The Wizard – Entry 11

“Reil. I want you to give this your all, understood?” Ars withdrew another large syringe for Reil and administered the medicine. Reil nodded in acknowledgement. “You heard me describe the exam already, and I know you will do well. You are an exceptional student. But on orders of the Commander, you must not tell Alden how you did on this exam. I’m sure you’re tired of all the secrecy, but it is beyond your control. When you see Mr. Vitters next, you will explain to him you were able to keep the crystal glowing for a solid minute. He’ll believe you and congratulate you, as that is a truly top mark for this exam. And that is all you will tell him. Are we understood, Reil?”

          “Yes sir, Master Ars,” Reil held back his frustration with yet another secret he had to keep, yet another lie he had to tell his friend, and steeled his face. His curiosity towards the exam was far greater than his discontent however, and Reil quickly lost focus on anything except the purple crystal in front of him.

          “Remember, start with Soul. The changes will be swift, you must be swifter.”

          Reil felt a chill through his whole body, and could hear a faint chanting in the back of his mind. Ever so soft and comforting, words from ancient times with no meaning to anyone alive, every one of his muscles contracting at once. To cast with Magic was an experience like nothing else, yet it had its limits. Casting too often without breaks was said to cause extreme nausea, headaches, and general unease. Reil himself had only ever felt the pleasure.

          In an instant, the crystal bolted upright and rose a few inches into the air above the hands of the Master Trainer. A glow poured out and fought back the dim shadows of the room. Ars closed his eyes to protect them from the blinding light. The crystal began to spin at impossible speeds and winds swept around the outskirts of the room, whipping up papers and books.

          Almost as soon as it had started, it was over. The crystal exploded in the air, sending pieces cutting through the air before disintegrating into a purple dust. The room darkened back to its previous level of light and the winds died. Master Ars slowly opened his eyes and surveyed the surroundings, scooping up a pinch of the dust that had been the crystal only seconds before.

          Falling to a kneeling position, Reil felt the chill of casting leave his body, to be replaced by a hint of soreness in his muscles and the beginnings of a mild headache. He was not sure what had happened, only that he obeyed Master Ars and put more Soul into his cast than he had put in all his lessons the whole week.

          The Master Trainer looked speechless, but only for a moment. He quickly gathered his wits and moved to the front door to the training room, locking it. His eyes glowed as he cast and he moved papers and books that had been strewn across the room back into neat stacks along the back wall. He looked at Reil with an expression the young man had never seen from the trainer before; fear.

          “Are you ok, Reil? Do you feel weak?” Ars moved to grab another injection from the first aid kit along the wall.

         “No no, I’m fine. I don’t need an injection. In fact I could keep casting right now,” to demonstrate his point, Reil sent the pinwheel on the other side of the room spinning at a dazzling pace.

          Ars seemed to not believe Reil, reaching forward and taking his pulse on his wrist. “Your heart rate,” the man scratched his neck, muscles rippling with every motion. “Well, it’s fine. Like you went for a light jog, maybe.”

          “Did I… Um,” Reil didn’t know how much those crystals cost and wasn’t sure he wanted to know the answer to his own question. “Did I fail the exam? I really am sorry for breaking the crystal, I just did as you told me to.”

          The Master Trainer looked at him with a blank expression for a moment, before bending over with a hand on his stomach and then throwing his head back in a howl of laughter. “Fail? Fail!” The laughter was contagious and Reil found himself huffing a few giggles. “Fail? No no no, you most certainly did not fail. You just did what no one else has ever done before. Reil, you passed the exam in a way we didn’t think possible.”

          Reil remained in shock of what had happened during his exam, and he could tell Ars was still shaken up as well. Am I truly that powerful? Is this why I have to keep everything so secret? Reil was beginning to piece together that the casting he performed to get he and Cent onto the Everlight was far, far stronger than any other Wizard’s first cast.

          While he and the Master Trainer worked together to clean up the room from the explosion and put papers back in their correct order, a surprise visitor got the two men to jump up and salute. Commander Et’Hon Roshen strode into the room and nodded at Reil and Ars, allowing them to lower the salute.

           “I see Reil has proved his strength yet again,” Roshen cast a chair of air and sat back on what appeared to be nothing, as if he was floating. “I always monitor this room with a special mixture of Aspects I came up with awhile back, it lets me know when the Magic used in this room exceeds a certain limit. Never has the monitor alerted me of anything, until just a few moments ago.”

          Wringing his hands behind his back, Reil worried what it might mean that he was able to alert even Roshen with his powers. With a war such as the one currently raging across the systems in progress, it was easy to see why an empire would want such a powerful Wizard among their ranks, as well as why they’d like to keep that Wizard a secret. Reil was not sure he wanted to be used as a weapon.

          “You have a Soul Limit right now, at the beginning of your journey into Magic, greater than the Limit I posses. Greater than the Soul Limit of a Master Wizard who has undergone hundreds of years of training and teaching at the Wizard’s Guild of the Olitheren System. You have read about Soul Limits by now, correct Reil?” The Commander’s cool face gave away no emotions, if not simple amusement.

          “Yes sir, Commander. It is the amount of Soul a Wizard can cast without rest and without aid of injections or casting-armor,” Reil recited the knowledge he had read his second night of studying under Master Ars. More Soul than Commander Roshen? That can’t be possible. Reil had to fight the urge to let his jaw hit the floor.

          “Reil, I do not wish to put too much on your plate at once, especially not after all that happened in Feldrin.” The Commander played with a ball of fire in his hands, making it dance in wondrous shapes. Abruptly the flames cut out, “but I simply cannot sit idly by and train you at the standard pace. It is clear you are able to learn far faster than most, and I fear I must push you to whatever limit it is that you may have. Normally I’d love nothing more than to send you off to the most prestigious Wizard’s Guild in the Galaxy and have you brought up with the greatest minds of our Cycle, but there is a war going on Reil. A war that threatens to end all life, and you might just be the key to turning the tides.

