In greenlaw, the floating city of the wizards council, it was early afternoon, not that it was apparent. The weather was bleak, storms raged all around the high towers. The dark clouds were broken by flashes of lightning that struck the thin, magically supported spires.
Velar was seated behind his desk, in most ways he was unremarkable. But the thing that was different about him were his eyes, they were pools of rainbow light.
Random flashes of light from the highly set window illuminated the room, it was circular, with dark wooden panelling, nowhere near as ostentatious as most would assume for the high wizard’s office. A glowing map was on his desk.
He found his gaze being drawn again and again to one point marked on the map. Far, far on the edge, out of his territory.
“Sir, they are waiting for you.” A voice from his desk said.
Velar stood and walked around his desk, his long robes flowed out behind him revealing the tight leather clothes of an active mage beneath.
In the hall outside, the twins waited in their deeply hooded black robes. They flanked his door.
“Let’s get this over with,” Velar said with a deep air of resignation.
They moved quickly down the hall to the stone disc that hovered in the centre of a tube.
As the disc descended the twins looked at each other, something in their look signalled that something wasn’t as normal.
“What is it?” Velar asked. His shoulder slumped, there was no respite from his cares not even here in this, the most private place he had with his most loyal servants, but not friends, never friends.
The twins looked at each other again, neither wanted to be the bearer of bad news.
“Spit it out,” Velar said in a tone that would have been angry if he could summon the energy.
“The merchants are pushing for expansion, the lower council want higher taxes and increased trade. They want Westhaven restored. The roads aren’t enough. They want it to be the nexus that Haven was,” Delec said, the twin on the right of Velar.
“Haven was a city. I’ve just got back from West Haven. They have maybe five thousand people at most. It can’t support that level of development.”
The stone disc stopped as did the conversation.
They walked quickly down the short corridor, through the small door at the end and into the council chambers.
The sounds of argument hit them like being plunged in deep water. The air of conflict filled the room.
Velar sent his power out in a soothing wave, silencing the room. He continued to walk to his seat just in front of the door they had used. He looked down the table on the members of the council.
“Before I release you, I want you all to remember: we are united. We are not enemies. Debate, discuss, do not argue here. We have enough problems without fractures forming.” he called out in a loud but tired voice. He waved his hand and released his power over them.
“Sir, that is unacceptable you can’t use your power on us, you are first among equals. You are not special. We do you honour by allowing you an exalted position, the least you can do is grant us honour in return” A small wizened old wizard said, his hair was long and stringy grey, his eyes had the wizard rainbow effect.
“Shut up, you were stupid enough to go unprotected. I’m sick of these meetings, all everyone here does is argue, and for no reason. No matter what I tell you every time. Nothing gets decided. You all hide here in Greenlaw making laws and passing motions. It’s all very….. masturbatory,” Velar said after a moments fumbling for a word.
“Velar, that is no way to talk to us. I call for a vote to remove Archwizard Velar from his position.”
“Sit down, Estus. No one wants to replace him. Would you want his job? He has always been direct. That’s why he is Archwizard and you are barely welcome in this room.” The wizard Merrick jeered, from the far end of the table.
“Thank you Merrick, although I would be happy to be replaced. These meetings bore me.” Velar looked around to see if anyone seconded the vote.
No one raised a hand. Of the twenty-two people in the room only Estus was standing. The rest looked as if they would do anything to be anywhere else when the Archwizards gaze passed over them.
“Right, what’s on the agenda today?”
“The waves and Nelar. We also want to discuss the road works and the project.” A small younger man said from next to Velar.
“Nelar? What the fuck are you lot cooking up? You know that place is a wasteland. Did anyone attempt to convince the town to leave?” Velar rose to his feet, shouting his words at the assembled wizards.
They flinched as a collective.
“None of you,” Velar stated with a flat tone.
“Sir, you know we can’t go near it. The warping is too much.” Estus said. He wrung his hands, fingers twining and untwining around each other.
