December 12, 2008
The boy closed his eyes, lifting his right hand and holding it to the light. The confused men stared at his hand as his fingernails extended to sharp points an inch long. With a tug from his left hand, the boy ripped off his tunic to reveal hard rippling muscles. As the stunned tavern goers watched, his skin turned gray and as the boy stretched from side to side, scales and spikes erupted over his shoulders. His arms lengthened, as did his legs, though his torso remained slightly smaller giving him a stretched appearance. The boy grunted and closed his eyes, tossing his head side to side as two curving horns started to emerge from the sides of his head. His eyes angled sharply and his jaw elongated into a snout, serrated teeth inches long protruding from it. When the transformation was finished, the boy no longer even remotely resembled a human. When he opened his eye lids, there were no eyes. Black voids where no light was reflected. The gray-scaled creature before could have been the hound of Lord Death himself.
"Now, you may fight me." Silence pervaded the tavern. "What? No one wishes to fight me?" the broken voice mocked. "Well, perhaps you all are smarter than you look." With a laugh, he kicked open the door and strolled out into the night, his gray scales glinting wickedly in the pale moonlight. His eyes, smug, glowing red lanterns lit the darkness in front of him. He took a few steps before contemplating his wings. Roc wings would get him away fastest but the pain would be exquisite. Phoenix would be too slow. Deciding on a half-gargoyle shift, he closed his eyes and started rubbing his shoulders. Wings hurt. A lot.
The boy braced himself for the shift, windmilling his arms. He gathered the magic in his shoulders but just before he could release it, he felt a sharp pain in his lower rib cage. He looked and saw an arrow shaft protruding from his chest. With a snarl, he watched as his skin pushed the arrow out of his chest and the hole pinked over. With a crazed laugh, he turned around, expecting some eager vigilante trying to score a head for his wall. What he saw made him balk in astonishment.
Three hunters. All wore black leather jerkins and leggings. The one in the middle held an ash bow. The one on the right had a silver long knife in his hand and the last held a thick, serrated blade strapped to his knuckles that curved along his right forearm and ended at the elbow. It was called a Kukiro, one obviously meant for extremely close combat. It was an aggressive weapon. A dangerous weapon.
The one with the bow grabbed an arrow and knocked it. He called out, "Come on. You know you can't outrun us and we've learned some good tricks in your pursuit." The head of the arrow started glowing, a blue light cast over the right side of the hunters face. With a twang, the arrow hurtled into the bow, piercing straight through the boy's chest and out the other side. The boy gasped and fell, his vision flickering as he watched the long knife whistle through the air at his head. The boy's hand flicked up to catch it and the blade sank sickeningly between the tendons in his hand, the tip coming out the other side. With a scream, the boy leaped to his feet, ready for the fight of his life. He was shocked when he looked up to see them standing stock still, staring expectantly at him.
The boy paused, glancing down at his chest to see what they were looking at. All that remained of the hole where the arrow had gone through was pink flesh. It darkened rapidly to match the color and texture of the surrounding skin. He glanced at his hand, only then remembering the blade protruding from it. He yanked it out with his left, and watched as the skin crawled back together, the flesh knitting and the tendons twitching and contracting as the pain and tingling abruptly ceased. His hand was as it was before. He looked up, again wondering to himself why they weren't attacking him.
The assailant with the bow was still looking at him with an odd look of curiosity in his eyes. The one who thrown the knife looked agitated. The hunter with the kukiro merely looked bored. Definitely not an expression the boy wanted to see. Fear gripped the boy's innards slowly.
"Let's do this," said the man with the bow, knocking another arrow. Before he had time to draw it back to his ear, the boy was on him, a glowing hand crushing the throat of the archer, the energy flying out of him. He let the man's ashen corpse fall to the ground in a cloud of black dust.
With a scream, the man who had held the knife hurtled towards him, a dagger in each hand. The boy caught the man by the head and headbutted him with enough force to demolish a wall. The man crumpled and fell.