          “Though Al’Mathria is strong and fighting back GavFed armies each day, there is no doubt that the Federation is currently winning this war. We need someone with powers nobody has ever seen before, someone to lead our soldiers on the field of battle and give them hope. Reil… you can be that person. But I need you to be on board with this.”

          Reil shivered as he felt the air around him grow cold, almost as if it was hardening and ice crystals were pressed against his skin. All sounds other than Roshen’s voice sounded muted and the lights seemed to dim further. “Will you accept our training, Reil? Will you help me end this war?”

          Ignoring the Magic radiating from Roshen, Reil took a deep sigh, blowing out his fears and anxieties into the cold air and pushed his chest out. “I do not want to be a weapon for Al’Mathria, or for anyone, Commander. But as a dear friend once told me, ‘sometimes the most humane thing to do in a conflict is to end it swiftly.’ And I believe the War is one of those things that must come to an end sooner rather than later. I will accept accelerated training, and I will fight for Al’Mathria, but I do require one condition. When he is healed, Cent will be trained as an officer and will fight by my side in any and all conflicts we are called to endure.”

          Noticing the slightly surprised look from Roshen, and the obviously surprised look from Master Ars, Reil realized he had involuntarily been casting when he spoke, amplifying his voice and allowing his eyes to glow brightly in the dim training room. How did I do that?

          “It will be done, Reil. That is all we have to talk about tonight, I must convene with my colleagues, including Master Ars now. Please, go to your quarters and rest, take the night off and enjoy yourself. We will discuss your new training plan tomorrow at six, in my chambers. I will have breakfast ready when you arrive, no need to go to the mess hall.” The Commander had a smile now, but his gaze was not on Reil. He looked off, his eyes focused on something that was not there. Et’Hon Roshen was handed the ultimate weapon, and his gaze was fixed on the future.


The Wizard – Entry 10

Reil ran a hand through his messy blond hair as he sat half awake in the mess hall waiting for breakfast to be served. An equally tired man, six years Reil’s senior, sat across from him with his face in his hands.

          “I don’t believe any of the Suns in the Galaxy are up on any planet at this Lightless time,” the young man groaned through a covered mouth.

          “I’m afraid I’ve forgotten what it feels like to be rested,” Reil mumbled as he slumped in his chair.

          It had been six days since Reil woke up in the medical bay of the Everlight, and four days since he started his training with Ars, the Master Trainer aboard the ship. One more day until Cent was woken from his medically-induced hibernation. Three more days until Reil’s twenty-first birthday. Four more days until Reil’s date with Erica. It was a big week.

          The young man across from him was named Alden Vitters, twenty-six years old and Reil’s only partner in the Wizard training program. He had silver and black hair, wavy and cut just around his shoulder-length with faintly golden eyes. He was jovial, if a bit melodramatic, into literature and poetry, and Light-blessedly awful at casting.

          In the four days of the program, Reil had proceeded to surprise Ars with his ability to catch on to lessons almost immediately, while Alden was still on their very first assignment, which was to alter the wind and cause a plastic pinwheel to spin three full rotations.

          At first, Reil dreaded his future as a Wizard, but the Commander and Federico had given him a couple days to get used to the idea. In that time, Federico and Gaspard tried desperately to get him to understand that importance of his using his powers correctly, how they could lead to scientific advances, and help end the war ever sooner.

          In the end, only one thing got through to Reil, and it was something Roshen had said. “Reil, accept this training. A wizard is worth a hundred Destroyers, and a Wizard with your potential is worth a million. Accept this training, and when you are strong enough, I give you my word… You will help me lead Al’Mathria to a victory at Taiath’Rhowar. You will take back your homeworld.”

          It was the motivation Reil needed, and every night since, he had dreamed of sending the GavFed soldiers retreating back into the depths of space and him standing once more peacefully in the dark growth of the Alvennis.

          In addition to his revenge fantasies, the training was the best way he had found for taking his mind off of the darker aspects of his life. Worrying about Cent’s condition was harder when he was fully focused on Magic, as was worrying about what had happened to Victoria. Even more so it helped Reil stop thinking about his last moments with Quentin. It wasn’t that he wanted to forget those moments, but remembering them was too painful. It wasn’t just Quentin, but the entire family he had found at the Thief House. The memory of Brody’s body splattering on the concrete still woke Reil up at night with sweat on his face.

          Training had been a far more exhausting process than he initially expected; waking up earlier than he ever had before and staying awake long into the night studying texts and instructional books. Reil was happy to have Alden with him for the experience however, as the man’s over exaggerated quotes of Pelicar and Kilearn’s poetry during their eighth straight hour of casting or studying rarely failed to get him to smile.

          While he resisted in the beginning, Reil had begun to enjoy his progress in Magic. Casting wore him out, but it also made him feel more alive than he had since he was taken from Taiath’Rhowar at only eleven years old.

          Since that day, Reil had lived his life trying to maintain as much control over it as possible. That was one of the biggest reasons he chose the thief life back in Feldrin when there were plenty of options for him as a legal employee of one factory or another.

          With the war upon them, it felt like Reil no longer had any control, that is until he began exercising his ability in Magic. Casting allowed him to single-handedly alter the world around him and make things how he wanted them to be. Making the pinwheel spin was only the beginning, and each consecutive trial felt better and better. Folding a piece of cardboard into a U-shape without touching it, opening a can of Fizz, and the most recent trial of lighting a candle.

          “Eat up, boys. And don’t be leaving no scraps like last time, Master Ars told me to shove ‘em down ya throats if I had ta’.” Elith, the mess supervisor, was an older lady from the Colonies, as they were called; a group of planets in an almost entirely inhospitable System with claims from over ten empires within it. A dust storm destroyed all crops on Elith’s home planet and she emigrated to Al’Mathria when no help came.

