Rising Moon

By Alexandra Livingston

 

Chapter 1: Those Controlled by Fate

           

“Attack!” 

            With their swords held high, eighteen warriors – three units of six, charged in towards the advancing army.  They were overly outnumbered, but they had a secret weapon their overconfident enemy did not.

            The large battlefield was littered with friend and foe alike.  The difference could be seen in the color of their metallic armor.  Comrades wore fiery red armor while the enemy attempted to advance in their country’s royal gold-trimmed black.  Obviously they felt they were rich enough to expand their territories but these crimson warriors were going to make them think twice.

            Hidden behind the ranks of warriors, separate from the main fighting, stood a dozen more that joined the battle with another purpose.  All wore heavy blue robes instead metal armor, their only protection against any potential attacks that might break through.  An eerie, unnatural aura surrounded each of the huddled groups – four in total – and only seemed to grow in intensity as their warriors raced to face off with the enemy.

            Their voices could be heard, but not distinguished for they spoke in the ancient language of the Goddess Lunaria.  She, the founder and creator of their powerful magic, harnessed the power of the moon, and crafted it into an unbeatable force.

            The spellcasters of the village raised their heads, revealing solid white eyes, as their spells reached their climax.

            All at once, each warrior – now yards ahead, glowed with a green energy that even non-wizards could see.  As the two forces clashed, the warriors let out battle cries as they faced off with the enemy.

            But try as they might, the enemy’s blades couldn’t penetrate nor even scratch those of the defending army.  Even the strongest armor had fallen beneath their blades during their campaign, but these fighters were invincible.

            Two warriors faced off in a heated battle – one with a sword and the other with a club.  They savagely attacked each other, but the sword wielding fighter seemed to wield not only unmatched skill between his hands, but an uncommon elemental ability that lit the steel ablaze.

            The invader became the defender as the man struck again and again landing hits on his enemy’s armor, releasing sparks into the battlefield.

            By pure chance of luck, the man with the club avoided the overhead swing of the sword and struck hard with his weapon on the back of the man before him.  But instead of shattering or even cracking the armor, it was repelled mere inches from the man’s back plate.

            “W-what are you?”  He stuttered in fear as the red armored warrior slowly turned to face his enemy.

            With a confident grin the warrior replied, “I am the beginning to your end.”  Then in one final stroke, the club fell limply to the ground as the man’s head gradually rolled down the hill.

            The battle was won and a mighty cheer rang amongst the victors – wizards and warriors alike.

 

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            That night the entire village gathered for a victory festival against the invaders.  Lately the neighboring empire, Vires, had grown bold and tried to advance their territories by slipping through the small mountain pass that separated their lands.

            This particular village was located just east of the pass leading to the main part of the Armoon Empire.  If their enemy made it past them, the rest of the land was at their fingertips.

            But now was a time of celebration, music, food, and wine for all – except for the children of course, but young Kilik always found ways to snag some berry juice here and there when no one was looking.  After a long day of studying, getting to have some fun was a welcomed treat.

            At the age of five, the children of the village were tested by the elders and designated one of two groups – mage or warrior.  During battle, the warriors would take the fight to the enemy with swords and shields while the spellcasters stayed behind using spells like protection and heightening the warriors’ attack strength to aide in the fight.

            As much cooperation as there was on the battlefield, there was little to none in their daily lives.  Both sides despised the other and often refused to associate with them.  Although the victory was because of both, the warriors and the spellcasters each thought they deserved the credit.

            Even during a party like tonight, the spellcasters kept to themselves and the warriors drank with their own.

            Kilik’s destiny had long been decided for him, even though he himself did not agree.  The elders of the village had deemed Kilik’s future in the shadow of the Goddess Lunaria.  Bound for greatness as a mage and not as a warrior, which Kilik himself felt born for.

            The warriors were brave in battle and fearless towards the enemy.  Kilik wanted to learn the sword, not sit down all day reading books and learning spells.  But now at the age of thirteen, Kilik had neither changed his destiny nor wielded a sword like his heart yearned for.  He had learned fire spells and wind spells and learned to protect others from physical harm, but although it didn’t feel wrong – something about it didn’t feel right: like a part of him was missing.

            Pouting, he stared at the warriors with their swords in envy.

