This is just a friendly reminder that Magelife is now fully edited and available to buy
I’m hard at work on something, that will be revealed in the fullness of time.
This is just a friendly reminder that Magelife is now fully edited and available to buy
I’m hard at work on something, that will be revealed in the fullness of time.
I actually woke up pleasantly for a change. No people stood watching me. I was alone. It was nice, sort of. It did remind me that most of what I cared from was back home, far from here. But I would be going home soon. My task was almost done. I dressed slowly, feeling my muscles slide over each other, I’ve always loved that feeling when you first wake up and stretch yourself out. My stomach rumbled in protest at the lack of food it had received in the very busy last few days. Sadly, I couldn’t eat this early in the day. I felt slightly sick just thinking about it. Midday would be fine; I didn’t feel weak from hunger just yet.
I walked down the hall to the stairs adjusting my sword’s harness; it hung ever so slightly off balance that took a bit of settling.
I found Brendon seated in the chair at the end of the hall, not doing anything as far as I could see, he didn’t even notice me. His burning eyes were fixed on something beyond my sight.
I didn’t push it, he could be doing anything in the strange places in his head, sharing mind and body with a god has to do odd things to a man.
I carried on down to the main hall; I really needed to pick a name for it. I pushed that aside with a small mental shrug.
Orb and Telsan were discussing something, but both stopped when I reached the desk.
“Morning Tristan I trust you slept well?”
“I did, there was clearly nothing that needed my attention. Did you sleep well?”
“I didn’t sleep; there was too much that needed organising for our departure.”
“All the current needs are accounted for; I have been formulating plans for growth and development. The stone in this area is perfect for enchantment and warding. It is a valuable resource that we can transport between the duchies, depending on the infrastructure. My knowledge of current development plans throughout the duchies is incomplete; I will request an update once my connection is solid. It will be another mark or so.”
“Thank you Orb, do you have a designation yet? I feel uncomfortable just addressing you as Orb, I knew another and I would like you to have a name if possible.”
“I’m the Nelar Orb, any further designation will be granted by my master.”
“Alright, orb it is for now.”
“Telsan, what has been done in my absence?” I asked.
I was told in excruciating detail everything that had been done, with interjections and updates from orb where relevant.
The sun slanting through the windows crawled down the walls, shifting the few shadows. I found my gaze drawn again and again to the changing light marking the movement of time. It crawled by.
“My connection is firm, I can reach for the Westhaven orb now if you wish.”
“Please. I need to speak to Jase.”
“Give me a moment.”
The ball of light flickered through most of the colours of the rainbow before settling on a yellow that was nearly golden.
“Tristan are you there? I can’t see you.” Jase’s voice sounded worried.
“I’m here; Nelar is a part of the duchies now.”
Jase’s chuckle echoed through the room. “Of course you succeeded, never doubted you for an instant. Well in that case come home as soon as you can, I have two very concerned redheads and a stone boy waiting for you. Bring the others if you can.”
“We need to leave someone in charge here, this orb needs a master apparently.”
“That is correct master Jase.”
“Right you are, well Telsan do you want the job, raising to senior? I will confirm it with Velar but I doubt he will have any issues.”
“Jase, I don’t want the job but I will take it as a short term post. But only until someone more qualified can be sent.”
“Very well. That should be fine.”
“Jase, how can I come home? Rysan sent me here to die, it was an exile.”
“It was, but a funny thing happened while you were away. I had a word with a friend of mine, he checked out your story about Selac Freant, he had been abusing the people for a long time, and Rysan was in on it. Rysan is no longer in Westhaven; he has been recalled to Greenlaw to answer charges in front of the wizards. You are free to come home.”
I was speechless, grateful beyond words that Jase had risked his position and possibly his life to bring Rysan to justice. I finally found my voice.
“I will be home once my duty is done.”
“Good man. Is there anything you want passing to the girls and Airis?”
“Just tell them… tell them I love them and will be home soon.”
“I will. Telsan you are in command. Nelar Orb Mage Telsan is your master until he is relieved. Is that understood?”
“Then farewell all. May the heart bless you.”
Jase’s voice faded away then, the connection severed.
I was going home.
Standing in the centre of the Nelar Mage headquarters alone was a strange experience. The men had cleared out on my orders and I was seated, legs dangling, on the desk in the main hall’s reception. I still could never work out what to call this part of the building. But it wasn’t important right now.
In my hand was the Orb seed, its glassy structure bending the light in the room in very strange ways. It sent shapes and colours onto the walls that weren’t found anywhere in the room naturally.
The doors were barred and a couple of my mages were outside keeping all away.
This had the potential to go so very wrong. Most mage magic was just expressions of will using concepts as a sort of lever against something that was so vast it was beyond the mortal mind to comprehend. As you advance, you get taught lots of little ways to compartmentalise thoughts feelings ideas. But this thing in my hand was beyond all that.
It was a spell that covered so many parts of magic, so many concepts. It touched so much that it was more than many could handle. It could interact and change, grow and develop.
The Westhaven Orb was a golem in only the most superficial sense. In some ways close to what Airis could be, in others nowhere near.
Orbs could know anything with in their range, as they grow and get more complicated they get more powerful, more able to use that information.
They are normally one of the final things set up after the basics, so that they can give the senior, at his request, anything about the health of its area.
But in a city this large that had been without magic for so long, I feared what an orb could do. It could interact with the unnatural creatures, maybe some of the older, more primal magics that seeped into everything, that were everything. In tamed towns and cities, mages and knacks worked constantly building on what was there, cultivating, nurturing. It made them safer.
There was none of that here.
All this went round and round in my mind as I watched the light dance over the walls.
Sitting here alone watching the light show reminded me sharply of Sophia and Lyphia, the show we had seen and the players that I had promised patronage if they helped train my apprentice: The promise that I’d been unable to keep as I had been exiled from Westhaven, another responsibility to live up to.
And just like that, I made up my mind.
The desk I was sat on was solid oak. The whole thing was made from a single tree, the top was a slice clean through the trunk as if the tree was planted here, then cut and in many ways, it was. It was reshaped by magic, made for this very purpose, roots of wood spread throughout the floors and walls of this building. That was something I had figured out from my intense although brief study of the orb seed. The very enchantments that had been used here were standard for all headquarters for this very reason. Not exactly, secret knowledge but their other use was less well known. They meshed with an orb.
I stood, planting my feet on the smooth stone floor and then I laid the glass ball on the desk, in the centre of the rings, the very core of the once tree.
My hand brushed over the seed as I opened my link wide and plunged into the torrent of sigils that made up the construction of spell.
Vast emptiness greeted me.
I stood, my mind stood, in the void. My senses alert to anything as magic poured out of my body into the seed. I could feel it but I was removed, somewhere else. One by one stars appeared in the void with me, each with its own voice, calling out and filling the space with sound. Pure notes touched by emotion, ideas given form. They gradually illuminated the void; there was nothing to see except them, each trying to draw my attention. Soon there were thousands. They danced and swam all around me.
I reached my mind’s hand out to touch the nearest, complex ideas and diagrams, shapes. Few words were conveyed although solid meaning lodged in my head: An anchor. As I held it part of the material world slid into focus, the room around me this single star was the core all the other built upon, it went into the desk, the core of the tree, linking it to place, location.
The glass ball under my body’s hand sunk into the desk, the rings opening to accept it. Its progress was slow but fluid through the grain of the wood, living wood that grew, its roots spreading, pulling nutrients and giving influence, reach.
