was in a similar outfit. Avery really had outdone herself. I needed to find out how she was doing, soon.

“Good that was quick, if you are both ready we can go down to one of the lecture rooms. here is our home I would prefer there to be a distinction between training and home despite where we live,” I said seriously. I was starting to sound like Jase, it must have been my nerves.

They both nodded although they looked nervous too.

“Follow me then.”

I stood and walked to the door, they followed along quietly.

We walked down the halls, past the other crowds, groups of masters and their students. I even got a few respectful nods, which was novel.

It didn’t take us long to reach the lecture floor. I knocked on the first door, a student opened it and declared it was taken.

I wasn’t put off, I tried the next one, it was open and empty, perfect.

I walked in to the lecture room, hall was more like it, down between the staggered rows of desks, to the open semicircle at the base of the room. I stood in front of the large glyph-screen, which used to be a chalk board when I’d had classes

Around the edge of the circle were smaller circles, four of them. inside them were the elements. Fire,earth, air and water. The lesser elements weren’t often included. It was so rare for someone to awaken to one, although an expansion into one wasn’t that uncommon.

I looked up from the circles, to see Airis and Sophia standing just inside the door. “Come on, we haven’t got all day. Find a seat and pay attention,” I said sternly, as much as I wanted to ease them into this, I needed them to understand that I was their teacher here.

They picked a desk about halfway down the short alley of desks.

“Everyone ready?” I asked with a grin. “Good, then we will begin with. What is magic?” I stood looking at them.

They looked back with puzzled, scrunched up looks of confusion.

“Nothing, huh? I know you are young, but this is an interactive class, I can’t teach you if you refuse to think. Let’s move on. How do you use magic?”

Sophia’s arm shot up.

“Yes Sophia, you don’t need to put your arm up. There are only the two of you here.”

“You just do,” she said quickly. A smile hovered on her lips, fragile but there.

“Is that your final answer?”

Sophia nodded looking less sure.

“You’re right. and you’re wrong. magic, once you’re used to it, is like moving your arm, you don’t think about it. you just do it,” I said smiling.

I started to walk around the circle, until I reached the earth circle, I sent a flow of power into it.

A spire of rock rose to waist height.

“This is easy once you have a handle on your power. But where does you power come from?” I asked as I stood next to the slowly growing spire. I forced a bit more magic into it. It slowly shifted into the shape of a sapling.

I walked away keeping a part of my attention on it as it grew and changed. There was no answer from my students.

“Your power comes from the magic which comes through your links. Everyone has one, mages have more than one. But what makes the links different?

“The person?” Airis offered.

They were both staring at my tree.

“Nearly,the location of the link is what makes them different. They are rooted deep in our minds. There, from almost the moment we are born. Our minds grow around them. But we all grow in different ways. How we see the world. How we think. How we feel. Are all different.”

I looked over at them, they were entranced by my stone tree. with a thought I shattered it. they jumped. Shards of stone whirled round in a small controlled cyclone before going back into the the circle.

“This is where I introduce the word concept. Does it mean anything to you?” I said with an intensity they found hard to face.

“Ideas” Airis suggested.

“Ideas given form, yes. A concept is a collection of thoughts and feelings that we use for our magic. Enchantment is nothing but these. The raw manipulations like the tree, don’t use them in such a pure way but they are central to everything we do. I used growth for the tree. What does growth mean to you?” I asked.

“taller” said Sophia

“age” Said Airis at the same time.

“Exactly, growth is just a word, but it means different things to different people. It isn’t an idea. Ideas can’t be communicated like that. It takes a great many words to express an idea well. But a concept in the magical sense is everything. It takes every meaning of a word or an idea, and combines them in a very complicated web. It takes years to build up a clear understanding of the concepts you already carry, let alone build new ones. Sophia, you have made plants grow and you have propelled stones. What concepts do you think you understand?” I asked.

“Umm. growth. and move.” she hedged. her earlier confidence gone.

“Ah, movement, yes. You will know that. Everyone does. One of the first we all learn. Good.”

I stood in the very center of the room, I put on my most serious expression.

“Your magic is thought, it is ideas given shape. They are your leverage against the world. So sharpen your minds, they are all that stand between you and helplessness.”

As a finish I sent out my power to earth and water. I made both circles rise up balls of water and earth floated into the air, they danced around me. flickering into different shapes. a tree, a fish, a cat, a bear, a wave. I ended with them formed into a pixie and sprite, hovering behind each shoulder.

Sophia and Airis were stood clapping and hooting at my little show.

I let the elements go back to their respective circles.

Then I bowed.

“Thank you both. That is the lecture section of this class done. This is your assignment. Pick a concept, and explore it. Words associated with it. Thoughts that come to you in connection to it. But a word of caution, don’t pick an abstract. Things like love or trust or honor. Pick something solid, found in nature. The abstracts are a long ways off.

I walked over to the glyph screen.

“i will guide you just this once, what is your choice?” I said.

“Damage,” Sophia said.

Airis nodded, his eyes locked on me with a fascination I didn’t understand. He couldnt use this.

“Alright, damage it is,” I wrote ‘damage’ in large glyphs in the center of the screen. “ This is the exercise, think of words that spring to mind.”

“Break,” Sophia said.

“Fracture,” Airis offered.

I wrote these on the screen too. They took it in turns throwing a word out. The web of connected words grew.

“Feelings?” I asked. “At the moment this is just a mess of words. You have to own it. You do that by attaching emotion, memories. Anything that helps you get a deeper, a more personal, image of the concept.”

And so it went like this for about half an hour. I stepped away from the screen and faced them.

“Do you both have your screens?” they nodded. “Good, copy what is up her onto them. This isn’t enough. Each thought. Each idea. Each feeling. Needs to be your own. This is how concepts are built. This is how they are yours. Over the next few months I will teach you how to put them in a shape that you can recall, like this,” I gestured to the screen, “But in your head. It takes time and effort, but you can’t be a mage without them. The dreamers can get by on feel, they don’t need to know all the mechanics of it, but you need to understand exactly what you are doing. One day all this will come naturally as you internalise The levels of versatility and power you will be dealing with deserve nothing less than your utmost,” I said gravely. I fixed my gaze on Sophia.

She looked back, daunted but resolved. Her face was pale but her jaw was firm her eyes focused.

“Thank you both for your time. Anyone ready for lunch?”

 

Mage Life Chapter 29

I pulled so much magic around me that it was visible in streamers, water streaming from me and my wound stopped bleeding, useful to know but not particularly relevant right now. I sped down that hall

The scene before me would have been funny, if I hadn’t run there naked.

I slowed as I entered the main room, which was what I had just decided to call it.

Sophia and Lyphia were sat on one of the sofas. The wizard was nowhere in sight.

Airis was stood shifting between his boy and stone forms rapidly, well as rapidly as he could, which was a lot faster than I had seen before.

