Part VI

The streets are alive with the usual amount of life and energy. Locke couldn’t help it, a smile forming as Zell came walking over. He took a look over himself, clean and confident. A small boy walks y with a handful of flowers Locke calls him over and hands him a gold piece, pulling a single rose free, and then walks over handing it to an eager Zell. “It’s beautiful Locke.”

Finally feeling the courage build inside of him he lets his feelings free, “You’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen. That rose is nothing compared to you.” Zell’s arms wrap tightly around Locke’s neck. He could feel every sensation the velvet like caress of her cheek against his, her curves pressing into his chest, the softness of her dress between his fingers.

“Oh Locke. If only you didn’t let me die.”

“What?” Locke leans back, looking down at Zell. Her head lolls back, with lifeless eyes staring back at him, and a mouth gaping wide in terror.

Locke holds her still form, blood spilling from unseen wounds, his panic swelling inside him. Then without her lips moving, with a mouth frozen open in agony, Locke hears her voice, it’s just a whisper. Leaning closer he’s able to make out her words, “You let me die.” The volume of her voice waivers, so Locke moves even closer, trembling as his fingers run against her slick and blood soaked dress, “now you can come with me.” Her head snaps, jagged teeth protrude from her mouth, then she pulls Locke in quickly clamping down his throat. Locke tries to scream, but he finds soon he can’t even breathe, tighter it squeezes, his air dwindling. Locke puts up his arms but his attempt to push her away is feeble at best, his body weakly fighting her attack. His throat sealing shut with each painful second that her sharp teeth puncture their way into his jugular.

Virrus shutters, as Locke screams himself awake. “Are ye done now? Shouting in yer sleep, right before we set off ta war. Yer no good with yer timing.” Locke runs his hands down his face, the sand of sleep rolling free from the inside corners of his eyes.

“Virrus,” Locke turns his head and scans a nearby plate of food, pulling an apple off. Sitting up he rubs his thumb over the surface and loses himself in the its red reflection. “I have a bad feeling about this.”

“Aye, don’t we all lad. I don’t think any a man goes inta war with a good feeling. I’d swallow it down and get ready ta do whatever it takes ta clear the city, cause anything less might getcha killed.” Virrus takes his bag and slings it over his shoulder, tying its strap to his jacket, then grabs his staff and walks to the mouth of the tent. “You best eat, store some food in your gut. Good chance it may be the last thing ya ever eat.” Virrus turns his head till he can look Locke in the eye, “it might be the only thing that you eat till it’s all over.” With that he exits the tent, and leaves Locke, who wastes no time in feeding his hunger.

Drill is outside the hut, a pair of gold and silver bracer’s and shinguard’s bound to him with symbols and marks on them. He adjusts the band of black material hanging over his right eye, “Hey Virrus, they had only a little armor that isn’t made of wood. I grabbed these, but no one can tell me what magic is on them.” Virrus took his arm, scanning over the runes and engravings, a smile slowly stretching out.

Before he can speak a warrior steps up and slams his wooden staff into the ground at their feet. “It is time, we leave for war stone walkers. Come now, you three will take the lead.” Hearing the commotion Locke fumbles his way out, tossing his coat on with a pear clenched between his teeth. The warrior sneers at Locke, “Try not to die too quickly.” Then the soldier storms off to join the others.

Locke takes a bite and catches the pear as it falls from his mouth, chewing loudly. “He means me doesn’t he, he’s telling me to not die too quickly isn’t he.” Drill grabs Locke by the shoulder in a reassuring manner.

“I’ve taken the time to grab you this belt from their armory, it looks magical—well good luck.” Drill turns and marches towards the assembly of soldiers. Locke stares at the belt and then raises an eyebrow.

“You know, armor from an armory sounds like a better bet,” Locke mumbles to Virrus who eyes the belt.

“It seems that lad now has an eye fer magic.” Virrus lays a hand on Locke’s shoulder, “yer best bet is to put the belt on, it might save yer life.” Virrus walks past Locke, Locke takes another look at the metal belt and then puts it on, following Virrus to the crowd.

Near a warped tree, that seems to twist in on itself, the shaman runs his hands over it, whispering and chanting, the gathering chants one sound over and over again. The wood creaks, its twisting branches bending together, the center of the trunk bowling inward and turning into a dark mass. The shaman shakes, trembling as a light peaks from the center of the darkness, and then the chanting comes to a stop. “It is time,” the shaman speaks and all the Forest Tribe leans in, embracing his words. “Rynarr,” on hearing his name he takes a step forward, “You! You are chosen by him to be the wielder.”

“With great honor,” Rynarr states, while bowing and taking the broken sword, it’s blade broken in half. He loosens the sheathed sword at his side, with a loud thud the giant wooden blade that was nearly the size of Locke fell to the dirt.

Locke was scanning the crowd, for anyone as confused as he was feeling right then. “Um, Virrus? Why is he leaving the big sword and taking the broken one? It’s not even made of wood like all their other ones.”

“Nevermind. Ya no idea how powerful that piece of mangled metal is, I know men who’d kill an entire nation ta hold that relic he’s got right now.” Locke leans towards Virrus to ask another question but Virrus lifts a hand, leaving Locke to sigh in contempt.