The next star to come to me was just as complex, its ideas, the foundation of body. Building on the anchor it gave the Orb a form, The same form as the one in Westhaven but younger, more fluid. It was a ball of light and air, joining the ideas of knowledge and intellect. On to the anchor sigil it went, growing link by link, they interwove tying one to the other.
The next was harder; it was almost pure knowledge, a skill set, but adaptive. A flexible shifting thing that defied any solid grasp, into the body it went, all building into something.
Time had very little meaning here, I had no idea how long I had been building the orb, its network. The last few remained, and I was tired. The wonder of creating something so… magical was draining out of me and exhaustion took its place.
Each star took power from me and through me, pulling on me as like a child demanding constant care and attention. A couple of times I had felt myself slip, and the links woven between stars had shifted fraying. Despite being nearly finished I couldn’t rest or let up or all my work would be undone and the power I had spent would need to go somewhere.
The final stars slowly, so slowly slid into place, I didn’t even look where they needed to go I just placed them where they told me. Their purpose clear to me now in this state of numb receptivity.
The last locked in and the void shattered, I fell back into myself.
I staggered on my feet, my legs long since dead, most of a day spent on my feet, unmoving, will do that to you.
Stretching them out brought pain and tingling heat shooting through the numbness that pervaded my body. Sweat, thick and oily sheathed my body, its cold slickness soaked into my clothes. A twitch in my hand brought my attention to the now sunken bead of glass that it rested on. I pulled it back and massaged blood back into it.
“You are Mage Representative Tristan Sodden,” a voice called into the empty hall.
My mind was too numb to make sense of anything right now, but the voice was clear and familiar.
“Orb, I did my task well then, if you are awake.”
“You did, Mage. I’m aware and alert. Not yet fully capable but that will come in time. Who is to be commander here?”
A small ball of light floated out of the sunken bead, its form almost identical to my Orb back home except much smaller, maybe half the size and its colour was closer to green than blue.
“Oh, there had been a question, hadn’t there?”
“That hasn’t been decided just yet. I will need to speak to my second and to Master Jase before such a decision can be made.”
“How come you talk like this? The Westhaven orb has a personality.”
“My limitations are in place until such a time as I have a master.”
“Well that makes sense. I will get on that as soon as I can. Now if you will excuse me for a moment I need to open the doors and let my men in, it’s been a long day already and I expect they will want to rest.”
At my words, the doors swung open, the enchantments unlocking them. I turned to look between the doors and orb.
“You did that?”
“You wished it. Until such a time as I have a master, I’m to obey all lawful commands from a mage. You are in the command structure.”
“Thank you, although could you not do that until give clear commands please. It could be dangerous.”
“Will you be alright by yourself for a few moments while I summon the men?”
“I will but I can call the men here, there are seven pendants in my range, although one is inactive and you are without one.”
“Oh. Do you mind if I sit? It’s been rather exhausting.”
“Sit Tristan Sodden, Mage Representative. I have knowledge of the process until such a time as I have a master. It must have been a drain on you.”
“It was. Thank you.” I stepped slowly around the desk, my legs still not happy with me for their abuse, to the chair and sat.
“The summons has gone out. They will be here soon.”
As I sat gazing at this baby orb, a slow and sluggish thought started to take shape.
“Can you scry?”
“Not as you imagine, but I can look upon remote locations and people. Depending on many factors.”
“You can use magic even though you are made of magic.” The statement fell from my lips without thought.
“We are not so different mage, as I was created, you were created in turn. Your bodies are shapes containing minds capable of thought and feeling, although my feelings are muted until I have a master, and magic. My body is made of light and air, yours earth and water, in the main, air for breath and fire for heat. Not so different really mage.”
“No not so different at all. I never thought we were really. I just wondered if you can scry can you let me look upon my apprentice.”
“I can but it will use up energy that I will need to continue the process you started. Already the roots quest out; enchantments to detect various things are being put in place. Once that is complete I will be fully capable of fulfilling your request.”
“I can wait; I don’t want to damage you.”
“The men have return Tristan.”
“Thank you.” I stood and walked around the room, waiting for the promised men to arrive.
Telsan was the first through the door followed by the other in a staggered procession; they all carried small glyph-screens and looked distracted.
Telsan looked from me to the newborn orb. “You did it then after you sent us away I wasn’t sure you would survive.”
“I survived,” I smiled tiredly. “It was hard work but I think my part of it is done now.”
“It is Tristan until a decision on my master is made I will draw my power through the roots. A mage’s energy is easier but I need the bond to make it work.”
“You aren’t like the Westhaven orb at all are you?”
“In fact I’m almost identical, that orb has been restricted by its master. I have connections forming that link me to all Orbs, we are all linked together, and soon I will be able to actively use that connection to communicate.”
“How soon?” Lysar said. He had stood next to the desk, and I hadn’t even noticed
“At this rate a turning of the earth.”
I looked over to Telsan a wild grin stretching my face.
All the men smiled back, being cut off from home was the worst nightmare of many of these men, which was over, almost.
“Good, I’m beat. I need to rest. Is there anything I need to know before I go to sleep?”
“It’s only early evening. The sun it’s even down yet, although it’s not far off,” Lysar said.
“I’ve channelled a lot of magic today. I’m done.”
“Get some rest, we can handle this. Now that we have an orb, we can get all this set up easily enough. It will take time but it’s not hard.”
“Okay, wake me if I’m needed.”
Telsan waved me off, not even bothering to comment.
I headed off to the stairs, my legs still not overly happy with me but only mildly complaining.
My room was empty, just a bed and a basin but that was all I needed right now. I stripped off my clothes my sword and scabbard then ran the water, it was cold, so just a quick wash to take the grimy oily residue off.
I grabbed the strap on my harness and pulled it with me over to my bed, I didn’t want it far from me, just in case. Laying down and staring at the celling didn’t work well for sleep but closing my eyes and focusing inwards, turning my thoughts to the concepts that I had learnt back when I was first at the academy did. The gentle reminders of home and how soon I could be there calmed me enough to rest.
I was borne away to the land of dreams, my head filled with peaceful visions of home.
I stepped into the highest room in the tower; it took up the whole floor and some. Almost half of the space was balcony that wrapped around the top of the building. It created a wonderful effect of being open to the elements, which was ruined by the three men here.
Iason Aleres looked much the same, slightly more bedraggled but overall the same. His smug look made me tighten my grip on my sword.
Lessor nodded at me respectfully, he didn’t seem to be carrying a grudge about Vance.
Brak was in the centre of the room, the two other men apart from him, dark smoke flowed from his arms all the time he just stood there looking at me with a small smile on his face.
Memories of my imprisonment tried to show themselves but I shook my head and focused on the here and now.
“Why are you here?” I asked.
“You tell me Tristan, you knew we were here, correct?” Brak said. He sounded so much like Jase, in his lecture mode that I almost told him how I had worked it out.
“I don’t think that’s how it works. I’m not your student. I’m not your friend. You have been declared rogue. The wizards are hunting you.”
“The twins will be hunting me,” he corrected gently. “I doubt Velar would have sent anyone else. He won’t have publicly declared me rogue. He trusts me, as well he should.”
“How can anyone trust you? You have killed and destroyed for…” I trailed off. I still had no idea why he had done any of it.
“He trusts me because I’ve earned it. We have been friends for a long time.”
“So why do any of this?”
“You haven’t figured it out? I’m disappointed; I had such hopes for you.”
“I think I have but the foundry doesn’t make sense.”
“That was never part my plan.” he looked pointedly at Iason. “It was a price I had to pay.”
