Thursday, June 28, 2012

Mage Knights: Childhood's End

“The attack on the Instructory was not an isolated event.” the emissary explained. “There have been a string of attacks in Aylodae, mostly assassinations targeting prestigious and wise sages and archmages in the greater centers of learning within our region. At a good number of them, masked assailants specializing in magic were confirmed to have been present.”

“Why haven’t we heard about this?” Kashé demanded.

“The Archsage has been using Aylodae’s resources to look into the matter.” the emissary answered. “If news of this reached the more warlike regions, they may take it as a chance to attack Aylodae.”

“If the Archsage was investigating this, why wasn’t he able to mobilize the Aylodae army to prevent the attack on the Instructory?” Deviån demanded.

“Because he didn’t know about it, dolt.” Sage answered him, then turned to the emissary. “You said that all the attacks up until now were assassinations targeting individuals. This would be the first time this masked group attacked on a large scale with the intent to kill dozens of people. This would be a deviation from their observed behavior. No one could’ve stopped it.”

“Precisely.” the emissary agreed as Deviån glared at Sage. “We had not anticipated an attack of this magnitude. We lost much of our next generation of mage knights; you three are among the few survivors. Which brings me to the purpose behind our meeting: the Archsage has handpicked you three to trace and engage the group responsible for this attack, and all the ones prior to it.”

Monday, June 25, 2012

Mage Knights: Childhood's End

“Do you know where my sword is, Myrrdin?” Crowlin asked as he layered on his many robes.

“Over here.” Myrrdin answered, dragging Crowlin’s sword, scabbard, and belt in through the door and nudging the door shut behind him. “I think it prudent that you keep it with you at all times. There are rumors going about the Instructory and the city that you had something to do with the massacre.”

Crowlin’s eyebrows furrowed together. “Why would they think that? I was nearly killed in that massacre.”

“Because you are the sole survivor among the staff.” Myrrdin answered as Crowlin belted his sword around his waist. “There was the possibility that you become headmaster if all the other staff died, and so that is seen as possible motive. Additionally, there is your heritage to consider.”

“They’ll never let that alone, will they?” Crowlin sighed.

“Don’t take my warning lightly, Crowlin.” Myrrdin cautioned. “There are those who are actually considering these rumors. There are those who are suspicious of you, and may act on it.”

Crowlin’s eyes widened. “In seriousness? Since when has the gossip mill been a reputable source of information?”

“The Instructory and Arcanis has lost many valued members of their community, ones that matter: strong youth with great potential, and elders with wisdom great enough to teach our region’s defenders.” Myrrdin pointed out. “In my many years as a cat, I have noticed that when something massively tragic happens, humans need to explain it, or find something to pin the blame on. It makes them feel better, if only for a while. In this instance, you are the object they are eyeing to be their scapegoat. Do not be surprised when others look at you in a different light.”

“I’ll be careful.” Crowlin said, pulling his dark gloves on. “Rumors. . . this is ridiculous.”

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mage Knights: Childhood's End

“He should’ve been here ten minutes ago.” Deviån muttered, looking around.

Kashé frowned. “Perhaps he was held up.”

Sage glanced up from the book he was reading, ignoring the other two. Twisting his fingers in a sign and sweeping his arm down, a crescent of light formed off the tips of his fingers, slicing down towards the table. The blade of light left a deep cut on the edge of the table, and Sage grimaced.

“Hmm. Hope no one notices that.” he murmured, rubbing the cut.

“Are you even concerned?” Deviån demanded. “You’re just fooling around!”

“Correction: I’m learning new spells.” Sage said, memorizing the motions for the spell. “I’m making good use of my time. You have a problem with that?”

“How much longer should we wait?” Kashé asked, the question aimed at either of them.

“He may be delayed, or in trouble.” Sage said, shelving the book he had been studying. “If he doesn’t arrived in the next ten minutes, one of us should stay here and wait for him while the other two go out and look for him.”

“That’s the kind of thinking that makes a good mage knight.” a disembodied voice said, startling all three of them. The air by a bookshelf seemed to ripple, and a man shimmered into view. “I am the emissary you’ve been waiting for. Deviån and Kashé I’ve already met, so I would presume you are Sage.”

