MageLife Chapter 45

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?”

“Yes sir.”

“Then farewell all. May the heart bless you.”

Jase’s voice faded away then, the connection severed.

I was going home.

MageLife Chapter 44

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.

Blackness.

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?”

Oh

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.”

“Understood.”

“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.”

“Of course.”

“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.

MageLife Chapter 2 Rewrite

I woke in near darkness. I found myself laying on my my injured hand. The cuts on my knuckles, stung. I pulled myself out of bed, looked out the window, the pre dawn glow illuminated the furthest edge of the sky.

“Light,” I called to the empty room.

The glow of the globes brightened the room, enough that the window turned reflective. I stepped over the discarded pile of clothes on my way to the basin. I ran the water, then submerged my wounded hand. I tensed as the sharp, cold pain, took my breath away for an instant.

I let the tension that had formed in my chest out in a sudden unformed noise of relief as the pain vanished, replaced by numbness. I pulled out my hand, had a look at it. the scraps wasn’t anything serious, a day or so and they would be healed. I picked up my discarded uniform and lifted it to my nose. I recoiled as the scent assaulted my senses. I held my clothes at arms length away from me and deposited them in the washing basket, then went and got my other set from the wardrobe. lingering aches forced me to take my time getting ready, a wash. No need to shave, it took me a few days to grow enough stubble for it to even be visible. Then I pulled on my fresh uniform, the tight leather coat creaked as I slid my arms through. My shoulders filled it well, but then it had been tailored just for me. The sun had come up while I was going through my ablutions.

 

I stepped out on to the street, fresh and alert.  I saw something new, street cleaners, simple plain dressed men, with large metal staves, glowing gems on the tops. They were directing the dirt ahead of them. It rushed forwards like a tide leaving smooth shining pavement behind. The dirt was propelled towards small openings in the bases of the fountains that were at every intersection.

I stood watching for a long moment.

The men waved their staves, a flicker of light rose from the street itself and the last of the dirt rolled into the openings.

I strolled along behind them, contemplating the the level of thought that had gone into making such a system.

I caught sight of the doors to headquarters, they were open already. I stepped into the open doorway, to be met with the sight of  a couple and a child standing before the main desk.

“Tristan, get over here,” my boss called.

I couldnt see him. My view was blocked by the people. I made my way to the side of the desk.

Rysan was behind it, with a frustrated expression on his face. Orb was hovering around him, a hint of green in his normal blue light.  I felt my curiosity rise up, almost an itch to know, at the change in colours. I opened my mouth to ask, then noticed Rysan looking at me.

“Yes sir?”

“Tristan, this is Mr. and Mrs Leif. They have a problem that you can solve for us,” Rysan informed me.

I nodded politely at them.

They had a sense of worry about them. The woman, Mrs Leif, had her hands tightly wrapped around the hand of the child.

I looked back to Rysan. My polite but blank look must have told him I had no idea what this had to do with me.

“Their daughter has shown signs of her knack, it’s earth as far as we can tell,” he told me

I looked back to the family, to the child. She was a small girl, about half my height, with right green eyes and long red hair. She was dressed in plain clothes, a pale green tunic and leggings with little leather sandals. She shifted nervously under my gaze, her little head lowered so she looked at her own feet.

I turned back to Rysan.

Rysan raised a hand, stalling any protests I might make. “Yes, she is eight. Her awakening  happened very early and no, it doesn’t appear to be a false start. She would normally have a few more years before needing to learn control. She’s too young to learn it at school, so I am assigning you as her master until she’s got the basics down.” He fixed me with a stern expectant look.

“Yes sir.”

“Good now take her to get something to eat. I need to write out the contract with Mr and Mrs leif. Ma’am, if you could release the girl to Junior Mage Tristan, here he will look after her while we conduct our business.”

The woman tightened her hold on her child for a moment, I could see a look of indecision on her face. then her husband laid a hand on her shoulder and nodded. she let go with a final look at me.

“I will look after her, I promise,” I said answering the unspoken question in her eyes.

I gestured for the child to follow me and then I led the way to the side of the entry hall, next to one of the many benches that I had yet to see filled.

She followed along dutifully but with many a backwards glance at the backs of her parents.

I stood looking down at her, she was very uncomfortable, she couldnt meet my gaze or stand still it seemed. I knelt down next to her. Once down my head was almost level with hers. She met my gaze this time.

“Hello. I’m Tristan. I’m sure you heard what’s happening. Is this okay for you?” I said to her. I had softened my tone so it was barely above a whisper.

She looked at me for a long moment before whispering back “Hi. I’m Sophia. I’m scared. Are you going to help me?”

I felt my eyebrows raise. A strange mix of emotions threatened to choke me up. This brave little girl confiding in me, a total stranger. I paused to get myself under control.

“I’m going to do my best to help you. I’m new at this too,” I said. I looked at this trusting little girl and felt a sense of protectiveness. A desire to shelter her.

“Are you hungry?” I asked

“Yes. Can we get some eggs and bacon? It’s my favorite,”  she smiled around the words. It was a weak smile but the effort was there.

I stood up, my knees creaked, the stone was hard.

“Sure we can Sophia,” I smiled in return. I cast a look back at Rysan who was still hashing out the details with Sophia’s parents, motioned to Sophia to let her know we were going now. She came to my side shyly and we were off.

The early morning sun shone down on us. I looked around for somewhere to take her. This part of town was full of little cafes and bars, but most weren’t open this early.

“Can we go there?” Sophia asked pointing to a small building on the very edge of the square. I  had walked past it everyday since moving to this part of town. The whole district was built of a pale cream stone, everything from the streets to the buildings, which felt like they flowed up out of the edges of the wide central thoroughfare.

The cafe was cozy. The tables made of the same cream stone rose out of the floor, large windows let in the bright morning sun. The place was busy, but that didn’t matter; the smells of bacon and sausages cooking drew us in. I looked to my side to see the matching look of anticipation of Sophia’s face. We took a table by the door and looked down the menu, which was made of glass, the words gently glowing.

“Can you read?” I enquired as the question occurred to me. Sophia’s green eyes took on a proud glimmer as she answered.

“Yep, course I can read. Why do your eyes glow? My grandma’s eyes do that, but my mamma’s don’t, does it hurt? Can you see in the dark?”  She rattled out before pausing, clearly having run out of breath.

I looked away and closed my eyes briefly, I could feel my cheeks heating up under the barrage of questions.

In that brief window, the waitress arrived to take our order.

“What will you have?” She asked, giving me an amused quirk of the eyebrow.

I looked over at Sophia she was looking unsure. I felt it was my duty to reassure her so I said, “You can have anything you want. It’s my treat.”

A smile bloomed across her face,“Ummm. Can I have, um, the bacon and the scrambled eggs and glass of milk please? she asked the waitress.

“Of course, you can honey!” the waitress said then she turned to me“She so polite, and what would you like?”

I’ll just  have the blue ice tea please,”  I said, I placed my hand on my stomach to sooth the slightly queasy feeling at the thought of putting something in it, with that she was gone, back to the kitchen.

The momentary reprieve stretched.

Sophia stared at me with an air of expectant silence.

I took a deep breath.

“Right,” I started hesitantly. “I’ll give you the short answer about my eyes, and then if you think it’s not enough, you can ask again later, does that sound fair?”

She nodded quickly her red hair waving around.

“Here it is. My eyes glow because I am a mage and I have a lot of magic inside me. No I can’t see in the dark any better than you and no, it doesn’t hurt,” I stated as clearly as I could.

“But that doesn’t s’plain why my mama doesn’t have glowing eyes but my grandma does. Will I end up with them too?” The words rushed out of her in a torrent of excited curiosity.

“The older someone is, the more magic they have, normally. So, one day you might glow too. Unless you want to be a mage. Then you will certainly end up with them.”

I found myself answering her question slowly, in an attempt to forestall further questions.

Sophia’s food and my drink arrived just then I thanked the waitress and paid for us both. I could tell she was bursting to ask more questions and while I respect curiosity, I’d had enough. So, as she opened her mouth to utter the next one, I interrupted with one of my own.

“What did you do with your knack?”  She flushed and looked down at the table which was almost as cute as when she smiled.

“Ummm, my parents think I made the plants in the garden grow, but I don’t think I did they were just like that, when we woke up,”  She explained very quickly. She wouldn’t look up at me

Well, that covered why they thought it was earth, but not why they thought it was her,

“ Anything else that you may have forgotten to mention? We need to find your range before we can teach control,” I coaxed her.

“Well, when I was playing with Josh, he’s the boy who lives at the house down the road, we were playing stone skipping on the lake, right?” She looked up at me briefly, checking to see if I was listening. I nodded, trying to look extra attentive. She continued.

“Well, he was beating me, he got five skips and I only got two I was getting mad that my stones wouldn’t do it, and then my next stone did. Ten whole jumps, but that’s not magic. I just got good at it. Right?”  She looked like she was desperately wishing I would agree that it wasn’t magic. I felt torn, I really liked this poor girl, but I had to do what was best for her.

“Sophia, I would love to tell you that it’s not magic, but I can’t. I’m sorry, it sounds similar to when I got my knack. I’ll tell you about it if you want, but it may be a bit sad. Do you want to hear it?” I wasn’t sure if this was the right way to approach this, but it’s all I had.

She nodded, looking more and more vulnerable. It made my heart ache, but duty came first.

“I was nine. When I bloomed, I was young, but it happened more often back then. I didn’t know what was happening. I accidentally channeled most of my magic into the earth creating Zelf as I thought of him. He was a mirror to me. A boy shaped rock, the same size as me.We went everywhere together, he was my only friend. Since my blossoming all the other kids were scared of him. He couldn’t talk, but we played. He looked after me. Then the waves came.”

I took a sip of my drink to wash away the choked up feeling rising in my throat, it didn’t help.  My next words were thick with suppressed emotion.

“ My parents were tired, helping to look after those that had lost everything in the destruction left by the waves. I asked Zelf to help them, he went.  But I was just a kid, I didn’t know they needed charging or constant exposure to their creator when they are so young. He died a few hours later while I was sleeping. I never got to say goodbye to him.” I could feel tears in my eyes, but i blinked them away and took a deep breath, a faint hitch in my breathing, i let it out in a sigh, then forced a smile for her

Sophia’s eyes welled up.

“That is really sad, but that’s real magic. I didn’t really do anything,” she sobbed at me.

“Everyone has some magic. It’s nothing to be scared of,” I said as gently as I could. “You don’t even have to use it if you don’t want to, but we can’t have anyone getting hurt because you can’t control it. Can we?”

“No, I guess not,” She wiped her face on her sleeve, then looked up at me, a tremble in her lips and splotches where her tears had been were all that showed her emotion.

“You eat your breakfast, then we can go find out what your parents are doing,”  I calmly said.

I nodded at the waitress as we left. Acknowledging the assistance she had given me with Sophia.

(—-)

Walking back into the office, the boss leant over  his desk, signing something.

Mr and Mrs Leif countersigning, where he indicated.

Sophia ran to her parents straight into the arms of her mother. She started telling them what we had talked about at breakfast. I stayed back not wanting to interrupt their family bonding. The boss motioned me over as he stood up

“Mr and Mrs Leif, I’m going to brief Junior mage Tristan. We shall leave the reception so you can explain to Sophia while I bring Tristan up to speed,”  Rysan announced. He was far calmer than I’d ever seen him, before turning on his heel and walking into his personal office behind his desk. I followed him.

I’d never been in here. To be honest, it wasn’t what I expected.

There was a deep reddish-brown desk, blood cherrywood if was to guess, next to which was a waist high pedestal that Orb was currently resting on. A huge unlit fireplace taking up a whole wall, a basin on the other side and a chair that Rysan promptly sat down in.

I remained standing,

“I hate days like this. We have had something else come up that I will get to in a moment. Now I have to take your masters oath. Are you prepared?

“Yes,” I squeaked out. My voice betrayed my nervousness

“Then hold out your hand in a fist and repeat after me.”

I held out my right hand towards Rysan clenching it into a fist

“I, Tristan Sodden, do take Sophia Lief to be my apprentice. I will guide her in magic to the best of my ability, as is the sacred duty of the mages. I will protect her from all that would do her harm until she is released from her apprenticeship.”

I felt a heat in my fist as I repeated the words. I looked at it. A multi-coloured flame had formed around it. It didn’t hurt, but it was warm and tingly.

A voice sounded from the flame.

“Witnessed and bound,” came the voice.

Rysan paled at that. I wondered why. Before he spoke he accessed the glyphscreen in his desk.

To read a report, I guessed.

“Well, that’s that done. The arrangement is one day a week. They will bring Sophia here, you will spend the day teaching her control and what not. You are excused from other duties on that day. Moving on to the other problem of the day, there have been sightings of gnomes on the outskirts of town.”

“Really? Gnomes? I thought they all died out in the waves,” I gushed, suddenly excited about possible surviving magical creature. It took precedence over an apprenticeship

“Yes supposedly they did, we have three unsubstantiated accounts of gnomes to the east. Now I shouldn’t have to remind you, if you do find gnomes, do not engage, they fight in packs and are extremely dangerous if they feel threatened,” Rysan warned me, sounding very stern.

“What am I supposed to do about the gnomes then, sir?” I enquired as my hands shook from nervous energy

Rysan just looked at me like I was an idiot.

“As a mage, what is your duty?” He prompted firmly his face set in hard lines.

“The first duty of the mage is the protection and guidance of magic,” I recited from memory. It was drilled into us from day one in the academy.

“Exactly Junior mage. Gnomes are magical; they eat magic. They are a danger to the whole town, if the reports are true,” he sighed.  “Normally I would go myself, but I can’t. The wizards are calling all seniors through our Orbs. You need to go as soon as possible and assess the danger.”

“Yes sir,” I said and with a fist to chest salute went on my way.

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Mage Life Chapter 24

A strange sight greeting me once I got used the unsettling feeling of being without time. I couldn’t move. I wasn’t breathing. My heart didn’t beat. I felt sick as if we were moving fast but we weren’t. We were travelling but not in a way that made much sense. I don’t even know how I knew we were traveling. Something just told me we were. The colors of the wall of sigils faded into clarity, clear as glass. Granting me a view into a shifting play of lights and sounds. Scents washed over me, from flowers to rot. The lights moved in a complicated yet unnerving way. As if I was blinking and missing parts of the movement, although I wasn’t. I can’t describe it well. I don’t understand it. The only things that were still were us.

Fion had his eyes closed, his mouth frozen mid movement as he muttered. Jase was in exactly the same position that I had seen him before the sphere rose around them. his eyes were half closed, his face white and pinched with pain. Avery was sprawled just behind them. Nothing to tell about what had just occurred, she looked like she was sleeping. Streaks of soot tainted her hair and clothes although her face was oddly clean.

Floating areas of substance were in the distance. Buildings. Trees. Patches of land un-moored, unattached to anything. They followed no pattern either. A mountain was closest to a section of sea, the waves clearly visible. A forest above a desert. It was like the whole world was cut into sections, everything was here, jumbled. No up. No down.

I felt dizzy looking, but I couldn’t close my eyes. I couldn’t move.

Something happened. The floating sections started to move to mesh into recognisable areas. The buildings shifted together, streets. In the far distance the vague form of a city many times larger than westhaven rose like a new moon into the sky, over a sea I had never seen. The sea moved out of sight, while the forest moved closer.The mountain drifted off. We were getting closer to home. The foreboding edifice, that was the mage academy, rushed towards us. It grew larger in a dizzying and very unsettling way. As it rose out of the earth that had formed. I was watching it being built at the same time as seeing it crumble into dust. Words just failed me.

Then we were in the reception area. It was light, dark, full of people, empty. All at once. The sphere of sigils melted away like ice. A mess of clear shapes deformed into a slush around us.