Rynarr hoists the relic into the air, the Forest Tribe cheers and he shouts over them all, “Now the portal holds open! Let the stone walkers pass through and lead this army to victory!” Locke takes a big gulp and follows Drill and Virrus to the tree. Without hesitation Drill walks through. Virrus turns his head and nods to Locke, nervously Locke nods back. Virrus passes through the center of the tree and vanishes. Locke takes a deep breath, then checks the army behind him, their bright eyes all burning into him, then turns back and takes a step in. His body feels the tug, his insides lurch forward as he falls towards the center of the tree, slipping towards the portal back home.

End of Part VI

(As a reminder, I’ll be posting every 2-3 weeks from now on.  Again, thank you all for reading, I appreciate every person who takes time to read my stories.  Much love and keep coming back for the next installment or brand new short story.)

Rise of Wolsgret: Part VI

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Rise of Wolsgret: Part V

Part V

Locke could hear Virrus growling in anger, then marching off into the woods. Something had stirred Virrus into a frenzy, Locke wasn’t sure what it was, but judging by the look on the Shaman’s face it seems like good news.

Drill takes his arm and wraps it around Locke’s throat. Locke stumbles back, throwing his arms up as Drill drags him away. The soldiers of the Forest Tribe start lining themselves up. The men and women standing firm, each coated in a wood armor that seems to cling to their bodies, a net of enchanted leaves flowing underneath, tightly knit like a mesh of steel beneath a knights breastplate. Locke could see a strength in their eyes, an unyielding determination to stand tall. All of their amber eyes fell on a lone soldier.

This soldier’s wearing a heavier set of wood armor that’s darker then the rest, the wood has wild knots and small stems of budding green life, as if the wood was still a tree in soil. A rich green moss grew on his backside, the enchanted mesh of leaves beneath, is almost invisible since the armor nearly swallows every inch of the soldiers massive form. His helmet mimics the point where a trunk stretches to the crown of the tree. The wood seems alive, twisting over his face and branching out into sharp points behind his head.

Drill comes to a stop, standing at the side of the gathering, his arm still around Locke’s neck. Locke twists around, till he finally finds himself in a comfortable position to watch. The soldier’s in the crowd begin to call a name, then it turns into a chant. “Rynarr!” they shout in unison, raising their swords or bows with each boisterous call to their leader. Rynarr comes to a stop, the voices of the multitude fall into silence.

“Our people,” the crowd begins speaking with Rynarr, echoing his voice, “the shadow beneath the bending trees, the wind cutting through the leaves, soldiers who never forget, the wisdom that is Wolsgret.” Locke’s eyebrow comes up, the chant and rhythm, it’s like a spell he would cast, perhaps it is a spell. The soldiers, following the lead of Rynarr, lay an open hand over their hearts, fingers spread like the branches of a tree. When they let their hands fall, Rynarr begins to pace again. “It is true that this is not our fight! That we owe the stone walkers nothing—but, these stone walkers have fallen to stray wolves, to the perversion of our mighty Wolsgrets power! These wolves have come and slaughtered their people, using the magic of the very things we work so hard to protect and honor to fuel their bloodlust and hatred. We are the people of Wolsgret!” A cheer fills the air, “we create a legacy for the Beast of Wood and Nature!” another cheer shakes the ground, “so we will help the stone walkers.” Locke lets loose a cheer only to find himself alone, every soldier along with Rynarr kept their bright brownish eyes on him. Drill takes his arm back from Locke’s shoulders and clears his throat, taking a step to the away. Locke finds his voice and cuts the awkwardness, “Sorry.”

All of their head’s turn back to Rynarr who allows his gaze to linger on poor Locke for a few more moments. “We leave at sun rise, rest and ready your mind and swords.” The soldiers salute once more with an open hand across their hearts and then disperse. Rynarr walks over to Locke and pulls his helmet free. “You,” Locke lifts a finger and points it to himself, “you are a wordsmith, correct?”

“Yes, I know magic.” Locke looks over Rynarr’s face, a burn scar runs over his neck and up to the side of his head, his remaining hair falling wildly over the unscathed side of his head.

“I wouldn’t turn my back to any of my soldiers, you might not like the outcome—or survive it.” Locke kept his jaw set firmly, nodding his understanding, “I’m sure you understand, especially since you travel with Virrus. I still owe that one.”

Locke stares at his clean skin and bright eyes, and then he looks over the burns, “He did that to you?” Rynarr scowls, pulling his helmet on.

“Do not think you’ll get the chance stone walker, watch your back.” Locke tries to say something, to explain that he wishes them no harm, but Rynarr slips away marching loudly through the fallen leaves. Drill lays a sympathetic hand on Locke’s shoulder.

“Man, do they hate you.” Drill nods along with his statement, all the while Locke nervously looks about. “Get some sleep, we’re all going to need it for tomorrow.” With that Drill pats Locke’s shoulder one last time and walks off to his hut. A bird whistles and Locke spins around with his hands up defensively, only to find empty trees and nothing but the greens of the wild.

“I don’t think I’ll be sleeping tonight.”

