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Huzzah! A new character! You may remember Keenan from the frist Mage, though he wasn't named back then. I don't quite remember if I explained last time why Quinn's hair changes for no apparent reason whenever something big happens to her, but I do now. I like the dream very much. I don't know where it came from, but it kind of freaks me out, when I think about it. All will be explained in time. Another warning, this sequel will be posted very slowly. It hasn't been written yet, and I sometimes find it hard to be inspired to continue it. I'm still working mainly on Apocalypse and Shadowcat.
“I’m a little worried about Harlequinn,” one of the teachers was telling another in the teacher’s lounge. “She’s always by herself, she has no friends among her peers, she never eats in the cafeteria with everyone else, she spends all her time studying… Maybe it would be best if she didn’t spend all of her time with Kaze, and return to regular classes.”
“But her level of magic is far beyond that of the other students,” replied another teacher. “She’ll never progress if she can’t work at her own level and pace, and if she doesn’t use that power, something terrible might happen, as we all know is the rule of magic. Besides, I hear that power sets people apart. With that much power, she’s hardly a child anymore; she can’t be young. Kaze might be the only one she feels close to because he shares the same power. In any case, she seems perfectly happy with how things are.”
“That is beside the point,” the first teacher who had spoken first said. “It’s unhealthy and immoral. How do we know that their magic doesn’t allow them to meet secretly, despite the rules and despite all of our spells and scrying.”
“Don’t be silly!” said a third teacher. “Not only does Harlequinn have more sense than that, but Kaze is a man of principles, and would not break this, the most important rule. He is a good man, and he values his job and the students too much to risk it on something like this.”
Quinn snorted and rolled over in bed. She and Kaze had finished their sparring hours ago. They had decided to take a break after that, choosing to sleep rather than spend time in the field. Sadly, when she was tired, Quinn tended to be sloppy with her meditation, and had a harder time controlling the thoughts of others in her own mind, and she was particularly tired today. The teachers often spoke of her like this. And of Kaze. They were the talk of the school, and everyone from the principal to the janitors had their own thoughts on their relationship.
The girl took several deep breaths to clear her head. She could feel the dream prickling at the back of her mind, waiting to be unleashed. Should she try to push it back this time, to give her a real, deep, dreamless sleep? Or should she, once again, hope that it would change, that something would be revealed to her? It did rest her, after all, but was that reason enough to deprive herself of a real sleep.
With a deep sigh, she sealed off the part of her mind where the dream resided. It was time to rest, and that meant sleeping so deeply that nothing could wake her up. She would be like dead until her power came back. If ever she didn’t wake in time for her lesson, Kaze would know and he would make excuses for her. She was deeply curious about the dream, but it would just have to wait. If she wanted to be strong enough to experiment in front of the faculty, she needed to get her power to full capacity.
Looking at Kaze and Quinn, it was easy to assume that they were twins: their hair had the same mesmerizing shimmer, Kaze’s so dark it looked almost blue and Quinn’s seemed purple in certain light; they had the same general build and facial structure, and their eyes were unnaturally captivating. According to Kaze, all Free Mages looked alike.
“But I thought that Silk was created in a Free Mage’s image,” Quinn protested. “He was everything but dark and mysterious.”
“That’s true, but the Mage didn’t want Silk to look exactly like him. By giving him silver hair, he effectively differentiated himself from the creature, while still broadcasting the fact that Silk was his mirror image.”
They walked silently down the hall together for a moment. It was after suppertime, and Quinn’s class was about to start. She had been practicing on the spectral image of her summon for a week now, in class and in the field. Kaze had decided that it was time to try the spell for real. It was a Friday night, and the teachers didn’t have class the next day; once Quinn started the spell, no one would be able to go in or out of the teacher’s lounge until she was done; that would take at least twelve hours.
At first, Quinn wasn’t entirely convinced that she was ready. The spell was a powerful one, and not even Kaze could nullify it if something went wrong. After many assurances that she was indeed ready, Quinn conceded that everything would go off without a hitch. She had been practicing for a long time, and she hadn’t made any mistakes last time. Besides, Kaze promised to tell her if she was doing something wrong or was forgetting anything. Giving life to a magical creature was a serious deal, after all, and Kaze didn’t want them to do anything that they would regret.
“Shall we go to class?” he asked once they reached the teacher’s lounge.
Quinn took a deep breath and nodded.
