I told you I would do this, so here goes. Chapter Two.
Some cool reveals in this chapter. This is stuff I have been wanting to get around to telling for a long time so this is pretty exciting. A lot of the chapters in this book are this way. There is so much information I want to tell the readers, it is a lot like Mother of the Moonrat in that way.
At any rate, here it is:
And SPOILER ALERT. If you haven’t read all the other books in the series, read those first.
Link to Chapter One HERE if you missed it.
Fist sent threads of earth magic into the ground, causing a column of dirt to erupt from the ground under the oncoming giant’s feet. Charz, having seen Fist use this spell before, anticipated the attack and jumped, letting the force of the blast launch him into the air towards the ogre.
Startled, Fist dove to the side, barely avoiding the prongs of Charz’s trident as they pierced into the ground where he had been standing. “Hey! We’re not trying to kill each other.”
Charz chuckled and whirled to face Fist again. “You wake me up this early and expect me to go easy on you?”
“No,” said Fist. “But be careful. If you stab me with that thing, I might bleed to death before the wizards could heal me. I don’t heal as fast as you.”
Charz snorted. “I’ve been fighting for centuries. You think I can’t avoid a mortal blow when I want to?”
“I guess,” Fist said suspiciously. The real question was whether, in the heat of battle, the giant could control himself. He took several steps back and squared his shoulders. “Then let’s start again.”
Charz grinned and charged.
Fist sent threads of magic into the ground again, but enacted the spell sooner, launching the earth further in front of the giant’s feet. Charz felt the rumble under his feet and leapt, but this time the column of dirt struck him in the chest, knocking him backwards to land on his back.
Charz laughed. “Good one!”
But the spell had served a secondary purpose. The force of the eruption had also sent a cloud of dust into the air, setting up Fist’s next move. The ogre sent out a web of water, condensing in the air around the giant.
While Charz stood, the water and dust mixed creating a fine mist of mud that hung suspended in the air. Then Fist triggered an air spell and the mud was sucked against the giant’s body, hardening as Fist drew the moisture out. Within moments, Charz was encased in two inches of solid clay and looked like a sloppily formed sculpture.
Fist let out a whoop of excitement that the spell had worked. Darlan had been drilling the particulars into him for weeks, having him practice on various objects. This was the first time he had used it against a living combatant.
Fist paused, breathing hard. That spell had taken a lot out of him. In addition, his ear was bothering him again. The itch had become a throb. He ignored it as cracks began to appear in the statue.
The ogre took a few steps back and began preparing his next attack. He sent another web of water into the air. A cloud of fog-like mist began forming in the room.
Charz shattered the rock around him with a roar, sending pottery-like shards of hardened clay everywhere. The giant stepped out of the broken rock around his feet and swung around to face Fist, managing to look both angry and amused as he peered through the thickening fog towards the ogre.
“Good one, Fist. But I’m kind of mad that we haven’t struck any blows yet,” Charz said, shaking his trident, which was still encased in thick rock. “You have any magic left in you after that?”
“Yes,” the ogre replied, though truthfully he wasn’t sure whether he had enough left in him to make the next spell work. It was the biggest one and the most complicated. This spell was the main reason Darlan hadn’t wanted him to go with Justan and he definitely knew she wouldn’t like him trying it now, but he began to enact it anyway. He began increasing the vibration of the earth and air magic around him.
Charz smacked his trident against the ground but was only able to knock a chunk of rock loose. “And we’ll fight after you’re done messing around?”
“If I can still stand,” Fist replied, drooping slightly as he poured more and more energy into the vibration.
“You trickster, you’re about to fall over now,” Charz sneered and tossed his unwieldy weapon aside. He pointed at the ogre. “I’m gonna get at least one punch in, I’ll promise you that.” The giant charged again.
It was time. Fist roared, putting everything he had into the spell. He sent the vibrating and crackling threads of magic away from his body in a violent burst. Charz leapt toward him, his large arms spread wide.
The room filled with a blinding light as bolts of electricity blossomed into existence, arcing through the air using the thick watery mist as a conductor. For a fraction of a second, time stopped for Fist. He saw the spell clearly with his mage sight as well as his regular vision. White lightning filled the room, completely engulfing the oncoming giant.
He had done it. He had enacted the spell Darlan had told him about. The one that she had told him was too dangerous. Maybe now he could show her and she might change her mind and let him join Justan in Malaroo!
Then the fraction of a second ended and Fist was hit by the effects of his own spell. The same arcs of electricity that had struck the giant pierced through the meager barrier of earth magic that he had hoped to use to protect himself.
He barely registered the deafening crack of thunder that followed the lightning as the giant’s hurtling body struck him.