Even as the body fell, the boy's shoulders erupted in pain. Twisting, he felt the kukiro break a bone and shred the muscles in his right shoulder as it was torn away. Knowing he was crippled momentarily, the boy leaped straight into the air. He had only just landed in a tree when he felt a sharp sting in his good arm. He glanced at his left to see a hooked dart protruding from the crook in his shoulder between the spike on his shoulder. The shot was incredibly lucky. It hit possibly the only spot where a dart that small could penetrate his scaly skin. He ripped the dart out of his shoulder, a look of rage on his face, his eyes red and wheeling. Dizziness racked him and his clawed feet lost their traction. He slipped off the branch and into blackness, a cold weight pressing down on his consciousness. The glow in his eyes flickered and went out as he fell to the ground.
November 28, 2008
A creak as the door opened snapped the traitor from his stupor. The candles had dwindled and only the hearth provided a low light. On the other side of the bar the boisterous noises from the townsfolk rang across the room. He glanced about, wondering what had wakened him when he felt it. Like a hand touching his consciousness, he shrank from the touch, wishing he could hide from it. He waited for the voice, the voice he knew would be coming. "Dargon. I've been looking for you." The voice was like the crackling of charcoal. As the man lumbered from his chair and turned, he thought to himself that everything about the child reminded him of fire.
The boys hair was scarlet, black, and maroon and want in every direction imaginable. His eyes were red, purple, and green, an eerie glowing lantern of malevolence. His ears and tongue were barbed and sharp, his nose small and angular. The boy had no eyebrows. The boy's only article of clothing was his black breeches, though that wasn't noticeable at first glance. His skin from the neck down was covered in silver scales that overlapped and flexed like chain-mail. At the corner of his shoulders were white bony spikes that protruded sharply upward. Similarly, his elbows and knees were spiked, the hooks disappearing when his arms were straight, but when bent, they extended almost a hand from his arms and legs. His fingers and toes were like talons and the palm of his right hand was padded like the paw of an animal. His left, however, was normal except for the glow from the back.
The boy was standing a few rods off, looking at him accross a table. "Hello." Dargon responded with as much confidence as he could muster.
"Formality? How odd." the voice like charcoal mocked as the boy sat down in the chair across from Dargon. "Now, to forestall a doomed attempt at killing me or escaping, I'd like you to know that I won't be killing you." The boy gestured to his swordless belt, but Dargon knew that the boy needed no blade to kill. He continued, "I will not kill you unless you cross me. And your first gesture of compliance would do well to be more information about the woman."
For the first time, shock crossed Dargon's features as his mind raced. What woman is this? "I'm confused, young master. To whom would you be referring?"
The boy's eyes flashed blue and silver and a lock of hair fell over his eyes. He looked much more the bewildered child of seventeen that he could have been. "The girl. The healer. The one that helped me escape."
Comprehension dawned upon Dargon's mind as he realized that he was referring to Lady Grayson. "The woman... who freed you? Forgive me, but I am not entirely aware of the details that led to your escape from the Facility."
A chill shook Dargon as he watched the boys eyes burn to black, a harsh non-light that betrayed no emotion. The boy shifted slowly, leaning accross the table. He looked around, leaning to his left when Dargon realized that the boy cast no shadow. He'd expected that the other guests couldn't see the true nature of the creature sitting before him, but the fact that he was addressing a specter frightened him. He wondered where the boy really was.
The boy, or his shadow, suddenly glanced back at him. "You finally noticed?" The charcoal voice intoned. "I'd have come in earlier myself but I was completing a few alterations." And with that, the specter vanished. Sidling into its seat was a boy with a flawless complexion, and who was the same height and build but with a blue tunic and brown breeches. The boy winked his green eyes at Dargon and ran his hand through his short brown hair before speaking. In a voice like charcoal, the boy said, "Neat trick, huh?"
With a sigh, Dargon poked the boys arm, asking, "So why the illusion? Why did you need to be here in person and when are you going to tell me what happened?"
"I illustrated the illusion to give myself time to change," the boy answered, gesturing to his new form, "not just to show you some illusion or shift for you. I came," the boy stood, a step punctuating each word, "to... show... you... this." The boy clapped both of his palms on the giant man's temples and thrust some of his memories into his skull.
