Miguela woke in her bunk, her body sore in places she did not realize had muscles until now. It had been almost two months since she agreed to work for the Five Kingdoms, and Archmage Larz wasted no time, rushing Miguela off that very afternoon to begin her training. Archmage Larz was tight-lipped about the nature of Miguela’s upcoming training. It was not until she arrived at the facility that she learned that she would be working with the concept of scrying.
From the first day, Miguela worked day and night, mastering spells that she hadn’t known were possible until her training began. She knew she had gaps in her magikal education, but she did remember reading about some theories involving scrying. From what she read, she imagined scrying to be some blend of chronomancy and spacialmancy. In the end, the truth was a bit disappointing. Scrying, at least the Academy sanctioned version she was being taught, was actually a form of summoning. She laughed at herself every time she thought about her ignorance-fueled misconceptions but held out hope that perhaps, one day, she would have the opportunity to master time and space.
Miguela stretched, bumping her feet against the wall. She’d never considered her dormitory at the Academy spacious, but compared to her current accommodations, her room at the Academy seemed downright luxurious. She rolled out of bed and pulled the trunk of her personal effects from under it. She was changing into a yellow and orange dress with red striped stitching when a knock announced someone at her door. She fumbled with the laces on her dress and took half a step to reach the door in her tiny room before opening it. On the other side of the door was her trainer, Archmage Belvi, a tall, handsome Arzan. In the beginning, Miguela was distracted by his symmetrical masculine face and lean muscular body. But, after spending so much time with the man, much of that had faded. His arrogant demeanor and tendency to leer at any woman he encountered were off-putting, to say the least. And, of course, Miguela wasn’t here for romance or gossip, so she kept those thoughts locked away in the back of her mind. Archmage Belvi was a brilliant magician imparting his knowledge to her and her colleagues so they could do an important job, and that’s all that mattered.
“Oh, you are awake, excellent,” Archmage Belvi said, the tone of his voice and look in his eyes making Miguela wonder if he showed up early in an attempt to catch her in her nightgown.
“Yes, Archmage. Did you just come to check on my well-being, or is there a purpose for this visit before breakfast?” she asked.
He smiled, perfectly straight white teeth glinting. “Indeed, today, we will step away from theoretical discussion and attempt a real scrying.”
Miguela was at a loss for words. This was too soon. Much too soon. “We can do that?” she asked, feeling uneasy about the situation.
“Yes. Remember, you are not the only one venturing into the unknown.”
“What happens if I can’t?”
“You continue training and try again if nothing horrible happens in the process.”
“Don’t worry. You will be fine. Now get some breakfast and meet me in scrying room seven in two hours.”
She stood there with her mouth open.
“You’ll be fine. Don’t be late,” he said with a chuckle before turning to leave.
She closed the door and tried to figure out what he meant by horrible.
After breakfast, she returned to her room and stared at herself in the mirror. She went through the motions of setting her shoulder-length hair up into a bun. She was not an overly confident person, but she never lacked belief in herself until today. She distracted herself by examining her smooth tawny skin for any blemishes. Men often told her that she was beautiful, but she did not believe most of them. Men would say anything to woo you into bed, and after getting their release, they would forget whatever they told you moments ago.
There were no answers to be found in the mirror, so Miguela left her cramped room to meet Archmage Belvi. She loosened the grip on her thoughts, and her mind wandered, calming her nerves as she walked through the halls. Startled, she squeaked a small yelp of surprise when she reached her destination: scrying room seven.
In front of the door, Archmage Belvi waited. He had changed clothes, discarding the simple robes from earlier to intricate pearl-colored robes with a stiff, high collar ending around his ears.
“Good, you are here. After this morning, I was worried that I would have to send men to get you,” he said with a chuckle.
Miguela’s ears heated at the comment. “I was just surprised, that’s all,” she groused.
Archmage Belvi smiled but thankfully said nothing else on the topic. He fished a key from under his robes and unlocked the door. He made a gesture for her to enter first, and Miguela obliged, awkwardly walking past him into the room. After they entered the room, she went from worrying about what the Archmage thought about her to the room itself. The room was slightly larger than her chambers and made from gray stones, a different material than the rest of the facility. It was, however, not the size of the building materials that caught her attention. Her eyes were wide, flitting back and forth, taking in the runes carved on the walls, floor, and even the ceiling. The walls glowed with power, and the larger runes, spaced at intervals of a meter or so, thrummed with a pale blue light to some unheard rhythm.
