The following is the first three chapters of a novel I’ve been working on. They are my own (Michael Russell) product and I reserve all rights concerning them (The first three chapters of Ignite by Michael Russell). Thank you for taking the time to read my work, I appreciate and welcome any criticism, I hope you enjoy it.
Aiden’s breath came in ragged gasps as he ran. A roar shook the air around him, causing his stride to stutter. Looking over his shoulder, he grimaced, as the castle sized shadow tore through timber just within sight. Cursing, he turned, jumping the large roots breaking the ground. Muttering under his winded breath, Aiden moved his hands in rough large movements. Forcing his will into the spell, he thrust his right fist up and a pillar of earth beneath his feet thrust up, sending him flying into the sky. As he flew, Aiden moved his body to face the mountain of terror. He closed his eyes and focused, his arms moved in opposing arcs bringing his hands together. Turning his body, Aiden drew his right arm back and thrust his left hand out, as he said “Luxiter, banish the darkness around me. Father of light, streak into night and bring forth the peace of this, your day!” Small stars appeared in a small constellation around him as he hit the apex of his arc, brightening the overcast sky. He punched his right fist at the enemy, the stars shot towards the behemoth, and sent Aiden flying away; the heat scorched everything in their path. The shadow slowed instantly and swept its huge bulk deceptively fast, lashing out with an enormous tail. A shimmering field absorbed the stars before they could wreak havoc on the monster. Aiden hadn’t seen, his focus was on the rapidly approaching ground. Sweeping his hand around, he muttered again as wind swept up from the ground slowing his descent. Aiden hit the ground hard, but rolled with it, and jumped up running.
As he ran, a sound crept towards him. It sounded like a giant gravelly bellows drawing in, all the air in the forest rushed into him. The gale stopped him in place as he fought against it. Cursing, Aiden stopped, turned, and stomped his feet into the ground up to his ankles. Slamming his fists onto the ground muttering another incantation, the earth rippled with the force of the impact. Muscles straining, Aiden drew up, bringing with him half a dozen walls of clay and mud between him and the bellows. The gale stopped. There was a pause, and then dense, concentrated fire exploded from the dragon, roaring towards Aiden. Drawing in a deep breath, he brought his arms together as the walls condensed and hardened. The fire hit, immediately destroying half of the walls. The others held as the stream of immense heat continued. The outer wall, turning to lava, was blown away. The second wall followed its predecessor. Aiden crouched and cupped his hands together, concentrating he spoke softly “Gildis”. Ripping his hands apart, Aiden pushed all the air away, expanding it rapidly. Frost covered the area behind the last wall. Cracks formed along the wall, and still, the conflagration didn’t let up. The cracks began hissing and a moment later, the last wall exploded apart and the fire roared in after, triumphant!
Aiden gasped, lifting his head from the meditative state, gasping from the strain of maintaining the mental battlegrounds. Leaning back cross-legged and resting on his palms he looked up at the dragon. He was massive, his bulk filling most of the enormous banquet hall of the half-ruined castle. Low firelight glinted off his deep green and granite scales as he quirked his brow, with what seemed like a smile on his face, or snout or whatever.
“Oh shut up Verig. No one likes braggarts!” Aiden finished, throwing a rock at him. A sound like a rock-slide came from the dragon.
“You’ve improved, young one. Take solace in your progression.” Verig rumbled in his deep bass of a voice.
“You know, burning to death in there hurts like hell.” Aiden said, getting up and stretching. “How long was that?”
“Beat me and you won’t get burned.” Verig blew a small plume from his nose, he looked to the stars, staring for a moment. “Four hours twenty-two minutes, not your longest but you finally pulled that stupid stunt off without killing yourself” Verig flicked his tail, shaking the ground.
“You’re just jealous because I make this shit look good when I’m doing it.” Aiden said as he sauntered away.
“Aiden,” Verig said softly, well soft for a dragon, shaking his head. “When will you learn that’s not what is important? How many times must we go over this? You must be prepared for anything from a trumped-up pixie to a dragon!” Verig’s voice was thundering, although he was just starting to get worked up. “When they find out about you, and with how stubbornly idiotic you are, it’s when not if; they will throw the weight of empires at you. You must be smart, use your head when you can to get out of situations and fight thoughtfully when you can’t.”
“And when are you going to tell me why?!” Aiden yelled, turning to face Verig. The dragon just stared at the boy, a flicker in his eyes. There was the stony silence of a familiar argument between them. “What have I done to deserve their wrath!”
