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Authors: David Fredric

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BOOK: Recruited Mage
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It was hard to decide
which book to choose and I stared at them wandering which would be best. I eventually decided to recap on edible plants for the next ink ingredient-collecting trip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Mage

 

I swear Billy woke me up at least an hour early. Even though we have been best friends for as long as I remember I still get angry with him every mornin
g when he wakes me up. Always either too early and I lose precious time sleeping or too late and I get punished for missing my early chores. But Billy always gets out of punishment by claiming I refused to get up. Which I never do, well maybe once or twice have but whenever I did I still managed to get to do my morning jobs. This time I must have been waiting for
at least
forty five minutes in the freezing cold with snow falling around me, at the back door of a Baron’s mansion on the edge of town, before the Baron’s servant came out with the next part of the of the script on mushrooms he wanted to be written up by Master Morrin. Then, trying not to drop the script onto the snowy ground, I took the script and thanked the servant before turning to jog slowly back into town.

Passing the last of the fields toward
the town’s secondary palisade, I took out my entrance tags and handed it to the guards at the gate. The guards studied it for a few seconds then let me in. I jogged on but carefully as the snow was now turning to ice and the ground was getting slippery. One cart slid sideways when it turned a corner and I had to jump out of the way, ending up on my back with a thud. A wind started up, making it even colder so I started running from doorway to doorway to keep warm. I was soon at the bakers and I gazed longingly at the breads before the shopkeeper told me to go away. After almost slipping again I slowed down to a walk; there was no point running in the snow.

I took a shortcut through an alley but stopped sho
rt in the shadows; in front of me was one of the rare Town Watch Patrols about twenty men strong, armed with halberds, small bows and wearing breastplates. The Town Watch contained only about fifty men and every single one of them are almost permanently drunk, a good thing only for criminals. This time was no different and they were insulting passers-by whilst playing dice; by no means doing their job. Then I noticed someone commanding them; he wore a red cloak with a golden star on the back, which is the emblem of the Emperor’s Bodyguard.
What is one doing here in Almon?
The Capital is over a week away to the south; they had no reason to come this far north.

Then I notice
d the thing strapped to his leg. It was a short metal tube with a wooden handle.
If that is a weapon it looks useless.

The men looked a
nnoyed so I made a decision to take another route. I turned around and went back out the alley to take a longer way.

Very
soon I was back at the Guild, handing over the script to Master Morrin who was sitting at his desk.

“You took a while.” He said
, giving me an annoyed look.


Well I came straight back, the Baron took ages. Any longer in the cold and I might have frozen to death! There was an Emperor’s Bodyguard with a Town Watch Patrol.” Master Morrin looked up, suddenly interested.

“Really? What was he doing?” Master Morrin asked.

“Not much, he was just standing around looking bored.” He looked disappointed. Neither of us said anything for a while so I started to edge towards the door, eager to start fetching the inks for Master Morrin to continue work on the scripts.

“Done that,”
What?
Master Morrin never did any of my jobs and I had given up any hope of him doing any.

“Why?”

“Because you took too long, that’s why!” I nodded my head in thanks and turned towards the side room to get a jug and fill up from the kitchen, for Master Morrin to drink as he works. “I’ve done that too.”

Not one but two chores! He would punish me for forgetting
, or not doing.

“Well thanks, err...
I guess I’ll just go to do my other chores then now.”

Master Morrin looked at me and smiled.
“Yes, you can go now.”

I hesitated, not wanting to leave Master Morrin if he wanted something.
“Are you sure?”

“Yes! Now go.” I turned and edged slowly towards the door. “Now!” I quickly left and walked down the corridor.

“Door!” Shouted Master Morrin and I ran back and shut the door before waiting another few seconds just as a precaution. No more shouts emerged so I walked away towards the servants’ dining room. Once there, I saw that other servants where already packed into the room trying to see what the lists on the board said. I was one of the smallest so I managed to make my way the front quite quickly to read the board. I was to; sweep the north corridor with two others whose names I vaguely recognised; join a group of about twenty to unpack the weeks’ supply carts; load the supplies into to the store rooms, and then when that’s all done, load newly finished books onto the carts and take the carts to the men who, in turn, take them down to the library in Risina which will take the rest of the day.