            A tap on his right shoulder broke his gaze, but when he turned he found no one.  A giggle on his left brought him face to face with Shiana Starlight.  Her green eyes sparkled with mystery.  “Greetings Kilik!”  The light brown haired girl was a student of the magic just like him, but she truly felt she belonged in the art.

            The boy turned away with a roll of his eyes.  His own short dark hair fell just below his brow in large unruly locks.  “What do you want?”

            The girl sat next to him, unperturbed by is reaction.  She was used to it. “Guess what I did?”

            Playing with a stick in the sand, Kilik absentmindedly started writing the spell for protect.  “What is it this time?”

            “I made my own spell!”

            Unconvinced, Kilik eyed her.  “Really?”

            Closing her eyes, the girl cupped her hands in front of her and began chanting in the ancient language.  “Saladine to felis.  Meta a nid.  Lorakalisa e brite shio.”

            Slowly, starting out as a faint glimmer, a ball of light formed in Shiana's hands.  The shine reflected the hidden amazement in Kilik’s eyes.  But then, off to the side, something else caught his eyes – it was the unmistakable glow bouncing off one of the nearby warrior’s swords.  Suddenly, Kilik couldn’t help himself and slowly began edging towards the dangerous weapon.  His red brown eyes seemed entranced by the handheld weapon.  The wielder of the forbidden blade stood up in a drunken stupor and unsheathed his sword, illustrating how he had cut the head off one of the enemy.  As he swung his blade this way and that, Kilik saw the blade as an extension of the man’s arm.  Was that how it was in battle?

            Finally noticing that she was the only one enjoying the show, Shiana clenched her fist as she glared at the boy – smoke escaping through her fingers as the spell ended.  “Kilik!  Get back here!”  She hissed through her teeth

            When the warrior steadied his stance, he noticed the entranced boy and quickly sheathed his sword.  “Something catch your eye, lad?”  His tone was none too friendly and it was obvious he knew the boy’s destiny.  In fact, it was hard to hide since Kilik had completely forgotten to change out of his mage uniform before sneaking out to see the festival.  Standing up, Kilik blushed in embarrassment as the entire table busted out in laughs.  “Well the sword is not for a weakling like you.”

            The young mage clenched his teeth and glared at the man.  As soon as he opened his mouth though, Shiana came up and grabbed his arm.  “Thanks, we’ll be going now.”

            She dragged Kilik away from the festivities and when they were out of sight, she released him.  “What’s wrong with you!?”  Her classmate responded by crossing his arms with a huff.  “Always gawking at those barbarians!  You’re going to get your head cut off one of these days!”

            “But did you see it Shiana?” He asked as he began to imitate the warrior with his stick, swinging it one-handedly back and forth.  “The gleam, the glory, the…”

            “The very fact that you’re a mage means all of that is beyond your reach.”  Her voice broke his sentence and the harsh truth of the words broke his demeanor.

            He stopped and looked sadly down at the ground.  “Why must it be like this?”  He raised his stick in the air.  “Would the Goddess Lunaria really frown down upon me if I were to slay the enemy with this than some puny fire?”  As he finished his sentence, the branch he held in his hand burst into flames and he quickly dropped it with a yelp of surprise.

            “Yes, she would.”  Spinning around, both children bowed low to the high mage now in their midst.  “The warriors fight for the glory of Lord Crimson above and for themselves.  We wizards fight for the glory and survival of all.  THAT is what separates us.  It is best you remember that and follow the destiny that has been laid before you.”  Giving the boy one last glare, the man spun on his heel and returned to his dwelling.

 

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            Kilik climbed out of the hatch in his roof and settled down against the interwoven hay.  Putting his hands behind his head, he relaxed and stared up at the moon longingly.  Ever since he could remember, those destined to fight with the sword always despised those meant to fight with magic.  Growing up with Shiana, Kilik observed that the hatred ran far deeper than most realized.  He, on the other hand, seemed to have grown the ability to view the unsteady alliance with an untainted heart and mind.  It wasn't all black and white for him and for this reason, he didn’t accept the fact that warriors were truly barbarians, as all of his fellow spellcasters seemed to think.

