Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mage Knights: Summer's Beginning

Grace of Aralis
“Get up, Crowlin!” Myrrdin hissed. Across the platform, the entire staff of the Instructory, with the sole exception of Crowlin, had been slain by the spell circles that had sprung up without warning, leaving them helpless to fight back. Blood and water alternately pooled on different areas of the platform, and Crowlin, freed from imminent death, blinked sweat out of his eyes, patting out the smoldering sections of his robes.

Crowlin staggered to his feet, shedding his outermost robe. As he did so, an arrow thudded into the platform at his feet; he staggered back, quickly raising his hands and casting the Grace of Aralis. A cocoon of strong winds immediately surrounded him, and the next arrow to come his way was thrown off to the side, diverted by the turbulent winds.

“You must extend the shield spell!” Myrrdin urged as the masked figures on the roofs began targeting all the senior students that hadn’t been killed by spell circles. As the remaining students were brought down by arrows, leaving fewer and fewer survivors, Crowlin picked up his sword, green light filling the runes carved into the blade. Raising it point-down, Crowlin let out a brief plea.

“Aralis, goddess of the winds - hear my cry and give me the strength to protect the innocent!”

Slamming his sword down into the platform, both Crowlin and Myrrdin were thrown back by the violent explosion of wind that ripped through the Courtyard, blasting arrows aside and divesting the trees of their petals and leaves. The powerful whirlwind extended beyond the Courtyard, pulling and grabbing at the ambushers, even yanking one down off the roof and sending him flying to the ground stories below. The other masked attackers drew runes of red light in the air, their bodies seeming to explode in heavy showers of red sparks as their spells took effect.

The Grace of Aralis lasted a minute more, and then the howling whirlwind began to fade, leaving in its wake no more than a dozen and a half survivors amid the carnage of the ambush.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Mage Knights: Summer's Beginning

“Myrrdin!” Crowlin gasped as a prism of air began forming above him, bending and focusing the sunlight and beaming it down intensely on him. He raised his hands, trying to form a counterspell, but the magic fizzled before it left the tips of his fingers. Likewise, when he drew his sword the runes on the blade would fail to ignite, stifled by the spell circle. Everyone caught within a spell circle was helpless to fight their way out, their magic canceled out by the spells woven into the circles.

Still outside the circle, Myrrdin braced his paws on the platform, his fur fluffing out as his eyes glowed. A wave of yellow light shattered a section of the red cylinder penning Crowlin in; Crowlin tumbled out, his thick black robes smoldering from the heat of the concentrated sunlight. Gasping, he loosened the neck of his robes as he caught his breath.

In the ranks of the senior students, gruesome deaths by magic were taking place for those caught within the spell circles. In one spell circle, the temperature plummeted, while in another, all the air was drawn out till suffocation occurred. In still another, the heat was raised till the victim combusted, while the ground beneath another student turned to thin mud and he was sucked under, drowning in the watery dirt. No one spell circle was the same as the other, which kept the unbound students from coming up with any one spell that would counteract all the circles.

Steadily working their way through the ranks of their peers, Kashé and Sage broke open as many spell circles as they could, opting for pure magical power over the finesse of trying to find a counterspell for each circle. Both of them were tiring, however, and most of the spells circles had by this time done their work. Breaking yet another spell circle, Sage senses pricked and he whirled, barely dodging the arrow that had come from the roofs around the Courtyard. Glaring up, Sage saw masked figures, roughly half a dozen of them, around the roofs on the perimeter of the courtyard, all of them with bows and quivers. 

“Now they show their faces.” Sage snarled.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mage Knights: Summer's Beginning

“Alright, alright, put me down!” Kashé hissed. “If Deviån sees you carrying me in, he’ll have a fit. Besides, I want to walk to my graduation, not be carried.”

“How do I look?” Sage asked, brushing off his cloak and straightening his shirt.

Kashé reached up and tried to brush Sage’s hair down, then gave up. “Your hair is hopeless. It never behaves.”

“A sign of my unquenchable spirit.” Sage intoned with mock nobility, then glanced around the corner into the Courtyard. “Looks like they’ve already started the speech. Mmm, wait, it looks like something is happening.”

