The way to the stone guild was one I’d never used despite living near town all my life. It was new, as in built in the last few years. I took a turn at the fountain outside headquarters that led me down the wide pale cream streets, glow globes hung on either side of the street. Unlit for now. I went slowly, taking in the scenery. The buildings on either side of me were tall but with separate small gates between. I assumed for access. The sun cast stripes of light and shade across my path. The streams of people about their business continued. I’d never seen the town so alive. Even at the height of the waves the town had been quiet, but after a lot of the survivors in the area migrated here, it had livened up, but then the town had been seriously damaged. Rebuilding had been slow while the wizards set up an infrastructure, but their hard work could be seen everywhere. The paved streets. The lights. The cleaning systems. We even had a basic sewer network. Running water. Disease while not eliminated was greatly reduced. Crime was rare. Theft was pointless as the credit shard couldn’t be tampered with. While not everyone was in work, all were paid a basic amount. The rich and the poor were as equal as the had ever been. It was amazing that just the sight of a town could bring such a wash of pride. I was a part of the organisation that had done all this. The wizards council was still young. The future looked bright.
My reverie had distracted me, while I was still on the right path I was no longer focusing on the way. Signs made it unnecessary. Arriving outside, all I could do was stare.
The sheer mass of the stone guild stunned me. A massive flowing building of almost white stone. The guildhouse rose higher than it neighbours by a large margin. Sweeping artistic flows of green-flecked marble wove up the building ending in a green arched roof. Windows were everywhere. I had thought the mage academy was impressive and it was, but it couldn’t compare to the utter majesty and beauty of this. Magic used for the practical was good, but magic for the sake of it had never entered my mind. I was overwhelmed to say the least. Lots of men were going in and out of the arched entrance.Most were wearing heavy boots and tough overalls. Terramancers, by my other sense of them. It’s the slightly less insulting term for skilled earth knacks. I was one once. There was another more technical term, but I could never remember it. Magic had flourished since the wizards had taken over. I shook myself out my head. Time to focus on work.
Taking myself through the arches took every scrap of willpower I had.
Bloody people. Why couldn’t I be given a task that didn’t require interactions, or even a few classes
The smooth stone of the floor echoed with every step. Light poured in through the large coloured windows. Creating intricate patterns on marble that reminded me of the transfer shard. Swimming forms that I felt sense could be pried out of if I had enough time. A shadow fell across my vision.
“Hello mage-” came the gentle request. A young woman had approached while I was contemplating the patterns. I looked up at her. to see a sight of long red hair framing an oval face with bright hazel eyes that contrasted nicely with her pale skin. A small smile twisted her lips.
“Mage Representative Tristan Sodden. I’m here to offer my assistance to the stone guild,” I blurted out. Heat rushed to my face. I’m a knacking pixie again.What is wrong with me, I reprimanded myself before doing my best to pay attention
Her smile had grown. Suppressed amusement radiated from her face. “Well Mage Tristan I am Lyphia Terra, the guild master’s daughter. If you would follow me, I will take you up to Master Terra’s office. He should be able to slot you in if you don’t mind waiting,” she said. she looked expectantly at me. Her smile still very much present.
“Uh yes of course, lead the way please,” I hesitantly replied. Embarrassment can be a great motivator. I had moved past my discomfort of dealing with people to annoyed with myself for being so clumsy with women.
Lyphia guided me through the beautiful building.
Thick columns reached to the high flat ceiling. Hidden behind one at the back of the foyer was a deeply recessed door. Large and densely covered with incised with flowing patterns. As we entered and trudged our way up the stairs a thought occurred to me. Well two.
One was Lyphia really filled out her dress in all the right places. Two was once this place would have been a sign of wealth, the sort of extravagance the nobles lorded over us poor unfortunates. Now it was a show of expertise. You don’t contract a tailor who can’t dress well. You equally wouldn’t hire a stone guild member if he couldn’t build. The stairs turned once to the left as we neared the top. A huge window was center place in the wide open hall. A similar door to downstairs on either side.
Lyphia headed to the one to the right of the window. a quick look thrown over her shoulder, I assumed to make sure I hadn’t got lost. I smiled at her. She quickly turned back, her red hair flicking with her. A moment later she rapped on the door with her knuckles. “Guildmaster, its Lyphia.” she called through the door. She rolled her eye at me. I assumed about the obsequious manner she had adopted.
“Come in,” came a sharp command.