“But why? People died. That doesn’t benefit anyone.”
“Ask Iason why if you must but this spell has to happen. I had help the last time we cast it, this time I have to do it alone.”
The smoke, sigils, flowed from Brak’s body and drifted out to join the rest of the spell. The strain of casting so many had started to show, he looked drawn and pale.
“Iason, care to tell me why so many people had to die for you? Or how you could compel a wizard to do your bidding.”
“I don’t owe you answers.” Iason relied haughtily. “Count yourself lucky you still breathe.”
“Don’t be such a prick Ias, the boy deserves answers. He has been caught up in our plans far too often to not give him an explanation,” Lessor said.
“He saved my father, he deserves an early grave.”
“Boys this is delicate, I could do without an argument.”
“Then forget the foundry for now. Why are you here and what are you doing? Commanding an army of monsters against helpless people, that isn’t what wizards should be doing.”
“I’m doing what needs to be done. You have figured out that a wizard would be here. But you have an education, the common people don’t. They don’t need to know. They will welcome the council with open arms. You and your friends down there will be hailed as heroes for coming to their defence in their time of need. Nelar secure, the trade route open and free to use. The manpower to fight this war as it needs to be fought. Everything we need.”
“This isn’t the way.”
“It’s the only way, don’t be so naive. Velar thought peace was the way too, but I’m showing him this war is unavoidable, we didn’t start it but we will finish it.” The affable veneer started to crack as his exhaustion got to him.
“What man power? There is no one here.”
“Did you hear that boys, no one here. What do you think they trade for food? Dust? They have men, soldiers that hire out, sleepers but they have seen combat,” Brak said.
“I was born here,” Lessor said. “I know how it works, the king’s guard. Not that idiot downstairs but the mage king, Nelar was his home too. The very start of our way of life began here. We serve in the merc corps; every man over the age of blooming does his time to pay his way. That is an army that is needed. This will bring them out and strike a blow at the empire.”
“So why the foundry? Why hurt the duchies? Your own people?”
“To stir things up, to generate the emotion needed to fight a war. The foundry was Iason’s idea, his price for his help. Westhaven should never have been a target. It got out of hand and for that I apologise,” Brak said sincerely.
Lessor nodded at that but Iason looked unhappy.
“Don’t give him anything. No apologies’ no nothing. Jase deserved it.”
“Pull out the monsters, the civilians shouldn’t pay the price for this.”
“You don’t know the half of the prices the people have paid. It might not be fair but that’s how it is. The last war cost us badly, the nobles needed to be taken out,” he stopped a hitch in his voice. “We broke the world to save it. We did what we had to,” Brak said intently, it felt like he was trying to justify his actions to himself, more than to me.
“What are you talking about?”
“He means the waves Tristan, they were the first strike against the nobles,” lessor answered.
“The waves were natural. There have always been waves.”
“No they weren’t and there haven’t been waves on that scale, ever.”
“But how? Why?”
“You wouldn’t understand, its wizard magic,” Iason spat.
“Shush Ias. I’m sick of your attitude. You have been nothing but a hindrance to my mission all along. You have no understanding or care of what we are doing. I made a mistake with you. All you care about is some petty revenge against your father for something that wasn’t his fault. Let it go and if you can’t do that, just shut up.” Brak snapped at Iason before turning back to me. “Magic is a thing separate yet part of our world, it has its own rules, and it even has mass. It can act in all sorts of ways if you have the knowledge and insight to see. I researched a spell many years ago, this one, which makes a massive change in pressure, causing magic to flow from one place to another. It’s much more dramatic than that, once the event has been set off it builds until it creates waves, very much like on the ocean, peaks and troughs, once one has grown either high or low enough it touches on this world, affecting everything. It can destroy and warp, the results aren’t always predictable. They have been settling for years but it’s the perfect weapon to launch at the empire, they should be too damaged to retaliate.”
“You caused hundreds of thousands of peoples deaths in the first waves and now you want to do it again? It’s madness.”
“It needs to be done, we can’t fight the empire fairly, we are just too small.”
“We have wizards and mages, even sleepers can fight, we don’t need to do this.”
“Tristan you are too young to understand but sometimes the hard choices have to be made.”
“I know about hard choices, I’ve made my own. Please don’t do this. There is always another way.”
“I have to. And so do you. As a mage you swore to obey the council, I speak with the council’s voice.”
“I swore to serve the council; I will have no part in this. This is against the values of the council.”
“You have no choice. I call your oath due. You will follow my orders to the letter.” A sliver of light slipped from his lips with his words, it floated into the air before twisting into chains of darkening light, it struck at me.
I stumbled back, but it caught on my wrist. The chains slithered up my body, wrapping around me.
I could feel the rising pressure in my head as the oath tightened around my links, compelling me to obey. I took a step forwards, each movement slow and sluggish.
I knew what needed to be done I just had to get there fast enough.
“Tristan Sodden, Mage, oath-bound servant, your master’s call. Obey and submit.” Every word that Brak spoke bound me tighter, the chains growing heavier and tighter.
“Give up Tristan, it will go easier on you,” Lessor said, compassion on his face.
Pain started to dig its claws into my mind. I took another step. Magic wasn’t an option now; my links were being choked by my oath.
“Do your duty mage.” The wizard finished the final line, and the oath snapped taut.
I smiled as felt my mind still: No thoughts, no pain, nothing, just emptiness. I no longer fought, my duty was clear.
I crossed the remaining distance, barely a few steps and slid my blade into Brak’s side.
“How?” A befuddled look passed over Brak’s face, the rainbow eyes clearing for just a moment, and then the spell that he cast was complete. The final sigil floated away to join the rest.
It didn’t go off dramatically. The sphere flickered into more than its parts, a solid ball of swirling colours then it flew away rapidly without sound, north. To the empire
Brak still lived, the wound wouldn’t be life threatening, he slid off my blade with a pained moan just as a step sounded from behind me. I turned my head to see the twins entering the hall.
They knelt next to him, one on either side. One touched his wound. The other whispered in his ear.
Brak smiled and sigils started floating away from him, they hovered in a ring around them.
Iason and Lessor stepped into the ring, their shock at me stabbing their boss short-lived but welcome.
“Be seeing you Tristan,” one of the twins said, I couldn’t tell them apart.
The ring activated leaving nothing behind. They were all gone, portaled away beyond my reach.
I was left alone at the top of the tower, bloody sword in hand, feeling empty and confused.
In the distance, I could hear the bell tolling the all clear.
The nights activities seemed to catch up with me then, I sank to my knees, all my strength gone. I’d been too late to stop everything; the waves were coming again if Brak was to be believed. The monster army was free, no longer under command; it should be easier to mop up. But not right now. Right now, all I wanted was to go home, to hug Sophia and Lyphia. The waves were coming and everything was about to get worse.
I raised my head to look out at the sky. Flames covered the clouds, flickering light falling down on the city. Each building seemed to be shadows painted against the sky
The bell stopped ringing as the sky exploded with lights. Green and blue threads of magic were suddenly visible without othersense. They covered the sky the earth everything, these were the forces behind the world brought into sight by Brak’s spell. The earlier pressure of the oath came back, but this time it felt as if the air was heavy, like a storm.
The threads throbbed with power like rivers in flood. I could feel something building in the magic. The voice I heard at times, always there but not always audible, was screaming now in tortured agony. The ribbons of power twisted with a pulse then splintered into fragments. It looked like it was raining light, beautiful if you didn’t know that it was the end of the world, again.
