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|Just the beginning. I have a whole lot more planned for this story. This part just introduces the three main characters.||
Thredakir tore Lithanna's clothes from her, right in the village square, in plain view of everyone.
"Look at the skinny runt!" He yelled, laughing. "Look at how bony she is! no man will want her for a wife!" It wasn't long before others in the square started laughing, until it seemed everyone was making fun of her. Lithanna ran, her cheeks burning red, but Thredakir caught her, jerking her roughly around.
"Her head is too big for her body!" shouted somebody in the crowd. More laughter.
"Her hands are too big!"
"At least she will be good for washing up!"
Finally breaking free, Lithanna ran awkwardly through the crowd, her face pinched up with the sobs grasping at her throat. She ran out the south entrance to the village, and into the scrub, until she was out of breath. She fell down beside a bush and cried chokingly, finding it impossible to draw enough breath between sobs. Her nose ran and her eyes watered until her whole face was wet, and without a sleeve her arms could do little to wipe it. Giving up, she just lay on the ground and cried until the sun hung low in the sky and the sky was red.
Just then, she heard a kindly voice.
"What is the matter, little one?"
"Go away!" She screamed, and continued her crying.
"Please, I just want to help. I won't hurt you." Lithanna looked up, and saw through the bushes an old man, stooped and using a cane to walk. He smiled at her, a funny crooked smile. "My name is Masmed. Would you like some clothes perhaps?" Lithanna looked at him suspiciously as he rummaged in a satchel, eventually producing a blanket which he handed to her. She took it and wrapped it around herself, somewhat mollified. "Here, take my hand little one. Tell me where you live, and I'll help you back."
"In the village." Lithanna said, pointing. "Over there."
"How old are you?" he asked.
"Thirteen" she replied. He patted her hand.
"You're out of the village late for a girl so young. Come along, we'd better get you home." They walked back to the village, and he left her at the entrance.
"I'll be off now," he said, "but I'm sure we'll meet again." He smiled his crooked smile again, and then turned and walked back into the bushes. Lithanna shuffled along the nearly deserted village street until she reached her house.
As she reached the door her aunt Merrith burst out.
"Where have you been!" She shouted. "I've been worried sick! You know you aren't supposed to be out after sunset! And what happened to your clothes!" But then she saw her niece's still-damp face and red eyes, her chin quivering, all ready to break into tears again, and her demeanour softened straight away. She gathered her in a huge, warm hug, holding her tightly. "I'm sorry Lithy, I was so worried." She put Lithanna down and wiped away the fresh tears with her sleeve. "Dinner's all ready. Let's get some proper clothes on you, then we can eat." Lithanna got dressed and ate, Merrith looking at her worriedly, but neither of them said anything.
"Bed-time now Lithy." Obediently, Lithanna climbed into bed, and was soon fast asleep. Merrith looked at her for a long time, trying to guess what might have caused Lithanna to be so upset. It was undoubtedly those boys, the same ones who always tormented her. Lithanna never spoke of it, but she had seen them. She had tried to speak to their mothers, to get them to stop, but they would hear nothing of it - they said it was all Lithanna's fault. Her fault for being picked on!
"I'm sorry Lithy." She said. "I wish there was more I could do, I really do."
Storthen crouched low with his sword in front of him, eyeing up his opponent. Borrig was dirty, unshaven, skinny and certainly didn't look like much, even with a sword in his hand, but Storthen knew better than to underestimate him. He had seen him in combat, and Borrig's unlikely frame belied a surprising strength and speed. The crowd forming a ring around them both was cheering loudly, but Storthen blocked them out, focusing only on the man across from him. Time almost stopped as they circled each other, sunflashes slowly sparkling on their blades. Storthen stared relentlessly ahead, and from the corner of his eye saw Borrig's foot shift. He lunged to the side, swinging his sword behind him as he went to parry Borrig's blow. He brought his sword across Borrig's chest, and it was over.
Storthen roared victoriously, holding his dripping sword high, revelling in the cheers of the crowd.
