Miguela walked the halls of the compound in a daze. Not only was she mentally exhausted from the events in the hamlet, but the message she received from the bounty hunter repeatedly played in her head, driving her crazy. Oblivious to her surroundings, Miguela made her way to the canteen. Despite not being very hungry, she knew that she had to eat.
The canteen was quiet when she arrived because it was late afternoon already. She got herself a bowl of chowder and crusty bread before sitting down. She ate mechanically, hardly tasting the food she put in her mouth.
A familiar voice broke her from her jumbled mess of thoughts.
"I thought I would find you here," Caecilia said, sitting down in the seat across from Miguela.
Caecilia had a pot of tea and two teacups. She poured the steaming liquid into the cups and handed one to Miguela. Miguela was grateful for the company. She had enough of being alone in her mind for one day.
"Thank you, Scryer Caecilia," Miguela said, feeling tears well up in her eyes, and before she could stop herself, she began sobbing.
"Come on. Let's go back to my chambers and talk," Caecilia said, standing and helping Miguela up. Miguela allowed Caecilia to lead her out of the canteen, putting her head on her friend's shoulder as they walked.
Miguela sprawled out on the cushions on the floor in Caecilia's chambers. Caecilia set a copper pitcher of water and mugs on the table before sitting on the cushions herself.
"Scryer Miguela, what's wrong? I have never seen you like this," Caecilia asked after a moment.
"I am sorry, Caecilia. Sorry for everything," Miguela said, sobbing.
"No, no. You have nothing to apologize for, Miguela," Caecilia retorted.
"Caecilia, do you ever find all of this to be strange? Don’t you ever feel that this compound, the scrying, and our lives are slightly out of sync with the real world?" Miguela asked, picking her words carefully so she wouldn't reveal too much to her friend just yet. Caecilia had an unreadable expression on her face as she thought about Miguela's question, and after a moment, she answered.
"At first, I thought it was exciting. Being whisked away to an offsite location on official Academy business, dealing with untested magiks, and helping the war efforts. I felt like a Vestigare agent from a fairy tale. But the deeper I got with my training, the more isolated I felt. But then we started working together, and knowing you had my back made things better," Caecilia paused to smile at Miguela before continuing. "And what you did in the hamlet showed me we can do so much with this magik. We could use it for more than confirming deaths. We're pioneers, and I have you to thank for that, Miguela."
Miguela was happy to hear Caecilia's words and felt better. Regardless, they were doing groundbreaking work, and the results could benefit the world for centuries to come. Miguela was not an expert on the subject, but from her understanding, creating new magik processes was a dangerous task, so that would help explain why the compound was the way it was.
"Thank you, Caecilia. I needed that, and I am honored to be your friend," Miguela responded after a moment.
"Friend? No, partners!" Caecilia said, scrubbing her eyes with the back of her hand before asking.
"You know what I need?"
"Wine?" Miguela replied.
"Exactly," Caecilia said, standing up to grab a bottle from a wine rack in the corner of the room.
They shared a laugh as Caecilia uncorked the bottle, and then they drank until things made sense again.
Miguela woke up the following day feeling like a walking corpse. Her tongue was so dry that it stuck to the roof of her mouth. Her head felt like it was about to explode, and her stomach lurched at her slightest movements. Memories of how much wine they'd consumed flashed in her mind, and she could only mentally shrug at her condition. She forced herself to get out of bed because her brother was coming to visit today. Miguela walked across her chambers and splashed water on her face from the copper basin in the corner before submerging her entire head in the water. She dried her face and walked towards her closet, feeling a little better than when she woke and changed into a simple, solid light green dress. She wasn't very fond of this dress, but the color was perfect for hiding vomit if her stomach betrayed her.
After massaging her temples for a few minutes, Miguela left her chambers for the canteen. Hopefully, hot tea and sweetbreads would help her recover. Three sweetbreads and two pots of tea later, Miguela felt much better, albeit she was still feeling lightheaded.
Miguela had a little time before the meeting with her brother, so she returned to her chambers and changed into a dress that she liked better. She put on a pink, blue, and gold striped dress. Before leaving, Miguela poured a mug of water, gulping it down greedily. She stopped to use the restroom along the way before arriving at their designated meeting room. When Miguela entered the room, Jori was already inside.
She squinted at him and wondered if he'd been pacing?
"Jori," Miguela said, rushing across the room to embrace him with a tight hug.
He returned the hug, then stepped back and looked her over. "Miggy. Are you ok?" he asked, reading her like a book.
"Yes, yes. I am fine, Jori. It has just been quite some time since we met," Miguela explained while settling down into a pile of cushions.
Jori followed her lead and sat down beside her.
They made small talk. Jori told Miguela about his studies and reported that he was progressing rapidly.
"I thought about joining the frontlines of the war. It would set me up for a career at the Academy in the future," Jori said.
"What? No!" Miguela snapped before she could stop herself. Jori looked confused by her sudden outburst. Miguela composed herself before speaking again.
"If you go to war, all you will learn how to do is channel your ley into bolts of destruction. If you stay at the Academy, you will learn and accomplish much more. Those accomplishments will open more doors than anything else. Brother, please promise me that you will not join the military."
"I'll certainly take your advice to heart, but, please, allow me to choose the path I wish to follow," Jori said after a long moment.
Miguela opened her mouth to plead her case but closed it. Jori was right. He needed to make this decision. She nodded to signal her acceptance of the situation, and he smiled brightly.
"So, I did find some tidbits about the Archmage if you are still interested," Jori said, changing the subject.
Most times, Miguela would not have allowed her brother off the hook so freely, but she desperately wanted to hear what he found out.
"What did you dig up?" Miguela asked. Jori smiled even broader as if he had won the conversation.
"Well, he has absolutely no infringements on his record. Before you say anything, it is abnormal behavior for an Archmage. All Archmages break the rules and show their brilliance. That is how they are discovered. Nobody discusses it, but pupils who show a thirst for knowledge are considered to be Archmage material, not pupils who show zero ambition," Jori said.
"That seems odd, but that's it. Odd," Miguela replied to her brother's report.
"I agree. The Archmage also seems very well-connected politically. Archmage Belvi is in somebody's graces, but there is no trail leading to who it is. The Archmage somehow always gets attached to many of the Academy's special investigations and some special projects," Jori explained.
"Another oddity," Miguela added, making Jori look dejected as if he failed her.
"You did great, Jori. I do have something else for you to look into for me. I need to see if there are any official documents on Archmage Belvi and a bounty hunter named Koal. Unfortunately, I do not have a family name to give you," Miguela said, brightening Jori's mood again.
"I will look into it as soon as I get back," Jori said.
"Discreetly," Miguela reminded him, and he nodded in agreement.
They spoke some more, and before Miguela knew it, their time had come to an end. Miguela walked him to the windship docks, and this time, in particular, saying goodbye was painful. Jori seemed to have felt her nervous energy and gave her an extra tight hug.
"I will be back soon," he whispered in her ear before letting go and making his way up the gangplank.
Miguela stayed on the docks, watching the windship until it disappeared out of sight.
- 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