“You’re still a child,” Verig huffed out, settling his massive head on his razored paws. “You don’t have to do anything, but have it you will. It’s not fair, your life, but you need to grow up and stop bitching about it. Do everything you can to claw your way through the charnel mess of this life, and hope you can live with how you did it.” Verig closed his eyes.
“Ugh! Always with the cryptic dragon shit! You’re the one who gave me this gift!” Aiden said the last word with utter disdain. “I didn’t choose to be one of the magius, I was…” He closed his eyes, struggling with the rage that thrashed. Images of a boy, alone in the wilds, flashed across his mind. ‘Mommy! Daddy! I want to go home, where are you?’ the boy cried. Aiden took a deep breath and bowed his head. “Master, I’m sorry, there’s just so much I still don’t know. I let my anger take control and spoke with disrespect, I’ll accept any pun…”
Verig cut him off with another flick of his tail, the force of it shook rubble free from the collapsing castle. “Stop that ingratiatory shit, you know I find it aggravating.” Verig let loose a low growl.
Aiden held his palms out laughing. “I’ve got it, no more buffoonery, cross my heart.” He made the x.
“Hmph, at least I’ll finally get some peace.”
“Wait what? You believed me when I said that?” Aiden said between laughs.
“No, I just know something you don’t.” Verig said, then… nothing.
“And…?” Aiden swirled his hand in an impatient gesture. “That would be what?”
“I’m feeling particularly magnanimous right now, I guess I could let you in on it.” Verig raised his head and gave him a smirk. “We need supplies for some of the lessons I have planned, and I think you’re running low on some of your cooking spices; and since I don’t feel like going through the tiring process of changing forms…”
Aiden gasped, a huge smile taking up his face. “No way…” He said.
“...and since I thought you might have finally matured enough, after 31 years, to make the run on your own” Verig said, using a talon to scratch his jaw.
Aiden stood shocked for a moment. “You’re serious? You’re not pulling my leg, right?”
“If you don’t think yourself responsible enough, I guess I coul…”
“No no no no, I’m ready!” Aiden yelled “Ya-Hoo!” He took off sprinting around the castle ruins with his hands raised in the air before he tripped on some rubble and face-planted the ground groaning. Verig let loose another avalanche of laughter.
The lines on his face-snout grew serious. “Aiden,” Verig paused until Aiden looked up from his prostrate form. “What are the rules?”
“Come on, I know…” Aiden started to say
“What. Are. The rules.” Verig broke in, his tone left no room for negotiation.
Aiden sighed. “Break no laws. Avoid confrontations. If someone asks too many questions, leave immediately. Make sure I’m not followed. And finally, no magic, unless my life is in danger.” He recited them with all the enthusiasm of a student spewing memorized formulae.
“Don’t take them lightly Aiden, we have made it this long because of the rules. I know it’s hard for you, not being able to be part of their world. The time will come and you’ll be able to do so much, but patience is needed. I feel you’ve grown responsible enough for this, despite your best efforts to appear otherwise. Don’t disappoint me, it could mean our deaths, Aiden.” Verig said, then sighed. “But don’t forget to enjoy yourself where you can. I’m sure Red will be thrilled to see you.”
Aiden blushed furiously rubbing his hands through his long black hair. “Shut it, old man! We’re just friends, you perverted hermit. Just because you don’t get around, doesn’t mean you get to live vicariously through me.” It had nothing to do with the red-head who’d hounded him every trip they’d made into Bramon’s Hollow.
“And who says I don’t get around?” Verig said, lifting his nose to the air. “I’ll have you know I have to fight them off when I go out.”
Aiden snorted. “Yeah, sure. You’re irresistible to all the lady dragons out there, and I’m the Emperor of Kaynum.” He shook his head. “I’ll go pack, and I won’t forget the rules Master. I am thankful for the trust, but one question?”
“What do you want me to do if someone does attack?” Aiden said quietly.
“Listen, if you don’t think you can control yourself...”
Aiden cut him off. “No, it’s not that. I’ve been thinking about it, and if there’s that much of a threat out there, and there is any chance of them finding me out… I would just rather have planned for the worst-case scenario and be bored to death, than walk in unprepared.”
Verig sat studying Aiden for a long while. Then he gave a weird wink, dragons really shouldn’t do that. “I’m glad I was right. I wouldn’t have let you go if you didn’t bring this up. It’s a sign you’re not as empty-headed as I thought.” Verig smiled to himself for a minute, then it was back to business. “So let’s go over it. If it’s any number of non’s then run to the nearest port glyph, just make sure no one sees you when you use it. If it’s a single mage, lure him out, feel him out, and kill them if you can, but watch for traps. If you sense them directing you, get out immediately and run. Use your head to determine the best gate pattern to gain distance. If it’s more, even just one more, get deep into the wilds and use ‘it’. You should be able to make it to a gate after that. In all cases use your amulet to contact me as soon as you know somethings up. I’ll head there as fast as I can if I need to, which is pretty damn fast.” Verig finished with a smirk.