To Dargon, it was like a whole life was being lived before his eyes at incredible speeds. He watched the exercises that bordered on torture, the inhumane living quarters, the desolation of loneliness and the flickers of hope, love, and joy as they were all systematically suppressed or exploited in the young boy's ramshackle existence. Most recently, all of the thoughts featured a woman, one he recognized to be the young Lady Loranna, the daughter of Lord Hugh Grayson, with a faint smile on your lips. The last memory projected into his skull was the most vivid. Grayson watched it as if it were happening to him.
Footsteps awakened him and despite the groan of sore muscles, he silently rose and dressed in a blur. Once he'd dressed, he shadowed in the corner of his room. With a crash, the doors were blasted of their hinges, narrowly missing his hiding place. Running into the room now was her. The healer. The beautiful one with the kind eyes. Her blonde hair wild and her breath ragged from the running she cast her eyes about, looking for him. Stepping from the illusion he'd wrought, he took her hand and pressed her shoulders against the wall. She was projecting a thought, I'm breaking you out and you're going to help me. Without a sound, he released her and took a step before she caught his hand. Twining her fingers in his, she smiled. As the memory faded, the confusion of the memory, of the smile was so bewildering, Dargon found himself dazed.
Dargon glanced about and found himself sitting the large comfortable chair by the fire. The boy, looking more angelic than was humanly possible sat far too close to the fire to be safe, let alone comfortable, but he appeared to relish in the heat. Dargon closed his eyes before saying, "The girl is the daughter of Lord Grayson, High Mage of the Realm. His daughters name is Olivia." He opened his eyes to see the boy standing only a foot from him.
"Thank you, Dargon." The charcoal crackled. And with that, the boy ripped the last hour from the man's mind and sent him into a deep, deep sleep. He turned, walking swiftly toward the door when the boisterous voices from across the room turned to him. A hand on his shoulder stopped him cold.
"Now where are you going, lad? You've yet to try a pint of Tompkins famous ale!" He shrugged off the foreign hand as he leaned to push a shoulder into the door of the tavern. A push from behind him sent him reeling and he caught himself against the frame of the door. He turned, a slash of a frown marring the angelic features he was affecting. "Ooh," the mocking voice called, "the pretty boy is unhappy."
If the man had been paying the slightest attention to the actual object of his ridicule, he would have noticed the red tint that creeped into the the boys hair, how the perfect blue in his eyes was a dark swirling black, with maroon creeping in from the edges. The man and his cohorts laughter rang in the boys ears and he experienced a hot feeling behind his cheeks and ears. With a start, the boy realized that he was feeling shame. A grin crossed his perfect features and his eyes returned to the blue they had previously been.
September 10, 2008
July 25, 2008
He woke. That in and of itself was a surprise. The excruciating pain that was tearing through his body was less surprising. Opening his eyes, he learned that he was in a bright room with glows hanging from a room with a high ceiling. He tried to move and felt pain lance through his right side. He was lying down on his wing. He turned himself over into a more comfortable position on his stomach. He let his wings spread out over the ground to alleviate the discomfort. He looked at his right wing, not knowing what to expect.
Where the light had hit him, the feathers were a little bare and it allowed him to see the pale skin underneath, but there were no signs of damage where the light hit him, excepting the missing feathers. He experimented with the new muscles, pulling them in, folding them. He tucked them under his arms and rolled onto his knees. He leaned backward, tilting onto his feet. The wings, though a decent fourteen feet from tip to tip, were almost weightless. He flexed them, extended them to their full height and flapped them once. He hit the ceiling and blacked out again.
He woke up on his stomach in a different room. He saw the white walls and recognized them as being one of the rooms in the sick wing. He leaped to his feet hoping to see the female healer but found he was alone. There was no bed. He checked the door and altered the glows to a lesser light. He sat down and took a closed his eyes, leaning against wall.
When the door opened, the boy was standing and facing the door, wings falling to the ground behind him. The magician he didn’t recognize entered with a tablet in his hand. “Follow me, please,” the magician stated, holding the door open. “We’d like to test the limits of your new… alterations.” He walked out, leaving the door open for the boy to follow. He followed the magician, noticing the man’s robe was singed on the back and shoulder. It made him wonder how much time had passed between his black outs.
How long have I been unconscious? The projected thought made the magician ahead of him jump.
A little flustered, the man turned down the hallway again. He answered, walking away. “The altercation and your alteration occurred seven days ago. You woke two days ago before losing consciousness again due to a head trauma.”