The girls were urging him on laughing and giggling.

I had misheard the screams of laughter as a reason to panic.

I attempted to slink backward slowly and quietly, it didn’t work. I did manage to cover the important bits

Lyphia noticed me. Her eyes widened and her face flushed. She gulped, then promptly fell off the sofa.

I was still walking backwards when Sophia looked around for Lyphia and saw me, she burst out laughing.

“Tristan, what are you doing? You’re naked, there are girls here,” Sophia informed me, with a huge smile on her face.

“Um, I heard a scream, thought you were in trouble,” I replied sheepishly as I backed away some more.

“Nope, go get some clothes on. Lyphia is taking us to dinner. Isn’t that right Lyph?” Sophia said cheekily.

“Yes, get dressed,” Lyphia said recovered from her, what ever that had been. She hadn’t taken her eyes of me, to be fair I hadn’t off her either, barring a glance at Sophia.

“Um, give me a few moments” I said just as I got out of sight.

That went well I thought with a grimace.

I walked back to my room, my wardrobe was just to the side. I opened the door and I looked.

I still didn’t have any clothes, I had my uniforms but that was about it.

It will have to do, I thought as I grabbed a fresh set. I picked up the spare boots from the bottom of the wardrobe.

I carried my clothes to the bed. I dumped them as my stomach cramped, hard. I doubled over, it had been awhile since I had eaten and while mages don’t eat as much as knacks we still needed to eat. I did my best to ignore the burning pain in my belly as I got dressed. once I was done I stood before the mirror, I could do with a shave but I was presentable.

I decided to try something Jase had mentioned years ago.

I raise my hand and sent a sliver of my magic to run over my fingernails, it mimicked having a sharp blade along the edge of my hand.

I carefully ran it over my stubble, it cut with no tugging or pulling, a moment later I was as close to done as I could be. my hands were steady, but they felt like they should be shaking. my stomach was in knots, either hunger or nerves I couldnt tell.

I tied up my hair with my trusty charm  and I walked out to meet the girls.

 

The women hadn’t wasted the time while I was getting ready. They must have sent Airis out for awhile, he would turn up.

Sophia had a dress that I had never seen on, a deep green like her eyes. It flowed to her ankles which had wrapped leather sandals. Her hair was styled in a complicated pattern, up and yet down. her face shone with her smile, what worried me was the faint glow to her eyes.

I ignored Lyphia who was standing beside Sophia for a moment, I felt bad about it but I didn’t think I would be able to give Sophia the attention she deserved if I looked too closely at Lyphia.

I knelt down to Sophia, and gave her my very best serious face.

“You look wonderful, Soph, really you do. I don’t want to upset you, but is your magic under control?” I asked.

“I don’t know, I think so but it feels different,” she said hesitantly.Her smile faded and her face showed a large amount of doubt.

“We don’t have to go out if you’re not ready.”

“But I really want to, I dressed up Lyph helped,” she looked to Lyphia and smiled.

I continued not to look at Lyph, as Sophia was calling her.

“Well then just for tonight, I will bind your power, so we can have a meal out together. How does that sound?” I said.

“You can do that? But I thought people die without their magic, you told me that,” she said, she even backed away as if I’d threatened to kill her.

“Well, yes they do,but only if its gone for a long time, a week, maybe a bit more. This would be just for a few hours. and its not quite the same, your links are still there they will just be constrained,” I explained.

“Whats con-st-rained mean?” she asked, her little face scrunched up with confusion.

“Umm, it means kinda locked or tightened,” I hedged, I took a moment to think of an example, one came to me, I smiled, pleased with myself. “Like the faucet, you can control how much comes out, so I would be making less come out. Does that help?” I offered.

“Yep,  faucet me, but just for tonight,” she said brightly. “Does it hurt?” she asked as I place my hand on top of her head.

“No, shush a moment please.”

I called my power in a whisper of magic, I activated my reading and I looked deep into this amazing little girl. She had earth and air. A strange combination, must have been something about her awakening that made that happen. Her links glowed like the sun, brighter than Airis’s, but not brighter than mine. They wrapped around each other magnifying what could be pulled through, thank the magic she only had two. I pushed a delicate thread into the the point where they joined with Sophia’s core. With a skill I would never have been able to manage without my reading, I wove my thread around the openings. I created a majorly restricted flow. I twisted my thread gently so that it would hold but would dissolve on its own sometime tomorrow. That done I looked at Sophia with my normal sight and announced “Done.”

“I feel strange, not bad, just strange,” she said, she raised her hand to poke at her own head. “It doesn’t hurt” she said in a soft tone of wonder.

“Nope, painless, told you,” I said with a smirk.

Sophia stuck her tongue out at me.

“As amusing as you pair are to watch, we have a meal to eat,” Lyphia said.

I looked, I had to, it would’ve been rude not to.

Lyphia was in the same dress she’d worn earlier, that I hadn’t paid much attention to, mortified by my own nakedness as I was. It was blue, sky blue, it hung down to her ankles like Sophia’s did, but where Sophia’s covered most of her Lyphias hugged her in some very interesting ways, her shoulders were bare as were her arms. She had some nice jewelry on, rubies set in silver, which I had never seen done before. A necklace that flowered with silver petals and ruby cores. A matching ring and bracelet.

Her hair hung down her back in subtle twirls, of ruby redness, it looked so soft. I was tempted to touch it. Her face was a beautiful as ever, set in a mildly amused yet still impatient expression.

“Of course lady Lyphia, we are at your service,” I said charmingly. I executed a small sweeping bow.

Sophia giggled and curtsied.

Lyphia sighed, but smiled.

I gestured to the door. “Shall we go?”

My ladies both nodded, so off we went.

Out on the street, the setting sun cast a deep red glow over the white stone of the town. We walked down the street, Sophia and I on either side of Lyphia. The path was clear, in a way that set my teeth on edge. People just weren’t out, it was silent. But maybe I was just jumpy

We made our way to a small restaurant, that must have been new. Bursts of laughter  escaped from the brightly lit interior, I turned my head this way and that in confusion. The street lamps were still out. I activated my reading.

The threads of the enchantments were dull, a stark lifeless grey. Everywhere I looked, my heart fell a little more at the scope of the damage the wave had done. It was nothing physical but the amount of work that will be needed to to restore the networks. The lights. The sewers, even the street cleansing was dead. The academy was layered with protections, but the town was just too large for the few mages that we had to protect entirely.

From the restaurant the magic were natural, raw. It was knack magic. washes of colour flowed across my sight. The pyros cooking and lighting. The hydros washing and cooling. The terras doing, well I didn’t really know. I had never learnt the more household applications of my magic, duplication of effort Jase once said. If a mage got called in it was beyond the common people.

I looked at Lyphia, she was smiling, while fixing me with a smug look.