          “Yes ma’am,” both men echoed. Reil began shovelling the food into his mouth, fighting to even breathe between bites. Ars had he and Alden eating three times as much as the mess hall gave as standard protocol. Casting without an extremely high calorie diet and energy injections before and after lessons could be deadly.

          Reil personally didn’t feel as though his body required the injections, though Alden claimed that the post-casting shots made him feel like he had come back from the dead. Reil chalked it up to being more in shape than Vitters thanks to his time as a thief.

          “I’m gonna go pop by Cent’s med-room before lessons. Meet ya there,” Reil forced the last scrap of food into his mouth and unbuttoned the top button of his pants before darting off to the medical bay. It had become his ritual to stop by Cent’s room each day; seeing his best friend was comforting, and he would get a glimpse of Erica and maybe even a quick “hello” in before she had to see another patient.

          It felt odd to Reil, feeling the way he did about Erica. Sure he’d flirted with his fair share of girls in Feldrin, but it was always just playful. He knew that Lyrin was the only girl for his Heart, and whether she survived the GavFed bombings or not didn’t change that. But for once, he found himself introducing Erica to the Alvennis in his dreams, instead of walking through it with Lyrin. Even the knowledge that Lyrin possibly survived and was a GavFed slave couldn’t quite get Reil to stop thinking about the hiccup-plagued young nurse.

          Finding his way through the layers of sliding doors and well-lit signage, Reil finally stopped for a breath next to Cent’s body, resting in medically-induced stasis. “Hey buddy, since you can’t defend yourself right now I’m just gonna come out and say it. I could beat you into the Vein of Light any day of the week. And I’m taller than you,” Reil smiled at his childish ways. Cent had that effect on him, apparently even when the thief was unconscious.

          “That’d be terribly lame coming from most people, but from you, it was pretty cute.” Erica let her hand brush against Reil’s as she walked past him to extract the data from Cent’s stasis chamber. “You’re friend is doing well, his body is a lot stronger than we initially calculated,” no hiccups were present when the nurse told good news.

          “As per protocol, we’re still keeping him in stasis until the original date programmed, but when he wakes up, physical therapy should be much shorter than anticipated. Perhaps as little as five days,” Ms. Ashe smiled brightly at Reil.

          “That’s wonderful news. Thank you so much, Erica. For helping ease my mind on so many things,” Reil tried to casually run his hand through his hair, but got caught on a thick knot. “And for still being my friend despite how thick headed I am.” They both laughed as Reil carefully detangled his hand from the forest of blonde.

          “No need for thanks, you’ve helped make my time here better than I ever expected. And I’m very excited to hear your opinions of life aboard the Everlight over coffee soon. It can be a bit,” she searched for the word, blowing a strand of hair out of her eyes, “harsh, sometimes. And you especially must be busy as a Wizard in-training.”

          “Oh Mother, training. I gotta run, Master Ars will have me ejected off into space if I don’t get over there fast. Great to see you again, our coffee date is all that’s keeping me going through these training lessons.” Reil rushed off, hoping to Yvesu he wouldn’t be late. He also got stressed every time someone brought up his being a Wizard.

          That alone was a huge deal, doubly so during the largest war in the history of the Cycle. It was obvious everyone would know about his training and who he was, but he also knew he couldn’t disclose what had happened the day he landed on the Everlight, and that he was forbidden from even talking about the details of his training.

          Reil walked a fine line between having near celebrity status as a training Wizard, while at the same time having to make sure no one figured out the details of his abilities. He had never met a Wizard before this time, so he had nothing to go off of, but he had to assume there was something different about his entrance into Magic.

          No one had told him that pulling himself toward a star cruiser, and partially pulling a star cruiser toward him, was an extremely uncommon way for a Wizard to discover his powers. Reil had always been told stories of how immensely powerful Wizards were, it seemed obvious that in a time of great stress he’d have been able to do what he did.

          The young Wizard in-training arrived at the training room fully ready for a nap, but knowing his day had only just begun. A walking mass of muscle with tanned skin and no hair named Ars barked a greeting to Reil when he saw him.

          “You look tired, princess. I imagine it’s from all the extra studying you chose to do last night and not from rushing here from seeing that nurse.” Ars grinned a wide smile as Reil dropped his head in shame. “Don’t be so embarrassed. A meek man never won the woman. Keep at her, son, just don’t let it interrupt your training.”

          “Yes, Master Ars,” Reil shed his shirt, it would get drenched in sweat during lessons anyways, and lined up next to Alden.

          “Today we have something a bit different. You still have your usual lessons that you’ll be working on through today, but to start with you’ll be taking a sort of assessment test, to let me get an idea of where your ability stands now after a short introduction. We’ll then repeat this test every three months to judge how effective your training is, and build off of that information.” Ars opened a small metal box in his hand, eyes glowing slightly as he cast the lock open.

          It was a common way for Wizards to secure things, by adding a lock that could only be opened by casting. Master Ars removed a purple crystal from the box, holding it in one hand and casting the box off onto a shelf against the back wall.

          “This is your test. As I explained to you these past few days, casting Magic requires the use of three Aspects of yourself, your Heart, Soul, and Spirit. Reil, which Aspects would you use to alter the wind?”

          Reil answered quickly, remembering moving the pinwheel for the first time, “Soul to initiate the alteration, and Spirit to strengthen it, if you need to. Sir,” he almost always forgot the “sir” at the end of an answer.

          “Very good. Alden, which Aspects would you use to cast fire?”

          “Soul to initiate the alteration, then Heart to start burning the fire. Spirit would be used to strengthen the fire if needed, though with a strong enough Heart, you can cast more fire without the use of Spirit, sir.” That was the lesson Reil was currently on, and the first time he had to use all three Aspects at once. He hadn’t succeeded yet.

