Friday, May 29, 2009

Chapter 3: The First Lapping of the Waves

As the darkness fades from her eyes, Terra stifling a moan, she lowering her hands from her now bleeding face. Her gloves bloody as she stared down at them, not feeling the pain, she only felt her sense of impending doom returning.

"Are you quite alright, Ms. Terra?" The wizened old instructor had somehow come up behind Terra after the plate had hit her, having deactivated the circle of protection surrounding her. "Ms. Terra?"

"Oh...uh... y-yes, I am alright, Master Quarkis. It seems I missed one of the plates," Terra replied, still shocked.

"Oh yes, the plates. Ms. Terra, put your hands down now," Quarkis brings his own hands to her face. Like Terra's hands had when focusing her power, Quarkis' hands begin to glow, if more brightly, and with a steady greenish hue rather than her erratic crimson one. The cuts on her face are quickly healed, leaving no traces. Even the blood coating her fades and vanishes.

"Now, lets see that arm. Your floating disk seemed to hit that particularly hard," Quarkis mumbled to himself as he pulls off her glove, feeling along her wrist with his still glowing hands. "Well, no bones seem to be broken."

Looking up at Terra, he saw her eyes full of tears. "What is the matter? There should be no more pain."

Biting back a sob, Terra replied, "Have I failed my test, Master Quarkis?"

"No, Ms. Terra. I am actually quite impressed. You might be very surprised at how many students injure themselves in these demonstrations. Why, I myself... I suppose that is a story for another time, of course. But still, few students of your level are able to actually control elemental flame as you are without a pact with a fire spirit. It seems very likely that you will be asked to join the guild. Now you must excuse me though, the other judges have moved on to the final student, and I cannot miss his demonstration."

As Master Quarkis slowly hobbled over to the waiting judges, Terra sat on the ground. Both stunned and relieved, she almost could not believe that this whole day hadn't been a dream.

"Come on, Terra," Sertorii says as he walked over to her. "We wouldn't want to miss Vettessos' display. He has been working on it in the library for months now. Even Master Quarkis seems curious about what he will do."

"Knowing Vettessos, it won’t be anything noble or worthwhile. Every class that I have had with him proves that. Did you know that he was the student who turned Mistress Kinesha blue? It took the other professors a week to change her back to a normal color. Not to mention how many of his alchemy experiments manage to poison someone, never himself of course, or explode somehow. Did you know he was the one who melted the flesh off of Asinti’s hand with what was supposed to be a potion of night vision?"

Terra takes his offered hand as he helped her to her feet, and together they followed the judges to the last magical circle, exchanging more rumors of misdeeds. Vettessos, the short northerner, was still down on his knees with a large piece of chalk, putting the finishing touches on a magical circle of his own inside of the one placed by the instructors. As he continued drawing, Terra watched him closely.

Like her friend Kayla, Vettessos hailed from the wild lands on the northern border of the Eastern Territories. However, the two of them did not find comfort and friendship when each discovered where the other was from as Terra had expected. She soon learned that while Kayla was from the Kingdom of Grelz, Vettessos was from their very hostile neighbor, the Duchy of Bari. The two lands had been simmering with violence almost since humans had come to the region several centuries ago, and had fought in bloody open war only a generation ago. In fact, the renewed hostility between their kingdoms was the reason Kayla had left school. This fact did nothing to endear Terra to the pale haired little human she watched now.

She did not recognize the magical circle he is finishing, but that is no great surprise. The body of knowledge that modern magic encompasses made it nearly impossible for one person, even one as long lived as an elf, to learn it all. Even most who would be considered masters of the magical arts tend to focus on one small aspect of the craft, such as Master Quarkis with his healing.

Terra's reverie was broken when Vettessos' circle begins to glow with power. The young student moved to the center, kneeling in front of a large candle. With an indecipherable whispered word of power from him, the candle lights itself and his chanting began.

The words are much different than what Terra expected. In fact, she has never heard the language he is using. In the few required classes on the creation of magical circles of protection that Terra had attended, they had used the common eastern tongue. As the chanting became louder and more guttural, the flames of the candle burn more brightly.

The nagging feeling that she is missing something important tugged at Terra's mind, but she could not tell what it might be. It was almost as if there was something just beyond the range of her hearing that is calling out. The feeling grew more intense, the almost-sound rising and falling in rhythm with Vettessos' chants. Looking around, Terra saw looks of confusion on several of the other student's faces, as well as on a few of the instructors'.

Sertorii, whom Terra had almost forgotten was standing there, startled Terra when he whispered to her, "That doesn't look like a circle of protection to me. I might be wrong, but it’s forbidden by the Guild to learn any other type isn’t it?"

She half turned towards him, not taking her eyes off of the chanting boy. "Yes. Guild Master Rikkosk had that on the list of the forbidden arts. But Vettessos wouldn't be stupid enough to break the laws of the Guild right in front of the instructors. He would never be able to join if he.... Do you hear that?"

“Hear what?” Sertorii asked, who looked quite ill at ease.

“That voice-” A deep rumbling cut off the rest of Terra’s words, as the entire circumference of the circle burst into flames. The voice Terra had thought she heard now boomed clearly from the inflamed circle.

“A blood offering must be made, mortal,” the disembodied voice intoned.

The very sound of it drove a spike of pure terror through Terra. Her feet seemed to be stuck to the ground in horror as she continued to watch Vettessos, for now she recognized just what he had been doing as they all watched complacently.

“My offering is them, defiling one!” Vettessos nearly screamed as he pointed at the small crowd of professors and students gathered in front of him.

Through the rumbling, Terra heard the others around her. Most of the teachers seemed to be yelling at Vettessos, either ordering or begging him to stop this abomination. Sertorii stood by her side, as stunned as she was, when the demon that the young human had summoned began to tear its way into the world.

With an unearthly screech, the talons of the demon ripped through the air between Vettessos and the others. As the breach between the demon’s hellish dimension and her own world widened, Terra nearly fainted for the second time that day. At first Terra mistook what she was feeling as revulsion that one of her fellow students would bring such a thing into the world, but soon realized that it was the closeness of such a vile presence that caused the sickness she felt deep inside. Beside her, Sertorii fell to his hands and knees, gagging from the psychic stench of the thing that permeated the air.

As he retched beside her, Terra watched as the massive demon emerged fully into the world. Towering over the small Vetessos, it slowly turned towards the small crowd of teachers, taking a step towards them. Without thinking, Terra raised her hand towards the beast, again focusing her power into it. The fiery hues of magic began to coalesce, dancing around her slender fingers.

The flaming bolt that burst forth from her hand was of surprising strength. As she watched its speedy flight towards the demon Terra felt the first wave of intense pain hit her. By the time the ball of fire had hit the edge of the magical containment circle and dissipated harmlessly, she realized what a horrible mistake she had made. Not only had the reflexive use of her spell been useless, she had not even been properly prepared to use it. As she tore her now teary eyes away from the horrid creature to look at her hand, the one still glowing with her magic, she saw only the charred and flayed remains that seemed somehow connected to her arm.

It was then that the full intensity of the pain overcame her and brought Terra to her knees, screaming in pain. She looks back up as the demon begins pounding and tearing at the magical wall containing him. As her vision began to fade for the second time that day, Terra wondered if this time she would live long enough to wake up.

Hands grabbed at her, pulling her now almost limp body off of the ground. She could still hear the demon's terrifying roars of outrage as she drifted back into unconsciousness.

This is all I have right now. I think there is more to chapter 3, and I might have a print-out of chapter 4 which I'll try to get online soon.

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