I did some revisions for Two Destroyers and wanted to share some of my progress in lieu of a B.O.S.S. story. In a sharp contrast of tone to Memory Zero, this is a Zammela chapter showing the Magician Extraordinaire in her element.
Please keep in mind, this, like any of the excerpts from 2D is from a novel in progress.
Memory 05, Defiant
Zammela sat alone in a forest oasis on the Gelban plains. She embraced the subtle ebb and flow of magical energy around her, noting how the time of day affected the place of power. The air grew colder, nipping at her through the fabric of her robe. Night is coming.
She opened her eyes and adjusted her eyes against the dwindling sunlight. The sun hung low in the sky. She had almost missed a chance to bid farewell to a close friend.
“Good night, Albrecht,” she said, “You were a good sun.”
The grass tickled her with a passing breeze, triggering memories of her youth. She hadn’t lounged on grass in ages, in lieu of raising the ire of her mother. She smiled. Nothing she can do about it now.
She reached out, framing the sun with her thumb and forefinger.
“You do not have to die, you know. You can come with me. Just let me pull you back out.”
She clasped at the air, closing her fingers around the sun like a marble. Of course, the sun continued to sink, despite her protest. Born each day, to die—how unfair. The sun came, brought warmth, and perished in the arms of its mother: Pange.
Receiving no answer, she rolled to one side and curled up. She ignored the woolen blankets her parents left her and let the grass lull her into an apathetic trance. She hated musing on failure, it just made her powerlessness that much more annoying.
A flash of regret gnawed at her. Maybe she should not have requested her parents leave her in the little grove of trees and stones. Honestly she was surprised they went along with it. The excitement of her parents respecting a whim felt like such a victory at first. Now it struck her as patronization.
In two days, someone would be by to fetch her– like the good little girl they expected her to be. Two days was plenty of time to investigate the place of power, enough time to plumb the mysteries of these special places where she was not bound by her finite reserves.
She ran her fingers across the grass, savoring the power resonating off the grass. She sat up, she’d need a place to sleep and she would not settle for a common tent. A Magician Extraordinaire deserved better.
Standing, she brushed off stray strands of grass from her robes and tapped into the core of the wellspring of power. She found her target, a massive slab of stone that would make a fine shelter. She reached out, grabbed hold of the stone with the edge of her power and commanded the earth to obey. The stone tottered, twisting under her command to expose a maw of soil.
The surrounding earth rose, forming pillars of packed earth and pushed into the stone. Layer after layer packed together until the supports were as strong as steel.
She withdrew her power, admiring how little she had used of her personal reserves. “Too easy.”
The land shifted under her feet, the after effect of the sun’s landing. Albrecht’s final protest sent shock waves through the land; it stunk of death and endings. The landing of the sun was a funeral, an act of morning. She hated endings; beginnings, however, intrigued her.
Irritation bristled within her. It was unfair. No one should have to die by prophecy. IT fed empty lies and excuses. As far as she was concerned, things happened because people caused them to happen.
She reached out to Albrecht as she had the slab of stone; hands out, stature proud with her head held high. Today I will do it. I will defy fate.
Closing her eyes, she let her power flow. She connected with the sun hundreds of miles away, thousands of times her size, burning with millions of times her power. It mattered little. She would defy it. She had no choice.
The sun, all but lost to the world, began its reckless descent into the horizon. Setting aside her empathy, she envisioned the sun as mere fire, rather than a dying friend. Mere fire bent to her will. The place of power came to her aid, heeding her call for more power. It rose and wrapped around her, lending support like any good friend would.
The sun stubbornly continued its descent. Her magic touched the fiery sphere, begging, resisting and commanding, only to be ignored. It plunged into the land. Her influence pawed at its surface, useless as a child’s hand atop a sinking boulder. She poured more of herself into the act but it proved useless. Worse, it drained her, as her magic tended to do. She valued her personal reserves, but now they failed her.
She forfeited her duel with the sun and slumped onto her back. Power slipped from its surface and retreated back to her. It danced and mocked her. The swirling pillar of flame demonstrated her failure. Another son dies. Sorry, Albrecht. The twisting reds and yellows carved brilliant ribbons in the sky. At least he protested his fate with a final act of beauty.
She curled her knees close to her, mashing them against her bosom, and faced another failure. Maybe the Betrayal of the Sons truly is inevitable. Maybe the vision is doomed to come true.
Her senses prickled. A spark flew wayward from the sun and screamed across the sky. It moved through the night air and gave her the chance she needed.
She righted and stood, thrusting her hands skyward and wrapped her power around the careening spark with little effort. Her consciousness split and she endured the euphoria and disorientation of high speed flight.
