“REAP THE WHIRLWIND!!!” I cackle maniacally while standing within the eye of a teal tinted tornado, that is lifting me up like a goddess before I turn it onto my enemies.
Well perhaps technically not a tornado, but it is at least twice the height of my body within this void of darkness.
Zoe marveled at her latest creation, a spinning vortex or dust devil of 300 foot long ribbons of teal light that were presently whipping around her.
Stretching out her hand, while unable to see the physical manifestation of it, she could see darkness or absence of light for her hand and fingers when looking at her ribbons of wind mana. Gently pressing her fingers into the wall of the tornado, it parted like water flowing around an object, separating before filling the gap back in to continue on their path around her.
She cackles to herself again, feeling invincible with a tornado at her beck and call. She could bend it to her will and form fists or drills of wind that she could punch or lash out with in the void.
Previously, it was just an emerald drifting firefly within the darkness, her own little guiding companion. After waking up from her first dive, she had felt terrible. Both Cara and Jessica were still in their meditative trances, and they looked so beautiful and peaceful while she instead woke up still dripping sweat with two legs that she could no longer feel. Well, that was not technically correct, she could feel the constant pinpricks throughout her legs, letting her know that sitting on the cold hard stone floors was not going to work long term.
It was while recovering that she spoke a little bit with Akira. He had mentioned that she was actually advancing quite well and that her next focus should be on attempting to spin her mana core and when using her drawn blood rune, that she should be actively be trying to resist the pull on her consciousness that led to the fainting spell and appearing inside the void.
After a short rest, her headache had gone away and her breathing returned to normal. She was ready to try again. Akira had also mentioned that Cara and Jessica had already awoken once and went in again for another round of strengthening and that she’d be able to get one more in before the likely end of the day for everyone.
With that, she dived right in and after trying to spin her emerald firefly to make it dizzy, it slowly began to unfurl and form her present work of art.
“Hahahaha, they say wind mages cannot make tornados and they mock them for it. However, I, the great Zoe, have managed to do what normal mortals cannot!” She announced to the void while cackling and enjoying the feeling of her admittedly, mini-tornado that she stood in the eye of.
She had failed miserably while trying to maintain her consciousness after slapping her palm down on the blood rune. However, this was only her third attempt at diving into this magical place where she now has a spinning tornado formed from 300 streamers of wind mana.
Zoe continued to play with her tornado, pulling it in closer, hugging her little body with the circling ribbons, leaping and dancing throughout the void all while going through periodic giggle fits.
After pouring her heart out in several interpretive dances, she begins to wake to reality with a terrible headache and even worse weakness throughout her body.
“Morning again.” Akira’s voice whispers out in greetings but sounds like a hammer on her skull causing Zoe to still wince slightly.
Squinting up from the ground and looking around, she can see Akira now perched on the desk watching over the three girls. He’s playing with something in his right hand but Zoe simply closes her eyes and does her best to sit up and rest her head gently against the wall while rubbing her legs to try and restore some feeling to them.
“Don’t worry, it will improve in time. Jessica and Cara should be finishing with their, what did you call it? Trances? Yes, they ought to be done with their third session soon.”
Zoe tried to wet her lips but all she could taste was salt from her earlier perspiration. She felt like a mess with dried salty sweat and looking over to Jessica who was sleeping with a tranquil face. All Zoe wanted to do was reach out and touch Violet and her cute little ram horn impersonation. Resisting the temptation due to not wanting to disturb Jessica’s trance, she instead chats for a bit with Akira telling him about her experience and how enjoyable it was to control a tornado and dance with the wind in her void.
After recovering sufficiently, she slowly got up from the floor while still heavily leaning on the back wall. Now that she was standing and facing Akira, she can see that the object that he has been playing within his right hand has been the dagger that she had used to prick her finger for the rune.
Biting her lower lip, she could not summon up the courage to ask for her dagger back, which was a memento from her deceased father.
Akira stopped twirling the dagger, noticing the change in Zoe’s behavior.
“Apologies,” He said as his hand stilled, flipping the dagger one last time to be holding the flat of the blade and presenting the handle of the dagger, to Zoe, for her to take.
Embarrassed. Zoe reaches out for her father’s memento, while Jessica was appearing to finally stir and awaken from her trance.
As Zoe is reaching out to reclaim the dagger, Akira’s face darkens into a scary scowl as he fluidly deprives Zoe of the dagger that she was about to take in hand as he rolls away and spins on the tabletop.
