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Fantasy

“Come on… One more time.” Bouncing on the balls of my feet, I shake out my stiff arms, hoping to shake out my anxieties as well. I stop, close my eyes, and take a deep breath, willing my mind to clear. The act takes a few seconds longer than it should, but soon I can feel the familiar and welcome spark of energy deep within me. Magic.

Focusing all of my attention on that spark, I urged it to grow. It heeds my command. Warmth floods my torso as it increases. Once satisfied with the amount of energy burning within my chest, I urge the fire to spread to my shoulders. My skin and muscles tingle as the force follows my command. I next push the magic through my arms, my extremities again feeling the effects.

I allow the magic to stop there for a moment while I calm myself. This is where it keeps going wrong. One last big breath. In… and out.

I push the magic further into my hands. My palms begin to burn ever so slightly. Not nearly as much as they should, but the fact that I can feel the magic at all is a good sign. Keeping my eyes closed, I move my arms forward, spreading my fingers wide and pushing my palms forward at the metal target I know is several yards in front of me.

Finally, I push my magic towards my fingers and beyond, using the direction of my palms to direct the flow of elemental flames that should burst from me. I anticipate my fingers burning with the transference of power.

Yet I feel nothing. The pent-up energy that had transferred from my core to my palms simply fizzles into nothing. I open my eyes and drop my arms in defeat. Such a simple spell, a beginner’s spell, and I cannot do it.

My name is Soren Fireheart, and I am a Mage’s Apprentice. Since the age of twelve, I have secluded myself within the depths of the Moonshire Wood along with my master, Eamon Waterheart. Mages are few and far between, making up less than one percent of the realm’s population. About ninety percent of that tiny population live in near constant isolation, just as I do. Overall seen as menaces for our abilities, we are shunned from society and only called upon to use the very powers we were ostracized for to aid in a crisis.

Fifteen years ago, a forest fire broke out as the result of a few drunken kids from town who’d lost control of a large campfire. After ignoring old man Eamon’s existence for years on end, the town called upon the mage to use his water to put out the fire. Once the flames were tamed, the townspeople’s gratitude was grudging. I was only six years old at the time, but I remember my fascination with the man’s power. My young mind couldn’t understand why he wasn’t accepted in the town.

Fifteen years later and a mage myself, my adult-mind still cannot comprehend why our kind are not accepted into society. When I asked Eamon, he told me a story of centuries past when mages first began to emerge from the populace. These elemental wielders considered themselves blessed and above those without magic. Drunk on power, they used their new-found abilities to oppress the public, ruling with fear and cruelty.

Refusing to come together, in-fighting between mages was common, effectively dwindling their until the masses, who were tired of the tyrannical rule, came together and overthrew their self-proclaimed sovereigns.

Following the revolt, magic wielders were banished at the first signs of power, forever to be ostracized and blamed for transgressions of those past. No one knows that causes the magic to manifest, as the trait does not pass from parent to offspring.

A long time had passed from the day I was banished until I finally accepted this fate. For no fault of my own, I was now destined to either wander alone for the rest of my life or find join one of the many small nomadic mage societies that wandered throughout the wilder parts of the realm. I was never truly alone, as Eamon quickly took me under his wing as his apprentice. He spent the eight years teaching me how to control my heart’s fire, hone my skills in magic wielding, and to earn my new surname as was tradition for mages: Fireheart.

His lessons came to an abrupt end a year ago when the old man passed. It was peaceful, at least, and he deserved nothing less. His passing left me with no purpose. So, I filled the lack of his presence the only way I knew how. Fire wielding. If I was busy honing my skills, then I would be too preoccupied to notice how quiet the world around me had become.

But now, even fire wielding was leaving me. Over the past month, I have been steadily losing feeling in my hands. The numbness began with aching joints in my fingers, which felt swollen and clumsy, though showed no outward sign of damage. I pushed through the pain until my magic stopped working as well. 

Eamon’s first lesson to wielding heart’s magic was to be one with yourself. You had to feel every limb your magic traveled through and be in tune with your body’s condition in order for transference to be successful. With the loss of feeling in my fingers, I had lost that crucial ability. I threw myself even harder into training, sometimes going full days without rest. Yet the harder I tried, the harder I failed.

With my emotions numb along with my hands, I dropped where I was standing before the metal target and stared at the thick canopy far above me. What was I supposed to do now? All I had in this world was Eamon and my magic. Eamon was gone and now I was losing my magic.

