Graduation

It was graduation day in the Prismatic Sanctum, a day long awaited by the apprentice mages in Ulthar. More than a hundred cloaked young men and women were proudly in formation on the stage dominated by the seven Arch-mages of the Prismatic Council and the Schoolmasters of the four Guilds. The apprentices stood with nervous energy, waiting for their name to be called for Guild placement. Today was the day they became official Ulthari Mages.

Tenya stood stiffly with her arms behind her back. The cool morning air blew through the short black hair poking out of her uniforms beret. Jonneth, her childhood friend, stood with less confidence but held his reserve as always. Though they were close in age, Jonneth was slightly shorter than Tenya, with curled red hair and spots on his face. They had grown up in the same orphanage together and had been close ever since. Tenyas mother died in childbirth, and her father died a hero’s death as a Red Warmage when she was a child. Jonneth spent his whole life in the orphanage, never knowing his parents or their fate. Tenya knew him well enough to know he was a nervous wreck under that placid face. They breifly made eye contact and he forced the warmest smile he could muster.

“You excited?” Tenya whispered sideways.

“I… ah… yes” Jonneth stammered, keeping his head forward.

The ceremony began, and the sea of faces surrounding the stage grew silent. A slight man in a silk robe walked up to the central podium and tested his Underglass-powered sound amplifier. He began to speak.

“Today is a momentous day for these young men and women, who have toiled day and night for six years seeking the knowledge necessary to become one of Ulthars mighty protectors. Not every student could make it to this point, making those here today all the stronger and wiser. The lessons they received have served to help the Guilds decide how they would best serve Ulthar, and today we will begin to sort them based on their strengths and weaknesses”

“The Red Guild; The Sword of the Prophet, ever popular with the young men and particularly fiery young women, have protected us for centuries from foreign threats and guarded our Underglass miners with their formidable powers of entropy.”

“The Blue Guild; The Sheild of the Prophet, our humble guardians in the city of Ulthar. Using their powers of magnetism and sheilding abilities to apprehend domestic threats within the city walls and deliver justice to those who break our laws.”

“The Green Guild; The Mind of the Prophet, seen as a necessary evil by many, but needed none-the-less. Using their powers of deception and illusion to infiltrate enemy territories and learn valuable information.”

“And finally, The Yellow Guild; The Heart of the Prophet, using bioalchemical abilities to heal the wounded as well as shed light on the mysteries of the physical world. Much of our Underglass technology today is the fruit of their alchemical labor.”

The man put on a pair of reading spectacles and pulled a long list up to his nose. He began to read off apprentice names, followed by the Guild they would go to for training. Many went to the Red Guild, as they required the least amount of academic accomplishment, and were the ones most frequently in need of replacement recruits. Students with high marks in academia, Alchemy and law went to the Green, Yellow and Blue Guilds. Those sent to the Green were met with brief hisses from certain members of the audience.

After several minutes, the list finally reached Tenya, who waited eagery. The pause after hearing her name called seemed to last an eternity.

“Tenya Briggs… To the Red Guild.”

“Tenya felt elated as she walked past the stage to the Schoolmasters of the Red Guild. She hadn’t had time to get to know her father very well, but had decided at a young age that she wanted to honor his memory. This was her first step on a path she had visualized for well over a decade.

She reached the other new recruicts and was formerly greeted by the Red Schoolmaster, Kain Farshaw. He had the look that was all too common among aged Warmages; face pocked with scars and lips stained black from excessive Elixer consumption. He smiled down at her and gave her a small silvery ring carved from Underglass. It bore the Sword of the Prophet, the symbol of the Red Mages. Tenya put it on and cherished the moment. She was now a Red Mage.

Jonneth was next after Tenya, and she looked back to the stage to see his placement.

“Jonneth West… To the Green Guild.”