 

The night feels unending to Locke, Virrus sits in his hut with a small lantern that seems to spill an unnatural amount of soft blue light. Virrus claims that the lantern can calm those willing, Locke who has been laying in bed with his eyes wide open, turning and staring at every shadow doubts its magical ability. “Virrus,” Locke looks to the roll of sheets that lay at the other end of the hut, “Virrus!”

“To all the hells, what can ya possible want lad?” Locke swallows, aware of the one question that has been swirling through his thoughts.

“Why—no, how could you do it? Burn all those people,” the sheets over Virrus sit still and Locke waits for anything. Finally, when he thinks that Virrus has fallen back asleep, he hears him speak.

“Ya don’t know who I was, the darkness that ah once felt flowing through every inch of me soul. Trained to attack with not a fraction ah mercy, especially if their not royalty or the law. After you’ve smelled ah few burning corpses, they all start to smell the same, they all burn the same. I’ve gone and murdered and slaughtered hundreds upon hundreds of innocent souls and then the king puts his hand on me head and blesses me for fighting on behalf of the righteous. The man has the nerve ta say I’m a hero for killing, so his hands can stay clean.” There was something in Virrus’s voice, it felt like all the life and spirit that Locke had witnessed up to now was draining with each word, “I never knew that darkness till it covered all those bright things I loved in me life, till it hung over every window of my heart. Till ah saw that I was all alone, and the only thing left of me soul—the only proof it ever existed, is ah handful of gold and me final spell ta cast.”

“I…” Locke was fumbling with his thoughts, trying to find the right words to lift Virrus free of the emptiness he seemed to be creeping towards. Virrus doesn’t allow him to speak.

“Aye, you’re right, it’s late an we need ta rest. Good night Locke, tomorrow is going ta be a big day for all of us.” Locke’s heart sinks, the silence filling the air between them, till finally his eyes shut and his busy mind lets him fall away. Escaping into the comfort of another world, one last sweet dream before the war.

 

End of Part V

Magical Locke: Part IV

Part IV

Virrus didn’t seem too concerned with Locke’s pleas for subtlety, as he lifted and pressed down. The pop sounding louder to Virrus than it did to Locke, as his shoulder was reset into his socket. It could be the grunting or the stomping of his foot, that drowned out his own cries. As soon as Locke quieted, Virrus pulled a small glass capsule from an inner pocket of his black jacket, then he pressing it into the palm of Locke’s hand. Locke quickly twisted it free and without question, swallowed the contents.

His toes curled, teeth clenched as his insides turned to fire, the muscles in his face slowly going numb. “What manner of potion was that? I—I think I’m dying.”

“Aye, it’s whiskey boy, ah fine year, keep it down or I’ll take it personal.” Virrus reached into the satchel he carried, sliding a glove out of the bag and then onto his hand.

“Why are you giving me whiskey?” Locke wondered aloud. Virrus took a stone from his bag and ran it against the inside of the glove. The stone sparked, the glove changing from the brown material it was naturally to a bright orange.

Virrus sighed, “Ya nah wanna be sober for this part son.” Locke followed Virrus’s eyes to the slash down his arm, the blood still slipping through the gaps in his flesh, the intense heat flowing from Virrus’s hand. Locke tensed up, clamping his eyes tight as the smell of his flesh drifted up into his nostrils. His teeth pressed into each other, his throat rattling a suppressed scream. The walls flickered, disappearing in the black that crept along the edges of his vision. Locke’s flesh still simmered, part of the old man wanted to help poor Locke into the bed to rest. But Virrus knew, he couldn’t quite let his sympathy win, they had to leave the city. The wilds were now just as safe and the only option for the two. “Come on lad, no time f’r resting.” Once the glove faded, its magic waning away, he cupped his hand underneath the pit of Locke’s arm and hoisted him up.

Locke was suffering, his hand trembling, his focus dwindling away. “Do ya know any spells that would take ya back to yer senses?” Locke shook his head. “Then lemme apologize in advance,” Virrus slapped the back of Locke’s shoulder, sending him upright and onto his toes. It was obvious that Locke held back his urge to scream in pain, but he still glared at old Virrus. “Ya need the adrenaline, were not for making it out alive if yer half way in an out.”

Locke grit his teeth and hesitantly nodded, though he was in pain, he knew that Virrus was the only thing that could keep him alive. They walked down the stairs, careful and alert, checking for any signs of trouble. When they were certain they were alone the old man spoke up, “And there’s me bar. Made of sturdy wood,” Virrus touched the edge of a counter top, it was scarred by the claws of a werewolf, it broke free with the lightest touch. “Aye, a curse indeed,” Virrus looked to the state of his livelihood, to the ruin that his home had become, “No escape from it.”

Locke was fully alert. Aware that any moment, if his guard slipped, something could come for his throat. “NO!” Locke froze, turning to Virrus who had just screamed. “Me bottle of 80 year old scotch, the damn animals! The damned mindless beasts!”

Locke shouted in a hushed voice, “Virrus!” He looked away from his wall of smashed liquor bottles, his eyes were wild and hair tousled, every strand nearly standing on end. “Are you mad? You’ll bring them all here, they’ll tear us apart!”