            But he wondered.  Why had the Goddess Lunaria fated him to be one of her followers when he wanted nothing more than to raise a sword and fight in the frontlines of battle?  He hated the idea of staying behind while others did the fighting.  He was not someone who needed others to defend him.

            “I think today brings the total to forty slain by my hand!”  He heard someone shout.

            Intrigued, Kilik crept to the edge of the slanted rooftop and looked down at the remainder of the celebrators.  He saw one of the warriors stand up and hold his arms out to the sides.  “Who knows what glories Lord Crimson brings to us tomorrow?”

            A little ways away, another, older member of the village, scoffed.  He was dressed in the blue robes of a mage.  “He wouldn’t have killed nearly as many if we hadn’t been there to protect him.”  A man and a woman at the same table nodded in agreement.  “If it weren’t for us, the enemy would’ve killed twice as many today than they did.”

            Upon hearing this, the warrior and two of his brethren, turned around to glare at the wizards.  “Oh?  Did you say something, mage?”

            Glaring back, the man replied, “You know the victory truly belongs to us, yet you squawk on and on about your killings as if it were all thanks to you!”

            Unsheathing his sword threateningly, the warrior – along with his friends – faced off with the mages, who also stood as one.  “Let’s see your flame withstand my steel then!”  He took a step forward and that was enough provocation for the wizard to release a fireball from his hand and throw it at the warrior.

            In a wide arc, the fighter batted the flame aside and struck again at the man’s side, meaning to slice him from shoulder to hip.  As the blade neared its target, it bounced harmlessly off the seemingly frail man and green sparks flew.

            Behind him, the woman’s eyes glowed the same mystifying green.

            “You see?  Without our magic, you’re just little boys with your sticks.”  The comment made Kilik gasp.

            His rival scoffed and turned to his friends, “And here I thought it was going to be a one on one fight.”  Then he turned to the wizard, “You see, on the battlefield at least I know I can fight alone.  Just how many of you mages does it take to defeat one little boy with his stick?”

            Soon others who had been hearing the confrontation rallied behind their respectable sides.

            “Come now.  This is below us.  Don’t let him goad you into a fight.” The mage’s wife berated.

            “Yeah, we wouldn’t want any of our village’s great protectors to be lost in a battle they can’t win.”  One of the female warriors said aloud, getting a laugh from her fellow fighters.

            “Not that we would want to waste our magic on lost causes such as yourselves.”  Another wizard replied.

            Tension ran high as both sides became enraged and fed up with the other.  That tension exploded when a fight broke out between one of the warriors and one of the magicians.  No one knows who started it first, but as more villagers jumped into the fray to defend their friends, an all out riot broke out.

            Kilik watched in horror as neighbor fought neighbor and the wounded fell to the ground with either gashes made by the sword or burns made by the wizard’s flame.  More of the village heard the commotion and came out to see what was happening.

            Kilik stood up from atop his roof and couldn’t believe what he was witnessing.  All these people…why isn’t someone doing anything to stop this!?  He wondered in shock.  All he could hear were cheers, fellow fighters or mages goading their comrades on from the sidelines.  I have to do something!  He decided with determination.

            Jumping onto a nearby tree branch, the boy hurriedly climbed down and rushed into the center of the mob.  “Please stop this!”  He pleaded.  “Put down your weapons and stop attacking each other!”  No matter what he said, the fighting still continued and nobody seemed to listen to the embodiment of innocence standing within their midst.  His frustration getting the best of him, Kilik held his hands above his head and cried out, “Everybody stop!”  From beneath him a huge column of wind erupted and shot into the sky high above the rooftops of the surrounding houses.  The tornado was thin but could easily be seen against the darkened night.  Flaming balls fired were pulled upwards while blades meant to bring death were yanked free from their masters’ grasps, dancing dangerously on the encircling currents.

            This finally got the attention of the feuding group, including Kilik’s mother who came out of her house to see the son she thought she’d sent to bed standing in the middle of a vortex.  “K-Kilik!”

            Letting out a cry at the top of his lungs, Kilik shot his hands down against the ground and the winds instantly vanished.  All the swords and fireballs ceased their movement and fell as one back towards the land.  Shouts of surprise and screams rang out through the silenced air as the weapons almost caused injury to those who’d once harnessed them so arrogantly.

