Trial of the Mages

by Jonathan Frick

Chapter 1

The thick musty smell of hay and horse dung was the first thing to hit him upon waking. Keeping his breathing even he effortlessly casted his will out. Listening , he determined his surroundings consisted of a small, two stall barn. His senses showing him only one other living being of significance, a workhorse in the furthest stall. Determining there wasn't any imminent threat he opened his eyes slowly. Regardless, the sharp biting sting of midday light seemed to be directly aimed at him and forced him to take a few moments for them to adjust. After adjusting they confirmed what his senses already told him. He was in a barn in desperate need of repair. The roof was missing over the stall he had awoken in and the horse was about ten feet to his left. After taking a full day yesterday for thought he still had no idea how he came to be in this region. And where exactly in the Xal' Neduvious Region he was.

Regardless of his predicament Arismarcus was a man of routine. As an aged man his face had that rugged, used quality, that while, showing age, also shows experience. As a practice of his order he maintained his body as well as mind. Part of his routine included a series of positions, movements, and breathing control exercises. These exercises have been practiced by the Xal' Tolten Mages since before his time and , as far as he is concerned, will continue far past his own. This is what he was performing when he first noticed the approach of someone from the North.

Knowing only the direction she was to travel Kira was walking along a well known path when she saw the building through the wood-line. Already looking for a place to rest and have a midday meal, she started toward it. Kira was a mature woman, but age had only enhanced her beauty and grace. Her delicate skin stood with a softness unusual for one so far in life. Her cheekbones prominent, only to be outdone by her eyes. Her green eyes were full of playfulness but held a depth and intelligence that made learned men stutter. Of course no one would see her as such unless she allowed it. Long ago she learned to mask her appearance with her gift.

As she approached the building she could sense the sign of another's presence already at her destination. Assuming it was only another traveler and knowing full well her capabilities she was not alarmed and continued onward. She didn't sense any danger until it was to late. The presence she sensed at the building, which upon closer inspection was nothing but a rundown barn, disappeared. She felt the pressure of another's will forming and was instantly restrained. This restraint however originated in her mind in the form of a Wall. With a Wall in place her true appearance was immediately revealed and all further attempts to gather her will were crushed. A Wall is not an easy task for any Mage to weave much less break through.

Knowing that she must break the Wall or there was no hope of escaping she began by blocking out all physical stimuli with a practiced ease. She was able to mentally inspect the Wall and, seeing it for the first time, was immediately on the defensive. It was more complex than she could weave with a month of preparation time and was held with an ease that made the hair on the nape of her neck stand up. Knowing she could not even hope to break it she resigned to waiting until her captor made itself known.

Arismarcus recognized the subtle pressure of will a mage emits and, having been prepared, was able to throw a mental block in place the moment she was within range. What he was not prepared for was the physical appearance of the intruder. She was absolutely breathtaking. Dressed in travel pants that fit tightly to toned legs. A shirt and vest that was unable to hide the curves of her ample breasts.

Looking up, Kira sees a tall, dark figure emerge from her right. It was a man not that much older than herself. What worried her was the staff of office he carried in his right hand. The staff of a Kings Mage.

Kneeling next to her he says "Please, do not struggle I mean you no harm. If you will give me permission I would release the physical restraints of my Wall, but I must place my hand on your forehead."

Seeing what looks like actual regret as to the current circumstances in his eyes she mentally eases on her defenses as a way to give permission. As she is released she attempts to casually stand and brush herself off. " Well I do hope there is good reason for your actions Sir Mage, as there are many individuals in The Academy that would be quite upset at my delay." she says with an air of unease.

"I truly am....

Attempting to gain some advantage back she charges on. "And I am certain you will release your Wall quite soon. Am I correct in my assumption?"

" Of course I will, in due time, and again I am truly sorry for this but as you will soon find out my circumstances allowed for no other course of action." he admits while keeping direct eye contact. " Please let me begin by offering you my name. I am Arismarcus, fifth Seat of Office in the house of Kings Mage."

Hers eyes widen at his honest declaration her voice betrays her surprise. "Very well, I am Kira fifty seventh Seat of Order, in the house of Mage Discipulus."

" It is a pleasure Kira, if you would like I would offer you a place to eat and rest, as you must have traveled far to be this many leagues from any villages." he says with a quizzical glance from beneath his eyebrows.

" I have traveled far and will gladly accept your offer Arismarcus." Following him down a narrow, rarely used path she used this time to study him from behind. The first thing I noticed was his tattoo's. I am guessing my intrusion caught him unawares as he had no shirt on. A mages tattoo's say much about oneself. These tattoo's are a physical manifestation of one's inner Xal. Arismarcus' stemmed from his lower back and worked there way to his shoulder blades in a series of smooth vertical lines. These lines seemed to intertwine within each other in a continuos movement. From his right shoulder blade down to his wrist was any number of Glyphs all stacked on top of each other so thick you can not tell where one begins and another ends. You could stare all day and still see something new each moment. He seemed to be sincerely apologetic to blocking her, however the ease at which she was held at bay hinted at a power that was frightening to say the least. The barn was not far and, at first glance, not an extended resting spot for Arismarcus. His belonging were in a pack with the exception of a pot already cooking what appeared to be a stew over the fire. How had I not seen any smoke from the path? Silently accepting a bowl of stew she begins to eat it slowly.

" Now that we have had a moment I believe I should begin with an explanation as to my actions." Pausing as he intently watches her facial features. " You see I awoke yesterday a days walk to the North with no memory as to how I came to be there. As I have told you I hold quite a high seat in the Order and quite frankly cannot seem to figure out how anyone could have accomplished this. And with that lack of knowledge came my apparent paranoia."He settles back and pretends to focus on his bowl while still keeping one eye on her face.

Having listened to his story she can't help but feel that it has the ring of truth to it. " I have to admit that I do believe you Arismarcus, but I can't explain why." His story should seem absolutely outlandish however, something in his manner and the honesty of his voice is leading her to believe otherwise.

" Kira, feel free to address me as Aris"

As he says this she feels him begin to dissolve the Wall in her mind. " Thank you Aris." Smiling as her will is able to coalesce with thought once again.

Recognizing the smile and its cause he admits " I know how it feels to be blocked off and apologize again for making you uncomfortable. Perhaps I could offer you a favor to make amends?"

She can't help but wonder why he is treating her with such respect. Almost as if he sees her as an equal. Being a Mage Discipulus she is technically not even in the order. And he is one of the eight most influential Mages in the known world! " I am traveling to the Academy in the city of Nedu and could use someone to escort me there." She asks while staring at her own feet.

"Consider it done Kira" he states as he captures her gaze with his own. " I promise to bring you safely to the Academy." Even as he says this he begins to feels uneasy. The feeling passes but he did not gain his Seat of Office by ignoring his instincts. He has already started focusing more on his surroundings and any potential dangers.

Looking at Aris with her eyebrows pinched she asks. "What is wrong? Have you seen....."

Silencing her with a finger to her lips he draws her down to a crouch with a gentle but forceful hand on her shoulder. Whispering in her ear " Are you being followed? Answer truthfully as it may save your life."

" I..I don't know. They said it could happen but I I just don't know for sure." she admits quickly.

   " Be quiet and follow me. Do as I say and I will fulfill my promise. I am a man of my word, however I cannot help but feel as though betrayed. I require a full explanation as soon as we are able. Understood?"

"Yes, of course Aris." She says with queit resignation. "What would you have me do?"

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