MageLife Chapter 41

Marching doesn’t really convey the emotion of the moment, it says monotonous, repetitive. It doesn’t cover the frantic scurry as we stepped into the street.

The new headquarters had a nice arch framing the door, I’d not really noticed it before, but I noticed it now.

It was the only thing that kept us sheltered from the swarms of monsters roaming the streets. I guess a group of mages cutting their way into the horde generates a lot of interest. They couldn’t attack on all sides. Their numbers were too great. Who knew being out numbered could be a good thing?

All this ran through my mind in the instant before the mage next to me pulled on his link. He raised his wand and pointed into the void hanging above us and then…

Things fell.

I have no idea what he did, but it distracted the beasts. Night wings and harpies fell still living from the sky as if the air couldn’t bear them to touch it anymore.

“Light, we need light, we’re blind out here,” I shouted. Someone heard me.

The sky lit up for miles in every direction. Fire poured into the clouds from directly above us.

We could see. I wished we couldn’t.

Trolls strolled down the streets, their clubs dragging behind them, the cobbles torn from the path.

Goblins, the lesser cousin of the trolls, smaller but quicker, followed along, their high-pitched laughs as they broke into the buildings and pulled people out filled the air.

Night wings twitched with the harpies on the ground, their fall hard but not fatal. Their bat like wings and strange tentacles were on display for all to see.

Small earth elementals completed the forces.

Something wasn’t right.

Telsan and the others at the front of the formation were locked in close combat. I’d been kept at the back, the press of bodies too much to force the issue right now.

I could now see but something was missing, what was it?

A legion of goblins, grey skinned and short but gangly, their oddly jointed hands holding makeshift weapons, sharpened sticks and shards of stone rushed forwards.

A seven-man army is too small to resist that sort of pressure. Heavy magic isn’t without its costs and one of them is time. Another is attention.

“Tristan, you have earth, don’t you?” Lysar asked as he pushed away a probing goblin. It snarled and clawed but its limbs were too short to gain purchase.

I nodded.

“Raise a platform under us all. Slope the sides so they have to fight their way up.”

I looked around, measuring the space: a hundred feet on each side, narrowing to ten at the door.

I opened my senses wide, braced for the rush. It still struck me like a blow to the head: Colours and sounds, the sick signatures of trolls and goblins. Night wings a strange harmony of light and dark. I pulled on my link; the twisted magic flooded my body. I poured it all into the earth under the cobbles, hunting for solid rock, there not too deep. I commanded it to rise up.

The air filled with the low rumbling sound of grinding stone.

“Good, a bit higher Tristan, that should do it. Give the guys a chance to rest and think.”

The front was slowly disengaging. The few fresh men swapped out with the commander and the two others.

If I was to be fighting for my life with these men, it would be great if I knew their names.

I released my magic, letting the excess drain back down my link. Then I stepped forward to take my turn on the front. The growls and whimpers from the edge of the mound caught my eye. I found myself trying to see down into the shadows.

“We have a short respite; we need to use it for the biggest advantage. The trolls will step right onto us. What have we got?”

“Sir, Grell and I can set some wards, but I don’t know how they will do here. Given another day we could turn this place into a fortress, the magic is purifying. New flows are coming. Once that is done we can cleanse this city of the monsters.”

“We have to avoid casualty. We don’t have the manpower to fight a protracted war. Plan it but we need short term gains.”

“We can step back into headquarters sir. Seal it up and wait it out.”

“But what about the civilians?” I asked.

“We will hold here as much as possible. If we give the beasties the juicy target they might leave the civilians alone.”

I missed the rest of the conversation.

A small group of goblins had made it up the mound. My sword swung, taking heads and limbs. The moans of pain and anger sent shivers up my spine but I didn’t stop.

Like cutting down weeks at the farm, my arm moved on its own. Flickers of flame licked the blade. Blood, bone and other less pleasant things sprayed over me.

I lost track of time.

A hand touched my shoulder, I spun, my arm pulled back to strike.

Telsan stood there, his face shocked at something.

“They have stopped for a few moments. We have something planned. Get a drink and take a rest.”

Numbly I nodded before pulling away from the edge; I didn’t look at what I had done.

Lysar brought a cup of water over to me as I leant against the arch.

“You did well up there. Not many freshly raised have a taste for battle. Not that this counts as one yet.”

I held out my left hand for the cup, my mouth suddenly felt dry.

“Here you go. Rinse first off.”

I did and spat bloody water on the earth, which hungrily sucked it up. “What’s being planned? I was distracted.”

“I’ll bet you were. That sword is something special. Where did you learn to use it? We don’t teach swordplay at the academy much anymore, much easier to give the babies wands and staffs.”

“Vesic taught me.”

“Lessons from a god? Ha, you are touched by something different Tristan. Anyways, the plan is a surprise.”

“You don’t know it do you?”

“Nope, I had my own things to worry about, missed the planning session. Your boy, Brendon is fine, keeping the lights on. He didn’t even look tired or anything.”

“Good. Anything we can do to take the pressure off him?”

“I’ve got some globes, not many. It’s hard to enchant stuff out here. Everything resists.”

“Don’t I know it? How are we supposed to know what to do if we don’t know the plan? Aren’t I commander or something?”

“Yep, ask one of the boys. I’m not one of them really. I’m kept out of their little club.”

“Seems close knit.”

Lysar pointed back towards the front. Telsan and one of his men were heading our way. They were blood splattered and worn looking.

“Lysar, water please, while I talk to our commander.”

Lysar walked back inside.

“Tristan, you did well.” Telsan raised his hand to his hair, but upon seeing the blood on it, he lowered it before making contact. “The platform is letting us hold them off. We need to work out what to do in the long term, but I think we will make it through the night.”

“Good to know.”

Telsan cracked a small smile at that. “The boys have got some tricks coming up, nothing spectacular. Don’t be surprised.”

“If you tell me what to expect I won’t be surprised.”

“I don’t know. Grell and Densk are unpredictable. They say they have something, that’s good enough for me. It could be almost anything. But I doubt it will be big, the magic is wrong, they won’t risk drawing much.”

“Something has been bothering me about all this. Now that I’ve had a few moments to think a question occurred, where is the leader?”

“Leader? These are monsters Tristan, they don’t need a leader.”

“It’s too organised. Look. Waves of goblins, shock troops of trolls, air support and sappers. Where have the elementals gotten to?”

“I’ve got Jedas scrying the field. Now we know what’s out there he can focus in. the elementals are on his list.”

“He won’t find them. They are all beneath us. Something has caused this.”

“For the sake of argument say I agree with you. What could have caused this?”

“I don’t know but we won’t win unless we find out.”

“No one could command an army like this except maybe a wizard.”

“That’s it, a wizard.”

“A wizard wouldn’t do this.”

“Do you know a wizard named Brak?”

“The arch wizard’s best friend, co-founder of the wizard’s council, that Brak?”

“Yes. Did you know he has gone rogue?”

“What? Why would a wizard go rogue? That makes no sense.”

“I don’t know, but what I do know is the council are looking for him. He was behind the foundry explosion in Westhaven.”

“Tristan, a wizard wouldn’t be here. The magic is too damaged for them.”

“Some of them could manage it; I’ll bet Brak is one of them.”

“You are betting, heavily. I don’t see a reason for a wizard to set all this in motion. I can’t let you go.”

“But I know where he is.”

“You don’t know anything Tristan, you are guessing. This is all just guesswork. There is no leader, no wizard here.”

“I’m sorry Telsan but this won’t end here. I have to go.” I pushed off from the wall I was leaning against and ran to the edge of the platform, the drop was only a few feet, but every little helps in a fight.

The goblins had pulled back, they weren’t assaulting the line anymore, they crouched at the base, growling and fighting among themselves.

I couldn’t slip through. Not unnoticed, their senses were too sharp.

I racked my brains for an answer. Nothing came to mind.

My sword flared with flame, casting deep shadows. The bright light made the goblins flinch.

Nothing for it but, to fight my way through. Hopefully Vesic’s gift wouldn’t vanish on me.

My shoulder ached from earlier but it was loose, that would have to be enough.

I raised my blade and ran into the swarm.

Arms and makeshift weapons reached out for me.

“Cover him,” came a shouted command before bolts of fire and light flew into the mass from behind me.

A hole opened in the clump of goblins. I ran for it. My legs pumping, arm lashing out to take out the goblins that tried to close it.

Where were gnomes when you wanted them? The thought crossed my mind as I slashed and cut for my life. The absurdity of it all set off something inside me. A bubbling of emotions, my heart raced.

I laughed.

Blood flew through the air and still I made my way forwards, laughing all the way.

The goblins were taking a beating; the cover was clearing swaths of them. The stench of burning goblin is hard to describe, sweet and sickly with a hint of rot. Like burning wet leaves filled with honey. Disgusting but you can’t help taking a sniff trying to work out what it smelt like.

I angled my path to the king’s tower.

That was when the earth elementals pulled their trick.

The street rippled, cobbles rising in the air and striking indiscriminately.

