The inside of the building wasn’t very promising, I found myself looking upon it with an eye to demolition. It was that bad.
The door was intact although not functional. It sat next to the door frame it was supposed to fill.
I couldn’t even determine what the building had been used for. Dust lined every surface and the few remaining windows were grimy and black, hardly distinguishable from the walls except for streaks of light peering through.
“Looks good,” Brendon commented from just inside the door. I didn’t need magic to detect the sarcasm dripping from those two words. It must be a god thing bleeding over.
“The structure seems sound. We can work with this.”
“Any thoughts on how to do anything without magic?”
“Um, not really. I’d planned on using magic to get it back to rights.”
“Magic doesn’t work right here. You know that.”
“What’s actually wrong with it?”
“Not wrong exactly, but it leaves a mark. And that mark is not easily dismissed. The price is higher here.”
“That doesn’t explain anything, what price?”
“You should know the price. I’m not going to hold your hand Tristan Just be careful how much and what magic you do.”
“That is very clear. What magic should I avoid?”
“I don’t know, I don’t do magic like you, but Vesic’s memories say to avoid wizard magic. No sigils. The magic doesn’t like wizards here.”
“That’s not for me to say.”
“Why are you bound to silence on so much?”
“A god’s knowledge isn’t for men, there is so much that you must find out for yourself.”
I racked my brain for a few moments, thoughts flickering and dying until one struck me like lightning.
“Does this affect Vesic’s ability to appear here?” The words just fell out of my mouth as soon as the idea hit.
“Very good Tristan. Yes, he can’t come here. I’m on my own for the first time since I was a child.” His earlier confidence drained away and he trembled slightly.
“That’s what I can do for you.” I walked over to Brendon and placed my hand on his shoulder. “You won’t be alone, I will be here for you.”
“Thank you Tristan. I’m not a child, but I’ll admit it is unnerving to be alone in my head. Vesic has been with me for so long. It’s so quiet in here.”
“Let’s do something useful then to take your mind off it. We need to make this place habitable then set up shop. If we want to be helpful to the people, we need to make them see that joining the wizards is the right thing for them.” I stepped away to contemplate where to start. The sheer amount of work to do was daunting.
“Why did an army not get sent? It could have conquered them and been done with it.”
“I don’t know but I get the sense that all is not well. I’m here to gather trade and manpower. That sounds like a war is brewing to me.”
“It might not be a war, but it does seem likely. As a mage, you are a soldier in the wizard’s army. It the call goes out you will serve.”
“Who would we be fighting?”
“Last I heard tensions were mounting on the northern border.”
“What’s to the north?” Geography wasn’t my strong suit.
Brendon snorted. “From everything you have said, very little was your strong suit our northern border has been contested since the mage kings time, although it settled down while he ruled. The remains of the empire are to our north. Rashdan I think they call it now. They want their cities back. It’s been centuries and they haven’t forgotten the insult.”
“Few survived the waves anyway. Our society was almost destroyed, just look at this place. What do you think it used to be?” I asked as I ran my hand over a large desk that had clearly seen better days.
“It could have been almost anything. It has a military feel to it.”
“In the middle of the city? Do you not think it more likely to be an administration centre? There are a lot of desks in here.”
“Does it really matter what it was? We will be changing it. What it was doesn’t change what we will be doing.”
“It might change what we can do though. You know magic isn’t tied to time all that well. If I go restructuring it may change more than I intended.”
“True, we don’t want any ghosts here. It was probably military, maybe a quartermaster. All these desks, those filling cabinets.”
“There is a lack of anything enchanted, there don’t even seem to be voided bases. Nor any degraded parts. Nothing seems to be giving off any signatures.”
“Enchantment wasn’t as common before the wizards rose to power. It takes a mage to make a stable enchantment. Very few mages were outside of the noble’s control. Their fortresses we nigh impregnable, they were so laden with enchantment. This place has been neglected for a long time, even the nobles didn’t fight over it, there was nothing here. A near empty city, even one on a possible trade route wasn’t worth much, they had their wars to fight.”