The boy tried to wrap his head around the length of time, wondering how long it had taken his wing to heal. Abruptly, a light appeared ahead of him as the magician opened a door ahead of them. The boy walked out, and waited for his eyes to adjust. They were in his training room. Magical hoops were hovering in the air. Wonderful. More tests. The boy thought bitterly, anticipating the trials ahead of him.
The magician walked to a small wooden chair by the near wall. “You may begin however you wish. If I might make a suggestion, begin with simple exercises and work your way to more complex acrobatics.”
Obviously. Looking down, his shoulders shook with silent laughter. A new ability and immediately they want to push it. Looking up, he flexed his wings and began stretching everything from his toes to the tips of his wings. He experimented momentarily with flapping his wings, first softly, feeling the strength and grace of his new muscles. With a great heave of his wings, he launched himself into the air at speed. Startled by the burst of speed, he fell painfully on his side.
Flipping to his stomach, he watched the magician record something on his tablet before walking slowly towards him. “Forget to flap?” The magician said sarcastically. Yes. The boy thought, leaping to his feet. He sprinted forward leaping a dozen feet into the air. He thrust his wings towards the ground propelling him higher. Flapping harder and harder, his speed increased as his efforts grow less labored. He attempted to turn and succeeded in dropping a dozen feet in the process. He experimented further, leaning in an effort to adjust his course when he realized the wall was approaching at an alarming rate.
Striking the wall, he fell, turning over and over in the air, vainly attempting to catch the air in his wings. Exhilaration flew through him, a claw gripping him below the abdomen. Falling, the air rippling across his clothes and hair, he saw the ground hurtling towards him. With renewed determination, he spun madly, furling and unfurling his wings. As the ground was approaching faster than ever, he desperately threw his hands to either side, trying to reawaken his power. Failing, he closed his eyes and screamed.
Calming himself, he opened his eyes and looked down. He used his arms to stabilize himself. With a tremendous flap of his wings, his fall slowed just enough for him to tumble to the ground without injury.
He closed his eyes and lay on his stomach, trying to still his heartbeat and rapid breathing. The boy lifted his eyes at the sound of footsteps nearby and looked up to see the magician looking down upon him, his blue eyes were cold and calculating. They were so different from the kind healer’s.
The rest of the exercises ran their course without overmuch difficulty. He taught himself how to turn by leaning and dipping one wing. Though he was a little shaky the first time, he managed to get through all of the hoops, clipping his wings only once or twice. The second time through he didn’t touch a single hoop. By the end of the hour, the hoops were shrinking and the boy had to clasp his wings to him to fit through. The magician clapped his hands twice and left briefly. He returned with a platter full of bread, meat, and cheese. The boy ate the food with a voracity that shocked the magician. Upon clearing the plate, he looked at the magician expectantly.
“More?” The magician asked, incredulous. The boy projected nothing, but merely watched the magician, staring into his pale blue eyes. Growing uncomfortable, the magician took the platter and walked out. The boy took the time to stretch his wings, feeling the muscles he wasn’t familiar with. The magician returned a minute or so later with another tray of food as well as a jug of water. The boy downed the water in a single draught and attacked the food with the same energy as he had before. The magician watched, his eyes wide with shock and perhaps even revulsion.
The boy smiled to himself and his shoulders shook with silent laughter. Never seen a hearty eater before? The boy was pleased to see that the magician jumped as he had earlier.
Indignant and a little flustered, the magician retorted, “In one sitting, you’ve eaten enough food to last me a week.”
Angry, the boy mentally shouted, If you recall, I haven’t eaten in over a week, so that just about evens up, now doesn’t it? The magician looked uncomfortable as his mind was invaded by the boy’s thoughts.
Suddenly, the boy felt as though his head were hit with a sledgehammer. A sound of metal clanging metal filled his ears and he saw red. He fell forward, twitching in silent agony. The magician stood over the boy, a cruel, arrogant look on his face as he intensified the pressure he was exerting on the boys mind.
Stop. The thought was more than a word. It was a command. Along with the command, he projected the image of the magician being dropped from a great height. Just leave me alone. The thought was soft, cold. With a huff, the magician raised his palm, his back to the door. His eyes glowed a little brighter and his light slowly gathered to his palm. The boy looked up at him with disgust, knowing he was showing off.