The next thing Fist heard were the words, “-you idiot!”
A hand wrenched his nose and the ogre’s eyes fluttered open. Darlan’s angry visage came into view and Fist grimaced. “Ow! What-?”
“That’s right, Fist. Wake up!” The wizardess pried back his eyelids and caused a flickering flame to appear in front of his face. For some reason she was kneeling beside him. She glanced away from him. “His pupils are responsive.”
“You mustn’t be so harsh with him, Darlan dear,” said an older woman’s voice. “He has been through quite a bump.”
Darlan didn’t look at the woman who spoke. “I will deal with my apprentice in my own way, thank you very much.” She placed her hands on Fist’s chest and he felt a slight tingle of magical energy enter his body. Fist groaned and tried to sit up but searing pain shot through him at the attempt and he collapsed.
“Stop moving, you big dumb ogre!” Darlan demanded, her face tight with concentration. “Stay still while I examine you.”
Where was he? He turned his head and saw a stark, empty room with gray walls. He was still in the testing center and he was lying on the dirt. Despite the pain, he felt sleepy and it was hard to focus his concentration.
Stupid! Squirrel barked and Fist felt the creature’s worry surging through the bond. He turned his head the other direction to see that Squirrel was sitting next to him. His little fists were clenched and one foot was tapping the ground.
I’m okay, Squirrel. I think.
Fist slowly realized that there were several other people in the room around him. It was hard to focus, but he saw Wizard Larus and Mage Ella standing nearby, both excellent healers. Charz was there too. Patches of his rocky skin were blackened and he was frowning at Fist while he spoke with Alfred. There were also a few others the ogre didn’t recognize. An old dwarf, a short-haired elf, and a female gnome were standing next to Charz, looking at Fist with their arms folded, amusement in their eyes.
The old woman who had spoken earlier was standing behind Darlan and looking down at him with a kind and sympathetic smile. She wore a white robe with an odd symbol embroidered on her sleeves in silver. Fist wondered why the old woman had just called Darlan by her chosen name instead of Sherl.
He tried to speak to the woman, but it was hard to stay awake. His deep voice was slurred as he said, “Wh-who are y . . .”
“Hey!” Darlan wrenched his nose again. “You look at me when I’m speaking to you.”
“Ow. I-I’m sorry Misstresss Sherrl,” Fist replied, forcing his eyes to stay open. He groaned. “Oh, I hurts all over.”
“Of course you do!” Darlan snapped. Her normally winsome features were pinched with anger and worry. “This is what happens when you get struck by a direct bolt of lightning.”
“Oh . . . right.” Fist’s eyelids began to droop. “Sso tired.”
“He has mild burns throughout his body,” Darlan announced, speaking to the others. “Even in some of his internal organs.”
“Ohh,” Fist said. The damage must truly have been extensive because there wasn’t a part of him that didn’t hurt. “Thhhat was how I feels. Like when I burnn my fingers, but all over. Hey, Misstress Sherrl. Whhhy do I sound drunk?”
“It’s a possible head injury, dear,” said the old woman looking over Darlan’s shoulder. Despite her sagging cheeks and wrinkles, the woman had vibrant blue eyes. Strange how much energy was in them at her age.
“You have prretty eyes,” he told her.
“Why thank you,” the old woman replied.
He returned his bleary gaze to Darlan. “Can I ssleep now?”
“No sleeping until after we’ve healed you,” Darlan said. “And focus on what I’m telling you.”
Had she been talking? “Sorry ‘bout that.”
“Don’t you ‘sorry’ me, Fist!” She waved the healers over. “Alright, Ella, you take his limbs. Larus, please see to his organs. You’re better at that kind of work than I am. I’ll work on his head. Let me know if you need my assistance.”
They crouched beside him and Darlan scooted over until she was kneeling above his head. She placed her hands at either side of face and nodded. All three of them began healing him at once. Fist cried out in surprise at the intensity of the magic that surged through his body. All thoughts of sleep ended and all he could do was clench his teeth and endure the sensation.
The healing went on for several minutes, Fist wincing as repaired nerves fired back up. The last thing that was fixed seemed to be his memory, because it wasn’t until they had nearly finished that he realized how much trouble he was in.
Finally, the tingle of their magic left his body and the healers stood. While Darlan thanked them, Fist climbed to his feet. He swayed a little, feeling almost as tired as he had before they had healed him. But this time, his mind was wide awake. The healers waved at him and he called out a thank you as they left.
Then Darlan punched him in the arm. “It was the ‘Cloud of Lightning’ spell, wasn’t it?” she demanded, shooting him a glare that he was sure would burn holes in his skin. He opened his mouth, but she didn’t bother to wait for his response. “Did I not tell you that spell was too dangerous to try on your own?”