Aiden and Verig went over the plans for the next couple hours, with Aiden asking questions. Satisfied, Aiden packed and went to bed. Verig was still staring at the stars as Aiden drifted off.
As the sun crested the mountains, Aiden slung the pack over his shoulder. The morning fog burned off as he stood in a long black cloak, sword at his hip, black leather pants and vest with a white shirt. Aiden was tall and broad-shouldered, cutting a fine shape in the morning light.
“Did you comb your hair and beard?” Verig asked, brow raised.
“Well of course, my master. I would not reflect negatively on you by presenting a poor image.” Aiden said, giving a low bow.
“How considerate, and of course it has nothing to do with Red’s last remarks? About how good you’d look if you were to clean up for once? Not at all, huh?”
“I’ve learned from the best, and as my master so astutely remarked last night, you have to fight them off right? It’s only natural, ability such as yours would rub off.” Aiden smirked.
“Quite right, it’s a burden really. I hope you’re ready for such a large responsibility” Verig said as they both shared a laugh. “Be safe and enjoy yourself.”
“Be back soon, don’t get lonely without me.” Aiden said as he set off with a wave.
It took most of the morning for Aiden to reach the gate. It was in a bowl-shaped depression backed by a tall cliff face. The glyph shown white as he approached, circles and magic formulae structured concentrically, spun gently. As he entered it, the color shifted to different hues of blue and purple and red. Crouching in the center, Aiden touched symbols within the glyph. The color shifted with each touch, settling back to white with flecks of silver flashing as he stood. Collecting his will, Aiden spoke “Vir kure” softly. The glyph’s brightness expanded, filling his vision, Aiden felt the world shift beneath him. Once the light faded he was in a forest he knew was about a month’s worth of hard hiking away from home. He was hit by the sounds of the deep wood, birds and insects playing life’s melody. The smell of damp earth and forest detritus surrounded him. As he took this all in, smile lines touched the corner of his dark eyes. Breathing deep, Aiden recalled all the times he’d made the trip, tailing Verig like a child. Then he set out for Bramon’s Hollow.
Outside the border town, on a well-worn path, Aiden froze with a rustle just behind him. A sharp point pressed into the back of his hood, he could imagine the dagger vividly. Verig’s reproachful voice echoed the rules, and he sighed deciding to play nice. Aiden raised his empty hands, very slowly.
“What a nice greeting, I can see why Bramon’s Hollow is such a boomtown. With hospitality like this, good luck stemming the interminable flood of migrants that’s sure to arrive anytime now.” Aiden said with a grin. Silence, and then came the sound of familiar chiming laughter. The dagger, or otherwise sharp object, left the back of his head. He turned, taking in Red and her ranger leathers. She was a tall beautiful woman. The long braid of red hair bounced on her shoulder, while her pale freckled smile did weird things to Aiden’s chest. She stopped laughing long enough to notice him, and her brows shot up. Was that a flush on her cheeks? Then she burst out laughing even harder, no definitely not a blush.
“What...” She said between laughs. “...are you wearing?” Grabbing her stomach, it just kept going. “Did you… comb your…”
“Alright, alright that’s enough. We both know I look amazing, it’s a little over the top at this point.” Aiden said through a smirk, sweeping his hand over his ensemble.
“Of course, my lord” Red said, recovering enough to give a low bow. “How may I serve thee?” She said, wiping tears from her eyes.
Aiden quirked a brow, and Red hit him in the shoulder. “Ow, that hurt! How dare you assault your liege!” Aiden said with mock severity, he held his bowed arm out. “You may make it up by escorting me into your humble town, my lady.” He too drew out the ‘my lady’. They both shared a small laugh.
“This way, asshole” Red said with a smile as she took his arm.
They walked in silence for a minute before he asked.“How’ve you been?”
“You know how it is here. Kill a monster or two, come home, and help ma and pa with the munchkins. They’re the real monsters, I should send them into the wilds. Within a month, us rangers would be out of a job.” Red said looking down with a small smile. “How about you? Where’s Verig? Is he already in town?”
“Nope, I’m here all by my lonesome”
Red gave him a questioning glance. “No shit?”
“I shit you not, my lady. We’ve been good just running low on supplies and he didn’t feel like making the trip. It’s hell, getting old. Pretty soon I’ll have to get him a cane.”
