MYFACC: Chapter 8

Chapter 8: A Future Bleak: The Ice Age Cometh!

Craig collapsed into bed with an exaggerated sigh.

“I don’t care.” Ninja said from his position, curled up on the pillow.

“I didn’t say anything.”

“I still don’t care.”

Craig just sighed and rolled onto his side, facing away from Ninja.

“I won’t have you keeping me up all night. What do you want?”

“I’m just a little lost about what to do when I leave here; do I stay on or return home but try things differently? If only I could see into the future…”

“Why not have a look rather than bugging me then?”

“I don’t know that kind of magic… or have that kind of power.”

Ninja stretched and climbed over Craig’s face, before dropping onto the floor and disappearing out the door.

“Well goodnight to you too. That’s what I get for talking to a cat…” grumbled Craig as he rolled over, his mind racing as he tried to drift off to sleep.

~

Craig woke up to a paw smacking him repeatedly in the face. Not even seeing the first rays of the sun peeking through the curtains, he groaned.

“What do you want devilspawn?”

“I want you to shut up.”

“I was sleeping.”

“You were thrashing. I bought you something to help you with your problem.”

“I’ve got ninety-nine problems, and you’re about twenty one of them.” grumbled Craig.

“You wanted to know what the future holds; I bought you a solution. Be grateful.”

“Solution?”

Ninja drew Craig’s attention down with the tap of a claw on glass; there was a small vial of liquid that began to shimmer with the vibrations.

“What is this?” asked Craig as he picked up the vial.

“It’s called an Oracle’s Elixer. Combined with a little divination magic it will allow you a glimpse into the future.”

“That’s… oddly thoughtful. But I don’t know any divination spells…”

“I just don’t want your worth as a servant diminished; don’t read too much into it. This scroll should help.” with a flick of his tail Ninja rolled a scroll towards Craig.

“Where did you get these?”

“Don’t ask. It doesn’t matter.”

“Did you steal these?”

“It. Doesn’t. Matter.”

Craig frowned at Ninja but said nothing, instead sitting upright and lighting the lamp next to his bed.

“So… all I need to do is drink this potion and read this incantation, and I’ll enter a precognitive trance?”

“I knew you weren’t as stupid as you looked.”

Shaking his head with a smirk, Craig popped the seal on the vial and drained the contents in one mouthful.

“Mirai he Misero!”

~

Craig sat in an imposing throne of black ice atop of tower, voluminous robes of black trimmed with ermine flowing around him. A crown of the black ice rested upon his head, a long staff of black with a remarkably clear diamond sparkling in the tip rest across his lap. He gazed forth from his tower at the city of Cantabria and the surrounding plains sprawling around him, buried beneath a blanket of crisp white snow as it continued to fall from the skies, swirling around his seated form in its descent.

“Soon…” he whispered to himself.

His gaze lifted into the air above him where a large chunk of crystalline black ice gently hovered and turned, pulsing with power as it summoned more and more snow in an endless blizzard. Watching the skies, the clouds eventually parted enough to reveal the moon in its full glory, the wan moonlight illuminating the tower with an eerie and mysterious shimmer. Standing up and raising his right hand palm open towards the crystal, his left hand steadying it, Craig took a deep breath and summoned forth his power.

“Koori no Kesshou! Chikara ni Tore! Ima da!

The air hummed as mana coalesced around Craig’s hand, the pale blue light of pure mana flowing forth into the crystal of black ice hovering overhead, causing it to thrum with energy. Craig closed his eyes and focused as the seconds slowly dragged by, turning into several very slow minutes while the crystal absorbed more and more of his mana. Finally the tug on his energy lessened and he released the spell, opening his eyes to observe the pale blue glow fade into the black depths above. Breathing heavily Craig returned to his throne, drained of energy. Above him the crystal crackled with mana, once more fully charged, the endless winter which Craig had summoned assured to last another year. Wiping the sweat from his brow, Craig gave a tired smile.

“Soon the sins of the world will be buried beneath the snow where they belong…”

~

Craig strolled through the white streets of Cantabria enjoying watching the few citizens in his path drop to their knees and scurry away as he approached, part of his honour guard, a band of mercenaries known as ‘The Blades of Winter’ surrounding him. Eventually they reached the northern wall of the city and ascended to the top where they had a clear view of the expansive plains to the north. Just visible on the horizon was a dark line gradually growing and coming into focus.

“Well this should be fun.” said Craig with a chilling grin.

“Your Eminence?” asked the head of his honour guard, a stern looking woman with short blonde hair streaked with silver, and sparkling blue eyes that rivalled Craig’s own.

“If we crush the allied Oakland forces here, then the entire north will be undefended and ready to be claimed. I will spread this winter to them and reunite Zealandia under my rule.”

“Yes, Your Eminence. What are your orders?”

“We must be gracious hosts, Eddie.” Craig smiled maliciously. “Why don’t we go and give them a welcoming that will go down in the history books.”

~

Craig stood at the top of a small staircase-to-nowhere of ice that he had summoned, giving him a clear view of the battlefield. His honour guard stood stationed around him to deal with any threats that made it past his defenders; twelve golems forged of ice and magic. Each golem towered at twice the height of a man, and was four times as wide. Across from them the Oakland Alliance was gathered.

“I estimate five hundred infantry, three hundred archers, a hundred cavalry on each side of the main force. It appears there is a small band of perhaps thirty mages and priests lined up behind the main force as well. What are your orders, Your Eminence?” asked Eddie from her position behind him and to his right.

“We’ll let the golems desecrate their front lines, and your guards will delay any who circumvent them whilst I pick them off at my leisure.”