I blinked.

We had landed, appeared, I didn’t know the right word to explain, but we were in the reception area of the mage academy. The lights were on and we were alone.

A soft pained moan came from Jase’s lips.

The sound drew my attention. I could move again. I wobbled down to Jase. I placed my hand on his side. I pushed a small tendril of magic into him, feeling around the injury. I don’t know medicine but I had seen a boy fall out of a tree when I was a child. He had cried briefly. But he waved off mention of telling his parents, he didn’t want to be banned from playing with us, which would likely have happened. He died later that night when he rolled over in bed and the rib that he had broken, pierced his lung. I pushed a surge of raw earth magic into Jase. not a lot, but enough to hold the broken bone in place until it could get fixed properly.

Jase let out a quiet grunt. his face paled further, which I hadn’t thought possible, he was already whiter than snow.

Fion stood with a creak from his knees. He looked remarkably unharmed by the whole thing. “Don’t just stand there boy, Jase needs a healer. The girl there could do with one too.” He waved an arm in Avery’s general direction.

I looked around, taken aback by his harsh tone, after everything he hadn’t softened. I blinked back sudden tears. What was wrong with me?

“Don’t cry boy, we haven’t got time. Get a healer,” he said.

“Orb,” I called as I grasped my pendant. I ignored my feelings, no time for it now. Just like Fion had.

“Tristan, where have you been? You vanished fr..” Orb’s voice came from the air around me.

“No time Orb, we have a small situation. Jase is hurt and Avery is unconscious. Can you get a healer here now,” I interrupted. The words just rushed out of me.

“Request authorised. Location is the mage academy, Reception hall. Confirm?” Orb’s emotionless voice echoed around me.

“Confirmed, hurry Orb,” I said bending protocol in my haste to get help.

“They will be there soon, can you give me a report now?” Orb said, its normal inflections back.

What was that? a systems slip or something more? I thought before saying “Not really, Orb. I could, but I need to make sure Jase is alright and talk to Fion before I can. Is Rysan available?”

“He is, but he is very busy. The wave was weak, but it still caused problems. Can I ask what you need to speak to him about?” Orb said.

I looked around, turning my head to examine the lighting and the glyphscreens in the walls.

“Oh, it hit here as well? There is no sign of it here. I thought it might have missed the town. It’s about Sophia, actually,” I said slightly disheartened at the thought of the damage the wave could have done here.

“Sophia? Why are you asking me, you’re her master. She should be with you, or someone you assigned,” Orb said.

“I sent her to Rysan with Airis,” I asked with a rising sense of panic.

“Who is Airis?” Orb asked.

“Her protector, and a boy. It’s complicated. But that’s not important. She was hurt by gnomes. I sent her to safety,” I said. I was halfway to the door before I thought to check Jase. I turned to look at Fion.

He nodded. “Go I will look after these, bring the girl back safe.”

I went through the door.

“Tristan, I’m sorry you are confined to the town. You have been ordered to stand down in regards to Sophia. I will send out a team of non-mages to find her, you are needed,” Orb’s voice came from my pendant as it heated up. Invisible chains tightened around me.

“No!” I shouted. “ I have to find her. She is my responsibility. You have other mages. Use them. Let me find my apprentice.”

“Tristan, understand this, we need you. We are in an emergency. You have been gone for days. There aren’t enough mages to keep the town safe. They are worth your time more than a stray little girl,” Orb said through my pendant, which was blazing with power. The chains stopping any attempt at movement.

I stopped fighting, a moment of calmness flowed through me.

“Orb, let me go,” I said softly. A tear flowed down my face at the choice I faced.

“I can’t,” it answered simply

“So be it. That little girl is worth every life in this town to me” I said.

“Tristan don’t be stupid. Follow your orders. Please,”

I said nothing.

“Think of what this will cost you, Tristan.  Your job, your home, everything depends on you being a Mage,”

“She depends on me!” I said with passion.

I pulled all the magic I could and forced it into the chains. It felt like I actually tensed up. The chains burst with a flash of ghostly light. My pendant flared with heat, I washed water based magic over it cooling it,too fast. A loud crack. I winced as the shattered gem’s shards embedded in my chest.

Out on the street I was struck by how long we had been gone. It was late night, the moon was high and bright. It’s blue light shone down giving the town a surreal feeling. Perfect, I should have enough light to find her.

I ran straight for the gate. I drew on my magic, hard, to bolster my flagging strength. My run changed from a desperate struggle for breath and a slightly wavering pace to a fluid loping stride, that ate up the road.

My breath was coming in long, slow draws and blows. The cool night air sharp in my chest.

I reached the outskirts of town quickly. The night light and the still wind gave me shivers. The sight of the broken road, the first waves legacy, now another had struck and I didn’t care. My every thought was on the little girl I had last seen limp and pale in my golems arms.

My channel was starting to burn with the constant flow of power through it. I almost edged back, but the thought of leaving Sophia in the woods in the state I last saw her drove me on.

I followed the path in the hope of finding them, I had been days, Orb hadn’t said how many, I couldnt think of a good reason for them not to have made it to Rysan. All the reasons I could think of made my blood run cold.

I pushed harder the path became a blur as I ran faster than I ever had before.

Branches whipped at my face as I plunged through the thick undergrowth. I could see a path, not the first path that we had traveled on our way to the glade, a different one. rougher, less worn.

I slowed. I was wary, it could be the gnomes.

I walked slowly, taking care where I placed my feet. the moonlight was diffuse here under the canopy. Sounds filtered through. Rustles of movement.

I winced as the movement pushed the gem shards deeper into my flesh. I felt a trickle of warmth run down my chest. I reached in to my top, to pull the sticky cloth away. In the dim light I saw, the thick smearing of blood on the sharp chip of green gem I drew out. I placed it in my pouch before wiping my hand on my leg. The feel of the blood, warm and tacky, on my hand made me feel reminded me of my fight with Vance. Memories I didn’t really need right now, distractions.The rush of power I channeled through my body pushed the worst of the physical strains away, it couldn’t do much for the mental.

I turned my head this way and that in an effort to place the sounds. My eyes widened as I caught a glimmer of light off to my side. It vanished as I focused on it.

I took a deep breath and I cheated. I didn’t have the time to waste hunting.

I released my control on my reading, my world lit up.

The forest glowed, greens and somehow glowing browns. Ribbons of light going every which way. I felt a headache starting as I near overloaded with information. I couldn’t see an odd smudges which were the gnomes, but I could see a very familiar weave. Up ahead hidden in what looked like a hole dug into the roots of an old tree.

I called out, “Airis? Is that you?”

The forest went quiet, the rustling, even the sounds I hadn’t realised I was hearing stopped. Eerie silence closed in around me as I waited for a response. I could feel my heart pounding in my ears, the only sound there was, the pounding thrummed through me at the grinding of rock noise that came next.

“Tristan,” Airis’ gravel voice came. Weariness coloured it. “Is that you?”

“Yes I’m coming closer,” I said as I stepped closer. I raised my hands to signal I wasn’t a threat.

As I approached Airis rose out of the improvised den, his massive stone form intimidating but fatigue in every line of him, holding Sophia in his arms.

The breath went out of me as I saw her.

The little girl that meant the world to me. I hadn’t even known before today. The same girl I had just sacrificed my entire future for was still. Pale and unmoving, her little chest barely moved, I tore my eyes away from her motionless form to look Airis in the eye.

“She hasn’t moved or woken since we last saw you,” he said. Answering my unspoken question.

“Why didn’t you get her to Rysan? She needs help,” I said softly as I looked back down at her. I raised my hand to touch her, hesitated, then lowered it. I couldn’t bear to feel her like she was.

“The wave came, my systems were a mess, and the gnomes were everywhere,” Airis shook his big stone head, the grinding as it moved sent shivers up my spine. “ I ran, but they were everywhere, I found a tree, this tree, and I dug a den for us to hide out in. I could defend us here. They lost interest after a day or so, but I had to be sure. Those skills you gave me helped a lot. there was a small medic subset. I’ve checked her over as best I can,” he said in a rush.

“I’m disappointed that you couldn’t reach safety, but I’m pleased you thought of something,” I said as I continued gazing at Sophia.

I cocked my head to one side as I examined her with my other sight.

There was something off about it, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. She looked completely healthy.

“Airis  have you noticed anything different about her?” I asked.

“Other than her not moving and her gnome bite healing up overnight, no” airis said giving me a look of pure confusion.

“I’m going to have to investigate this once we get back,” I said. I had no idea how I would investigate anything. I would be lucky if I avoided confinement to the academy training cells for breaking the terms of my employment. But I chose not to dump my burden on him.

“She’s got another link, this could be an awakening coma,” I said simply. I didn’t have any answers. Now, probably wasn’t the time for them either.

I saw the flurry of activity in Airis as he access his data core. Flickers and flares of light throughout his weave, like fire flies.

“You mean …” he started hesitantly.

“Yeah, she’s a mage.”

Magelife Chapter 1 Rewrite

“Oh boy, not this again.” Was the first thing that went through my mind, when I was woken up by the small glowing orb. A blue-white colour, and a touch larger than a grapefruit, it was the same orb from yesterday’s orientation. It hovered in the corner of the room near my plant. First brightening, then dimming.

It must have noticed me looking at it, because a voice came from it.

“Mage, you are summoned to headquarters for assignment.” The voice was deep and gruff, not at all what you would imagine coming out of such a creature.

Groaning, I looked out the window and saw the sun peeking over the horizon.

The Orb continued in its normal childlike voice, “Do you need any help getting there?”

I grunted again; I had hopes that just once I would be able to sleep in, just a little bit. I moved myself out of bed. Not bothering to hide my nakedness from the Orb, it was a construct, they didn’t care about clothes. I did do my best to cover over my rejection of the day, forcing a bit of brightness into my voice.

“Sure, why don’t you ride on my shoulder. You can give me directions from there. Sound good?” I responded. “Give me two minutes to get dressed.”

The Orb just blinked.

I looked around my room, my sleep-fogged mind confused for a moment.  The room wasn’t familiar yet, it was large, a huge window took up most of one wall,and there was even carpet. An admittedly short pile, but any carpet was an improvement over stone floors. My mind slowly caught up as I started moving around. I walked over to the wardrobe in the corner, I opened it and pulled out my uniform; simple black trousers and shirt, tough leather boots and a full length leather overcoat with colour coded bands at the wrists. For me it was green on one wrist, blue on the other.

I stood for a moment stretching this way and that. The new clothes fit but they weren’t comfortable yet.

“Right, I’m ready,” I said, more cheerfully than I felt.

The Orb floated over to my left shoulder and off we went.

 

I walked down the short road to the headquarters with the Orb on my shoulder. The early morning sun glinted from the tops of the buildings but didn’t touch the street, and the shadowed path was cold and brisk to walk through. My pace quickened, but whether it was from the early morning chill or the rising excitement I couldn’t tell.

Orb was silent on my shoulder, and the only sounds I could hear were the few people up this early and the birds that lived in the chimneys and rooftops singing their welcome of the dawn.

Orb was dimming.

I could see the headquarters not far up ahead, the large pale stone building with the huge oak double doors just within reach, and I sent my magic ahead of me, to request access. The authentication charm chimed and the doors swung open with a thud that was surprisingly loud , in the still morning. I stepped across the threshold just as Orb’s light faded to a dim glow, less than a candle’s worth.

 

The reception was bright and open, predominantly white stone broken up by the windows set high in the walls, small wooden benches along the walls, and the large solid-looking desk in the center. A couple of mages wandered by, disappearing into a different part of the building that wasn’t open to the public.

My boss sat at the desk; a large stocky man, extremely red in the face. I’d met him briefly yesterday, but never caught his name.

“Junior Mage Tristan! What time do you call this?” He shouted at me. His voice was the same deep, gruff one that Orb had imitated earlier.

I looked away and mumbled out an incoherent mess of syllables that was supposed to be an excuse.

“No, don’t answer.” He raised his hand and pointed at his feet. “Orb, you get over here, you took too long.”

Orb floated over to the boss, flickering slightly.

“Sorry Dad.” It said in its childlike tones.

It brightened as it got closer to its “father”.

“No! How many times have I told you we are at work, you call me ‘Senior Mage,’ or ‘Sir’ at work.” My boss said to Orb. The harsh tones made me wince in sympathy.

Orb shifted colour from a pale blue to light pink.

“Sorry Sir,” Orb said.

The boss turned back to me looking mollified by the submission of his “child”.

“Junior Mage Tristan, as this is your induction week you are to attempt as many different tasks as we can find for you. I have your testing shard here. It says your mentor Jase has many nice things to say about you, but I’m going to ignore that. He was always a bit soft. It also says you were top of your curve in earth. Is this correct?” he asked.

I drifted off slightly remembering my earth classes, and I’d missed that he’d asked a question.

“Is this correct?” He shouted at me.

Wow, where is my head today? I’m not normally this much of a pixie, I thought.

“Yes, sir, it is. Golem creation and skill implantation are my best earth skills. I’m okay with plants and infused enchantment.” My voice vibrated with pride.

“I didn’t ask for your life story, Junior Mage. A simple “yes Sir,” or “no Sir,” will suffice. Am I understood?” I nodded in reply. “Good. Now it says here you have water skills as well?”

“That would be correct, Sir.”

“Well, Mud Boy, have I got a job for you. Let’s send you out to help the farmers today.” he said with a smirk.

I bit my tongue and clenched my fists as I felt my body tighten up in response to the insult.

“The farmers west of the town are having an irrigation problem. Do you think you can handle it?” He asked.

I blinked at the order. I hadn’t expected to get a task like this. A multitude of retorts welled up in me, but I choked them down, with an almost physical effort.

“Yes sir.” I said.

“We’ll see. Remember, this is induction; if you can’t handle it report back to me or send a message, and we shall find you something so simple that even you couldn’t screw it up.” My boss said, doubt in every line of his face.

He handed me a small rock.

“Dismissed.”

I left, carrying my rock.

 

Out on the street, I pounded out my frustration on the neat pavement. I accessed the information stored on the innocuous, black rock. It fit in my hand easily, smooth edges that didn’t bite as I gripped it with a clenched fist. My knuckles went white when the flood of information hit my mind, and I staggered next to the fountain. I knelt down to the water and used my empty hand to take a mouthful.

The cool, fresh fluid washed away a great deal of the bubbling anger and frustration. I looked down into the placid edge of the water away from the spray. I could see my reflection.

The glow of my eyes illuminated the rest of my fine-boned, narrow face. My youth shone almost as brightly as my eyes. My dark hair, long but bound, contrasted against my pale skin. I’d been called “handsome” by a girl when I was younger. Before I became a mage. Before the glowing eyes.

I stood up, a tingle of magic welling from the stone I was crushing in my grip. I tensed and was braced for the rush this time. Tiny waves of energy flowed up my arm, transmitting simple instructions directly into my mind in someone else’s voice.

 

I looked around the square at the wide white streets that were slowly filling with people as the sun climbed higher. I spent a moment receiving instruction before heading off, away from the rising sun. The easy layout of the town helped, set out like a compass in cardinal directions.

 

I could see the farms cast in bright light from the early morning sun, deep greens from the maturing crops, solid earthy browns from the muddy paths scattered in a disorderly fashion, and animals in profusion.

I took a deep breath of the fresh air. The scent of growing things and the faint but unmistakable taint of animal dung brought a sense of calm, like being back at home. I could feel my chest relaxing as I took in the scenery.

I caught a glimmer of movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned my head to focus on the moving shapes in the fields. Field golems, man shaped rocks animated with magic. They were watering the fields, I assumed it was a stopgap measure until I finished the task I’d been assigned. I tore my eyes away from the golems and scanned the horizon. I could see a solid stone plinth, near the farm buildings, a cluster of human men standing around it. I angled my path to intersect with them.