“What is it?” Kashé asked, glancing around the corner with Sage.

“I don’t quite know.” Sage admitted in confusion. “It looks like there’s a lot of spell circles sitting under everybody. . .”

When the screams began to ring out, both apprentices’ eyes went wide. 

“It’s an ambush.” Sage hissed, drawing his sword. “Here in the Courtyard, of all places! At the heart of the Instructory! C’mon, we’ve got to break open as many of those spell circles as we can!”

Kashé followed Sage out into the Courtyard, mage fire kindling to life in her hands since she was bereft of her sword. Along the length of Sage’s blade, spell runes gleamed to life, lending a dangerous blue glow to the double-edged blade. Reaching the ranks of the senior students, Sage brought his sword up and around, cleaving through the encasing red light that had sprung up around one of his classmates. As the spell circle collapsed, Sage yanked him out, moving onto the next entrapped classmate. As fast as he freed his friends, though, Sage knew it was too late to save all of them, or even half of them.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mage Knights: Summer's Beginning

Pomp and Circumstance
Crowlin surveyed the assembly from the back of the stands where the professors and teachers were seated. They were in the Courtyard of the Instructory, and the newest generation of mage knights stood in orderly lines, at attention and statuesque in the breezy morning air. Aside from the occasional shuffle and the rustling of leaves, it was silent in the Courtyard.

“They’re certainly taking their time.” Myrrdin mewed softly from beside Crowlin’s chair.

“Indeed.” Crowlin said, eyeing the conspicuous gaps in the ranks of the graduating class. Kashé and Sage had still failed to show up. Deviån, a tallish young man with strong features and situated in the second row, did not appear pleased with the implication that Kashé and Sage were in cahoots.

On the front row, the headmaster nodded to the senior professor in charge of the ceremony. She stood, and walking to the podium up on the stage, began addressing the arrayed students.

“Senior students of the Instructory. This day you will make the transition from training to the battlefield, from practice to patrolling Aylodae, from mage apprentice to mage knight. This day. . .”

For the most part Crowlin tuned out the speech. He’d heard it for six years; all students that were not graduating to the rank of mage knight were not permitted within the Courtyard, but could watch and listen from the rooms and roofs bordering the Courtyard. The speech was essentially the same every year, just given by different professors and written in different ways.

Down by Crowlin’s chair, Myrrdin rested his chin on his paws and dozed.

Crowlin was trying to keep from nodding off, and in order to stay awake, sat up straight and inhaled deeply. The wind gusted by at that moment, ruffling Crowlin’s pale brown hair and going right into his nose and mouth. Crowlin couldn’t help gagging; the aura of malice and ill will on the wind was strong enough to be tangible.

“Myrrdin, you’ve got to feel that.” Crowlin coughed. “That’s too strong to ignore. How can no one else feel it? Something’s going to happen - Myrrdin?”

Myrrdin hissed, and Crowlin glanced down, then froze. Below his seat, the luminous red lines of a hidden and preprepared spell glowed to life, harnessing the currents of magic to fuel whatever spell had been cast on the spot.

As Myrrdin backed away, hissing, Crowlin’s attention moved outward. Similar spell circles were forming underneath the chairs of all the other Instructory staff, and beyond them, spell circles were forming beneath certain of the senior students. All of the spells were written in red light, indicating a dark or otherwise malicious intent.

And with horror, Crowlin realized the spells were being activated.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mage Knights: Summer's Beginning

“I can’t see why this ceremonial fodder is important.” Kashé grumbled, arrayed in a dress. Sage was leaning against the doorway, waiting on her. “It’s just an amalgamation of pomp and circumstance meant to make us feel good about our service to Aylodae. I don’t need some ceremony to tell me how much the region values its mage knights.”

“Most likely a traditional thing.” Sage said, bored. He was arrayed in a simple uniform and cloak, with his sword belted by his side. “I know you hate getting dressed up, so why do you put so much effort into it?”

Kashé glared at Sage. “Men look at me differently when I’m not in combat gear. It grates on my nerves that their impression of me changes with the clothes I wear.”