With Akira moving away and no longer blocking Zoe’s line of sight on the doorway, she can now see a nondescript hand and forearm sticking out into the doorframe, the person’s body hidden back in the hallway.
The hand itself would not have been very noticeable on its own. However, the fireball that was currently manifested within the person’s palm was very noticeable. The fireball was only the size of a tightly clenched fist, flickering a lazy red as it seemed to be accumulating power.
It is at this time that Zoe can see Akira exiting his spin on the tabletop and he throws her father’s dagger with what seems like practiced grace. The knife cuts through the air, end over end before it pierces the fireball, and embeds itself cleanly in the center of the palm behind it.
With a shrill scream the hand retracts into the hallway which is shortly thereafter followed by a loud *BANG* and a brief flare-up of light in the hallway door occurs.
Akira hops off the tabletop and slowly walks to the door where the source of a lot of screaming and sobbing hiccups is coming from.
Jessica is now struggling to get up, holding her head with one hand as she fights off a massive headache. Violet is however fully hidden out of sight under her hair, almost quivering at the back of her head. This is noticeable as all of Jessica’s long black hair is trembling constantly as the girl is bracing herself against the wall.
Looking back at Akira who’s exiting the doorway, Zoe follows behind in order to see what has happened outside the doorway.
Zoe’s heart is thumping in her ears with a terrible ringing. However, she can also hear a set of thumping footsteps echoing in the hallway, growing further and further away. The screaming outside sounds horrendous and as she changes her angle to peer through the doorway and around Akira.
Akira exits the doorway and Zoe can now see that a teen boy, on the ground, who’s clutching their wrist where her father’s dagger is embedded to the hilt in the center of the boy’s palm. The arm that he’s clutching is burnt badly with terrible boils running up his arm. Scattered remnants of the sleeve they were wearing have partially fused with their skin and the boils, looking particularly grotesque.
Zoe watches as Akira simply walks up to the boy and looks down the hallway to the retreating set of footsteps. Then to Zoe’s shock, as Jessica finally joins her to peer through the doorway with her, they watch as Akira steps on the burnt arm with one foot to the panicked screams of the teen.
After securing the arm to the ground, much to the protest of the teen, he then reaches down and grabs the handle of the dagger embedded within the boy’s palm and instead of pulling it out cleanly, he simply draws the blade outwards, towards the fingers, cutting all the flesh between the palm and a pair of fingers, which has the teen screaming and thrashing all the more.
Now there is blood pumping onto the floor. Zoe has clasped her mouth in shock and is feeling quite squeamish at the sight of the burnt flesh and blood that is now present.
As Akira was currently moving the dagger towards the screaming teen’s throat in a motion signifying he planned to proceed with slitting it, Jessica yelled out for him to stop.
“You mustn’t! Cara will never forgive you if you do that!” Jessica follows up as Akira looks back and retracts the blade from the sobbing teen. Stepping away, without the pressure on the wrist, the blood starts to flow much more liberally from the two-inch bifurcated hand.
He walks back into the room as though everything that was happening is the most natural thing in the world.
“Being kind to your enemies is being cruel to yourselves.” He says to us. “What if he is an assassin? What if that fire attack were to hit Cara while she is defenseless? What if that attack killed Violet or scarred your faces for life? Burned your lungs from the inside? Drowning you without even using water!”
Jessica looks back over to the still sleeping Cara, who has not budged with all the commotion. Peaceful and at rest while there has been an explosion and horrific screaming.
“Whoever they are, they effectively attempted to murder all of you. Perhaps they are Zoe’s assailant from a few days prior?” He says, which has Zoe pale in fright as she backs up to the wall.
‘What if it was them?’ She thought to herself as she was unable to suppress the whole body shiver.
A series of fast-approaching explosions are heard coming towards us at high speed before a furious mage Flow bursts into the room. He looks partially deranged, with his hair whipped into a mess and trailing embers kicking up around his feet. Within his right hand is what appears to be a flame cane or perhaps a short whip composed of fire that is presently slicing through the air at the neck or back of Akira.
“And now we have another assassin.”
Akira’s calm brotherly look as he was addressing us twists into a savage face as he pivots away from us. Reversing his grip on the dagger in his right hand as he steps into mage Flow’s personal space.
As mage Flow’s right hand is continuing the sweep to the now much closer target, Akira reaches out with his left hand and grabs the mage’s wrist twisting it upwards a bit and using his left knee, he smashes it through the elbow, breaking mage Flow’s arm with a sickening crunch at a couple of angles.
“Would you have what you cherish stolen from you!?” Akira’s words were not meant for mage Flow, they were meant for the two of us.