“We aren’t helpless, Tristan,” she said. “Shall we enter?”

“Yep, come on Tristan,” Sophia said with barely contained excitement, while she grabbed my hand and Lyphia’s and started dragging us to the entrance.

“Let’s,” I said.

The inside was far larger than I had expected, the smooth white stone of building had been changed in areas, murals of each of the elements shone on the walls. An open forest, the greens startlingly crisp, there were even small animals animated somehow, a pair of knacks, no, I shouldn’t call them that, they were daydreamers. Not quite lucid but with very fine control of their admittedly limited scope. Sat on each end of the murals. One caught me looking, an older woman,she winked and smiled at my open mouthed expression. It was the same with the other walls. Air clouds scudded across the sky, small drafts emanated from it. Water was a shifting wall of actual water, I could feel the depths somehow, as if it opened into a real sea. Creatures made of ice, swam with the false currents. Fire, was a shifting wall of coloured flames, no creatures roamed that wall but the play of light and heat was beautiful.

“How?” I asked Lyphia as she guided us to a table.

“Oh come now Tristan, since the nobles fell, people have been playing with their talents, I know most of the people here. Many are experts, but even the younger, less experienced, ones use their magic more than you mages think. Up in your academy you have enchantments do everything for you. We work for our’s. How do you think all the food gets grown and cooked. The clothes you wear, the water gets purified, this is how.” she answered gently.

I sat at the table we had reached. Sophia sat next to me and Lyphia took a seat across from both of us.

“Open your eyes Tristan, you are one of us, even though you’re a mage, surely you have seen more than they tell you,” she continued.

“Well yes, my family are like this but we lived out of town. We had to be,” I said awkwardly.

“It’s not just your family, it’s everyone. This is how we live our lives. We might not have the same versatility that you do but we work together. Now, keep your eyes open and enjoy the evening.”

“I think its pretty, my mum and dad used to put little shows on at bedtime, nothing like this, but I miss them,” Sophia said. Her face had fallen, a tiny tear threatened to spill from her eye. She caught me looking and forced a smile. “I’m being silly. Don’t mind me.”

“It’s not silly to miss your family, Sophia. I will see if I can figure out how they do this then we can put on a show, what to you think?”

“Yeah, that would be nice,” she said, her smile firmer.

Lyphia looked at me strangely, a almost considering look. she caught me and smiled.

“What would you like this evening?” a soft male voice came from behind my left shoulder.

I turned to see a young man, maybe eighteen. Slim, fair hair and skin, blue eyes.

“Yes please, could we have some chilled silver juices please, and um..” Lyphia said. “I don’t know what the special is for tonight.” she looked between us as if trying to make up her mind.

“I will eat anything, I’m starving,” I said. My stomach growled to prove a point.

Lyphia laughed.

Sophia smiled before saying “Could I have an egg, ham and fried potatoes please?”

The boy, man, waiter inclined his head then looked to me.

I thought a moment, then decided to ask lyphia “You brought us here. What do you think is best?”

“Oh, the venison was good last time I came,” she said. She looked a bit surprised to be asked, but not displeased.

“The I will have the venison, please,” I informed the waiter.

As will I,” Lyphia said.

The waiter hurried off with a nod.

“This place is amazing, Tristan can I have a wall like that one, at home?” Sophia asked pointing to the water wall.

“Yeah, can she?” Lyphia teased.

“Can you two stop ganging up on me, it’s not fair,” I said.

They grinned at each other.

Lyphia reached her hand out over the table, and rested it on mine, she gave me a squeeze and a warm smile.

“But master mage, it’s so much fun,” she teased.

“Oooo,” Sophia said as her eye caught something  She got up and walked to the water wall. She poked a little ice fish with her finger.

The knack, no the daydreamer, controlling the wall, smiled and closed his eyes.

A group of small fish swam out of the depths to the surface. They swam circles around Sophias digit, she giggled and pushed her hand flat against the surface. they followed her hand as she waved it about.

I looked down to my hand, then up to Lyphia, she was looking at Sophia.

“You did a very good thing, taking her in like you did, I thought you were going to be like all the other mages, but you’re different,” Lyphia said softly without looking at me.

“Thank you?” I said, what was I supposed to say to that.

“You really are an idiot sometimes aren’t you?” she asked with a smile.

“Only around you,” I said jokingly, hopefully she wouldn’t bite my head off.

“Ha, yeah I don’t believe that for a moment, but you get a point for attempting honesty,”

Our drinks arrived with a different waiter. This one had dark eyes and hair, blocky build, but seemed far more cheerful.

“Here you go. Your meals will be along shortly,” he presented us each with a tall glass of metallic looking juice, I loved the stuff.

He placed each on the table, pausing briefly to pass a tingle of magic into the juice. I watched ice form inside them, I hadn’t seen that trick for years, most of the places I went were all enchanted nowadays, but it seemed some of the older tricks were still being used.

I nodded my thanks to the waiter who left.

“Sophia, your drink is here,” I called to her.

“But I’m playing with the fish,” she whined disappointedly, but she came back anyway.

“I will see what I can do about getting you your own fish,” I said my mind was already whirling with ideas.

“Not tonight,” Lyphia said.

I raised an eyebrow at her.

“Did you think I could grow up with a mage and still not know how you think? I’ll bet you, the price of dinner that you were thinking of ways to make one for her” she replied to my unspoken question.

“Well, kinda. I was thinking about making a wall enchantment that could switch between different scenes…”

“I knew it, you are paying for dinner” she said satisfied with herself.

“Really, you was going to make one for me?” Sophia asked me, surprised I think.

“Of course, why wouldn’t I?” I replied confused.

“You know, cos I’m your apprentice, not your kid,” she said, she looked sad for a moment.

“Sophia, I would be happy to have a child like you one day, but until then I have you and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure you are happy, even if it means making ice fish.”

Sophia looked shocked, then burst into tears.

I looked at Lyphia who was smiling widely.

“Come here Soph,” I said as I pushed back my chair and spread my arms.

She came to me, burying her head against my chest.

I winced as she brushed my wound but didn’t let go of her. I said “This is a happy night, you’re awake and I’m home and all is well. No need for tears. We are in a wonderful place with wonderful company.” I gave Lyphia a gentle glance to tell her I meant her before continuing “ Now dry your eyes Soph, dinner will be here soon.”

Sophia nodded and wiped the tears from her face, her smile bloomed brighter than the fire wall. She went back to her seat.

We chatted for a few moments drinking our juices, the cool drinks and gentle conversation doing much to ease the wait.

When our meal did arrive our drinks were gone, but I ordered another round as the waiter left.