They saw me coming. The oldest just looked at me, a wrinkled man with darkened skin like leather and laughter lines deep around his eyes and mouth.

I shifted my feet, but raised my head to look him in the eye.

“Hello, I’m Tristan Sodden. I’m your assigned mage for this incident. Can you please tell me what the problem is?” I forced out, as the intensity of his stare almost stole my words.

The farmer’s mouth tightened as he looked me up and down.

“You’re a full mage?” he asked.

“Yes I am, just qualified.” I said.

“We were expecting someone older, you sure you’re in the right place?”

I opened my mouth to reply but he cut me off.

“Your boss Senior Rysan mirrored us to let us know who you were. He didn’t mention you were so young though.”

I didn’t know what to say. It must have shown.

“Anyway, get to work, we can’t keep the golems in the fields forever, we need them for other things. This here,” he pointed his chin towards the square plinth, “is the irrigation system, new fangled device. Had to set it in the well, it needs whatever it is you mages do.”

I nodded, more to myself than to the farmer, as my eyes fell on the solid grey stone.

The farmers stepped away then, almost an assumption that I knew what I was doing. They didn’t take their eyes off me.

I shifted my shoulders and rubbed my hands together.

I then knelt down next to the dark grey stone, its edges sharp against the crumbling well. I placed my hands against it. I took a deep breath then I closed my eyes.

 

My othersight opened up, and I could see the ghostly threads imbued in the control device. It just needed animating and limiting. The rush of pale colours was confusing as I figured out the central elements. Water and earth, bringing life and growth from the land with the addition of water. The concepts were clear, but the limits needed adjusting. That was the problem with these ready-made devices; they always needed configuring for the various situations. I send a whisper of my magic inside to arrange the concepts, define the boundaries, the shifting shapes, that only existed in othersight travelled at my direction. Containment, earth based, went around the edge, marking a barrier within the stone and without. I traced the edge of the farm, marking it. I found the final sequence, threading the connective strands through the concepts to create the fully functional system. I snapped out of othersight and blinked, my hand wet and cold. Beads of moisture were accumulating on the surface of the stone. Waves of chilled air poured from it, before settling.

I sent my magic out again, this time in a torrent to bathe the system. The stone shifted and sunk, settling into its location, and I bound it to the well much like a cap stone. I manipulated the old loose stones into a better alignment, then smoothed and joined all the edges. Glyphs lit up on the surface of the control stone to say it was fully functional and to grant control to the farmers.

I stood up, brushing the dead dry grass and dirt from my knee and watching. The water collecting on the sides started to be absorbed into the stone. In just a moment, the land all around me flushed with health. The grass beneath my feet lost some of its limpness. There was an almost visible ripple as the effect hit the boundary of the farm and stopped dead. The smell of rain on dry earth rose under me and I inhaled, then smiled.

I stood there as the farmers watched me, and nodded to them. They nodded back.

The oldest farmer tipped his hat to me, a faint smile on his face.

I turned and walked back the way I had come, my steps light. I held my head up. the feeling of triumph that filled me made the walk back to town feel very short.

 

The shift from dirt paths to smooth paving startled me out of my self-congratulatory mood, and I looked around at the wall. The high grey-stone structure was much older than most of the town, one of the few constructions made without magic. It had barely been touched by the waves that had struck back when I was a child.

I had passed the gate in the wall around the town when the rumble from my stomach reminded me that it was around lunch time. I’d never been able to eat much before noon.

I walked through the outer market, and the bright cloth roofs of the wooden stalls wavered in the gentle wind. Mainly produce was for sale, but I could see a few rare items: alchemical ingredients, even some magic focus. Mages don’t really use focuses much, but some were beautiful; my hands itched to touch them but I was distracted by something savory on the breeze. I found myself standing at a small intersection just off the main square, turning my head this way and that and sniffing. My eyes caught on what was clearly a tavern; the wooden sign hanging above the door was a give away.  The door was open, the scents were coming from inside.

When I stepped inside the change from the brightly light outside to the slightly darker interior took a moment to adjust to. The first thing that struck me was how clean the place was, the floor was smooth flagstones, the booths were along the walls, each one facing the center of the room. A long wooden bar was at the back. A few booths had customers in them, most didn’t even look up at me. I headed right for the bar at the back, where a waitress leaned, eyeing the customers, the attentive hovering air about her giving her away. She was smartly dressed in sensible durable clothes; a simple white cotton blouse and grey skirt, complemented her sturdy shoes.

“Excuse me, could I order some food please?” I asked.

She looked me over, before responding. “Of course, Sir mage. Find a seat. I will be over in a moment.”

I nodded my thanks then walked to the nearest empty booth.

My foot caught on the edge of one of the flag stones. My heart leapt, but I recovered. I could feel my face flushing, and I looked around. No one was looking, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

I watched my steps slightly better, and made it to the booth without further incident.

Just as I was sliding in, the waitress came over.

“Master Mage. What would you like?” She asked.

“Um. Could I have steak and vegetables and a glass of  silver juice please?” I asked.

“No problem. Anything else?” She asked, her smile both dutiful and bored.

“No, that will be all.”

She didn’t say anything else, just hurried off.

I sat in the surprisingly comfortable booth, enjoying the curve of it, the soft padding. I placed my hands on the wooden table. I noticed a smudge of dirt on my palm. I licked my thumb and attempted to rub it away.

The waitress returned with my drink. Silver juice is an alchemical drink that most don’t like. I’d grown used to it at the academy, where they served nothing else. It was infused with magic.

“Your meal will be a few moments, how will you be paying?”

I reached into the small pouch at my waist and pulled out a yellow octagonal crystal, about the length and thickness of my thumb.

The waitress nodded, a look of relief on her pretty face. “We had one of the older mages in here the other day, he tried paying with gold nobles.”

I winced, I’d not seen a noble since I was a child, never a gold one.

“Thank the wizards for the shards.” She said. “That will be three knacks, please.”

I passed the shard over her hand, which had a small metal ring on her middle finger, and sent a sliver of my magic to the shard authorising the payment. I felt a tiny jolt as it went through.

The waitress smile brightly, then went off through the door next to the bar.

I waited patiently, I sipped my silver juice, the thick metallic liquid cold and sharp,  similar to citrus juices. It was refreshing; I could feel the cold racing through my veins, like taking a plunge in a pool in the winter, the surface ice breaking on impact. My heart raced and my mind cleared, and I smiled grimly. It takes some getting used to.

My meal arrived not long after, along with nice silver cutlery.

I raised my eyebrows at that, and the waitress went off chuckling to herself.

I tucked into my lunch, medium rare steak done to perfection. The light salad was fresh and crisp, the potato light and fluffy. All in all it was a good meal for a starving young mage. I took my time with my juice afterwards though, I felt pleasantly full and didn’t want to rush.

I felt my pendant warm. It had never done that before. I slid a finger along my neck, found the chain and pulled out the plain green gem. An oval uncut emerald, it looked like green glass set in a very simplistic silver setting. I smiled as I stroked the inexplicably warm gem. A tingle of magic informed me that I was being summoned back to headquarters. I probably wouldn’t have noticed the pendant being warm while asleep, no wonder Orb was sent.  With a sigh I rose, nodded my thanks to the waitress and walked out the door.

 

“Why did I have to summon you?” Rysan thundered at me. He stood up and started pacing.

“I was having some lunch before returning.” I explained.

“A very responsible use of your time.” He said sarcastically as he turned away. “You should have come here as soon as you were able, I don’t have time to be babysitting you.”

I remained standing in the reception hall  of headquarters, and I looked around, to make sure no one else was about. It was just Rysan, Orb, and I.

I pressed my lips together and looked at my feet.

“Junior Mage, am I boring you? Do you have something better to be doing?”

“No, Sir.” I said, raising my head and standing to attention. I focused my eyes on a point on the wall.

“In fact, you do have better things to be doing, and so do I. You need to do your report of the events of this morning. I need it filled by the end of the day. Your master should have informed you, prepared you for this job. It is not my task, but it seems to fall to me. Go to one of the private rooms and do your job, Junior Mage. You may think you’re better than us, considering you completed training early, but I find you lacking, lazy and arrogant. Prove me wrong or serve somewhere else.”

“Yes, Sir.” I remained standing, waiting to be dismissed, my face locked in the most neural expression I could manage. Inside I was seething. My hands had started to shake. I could feel my tendons creaking as I fought them to a standstill.

Rysan walked over to stand in front of me, mere feet away.

I continued to stare at the spot on the wall.

“Dismissed.” I saw him move away, back to the desk.

I eased myself from my attentive paralysis and turned to one of the doors at the back of the hall. I avoided looking at Rysan as I walked.

I chose the door closest to me, placed my hand on the handle and pushed. It didn’t budge. I stared at it.

The door was solid oak, stained dark. There were faint carvings on its surface, but as I ran my hand over them it felt smooth as glass. Glimmers of light followed in the wake of my hand, running through the carvings. I cocked my head to one side as I considered it.

“Activate it, Boy. I want that report today.” Rysan said from the desk.

I clenched my fists again, my nails digging into my palms, I counted silently in my head. Then I opened my othersight and looked at the door, my head throbbed at the additional sensory input.

The door shimmered with pale colours, greens and blues, a touch of red, in waves over the wood. The carvings stood out as active concepts, threads wove in thick tangled lines to the handle and the desk and the main doors.

I placed my left hand on the central glyph carving, then placed my right on the handle, channelling a small flow of raw power, barely enough to do anything with. I felt an answering echo from the door as it recognised me. The door swung open.

I stepped over the threshold muttering to myself about my own stupidity. It was just a different authorisation system, much like the main doors except this one would only let in a mage that had the approval of the desk and the main doors.

I felt my curiosity growing at what would be in this room, almost an excitement.

I lifted my eyes and had a look, and felt them go wide in surprise as my face fell.  There was nothing there. Well, nothing exciting or interesting or worth locking up so tightly. The tiny room contained a glyph screen embedded in the desk, and a chair. That was it. The white walls were stark and clean, a glowing beam of sunlight slanting from the small window lit the room brightly.

I took myself over to the chair and sat. The desk was new, a darkly shining wood with a large screen that looked like a window set into the desk. I placed a palm flat on the screen, and it slowly came alive with lights, flickering in depths that weren’t there. I rested my head in the other hand which I’d propped up, closing my eyes to ease my headache. A dull pounding had formed behind my eyes where I had overused my sight; hours at a time just isn’t a good idea. I breathed deeply and the pounding settled a touch. I really had to get more used to othersight. It always felt like staring at the sun afterwards, painful and not very clever.

I opened my eyes, which took a moment to focus, and saw little glyphs forming on the screen. The sharp angular lines signified whole words. A few taps of the right ones and I was given a blank. I took my palm off the screen and it flickered, and the blank solidified into an image of paper. I ran my hand along the underside of the desk, and a small glass stylus slid into my grasp. I held the stylus over the screen. I shifted my grip, the sweat on my hand making it slide.

I started writing the elaborate glyphs of the mages. Sharp and angular, they similar to the regular glyphs, but these were whole words, thoughts, and ideas, condensed. The connectives always confused me, the marks which linked one to another. I made a few mistakes and had find them, but my eyes refused to focus, they just glazed over. I found myself watching the sunbeam moving across the wall. The sun was sinking and my first real day as a mage was almost done. Yesterday didn’t count, I’d been shown around and that was it. I forced myself to concentrate. The once-blank page crawled with glyphs, connectives linked the necessary parts, I had to translate it into common in my head to check that it was adequate. It was, if barely. The sun was setting as I made my final changes. The circle of light shifted to an amorphous flare of reddish gold. I tapped the glyph to store my report, and stood. My back ached from hunching over and my legs were stiff. I had a cramp in my hand as I tried to slide the stylus back into its resting slot. I only just managed. I then spent a moment stretching, creaks and pops coming from various parts of my body as I did so.  I walked to the door, opening it this time without any difficulties.

Rysan was still seated at the reception desk, his own screen lighting up his face and casting deep shadows under his jaw and eyes. He looked far older than I’d first guessed, fifty at least. Orb hovered around him, its light making the other shadows dance.

I walked directly for the door as fast as my stiff legs would carry me.

Rysan grunted.

I pretended not to hear and carried on, even though my belly did a little flip.

I could hear nothing behind me as I left.

 

The dusk cast the town in blood-red light. I blinked to help my eyes adjust; too long spent in a tiny room, looking at words ruins my far sight

I walked the path home, taking slow gentle steps. The shifting air was cool and moist with the smell of rain on the wind. I looked up at the clouds covering the sky, barring the edges of the horizon.

I moved stiffly down the street, my legs refusing to be bend or straighten quite right.

I reached the door of my building, and it recognised me without any fuss. Once inside, I looked between the stairs and the round dais in the center of the floor. I turned my head towards the stairs and persuaded my legs to take me up despite their protests. The walk had helped, but sitting at a desk wasn’t my thing. It took longer than I had planned to get up to my apartment, but I got to my door in one piece. A touch on my door swung it inwards without a sound. It was dark inside, but the window showed the very last touch of the sun disappearing below the horizon.

“Lights.” I called to the empty room.

The small glow globe set in the ceiling created a gentle glow, enough to see by.

I limped over to my bed, pulling off my overcoat before I  sat and took off my boots. I rubbed my feet with strong circular motions, sighing.

I looked around the room, trying to familiarise with my new home. The mages had given it to me on passing my test. I felt something bubbling up inside, looking down at my hands to find that they had stopped massaging and were now clenched into white knuckled fists. I stood and padded over to window. The darkness made  the window act like a mirror. I was tense and shaking, a sense of frustration and anger coming over me as I looked at myself, standing in my mages uniform. It had been all I’d wanted for so long, and I was stuck dealing with reports and farmers, and a prick of a boss. I was only a junior mage, but I thought we did more than solved tiny problems. I passed my exams five years before anyone else. I was the youngest living mage. That had to count for something. As my blood heated, I swung my fist at the window.

The pain replaced all the anger in an instant.

The window didn’t break; reinforced with magic and metals it was strong. I flexed my hand, the blood rushing through it making it throb.

I walked to the basin in the corner and touched the faucet, filling the basin, then touched it again, turning it off. I carried the basin over to the armchair a few steps away. I sat down and balanced the basin on my knee. I placed my aching hand into the cold water. It took the sting away, but I would be feeling it in the morning. The cold water helped. With my hand cool and my body still, I was struck by a realisation.

I had thought the hard work would be over now, that I had earned my mage licence. Why would real life be easier than that? People respect ability, and I hadn’t proved myself yet. My first real task, my second day, but my first as a working mage.

I looked down into the water at the little tendrils of blood floating in swirls from my skinned knuckles. I channeled magic through my hand, and filmy, unclear images formed; places and people, but none I recognised. I moved my hand through the water and let out a sigh.

I held the basin and stood, walking over to drain the basins and pour the pink-tinted water away. I shook my hand to get the last of the water off.

I looked at my bed longingly.

My body was tired, a bone-deep weariness, as if it was saying  “no more today”.

I stripped myself with an almost agonising slowness, my tired body refusing to move quickly.

I crawled into bed, body aching, mind numb.

“Lights out.” I called.

The lights dimmed to sparks then winked out.

I lay in the dark drifting into sleep, wondering what the next day would bring. I could never have foretold what was in store for me.

 (——)

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Mage Life Chapter 14

 I awoke to a faint sobbing noise, I sat up, disoriented, I was on the floor. A lump was on my bed. The sound was coming from the lump. I stood noticing, the pain in my arms and back that sleeping on the floor hadn’t helped with at all. I stretched wincing a touch at the soreness, before lowering my arms. The lump wasn’t moving. I stepped closer, listening to the sobbing. my heart was breaking as my mind recalled what the lump was. Sophia was crying in her sleep.