Even from so far away, Tenya could see his face pale. Several people hissed quietly as he walked to the stage, shoulders slumped. Tenya felt for her friend but was not suprised. Jonneth had always had a fascination with the lands beyond Ulthar, and aced every test on foreign politics. He wouldn’t be popular, but he would do well for himself.

After everyone was sent to their respective Guild, the Schoolmasters led the new students to the individual sanctums. Tenya proudly looked upon the looming tower of the Red Guild, banners waving elegantly in the wind displaying The Sword of the Prophet; a red sword with an eye on the hilt piercing a pentagram. Tenya once again looked back to see how Jonneth was faring, she wasn’t suprised to see him looking back at her as well.

This will be good for him, Tenya thought to herself.

Jonneth had been clingy every since they became friends in the orphanage. He had always been bullied mercilessly for his meek disposition. Tenya always defended him and tried to be the friend he desperately needed. However, it was time to grow up. Tenya wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps. She knew Jonneth probably wouldn’t be sent to the Red Guild, but he would have to find his own path. She smiled at him and waved as she turned back toward the Red Sanctum. He offered a weak wave in return, face still flushed.

The group of apprentices made their way to the entrance of the tower. Tenya and Jonneth had admired the towers in the distance since they were young but she was taken aback by how large it was in person. In the surrounding yards, Grimalkin practiced longsword techniques against straw dummies while Warmages blasted arcane flames at steel ones until they glowed white with heat. Tenya grew excited thinking about how soon she would be receiving her own power.

Schoolmaster Kain led them inside the Sanctum and showed them around. Compared to the filthy streets of Outer Ulthar, It was like another world. Large paintings of war heroes and famous teachers hung throughout the stone halls that were aglow with the eerie light of lumaspheres. There was an enormous library filled with books on martial arts, survival techniques and Underworld beastography. The whole place made Tenya feel very small, and yet she felt like a part of something bigger.

After the tour, Kain led the group up an immeasurable number of steps. They climbed for what felt like an hour. When they finally reached their destination, they were in a large room that was totally empty save for an enormous glowing piece of Underglass. Strangely, the arcane mineral was blood red instead of its traditional silvery hue. It was carved in the shape of a strange creature that looked like a serpent with the wings of a bat. Schoolmaster Kain looked to all the apprentices, and he spoke with grim meaning.

“You are now to receive the gift of the Red Mages. This crystal has held the spiritual energy we draw our power from for centuries. The Statues of Power were the Prophets final gift to mankind, made from the remains of the Underlords at the end of the Great Demon War. The powers they grant us ensure our safety from the beasts of the Underworld and any who endanger our way of life outside the walls. This statue bears the power of Underlord Kresh’laman.”

“If you are ready to accept these gifts and become one of Ulthars elite, step forward, one at a time, and place your hand on the statue, focusing your desires and will into it. The Underglass will feel your strength, and match it with powers of Red Magic.”

One by one, apprentices were called forward. Many went forward eagerly, some simply refused and were stripped of their rings and titles. When it was finally Tenyas turn, she didn’t hesitate. She walked to the statue proudly and put her hand on its warm glowing surface. She focused on her desires; to keep Ulthar and its people safe, to live a better life, to walk in her father’s footsteps. She felt something flood into her being, something alive and powerful. Something hungry. Her Underglass ring suddenly felt heavy. It all felt very wrong. She looked desperately toward Kains Grimalkin, Karnis, who was standing near the ceremony. He stared down at her, piercing yellow eyes set deep in his black, horned helmet. He nodded back toward her place among the students, hand gripped tightly on his longsword.

After the ceremony, Kain went on with his speech. “You may have noticed strange new sensations since receiving your gift. This is perfectly natural. Like all magic, your gift comes with a price. The magic of the statues resonate with the human mind in strange ways, especially for newcomers. The key to controlling these feelings is exposure to Underglass. Your Underglass Inhibitor rings will help at first, but during your time serving Ulthar, we require you to drink Elixer with every meal.” He took out a small vial of liquid that was as black as his lips. “This will introduce Underglass to your bloodstream over time, fully suppressing the urges that come with your Red Magic.”