Sweeping the corridor did not take long as all three of us had done it a few times before and knew how to get it done. Unloading the carts took at least three hours
as there was so much to unpack; as well as getting the velum for writing on, we get nearly everything we use from them including our food, plates, clothes and pretty much everything else.

Reloading
two of the carts and escorting them to the outside of the town’s field circle involved stopping any pickpockets and pushing the cart through the snow when it got stuck. It was tiring and our fingers where freezing. I would have genuinely preferred to sit and watch Master Morrin write for the one hour long trip
which is very boring
. Finally, when we got to the edge of the field circle there where a group of men waiting to take the carts away, the Guild members who had come with us gave us small slices of cheese for our lunch. I was still hungry as we walked back. It only took about half an hour to get back as we weren’t pulling carts and we were free to run or jog as we please, but of course we had to be back before the men who were jogging. Well the tiring day was worth it; we tended to get harder jobs on Tuesday as we get the afternoon off. I took to my normal walking method; one foot in front of the other thinking of nothing and looking for ways to have fun.

And so i
n that way getting back to the Guild seemed to take mere minutes and I was free for the afternoon. I went through the Guild to a street at the back where we normally hang out and talk. I spotted Billy and walked over to him but it suddenly started snowing heavily and everyone dispersed in various directions with Billy walking away from the Guild towards a main street.

“Where are you going?” I cal
led to him and he turned toward me.

“Well you’re not exactly going to sit around all
afternoon...” He paused and smiled. “…are you?”

I had already decided not
to. “No way!”


Oh really?
” He taunted.

I put face in my hands;
why does he always do this?
“Shut up!” I groaned.

“So you
are
going to stay? I always knew a small boy like you…” He stopped the moment I started to give chase after him; he knew I was equally matched to him and he needed a head start. He rounded the corner into the street out of sight and I quickly followed him, but stopped as I entered the street. The Guild boys had created a four-foot barricade of boxes and they were locked in a huge snowball fight against Town boys.

Billy and I instantly joined in, creating a stockpile for older G
uild boys who could throw better. It was great fun trying to make snowballs whilst dodging a hail of snowballs. Eventually the snow started to run out behind the barricade and we were forced to venture off to the sides of the barricade to the unused snow there. Whilst grabbing snow I took a hit to the face before I slipped on the ground and crawled back towards the barrier. When I reached it I suddenly noticed no more snowballs where being thrown and everyone was quickly running from the street. I looked around and saw Sedys and a few and a few of his friends standing in the street obviously looking for targets but everyone had already run off.

Now it was my turn to be worried as Sedys started to come my way and there was nowhere I could go without being seen.

If I just could get into the Guild and to Master Morrin everything will be alright.

I crawled to the part of the barricade closest to the side street entrance and ran for it. Instantly Sedys saw me and shouted to his friends who started running after me. As I entered the street however t
he Guild door was closed and having been built just after the Beast Wars, it was heavy and hard to open; there was no way I could open it without them catching up and so I had to run on.

I ran towards the far end
of the street to another main street, which was cobbled, and I almost lost my footing on the ground. I heard Sedys gaining behind me and I gave a burst of speed to reach the street and lose myself in the small crowd that I could see. Someone stepped in front of me and I just about recognised him as the Emperors Bodyguard before I barrelled into him. The man hardly moved as I hit him and I fell to the ground, but I gasped as I grazed my knees on the icy cobbles. I lay on my back terrified as the bodyguard took a long look at me before turning away, and I took the chance to slip off away to the Guild.

I jogged to Master Morrin
’s room, trying very hard not to disturb Master Morrin. I decided to write in the book so I could read undisturbed for a while. I took the key from its pouch, unlocked the chest, and took out the book, placing it on the desk. Suddenly I felt nauseous and I sat down heavily on a chair. The nausea seemed to get worse as my hand reached for the book. I drew my hand back from the book but as my hand brushed the cover there was a sudden pain in my head. I yelped and tried to step back but tripped over my chair onto the floor. The pain strangely vanished and I lay there for a few seconds.