Only then did I let myself look at the meal. I had done my very best to avoid even smelling it, roasted venison with vegetables and a sauce of some kind, my hunger roared at me to eat it as quickly as possible. I couldnt, I was in a civilised place. on what could generously called a date. I forced myself to take small bites, it was maddening, almost painful. In between mouthfuls of deliciousness, I acted my most charming, prompting, giggles and smiles from the girls. Lyphia told some stories about her growing up, some were hilarious, Sophia nearly choked. It was a fun and relaxing evening. We soon reached the end of the meal.

“Time to pay up,” Lyphia reminded me.

“Oo Tristan lost,” Sophia said. She flashed me a smile.

I laughed, “Fine. Just so you know I was planning on paying anyway so you didn’t win anything.”

I stood up and walked to the counter in the corner to discuss the bill with our waiter. I got the fair haired teen that we had taken our order.

“The meal was wonderful, what’s your name?” I said when he stopped rushing around.

“Jak, I’m pleased you enjoyed the meal. Will you be staying for the show?” he said.

“I didn’t know there was a show,” I said slightly confused.

“Oh yes, we do a show most nights. We turn off the walls and put on a play of one of the folk stories,” he said. His enthusiasm for the shows animated his features.

“Not tonight, its been a long day. But I would definitely like to see them, now can I pay my bill?”  I asked.

Sophia would love the shows, maybe I could bring Lyphia back another night, just the two of us. I thought.

“Oh what was the other waiters name as well?”

“Milen.”

Would it be alright to give you both a few knacks for such a lovely evening?” I asked

The teen, Jak, blushed. “That is allowed, but please don’t feel you have to. We treated you the same as everyone else.” he protested.

In the end he took the tip, I paid the bill and another tip went to Milen. I walked back to our table to find Sophia and Lyphia coming up with unlikely situations to explain why I had been so long. The one they were currently discussing involves me trying to buy the walls to take home with me

“Hey, it was nothing like that, I was just complimenting him on a wonderful evening,” I said. “Everyone ready to leave?”

“Yep” from Sophia she jumped up with far more energy than she should have after such a heavy meal. She came over to hold my hand.

Lyphia rose with more decorum but no less energy. “Of course.

We walked out together.

 

Our walk back was quiet, it was dark, but peaceful. it wasn’t too late but I was tired.  Lyphia even held my hand as we walked down the wide streets, I was relaxed. We talked about small things until we reached the academy

Then Sophia asked “Lyph, can you stay? can she Tristan? Please, please please”

I looked at Lyphia, as much as I would like her to stay, I couldnt force the words out.

“Where would I sleep?” Lyphia said to Sophia.

“In my room of course,” Sophia declared. She gave me a pleading look.

“If thats what you want,” Lyphia said, she blushed so hard that I could see it, in the dark.

“Yay,” Sophia said excitedly.

I stood there, completely befuddled by this.

“Come on Tristan, its past by bed time, don’t ya know.” Sophia teases.

I was dragged, well dragged is a strong word, guided by my two ladies up to our rooms. I was beyond tired, the nap earlier had helped but it wasn’t enough to undo everything I had been through in the last few days.

Sophia ran to her room to get ready for bed leaving Lyphia and I alone.

“You don’t have to..” I started.

“Shush, it makes her happy, and I want to,” Lyphia said, moving closer to me. her arms came around me, then she looked up at me.

I did what I felt was needed. I kissed her.

She kissed me back. It was better than all the magic in the world.

“Ewww,” Sophia lamented behind us.

I could feel Lyphia’s lips twist against mine as she smiled.

“Come on Lyph, boys are icky, you can sleep in my bed, with me,” Sophia said. She took Lyphias hand, and pulled us apart in such an adorable way.

“I’ll leave you girls to it then, I’m off to bed myself,” I said smiling at the unprotesting lyphia, once so fierce, being manhandled by a small-ish child.

I waved then I followed along behind them. Sophia’s door slammed shut just before I reached it, I could hear giggling from behind it.

I opened my door, to find Airis there. Boy Airis. I’m not sure I could have handled stone Airis unexpectedly

“Is everything okay Airis,” I asked.

“Yes, Tristan. Sophia knows what I am now. And the wizard just wanted to see me shift, he didn’t do or say anything then he left,” Airis said.

Odd I thought venar had planned on doing more

“I’m sorry I missed you,” I said. I really did feel guilty for leaving him out.

“It’s alright, I don’t really eat unless I have to, and I had to check my skills are fully functional. The days in the woods could have compromised me,” he said, there was something else in his tone, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

“Is everything working how it’s supposed to?”

“Yes all the tests confirmed, the module is fully integrated, there is just a lot to process. Do you think Sophia will still like me now that she knows?” he asked, a hint of worry in his voice.

I smiled. “Yes, Sophia will still like you, you saved her. Don’t worry about it. I can have a word with her tomorrow if you like, but I think it may be best to just see how things are in the morning, I doubt it will be a problem, you two are going to need each other.”

“Of course, I’m sure you’re right. Night Tristan,” Airis said, happier almost relieved.

“Night Airis,”

i stepped out of his way so he could leave.

I closed the door, then undressed and threw myself in to bed.

I was asleep not long after.

It was dark, I could feel someone’s hand slide over my chest, I winced as it stung my wound

“Calm down Tristan, if I’d know you would act like this I wouldn’t have come,” Lyphia said.

I could make out her shape in the darkness.

What? Ow, injury,” I said somewhat groggily.

“Oh sorry,” she rested her head against my shoulder.

I moved my arm so she could get settled, then wrapped it around her.

She snuggled in closer, I noticed she was naked.

I kissed the top of her head and wiggled slightly to get more comfortable.

“Now that I have you all to myself…” Lyphia said, leaving it hanging in the air.

…..

 

Exciting and yet terrifying.

To my readers. You have stood by me for a while now. So I feel it would be about time for me to inform you of a change in my life. 

I’m just starting college, better late than never. The ‘plan’ is basically a quick route into university, yes they are different things over here. To do that I have a very intensive nine months of stuffing my head with knowledge and seeing what sticks. Hopefully the rust falls off.

So I wont be as quick in answering comments. It shouldn’t affect my schedule as Book 1 of ML is already written. But if it does this is the reason why. 
I dithered a bit about telling you as I wasn’t sure if, A) you would care. B) It was appropriate. But in the end I thought it was only fair.

Also I’m running a quest on Sufficient Velocity. A quest? I hear you ask. Well a quest is a sort of role playing but instead of everyone with their own characters its a majority thing, Rping by democracy. 

This is just a little fun, something to unwind with. Come and have a look. Here. Play as a tribe of goblins making their way from the dawn of time.

There are lots of other things that may catch your interest. Its a fun site. Go wild. Maybe not wild. Go mild.

Mage Life Chapter 28

“Hello Tristan. Were you going somewhere?” Lyphia said with a mischievous lilt to her words, I could hear her smile.

My heart did a little dance, her voice, I could listen to it all day. Yet at the same time I was terrified to turn around. I didn’t want her to see me like this.