I remembered, I’d been a child, but that hadn’t changed anything. The waves killed indiscriminately. They had destroyed so much; parts of Westhaven still hadn’t recovered. So many people lost. We had never been a large nation; we couldn’t handle the losses well. Nearly everyone had lost someone in the waves. Refugees fled the wreckage of their homes, their lives. Monsters had vanished from the world in the wake of the waves, but so had the best magical creatures, the fair folk, creatures that helped, that benefited the magic. Their magic was different to ours but close enough that we could each learn from each other. It was said that all wizards studied with one to gain their status. Now it looked like it had been our own that had caused the waves, my oath made the protection of magic my priority, I had to stop further harm.
I was way out of my league. All I wanted was to go home. But I had a job to do. I needed to fix this city and bring it under the council’s control. If everything I had heard was right, we had a war to fight against the empire.
I walked to the edge of the balcony and stood a moment looking at the start of the end. It was beautiful. Each fragment of light fell on the city, touching monsters and buildings alike. The monsters screamed and tore at the pure energies that hit them, before they dissolved slowly. A ragged cheer went up from the few mages and civilians fighting.
From up here everything looked so small. It was easy to see how people could feel removed from it all: those that manipulated others or devalued the fact that each person, each life was important. To see how they could view everyone as pieces on a game board, to be moved. Life wasn’t like that. But I could see how the greater good could be used as a justification for great evils.
I closed my eyes and listen to the cheers, each voice was a person, the emotion, the desperation of a battle that felt lost and turning into joy at the change of fortune.
I felt a smile stretch my face. In the face of it all, the futility, these people fought. They were my kind of people.
I turned on my heel and walked to the stairs. It was time to get down there and finish the job.
Brendon woke me, unsurprisingly, it had been a late night. We finished checking the rooms, they were empty, but we did find the employee quarters that Brendon had said would be there. Waking up in a bed was nice after the time on the road. I blinked groggily at him. “What is it?”
“It’s morning, and there appear to be some mages here, asking for you?”
“Already? Okay, give me a moment to wake up and I’ll be…. Where are they?”
“Downstairs, I left them in the entry hall.”
“Did you get any names?”
“Niven, Telsan, Lysan and a few others that didn’t talk, they looked like a unit. Telsan and Niven even have military uniforms.”
“I know the names. Give me a moment to myself, I will be right down.”
I got up walked to the basin in the corner, it was a different kind than we used back in Westhaven, Brendon said it was mechanical, whatever that meant, I had to turn it, it was stiff and flakes of rust crumbled off, discoloured, reddish-brown water poured from the tap, my power said it was safe to drink but it was off putting. I took a handful and rinsed my mouth, then scrubbed the remnants of sleep from my face.
Getting dressed didn’t take much longer. I only had to pull on my coat, sleeping in clothes isn’t very comfortable, but trolls don’t care if it’s bedtime or not. I picked up my sword from where I’d left it. I really needed to find a better way of carrying it, a sheath or something.
I walked down the stairs and saw the group of mages standing to attention facing away from me. Their uniforms looked none the worse for wear, I wondered how they got here, my own uniform was a bit travel worn. Just the sight of them standing strong made my heart rise, being able to pass this off to someone else would be a relief.
My boots must have made a sound on the smooth marble floor because as a group they turned, hands reaching for swords and wands.
Telsan made a small gesture upon seeing me and the squad relaxed. He stepped forwards and saluted, fist to heart, a small bow. “Sir, I place myself and my team at your command per orders by master mage Jase Aleres. We are to follow any and all instructions to facilitate the integration of Nelar into the duchies under the control of the wizard’s council.”
I couldn’t speak, seeing a squad salute me, the most junior mage in service, well apart from Solem, but I didn’t count him, had left me without words.
Telsan walked over to me, an intense but not aggressive look on his face. “Sir, could I have a word in private,” he said his voice pitched low so only I could hear.
Telsan turned to his team. “Scout the building, find somewhere to set up field command, you all know what we need. Brendon Vesic should be able to help you get orientated.”
I looked around, there was Brendon, stood to the side of the room, I’d not even noticed him entering. I walked back to the stair well, to wait.
“You have your orders, dismissed.” Telsan’s voice echoed through the building. I could hear a great many boots heading off in various directions. He came into the stairwell, he looked rather uncomfortable all of a sudden.
“You wished to speak to me?”
“Yes sir, may I speak freely?”
“Sir, you are young, you have no experience and I fear you will lead us to ruin.”
“Well that is very forthright of you. I can’t argue with your conclusion. You are right; I’m young, I don’t know what I’m doing here and I’ve never commanded before. I was under the impression you were coming to relieve me here, but that seems to not be the case.”
“Master Jase felt you would need support, so he found the best team he could. We have a good mix of skills, we work well as a team and we have handled situations similar to this before.”
“You have handled places where the magic is damaged the people are without hope or dead, the ruler of said place is insane, cut off from communication with the mages or the wizards, no hope of support?”
“Well, not all of them at once but we have handled them.”
“I understand you reservations. I don’t want to command. I’m not trained for it. I’m not suited for it, I work better alone, I’ve been alone for so long.”
“You aren’t alone anymore sir. Have faith. I do have a suggestion though.”
“Yes, any and all suggestions are welcome, I’m at a loss as to how to command.”
“If you place me as second, then I will handle the day to day. You will still have to deal with the rigours of commanding but most of the pressure should be off, giving you a chance to learn. I’m more than happy to teach you if it keeps my men alive.”
I found myself nodding along, visions of his men in pieces filled my sight.
“Sir… Sir is everything okay?”
“Yes I’m fine, sorry. It’s a lot to take in.”
“I understand sir, all we expect is you to try your best. The mission is important but so is loss of life. We are valuable assets, particularly with the war flaring up. I will help where I can but the burden is yours.”
“Thank you, what is your assessment of priorities?”
“I have just arrived but the first thing that needs doing is to turn this building into a real headquarters, we need to establish a presence in this city and arrange communications back home. To that end I do have something that Master Jase gave me, he said that you would know what to do with it.” He reached into a pouch on his belt, much like mine, it must be fairly standard. It was useful.
A flare of magic, flickered through the air as he pulled out a small round ball of what looked like glass.
I reached out a hand to take it, the sphere refracted the light oddly, as if it was bigger on the inside. I activated my other-senses and wished I hadn’t.
The room was bathed in bright shimmering light. Echoes of music started singing through the air. The ball was radiating glimmering magic, its concepts so deeply tangled I couldn’t pick a single one out. Sigils spun around the glass, their strange depth distorting the light, making other shapes out of light and shade. As I watched I started to piece together what it could be.
“This is an orb, isn’t it?”
“I’ve never seen one, but I believe it might be.”
“How did Jase get hold of this? I thought they were all custom made.”
“Master Jase didn’t feel necessary to tell me. I know he has contacts, Jase is well respected among us. That is rare.”
“That makes me feel better that he chose you then. I trust his judgement, but it’s nice to know that you do too.”
Telsan nodded. “If you will excuse me sir, I need to check on the men.”
“Of course.” My eyes were drawn back to the orb seed in my hand. The twisted magic didn’t seem to be touching it, if anything it was pushing back at it, keeping the corruption away.
I was left there with very little idea as to what to do with the orb if the magic affected it like I suspected then it would be dangerous to plant it. On the other hand if it worked like the Westhaven Orb, drawing magic from its commander then it should be safe, filtered through a person in full control of their own power would protect it from harm. Probably best to put it away and revisit, it was tempting, restoring communications home, being able to receive orders and advice. The enchantment designs that I would be able to get could change the game here. If there was something that could do what I did at the foundry site, rerouting the flows, on such a large scale without killing me, then that would make it so much easier.
