“Trisan get up!” Came Airis’ rocky voice.
I blinked and moaned as I rolled over. I was still dressed. I smelt and felt disgusting. My chest was sticking to my clothes, my wrist hurt and I couldnt remember why.
I was in my room. How did I get here? I asked myself. My sleep fogged mind refused to give me the answer. I wiggled to the edge of the bed and sat up. I blinked my bleary eyes, then remembered what had woken me.
“What is it?” I called, after a moment of croaking. I looked down at my wrist, a nasty looking gash along it. It stung when I poked at it, the sticky feel of the blood as I pulled my sleeve off it.
“There are some people here,” Airis called back.
Shit, it all came back to me. The cell, Vance, Jase’s son. Sophia and my choice.
I stood far faster than was probably good for me the blood rushing from my head. I felt dizzy and sick. I wobbled, but didn’t fall. I racked my brain for a moment, where is my bracer? Where did I last see it. I know I didn’t take it to the woods. It would have been useful there.
I took a deep breath, the worst of the sickness faded. I looked around my room, I must have left it in here somewhere.
“Tristan!” Airis shouted. I trusted him to keep Sophia safe. I just needed a moment.
“I’m coming,” I called as I couldn’t seem to find my bracer anywhere. Another thing lost. Maybe someone had been in here while I was away.
I walked slowly to the door, this is it. My only thought.
I wasn’t angry, I was scared. So scared, that my knees felt weak and I thought I might throw up.
I opened the door.
Airis was on the other side of the hall outside Sophia’s door. He was looking toward the main room, that I still didn’t know what to call, there were a couple of figures there.
“How is she? I asked stopping briefly.
“She’s still not woken, but she’s moving and talking in her sleep,” Airis said his voice pitched low.
I smiled, a small gentle smile.
“Thank you. Stay with her please,” I said and patted him on his rough stone hand.
He nodded and looked at me strangely. It’s hard to read a helmet for emotion, normally it doesn’t come up, but my life is just full of strange.
I stood taller,lifted my head high, set my shoulders and walked to my fate proudly.
I chose this. If this is the price, I gladly pay it, for her.
I didn’t rush, they could wait, but I wasn’t slow.
I walked into the room.
Two very old, but strong looking men were waiting. Black cloaks with the hoods up. I couldn’t see their hair, but each had one blue and one orange glowing eye set in heavily wrinkled faces. They were stocky and about average height. On their wrists were bright silver bracers crawling with glyphs.
I won’t deny, I felt a shiver down my spine as I realise who they were.
The council’s executioners. These were the two men that had passed judgment on the nobles after the waves. Their names escaped me, but their descriptions were everywhere,as was their legend.
Twins that had been born back when our lands were whole, before the nobles turned against each other. The throne has been empty a long time now. The line of the mage king died out about a century ago, but the nobles had waited maybe ten years till they started the wars to see who would become the next king.
The twins had turned ten the year before, the first crown war as it became known. They lived on one of the borders between nobles. Their village was turned into one of the largest battle grounds. The twins had gotten separated, they awakened at the same time. Fire. They tore the battle field apart in a firestorm, trying to get back to each other, they failed. They were some of the first children conscripted by the nobles. Each sworn to an enemy. They faced each other many times. But never fought. They refused. Each battle they would walk off to the side and watch together. They were a legend before the new legend.
When the waves ended and the council rose to power, they had a decision to make. What to do with the nobles that had torn our land apart. While the council deliberated, the twins visited the head of each noble family. They left with the heads. Detached from the bodies.
They then traveled to Greenlaw, to the wizards now floating city, and presented the heads to Velar, the leader of the council. Grateful that they had saved the wizards having to worry about it, but upset that they had taken it upon themselves. The judgement he gave them was harsh, but ultimately wise.
They were bound by their oath, I didn’t really understand what it had meant back when I first heard the story, to serve the council. All this went through my mind as I stood looking at them. Shivering in my boots with fear at what they were empowered to do to me if they chose.
“Tristan Sodden, for disobeying a lawful order given by an empowered being of the council. You are to come with us for judgement,” said the one on the left, his voice was strong but gentle. There was no hint of age in it.
Neither moved, they stood there, blank expressions that could mean anything.
I looked from one to the other, took a deep breath, nodded and stepped towards them. Time to face my fate.
The one that spoke went to the door while the other walked along side me.
He didn’t touch me. He actually kept his distance, which surprised me.
I nodded to him. I was thankful not to be clapped in irons after all that had gone on before.
He nodded in return a slight upturn to his lips.
I had no idea what to make of that, probably best not to read to much into it.
They led me out the door and through the halls, deeper into the depths of the academy. We walked in silence.
I considered making a break for it, but no I chose this. The least I could do was face it. We went down halls I didn’t even know existed deep beneath the building. We ended up in a huge sunken room. Steps cut into the rock led down to an open floor, roughly hewn out of the natural stone the building was built on. As we walked down I could feel the magics of the room. This was the very core of the academy, the first thing built. Embedded in the floor were old, old spells that I couldn’t begin to decipher. I knew I was distracting myself from the moment, but I just couldn’t help it. Better to be distracted than piss myself in fear. I had been escorted here by two of the most legendary mages even with a reputation for bloodshed. Maybe this is why we never heard of rogue mages. They were led down here like cattle to the slaughterhouse.