            As Kilik stood and took deep breathes, he eyed each of the adults around him with an enraged glare and one by one the intensity of the youth’s emotions made the adults look away in shame.  The reality and consequences of what had just occurred or what might have later been regretted came into light for all present.

            “I know I may not be a warrior,” Kilik started after a while.  “But I’m not a full-fledged mage yet either.”  He looked over at the elder who’d lectured him earlier, now present amongst the others.  “But I seem to be the only one who sees the advantages both art forms have to offer.  You bicker against each other, warriors of Crimson and mages of Lunaria, demanding one is greater than the other.  Why not try using both?  Why restrict the study of sword and magic when doing so would make one twice as strong?”

            One mage scoffed.  “What you speak of is blasphemy.  Besides, everyone knows that only when you dedicate yourself completely to one do you reach mastery.  Otherwise you’re spreading yourself too thin.”

            The warrior opposite him nodded as he crossed his arms.  “You sacrifice one to become great in the other.  We actually agree on something for once, old man.”  The mage growled but restrained from further action.  Looking down at Kilik, the fighter placed a hand on his head and proceeded to ruff up his hair.  “You do bring to my attention a good point though.”

            This caught Kilik off guard and he looked up I surprise.  “I do?”

            Meeting the elder mage’s wrinkled glare he continued.  “Staying here is only holding us back.”  The statement was a shock to everyone and whispers began to grow like a wave through the crowd.  Glancing back at his fellow fighters, the man said louder, “If we continue to protect those who obviously don’t need our blades, we are only sacrificing our mastery of the Great God Crimson.  I say let’s leave the village and become the warriors we were always meant to be!”

            Cheers amongst the fighters rang out and they pulled their weapons free from the ground to lift high in the air.

            The mage opened his mouth in shock.  “Our ancestors have been here protecting the empire for centuries!  You can’t possibly mean to…”

            “Not mean to…will.”  The man turned on his heel, picked up his sword, which he returned to its scabbard, and walked towards his home.  “Everyone who wants to follow me be here in the morning!”  He shouted to those still behind him.

            Kilik shook his head.  “N-no, that’s not what I meant!  You can’t leave…” He had meant for his intervention to lead to peace and cooperation, not separation.  How were the mages to hold off against future threats?  As mothers and fathers gathered their children and returned to their houses, Kilik couldn’t help but wonder if some of this was his fault.

            “Good, now at least we’ll be able to practice without them interfering all the time.”  Shiana commented as she approached Kilik’s side.

            The boy opened his mouth in disbelief.  Looking around he saw that most of those who remained seemed either relieved or content with the warriors’ decision.  Didn’t they know how wrong this was?  Shaking his head in disgust, Kilik turned around and retreated back into his home.

            Shiana was bewildered by his actions and his mother was outright shocked at his change in demeanor.  Her son brushed past her without so much as a word.  The power that had erupted from within him was beyond anything he’d been taught or should have been able to cast at such a young age.  Once he was inside, she looked over at his teacher worriedly.  The teacher merely nodded in response.  Something had to be done if Kilik was to become an upstanding member of the newly formed mage society.

 

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            The next morning, Kilik sat on a limb high in the tree in front of his house.  He looked down in disgust as the warrior families packed everything they owned into carriages.  The happenings of last night spread throughout the village and they all agreed to leave in a caravan to form a new settlement.  These are the people I looked up to?  Kilik wondered.  His teachers always preached about protecting everyone and not thinking about themselves.  Pride was not the way to gain favor in the eyes of the Goddess Lunaria.  Yet turning your back and doing nothing because of pride was just as selfish.  Of course, no one would hear out a mere mage in training.

            Speaking of training, Kilik’s sparring class started soon.  Hopping out of the tree, he rolled his eyes one last time at the departing villagers and went to class.

 

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            “Today we’re going to have a few free sessions between students of equal level.”  His teacher announced.

            While the first two students were chosen to begin their duel, Shiana came over to join him on the log fence behind the main clutter of attentive students.  “So, are you nervous?”

            Not bothering to turn to her he replied, “No…should I be?”

            “Well yeah, having to concentrate on casting your spell while staying alert and avoiding your opponent’s attacks?  I don’t think I could do it.”  She admitted.