Lyphia opened the door. It led to large office that would have been plain if not for the intricate models scattered about. Tiny structures of houses, larger buildings that looked similar to the mage headquarters. Others were around, that I couldn’t begin to guess at. Many glyphscreens with drawings of buildings were scattered about. While I was taking this in Lyphia had walked through the obstacles to the desk. An older man, almost entirely average looking apart from the strong green glow in his eyes and the delicate look of his hands.
“Father, this is Mage Representative Tristan Sodden. He is here to offer his services to the stone guild,” Lyphia said to her father. A quirk of an eyebrow and a slight head tilt indicated me. Her voice was still amused.
The guild master glanced over to me, his green-glowing eyes brightening. He put a hand out to shake.
I stepped forwards as quickly as I could being careful not to knock anything in this tangle of a room. I placed my hand in his, a tingle of magic ran through me.
“A full mage. Strong in earth, probably first knack. A touch of water too. Complex first blooming,” he muttered before raising his eyes to meet mine, “Sorry, I’m Guild master Terra. We could use a mage around here.”
“What was that?” I was incredulous. I had never seen or heard about magic like that.
The guild master just shrugged and released my hand.”Just a little quirk of mine,” he replied dismissively. He strolled back to his desk, grabbed a glyphscreen and ignored me.
Lyphia looked at me sympathetically as I stood there baffled by the exchange. “Father, can you pay attention please. Mage Tristan is here to help, you can’t treat him like this!” she squawked at him.
The guild master looked at her blankly. “Why are you shouting at me Phe?” he asked with what appeared to be honest confusion.
“Dad focus please. We have a mage. He doesn’t know what you’re like,” she pleaded.
I was watching the exchange, my confusion growing. What was going on?
The guild master looked at me, his eyes showed no recognition, a hand came out as if to shake.
“Dad, you have done that already,” she said, moving forward to block my sight of him. She bent forward whispering into her father’s ear.
I couldn’t catch any of it . Using my magic to eavesdrop when if wasn’t needed felt wrong. So I just stood waiting. Feeling rather useless. This really wasn’t helping my confidence.
Lyphia pulled away. Patted her father on the hand before gesturing for me to leave.
I carefully made my way out of the room. I waited outside the door hoping I wasn’t expected to leave the building.
A few moments later Lyphia came out carrying a glyphscreen. “Sorry about that let’s go to my office,” her earlier smile had died. All lingering amusement washed away.
“You have an office?” I asked
“What do you think I do here?” she reposted. Eyes firmly locked on mine. A tensing of her shoulders betraying the anger that was missing from her tone.
“Um, I have no idea. You picked me up from the foyer. I thought that was your job.” I said earnestly.
“No that’s not my job” she replied with a small laugh. The tension disappearing. “My job is far more, than picking up strays. I would rather not discuss it here.” she pointed to the door on the other side of the window.
I was left speechless. I hadn’t brought it up.
She walked ahead of me, opening the door without knocking. This office was spotless. Plain stone and wood. Deep wooden shelves covered the walls. Stuffed with neat folders. She head straight for the desk, deposited the glyphscreen on the desk and turned to me.
“I guess you want an explanation about my father” she said fiercely. The passion behind it made me want to leave.
“If you want to explain. I’ll admit I’m curious, but I don’t want to make things difficult,” I replied gently. I was doing my best to keep calm. This wasn’t my thing at all.
“You may need to know,” she stated. Her earlier passion seemed to have shifted into something else. She leant against the desk, her arms folded.
“Its simple really. My father was a bonded mage, who broke his bond. He is also the one who put up the dome to protect this town,” she said
I was shocked again. A broken mage bond. I had heard stories, but I had never encountered them.
“Can I ask questions please? I don’t want to be insensitive, but as you said I may need to know,” I asked. This was interesting. I watched her reactions.
All she did was sigh and wave for me to continue.
“The mage bond. What is it exactly?” I asked. I had a list of questions already bubbling in my mind.
“Well I don’t know details but as my father explained when I was young. It’s a magical oath. Between mage and noble. Sleepers were conscripted. Exceptional ones were pushed harder and given extra training. Turned into mages. Forced by the nobles to take the oath. It binds them to service until they are released or either party dies,” she answered blandly.
Its an oath? Your sure?” I questioned intently. Memories of my own masters oath coming to mind.