I pulled as much power as I dared, the sigil flared in my mind again. Its shape faint behind my eyes for a moment. Just like at the tribunal. This time though I knew what to do with it. I forced as much magic as I could into the flowing runic shape. It grew more defined and filled with colour. A shield formed around me, deflecting cobbles away.

The feeling of power running through me that strongly made me feel invincible. I quickened my pace, my sword cutting all the while, blood sizzling down the burning blade. The runic shapes rising from the surface of the blade glowed darkly in all the colours of the rainbow, blues bleeding into reds and yellows, oranges and greens mixing with the near black blood of the goblins.

A tingling in my head slowed me: A sense of something strange not far from me. The king’s tower as I had guessed. Subtle pulses of magic.

The forces thinned as I turned the corner. I could see the entry of the tower. The doors were still missing but the planks blocking the way had been removed. A pair of massive trolls guarded the door.

The trolls looked out over the street, clubs in hands. They could have been ugly statues for they moved.

Blasts weren’t really my thing but with this amount of power running through my channels, I could do something.

The wizard might feel it if it was too strong so I would have to be subtle. Subtle wasn’t really my thing.

I opened my senses as wide as I could.

The world exploded into light.

The damaged dark flows flashed into view, each one starkly contrasted against the shadowed material world. They actually flowed now, power rushing through them in torrents all directed into and up the tower. A shape was forming at the top of the tower: a sphere of sigils, thousands of them in swirling patterns. A large chunk was missing but as I watched a few more floated out to join them. A huge spell that I couldn’t even begin to work out what it did. But whatever it was, was building.

The trolls glimmered with twisted light; strands filled every part of their bodies, holding them together.

A small idea took root in my mind.

I let my shield fall; I wouldn’t need it for this. The spare power instantly tried to overtake my mind, whispers and visions swam across my senses, promises of everything I could want, peace, safety, comfort. I did my best to ignore them and put the power to good use.

The earth elementals trick of throwing cobbles wouldn’t work with trolls they recover too quickly, but maybe something slower mould work.

I sent my power into the earth, softening the ground beneath their feet.

Slowly they started to sink; they looked at each other but made no move to save themselves. Maybe they had been ordered to stand and watch for someone or something. This apparently wasn’t it.

It wasn’t long before they were buried up to their shoulders. I hardened it quickly, it wouldn’t hold for long but they were too big to get through the doors.

I shut down my other senses and pushed the almost overwhelming power away. I couldn’t run the risk of over using it now. I wavered as it left me then took a deep breath and ran for the door.

The trolls saw me or heard something, their heads turned to me. Then as if they realised something at the same time they let out identical roars. The air shook with the force of it. I froze, my heart racing, fear flooded me.

I swallowed it down.

Only thirty feet or so to go, I forced myself to go on.

The trolls struggled, the hardened earth cracking around their shoulders.

I quickened my pace.

I only had ten feet to go; I was almost between them when the earth lost its battle with them. The one of the left raised its club as it climbed from the hole.

I ran even faster my sword out to defend.

The one on the right put out a hand to grab me as I passed.

I felt it latch onto my ankle. I fell as my momentum forced me over

I lashed out blindly at what was holding me. My sword met flesh.

The troll screamed. Its friend swung its club down to defend it.

I rolled out of the way.

It missed by inches.

I scurried forwards on hands and knees, putting as much speed as I could to get me through the doorway before the trolls ganged up.

I made it.

Just.

The trolls roared in fury. A club was poked through the entryway.

I managed to get myself to the side of the door, out of their reach unless they knelt down. I stood, doing my best to slow my breathing and kicked off the weight on my leg. It was the severed hand of the troll that grabbed me.

Looking around, I couldn’t see anything more than last time I was here; if anything, I could see less. It had been day then. Now Brendon’s fire could barely be seen through the empty windows. The light was dim and uneven.

The troll’s efforts to get me quickly ended once they realised that they couldn’t reach.

I waited a moment more, just to be sure, and then moved to the stairs. Whatever was going on would be at the top near the massive spell growing up there.

As I climbed, I thought about what I would do to stop it. Nothing came to mind. I didn’t know enough, of magic, spells in particular to do anything. I didn’t know why Brak was here or if he was alone.

On the second landing, the king’s hall stood empty, no sign of a struggle or anything out of place as far as I could see. I moved on to the next flight of stairs. My sword’s light had dimmed once my power stopped flowing, but it gave off enough to see, just.

Vibrations pulsed through my feet from the stairs as I got close, dust trickled down from the ceiling, as I got closer to the landing. Just off of the landing, an open door way to the peak of the tower beckoned.

“Good of you to make it Tristan, it’s always nice to have an appreciative audience for something like this,” the old brittle voice of Brak said from through the doorway.

Amazement

I am stunned and incredibly grateful.

As of yesterday MageLife has sold over 1000 copies. In less than a month.

I have debated the merits of celebrating and have realised that I have too much to do, stories to write and lives to live, just one, but you get the point.

So there you have it. How cool is that?

I’m hard at work on my next work, and making inroads on ML2. Just thought I should tell those of you that are curious.

Thank you all. I will now return you to your usually scheduled programming.

If you have not already got it, you can get it here.

Call to action

Yeah I really didn’t want to do this. I was optimistic, possibly even naïve, about the good nature of human beings.

The e-book has had a few bad reviews, more than I was expecting. In some places even contradictory reviews. Which boggles me. People are strange.

So, my loyal readers, this is your chance to speak up.

Here 

Please leave some reviews. I would hope positive ones but honest would be best.

It would really help.

Two Pieces of News

As the title suggest I have two things to tell you, my faithful readers.

The first is that in two days MageLife will be a year old. Since I started this blog and posted my first piece of writing ever it will have been a year and I’m incredibly grateful for all of your support.

The other news is that we have hit 100,000 views. That is just mindblowing to me. I never thought we would get this far or interest so many people, so thank you.

You all know I have published Magelife on Amazon and it is doing remarkably well. I wouldn’t have been able to do that without you. There are still more chapters to go, not many, but a few.

So thank you all. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

If any of you feel like buying the book the link is just here. Or if you don’t have the money or the desire to buy you could alway leave a review, nice ones hopefully.

All your support means the world to me and despite MageLife nearly being over the journey isn’t. I’m continuing to write both the sequel and something new as you saw with the snippet. I hope you will continue to support and encourage me as we make this journey together.

Editing

For those that have bought the eBook or are planning to, I thought it might be best to inform you that editing is underway. Hopefully this will not take too long, and will clear up some of my more awkward fragments and mistakes.

When this is available I will make sure that Amazon push the updated file to all of you.

I’m currently at the halfway mark, so it should be by the end of the week if all goes well

MageLife Chapter 40

Brendon woke me, unsurprisingly, it had been a late night. We finished checking the rooms, they were empty, but we did find the employee quarters that Brendon had said would be there. Waking up in a bed was nice after the time on the road. I blinked groggily at him. “What is it?”

“It’s morning, and there appear to be some mages here, asking for you?”

“Already? Okay, give me a moment to wake up and I’ll be…. Where are they?”

“Downstairs, I left them in the entry hall.”

“Did you get any names?”

“Niven, Telsan, Lysan and a few others that didn’t talk, they looked like a unit. Telsan and Niven even have military uniforms.”

“I know the names. Give me a moment to myself, I will be right down.”

Brendon left.

I got up walked to the basin in the corner, it was a different kind than we used back in Westhaven, Brendon said it was mechanical, whatever that meant, I had to turn it, it was stiff and flakes of rust crumbled off, discoloured, reddish-brown water poured from the tap, my power said it was safe to drink but it was off putting. I took a handful and rinsed my mouth, then scrubbed the remnants of sleep from my face.

Getting dressed didn’t take much longer. I only had to pull on my coat, sleeping in clothes isn’t very comfortable, but trolls don’t care if it’s bedtime or not. I picked up my sword from where I’d left it. I really needed to find a better way of carrying it, a sheath or something.

I walked down the stairs and saw the group of mages standing to attention facing away from me. Their uniforms looked none the worse for wear, I wondered how they got here, my own uniform was a bit travel worn.  Just the sight of them standing strong made my heart rise, being able to pass this off to someone else would be a relief.

My boots must have made a sound on the smooth marble floor because as a group they turned, hands reaching for swords and wands.

Telsan made a small gesture upon seeing me and the squad relaxed. He stepped forwards and saluted, fist to heart, a small bow. “Sir, I place myself and my team at your command per orders by master mage Jase Aleres. We are to follow any and all instructions to facilitate the integration of Nelar into the duchies under the control of the wizard’s council.”

I couldn’t speak, seeing a squad salute me, the most junior mage in service, well apart from Solem, but I didn’t count him, had left me without words.

Telsan walked over to me, an intense but not aggressive look on his face. “Sir, could I have a word in private,” he said his voice pitched low so only I could hear.

I nodded.

Telsan turned to his team. “Scout the building, find somewhere to set up field command, you all know what we need. Brendon Vesic should be able to help you get orientated.”