Retracting his knee from breaking the elbow, he stomps that leg down as he switches all his momentum into a devastating other knee to the mage’s groin.
“You need conviction and strength to keep fools and monsters wary!”
With the sudden crippling onset of pain, mage Flow has all but forgotten to follow through with his own attack that was meant to take the familiar’s head. While bending forward from the crushing blow to his nether regions he earns a summary punch to the face which knocks his head back against the wooden beam of the room’s doorway.
The explosion of violence comes to a halt as Akira rests the knife tightly against mage Flow’s neck, deeply pressing the blade against his neck, with the dull blade pushing deeply along the underside of his jawline.
Akira’s twisted visage looks back at the two of us while hissing, “Can I kill this one? Or are we going to release him too? So that he can kill you or your family at some other point in time?”
Cara is struggling to keep her weakened knees from knocking together as she uses the end tabletop to keep her legs from failing her. Looking down at the entryway, there is a standoff of a furious guild master whose hands are balled tightly into fists that are shaking and Akira who is tormenting the ghastly pale mage Flow whom he appears to be torturing as his hostage against the guild master.
“Akira!? What’s happening!? You need to release mage…” Akira quickly interrupts me before I can actually finish relaying the command.
“And what!? Release another assassin!?” He interjects. “Do you have a death wish? Or do you actually want Jessica to die?”
Wait… Jessica’s in danger? What? An assassin?
Shocked and looking down in front I can see the back of Jessica. She’s quivering from head to toe.
“Assassin?” The guild master and I ask the same thing at the same time.
Akira tightens his grip on mage Flow who’s looking at him as if he is looking at the person that just murdered his entire family and accused him of being the perpetrator.
Going along with the sudden confusion he adds.
“While the three of you were defenseless from your meditative trances, you were attacked by the screaming assailant outside. After the failed attempt, this person shows up to silence everyone with intent to kill.”
Shocked about the half-truths that Akira mixed in and wary of making any aggressive moves while a knife is poised to easily kill mage Flow, the guild master tries to keep him talking.
“Boy, are you not overreacting? How about you release mage Flow and we figure out what really happened here?”
“No thanks.” Akira immediately responds. “The assassin’s arm is afflicted with severe burn marks. Which plant mage in this room can use fire magic?” He asks rhetorically to the group.
However, it is mage Flow that spits out through gritted teeth, not daring to open his mouth to have the dagger start carving through his flesh.
“...Twisting facts… he was obviously defending himself.”
“You’re right, he was in a wing of the building that is not related to his craft at all. Where a plant mage forced him to conjure a fireball that was detonated early from a thrown knife.” Akira says sarcastically to mage Flow.
“...Lies…” Mage Flow hisses out as Akira twists his broken arm a little more while instead turning his attention to the hallway and eyeing it menacingly while applying more and more pressure to mage Flow’s arm.
It is the guild master at this time that asks the next question.
“And you engaged a child with deadly force?”
“Yes, I should always take any threat to my master seriously. It has been the two girls that have so far prevented me from ending the first two threats.” He replies while shifting his eyes predatorily between the doorway and the guild master.
“Oh!? End them? And so, does that mean that you view me as a threat?” The guild master asks, keeping Akira talking all this time.
“If you forced my hand, I’d be obliged to dispose of my current burden in order to address you properly,” Akira replies while nodding his head towards mage Flow, which almost sets the mage off at being referred to as a burden and an inconvenience that could be ended at any time.
“Ho ho ho, that is quite interesting. I’ll handle mage Flow, that is my promise. I do not agree with your approach, however, I was recently made aware of some matters as well.” The guild master says while slowly walking forward and reaching out to place a hand on mage Flow’s shoulder.
Akira watches the guild master and the doorway constantly, while slowly pulling the dagger away from mage Flow’s neck slowly. He wipes the two sides of the blade clean of blood from the earlier assailant off on the mage’s robe before backing off in a fighting stance a couple of steps away, ready to possibly re-engage the two mages at a moment’s notice.
The guild master holds the shoulder of the enraged and humiliated mage Flow. He was possibly casting some magic or something on mage Flow to restrain him or somehow keep the embodiment of instability on a tight leash.
“You four, please follow me to my office. Jeremiah, go to the healer’s hall immediately…”
“WHAT!? NO! We must put down this WHORE SON beast immediately!” He sputters while pointing with his left hand.
“New initiates should be unable to generate an explosion that can cause that much damage. I also received a pair of complaints from two other plant mages saying they were attacked yesterday and that they do not feel safe to attend our guild.”