“Make me angry, boy. I’ll teach you the meaning of respect.” The magician stood over him, leering.
Shouting, the boy thought, What is it that allows you to treat me like a beast? Is it my eyes? Or maybe it’s the fact that I have no voice? My main method of communication unsettles you. But, no. The most likely reason that you treat me like an animal is arrogance! You see a boy, fourteen at the most, no hair on his face, with his strange, color-changing eyes. You test my endurance, you throw challenges in my face, hoping that I’ll lose control, that I’ll obliterate something by accident, and you want this to happen for two reasons.
The last was loud, oppressive and made the magician flinch with each idea. The next was soft, subdued, but very insistent. You fear me. You are knowledgeable, but you keep me in the dark, allow me to dabble in my own ignorance while you poke and prod me for data. You want vindication. You want me to fail because it will prove to you in your mind that I am the animal you believe me to be.
Next, the boy projected impressions, indistinct images, and ideas to the magician. In quick succession, the magician experienced what the boy felt. I have wants, needs, desires, fears, quirks, hungers, and hates. Accompanying these ideas was an overwhelming impression of confusion and loss.
The magician suddenly found himself running between white halls with countless doors. As he passed each door, they would fly open and another magician with a tablet stood, a new contraption or test devised to push his limits. The image pressed down on him with an urgency that muddled him, but suddenly, the image was gone. Like a weight was lifted from his mind. Seeing with his eyes, the magician realized he had fallen. He was looking up at the boy who stood, wings out-spread, eyes swirling with gold, purple, and red.
With a start, the magician realized that the colors in his eyes might represent emotion. As soon as he had that thought, he was alerted by the glowing of the tablet. He asked the question. “How do you feel?” The magician marveled at the speed of the tablets. No sooner had I thought a question that it asks it.
With a look of faint surprise, the boy answered. Angry. Energetic.
Prompted by the tablet, the magician asked, “Do you feel anything else?” On his own, the magician added, “Anything that would affect your normal thought processes?"
With an ironic lift of an eyebrow, the gold in his eyes deepened as he faintly projected on word.
July 19, 2008
“Come on. Just a little higher,” the calm magician spoke softly. He looked up at the twenty-foot bar and growled as it rose to thirty. Time and time again, they were pushing his limits. Time and time again, he’d nearly given up. But time and time again, he grew angry at the obstacle. Whenever that happened, he easily overcame it. The first few were child’s play. Twelve feet. Fifteen. Eighteen. Twenty was moderately difficult to reach but he still reached it on his first try. To expect him to go from twenty feet to thirty was just ridiculous. He knew they were trying to push him into it. That frenzy. The crazy, mindless, rage. It let him do anything, but the cost was too much. He lost himself and something else took over. And it was getting easier all the time.
“Go on. You can do it.” A voice broke intruded upon his thoughts. The gray-eyed magician was watching him, obviously hoping that no further encouragement would be necessary. Too much “encouragement” and it may very well be the last thing the magician ever did. There was a precedent.
Turning away from the magician, the boy eyed the bar. It was hanging in the air, unsupported by rope or chain. Keeping his eyes on it, he started running in circles around it, wider and wider, getting faster all the while until his eyes were just a blur. Turning, he ran to the middle of the room. Compressing himself like a spring, he launched himself up at the bar, legs flailing madly. After what felt like forever, two fingers connected with the bar and it was just enough for him to pull himself up. The bar lowered slowly until his feet hit the ground. He took a sip of water from a skin and looked up at the magician. The magician quickly concealed his look of awe and replaced it with a mask of calm. “A little higher.”
As the boy watched the bar float back, higher than he’d ever seen it go before. Fifty feet. A feeling of dread sank like a stone into the boy’s stomach. He hadn’t eaten in a few hours and was utterly exhausted by the previous exercises. Without letting the feeling of despair color his countenance, he stepped calmly into the center of the room. Looking straight up, he let the fury he was feeling into his muscles; let it flood into his legs. He watched as his tattoo rustled and started to glow, the maw of the phoenix opening, the wings rustling. Then he burst into flame.
