Damn mages I thought to myself as I attempted to walk through the square outside the mage headquarters. The square was packed with mages.
“Stop!” a large grizzled one called. He was in his late thirties, maybe early forties. It was hard to tell with mages. He was solidly built with greying hair.
“There is an emergency you can’t come this way.” the mage said.
“I have to get to work” I informed him angrily.
“Find another way” he replied curtly.
Who are you to tell me, what I can or a can’t do?” I asked, my anger got the better of me.
“I am Mage Lysan. Now, are we going to have a problem here, or are you going to leave?” Lysan said conversationally. The threat clearly implied.
I didn’t stay to find out what the threat entailed. I turned back the way I’d come.
“Fucking mages, lording over us” I muttered to myself, as I stomped down the road, trying to vent my anger and hide my fear. “Just cos we can’t use magic properly according to them, doesn’t make us less than them. I work hard for a living.” my feet had taken me nearly all the way home. I stopped walking as I realised that I couldn’t go home, my wife would kill me.
The pub sounds like a good place to kill some time I thought.
I changed direction once again, back to my local on the corner. A small pub called the wizards staff. It like most of the buildings in the area was made of the same pale stone as the paving. Inside was dim even on this bright day. The windows were grubby from the smoke of the candles. No bloody glow globes here. We were old school here. I walked straight to the bar, the only well maintained part of the place, old Vansen polished it all the time. he was tending the place today. I had never seen him anywhere else, the old man was scrawny in that way some men get, all wiry, his faded blue eyes widened as he recognised me in the gloom
“What you doing in here, Frenis? Vansen ask surprised. “Shouldnt you be at work?”
“I’ll have a beer Van, bloody mages ruining my day.” I answered grumpily.
Vansen busied himself getting my drink.
I looked rough in the dark reflection of the oddly polished bar. My rugged features with my coarse, dark hair showed my grim mood.
A tankard plonked down in front of me.
“A Knack, Fren” Vansen informed me.
I fumbled around my pocket for my credit shard, I concentrated hard to send the funds to the pub’s account. My mood was getting in the way. I tried harder. I felt the faint touch of acknowledgement from it. I put it back in my pocket then rubbed my hand against my heavy cloth trousers to get rid of the feel of magic. It always made me feel off.
“I hate them things, I miss coins. good solid metal, none of this complicated magic,” I grumbled to Vansen before taking a sip of my beer.
“I know you’re not a fan of magic Fren, but this is a bit more than normal, what got up your nose?” Vansen asked, he was polishing the bar absent-mindedly.
“Mages, the town is crawling with them. I can’t even go to work without being stopped by them. Emily is going to murder me when I tell her,” I said.
“Why would they stop you?” Vansen asked. he had stopped his polishing and was looking intently at me.
“I don’t know, something about an emergency he said, but I don’t care they have no right to stop an honest man doing an honest days work, just cos they have magic and we don’t. Don’t mean they can act like that.” I said my voice rising as I got more agitated.
“Calm down Fren.” Vansen said
“Why should I? The mages rule this town now, it ain’t what it used to be anymore, they look down on us poor knacks, they talk all funny trying to make us seem stupid. Just cos I don’t like magic don’t mean I’m worthless. Does it?” I asked, I was almost shouting by this point.
“No your not worthless Fren, but the town is better, no more burnings or having our kids taken. No more tribute to the nobles. The wizards saved us from the waves,” Vansen stated calmly. “ I’m old. I’ve seen it all. I am happier with the wizards and their mages than the bloodthirsty nobles and their mage dogs. Drink your beer and listen for a moment.”
I took a mouthful of my beer and listened.
“So what if we can’t understand half of what they say? This town is better for them being here. The wizards in Greenlaw with their floating city are making things better” Vansen said.
“You disagree? That things are better? Vansen asked
“It might be cleaner and brighter but all this change. The magic that lights our homes and cleans our streets, that we can’t make or change. We are just under the thumb of different masters. Less bloody maybe, but still masters,” I said.
“Don’t be so disagreeable, Fren,” Vansen warned me. “I don’t particularly like all the magic either, but there are worse things.
“How can we remove them if they turn out worse than the nobles? We can’t stand up to the mages let alone the wizards,” I pointed out. I raised my tankard to my lips. My beer was gone. “Another please,” I passed my tankard back to him.
Vansen looked indecisive for a second before taking it and refilling for me. “Thats all you get. Emily isn’t going be happy anyway but she won’t like you drunk. I don’t want her in here giving me in a hard time,” he told me, a grimace appeared as he said the name of my wife.
“Heh, she’s got a mouth on her, ain’t she,” I said, my own face mirrored his expression. “She’s going to kill me,” I muttered.
“Not much you can do, if you can’t get to work. I’m sure she will understand,” Vansen said
“What’s the boss going to say?” I asked
“You will be fine, if it’s an emergency as you say, maybe you should check and see if it’s over,” Vansen suggested
“Let me finish my drink and I’ll have a look, a half shift is better than no shift after all,” I said, after a moments thought.
“Been good talking to you, think about what I’ve said. Carrying that sort of bitterness around is bad for you. Have that one on the house,” Vansen said nodding towards the beer.
“I will, thanks,” I said. I drained my tankard before heading out.
Back out on the street. I walked towards the square. The mages were still there, but they were all looking at a figure, some with expressions of horror, others of fear. Only one was brave enough to approach the figure, it was the bloody mage from earlier. The one that stopped me.
The figure was slowly limping, it looked as if he was forcing himself on. I’d had days like that a long shift tired beyond belief. His hair was long and black, but tangled. Soot seemed to cover most of him, but I could see he was barely a man. Early twenties at most. The mage took the figure’s arm and proceeded to help him walk. As they slowly crossed the square, I saw the man’s eyes, they were blazing, a flickering inferno that came and went. Blues and reds shifting in them. He was a mage too I realised. No way he was old enough to have them any other way. I could smell something in the wind, burning. Smoke. I lifted my head to try to work out where it was coming from. A stream of smoke was drifting into the air from the direction the boy-mage had come from. While I’d stood there watching the scene unfold, a few people had gathered around me. Spectator’s.
“The foundry went up. The whole district is gone,” one of them said. An older woman. “That man there is the only one to have come out so far. I’ve been watching from my shop,” she pointed to the young mage.
“The foundry? I was supposed to be at work this afternoon. I’m a loader,” I asked confused.
“Oh, you were lucky. I listened to some of the mages, apparently they got flown in special like cos the foundry smelter overloaded or something. Place blew sky-high. How did you not hear it?” she asked curiously
“I live on the other side of town, I didn’t hear a thing. One of the mages wouldn’t let me through the square earlier, but wouldn’t tell me anything,” I said shocked. I felt faint as I thought That could have been me if i’d had the early shift. all my work mates gone, at least I don’t have to worry about the boss being mad with me for being late, I instantly felt angry with myself for thinking such a selfish thought.
“Dear are you alright?” the woman fussed me “ Come sit down in my store, give yourself a moment or two,” she must have misinterpreted how I was feeling
“I’m alright, just worried about my friends,” I said
,“No news is good news at least.” she attempted to comfort me, but it rang false.
I grunted noncommittally. I needed to do something, but all I wanted to do is hug my wife.
“They are going to want to talk to you,” the woman informed me.
“Yeah I know. I’m going home, to hold my wife, and thank the gods that I’m safe,” I said before walking away.