I sat on the edge of the bed, unsure about what to do.

I reached out to gently touch the bundle of girl and blanket, my hand gently rested on what could have been a shoulder. “Sophia, are you okay?” I asked softly.

The bundle exploded into motion, a tangle of limbs and fabric pulled away from me rapidly, flows of earth touched magic flickering throughout, she fell off the bed.

I made a point not to laugh.

“Oww,” her voice softly moaned. She wiggled out of the blankets.

“You okay Sophia? I repeated. I was carefully not moving myself.

“What a stupid question, my parents are gone,” she muttered, her tears thickening her voice.

“I’m sorry Sophia, I did everything I could,” I pleaded. I stayed as still as I could, I didn’t want to spook her.

“No you didn’t, you survived everything. You’re a mage. You can do anything. Why didn’t you save them?” she begged through her tears, her green eyes shimmered in the moonlight coming through the window

“I couldn’t Sophia, I tried by the time I got there they were too far gone,” I insisted gently. I didn’t want to upset her further.

Sophia broke down at this point just laying on the floor tears streaming, her body shook with the racking sobs she was producing. Magic was flickering weakly through her, but failing to manifest.

I walked around the bed, I wanted to comfort her, there was nothing I could say, as I walked closer she scooted away.

“Stay away!” Sophia shouted, her arms coming up to untangle herself from the blanket. “You killed my parents, magic is evil!”

“I didn’t Sophia, they surged, there was nothing I could do, except what I did,” I protested lamely, my jaw was clenched so tightly my teeth hurt.

“Why did it have to be them? They never did anything wrong,” Sophia asked.

“I don’t know Sophia, but we can find out together if you want,” I offered.

“What happens now?” she queried

“I don’t know that either, but for now we will start with a good nights sleep. We’ll deal with tomorrow, when it comes. How does that sound?” I asked gently.

I knelt down next to her.

Sophia came to me then, a bundle of limbs and long copper hair, her arms wrapped around me tightly. Fresh tears in her eyes.

My own eyes burned in sympathy, I would be devastated at the loss of my parents even though we aren’t close, how much worse must it be for my child apprentice.

“Don’t leave me,” Sophia murmured against my shoulder.

“I won’t,” I promised. I stood carrying the exhausted and grieving girl back to bed. Not wanting to break my promise I lay down with her still tightly holding on to me.

Sophia rapidly fell back to sleep.

I was awake longer, the new experience of having a child relying on me was a daunting prospect, but what could I do? I was her master. Sleep claimed me quickly after that, the moon’s slow progress across the sky lulling me into slumber.

The sun shone in waking me, from possibly the most uncomfortable nights sleep of my life. The weight on my chest had spread out, waking up in the night because someone else’s hair is in your mouth is distinctly unpleasant. Even worse is when you can barely move for fear of waking the other person. I turned my head slightly to find Sophia sprawled across me, her head was on my chest her red hair spread everywhere. I tried to ease my way out from under her limp form. I managed to half slide half crawl to the edge of the bed. I pushed her unresisting body into the middle of the bed, a snore erupted from her mouth, making me freeze in worry I had disturbed her. Sophia wriggled before settling into a new position. I was free. I stood up, placing my still booted feet on the wooden floor. I tiptoed to the bathing chamber taking extra care to silence my motions. Once through the door I eased it shut took a deep breath before remarking to myself.

“Oh fuck,” I had no clue on how to look after a child or how to do that and my job.

I called out softly “Orb, are you there?” I could feel the connection between orb and my pendant strengthen.

“Yes Tristan?” came its voice quietly. “What appears to be the problem now?”

“Yeah, sorry to bother you,” I said sarcastically, “but I have a young girl with no parents in my apartment. How am I supposed to go to work?”

“You could simply place her at the orphanage Tristan, as I advised last night,” Orb replied tonelessly.

“Her mother asked me to look after her, it was the last thing she ever said. I couldnt help them, this is the least I can do,” I said fiercely

“I was merely listing your options, my skills in this area are very limited Tristan, I was not designed for this.”

“Few creations are Orb, the implantation of a diverse skill set like this would be brutal,” I stated distracted by the challenges of golem skill problems. Trying to focus on the here and now I asked.“So what help can I have?

“My advice is to ask Master Jase, he has experience in this area, he’s even listed as having a child,” Orb answered impassively.

“Jase has a kid?” my surprise stopped me from asking a more specific question.

“According to my records, Master Jase married nineteen years ago to an earth knack, a child was born the same year, a boy,” Orbs connection flickered briefly.

Orb you still here?” I asked

“Yes Tristan, there appears to be a gap in my records concerning a large period of Master Jase’s life. I’m sorry I can’t be more help,” Orb answered. “ Even accounting for all that, I stand by my advice.”

“You don’t stand, you don’t have feet Orb,” I replied acidly, my frustration with the situation must be getting to me. “I’m sorry Orb, that was uncalled for.”

“…” there was no voice coming through, although the link was active.

“Orb,” I hissed, suddenly remembering Sophia being asleep in the next room. Still nothing. I grabbed hold of my pendant, inspecting it for cracks and flaws, when suddenly a laugh boomed into the room. I dropped the pendant in shock, my eyes wide and my heart in my throat.

“That was a good joke Tristan, I had to suspend my personality limiting protocols, to really understand,” came Orb’s voice, merriment evident in it.

“I didn’t mean to be offensive though Orb, I know you were just trying to help,” I said apologetically. Talking to a bodiless voice is very disorienting, I never know where to look.

“Don’t worry about it, Tristan. I know you didn’t,” Orb said confidently. its voice had gotten far more mature since I had last heard it with a personality. “Speak to Jase, if he can’t help, he will know someone who can.” The connection ended then.

I spend a few moments, thinking though the revelation. Jase had never mentioned a family, I knew he was in his late forties even though he didn’t look a day over thirty so a family was likely but thinking of Jase like that boggled my mind. I had never even seen Jase outside the pursuit of our respective duties, I didn’t even know where he lived, for a man with such a large part in my life I knew surprisingly little about him. seeing as I was in here I used the facilities to have a wash and relieve myself, before tackling the problem that I had brought home with me.

I walked back into the main room. Sophia had sat up on the bed, rubbing her eyes. Her crimson hair was in disarray, strands clung to her face.

“Good you’re up, get ready we are going out,” I said gruffly. It was hard not to look at her as another problem to deal with.

“Huh?” Sophia queried sleepily.

“ Get ready, we have to go see someone,” I repeated.

“Who?” she asked warily, her eyes looking more alert

“My old mentor,” I answered sharply before turning away to give her some privacy.

I could hear rustling behind me. I distracted myself by attempting to plan what I was going to say to Jase. Waiting had never been a strong suit of mine.

“I’m ready,” Sophia announced.

I turned back to look. I burst out laughing at the sight that greeted me.

Sophia had straightened out her clothes, smoothing out the accumulated wrinkles. Her face was wet still, from her wash I assumed, her hair had puffed up. she looked like a dandelion. She scowled at me.

“Here let me help,” I knelt next to her, bringing my left hand to her hair, I used a slight charm to bind her hair into a single ponytail. I smiled at her, hopefully it was reassuring.

Sophia smiled back weakly.

“You’re all set?” I asked knowing the answer, she didn’t have anything else to wear.

“Yeah, um …” Sophia hesitated, her eyes darting away.

“What’s the problem?” I asked gently, making sure to look her in the eye.

“You’re not getting rid of me, are you?” Sophia asked finally.

“No Soph. I need to talk to Jase, to work out some arrangements for this,” I waved my hand about to indicate both of us and the tiny living space.

“Oh,” she said, if anything it highlighted how young she was.

“Let’s go then,” I said before walking to the door, a small hand touched my own. I looked towards it. Sophia was tightly gripping my hand, I gave her a squeeze. We left hand in hand.

The academy was bustling, what looked like stone guild members going in and out. The walk here had been slow, I wasn’t used to having a child to consider. Sophia’s smaller stride had meant extra care was needed through the wide streets, the almost unconscious parting of crowds that accompanied a mage walking the streets hadn’t taken her into account, as a result she had been jostled and knocked about a bit. Sophia bore it with a grace I couldnt match, I was glaring at anyone that came close long before reaching our destination.

Walking to the reception with my anger clear on my face may not have been the best of plans, but I was out of options.

Kristina was behind the desk once again, she looked up at my approach and paled.

“Don’t cry this time, help me quickly and I will be out of your hair as quickly as possible,” I ordered harshly.

“Sir, what do you need?” Kristina hurriedly said, her fear clear in her voice.

“I need Master Jase, Where is he?” I demanded, locking my eyes onto hers. I heard a faint gulp from beside me. It must have been Sophia. I gave her hand a gentle squeeze, it was the best I could do, my anger wouldn’t let me do more.

“Master Jase is in his work room, do you require a wisp?” Kristina asked quickly.

“Yes, thank you,” I said. A blue wisp gradually illuminated next to me.

I looked down at Sophia, “ Just follow the wisp.”

Sophia let go and took a few steps ahead of me. I turned back to Kristina briefly. I leaned in placing both hands on her desk and leaning in.

“Please let Jase know I am coming, and for future reference I may have killed in the line of duty, but I am not a murderer. Do we understand each other?” I grated out through gritted teeth.

Kristina’s head rapidly bobbed up and down in a vigorous nod, what little colour in her face draining, leaving her white as fresh fallen snow.

I felt my message had been received so I let go of the desk and turned to chase after Sophia, she hadn’t gotten too far. The corridors were well-lit again, it was still strange seeing this ancient bastion of the old ways alive with people, lit up and almost welcoming. Sophia and I walked in silence for a moment, then she asked.

“Why did you scare that lady?”

“Its complicated,” I hedged, I shifted my shoulders slightly, uncomfortable with this topic.

“Nope it’s not. You just don’t wanna tell me,” Sophia said wisely.

“Its not that I don’t want to tell you, it’s just …” I trailed off lamely. I looked at the walls, trying to think of how to say it.

“I’m just a kid I won’t understand,” she commented snarkily.

“Its not that either, Soph. I just didn’t want to tell you I was being petty. She was scared of me for no reason the other day and it made me feel bad. I was in a bad mood and I took it out on her. I wanted her to suffer for it. I know it was wrong, but …” I shrugged. I couldn’t explain it any better than that.

Sophia looked at me, she had a little crinkle between her eyes as she worked it out.

“But that’s mean!” she stated forlornly.

“Sophia, I’m not perfect. I can be just as mean and petty as anyone else. I’m sorry to break that to you but that’s just how it is,” I said irritably, having to own my flaws was not a fun experience, neither was being judged by an eight year old.

Sophia was silent then, although she looked troubled.

We soon arrived at Jase’s workshop, our silence had grown oppressive but I didn’t know how to break it. I knocked on the thick wooden door.

Jase opened it slightly, his head poking round frame, his startlingly blue eyes shone taking in the sight that greeted him.

“Hello Tristan I hadn’t expected to see you so soon. Come on in,” Jase said as he recognised me, he opened the door wide stepping back to allow us to enter.

“Good morning Jase. How are your resumed duties treating you?” I asked as we  walked in.

Jase noticed Sophia before answering his eyes widened slightly, he turned to me a silent question on his face.

I had no idea what the question was though.

“Its fine, it’s nice being back among my projects, but I had missed the action of being an active,” Jase smiled at me, then turned to Sophia, “Hello, little one. I hear you’re Tristan’s apprentice, is that so?”

“Yep, and you’re Tristan’s master,” she said confidently as if she had no fear.

Jase chuckled at that.

“Tristan doesn’t have a master, not like I used to,” Jase informed her.

“I met your master by the way, not that you told me that before sending me to him,” I interjected, a smirk had made its presences known on my face.

“Ah Enchanter Fion. Fun, isn’t he?” Jase asked with his usual twinkle.

“Very much so, vague though,” I said

“Yes, he wasn’t always like that, but time affects us all,” Jase said sadly, a slight downturn in his smile accompanied the words.

“He called me your boy, but then Orb mentioned that you have a boy,” I put out there waiting for a bite.

Jase flushed.

“Fion was my master. We are close, but you have no authorization to know that” Jase replied hotly

“Jase, I didn’t ask about you. I only bring it up now because I need your help and because I can’t remember a single time you mentioned your son,” I said, attempting to calm the situation.

“Tristan, my life is my own. I would have told you eventually, but I have done my best to keep a professional distance between us,” Jase insisted

“Jase you have been like a father to me despite the hardships you had to force on me, I would want to know,”  I said softly.

“I won’t tell you now, you asked for help. I will tell you another time,” Jase conceded. “Now what kind of help did you need?”

“Well as you can see I have my apprentice with me,” I started

“I can, she is lovely, a bit young for an apprentice. I can’t recall the last time we had a female mage,” Jase mused, stroking his chin as he looked down at Sophia.

“Female mages?” I asked. “No, sorry. I need help with my apprentice, I can’t work and take care of her, and I need a new place to live so she can have a room,” I said, pushing through the distraction.

“I’ll answer the female mages later, shall I?” Jase asked, while looking at Sophia.

Sophia nodded, her bright red ponytail bobbing slightly

“I can suggest you do what many masters did, you specialise,” Jase said, he started to pace around the room as he always did when starting to lecture. “ You are gifted, but young. You should have never been placed with an apprentice yet. Your oath has been taken, so there is nothing we can do about it. You are bound one to the other, that doesn’t mean you have to teach.”

I felt my brow furrow as I listened.

Jase had wandered all over the room his hands waving as he spoke. “Why teach if you’re not good at it, its simple you do what is in the best interests of the apprentice. The old ways are clearer than the modern ones. Of course, you should teach what you are best at,” Jase paused here to look over at me and Sophia, eyes shining and his face aglow. “ Your duty as a mage is to serve the magic’s best interests which is vague, I’ll clarify, magic wants to be used, that’s it. Your duties as a master are far more complex. You have to do what is in your apprentices best interests. She clearly needs new clothes it is your duty to provide her them or furnish a means in which she can do so herself, as an example. The old ways were simpler because her duty to you was equal to your duties to her. You with me so far?” Jase asked suddenly, he always liked to catch us out when we had ethics class.

I nodded, Sophia nodded.

“Good, well now your duties are more one-sided, it’s not an equal part relationship.”

“Jase I know about this. I need to know how I can balance raising a child and doing my job,” I stated exasperated. I should have know better than to give Jase the chance to lecture.

“I was getting there Tristan,” Jase said, his disappointment plain. “You share your duties with another. You can’t give her your best so you find someone that can.”

“But who? I don’t know many mages that would take on an apprentice,” I asked.

“Are you being wilfully blind? most of Sophia’s needs don’t need a mage. I can send a request for larger quarters. I will take her for some of the time and we can work something out for her care.”

“Thank you Jase,” I said relieved.

“Excuse me, don’t I get any say in this?” Sophia piped up, her green eyes blazing.

I blinked, I hadn’t expected her to object.

“Of course you do, my dear,” Jase said with a bright smile.

“Well this is sounding like I’m going to get passed around,” Sophia said before turning to me “ If you don’t want me, say so. I won’t be treated like this.” Tears threatened to spill from her eyes

“Oh Sophia, its not like that at all. I just don’t know enough about children, I need help,” I said softly.

“Just say so, don’t pass me off on others,” Sophia insisted, her threatened tears fulfilling the promise and rolling down her face.

“Sophia none of this is meant to upset you, we just need to make arrangements to ensure you receive the best possible care,” Jase interjected, his tone soft and comforting.

“Um, okay then,” Sophia sniffled.

“Brave girl,” Jase commented, nodding approvingly.

“So how are we doing this Jase?” I asked.