“That would have been only a prank or minor hazing done by the new fire initiates if anything, nothing warranting attempted murder!” He screamed back while appearing fixed in place by the guild master’s hand on his shoulder.
“I’ll investigate this further, go to the healer’s hall immediately.” “But…” “NOW JEREMIAH!” The guild master’s patience was waning as he also turned to another party that is in the hallway to speak to them.
“Davis! Please take that boy to the healer’s hall as well.”
“You four, please come with me.” The guild master said while putting himself between us and mage Flow and pushing the latter out the door.
Realizing that the tension in the room could be cut with a knife still. Cara tries to follow the guild master’s request, but she is still weak in the knees which does not escape the guild master’s notice as he raises an eyebrow.
Akira turns away from the guild master opening his back up to a possible attack before he approaches and simply scoops Cara up into a princess carry.
“... excuse me and I’m sorry…” He says in a small whisper by her ear.
Blushing and hiding her face behind her hands, Cara simply lets Akira escort her out after the guild master who mutters under his breath “... peculiar…”
While the four follow along down the hallway after a still screaming boy, there is suddenly a thunderous roar of laughter from upfront.
“GWA HAHAHAHA! You fucking got to be kidding me. Jerry, a silver was almost fucking done in by a dead weight’s familiar? HAHAHAHAHAHA” The captain Davis who escorted everyone through the guildhalls is laughing and spouting at the top of his lungs. Much louder than necessary and possibly trying to inform anyone in earshot of mage Flow’s recent plight.
Cara has a bad feeling that the needling of a wounded mage’s pride could not possibly bode well for her group.
“HAHAHAHA!” The giant blacksmith is roaring with laughter while slapping his knee as he and captain Davis act like old drinking buddies.
“You ain’t… Hahaha… jesting with me? They were really manhandling a silver?” My father asks captain Davis who is now embellishing mage Flow’s plight.
We are all now cramped within the guild master’s office on the fourth floor. My father joined us pretty quickly after being informed that we were attacked and not that we had attacked someone else. Jessica’s parents and Zoe’s uncle had also been escorted into the office.
The guild master was now rubbing his temples while seated behind his desk, obviously annoyed with the continued stories and laughter of captain Davis and now my father.
“Shut it! The problem is the amount of force that was used! It was entirely disproportionate to the circumstances.” The guild master snapped while addressing us and shooting captain Davis a warning glance.
“How many assassination attempts have you prevented?” Akira asks back in an all too serious tone, as he sits balanced on perhaps three dozen tomes.
“They were not assassins! Why do you keep going back to that?” The guild master asks exasperatedly.
“Answer the question. How many?”
“Well, none, however…”
“I’ve stopped hundreds of attempts on my past masters,” Akira interjects in a quick back and forth with the guild master, which is ruined by a still laughing captain Davis.
“HAHAHA, bragging now are we? Well, I’ve stopped thousands, no tens of thousands.” The captain roars from the sidelines. However, the guild master is now eyeing Akira from top to bottom. Taking in the tight military leathers that seem to have hidden runes throughout the armor.
After not managing to get anywhere, the guild master dismisses everyone, saying that they are to leave with their guardians and to not leave town unless they wish to be flagged as dark guilders while awaiting his verdict on the matter.
“Not you Davis, you stay here.” The guild master says as most people leave the office downcast, humbled, or slightly fearful of what may come.
“Davis. What do you make of the damage to the boy’s arm?” The guild master asks once the two of them are alone.
“Bah! Most initiates can do little more than a scare bang or distraction. The damage to his arm that I saw would be something I’d expect from a high-end bronze.” He says while waving his arm in the air.
“Except we know that he was a part of the first batch of initiates…”
“Sure. But. Unless his arm was doused with alcohol, I don’t know what to tell ya, it ain’t right and it is a bunch of plant mages we are talking about here. I swear I’ve seen softer veterans in the royal army. If you would have made a move, I’m positive he’d have slit Jerry’s throat and focused ye. I tell you, that familiar’s been on battlefields. I could feel him eyeing me when I snuck up outside the door and that was with me using me sand glide covering any sounds. Creepy fucker, that’s for sure.”
“You think that child has been on battlefields?”
“You kidding me? Jerry’s a fucking silver and he was dismantled with a fucking bread knife. Dem royal war mages are all so tightly strung that if you twitch funny when near them, they are liable to turn you into a charred husk. He feels the exact same, but instead of magic he uses a fucking bread knife!” Davis roars while slapping his knee.
“But he’s a child.”