All around the large room, students were digesting the new information, some stared into space as if listening to something that wasn’t there. Many were simply eager to try using their powers, only to find that they must face additional trials underground before using their magic on the surface.

They practiced their newfound abilities in the Training Grounds beneath the Red Sanctum, which Tenya was surprised to discover led into the Underworld. On the first day Tenya discovered her ability with Red Magic. She could not yet produce flames or lightning, but could summon powerful sparks in the palms of her hands. Schoolmaster Kain told her that with training these sparks could have use in combat, or even harnessed into true Red Lightning with time.

The following days were filled with rigorous excercises and trials. There were Imps and other foul creatures caged for exercises in combat. Some days the dank network of caves reeked of burnt hair and flesh. The smell revolted Tenya on the surface of her being, but somewhere beneath, the new presence within her reveled in it.

They honed their abilities underground for weeks. Tenya was unsure how much time had actually passed without the sun to tell her. They took their meals and even slept in the caves on hard palletes. Kain told her that this practice time was customary in the Guilds, as new mages can be unpredictable in their abilities. Time must be taken to make sure each student isn’t a threat to those on the surface.

Over time Tenya impressed her peers with her skills. In spite of the weakness of her ability, she had made the best of it. On her first practical examination; a caged fight against a feral Imp, she was cheered by a small audience of students, teachers, and Grimalkin. The savage Imp slashed at her throat and chest with its needle-like claws and teeth, Tenya easily evaded and pushed her hands close to the creatures face. The crowd drew their arms to sheild their eyes as Tenya released her powerful sparks with a loud crack. The Imp fell back in a daze as Tenya drew her knife. It scrambled blindy as she wrestled it to the ground and slit its throat. Her Inhibitor Ring seemed to thrum with weight when she felt Imp blood run warmly down the front of her uniform.

Soon after her examination, Tenya was allowed to return to the surface. She was told to take her meals in the Guild Commons, where food and Elixer was served in the Mess Hall. Mages from all four Guilds congregated in this central area. Vendors and performers gathered as well to make a quick profit off those who were between duties. Grimalkin skulked to and fro among the rows of tables to ensure new recruits drank their Elixer.

Her first day taking lunch in the Commons, she found Jonneth sitting alone at a table, with a tall Grimalkin looming behind him like a shadow. He still looked sulky, but that was nothing new. Tenya put her lunch down across the table from him.

“Hey! How’s your training been going? Are you using Green Magic yet?” She asked

He breifly looked up, then eyed the Grimalkin behind him.
“Uh… yeah, I was actually the first to pass my examination. Only spent a few days in those wretched caves. Schoolmistress Arryk says I’m a prodigy or something.” He didn’t look proud. “I’ve… already got a Grimalkin bodyguard and everything.. oh.. yeah.. this is Morrin” he nodded over his shoulder at the gaunt masked woman behind him, who in turn nodded to Tenya. Her bright yellow eyes glistened wetly as if she’d been crying.

Tenya nodded back as she sipped at her Elixer. It was sweeter than she expected, and slightly gritty with Underglass powder, like honey that had sat for too long. The drink really wasn’t bad once you got past the ominous black coloring, and it indeed helped with the new sensations she felt since becoming a Mage. She put it down and began eating a meat pie. After living off of meager rations underground for weeks, the flaky crust and chunks of beef were heavenly.

“Guess it’s nothing but the good stuff for us now eh, Jonneth?” She said, still chewing. “Bet these pies aren’t even mixed with rat meat like the ones at the orphanage.”

Jonneth smiled. “Luc Garrin and the other older kids always used to tell me they were filled with the children that went missing.”

Tenya laughed, spraying greasy meat chunks on the table in front of her. “Bah! They only said that impshit to mess with you.” She wiped her chin with a sleeve. “And Luc Garrin had to take it where he could get it, he never could take a punch.”