“Breathtaking, isn’t it?” Archmage Belvi asked from behind her, snapping her focus back to her reason for being here. Miguela nodded in response, and Archmage Belvi went about lighting the lanterns in the corners of the room. Now that the room was well-lit, Miguela noticed a table in the middle of the room and two larger-than-normal high-backed, padded chairs that sat opposite each other. On the table, there was a lone boot. Archmage Belvi gestured toward a chair, so she sat. The chairs were so large that she felt like a child attempting to sit at the adults’ table. The Archmage smiled his knowing smile as he took his seat.
“The art of scrying is not perfected yet. Each vision will take hours, depending on how much information there is to elucidate. We have had scrying sessions that have taken over twenty hours. I had these chairs commissioned to accommodate such sessions,” he explained.
Miguela nodded to his words. The explanation made sense, and she wondered if she would have accepted Archmage Larz’s offer had she known that she would be giving up hours and hours of her life.
Archmage Belvi looked at the boot before looking back to Miguela.
“Don’t worry. I believe I picked a simple subject for your first scrying. It shouldn’t take that long,” The Archmage said, again eerily addressing her concerns with perfect accuracy.
“Shall we begin?” he asked.
She nodded for her response. Archmage Belvi looked at her expectedly, and she knew there could be no more stalling.
Miguela breathed through her nose and began to focus her ley energies. Weeks of practice had ingrained the incantations of the spell into her memory. Muscle memory guided her hands through a complex series of gestures as she carefully annunciated arcane words of power under her breath. Something in the room shifted, and every muscle in her body twitched as the runes seemed to come to life. Tentacles of pale blue light lept from the center of the larger runes lining the walls, reaching for her. They speared into her and latched onto both her spell and the ley energies rampaging throughout her body. Miguela gasped but didn’t let the shocking sensations distract her because this was what she’d been expecting. This was what success felt like. She’d done it. Now all she had to do was finish the process.
Anchored to the runes, Miguela had a tremendous amount of ley at her disposal. She focused on the boot, becoming one with the item. Her dress transformed into the caked mud on the heel and her skin became the creased leather around the toes.
She was Alec Suto, a Xandran from the fishing village of Xyil. Alec was born to a moderately well-off family of fishers. He decided that he was not suited to life on the water and joined the Xandran military as soon as he had the chance. He’d finish his stint in the military, then buy a tavern and start a family after that.
A jolt of something that felt like lightning struck Miguela. She opened her mouth to speak, and nothing but a gurgling sound escaped. She looked to Archmage Belvi for help, but he only looked at her over steepled fingers, nodding encouragingly. The room spun as if she’d drank too much wine, then the world went black.
Alec woke up in his tent, excited for what the day held. Today, his battalion was moving out. The expedition party returned from the Wildlands with reports of unorganized resistance throughout the regions explored. His battalion would be the first official contact of the Five Kingdoms. Their mission was primarily one of reconnaissance, to, as his commanding officer put it, find a suitable location for the Warlord of Warlords’ base camp. It felt amazing to be a part of something as historic as taming the Wildlands. He knew it would come with its share of dangers, but there would be prestige and riches to gain as well. The rest of the morning was uneventful as they disassembled their camp.
Alec marched in synch with his squad. They broke companies into squads and sent them ahead of the battalion to ensure no ambushes were awaiting them. Before they started sending companies ahead of the battalion, Wildlanders assaulted them with hit-and-run attacks. Their small parties were severely outnumbered, but they kept attacking. Alec was unsure if the damn fools were brave or stupid.
They were making their way through some uninteresting hilly terrain when their commander came to an abrupt stop.
“Let’s get a closer look near that large rock formation. If we do not find anything, we can regroup with the battalion,” Commander Bilwick said, pointing to a rock formation off in the distance. Alec grumbled because the commander had a horse while everyone else marched. It was easy to order the investigation of distant landmarks when riding horseback. Alec and his brothers in arms grumbled, but they had no choice but to march.
When they arrived at the craggy rock formation, the suns were high in the sky. Alec’s undershirt was thoroughly sweated through, and his leather armor chafed everywhere it came into contact with his skin. Alec’s boots crunched atop a thick tangle of vegetation as he surveyed his surroundings. Goats scampered away from Alec’s unit as they approached. Alec saw no danger signs, but something about the place put his hackles up.