"All that was Borrig's is now mine!" He roared. The cheering abated among those close to Storthen. "By his blood I claim it!" The cheering had all but stopped now. Those of Storthen's warband loosened their swords, and those of Borrig's began to look at him angrily.
"You claim nothing!" An unkempt man spat at Storthen. "I am Borrig's second, and I lead this warband now!" Storthen grinned humourlessly. It was true, he had made a bold claim, even by the brigands' standards. Storthen made a chopping motion with his hand. His warband understood and acted immediately, each picking a man in Borrig's warband and holding their swords to their throats. They may have been theives and cutthroats, but Storthen had led them to victory after victory, and they no longer questioned his insistence on discipline. Storthen levelled his own sword, still dripping with Borrig's blood, at the throat of the man who had disputed his claim.
"Who are you?" Storthen growled at him.
"Oesmat." The man replied. Storthen had to admit the man had backbone. He wasn't cowed, even with his life in such jeopardy.
"All Borrig had is now mine. All you had is now mine. You have no warband now." Storthen turned to the rest of the men. "Those of you who were in Borrig's warband, you can pledge allegiance to me now, or you can die. Since I am certain more of you want to live than die, those of you who do not wish to join can raise your hands now." Nobody moved. Storthen gestured to his men, and they lowered their swords.,/p>
Storthen's warband quickly mingled with Borrig's, and began striking up conversation, as Storthen had told them. Most of these outlaws didn't really care who gave them orders anyway, as long as they had gold and wine. Soon nobody would belong to Borrig's old warband - they would all name themselves as a part of Storthen's. Storthen smiled to himself. Everything had gone according to plan. With the new men in his warband now, he could turn is attention to Redregar next, then Ghispet, with a few caravan raids in between so the outlaws didn't feel like it was all work.
Storthen looked over at Oesmat, sitting by himself, giving curt replies to those of his men that tried to talk to him. He would have to keep an eye on that one. Anyone could see he felt cheated, and he had never known a man like that not try for revenge. He should probably just kill him now, but it would look bad, and he needed Borrig's men to trust that he wouldn't kill them, too. Well, he would sleep lightly tonight, and have Oesmat watched. He thought no more of it and moved to join his men, where discussion had long been abandoned in favour of drinking.
Verene stomped her foot on the carpet.
"I won't go!" She screamed.
"But sweetie, Yeasin says you have such talent..."
"I don't care! I don't want to go to some boring school with boring classes and lessons and stuff! I won't go!"
"No!" Verene shouted. As she said this all the crystal chandeliars in the magnificent room, four large ones, shattered into a thousand pieces. Verene's parents ducked and covered their heads as lethal shards of crystal fell around them. Verene herself stood straight amidst the deadly shower, unheeding. When the last piece of crystal had settled, her parents slowly straightened.
"Enough!" Her father, silent until now, roared. "You are out of control! I have had enough of trying to make a lady of you! Maybe at this school they can teach you manners, at least!"
"Dear, maybe we..." her mother began.
"No! She has destroyed everything in this house, and come close to killing us countless times!"
"They were accidents..."
"Accidents! Last week she threw me out of the study window!" He brandished his hand, still with a bandage on it, as evidence. He turned his attention back to Verene. "You will go, young lady, whether you like it or not!" Verene's sullen look turned all too suddenly to impish mischeviousness.
"You can't make me." She said. "I can do anything I want."
"We can indeed, young lady! Yeasin!" He called out. A door opened, and a thin, bald man wearing a pale blue robe enetered the room. "Take my daughter to your confounded school!"
"No!" Verene screamed. The crystal shards lying on the floor flew up and began whirling around the room, but shortly after they fell back to the floor again. "What happened!" Veren shouted. She shot a look of hatred at Yeasin. "What did you do!"
"You are young, and you have much to learn. I'm afraid I agree with your parents - you cannot stay here. It is too dangerous to allow you to continue to throw your power around with no thought or care. Say goodbye to your parents, for we leave immediately." Verene pouted.
"I have to go pack." She said.
"Your parents will send you your belongings. We must leave now."
"No!" Verene stomped her foot again, then began to cry. Her golden curls shook as she sobbed, and her mother went over to comfort her. "I don't want to go, mommy!" She cried. "I want to stay here!"