“Yes, Your Eminence.”

Horns blared from across the plains as the Oakland forces began their advance. Wearied from their forced march through the winter lands to the north, their advance took a minute to gather momentum as they charged through the snow. Screams rent the air as the golems advanced. Unhindered by the snow they soon began crushing soldiers, or sending them hurtling through the air into other groups of soldiers. Untrained in fighting such monstrosities, the infantry’s lines were rapidly shattered, archers taking pot-shots over the infantry, just to have their arrows glance of the golem’s crystalline forms. Craig watched as the cavalry charged around the flanks, clearly under orders to eliminate him quickly while the infantry and archers harried the golems.

“Your Eminence, perhaps you should…” Eddie trailed off, not wanting to irk Craig by giving him orders.

Craig said nothing, merely waiting several more seconds in silence before he tapped his staff against his crown before slamming in down and incanting.

“Dai Koori no Kabe!”

A giant wall of ice surged from the ground amongst the cavalry to his left; horses and soldiers unfortunate enough to be above it went flying into the air, raining down upon their comrades in a wave of death. Those who survived were cut through the middle; half the survivors retreated back to circumvent the wall while the small band of survivors charged forth trying to close the distance between themselves and Craig as quickly as possible. Twirling his staff around Craig looked to the cavalry approaching his right flank, before slamming into down again and casting another spell.

“Gekisai Jishin!”

A large rumble echoed as the ground beneath the charging cavalry began to roil and break beneath them. Combined with the ice and snow, the horses began falling over, tripping others, pained neighs and screams resounding as equine and human bones alike shattered. Craig merely smiled.

“Shall we engage the survivors, Your Eminence?” Eddie asked hesitantly.

“That won’t be necessary…” Craig grinned with such a dark look in his eyes that Eddie flinched.

“Koori no Kasui! Korose!”

Craig waved his left hand and rows of icicles burst forth from the snow to his left, the advancing cavalry survivors impaling themselves upon them with their momentum aided by the ice beneath them. Grinning he turned back to the survivors on the right flank and incanted once more.

“Kiri Koori Orire!”

Craig flung his hand out watching as his spell formed dozens of giant spears of ice in the air before launching them down into the recovering cavalry in a wave of death and blood. Screams of agony echoed across the battlefield, only to be cut short as another spear finished off the dying. By the time the survivors of the left flank had circled back to rejoin their comrades, they were dead. Laughing at the look of horror upon their faces, Craig stepped forward to eradicate the last handful of cavalry.

“Shimo no Nami!”

With a sweep Craig unleashed a large wave of frost blanketing the final few horseman, halting them and leaving them as still as statues, even the blood in their veins frozen. Craig’s smile of triumph turned to a displeased scowl as the sound of two of his golems collapsing and shattering reach him. A resounding cheer came from the surviving infantry as the mages and priests supporting them rained their spells upon the golems, bolts of lightning and balls of fire damaging them. Although the golems slowly began to shatter and melt, the damage had been done and over half of the infantry assembled had been crushed.

“Your Eminence. What are your orders?” asked Eddie as the Blades of Winter gathered behind him.

“I suggest you stand back for a moment. If anyone emerges from this spell: cut them down.”

“Yes, Your Eminence.”

Craig twirled with staff around, eyes closed as he gathered his mana and incanted.

“Dai Fubuki Koi!”

As he unleashed the spell, the winds rose and raged forth with a howl throwing snow, hail and icy rain in a swirling blizzard that raced towards the assembled Oakland forces, battering them, staggering them, and chilling them to the core. Soon the entire army disappeared from view while Craig stood with his staff raised in one hand, his other palm open towards them as he channelled the spell feeling the last vestiges of his mana begin to flag. A handful of soldiers staggered out towards them, but disorientated as they were, most of them were dead before the even realised that the Blades of Winter were among them. Sensing his mana reserves almost depleted, Craig released the spell and the blizzard died away revealing the scattered survivors of the Oakland forces. His golems, unaffected by the blizzard, were stomping about the battlefield making short work of the survivors. Craig advanced through the survivors with the Blades of Winter cutting down any foolish enough to approach, whilst the vast majority, their morale shattered, fled in all directions. Craig kept heading towards the rear of the enemy lines where half a dozen priests and mages were clustered, gathering their wits and their spells for one last attack. Craig swung his staff before him throwing all of his remaining mana into his spell.

“Minna! Detteike!”

Kinetic energy surged forth in a wave so powerful that the very air rippled and twisted with it. Shield were summoned by the mages, but exhausted from their battles with the blizzard and the golems, they lacked the strength to hold them against the onslaught and their barriers blew apart. Staggered and knocked down, they offered almost no resistance as the Blades of Winter charged forth and despatched them with a coup de grace. Surveying the carnage, Craig stood silently until the Blades began to shiver from the cold, the adrenalin of the battle wearing off.

“Nothing…” he whispered.

~

Craig gasped as his eyes opened; drenched in sweat and trembling he sat silently in his bed trying to bring his breathing under control.

“What did you see?” Ninja asked, eyeing Craig with suspicion.

“I can’t… I’ll…”

“The future has many paths, what you see in one is not in another.”

“I hurt so many innocent people… I can’t…”

“Foreknowledge is forewarning to change your path.”

“But…”

“If you’re so concerned about it I’ll slit your throat now and be done with it.”

“I just can’t believe I would do something so… so… horrible!”

“This in itself shows you’re far from irredeemable. Never forget what you saw, but never let it control you. Learn from it, and in doing so change your path.”

With that Ninja leapt from the bed and disappeared leaving an exhausted and conflicted Craig alone with his thoughts. It was going to be a long night.