Red looked behind them and started to wave. “Oh hey, Verig!” Before he could stop himself, Aiden spun and half the color had drained from his face. Red was back into titters, ignoring the glare from Aiden. He did not stomp off in embarrassment, nope. “Oh come on, wait up. You make it too easy Aiden” Red said as she caught up to him.
After Red regained her composure, Aiden asked. “So how are the munchkins and your folks?”
“They’re good, growing up faster than you’d believe. Ma is ma, she has her tavern and her family and that’s all she needs. Pa has made some progress recently on his research, now that I think of it, you were talking with him about it right?” Aiden nodded. “Make sure you stop by and see him, he’s been dying to share it with someone but won’t say anything to us.”
“Yeah, he had some interesting ideas. Once I’ve got all the shopping done, I’ll stop by the Poscum. Just tell your mom to keep a cold one for me, it’s been too long since I had one of her ale’s. Well, I’d better get goi…” Aiden was cut off as a small stubby man in fine, brightly colored clothes, walked into him, and fell on his lumpy ass. Tracy Gobbles, yes that is his name, was a world-class asshole. He’d been a secretary to the great author John Roberts in Ardendale. He’d watched as John penned his amazing story, then stole his ideas and fled to the capital Sularog, selling the story as his own. He’d bastardized it with sex, violence, and terrible writing trying to cover up his malfeasance. Of course, the general public took to it like ducks to water. Eventually true fans of literary works were able to work out what happened, unofficially banishing him to the borderlands. Unfortunately, the worm was able to secure some political status in Bramon’s Hollow. Verig had always maintained a steady regiment of reading, and because of that, he knew all about what Tracy had done. When Aiden first encountered him, he called him out in public. Ever since then, Tracy had done everything his smarmy ass could to make trouble for Aiden.
Tracy was sputtering curses, rolling himself to his feet. “Watch where you’re going ass… You!” His face twisted from anger to hatred and he started shouting. Jumping up and down like one of those small shitty dogs. “Of course it’d be you! Assaulting me in front of everyone like that! I’m going straight to the constable with this! You’re going to pay for…”
“For what? You ran into me, dumbass. For telling everyone what kind of slimy dick-spittle was in their midst?” Aiden reached a napkin he had, tossing it at the ball of sputtering blubber. “Here, you’ve got a little something on your mouth. Just come from the governor’s desk, eh?” The little man’s face went tomato red and was frothing at the mouth. “Watch out, my lady. It looks like he’s gone rabid, I hate to say it, but he must be put down.” Aiden put an arm between Red and Tracy.
“You just wait, Aiden!” Tracy said, spitting the name. “You’ll get your comeuppance, you vagabond!”
“Oh ho, who’d you steal those from little thief?” Aiden took a breath to continue when Red laid a hand on his shoulder, giving a small shake of her head. “Well, as fun as this has been I’ve got shit to do. Let’s do this again soon, you smarmy asshat.” Red and Aiden walked away as the little man sputtered and cursed.
“You know, one of these days, he’s going to do something about you.” Red said with some reproach.
“Yeah, part of me knows it and knows I should just be polite and deal with it. Yet another hates everything he is, his continued existence is an affront to artists everywhere.” Aiden said rubbing his face. “Anyways, I’ve got to go. I’ll see you later at the Poscum?”
“Yeah, I’ll be there around dinner. Take care” With that she leaned up and gave him a small kiss on the cheek, blushing a little. Aiden stood stunned. “You know, you do look kinda good when you clean up, who knew?” She gave him a wink and walked away. Did he imagine the extra swing in her hips?
Aiden had to reach down to pick his jaw up off the floor as a woman sweeping outside the cobblers chuckled. He blushed furiously and stumbled away in a daze. The rest of the day progressed without incident, although a disturbing number of people had already learned of the small kiss from earlier and everyone wanted a piece of the gossip. Red was a well-liked bachelorette in town and the news spread like wildfire.
The sign outside, displaying a small forest pond with a tavern in the backdrop, swung with small creeks as Aiden entered. The sounds and smells of the tavern hit him, and he smiled. It wasn’t particularly large but it was packed with patrons. A small band of musicians played some folk songs in the corner next to the large fireplace, barely heard over the buzz of a hundred different conversations going. The smell of ale and food, slightly tinged with someone’s sick-up in the back maybe, swept over him. It was like a second home to him.