Kilik rolled his eyes and crossed his arms.  He never viewed the sparring sessions his teachers assigned as a true test of one’s ability.  They always had to hold back in order not to severally harm their fellow student.  Then on top of that, the children were forced to chant out loud as they did their spells.  If they didn’t, namely Kilik, the teacher was unconvinced of their ability.  In the end, it was a pointless waste of time.

Mystical ether was a powerful energy hidden in all living things.  Plants used it to grow, as well as animals, and those humans who knew how to tap into it converted it into mana and used it to cast spells.  There were four types of spell casting that Kilik had come to know.  The lowest were chants: to speak a spell and channel the mana to a specific location.  The second were hand signals.  In ancient times the hand signals were meant to unlock the seal on the type of energy that needed to be released.  Now they were used as a honing device for mana that needed to be channeled to small specific locations. 

The next was potion making.  Elixirs could be used for good or to harm depending on what ingredients were involved and they almost always tasted horrible.  The last and hardest spell casting to master was mental.  This type involved casting, channeling, and honing mana with just your mind.  Despite the fact that the only one in the village known to cast silently was the High Elder Mage, Kilik always found it the easiest.

“Kilik, you’re next.”  He heard his teacher announce.

Behind him he heard Shiana whisper “Good luck!”  Uncrossing his arms, he made his way into the battle circle, which was surrounded by a short wooden fence.  The class was gathered around it, watching and supposedly learning, while the victor of the last duel stood waiting.  The kid poised himself confidently and smirked as Kilik positioned himself opposite of him.

Kilik knew this kid well.  Hirokawa wasn’t exactly his rival since Kilik never took his classes seriously, but it seemed the prideful mage always attempted higher-level spells when he was pit against Kilik.  Yet no matter how hard he tried, Kilik always won.  Hirokawa followed the teacher’s instructions precisely, while Kilik had long learned to think outside of the box.

“You won’t beat me this time.”  Hirokawa said with determination.  His short black hair and dark blue almost black eyes always made him look so conniving that others he went up against usually became timid.  All except for Kilik.

Refusing to waste his breath with a reply, Kilik merely bowed – silently giving the signal that he was ready.  Tradition stated each mage bow and lower their eyes to the floor – letting their opponent know they trusted them to fight fair.  Kilik…kept his eyes locked on Hirokawa’s, a clear sign of mistrust and disrespect.

Hirokawa returned with a proper bow and took his first stance.

Kilik observed Hirokawa’s movements critically.  Everything from his footing to his eyes could reveal which spell he would cast.  Most students tried to discern their enemy’s motives by their chanting, but in reality higher skilled magicians didn’t use words.  Also, waiting to hear the chant left only a small amount of time to react.  Therefore, Kilik refused to use them as a crutch…though he knew doing so now would only get him in trouble.

Already he could tell Hirokawa would summon Earth.  His feet were firmly planted; he had one hand stretched forward palm facing Kilik while the other arm was bent back in a fist.  Hirokawa’s quick chant confirmed his guess and a column shot up underneath the mage.  Loosely chanting a counter spell, Kilik slammed both hands flat against the earth, ramming the four-foot pillar back into the ground.  From underneath Hirokawa an identical column shot up, throwing the once cocky youth off balance.

The elder mage who was acting as Kilik’s teacher raised his eyebrow fractionally at the maneuver.

Before Hirokawa even recovered from the reflected spell, Kilik was rushing towards him – a chant already upon his lips.  Wind rushed from behind him, increasing his speed as he pulled up his fist to punch into Hirokawa’s chest.

The boy let out a grunt of pain and doubled over.

Kilik then used the remaining wind to empower his follow up fire attack, the mighty flame encircling his fist.  Not even waiting for Hirokawa to look up, he jabbed him in the chest again, throwing his opponent painfully into the wooden railing right before his teacher.

Elder Mage Kishida instantly called a halt to the dual.  “Enough!”  He shouted.  Fellow students helped Hirokawa to his feet while Kishida glared at Kilik.  “You are not allowed to use physical attacks, you know this!  Is it to be restricted to elemental summons – do you understand?”

“Yes Elder.”  Kilik droned.

“Get off me!  I told you I’m fine!”  Hirokawa pushed the children away and brushed the remaining charred pieces of shirt that clung to his robes.