I put the glass ball into my pouch and closed down my other senses as much as I could, I still had an awareness of the magical landscape but it wasn’t distracting. I took a deep breath to focus, this wild daydreaming wasn’t helping, I needed something solid to build on, not wishes.
I walked back into the entry hall to find the six man team scattered around. The room itself had changed. One of the men I didn’t know was working on the walls, shifting them to conform to the Westhaven headquarters, I’d never seen a different outpost of the mages, so that was all I could compare it to. Another man was shaping the desk, it was growing, roots were visible at the base of it, melding with the stone. Little flickers of enchantment rose through the air, pulling power in a hundred different directions.
Lysan noticed my entry, he walked over to me. “Sir, good to see you again, on your feet this time.”
“It’s good to see you too Lysan, how did you get assigned this duty?”
“I must have pissed someone offs, I hear you know how that is,” he said jokingly with a twinkle in his glowing eyes.
“Very funny, what’s the real story?”
“You know I’m not attached to a squad, I’m a trouble shooter. Master Jase wanted someone you’re familiar with, he couldn’t come himself, he is looking after your apprentices. So here I am. It’s not so bad. Hard work never killed anyone.”
“Trolls do though.”
“We can handle trolls. You have enough power here to handle most things.”
“Have you noticed the magic here?”
“How could we not? Most of us pulled heavily after the waves, we know how to deal with twisted magics.”
“So why has nothing been done? In all this time surely we could have done something to help this place.”
“It wasn’t a priority the years after the waves have been stretched, we don’t have the man power. There have been rebellions, in the very early years. There was just so much to do. You are the first to be raised to Mage in a relatively quiet time. There hasn’t been a mage raised since the waves. We just don’t have the resources to do everything. Not counting the fact that a great many mages are hardly suitable to do much of anything anymore.” A distant look filled his eyes. I knew that look, remembering things best left alone.
“I understand, it’s just hard to see this and not want to do something.”
“Wizards can’t come here. There are more sensitive to the magic. In some ways it helps them, in others it cripples them.”
“No wizards can come here?”
“Well some might be able to, but it wouldn’t be easy on them. And it would be dangerous for all around them, you have felt the pressure. Imagine that a thousand times more powerful, pushing on you, prompting you to act. Then imagine that it was a wizard breaking loose, we can do some pretty amazing stuff but wizards are in a league all their own.”
“So that’s why this place has been left to rot. Nice to know, I guess. Anyways there is a birthing pit nearby, I doubt it’s the only thing that needs rooting out.”
“Well sir we have our hands full making this place a fit headquarters. We are making progress, we should be done in the next few hours, not finished but it will serve. We still need to do a great many enchantments to protect this place from the disruptions in the magic. We don’t have all that many that will withstand it and still function, so we will just duplicate them. Hopefully they will work together. This birthing pit shouldn’t be able to churn out another one so soon, they take time to grow.”
“We don’t know how big it is, nor if it’s the only one. The way the magic is feeling, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are other nasties about.”
“There won’t be any gnomes this close, they start at the edge of disruptions like this. That’s something at least. Those little bleeders are a hassle to handle. Trolls are easy with the right tools, but yeah you’re right, if there is a pit there will be other things. Did you see anything in the sky when you came in?”
“No, we flew in, the sky was empty.”
“That doesn’t mean there isn’t anything, so we can’t stop worrying about Night-wings, corrupted Sylphs, Harpies. Most of the magical creatures went into hiding during the waves but we’ve seen a resurgence in the recent past. Lots of things we thought gone are coming back. Not all of them bad. I hear a unicorn was spotted in the forests near Greenlaw.”
“Doesn’t help all that much Lysan, it would be nice to be safe.”
“There isn’t such a thing. Safe is a myth. Best to be prepared. This close to the mountains, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rocs and earth elementals are about, they don’t normally bother people but twisted magic can do odd things to them. There are way too many creatures that could be around, we need to be alert.”
“Is there any way to fix the magic?”
“Lots of ways if you want to die in flames. We can do a bit here and there, drain the corruption and try to get the flows moving right again. It’s been like this for a long time, it’s not a quick fix.”
“I think I should go out and see if I can find some people to talk to.”
“I wouldn’t advise that just yet sir.” formality came back all of a sudden.
“Give me your reasoning then.”
“We aren’t secure here, for now I wouldn’t advise going anywhere alone. You don’t have the skills for this.”
“How do you know what skills I have or not?” Anger seemed to be sweeping over me. This man who barely knew me telling me what to do. I could smash him to pieces, open the earth beneath him.
“Lower the sword Tristan, this is the wrong fight,” Lysan said with a tightness to his voice that seemed out of place.
I’d not even noticed it coming up.
My breath came faster, blood racing through my veins. My arms wanted to swing my blade, to cut, anything.
“Tristan, listen to me.” Lysan’s voice had shifted to something softer, gentler, almost soothing. “This isn’t what you want, push the magic away. You don’t need it here. There is nothing to fight, all is well.”
I felt the strength draining out of me, making me waver on my feet.
Lysan’s words continued as if from a distance, too faint to make out. My vision flickered into the magical, soft shadows crawled through the room, coming for me.
I felt a hand on my shoulder just as I let go of the sword, the clatter it made as it landed, shook me.
I blinked, back into normal vision.
“That is why you don’t have the skills, you are too sensitive. Not much we can do about that except be there with you.”
My answer didn’t even make sense to me, the half formed words just nonsense in my ears.
Let’s take you back to your room give you a chance to recover, it’s not so different from backlash. The patterns can have nasty effects when you fight them off.
Patterns? I asked, the word didn’t seem to fit.
Yes patterns. Like paths worn in the earth or a rivers course, you can’t just change it. They take time and effort to wear themselves a new route. They are doing that in your head but you have your own routes, this one wasn’t subtle.
We were heading up the stairs before I knew it.
“So what now?” My head was ringing like a bell, echoes of something lingered longer than they should.
“Now you go someplace quiet and you pull yourself together. Remember the cleansing exercises from when you were recovering?”
“That’s what they are for?”
“Not just this but lots of magic/mind interactions. Go through a few of them. We will carry on downstairs and if we need you one of us will come to get you.”
“But the pit. It needs handling.”
“Not just yet, we don’t know enough. You spoke to the commander, I’m sure he knows what he is about. You get your task done, we will do ours.”
He left me at the door to my room.
The sound of a bell ringing in the distance drew me back from my exercises, the confusion of earlier gone, leaving me feeling calm and relaxed. I lengthened the final stretch, my muscles flowed smoothly over each other. My breath came slowly, deep and measured. I opened my eyes to find one of the mages standing in the doorway looking at me.
“Sir, I didn’t want to disturb you but the bell is ringing,” The older mage said, he fidgeted with his dark hair, nervous for some reason.
“I heard. Another troll?” The words came out unaffected, distant.
“The squad is assembled in the reception. We are waiting on your go ahead. Commander Telsan didn’t want to move out without your say so.”
“You are our commander, I guess. He doesn’t share his reasoning with us, we trust him.”
“Of course you do. Let’s go see the good commander then, shall we?”
The mage nodded and stepped back from the doorway.
I strode forwards, not slowly nor at any great speed. Everything seemed so distant. My normal passion and drive dampened. I shrugged at the notion, nothing to do about it right now.