—/—/—\—\—

Chapter 9: Nine Tales of the Sun Isle {Due 11/11/2014}

Short Story: The Tower

The Tower

Knock Knock.

With a sigh, Ignatius rose from his chair and crossed the room to open the door. A renowned healer in the nearby village, he looked every bit the part: from his flowing robes to his billowing beard. The two men stood silently for a moment as the door swung open faster than expected, to an Ignatius with a raised eyebrow.

“Just a slight hunting accident Master.” one of the men gestured to his companion whose leg was wrapped in a rough, blood soaked cloth which Ignatius promptly removed to inspect the wound.

“You’re fortunate it’s shallow.”

Ignatius waved a hand over the wound and began chanting in a strange tongue before applying a cool poultice on the wound, binding it firmly but gently.

“Keep your weight off the leg and it’ll be as good as new in the next few days.”

Closing the door, Ignatius returned to his seat by the fire. Closing his eyes, he breathed out slowly enjoy the warmth of the flames as they slowly made him drowsy. Just as his mind was on the verge of slipping off into the dream realm, there came a loud noise snapping him from his reverie.

Knock Knock.

Ignatius glanced over at the door, but didn’t make any move towards it.

Knock Knock.

Grumbling, Ignatius hauled himself out of his chair and opened the door. The young woman on the other side shuffled her feet, anxious under his piercing gaze.

“Excuse me Master Ignatius; I think… well, I may be with child. My parents… if they find out… help me, please!”

Ignatius disappeared into the tower once again, this time returning with a small pouch which he promptly handed to the girl.

“Mix this powder into your tea and drink the whole cup; then your problem will be solved within a few minutes. I advise you to be alone.”

Closing the door again, Ignatius slid the bolt home; locking himself in the tower, silently praying that he finally be granted a reprieve however temporary, so he might rest perchance to dream.

~

Ignatius sat in the small room the village kept reserved for him. It was going to be a long day; it was his weekly visit to help the villagers who were already queuing outside for a variety of reasons; from herbs to ease the common cold, to potions to aid sleep. The hours dragged by in a dull haze for Ignatius as he listened to problem after problem, handy out remedy and advice time and again. The sun was sinking behind the distant mountains when Ignatius finally closed shop and headed off into the woods where his tower lay.

~

Ignatius was refilling his cabinets with all manner of fresh herbs and salves when he heard a voice outside. Closing his cabinet with a frustrated sigh, he strode over to the door.

Knock Kno-

“What can I do for you?” Ignatius sighed wearily.

“Master Ignatius! My rash has spread; is there anything you can do?” asked the young man standing at his door.

“One moment…”

Ignatius disappeared back into the tower, re-emerging a moment later with a small jar in hand.

“Take this ointment and apply it twice a day; your rash should be gone within the week.”

Repressing his irritation as much as possible, Ignatius closed the door.

~

Dawn in the village the next day started with a tumultuous rumble and violent shudder, soon followed by screams as a small dilapidated cottage in the village square collapsed; the residents trapped within. The villagers rallied quickly, pulling the family from the rubble. Fortunately, it appeared most of the family had escaped serious injury save from one young boy whose leg had been crushed by the falling debris.

“Get Ignatius!” screamed the boy’s mother.

Several of the young men standing around turned and rushed off into the woods as swiftly as their legs would carry them: heading straight for Ignatius’ tower.

Knock Knock.

Knock Knock.

Knock Knock Knock Knock!

With a brief glance at the others, the largest boy threw the tower door open with a shout.

“Master Ignatius!”

The boys followed him in, looking around in confusion.

“What’re we going to do?”

“I don’t know, but we’re in trouble.”

It was empty.

MYFACC: Chapter 7

Chapter 7: Rage Unbound!

Craig’s eyelid fluttered as something swatted his face again. Grumbling, Craig rolled over just to feel a gentle prickle in his cheek. Opening his eyes a fraction, as his vision came into focus, all he could see was a black paw resting there, claws slightly extended. Seeing Craig’s eyes open, Ninja withdrew his paw and looked expectantly at Craig, who simply shoved Ninja onto the floor.

“Don’t jump back up here or I’ll throw you off again. It’s my day off; I’ll get up in a little while.” grumbled Craig as he buried his face back into his pillow. He tensed half expecting another assault by Ninja, but nothing landed on his bed. With a smirk Craig nestled deeper into his blankets, just to hear a crash come from the kitchen making him roll over towards the noise. A few seconds later, another crash sounded. Cursing under his breath Craig got up and entered the kitchen where Ninja was knocking things off the counter onto the floor.

“One of these days I’m going to freeze you, devil spawn. I’ve been practicing a good spell for such an occasion. Turns out I’m better with frost than fire…” said Craig as he knocked Ninja off the bench.

“I dare you.”

Ignoring the threat, Craig grabbed some food from the cupboard and threw it into the bowl on the floor from which Ninja eats.

“Well since you’ve ruined my sleep-in already, I might as well do something productive and head into the academy to do some research.”

Ninja didn’t even so much acknowledge Craig’s statement as he continued scoffing down food while Craig got organised. With one last look at Ninja before he stepped out the door, Craig just shook his head.

“You’re such a piglet.”

~

Craig sat at a small desk tucked away in a corner alcove, two books open on the table in front of him. The first “All About Runes” was a small book detailing all of the common use runes, while the second entitled “Runes, Glyphs & Wards” a slightly larger book detailing various ways in which they could be combined to create barriers, seals and alarms in-depth. Feeling guilty after failing to notice the rune barriers at the menagerie, Craig had taken it upon himself to expand his knowledge in that area. The morning slowly disappeared as Craig continued sketching out various runes while reading and re-reading the descriptions when the sound of raised voices made him cautiously raise his head.