Jonneth smiled and traced his finger along the rim of his glass.

“Morrin, could you give us a moment?” He asked

“My Lord, I’ve been asked by Mistress Arryk to accompany you in the Commo-”

Jonneth cut her short. He turned to face the Grimalkin. “Well, could you ‘accompany’ me from a few feet away?”

Morrin nodded, then bowed before stepping slightly out of ear-shot. Jonneth turned back to Tenya, he still wouldn’t make eye contact, yet there was panic in his voice.

“We have to get out of here…” he said

Tenya was taken aback.
“What? Why? We just got here and we’re both doing rather well. I killed an Imp by myself the other day.”

Jonneth looked at the ground, there were beads of sweat forming on his forehead. His face was blood red.
“And where will they stop, Tenya? They’ll make you kill bigger and bigger things until you’re dead in some rut in the bloody Underworld!”

Tenya felt her anger rise.
“That’s why I’m here Jonneth! I signed up for this to help protect our home!”

Jonneth looked defeated.
“Ulthar doesn’t feel like home.” He let out a long sigh and stared off in thought. “It’s not like this in other parts of the world you know, I’ve read about the other cities. They aren’t as wealthy as Ulthar but they also don’t teach children to kill with magic.”

Tenya was seething with rage. No matter how he meant it, Jonneths comment was an insult to the Red Warmages and everything she stood for. However, she maintained herself to avoid making a scene in the Commons. She could feel Kresh’lamans gift feeding her anger in spite of the Elixers effects. She breathed in and out slowly to regain control.

She glared at him from across the table. “If you hate Ulthar so much, why did you become a Mage in the first place?”

His eyes quickly flicked in her direction, but cut short just before meeting hers. His face became an even deeper shade of red.

“Look.” He said, “We have these powers now. People everywhere fear and respect the Ulthari Mages, why should we be used as tools?”

Tenya finished her Elixer and slammed the empty glass for emphasis. “Because we took an oath Jonneth.” She got up and turned to leave. “And that means something to me, I can’t let your cowardice hold me back anymore.”

She left him there in the Commons, never looking back. She made her way back to the halls of the Red Sanctum. Tenya tried desperately to hold on to her determination, but Jonneths words haunted her. This life was all she ever knew. Was it really possible to live without having to fight until her dying breath? The cause was noble enough, Mages made the walls of Ulthar safer for all within, and protected the surrounding mining towns as best they could. Her father had fought the same fight, but did he ever really wish the fight to be hers as well?

Following Schoolmaster Kains instruction, she walked down the wide halls until she came to a door engraved with her name. Inside she found her few belongings piled neatly among luxurious furniture, there was even a fireplace already lit for her arrival. Emotionally drained by her talk with Jonneth, she eagerly plopped down on the rich down mattress and stared contemplatively at the stone ceiling. Listening to the soft crackle of the fireplace, she felt herself slowly drift toward sleep.

“Wake up,” she heard a woman whisper.

Following her Warmage instincts, Tenya was on her feet in an instant. Her belt knife was in her hands before she knew she had drawn it. She scanned the room, but saw nobody.

“Who’s there?” She asked the faceless voice.

There was a pause, and Tenya began to worry there were more effects to Kresh’lamans gift than she knew. Just then, a soft reply came.

“Be calm, child. I need you to be a good solider and follow orders alright? I mean you no harm but you must stay quiet while everyone thinks you’re asleep. Deal?”

Tenya considered, and then nodded.

“Good then.” The voice replied, and with an eerie green shimmer a woman appeared in regal dress as if from thin air. It was Schoolmistress Arryk of the Green Guild. In spite of herself, a soft gasp left Tenyas lips.

“Fear not, child, I’m no demon or night gaunt here to steal your soul, invisibility is simply one of the more advanced skills at my Guilds disposal.” She grinned to herself with obvious pride.