"
Samuel?" Master Morrin said, looking at me strangely and I grunted a “yes” sound. "What are you doing on the floor?"

"Erm...well..."
I slowly said before stopping when I noticed the room appeared much brighter and there was light coming from the table. "Did you just light a candle?" I asked.

"No...why?" h
e asked looking confused and I stood up.

"Then
where is that light coming fro…?" I stopped mid sentence because as I stood there I saw the book glowing brightly like a fire. It looked
just perfect.
I wanted to touch it, it seemed like the right thing to do. I stepped towards it and saw the light was coming from the gem in the centre. "Is this normal?" I quietly mumbled. The gem glowed brighter as I approached and it looked like images where forming in the light. It just seemed too perfect, too good to back away from; I just
had
to touch it.

"Sam,
you look pale. Are you alright? What are you doing?" said Master Morrin but I ignored him. I took the final step towards the book and reached out to it across the table. The light seemed to glow brighter as I approached and in awe I finally touched the gem.

Everything suddenly flashed bright white and then suddenly black.

I remember someone shaking me and throwing a bag into my hands. Then we walked out to the front of the Guild and climbed into carts. I remember lying down on some blankets then everything going black again.

 

 

 

 

 

3 Diryn Kust

 

 

When I woke I found myself sprawled in the back of a cart under a pile of blankets with a sack of apples on my l
egs. I pulled the sack off, sat up to look around and I saw I was in the middle of the forests and it seemed to be around noon. I tried to make sense of where we were when I remembered the ink ingredient-gathering trip.
I must have been asleep for hours
!
Master Morrin is going to kill me!
I’ve never slept for that long. Why didn’t I wake up?
Then I remembered, the book, the nausea.
How long ago was that? What happened
? The book had started glowing, then I touched it and I blacked out.

You’re awake.
I jumped at the voice and looked around; it seemed to be coming from every direction. 

“Hello?” I called out.

You can’t see me. 
I could see no one about but the voice seemed to be coming from everywhere.

“Who are you?” I asked.

I am many things but you can call me “The Book”.


What? This is not funny! who are you? Where are you?

I am your diary
.

“That makes no sense!” I realised I was talking aloud.

Yes it does; I was living in your diary.

This is not
funny; whoever this is I am going to be very angry with them.

That will be quite hard to do.

What? He can read my thoughts? Ok then who are you?

Diryn Kust

Ok, where are you?

I only exist in your head.

So
, I’m imagining you?

No
, I am living in your head. Now go and find your group.

But...s
o…you’re living in my head and yet you’re a book?

I was trapped in the book and I have been reading all your entries.

I stood up and jumped off the cart.
What is happening to me? Have I gone mad?
I could hear everyone; they sounded like they were just about thirty metres away through the trees, on the other side of a holly thicket.

I am with you for a reason, to teach you how to use your gift.

Wait,
what gift?

Sam, you have the power to manipulate things
.

So does everyone.

Yes Sam, but you are different. You have magic.

I am a Mage?

Yes,
you are however very, very weak.

But
! This is a death sentence! I can’t be one! The punishment for practising magic is public execution!

I will keep you safe.

I don’t even know if you are real
, I might well be mad.

I can teach you.

And that is going to save me from The Men?
There was no reply.
Diryn? Diryn?
He had either gone or was staying quiet. I might be mad but I felt I had better go and find everyone.

I walked towards where I had heard everyone and came into a clearing; I saw Master Morrin at the far end and walked over to him.

“Ah, I see you are awake at last.” He said, “We were just going to wake you up; you are in Group Five, who are over there by the Bloodthorn.” He said pointing to a group of six boys standing on the other side of the clearing by a Blood Thorn. “Searching for UiIlioc.”
No!
Uillioc! We will spend all day looking and find nothing!
They are the most rare of plants, but they make a large range of amazing colours and, among scribes, their sap is worth their weight in gold. We find around one of these plants each year despite it always being searched for
.
I joined the group, careful not to go anywhere near the Blood Thorn. I had pricked myself a few years ago and it was extremely painful, the thorns are almost an inch long and when you touch them they somehow extend out, cutting deeply into your skin.