“Yes, Mistress Sherl, but-.”
“Did you know that you stopped breathing?”
Fist’s eyes widened. “I did?”
“Indeed!” she snapped. “You are lucky that Charz was here to revive you.”
He turned grateful eyes on the giant. “You revived me? Thank you, Charz.”
“I ain’t talking about it!” the giant said.
“He was breathing the life back into you when we arrived,” said Alfred, holding back a laugh.
“I told you I didn’t want to talk about it!” Charz growled.
Darlan sighed, running a hand through her hair. “I was looking for you all over this morning. Luckily Alfred pointed me this way. I was right next to the testing center when Squirrel fell out of the tree next to me.”
“You fell out of a tree?” Fist asked in surprise.
Squirrel had climbed up the ogre’s body while Darlan was berating him. He was sitting on the ogre’s shoulder, his back to Fist’s head. I’m angry.
“He struck the ground, stiff as a stick!” Darlan said. “I fear the shock of what happened to you nearly killed him.”
Fist swallowed, a surge of guilt rising inside him. “I-I didn’t think-.”
“No you didn’t!” Darlan said. “You are a bonding wizard, remember? If you die, Squirrel dies too. Think these things through before you do something stupid!”
Fist’s shoulders slumped. I’m so sorry, Squirrel.
The old woman put her hand on Darlan’s shoulder and said sweetly, “Come now, dear. Look at the poor boy. He understands. You’ve berated him enough.”
“Oh have I now?” Darlan held her hand out towards Fist. There was something in her palm. “Tell me, Fist. What’s this?”
Fist squinted at the item on her palm. It looked like a small plant. “I . . . don’t know.”
“Are you sure? I found it in your ear while I was healing you,” she said accusingly.
“Oh, you shouldn’t put things in your ear, dear,” said the old woman, shaking her head.
“It’s a honstule sprout,” Darlan continued. “I’m surprised you could hear. Its little roots were digging into your ear drum. At the rate these plants grow, it could have done major damage in a few more hours.”
“Squirrel did it!” Fist declared, pointing at the beast.
Squirrel snorted and turned his nose up at the ogre.
“You shouldn’t place blame on others,” Darlan replied with a frown.
“He did!” Fist insisted. “He was being naughty last night. He shoved a bunch of seeds in my ear when I was sleeping.”
Darlan placed a weary hand on her forehead. “What am I going to do with you two?”
“Oh they’ll be fine,” the old woman told Darlan, patting Fist’s arm as she spoke. Her hair was silvery gray and she kept it tied back behind her head in a braid. She reached up to tuck a stray hair behind her ear and Fist noticed a rune on the palm of her left hand. This woman was named.
“Children always are,” the woman continued. “You know, your father was terrible with that kind of thing. Always sticking things where they shouldn’t go. His nose or ears, whatever holes were handy, really. Artemis was worried half to death about it. But I told him that the boy would be fine and I was right. He grew out of it.”
“I’m not a child. I’m twenty years old,” Fist said in protest, but then something she said struck him. “Did you say Artemis?”
“Yes, dear. My late first husband,” the woman said, smiling at some distant memory. “He was a sweet man. A good man. I still miss him terribly.” She shook her head, dismissing the memory. “But that was long ago.”
Fist blinked. Surely it was a coincidence. The woman was old, but surely she couldn’t be that old. Humans didn’t live that long. Did they?
Darlan cleared her throat. “Fist, I should introduce you. This is my grandmother, Mistress Sarine.”
Fist’s eyebrows rose. So he was right. “Your grandma? Then she was married to Justan’s great grand-.”
Darlan gave him a warning look. “Yes. That’s right, Fist. Not only is my Grandma Begazzi still alive, I found out last night that she’s actually better known as the ‘famous’ Mistress Sarine, one of the Prophet’s companions!”
Fist wasn’t well versed in human history, but he had heard Justan mention the Prophet’s companions. They were the group of warriors and wizards that had marched on the Dark Prophet’s palace. That meant that this woman would have been at the Prophet’s side when the Dark Prophet was defeated two hundred years ago.
“She is also our new council historian,” Darlan continued, a bitter note in her voice. “Another in a long list of facts I learned when she arrived last night.”
“Why Darlan, if I didn’t know better, I’d say you weren’t happy I’m here,” Sarine scoffed.
“I . . .” Darlan’s mouth worked for a moment before words finally spilled out. “It’s just sudden and bizarre, don’t you think? You’ve been alive my whole life without telling me. Even after my father and mother died and I thought I was completely alone! And suddenly you show up calling me, ‘dear’ like you had been around the whole time?”