Aiden made his way through the saw-dust strewn floor, finding an empty seat at the bar. A giant of a woman with silver streaking her red hair saw him and smiled. She held up a finger to Aiden as she gave a guy on the other end of the bar a drink, and made her way to him. Marie was the barkeep and owner of The Poscum tavern. She had a gentle smile and soft face, belied by her size and the scar running down her left cheek. Marie leaned on the bar, giving Aiden a great view of her ample bosom. Suddenly he had a good idea of why her place did so well, she knew her business. Aiden blushed and looked up, Marie laughed.
“Aiden lad! How’ve you been? Where’s Verig?” Marie said with a sparkle in her eye.
“Stayed home, didn’t feel like making the trip. I’m good, just spent the day re-stocking.” Aiden said, fighting to keep his eyes up. Marie may be large but she had a beauty of her own.
“Oh no, I hope he’s not feeling down or anything.” Marie said, frowning slightly.
“Ha, no he’s fine just getting old is all. Hey, I was talking with Red earlier…” Aiden started but was cut off.
“Oh yes, I’ve done heard all about your little make-out session. Listen here lad, I like you, but if you do anything to hurt my little Red, I’ll kill ya.” She said the last softly, her eyes locked on his. Aiden could feel the promise of violence enough that it made him want to take a step back.
“No no no, Miss Marie I uh… that’s not what...!” Aiden said quickly, fumbling with his words. “It was just a…” Marie cut him off with a hand.
“No lad, I won’t be messin in her business. She’s her own woman, I just wanted to give you some forewarning, since I like you and all.” Then she laughed and clapped Aiden on the shoulder so hard he nearly fell to the floor. Aiden tried not to look too shaken, then gave an awkward chuckle.
“Anyways, she mentioned Herman had made some kind of progress on his research? Oh, and can I get a…” Marie was setting a bottle down as he spoke the words.
“Yes, yes he’s up in the study.” She said with a sigh of exasperation. “I’ll send some food up soon for ya both. Tell him he needs to eat if he wants to toss the sheets with me tonight. He’s such a small man.” Aiden nearly choked on the ale, laughed, and thanked her as he made his way up.
Herman Hemlock and his wife were a study of opposites, where she was tall and big and scary, he was short and small and quaint. She was as tough a fighter you could find, while Herman was a scholar and generally avoided conflict. He was a good man, give you the shirt off his back kind of good. As long as Aiden had known him, he’d been obsessed with a topic he’d begun to research before they’d made the move up to the borderlands. It was concerning The Culling and the events that led to it, some two thousand years ago, a taboo subject for most. Aiden had wondered more than once if that was why they had moved here
Aiden reached the study and knocked. There was a yelp followed closely by the sound of several somethings thudding to the ground. Next came a string of imaginative curses, some in languages Aiden didn’t recognize. “Blasted morons, does no one respect the sanctity…” The voice kept muttering. Finally, the voice called out. “Who is it?!”
“Mr. Hemlock, it’s Aiden.” There was some scuffling then the door swung open to a short spectacled man with silver hair crowning his bald pate.
“Ah, yes Aiden my boy. Is Verig downstairs? I could use his help on some of the new articles I’ve come across.” Herman said, pushing his glasses further up his face.
“Not here, stayed home. Didn’t feel like coming.” He said through clenched teeth and a false smile.
“That’s inconvenient. Tell him to come see me when he can. He really has such a knack with the old languages.” Herman said, lost in thought, and then jumped. “Sorry, my boy, where are my manners? Come in won’t you, I know you’ll like what I’ve managed to dig up.” Aiden entered the squat room, stacks of books and rolls of parchment were everywhere. Herman hastily cleared a stack of debris from a chair, motioning for him to sit.
“So the old man finally let you off your leash for a time, eh?” Herman said off-handedly as he moved from mess to mess looking for something. Aiden’s eyes widened a bit, and for a minute he was too shocked to say anything. Herman looked over his shoulder. “Oh come on boy, you think I hadn’t noticed? You’ve never made the trip on your own, he’s always somewhere close by. As far as I can tell this is your first solo trip right?”
Aiden nodded slowly. “Uh, yeah he’s a bit overprotective is all. The wilds aren’t easy to move around in and stay alive.” Herman nodded as Aiden spoke, absently pushing his glasses back up again. “So what’s the news on the research?”