The squad was assembled in the lobby as I’d been informed, their faces wary and alert. The commander, Telsan was walking between his men, eyeing them up, offering a solid hand on the shoulder or a grim nod to the men that may die this night.
That sense of danger looming filled the air, like the calm before the blackest storm sweeps in. A full blown tempest is too much for mages, only a wizard could touch it. That atmosphere pervaded the room. The sense that death was waiting for each man, was enough to chill the blood of anyone, hardened soldiers are no exception to fear.
“Commander Sodden, good of you to join us,” Telsan said as he caught my eye.
“I had things to do, you know how it is. Now what’s the situation? I heard the bell.”
“The bell is a warning system the populace have come up with, Niven and Felas there managed to speak to someone earlier. There is always someone in the towers, normally more than one, watching the walls. There is a tower in each quadrant, at the cardinal points. They light a fire, the central tower rings the bell. I’ve had the men scrying but nothing is coming through. The magic is too distorted to let a clear picture through. So we have very little to go on.”
“Then why all the grim looks?”
“Can’t you feel it… sir? The charge in the air, there is something coming, something big.”
“I’ve been doing my exercises, so that I don’t feel much of anything. Could it have anything to do with us arriving?”
““It could, we have been throwing power around all day. It might have been sensed or disturbed something. I just don’t know.””
“Where is my sword?”
Lysan stepped over to me. His greying hair bore marks from his hands running through it. He nodded at his commander and winked at me. “I put it behind the desk, just in case. I had a feeling it was going to be a busy night.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“You weren’t in the right frame of mind for it. The last thing you needed was to work yourself up.”
“Thanks, I guess, I would prefer if you didn’t hide things from me. I might need to know.”
“You know now. We mages aren’t the most biddable Tristan. We do what we want. This kind of squad is rare, we’ve been burnt before. The last time we functioned like they do, well you know when that was.”
I nodded as he led me to the desk. The nobles’ kill teams. The dark days of the blood wars. High bloods fighting with mages doing the dirty work, a wonderful time in our national history. My sword was leaning against the desk just like he said it would be.
It had a sheath now, I looked to Lysan, a question on the tip of my tongue as I picked it up. I ran my hand of the intricate leather, each ridge and bump revealed to my touch.
“Yeah, its bad luck to carry a blade without a sheath. It’s the best I could do on short notice.”
The blade was too long to comfortably wear on my hip, but Lysan had thought of that. A collection of straps and buckles formed a harness to strap it over my shoulder, my coat might get in the way at the moment, but it would do for now. I could always alter my coat later after whatever was coming.
“Thank you Lysan.” I strapped on my sword checking it was loose in the scabbard and easy to draw, nothing caught.
“Least I could do after triggering you earlier. Didn’t expect you to be quite so sensitive.”
I smiled at that. “Not to worry, best I knew before battle, I feel fine now though.”
“You look better. I’ve always hated the price we pay.”
“It’s fair I guess. Everything has a price, it could be worse.”
“That it could. You ready?”
“I would be better prepared if I knew what we were facing.”
“Wouldn’t we all? The magic is whipped up into a frenzy, it’s almost boiling with energy. I’ve never known it so bad anywhere.”
“Everyone tells me Nelar is special, anything to do with that?”
“Could be, who knows. Information is a bit thin on the ground about this place. It’s almost as if… no never mind.” A look of confusion crossed his face before he dismissed it.
“Get your battle face on. At my reckoning we don’t have long before we will be going out the doors.”
“Anyone seen Brendon?”
“The god vessel? He was up on the roof, ready to pull down his Lord’s fire. The man gives me the creeps.”
“Sharing your head with an immortal, not for me.” Lysan shook his head as if to emphasise
“I don’t think he has all that much choice, he is just making the best of a difficult situation. He’s been a good ally to me.”
We walked over to the waiting men. The quiet was oppressive, all that could be heard was the tolling of the bell. The men were silent. Their grim gazes locked on their leader, a few looked at me before dismissing the thought that I was their commander. I didn’t have the years to command these men. I hadn’t earned their trust. At most I was a hindrance to these veterans of the blood wars.
A sense of isolation filled me. I was apart from them. I’d always been apart, except with Sophia and Lyphia. Jase had sent these men to bring me home. ‘Do your duty mage,’ Sophia’s angry words rang differently now. My duty might be here right now, but my true master was a little girl and a headstrong woman, both waiting for me. I owed it to them to get home. Maybe these men had families they needed to get home to as well.
I looked with fresh eyes at the mages – they had come for me. I wouldn’t let them down. I wouldn’t let anyone down. Not this time.
Telsan raised his arm, fist clenched.
The doors opened.
All around me, the men drew their weapons – swords and wands, mainly, though one had a massive axe.
I drew my own sword, the smooth stone singing like a clarion. The hilt was cool in my hand.
Into the night we marched.
So as most of you loyal readers will know Magelife the book was published, some of you may even own it.
As an upshot of that I wanted to share something with you all.
P.s the cover has changed since then.
As some of you may be aware Magelife is almost complete in terms of chapters posted.
It has been written for quite a while now and today I finished edits (typos, missing punctuation, small stuff)
So it is now available to buy in ebook format (MageLife (The Magelife Trilogy Book 1)
Please do buy it, it would support me immeasurably. I will continue posting the remaining chapters here as usual.
It is thanks to you all that I have reached the point of actually completing the novel. Something I wouldn’t have done without readers.
So thank you all.
P.S. The cover is temporary while waiting on the official cover to be produced. Dont be put off.
I awoke to a rather loud snoring, right in my ear. There may have been dribble there too but I ignored it.
Lyphia was sprawled across most of the bed including my side, her soft leg over my own, her arm across my chest.
I smiled to myself as I remembered the night we had shared together. Lyphia was passionate, I’ll give her that. I ached all over, but it was a pleasant, satisfied ache. Now I had to figure out how to get out of bed without disturbing her.
I decided the best option was to move quickly, she would settle back down. I wiggled her arm off, then I rolled. Right out of bed. She didn’t even notice.
I stood looking at her for a moment, even like this, she was beautiful. Hair splayed out. Limbs everywhere. I could stand here all day watching her sleep, but I had a job to do.
I went into the bathing chamber, had a wash then got dressed. I didn’t put my boots on, I carried them, then snuck out of my room, closing the door quietly on my way out.
I walked to the main room, Sophia’s door was open as I passed.
That meant she would be in the main room. she was, so was Airis. It looked like they were in the middle of a game of tag. I stood in the doorway a moment, watching them run around laughing and shouting at each other. Then shushing themselves when they got too loud.
“What do you two think you are doing?” I shouted at them.
They froze then slowly turned to face me. The guilty look on their faces was priceless.
Sophia looked at me then down to her feet, Airis just looked at me.
“I hope you were having fun, because its lesson time soon. Sophia, you’re now a mage with barely adequate suppression of your power, we need to give you more information so you can understand, that, I think, is the largest thing missing. Once your understanding catches up, I hope you’ll make great strides,” I said to her.
Sophia looked up at me with wide eyes, then nodded.
“Airis, you are Sophia’s companion, you will join her in all her lessons from now on, you will help each other to learn. You will support each other. You will protect each other. and hopefully you will care for each other, I don’t want this to be a distasteful idea to either of you,” I said to them.
Airis nodded, shared a glance with Sophia, smiled then looked back to me.
“Good, now I want some breakfast, can you two please go get what you think you will need for class, and get changed into something better than nightwear,” I continued.