“Hirokawa, you have done well.  You can retire for the rest of the day.”  His teacher said.

Hirokawa bowed to the elder mage and replied.  “If you please, allow me another chance against him.”

Kishida looked at his student carefully before nodding to approve the duel.

Hirokawa re-entered the ring and once again stood across from Kilik.  “Whether you break the rules or not, I will defeat you.”

“So you say.”  Kilik said as he stood ready.  Enflaming his fist once more, Kilik shot a fireball at Hirokawa when he threw his punch.

Hirokawa spun his hands in a circular motion in front of him manipulating the wind in order to disperse the flames around him.  The other students gasped with awe.  Holding his flat palms facing each other on his side, Hirokawa began condensing the air’s moisture into a condensed stream.  His chant got faster as he shot his hands forward, channeling the horizontal geyser at Kilik.

Kilik didn’t even bother to move his feet as he bent to the side, avoiding the water blast aimed at his head.  From his new stance, Kilik called up the wind to his hands and swayed them up, calling the dust from the floor into Hirokawa’s eyes.  The water blast was blocked by Elder Mage Kishida’s protect spell so that no observing students got wet.

Crying out, Hirokawa tried desperately to regain his vision.  Easily grabbing his arm, Kilik flipped him onto the ground.  Twisting his fingers, he called up the roots from the earth.  The living ropes tied themselves around Hirokawa’s wrists and legs, locking him against the ground.

Knowing he was in trouble, Kilik merely walked away from the dueling ring, leaving his opponents and infuriated teacher behind.  Better luck next time Hirokawa.

The boy pulled against the vines but it was no use.  “Would somebody get me out of this mess!?  Now!”

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“I just don’t understand why you insist on defying Elder Mage Kishida!  Is it so hard to follow the rules?  They are placed there so no one gets hurt!”  Kilik’s mother scolded her son.  “If your father were still around, I know you wouldn’t ever dream of…”

“Don’t you dare bring Dad into this!”  Kilik countered.  “He always told me to try my hardest and reach my full potential!  Following Elder Mage Kishida’s way is only holding me back!”

“Whether or not that’s true, you will follow Elder Mage Kishida’s rules from now on!”

“Or what?  They’ll stop teaching me?  Fine!  I never wanted to be a mage anyway!”  Kilik ran out of his house and away of the village.  His mother called out to him, demanding he return, but he didn’t listen.  Going towards Silver Creek at the edge of the village, Kilik sat down on a large rock.  The flow of water was so named because when the sunlight hit the surface just right, the creek shone silver.

He hated it when his mother mentioned his father.  She hadn’t supported him when it came to his banishment so she had no right to even say his name.  Kilik’s father had been a warrior – best in the whole village.  Whereas his mother was a mage.  His was one of the few mixed art families.  It was part of the reason Kilik never wanted to be a mage.  He wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and be a strong fighter.

Kilik was one of the few children that had both a warrior and a mage for parents.  Normally mages sought other mages for marital bonding, as did the warriors.  He'd never asked his mother why she and his father had decided to face scrutiny to be together, but now it didn't matter.  His father was gone.

One day five years ago, during one of the hardest battles the village has had to fight, he was caught casting a protection spell on a friend when they wandered deep behind enemy lines.  Later when he was called on it, he admitted he’d learned the spell in secret from the mage’s archives and had used it during the battle because they were too far away from the spellcasters to be protected.

The council of elders decided to banish him for his crime, while his family would remain in the village.  Kilik never saw his father again.

Over the last few years, his father’s “betrayal” of the warrior ways made the elders look down upon his son with the same expectations.  Though Kilik rarely needed to chant and always found effective yet “forbidden” ways to use his magic, others still waited until he too would betray their ways.  As of yet they had not been disappointed.  As he grew up, Kilik became more and more defiant against his teachers and their supposed “way”. 

Sighing he took out a small knife he secretly carried with him.  Holding it against his palm he gently pulled it against his skin, running it maybe an inch before he put the knife away.  The effect was instant and the cut bled impressively.  Closing his eyes, he held his other hand over his palm and ignored the painful throbbing as he concentrated on the spell.  Green colored ether from the air began to materialize and enter the wound as a bright blue, slowly healing it.  Curing spells were something left for older, more experienced mages for use on the battlefield.  Kilik had “borrowed” one of the senior mage’s spell books and although he was only able to cure minor cuts and sprains, his abilities proved the mage’s curriculum was not letting him reach his full potential.