“The hells they would.” Virrus stated coldly. Locke’s confidence began to unravel, maybe this old man wasn’t as sane as Locke had assumed. Only the finest warriors working in tandem could hope to survive, let alone kill a wolf. Locke had used a spell of highest power with a direct call to the god Malahaal and the only thing that he had done was hurt the werewolf and toss him out of a window. Virrus ran a hand through his hair, smoothing it flat and returning himself to a more collected state. “I need a moment.” Locke nodded, watching him turn to his liquor bottles and rummage through the debris. Locke looked at the counter top, the candle was still sitting on top, unscathed with its black glistening wax. Quietly he pulled it free and shoved it into his pocket, turning away to keep watch. The old man pulled a few bottles that were dusty but still intact from the wall of broken glass. He pulled free a torn rope that had been hanging from the ceiling, and tied the three bottles around their neck. Then he wrapped it in a strap of leather he found on the floor and tenderly opened his bag, laying the bottles like sleeping children into his satchel.

“We should go Virrus,” Locke whispered.

“Aye, cannot a man mourn his losses nowadays.” Locke wasn’t sure if Virrus was asking a question or just stating some sort of truth. There wasn’t much time for any response, the sounds of howling and packs of wolves running through the streets. “Tread light boy, not a sound. Them dogs’ll have good ears, so watch yer step.”

Locke led the way, slow and steady, avoiding any footfall on glass or broken wood. He turned to ask Virrus something but the old man laid a finger over his own lips, signaling for Locke to hold his tongue. When they exited the tavern, the both of them became aware of how bad the situation truly was. The gutters bled, or they appeared to. Running streams of crimson flowing down the cobblestone roads, filling the gaps with their shine, bodies strewn about the alleys and roads with missing limbs, some weeping softly as the last of their life flowed from their sputtering hearts.

“What…” the words were lost on poor Locke, his eyes turning to Virrus for answers, “…what is happening? I thought a wolf was just an animal—how is this possible?” Virrus swallowed, and turned away, moving into the nearby alleyway. Locke was feeling sick but he was also smart enough to know that this wasn’t the time to fall apart, this is where he fights to live or joins those in the streets.

Virrus led the way. If Locke wasn’t staring at the old man he wouldn’t even know he was there. His steps falling and rising without a trace, quietly sliding from one hidden spot to the next. Occasionally, there were cries for help piercing the silence, which ended in gurgling screams for mercy. It was a twist in Locke’s chest, to ignore people in pain. Where were the Silver Swords, the kings’ guard? If any force could hope to fight back these monsters it would be the kings’ guard. They should be on the streets, pushing them back.

Virrus held up a hand, Locke moved in closer. “Do ye see that lad?” Locke leaned to the side and saw an open door. “I knew a man who snuck outta town here an there, he kept ah tunnel to the sewers in the basement. If we can get to his house o’er there, we only need to follow the sewer out, we can make it, live through this hell.” Locke took a deep breath, trying to calm his heart, then nodded. “Now listen boy, these are no normal wolves. Ah know the difference and ah feel em here,” at those words Locke was filling with questions, but Virrus took one look at him, and interrupted his thoughts, “no sweating the small stuff. Ya follow tight to me heels, they’re everywhere an they’re lookin to take as many as they can. Ya wit me?” Locke rocked slightly on his heels, not scared of Virrus but terrified of the questions that were building inside himself, the doubt of who Virrus was and how he knew so much. Virrus whipped a hand out and caught Locke by the wrist, “I can guarantee ya boy, that there is no other way. Ya follow me to where they won’t go, or ya stay here to die with the city.”

Locke held himself in place, looking Virrus in the eyes, reading the truth in his expression. Locke tapped the old man and leaned forward to ready himself for the run. Virrus let go and turned, finding a moment in the silence. With a signal of two fingers, Virrus burst into action, Locke trying his hardest to keep up and stay as silent as possible. When they reached the door Locke heard his name, a shill cry, coming from the middle of the street. When he turned he called to her.

“Zell!” she was running across the street, her dress a mangled mass of rags covered in mud and blood. “Zell hurry, come over here!” Zell fell over herself, the heel from her shoe snapping, tossing her into the middle of the street. Locke leaned in to run and was caught by Virrus’s strong hold.

“They’re here, we can’t save her,” Virrus whispered.

“Let go, are you mad!” but as Zell kicked her shoes off and lifted herself to her feet, a large fur covered form fell from the rooftops and landed behind her. Zell felt the presence, trapped under a shadow and hot breath, that clung to her flesh with each offensive exhale. Her arm extended, instinctively, wanting someone to save her, Locke returned the gesture although she was too far away and the both of them knew it was pointless. The wolf opened its jaws, snapping them shut over her shoulder. “Zell!” Locke called, but knew she wouldn’t respond, every ounce of energy funneled into her screams of pain. Virrus pulled, trying to get them inside, but Locke fought against it. The werewolf just sat there in the middle of the street, jaws tightening little by little, “let me help her! I can help her!”