“You should have worked all this out on your own Tristan, you can’t rely on me forever,” Jase reprimanded me before continuing. “We will authorise the lodgings change, I will find a nanny as well as work out a schedule,” a faint look crossed his face as if an idea suddenly appealed, he held up a finger “ One moment,” Jase walked over to his desk, he picked up his glyphscreen, a few taps and some swipes later, a smile appeared on his face.

Sophia and I just looked at each other while we waited, utterly bemused by the whole situation.

“Ha,” Jase exclaimed. “You are going to love this.”

A sudden dread filled me as all the things, that would amuse Jase at my expense went through my mind

“What is it Jase?” I asked the inevitable question.

“Don’t ask in that tone, its nothing bad,” a manic glee radiated from Jase.

“Just tell me,” I flatly demanded. This drawing it out was always bad for my nerves.

“You and Sophia are authorized to live here, in the master mage apartments,” Jase revealed. “You take all the fun out of things.”  he gave a conspiratorial wink at Sophia

Sophia burst into giggles, her earlier tears completely forgotten.

A puzzled frown found its way onto my face.

“How does that work? I thought only masters could live here,” I said, it wasn’t what I wanted to say but it was what came out.

“ You have an apprentice, hence you are a master. I have arranged for your belongings to be brought from your apartment,” Jase declared simply.

I nodded, I suppose that makes as much sense as anything.

“Sophia could you wait outside for a moment please I need to have a private word with Tristan?” Jase asked quietly.

Sophia looked between us searching our faces before nodding and walking to the door.

The door closed behind her.

“What has changed?” Jase asked abruptly.

I told him about the surges, Sophias parents.

“What ever you think Tristan, I am proud of you. You have stood up and claimed responsibility for Sophia, that is a very mature thing,” Jase said, his hand coming up to rest on my shoulder

“I’m not ready, she deserves better than me,” I said honestly.

Jase just smiled before saying “No parent is ever ready,and we all think they deserve better. It’s what pushes us to be better,” his face darkened as Jase seemed to recollect something.

What’s wrong Jase?” I asked

“It’s nothing Tristan, just some bitter memories,” a negligent hand wave as he removed it from my shoulder accompanied his words as if brushing the matter aside.

I had seen Jase do this for years, I wanted to help him but I couldn’t unless I knew what was wrong.

“Jase don’t, if you don’t want to tell me, that’s fine, but don’t brush it off as nothing,” I told him firmly

“I..” Jase spluttered out, shock stopping him before he started. Jase took a deep breath before trying again. “Fine, I don’t want to talk about it at the moment, but I will tell you another time. I asked to speak to you for a different reason, your friend, from your training has graduated,” Jase left it hanging in the air expectantly.

I racked my brain trying to remember to whom he was referring. Only one person sprung to mind, but he wasn’t a friend.

“Did you mean, Elan?” I asked desperately hoping he would say it was anyone else.

“Yes I did. He got released to duty this morning, I thought it would be a good idea to give you a heads up, you may run into him,” Jase said seriously.

“Thanks I’ll do my best to avoid him, I no longer have to go to headquarters, that should help minimise the risks.”

We nodded to each other. It seems our conversation was concluded. I went to the door to take Sophia up to our new lodgings.

As I reached the door, I looked back at Jase, “Thank you for everything Master,” I said sincerely.

“You’re welcome, my boy,” Jase responded an odd emphasis on the my.

Another nod and I left.

Mage Life Chapter 13

My walk back to headquarters was delayed by the fuzzy feeling the morning had given me. I took my time, a nice gentle walk through the streets of home to give me few moments longer to clear my head, the music I could faintly hear from the paving itself wasn’t helping, the louder voice from the orb was distracting. I did my best to block it out, the last thing I wanted right now was to lose control of my sight, again.

The streets were quiet, a few afternoon workers on their way to wherever they were going, I easily avoided bumping into them this time, proving that I could pay attention instead of wandering around in a daze as was the current pattern.

The square in front of headquarters, sectioned off. Mage guards keeping people out, my curiosity was peaked.

I approached the first mage I saw, an older fellow, late forties at least, grey hair, his uniform was straining to hold his stomach in, he eyed me with what I was guessing appropriate suspicion, my own brief training in crowd control was limited to make people feel guilty until they go away, unless it escalated to violence, despite that knowledge, I shifted uncomfortably under his gaze before speaking.

“Afternoon, what going on here? I asked congenially

“Some big guy is flying in from Greenlaw,” he replied grumpily, he spat to the side, a great hawking phlegmy mass of mucus splattered against the stone paving.

“This is the landing spot? I thought we had a pad outside of town,” I mused aloud.

“Well this guy clearly ain’t using it. Do you have business here, or are ya just being nosy?” he asked obnoxiously, his glare turning up a notch.

“Yes I’m reporting for assignment,” I stated, confident that would allow me passage.

“You’ll have to wait, we don’t know exactly when it’s coming in, it’s not worth my job to let even an idiot like you get squashed,” he said as if I was personally ruining his day.

“But I need to report,” I protested.

My objection was falling on deaf ears, he moved not an inch unless you counted the finger he had lodged in his right ear, he scrunched up his face as he wiggled it about, it came out with a distinct squelch, a glimmer of satisfaction in his faintly green-glowing eyes.

My disgust was short lived. My retort died upon my lips, unsaid as the wind picked up speed. Massive gusts staggered me and my new friend. The air whipping around the confined spaces. The square was acting as a focus to drive the wind down the streets, twisters of dust were born and died rapidly as the pressure increased, grit blew into my eyes as I lifted my head to catch a glimpse of what was causing the wind.

A large translucent bird was settling into the square, it was massive, wing tip to wing tip must have been two hundred feet easily, the body was a wavering mass of pale colours much like a rippling pond, solid shadows could be seen in the center, unmoving human shapes dwarfed by the bulk of the bird.

I had to raise my arm to protect my eyes from the blasts as the wings beat, the tempo of the beats reducing slowly as its giant claws touched the stones of the plaza. The air stilled as the bird landed.

My companion was nonchalant, he spat again, a startlingly loud sound in the relative silence of the area.

“Right I’m done, I’m off to the pub,” he announced to no one in particular before walking off.

I still had to report, I took a step forward trying to see a way around the bird. There was a small gap that I aimed myself towards. I tried hard not to be uncomfortable around the golem. I knew that’s what it was. I could feel the weaving of it, a totally mindless puppet granted flight, that didn’t mean a giant bird wasn’t intimidating. Come on it’s freaking huge

I made my way across the square, as I did so the chest of the golem vanished, leaving an opening to its core, floating out came a man, from this distance I couldn’t see much else. The man gradually sunk to the stone of the plaza landing gently, next to the fountain.

The bird’s chest sealed up and its wings started fluttering. I crouched down covering my eyes with my arms, using a touch of magic to form weak shell. I couldn’t do much more with my skills. The bird’s wings rapidly gained speed, lifting its feet from the paving. A few more powerful wing beats pulled the construct further into the air, it climbed quickly before turning towards the east and just like that it was gone, the bird’s speed was incredible.

I deactivated my shell and stood a moment before resuming my walk to headquarters,the passenger was also heading in the same direction,  he looked familiar but I couldn’t place him.

The man reached the lobby long before I did. A few hundred feet between us may not seem like much but throw in some dust and grit and my sight wasn’t as good as normal, in fact my eyes were still smarting from the first few blasts of air.

Upon finally reaching headquarters, I walked straight through to Rysan’s offices as I had done for weeks.

What do you think you are doing mage?” Rysan thundered at me.

I stood just inside the doorway, there was no sign of Jase. Rysan was standing behind his desk, orb was hovering over his shoulder, rapid flickering colours pulsing through him as he re- familiarised himself with Rysan’s energies

“I’m waiting for an answer mage, what made you think you could just walk into my office without so much as a knock?!” Rysan shouted, running his hand through his short stubbly hair, his face was lined with stress and fatigue.

“I’m sorry Sir, I was expecting Jase to be here,” I answered.

“That is no excuse, there is protocol for a reason, follow it or you will be dismissed. Do you understand me?” Rysan asked, his shoulders tightening.

“Yes Sir,” I replied.

“Now I’m not in the mood for this. Go do whatever you were supposed to be doing and leave me to catch up on this mess,” he waved his arm over his desk to indicate what mess he was talking about. “Master Jase filled me in through the mirror on your current assignments. There is no need for you to report here everyday. Continue building ties to the stone guild. Work with your apprentice. Do your lessons.  Master Jase will handle that part. Orb will contact you if you are needed here. Dismissed,” Rysan finished wearily

I saluted before turning on my heel, I walked out quickly.

I took the break I had been handed as a chance to prepare for my next lesson with Sophia. I headed to the woods on the outskirts of town where I’d had my last lesson with Sophia, on the hunt for something special, the orb in my pouch weighing heavily on my mind. The path was deserted. The heat of the sun pouring down on my baking the earth to a hard cracked dust despite the shade provided by the trees. The lake was lower than I had expected the shore was covered in a muddy slurry that made me keep my distance. Slipping into that would not be pleasant even though I could easily get my self out. I activated my reading, bracing myself for the onslaught as my sight filled with colours. The energies of the forest were suddenly visible, streamers of green and blues flowered through everything, I did my best to tune out some of the more obvious streams. I was seeking something. Almost an hour of just taking in the extra input was starting to give me a headache. The urge to give up was growing just as the sun started to go down, the changes in the energy plane were startling, the colours shifted from vibrant emeralds to a more subdued moss, threads of black and greys were steadily replacing the blues, on the very edge of my sight was what I had come to find. A gentle squeeze of magic, animated the ball. It started to record my visual memories as I watched the bundle of brighter threads move to the surface of the lake. It was a sprite, its delicate human form almost burning against the greys of the lake, if not for my reading I would never have seen her, her scales mirrored the water so flawlessly. She playfully stood on the surface of the water as if it was stone, looking to the shore, to me. The sprite’s feet began to move at first in a slow gentle pattern, but quickly gained speed as dusk worked its own magic on the forest. The air cooled and the wind stilled. The sprites dance, for dance was what it was, gained energy her twirls and leaps pulling threads of magic from their path.

I was entranced by the beauty of the dance.

The sprites scales reflected the dying light of the day into a myriad of tiny sparkles, her dance had taken her far out to the middle of the lake,and with a final jump, she slipped beneath the water not even with a ripple to mark her passage.

A slow smile of satisfaction crossed my face, Sophia would love to see this.

Walking back through the darkened woods, gave me time to consider my options. I had been let off the leash as it were. I was free to pursue my own course as long as I fulfilled the rest of my duties. My musings were interrupted by a wash of raw magic that exploded from the edge of town. I was running before I even realised. My legs taking me as fast as they could to the source of the blast. It was coming from a small residential street near the gates closest to me. The feeling of the magic was strange, warped. People were everywhere, the blast had disturbed the magic planes, even knacks could feel it. They were just milling around, most probably didn’t even know why they were feeling unsettled. The clear night sky was gathering clouds the tingle of a storm was in the air.  I ran as fast as I could through the crowd, toward a house, gathering my power I cast it out, a simple earth manipulation shattered the door.

Inside I saw a couple, kneeling on the floor, a haze of magic wavered around them as they held each others hands, water and air. It was another surge. My reading chose that moment to manifest. The magic was screaming, an ear-piercing sound of agony, their links were malformed by the energy pouring into them, even with my new sight, I knew of no way to save them. I brought all the power I had to shield myself from the conjoined magics, my bracer taking the influx. I could feel it’s strain as I tried to use it to cut off the pair from the magic.

It wasn’t working, I was too late again. I took a step closer, knowing my duty. As I approached I recognised them. It was Mr and Mrs Leif. I looked again for any sight of Sophia, desperately hoping she wasn’t here. She was tucked in the corner of the room crying.

“Sophia, get up!” I shouted.

She turned her tear-stained face to me. A flicker of hope crossed her face.

“Tristan help them. Please!” she begged me.

“Get out, I can’t do anything with you here. There are people outside, find someone you know and stay with them for now!” I commanded.

She did as she was told, walking backwards, not taking her eyes off her parents till she was in the street.

I walked as close as I could to them, the rawest of the magic was contained but I couldn’t do it for long, already my bracer was slowly heating. I knelt in front of them. Mrs Lief’s eyes darted to me. Recognition flickered in them.

“Look after Sophia for us,” she whispered, her voice was rough as if she had screamed herself out. Tears formed in her eyes as I felt the magic change.

She was shifting the focus, all that magic was still pouring into her but she had stopped it going anywhere, her husband did the same thing. Their bodies started warping, hers seemed to evaporate, wisps just pulling away, while her husband melted into droplets. The combination of the two forming a small cloud trapped within the confines of my shield.

Together in death as well as in life, I thought briefly. I released the shield after feeling the magic calm slightly. Their links were gone. They weren’t a risk any more. Sadness welled up in me as I watched the cloud that had been my apprentice’s parents drift to the shattered window.

Now came the hard part, telling Sophia.

I walked slowly out of the house, taking care not to disturb anything. The clouds in the sky were still there, but they were still, almost frozen in motion. The people had gathered outside, clustered together. I decided I wasn’t going to address the people I would leave that for Rysan to deal with. I had my apprentice to see to.

Sophia came running towards me, hope burning in her eyes. She took one look at my face, it instantly killed that hope. Her tiny fists clenched as she carried on running at me. the impact as she collided almost took me from my feet.

I barely felt it, I was numb. I knelt to offer her what comfort I could. I spread my arms.

Sophia came, her fists ready. She beat on my chest as I wrapped her in my arms, her wailing and sobbing, a confused mix of pain, anger and grief.

“You was supposed to fix it!” Sophia screamed at me, her face twisted with emotion.

“I tried, Sophia I’m so sorry, I was too late,” I said softly. Tears of my own threatened to spill out, I felt for this kid I really did. I used a touch of magic on her.

“Tristan I hate you, I hate you,” little fists punctuating the words.

“I know, its okay,” I tried to be soothing to complement the spell I had just used.

“I mnnahf,” she mumbled out, the energy leaving her as my magic took effect.

She collapsed in my arms, gently snoring. I gathered her tight lifting her as I stood.

“Orb I need assistance,” I called into empty air. I glanced at the groups of people, most were still there, a few were looking at me as they talked among themselves

“Tristan, describe the situation please,” came Orb’s voice from my pendant.

“I’m in a residential street, there was a dual surge. A couple, Mr and Mrs Leif,” I explained quietly

“Your apprentice’s parents?” Orb asked.

“Yes, I couldn’t save them,” I sobbed slightly. A tear fell onto Sophia’s head, it didn’t disturb her.

“And Sophia?” Orb pressed.

“Here in my arms. What do I do?” I asked. Sophia was still sleeping heavily. Tiny snores emanating from near my chest.

“I’ll check records to see if she has any other family, if not she will have to go to the orphanage,” Orb said.

“No, she won’t go to an orphanage. I’ll look after her, she’s my apprentice,” I said firmly, just the thought of her in an orphanage made my blood boil.

“We will discuss it another time, Tristan. You need to get her to bed and according to your pendant, you expended a great deal of magic. You should rest too,” Orb said diplomatically, it must have an upgraded interaction skill set.

“Fine, now how do I handle this crowd? I doubt taking a child is going to look good for us,” I asked, the glances from the still assembled group weren’t altogether friendly.

“Correct, I have two mages on their way to you, they should arrive in a moment or two. When they get there, let them do the talking. You will make your way to your apartment. I’ll have someone send some extra blankets round,” Orb said.

“Thanks Orb.” I said. My arms were starting to ache, the small weight of Sophia getting gradually heavier. I refused to let her go. I may be all she has.

“Don’t worry Tristan. We will work this out, ” Orb said comfortingly, before his connection abruptly cut off.