“Are you listening?” she asked as I waited a moment too long to answer her.  She softened her tone into something gentle and low.

I let go of the handle and turned. the sight of her was welcome. I smiled like an idiot.

She gasped.

“Tristan you look awful,” she said, she lifted her hand to cover her mouth as if she was surprised she had said it.

“And you Lyphia, look wonderful, as beautiful as the dawn,” I said, my smile wouldn’t go away, but my bad mood fled in the face of her beauty.

“Thank you, but where were you going?”

“Um, you know it’s my door, I was going to my room, its been a long day already, I really want a wash and a nap,” I said with a bone deep tiredness that seemed to creep up on me.

“Tristan, get in here and see this little girl, she needs you. you are all she has,” Lyphia berated me softly, which was far better than when she did it loudly.

“I really had hoped for a few moments to clean up, I smell.” I said.

“Yes, you do, but she doesn’t care,” Lyphia said with a smirk. she hadn’t taken her eyes off me, as if I was going to slink away.

I sighed, stood up straight and nodded.

Lyphia stepped back and gestured me into Sophia’s room.

Sophia was sat up in bed, she looked tired but seemed healthy. She was gazing out the window. Her hair was tangled in ruby threads.

“How you doing kid?” I asked, smiling at her.

“Tristan! I-I – I was scared,” she said as she turned her head to me.

I crossed the distance to her, I looked at the edge of the bed.

Sophia bobbed her head quickly, dashed the fresh tears that welled from her bright green eyes, they were a little red round the edges. he features looked shaper as if all that she had goes through had worn away at her.

I sat on the bed, pretending to not notice the tears. I took her small hand in my own. I ignored the sting as my sleeve caught on my wrist wound.

“I hear you was very brave Soph, Airis told me,” I said. I patted her hand at a loss for what else I could say.

“The blue things came out of the woods, I didn’t go far. One bit me. I did what you and Jase Taught me, I used my magic, but it didn’t work. there was nothing there. it hurt.” Sophia said, broken and confused but clear enough for me to know what happened.

“Its okay Soph. You were brave. It was my fault, I should never have taken you out there, but you will be alright now,” I promised, even if I had to keep her locked in here she would be safe.

“No, it would have been fun, it was such a nice idea,” she protested weakly, her smile flickered

I’d tightened my grip on her hand, I only noticed when she winced.

“Sorry Soph, didn’t mean to do that”

“Its okay, why do you look funny?” she asked, then paused, her little face scrunched up. “Is that you?” she sniffed.

I laughed.

“Yeah, that’s me. It’s been a busy week,” I said.

Lyphia snorted from behind me.

I turned to look, she was smiling.  Stars, she was beautiful. Her eyes glowed, not with magic, but with laughter.

Sophia started to giggle.

“Hey, it’s not my fault,” I said with good humor, but still whiney enough to set them off again.

I laughed with them, it felt good, like all the worry and fear just evaporated. The knot I’d carried unknowingly in my belly loosened.

I patted Sophia’s hand again before letting go. I stood.

I smiled down at her, she smiled back.

I turned to Lyphia, who seemed to be having trouble breathing. she was trying to contain her amusement

I stepped up to her. I lent in, her eyes widened but she didn’t pull away.

I kissed her hard. I pulled her tight to me.She tensed briefly then melted against me.

Behind us Sophia made a little protest. “Ewww.”

I pulled back smiling like a mad man, I felt invincible. Then I walked out leaving a dazed redheaded woman, and an amused redheaded little girl.

Huh? lots of redhead’s I thought then dismissed it.

My room called me.

I opened the door, I barely slowed as I went straight to my bathing chamber. The door was recessed into the wall, I had barely noticed it when I first surveyed the room. It was just a doorway against what looked like more wall. Sophia’s had been open, so I had just assumed.

It was more of the same in appearance, apart from there was no carpet in here. Tiles of such a pure blue covered the floor, it felt like being in a glass bubble under the sea, the light gave it hints of purple and greens.

The large ceramic bath was set against the back wall, next to it was a wooden storage cupboard, it had taken me awhile to figure it out. nothing but the best for the mages. Most of this was leftover from when the nobles had ruled. Old enchantments, but they were still functional. The cupboard was simple really. It dried and cleaned fabric and leather. Uniforms and towels.

I started to pull off my clothes, they stuck in places. I could feel blood start to flow on my chest.

I stood naked in front of the mirror on the other side. The last few days, really just days, had felt like life time,I had lost weight, I was lean and rangy, my muscles stood out in stark relief, my cheeks had hollowed, I had dark circles under my eyes, which were bloodshot and dry. I had stubble darkening my face. My hair, which I was once so proud of, was tangled and matted. Once I thought, like it was a long time ago, it was only a few months. I looked more wild than man. all that not even counting the wounds I had, a large gash on my wrist and a few cuts on my chest. My pendent gem was embedded in my flesh, what was left of it at least.

I raised my hand to pick a piece out, only to realise my hands were filthy, crawling around in a cell will do that to you.

I was too worn out to even get angry about it anymore, it was only yesterday and I felt old.

I turned away from the mirror, the man looking back at me, disturbed me.

I tapped the enchanted faucet. Hot water poured out, the bath filled quickly

Steam rose in massive plumes, fogging the air.

I used my power to condense some of the steam into a hand shape, which is far easier than pulling solid water about, I focused on my chest wound, placing the water fingers around the fragment, I let the tips flow back into dense vapour around it, to cleanse the area.

I winced as the heat penetrated my wound.

I forced the vapour in, I could feel the edge of the gem warm. I looked down. It was tiny, but it felt huge. The small red wound close to my heart. Not too deep but angry. Scabs loosened under the water. I saw the gem shift, the pain just magnified in a heart beat. I wavered on my feet and gritted my teeth. I decided I didn’t need to look at it. I could feel enough through my magic and the sight was making me feel sick. I closed my eyes as I pushed more water behind the fragment,  I found two other splinters, I flushed them too. I poured more water over the wound. The now cooler water ran pink down my chest. It mingled with my blood, far darker at the site of the wound.

My bath had almost filled. I leant over to tap the faucet again. I was dizzy. I placed a hand on the wall a moment to support me while I took a deep breath, my limbs were shaking as the shock of pain calmed down to more manageable levels. The steam probably wasn’t helping that much.

I stood back up, looked around for somewhere to place the shards. There was a small shelf above the basin but below the mirror. I put them there. Then I got into my bath. the heat enveloped me as I sunk into the deep water. Hot, very hot, maybe too hot. My muscles ached for a moment then relaxed. I sunk deeper as I lost the strength in my legs. I lay like that for a long time, the water cooled. I may have fallen asleep. The water was a murky greyish brown when I pulled myself out, I felt heavy. I placed my feet on the warm tiles, sometimes I love living here. Warm floors. I stepped carefully over to the cupboard, I pulled out a towel. I started patting myself down when I heard a scream.