“One second... One second… Ah, here it is!” Herman yanked a book from the middle of a stack and it fell gloriously. Herman winced then threw a hand at it, making a non-committal noise. “So let’s review. We know somewhere around two thousand years ago The Culling occurred, which stripped the ability to use magic from every human on Magnia. As far as we can tell, it didn’t affect any of the other races. Soon after, the religion known as The Path was born, fucking zealots. The nerve… claiming that it was never our place to use such power. That it was a sign of our arrogance, our sin, that we ever tried. The movement blew up over the next couple of centuries, ingraining itself in much of the human culture spread across Magnia. It was especially virulent in Elven controlled communities of humanity. As if those poor souls didn’t have a hard enough life already, they’re twisted into thinking they deserve it. We also know that there were signs of upheaval in Elvish territories close to, or around the same time, as The Council of Verqui was created. They’re rumored to be the architects of The Culling.” Herman rattled on, Aiden nodding at each point. They had gone over this subject many times before. Aiden was often stunned with the irony of the situation. He wondered, not for the first time, if Herman knew what he was?
“Yeah, that’s what you had so far. What else have you found?” He asked Herman.
Dropping his voice conspiratorially Herman said. “I’ve found evidence suggesting it wasn’t some small thing that happened to the Elves way back when.” Herman looked around, suddenly nervous. “Hold on…” Herman jumped up and scrambled through the wreckage looking for something. Finally, he let out a yip of triumph. He held a small clear crystal, the size of a thumb, and it held a prismatic glow. Aiden knew what it was, a lapiant. A magic crystal. The gem would hold an amount of power within the stone and the formulae inscribed on its surface would determine its function, Aiden tensed instantly. Herman noticed and flashed a knowing smile, holding a finger to his lips. Herman cleared a small area off his desk, took the stone, and twisted it. There was a seam across the middle, the two halves spun until its natural lines and those of the formulae lined up. There was a push of magic that Aiden felt. Then Herman nodded, setting the stone on the cleared area where it floated and spun lazily with power, and said sitting back down. “Ah, you know about lapiant’s then. Not many up here do, but then again it’s not hidden knowledge. This one just makes sure we’re not going to be overheard. Anyways where was I…”
There was a knock at the door and this time Aiden jumped as much as Herman. The door cracked open, it was one of Marie’s staff. She had a tray with food and ale, enough to feed a small army. “Excuse me Mr. Hemlock, the Missus said she’d have my hide if’n I didn’t rush this up to ya.” She looked nervously around for a place to set the tray. When one didn’t present itself, Aiden reached for it thanking her. She left with a thankful smile and Aiden distributed the bounty. They both sat silent as they devoured the delicious food and drank the ale. After they finished Herman picked up again.
“So where were we, ah yes. Do you know the current Elven population?” Herman asked leadingly.
“Well, it’s hard to say, they cloister themselves so well there aren’t many sources to go off of. Best estimate I know of is approximately thirty thousand, but that’s a best guess.” Herman nodded furiously as Aiden finished.
“Yes yes yes, those are close enough for our purpose. What if I were to tell you that evidence shows that before the ‘upheaval’ they experienced, estimates put Elven population closer to thirty million!” Herman said, raising his hands for emphasis.
Aiden sat stunned for a minute. “There’s no way that’s right, are you sure?”
“I don’t want to get into the specifics of it, I want to confirm some things with Verig when I can but I’m as close to sure as I can get. Everything points to an Elven race that spanned most of Magnia. Then something happened, there are some mentions of a war between them and Orcs, but evidence suggests that happened four or five centuries before all of the council and the upheaval. The problem I’ve had is that almost every piece of historical record from this period has been destroyed or is missing. Most of it is because of those damn zealots, but I think there’s another hand stealing from the cookie jar.” Herman said, scratching his head.
Aiden sat considering the new information. If he was right, that was a scary thought. The Elves were a terror as it was, imagining a world filled with them made him shudder. What was worse was considering the force that would’ve had the power to decimate them so thoroughly. Suddenly the lapiant made a lot more sense, there hadn’t been any sign of Path followers here for years, but that didn’t mean they weren’t here. If they were to get a whiff of what Herman had just said, they’d burn the entire town to the ground.
“The lapiant was a good move, especially with assholes like Tracy in town. I wouldn’t put it past him to be tied in with those Path freaks.” Aiden said.
“Yes I’m well aware of your disposition towards the man. I’m not a fan myself but you need to watch yourself with him. I don’t know if anyone has told you, but he’s been building influence at a rapid rate recently.” Aiden winced a little as he said that. “Ah, don’t waste time do you? Hopefully, nothing comes of it, but if I were you I’d keep my head down and not antagonize him anymore. Just last month, he claimed he was cheated at a dice game down at Hagar’s place. The constable’s men stormed the place the next day and locked poor Hagar up. They said there was a new law in town about hosting gambling events in one’s place of business. He fought them on it, saying there was no way he could’ve known. They claimed it was posted the week before, yet no one saw it. Hagar’s still locked up and Tracy is running his business. Something about reparations awarded by the Governor. Anyways, yes that’s why, and more. There’s been some deaths and disappearances surrounding the source of the information I gathered. Now, I know I seem a bit nutty, but I’m taking no chances.” As Herman finished saying that, the door slammed open.