“Estus, say one more spineless thing, here in this room to me and I will challenge you to a duel. Then your house will need a replacement. Do you have any promising mages we can raise to wizard?” Velar said in a conversational voice, the stark contrast between his earlier anger and his pleasant threat, warned the council that he meant every word. They knew it was the calm in the eye of the storm.
Estus gulped loudly, the sound travelled to every corner of the room in the hushed silence
“Now tell me the truth about Nelar” Velar said. He retook his seat.
“We need to get past the warping, we are surrounded by it, as long as we are contained here we can’t expand, we are sterile, lifeless.” Merrick said.
“That is your argument? You had better have something better than that, because that is weak as shit. We aren’t the nobles. We don’t do things because it pleases us. We do them because they must be done for the good of all.”
Merrick flushed with anger, his nostrils flared as he suddenly exhaled, “and what do you know of the nobles? I spent my life as a wizard bound to Flenec Yanre, you were free. the Solen’s hunting dog. I was trapped, doing his will!” Tears leaked from his eyes as he screamed his anger, his pain, at Velar.
Merrick didn’t even notice the trails of wetness on his face.
“Then you know what I know of them, they are gone now. We did what we had to. Now we might have to expand but we don’t need to breach the warping. It’s beyond us. For now. Take a moment to compose your self. We have time. The heart grants us that.”
Merrick nodded before fleeing from the room.
“Let’s move on, shall we?” Velar asked.
“Sir, we need to deal with it,” one of the members at the far end of the table called out.
“Stand up man I can’t see you very well.
The wizard stood, a large man white in hair and pale skinned. His rainbow eyes were dull.
“Vincent, good to see you here. Why do we need to deal with it right now? We have a great many things that would do more immediate good. all I suggest is sending someone to help the inhabitants relocate. That is all we can do while our resources are so stretched”
“Velar we have been friends a long time, you know I wouldn’t push for it if I didn’t think it needed doing.”
“Vincent I do know that, but I need reasons for all we do, I can’t justify it otherwise.”
“It’s a feeling, it needs doing and its right. We wounded the land. We have to set it right. It’s what we stand for, isn’t it?” Vincent stated with a passion that showed no where else, his body didn’t move.
“Yes we do stand for doing the right thing, well, I like to think we do, but the needs of the many… The warping isn’t harming us. It doesn’t cost us.
“Sir, I really do feel that it needs doing.”
“Tell me why. I can’t just order it done. It will cost lives when we can least spare them. Waves hit Westhaven.”
There were gasp as the news hit the room.
“We had one in Kelan.”
“We had one in Vilate.”
“Have they struck everywhere?” Velar asked looking around at the gathered members, these men were the most powerful in the world and yet they were trembling in fear.
“We don’t know, the orb network was disrupted. We don’t know the sources of the disruption,” Estus replied. “We can’t figure it out while its ongoing, we would need to summon all seniors again to get their reports.”
“Let’s not go down that route. The last time didn’t work so well. We now handle things amongst ourselves. You each have a few trusted seniors that you can speak to, but don’t reveal much. The Brak incident has left doubts in some minds.”
“Has he shown himself?”
“I don’t want to get into it in open council. We have other things to worry about right now. I want a progress report on the roads.
“I have three teams of golems clearing the rubble, a mage following being laying the bases. Master Enchanter Fion is working on the enchantment.”
“I spoke to him when I was in Westhaven, he is working on it. But he needs more details before he can do much more than the basics. He said something about how he can handle the self-repair but the protections depend on the materials used in the roads. He also wanted to know if you know what it needs imbuing into. I will let you get in touch with him about it. How much has been completed?”
“About ten miles on each road. North, south and east. We need Fion to figure out the permanent lifts to the city too.”
“We are wizards, surely someone here can do it, stop trying to hand it off to someone else.”
“But sir, he is a genius in his field.”
“He is also a nightmare to work with. You know who his master was. There are reasons, I just don’t want to put too much strain on someone that fragile.
That man is tough, he can take it.
Its not a matter of he can take it. its an issue of over reliance. What are we going to do if he dies? Or if he breaks again? Brak damaged him.”