By controlling the flame itself, she urged the spark to a stop. The fire acknowledged her but moved too fast to comply. She wrestled the commanding urge, impressing her will upon it but its scream drowned her whispers. Something in this spark throbbed with threat.
She poured her focus into her magic, urging the wind to crush the fire’s path and exhaust it. Instead, it fueled the flame’s fury. She called on surrounding water in the air, only to have to burst into steam.
Abandoning the connection, she turned her focus to her shelter, cracking the mighty stone in twain and tumbled half of it skyward. It reached, but the flame barreled through and splintered the stone into a cloud of ash.
The spark wavered, changing course to fall, but didn’t lose any of it’s focused fury. IT unsettled her. Whatever this intends cannot be good. She embraced the need to urge the spark away from its fated path. She focused not on stopping it, but instead redirecting it. Excitement bubbled up from her small success. Progress. The sun could not be stopped, but it could still be influenced. After all, it was only fire.
The rush of power hung within her as the place of power celebrated alongside her. The unclaimed magic reveled in her victory. Warmth bubbled within her, elation beyond mere accomplishment. She fell back to the grass in content exhaustion, dampening her smile.
But what did I accomplish, really?
She tried to stand but her body felt too heavy. Fatigue squeezed her like the unrelenting jaws of a hungry animal. Her limbs were heavy and unresponsive. The emptiness clawed at her. The world blurred about her, spun and twisted by vertigo.
“Too soon.” She closed her eyes and drifted into unconsciousness.
* * *
Zammela woke to the song of a bird perched on her chest. A sharp-smelling odor filled the air, gently pushing aside the fatigue roaring through her body. She stirred, and the songbird fled.
Night still hung over the plains. The magical energy around her lay dormant, as though asleep itself.
“You shouldn’t make it a habit to sleep so exposed. You’ll get sick,” an unfamiliar voice said.
She sat up and her blanket fell onto her lap. A man, clad in simple brown robes stared at her. He sat atop the remnant of stone she used for her shelter, tapping a wooden staff resting across his knees. He was an older man, told by deep lines forming a permanent crease on his brow and his sandy blond hair grayed on the edges. His eyes were Gelban-grey, the color of silver bits.
“Did you sleep well?” He hopped off the rock and righted his staff. He did not rely on it for support, merely held it beside him to match his full height.
“Who are you?” she said.
“My given name is Richard, but everyone calls me Richie.”
“Well, Richie, thank you for your concern. I assume you put this on me,” she said, gesturing to the blanket.
“Aye, I pray you feel better now?
“I do.” She placed a hand to stand up, and noticed a ring of unfamiliar green leaves surrounding her.
“Mint,” he said. “It soothes the mind and body does it not? I brought some back with me this time. I figured I could share.”
She reached for a leaf. She drew it up to her nose and inhaled, almost instinctively. A sharp, crisp, smell filled her nostrils. It sent a tingle through her, and gave her a moment of clarity. As overpowering as the scent was, it proved euphoric.
“You can’t fight fate,” he said. “I know what you were trying to do, and you mustn’t. Whatever you did to end up so tired, you mustn’t ever do it again.”
Glaring at him over the leaf, she realized the wisdom in his words. He is right. Last time I slept for three days, and this man somehow saw to it I woke earlier.
She raised a brow. “Where did you come from?”
“Somewhere else.” He lost all traces of his smile.
Every priest of the Goddess she had ever seen wore grey robes with spun silver trim. Richie’s earthen brown robes were a suspicious facsimile, but the thin spun silver trim matched perfectly. This man’s presence made her flesh prickle, offset only a little from the powerful scent of the leaf.
“Who are you?” She lowered the leaf from her nose.
“I told you. I go by Richie. I would ask your name, but I already know it..”
“Naturally,” she said, keeping her gaze on him as she stood. She held her ground. “You would be a fool not to.”
“It isn’t a good thing, milady.” Richie approached. The smell of mint hung thick on him. He carried a stronger smell than the leaf itself. “You need to learn discretion.”
“Not something I particularly excel at.” She lifted her nose up at him. She stood shorter than most– he towered over her. Last time she checked she was five feet tall– in shoes. This man was at least a foot an half taller than her. “So, I choose to pass on your bit of advice. I have too much to accomplish to waste time on discretion.”
He chuckled. “True enough.”
“Now explain this.” She pointed to the ring of leaves on the ground. “Is this some sort of ritual? It looks like something a warlock would do.”
“I assure you, I am no warlock. I am… like you. More than a mage, but less than a witch.”