The mages arrived a moment later.

“Please remain calm,” the older of the pair ordered the people with raised voice. “We are investigating the situation, our colleague is going to take the child, to receive medical attention.”

I took the opportunity to leave. Making sure I had a firm but comfortable grip on Sophia, I stood. I moved quickly as I wanted to get home before my arms weakened.

The walk was fast as there were almost no people on the streets. My apartment wasn’t far from here anyways. I pushed my magic gently ahead of us to disengage the door lock, my hands were full. I slowly stepped on the rising slab in the lobby selected my floor with a command to the device. My apartment was the third door. I had to shift my hands to open it, with a small amount of maneuvering I managed to get my hand on to the door without disturbing Sophia. The door swung open at my touch. The lightglobe came on. I stepped inside, on my bed as promised were the extra blankets. I pulled them off and put Sophia down on my bed, she stirred slightly as she was laid down. I tucked her in, gently pulling the covers over her. My arms felt like they were on fire and my back seemed to have developed a twinge. One last job, I grabbed the blankets that I had so carelessly thrown, and made myself a temporary bed for the night on the floor next to Sophia, a tingle of magic turned the light out. I didn’t even take my uniform off. I was asleep within moments.

Mage Life Chapter 12

A night without nightmares,was a relief. I had some dreams, vague visions, but nothing like yesterday. I counted that as a success. A quick wash and a rummage in the laundry hamper produced a decidedly more alert and prepared mage. I bound up my hair with the same charm as usual, as I was doing so my stomach grumbled. I grinned, I had forgotten to eat in all the excitement of yesterday. A quick look out the window told me it was just after dawn, plenty of time before I had to be at work.

I took my time, enjoying the early morning air. I had timed it just right to see the street cleaners with their staves, fulfilling their duties, I relaxed my control on my othersense. The street came alive with light. The residual traces of the people that had used them. Faint swirls and eddies in the air above. The cleaner’s staves shone. The complex weave was a delicate tracery of tiny strands and nodes, so tightly woven that I could spend days studying it. The enchantment was also aesthetically very striking. It evoked a feeling of cleanliness. The great many active threads were weaving themselves along the streets, pushing the dirt on a wave ahead of them. I tore my eyes away and pushed my other sense back down to normal levels. Breakfast called me, the scents of frying bacon and sausages carried well in this quiet early morning air.

The café I had gone to with Sophia was just opening, the very same waitress was working, taking the first few orders of the day. My feet took me inside without consulting my brain, drawn by the smell of such deliciousness.

“Take a seat please, I’ll be over in a moment to take your order,” the waitress said, her brown eyes tired. She must have been here early.

“Thank you,” I said with a smile.

She returned the smile wearily.

This time I chose a small table near the kitchen door. It was empty in here. I seated myself in one of the comfortable chairs then I glanced over the menu. The faintly glowing words, tempted me to use my sight again, but I resisted. My stomach had already made up its mind before the rest of me could.

“What will you have sir?” the waitress asked as her shadow fell over me.

“Could I have the bacon, sausages and eggs please?”  I asked, “Oh and a tea too?”

“Of course you can, we have a wide selection of teas. Do you have a preference?” she queried

“Not really,” I answered, choices of teas were beyond me this early in the morning.

“Okay then, your breakfast won’t be long and I’ll be over with your tea. I’ll pick something, if you don’t like it, we can always try something else,” she sauntered off with what could optimistically be called a spring, but more realistically a lurch would describe it better.

Within moments she was back with a small ceramic pot and a cup. Steam was curling from the spout, the delightful no-nonsense scent of black tea was wafting gently from it.

“Here you go. This one is my favorite. A strong tea infused with a vigor charm. It’s grown in enchanted soil. It stays fresh for a long time, as well as tasting great,” her voice nearly vibrating with eagerness.

“It smells wonderful. Thank you,” I said. I breathed deeply of the invigorating fragrance. It smelt perfect.

She rushed off to the kitchen. I guessed to fetch my breakfast.

While I waited I reached out to pour a cup of the tea.My left hand grasped the smooth handle of the pot. It was surprisingly cool, as I poured the steam rose in gentle eddies from the cup.

The waitress was just coming out of the kitchen carrying a large plate.

“Here you go, I’ll be back in a moment to take your payment,” she said as she placed my order in front of me.

My stomach chose this time to demand food, I agreed. I picked up the utensils in front of me and attacked the bacon, lightly crisped, it was perfect. I lost myself momentarily, in the act of eating. Obviously, as I wasn’t paying attention, my new and fairly annoying sight chose that instant to manifest.

My food glowed. My tea unsurprisingly had glimmers of what felt like the vigor charm, but my food glowing was a slight shock. I knew the meat would likely be kept in a chill-charmed room. This glow seemed to be something else. The glimmers had a depth that I would never have guessed, while it was faint, it was pervasive. It was safe, maybe I just hadn’t been able to truly see the world until now.

The glowing food tasted exactly the same as before. What the glow must have been was the essence of bacon, I thought.

That thought made me attempt to laugh. Laughing with bacon in your mouth is not a good plan. I started choking.

The waitress had heard me and was rushing over. She smacked me on the back, hard. The offending bacon flew out of my throat. Sweet air flowed in. I gasped out my thanks.

She nodded, an indecisive look passed over her face before she said, “That will be two knacks please.”

I held out my credit shard, a tiny touch of magic transferred the money to the business’ account. Their payment device was behind the counter. The touch just said how much and to where it went.

‘Nearly dying ignobly on bacon would have put a lesser man off his breakfast, but I am made of sterner stuff.’ I thought while ignoring my shaking hands.

I wrapped my hands around the warmth of my teacup,  few gentle sips. The warmth coated my tongue bringing with it the earthy, faintly nutty taste of the tea, a strong aftertaste of nutmeg lingered in my mouth. It left me with the greatest feeling of being in the woods in autumn, the crunch of leaves, the scents in the air. My shaking vanished. I could feel the vigor seeping into me from the tea. This was good tea.

I put down my cup and resumed eating, splitting my focus between eating, drinking the wonderful tea and keeping my sight under control. It reduced my enjoyment only slightly. There was bacon, I would have to be dead to not enjoy it. I finished quickly. I stood up feeling strong and ready to face the day, bacon incident not being counted. A nod to the waitress who had once again saved me, this time from bacon instead of the curious probing questions of a child, then I walked slowly through the door.

“Good morning Tristan,” Jase greeted me as I walked into Rysan’s office.

“Morning Jase, do we have any news on the seniors?” I asked. I took a look around while we spoke. Jase was sat at Rysan’s desk, Orb hovered around him. A mess of shard littered the desk, Orb extended faint threads to them, shifting data around was my guess.

“Actually we have. The conclave has ended. Rysan should be on his way back soon,” Jase said, a smirk creased his lips, merriment glittered in his eyes.

“Well at least it’s over, any ideas on what it was about?” I asked, ignoring his amusement.

“No, seniors only. I’m sure we’ll find out what we need to know when hes back,” Jase said his smirk fading slightly.

I didn’t ask about the haunted look that had appeared on his face, some things I just didn’t need to know, one of them was his past, although I would be lying if I said I wasn’t curious.

“Orb tells me you have developed reading. You can handle it?” Jase asked. Concern tinged his voice.

“Apart from the visions and a couple of control hiccups, I’m doing alright with it, I think,” I answered hesitantly.

“Good I will inform the wizards, they will plan your training accordingly,” Jase waved his left hand in a sweeping gesture. “Do you know when you are back at the stone guild?”

“No, Lyphia was vague. Did you know about the guild master?” I asked

“Yes, we used to work together, he’s actually one of the reasons I got assigned here. You know about the project, don’t you?” Jase said.

“No I don’t,” I answered.

“I won’t go into to the details, but the general idea is, to promote magic. To show its use in everyday life. The wizards don’t want to just rule, they want to usher in an era where there is no needless suffering. No hunger. No disease. It’s idealistic, but it could be possible. The project takes place here and in Greenlaw. Think of here as a trial run. The few other areas are far less developed due to the waves damage,” Jase briefly explained. His doubts were plain in his tone, but so was his hope. He wanted it to work.

“That is ambitious,” I hedged.

“Yes it is, but it’s early days yet. The mages have only recently gotten established. The foundry was a setback. It never worked as well as some of the other trial designs. We have so few talented enchanters so we couldn’t spare them to work there, but look how far we have come in the last few years,” Jase’s movements had gotten more pronounced as he spoke, his excitement was infectious. He had stood up and walked closer, almost pacing as he tried to convey the majesty of the project.

“Yeah we have come far. You brought up the foundry, do we have any leads on what happened?” I asked forcefully, I had heard nothing more about the explosion, the silence was bothering me.

“A few, nothing substantial yet. Don’t you worry, my boy, we will get to the bottom of it,” Jase said sympathetically, his hand came to rest lightly on my shoulder giving me a gentle squeeze before letting go.

“Thank you Jase. I need to know that so many didn’t die for nothing. I failed to save them, but I will not let them have died for nothing,” my eyes welled up as I spoke my fists clenched, the pain of failure burned through me. The cost of it, still staggers me. I brought up a fist to dash the tears from my eyes.

Jase was clearly uncomfortable with my outburst, he cleared his throat and turned away briefly. Giving me a moment to collect myself.

“Jase, what am I doing today?” I asked my voice slightly choked up still.

Jase turned back his smile creeping back slowly. “You have advanced enchanting today. You may remember I fast tracked your training, enchantment, battle effects, crafting and such. As you develop, you may get more say over the direction of your training. I would give you some alchemy, but you never showed any aptitude for it,” Jase’s smile was huge by this point.

I groaned, Jase would never let me live down my early failures, it was one of the few that could be looked back on with amusement though at least by others. I had been green for a month.

“I have no idea how you messed up that badly,” he stuttered out between laughs. “ A simple cloth dye. You were gr -gre- green,” he finally gave in to the laughter, tears streamed down his face as he hooted.

I gritted my teeth and waited as patiently as I could. It was a few moments till Jase could finish explaining my days duties to me.

“Your training will be with enchanter Fion for your enchanting. Your stone guild placement should assist with enchanting and your crafting.” Jase informed me, his face still wet and red from his little fit of amusement at my expense.

“I have never heard of this enchanter before,” I stated.

“He’s just come to Westhaven, he’s old and doesn’t enjoy having students. He designed most of the systems we use today. I told him about you and your abilities with golems. He’s curious, but I couldn’t get more out of him. Don’t annoy him. He’s an unpleasant person to deal with,” Jase stopped briefly to look at me sternly.

I looked him straight in the eye and nodded seriously, I wanted him to know I had taken his warning.

“He’s brilliant, focus on what he says and does. Please bear in mind that he’s rather odd, like most of the older mages,” Jase continued.

I smiled, remembering the guildmaster.

“He should be at the academy, but he could be anywhere. He won’t wear a pendant and he doesn’t answer to anyone, but the wizards, so no complaining to me, understood?” he asked almost off hand, he was already walking back to Rysan’s chair.

Yes I understand Jase,” I said before turning towards the door.

“Oh Tristan, Rysan will be back soon, so I may not be around headquarters as much. Do stop by the academy, I have enjoyed working with you again,” Jase said plaintively.

I turned to look over my shoulder, he was looking hard at the glyphscreen, I couldn’t see his face. I didn’t know what to say to that.

“Of course Jase,” I said, my default response.

Why was Jase sad, what was I missing here? I asked myself before going through the door.

The way to the academy was busy, it was still early in the morning. There were a great many people on the streets, clearly going to and from work. So many were smiling which I took as a good sign. Clouds drifted across the sky slowly, occasionally blocking the sun, creating shadows that ran through the streets like children playing.

The academy loomed above me, despite coming here fairly frequently lately, the prison of my own choice intimidated me still.

The entrance was well lit again, as I walked along the smooth hard stone, I noticed more of the glyph screens on the walls were active, more than I had seen in my years here. At the reception desk was a real person, I almost walked past her out of habit. I had never seen anyone man this desk, Jase had been waiting for me, what was her reason?

“Excuse me Sir you can’t go down that hall,” she said calmly, her dark eyes firmly locked on me.

I stopped in my tracks.

“I’m Mage Representative Tristan Sodden, I’m here to see Enchanter Fion, he is expecting me,” I replied firmly

She tucked a stray lock of her brown hair behind an ear before speaking. “Enchanter Fion may well be expecting you, but I can’t let you down there without notifying him or checking your clearance,”

“Who are you and why are you here?” I finally asked. It had been bothering me.

“Me? well I’m Kristina Iris, I’m part of the enchanters team,” she checked the glyphscreen, her eyes widened in surprise “I’m sorry Sir I didn’t mean to disturb you, I was only doing my job,” she continued, gradually getting more upset.

“You still haven’t told me what you are doing here? And why are you snivelling at me?” I asked bewildered, crying women. Again.

“Sir, I’m sorry, Sir. I’m here with the enchanters team, to help preparations for the restoration of the great road,” she sobbed out.

I walked closer to the desk to offer some comfort, she recoiled as if I was some sort of monster.

“No, Sir I’m fine, sorry Sir,” she babbled out in what sounded like fear.

“Why are you scared of me?” I asked gently

“It’s nothing Sir, please I’m just being silly, you are cleared, you have full access to this facility,” she rushed the words.

“Can you please tell me where to go?” I enquired.

She nodded before tapping lightly on the glyphscreen.  A glowing green wisp appeared to my right.

“That will take you to the right place Sir,” she said her voice still affected by the emotion of a moment ago.

“Thank you,” I replied softly.

The wisp seemed to detect my intent to move and went ahead of me. I did the only thing I could. I followed it.

My path through the academy, was swift thanks to the wisp, the change in this place startled me. There was light everywhere, glowing screens in the walls displayed various abstract images that after about the sixth one I realised was a colour coded map of the building.

The wisp led me higher than I had been before, the ninth level, senior mages residence. The hall was sumptuous, with old style paintings of landscapes places I had never seen. I stopped at one. It was a scene of the ocean, small scaled figures danced on the crests of some of the waves. I leaned closer, the scent of the oils in the paint was faint, a sharp sting in my nose, I could see the figures were female, they must have been sprites, water spirits.

The wisp had carried on without me a few paces ahead it stopped in front of a door. Wooden and old, the varnish had chipped in places. I could hear a mans voice clearly through the door.

“What do you mean you have sent a murderer up to see me girl?” He screeched, “Pull yourself together I don’t care for your nonsense.”

He was clearly talking to someone, but I couldn’t hear the other side of the conversation. I contemplated knocking, but decided against it. What ever was going on in there I wanted no part of.

“Girl, did you say Tristan?” he asked. Then nothing for a moment. “Jase’s boy?” silence again.

Who was he talking to about me. I wondered.

“His file? For magic’s sake, make sense Kristina. What about his file?” another lull. “That boys no murderer, you stupid girl. He’s a mage, he walked out of a nightmare and you treat him like that. Jase told me all about it. Stop your blubbering. Enough,” he shouted the last loud enough to make me start.

I very nearly lost my balance when the door opened suddenly. Standing in front of me was a giant of a man, well over six feet tall, shoulders that could carry me easily. A compact frame that still had a respectable amount of muscle despite his age. He had to be in his late fifties judging by the deep wrinkles on his face. His mouth was set in a harsh line.

“What are you doing? Listening at my door?” he shouted, his voice was strong with an accent I couldn’t place.

“I’m sorry sir, I heard a conversation I didn’t want to interrupt you,” I said apologetically. I had to take a small step back to see his face clearly.

His bright blue eyes shone down at me as if searching for something. “Well no harm done. Don’t be snivelling at me boy, I get enough of it from that knacking pixie downstairs,” he said firmly with a shrug of his massive shoulders.