Tenya dropped her knife and bowed as best she could in her state of confusion. Even the Schoolmasters of other Guilds commanded respect, though the invasion of her privacy entitled her to a bit of frustration.

“So what’s this all about then?” Tenya asked.

“Phaw!” Arryk replied with a sniff. “Even the youngest of Reds are always blunt to a fault!” Her face suddenly became grim. “I’m afraid it concerns a mutual acquaintance of ours; your friend and my student, young Jonneth West.”

Tenya felt an echo of the anger from earlier rise in her mind. “I was just with him and he seemed perfectly fine.”

Arryk waved a delicate hand as if dismiss her comment. “Of course, child, I was there after all. Did you think I sat waiting in your dormatory all day?”
Tenya shugged.
“No of course I didn’t, I’ve been following West for days now, using my power to avoid his detection. When I saw your exchange, and saw you leave completely of your own free will, I knew I had to seek you out.”

“Why would you need to hide from Jonneth?” Tenya asked. The idea of anyone fearing her gentle friend was almost laughable.

Arryk pursed her lips in sympathy. “I’m afraid he may no longer be the boy he was before your graduation.” She sighed and smoothed her skirts before sitting on Tenyas bed, patting the space next to her. “Sit, child, this news may come as a shock to you.”

Tenya stared in awe as she listened to Arryks account of the past three weeks. After the Green Guilds oath ritual, where the apprentices swore to carry the gift of Underlord Obar’lamech, Jonneth displayed little to none of the ability usually found in fledgling Mages. Late-bloomers are common enough, and he was quickly sent to lighter training regiments than some of the more promising students.

After the first week, Arryk began to hear of other students mysteriously abandoning lessons or simply disappearing. Some could be found walking about, seemingly carrying out some kind of unknown task. These people were always reported to have glassy eyes and a generally dream-like stupor, they wouldn’t respond to calls or orders. Any time Arryk sent someone to look into the problem, she would simply find them hours later walking aimlessly through the Training Grounds as if nothing had happened.

In the weeks that followed, Schoolmistress Arryk finally managed to pinpoint the source of the problem; the seemingly powerless Jonneth West. Bringing her Grimalkin, Morrin for safety, she decided to confront Jonneth in person. She remembered walking toward his sleeping area, opening the thick wooden door, and then – nothing. When she came to, she was walking well away from West outside the Green Sanctum, and Morrin was gone. It was now clear to Arryk that they were dealing with a student with potent abilities to alter the human mind, and that she had lost control of her own Guild. Arryks quick recovery was only due to her mastery of Green Magic.

“This is a problem Ulthar hasn’t faced since the early days of magic.” Arryk went on. “The Underglass statues at the top of each Guilds tower need to have their power spread among as many Mages as possible. It’s no secret that The Green Guild has become unpopular in the past decades, and enrollment is at an all time low. Without Mages to carry and fracture Obar’lamechs Essence, the Underlord grows more powerful, I believe it’s gained enough sentience to choose Jonneth as a vessel. No single Mage was ever meant to have so much power, especially not one so inexperienced.”

Tenya worried for her friend. “What’s going to happen to him?”

Again Arryk pursed her lips. “I simply do not know child, as I said Ulthar hasn’t faced something like this in centuries. Unfortunately, your friend left the Training Grounds before finishing his lessons, and since I’ve been stalking him I haven’t seen him take Elixer even once. The Underglass Inhibitor rings are only meant to be temporary, with the amount of Underlord Magic within him, that simply will not be enough to retain his humanity.”

Tenya shuddered, thinking of how the small amount of Kresh’lamans Essence within her was overbearing at times. What must Jonneth be going through?

Arryk put on a rather forced grin. “There is hope however. The reason I bring all of this to you is that for whatever reason, West refuses to use his mental powers to compel you. You’re the only person who can talk him down. If you can convince him to take his Elixer supplements, or, gods willing, give up Obar’lemechs Essence entirely, we can clean this up real nice with minimal casualties.”