“Look what you’ve made me do! That was a perfectly good inkpot and now it’s ruined! Watch where you’re going! Stupid little nitwit!”

“I’ve already apologized; it was an accident! I’ll use a simple mending spell to repair the vial, and I’ll clean up the ink and give you the money for more. P-please stop yelling.” stammered a young apprentice in response. Craig shoved his things away and wandered out of his nook to see a small woman with frizzy red hair glowering at a cowering young apprentice as she raged.

“Why would I need you to cast the mending spell? Are you saying I can’t!? How are you!? How very dare you!?”

“Well then what’s the big de-!” the apprentice gasped as she slapped him with a clawed little hand.

“Shut up! I am more than capable of dealing with this!”

Sensing things getting out of hand, and hating himself for getting involved, Craig stepped forward.

“I’m sorry to interrupt, but it seems like there’s a bit of a commotion over here…”

“So now I can’t even control a situation? How dare you!? You don’t know me!”

“I wasn’t implying anything, I just-!”

“Mahoutsukai no Osu!”

Craig gasped as the shockwave hit his chest and knocked him back… one step.

“Huh?”

“What!?”
“I just… don’t understand the point of such a weak shockwave. That was unnecessary.”

“Weak!? How dare you mock me!? I have been here for nigh on a decade and you WILL SHOW ME RESPECT!”

Craig sighed.

“Fukaku Nemure!”

With a swirl of magic the raging woman dropped to the floor asleep.

“I-“

“I’d suggest you leave before she wakes up. She’s likely to be in an even worse mood… it may pay to mention this to one of the senior mages and let them sort her out.” Craig said patting the apprentice on the shoulder before slipping quickly out of the library himself.

~

Craig yawned as he wandered back along the waterfront as the last rays of the sinking sun began to disappear. Turning south he began wandering home along the main streets; he was more than capable of defending himself but it was still best to avoid the trouble spots of a dangerous city after dark. The stars were twinkling above him as he finally made it back to his neighbourhood. Idly turning his quartz amulet in his fingers, he slowed with a frown as smoke began to swirl within. He was on his guard in an instant. A bright light at the corner of his vision made him turn just in time to see a fireball racing towards him. Instinct taking over he spun to the side, but caught off guard he was a little too slow and the fireball clipped his ribs bursting with enough force to stagger him , smoke coiling from his burnt robes and slightly seared fleshed beneath. A figure emerged from the alley where the fireball had emanated. Expecting an immediate follow-up attack, Craig wasted no time in summon his staff and preparing for battle.

“Tsukue ni Nare!”

Emerging into the moonlight, Craig frowned as he recognized then figure: it was the frizzy haired woman who had attacked him in the library.

“You will pay for making a mockery of the great mage Jocelyn!” she snarled.

“You’re the one who attacked me; I don’t want to fight. Just go your own way and we’ll say no more of it.”

“Hi no Dama!” she screamed as she threw another fireball with her bare hands, though this time Craig was prepared.

“Mamori no Tate!” Craig cried as his shield spell shimmered into existence, blocking the attack.

“I’m surprised you can put so much power into a fireball when your shockwave was… less impressive.”

“You won’t find me nearly so weak as you thought. I’ll teach you to show respect!”

“I’d apologize but somehow I don’t think you’d listen. You’re consumed with rage, at your own inadequacies I suspect.”

“Kaen Housha!” she screamed throwing a jet of flame from her outstretched hand towards Craig, who grimly summoned his shield once more.

“Mamori no Tate!”

Flames coiled around the shield painting the world orange, but after a few seconds they slowly faded away and Craig remained grim but unscathed.

“What have you done to gain such power?” he asked, but Jocelyn just grinned and began circling him.

“Mahou Ga Mieru!” incanted Craig, his eyes shimmering with gentle blue light as the spell took hold. Staring hard Joecelyn, Craig gasped.

“You’ve been possessed by a demon… in that case I won’t hold back!”

“You can’t hope to defeat my new power!” she snarled.

“Fukaku Nemure!” Craig threw a sleeping spell at Jocelyn, but she merely grinned as the spell settled on her to no effect. Wasting no time Craig swung his staff before him and cast again.

“Mahoutsukai no Osu!”

The shockwave burst forth and sent Jocelyn slamming into the wall behind her. Charging forth Craig swung his staff, the crystal flaring with blue light as it connected with her head sending her sprawling to the ground. Placing one foot on her back Craig pinned her down, lowering the crystal on his staff like a spear to the back of her neck.

“Unleash your hold on her demon, and face me if you dare.”

A deep laugh resounded in the air around Craig and a seething wave of hatred turned fire burst forth sending Craig reeling as it formed into a burning black albeit vaguely humanoid shape before him. With a chilling laugh, it surged forward, flaming claws raised. Craig twirled back out of reach and struck the demon with his staff, causing it to his as the crystal flashed with energy once more.

“Mahoutsukai no Osu!” cried Craig as he threw a shockwave into the demon staggering it backwards, before following up with another spell before it could recover.

“Shimo no Nami!”

The air shimmered as Craig released a wave of frost surging into the demon, the cold meeting the flames of its hatred causing it’s hisses of agony to blend with the waves of steam billowing forth. Pushing his advantage before the last of his mana ran out, Craig cast again.

“Kirigakure Oide!”

The mists swirled in filling the street and effectively blinding the demon. Circling to the side Craig cast once last spell.