Red burst in looking harried, she locked on me and whispered. “Aiden, we have to go now! Tracy is leading a group of the constable’s men here and word is they’re looking for you!”
“You can leave through the kitchen, hurry. We’ll delay as much as possible. Tell Verig about what we discussed, and maybe stay out of Bramon’s Hollow for a while.” Herman said as he gave Aiden a reassuring pat and pushed him out the door as Red dragged him. Aiden was barely able to grab his pack.
They rushed down the stairs and ran straight into the back, where the cook immediately started shouting before he noticed Red. She shushed with a finger and he nodded. Red went first out the back door checking the area then waved Aiden along. They both went silently down the alley behind the shops. Aiden was able to hear boots pounding down the cobblestone road in the distance. They came out into the town square, trying to walk nonchalantly into the crowded area. Suddenly the hair on Aiden’s neck flared, freezing him in place. Red tried to pull him along but he was scanning the square for what was setting his instincts on edge. Then, almost by chance, his peripheral vision picked it up. Aiden’s head snapped to the left suddenly and he gasped.
Aiden whispered. “God’s please, no.” Then his eyes widened as his sight confirmed his fears. Red was quick to pick up on his distress, looking down his line of sight.
“What is it, Aiden?” She whispered, still trying to move him.
Aiden didn’t hear her, his entire focus was on a man on the other side of the square. He walked in quick sharp shuffling movements, stopping and jerking a bit wildly. Onlookers stared, but passed by him with whispers and hushes to mind their own business. Time seemed to slow for Aiden as he ran the situation out in his head. Aiden knew what was wrong with the man, knew that his presence meant death to everyone if something wasn’t done right now. He was the only one here who knew about the imorum gleri. A parasitic fungi found deep in the wilds, it made no sense why it was here? He turned to Red, dreading what was about to happen. Part of him had known what he felt for her. Verig had been bringing him here since he was a boy. He’d ran head-long into those bright emerald eyes. It was all downhill from there, he’d never had the nerve to do anything about it. Not that he could’ve, not being one of the Magius. Yet the heart is fickle. There’d been hope, false as it was. Though the heart cared not for such a triviality. Now the childish thing was being smashed aside by the responsibility that comes with power. Aiden had the power to save these people, was it not worth that distant star? Aiden looked into the crowd and saw the people, the families, and their children. Sickened that he’d even consider inaction, Aiden killed a part of himself in that moment.
“I’m sorry Red.” Aiden whispered, then ripping his arm away from her, he said louder. “Clear the square right now.” She started to say something but he cut her off. “There’s no time, You need to get these people out of here!” Fear made him raise his voice. Flickers of emotion flashed across her face; confusion, fear, pain, and finally understanding. The pain of seeing her hurt by his actions nearly buckled his knees. Aiden knew she was the only one he could count on. Before he had taken more than two steps away, she’d drawn a horn from her pouch and blew a low resonant sound. Gods she was a marvelous woman! It seemed to go on forever as Aiden strode towards his shattering destiny. People responded instinctually to the horn, this was borderlands territory, monsters attacked frequently and savagely. Everyone in the square gathered their loved ones and sought the nearest shelter. Everyone, except the poor son of a bitch who’d been unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. A deep sadness for this man, whose body and mind had been hijacked violently, filled Aiden. And all for the sole purpose of this mindless organism getting its rocks off. Spreading itself without sorrow or regret, just vicious nature doing what it does best.
Not today, not while Aiden had the power to stop it. He felt no hesitation as he focused his will. The jerking man had stopped at a tree in the center, latching desperately to it. His legs buckled and with a last effort, he bit into the tree with fervor. The man hung from the tree unmoving. Aiden began, he had to be quick.
“Mornclire, Warden of the final gate. Watcher of the last breath,…” As Aiden spoke, his voice boomed unnaturally across the square and over the town, his hands flowing through signs with each syllable. An unnatural silence settled, except a sick cracking coming from the corpse, the back of the man’s skull bulged. “... You who sit in Judgement. Father of the abyss, banish the light of freedom, and embrace night’s final sigh!” Aiden reached to the sky as the last sound left his lips. The man’s skull spit and a fleshy pulsing pod pushed out, rising into the air with desperate need. Aiden grasped the air and yelled as corded muscles strained, slowly his hands fell. The pod grew taller, almost half of its host’s height, into the air. The flesh and gore covered sack began to fill with air, as the murderous mutagen took its first and last breath. Aiden’s hands sped up, blurring impossibly the final few feet. When they touched the ground, there was a thunderous boom, as five giant black staffs slammed into the corpse-flesh, skewering it at odd angles. Each staff was topped with a different symbol in immaculate detail, rings jangling as they settle from the impact. A golden iridescent chain snaked around the man, the pod, and the tree with lightning speed. The pod stopped as if frozen, no pulses of movement. Aiden let out an unsteady breath. He focused on the next spell, drawing deeply of his will. Sweat began to bead on his face as he began again.