When he opened his eyes, he saw the blood still pooled in his hands, but the cut was indeed healed.  Yet another spell he was able to cast without chanting.

“There you are!” 

Jolting from the shout, Kilik turned and saw Shiana making her way down the hill leading to the creek.  When she stopped by his side she placed her fists firmly on her hips.  “When your mother said you ran off, I thought the worst!”  Her eyes caught sight of the blood in Kilik’s hand and she gasped with freight.  “By the Goddess!  What happened!?”

“Oh, don’t worry.  It’s nothing.”  He tried to assure her, but Shiana still took out a handkerchief and gently wiped away the crimson liquid.

When she completely cleared it, she noticed his hand was indeed unharmed.  “How did you…” She stopped and looked him in the eye.  “Kilik, you didn’t!”

He yanked his hand away and picked up a rock to throw into the stream.  “And why not?  Teaching us elemental spells can only show us so much!  Think of all the other spells they aren’t teaching us that could really benefit us: Lightning, poison, gravity!”

Shiana shook her head.  “In the wrong hands those spells could cause a lot of damage to someone!”

“But it’s those kinds of spells we need to be learning!”  Kilik responded.  “You forget!  We don’t have the warriors to protect us anymore.  We get attacked or the empire falls into danger, people are gonna die…our people.”

Shiana looked sadly at the ground and fiddled with the short braid she’d made that day in her hair.  The anger his reddish eyes held sent shivers down her spine.  He had so much emotion for someone so young.  “It’s just that… you get into so much trouble and I’m afraid you’ll be expelled from school or worse…” She stopped, not wanting to go on.

“Go on.  Say it.”  He goaded her impatiently.  “Or banished like my father.  That’s what you were gonna say weren’t you?”

She shook her head and forced herself to look at him.  “I just don’t want anything to happen to you.”

The slight confession melted Kilik’s anger and he looked at the girl next to him in confusion.  The two had grown up together but he’d never given it much thought as to why she tried her hardest to be with him.  Could there be something more to it?

“Aww, isn’t that sweet?  Kilik found himself a girlfriend.”  That voice could only belong to one person.  Looking past Shiana, Kilik saw Hirokawa and two of his buddies standing a few feet away.  Glaring at the boy, Kilik got up and took point in front of his friend.  “What do you want, Hirokawa?”

His rival crossed his arms.  “You may think you’re cool winning our duel by cheating.”  He began as he raised a fist in Kilik’s direction.  “But I won’t let a loser like you get away with making me look like a fool!  You’ll never become a full-fledged mage and I’m gonna show everyone what a fraud you are!  Get him!”

The wind by the boys’ feet began to pick up in tight gusts forming tiny cyclones.  Their combined voices chanted the familiar spell of channeling the winds and the speed of the chanting only caused the gusts to intensify.  Pebbles and rocks were picked up from the ground and flew towards Kilik’s still form.  Before they could strike their target, the large flat leaves of autumn at his feet rose up to form a wall that protected him from the coming projectiles.  The act made the boys uneasy because not once did they see their classmate open his mouth to speak.  As the wall lowered, Kilik stood there as calmly as he had before.

With emotion being absent from his features he said, “Allow me to finish what you have started.”  His eyes were locked on Hirokawa’s so intensely that the boy took an unsure step back.

Recovering from their shock the two other boys repeated the first spell hoping to catch their cocky classmate off guard.  This time the leaves around Kilik flew forward counterstriking not only the stones, but the spellcasters themselves – obscuring their vision and ceasing their chant.  The stones fell back down silently resting on the floor once more – not even having made it to Kilik’s still relaxed form.

Before the boys could recover, the ground beneath them shook – throwing them off balance.  Both cried out as they fell back against the ground, landing unceremoniously on their backs.  Plant vines sprung to life and still blind, the boys were unable to prevent themselves from being tied securely by the foliage.

“You and me, Hirokawa.”  Kilik once again locked eyes with his opponent, momentarily having looked away to remove any possible interferences.