          “Correct. What do both of those, and all casting, have in common? Soul. That is how all casting is initiated. Casting is a way of striking a deal with Mother Yvesu herself. You give part of you in exchange for part of Her. She is everything in the Universe, and by altering anything beyond what it normally can be altered, a trade is required.

         “As you have shown you know, Spirit can be used to strengthen a cast after it has already been initiated. When you use Soul to begin the cast, depending how much you put into the initial cast is directly related to how much alteration Mother Yvesu gives you. If you need more than what you started with for any reason, using your Spirit, you can trade for more power.

          “Heart is for directing your cast in a particular manner. You can not cast fire without Heart, as your cast will begin as a simple alteration of whatever you are casting at. For example, if you were simply casting at the air, you’d only be able to alter the air. You’d be able to move it, causing wind, or stop it, possibly causing a halt to a tornado. You can take it away, removing the ability for someone to breathe, or concentrate more in an area, giving yourself an easier time breathing in a situation of high altitude. If you cast at a tree, you’d be able to kill leaves, or bring them up from a wilt. With enough power you’d be able to break branches or even cause the entire tree to die and crack apart.

          “But Heart, Heart allows change. If you cast at a candle for example, with Soul you could break the candle apart, unwind the fibers of the wick, and so forth. But with the addition of Heart, you could add in heat to the equation, and ignite a fire on the wick.” Ars demonstrated by lighting the candle at the far end of the room, then extinguishing it.

          “You already knew that, but the knowledge will be important for this assessment test. You will be casting at this crystal,” the Master Trainer held out the crystal in his palm, giving Reil and Alden a good look. It was small, each face being only two or three inches wide by Reil’s guess, and simple. Just eight sides, four on top and four on bottom, all the same shape and size.

          “You will begin with Soul, as always. You will try to simply alter the crystal; not in any way in particular, just cast with as much Soul as you can. I’ll be giving you much stronger injections today before the test, so you can cast with much more vigor that I normally let you. I want you to put your all into this.

          “The more you cast, the more this crystal will begin to glow. Once casting, you will feel a connection to this crystal, as you feel toward all things you use Magic on. You will feel it change at a moderate speed. As it changes, you will have to change your casting technique. At first all it will require is Soul, then it may require Heart to keep the light glowing, then maybe it will switch to Spirit, or Heart and Spirit, or all three at once.

          “Your success on this examination will be determined by both how long you can keep the crystal glowing, and how brightly.” Ars cast a stool toward him and took a set. “We’ll begin with you Alden.”

          Vitters nodded, taking a deep breath, as if he could breathe out all his anxiety. Reil had been trying to teach him his tricks to calming down, but Alden seemed to be perpetually nervous whenever he was working with Magic. He stepped forward and Reil moved back as he never quite felt comfortable around his friend’s attempts at casting.

          Master Ars leaned forward to give Alden an energy injection, the syringe tube being far larger than the usual ones Reil had been used to for lessons. “Now focus, Alden. Cast Soul directly at the crystal. It won’t take much at first, even less than moving a pinwheel,” the Master Trainer spread both hands and allowed the crystal to sit right in the middle.

          Reil watched intently as Alden’s eyes gave off the telltale glow of casting. The crystal had previously been resting on its side but slowly tilted into an upright position in the middle of Ars’s hands. The smallest of flickers of light turned on and off in the center, like sparks from scraping steel along a piece of flint.

          Abruptly, the crystal dimmed and fell back over in Ars’ hand before lifting back up. “The shift in Aspects is a fast one, Alden. Keep up.” Alden nodded his head, sweat pouring forth from his forehead and his brow knotted in concentration. Reil had no way of knowing how the test was scored, if it even was scored. He wasn’t sure if Alden was doing well or doing poorly, but he did know that he was ready for his turn.

          In short time, Vitters stumbled as one of his legs gave out under him. He quickly caught himself and even tried to keep casting at the crystal, but Ars quickly called an ending to the exam. Muscle failure while casting was a sign your body was nearing its limit. Casting Magic required direct extraction of a Wizard’s life; Soul, Heart, and Spirit. Without time to recover, casting was fatal.

          “You did well Alden. I’ll be writing up a report of your exam for the Commander tonight. Go take a rest, and don’t forget your second injection, you used a lot of energy today,” the Master Trainer handed Alden a small slip from his back pocket. “Go by the library and check out this book. It’ll be your reading assignment for today. Whenever you finish it, which I fully anticipate to be before seven o’clock tonight, you will come back here and keep working on the pinwheel.”

          Alden nodded sleepily and stumbled away towards his quarters. Reil hadn’t seen Vitters that tired any of the days of lessons prior. Time to find out what I’m made of.

The Wizard – Entry 9

Soft whirring sounds and muted beeps filled Reil’s ears as he slowly came to in the medical bay. Sighing and shifting his weight forward, Reil scanned the room with a groggy mind and heavy eyelids.

          “Feel free to take a walk around, the medicine may have you feeling groggy, but your ribs are all patched up and ready to go!” A perky voice chirped from a young woman in a standard medical gown.

          “Thanks. Say, how long have I been out?” Reil slid his legs off the sides of the bed and tested his feet out with some stretches.

          “Two days,” the woman said as she walked forward to remove an IV from Reil’s arm. “You could’ve been up sooner but it seems like those poor ribs of yours had already been broken before you fell onto the Everlight. We had to make sure they were a hundred percent before we let you up. Standard protocol.” Her smile made Reil smile back, despite how tired he felt.

          “Yea, I really gotta get to treating them better,” Reil huffed a laugh and the nurse just smiled wider. “Do you know how Cent is doing? My friend, that is. Black hair, pale green eyes, big ol’ ears?” That got a laugh out of the woman this time.