“Kaminari no Kougeki!”

One last bolt of lightning arced forth from his staff, slamming into the dazed demon’s side causing it to screech in agony and rage before bursting apart in a gout of flame. Exhausted, Craig dismissed the obscuring mist and went over to the unconscious Jocelyn as she began to stir.

“It’s alright now; the demon is gone.” said Craig as he knelt next to her.

“What? No! How dare you interfere!? All that effort for nothing… gods take you!”

“You… you knew you were possessed?” Craig asked, jaw dropping slightly.

“I called it to help me punish you for disrespecting me in the library. It was meant to make you pay!”

“You’re… you’re insane. Making deals with demons for power? Ludicrous! I’ll be reporting you for this.”

“You haven’t seen the last of me. You’ll pay! YOU’LL ALL PAY!” she screamed swing a clawed hand at his face. Craig dodged awkwardly backwards, before rising to his feet as she did the same. Shooting him a filthy glare, she took off and disappeared down the alley she had appeared from. With a tired sigh and no energy to spare, Craig let her go and turned away, continuing his walk home where his bed was now calling to him.

—/—/—\—\—

Chapter 8: A Future Bleak: The Ice Age Cometh! http://craigsimagination.wordpress.com/2014/10/30/myfacc-chapter-8/

Poem: My Sun & Stars

My Sun & Stars

Her smile can banish the darkest clouds,
Her laugh can melt the snows,
She’s my sun, my moon, my stars, my sky,
She’s more to me than she knows.

Her heart drives back the cold at night,
Her soul shines with the kindest light,
She is my Mel; my Melissa Artifex Reed,
Yes, she is my everything, she’s everything that I need.

MYFACC: Chapter 6

Chapter 6: The Dreaded Direwolf & The Mystic Menagerie

Craig bolted upright, heart hammering as someone pounded ferociously on his door. Groaning he rubbed the sleep from his eyes and slid from his bed, throwing his robes on as he dragged himself to the door.

“I think there’s an ogre trying to break in…” hissed Ninja his tail flicking in annoyance at Craig as if it was somehow his fault.

“Shut it devil spawn.” grumbled Craig as he opened the door, frown heavy upon his brow.

“Still not a morning person I see.” smirked Emma, standing at his front step.

Without a word Craig went to close the door in her face, but she slipped her foot in and held it open.

“I haven’t seen you in months and this is the welcome I get… thanks.” she said as Craig opened the door and motioned her inside.

“Give me an hour to wake up and I’ll be enthused.” Craig smirked. “So what brings you to my neck of the woods?”

“I’ve come up for a couple of days to do some research at the Academy. I arrived a day earlier than necessary to surprise you though!”

“Well it worked! A little warning would be nice in future though…”

“Just deal with it already. Now go get yourself organised; I thought it would be nice to check out the ‘Magniflorious Menagerie’ while it’s here in Zealandia! I know how you love your magical creatures…”

“Well… I guess I can deal then. Give me five minutes and we’ll head out then.”

“Excellent. I can pet your cute little friend here while you get ready!” she laughed as she spotted Ninja curled up on the seat watching her, as Craig disappeared back into his room.

“You can try it but I wouldn’t advise it.” Ninja’s eyes narrowed as she approached.

“A familiar… don’t you have the cutest little attitude problem.”

“Reach that hand out and you’ll pull back a stump ogre…”

Emma just laughed and tipped the chair back, forcing Ninja to jump off and vacate the room in a huff just as Craig returned.

“I should’ve warned you; he’s a little psychopath.”

“I hope the ogre eats you…” Ninja huffed as his tail whipped Craig’s leg on the way past.

“Shall we wander?” Craig asked.

“Let’s go.”

~

Craig and Emma entered the manor of Lord Magnus; the noble who operated the Magniflorious Menagerie. The grounds were large and sprawling; more of a small field than a lawn. Stationed around various points of the grounds were large enclosures or roped off areas, each one containing a different creature.

“What’s this fellow?” Emma asked Craig as the approached the first fenced off area.

“That would be a Golden Hart… legend says they can run faster than an arrow. It’s beautiful…”

“Imagine having that as a familiar instead of an arrogant little cat.” laughed Emma giving Craig a playful little shove.

“It could never be a familiar… that doesn’t even make sense. Being able to summon one however… that would be magnificent!”

“I’ve never really understood summoning spells; it’s fairly advanced magic. What’s to stop you from learning to summon one?”

“Summons are only really effective if you’ve been marked by the creature in question.”

“Marked?” Emma cocked and eyebrow at him.

“It’s… a blessing of sorts really. Only the oldest and most powerful of a species has the power to do so, but in leaving their mark upon an individual they bestow a small portion of their power. In the case of a mage, we can tap into that power and use it to summon forth a creature. The sheer amount of mana it would take to find a creature and bring it to you otherwise would be… immense. Not to mention that the creature would have no obligation to help, and would probably just return to it’s home realm the moment you summoned it. To try and force it to stay would just be… unethical.”

“How does one receive a mark though?”

“Generally by performing a great service to the creature’s clan. Summoners are uncommon these days sadly, although I suppose that makes the blessing all the more special… I wonder though…”

“Wonder what?”

“Why all these creatures remain here rather than return to their homes?”

“You’re over thinking things again Craig. If they wanted to leave I’m sure they could just teleport away, you said so yourself. Maybe he’s done them a favour and they’re repaying that. These enclosures aren’t exactly secure. This hart could jump over this fence with ease and be gone before anyone even noticed.”

“Yes, I suppose so…”

“Come on. Let’s see what other creatures are here, that ought to take your mind off it!”