By now Hirokawa’s heart was racing and sweat began to bead on his forehead.  That gaze…this is all nothing to him!  In the corner of his vision, he saw red flame come towards him.  Chanting a quick spell, he channeled the wind to suck the air away from the flame, sputtering it out before it could get to him.

As soon as he countered the one spell, the earth began to shake beneath him.  Hirokawa’s voice wavered slightly as he bent to quiet the rumbling.  The rustling of leaves brought his head up and a column of yet more foliage flew towards him in his crouched position.

With another chant and a wave of his arm, Hirokawa summoned a firewall to disintegrate the leaves.  As soon as the last leaf became ash, a funnel of water struck him, slamming him into a tree.  His shoulder struck hard and he grunted in pain – refusing to allow Kilik the satisfaction of the blow.  A second funnel channeled by Kilik from the creek behind him came barreling towards the recovering youth.  Ignoring the pain, Hirokawa moved his hands in precise symbols, all the while keeping the chant on his lips as quiet as possible.

Though he couldn’t see it, his spell was cooling and condensing the air around Kilik.  Finishing the spell, ice spears flew in and though Kilik knew what spell was being used against him, dodging the deadly icicles was difficult.  He was able to push Shiana out of the way before several opened new wounds in his clothing, legs and arms.

Finding a moment to spare before Hirokawa could start another chant, Kilik repeated the motion and used the water to slam his rival to the ground.  Hirokawa was still spitting up water when vines came up and held him against the ground in a similar fashion as his friends.  Looking up at Kilik, the boy growled but refused to admit defeat.

Suddenly showing anger for the first time since their battle had started, Kilik knelt over him and raised a fist as if to punch him but instead two more vines rose out of the ground and whipped around Hirokawa’s neck as they began to choke him.  “How does it feel, huh?  Being beaten by the same arts you swear by.  Do you follow Elder Mage Kishida’s rules so blindly that you don’t even see its weaknesses and flaws?”

“I was fated to be a mage and I will become the most powerful mage the empire has ever seen!”  The boy retorted in a strained voice.  He quickly regretted it when Kilik tightened the vines and Hirokawa found himself unable to breathe let alone speak.

“Fate doesn’t control everything!  Fate doesn’t control me!”  The two boys’ eyes met and Hirokawa could’ve sworn he saw the very Fire of Crimson burning within.  “I choose my own destiny.”

From behind Kilik, Shiana came rushing, instantly trying to pull him away from his already defeated foe.  “Kilik stop this!  You’re going to kill him!”  She pulled on his arm that controlled the plants and desperately tried to break his hold on Hirokawa.  The trapped mage’s face was now reddened and turned darker by the moment.  “He isn’t worth it!”

Kilik’s anger seemed to disappear as the calm, collected spellcaster from before returned, his hand unclenching to release Hirokawa as the boy struggled to catch his breath.  Both his friends had also been freed and they ran to his side.  Coughing, Hirokawa held a hand to his throat and remembered the horrifying feeling of being at death’s door that he had just experienced.  Kilik was stronger than he and until the day when that changed, Hirokawa couldn’t be attempting any more fights with the previously enraged student.  No, he would become stronger and looked forward to the day when he would stand over Kilik’s defeated form instead.

Helping up their friend, the boys left Kilik and Shiana by the creek and hobbled back to the village.  Shiana looked up into Kilik’s face, hoping to get him to talk to her about what almost happened, but the youth scoffed and jumped up into the nearest tree, the wind around him helping his leap to the highest part of the tree.  There he stayed long after Shiana had returned to the village and well into the night.  He didn’t want to speak to his mother, so he waited until he knew she was asleep and crept back in through the roof’s window in his room.

What happened to him in that instance didn’t really frighten Kilik as much as it should have but he knew that had Shiana not intervened he didn’t know what he would’ve done.  That night he decided to lay low and make it seem to everyone in the village that he had turned a new leaf.  Learning the ways of the sword in secret would be much easier if he were out of their suspicions.  It would be difficult to teach himself, but without the warriors in the village anymore, Kilik didn’t have a choice.

The day he became a man and left on his quest, he would find a new path and keep his word to create his own destiny.

 

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