I looked around, there was Brendon, stood to the side of the room, I’d not even noticed him entering. I walked back to the stair well, to wait.

“You have your orders, dismissed.” Telsan’s voice echoed through the building. I could hear a great many boots heading off in various directions. He came into the stairwell, he looked rather uncomfortable all of a sudden.

“You wished to speak to me?”

“Yes sir, may I speak freely?”

“Of course.”

“Sir, you are young, you have no experience and I fear you will lead us to ruin.”

“Well that is very forthright of you. I can’t argue with your conclusion. You are right; I’m young, I don’t know what I’m doing here and I’ve never commanded before. I was under the impression you were coming to relieve me here, but that seems to not be the case.”

“Master Jase felt you would need support, so he found the best team he could. We have a good mix of skills, we work well as a team and we have handled situations similar to this before.”

“You have handled places where the magic is damaged the people are without hope or dead, the ruler of said place is insane, cut off from communication with the mages or the wizards, no hope of support?”

“Well, not all of them at once but we have handled them.”

“I understand you reservations. I don’t want to command. I’m not trained for it. I’m not suited for it, I work better alone, I’ve been alone for so long.”

“You aren’t alone anymore sir. Have faith. I do have a suggestion though.”

“Yes, any and all suggestions are welcome, I’m at a loss as to how to command.”

“If you place me as second, then I will handle the day to day. You will still have to deal with the rigours of commanding but most of the pressure should be off, giving you a chance to learn. I’m more than happy to teach you if it keeps my men alive.”

I found myself nodding along, visions of his men in pieces filled my sight.

“Sir… Sir is everything okay?”

I blinked.

“Yes I’m fine, sorry. It’s a lot to take in.”

“I understand sir, all we expect is you to try your best. The mission is important but so is loss of life. We are valuable assets, particularly with the war flaring up. I will help where I can but the burden is yours.”

“Thank you, what is your assessment of priorities?”

“I have just arrived but the first thing that needs doing is to turn this building into a real headquarters, we need to establish a presence in this city and arrange communications back home. To that end I do have something that Master Jase gave me, he said that you would know what to do with it.” He reached into a pouch on his belt, much like mine, it must be fairly standard. It was useful.

A flare of magic, flickered through the air as he pulled out a small round ball of what looked like glass.

I reached out a hand to take it, the sphere refracted the light oddly, as if it was bigger on the inside. I activated my other-senses and wished I hadn’t.

The room was bathed in bright shimmering light. Echoes of music started singing through the air. The ball was radiating glimmering magic, its concepts so deeply tangled I couldn’t pick a single one out. Sigils spun around the glass, their strange depth distorting the light, making other shapes out of light and shade. As I watched I started to piece together what it could be.

“This is an orb, isn’t it?”

“I’ve never seen one, but I believe it might be.”

“How did Jase get hold of this? I thought they were all custom made.”

“Master Jase didn’t feel necessary to tell me. I know he has contacts, Jase is well respected among us. That is rare.”

“That makes me feel better that he chose you then. I trust his judgement, but it’s nice to know that you do too.”

Telsan nodded. “If you will excuse me sir, I need to check on the men.”

“Of course.” My eyes were drawn back to the orb seed in my hand. The twisted magic didn’t seem to be touching it, if anything it was pushing back at it, keeping the corruption away.

I was left there with very little idea as to what to do with the orb if the magic affected it like I suspected then it would be dangerous to plant it. On the other hand if it worked like the Westhaven Orb, drawing magic from its commander then it should be safe, filtered through a person in full control of their own power would protect it from harm. Probably best to put it away and revisit, it was tempting, restoring communications home, being able to receive orders and advice. The enchantment designs that I would be able to get could change the game here.  If there was something that could do what I did at the foundry site, rerouting the flows, on such a large scale without killing me, then that would make it so much easier.

I put the glass ball into my pouch and closed down my other senses as much as I could, I still had an awareness of the magical landscape but it wasn’t distracting. I took a deep breath to focus, this wild daydreaming wasn’t helping, I needed something solid to build on, not wishes.

I walked back into the entry hall to find the six man team scattered around. The room itself had changed. One of the men I didn’t know was working on the walls, shifting them to conform to the Westhaven headquarters, I’d never seen a different outpost of the mages, so that was all I could compare it to. Another man was shaping the desk, it was growing, roots were visible at the base of it, melding with the stone. Little flickers of enchantment rose through the air, pulling power in a hundred different directions.

Lysan noticed my entry, he walked over to me. “Sir, good to see you again, on your feet this time.”

“It’s good to see you too Lysan, how did you get assigned this duty?”

“I must have pissed someone offs, I hear you know how that is,” he said jokingly with a twinkle in his glowing eyes.

“Very funny, what’s the real story?”

“You know I’m not attached to a squad, I’m a trouble shooter.  Master Jase wanted someone you’re familiar with, he couldn’t come himself, he is looking after your apprentices. So here I am. It’s not so bad. Hard work never killed anyone.”

“Trolls do though.”

“We can handle trolls. You have enough power here to handle most things.”

“Have you noticed the magic here?”

“How could we not? Most of us pulled heavily after the waves, we know how to deal with twisted magics.”

“So why has nothing been done? In all this time surely we could have done something to help this place.”

“It wasn’t a priority the years after the waves have been stretched, we don’t have the man power. There have been rebellions, in the very early years. There was just so much to do. You are the first to be raised to Mage in a relatively quiet time. There hasn’t been a mage raised since the waves. We just don’t have the resources to do everything. Not counting the fact that a great many mages are hardly suitable to do much of anything anymore.” A distant look filled his eyes. I knew that look, remembering things best left alone.

“I understand, it’s just hard to see this and not want to do something.”

“Wizards can’t come here. There are more sensitive to the magic. In some ways it helps them, in others it cripples them.”

“No wizards can come here?”

“Well some might be able to, but it wouldn’t be easy on them. And it would be dangerous for all around them, you have felt the pressure. Imagine that a thousand times more powerful, pushing on you, prompting you to act. Then imagine that it was a wizard breaking loose, we can do some pretty amazing stuff but wizards are in a league all their own.”

“So that’s why this place has been left to rot. Nice to know, I guess. Anyways there is a birthing pit nearby, I doubt it’s the only thing that needs rooting out.”

“Well sir we have our hands full making this place a fit headquarters. We are making progress, we should be done in the next few hours, not finished but it will serve. We still need to do a great many enchantments to protect this place from the disruptions in the magic. We don’t have all that many that will withstand it and still function, so we will just duplicate them. Hopefully they will work together. This birthing pit shouldn’t be able to churn out another one so soon, they take time to grow.”

“We don’t know how big it is, nor if it’s the only one. The way the magic is feeling, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are other nasties about.”

“There won’t be any gnomes this close, they start at the edge of disruptions like this. That’s something at least. Those little bleeders are a hassle to handle. Trolls are easy with the right tools, but yeah you’re right, if there is a pit there will be other things. Did you see anything in the sky when you came in?”

“No, we flew in, the sky was empty.”

“That doesn’t mean there isn’t anything, so we can’t stop worrying about Night-wings, corrupted Sylphs, Harpies. Most of the magical creatures went into hiding during the waves but we’ve seen a resurgence in the recent past. Lots of things we thought gone are coming back. Not all of them bad.  I hear a unicorn was spotted in the forests near Greenlaw.”

“Doesn’t help all that much Lysan, it would be nice to be safe.”

“There isn’t such a thing. Safe is a myth. Best to be prepared. This close to the mountains, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rocs and earth elementals are about, they don’t normally bother people but twisted magic can do odd things to them. There are way too many creatures that could be around, we need to be alert.”

“Is there any way to fix the magic?”

“Lots of ways if you want to die in flames. We can do a bit here and there, drain the corruption and try to get the flows moving right again. It’s been like this for a long time, it’s not a quick fix.”

“I think I should go out and see if I can find some people to talk to.”

“I wouldn’t advise that just yet sir.” formality came back all of a sudden.

“Give me your reasoning then.”

“We aren’t secure here, for now I wouldn’t advise going anywhere alone. You don’t have the skills for this.”

“How do you know what skills I have or not?” Anger seemed to be sweeping over me. This man who barely knew me telling me what to do. I could smash him to pieces, open the earth beneath him.

“Lower the sword Tristan, this is the wrong fight,” Lysan said with a tightness to his voice that seemed out of place.

I’d not even noticed it coming up.

My breath came faster, blood racing through my veins. My arms wanted to swing my blade, to cut, anything.

“Tristan, listen to me.” Lysan’s voice had shifted to something softer, gentler, almost soothing. “This isn’t what you want, push the magic away. You don’t need it here. There is nothing to fight, all is well.”

I felt the strength draining out of me, making me waver on my feet.

Lysan’s words continued as if from a distance, too faint to make out. My vision flickered into the magical, soft shadows crawled through the room, coming for me.

I felt a hand on my shoulder just as I let go of the sword, the clatter it made as it landed, shook me.