“She’s beyond help now son.” Another wolf fell from a nearby building, Zell had lost her strength and hung lifelessly from the werewolf’s mouth. Locke knew it, he knew it with all his heart. If he ran out onto that street, he wouldn’t save her. In fact, Locke knew he’d die with little to no fight, with his nearly useless right arm and almost equally useless magic. He stopped resisting against Virrus’s hold and allowed the old man to pull him into the building and close the door. Knowing he had willing left Zell to die.

Virrus pulled his staff from his back and whispered a word before tapping it to the door. Locke fell to his knees, memories of the many talks, the multitude of moments he had shared with Zell filling up his thoughts. He couldn’t believe he walked away, it was all he could think of. Even as him and Virrus saw a furry form slowly lurch its way around the corner, leading from the living room. The shaggy form twisted lurching up and down, “Locke?” it murmured as it closed in. Virrus pulled something from his belt and reached back to throw it. Then the creature stood straight, shrugging off the body it carried.

Drill was soaked from head to toe in blood. His lean muscular form was covered in multiple lacerations. In his hand was a corkscrew, it was coated and dripping with blood. He was breathing deeply, trying to steady himself. “Drill! You’re alive, what about Hammer?” Drill shook his head, planting his back against the wall to stabilize himself. Then he pointed to a body laying in the middle of the living room, a sledge hammer still locked in his grip, his mouth twisted in a smirk. “He died smiling?” Drill slid down against the wall into a sitting position, a smear of blood trailing with him. Drill took a deep breath and exhaled, answering Locke’s question with a smile and a nod.

Virrus kicked the head of the wolf and watched it lifelessly fall back, “By Malahaal, ya killed a werewolf just between the two ah ya?” Drill nodded, Virrus shook his head in disbelief, “wit ah hammer an ah wine corkscrew?” again he nodded. Virrus pulled his glove out and struck a stone to it, the glow lifted the room from the darkness. He then tossed the stone aside and reached for a flask hanging from his belt. Drill grabbed his wrist and shook his head, Virrus warned him, “it’s gonna hurt like all hells.” Drill shook his head, Virrus didn’t hesitate, dropping the glowing glove down his back and sealing the first wound. When he noticed Drill staring quietly off into the distance he went to work sealing up the other cuts.

Locke couldn’t repress a smile, with all this death in the city, and his friend was alive. Then the smile slowly dissipated, dissolving in his reality, it was all starting to catch up with him now—now that he was standing still. He walked to Hammer and knelt over him, from around his neck hung the charm that was engraved with a magical ward. Locke extended his arm but paused, was it right to take it. He looked back to Virrus who was engrossed with sealing every wound, then to Drill who was staring directly at him, unflinching as Virrus cauterized his wounds. Drill smirked, seeing the hesitation that held Locke in place, then nodded. Locke turned back and pulled the necklace free, tying it inside of his jacket for safe keeping. Then he stood up and explored the home.

As soon as Virrus was done, he helped Drill to his feet, his body now caked in dry blood and burns. Locke returned waving them over, he had found the passage to the sewers. It was exactly what Virrus had described, silent, abandoned, and filthy. The three of them walked silently through the chest high waters, the stench of refuse and rotting objects nearly forcing them to turn back. Their silence was not only from the events of the day, but they all feared that opening their mouths would cause them to fill the already repulsive river with their vomit. It was no wonder the wolves avoided the sewers, if they could smell blood through the forest, then they would choke themselves to death with this nearly edible smell that filled their mouth’s and lung’s with something nearly tangible.

It was about a half days trek through that sludge. Around halfway through Locke had vomited in his mouth and swallowed it, the worst part was by doing so he triggered the others to vomit, they as well held it in, till he vomited a second time about a mile out from the exit. They emerged drenched in the waste of the city, along with the blood that had washed in, from the bodies that would soon rot in the streets. They walked silently till they found a stream and stripped, washing their clothes and bathing. Locke spoke first, “What do we do now?”

Virrus silently threw his clothes over a low hanging branch and ignored the question. They were all beaten, afraid, and now lost in the wilds far from another city. Maybe all they did was delay the inevitable. But from the most unlikely source came the most inspirational response. Drill wrung out his trousers and pulled them on, looking at the two of them after he was done getting dressed, “We survive.” It was only two words, not quite the speech you’d expect, but it was the most straightforward response. There was only one thing they could do, and that was to keep moving, keep pressing forward. After all, this was just the beginning of their story.

The End of -Magical Locke: Invasion-

The Beginning of -Magical Locke: Rise of Wolsgret-

Magical Locke: Part II

Part II

 

Locke’s teeth were undoubtedly covered in dark dirt, the price of eating paan, besides the stomach pains from the hard grains—or maybe it was the dirt that didn’t settle too well. Either way his stomach held something, which was more than what he had just a few minutes ago.

Locke ran his hand into his pocket to slide the paan next to his father’s book. His eyes went wide. Locke felt a large hole inside his pocket, a pocket that seemed to keep tearing, even after he had sewn it multiple times. “No, no, no, no…” Locke searched the floor around him, then spun around and walked the way he came with his eyes fixed on the cobblestone streets. Locke was choking up, panic building and trampling on his nerves, every second without the book drove him closer to madness. After all, the book was the only thing he had of his fathers, the only thing that drove him forward. Locke’s eyes were still glued downward as he rounded the corner and cracked his head into someone’s chin. The both of them were sent back, crashing into the floor. Locke rubbed the top of his head fiercely, sure that a sharply pointed chin had snapped into it. Still angry and upset over his book he whipped his head up with a furious expression.