Tenya eyed Arryk sideways. “And if I can’t?”

Arryk let her grin fade and looked Tenya in the eyes. “Then he will have to die, child. However, it is my understanding that neither of us would want that. I’m quite sure you want to save your friend, and The Green Guild can’t afford the bad publicity that comes with losing a student. So let us work together to get young Jonneth back on the right path, yes?”

Tenya stared the woman down, questioning her motives, but she found herself nodding.

Before she knew it, Tenya was making her way to the Green Sanctum. Arryks spying confirmed that the center of activity for Jonneths brainwashed drones was the tower above the Green Sanctum. It seemed he had not only taken Arryks Grimalkin, but her office at the top of the tower as well. It was night now, and the cool air made Tenya shuddered to think of what she may face.

Two young men stood at the entrance. Their eyes were glassy as if in a daze, but they made no attempt to stop her. The inside of the Sanctum was even worse. The stone halls were filled with hypnotized students and teachers walking about aimlessly like puppets. It was eerie to see so much activity in the building, but hear no idle conversation. The Sanctum was totally silent save for the soft clicks of boots on stone. Some appeared to be carrying books and food up the countless steps. Tenya followed a young woman carrying a huge mug of ale. As she made her way up the stairwell, a quick backward glance showed that several shuffling students had started following Tenya. It occurred to her for the first time that she was greatly outnumbered, but there was no turning back now.

After what seemed like an eternity, Tenya finally reached the top of the steps. She found herself in a large room just like the one at the top of the Red Sanctum, but with an enormous Green Underglass statue in the center, carved like a strange beast she had never seen, with a body half bear and half eagle, and an oddly human face. The statue cast the room in a rich green glow, and at the base of the statue, she found Jonneth.

He was sitting on a sloppy throne made from hundreds of stacked Grimoires and historical ledgers. Some had empty ale mugs disrespectfully stacked on top of them, and the floor was littered with trash and half-eaten food. Morrin stood protectively behind him, her yellow eyes glassy with hypnosis. Jonneth bounced a brainwashed woman on each knee, both staring forward stupidly. One’s nose was a bit too pinched and the other had a weaker chin, but both were tall and slim with short, dark hair. They both looked disturbingly similar to Tenya.

Tenya gulped, and made her way toward her friend. “Jonneth, Schoolmistress Arryk sent me. This has to stop! She’s willing to write this off as a simple error if you just start taking Elixer and controlling yourself.”

Jonneth looked up, but still wouldn’t make eye contact. His pupils seemed to dart about the room, just avoiding hers. “I’m afraid it’s far too late for all that. Jonneth is more or less gone now. Though he’s still here in many ways. I still feel his desires, his wishes. I won’t use Compulsion on you. I live by the old ways of the Underlords, and a deal is a deal.”

Tenya was dumbfounded, unsure what to do. She was quite certain the friend she had talked to only hours ago was no longer present. Had their argument pushed him over the edge, causing him to relinquish the last of his humanity? Tenya stifled a sob, and tried to make her way back to the door. A wall of hypnotized student blocked her exit. She was trapped.

” His soul is mine.. his.. urges are mine.” He turned his head and licked one of the women from the neck up to the side of her head. “But it is only through my will that he can truly take what he wants.” He shoved both women to the floor in a crash of books and garbage. “And he wants.. the real thing!”

Dazed students and teachers began to flood limply through the doors, filling the large room. Tenyas eyes darted among the expressionless faces as they formed a tight circle around her and Jonneth, who made his way toward her with a foul hunger in his eyes. Tenya controlled her urge to panic, and desperately tried to think of a solution. She thought back on her Warmage training.

Just before Jonneth was upon her, she raised her hands up high and released her sparks. With a loud explosion of blue light the crowded circle fell back a few steps. Some began rubbing their eyes. Jonneth seemed more in pain than dazed, clawing at his eyes like an animal. Dark chunks of flesh splatted onto the stone floor.