"I know, sweetie. I want you to stay too, but you can't. You have to learn to control yourself." Tears were streaming down the faces of both mother and daughter as they embraced. "I love you, Verene."
"I love you too mommy." As they parted Yeasin took Verene by the hand and led her from the room. Verene gave a sad backwards glance at her parents and waved, and they waved back. As soon as Verene left the room her mother collapsed into her husband's arms and broke into tears.
"Ah, Yeasin. I'm glad you came. This new girl, how is she doing?"
"Superbly, Master. She already shows more ability than many graduated magicians. It's simply amazing."
"How old is she?"
"We are having problems, ah, controlling her, however."
"Students should be free to express themselves as they wish, Yeasin."
"Yes Master, but Verene insists on expressing herself by setting the teachers on fire."
"It's amazing that she can overcome their defenses so easily, and she always extinguishes them before they come to harm, but it unnerves them. Many refuse to teach her now - in fact, many say she is unteachable."
"You don't believe that, I hope."
"No, Master. But she is difficult. We always have a full magician with her, to keep her from causing too much havoc."
"I think I should talk with her. Bring her here."
Yeasin left the room, leaving Heudan to ponder what he had said. Only nine, and she could slip a teacher's defense! Who could have taught her how to do that? It takes years to learn how to undo the sorts of magical guards the teachers employed. The only other possibility is that she broke them with raw force, but even he struggled to do that, and then only against the weaker ones. It was inconceivable that she had that much power. One must always keep one's mind open, he reminded himself. If she was that powerful already, she could be the most powerful ever! Remarkable! Truly remarkable...
"Master Heudan." Yeasin entered the room, with Verene in tow. Heudan had to admit she didn't look much like the torrent of magical energy she was supposed to be. She looked like a spoiled, pampered child.
"Thank you, Yeasin. You may leave now." Heudan studied the girl. She looked back, unabashed. Heudan could feel a weight pressing against his mind, an enormous might... she was attacking him! She was testing his defenses! He employed a simple slight of mind, one he was fond of - it often confounded even experienced magicians, never mind those still in school. He was surprised, therefore, when the weight merely lessened, without abating completely. Only nine, and she was already many times stronger than he, and he only knew one other mage that could match him. He could see why the teachers had such difficulty. He, however, was far too knowledgeable to be a victim to mere brute strength. He slipped her power aside easily and smiled at her. Verene had an almost shocked look on her face.
"You are very strong for one so young." Verene looked sullen, and did not reply. Heudan took a seed out of a drawer and placed it on his desk. "Can you tell me what is inside the seed?" He asked her.
"Nothing." She replied.
"How do you know? Did you look?" Verene looked at him like he was an idiot.
"It's just a seed."
"Show me what is inside." Verene looked at the seed with a bored gaze, and it exploded.
"There. Nothing. Told you so." Heudan smiled, and placed another seed on his desk. The seed began to wobble, then a slender green tendril burst from it, growing longer and thicker all across the desk. Leaves sprouted from it, then flowers bloomed, magnificent purple ones, until the whole desk was covered. Heudan leaned forward.
"I expect my demonstration will be lost on you, but I hope you will remember this when you are older. What will not be lost on you, however, is this. I can teach you to be greater than you are even now. You have power, but no subtlety, and there is a lot for you to learn." Heudan paused. He had her attention, at least. "You could be the greatest magician to walk this earth, but not unless you learn control. We can teach you that, and many other things besides. Do you want to learn more?" Verene looked at him suspiciously, but he had her full attention.
"Yes." She said quietly.
"This is your first lesson then. You must not use your power. I shall be watching, and if I feel you using any magic other than what you are supposed to for class, any magic at all, you will be suspended." Verene's eyes opened wide in shock.
"That's not fair!" She exclaimed. "I don't have to listen to you anyway!" Heudan could feel the power build up in the room. Quickly, he sent her to sleep, and the magical energy dissipated harmlessly.
He sighed. Verene had a long way to go.
|Fantasy Walking||The Stream|
|Mortal Magic part 2||The Path of Least Forgiveness|