“Yes. Its an oath,” she said with a look that said I was clearly brain-dead
“Alright, I guess id better get on with my next questions. What happened to him?” I asked hoping to redeem myself in her eyes.
“The simple answer is backlash. The more complex one is my father was tasked by the wizards to protect this town from the waves. They knew it was coming.”
I interrupted before she could continue. “ Hang on. They knew? How did they know? I though the waves were random. How could anyone know?”
Lyphia glared at me. her body tensing up. “Do not interrupt me!” she said through gritted teeth.
I guess she had a problem with it.
“Just because I’m the daughter of the guild master doesn’t mean I didn’t earn my position. I am not some mindless spark woman you can treat with disrespect,” she said. Biting off her words sharply. Her eyes bored into me. More green than brown when she was angry, I noted.
Pay attention to what she is saying, not how pretty her eyes are. I commanded myself
I nodded slightly. I didn’t want to aggravate her again.
Lyphia seemed to notice that my interruption wasn’t intentionally designed to anger her. she continued. “Yes they knew. I don’t know the details of it, but it was precise. So they sent my father out. It was against the nobles orders. That broke the bond. It’s not all the tale, but the backlash damaged his mind and the later use of his power, to make the dome caused further damage. His quirk as he calls it, is from before. He is an amazing mage still. There just isn’t much left of him.” she finished. A tear glistened on her cheek. She seemed to be pretending it didn’t exist as it slid down.
The story still upset her after all this time. Trying to be careful incase I touched a nerve. I asked. “Who runs the guild then? Day to day?”
She blinked and then smiled the tear gone as if it never was. The smile was weak but a good effort, “I do of course. You work for me. Do you have a problem with that?” a touch of steel had entered her voice. Almost daring me to object.
“No, that’s fine.” I struggled out. This woman scared the magic out of me.
“Well now we have that unpleasantness out-of-the-way we can move on,” she said calmly was a wave of the hand as if brushing if aside. “Father said you were a strong earth knack. A touch of water too. we can work with that. Do you have any experience with building at all?” she asked, her smile growing.
I was barely managing to hold my end of the conversation. “No, I’m a new mage. My experience is practically nothing,” it was a hard thing to admit, but l felt lying about my talents would only end up with me out of my depth. More out of my depth.
She looked at me as if she was re-evaluating.
“Good,” a large smile bloomed across her face “ I already knew that, but I had to make sure you would be honest with me. Most mages think they are better than us day dreamers,” she fixed me with a stern look.
I looked away guiltily, I was just as bad for a it as some of the older mages although i did make an effort to not look down on them, I had best start using the technical terms, knack was clearly insulting to her and to others.
“If you had lied I would have sent you away,” she continued. “Well the introductions are done. I think we can call it a day for now,” she looked over her desk as if searching for something. Seeming to find it she passed it over to me.
It turned out to be a shard,of a form I had never seen, as I touched it a small spark of magic leapt up my arm. My mind filled with images, calculations, designs things that I had no names for. Struck by the sudden rush of information. I dropped the shard. The flow stopped.
Lyphia laughed “Takes some getting used to, but study it before I see you again. You are no use to us if you can’t understand what we need to do. Oh and be prepared to work hard. I will call someone to escort you out,” she activated her glyphscreen. “Send someone to my office please,” she looked back at me “They will be here in a moment. I look forward to seeing what a full mage can do,” a smirk curled her lips.
“I will do my best,” I said. I bent down to recover the dropped shard, I braced for the rush and as it came suppressed it and placed the shard in my belt pouch. Looks like I was out of my depth already. Story of my life.
A knock at the door startled me even though I had been expecting it .
“That will be your escort,” she said to me before raising her voice. “Come in”
A young man, he couldn’t have been more than nineteen opened the door. He came in to the room and stopped just a few steps from the door. He looked around uncertainly.
Lyphia smiled at him. “Hello, I havent seen you before. Are you new?” she asked
The boy looked like he was going to faint. “Yes, I started last week, miss,” he squeaked out.
“Could you take the mage here down to the front door please? Lyphia asked. A tilt of her head indicating me
The boy nodded and looked towards me. I doubt he could have gotten paler but he made a good effort.
Lyphia turned back to her desk. I assumed we were dismissed by the air of intense focus she had around her.
The boy continued to look between me and Lyphia.
Unsure what else to do, I turned towards the door.
The boy took this as a sign to led me back to the entrance.
Lyphia didn’t say or do anything to indicate otherwise.
We left her to her work.