Craig followed Emma slowly around the grounds, inspecting the various creatures stationed around. Near the golden hart was a unicorn foal in a similar enclosure, followed by a griffon wandering around in the following enclosure.

“Have you noticed all the enclosures have runes engraved into them?” asked Craig. “I didn’t notice at first.”

“I didn’t notice at all. I assume they’re there to protect the creatures from the onlookers. I wouldn’t put it past less scrupulous people to attempt to steal them, or at least harvest some parts of the creature.”

“I guess that makes sense… I just wish I could understand the runes. I can see a rune of protection mixed in there, so you’re probably right but… I just have a weird feeling in my gut.”

“You probably just ate something funny last night. Now come on, let’s go see what’s around the other side.”

Craig followed Emma still focusing on the runes in his head when he stopped at the sound of hushed voices coming from behind the large hedges leading into the mansion proper; an area which was fenced of by hedges and a gate to prevent anyone from wandering in from the field.

“…taking longer than expected… the fight…”

“This is not… be discussing… just go help him subdue…”

“…sir…course.”

Craig glanced at Emma who just shrugged and kept walking. With a heavy sigh, he followed after her. The faint echoes of a howl emanated from the manor itself as Craig and Emma reached the far side of the field. Emma stopped and looked at Craig, her annoyance starting to show.

“If it’ll make you feel better we can go have a look. Then maybe you can stop frowning and actually enjoy the menagerie.”

Emma dragged Craig over to the side gate of the manor itself and looked around before waving her hand over the gate and whispering an incantation.

“Akete Kudasai.”

With a small click the gate swung open and she dragged Craig in behind the bushes, leading him over towards a small lone door near the back side of the manor.

“You’re going to get us into trouble…”

“Stop whining and let’s go investigate. It’ll be fun.”

With a groan Craig followed Emma up to the window as she peered inside.

“The coast’s clear. Let’s go!” she whispered as she disappeared through the side door, Craig anxiously close behind. The two slowly crept through the manor, ducking into alcoves or behind statues twice as servants wandered by. Soon the duo approached a corridor with a heavy door at the end and two guards stationed at the end.

“Whatever we want is probably in there… guess we’d best give up and go back to the show.” whispered Emma pulling Craig’s sleeve.

“Something’s going on in there… I can sense it. We have to check.”

“I don’t think they’ll let us through to investigate. Let’s go.”

“We can take them out… one sleep spell each. You take the left, I’ll take the right. We slip in and find out what’s going on. If I’m wrong we’ll slip back out to the field and leave before these two even wake up.”

“If it will shut you up…”

The duo stepped back and summoned their staffs.

“Tsukue Ni Nare!”

With a quick nod the two moved around the corner, casting their spells simultaneously.

“Fukaku Nemure!”

One of the guards opened his mouth to raise the alarm, but Craig’s spell took effect and the man slumped against the wall and to the ground next to the man Emma had downed. Silently the two moved forward over the guards and opened the door; behind it was a set of stone steps leading down into darkness, a dull orange light flickering at the bottom. Following it down the two emerged in a basement, torches burning low. In the centre of the room lay a large direwolf surrounded by a large glowing red circle, runes shimmering around the edge. Kneeling down Craig began to inspect the runes, careful not to touch them, a sick feeling growing in his stomach.

“I don’t recognize these bindings but… something is very wrong here.”

“Mahou Ga Mieru!” incanted Emma as her spell caused her eyes to ripple with pale blue energy.

“It’s blood magic… and fairly powerful to boot.”

“How can you tell?” asked Craig with a disconcerted look at her glowing eyes.

“It’s a ‘Magic Detection’ spell that allows to me to see enchantments, including which school they’re from and their relative strength. It’s a handy little spell; I’ll teach you sometime.”

“I’m afraid you two won’t be doing anything…” came a drawling voice from a shadowed door at the far end of the basement. Standing there in expensive looking leather boots, with crimson and black robes of velvet stood a man with olive skin, charcoal hair sleeked back with a small streak of silver near each of his temples.

“Who are you?” demanded Emma, raising her staff.

“I am Lord Magnus, owner of this fine estate and unique menagerie, and you two are trespassing.”

“What are you doing to that poor direwolf!?” Craig yelled raising his own staff threateningly.

“Why my dear boy, I am simply expanding my collection. You see creatures like these are notoriously independent; very hard to gather materials from or make money from. This is why I hunt them down; with a little of their blood and a little blood magic summoning them here is rather easy. Sadly they are… temperamental at being forced here, so I use my blood bindings to hold them until they wear themselves out, then all it takes is a little blood magic to take control of them and I simply secure them in a warded compound so the unwashed masses such as yourselves can admire them, and continue to fund my research. This beast… she will be the pride of my collection. Twelve hours she raged! That’s a new record, although consider she is fully mature unlike many of my specimens, I should probably not be surprised.” Magnus mused on barely even paying attention to the pair of young mages bristling before him.

“You’re a monster! You’ll pay for this!” Craig roared levelling his staff towards the smirking lord.

“Oh I don’t think so… perhaps I could give you a nice little demonstration before you die though; my gift to you.”

With a wave of his hands the bindings dispersed and the direwolf rolled to her feet snarling at Magnus, who simply cut his palm with a athame from his belt and incanted.

“Chi No Kugutsu!”

Blood red energy pulsed forth from his palm and struck the direwolf, burrowing in causing her eyes to shimmer with a sickly red energy as she turned to face Craig and Emma.

“Say farewell…” grinned Magnus as the dire wolf approached them.

“Hi no Dama!” incanted Emma, as a fireball swirled into existence at the top of her staff.