Tenya didn’t miss a single step taking advantage of the confusion. Following her training, she pulled out her belt knife and put Jonneth in a hold. Tenya had the knife to his throat, hesitating. She then remembered the inhuman look in his eyes as he advanced on her, and his dark intentions. In a swift motion she cut her friends throat.

To her surprise, Jonneth simply began to laugh, instead of red human blood, an odd black ichor spilled from Jonneths open neck. The wound began to widen, and gutteral, inhuman laughter soon came from it as his partially severed head twisted backward to form an odd new mouth, lined with jagged, bony teeth. Black tendrils bloomed from the creatures new throat like a fleshy black rose and wrapped around Tenya as she held it from behind. The tendrils ended in sharp talons that dug into her flesh.

Some of the finger-like tendrils began pulling her knife hand toward the toothy jaws in Jonneths neck. Tenya screamed as the creature sank its teeth well into the bone of her fore-arm. The joints in her elbow and shoulder twisted and popped as her arm was pulled further and further into the dripping maw. There was a sharp stab of pain followed by an odd numbness as the thing that was Jonneth tore her arm off, ending it at the elbow. The creature crunched and slurped greedily.

I’ve failed. Tenya thought to herself. The tendrils engulfing her were digging deeper and deeper, and the talons would soon reach her vitals, if she didn’t bleed out from the arm first. She was ready to embrace death, she realized that she had been the moment she became a Mage. She ceased her struggles and let the creature take her.

Just then, everything stopped, and Tenya felt a cold, sharp sensation stab into her abdomen. Turning her head as much as her entangled position would allow, she found the Grimalkin, Morrin standing behind her and the monstrosity. Her longsword glowed with an energy darker than black, and as it went into Jonneth, through Tenya, the black tendrils began to melt away.

Morrin caught her in one arm as she collapsed, her yellow eyes were clear again. “I’m sorry.” She said. “You were both so close together there was no way to stab one without getting the other.”

The last thing she saw as her vision failed was how little there was of Jonneth as the swords magic burned the demon away.

She came to, and found herself on a Healers bed in The Yellow Hospital. Arryk, Morrin and a Yellow Mage were there at her side. Her flesh wounds were all healed, leaving small pink scars along her back. Her right arm still ended just below the elbow.

Schoolmistress Arryk looked at her appraisingly. “Morrin told me about that magical flash you used, smart thinking, that. His Compulsion magic seemed to work based on eye contact. The rapid stimulation is very likely what broke the spell.”

Tenya felt numb. Part of her wished she had died, as she had prepared herself to do. “He’s still dead. It was still a failure.”

Arryk nodded sadly, eyes downcast. “Yes, well it really couldn’t be helped I’m afraid. It’s just good that you made it out alive.”

Morrin stepped forward, her glowing Grimalkin eyes regarded her sadly from her expressionless black helmet. “I’ve never seen demonic activity on that level before, Lady Tenya. It had already altered his biology. There was nothing left of Jonneth to save. You shouldn’t blame yourself.”

Tenya nodded, not really feeling better. After her recovery, she resumed her duties as a Warmage. Over years, she became famous for her bravery and resourcefulness, eventually leading her own squadron of Warmages; The Fist of Light. She never forgot her first month as a Mage, and forever saw the face of her friend in every beast and man she slayed in the name of Ulthar.

  • Daniel Di Benedetto

    Wow, that was incredibly enjoyable to read. I couldn’t put it down. The descriptions were artistic and vivid, and the whole thing played out like a movie in my mind. It was written very well, and the characters were deep and enthralling. There was a brilliance to the world you created. That could’ve been a full-length book! It was staggeringly original, too. Excellent work. I’ll be looking for more of your work.

  • Faith Thompson

    Amazing! I love the originality!