          “So that’s his name. Our facial scanner’s database had nothing on him, and he had no identification card on him. Well, not his own at least, he had one of a man named Dan’Avik however, but according to our information that man was dead around the time of the terrorist attack.” The nurse finished removing the IV from Reil and handed him a packet of pills, “my condolences, if you knew that man. Also, take two of those a day for three days, it’ll get rid of the grogginess.”

          Reil finally stood up and stretched his back out. “Thanks. Cent though, is he alright?”

          The woman looked away, “he’ll most likely recover. But,” the nurse sighed, “well… He’ll be out for another week, maybe more. And when he wakes up there’ll be about three weeks of physical therapy to get him back to his previous level of health.” The nurse hiccuped, which sounded more like a squeak, “sorry, I always get the hiccups when I have to tell bad news. Anyway, a piece of shrapnel lodged itself in your friend’s spine. Even though we have the best medical equipment in the nearby Systems on this cruiser, that’s a bad injury. Really bad.”

          At the last words, the hiccups turned into a stifled cry. Reil moved forward and put his hand on the nurse’s shoulder. “Thank you for telling me. I’m sure you’re doing all you can,” Reil lowered his head to look her in the eyes. “Thank you, from the bottom of my Heart.”

          The nurse quickly pulled in Reil for a hug. “Don’t tell anyone I did that, I could get in big trouble. It’s just I’m a training medical student and I didn’t expect my first experience to be coming to help clean up one of the largest terrorist attacks in the last year. It can be overwhelming.”

          Reil brushed back the nurse’s short-cut blonde hair to look at her eye to eye. “I can imagine, and I know the feeling of being overwhelmed. It feels like in the last week everything I’ve ever known has been taken from me.” He sighed deeply and looked at the woman’s powerfully dark green eyes, such a stark contrast from her light hair and pale skin. “What do you say to us getting a coffee and complaining about how messy our lives are sometime soon?”

          The young woman sniffled, “I’d say that sounds pretty nice. I’m warning you though,” another hiccup, “with all these injured people from Feldrin, I won’t have any free time for this coffee with you for another week, minimum.”

          “Fine by me,” Reil flashed her a comforting smile. “So who do I ask for next time I want to come check in on you?”

          The nurse returned his smile as she pulled away from the hug and smoothed out her medical gown. “Erica Ashe. Now, sorry to end a lovely conversation but I have to go check in on a man who lost his left leg.” With that, Erica rushed off out a door, blushing quite prettily.

          Hitting on a woman right after waking up in a medical bay, Reil chuckled to himself, Luke would have been proud. There was just something about the young nurse that comforted Reil, and captivated his attention.

          Reil popped two of the pills in his mouth and set off to figure out what would happen now that he was under protection of Al’Mathria. Leaving Feldrin was all a bit of a blur, and Reil couldn’t remember how they got from the Docks onto the ship. The last thing he remembered clearly was an explosion going off when he and Cent jumped, but it didn’t make sense to him how they would have made it onto the Everlight. The blast had thrown them into the sky and rocked the ship out even further from the Docks.

          The Wizard! He must have been able to alter the air to get us onto the ship. I hope he’s alright. Reil cracked his knuckles in worry over both Cent’s condition and the Wizard who had saved them. He would never be able to forgive himself if a fully trained Wizard had lost his life helping Reil; Wizards were all too valuable in the war. He’d heard people say that a masterful Wizard was worth a hundred Destroyers, and after yesterday’s display of power, Reil believed it.

          Before Reil could find his way out of the medical bay and onto someone who could provide answers, a startled doctor hustled over to him from down the hall. She was an older woman with graying hair and wise eyes, “Oh, Reil. I was not aware you were awake, Ms. Ashe was supposed to inform me immediately,” the woman jotted down a note on her clipboard, “the Commander wishes to see you right away. I’ll call for a guard to show you the way.”

          With no times for questions the doctor hurried away, Reil didn’t even see or hear her call for anyone. Whether she did or not, a guard appeared right away and began walking right past Reil, “come, the Commander will see you now.”

          Reil fell in beside the hulking guard, standing an easy six foot six and bulging out of his shirt sleeves. He wondered if there was a reason such a massive man was chose to escort him. The Al’Mathrin’s seem like good people, but this is beginning to feel hostile. Reil tried and failed to casually wipe sweat off his forehead.

          The walk to the Commander’s quarters was silent, and they saw not a single person along the way. Reil tried to calm his nerves by picturing Taiath’Rhowar and games of hide and seek with Lyrin. The flat metal walls and the hum of the titanic engines powering the cruiser were not the warmest nor most welcoming of environments.

          Finally the guard stopped at a wide metal door marked with a red symbol etched and painted into the door in what Reil had to assume was ancient Al’Mathrin characters. It was common practice for different systems to embrace and even celebrate their ancient languages and traditions before the Unification and the switch to a single, common language among the Galaxy.

          The guard walked away back down the hall silently and Reil nearly jumped at the hiss as the door slid open. He was painfully on edge as he walked into the Commander’s personal study.

          “Ah, Reil,” the man speaking was cloaked in a rich silk kimono with scholar’s bands on the sleeves indicating immense academic and intellectual achievement. He must have been the Everlight’s resident researcher. “My associates and I were just engaging in a wondrous discussion about you.”

          Reil didn’t even know the man and already disliked him. His voice dripped with arrogance and his nose was tipped up while he spoke. “Hello, yes um, I was told I was to see the Commander immediately after I woke up in the medical bay.”

          “Oh yes indeed. And the Commander is just delighted to be able to have this conversation. He is fetching a cigar for himself at the moment but this will be quite the pleasant surprise when he comes back,” the scholar took a draw of a cigar himself and motioned toward the large cushioned chair next to him. “Please, do sit down my friend.”

          You’re not my friend, Reil thought as he met the man’s eyes. The scholar watched him with eyes like a bird of prey. “It seems like everyone on this ship already knows who I am. Who might I be speaking with?” He tried to not sound as nervous and confused as he really was.