Before he opened the door, Kaze gave her hand a reassuring squeeze. The sight that greeted their eyes was a bit nerve-wracking, or at least it was for Quinn. The entire faculty, as well as a large part of the more successful alumni, and the mayor of the non magical community who had allowed the school to be built on their land, were there to watch a magical working that hadn’t been seen in two centuries.
Quinn had never been high-strung, but the sight of all those people paying attention to her and awaiting a miracle made her hands shake and her heart beat like a jackhammer.
“Relax,” Kaze said in her mind, sending a wave of soothing magic over her. “Pretend there’s no one there. It’s just you and the summon.”
Obediently, Quinn took a calming breath, counting the way the monks had taught her. She instantly slipped into a state of trance that she could usually only achieve through hours of meditation. She heard Kaze giving their audience instructions—to be as quiet as possible, not to cast magic for any reason, and not to interfere in way—but she didn’t pay him any mind. She heard him tell her to take her place in the centre of the room and her body reacted automatically. She waited until he had raised powerful protections around the teacher’s lounge before she got to work.
The first gust of power she released buffeted her audience like a strong wind. Piece by piece, she constructed her summon. She heard nothing but absolute silence. Her audience held its breath in an awed hush, and Kaze had blocked his mind so that no thoughts leaked out to disturb Quinn. When her feet got sore from standing for so long, Quinn sat down. She her back started to ache, she got back to her feet. She moved like she was in a dream, her eyes fixed on the construct floating above her. She was hardly even blinking.
Eleven hours after the first spell had been cast, Quinn was thoroughly exhausted. She was nearly finished. The winged kitten had curled up into a little ball and, to all appearances, gone to sleep. The shell was ready. All she needed to do now was summon the soul of the creature and fix it into the magical body. Kaze had warned her that the summon would not be fixed easily; they didn’t usually want to assume a permanent form, which was generally why witches and sorcerers never summoned the same creature twice.
Quinn got back to her feet. The construct hovered at eye level now, as though it was being weighed down by the layers of magic. The girl held her hands out palm up on either side of the construct. Her eyes unfocussed as she looked to her reserves of power deep within her core. They began to glow faintly with a white light.
She didn’t even need to speak the words of the spell. It was so familiar to her, and even to her depleted powers it was nothing. The kitten twitched violently, as though it was dreaming. It began to squall and yowl, writhing furiously in the air, trying to get away from the invading spirit.
Sweat broke out on Quinn’s forehead. This was the hardest part. Constructing the body had taken a long time and a lot of power, but it wasn’t difficult. Summoning the creature was child’s play. Kaze had been right. The summon did not want to stay in the body.
“Please,” she hissed between clenched teeth. “Please stay in there.”
The kitten stopped fighting almost instantly. It blinked serenely at her as though it was saying, “All you had to do was ask.” There was a brilliant flash of silver-white light that blinded everyone in the room. The outbreak of power was incredible, and had Kaze not set up a barrier, all the windows would have shattered and the doors would have blown off their hinges.
When Quinn could see again, the faculty were all getting back onto their chairs or standing up after being knocked over. They were staring open-mouthed at the fluffy white kitten twining around Quinn’s ankles, purring loudly and flexing its wings. The girl allowed herself to collapse in exhaustion next to the cat, unable to stay on her feet any longer.
“Hey you,” she said to the summon, rubbing a finger under its chin. “Long time no see.”
Looking up at her with intelligent, crystal eyes, the creature uttered a bell-like “Mrao,” causing a jolt of power fly from him to the girl. Quinn instantly felt better. She smiled when the kitten leapt onto her shoulders and twined around her neck.
“So, your name is Keenan, is it?” she murmured. She had forgotten that she still had an audience. The faculty and alumni were all speaking at once, expressing amazement and disbelief. Most of them still couldn’t understand how Quinn could be so powerful.
Kaze touched her shoulder gently. “Go to sleep now,” he instructed. “You’ve used up almost all of your reserves. You know that you’ll wake up feeling like you’ve been through a blender. You’ll deal with it better if you sleep it off. Take some elixir and sleep. We’ll resume class on Monday.”
“Yes sir,” she said. “Thank you.”
“Any time, sweetheart.” “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said to the ever present spectators, “thank you for attending this lesson. Quinn is exhausted and has to rest, but if you would like to see more of what her familiar can do, I will begin to cover it on Monday.”