They ran straight past me, I walked over to the table, picked up a bread roll, bit into it as I sat in the nearest chair. I pulled my boots on then finished the rest of the roll. I grabbed another one while waiting for Sophia and Airis.
Sophia had changed into a mage training uniform. when had she gotten that?
Airis was in a similar outfit. Avery really had outdone herself. I needed to find out how she was doing, soon.
“Good that was quick, if you are both ready we can go down to one of the lecture rooms. here is our home I would prefer there to be a distinction between training and home despite where we live,” I said seriously. I was starting to sound like Jase, it must have been my nerves.
They both nodded although they looked nervous too.
“Follow me then.”
I stood and walked to the door, they followed along quietly.
We walked down the halls, past the other crowds, groups of masters and their students. I even got a few respectful nods, which was novel.
It didn’t take us long to reach the lecture floor. I knocked on the first door, a student opened it and declared it was taken.
I wasn’t put off, I tried the next one, it was open and empty, perfect.
I walked in to the lecture room, hall was more like it, down between the staggered rows of desks, to the open semicircle at the base of the room. I stood in front of the large glyph-screen, which used to be a chalk board when I’d had classes
Around the edge of the circle were smaller circles, four of them. inside them were the elements. Fire,earth, air and water. The lesser elements weren’t often included. It was so rare for someone to awaken to one, although an expansion into one wasn’t that uncommon.
I looked up from the circles, to see Airis and Sophia standing just inside the door. “Come on, we haven’t got all day. Find a seat and pay attention,” I said sternly, as much as I wanted to ease them into this, I needed them to understand that I was their teacher here.
They picked a desk about halfway down the short alley of desks.
“Everyone ready?” I asked with a grin. “Good, then we will begin with. What is magic?” I stood looking at them.
They looked back with puzzled, scrunched up looks of confusion.
“Nothing, huh? I know you are young, but this is an interactive class, I can’t teach you if you refuse to think. Let’s move on. How do you use magic?”
Sophia’s arm shot up.
“Yes Sophia, you don’t need to put your arm up. There are only the two of you here.”
“You just do,” she said quickly. A smile hovered on her lips, fragile but there.
“Is that your final answer?”
Sophia nodded looking less sure.
“You’re right. and you’re wrong. magic, once you’re used to it, is like moving your arm, you don’t think about it. you just do it,” I said smiling.
I started to walk around the circle, until I reached the earth circle, I sent a flow of power into it.
A spire of rock rose to waist height.
“This is easy once you have a handle on your power. But where does you power come from?” I asked as I stood next to the slowly growing spire. I forced a bit more magic into it. It slowly shifted into the shape of a sapling.
I walked away keeping a part of my attention on it as it grew and changed. There was no answer from my students.
“Your power comes from the magic which comes through your links. Everyone has one, mages have more than one. But what makes the links different?
“The person?” Airis offered.
They were both staring at my tree.
“Nearly,the location of the link is what makes them different. They are rooted deep in our minds. There, from almost the moment we are born. Our minds grow around them. But we all grow in different ways. How we see the world. How we think. How we feel. Are all different.”
I looked over at them, they were entranced by my stone tree. with a thought I shattered it. they jumped. Shards of stone whirled round in a small controlled cyclone before going back into the the circle.
“This is where I introduce the word concept. Does it mean anything to you?” I said with an intensity they found hard to face.
“Ideas” Airis suggested.
“Ideas given form, yes. A concept is a collection of thoughts and feelings that we use for our magic. Enchantment is nothing but these. The raw manipulations like the tree, don’t use them in such a pure way but they are central to everything we do. I used growth for the tree. What does growth mean to you?” I asked.
“taller” said Sophia
“age” Said Airis at the same time.
“Exactly, growth is just a word, but it means different things to different people. It isn’t an idea. Ideas can’t be communicated like that. It takes a great many words to express an idea well. But a concept in the magical sense is everything. It takes every meaning of a word or an idea, and combines them in a very complicated web. It takes years to build up a clear understanding of the concepts you already carry, let alone build new ones. Sophia, you have made plants grow and you have propelled stones. What concepts do you think you understand?” I asked.
“Umm. growth. and move.” she hedged. her earlier confidence gone.
“Ah, movement, yes. You will know that. Everyone does. One of the first we all learn. Good.”
I stood in the very center of the room, I put on my most serious expression.
“Your magic is thought, it is ideas given shape. They are your leverage against the world. So sharpen your minds, they are all that stand between you and helplessness.”
As a finish I sent out my power to earth and water. I made both circles rise up balls of water and earth floated into the air, they danced around me. flickering into different shapes. a tree, a fish, a cat, a bear, a wave. I ended with them formed into a pixie and sprite, hovering behind each shoulder.
Sophia and Airis were stood clapping and hooting at my little show.
I let the elements go back to their respective circles.
Then I bowed.
“Thank you both. That is the lecture section of this class done. This is your assignment. Pick a concept, and explore it. Words associated with it. Thoughts that come to you in connection to it. But a word of caution, don’t pick an abstract. Things like love or trust or honor. Pick something solid, found in nature. The abstracts are a long ways off.
I walked over to the glyph screen.
“i will guide you just this once, what is your choice?” I said.
“Damage,” Sophia said.
Airis nodded, his eyes locked on me with a fascination I didn’t understand. He couldnt use this.
“Alright, damage it is,” I wrote ‘damage’ in large glyphs in the center of the screen. “ This is the exercise, think of words that spring to mind.”
“Break,” Sophia said.
“Fracture,” Airis offered.
I wrote these on the screen too. They took it in turns throwing a word out. The web of connected words grew.
“Feelings?” I asked. “At the moment this is just a mess of words. You have to own it. You do that by attaching emotion, memories. Anything that helps you get a deeper, a more personal, image of the concept.”
And so it went like this for about half an hour. I stepped away from the screen and faced them.
“Do you both have your screens?” they nodded. “Good, copy what is up her onto them. This isn’t enough. Each thought. Each idea. Each feeling. Needs to be your own. This is how concepts are built. This is how they are yours. Over the next few months I will teach you how to put them in a shape that you can recall, like this,” I gestured to the screen, “But in your head. It takes time and effort, but you can’t be a mage without them. The dreamers can get by on feel, they don’t need to know all the mechanics of it, but you need to understand exactly what you are doing. One day all this will come naturally as you internalise The levels of versatility and power you will be dealing with deserve nothing less than your utmost,” I said gravely. I fixed my gaze on Sophia.
She looked back, daunted but resolved. Her face was pale but her jaw was firm her eyes focused.
“Thank you both for your time. Anyone ready for lunch?”
“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.
Airis and I made our way back through the woods.
He carried Sophia while I used what magic I could to ease our passage. The branches bent without springing back, and I made the earth soft, so no stumbles or bumps knocked Airis.
There wasn’t much I could do to light our way, although the moon did a fair job.
As we walked carefully through the dim forest I kept my eyes and ears open, trying not to think of what I was going to do when I got back. I failed.
The silence itched to be filled with something,anything. It just waited until someone would be stupid enough to fill it. I stayed as quiet as I could. I felt I had done my stupid act for the day.
Yes, I had found Sophia and Airis at the cost of everything else. A Mage, not following orders in the heat of the moment may be forgiven. What I had done was something else. I had deliberately disobeyed, I had even fought against the order when given another chance. The price was just too high. My dreams would be worthless built on the corpse of a child. What kind of organisation would force the issue? My thoughts ran in circles. I could feel my anger growing both at myself and Orb. My fists tightened and my breath came hard as my rage started to pound in my head. If I had taken a moment to think I might have been able to find another way or talk orb around.