Cant this wait until I get something to eat. I’m starving, I thought with a resigned mental sigh.

I ran into action

Still wet and naked.

Mage Life Chapter 27

I sat on the hard floor of the arena, racked with sobs, I spend a long moment trying to control my breathing to stop it, there was an odd hiccup as I suppressed it. I wiped my eyes to find Velar standing next to me. Well, over me.

“Come on, there is no need for tears,” Velar said, as he looked down at me. He offered a hand.

I nodded more to myself than anything, and stood on my own.

He lowered his hand and his smile slipped a touch. “ Can we talk a moment? I understand that you might not be feeling up to it though. Jase and Fion mentioned what happened,” he said with what was apparently sincere concern.

“If I’m a Mage, then you’re my boss, I kinda have to talk to you,” I agreed reluctantly.

He gestured up the step out of the room.

We fell into step, him to the side of me. The twins had pulled themselves up, and followed along behind like dogs.

That really didn’t put me at ease, two lethal, legendary mages, that had shown themselves willing to harm me, at my back. I could feel an itch start just between my shoulder blades.

“It doesn’t need to be like this Tristan. I’m sorry you feel hard done by, but we have to be sure,” Velar said. his hands moved in large expansive movements as he talked. his voice was gentle but firm. He sounded a bit like my father. That brought me up short.

“Stop it,” I said.  I turned to look at him. The twins hung back, but close enough that if I tried to harm the boss man they would kill me.

“Stop what?” he asked, an expression of guileless innocence on his face.

I wasn’t buying it, a powerful man is never innocent.

I thought briefly for a moment. I checked my feelings and thoughts. I almost dismissed it, but something wasn’t right. I cocked my head to the side as I looked at him. There was nothing to support my growing suspicion, but I had screamed at the man because of a vision already. I may well be past the need for evidence.

“Stop whatever you are doing to influence me. It’s not necessary. I have to hear you out. You’re the leader of the bloody wizards,” I said slightly bitterly.

His face changed to one of pure surprise.

“You could feel that? I thought that was impossible,” he looked at the twins who looked ready to kill me right now. They seemed equally surprised. “Of course I will stop, I just wanted you to be more comfortable.”

“You think you’re the only being that’s tried to mess with my head? Just say what you want to say and leave me be.”

The familiar friendly tone evaporated, now I was talking to the head wizard. “Fine, Tristan. I want to know several things. One, what is your involvement with Brak?” he left it hanging in the air, waiting expectantly for me to answer.

I resumed walking. I need the time to think.

Brak was the wizard that captured us. With Iason Alerus, Vance and Lessor. The ones from the foundry. Why ask me?

“My involvement with them is nothing, I have none. They on the other hand, seem to go around blowing places up,” I said with a detachment I didn’t feel, I was angry again. Dealing with them, with this, more things that kept me from my duty. Which at the moment was the newly awakened child upstairs in her bed.

“Fine I will accept that answer for now. Two, when did you learn sigils and reading? We received a report of a mage developing reading, but we thought it was wrong. Turns out it wasn’t,” he said firmly, but there was something else under it. Something I couldn’t put my finger on.

We walked through the deserted halls of the academy, I didn’t really know where I was going, but I soon saw the end of a hall that looked familiar, I aimed in that direction while I considered my answer.

“Reading happened after an encounter with a god, well supposedly a god. Sigils, I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. I don’t know sigils,” I said in a rush, anything to get this guy to leave me alone.

“You used one. It sent the twins flying. How can you not know?”

“Look, I’m tired and not in the mood for this, can we move on? I need to see my apprentice” I said.

We were now in a well travelled part of the academy, my suite of rooms just down the hall.

“Tristan, whatever you may think of me, I suggest you put it behind you. You have a bright future with us. Don’t let the past colour your judgement,” Velar said.

I looked over to him, the impression of a jovial uncle, lingered around him, but it was tinged with sadness. His laughter lines, creased deeper than they should be.

“I don’t really care about the past, I’ve done my share of things that I’m not proud of. But how could you do it?” I asked in earnest.

“The nobles oath was insidious, we had very little choice. Some of us could fight it, others were left little more than shells, puppets. There were horrors, but the worst part is do their bidding or worse would happen. They died so that others could live,” he said

“That is the crap, rationalise it anyway you want, it was wrong,” I said.

“Yes it is. It was wrong and it’s still wrong. I have to live with that and a great many other things that I wish I didn’t. There is a reason there are no nobles now,”

I looked back at the twins, they looked grim.

“Not just them,” Velar said with a chuckle.

“If you will excuse me, I have a little girl to see,” I said as we reached my apartment door.

“One moment, I heard you have made a very special construct.”

I stopped, panic flooded through my my hand clenched on the door handle as the breath went out of me.

“I would be interested to see it, Jase says you are very talented. With all the reports about you, I have to agree, but it would be nice to see evidence with my own eyes.

“Is this just academic interest, or something more?” I asked as I eyed him with suspicion.

“Oh, Calm down,” he said with a laugh, his kindly facade back on. “I’m just curious. I love golems. I don’t mind that you ‘may’ have broken a few rules. We aren’t such stick in the muds about little things like that. If you had made a warrior, then I’m sure we would be having words.”  The faintest hint of menace, radiated from him with the last words.

I froze, then tried to cover it.

“Ah, I would rather see to my apprentice right now,” I hedged.

“Is there something you need to tell me?” he said. He was looking at me intensely once again.

Those rainbow eyes are disconcerting, particularly when they were focused on me.

“He’s a warrior, for design purposes. I made him to be a protector. And he is still a very early step in my project,” I said before I even realised.

I stopped and blinked.

“Thought I told you to stop it, I said harshly.

I opened the door ready to go through and slam it behind me.

“Hold, Tristan. I’m still a leader and secrets have a habit of coming back to bite me, so forgive me for the invasion, but I will make no more excuses for it. You don’t want someone in your head, I can understand that. Learn to protect yourself,” Velar said.

“Fine, I can’t protect myself from it yet, so leave,” I said, maybe harsher than I should, but I was done tiptoeing around people.

“No, let me see the golem. I don’t want to pull rank on you, Mage”

“Then don’t.”

I opened the door and walked through, I turned to close it behind me to find a foot wedged in the frame.

“Move your foot,” I instructed.

“Tristan I like you, but don’t push your luck. You live on my sufferance,” Velar said without heat.

It struck me cold, my whole life depended on this man, who I had been treating like he was beneath me.

“Sir, I apologise,” I forced myself to say as I opened the door. “It’s been a trying day.”

Velar chuckled at that and stepped into the room.

The twins attempted to follow.

I looked to Velar, “Can they not come in please? I doubt it would be conducive to my apprentice’s health.”