          The richly clothed man gave a look of astonishment, as if Reil ought to have known who he was from first glance. “My name is Dr. Henry Gaspard the Fourth, Resident Researcher for the Everlight and Director of Research and Scientific Exploration of the great and powerful Al’Mathrin Empire.”

          Reil nearly gagged at the long winded title, but nodded politely and bowed slightly, hoping not to give offense that could land him in trouble with the people who saved his life. “Pleasure to meet you, sir.” The two shook hands despite Reil’s reluctance.

          “And my name is Federico Gonzalez, I am the Branch Director of Magic Studies here on the Everlight. I do hope you find comfort and peace aboard our vessel. And I apologize for the loss of any of the victims you might of known from the Gav’Rethil terrorist attack.” The tanned-skinned man with dark curls and light brown eyes bowed deeply from where he stood by a bookshelf.

          Reil liked this man far more, and could sense the authenticity of his empathy. “Thank you, I lost nearly everyone I know. Cent, the black haired young man that jumped on to this ship with me,” Reil took a breath, “was one of only two people I know who survived.”

          At that moment it occurred to Reil that Victoria had disappeared when he and Cent had helped out the medical staff in Franklin after the soldiers showed up. He had no idea if she made it out of the city or not. Mother, please let her be safe. I’ve lost enough already.

          “Gone to another Vein, banished from the Light. Yes, all very tragic,” Gaspard waved his hand almost as if to act as though the subject was done and over; unimportant. “But what is important here is that you survived, and came here! To this very ship! Oh the things we’ll learn together!” The scholar looked off into his own little world, not paying attention to Reil or Federico.

          Before either men could call out Gaspard on his incredible lack of manners, the Commander walked back into the cozy study with a lit cigar in his hand. He sat down on the largest of the chairs and blew out a puff of smoke in a clean circle.

          “It’s good to see you’re doing alright. You gave us all quite a shock with that maverick of a move the other day,” the gruff, powerful voice belonged to the very man that had saved Reil and Cent. The Wizard reached forward for a glass of what Reil assumed to be whiskey and gave him a smile.

          “I have many questions, and I’m sure both Dr. Gonzalez and Dr. Gaspard do as well. But first, can I offer you a drink or a cigar? Anything at all,” the cool command of the room the Wizard held mesmerized Reil. His voice told any who heard him that armies would come to his banner him at any call.

          “Some coffee would be much appreciated, if you have any,” Reil was filled with relief to see the Wizard looked completely uninjured by the terrorist attack. He looked different without his casting-armor on, but there was no mistaking a man like the Commander.

          “Dr. Gaspard, would you kindly?” The Commander nodded off to the back of the room where an expensive looking coffee maker sat on a wooden end table. Gaspard looked offended that a man of his prestige would be asked to fetch coffee for a guest, but the Commander did not appear to be a man anyone disobeyed.

          “Got to take him down a notch whenever I can, I’m sure you already know what I mean,” The Wizard laughed as he whispered to Reil and Federico. “Now to begin with, my name is Commander Et’Hon Roshen of the Second Fleet, under rule of Queen Julen of the Sakken System and the Al’Mathrin Empire. You can just call me Commander. I am also a Master Wizard, of the Olitheren Wizard’s Guild. As I recall from looking over the database, you too are from the Olitheren System, correct Reil?”

          Reil nearly choked on his own breath, “that’s correct, sir. Have you ever visited Taiath’Rhowar? Do you have any news of it by chance?” Reil tried to keep some of the eagerness out of his voice, but it was hard when he was talking to the first person who had been to the Olitheren System since the day he was taken from his homeworld. Reil’s heart pounded against his chest like a hammer to an anvil.

          “I have, and I must say it is the most beautiful place I’ve ever had the honor of seeing with my own eyes. My condolences are endless to you, the bombing of Taiath’Rhowar was not just a loss to the Olitheren System, but to the entire Galaxy.” Both Roshen and Federico bowed their heads to Reil. “I do have news from there however. Al’Mathria has spies on the planet, they give us updates every four months, it’s the most often that they can do so without drawing attention to themselves.

          “The spies tell us that after the carpet bombing, small Terra-Shields were shot down onto the planet and GavFed soldiers began building barracks and training grounds. They say that the solar farming operation planets were not bombed as the Federation now uses the energy they produce to fuel their war machine. Drones were sent out into the wastes and captured any survivors, all of which are now used as slaves in the Terra-Shields, mainly working as miners.

          “I know this must be hard to hear, and I’d love to tell you that Al’Mathria could take back your planet right this moment, but it is not currently possible. The solar capture fields make the planet far too valuable and it is heavily guarded. The cost of lives and ships to retake Taiath’Rhowar would be incalculable. But I want you to know this Reil, Al’Mathria and its allies will end this war, and before it’s over, Taiath’Rhowar will be restored.”

          There was a silence as Reil took in the information laid out before him. Dr. Gaspard arrived with a feigned smile and set down a cup of coffee in front of Reil before sitting back down on his chair with a poorly concealed huff.

          “Thank you,” Reil didn’t say it to either Gaspard or Roshen particularly. “So some people survived the bombings? Do you,” it was difficult to talk about, but Lyrin was burning in his mind, “know if any of the survivors were natives?”

          “Yes, but not many. Only thirty three of the two hundred Great Forest communities produced survivors, and of those thirty three, drones found only three or four survivors per community.” The Commander took a solemn drag of the cigar, “I assume you knew people who stayed during the bombings?”

          “My parents, and my closest friend. We lived in the Alvennis, there were only twenty four households in our community. No chance you’ve heard anything about the Alvennis?” Reil didn’t hold any hopes.

          “Not particularly, no. But I can request information about it next time we contact our spies. I’ll do that for you Reil, and it’s truly all I can do, though I wish I could do so much more.” The room went quiet for a while.