“I’m Tristan Sodden,sir I was sent for training with you, I believe,” I stated as calmly as I could. I met his eyes, the glow in them was intense, a strange blending of colours that somehow enhanced the blue of his natural colouring

“Your Jase’s boy, he’s spoke about you for years. I’m Enchanter Mage Fion Devin if you want to get all fancy about it. Don’t.  Just call me Fion,” he said before stepping back into the room. “Come in and dismiss that wisp,” his arm swept in front of him as he turned allowing me passage and a clear indicator of where he wanted me to go.

I took a moment to dismiss the wisp with a faint thread of magic, dispersing its matrix.

A step took me inside.

The room was decorated in the old style, like the paintings everything was hand made. The furniture was beautiful, each piece crafted with care and delicate magics. A door in the far wall told me it wasn’t just a room, but a suite, similar in function to my apartment. Where my place was basic, this room was luxurious. There was a large desk of a rich red wood just off the center of the room with a matching chair. The walls were covered in some patterned cloth some how affixed to the wall, also in reds. The carpet was thick and deep except in a large oval around the desk. My inspection of the room was interrupted by Fion. He had closed the door and was walking quickly to the desk. A few crystal disks were upon it, along with various things I had no name for.

“You done?” Fion asked impatiently. his large hands were shifting a few items on the desk around.

“Yes sorry,” I said. I had stood stock still while I was gawking at his home.

“Stop with the apologies, I’m not interested,” he said turning to look at me. His white eyebrows lowered in a frown. “What did Jase tell you? Be honest with me, I don’t care about pretty lies,”

“Jase told me that you were hard to deal with, unpleasant and if I had any problems not to complain to him, because you only answer to the wizards,” I said shifting my stance slightly uncomfortably.

Fion laughed a deep rumbling laugh.

“That Jase and his jokes,” he said.  “He’s done that since he was a boy, never you mind what he said. In some ways he’s right. I can be hard to deal with. I don’t care. You were sent here to me, you will put up with it,” his tone was still amused, “You are here because Jase thinks you should be here. That and that alone is the reason. The wizards don’t command me. I go where I want, do what I want. It just so happens that I enjoy what I do and it’s useful, so I occasionally deign to take a wizards commission, you following me boy?” he barked

“I think so. You knew Jase when he was young?” I asked. I hadn’t ever really thought of Jase as a boy before.

“Thats what you ask?” he said, rolling his eyes. “Who do you think trained him? I was Jase’s master, back when being a master was something different. So what do you know of enchanting? No. Don’t answer me. Throw it away,” he said with a smile.

“What?” the revelation about Jase and Fion was one thing, but surely my enchanting skills weren’t that bad.

“You heard me, throw it out, you’ve done wild enchants, I can hear it, whispering to me. That means you can handle the free form,” his smile grew with every word as did my confusion.

“Free form? I asked completely clueless.

“We will get to that in a moment. Let me see your bracer,” Fion commanded.

I walked closer to him, crossing the intervening space quickly. His hand came up and caught my left arm. raising it closer to his eyes I had to twist slightly to avoid it hurting.

“This is a beauty, now what did you do? No hang on,” he muttered quietly.

I didn’t know if he was talking to me or not. I erred on the side of caution and remained silent, he wasn’t even looking at me all his attention was focused on my shield enchantment.

“Hope, no, resist, no. Defence ha, tricksy, and what are these?” he was turning his head looking at my bracer from all angles. “Disruption, diversion. Transference,”

How could he understand my bracer when I was the one who made it and didn’t have a clue.

Fion let go with no warning at all. My arm just dropped taking the rest of me with it. He caught me, set me back up.

“Clever work, telling really,” he continued in his murmuring, not looking at me at all. He shuffled to the other side of the desk, feeling his way along, till his fingers touched a strange looking metal rod covering in faint scratches.

“Telling what?” I asked. I was confused again.

“What? he shouted  His hands were feeling the etchings on the rod.

“You said “telling really,” what does that mean?” I asked

Fion just looked blankly at me.

“I said no such thing,” he stopped tilted his head as if listening to something only he could hear.

I was beginning to think this is what Jase had meant about difficult to deal with.

Fion’s eyes seemed to come back into focus as he shook his head. “ You paying attention boy?” he asked impatiently, the rod still in his hands. A faint feeling of power ebbed and flowed around him.

My eyes widened as I realised what he was doing, he was enchanting as we spoke, complex layered enchantment at that.

“Yes I’m paying attention,” I said quickly covering my shock

“Well got over here so we can have the lesson, you may not have noticed, but I’m old, I don’t have time for waiting on people,” he said, his smile coming back, his bright white teeth shone.

I walked over to the odd mage, standing next to him.

“Free-form should be easy for you, but we will see. Take that ball there,” he instructed pointing at a small metal ball about an inch across sitting on the desk.

I grabbed it, it was smooth and cold, the silver shine of the metal reflecting my face in the warm light of the room.

“Got it, good. Now forget all that element rubbish you’ve been taught. If you can handle wild magic, you can handle real enchantment,” Fion said with a hint of superiority.

“So what do I do?” I asked more and more unsure of my own knowledge.

“Don’t just stand there, put some magic in it,” he said exasperated, “ and stop looking at me. I’m not going to hold your hand. You have been told you can do it, so just do it.”

“What am I supposed to do?” I asked, my frustration rising. I nearly snarled

“Thats more like it, I won’t teach someone without a spine boy,” Fion said approvingly. “This is easy, you make what your magic tells you to make, listen to it.”

My confusion and frustration were rising even higher  I looked down at the small metal object in my hand with even less of a clue of what I was doing than when I started.

“Boy, stop fucking around, I haven’t got all day,” Fion seemed really angry now, he had put down his own work. He grabbed the back of my head with his left hand, it was so large it covered most of it. He pulled my head round to face him. “Put the magic in now, can’t you hear it screaming at you?” Fion was shouting in my face, his eyes wild, spittle flew from his mouth, he let go suddenly. All the energy drained from his face.

The shock had triggered my reading. The room exploded in a wash of light, threads wove through the very substance of the walls. Streamers seemed to be wrapped around Fion, as he sagged, the colours were all washed out around him, on the edge of hearing were notes of pure sound coming from the streamers. A musical symphony the likes of which I had never heard.

Fion was leaning heavily, his arms on the desk holding him up. A smile as bright as the new dawn appeared on his face. “l knew you had it in you,” he said triumphantly. “Now put your sight to the task at hand, and enchant that bauble,” he tilted his head to the ball, I had forgotten I was holding.

Turning my attention to the globe, filled my mind with a whispering of music, a tune that felt familiar. The magic boiled around me, as a smile bloomed on my face, I suddenly understood.

The tune wasn’t music, it was magics voice, resonating with my own knowledge.

A small thread of power wove down my arm into the orb, twining as if dancing to the music. The tune ascended in volume and complexity as I worked. More threads wove in and out of my existing one, nodes forming as the core concepts slotted into place. Sight, sharing, bond and memory sunk in deep, the knowledge of just how to tie them in flowed into me. It was done, the weave shimmered in my sight, its voice faint, but clear.

“Don’t go getting a big head now, boy, I helped guide the music, but you did well, few ever hear it,” Fion cautioned and praised, a grudging respect apparent in his gruff voice.

“What was that?” I asked forcing my oversight down, the colours and music fading to nothing.

“That was real enchantment, not like the academy teaches, but how it’s meant to be done. Your little bauble was clever. I expect to see you again. Now leave,” Fion said harshly his face set in firm lines.

I left carrying my ball.

Mage Life Chapter 11

Something about my encounter yesterday had done something to my sense. I awoke groggily, my dreams filled with visions of old parts of the town. Horrible things had happened. Doors shattered with magic. Sinister men with glowing eyes were burning and drowning poor knacks. Children taken forcibly from screaming parents. A few families even fought back their links broken wide open, much like the fire surge from my own experiences. I dragged myself over to my basin, drawing the water to wash my face, the idle thought that it would wash these visions from my mind. The glimmer of enchantment was everywhere.  I was being bombarded with concepts that I barely understood. Definitely time for a wash. I scrubbed the cool water roughly into my face half drowning myself as it went up my nose. The snorting and gasping seemed to have closed my senses at least, although it hadn’t done much for my own well being. Spluttering was not a good start to anyones day.

“Orb, can you hear me?” I called into the emptiness of my apartment.

“Yes Tristan, do you need anything?” its voice came from my amulet.

“What is going on with me?” I asked hopefully. Maybe Orb would have the answers.

“Can you clarify please? Whilst I can access all information related to you that has been collected, I somehow doubt you want everything,” its voice came again. Personality seemed to be seeping back in to it.

“The visions. And what’s happening with my senses?” I replied. The thought of having every iota of data recited to me made me think a concise simple question would be the best bet.

“ Your amulet reported an opening of your senses and the visions are likely related to that. The attempted influence of your mind yesterday evening is the most likely cause,” Orb stated mechanically.

So it was the gods fault. That’s like blaming it on nobody, I thought.

“And the content of the visions? Are they real?” I pressed on.

“Tristan, while the data we collect is invasive. We can read your body, mood and your magic, We do not read your thoughts. I have no idea about your visions content, but based on what your magic has been doing all night. You may have been reading imprints.”

“Imprints?” I queried, I had a sinking feeling that Orb confirmed a moment later.

“Imprints are the magical residue left by events, strong magic use and high emotion often leave marks on an area. It may be a single stone or a whole forest,” Orb explained.

“Like ghosts?” I asked

“Very much like ghosts, if I understand your connection correctly. These marks can haunt an area forcing certain feelings on those in proximity,”

“If it’s limited by proximity, why am I feeling it now?” I asked confused.

“If the data I have is accurate then you are not limited by area, reading is an oddity. It doesn’t show up often, but its almost useless. Your senses are clearly, very sharp, you have been reading the whole area not the tiny part in proximity,”Orb replied.

“So this means the visions are likely real, but past?” I said half statement, half question.

“That is what I have just said,” Orb said a glimmer of heat in the protest. “So now that the situation is resolved, enjoy your day off,” the connection went dead.

A day off was a rare and supposedly wondrous thing. I on the other hand hated them. A great many years in the academy, waiting for my results or not knowing if I was going to have class that day, had left me with major issues about free time. A large block of time with nothing planned out is terrifying for me. The thought of going back to bed was briefly entertained before being dismissed. I just couldn’t do it. I hadn’t long been off medical leave. Boredom is my constant enemy. I had worked through so many of my books. Shaking myself slightly to get out of my head.

I wandered over to my wardrobe. The recessed door was set deeply into my wall opposite my bed. Hardly noticeable and a very handy space saver. A small light globe set above the rail showed of my meagre selection of non-uniform clothes they consisted of a single blue cotton top with a wide neck and a thick wool jumper. A single shelf holding a pair of heavy cloth trousers. I made my choice, the shirt and the trousers.

Taking them over to the bed, I sat on the edge to pull on my trousers and then stood to do the small wooden buttons up. I grabbed the shirt and dragged it roughly down over my head. Did my best to pull my long hair out-of-the-way and tie it back with a simple binding charm. Earth-based. It was still easiest for me. A quick look in at my reflection in the window showed I was ready to go.

Out on the streets, the remnants of my visions  tattered away. The bright sun shone down on the smooth, clean paving. Reflecting of the windows of the buildings, so different to the muddy tracks I had seen. I adopted what I hoped was a carefree expression that I carefully plastered on my face, I tried to enjoy my day off. Seeing the streets sparsely populated was nice after the busyness of the last few days. I blindly chose a route, no goal or place in mind. My pace was relaxed as I wandered freely through the central square. The mage headquarters was to my left. A glance showed me the doors were wide open again, the temptation to go in and hopefully be assigned a task came and went. I’d had a rough start as a mage. I doubted Jase would let me have a task yet. A flicker of movement caught my eye as I turned my head away from the headquarters. It was a canopy above one of the many stalls, blowing in the warm gentle breeze. a bright red wave of cloth. I had never noticed a red one before.

“Come take a look,” came a call from under the canopy. A female voice.

Turning my body towards the voice, I slowly walked towards it. The stall was wooden. Much like most of them. A view back in time to market day, almost. A flash of a vision staggered me.

The old square, cobbles and mud. The fountain wasn’t there. A large wooden post stood in its place, surrounded by dilapidated market stalls. A small number of people of various ages universally dressed in threadbare, tattered clothes, milling around buying and selling the vegetables and produce available. A feeling of despair hung in the air. Almost palpable. A squad of mages came into the square dragging a couple. A man and woman. they marched right through the hopeless crowd. To the wooden post. One of them turned to face the square while the others were binding the couple to the post. He was in his late thirties, slim, deep-set glowing eyes. a thin-lipped grimace on his face as he planted his feet and looked over the square.

“People of West Haven, we representatives of the Solem family, have found these two to be guilty of disobeying a lawful order of conscription. Hiding the property of the Solem family and actively working against the rule of our rightful lords. The sentence is public execution. They will be burnt at the stake until dead for their crimes. You here are called to witness that justice is done,” he called to the crowd. He raised his arms dramatically, flames rose up in barriers across the square blocking the exits.

The destitute people just stood there, not a mummer of resistance or surprise could be heard. They just looked resigned.

With a look back to the accused he asked “Do you have anything to say in your defence?”

The woman spat towards the accuser, but remained silent. Anger and defiance etched into her features.

The imprisoned man reached out his hand to the woman, grasped it then just bowed his head, a tear could be seen trailing down his face.

Her anger melted away at the touch of his hand. A glimmer of a smile hovered around her mouth as she looked at the man.

“No? Your silence will be taken as an admission of guilt. The sentence shall be passed,” the accuser stated firmly, disgust evident in his tone. The mage turned to his three squad members and nodded, all four raised their hands in unison.

A dim yellow glow emanated from the stake. Flickers of light started streaking from the point to the clouds above. Rumbles of thunder and bolts of lightning shot across the sky. Blasts of wind blew straight down from the sky, pushing many of the crowd to their knees. The glow intensified shifting to a bright blue. The heavens opened, rain pouring down on the square, soaking the dejected knacks but not touching the flame barriers or the mages. The stake flared once more, a blazing red. A fountain of fire poured from the tip of the stake. Bathing the poor couple in flames. The sound of steam hissing muffled their screams as their flesh soon blackened and split. The stench of burning hair and meat filled the air. A few in the square were sick, noisily vomiting where they knelt and still the fire fell on the pair. Heat drying the eyes of those crying at the sight.

The mages stood impassively, grim statues with bright eyes. Watching the horror that they had brought about, as one they lowered their arms   The wind and rain stopped. The growling storm silenced. The flames ceased. The barriers vanished. Not a sound could be heard.

The accusing mage turned once more to the people. “Justice has been served, remember this day,” he said softly, his voice wavering slightly, with a nod of his head his squad formed up behind him and they marched back the way they had come. The only sign they had been there, were the few blackened bones that were swiftly crumbling to ashes.

My vision faded back to the here and now.

After seeing that I had no further wish to explore the town. I felt ill and out of sorts. I couldn’t blame myself though, most would be out of sorts after seeing that I just wanted to go home and find a way to block out these visions. Tears streamed down my face. My stomach was churning with the desire to vomit but I choked it down. The woman that had called me over rushed to my side.

“Are you ok?” she asked as she placed a hand on my arm, steadying me.

“I will be, thank you for your concern,” I replied shaking off the touch. I didn’t know what was setting off these visions but I didn’t want to risk another.

“Well, excuse me then I have work to do,” she said coldly.