“Impossible. There is only one me,” she scoffed. “You and I both know this. More importantly, why did you help me? It is odd for a flunky of the Goddess to show charity. So I can only assume you want something.”
Richie shrugged. “It is not my duty as a priest, rather another bond we share. If not charity, call it pity then. I am fairly unlucky myself.”
“That makes no sense. You are a priest. You are all supposedly lucky. If the followers of the Goddess of Luck cannot tap into her endless reserves of fortune, then who?”
“I suppose it depends on your definition of the term ‘luck’,” Richie said. “He reached out, putting a hand on top of her head, rustling her head of carrot colored hair. She reached up to push away his hand, but hesitated. She got a clear view of a small star shape mark on his wrist. The lines stood in sharp contrast against his pale skin. “I imagined the extraordinary Zam Glam a bit taller, to be honest.”
She shooed away his hand. “Sorry to disappoint you.”
“Oh I’m not disappointed. Small people tend to have big hearts.”
“Get to the point. If you want something, out with it. Otherwise, leave.”
“I need your help. You need to go to the City of Water.”
“Why? I have no business in Agellas.”
Richie shook his head. “On the contrary, you have pressing business there.”
She studied his expression. The priest had taken everything in stride. This was either the truth or an elaborate hoax. Both possibilities intrigued her.
Richie pointed to the horizon, where the sun had landed. “Related business.”
“What business would that be?” She fixed her glare on him. “I am not accustomed to people telling me what to do.”
“Something only you can do,” Richie said, “I think you will come to understand the rest.”
“Spare me your games, priest. If you expect my cooperation then you had best start explaining yourself.”
Richie grinned, taking a moment to look her over. “You’re much like your aunt.” Did you know her well?”
She froze, her anger faltered.
“You should be more thankful. What would have happened had I not come across you, or worse, what if someone else found you? Fate does not simply happen. Sometimes it must be helped along.” He leaned closer. “This is why I am here, Zammela. You are not strong enough to solve this on your own. Without a valuable tool, you will fail and everyone will die. Then the fault will rest solely on your shoulders.”
The priest said this in an even tone. He carried a steely countenance and spoke the words as a simple truth. He made her feel small.
The threatening atmosphere pulsed in time with her racing heart. She raised her hand to the center of her chest, forcing herself to calm. Something in his words terrifies me, as if I already know they are true.
“You’ll do fine, as long as you listen to me.” Richie patted her head and turned to leave.
“Wait, I need more than that. IF you know about the Betrayal of the Sons, tell me everything.”
“No,” Richie said. He stopped walking, but did not turn back to her. “You said it best. A priest of the Goddess of Luck must not embrace the concept of charity. We do not coddle the unfortunate. Those plagued with misfortune have raised her ire.”
“Them how did you find me? This is not exactly on the main road.” She gestured at the trees around them.
“Luck,” Richie said, smiling.
Luck. Her body tensed with anger at the word.
“Show some faith.” He waged a finger over his shoulder and started to leave. “You’ll find the Goddess makes luck for the worthy. Take this to heart.”
“You can keep your luck. I make my own,” she said.
Richie did not answer. He just kept walking.
She spun, scooping up her blanket in a huff. The mint leaves scattered about, but something else fell onto the soil. She stooped to pick it up, a small packet of paper. She flipped it over to expose an elaborate painting of the leaf. It bore an astonishing amount of detail. She ran her fingers over it, noting it to be covered in wax. She shook it and something rattled inside. Seeds?
It had text on it small enough to make her squint to read it.
“Herbal Mint,” she read it aloud and glanced towards Richie. The priest had wandered a good distance away, and she doubted he left it on accident. It must be a clue.
After a quick check, she found her supplies intact. She made a meal of stale bread, salted meats and aged cheese, mewling over the meaning of the seeds. A tool, huh?
She had a little over a day before her parents returned to fetch her. Following Richie’s advice meant defying them, but if she left, she would lose valuable time studying this unexplored place of power.
Richie’s words raced through her thoughts. She was nothing like her aunt; she was small, weak and spineless by comparison to her predecessor.
She paced the clearing and let her senses bathe in the latent energies. Curiously, the power settled into a focused calm instead of buzzing about chaotically. Places of power were wellsprings of raw energy, but something had changed in the short time she had spent there. Someone or something had tampered with it. Richie?
Richie vanished over the plains. She presumed he headed towards Agellas, where fate called to her. She tightened her hands into fists and decided on the spot. Answers waited in the City of Water, and she found herself compelled to follow the call. Not for Richie, though. For Zammela, this had not been a matter of fate, but a matter of pride.