“Firstly, I’m an old woman. I call everyone ‘dear’,” Sarine protested. “And I have been around! As much as I was allowed. I couldn’t come in person, but I sent you letters. And gifts!”
“Right . . . The packages from my mysterious auntie, living with the elves in Khalpany,” Darlan said.
“It was true. Except for the ‘auntie’ part,” she admitted. “But that’s where I’ve been. In the Pruball Elf Homeland.” She gestured at the elf standing next to Charz. “The olives I sent came from Kyrkon’s own vineyard.”
“Oh! You’re the one who sent Mistress Sherl the elf olives!” Fist said in understanding.
Darlan had been receiving boxes of Khalpany Olives every few months for years. The intense elven magic in them is what had been keeping Darlan and Faldon young for so long. As far as Justan had been able to figure, his mother was over 150 years old and his father at least a hundred.
Fist looked at Darlan. “But you said that an old client of yours was sending them.”
“My ‘auntie’ swore me to secrecy,” Darlan replied in a half grumble. “Her letters said that she was sending me the olives as part of a promise to my mother.”
“It was!” Sarine said indignantly. “I promised your mother that I would look after you and I did the best I could from afar.”
“I told you she wasn’t gonna understand, Begazzi,” said the gray-haired dwarf standing by Charz. He was dressed in brown travel clothes that looked like they needed a good washing and he had the oddest beard. His upper lip was clean-shaven, but the beard was so long that he had tucked the end of it into his trousers. “It’s gonna take a while.”
“Oh, Fist, I have been remiss!” Darlan said. “I should introduce you to these fine people as well. The dwarf here is named Bill. The elf is Kyrkon. And the Gnome is Maryanne.” She forced a smile. “They are Sarine’s bonded.”
Fist’s jaw dropped. “She’s a bonding wizard too?”
Darlan nodded half-mockingly. “Interesting how they left that part out of the histories.”
Sarine sighed, “Yes, dear. I am a bonding wizardess and a sorceress. Now do you understand why I had to stay in hiding? At the time of the ban, my name had become famous in the land as a wizardess, but I am a spirit magic specialist. I have no elemental talent whatsoever. I couldn’t hide in plain sight like some of the others.”
After the Dark Prophet’s defeat two hundred years previous, the Prophet had banned the use of spirit magic in Dremaldria. He had forbidden all of the Mage Schools from teaching it and had even taken all mention of it out of the schools’ libraries. The wizards that specialized in its use went into hiding. By the time Justan was born spirit magic was all but forgotten. Its existence hadn’t been acknowledged until the Prophet had lifted the ban just a few short months ago.
“I’d still be in Khalpany if John hadn’t sent me a letter saying that I could return,” Sarine continued. “The letter from Wizard Valtrek offering me the position on the council arrived only a week later.”
“Odd how he didn’t tell me about that,” Darlan said and from the irritation in her voice, Fist knew that Valtrek’s letter was news to her.
“Please understand, Darlan. I had no choice but to submit to exile,” Sarine said. “A command from the Prophet is a command from the Bowl of Souls itself. As a named wizardess, I could not disobey.”
Some of the hardness left Darlan’s eyes. “Please, Mistress Sarine, forgive me for being upset. Your dwarf-, uh, Bill is right. It will take some time for me to get used to this, but I’m . . . glad you’re here.”
Sarine put on a look of deepest understanding and grasped her granddaughter’s arm. “Oh, Darlan. I know. I know. It has been a difficult return for me as well. I never wanted to leave this school and now that I’m back-.” She waved an arm. “Well, it is so different. This big ugly building, for instance. It wasn’t here in my day. Do you mind if we leave this dreadful room and go outside?”
“Of course,” said Darlan, trying her best to sound as cheerful as Sarine. “Come, Fist. You should tag along while I think of a fitting punishment for your chicanery this morning.”
Fist blinked. “Uh, I think you mean skullduggery, Mistress Sherl.”
“Shut up and follow me,” she replied, leading Sarine to the door.
Sarine’s bonded began following after them, but the female gnome paused in front of the doorway and turned to face Fist. Maryanne looked young for a gnome, with long auburn hair that covered her droopy ears and a petite mouth that was turned up in an assessing smile. She was well over seven-feet-tall and lithely muscular, wearing a skin-tight suit of elf-made leather armor. She had a rune encrusted bow slung over one shoulder while a quiver bristling with arrows was slung over the other.
“So you’re bonded to Sarine’s grandchild, huh?” Maryanne said. She traced a finger down the muscles of one of Fists massive arms. “I think you’re kinda cute.”
She turned and trotted out the door and Fist looked back at Charz with wide eyes. The giant shook his head slowly and with a roll of his eyes said, “Gnomes.”
END OF CHAPTER TWO