“No!” shouted Craig, slamming his staff onto her causing the fireball to fire into the floor in front of the direwolf.

“What the hell are you doing!?”

“It’s an innocent creature; you can’t harm it!”

“Don’t be so bloody noble; it’ll kill us both!”

“Just leave it to me. Keep Magnus back!”

Nodding Emma circled round to the side, staff pointing at a grinning Magnus while Craig backed slowly away from the direwolf, staff swaying before him.

“Fukaku Nemure!” Craig cried as he released a swirl of sleeping magic at the dire wolf, who slowed and teetered side to side for a few tense seconds before shaking its head rapidly side to side and throwing the effects of the spell.

“Hi no Dama!” came Emma’s voice as a fireball flew behind the direwolf and straight at Magnus, who grinned and opened his bloody palm before himself.

“Mamori No Tate!” he snarled as a shield shimmered around him, catching the fireball against it in a harmless burst of flame. Craig’s eyes snapped back to the direwolf just in time to see it pounce. Raising his staff before him he fell, slammed into the ground by the weight of the direwolf as it snapped at his face, barely held at bay by Craig’s staff.

“Mahoutsukai No Osu!”

The direwolf suddenly yelped as it was knocked off to the side by Emma’s well timed shockwave.

“Thanks!” Craig called as he rolled in the opposite direction, brandishing his staff as he sprung to his feet.

“Fukaku Nemure!”

Once again the direwolf stopped and swayed as Craig’s sleeping spell hit it, before finally slumping back to the ground in a magical slumber.

“Nice trick!” came Magnus’ voice as Craig looked up to see him thrust forth his own stuff, conjured sometime in the scuffle with the direwolf, at Emma.

“Mahoutsukai No Osu!”

Emma grunted as she was thrown back by the force of the shockwave, slamming into the wall. Acting on instinct Craig turned his staff towards Magnus and thrust it forth incanting as he did so.

“Kaminari No Kougeki!”

An arc of lightning burst forth towards Magnus who twirled his staff and summoned forth another shield to absorb the blow. Back on her feet, Emma began circling around Magnus.

“Can you still see magic Emma?” Craig asked, not daring to take his eyes off his opponent even for a second to check.

“I can…”

“Follow my lead!” said Craig grinning at Magnus, whose brow furrowed. Twirling his staff Craig slammed it down and cast.

“Kirigakure Oide!”

A dense swirling mist emanated forth, filling the room until all visibility aside from Craig’s was gone.

“Mahoutsukai No Osu!” Craig cried as he flung a shockwave at the blinded Magnus before quickly but quietly continuing to circle him. Unable to see the attack, but aware that it was coming, Magnus summoned his shield spell yet again. Emma, upon seeing the shimmer of magic launched by Craig, and the shield summoned by Magnus, cast her spell from his other side.

“Kaen Housha!”

A large stream of fire burst forth in a flamethrower, curling about his shield burning away for several seconds before she released the spell.

“It’s no good! If he raises his shield every time he hears us casting…”

Magnus dropped his shield again with a grin that only Craig could see as he waited silently for their next attack. He didn’t hear a word, just a faint whistling as Craig swung his staff, slamming it against his temple. Magnus dropped. Craig grabbed the bloody athame from the floor and shredded part of Magnus’ robes, using them to bind his hands behind his back, and gag him. Emma stood quietly watching over him with her arms crossed in displeasure as Craig wandered over to the sleeping direwolf.

“Is the blood magic still holding it?” Craig asked glancing back at Emma.

“No, it’s faded…” she said as her own eyes returned to their normal colour, her spell expiring. Craig dismissed his sleeping spell and the direwolf raised her pure blue eyes to stare at him, a low growl rumbling in her throat.

“Easy there… I don’t mean you any harm…” Craig whispered placing his staff on the ground and raising his hands, palms up tentatively towards her. She sniffed his hand and gently nudged it with her nose.

“Doubutsu No Kuchi! Craig whispered as he felt the magic flow to his lips.

“Do you understand me now? Are you alright?” he asked.

“Yes… thank you… I must apologize for attacking you. I could see it happening but I couldn’t control myself.”

“It’s not your fault. Magnus used blood magic to make you his puppet. He won’t be enslaving another creature ever again. I’ll make sure of that.”

“I must thank you for refusing to harm me even when I attacked… you are a noble spirit. You will always be welcome in my woods.” she whispered as she approached and pressed her nose firmly against the back of Craig’s left shoulder while he knelt in confusion.

“I leave my mark upon you. Go with the blessing of my people.”

Craig closed his eyes as a warm surge of power radiated from where her nose had touched him. Craig bowed his head in gratitude.

“I thank you, although I must beg your leave: there are other creatures imprisoned in the fields and I must release them!”

“Go young wolf. I shall return to my pack now; may our paths cross again.”

Craig smiled and rand out the door, Emma trailing behind with a bound semiconscious Magnus in hand.

~

“That’s the last of them!” said Craig as he slammed his staff against the golden hart’s enclosure, shattering the wards. Leaping over the fence the hart disappeared in a white and gold blur as Craig turned to Emma.

“Well now that that’s done, we should take this monster to the Academy where they can lock him away.”

“I can’t believe none of the guards tried to stop us…”

“We’ve got Magnus bound. If he couldn’t stop us, what hope do they have? All the smart ones will have disappeared and denied ever working for him.”

“I suppose so. Let’s just get rid of this one and go home.” Emma jerked her head towards Magnus. “I think we’ve earned a quiet night in.”

Craig laughed.

“You need to teach me that Magic Vision spell tonight first. Then we can celebrate with a wine.”