“Sir, I feel now might be the time to discuss Brak,” Merrick said as he reentered the room.
“He has shown himself. We don’t know what his goals are, but he was working with a rebel faction in Westhaven. They destroyed the foundry, and its surrounding district, Senior Rysan still doesn’t have a complete body count. but the costs are in the millions of gold wizards range, just in damages. The harm caused by the loss of production we won’t know until we have restored the area. As most of you who keep up to date should know: the stone guild have been contracted to clear the area and restore as much as possible as quickly as they can. We need it functional.”
“So Brak was in Westhaven. what could his plan be?”
“I don’t know. He spoke to Fion briefly in another event not long after.It involved Tristan Sodden.
“Tristan? Is he that young Westhaven Mage?”
“Don’t play that game with me, you were the one that advised raising him. It has worked out so far, he passed the test. We now have a new member. During the wave a small group were attacks by gnomes. I have a few covert agents looking into it, but our forces are spread thin, it’s becoming an issue of what we can afford to do.”
“Raise taxes then” someone down the table called. The suggestion was met was many nods and agreements.
“That is an option but money isn’t the real problem. We don’t have the forces the men and women needed to do the work. We need more hands and minds.”
“Then we continue with the expansion slowly, but not beyond the warping, we need to consolidate our hold on what we have before we overextend” velar conceded
“I will send out a message to the seniors.”
“What else were we supposed to discuss today?”
“Just the project sir,” The young man reminded him.
“Alright to we have any further developments regarding the project?” Velar addressed the table again.
“A few. Greenlaw is almost fully converted. Participation in the training of various skills is on the rise. We have a huge number of intakes to the mage program, so much so that in a few years we will nearly triple our number of actives, if all goes well. Enchantments are becoming more commonplace. We have some more product lines coming along well, but we are suffering a shortage in both skilled workers and pure enough bases. We are missing a great many of the more homely items, we lack experience in those aspects.
“Can we not call in some advisors?”
“We don’t know where to get some from. This is a problem we are running into again and again. None of us know much about the more common usages possible, a lot of them got wiped out. We are having to start from scratch. The bigger usages, things like farming and construction aren’t a huge problem, we know enough and can call in people who are professionals.”
“Go regional. Each area has different needs. Send someone, a mage that is well balanced, in to see what people want, what they need.”
Nods went round the table again.
“Thank you sir. I will set up a research team.”
“Are we done here?” Velar called out, looking around at the wizards council. No one raised another issue. “Good, then I have some business to attend to.”
Velar stood and walked out.
The twins followed behind him.
“Find Brak, I don’t care what you have to do but bring him back. We can’t have wizards going rogue, I had hoped that the seniors would be able to report his whereabouts before he caused trouble but that seems a lost cause. Keep it quiet, we don’t need to alarm the people. But that’s the same reason we can’t put out a kill strike on him. I hope he has good reasons for all this.”
“He has done this before. You tasked him with the things that we can’t be seen to be doing.”
“I know, but this? He blew up a large chunk of one of our towns. He has been agitating for change for years. I trust him. I do, but this is too far without talking to us.
“He could be anywhere sir, he can make portals.”
He won’t do that as much as you fear, they have … costs.” Velar said hesitantly.
“We will search for him. Do you have any ideas where to start?”
“Check his chambers. Don’t use magic, he can tell. If he feels he is being hunted, the harm he could cause would be devastating.”
The twins nodded as one, in that disturbing way they had.
It left Velar feeling cold every time they were around, but they were trustworthy in a way few else would ever submit to.
They left him alone for the first time in years. Off to complete the mission he had tasked them with
Velar continued on to his office alone. He looked at his desk with the glowing map, but didn’t approach it. He stalked over to stand under the window, he looked up at the early moon its cold light shining down on him.
“Brak, where are you? I can’t lead without you. I never wanted this. This was your idea,” he whispered fervently as if in prayer into the deep silence of his office.
There was no answer.
Velar didn’t expect one, but he hoped.