I blinked, back into normal vision.

“That is why you don’t have the skills, you are too sensitive. Not much we can do about that except be there with you.”

My answer didn’t even make sense to me, the half formed words just nonsense in my ears.

Let’s take you back to your room give you a chance to recover, it’s not so different from backlash. The patterns can have nasty effects when you fight them off.

Patterns? I asked, the word didn’t seem to fit.

Yes patterns. Like paths worn in the earth or a rivers course, you can’t just change it. They take time and effort to wear themselves a new route. They are doing that in your head but you have your own routes, this one wasn’t subtle.

We were heading up the stairs before I knew it.

“So what now?” My head was ringing like a bell, echoes of something lingered longer than they should.

“Now you go someplace quiet and you pull yourself together. Remember the cleansing exercises from when you were recovering?”

“That’s what they are for?”

“Not just this but lots of magic/mind interactions. Go through a few of them. We will carry on downstairs and if we need you one of us will come to get you.”

“But the pit. It needs handling.”

“Not just yet, we don’t know enough. You spoke to the commander, I’m sure he knows what he is about. You get your task done, we will do ours.”

He left me at the door to my room.

(—)

The sound of a bell ringing in the distance drew me back from my exercises, the confusion of earlier gone, leaving me feeling calm and relaxed. I lengthened the final stretch, my muscles flowed smoothly over each other. My breath came slowly, deep and measured. I opened my eyes to find one of the mages standing in the doorway looking at me.

“Sir, I didn’t want to disturb you but the bell is ringing,” The older mage said, he fidgeted with his dark hair, nervous for some reason.

“I heard. Another troll?” The words came out unaffected, distant.

“The squad is assembled in the reception. We are waiting on your go ahead. Commander Telsan didn’t want to move out without your say so.”

“Why not?”

“You are our commander, I guess. He doesn’t share his reasoning with us, we trust him.”

“Of course you do. Let’s go see the good commander then, shall we?”

The mage nodded and stepped back from the doorway.

I strode forwards, not slowly nor at any great speed. Everything seemed so distant. My normal passion and drive dampened. I shrugged at the notion, nothing to do about it right now.

The squad was assembled in the lobby as I’d been informed, their faces wary and alert.  The commander, Telsan was walking between his men, eyeing them up, offering a solid hand on the shoulder or a grim nod to the men that may die this night.

That sense of danger looming filled the air, like the calm before the blackest storm sweeps in. A full blown tempest is too much for mages, only a wizard could touch it. That atmosphere pervaded the room. The sense that death was waiting for each man, was enough to chill the blood of anyone, hardened soldiers are no exception to fear.

“Commander Sodden, good of you to join us,” Telsan said as he caught my eye.

“I had things to do, you know how it is. Now what’s the situation? I heard the bell.”

“The bell is a warning system the populace have come up with, Niven and Felas there managed to speak to someone earlier. There is always someone in the towers, normally more than one, watching the walls. There is a tower in each quadrant, at the cardinal points. They light a fire, the central tower rings the bell. I’ve had the men scrying but nothing is coming through. The magic is too distorted to let a clear picture through. So we have very little to go on.”

“Then why all the grim looks?”

“Can’t you feel it… sir? The charge in the air, there is something coming, something big.”

“I’ve been doing my exercises, so that I don’t feel much of anything. Could it have anything to do with us arriving?”

““It could, we have been throwing power around all day. It might have been sensed or disturbed something. I just don’t know.””

“Where is my sword?”

Lysan stepped over to me. His greying hair bore marks from his hands running through it. He nodded at his commander and winked at me. “I put it behind the desk, just in case. I had a feeling it was going to be a busy night.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

“You weren’t in the right frame of mind for it. The last thing you needed was to work yourself up.”

“Thanks, I guess, I would prefer if you didn’t hide things from me. I might need to know.”

“You know now. We mages aren’t the most biddable Tristan. We do what we want. This kind of squad is rare, we’ve been burnt before. The last time we functioned like they do, well you know when that was.”

I nodded as he led me to the desk. The nobles’ kill teams. The dark days of the blood wars. High bloods fighting with mages doing the dirty work, a wonderful time in our national history. My sword was leaning against the desk just like he said it would be.

It had a sheath now, I looked to Lysan, a question on the tip of my tongue as I picked it up. I ran my hand of the intricate leather, each ridge and bump revealed to my touch.

“Yeah, its bad luck to carry a blade without a sheath. It’s the best I could do on short notice.”

The blade was too long to comfortably wear on my hip, but Lysan had thought of that. A collection of straps and buckles formed a harness to strap it over my shoulder, my coat might get in the way at the moment, but it would do for now. I could always alter my coat later after whatever was coming.

“Thank you Lysan.” I strapped on my sword checking it was loose in the scabbard and easy to draw, nothing caught.

“Least I could do after triggering you earlier. Didn’t expect you to be quite so sensitive.”

I smiled at that. “Not to worry, best I knew before battle, I feel fine now though.”

“You look better. I’ve always hated the price we pay.”

“It’s fair I guess. Everything has a price, it could be worse.”

“That it could. You ready?”

“I would be better prepared if I knew what we were facing.”

“Wouldn’t we all? The magic is whipped up into a frenzy, it’s almost boiling with energy. I’ve never known it so bad anywhere.”

“Everyone tells me Nelar is special, anything to do with that?”

“Could be, who knows. Information is a bit thin on the ground about this place. It’s almost as if… no never mind.” A look of confusion crossed his face before he dismissed it.

“Get your battle face on. At my reckoning we don’t have long before we will be going out the doors.”

“Anyone seen Brendon?”

“The god vessel? He was up on the roof, ready to pull down his Lord’s fire. The man gives me the creeps.”

“Why?”

“Sharing your head with an immortal, not for me.” Lysan shook his head as if to emphasise

“I don’t think he has all that much choice, he is just making the best of a difficult situation. He’s been a good ally to me.”

We walked over to the waiting men. The quiet was oppressive, all that could be heard was the tolling of the bell. The men were silent. Their grim gazes locked on their leader, a few looked at me before dismissing the thought that I was their commander. I didn’t have the years to command these men. I hadn’t earned their trust. At most I was a hindrance to these veterans of the blood wars.

A sense of isolation filled me. I was apart from them. I’d always been apart, except with Sophia and Lyphia. Jase had sent these men to bring me home. ‘Do your duty mage,’ Sophia’s angry words rang differently now. My duty might be here right now, but my true master was a little girl and a headstrong woman, both waiting for me. I owed it to them to get home. Maybe these men had families they needed to get home to as well.

I looked with fresh eyes at the mages – they had come for me. I wouldn’t let them down. I wouldn’t let anyone down. Not this time.

Telsan raised his arm, fist clenched.

The doors opened.

All around me, the men drew their weapons – swords and wands, mainly, though one had a massive axe.

I drew my own sword, the smooth stone singing like a clarion. The hilt was cool in my hand.

Into the night we marched.

My next step.

Realmers.(Working Title)

In the shadow of his favourite tree Griffin saw something. It had been a long night and dawn’s feeble light barely lifted the darkness. The shadows of the grove twisted and writhed around the early morning mist. Griffin saw a hole in the world. It was almost as misty and indistinct as the shadows that made it, although touches of iron grey at the edges caught the light in a dull sheen. As he stood there in his threadbare peasant clothes staring in a complex swirl of emotions, Fear, wonder, bafflement, the hole thinned and out stepped a man from the mists contained within.

He was tall and lithe, long unkempt hair, the shadows clung to him, hiding his features. He could have been anywhere from twenty to fifty but he looked strong. Far stronger than any of the men in the village, even the smith with his massive arms didn’t have the same hyperaware lethal aura to him. The man’s head turned to lock Griffin with his eyes, deep grey and cold as ice. Griffin’s body froze, not that he was moving anyway but now that option was gone. Griffin was like a rabbit caught in an archer’s sights. His heartbeat pounded in his ears like a massive drum.

The man quickly turn his head away and headed off towards Griffin’s village, it was the only one in the area. Just before he left the shade of the trees he whispered a warning to me

“Your village is gone, leave here.” The whisper carried to Griffin’s ears by a hot gust of wind. The scent of ashes filled his nostrils, burning his sensitive nose.

Griffin stumbled at the words. Thoughts raced through his head. ‘A Seeker here in this remote region? What was he doing here?’

The man was gone.

Griffin ran towards his village, it wasn’t too far, the grove was on the very edge of the fields which surrounded it. His legs carried him swiftly over the ploughed earth. As he drew closer the scent of burning grew as did the drifts of smoke that were mingled with the mist.

The first visible lick of flame came into view as Griffin reached the edge of the fields. The small homes of the villagers were merrily burning. Over the crackling sound of fire consuming everything Griffin had ever known was another sound, equally heartrending.

A scream followed by sobbing.

The pitiful sound galvanised Griffin to carry on running before his thoughts could stop him. He put on a burst of speed to reach the source of the noise.  In the muddy square where the dirt roads intersected a small market normally took place today, but not this day. The stalls had been smashed and the villagers were cowering in a group surrounded by armed men.