Sage raised an eyebrow. “That doesn’t answer why you devote so much time to preening yourself.”

“I don’t preen myself.” Kashé huffed. “Whenever I do something, I do it to the best of my ability, whether it’s dressing for an occasion or cutting open an enemy.”

“Well, that’s certainly you down to a letter. As beautiful in a dress as you are in battle.” Sage complimented.

“Stop it.” Kashé muttered. “You and Deviån, all the time. . . you two never stop.” Finished with preparing, she looked around. “Why is it so quiet?”

Sage checked his timekeeper. “We may theoretically be late by several minutes.”

“What?!” Kashé gasped. “Why didn’t you say so earlier! Blast it all, Sage! If I don’t graduate because of you, you’ll be dead by the end of the day!”

“Hey, at least we’ll fail to graduate together, right?”

Kashé smacked Sage upside the head. “If we don’t graduate, there isn’t going to be a we for very long!”

“Right. You really want to graduate.” Sage said, brushing off his cloak. “Well, I guess I do too. I wasn’t really planning on spending another year here. Can’t you walk any faster?”

“Rrrr! This is why I hate dresses!” Kashé growled.

“I can help with that.” Sage said, picking Kashé up and walking faster. “Hey, you’re pretty light.”

Kashé folded her arms, scowling. “You would say that, with those weak little arms of yours.”

Sage frowned. “Just because I’m not buff like those blockheads from Durianor doesn’t mean I’m weak.”

“As if normal knights could ever match up to the mage knights of Aylodae.” Kashé assured him. “Just get us there in time, alright?”

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mage Knights: Summer's Beginning

Roughly a week later
Myrrdin searched the dressing rooms of the Instructory, eventually finding Crowlin arrayed in robes denoting his job as teaching assistant. “Crowlin! Stop daydreaming; the graduation ceremony has begun!”

Crowlin turned. “It’s gotten stronger, Myrrdin. The smell of strange things and malice. I woke up this morning and I could taste it in the morning wind coming in my window.”

“Well, it’s a bit late to warn anybody, isn’t it?” Myrrdin hissed, batting Crowlin’s legs. “Besides, nothing’s happened over the last week, except for Sage and Deviån getting in a fight over Kashé. Now get! Go!”

“I sit at the back anyway.” Crowlin mused. “I’m only a teaching assistant. I don’t participate in any of the ceremonies; I’m just there for the sake of being there. Maybe I should keep watch around the Instructory’s perimeter, just in case something does happen.”

“You’ll go because your job demands that you be there, and unless you have a good, solid reason for not being there, the headmaster will fire you!” Myrrdin said, jumping onto Crowlin’s shoulder. “And I, for one, will not depart the Instructory in disgrace because you didn’t attend the graduation ceremony. Now go, or I’ll start biting your head!”

“Alright, alright, I’m going.” Crowlin said, straightening his robe. “How far into the graduation are they?”

“The band is still playing the opening song. Now go! Nimarae! Nimarae! Faster, faster!”

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mage Knights: Summer's Beginning

“Come on, get up. You’re wasting sunlight.” Myrrdin yowled right into Sage’s ear.

“Sweet sycamore, go away!” Sage grumbled. “Blasted cat! D’you have to yell right into my ear?”

“A pounding headache is what you get for your vices.” Myrrdin said, looking to the curtains. His eyes glowed, and the curtains yanked themselves open of their own accord, allowing light to flood into the room. Sage groaned and burrowed under his covers.

Myrrdin jumped off the bed, his eyes glowing as he did so. The covers followed him off the bed, exposing Sage once more. “Rise, soon-to-be-mage-knight. You graduate in a week. You need to prepare for leaving the Instructory.”

“Five years of learning magic and combat wasn’t enough?” Sage muttered, curling into a ball.

Another glow of Myrrdin’s eyes sent water from Sage’s washbasin flying through the air and dousing him. Sage yelped accordingly, finally getting up.

“Five years in training and learning do not make you ready for duty. Nothing every readies you for the duty of being a mage knight. Only experience can grant you the wisdom and maturity to do your job as a defender of Aylodae. You are twenty years of age, Sage, and about to become a representative of one of the most cultured and advanced regions on the continent. Bear that in mind as you make your decisions.” Myrrdin advised.