Zell sat there rubbing at her chin, tears rimming and teetering at the edge of her bright green eyes. Her white dress muddied and ruined, one look and Locke knew that she was a bad word away from streaking tears down her lovely face. “By all the gods! Locke what are you doing, you weren’t even looking when you came around the corner!”

Locke tried to push down his emotions and grab hold of his common sense, to answer back with a level head and spare Zell any more frustration. “My apologies Zell, I’m a little turned around, I—I misplaced something and I was staring at the floor. I would never,” Locke looked up, her expression softening under his attempt to apologize, “you look so lovely.” Locke smiled as genuinely as he could, which wasn’t too hard since he did find Zell quite attractive. Not to mention she was the only kind woman with money in the city.

Zell’s anger melted away, in fact she began to chuckle and then laugh, infecting Locke with a similar cheer. “Your teeth!” she finally managed after a gasp for air, “they are black as night.” Locke shook his head in confusion with a wide smile and then suddenly dropped his cheer as he realized what a fool he must seem. Zell in her expensive dress with it’s intricate designs of flowers. Then there was Locke in his beaten trousers, shirt, and coat, his teeth smeared in an equal appearance of desperation. Now he was a jester, another fool to entertain the rich. Locke looked back at Zell, someone he truly admired from afar and then scrambled wildly, scraping his feet and hands, rushing past her and throwing himself into a run. She shouted for him to stop but Locke couldn’t stand another moment of humiliation, he had played the fool enough for one day.

By the time he stopped, Locke was far past the area he had planned to search. The folded cloth with a copper piece and several pieces of paan clutched in one hand. “What else could today bring?” Locke asked aloud, staring up at the gods that he most certainly believed were toying with his sanity, and watching this comedy intently. “How else do you all plan to steal my dignity!” his shout surely was ignored by the divines.

Yet there was a slender, older man, who wandered by and revealed a sideways smirk. “Well boy if ya want some dignity, ya might want ta stop chewing on dirt.” Locke’s sad features came down from his skyward search, the tall gentleman laughed aloud when Locke’s eyes settled on him, the stranger was enjoying the look of anger clinging to every twitching feature of Locke’s face. With exaggerated motions Locke rubbed his teeth clean and flashed a wild smile to the strange fellow. “I feel your dignity climbin ta the tops of the clouds,” the man closed the gap between Locke and himself in the blink of an eye, “the names Virrus young lad, how are ye known?”

Slightly taken aback, somewhere stuck between anger and courtesy he responded, “The name’s Locke.” The gentleman slid a hand through his slick and drawn back hair and mumbled the name.

“I know the name,” Virrus announced.

“I’m no one special.”

“Eh, I didn’t say you was special, I said I knew the name, not quite the same thing me boy.” Again poor Locke felt his pride take another blow, the blunt realization of his status in this small town seemed to grow by the minute. Virrus cleared his throat, feeling the tension grow with every second of silence. “Locke, how about ya come into me tavern for a quick spell,” Locke was already shaking his head and turning when Virrus caught him by the shoulder and forced him to turn about. “I can guarantee that after a few minutes inside you’ll feel ten times better. Trust me Locke.” He had no reason to, matter of fact with the stinging remarks still fresh Locke wanted to push him aside and storm off, then again the promise of a free drink overruled his pride.

Virrus barred the door when Locke entered. Then Locke felt vulnerable. This suddenly brought Locke into full attention, his mind skimming through the many rhythmic chants that filled the recesses of his mind, for a destructive spell he could quickly cast if Virrus was planning something. Without pause Virrus hopped to the bar and vaulted over to the other side, showing a deceptive agility that Locke would’ve never predicted the older gentlemen capable of. Virrus dropped behind the counter top and began muttering, “I know I tossed the thing here,” Locke feeling a slight bit on edge whispered softly the first few lines of a fire spell, ready to finish them should he feel threatened.

“In burning walls, the dragon calls, the waves of mercy gone…” but a hand came suddenly up, with Virrus still hidden behind the counter, in his hand was a burning match which traveled almost instinctively into a candle made of black wax that Locke had overlooked. The candle glistened into various shades of deep blues and light purples, its glow was vivid, the dance of its flame so amazingly intricate that poor Locke was lost within it before he knew what he was looking at.

Then the wick was suddenly exposed, Virrus stood behind the candle blowing out the flame. Locke was now sitting on a stool at the bar, his hands were flat and resting palms down on the counter top, folded neatly over the bar stool next to him was his long and beaten coat which suddenly seemed cleaner and in an overall better state. “What?”

“Never mind the little things son,” Virrus remarked, tossing a small book onto the counter, inches from Locke’s hands. Locke was suddenly overwhelmed.

“It’s my fathers book—you found it.” His fingers paused, a small part of him afraid there was some sort of catch. He looked up to Virrus who gave a nod, encouraging Locke to take it. Locke whisked up the book and leafed through it, satisfied that the book was intact and returned to his hands. “I owe you a great debt. It seems my debts forever grow.”