What glimpses of blue sky I could see through the canopy slowly melted into hues of orange and pink as the sun dipped below a horizon I couldn’t see. Orange faded into purple, which darkened to a deep blue, finally giving way to the black of night.

Alone with nothing but my memories, I spent hours filtering through them. Eamon and I would watch the night sky on nights like these. Our conversations were hushed, Eamon would tell old tales of the mages that came before us, how different the world used to be, and all the places we could travel to if we ever decided to leave our little hovel in the woods.

Sudden realization has me sitting up quickly with a gasp. When telling tales of the wandering mage tribes, Eamon told me that if I ever found myself alone and in danger, then to seek out the wandering mages of the Sable Desert. He claimed that no matter the circumstance, these mages would aid me in whatever troubles I may have. Losing function of my magic seemed a trouble worthy of seeking out help. With Eamon gone, there wasn’t much stopping me from picking up and leaving.

The next morning, I packed what few items held sentimentality or purpose and set off. Remembering the directions Eamon had forced me to repeat until I could recite them in my sleep, I headed west.

Four days of travel through the Moonshire Forest brought me to the base of the Fang Mountains, aptly named for their sharp spire-like summits. Travel through the forest had been quiet and uneventful, giving me hope for the remainder of my travels. Those hopes were smothered in my trek through the numerous passes within the Fang Mountains. The rough and rocky terrain gave little way for vegetation, and my food and water supply dwindled quickly. Though I itched to call upon my fire, I preserved my energy for the journey. Harnessing magic requires a staggering amount of energy and concentration, leaving me not only physically depleted, but mentally exhausted.

 A full week after leaving my little home in the forest, I finally emerged from the mountains and onto the great Ocean Prairie, named for the tall grasses that swayed in the wind like waves on the ocean. Grateful to be free of the mountains, I continue my journey westward.

After hours of walking through the ocean of waiving grass, I feel as though I am in a dream. The world is quiet and peaceful. The sound of the wind howling through the grass is constant and soothing. The second day, I noticed that I had gained a few traveling companions in the form of coyotes, who stalk me for two more days. Eventually, they make their move.

The silence of the night is shattered by high pitched yelps. There are only a few voices that sing out in the night. Their songs are haunting. The first few yips are joined by more from behind me. Within seconds, a whole choir has joined in, and I am surrounded by shrill cries of the hunt.

I felt at first that I was safely hidden in the tall grass, out of sight from my hunters. As they close in on my location, I realize that I am the one at the disadvantage. Hairs tingle on the back of my neck and I follow my gut feeling, jumping to the side as one of the hunters lunge for me.

Following my instinct, I call forth my fire without thought or concentration. I should have known that it wouldn’t work considering all of my recent failures. To my utter surprise and relief, fire busts forth from my upraised arms, nearly blinding me as the flames illuminated my immediate surroundings.

Horror induced nausea crawls up my stomach as I see dozens of eyes surrounding me, reflecting the light of the flames. They do not scatter, as I hoped they would, though they do halt their advance. My flames go out, plunging me into darkness once again. Silence coagulates around me as I realize the coyote’s yips and cries have halted.

My heart pulses rapidly and I wonder briefly if the hunters can hear it. A single yip sounds near me, and I startle, twisting toward the sound. A second later, another answers from a little father off. Within mere seconds, the night is alive with their cries once again.

Praying to deities I had never believed in before, I spread my arms toward the sky once more, and I call forth my fire. Surprising me again, the flames burst forth. The last thing I want is to catch the ocean of grass around me on fire, so I keep my arms raised above the level of the vegetation and swing my arms wildly. Yips of alarm answer my flames. One lunges towards me again and I intercept them with my fire. The smell of burnt fur is strong as the hunter cries out and darts back into the grass. It’s companions finally decide that I am not worth the measly amount of meat on my bones and retreat just as the last of my energy is depleted and I drop to my knees.

I don’t remember falling asleep after that encounter, but I must have, for the next thing I know, I am forcing my eyes open to the blinding sun. Although miraculously unharmed, I am exhausted. My limbs try to resist my demands to rise and continue west, but persistence wins out and am finally moving again. Well, perhaps stumbling is a more apt description.

Once I’ve found food and a small stream to replenish my flasks, I try calling forth my fire again. Despite my success last night, not even my palms feel the warmth of my power now.