“Don’t matter. He’s a familiar too and you can bluff about stopping assassination attempts, but that kind of twitch and overreaction is honed on battlefields and constant life and death fights.”
“The problem is still what to do with them.” The guild master said exasperatedly.
“Well, ain’t that the easiest thing to do?”
“Oh!? You have an idea?”
“Yes! HAHAHAHa, just make them someone else’s problem.” He roars in reply.
“No, no, it really is that easy.”
“It is not that easy…”
“Sure it is, that boy can get the jump on a silver. Just make them bronzes and give them a mandatory req you see.”
“You mean I should reward them for attacking a peer and second most senior guild member?”
“No, it won’t be a reward. See. Send them on an escort out of yer hair, but say that you need to confiscate most of their income from the job to pay for the healer’s hall shit for Jerry and that idiot. Give them supplies but none of the Dens. Now they are broke and out of Dens you see. They’ll need to do reqs out there in another city.”
“That’s just short term, but it would give us a break before they return home and possibly stir up more problems. I had been told by the tailor…”
“The one with a big rack?”
“Shut it. Yes. But, nevermind. She thanked us for our delivery and also mentioned another group that managed to sell some to her directly and hoped we’d not interfere as she’s the one paying for the requisition.”
“It was probably those four and the numbers of turn-ins seemed absurd for such a painful requisition.”
“Who cares? They won’t be your problem if you follow me genius plan. They’d be broke and need to do a req in another town, however, said town’s guildhall will take one look and think them being bronzes is a clerical error, dropping them back to lead and keeping them stuck away from Jerry and more importantly, away from ye.”
“So you are pinning everything on clerical error?”
“HAhahaha. I’ve always been a genius see, no rocks fer brains.” Davis said smugly while running his hand over his beard, trying to appear sagely.
“Wow, you really do have a brain sometimes.” The guild master said in a monotone before a smirk appeared on his face. “Unless, did someone actually pull that kind of trick on you in the past?” The guild master asked while enjoying the sudden ugly face that Davis was making.
“Aye, never hand over your guild badge as a promise to repay for services rendered at a brothel,” Davis replied while adopting another sagely look while stroking his beard again.
Mage Larse finished splinting the arm and providing some items for the pain to the difficult to handle mage Flow. He demanded that he be taken care of before the boy and that the boy be moved to the opposite side of the hall to help extricate him from the cries and whimpers.
After mage Larse left to go stitch a bifurcated hand back together, that another party slinked into the hall to join mage Flow.
“You sent a paige for me?” The man asked in a hushed whisper, not wanting to draw mage Larse’s attention.
“I got a fun and easy task for you is all.” Mage Flow said with slightly glassy eyes as the drugs were helping to take away all the pain in his arm and shoulder.
“I like fun. But easy with you is never easy and I require pay upfront, no favors.” He replied back in a dry tone.
“Yes, yes. You just need to hit up a few establishments in other cities. Drink some good wine and slip up and mention some things to the patrons and those establishments.”
“You are going to put a target on my back.”
“Oh, the information is real and the parties are inconsequential. I just cannot act or have a hand in it if I am to become the guild master in the future.”
“So drinking and what am I having to slip drunkenly in conversations?” He asked, now curious.
Mage Flow pulls out ten silver Dens, each one worth a thousand Dens, as he now has the other guilder’s rapt attention, fixed on the coins.
“I want you to drink good wine and lament how it is unfair that that fucking whore son and his cunt have a storage artifact. Hit up a couple of cities over the next few days spreading that.”
“Wait, a storage artifact? You said they were inconsequential.”
“They are, it is the blacksmith’s daughter and her mangy familiar.”
“And they have a storage artifact? I thought she summoned a familiar, not an artifact.”
“The girl doesn’t have one, the familiar does, I saw it with my own two fucking eyes when the whore son grabbed a pair of swords out of thin air.”
“An artifact able to hold swords?” The now very interested guilder asked.
Mage Flow passes the coins to the guilder, however, he held firm as the other party tried to take them. Looking him in the eyes, mage Flow made sure to get his full attention for the coins.
“Do this right. The guild master is watching and you do not have the power to hold onto such a thing. Spread the news. In a few townsss… Drink… and… spread....” He said while the drugs were kicking into full force and making him quite drowsy.
The man accepts the coins and leaves the hall. Mage Flow is comfortably grinning from ear to ear while his eyes are fully glassy and in a haze.
“Just you fucking wait... While the guild massster can protect you from me, he cannot protect you from the country as a whole.” He said to nobody in particular while chuckling to himself in a haze from the pain medication.