I walked over to the corner of the room, there was a simple wooden chair, its four legs uneven but it was stable. I sat and looked over the room, taking and deep breath, closed my eyes and opened my other senses.
The room came alive with lights, streams and clusters like the stars had fallen all around me. Each line and flow was bright as if edged in moonlight, swimming here and there. The earlier darkness was gone, there were no death marks here. Brendon blazed, his eyes the brightest like miniature suns.
The magic that permeated the building, the very substance of brick and mortar was almost grey, faded and on the edge of failure. I summoned my power gently, it answered with a force I’d not expected. I gritted my teeth at the rush and pushed it out into the room. The flows already here started to gravitate towards me, the sheer amount of power calling them.
I turned my attention to the walls and floor, strengthening them. The grey rock that it had all been built from shifted, turning whiter. A humming sound filled my ears as the power flowed hotter, but I wasn’t done. Each beam and brick got reinforced. Whispers of voices skittered around the room as the power grew. Shadows deepened and lights brightened. The scent of dust faded away overpowered by smells of fresh cut stone, turned earth and green wood think with resinous sap.
“Tristan hurry up, you can’t hold it much longer.”
“Don’t you think I know that? I can feel my bones heating.”
With a final burst, the door flew back to its place, the wood regaining the lustre and shine that it must have had when it was first created.
I tried to sever the flow, but it wouldn’t stop. My link shivered as the power grew. A strange creaking could be heard, I noticed all my muscles were tense, they had been the creaking sound. They were pulling at me, tighter, trying to separate from my burning bones.
My other sight started to flicker and pulse. Brightness and darkness. Blind spots crawling and the flows inching steadily closer, their moonlight sheen turning darker, a sense of hunger radiating from them.
“Cut it off Tristan.”
“I can’t. It won’t stop,” I whispered as the pain dug its claws further into my mind.
The blaze that was Brendon stepped closer, the hungry flows shying away from his brightness, a glowing hand, lit from within, touched my head and I knew no more.
Traceries of light filled my vision, glimmers of something other. I couldn’t feel my body, I could see it but there was a distance, a void, separating me from it. I floated without anchor in this place that wasn’t a place.
Pulses run through the threads like blood through veins, a distant heart pumping that blood. I found myself following the pulses, seeking the heart.
Was I dead? Is this what happened at the end?
“Tristan,” a voice called.
The word sounded familiar, it meant something to me, to who I once was.
“Tristan is that you?” the voice called again.
I looked beyond the lights, away from the threads I was following. A huge stone edifice rose up, it floated. Parts of the world went by, each detached, unmoored from its place. Each in its own path, but this building stayed.
“Tristan my boy, what has happened to you?”
The ‘me’ that floated, looked down into a room, at a man with glowing eyes, like the ones my body had, far from here, or not. Distance was meaningless in this non place. I could look at my body and this room at the same time. I knew it was mine, though all memory of owning it was gone. Maybe not gone but beyond reach.
I knew this man, his name eluded me, but I know him down to the core of my being.
“Tristan, what have you done? You can’t be here like that. You will be shredded if you remain without a shell for too long. Go back.”
He was talking to me, did that mean I was Tristan?
“I can’t,” I said, the words just appearing, without sound. I don’t know how.
“You are lost, where is your body?”
Memories seemed to flow back into me with my name, it was mine.
“In Nelar? The place…? Called Nelar.”
“Go back, the shadows will consume you if you stay here. Your body is your home.”
“Jase, I don’t know how, I’m lost. I followed the pulse, I sought the heart, then you called me.”
His name came with the knowledge of my body. Feelings and attachments started to gain a hold on me.
“I missed you my boy, I thought I felt you, rightly so it seems. The heart is not for you. Don’t seek it, ignore the beat. It will lead you to harm where you are.”