I shook myself hard. I took another deep breath and set my face. I wouldn’t show my fear. I lifted my eyes to the far side of the room.
My heart froze in my chest. I recognised one of the men. From a dream. He was older now, but not as much I would expect. He looked to be in his early forties, still slim, deep set eyes that blazed with power. A shimmering rainbow trapped within them. I never heard his name, but I saw him pass judgement on a couple then proceed to burn them at the stake. He wasn’t alone, but I didn’t recognise the other two.
“Thank you for joining me, Mage Sodden, and thank you for bringing him Delec and Kelec. We are here to decide your fate, Tristan. Do you mind if I call you Tristan?” he asked, his friendly voice crossed the room easily.
“No,” I answered. All other answers dried on tongue, unable to be spoken. I stood in the center of the floor, almost an arena. The sides rose gradually up. The tribunal looked down on me. Just behind me the twins Delec and Kelec. It was intimidating.
“Good, right let’s move right along then, we need to get back to Greenlaw tonight. Shame about the wave, but we have lent a hand where we could while we were here. So, Orb, gave me the facts while the twins were fetching you. Rysan is livid, but then again, he always was excitable,” he chuckled to himself at that. “Oh, I’m Velar, sorry for being rude. I forgot we haven’t met. I missed your exam. I normally make a point to attend every one. But something came up. I’m sorry,” he waved his arm, dismissing it but looked really sincere. “Anyway you are charged with disobeying a lawful command, which is a direct breach of your indenture,” he looked at me sternly, the humor fading from his face, it left him looking stern and cold, his eyes swirled with colours. He stared at me intently watching my every movement. “Do you have anything to say for yourself?” his voice, hard and uncompromising.
I felt something rise in me, I bit it back. I looked down at my feet.
“This is your last chance, do you have anything to say in your defence?”
The memory of those words from his lips, made me forget caution.
“In my defence no. I disobeyed. Just as I should have,” I said anger forced my words. “It could have cost my apprentice her life. I did the right thing. I would do it again. If it costs me my job, my freedom, my life, it’s the least I could do for her,” I shouted.
I looked up at him. The head wizard, the man I had seen burn people alive. “Who the fuck do you think you are, standing in judgment of me? I’ve seen you in action. That couple, here in this very town. You tied them to a stake. You burnt them alive and made everyone watch. I chose not to blindly follow, as you should have done. Do what you will. I will not defend my actions to you or to anyone else,” I spat the last words at him.
I was shaking, my magic was trying to help me, I pushed it back. it couldn’t help me here.
Velar stood, he looked like I had slapped him. his mouth opened and closed a few times as he looked down at me.
I felt the twins move up beside me, they grabbed an arm each twisting them behind my back. I was forced to my knees.
“Get off me, you can’t force me to give respect to anyone, it’s earned. I will not bow my knee to him of my own will,” I shouted. My blood was pounding in my ears. My head felt as if it would explode.
“Let him go,”Velar said.
They clearly didn’t hear, they seemed intent on breaking my arms. I let my magic rise. I felt a tingle in my head as something shifted. A sigil surfaced behind my eyes, in my minds eye maybe. Oddly enough I recognised it. It was my bracer’s concept. I channeled my magic into it.
Power exploded out of me. The twins went flying away, as my shield flowed out from my skin in a rush. I stood up, glaring.
Velar looked astonished.
“Who taught you that?” he asked sharply.
“Fuck off, I don’t owe you answers. Let the others judge me, not you,” I said harshly. I stared at them.
The other two men up high, started whispering rapidly to each other, I didn’t care enough to listen in. But whatever it was there was an argument going on between them about something.
Velar looked between his two colleagues, they each nodded once. Velar looked back to me, a smile on his face. “Tristan despite the irregularities, we accept your defence. in fact we are pleased you chose to do what you did.
“Huh?” My shield faltered as I tried to work out what he meant.
“We are not the nobles, I don’t want you to think we are. We want agents, be they Mages like yourself or Wizards who can think. We encourage it, but we also want men like you. That will spit in the face of injustice. That will do the right thing, no matter the cost. You have proven that you deserve to hold the power you have,” Velar said.
I looked from face to face all were smiling, except the twins who were still on the floor, groaning.
“I don’t understand,” I said softly, confusion and hope warred within me. My anger fled in the face of that.
“Welcome, Mage Tristan Sodden, Welcome to the new order of the world,” he said smiling broadly.
Velar and his colleagues stood and as one they bowed to me, a deep bow.
I just stood staring at the wizards, leaders of the world bowing to me, the son of a farmer from a once unimportant town. Emotion overcame me. The exact emotion I couldn’t name.
I sunk to the floor and I cried.