Quinn closed the door to the teacher’s lounge behind her. It was a relief to get away from all those staring eyes. Keenan’s whiskers tickled her neck, and his cold nose brushed her behind the ear. “You’re my familiar now, are you? You’re not considered a summon anymore.”
He most certainly was not. Summons were weak, short lived and breezy. He was strong, dependable and immune to old age and sickness. Quinn had poured so much of her power into him that his life didn’t depend on hers. Certain Free Mages created familiars to live as they lived and die as they died. Others, like Silk, were infused with so much power that they could live forever. Quinn had given Keenan free will, so he could choose to die when she did, or he would live eternally.
When Quinn crawled into bed, the little kitten curled up next to her on her pillow.
Sunlight poured from between the clouds like water, setting trees and buildings on fire as it scorched the world below. The night sky began to melt, falling down to earth in soggy clumps, extinguishing the sun. Quinn and Kaze observed the whole ordeal from atop a pinnacle. A dozen of strangers stood around them lower on the peak, watching the heavens fall apart. There was a white patch of darkness far in the distance like a void. Nothing could be seen in it, and it had no aura whatsoever, sucking the life out of everything around it. It grew as it devoured the earth and the sky until the Free Mages’ perch was the only thing left. The base began to vanish bit by bit, and the mages with it.
Quinn slowly opened her eyes. The dream was the same as always. It should frighten her; the end of the world wasn’t usually considered peaceful. But she honestly felt calm.
Her head felt oddly heavy. She brushed her hand through her hair, and found that her arm wasn’t long enough to reach the ends. That wasn’t right. She rushed to her mirror with wide eyes. She gaped at her reflection. Her hair had grown down to her knees. How long had she been asleep?
“Kaze?” she called, a little helplessly.
“Well good morning, sleeping beauty,” he said pleasantly.
“Why did my hair grow unnaturally fast?” she asked. She liked playful banter as much as the next person, but she was a bit freaked out by this thing and wanted to figure it out as soon as possible.
“Didn’t I explain that to you yet? When a Free Mage goes through particular stages in his or her magical evolution, the change is manifested through his or her hair. I seem to remember yours going through red and black, and white braids. You took another big step on Friday night, and you may not have noticed yet, but your power has grown exponentially. I would advise against trying to cut your hair, though. You won’t like the results.”
Quinn was relieved. She would have liked to cut it—it was rather inconvenient—but she could sense that things would get ugly if she tried. “Well, I’ll figure something out. What day is it?”
“Aw man! I missed the whole weekend!”
She could actually feel Kaze raise his eyebrow. “Why, did you have plans?”
Quinn ignored him and got dressed. Keenan watched her as she tried to fix her hair so that she wouldn’t sit on it or get it caught in doorways or whatever other trouble extremely long hair could get into. She decided on a high ponytail. She didn’t even need an elastic or a ribbon: it was so long that she just knotted it. It still reached passed her hips.
“Well,” she said to Keenan with a disgusted sigh, “I suppose it’s better than nothing. I’ll braid it next time. Though it’s so sleek, it doesn’t feel like it can get knotted.”
Keenan uttered “Mrao,” again and leapt off the bed, coiling around her ankles as she opened the door. The kitten followed her gleefully down the hall, dashing after invisible mice and pouncing on hapless ferns. He flapped his wings and took flight, racing down the hall and back up, landing gracefully in Quinn’s arms. He rubbed his cold wet nose against her neck, and went back to sleep.
Quinn laughed. He was so much like a real kitten, except for the wings, but she knew from experience how powerful he was. Several years ago, the summoning teacher had thought it would be interesting to pit summoner and creation against one another. Quinn was the only one who had gotten a decent fight out of her summon—the others weren’t strong enough to do the two things at once, and those that managed didn’t do a very good job. Quinn had banished the kitten after a few minutes, but not without sustaining severe power burns.
The dead silence that fell when Quinn entered the Great Hall was no more than she had expected. The same went for the sudden uproar as everyone began to speak at once. She wasn’t liked much among the other students, and that suited her just fine. She sat at the far end of a table, in the corner of the Hall, where no one else wanted to sit. That meant that she was alone and partially hidden by the enormous pillar next to the table. She nudged Keenan awake, and began to eat.
|Neverwhere||Apocalypse: chapter 3|
|Shadowcat: Chapter Three||Mage II: A Higher Power; chapters 8 and 9|
|Apocalypse: chapter 1 and 2||Shadowcat: Chapter Five|