This time Emma laughed.

“It’s a deal.”

—/—/—\—\—

Chapter 7: Rage Unbound! http://craigsimagination.wordpress.com/2014/10/21/myfacc-chapter-7/

Short Story: Shadow’s Edge

Shadow’s Edge

I am the night. I am the shadows. I. Am. Death.

My name is spoken only in hushed whispers, for to know of me is to know my calling. Those that seek me would never admit to it, for I am an assassin. Not just any assassin either, I’m the best. Once my target has been acquired, there is no escape. No other option but to die by my hand. From the moment I sealed my contract with the shadows, I knew I was destined for this path.

The night I sealed the pact to be a blade for the darkness, still resonates clearly in my mind. It was the first time I had taken a man’s life: it was beautiful.

It was an age of civil war, our once ‘proud’ nation being vied for by several warlords, each trying to take the place of the late emperor before his heir became of age. I was hired by one of these warlords, to do what the battlefield had not: claim the life of his biggest rival warlords. There was only one obstacle between me and my target… a castle full of trained soldiers.

It was just after midnight on the night of the new moon. Clouds blanketed the sky, hiding the stars and creating the perfect shroud of shadows for me to do the deed. I had been watching the castle for an hour, watching the patrols go by, timing their routes. Now. Sprinting to the outer wall of the battlements I vaulted as high as I could, gripping the wall tightly. The small spikes on my gloves and boots made it easy to grip the gaps in the wall, and much like a deadly spider I silently skittered to the top of the wall. Flipping over the battlement, I crouched atop the wall. So far, so good. I silently dropped into the castle grounds before the sentries came back into sight, rolling to absorb the shock of the impact. I was in the eastern edge of the grounds: the garden. Concealing myself in the bushes, I waited for the garden patrol to pass. There. Sliding into the pond, I slid like an eel through the water, silently emerging on the far bank. The main keep was in sight: my target was close.

According to my intelligence the warlord I sought should be sleeping in his chambers at this time of the night. Unfortunately, his chambers were located in the central tower. Slipping in unnoticed would be no small feat. Once the patrol passed for the second time, I dashed to the keep’s eastern wall and began scaling it. I was on the third floor, when I heard the sound of the patrol approaching the corner. No time left. I silently slid through the open window beside me and into a small bed chamber. The man was snoring heavily on his futon: clearly fast asleep. Perfect.

Creeping out into the corridor, I slid the door shut behind me with baited breath. If this castle followed the same layout of my employer’s, the stairs lay just around the corner. I edged towards it, ears strained to pick up the slightest sound from the stairs. There was shallow breathing… no doubt a sentry placed to watch the staircase. Removing a small bamboo pipe from its hidden sheath on my back, loading it with a small poisoned dart, I slid around the corner. The man’s eyebrows shot up as I appeared, but with a swift breath the dart buried itself in his neck and he dropped. Leaping forward I caught him just before he hit the ground, and dragged him into the next room leaving him out of sight. The poison would leave him unconscious for roughly an hour: enough time to finish my mission before he awoke. I just had to hope he wasn’t discovered first.

A wraith in the night, I was almost invisible to the naked eye slipping undetected through the castle. Finally, I had reached the base of the lord’s tower. With a little scaling and acrobatics, I slid along the rafters silently above the heads of the quiet sentries below me. It took a little time, but I was finally within range of my target. A lone guard stood outside the screen door, his armour glistening blood red in the light. His eyes were sharp, but not sharp enough. I dropped from the ceiling, landing softly behind him. He started, but before he could turn around I struck the pressure point in his neck, as I’d been trained to do. He dropped. My path clear, I slipped through the screen door and crept over to where the lord’s sleeping form should’ve been. His futon was empty. Curse it! Then I heard it, a quiet chant coming from behind the next screen door. It was still open a crack, light flickering from within. Peering through, I saw him: my target. His back was towards me, and he was kneeling before a small shrine, candles flickering… this was sacred ground. No matter. I silently slid the door open a little more. He didn’t turn; he was too absorbed in his prayer. My footsteps less than whispers on the floorboards, I slid up behind him. He started when my knife left its sheath, but he didn’t get a chance to scream as my blade flashed across his throat, his blood spraying all over the shrine. It was done. I’d sealed my pact with the shadows, signed my name in the lord’s blood. I’d desecrated holy ground: there was no turning back now.

Suddenly, a bell began to toll. Maybe the guard I’d poisoned had awoken; maybe he’d only been discovered. It didn’t matter: the alarm had been raised. The sounds of guards rushing up the tower reached my ears. I had to escape. Now. I darted back into the lord’s bedroom, to come face-to-face with the sentry in red: either I didn’t strike his pressure point properly or I’d underestimated him. He swung his sword at my neck and I dived forward, rolling under his strike. Sprinting to the window, I leapt out turning in mid-air to throw the small metal grapple from my belt, hooking it around the ornamentation on the edge of the roof and swung myself downwards, letting go and rolling as I landed on the ground. The impact left me winded, but I was still intact. By now the castle had flared to life, there were guards everywhere.

I managed to avoid them somehow, and scale the battlement walls. It was then that one guard turned and saw me from the corner of his eye: my knife flew from my hand in a heartbeat and buried itself in his throat. With that, I dropped off the battlements, rolling once again and I was off like a bowshot: lost forever in the night’s embrace. They never caught me, though I’ve since developed a reputation.

When I’m sent for you: your time has come. You won’t see me, won’t even know I’m there until it’s too late. Don’t waste your breath. I am death; I am inevitable. If you should hear my name: be afraid. I am Kage. I am the shadow.