The group of men wore simple leather armour, with a starburst insignia. The leader, his armour had the biggest insignia, a young looking man with sword drawn was fighting the wild Seeker from the trees. The leaders green eyes blazed with anger that someone would dare interfere with his actions. Flickers of shadow accompanied the Seeker’s movements and small sparks flashed as iron darts flew from his hands to strike the leader. The leader blocked with his blade, sending darts ricocheting back at the wild Seeker.

The group of men surrounded the villagers, and Griffin was still unnoticed as all attention was split between the fight and the captives.

One of the soldiers, they clearly were an army of some sort to have uniforms, tried to intervene in the fight and received a hasty backhand from the Seeker that sent him flying, a tracery of shadow and iron-grey flew with him resulting in a shadowy blot. The shadowy blot covered the soldier, a vague suggestion of clawed hands pinning him to the ground. The soldier’s skin swiftly darkened and he screamed. Griffin looked away.

The other soldiers quickly decided not to intervene in the fight any longer. Instead they decided to complete the mission. Their swords swung down and cut the villagers down.

Griffin remained frozen all along watching his friends and family be slaughtered. Each fall of a blade catching the morning light and ending the life of another.

The wild Seeker frantically tried to end the fight quickly but the leader displayed a few tricks of his own. In between strikes with his blade he made a complicated motion with his hand and from his palm out flew a small spark of flame. It launched itself at the wild man’s eyes.

What Griffin didn’t know about Seekers could fill libraries, yet even he could tell that the leader was one too.

All magic came from Seekers. One of the things that everyone knew.

The wild man fell back, his arm coming up to protect his eyes while his foot swept out to take the leader down. The leader skipped lightly over the poorly aimed leg and made another complicated gesture, this time a hole in the world opened behind him, nothing quite as recognisable as the misty shadows of the other hole. This one was closer to a heat haze than anything else, a distortion in the air that twisted the light in disorienting ways. From this hole came something huge and burning. A being composed of flames, it looked like a large cat, which had been set on fire. It came fast. Attacking the wild Seeker with sharp claws of molten heat.

The wild seeker retreated further, looking about wildly for something to use to his advantage. His hair was sweat stained and he was clearly tired, yet he fought on. All the time that he did so more people died. The seeker clenched his jaw and bared his teeth in an unconscious mirroring of the fire cat.  The tension between man and beast tightened before snapping at a motion of the soldiers’ leader. The cat pounced. And landed on nothing. The wild seeker was gone. Everyone looked around confused at the sudden disappearance.

A shadow seemed to pass the sun, moving swiftly over the market place. And then a thud as the wild seeker landed on the leader and knocked him out cold. The cat dissolved into glittering sparks and was sucked back to its realm now that its summoner was unable to keep it here.

The wild seeker picked himself of the unconscious man, dusted himself off and turned to the soldiers. Without making another violent move the lethal aura griffin felt back in the woods was suddenly suffocating. Griffin could see the men wilt under the pressure. The relentless fall of blades stopped. Only two villagers were left alive, both young pretty women. The daughters of the miller, Jess and Sarah. They were crying but seemed unharmed.

The bodies filled the small market, twenty or so. The village had never been big, it was stuck in no man’s land between the two empires, although thankfully the area had been peaceful in recent years. All Griffin’s life there had been peace uneasy though it might have been.

That appeared to have changed with the invasion of soldiers in uniform.

The soldiers grabbed their unconscious leader and dragged him from the square. Griffin all along had remained locked in terrified stillness, not even the murder of his neighbours and friends could move him. His eyes remained fixed on a single body. The first to fall, he had arrived too late, but just in time to see the sword stab into her chest. Vera, his wife.

The soldiers left quickly and Griffin finally moved. Not to take revenge but in a daze he stepped over the bodies, his boots sticking and slipping in the bloody mud. As he reached her side, he saw she had crumpled bonelessly in the dirt, her blood bright red against the green of her roughly woven dress. Green had been her favourite colour. Griffin remembered getting it for her. All the extra work he had done on top of working the fields to be able to afford the dye and the joy in her smile when he gave it to her. The smile that had won his heart when they were children. The smile he had hoped to see on the face of his own child when they were born, but that was gone now. He fell to his knees beside her and pulled her into his lap. Her large pregnant belly made lifting her awkward but Griffin was beyond caring.  He smoothed her golden hair as he cried into her. Heedless of the blood or the possible danger still in the area.

While Griffin was lost in his grief the wild seeker tried to talk to the surviving girls. They were almost as unresponsive as griffin. They grunted out short words. Neither cried although both had white-knuckled grips on the other’s hand.

Griffin was oblivious to all this. He rocked back on his heels clutching the cooling body of his wife and unborn child. His eyes didn’t see. His ears didn’t hear.  In his mind he was back on his wedding day, celebrating in the largest barn in the village. Everyone was alive, well and smiling, happy for him and Vera. The wheelwright brothers played music on their flute and pipe. Everyone danced and made merry. The lantern’s lights cast luminous highlights on Vera’s hair as he spun her around the makeshift dance floor. She laughed in sheer excitement. Gradually the music slowed as the hour grew late. Griffin and Vera were the only ones left on the floor, tightly holding onto each other.

“I love you my Griffin.”

“And I you, my wife.”

The vision frayed on the final words as reality intruded.

Griffin was cold and stiff. His mind was numb as he stood, carrying his wife away. He didn’t notice that the flames had burned down nor that the bodies of the other villagers were gone. The sun was setting casting reddish light on the charred husks of buildings. Griffin walked through the remnants of all he knew, his body protesting after hours of inactivity and dried blood and mud flaking off his jerkin. He hardly felt the weight of his wife, she was much heavier in life than in death, her personality giving the impression of a much larger person. A vague smile twitched and died on his lips as he recalled the number of times people had actually noticed she was only a small woman and received a tongue lashing for pointing it out. Vera had cowed even the Donnie, the smith, more than once and he had been the most stubborn and forceful person in the village. Griffin walked past his home, its skeleton giving up the ghost as roof timbers fell in a cloud of ash and embers. He kept going as the sun completed it journey beneath the horizon, all the way to the glade, his favourite place, and hers. The hole in the world that had rested in the shadows of their favourite tree, was gone. Nothing showed that it had ever been there.

Griffin laid Vera down on the short grass that grew around the roots of the trees. The verdant blanket where they had fallen in love, which felt so long ago now, cradled his lover gently. He got down on his hands and knees and started to dig with his bare hands. The thick loam resisted at first but gradually gave way to his probing fingers. Tiny roots stuck to his fingers and his nails chipped and broke as he dug.

In this trance Griffin didn’t notice the last glimmers of light fade nor the strange celestial event slowly coming into view. He dug, small stones catching and cutting him. Blood streamed from his ruined hands yet he carried on, a man possessed with a passion that was missing when he needed it. His eyes remained dry, if not clear. His vision swam with images of fighting the soldiers. Killing them all and his digging turned to clawing and swiping at the damp soil. Hours passed with frantic and action and agonising remembrance. As the moon finally rose Griffin rose with it. The grave was complete.

He ignored his bloody and broken hands to lift his wife gently, kiss her forehead, and whispered, “I’m sorry my love, I failed you when you most needed me.” His voice broke and his last few words were inaudible.

With a grace and tenderness unlike his digging he lowered her into the shallow grave, rearranged her limbs to a more respectful position, then covered her slowly with rich black earth.

To look at his face you would see a man not just burying his wife, but burying his future with her.

The moon light shone brightly into the glade illuminating the turned earth of the grave and the still features of a man that had lost everything. As the light hit his eyes he turned his head up to the heavens, the realisation of the life he still had left to lead, the years ahead of nothing but pain and loneliness. A life without love, without children, without home. Griffin’s expression twisted into an ugly mask of emotional torment and he let loose a scream of such despair and anguish that the heavens answered him.

A flash of red light filled the glade as the celestial event that had been proceeding finally reached its peak, moonlight thickened and condensed into a massive hole in the world and swallowed griffin as he screamed his pain to the world.

The hole closed quickly leaving no sign of Griffin, barring the freshly turned earth marking the grave of his wife, buried in their favourite place by a loving husband.

MageLife Chapter 39

The inside of the building wasn’t very promising, I found myself looking upon it with an eye to demolition. It was that bad.

The door was intact although not functional. It sat next to the door frame it was supposed to fill.

I couldn’t even determine what the building had been used for. Dust lined every surface and the few remaining windows were grimy and black, hardly distinguishable from the walls except for streaks of light peering through.

“Looks good,” Brendon commented from just inside the door. I didn’t need magic to detect the sarcasm dripping from those two words. It must be a god thing bleeding over.

“The structure seems sound. We can work with this.”

“Any thoughts on how to do anything without magic?”

“Um, not really. I’d planned on using magic to get it back to rights.”

“Magic doesn’t work right here. You know that.”