“I can’t go back. The king has given up. He is without hope.”
“Then give him hope, as you once did for me. Show him that all is not lost.”
“That is for you to decide, you gave Sophia hope. You showed Lyphia a new side of life. You bring hope where ever you go. Don’t lose your own.”
“Nelar is dead. The people are nearly all gone. There is nothing there.”
“Don’t lose hope Tristan, aid is being sent, you won’t be alone for long. Mages are coming to help you.”
“People are coming? Good, it’s the first day here and it seems pointless.”
“Go back Tristan, you are fraying.”
“Just close your eyes.”
“I have no eyes here.”
“Just close your eyes Tristan, sleep and rest. No dream walking for you.”
I closed eyes that I didn’t have, the vision left me, a sense of rushing.
I could feel my body, oww. I opened eyes that felt gummy and blinked. I was laying down on something, I turned my head to the side and was violently sick. The room was brilliantly lit, small orbs of flame hung in metal cages mounted on the walls. The once grey stone shone with colours, the white marble reflecting the orbs light in a rainbow sheen. It made my head swim, it was too similar to the other place that I had floated. Brendon was nowhere in sight. I forced myself to sit up. I wavered to a seated position, I could feel the grain of the wood as I placed my hand to hold me still. I was sat on a desk. That’s was thoughtful of Brendon.
I slid forward to place my feet on the floor, wincing slightly as my foot touched the cool marble, the shock made my bones ache, the memories of them feeling as if they caught fire still fresh.
“Brendon,” I called, my voice breaking. I needed a drink.
“Here. “Came his voice, drifting from the hallway.
I tottered toward the voice, the smooth floor causing me to slip and slide on shaky legs. I rested for a moment on the door frame, the hall seemed to stretch on forever, its shiny walls reflecting light in eye-twisting patterns. I found my gaze following along, my head muddled and silent.
Brendon was standing in front of me, his body blocking my sight of the walls.
“You okay? You have been standing here for a long moment.”
“What? It’s only been a few beats. I came to get a drink,” I croaked out. My throat was so dry, my tongue felt thick and clumsy.
“We need to sort out some sleeping arrangements, as well as some supplies. I know you Mages don’t eat much, but you do still need to eat. We both need to drink.”
“Is there not a pump in this place?”
“I haven’t found one yet, but I’ve only just started looking. Your spell did far more than I think you expected. This whole floor and what I’ve seen of the next are transformed. I don’t imagine it will be long before we get curious people investigating the first real magic they have seen in a long time.”
“Is there anything left in the water skins?”
“A bit, I moved our bags into the room to the left. If you can follow me, we will get you something. You look unwell.”
I nodded, my stomach leapt with the movement, I could feel bile rising.
“Hey don’t be sick in here, this hall doesn’t have any windows. The smell would be trapped.”
I swallowed thick malty saliva and with it the rising vomit.
“Well done. Let’s go to the bags.”
“Did you even have a bag?” I asked as he led me down the hall, my treacherous body attempting to rebel with every motion. Throbbing echoes of heat and pain rung flashed through me with every step.
“I have a bag, it’s just small. I don’t need all that much. I guess that is going to change now that I have to sleep.”
“Have you ever slept?”
“Of course I have. Just not for a few months, Vesic has been in control more and more recently. It makes being without him that much harder, we have been closer than ever these last days.”
We passed through the doorway into a small square room, many doors led off from it. A nexus.
“I’ve never seen a room like this.”
“They aren’t used much anymore, but administration buildings find it to be efficient. If you look there, that small mark on the wall. There used to be a desk there where a person sat to oversee all in these offices beyond.” He raised an arm to point as we headed to the door next to it.
“How do you know all this?”
“Westhaven was nothing more than a farming community until recently, I grew up in haven. It’s an old city built in the fashion of the empire, even the nobles didn’t change much, they were busy. There were many buildings like this, this whole city is almost a copy of haven, even the streets are laid out in the same pattern. I would need to explore more to confirm but finding my way around shouldn’t be a problem.”