A rustle to my right knocked me out of my head for the moment.
I jumped, and pulled magic into my palm, as I stared into the gloom.
A fox, looked back as it emerged from behind a tree. It chattered at me before scampering off.
I sighed in relief, and laughed softly to myself. The great mage Tristan Sodden, threatener of receptionists, murderer of surges, sinker of districts and frightener of foxes. A hefty list of titles for a mage whose career spanned a few short months. The tinge of humor drained out of me, my mood darkened further with each thought, links in a chain, mistakes all of them, yet part of the job.
My steps came heavier now, each one harder than the one before. My shoulders drooped as I lowered my hand, the anger gone.
My victories seemed to mock me, even this. I won the battle but I felt like I had lost the war.
I trudged onto the path, the way back clear. If not for Sophia I would have turned the other way, run from the consequences of my decision, if it wasn’t for Sophia I would never have made the decision in the first place.
Airis’ came closer as I had slowed. “What is wrong Tristan? Why have you slowed? I thought there was some urgency in this. Was I wrong?” he asked, his stone face hidden by his helmet and the low light, eyes bright and pure.
“I’m just weighing my actions Airis, but you’re right. We don’t have time for it,” I said looking into his pure light I felt small. This being, that I had made, had no thought for himself. Here I was wallowing when Sophia needed me to be strong.
“Fuck the consequences, I will deal with it when I must. I still have a job to do,” I said aloud without realising.
“Tristan, what are you talking about?” Airis asked.
“Nothing, nevermind,” I lied smoothly. “We are nearly there. I’m not sure how to handle you. Are you a golem or are you a boy?” I asked. It was serious question.
“Does it really matter? We have bigger issues at the moment.”
“It does matter, I went for a picnic with two children. Do I come back with two or just the one?”
“Tristan, I am both. I don’t care. Ask another time,” Airis said he stepped around me,
I let it go, while it would have ramifications whatever choice we went with, I was too tired to give it the thought it deserved and as he said we had bigger issues.
I followed the golem boy through the thinning edge of the forest, the road ahead beckoned, the town just a hop away. The thought of running came and went again. I’d been taught better by my father and by Jase.
I caught up looked to the side at Airis as we reached the unmanned gate. It was never closed, I wasn’t even sure why there was a gatehouse. A distraction.
“Let me do the talking please,” I pleaded with Airis.
He merely shrugged, as much as he was able with the small girl in his arms. She looked so tiny against him in this form.
The town was still few people would be out this late, one problem I didn’t have to deal with. The streets were dark all the lights in this part dead. They must have been affected by the wave. The pavement was whole though.
I hesitated, unsure where to go. The mage academy might be closed to me now. I don’t know how quickly I would be registered as rogue. A rogue mage, one of the things we were informed didn’t happen. None of us questioned it back then, I’m wishing I had now. I decided that going anywhere else would be cowardly.
I set my feet in the direction of the academy, it was my home. It was Sophia’s home the only one she had, I would be severed before I let them take it from her.
My anger rose again, taking with it my fear.
We walked in silence bar the loud echo of our steps on the solid paving beneath use.
The academy was lit, brightly lit in contrast to this side of town, but there was no one stood outside barring my way. We marched into the lobby. Empty. The only sign that Jase, Fion and Avery had been there was a small tracery of blood, probably from Jase. He had been the only one that was really wounded. I turned towards the entry to the halls. I stopped a moment looking at Airis, unsure if he would fit, but it looked as if I worried needlessly.
On we went through the empty halls until we reached our apartments. The door was stood open.
I stopped Airis with a raised hand. “Let me go in first, we don’t know why the door is open.” I looked at him intensely, for a moment I thought he was going to argue, then he inclined his head slightly.
I took a deep breath and pulled my magic up, ready to trigger in a moment. A raw blast, but I doubted I would be facing gnomes in here. Raw would be fine.
I stepped through the door, Fion was sat at the dining table. His massive frame dwarfing the wooden chairs. He was sat facing the door while he fiddled with something, I couldnt see what.
“Put up your magic, boy,” he said without looking up from whatever he was tinkering with. “You don’t want to fight me.”
“Why are you here?” I asked as I let my magic subside. He was right, I really didn’t want to fight him.
“Did you find your girl?” he asked ignoring my question.
I walked further into the room, but not within arms reach of Fion through
“Airis, it should be fine, come on in,” I called, not taking my eyes of Fion.
Airis stepped into view, his warrior form looking even larger than if had in the woods. His eyes were so bright. Sophia was cradled protectively, almost out of sight.
Fion jumped out of his seat, his eyes widened in shock.
“What the fuck is going on here Tristan, where is the boy?” he asked quickly.
I smiled, a thin strained smile, “This is the boy, as you put it.”
Fion looked between me and Airis, his gaze lingered on Sophia. He looked back to me again. “You clever little fucker, you made a human golem,” he crowed, a smile so wide that my own twisted into something more real. I also resisted the urge to correct him. Airis was his own being not a ‘human golem’.
“How’s Jase?” I asked, while he was distracted.
Oh, he’s fine,” Fion said offhandedly, his attention was firmly fixed on Airis. he looked like a giant child, his mouth open eyes wide and roaming. “He is beautiful Tristan, you’re going to get yourself in a lot of trouble for him.”
It’s not like I can make things worse, you heard Orb earlier,” I said. I looked away I couldn’t bear to see how he felt about the matter.
“Bah, I didn’t, I don’t really care what Orb had to say. You got a healer here for Jase and the woman,” Fion said. Real emotion coloured his voice for the first time, gratitude.
I looked back at him.
“Thats what mattered to me. Any ways you left. How was I supposed to hear the little ball?” he said with a shrug.
I didn’t have anything to say to that, so I moved on.
“Can you help Sophia? I don’t know what to do for her,” I said. I held my breath.
“She’s awakened. What have you done this time? For fuck sake, boy, she’s a child! We can’t have a child mage,” he said heatedly as he looked at her, with his distant look.
I assumed he used oversight to check her over.
“Help her, please! She is all I have left,” I said, desperation roughened my voice. it was bubbling up with the fear that she would stay like this.
“Calm yourself, she is fine. She should wake up soon. How long has she been like this?” Fion asked he looked at me.
I turned to Airis.
“Just under two days, since the wave,” Airis said. His first words since entering.
Fion looked at me seriously for once.
“Shes been out for two days, see it’s nothing. You was out for a week if I remember Jase right. and more importantly you made a stone golem that speaks,” his childlike glee came back, as a little hitch in his speech. “That is so amazing, you knew the old ones couldn’t talk? Only the air and fire ones, they were a nightmare to build, you couldn’t anchor them to anything,” Fion just shook his head in wonder.
“Airis could you take her to bed please? Oh and guard the door. Don’t let anyone enter, not anyone,” I asked sternly.
Airis nodded and carried Sophia to her room.
Fion and I watched him go.
“What did the ball say?” Fion asked.
“It doesn’t matter now. It’s done.” I said softly. I wavered on my feet. Now Sophia was safe, my drive was gone. The last few days caught up with me in a rush. “I need to sleep.”
I walked off leaving a dazed Fion standing there.
“Oh, could you shut the door on your way out please” I called as I left the room.
I heard a faint grunt then the door hit the frame. A small click as it caught.
I made it to my bed, mine for how much longer I had no idea but it was for now.
That was the last thing I remember as my exhaustion rolled over me.