“We’ll call it air for that one,” Locke doubted it, nothing was free, especially around the south side. Feeling relieved Locke let loose a sigh and felt the tension melt away. His eyes settled on the candle that sat just a foot out of reach.

“So, Virrus you said your name was?”

“Aye,” he shouted back while rummaging through the bottles lined against the wall.

“How long have you been a Mage Hunter?” Virrus stopped in mid-reach and let out a suppressed chuckle.

“No, son. Ya haven’t the clue what I am.” Virrus twisted on his heels and almost turned 180 degrees without a sound or sign of effort. “But maybe I’m lost on that one boy. I was ah master at the school, a true talent to the Wordsmith Society. But I song the ole song ah little too tight to the wire, barely shreds to offer now, no use with magic. If ya know what I mean lad?”

Locke shook his head, his father was a Mage and damn talented. Taught Locke that as long as you could breathe and speak you could pull magic from the aether.

“The god that you owe the most to, he claims ya.” Locke was confused, “What, nobody told ya son? You never been tired after ah spell, feeling a bit light headed, no? You think we just say some pretty words and some magically entity out there shoots fire through us. Nah, that’s na the way. We do a little trade.” Virrus tosses a bottle from the counter up in the air and then snatches it up with his other hand, popping the cork free with his thumb, then downing a mouthful.

“I don’t understand, we trade what?” Virrus cringes, the liquor a bit harsher than he had expected.

“Aw, you been such a fool, dabbling in things ya no understanding in. We’re giving them giants, those mighty gods, the thing they crave from us specks of dirt,” Virrus walked over his eyes fixed on Locke, “We giv’em a piece our soul, ah little taste as an offering, that’s what gets the ole gods excited enough to spill out some ah their magic.” Virrus uses his free hand to make a crude motion of sexual nature to depict the gods releasing their power. “That’s why no Wordsmith uses too many ah one spell, they seal ah contract, no gods will waste any more on the Mage and at some point that god will change ya, make you into something—special.” Virrus shoots Locke a wink and wanders off drinking from the bottle, singing a song that Locke finds strangely close to a spell he’s heard in the past.

Locke ran after Virrus in need of more answers, “I thought we pulled magic from inside?”

“Don’t be such a rotten fool boy, we inhale to mimic the spark of life and then we exhale to stamp off ah chunk ah soul, then the magic is released to claim the piece.” Locke fell back, his eyes wide, the shock rolling over him in waves. Then he looked down at the book, his fathers spellbook. “Quite a genius your ole man, the way he mixed equal praise and balanced rhythm to entice two gods into mixing magic and sharing the portion. More bang for your coin,” Locke looked to Virrus who brandished a smile and seemed miles away, absorbed in some old memory, “Ya know I miss it, the power of each syllable, and the status I held. I was a force to be reckon with, now I’m just another of those…” Locke leaned in, but Virrus drowned his words under a gulp of hard liquor.

Locke couldn’t believe he had been gambling with his soul, the words of the professors echoed in his mind, “What are we doing when we cast magic and become conduits to the entities we call upon?” If he knew, all those days of burning away at his soul, testing spells out in the woods. What was left of his inner self, did he have only a handful before a god would claim him? Someone screamed outside. Locke disregarded it, till terror filled the streets and every corner of the roads were filled with panicked shouts, he made his way to a window. Searching for the source of the commotion through the cracks of the painted windows, a man crashed into the glass trying to scream as something tore at his backside, “They’re here!” his words muffled under the rising pool of blood filling up his throat and lungs, there was only one last sentence Locke could decipher, “The wolves are here!”

Magical Locke: Part I

Locke laid back, listening to the head instructor of the Wordsmith Society, in his normal rant, “What is a spell? What are we doing when we cast magic and become conduits to the entities we call upon?”

Something instructor’s would ask those studying magic day in and day out. To understand what made magic and what had power over it, not to mention the consequences of abusing magic. The other name for Mage was Wordsmith. Locke thumbed through a book of spells sitting on his lap, they belonged to his father, the words were a dance of rhythm. Normally the students of the society followed strict structures and standard format, following and repeating practiced lines that were known for their stability and control. But it was said that a talented Mage could stray from the standard format and style, that he could summon such amazing power that nothing but the gods could match it.

Locke reflected inward, magic was the twisting of phrase and word, the appeal to a god of nature or beast or time and space. It was to string together a line that would summon the force and power of one of the god’s and allow the wordsmith to dabble in elements beyond his ability as a mortal. The better the wordsmith the higher the talent, and the easier it was for him or her to pull different elements and powers from the outer realms.

The gods themselves never associated with each other, something that all the books in the world seemed to have no explanation for. But when passing their power through a conduit they seem less concerned with his or her allegiance. Locke looked back to his fathers book, flipping to the pages that were written on a black parchment, the spells that were forbidden. No Mage could successfully combine the power of two gods into one spell, except for his father, who was no longer with him.

The window of the classroom squeaked as a breeze pushed it open. Locke’s eyes widened. A voice shouted from inside, “Is someone out there?” He leapt off the rooftop and into the alley between the school and the temple.