“That would be me.” Sage nodded. “You called us here for a reason, I presume?”

“I did.” the emissary said, pulling out a chair and taking a seat. As he did, he rubbed the cut that Sage had taken out of the table. “You pick up spells very fast, I notice. Likely part of the reason that you were one of those invited here. Please, all three of you take a seat. We need to talk.”

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mage Knights: Childhood's End

“Are you aware of the news out of Aylodae, Master?”

A man shrouded in dark robes, cloaked with the hood drawn over his head, turned from the shelves of his library. The room was nearly entirely dark, but he could see the outline of his apprentice standing behind him. “No, Eclipse. Enlighten me.”

Eclipse shook her dark hair out of her face, her fiery scarlet irises glowing faintly. “There was an attack on the Instructory, or an ambush, more correctly. Less than a quarter of the graduating class survived, and all but one of the entire staff was slain. Six individuals appeared to be responsible; one was captured but died before being questioned. The losses to the Instructory numbered around eighty in total.”

“Six responsible for the death of eighty? Impressive work.” the Master said, browsing through titles on the shelves. “And in Aylodae, no less. . . we may have a vested interest in this matter. Has the responsible party been identified?”

“In spite of the capture of one of the attackers, no.” Eclipse answered, raising an arm. A raven alighted on her wrist, croaking. “My informant tells me there is interesting news, though. All of the attackers were wearing masks, and that the mask on the captured attacker is sealed to his face with magic. The company of mage knights assigned to Arcanis in the wake of the attack are working on removing the mask from the attacker’s face.”

“Masks. . . we may possess a book on cults utilizing masks.” the Master replied, still searching the shelves. “And the deaths? By magic or by the sword?”

“Magic. A few were killed by arrows, but it was obvious the intent was that all the targets be slain with spell circles. Very complex spell circles, I’m told.” Eclipse amended as the raven croaked once more.

“Masks and magic. . . most intriguing, and strikingly familiar. Our library will have something on this matter, I need only find it. . . meanwhile, we may be served well by a closer eye on the matter.” the Master mused.

“Understood. I will prepare my gear.” Eclipse said, turning and departing with a whirl of her black cloak. “I’ve caught wind of a secret emissary from the Archsage, gone to Arcanis with a message for a select few of the surviving senior students, and as I understand, it involves a mission pertaining to the attack. . .”

“An excellent place to start. May the night speed your flight, Eclipse.”

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Mage Knights: Childhood's End

In his room, Crowlin sat in his bed and stared out the window. Now bereft of the many layers of robes and cloaks he usually wore, his skinny, birdlike frame was visible in the way his shift fell across his body. Myrrdin, done with hunting himself breakfast, jumped up onto Crowlin’s desk.

“Of what are you thinking?” he inquired.

Crowlin didn’t take his eyes off the sky outside the window. “I’m the only one of the Instructory staff that survived. Usually the headmaster chooses his successor, but in the event of an unforeseen death or deaths, the mantle of headmaster is passed down to the instructor of the highest rank. With all the other professors dead, the mantle of headmaster falls to me.”

“A heavy responsibility.” Myrrdin agreed. “The Instructory is the most highly regarded educational institution in Aylodae, and mage knights are only trained at the Instructory. The headmaster is, in part, responsible for the safety of the entire region.”

Crowlin drew his knees to his chest, wrapping his arms around them. “I don’t know if they’ll let me be headmaster. It’s not a position I desire. I never thought I’d be headmaster, and I reasoned that if I ever was, it was something that would occur well into my grey years. If the Arcanis Council decides not to bestow the mantle on me, I’m fine by it. But if they do insist that I take up the headmaster’s mantle, I don’t know what I’ll do.”

“As I have in years past, I will be at your side to offer you my wisdom, no matter your vocation.” Myrrdin promised. “And if it does happen that they wish you to be headmaster, and that you accept the mantle, I will aid you as best I can.”

Crowlin smiled. “Thank you, Myrrdin.”

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mage Knights: Childhood's End

“Kashé. . . and Deviån.” Sage greeted his two peers as the three of them met at a junction in the hall. “What’s the occasion?”