We began to walk and search for the flowers. After a few hours we reached t
he area we thought was where the Uillioc had been found before.

If you spread out your mind you could find some.

What? How can I do that?
I shouldn’t. I’ll get caught and killed!

Just concentrate. Listen.

I stopped and tried to listen but all I could sense was what I could see and hear.

Broaden your mind.

I couldn’t do it.
This is too much.
I tried to relax but I remembered going to Risina and seeing one of the very last mages executed. The crowd went mad; they were all scared of his power.
I don’t want this.

It can help
. It is a great gift. I will guide you but it will tire you. All magic does this; you will tire less with training. Close your eyes.

I obeyed and shut my eyes tight.

Now think.

At first my mind was just a mess of thoughts. Then an image of a redroot tree formed in my head and I saw a
Uillioc in its branches. I felt tired and the image faded, I opened my eyes and stumbled forward, my limbs felt very heavy and I almost fell
.

The redroot? Where is it?

To your left I think, I can’t check without you passing out.
Passing out?

Magic drains a lot of energy, although this lessons each time you practice.

I turned left and walked forwards; I felt exhausted and had to lean on trees as I went along. I heard the others of my group crashing through the undergrowth getting further away. I came to a redroot and looked carefully at the branches, there were several Uillioc flowers poking out of a hole.
I found some! We would never have noticed them.

The tree was lumpy and there were enough branches for me to climb up
, but I was so tired that I could barely hold on to the first branch. I swung my legs up, then shakily used handholds on the tree to pull myself up there. It took me at least ten minutes to get to the Uillioc and I was almost falling asleep. I stuffed the Uillioc into my pocket and started down.  I was about five metres from the ground when my hands slipped and I fell to the ground. I felt too tired to get up and I closed my eyes. I heard someone run over to my left and I recognised the voice of Cheddnus, a boy from the Guild.

“Wow... are you ok? I saw you fall,” Cheddnus said.
“What were you doing? Did you- Uillioc! Where did you get that? In this tree? I checked it last time!” I heard him turn around. “Hey! Everyone! Samuel has found some Uillioc!” he shouted and I heard everyone running my way. “Wait, are you ok?” I opened my eyes and sat up. “You look in bad shape. Someone help him up.” A few people offered their hands and I grabbed them and they hauled me to my feet. “Just hang on, we will get you to the camp.”  My eyes hurt so I just shut them and let everyone lead me to there.

The camp was a collection of
tents in a circle around a fire on which we roasted an animal, either caught by one of the groups, or bought back in town if we haven’t been able to catch one. There are many deer and wild boar, so they usually catch one. We stumbled into the camp and I was put into a tent. I couldn’t keep my eyes open and instantly fell asleep.

It was dark out
side when I crawled out from my tent. The fire was burning brightly and I could smell venison cooking. The entire expedition of twenty was crowded around the fire on seats. Cheddnus saw me come out and spread the word  and within seconds I was crowded with boys and bombarded with “how-did-you-find-it” and “why-all-the-sleeping” questions. I answered them with lies, I couldn’t trust anyone. My story was that I wanted to climb a tree and I chanced upon the Uillioc, I was so happy I fell from the tree to the ground and was concussed. Only I knew the truth. I was passed almost half a leg of venison and I gulped down chunks as the stories began. The first was by one of the cooks, the one who had cooked the venison.

“One of my
ancestors fought in the Beast Wars. He was part of the first response who met the hordes at the mountains. Many, many died in the battle and the army was shredded but the hordes were stopped by the next Rally. The two armies met in a huge divide between the two mourn mountains. The armies just poured in their thousands into the valley. Our men got the advantage of time and managed to form up. They fought against huge beasts, from six to
one hundred
feet tall! The soldiers said that elves and dwarfs fought. The dwarfs used an mighty airship called Line Cracker.”

“An airship?!
” A young boy shouted.

“Yes; an airship that flew over the beast men’s heads,
an airship whose bombs blew many hundreds of Beast Men apart.”

“What are bombs?” The boy
interrupted again.

“A bag of fireshot powder that goes
off when it hits the ground.” replied the cook, mimicking an explosion with his hands.