Our bags had been laid against the wall my sword next to them. Of Vesic’s sword there was no sign. I’d never seen it before he used it nor after.
“Stay there, we don’t want you over doing it. Brendon walked over to the bags, after a moment of rummaging pulled out my water skin. He came back and handed it to me.”
I fumbled a bit with the cap, but managed to open it. I raised the skin to my mouth. Warm stale water flowed down my parched throat, it was wonderful.
“Feel better?” Brendon asked with a chuckling laugh.
My face must have shown my enjoyment. I didn’t reply, I was busy.
A few moments later the skin was empty and I felt worlds better, not right or well but better.
“We have help coming, Jase is sending or has sent some mages to assist us.”
“How did you come by this information?”
In a dream.
Brendon looked at me sharply, a look loaded with suspicion.
“You were really there, we dismissed it. You visited our dreams. You shouldn’t have done that. Vesic doesn’t like sharing those parts.”
I stood there gawking at him.
“You heard his origin.”
“I did, but that was a dream. I didn’t think it could be real until now.”
“It was, but don’t bring it up. You shouldn’t know, no one knows.”
“I won’t. Anyways, when I was having my nap earlier, I floated. Jase noticed me. I have no clue how, I wouldn’t know where to begin with something like that, and how did he know to look anyway?”
“He is your master, the oath he took is still in effect. He might not be able to do much now that you are out of his hands but it will linger. You could probably do the same for Sophia. It’s necessary, training mages can be tricky, young people get in some strange difficulties.”
“Oh right, okay. Well, Jase mentioned that he has sent some mages here to help us. We just have to hold on till they arrive.”
“Tristan, I know you didn’t want this task but it’s yours. They won’t come and take over. You still have to do whatever you were planning on doing.”
“But having help will make it easier.”
“It might, although having more mages could make it worse. You felt how Nelar treats magic.”
“It’s so strong, but it’s wild.”
“Not just wild, corrupted. The empire never used magic, it didn’t affect them all that much. The waves never used to touch the physical so they were blind to it. It affects us and all that we do.”
“Why don’t they use magic?
“They just couldn’t, until they found us they never even knew it existed. It was all faith and miracles. Their gods are something different, distant. Their whole structure is based on divine right or something. Didn’t you get taught any of this? Never mind. There might even be a temple around here if I remember right, this city didn’t get changed much. Haven’s temple was changed to the noble’s manse. The things they could do with technology were amazing though. In that regard we are squatters living in the house of giants. If you look you will be able to see pipes all over the place, the pumping stations are derelict so nothing works like it used to but you can see how it once did.”
“We are in a war with them? Why is it a war? With our magic we should be able to finish it quickly.”
“They can use magic now. It’s not the same as ours, I’m sure you will see one day. The war is a war because it’s a level playing field we might have magic but so do they and they have numbers. Friction has been growing on the northern border for years. Ever since the waves. For some reason they only hit the duchies hard, the empire was almost entirely ignored. Since the wizards took control they have been trying to raise up the people, not just for the peoples benefit but for their own. This war is going to explode soon enough, be prepared for it. A mage is going to have a part to play.”
“I’m just a junior mage, they wouldn’t send me out there.”
“You aren’t as junior as you think. You would never have been given this task if you were.”
“I was given this task, as you put it, as a death sentence, surely Vesic told you, I have almost no chance of succeeding. Rysan is getting revenge for his Ventrastus friend. Hitting him probably made the situation worse.”
“Tristan, have a bit of faith in yourself. Vesic told you what you needed to hear. Death might be certain in life but you are more than fit for this task. We just need to stop you doing stupid things like burning yourself out, or blowing up forests.”
“Thanks for that, it’s not like I do these things intentionally.”
“You have had your drink, what is the next move?”