“What’s actually wrong with it?”

“Not wrong exactly, but it leaves a mark. And that mark is not easily dismissed. The price is higher here.”

“That doesn’t explain anything, what price?”

“You should know the price. I’m not going to hold your hand Tristan Just be careful how much and what magic you do.”

“That is very clear. What magic should I avoid?”

“I don’t know, I don’t do magic like you, but Vesic’s memories say to avoid wizard magic. No sigils. The magic doesn’t like wizards here.”

“Why?”

“That’s not for me to say.”

“Why are you bound to silence on so much?”

“A god’s knowledge isn’t for men, there is so much that you must find out for yourself.”

I racked my brain for a few moments, thoughts flickering and dying until one struck me like lightning.

“Does this affect Vesic’s ability to appear here?” The words just fell out of my mouth as soon as the idea hit.

“Very good Tristan. Yes, he can’t come here. I’m on my own for the first time since I was a child.” His earlier confidence drained away and he trembled slightly.

“That’s what I can do for you.” I walked over to Brendon and placed my hand on his shoulder. “You won’t be alone, I will be here for you.”

“Thank you Tristan. I’m not a child, but I’ll admit it is unnerving to be alone in my head. Vesic has been with me for so long. It’s so quiet in here.”

“Let’s do something useful then to take your mind off it. We need to make this place habitable then set up shop. If we want to be helpful to the people, we need to make them see that joining the wizards is the right thing for them.” I stepped away to contemplate where to start. The sheer amount of work to do was daunting.

“Why did an army not get sent? It could have conquered them and been done with it.”

“I don’t know but I get the sense that all is not well. I’m here to gather trade and manpower. That sounds like a war is brewing to me.”

“It might not be a war, but it does seem likely. As a mage, you are a soldier in the wizard’s army. It the call goes out you will serve.”

“Who would we be fighting?”

“Last I heard tensions were mounting on the northern border.”

“What’s to the north?” Geography wasn’t my strong suit.

Brendon snorted. “From everything you have said, very little was your strong suit our northern border has been contested since the mage kings time, although it settled down while he ruled. The remains of the empire are to our north. Rashdan I think they call it now. They want their cities back. It’s been centuries and they haven’t forgotten the insult.”

“Few survived the waves anyway. Our society was almost destroyed, just look at this place. What do you think it used to be?” I asked as I ran my hand over a large desk that had clearly seen better days.

“It could have been almost anything. It has a military feel to it.”

“In the middle of the city? Do you not think it more likely to be an administration centre? There are a lot of desks in here.”

“Does it really matter what it was? We will be changing it. What it was doesn’t change what we will be doing.”

“It might change what we can do though. You know magic isn’t tied to time all that well. If I go restructuring it may change more than I intended.”

“True, we don’t want any ghosts here. It was probably military, maybe a quartermaster. All these desks, those filling cabinets.”

“There is a lack of anything enchanted, there don’t even seem to be voided bases. Nor any degraded parts. Nothing seems to be giving off any signatures.”

“Enchantment wasn’t as common before the wizards rose to power. It takes a mage to make a stable enchantment. Very few mages were outside of the noble’s control. Their fortresses we nigh impregnable, they were so laden with enchantment. This place has been neglected for a long time, even the nobles didn’t fight over it, there was nothing here. A near empty city, even one on a possible trade route wasn’t worth much, they had their wars to fight.”

I walked over to the corner of the room, there was a simple wooden chair, its four legs uneven but it was stable. I sat and looked over the room, taking and deep breath, closed my eyes and opened my other senses.

The room came alive with lights, streams and clusters like the stars had fallen all around me. Each line and flow was bright as if edged in moonlight, swimming here and there. The earlier darkness was gone, there were no death marks here. Brendon blazed, his eyes the brightest like miniature suns.

The magic that permeated the building, the very substance of brick and mortar was almost grey, faded and on the edge of failure. I summoned my power gently, it answered with a force I’d not expected. I gritted my teeth at the rush and pushed it out into the room. The flows already here started to gravitate towards me, the sheer amount of power calling them.

I turned my attention to the walls and floor, strengthening them. The grey rock that it had all been built from shifted, turning whiter. A humming sound filled my ears as the power flowed hotter, but I wasn’t done. Each beam and brick got reinforced. Whispers of voices skittered around the room as the power grew. Shadows deepened and lights brightened. The scent of dust faded away overpowered by smells of fresh cut stone, turned earth and green wood think with resinous sap.

“Tristan hurry up, you can’t hold it much longer.”

“Don’t you think I know that? I can feel my bones heating.”

With a final burst, the door flew back to its place, the wood regaining the lustre and shine that it must have had when it was first created.

I tried to sever the flow, but it wouldn’t stop. My link shivered as the power grew. A strange creaking could be heard, I noticed all my muscles were tense, they had been the creaking sound. They were pulling at me, tighter, trying to separate from my burning bones.

My other sight started to flicker and pulse. Brightness and darkness. Blind spots crawling and the flows inching steadily closer, their moonlight sheen turning darker, a sense of hunger radiating from them.

“Cut it off Tristan.”

“I can’t. It won’t stop,” I whispered as the pain dug its claws further into my mind.

The blaze that was Brendon stepped closer, the hungry flows shying away from his brightness, a glowing hand, lit from within, touched my head and I knew no more.

(—–)

(Beat)

Traceries of light filled my vision, glimmers of something other. I couldn’t feel my body, I could see it but there was a distance, a void, separating me from it. I floated without anchor in this place that wasn’t a place.

Pulses run through the threads like blood through veins, a distant heart pumping that blood. I found myself following the pulses, seeking the heart.

Was I dead? Is this what happened at the end?

“Tristan,” a voice called.

The word sounded familiar, it meant something to me, to who I once was.

“Tristan is that you?” the voice called again.

I looked beyond the lights, away from the threads I was following. A huge stone edifice rose up, it floated. Parts of the world went by, each detached, unmoored from its place. Each in its own path, but this building stayed.

“Tristan my boy, what has happened to you?”

The ‘me’ that floated, looked down into a room, at a man with glowing eyes, like the ones my body had, far from here, or not. Distance was meaningless in this non place. I could look at my body and this room at the same time. I knew it was mine, though all memory of owning it was gone. Maybe not gone but beyond reach.

I knew this man, his name eluded me, but I know him down to the core of my being.

“Tristan, what have you done? You can’t be here like that. You will be shredded if you remain without a shell for too long. Go back.”

He was talking to me, did that mean I was Tristan?

“I can’t,” I said, the words just appearing, without sound. I don’t know how.

“You are lost, where is your body?”

Memories seemed to flow back into me with my name, it was mine.

“In Nelar? The place…? Called Nelar.”

“Go back, the shadows will consume you if you stay here. Your body is your home.”

“Jase, I don’t know how, I’m lost. I followed the pulse, I sought the heart, then you called me.”

His name came with the knowledge of my body. Feelings and attachments started to gain a hold on me.

“I missed you my boy, I thought I felt you, rightly so it seems. The heart is not for you. Don’t seek it, ignore the beat. It will lead you to harm where you are.”

“I can’t go back. The king has given up. He is without hope.”

“Then give him hope, as you once did for me. Show him that all is not lost.”

“How?”

“That is for you to decide, you gave Sophia hope. You showed Lyphia a new side of life. You bring hope where ever you go. Don’t lose your own.”

“Nelar is dead. The people are nearly all gone. There is nothing there.”

“Don’t lose hope Tristan, aid is being sent, you won’t be alone for long. Mages are coming to help you.”

“People are coming? Good, it’s the first day here and it seems pointless.”

“Go back Tristan, you are fraying.”

“How?”

“Just close your eyes.”

“I have no eyes here.”

“Just close your eyes Tristan, sleep and rest. No dream walking for you.”

I closed eyes that I didn’t have, the vision left me, a sense of rushing.

I could feel my body, oww. I opened eyes that felt gummy and blinked. I was laying down on something, I turned my head to the side and was violently sick. The room was brilliantly lit, small orbs of flame hung in metal cages mounted on the walls. The once grey stone shone with colours, the white marble reflecting the orbs light in a rainbow sheen. It made my head swim, it was too similar to the other place that I had floated.  Brendon was nowhere in sight. I forced myself to sit up. I wavered to a seated position, I could feel the grain of the wood as I placed my hand to hold me still. I was sat on a desk. That’s was thoughtful of Brendon.

I slid forward to place my feet on the floor, wincing slightly as my foot touched the cool marble, the shock made my bones ache, the memories of them feeling as if they caught fire still fresh.

“Brendon,” I called, my voice breaking. I needed a drink.

“Here. “Came his voice, drifting from the hallway.

I tottered toward the voice, the smooth floor causing me to slip and slide on shaky legs. I rested for a moment on the door frame, the hall seemed to stretch on forever, its shiny walls reflecting light in eye-twisting patterns. I found my gaze following along, my head muddled and silent.

I blinked.

Brendon was standing in front of me, his body blocking my sight of the walls.