“But fireshot powder was only invented a few years ago!” the boy said and there were mutters of
agreement.

“Yes for us it was
, but the dwarfs invented a type many years ago but have refused to tell us. It is said that two million men died bravely as well as thirty-four dragons. We have recovered but no one in this empire has seen dragons for over a hundred years.”

“You think a few dragons are more
important than all our loss?” someone commented but the cook continued without answering.

“Dragons haven’t been seen in this E
mpire since the War but there are rumours that the Southern Empire is breeding them. Anyone believe the rumours that the Southern Empire is going to invade very soon?” There were many jeers but a lot of whispering.

I stood and
stretched my legs before the next man started his tale, my venison leg bone was almost devoid of meat.
Did I really eat all that?

The
next man was short and round and had a large beard. “I used to work in the forest patrols around the Capital and once when we were patrolling in the forest, we came to a five foot round hole that looked like it used to have an wooden cover and steps leading down but all that was left was an odd rotten pole. Well, one of the men, called Andysen, wanted to climb down into the hole. We tried to check how deep it was by hurling down rocks but we heard nothing. Many of us wanted to just leave but Andysen insisted that we do our duty to find and remove any threats to the Capital, which, seeing as it was our duty, we had to do. He wanted to go in so we tied one end of a rope to a tree and the other end to him. He then descended into the pit. We heard him get further and further down until the line ran out. He shouted for us to pull him up, which we did, but when he was nearly out of the darkness there was a huge tug and all fourteen of us holding the rope almost went in. We all let go but whatever caused the huge tug pulled the entire tree still attached to the rope into the hole and blocked it. We were confused at what could have pulled an entire tree! We could do nothing for Andysen trapped underneath such a big tree. We split into two groups, one group stayed and the other, which I went with, went back to Rayne to get help. About fifty of men came back with us, probably not to help Andysen but to study the hole. We never found the hole; it was as if it had never been there. We hadn’t thought of leaving a trail or anything and we just couldn’t find it. Two days later the other group appeared with a bloody rope. They were all mad or something and they would never tell us what happened. The next day a group of Emperor’s Bodyguards came and took them away. Both their families or any of us never saw them again, and two months later I left to come here.” The man got up, walked out of our circle to the tents behind, and disappeared into one.

Someone threw a log into the fire and we sat in silence for a few minutes with everyone lost in their own thoughts. Eventually someone started talking and then everyone did. There were many happy
voices and even a song was sung but soon we all drifted back to our tents for the night. It was freezing cold but I was glad for the trees and the tent linen, which did it’s best to halt a cold wind that started up.

Th
e next morning was freezing and I waited until the last moment before leaving the tent for roll call. I thought I was risking punishment but some of the other boys were still not coming out. They would be punished when we got back but we had a whole morning ahead of searching. We got back into our groups and went our separate ways except my group. We had enough Uillioc to last months. Master Morrin still insisted we did something so we wandered off for a bit before standing aimlessly trying not to get too cold. We took to walking up and down whistling. When we heard the call horn we were already near the camp. Another group had packed for us and we were ready to go. We all took seats on the carts and started back to the Guild.

There was nothing but trees for miles. I fell asleep again and woke as we entered Almon. We all knew something was wrong immediately.
There was no one about and there were extra soldiers at the gates. The moment they saw us they started acting purposefully. Master Morrin walked up to them and they talked. Master Morrin looked unhappy at what they were saying. Suddenly he was shouting and the soldiers were shouting back. Other soldiers who started escorting us waved us through. One of them took the lead horse’s rains.
What’s going on? What are they doing?
Master Morrin tried to stop them but they pushed him away. Everyone was standing now asking what was going on. We were told to sit down and stay in our carts. We were led past the Guild and towards the town hall. There was a long line of men and boys leading to the doors. As we arrived we were told to get out and join the line. We asked why and were told that we would find out later. So we joined the long line and waited. Slowly we got closer and I began to make out that the line was being split or maybe even sorted into two groups by the Emperor’s Bodyguard who looked at the next person in line and pointed inside or at the town square; one group went around to the large town square on the far side of the hall looking relieved whilst the rest disappeared inside.

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