“I guess exploring this building and setting up some form of communication home.” the word home triggered something, an ache in my chest, Sophia, Lyphia and Airis were waiting for me. I blinked back tears.
Brendon laid a hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eye. “We will get you home soon. Do your duty. That’s what you mages say, isn’t it?”
“Sort of. I don’t know how it came about but duty seems to be the thing everyone thinks of about mages.”
“A curse. The old mages did unspeakable things in the name of duty. You have done things for duty too. You are here far from home because of duty. It’s not surprising that people think of mages and duty.”
“I guess it fits, I just wish they thought of something else.”
“It could be worse. You could be remembered for all the pain and death caused by mages. Or thought of as dogs.”
“Lovely. Well anyways we need to sort out something to make this place habitable, we have, I’m assuming, a squad of mages on their way. When they get here is anyone’s guess but I doubt they will be as slow as we were.”
“Probably not. I’ve not been upstairs yet. We will have to make sure it’s safe. You haven’t sensed anyone?”
“No but my senses aren’t to be trusted here. Too much power, it’s distorting everything and giving me a headache to go with the full body ache I have right now.”
“The joys of magic. If you are ready we should investigate the upper levels.”
“Give me a moment, I should take my sword.”
You should, have you noticed anything different about your handling of it?”
“I’ve hardly used it.” I walked over to pick it up. The smooth white stone was developing further markings. I slid my hands over the wide blade. The earlier smudges of colour were becoming more pronounced, the pure white of the blade brighter. An almost regular pattern seemed to be forming. I shot a glance at Brendon. “Did you do this?”
“No, Vesic didn’t either. It’s part of a mage weapon. They grow and change with the mage. I mean, do you feel anything within yourself?”
“It’s not, you have just learnt to carry it. Vesic gave you a gift, he felt you had earned it. Its temporary, you will need to learn the hard way if you want to keep it.”
“Basic skill with a blade. He could have made it permanent but that isn’t his way. A gift unearned is poison to the receiver.”
“Thank you I guess, I hope I don’t need to use it, but I can see how having another skill could be useful.”
“If you are ready let us go upstairs. I doubt there I much up there but it’s worth checking. We don’t want any nasty surprises.”
“Very well. I’m ready.”
We set off back to the entry hall, a small recess hid the stairs from view. The effect it created had spread further, I could see it leading up the enclosed stairwell. Light twisted in strange patterns casting shifting shapes all around me. I felt dizzy as we climbed, my body still not recovered from earlier. The temptation to pull a trickle of magic came over me, my link swelling with the sheer volume of power in the air. A kinda of pressure built in my head as it weighed on me. A tide of magic at its peak just begging to be used. The voice of magic whispering, pleading, to be commanded.
I looked to Brendon, he didn’t seem to be feeling it, if he was there was no sign of discomfort.
“Should we split up?” Brendon asked at the top of the stairs. The hall led in opposite directions.
“I don’t think so, it may be quicker but it’s not worth the risk or running into something we can’t handle alone.”
Brendon nodded, a small smile on his face. “Lead on then.”
I shifted my grip on my sword, the smooth hilt slick in my sweaty hand.
I could hear nothing, the pressure grew, like a vice around my head, squeezing. The light that reflected off the walls was steaming in through a set of large windows lining the hall. Their clouded glass didn’t let me see through. The hall led straight thick wooden doors opened into rooms and offices. We didn’t examine each one thoroughly, the dust and random debris was convincing enough to reassure us that there were no people in here. At the end of the hall another set of stairs.
“This should be residence quarters if this is an administration building. The empire were firm of regulation all the scribes and officers lived above their place of work. Citizens had the same rules with exceptions made for families.”
“That is a very strange rule.”
“Efficiency. They didn’t have magic to make things easier for them. The whole empire spanned this continent, several thousand miles. Discipline was harsh. I don’t even know how long they ruled for, but Vesic knows more about the empire than I can handle. He keeps walls around that knowledge.”
“Was Vesic really the mage-king?”