“The aether rolls and climbs inside, the clouds part as angels breathe, a single breeze to carry me.”

Locke inhales deeply, the stone cobbled road rushing towards him, quickly he exhales. A gale rushes from his mouth, its wind brushing the dirty roads clean, tossing about his battered coat, and filling the space between him and the ground with a bubble of rushing wind. Locke is carried back up and gently set down. As soon as his feet touch Locke bursts into a run, rounding the corner before looking around for any of the Mage’s from the school.

He was safe. “Damn them all,” Locke muttered, staring at the high walls and gilded gates. This was ridiculous. He was 20 years old and beyond talented at magic, he already had more talent then those who’ve spent years practicing. Why should anyone care if he was poor, he could be the greatest Wordsmith in the five kingdoms should he learn enough—if he could pick up enough from the few classrooms that had windows.

Locke was walking past a window and slowed suddenly, even closing his eyes. The sweet smell of freshly baked bread filled his nostrils. He licked his lips and checked his pocket. A single silver coin, his last silver coin. It could buy him a loaf of bread and a cut of cheese. His mouth was fast filling with saliva, the promise of putting warm food in his stomach for a change. He was in debt, farther in every day and according to the thug he saw last time, his debt was growing larger. “I wish I never borrowed money,” at the time it seemed smart, it was for his first year of magical training.

Locke opened his eyes and looked into the bakery. Sitting in the back was Siid, the owner of all of Locke’s debts. Siid was a kind man, he would only break some of your fingers, maybe a few toes. Good enough to avoid the places that healed quickly, so those who owe Siid would have a nice reminder for the month. There was a story that some of the gamblers would tell, that Siid one time took small cuts over the span of a year, till a man had nothing left of his tongue, then he paid his debt with his life. Siid was staring right at Locke, as he cut into a freshly baked pastry. Locke let a helpless smile slip and took a step away from the window, trying to break the line of sight. Once he was free of Siid’s gaze and around the side of the bakery, he pulled the silver piece from his pocket and twirled it at his finger tips. “Looks like you’ve got something to eat, me on the other hand…”

Locke received a fist to the gut, the lone silver coin clanged as it bounced down the alleyway, stopping under a falling boot. Locke could only cough, the air gone from his body, the wind knocked from his lungs. “Hey Locke! Looks like you been holding out on the boss.” Locke tried to speak up, but his words were a sputtered mess. Locke looked to his assailant, it was Hammer and behind him was Drill, their names a reflection of what tools they enjoyed to use on people Siid didn’t like. Locke stared at Drill’s foot, still pressed on top of his last silver coin. Hammer turned to his associate, “How much?” Drill stepped off the silver piece and picked it up, showing it off to Hammer. “Ah, I see. Well do not fret my dear Locke, your silver piece will be donated to the charity of your choosing. Will it be the charity of Siid, or the dentist?”

Locke nodded, “I was just about to drop that silver off, you saved me the trouble.”

“Good choice,” echoed Hammer. Hammer slugged Locke a second time in the gut and allowed him to slide down the wall. Hammer leaned over, speaking into Locke’s ear. “I hope you do not mind the level of violence I have shown you this evening. We are not particularly happy about inflicting violence on someone who is so…” Hammer seemed lost on the appropriate word to use, looking to Drill for assistance.

“Peaceful.”

“Yes, yes, yes, so absolutely peaceful towards us. Really, honestly, I think you’re an alright guy. But you owe my boss money, money in which you pay at such a slow and sporadic manner, it makes me and my associate Drill, look like amateurs.” Hammer sighed, pulling back the hair from his eyes. “The need for us to assert ourselves in a physically dominant position has been made evident. Now please do enjoy the rest of your day and don’t forget, we don’t want to kill you, but you make it very hard to stay—peaceful.” Hammer sighed again and stood up, walking around to the front of the bakery. Drill stopped at Locke’s feet and tossed something onto his lap, Locke looked to the object wrapped in a white cloth and then back to Drill, who said nothing and then walked after Hammer.

Locke opened the cloth package and found a few condensed paan’s, they were cheap bread substitutions, made from compressed grains and on occasion bits of dirt, when better ingredients weren’t available. The dark color made it obvious that dirt had been mixed in. Locke watched Drill round the corner. He didn’t hate them, most people were considered lucky to work for Siid, even if he was a crook. He didn’t really know Hammer but he knew Drill from his childhood, they were both poor kids from the south side of town. Drill was a tough kid, and he grew into a fighter. Locke wasn’t, so Drill often protected him until Locke learned magic.

It was tough letting himself take the hits, but they had wards on them, little protective emblems that made magic bounce off of themselves. Not to mention they were doing what they had to, in order to stay alive. Locke grabbed a paan and bit in. It was sour and tasted of dirt and hard grain, but it also took the pain of his hunger. Under the cloth beneath the paan, Locke felt something. He reached underneath the paan and pulled a copper piece. It wouldn’t really pay for much, but the next time he saw them he could use it for another day or two of peace.

Locke took another bite and chewed noticing a salty aftertaste, unaware he was crying. He’d pull things together, he knew he could and believed he would, things were just looking hopeless. To have so much talent and be reduced to this, his pride could only take so much.