He felt the magic infuse his muscles, but didn’t let it overcome him. It would be very bad to lose control. Tensing his legs, he bunched up all his muscles and let the magic do the rest. Looking at the bar, he relaxed his hold and the magic burst through his body. He left the ground like a missile, the ground falling away at an impossible rate. He passed the bar and it followed him, trailing a few feet beneath him until his momentum diminished. Letting the bar catch him, he looked down to see the distance he had traveled. Looking down, the boy could not see the magician and the ground looked impossibly far away. Had the bar not caught him, he would have fallen for several seconds before the ground, and death, had swiftly rushed to meet him. All at once, the magic abandoned him and mere adrenaline could not fight the darkness that overcame his taxed system.
He awoke in silent agony. Every muscle, from his neck to his toes ached. Remembering his ordeal, he forced himself to sit, his abdomen screaming in protest. Opening his eyes, he saw that he was in the sick wing. The white, stone walls were soothing and the glows hanging from the ceiling threw a very gentle blue light on the ground. A kind-looking, female magician looked at him with maternal eyes from a chair across the small room. He released a groan as he fell back into the white-sheeted bed.
“You gave us quite a scare, young man,” her gentle voice trilled. She was at least as young as he, and the word “young” bothered him a bit. Reflecting further, however, he realized that though she was young, she was far more educated than he, perhaps allowing her to call him young. “Young man,” she mused. “I wish we had a name to give you…” The boy was astonished. This was the first time a magician had come close to being sympathetic to him. Though raised by magicians, he had learned at a young age that he was not one of them. The magicians learned their art through learning and study. Being an innate as he was, instinct guiding his magic rather than learning, he was an animal on which the experimented and tested. He wondered what her name was.
Abruptly, her demeanor changed, perhaps sensing the direction his thoughts had gone. “Quite a fall you made. Your instructor only barely managed to slow you as you fell.” A kinder look came across her features. “How do you feel? A little spent, yes?” Silently, the boy rose, refusing to allow any sounds of discomfort to reach her ears. He walked out, ignoring her calls from down the hall until he came to a mirror and fountain.
He looked at the mirror and watched his reflection. He wore no shirt but had a birthmark that covered his chest. He wore dark leggings and wore a black leather belt with a steel buckle. His hair was a dark maroon that curled as it fell around his face. He had slightly angular eyes and his eyebrows curved sharply as they neared the bridge of his nose. He had a strong jaw and prominent check bones framed his face. Excepting his hair, all his features were well within the norm of their culture and the geography of the area. But his eyes were another story.
Magicians’ eyes all glowed. Some glowed brighter than others, but all were the standard colors. There were blue, brown, green, and occasionally gray. It was unusual but not unheard of for a magician to change their eye color magically. For that to happen naturally was another thing entirely. He stared at his eyes as purple, red, and black swirled around his jagged irises. A touch of yellow started in his left eye, flowed through his right and disappeared. Most magicians had a difficult time maintaining eye contact and normal people would have burned him long ago had the magicians not taken him in.
With a sigh, he dunked his head in the fountain and shook his head. Emerging, his water-darkened hair hung in small ringlets on his face and neck. He shook his head and jumped in surprise when he heard a small giggle behind him.
Standing not one foot behind him was the young healer. “Come on,” she said with a small smile. “We still have to fill out the report.” Ah. The report, he thought. Another of the tedious things the experimenting magicians plagued him with. No matter how many times he answered their questions, they always had more. They were back in the bare white room, him on the bed, the young healer occupying the only chair in the room.
She asked the standard questions, what did it feel like, describe what you were thinking, did you know you were going to overshoot the bar, did you expect to black out. They were always the same terrible, condescending questions. But he knew they were not her questions. The tablet in her hand was glowing with the questions she needed to ask and faded when his answer was deemed sufficient. He thought his answers and the tablet recorded them. After over an hour, the tablet finally faded for the last time and no new questions appeared. He tensed to rise when he felt a hand on his arm. Looking up, he saw the young healer standing above him. He looked at her, saying nothing, nor could he if he wished.
The boy had no vocal cords. His mouth could smile and eat, but nothing more. The magicians had overcome that problem however. He could project his thoughts to others, though he could not hear the thoughts of others. He’d also learned that he could project a thought to a single person with as much intensity or “volume” as he could muster, and only that person could “hear.”