“Vulnax, Inferno’s wrath. Rage forth and scorch with righteous fury all those who oppose your might!” Aiden yelled as he spun his arms in cyclonic motions, eyes locked on the imorum gleri. Bright white-hot flames bloomed across the man’s corpse, growing brighter and larger, and spinning into a flaming funnel of destruction that grew with every rotation. Within seconds it was wide enough to swallow a small house and reached into the sky farther than one could see. The heat grew so intense, Aiden’s skin started to blister and the fronts of the shops in the square began to smoke. Glass windows drooped, and somewhere a voice cried out. Aiden cut off the spell and the fire disappeared instantly. There was nothing but a circle of blackened earth left behind. Sweat poured from his head as he bent, hands on his knees, gasping for breath. All he could hear was the rapid thump-thwump of his heart, so he was startled when a hand grabbed him from behind. In survival mode, because of the stress he’d put his system through, Aiden spun bringing a blade to bear upon… Red. Her eyes were wide with terror as the blade rested against her throat, she looked into his eyes.
“It’s me Aiden, put the knife down. I’m your…” She tried to say, but Aiden made a throaty growl, pressing the knife further.
“Stop it, you’re not that naive.” Aiden managed through gritted teeth. “You can’t be friends with a monster Frederica! You kill them. As you should.” Aiden said, the glint of the knife caught his eye. Then realizing just what he was doing, he jerked away from her stumbling back a few steps.
“Aiden, listen, you have to leave right now! Tracy and his guards saw you!” She was yelling at him. Aiden was having trouble processing it. “Did you hear me? You have to leave now, Tracy will be back any second now. He won’t have just three or four of the constable’s men. He’ll bring them all!” Red was pushing him. “Go back to Verig!”
The mention of Verig’s name was just the mental bitch slap Aiden needed. “Shit!” he said, shaking his head. Then he ran, the last image of her face, furrowed with worry, was burned into his memory.
Age range: Older teen to adult
Word Count: 7129
Author: Michael Russell
Why is it a good fit: I’m going to focus on why I’d be a good fit as a client. I come from a family of blue-collar workers, I haven’t been to college, I have loving children to take care of and it would be so much easier to put my head down and let the next few decades pass me by at a 9 to 5. Instead, I’m trying to break into an industry where, while some like me have succeeded, I am greatly outnumbered. I enjoy the hell out of writing, and I’m going to continue to do so at any rate.
The Hook: Humanity has spent millennia finding balance with a world that has rejected them. Just as a period of seaming peace settles, a young man bursts forth from the wilds bringing change as erratic as he is. Will he find a way to fit the mold or break it in trying?
Synopsis: A couple millennia after humans are stripped of magic, representatives of most of the major races in Magnia are given a number of human children. These children are to be channeled back into magics flow and serve as a representative of their race’s ability to treat the power responsibly. These children are called The Magius. Unknown to the others, a rogue dragon finds a boy in the wilds. Decades later, strange and dangerous machinations launch the boy into an unsuspecting society.
Bio: Raised by my grandparents, I watched as cancer killed my mother. Filled with bullshit teenage angst and understandable anger, I was able to find peace escaping to the beautifully crafted worlds of my fantasy author forebears such as Tolkien, Jordan, and Rowling. They and others continued to be pillars of strength that helped me get through the military and my toughest job yet, being a father. I write because I hope, even if it’s just for one other, to create something that lends strength to those in need.
Education: High School, Army Satcom honor grad, Tech school (Networking)
Experience: I’ve been writing on my own time for three years.
Personality/Writing Style: I’m an ENTP, take from that what you will. My grandparents instilled a hard work ethic into me at an early age. I work hard so I can play hard. My writing is action-oriented and I enjoy building new worlds and magic systems.
Likes/Hobbies: I’m a nerd at heart, spending most of my time consuming: books, video games, anime, and tv. I’m a bit of a study in dichotomy because I also enjoy camping/hiking, stargazing, and getting on my motorcycle and riding hours outside of town in any direction.
Hometown: Kansas City, KS (Dotte Original)