           “I do not mean to rush anything, but if you are up for it Reil, could we ask some questions about what occurred the day you came onto the Everlight?” Federico’s voice was cautious, treading lightly on such a delicate topic.

          “Well, you are probably better off asking soldiers who were on the loading bay than asking me,” Reil’s words were quiet, still recovering from the wealth of information about Taiath’Rhowar, and the thought that his parents or even Lyrin could have survived. “I remember almost nothing, and after I fell onto the ship I blacked out. Woke up for the first time just an hour ago or so.”

          “You don’t recall exactly how you came to be falling onto the loading bay, anything out of the ordinary that occurred, allowing you to jump that far of a distance?” Reil hated the way Gaspard leaned into his when he asked a question.

          “Well, to be honest the whole week has been ‘out of the ordinary,’ and the day of the terrorist attack was the worst of it. When we jumped off the Docks, the ship wasn’t all that far from us. Then I remember a bomb going off underneath me and everything when blurry for a bit. In the tumbling from the blast I figured my friend and I were just thrown up above the ship.” Reil scratched his head, searching for anymore details he could recall. “Is that… not what happened?”

          The Commander leaned back in his chair, all but forgetting about the cigar in his hand. He stared intently around the room, lingering on Reil. Federico interlaced his fingers with his eyebrows scrunched together tightly. “Think deep Reil, to the moments right after the explosion. You and Cent were far, far away from the Everlight, as the ship got hit by the blast even harder than you did. How did you get from where you were in the air, to the loading bay floors? You have to think very hard.”

          Reil sipped his coffee and retreated into his thoughts, replaying the events just before he blacked out on the Everlight’s loading bay. He saw the Everlight before him, getting ever closer. He saw the light turn an orange red as an explosion grew below him. He saw the sky twist and turn around him and his vision turn to gray. He saw the Everlight, so far away now, and he felt it getting further. He saw his hand outstretched, reaching for the massive cruiser. He felt a rush, and coldbumps covered his arms even while holding his hot coffee. He saw the ship jerk forward, and move closer to him, with everyone on the loading bay stumbling and struggling to stay upright, he felt himself accelerate through the air like he was flying towards the ship. Did another bomb go off on the other side of the ship? Was the Everlight hit by an enemy Destroyer?

          But deep within his Heart, Reil knew there was no Destroyer, no other bomb. He knew exactly how he made it closer to the ship and he knew that he had done it. Reil knew that he had used Magic.

          “It was me,” Reil set his coffee down with trembling hands. “I used Magic.”




          The room was still, and curling tendrils of smoke and the smell of coffee and whiskey intertwined and danced in the air. Even the breathing of the room’s occupants could not pierce the silence, and any small sounds were eaten up by the thick carpet and rows of leather bound books.

          The Commander broke the quiet, his voice like a heavy sword. “That is correct Reil.”

          Gaspard looked as though he was ready to delve into his inevitable questionnaire for Reil, but a simple glance from Roshen closed the doctor’s lips instantly; Reil was thankful for it. Accepting that he had done such a thing shook his very core. Magic was the most deadly and feared skill in the Galaxy, religion itself taught against using Magic for anything other than holy purposes, and entire systems had been disintegrated by Wizards of old.

          Some say that the war was caused by the misuse of Magic. Wizards were not normal people, and they did not do normal things; they did not lead normal lives. They had immense power, capable of destroying anything they saw fit, with little in the way of governance. Wizards could make entire kingdoms bow down, and yet were explicitly restricted from ruling any empire or System. It was a compromise, but one neither side liked very much.

          “Though it may seem that way, not many on my ship know of the extent of your power. Even the guard who escorted you knew simply that I required a meeting with you. You will not speak of this to anyone who is not in this room save for one other,” the Commander finally took a draw of his neglected cigar. “The Master Trainer, who you will get to know in the coming weeks.”

          “Master Trainer…” Reil picked up his coffee and but not drink. He simply let the aroma rise to his nose and tried to process what had just happened. “Will I be trained? To use… Magic?” Mother, oh please sweet merciful Mother do not let this happen. I have no will to be a Wizard. Send me back to the Alvennis and I will worship you with my every breath.

          “Reil, please calm down, we mean you no harm,” Federico walked closer to Reil, extending a hand for comfort.

          Reil dodged the hand and slid his coffee cup back onto the table. He knocked over his chair as he rushed for the door, which thankfully slid open with a hiss at the last second. I won’t be a Wizard. I’ll just never use my Magic again. I won’t cause destruction, I won’t kill people who stand no chance against me. I wo-

          Upon rounding a corner of the metal-walled corridors of the Everlight, Reil slipped and crashed to the floor. Tears welled up in his eyes, but he forced them back down. He fully expected Roshen to come around the corner any second now and drag him to the Master Trainer.

          As he waited, curled into a fetal position on the cold flooring, Reil contemplated what his life would become now. Contemplated the process of being turned into a force of destruction and terror. Wizards could save lives, yes, but usually by ending others. That was not what Reil wanted.

          He waited, but no one came. He thought of getting up and going to find Erica, or maybe even the room where Cent was being held, just so he could be by someone he knew. Instead he decided on laying there on the floor. Even with the power to end worlds coursing through his Soul, Reil felt powerless. And so he stayed on the floor, afraid of what he would become. Afraid of what had already become of his life; so much lost and so much taken from him.

The Wizard – Entry 8

“We are safe in here for now. Let’s go to an informant of mine and see what the Darkness is going on here,” Victoria stared angrily at the smoke, as if the attack was not on Feldrin, but on her own person. Reil nodded in agreement to her plan, but when the two turned to look for Cent’s approval, they saw only his back as he sprinted toward the nearest door to the district. “Where in the Mother’s name is he going?”