They spent several minutes searching for signs of Wildander activity but found nothing.
Commander Bilwick called for everyone’s attention. When he was confident he everyone was listening, he said, “All right, it looks like--”
An ear-splitting howl stampeded over Commander Bilwick’s words, and then everything happened in a blur. At least three dozen crag spiders sprang out of nowhere and attacked. Alec’s eyes widened, and he froze as he took in the hunting hound-sized beasts. The spiders were upon Alec’s squad in a blink, crashing into them with terrible speed and ferocity. Alec backpedaled, searching for a chance at survival.
To his left, two spiders were ripping into Commander Bilwick, pulling him off his horse. To his right, a gurgling scream abruptly cut off, an arterial spray of blood flashing across his peripheral vision. With death closing in around him, Alec realized that if he tried to stay and fight, he would die. So, he turned and ran toward the commander’s horse as fast as his legs would carry him. The horse reared, and its eyes lolled as the spiders leaped about like locusts. Alec grabbed the reins and somehow got the horse to stop bucking. It was as if the horse knew that they had a chance to escape together. He clumsily scrambled into the saddle and spurred the horse into action. He looked over his shoulder to see the last two members of his squad being overrun by at least ten spiders. He turned his attention back to the terrain in front of him when without warning, he felt a heavy-weight thud against his thigh. To his horror, he looked down and saw a smaller version of the crag spider that attacked his squad. It wasted no time and sunk its fangs into his leg. He grunted from the pain and quickly whacked the adolescent spider off of him. Alec spurred the horse onward.
As his fallen squadmates disappeared behind him, his leg started burning, then started tingling like he was sitting on it. Suddenly, he remembered a very important piece of crag spider trivia -- they possessed potent, paralytic poison, and just as if on cue, his arms stopped reacting to his commands, dropping the reins. The horse kept running at full speed, and the sway of its stride eventually toppled Alec from the saddle. His left foot was caught in the stirrup, and the horse ran on, dragging Alec behind him. Alec watched as the skin of his arms was stripped off before his eyes. He didn’t feel any pain, but it was no less terrifying. The horse was still running from fear, and suddenly, Alec saw the end coming. There was a huge, jagged rock that the horse was dragging him towards at top speed, and the only thing he could think about was being thankful that he did not have to suffer the long death that his comrades were going to suffer being food for the spiders.
The world went a brilliant white.
Miguela screamed at the top of her lungs. She realized that she was on the floor in the scrying room, but she was having trouble distinguishing the difference between her thoughts and Alec’s. Archmage Belvi was kneeling beside her.
“Miguela?” He asked softly.
“Yes, I think that is who I am,” she answered.
“You did it! You have have accomplished something that only a handful of people have done, Scryer Miguela,” he said.
Her wits were slowly returning. Miguela knew that she should be ecstatic by her accomplishments, but her thoughts were still a jumbled mess of her memories and the ones of Alec.
“These memories... will I have them forever?” she asked.
“Thank the gods, no. They will remain more vivid than the memories you made this morning for about five hours. Do not worry. It is by design. That way, you can have the poor bloke’s life scribed and committed to the archives,” he explained with a chuckle as he helped her to her feet.
She still felt disoriented but could compartmentalize Alec’s memories from hers.
“Is it always like that?” She asked. Archmage Belvi smiled and shook his head before saying.
“No, they say, the first time you die is always the hardest.”
- Tokyo, Japan
Charles K. Jordan was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. He attended university in his home state, as well, where he studied Information Technology. After graduating, he decided to move abroad to experience more than what he had seen in the United States. He found his way to Japan in 2003, and since then, he has called Japan home.
Charles K. Jordan was always drawn to fantasy, sci-fi, and adventure. When he was a young child, the first novel he read was Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by Deborah and James Howe, and from that point, he was hooked. Since then, he has found inspiration and heroes from various writers in all forms of media. Some of his heroes include Robert Jordan, J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, Quentin Tarantino, Terence Winter, Garth Ennis, and Glen Cook, just to name a few. Ever since that fateful day that led him to pick up Bunnicula, he knew his calling in life would be to create and hopefully contribute to someone’s growth and dreams.
Charles K. Jordan vowed to himself that no matter what happened in his life. He would never stop dreaming, writing, and creating.
The Five Kingdoms of Cordizal series available on Amazon:
Book 1: Scourge of the Five Kingdoms
Book 2: Dogma of the Five Kingdoms