“Oh, of course,” Velar nodded to the twins, who took position on either side of the door. Guarding.

Good luck with that, I thought.

I called out “Airis.”

“Tristan, you’re back. What was that all about?” Airis’ child voice replied. The actual boy followed along shortly. He stopped in the entry of the room.He was a boy again.

I let out a small sigh of relief, I’d had my doubts about showing him to be harmless as a giant stone man.

Airis stood looking between Velar and Me. If it hadn’t been so serious I would have laughed at his expression. Perplexed just didn’t cover it.

“Relax Airis. This is Velar, the head wizard. He wanted to meet you,” I said helpfully. “Oh, is head wizard the official title? That’s all I even hear you called.”

“Sir,” Airis bowed.

I guess all that information I had implanted served some good.

“No, head wizard isn’t the title, it’s arch wizard,” Veler said amused. “It’s nice to meet you Airis.”

“Airis, how’s Sophia?” I asked worried.

I started to head toward her room.

“She’s awake, Lady Lyphia, is in there with her,” Airis informed me.

I stopped in my tracks.

“Lyphia? Here?” I looked down at myself, I was a mess. “Do I have time to bathe? Change my clothes?” I asked in a rush of words. My heart raced. All thoughts of Sophia fled.

Airis shrugged and Velar laughed.

Helpful of them, I thought before continuing on my way.

Sophias door was closed, I could hear the faintest of murmurs from beyond it. I tiptoed to my door, which was opposite, I reached the handle. As I went to turn it, I heard a door open behind me.

“Hello, Lyphia” I said without turning.

New Serial.

Yes, it’s that time again. I recently came across a very interesting piece of fiction.

It is called Cages. Which intrigued me. 

I would tell you more but I don’t think I can do it justice.

So go take a look, you might like it.

Interlude 2

In greenlaw, the floating city of the wizards council, it was early afternoon, not that it was apparent. The weather was bleak, storms raged all around the high towers. The dark clouds were broken by flashes of lightning that struck the thin, magically supported spires.

Velar was seated behind his desk, in most ways he was unremarkable. But the thing that was different about him were his eyes, they were pools of rainbow light.

Random flashes of light from the highly set window illuminated the room, it was circular, with dark wooden panelling, nowhere near as ostentatious as most would assume for the high wizard’s office.  A glowing map was on his desk.

He found his gaze being drawn again and again to one point marked on the map. Far, far on the edge, out of his territory.

“Sir, they are waiting for you.” A voice from his desk said.

Velar stood and walked around his desk, his long robes flowed out behind him revealing the tight leather clothes of an active mage beneath.

In the hall outside, the twins waited in their deeply hooded black robes. They flanked his door.

“Let’s get this over with,” Velar said with a deep air of resignation.

They moved quickly down the hall to the stone disc that hovered in the centre of a tube.

As the disc descended the twins looked at each other, something in their look signalled that something wasn’t as normal.

“What is it?” Velar asked. His shoulder slumped, there was no respite from his cares not even here in this, the most private place he had with his most loyal servants, but not friends, never friends.

The twins looked at each other again, neither wanted to be the bearer of bad news.

“Spit it out,” Velar said in a tone that would have been angry if he could summon the energy.

“The merchants are pushing for expansion, the lower council want higher taxes and increased trade. They want Westhaven restored. The roads aren’t enough. They want it to be the nexus that Haven was,” Delec said, the twin on the right of Velar.

“Haven was a city. I’ve just got back from West Haven. They have maybe five thousand people at most. It can’t support that level of development.”

The stone disc stopped as did the conversation.

They walked quickly down the short corridor, through the small door at the end and into the council chambers.

The sounds of argument hit them like being plunged in deep water. The air of conflict filled the room.

Velar sent his power out in a soothing wave, silencing the room. He continued to walk to his seat just in front of the door they had used. He looked down the table on the members of the council.

“Before I release you, I want you all to remember: we are united. We are not enemies. Debate, discuss, do not argue here. We have enough problems without fractures forming.” he called out in a loud but tired voice. He waved his hand and released his power over them.

“Sir, that is unacceptable you can’t use your power on us, you are first among equals. You are not special. We do you honour by allowing you an exalted position, the least you can do is grant us honour in return” A small wizened old wizard said, his hair was long and stringy grey, his eyes had the wizard rainbow effect.

“Shut up, you were stupid enough to go unprotected. I’m sick of these meetings, all everyone here does is argue, and for no reason. No matter what I tell you every time. Nothing gets decided. You all hide here in Greenlaw making laws and passing motions. It’s all very….. masturbatory,” Velar said after a moments fumbling for a word.

“Velar, that is no way to talk to us. I call for a vote to remove Archwizard Velar from his position.”

“Sit down, Estus. No one wants to replace him. Would you want his job? He has always been direct. That’s why he is Archwizard and you are barely welcome in this room.” The wizard Merrick jeered, from the far end of the table.

“Thank you Merrick, although I would be happy to be replaced. These meetings bore me.” Velar looked around to see if anyone seconded the vote.

No one raised a hand. Of the twenty-two people in the room only Estus was standing. The rest looked as if they would do anything to be anywhere else when the Archwizards gaze passed over them.

“Right, what’s on the agenda today?”

“The waves and Nelar. We also want to discuss the road works and the project.” A small younger man said from next to Velar.

“Nelar? What the fuck are you lot cooking up? You know that place is a wasteland. Did anyone attempt to convince the town to leave?” Velar rose to his feet, shouting his words at the assembled wizards.

They flinched as a collective.

“None of you,” Velar stated with a flat tone.

“Sir, you know we can’t go near it. The warping is too much.” Estus said. He wrung his hands, fingers twining and untwining around each other.

“Estus, say one more spineless thing, here in this room to me and I will challenge you to a duel. Then your house will need a replacement. Do you have any promising mages we can raise to wizard?” Velar said in a conversational voice, the stark contrast between his earlier anger and his pleasant threat, warned the council that he meant every word. They knew it was the calm in the eye of the storm.

Estus gulped loudly, the sound travelled to every corner of the room in the hushed silence

“Now tell me the truth about Nelar” Velar said. He retook his seat.

“We need to get past the warping, we are surrounded by it, as long as we are contained here we can’t expand, we are sterile, lifeless.” Merrick said.

“That is your argument? You had better have something better than that, because that is weak as shit. We aren’t the nobles. We don’t do things because it pleases us. We do them because they must be done for the good of all.”

Merrick flushed with anger, his nostrils flared as he suddenly exhaled, “and what do you know of the nobles? I spent my life as a wizard bound to Flenec Yanre, you were free. the Solen’s hunting dog. I was trapped, doing his will!” Tears leaked from his eyes as he screamed his anger, his pain, at Velar.

Merrick didn’t even notice the trails of wetness on his face.