“That’s Mage Deviån to you.” Deviån replied smartly. “There’s a secret emissary here from the capital to see a number of the new mage knights that survived the attack. You were on the list. . . can’t imagine why.”

“Would you two stop needling each other!” Kashé reprimanded. She was dressed in the light, travel-friendly armor of a mage knight and shrouded in a long cloak, just the same as Deviån and Sage were. “He wants us to meet him in a corner of the Great Library in an hour.”

“We should be there, then.” Sage replied. “Is it just the three of us, or are there others?”

“Just the three.” Kashé answered. “You can make it, then?”

“Of course. As a matter of fact, we should probably go right now. Punctuality should make an impression.” Sage replied, ignoring Deviån. “Also, Crowlin just woke up. He should be up and about soon.”

“We’ll talk on the way.” Kashé said, turning on her heel with a whirl of her cloak and heading towards the Great Library, Sage and Deviån following her.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Mage Knights: Childhood's End

Crowlin came to slowly, his breathing picking up as he awoke. Opening his eyes, he looked around. He was lying in his bed, and sunlight was streaming through his window. Blinking, he sat up. Myrrdin, resting at the foot of his bed, noticed and perked up.

“Hmph. I thought you’d never wake.” the mage cat said crossly. “You’ve been sleeping for two days now, you know that?”

“Lay off him, Myrrdin.” Sage said, stepping in. “He saved what was left of the senior class. And as I’m told, you were that one that freed him to do that.”

Crowlin held his head. “Mmm. That wasn’t a dream, was it.”

“It wasn’t.” Sage said, taking a seat on his bed across from Crowlin. “Except for you, all the professors are dead. Even the headmaster. The Archsage has reassigned a full company of mage knights to the Instructory and Arcanis, and they’re investigating the attack. The body of the one ambusher you managed to bring down is being kept in crystal stasis for examination.”

Crowlin blinked, coming more fully awake and noticing the new, more elaborate scabbard that Sage kept his sword in. “You’re a mage knight now?”

Sage nodded. “Kashé, Coriko, Deviån, myself, and everyone else that survived the attack and was well enough to receive the rank. Some of the students that were more heavily injured by the spell circles, and died in the past two days, were posthumously knighted. All told, there were only fifteen survivors, yourself included. Only nine of us are well enough to be up and about.”

Crowlin rubbed his eyes. “Did they figure out who was behind the attack?”

“No, and as a matter of fact, they can’t pry the mask off the corpse of the one attacker left behind. It looks like it’s sealed to his face with magic.”

“Mage Sage, Mage Kashé is looking for you.” a younger apprentice said, sticking his head into their room.

“I’ll be there.” Sage said, rising. “It’s good to see you awake, Crowlin.”

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mage Knights: Summer's Beginning

As the Grace of Aralis faded, Sage regained his feet and ran over to the sole ambusher left behind. Lying on the grass after his fall from stories above, he had obviously suffered a number of injuries, some of them internal. The mask he was wearing had only eyeholes, and there was a flow to it which gave it the appearance of willow bark.

“Who are you?” Sage demanded, grabbing the man’s shirtfront. “Why did you attack the Instructory? Answer me!”

Nothing but a hiss issued from beneath the mask, and the man slouched back, the tension going out of him as he died. Disgusted, Sage relinquished his grip on the man, letting his body slide back to the earth. Rising, he turned and took stock of the Courtyard.

The spell circles were fading away by now, their work done; up on the stage, it appeared that all of the staff had been killed. On the grounds before the stage, the majority of the sixty graduating seniors had been killed; those that had not been targeted by spell circles tried to resuscitate their friends or cried over them; those that had been targeted by spell circles and had been freed by Kashé and Sage, were trying to recover from the damage inflicted on them. The trees stood stark and bare, stripped of their leaves and flowers beneath the soft blue sky. All told, Sage would estimate that roughly eighty had been slain in the last four minutes.

Angered by the ease with which life could be so quickly extinguished and by so few, Sage stalked back to the center of the Courtyard to help his injured and mourning peers.