“You okay? You have been standing here for a long moment.”

“What? It’s only been a few beats. I came to get a drink,” I croaked out. My throat was so dry, my tongue felt thick and clumsy.

“We need to sort out some sleeping arrangements, as well as some supplies. I know you Mages don’t eat much, but you do still need to eat. We both need to drink.”

“Is there not a pump in this place?”

“I haven’t found one yet, but I’ve only just started looking. Your spell did far more than I think you expected. This whole floor and what I’ve seen of the next are transformed. I don’t imagine it will be long before we get curious people investigating the first real magic they have seen in a long time.”

“Is there anything left in the water skins?”

“A bit, I moved our bags into the room to the left. If you can follow me, we will get you something. You look unwell.”

I nodded, my stomach leapt with the movement, I could feel bile rising.

“Hey don’t be sick in here, this hall doesn’t have any windows. The smell would be trapped.”

I swallowed thick malty saliva and with it the rising vomit.

“Well done. Let’s go to the bags.”

“Did you even have a bag?” I asked as he led me down the hall, my treacherous body attempting to rebel with every motion. Throbbing echoes of heat and pain rung flashed through me with every step.

“I have a bag, it’s just small. I don’t need all that much. I guess that is going to change now that I have to sleep.”

“Have you ever slept?”

“Of course I have. Just not for a few months, Vesic has been in control more and more recently. It makes being without him that much harder, we have been closer than ever these last days.”

We passed through the doorway into a small square room, many doors led off from it. A nexus.

“I’ve never seen a room like this.”

“They aren’t used much anymore, but administration buildings find it to be efficient. If you look there, that small mark on the wall. There used to be a desk there where a person sat to oversee all in these offices beyond.” He raised an arm to point as we headed to the door next to it.

“How do you know all this?”

“Westhaven was nothing more than a farming community until recently, I grew up in haven. It’s an old city built in the fashion of the empire, even the nobles didn’t change much, they were busy. There were many buildings like this, this whole city is almost a copy of haven, even the streets are laid out in the same pattern. I would need to explore more to confirm but finding my way around shouldn’t be a problem.”

Our bags had been laid against the wall my sword next to them. Of Vesic’s sword there was no sign. I’d never seen it before he used it nor after.

“Stay there, we don’t want you over doing it. Brendon walked over to the bags, after a moment of rummaging pulled out my water skin. He came back and handed it to me.”

I fumbled a bit with the cap, but managed to open it. I raised the skin to my mouth. Warm stale water flowed down my parched throat, it was wonderful.

“Feel better?” Brendon asked with a chuckling laugh.

My face must have shown my enjoyment. I didn’t reply, I was busy.

A few moments later the skin was empty and I felt worlds better, not right or well but better.

“We have help coming, Jase is sending or has sent some mages to assist us.”

“How did you come by this information?”

In a dream.

Brendon looked at me sharply, a look loaded with suspicion.

“What?”

“You were really there, we dismissed it. You visited our dreams. You shouldn’t have done that. Vesic doesn’t like sharing those parts.”

I stood there gawking at him.

“You heard his origin.”

“I did, but that was a dream. I didn’t think it could be real until now.”

“It was, but don’t bring it up. You shouldn’t know, no one knows.”

“I won’t. Anyways, when I was having my nap earlier, I floated. Jase noticed me. I have no clue how, I wouldn’t know where to begin with something like that, and how did he know to look anyway?”

“He is your master, the oath he took is still in effect. He might not be able to do much now that you are out of his hands but it will linger. You could probably do the same for Sophia. It’s necessary, training mages can be tricky, young people get in some strange difficulties.”

“Oh right, okay. Well, Jase mentioned that he has sent some mages here to help us. We just have to hold on till they arrive.”

“Tristan, I know you didn’t want this task but it’s yours. They won’t come and take over. You still have to do whatever you were planning on doing.”

“But having help will make it easier.”

“It might, although having more mages could make it worse. You felt how Nelar treats magic.”

“It’s so strong, but it’s wild.”

“Not just wild, corrupted. The empire never used magic, it didn’t affect them all that much. The waves never used to touch the physical so they were blind to it. It affects us and all that we do.”

“Why don’t they use magic?

“They just couldn’t, until they found us they never even knew it existed. It was all faith and miracles. Their gods are something different, distant. Their whole structure is based on divine right or something. Didn’t you get taught any of this? Never mind. There might even be a temple around here if I remember right, this city didn’t get changed much. Haven’s temple was changed to the noble’s manse. The things they could do with technology were amazing though. In that regard we are squatters living in the house of giants. If you look you will be able to see pipes all over the place, the pumping stations are derelict so nothing works like it used to but you can see how it once did.”

“We are in a war with them? Why is it a war? With our magic we should be able to finish it quickly.”

“They can use magic now. It’s not the same as ours, I’m sure you will see one day. The war is a war because it’s a level playing field we might have magic but so do they and they have numbers. Friction has been growing on the northern border for years. Ever since the waves. For some reason they only hit the duchies hard, the empire was almost entirely ignored. Since the wizards took control they have been trying to raise up the people, not just for the peoples benefit but for their own. This war is going to explode soon enough, be prepared for it. A mage is going to have a part to play.”

“I’m just a junior mage, they wouldn’t send me out there.”

“You aren’t as junior as you think. You would never have been given this task if you were.”

“I was given this task, as you put it, as a death sentence, surely Vesic told you, I have almost no chance of succeeding. Rysan is getting revenge for his Ventrastus friend. Hitting him probably made the situation worse.”

“Tristan, have a bit of faith in yourself. Vesic told you what you needed to hear. Death might be certain in life but you are more than fit for this task. We just need to stop you doing stupid things like burning yourself out, or blowing up forests.”

“Thanks for that, it’s not like I do these things intentionally.”

“You have had your drink, what is the next move?”

“I guess exploring this building and setting up some form of communication home.” the word home triggered something, an ache in my chest, Sophia, Lyphia and Airis were waiting for me. I blinked back tears.

Brendon laid a hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eye. “We will get you home soon. Do your duty. That’s what you mages say, isn’t it?”

“Sort of. I don’t know how it came about but duty seems to be the thing everyone thinks of about mages.”

“A curse. The old mages did unspeakable things in the name of duty. You have done things for duty too. You are here far from home because of duty.  It’s not surprising that people think of mages and duty.”

“I guess it fits, I just wish they thought of something else.”

“It could be worse. You could be remembered for all the pain and death caused by mages. Or thought of as dogs.”

“Lovely. Well anyways we need to sort out something to make this place habitable, we have, I’m assuming, a squad of mages on their way. When they get here is anyone’s guess but I doubt they will be as slow as we were.”

“Probably not. I’ve not been upstairs yet. We will have to make sure it’s safe. You haven’t sensed anyone?”

“No but my senses aren’t to be trusted here. Too much power, it’s distorting everything and giving me a headache to go with the full body ache I have right now.”

“The joys of magic. If you are ready we should investigate the upper levels.”

“Give me a moment, I should take my sword.”

You should, have you noticed anything different about your handling of it?”

“I’ve hardly used it.” I walked over to pick it up. The smooth white stone was developing further markings. I slid my hands over the wide blade. The earlier smudges of colour were becoming more pronounced, the pure white of the blade brighter.  An almost regular pattern seemed to be forming. I shot a glance at Brendon. “Did you do this?”

“No, Vesic didn’t either. It’s part of a mage weapon.  They grow and change with the mage. I mean, do you feel anything within yourself?”

“It’s lighter.”

“It’s not, you have just learnt to carry it. Vesic gave you a gift, he felt you had earned it. Its temporary, you will need to learn the hard way if you want to keep it.”

What gift?

“Basic skill with a blade. He could have made it permanent but that isn’t his way. A gift unearned is poison to the receiver.”

“Thank you I guess, I hope I don’t need to use it, but I can see how having another skill could be useful.”

“If you are ready let us go upstairs. I doubt there I much up there but it’s worth checking. We don’t want any nasty surprises.”

“Very well. I’m ready.”

We set off back to the entry hall, a small recess hid the stairs from view. The effect it created had spread further, I could see it leading up the enclosed stairwell. Light twisted in strange patterns casting shifting shapes all around me. I felt dizzy as we climbed, my body still not recovered from earlier. The temptation to pull a trickle of magic came over me, my link swelling with the sheer volume of power in the air. A kinda of pressure built in my head as it weighed on me. A tide of magic at its peak just begging to be used. The voice of magic whispering, pleading, to be commanded.

I looked to Brendon, he didn’t seem to be feeling it, if he was there was no sign of discomfort.

“Should we split up?” Brendon asked at the top of the stairs. The hall led in opposite directions.

“I don’t think so, it may be quicker but it’s not worth the risk or running into something we can’t handle alone.”

Brendon nodded, a small smile on his face. “Lead on then.”

I shifted my grip on my sword, the smooth hilt slick in my sweaty hand.