What? he asked her softly. She didn’t flinch.
“How do you feel?”
I am well. I am ready for another test.
“That’s not what I asked,” she said softly, “Are you all right?”
It was the look of compassion in her eyes: the soft, almost loving expression on her face. For the first time he could remember, he felt like someone cared about him. And it scared him. With a spasm of emotions the boy couldn’t identify, he rose. He shook his head and blinked his eyes as he found some kind of water obscuring his vision.
He blew out the doors of the sick wing and ran headlong into two warrior mages. When they saw him running, their hands started to glow, one green, one red and globules of colored light flew at him. He leaped from wall to wall in the narrow hallway until he had covered the twenty or so feet between them. He struck the first magician in the crook of each shoulder and knees consecutively. One more punch between the eyes and the magician sank into unconsciousness. All this took place in a matter of seconds but it was still long enough for the other magician to run away and summon a full battalion of warrior mages.
As he burst into the training room adjacent to the sick wing corridor, he flew into the full complement. 24 direct combat mages, hands aglow stood in carious stances of battle readiness. On the left, 12 beast summoners, and on the right twelve men bearing scrolls of defenses from various forms of missiles and magic. One in the front, one he recognized from his unarmed combat training exercises, stepped forward. With a loud voice, he called out- or started to call out- the word “surrender” when a globule of light flew from the hands of a magician behind him. The boy let power infuse his hand as he slapped it aside. Looking up, he saw a hail of light flying at him from all directions. As he saw the terrible volley before him, some other part of him took over. His eyes glowed and he let the power infuse his body in a way he had never allowed before.
Spinning in circles, he leaped from side to side, dodging most of the missiles and deflecting the rest. He crossed the distance between them only to find a dozen beasts ranging from wolves and bears to griffins and rocs. Still dodging and deflecting the missiles, he realized that he was going to die. With that knowledge on his mind, he thought of the kind healer. The one that asked him how he felt. When he thought of her face, her kind eyes looking at him and coupled it with the certainty of death he was experiencing and something within him broke.
With a scream that he never knew he had, he exploded upward from the ground and kept going. When he realized that he wasn’t slowing down, he realized that he was shifting.
He’d seen shifts before, magicians turning to animals and back. But partial shifts were rare and often accidental. More often than not, it resulted in death. But looking to either side, he saw eight-foot wings with black, scarlet, maroon, and crimson feathers. On his arms and shoulders were feathers. Suddenly, pain lanced through his right side as a globule of green fire blasted his wing. He hit the ground with a force that left a crater several feet deep. With a flap of his great wings, he launched himself into the center of the magicians and with that scream of defiance, gathered all the magic he could muster and put it into his hands. Instinctually knowing how, he ripped his wings to his side and cast his arms out to his side. No one could have predicted what happened next.
Crimson fire exploded from his hands in deep slicing arcs. But, before he could direct it in any way, his vision swam and darkness overcame him. The last thing he thought was a picture of her face. The face of the kind healer.
July 13, 2008
He burst from the high double doors of the library, striking out with a mad fury, his scarlet hair matted black with blood. He screamed as he dispatched three more soldiers. The doors of the library was flooding over with soldiers and two magicians were clearly evident, all twirling robes and glowing hands. His black sword pulsing with crimson fire, his tattoo surged into life. Swirling blobs of light flew at him and fire leaped from his skin to engulf the gobs. He launched himself at a pillar, scaling his way up to the rood. He climbed the rear battlements and nearly fell into a chasm leagues deep. He caught himself and turned to find himself facing twelve crossbow-wielding soldiers with the two magicians.
Understandably, the soldiers were quaking in fear. Before them stood a boy no older than seventeen. Though he was shorter than most, his broad shoulders enhanced his apparent size. He wore a pair of black leather leggings and at his belt were two sheaths, the first, gold with rubies encrusted into the sides. The second was silver with jade embossed on the sides in the shape of a long vine. He wore no shirt but had instead, an iridescent tattoo of a Phoenix with flames rippling to his shoulders. Under the tattoo, angular joints and muscles were compact, like a runners. His right hand held a crimson sword with amethyst set in the pommel. On the back of his left hand was an azure blue knife attached by a silver-green bracelet in the shape of a viper.