Over the course of the next two days, the tall grasses of the prairie grow sparse. I find fewer and fewer sources of water and food, and I spend one last night on the border between the prairies and the Sable Desert. Despite the hardships I had faced on my journey so far, this last leg was quite possibly the most dangerous. I can only hope that I am heading in the right direction when I set out the next morning.

Four days. The last of my food was finished on the second day. The last of my water on the third. My skin feels so dry, I wonder if it has been flaking off to join the burning sands that rise in great dunes all around me. Just as I wondered through a gentle ocean of grass before, I now was lost in a raging sea of sand. I spent days in the sun so hot that I could not remember what it felt like to be cold. Then, I spent the nights so cold that I just as well could not remember the feel of the sun.

On the fifth day, I came to terms with my fate. I had lost my family and childhood. I lost Eamon. I lost my magic. I lost my little hovel in the woods. And now, I would lose my life. I must have fallen at some point, as I am suddenly staring at the sun above me. I find it ironic that my last sight would be a burning ball of fire, while the cause of this journey was due to my own inability to summon fire.

Cool water washes over me, shocking me awake. When had I fallen asleep? Dazed and confused, I try to sit up, grunting with the effort.

“Shhh. Calm, boy. Stay down, you’re not quite ready to be up yet. Sleep. Rest.”

The sound of the woman’s voice is distant, though I could tell she was right next to me, as a cool hand touched my forehead. I attempt to pry my eyes open, only accomplishing a squint too blurry to reveal the speaker before darkness takes me again.

I am woken an indeterminable amount of time later, this time to the sound of rushing water. I manage to open my eyes, though the effort is slow going and it takes a few blinks to clear my vision. I find myself staring up at large, strange looking trees. The leaves are large, possibly longer than I am tall, and all grouped at the top of a large, thin trunk. Slowly sitting up and taking in my surroundings, I spy the source of the rushing water as I am laying on a make-shift bed by a large creek. Dotted throughout the area are more of these strange trees. Spaced between the trees are tents of nearly every color imaginable. Men, women, and children mill about between the tents, dressed in clothing as bright as their tents.

“About time, boy. I know I told you to rest, but I didn’t think you would stay asleep for three more days!”

I startle at the woman’s words and turn to watch her approach. She is an elderly woman, though she looks kind. She extends her arm, and water flows from the creek towards her, then down into a large pot sitting atop a lit cook-fire. My eyes widen with shock and recognition.

She is a mage! Does that mean I found the wondering mages? Though perhaps they were the ones who found me.

“Please.” My voice is hardly more than a croak, and I realize that it must have been weeks since the last time I spoke. There was little reason to talk with no one around to talk to. “I need your help. My magic is leaving me. I don’t know what to do! I was told by Eamon Waterheart that you could help.”

The woman seems to ponder this, putting her thumb and index finger to her chin.

“Hmmm. Leaving, you say? Tell me, do you have any other symptoms?”

Nodding, I hold out my hands towards her. “Yes! My hands! I have lost feeling in them!” I explain to her Eamon’s death, and how my fingers began to hurt and ultimately go numb around the same time my magic stopped. She listened carefully, nodding along to my story.

“I see… Yes, I know what is wrong.”

I can’t help but hold my breath, fearing her next words. Was I doomed? Would I never practice magic again? What would become of me then?”

“You’re overworked.”

I stare at the woman, my mouth agape. Overworked? I peer down at my hands. They are scared and covered in calluses, as one would expect of a flame wielder. I glance back at the woman, squinting.

“My hands… are… just overworked?”

During my dumbfounded silence, the woman had added ingredients to the large pot and was now stirring the mixture with a spoon. She kept her attention focused on her task as she responded.

“Yes, just overworked. You practiced magic non-stop for nearly a month. As the smallest extremity your power has to pass through, your poor fingers tend to take the brunt of the work when directing your flames. It’s quite common with fire wielders. Everyone knows that. You just need a nice, long break, and you’ll be good as new!”

“So… I won’t lose my magic?”

“Nope.”

“Then coming all the way here was pointless?”

“Seems so.” The corner of her mouth lifts up into an amused grin.

I couldn’t believe it. That would explain why I was able to summon my flames against the coyotes. It had been over a week since I had last even tried to wield my magic, inadvertently giving my hands the chance to heal.

What energy I had left drained from me, and I plopped back onto my make-shift bed, staring again at the strange tree. Lifting my left hand above me, I stared hard at my palm while asking the woman what kind of trees these were. I couldn’t help but laugh at the irony as she told me they were called palm trees.

September 01, 2023 05:44

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