“Then you know what I know of them, they are gone now. We did what we had to. Now we might have to expand but we don’t need to breach the warping. It’s beyond us. For now. Take a moment to compose your self. We have time. The heart grants us that.”

Merrick nodded before fleeing from the room.

“Let’s move on, shall we?” Velar asked.

“Sir, we need to deal with it,” one of the members at the far end of the table called out.

“Stand up man I can’t see you very well.

The wizard stood, a large man white in hair and pale skinned. His rainbow eyes were dull.

“Vincent, good to see you here. Why do we need to deal with it right now? We have a great many things that would do more immediate good. all I suggest is sending someone to help the inhabitants relocate. That is all we can do while our resources are so stretched”

“Velar we have been friends a long time, you know I wouldn’t push for it if I didn’t think it needed doing.”

“Vincent I do know that, but I need reasons for all we do, I can’t justify it otherwise.”

“It’s a feeling, it needs doing and its right. We wounded the land. We have to set it right. It’s what we stand for, isn’t it?” Vincent stated with a passion that showed no where else, his body didn’t move.

“Yes we do stand for doing the right thing, well, I like to think we do, but the needs of the many… The warping isn’t harming us. It doesn’t cost us.

“Sir, I really do feel that it needs doing.”

“Tell me why. I can’t just order it done. It will cost lives when we can least spare them. Waves hit Westhaven.”

There were gasp as the news hit the room.

“We had one in Kelan.”

“We had one in Vilate.”

“Have they struck everywhere?” Velar asked looking around at the gathered members, these men were the most powerful in the world and yet they were trembling in fear.

“We don’t know, the orb network was disrupted. We don’t know the sources of the disruption,” Estus replied. “We can’t figure it out while its ongoing, we would need to summon all seniors again to get their reports.”

“Let’s not go down that route. The last time didn’t work so well. We now handle things amongst ourselves. You each have a few trusted seniors that you can speak to, but don’t reveal much. The Brak incident has left doubts in some minds.”

“Has he shown himself?”

“I don’t want to get into it in open council. We have other things to worry about right now. I want a progress report on the roads.

“I have three teams of golems clearing the rubble, a mage following being laying the bases. Master Enchanter Fion is working on the enchantment.”

“I spoke to him when I was in Westhaven, he is working on it. But he needs more details before he can do much more than the basics. He said something about how he can handle the self-repair but the protections depend on the materials used in the roads. He also wanted to know if you know what it needs imbuing into. I will let you get in touch with him about it. How much has been completed?”

“About ten miles on each road. North, south and east. We need Fion to figure out the permanent lifts to the city too.”

“We are wizards, surely someone here can do it, stop trying to hand it off to someone else.”

“But sir, he is a genius in his field.”

“He is also a nightmare to work with. You know who his master was. There are reasons, I just don’t want to put too much strain on someone that fragile.

That man is tough, he can take it.

Its not a matter of he can take it. its an issue of over reliance. What are we going to do if he dies? Or if he breaks again? Brak damaged him.”

“Sir, I feel now might be the time to discuss Brak,” Merrick said as he reentered the room.

“He has shown himself. We don’t know what his goals are, but he was working with a rebel faction in Westhaven. They destroyed the foundry, and its surrounding district, Senior Rysan still doesn’t have a complete body count. but the costs are in the millions of gold wizards range, just in damages. The harm caused by the loss of production we won’t know until we have restored the area. As most of you who keep up to date should know: the stone guild have been contracted to clear the area and restore as much as possible as quickly as they can. We need it functional.”

“So Brak was in Westhaven. what could his plan be?”

“I don’t know. He spoke to Fion briefly in another event not long after.It involved Tristan Sodden.

“Tristan? Is he that young Westhaven Mage?”

“Don’t play that game with me, you were the one that advised raising him. It has worked out so far, he passed the test. We now have a new member. During the wave a small group were attacks by gnomes. I have a few covert agents looking into it, but our forces are spread thin, it’s becoming an issue of what we can afford to do.”

“Raise taxes then” someone down the table called. The suggestion was met was many nods and agreements.

“That is an option but money isn’t the real problem. We don’t have the forces the men and women needed to do the work. We need more hands and minds.”

“Then we continue with the expansion slowly, but not beyond the warping, we need to consolidate our hold on what we have before we overextend” velar conceded

“I will send out a message to the seniors.”

“What else were we supposed to discuss today?”

“Just the project sir,” The young man reminded him.

“Alright to we have any further developments regarding the project?” Velar addressed the table again.

“A few. Greenlaw is almost fully converted. Participation in the training of various skills is on the rise. We have a huge number of intakes to the mage program, so much so that in a few years we will nearly triple our number of actives, if all goes well. Enchantments are becoming more commonplace. We have some more product lines coming along well, but we are suffering a shortage in both skilled workers and pure enough bases. We are missing a great many of the more homely items, we lack experience in those aspects.

“Can we not call in some advisors?”

“We don’t know where to get some from. This is a problem we are running into again and again. None of us know much about the more common usages possible, a lot of them got wiped out. We are having to start from scratch. The bigger usages, things like farming and construction aren’t a huge problem, we know enough and can call in people who are professionals.”

“Go regional. Each area has different needs. Send someone, a mage that is well balanced, in to see what people want, what they need.”

Nods went round the table again.

“Thank you sir. I will set up a research team.”

“Are we done here?” Velar called out, looking around at the wizards council. No one raised another issue. “Good, then I have some business to attend to.”

Velar stood and walked out.

The twins followed behind him.

“Find Brak, I don’t care what you have to do but bring him back. We can’t have wizards going rogue, I had hoped that the seniors would be able to report his whereabouts before he caused trouble but that seems a lost cause. Keep it quiet, we don’t need to alarm the people. But that’s the same reason we can’t put out a kill strike on him. I hope he has good reasons for all this.”

“He has done this before. You tasked him with the things that we can’t be seen to be doing.”

“I know, but this? He blew up a large chunk of one of our towns. He has been agitating for change for years. I trust him. I do, but this is too far without talking to us.

“He could be anywhere sir, he can make portals.”

He won’t do that as much as you fear, they have … costs.” Velar said hesitantly.

“We will search for him. Do you have any ideas where to start?”

“Check his chambers. Don’t use magic, he can tell. If he feels he is being hunted, the harm he could cause would be devastating.”

The twins nodded as one, in that disturbing way they had.

It left Velar feeling cold every time they were around, but they were trustworthy in a way few else would ever submit to.

They left him alone for the first time in years. Off to complete the mission he had tasked them with

Velar continued on to his office alone. He looked at his desk with the glowing map, but didn’t approach it. He stalked over to stand under the window, he looked up at the early moon its cold light shining down on him.

“Brak, where are you? I can’t lead without you. I never wanted this. This was your idea,” he whispered fervently as if in prayer into the deep silence of his office.

There was no answer.

Velar didn’t expect one, but he hoped.