His face showed only traces of a beard. Underneath a shock of black-crimson hair, his prominent cheek bones and drawn cheeks made his face appear triangular. This, as well as his deeply arched eyebrows, heavily accentuated his eyes. And his eyes were a terror to behold.
The irises glowed brightly with a scarlet malevolence that clearly communicated the desperation of his situation. Their edges were jagged and the pupils were a black only made darker by contrast the the red glow around them. A look into those eyes was a look into the heart of death. Those eyes were often the last thing that anyone looked into.
With a crack, a crossbow bolt hurtled towards him. He deflected it with the sword and within seconds had dispatched nine of the bowmen and one of the magicians. The other three bowmen fled and the magician called out to them, trying to maintain some of his soldiers. the magicians hands flew through several different motions and a vortex of fire opened up around the boy. With a scream, the boy fell in a heap and the magician sat with a sigh as he felt the toll of the magic on him. The smell of burned flesh filled his nostrils and he sat, depressed. He hated killing. And this boy was just a child. Misled. His musings were interrupted by a laugh.
With a creaking and crunching, the boy was getting up. As the magician watched, the boys skin was cracking off and in its place, a purplish-pink skin was rapidly covering his skin. Even as his jaw was healing, the laugh, a cold metallic chuckle ripped from his cracking lips. With a scream, crimson fire raced along his chest and as it receded, the tattoo, along with new, unbroken skin flexed and tensed.
Faster than the magicians enhanced eyes could see, the boy crossed the ten feet between them and had his left hand around the magicians throat. The boy winked his red eye at the magician as his hand glowed. The magician was looking directly into the boy's eyes when they changed. From the center, a wash of color flew through the eyes, a thousand colors, blue, orange, green, purple, magenta, fuchsia, burgundy, colors the magician could supply no name for. And as fast as the color had appeared, it was gone with a blink. Now the malevolent red eyes seemed a bit sharper, a little more distant.
I'm sorry. The boy transmitted the thought to the magician. The magician could see the compassion in his eyes. I don't want to kill you, but I need the map and I need you to not hunt me. Lifting the magician, the boy walked to the edge of the roof and dangled him over. A hundred soldiers were looking up at him with trepidation in their eyes. He called out to the soldiers shouting with his mind, this is the fate of all those who defy me! Releasing the power in his hand, flame engulfed the magician and swiftly incinerated him. Dropping the corpse to the ground, he took a step back to look at the crowd. The eyes of every soldier were on him. Leave me be or burn. He leaped to the top of the ledge over-looking the chasm.
With a mad look of defiance on his face, he stepped over the edge of the battlements over-looking the cliff face. Closing his eyes, he clasped his vambrace-clad arms to his chest and fell into nothing. As the wind rushed through his maroon-scarlet hair, he allowed himself to spin wildly for a second or two. Stabilizing, he tilted forward until he was nearly diving vertically. The boy shifted with a scream of exertion that the wind ripped from his mouth.
His features blurred as his shape was altered by the magics he was born with. He maintained the hair on his head, but his arms and shoulders were now covered in red, maroon, and black feathers. He gasped as his wings came in, the nub below his shoulder exploding from under his skin. With a snap, air filled his wings and he abruptly stopped falling. He glimpsed back at the length he had fallen. Thousands of feet above him, he saw archers loose arrow after arrow after him. He crowed in amusement as he caught one out of the air.
Looking down, he saw the Chasm of Dresh a league or so below him. The black eddies of the seeing pools bespoke death to any creature foolish enough to drink from them. On his left, the desolate wasteland, aptly named the Dread Plains, reflected the suns rays off of the white sand. He leaned right, his wings still too tender for flapping. His course set he locked his wings in a position the wind would sustain for hours. Shielding it under his shoulder, he unrolled the deerskin scroll. In his hands was a map detailing the locations of the God-Forged Soul-Armor. He had the Phoenix Blade and the Griffin Talon Vambrace. Remembering the list that Antumr made him memorize, he knew that he was missing the Eagle's Breast-plate, Boots of the Hummingbird, Raven's Helm, and the Roc's Cape.