I could hear nothing, the pressure grew, like a vice around my head, squeezing. The light that reflected off the walls was steaming in through a set of large windows lining the hall. Their clouded glass didn’t let me see through. The hall led straight thick wooden doors opened into rooms and offices. We didn’t examine each one thoroughly, the dust and random debris was convincing enough to reassure us that there were no people in here. At the end of the hall another set of stairs.

“This should be residence quarters if this is an administration building. The empire were firm of regulation all the scribes and officers lived above their place of work. Citizens had the same rules with exceptions made for families.”

“That is a very strange rule.”

“Efficiency. They didn’t have magic to make things easier for them. The whole empire spanned this continent, several thousand miles. Discipline was harsh. I don’t even know how long they ruled for, but Vesic knows more about the empire than I can handle. He keeps walls around that knowledge.”

“Was Vesic really the mage-king?”

“Don’t bring it up please. He doesn’t like reminders.”

“But how did he become a god?”

“Why do you ask? You aren’t thinking of trying to become one yourself?”

“No, living forever seems like a curse to me. Being without a body of my own, no he can keep that dubious blessing.”

“Good. I don’t understand how it happened, but it’s not good Tristan. There is nothing but pain down that path.

“Okay change of subject then. Why are you still here?”

“I have a reason for being here. This place is special to us. I’ve never seen it with my own eyes.”

“The birthplace of the mage king?”

“Yes. Vesic can’t bear the place, the magic is too wild.”

“Why is it too wild? I know it’s different, that is painfully obvious to me, but why?”

“You know the magic absorbs imprints from its users, here it’s taken on a great many conflicting imprints. Growing wilder with every generation.”

“Is there a way to heal it?”

“I don’t know, I’m not classically trained. Maybe when those other mages come you will be able to work something out.”

A sharp sliver of pain rang through my head. A rising scream of power shock the air.

“What was that?” Brendon asked, a sick look on his face.

“I don’t know. But it’s getting stronger and its outside.”

“We should stay here then.”

“No whatever it is, there are people in this city, not many, but they might need help. I have to get down there.”

“You aren’t in any shape to be helping anyone, you have blood dripping from your ears.”

“It’s the pressure. They don’t have any defence against whatever this.”

“Neither do you. Your magic will kill you.”

Can’t you feel this? It’s lethal. These people need someone to stand up for them even if it futile.

“You aren’t a hero Tristan. You are a mage, you have a job to do that you can’t if you die.”

“I’m doing my duty. This is magic. It’s my job.”

I turned and ran down the stairs, my legs solid beneath me. I could do this. This was my purpose, my reason. I stand between the people and the harm that magic can do.  My body hurt and my head felt like it was going to explode but my body wasn’t my own, I took an oath, I would see it through even if it killed me.

I rushed out of the door and looked around, the setting sun shone through the gaps between buildings casting the area in blood red light, hints of night approached as the sky went dark around the edges.  I caught a glimpse of people running at the far end of the street. An eerie silence filled the air, expectant, hungry.

The screaming pressure in the magic, just stopped. Its absence felt wrong. I opened my sense with a reckless abandon, the street lit up with power, the flows and streams blindingly bright and wavering. They shifted in their beds, overflowing like a river busting its banks. There was no sense of disruption like with a wave, this was something else.

The wash of power hit me, I felt…. cleansed, as if all my pain and everything bad that had ever happened to me just vanished. Peace, warmth and comfort permeated my body and mind. I just stood there, sword in hand, looking at nothing.

A thump ran through the ground, shaking me out of whatever that was. I turned my head seeking the source.

A troll, vaguely humanoid, it had to be 10 foot tall, massive shoulders and long arms, its greenish yellow skin slick with mucus as if it had just been born.

A birthing pit, could be the only answer.

It was coming, the earth shivered with each step, its oversized club dragging and bumping along the cobbles.

Trolls are nasty corruptions of magic, they aren’t a real species. They are constructs, sort of.  They can’t be made like golems, they have to be grown. Areas of magic that get twisted occasional produce troll birthing pits. But they never reached this size. They were always neutralised quickly.

I gripped my sword tightly, settling the hilt into my hand, the smooth stone warmed in response.

The troll saw that I wasn’t running and roared.

The sound set my head to ringing like a bell. The smell assaulted my already recently nauseas senses, I fell back a step.

I blinked watering eyes, took a very shallow breath to clear my airways and set my sights. The troll had got close while I was distracted by its stench. It was nearly on top of me.

I lifted my blade just in time to catch the club coming down. Flames bloomed along the sword, the freshly forming sigils glowing bright in the spreading gloom. I shifted my body, the club slid down the blade to land on the cobbles next to me.

The troll snarled and raised the club once more.

I took the chance to lunge, the burning blade driving into the troll’s hip. The flesh sizzled and smoke poured from the wound.  Worms of dark green light crawled through it, fighting the fire.

The flames spread setting fire to the troll’s blood. It flowed from the gash like water.

I pulled back as far as I could. The troll started flailing, beating at the burning wound. The fire caught on its hands.

Fire is pure, it destroys but it also renews. A troll spawned from corruption is weak to fire, really weak. The twisted magic of it make up fails in the face of fire.

It roared again. A burning arrow whistled through the air, its cloth wrapped head landing in the trolls shoulder.  The green worms of light slithered away, the fire too much for its regenerative powers.

I stood to the side watching the troll disintegrate, threads of light and fire weaving through its flesh, a pool of vicious, foul smelling green slime growing under its feet. It dropped the club with a thump as its arms lost integrity.

Its bones seemed to be holding on the flesh falling off them to land in the growing puddle.

I lowered my sword as I watched my foe break apart. The earlier pain came roaring back but the shock of defeating a troll held the worst at bay.

“What the fuck do you think you are doing?” a voice called from down the street, young but angry.

I turned my head slowly, I felt dazed.

There was a young woman, dirty and malnourished by the looks of her. A bow was held loosely in her hand. She marched down the street. A fierce anger in her step as if the paving had wronged her.

“That was a troll you moron. You don’t close with a troll. You pepper the bastards with flaming arrows, from a distance. What do you think you are doing?”

“I was protecting people.”

“What people? There isn’t no one here. Trolls are stupid, they go for what they can see. We hide, didn’t you hear the bell?”

I closed my eyes for a moment, before raising them to her face. Another problem

“Whoa, what are you?” She swung the bow into a firing position. An arrow had found its way on to the string. “Answer me before I shoot, I haven’t got a problem with shooting monsters.”

“I’m not a monster. I’m a mage.”

“Ha, mages don’t come here. Do you take me for a fool?”

“I really am a mage. Mage Representative Tristan Sodden, sent by the wizards to persuade you to join us. I’ve spoken to your king.”

He isn’t our king. All he does is sit up there and watch us die. Despair has got its claws into that one. Madness too if I’m any judge.”

She lowered her bow, but still seemed wary.

“I don’t know what I can say to convince you, but this might.” I pulled a sliver of magic into me and commanded the dirt on the street to flow away. Pulses of magic tried to distract me, the same siren call I’d heard in the foundry. I gritted my teeth and closed my link as tightly as I could.

Her blue eyes widened at my little magic show. “You shouldn’t have done that, magic is bad here.”

“No, magic is powerful here. I’ll grant you that it’s a bit twisted up, I can’t even see how it is meant to flow, so it’s been like that for a long time. But it’s not bad. Magic is a tool, a natural force, it can’t be bad, just neutral. It’s us that make good or bad use of it.”

“Trolls are not neutral, they are stinking corruptions.”

“Look I’d rather not stand around discussing this, the smell is giving me a headache. Have I convinced you or not?”

“That you’re a mage, yeah, but I’m not buying that the council sent you. They have done nothing for us. Even the nobles wouldn’t touch this place. Wizards came once when I were a kid, that’s it, they never came again.”

“Well I’ve been sent. I’m not going to argue with you. I want to help, I just don’t know where to start.”

“Cut that out. Being weak gets you killed here. Trolls are the least of it.

“You know my name, what’s yours?”

“Lexis, you hear that?” She turned her head, listening.

Tilting my head, I could hear the faint ring of a bell echoing around. Oddly sharp rings compared to the normal slower drawn out sound.

“That’s that all clear. Just one tonight it seems.” She turned and started to walk back the way she had come.

“I hope to see more of you. Things like this should be happening.”

“No they shouldn’t, but we don’t live in a world of should and shouldn’t, this is what is. Don’t get yourself killed. Your best bet is to go back where you came from and leave us to our business.”

I turned to see her off. Then walked into my headquarters. I still needed to sleep yet.

MageLife: The Book.

As some of you may be aware Magelife is almost complete in terms of chapters posted.

It has been written for quite a while now and today I finished edits (typos, missing punctuation, small stuff)

So it is now available to buy in ebook format (here).

Please do buy it, it would support me immeasurably. I will continue posting the remaining chapters here as usual.

It is thanks to you all that I have reached the point of actually completing the novel. Something I wouldn’t have done without readers.

So thank you all.

Another hint to buy it 

P.S. The cover is temporary while waiting on the official cover to be produced. Dont be put off.