“Don’t bring it up please. He doesn’t like reminders.”
“But how did he become a god?”
“Why do you ask? You aren’t thinking of trying to become one yourself?”
“No, living forever seems like a curse to me. Being without a body of my own, no he can keep that dubious blessing.”
“Good. I don’t understand how it happened, but it’s not good Tristan. There is nothing but pain down that path.
“Okay change of subject then. Why are you still here?”
“I have a reason for being here. This place is special to us. I’ve never seen it with my own eyes.”
“The birthplace of the mage king?”
“Yes. Vesic can’t bear the place, the magic is too wild.”
“Why is it too wild? I know it’s different, that is painfully obvious to me, but why?”
“You know the magic absorbs imprints from its users, here it’s taken on a great many conflicting imprints. Growing wilder with every generation.”
“Is there a way to heal it?”
“I don’t know, I’m not classically trained. Maybe when those other mages come you will be able to work something out.”
A sharp sliver of pain rang through my head. A rising scream of power shock the air.
“What was that?” Brendon asked, a sick look on his face.
“I don’t know. But it’s getting stronger and its outside.”
“We should stay here then.”
“No whatever it is, there are people in this city, not many, but they might need help. I have to get down there.”
“You aren’t in any shape to be helping anyone, you have blood dripping from your ears.”
“It’s the pressure. They don’t have any defence against whatever this.”
“Neither do you. Your magic will kill you.”
Can’t you feel this? It’s lethal. These people need someone to stand up for them even if it futile.
“You aren’t a hero Tristan. You are a mage, you have a job to do that you can’t if you die.”
“I’m doing my duty. This is magic. It’s my job.”
I turned and ran down the stairs, my legs solid beneath me. I could do this. This was my purpose, my reason. I stand between the people and the harm that magic can do. My body hurt and my head felt like it was going to explode but my body wasn’t my own, I took an oath, I would see it through even if it killed me.
I rushed out of the door and looked around, the setting sun shone through the gaps between buildings casting the area in blood red light, hints of night approached as the sky went dark around the edges. I caught a glimpse of people running at the far end of the street. An eerie silence filled the air, expectant, hungry.
The screaming pressure in the magic, just stopped. Its absence felt wrong. I opened my sense with a reckless abandon, the street lit up with power, the flows and streams blindingly bright and wavering. They shifted in their beds, overflowing like a river busting its banks. There was no sense of disruption like with a wave, this was something else.
The wash of power hit me, I felt…. cleansed, as if all my pain and everything bad that had ever happened to me just vanished. Peace, warmth and comfort permeated my body and mind. I just stood there, sword in hand, looking at nothing.
A thump ran through the ground, shaking me out of whatever that was. I turned my head seeking the source.
A troll, vaguely humanoid, it had to be 10 foot tall, massive shoulders and long arms, its greenish yellow skin slick with mucus as if it had just been born.
A birthing pit, could be the only answer.
It was coming, the earth shivered with each step, its oversized club dragging and bumping along the cobbles.
Trolls are nasty corruptions of magic, they aren’t a real species. They are constructs, sort of. They can’t be made like golems, they have to be grown. Areas of magic that get twisted occasional produce troll birthing pits. But they never reached this size. They were always neutralised quickly.
I gripped my sword tightly, settling the hilt into my hand, the smooth stone warmed in response.
The troll saw that I wasn’t running and roared.
The sound set my head to ringing like a bell. The smell assaulted my already recently nauseas senses, I fell back a step.
I blinked watering eyes, took a very shallow breath to clear my airways and set my sights. The troll had got close while I was distracted by its stench. It was nearly on top of me.
I lifted my blade just in time to catch the club coming down. Flames bloomed along the sword, the freshly forming sigils glowing bright in the spreading gloom. I shifted my body, the club slid down the blade to land on the cobbles next to me.
The troll snarled and raised the club once more.
