I ached. I awoke on cold stone laying on my face. The light from the window was dim but still visible. My ribs hurt.
“Wake up,” a cranky voice from above me said.
I blinked and pulled myself up, the stiffness in my joints slowing me.
“You done? You fell asleep on my floor.”
“How long was I asleep? I asked as I rose to my feet. I wavered slightly.
“Not long, but I’m not happy about you sleeping on the job. I thought you mages were tough.
“I’ve finished. It was a big job for one man.”
“Pish, the old mages could have done it if they’d wanted. They were more powerful than you lot.”
“No they were monsters, controlled by the nobles; they weren’t more powerful, they had less restraint. Violence isn’t power.”
The old woman grumbled at being corrected, and walked off without even thanking me.
I walked slowly out the door and was greeted by the sight of Sophia standing in the middle of the street, looking around. when she saw me, one of her wide smiles spread over her face
“Tristan, where have you been? I’ve been looking for you all over!”she said rapidly
“What are you doing here? where is Airis? why aren’t you with Jase and Fion?” I asked with a scowl.
“Don’t be so grumpy, I was bored and I wanted to see you. Airis stayed behind to cover my escape. Don’t you like seeing me?” she replied her smile fading as she went on.
“I always like seeing you silly! But you’re not supposed to be out and about without supervision – or have you forgotten the gnome?
“I remember the gnomes, but they can’t get me here! There are grown-ups all around see?” She pointed at the few people on the street, as if they proved her point.
““That’s not what I mean and you know it, young lady!” I replied sternly, “But for now, let’s just go home – I’m tired.” I held out my hand for her.
“Sure!” she said happily, already back to her usual self, and took my hand with her own, small one.
We walked on unsteady feet down the smooth road. the evening air chill against me sweat dampened skin. the few people travelling the streets were bustling along. I spotted a fellow mage down the way. He was standing outside the doorway of a small house, gesturing wildly as he talked with the occupant. As we got closer, parts of the conversation drifted over to us.
Pay me the damn money…” said the older mage in a threatening tone. I’d never seen him before, but with the sudden increase of mages in this town, that wasn’t surprising. He was rather short, slim and his hair was cut very short. His left eye glowed with a reddish light, which usually meant he was a fire specialist, but that wasn’t necessarily reliable information. More interesting was the large, twisted scar running down the right side of his face, running clean through his eye – it had no glow, but rather a normal, green colour.
The occupant, trying to cower behind himself, replied with a low, terrified voice, “W-we don’t have that much…”
“Have the money by this time tomorrow or I won’t be able to protect you anymore, and you wouldn’t like that, now would you?” the mage hissed, his tone filled with anger. He took a single step back, raised his arm and a lance of fire shot out of his finger, burning a deep gouge into the wall of the building.
“Please sir mage, we have nothing to spare.”
“I didn’t ask for spares now did I ?” the mage said, his mouth raised in a smirk that distorted the scar even further.
Sophia let go of my hand and ran over to the mage.
“Hey you can’t treat people like that!” she shouted at the man
“Piss off, midget. This is none of your business,” he said and, without even turning around, lashed out with his hand, an invisible force knocking her away and to the ground.
I rushed forwards and grabbed the mages arm.
He turned his magic on me, roaring air hit me. I clung on, my teeth clenched. his arm came around, he wasn’t stronger than me. but he was better rested. My anger at seeing Sophia on the ground gave me strength when I needed it most but it wasn’t going to be enough as I felt myself weakening. I used my already depleted power to shift the stone beneath his feet. His balance shifted. I swung my fist. I connected just under his chin. I could hear his jaws click together. He actually looked at me then. I don’t know why he hadn’t before.
“Walk away mage boy, this is your last warning, this isn’t your concern” he said.
“You hurt my kid. You threatened this man. You’re my concern.” I hissed out as I readied a blast of my own.
“You can’t take me boy, I’ve been doing this all my life”
“Doesn’t matter if I can win, what matters is that I fight.”
I sent raw power down my arm, no fixed element or concept just the rawest unformed stuff, it was all I could manage.
It hit him but washed back on me. I let got of his arm in pain. My fingers felt burnt. I didn’t look, I focused on the mage.
He took a step back, a sneer on his face as he looked at me. In his hands was a ball of bluish white flame.
I pulled all the power I had left over my body in a makeshift shield. the bracer sigil in my mind tried to come forwards, but the ball hit before it could.
Flames washed over me, my shield burning through quickly. the heat hit. the air felt like lava scorching my lungs. I screamed.
The fire stopped, I couldn’t see. I could hear scuffling. there were voices.
I blinked my eyes started to clear, my magic must have protected my most delicate parts.
the mage was a few yards away. Surrounded by a mob, a small mob, but mob none the less.
I could feel the magic pouring out of them. Eight men and women of varying ages and sizes pouring out every shred of power they had . I could feel their links strain at the load but no one’s broke. The mage on the other hand was trapped in a circle of magic not his own, held by eight people. He threw fire and air in wild blows against them, as a team nothing touched them. The circle of power they had conjured held against it all. The sounds of him raging filled the early evening air. I turned my head to see Sophia picking herself up from the stone. I pulled myself up and stumbled over to her.
“You okay kid?” I asked.
“Yeah. He’s a bad man” she said. I caught sight of where he had caught he, a large bruise was blooming on the side of her face
“He’s a ventrasus, that’s worse. we have enough problems without them” I said anger burned through me at the sight of her injury.
I held out my hand and she took it. we walked slowly over to the circle. I looked from face to face. each one looked grim but resolute. the mage in the middle was spitting and snarling promising all kinds of vengeance against them their families, everyone and everything. it soon reached the point where he made no sense. my anger refused to settle.
“Sophia, could you look away please,” I asked gently.
“I have to do something. It’s important but not very nice.”
“You’re going to kill him aren’t you?” she said. She raised he had to touch the swelling bruise on her face.
“Yes” I said simply.
“I will look away.”
Thank you” I let go of her hand. Then I called the dregs of my power. the stone rose from the street into a slim pillar about the hight of my waist. I touched it small cracking sounds came from within and then I wrapped my hand around the now shaped hilt of a single bladed sword. Thin and serrated, made of white stone. I pulled it from the shattered remains of the pillar. It was far lighter than I would have otherwise thought. I stepped forwards to the circle sword in hand.
The mage saw me. He started to laugh.
“Going to kill me boy? I think not. You have no right.” he spat.
I stepped forward to the edge of the circle. the knacks holding it shuffled around to give me space.
“I have every right. You threaten the peace of the mages. you abuse the citizens we are sworn to protect. even now they are the ones who hold you, not I
“That because you’re weak. They are chattel”
“And worst of all you harmed my apprentice” I said ignoring his comment.
He paled at that.
“Under the laws of the awakened; to harm another’s apprentice without leave is a death sentence. What is your name?”
“Selac Freant” he said defiantly. He set his feet and squared his shoulder. His mismatching eyes locked on mine.
I inclined my head not in respect but in a formal motion that the solemn moment required. “Mage Selac Freant I name you Ventrastus, oath breaker, justice has come for you. May your next cycle be better. Go in peace.”
The circle was lowered and I swung the sword.