I must have offended her. I pulled myself together, putting the woman out of my mind. I took the quickest way back to my apartment I could. The shining streets felt like they were mocking my mood. I was keeping my eyes open for people, I didn’t want to bump into anyone. My senses had gotten sensitive again, flashes of enchantment were everywhere. The streets positively shone with the signatures of its shapers. The street lights, lit with both their shaping marks and the simple enchantment for light that they held. They carried what looked like threads of twisted air, tied the lights one to the next, to the next. The temptation to follow the threads was gaining traction in my mind. My will was stronger though. My apartment was, but a few steps away. I forced my body to carry me the final stretch. Once inside the temptation past. I could still sense the threads, but I wasn’t as consumed with the thought of them. Striding to my water basin, a rush of my magic flowing ahead of me. Water flowed from the pipes. A near desperation filled me as I placed my hands on the sides of the basin. I lowered my face into the water, my senses instantly cut off. I pulled out, dragging the wet strands of hair from my face. Water seemed to help, I wasn’t in the mood to figure out why.

Orb!” I shouted out, rivulets of water flowing into my mouth. I spat to clear the water.

“Tristan, what’s wrong?” came it’s voice from my amulet again.

How do I stop these visions?” I pleaded for answers. I must have looked a wreck.

“Tristan, I am a construct. I don’t have the same facility with magic as you,” it warned before continuing “I can assist in a purely hypothetical way, for instance, basic wardings may help, but from my records I can advise that magic isn’t the answer.”

I was pacing around my apartment in sheer frustration, clenching my fists and intermittently growling through Orb talking. focusing my attention on the sound of his voice was helping, but the fact that I was hearing it through a magical item was distracting.

“If magic isn’t the answer, what is Orb? This sensitivity has made me useless. I can’t do my job if I’m seeing ghosts and visions,” my frustration was boiling over

“Tristan please understand, I don’t know the answers I only have my records. Reading is a rare and complex area of study, few mages develop it. It’s an almost exclusively wizard skill. I can and will help you as much as I can.

“Wizards.” I said flatly before an idea took shape in my mind. “Would the wizards know how to help me?” I mused aloud.

“More than likely. I can request aid from them, but I have no idea how long it would take. They are in conclave with the seniors. I would like to avoid disturbing them,” Orb murmured

“Fine, no wizards yet, but if this lasts too long I will order you to get help,” I conceded. I even wagged my finger at it despite the fact it wasn’t in the room and couldn’t see.

“Tristan the way I see it, the best way to help you is to master your senses. You have to learn to control it,” Orb advised me.

“How the stars, do I do that?” I asked. I stopped my pacing whilst trying to work out ways to gain control of my senses.

“Practice, is the best way I’m just a call away if you need help,” the connection ended with those final words.

“Practice, practice. Well that really clears things up thanks so much for that useful advice” I said to myself as I thought through what Orb had said. Nothing for it, but to try.

I walked over to my chair, sat down. I closed my eyes, took a few breaths before opening my senses as far as I could.

The bombardment almost knocked me unconscious, as my mind tried to understand everything that was within range. I held on, this reminded me of my first awakening when my magical senses first opened. The vast amount of information available was overwhelming. I struggled to let it go. I didn’t need to understand it all. I just needed to control it.

A few more deep breaths and some muttered comments about useless constructs, while I shifted position in my chair. My hands clenched into fists as I fought for control of my own senses.

It’s not a battle, was the thought that suddenly bloomed in my mind.

That thought forced me to relax, my senses seemed to be calming. Trying to focus on my immediate surroundings I could feel my amulet and my wild shield. The feel of them was radically different,but I could tell more about them. The amulet was a warren of tightly bound strands and nodes. The shield bracer was something altogether different, the base disc was void of anything but hidden deep within it was a tightly imprinted form, surrounded by almost ghostly lines and nodes, one of which thickened as it led away. I gasped as I realised where the thread went. It went straight into my core weaving into a knot with my link. I hadn’t expected to see that.

Just that tiny revelation had given me a grasp on my expanded senses. I could use them the same as my old ones. I could ignore them too. The ability to ignore things has to be one of the most useful traits of being human even if it gets us into more trouble than not most of the time. The fear of my senses had receded slightly, although I was still dreading more visions. I got up. I was seeing the glimmers of enchantment everywhere, the play of the magical energies infused through all things. It was simultaneously the most beautiful and the most terrifying thing I have ever witnessed. the lack of any human element there shows how truly insignificant we are. A slight effort of will enabled me to function on my normal level. The addition sense was still there but easily ignored, I just had to get used to the constant effort it took.

A smile tugged at the corners of my mouth, I walked over to my large window looking at my town, for one of the first times I felt connected to this town, invested. I had lived here for years as a child, for all my life if you counted my time in the academy, which I didn’t really. The academy could have been in the middle of nowhere for all I had known.My recent struggles on behalf of the people of Westhaven had given me a new appreciation of the work we mages did, at least in the new age.

My smile died on my lips, at the recollection of the vision. The execution. The sight of the people had struck me almost as much as the actual execution. Seeing them so downtrodden and defeated. That many dreamers could have fought of the mages easily if they had worked together. Power levels are fairly nonsensical. The variations are minimal between knack and mage. It’s in versatility and control that we can over power dreamers even daydreamers. The thought of fighting back just hadn’t occurred to them. How much ingrained conditioning that would take boggled my mind.

My practicing with my expanded senses had taken me a lot longer than I had originally thought. The sun was slowly setting. I cleared my mind and focused on the beauty of a thing I took for granted.

The sun slowly sunk turning the sky into a tapestry of reds and oranges touches of blue could still be seen. My intense focus on absorbing the moment let my senses slip slightly.

The sun was wreathed in magical energies, streamers ebbed and flowed across the sky. Faint glimmers blues and yellows could be seen floating slowly, quick moving darts of greens in all shades flashed past. Flocks of birds.

Maybe this ability wasn’t so much a curse as a gift. Clearly a double-edged sword, but being able to see the added beauty of that moment is something I would treasure for years to come.

I stood watching the last flickers of sunlight fade. Satisfaction and hope for the future warred with the despair and grief for the past, much like the light and dark of the sun setting.

My own mind was settled for now at least, so much for my day off. A chuckle escapes my lips as a thought crossed my mind.

Boredom isn’t the enemy anymore.

Mage Life Chapter 8

I awoke to the bright sunlight streaming through my window and a flashing mirror. I groaned at the thought of a waiting message. I pulled myself out of bed quickly in case it was important. A touch of my hand activated the recording. Master Jase appeared replacing my reflection.

“Junior Mage Tristan,” came the message, as I pulled on my uniform. Emotion bubbled in my chest “You are hereby reinstated. Report to headquarters for briefing.”

Finally, I thought, with a sigh, I was ready. I’d been cleared yesterday. I was going out of my mind alternating between fear and boredom. I needed to be back in action.

“Confirmed. I’m on my way.” I mirrored back, not even waiting for someone to answer. A message worked fine. I was out the door before the mirror even stopped flashing.

The short walk, was one of my first since the incident. The sun shone down on me helping show me the beauty of this town. The white stone was brilliant. The streets were level and wide. Even the people were pleasant. I was nodded at and greeted with smiles by all. There was no fear or indifference, even from the older people. While it was nice, it made me wonder what had been happening. I had only been out of action a few weeks.

Headquarters looked the same, but the doors were open and the place was actually busy. All sorts of people were going in and out. Mages were everywhere. The foyer was packed. Snatches of overheard conversation told me, bits of why it was so busy.

“Thank you for fixing my heater,” an older woman said.

“My house was damaged. Could I get a stone man round?” asked a heavyset man.

So this was all about the incident. I thought as I made my way through the crowd getting buffered about I did my best not to bump into anyone. I wasn’t successful.

“Watch where your -” an older man started. His voice dried up as he turned to look at me. “I’m sorry Mage, I didn’t mean to.” he finished lamely. He looked worried, his wrinkled face dropping.

“Thats quite alright.” I said affably. It was nice to see the people involving the mages. We had only been set up properly for the last two years, apart from the mage academy which has been here for centuries but that had been under control of the Solem family, the nobles that controlled the area. “It was my fault, I was looking for Master Mage Jase and didn’t see you. Have you seen him?” I asked.

“Um, he was behind the desk, just a moment ago,” he helpfully offered.

“Well he’s not there now. If you will excuse me, I shall continue seeking him,” I said.

“Of course,” he said as he moved to the side to let me pass.

Seeking Jase wasn’t as difficult as I’d made out. I could feel him with my other sense. While it wasn’t as precise as when I summoned it, the general awareness was enough for locating the man who had trained me. He was in Rysan’s office. Once I got past the desk, the crowd thinned considerably. A few steps more and I knocked on the door.

“Yes?” came his raised voice. I took this as an invitation. I opened the door to see Jase sat at the very large desk holding a glyphscreen. Orb was hovering around flickering.

“Master Jase, I’m reporting for duty” I stated, really hoping that he wouldn’t take one look at me and decide I wasn’t fit.

“Tristan my boy, I’m so pleased to see your well. I didn’t want to call you in yet but the powers that be have decided we need to take advantage of the sudden goodwill. To that end, we are appointing you as Mage Representative,” Jase said while looking very closely at me. I was uncomfortable with the level of scrutiny.

“Sorry Sir, I may have misheard you,” I ventured. I had no clue what he was telling me.

“No, you didn’t. You are a member of the new mages. You are one of the first of the wizard council’s new trained mages. You have  family in this town. You are young and you were also the sole survivor of the foundry incident. These make you a perfect figure to represent the mages,” Jase listed, laying the reasoning out for me.

“But sir, I have been a mage for just over a month, most of which I have been on leave,” I insisted. I’m not ready for this.

“Not to worry, you won’t be alone. It won’t be that different to how it was before. You will still receive tasks for headquarters. You will just be the public face of things. If we need to send someone to one of the guilds, we will send you. Nothing has really changed. you just have a different title,” Jase reassured.

“Yes sir,” I said. Not sure what else I should say. While inside I was thinking, this is weird, I’m new, why would I get advanced so quickly.

“Wizards orders Tristan. That’s why this is happening,” Jase said with a smile, answering my unspoken thoughts. “Go think about it for a little while. Be back in an hour, there is a task for you,”

“Yes sir,” I answered turning to the door.

“Mage Representative Tristan. You are dismissed,” Jase barked jokingly

I was less amused, grumpily I left.

I wasn’t expecting to be handed a new position, to be honest it worried me. The whole thing stank of politics. My knowledge of politics could barely fill a micro-shard. I took a slow stroll through the streets. Just seeing the town now, brought back memories of my childhood. Coming into town from the family farm. To buy the stuff we couldn’t make ourselves. The trip wasn’t long, a few hours,  but for a young boy it felt like forever. The old town was so very different. Dirt roads for all but the very center and the road leading to Haven. Only the mage academy was anything like it is now. No fountains. No lights. No real magic apart from the conscription. The conscription was the bane of this town. The nobles sent their bound mages scouring their domain for gifted knacks, mostly teen boys. I wasn’t old enough to get taken but I had heard the stories. Families that didn’t agree to the boys being taken. Made examples of. Fire consuming them and the mages taking the boys anyway. The boys were trained to be mages and soldiers in the nobles service. I shuddered at the thoughts. The wizards had changed it all though. Mages were now a sign of freedom instead of oppression. Well we were supposed to be. Minds take a long time to change, but seeing the people smiling at me gave me hope for the future.

My walk had helped clear my thoughts slightly. I still didn’t want the job. I had only just started as a junior mage. Still there were worse things. It was a good idea to have a representative. I just didn’t think it should be me. I was just qualified new mages dont really know anything, we can just use our magic easily. The job should go to someone older, more experienced. they would be better suited. Fighting against things I couldn’t change wouldn’t help, the will of the wizards was one of those things. I resolved to do my best. Somehow my walk had taken me right around the block. Staring up at the headquarters I braced myself and walked in.

The mob of people were still there. Taking care to weave through without any collisions this time.  I quickly made my way through to Rysan’s office. Master Jase was where  I had left him. although this time he was giving orders to Orb.

“Orb,  I need to change your permissions. You will need to be able to act more autonomously than you have when Rysan is around. The sudden surge in numbers of active mages could be a problem,” Jase said.

“Master Mage Jase. Only you, Rysan and the wizard’s council can change my structures,” Orb cautioned. “Anyone else forcibly doing so, will result in my deactivation.”

“Yes, yes I know Orb,” Jase dismissed with a wave of his hand. “This isn’t a change in structures, it just adds a new rank and permissions. More specifically it adds Mage Representative to your list of authorised senior personnel.”

“Yes Master Mage Jase, that is permissible. What level of access will Mage Representative have?” Orb queried. Colours flickered rapidly through it before settling at a deep blue.

“Senior but locked. He can access everything but cannot change any of your functions, and only in the pursuit of his duties. Please use your discretion functions to determine what is needed,” Jase replied firmly, his eyes locked on Orbs form.

“Rank added. The Wizards have confirmed your request,” Orb announced, its form resumed its normal slow shift in colour. “Mage Representative Tristan Sodden is at the door.” Jase turned to look at me a smile spreading across his face.

“Tristan, Nice to see you’re back. How are you feeling about the promotion?” Jase asked gently.

“Startled, Sir to say the least,” I replied trying to be honest with him.

“Well yes, I can imagine,” He chuckled softly “Being startled is a common thing for us mages in the new era,” His eyes went distant.  The humor drained from his face.

I had no idea what was going through his head.

“Well on to your task,” He said forcefully, his eyes coming back to me. “ Its quite simple. Head down to the Stone Guild and offer our assistance. No task stone though,” a smile flickered on his face at that.

I stood there facing Jase, with no idea what to say. I closed my eyes and took a breath, trying to get my thoughts in order.

“Sir,  I have no experience dealing with people. You above all should know that,” I pleaded. My people skills were appalling.

“Tristan” Jase started. he stood then walked around the desk towards me. “How do you think you will get experience?” his tone told me it was rhetorical, his eyes focused intensely on my face like he used to during my training “Think of this as a chance for learning,” No matter how gently he said that, I still shivered. Jase saw my discomfort, “I doubt it will be painful.”

“Alright sir. I will do my best,” I said hesitantly after swallowing my fear.  I didn’t want to promise more in such an area of weakness.

“That is all we can ask for,” Jase replied, “As you heard you now have access to Orb, It is a wonderful tool, all sorts of information. Your amulet was damaged during the explosion. This promotion has been planned for the last few weeks so a modified enchantment has been designed for it.  I have the transfer shard here, if you will do the honours.”

“I haven’t touched my magic since then,” I responded uncertainly, the lingering fear that my channels were permanently damaged forefront in my mind.

“Don’t worry. I’ve seen your medimage reports,” a comforting hand was placed on my shoulder as he continued, “You are fine.”

“You’re sure?” I insisted. I looked him straight in the eyes.  I didn’t need false comfort.

“Very. I examined you myself when you walked in,” Jase firmly with a small nod.

“Okay. Where is the shard?” I asked.

Jase walked over to a small green shard on the edge of the desk. “Here it is Tristan,” he said before handing it to me.

I looked at the shard with my active other sense, it was swimming with forms, far more than I could understand with my limited experience of higher enchanting. I knew the process though, one of the few useful things we learnt at the academy. It was one of the simplest. Just a touch of power pushed into the shard. A shaped link to the item being enchanted, in this case my amulet. Even knacks could do this if provided with a shard and had very fine control of their power.

“Done. I think sir,”  I announced. The enchantment had settled nicely, far easier than things like the irrigation system, as they need to be tailored.

“Yes. Very well done,” Jase said proudly not hiding the fact he had supervised the process. “It will provide a link to Orb greater than the one previous. Its far more direct. The exact details will need a bit of work to get a handle on. Now you need to be heading to stone guild. The offer of assistance is limited to you,” A smug smile appeared on his face. The bastard just turned and walked back to his chair and picked up his glyphscreen.

Feeling a bit unwelcome. I saluted and turned on my heel. I quickly walked through the door.