I took the chance to lunge, the burning blade driving into the troll’s hip. The flesh sizzled and smoke poured from the wound. Worms of dark green light crawled through it, fighting the fire.
The flames spread setting fire to the troll’s blood. It flowed from the gash like water.
I pulled back as far as I could. The troll started flailing, beating at the burning wound. The fire caught on its hands.
Fire is pure, it destroys but it also renews. A troll spawned from corruption is weak to fire, really weak. The twisted magic of it make up fails in the face of fire.
It roared again. A burning arrow whistled through the air, its cloth wrapped head landing in the trolls shoulder. The green worms of light slithered away, the fire too much for its regenerative powers.
I stood to the side watching the troll disintegrate, threads of light and fire weaving through its flesh, a pool of vicious, foul smelling green slime growing under its feet. It dropped the club with a thump as its arms lost integrity.
Its bones seemed to be holding on the flesh falling off them to land in the growing puddle.
I lowered my sword as I watched my foe break apart. The earlier pain came roaring back but the shock of defeating a troll held the worst at bay.
“What the fuck do you think you are doing?” a voice called from down the street, young but angry.
I turned my head slowly, I felt dazed.
There was a young woman, dirty and malnourished by the looks of her. A bow was held loosely in her hand. She marched down the street. A fierce anger in her step as if the paving had wronged her.
“That was a troll you moron. You don’t close with a troll. You pepper the bastards with flaming arrows, from a distance. What do you think you are doing?”
“I was protecting people.”
“What people? There isn’t no one here. Trolls are stupid, they go for what they can see. We hide, didn’t you hear the bell?”
I closed my eyes for a moment, before raising them to her face. Another problem
“Whoa, what are you?” She swung the bow into a firing position. An arrow had found its way on to the string. “Answer me before I shoot, I haven’t got a problem with shooting monsters.”
“I’m not a monster. I’m a mage.”
“Ha, mages don’t come here. Do you take me for a fool?”
“I really am a mage. Mage Representative Tristan Sodden, sent by the wizards to persuade you to join us. I’ve spoken to your king.”
He isn’t our king. All he does is sit up there and watch us die. Despair has got its claws into that one. Madness too if I’m any judge.”
She lowered her bow, but still seemed wary.
“I don’t know what I can say to convince you, but this might.” I pulled a sliver of magic into me and commanded the dirt on the street to flow away. Pulses of magic tried to distract me, the same siren call I’d heard in the foundry. I gritted my teeth and closed my link as tightly as I could.
Her blue eyes widened at my little magic show. “You shouldn’t have done that, magic is bad here.”
“No, magic is powerful here. I’ll grant you that it’s a bit twisted up, I can’t even see how it is meant to flow, so it’s been like that for a long time. But it’s not bad. Magic is a tool, a natural force, it can’t be bad, just neutral. It’s us that make good or bad use of it.”
“Trolls are not neutral, they are stinking corruptions.”
“Look I’d rather not stand around discussing this, the smell is giving me a headache. Have I convinced you or not?”
“That you’re a mage, yeah, but I’m not buying that the council sent you. They have done nothing for us. Even the nobles wouldn’t touch this place. Wizards came once when I were a kid, that’s it, they never came again.”
“Well I’ve been sent. I’m not going to argue with you. I want to help, I just don’t know where to start.”
“Cut that out. Being weak gets you killed here. Trolls are the least of it.
“You know my name, what’s yours?”
“Lexis, you hear that?” She turned her head, listening.
Tilting my head, I could hear the faint ring of a bell echoing around. Oddly sharp rings compared to the normal slower drawn out sound.
“That’s that all clear. Just one tonight it seems.” She turned and started to walk back the way she had come.
“I hope to see more of you. Things like this should be happening.”
“No they shouldn’t, but we don’t live in a world of should and shouldn’t, this is what is. Don’t get yourself killed. Your best bet is to go back where you came from and leave us to our business.”
I turned to see her off. Then walked into my headquarters. I still needed to sleep yet.