Sage grunted, holding his head. “How old are you again? Because you sound like you have way more wisdom than a cat could ever garner in its short lifetime.”

“I am no ordinary cat. I am a mage’s cat, and have no defined lifespan. But if you must know, cats in general are born with an innate wisdom lacking in all other creatures. . . humans especially.”

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mage Knights: Summer's Beginning

Winds of Change
“Sage, Coriko, and Kashé nearly got into a bar fight last night.” Myrrdin informed Crowlin. The two of them were in the Instructory’s Great Library, and Crowlin was scouring through ancient tomes in search of new wind spells to practice.

“I hardly find that surprising; they got into a bar fight at the beginning of last summer.” Crowlin replied. “I take it you intervened?”

“It was necessary. Those lugs from Durianor were disrespecting Kashé.” Myrrdin answered. “Do tell, what are you searching for? You’ve been restless.”

Crowlin paused from perusing the tomes. “The day prior, Sage told me he felt restless. That something was off. I thought it was just him, but last night the wind changed. It smells different. Laden with a different scent, with faint undertones of malice. I don’t know what it is, but it’s putting me at unease. I’m beginning to think there’s more to Sage’s restlessness than just a mood shift.”

“Have you considered informing the elders?” Myrrdin asked.

“I have, but why would they listen to me? I’m but a teaching assistant, aged only twenty-one years, barely graduated from the Instructory. I still sleep in the apprentice dorms, for heaven’s sake! Besides, this time of year is always busy for the elders, with the grading of performance tests and the graduation of the newest generation of mage knights. Why would they listen to me?”

“It is better to be forewarned than uninformed.” Myrrdin cautioned. “If the wind has changed, then the elders should know.”

“I’ll think about telling them.” Crowlin answered, going back to searching for wind spells. “Also, is Sage still sleeping? He’s dozed half the day away.”

“Ah, that reminds me. Thank you, Crowlin. I think I’ll go wake him up.” Myrrdin said, turning and slipping back through the library.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mage Knights: Summer's Beginning

Part Elf
“Right, we should probably get you back to your dorm, Kashé.” Coriko said, noticing that Kashé and Sage were starting to nod off. “The night grows late.”

“Eh, if you say so.” Sage mumbled. “C’mon, girly. Up and at ‘em.” Sliding off his stool, he nudged Kashé out of her doze. Kashé perked up, blinking.

“Mm? Yeah?” she mumbled.

“Got’s to go home, so sleep for to go thing do. . .” Sage yawned. “Ack. That dragon whiskey will twist your head around.”

“Sure.” Kashé said, slipping off her stool. Coriko steadied her as she tilted upon hitting the floor.

Mutterings and whispers tripped through the air as the trio put their cloaks on and readied themselves for departure. As she secured her cloak about her neck, Kashé caught wind of the mutterings floating over from the table occupied by the knights visiting from Durianor.

“These Aylodeans are queer folk, aye? Lookit ‘em. They let their women fight; those two over there are wearing the armor of knights.”

“Aye, and the redhead looks quaint; I’d almost say she was elvish, or at least part elf.”

In a sudden flash of temper, Kashé whirled on the knights. “Aye, I’m part elf, and all the stronger in magic for it! You blockheads want to find out the hard way?”

“You remember your place here, elf girl!” one of the knights snapped, standing and drawing his sword.

“No.” said a cold, chilling voice. The sword in the knight’s hand glowed red, heated to high temperature, and the knight yelped and dropped his sword. The tavern went silent as Myrrdin padded in silently, glaring at the Durianor knights. “You will remember your place. You observe our customs, obey our laws, abide by our traditions, while you are in Aylodae. You will afford our mage knights, be they male or female, all the respect a knight in any region deserves.” Myrrdin flicked his tail. “Are we understood?”

The offending knight simply rubbed his seared hand and sat back down again, glaring. Myrrdin turned to the three mage-knights-in-training. “Let us go, before your addled heads get you into any further trouble.”

Following the mage cat, the trio left the tavern.