          It took a second, but it clicked in Reil’s mind. “Of course,” he said in a whisper to himself, then louder to Victoria, “he’s going to the nearest gateway into Franklin. He’s going to try to get more people into the safety of the energy field.” Cent’s incredible empathy had a way of putting him in the most dangerous of situations, but he never thought twice about it. Reil on the other hand found himself having to save his friend from his own sense of duty on a far too regular basis.

          “Light damn this child. Let’s go!” Victoria and Reil took off after Cent, already rounding the corner of a street. The pair chased after, feet pounding on the cobblestone roads and stumbling every time another tremor shook the ground. Whatever was causing them wasn’t stopping, it was getting worse.

          By the time they arrived at the gate, the sight was enough to tear at any Heart. People in bloody rags and missing limbs screaming loud enough to pierce the soundproofing of the energy field stood pressed against the field. Alarms sounded from the attempted forceful entries by the citizens, but there were no guards to be seen. One raven haired young man stood at the gate, eyes on the hundreds of people piling on top of one another trying desperately to get in.

           Cent tried desperately to activate the Mass Entry option on his Identification Card, but the reader seemed to have been damaged in the attacks. Letting out a frustrated cry, Cent punched straight through the metal of the card reader, yanking out cables in a bloodied handful. He looked wildly at the colored wires, no idea which ones he needed to accomplish his goal. The cries of the citizens outside the field grew louder with each explosion behind them.

           “Reil, help me! We need to get them inside!” Cent’s cries were painful, and tears were developing in his eyes. Reil rushed to his friend’s side and looked at the mess of wires. He wished Luke had been there, the kid was the best with technology and was always making new inventions out of broken computers and scanners. Back in their time together, Luke had taught Reil quite a few things about electricity, in case he ever needed to escape a cell or break into a locked room during a mission.

          Light, let me use some of that information today. Reil grasped two thin green wires and a thick white one and knelt down to the floor. He grabbed a wire connector that had fallen from the ground when Cent destroyed the card reader. When it was functioning, displaying the ID card would have caused the automatic arm to press the connector between the three wires Reil now held. He tied the thin greens to one end of the connector, and clipped the opposite end to the white wire.

          The instant the connector bridged the three wires, people who had been pressed against the energy field fell through onto the streets of the Franklin District. Cent rushed forward lifting injured people up on each of his shoulders and calling out orders for guards who were only just beginning to arrive at the scene.

          It wasn’t until a soldier knelt next to Reil to help lift an injured citizen that he noticed just who these “guards” were. Emblazoned proudly on the chestpiece in green and gold was the crest of the Al’Mathrin Empire.

          Seeing Reil’s surprise, the guard effortlessly hefted the injured citizen over his shoulder and smiled, “don’t worry, kid. We’re the good guys.” He began to walk over to the medic station that had been erected, “you should make your way to the Docks, and quick. We’re using our ships to evacuate citizens. Go fast and don’t die.”

          Nodding, Reil dusted off his clothes and ran to get Cent. But Light, he’s never going to leave these people. The Al’Mathrin soldiers were doing a fast job of moving the people, placing those with minor inside a nearby building for protection from falling rubble, and those that were injured seriously were taken to the medics who operated under a small, moveable energy shield.

          Reil panted as he neared Cent, who was just dropping off another injured citizen at the medic station. “Cent, we need to go to the Docks. The Al’Mathrins are evacuating the city,” the pleading in Reil’s voice gave Cent a start.

          Cent looked around at the rubble, clearly trying to find a reason to stay, but the streets were cleared, if not covered in blood and dust, and even the medic station was being moved toward the building with the less injured. Nodding at a passing soldier, Cent looked to Reil and wiped off a streak of blood from his cheek, “Let’s go.”

         The two friends set out, Reil finally turning his coat off, and waved to the soldiers as they left. Between tired pants and the dodging of rubble, Cent talked of the Al’Mathrin men with awe, “those are the types of men I think of when I think of soldiers. Men of honor, who come to the rescue of the helpless, with nothing to gain from it. Those men are true soldiers. They are the ones who make a difference.”

          It became more and more apparent to Reil as to why Cent so quickly accepted his request for them to head to the Docks for evacuation. He wasn’t running from the injured citizens, he was running toward a way for him to help even more people. Cent was going to enlist in the Al’Mathrin army.




          It was dark by the time the sweat covered pair got to the Docks, having run longer than they ever had before. Falling rubble, ion bombs, and the booming of cannons were good motivators to keep running. Cent skidded to a stop and tackled Reil to the ground as the blast of an ion cannon tore through the air above their heads and turned a skyscraper into a smoldering pile of concrete dust and flames.

          A massive Wallace-class Destroyer loomed in the night sky above the two friends, flames and explosions lighting up the smoke and cloud covered air. Targeting lights searched the city and small ion bombs rained down from above and collapsed entire districts of Feldrin.

          One of the targeting lights blinded Reil as it moved over him and Cent, the two of them covering their eyes and trying to make a run for safety.

          “Worry not friends, I will escort you to the evac location.” A loud voice filled with confidence sounded from behind Reil. He turned to look through squinted eyes and as soon as he saw who was talking, his eyes popped open and nearly jumped out of their sockets.

          It was a fully casting-armored Wizard, with both the crests of the Wizard’s Guild and the Al’Mathrin Empire gleaming side by side on his broad chest. With the armor, the purple and silver of the Wizard’s Guild and the green and gold of Al’Mathria intertwined seamlessly, the Wizard stood nearly seven feet tall and his eyes glowed from use of Magic.

          The man had been casting since the beginning of the battle, no doubt, but looked as if he hadn’t lifted a finger all day. The perks of casting-armor; it kept a Wizard full of energy to use for casting, keeping them awake and full of strength through an entire battle.

          With a roar, the Wizard lifted his hands, palms out and fingers tensed, toward the Destroyer. A red targeting laser appeared on the chestpiece of the Wizard’s armor, thought he paid it no mind. He began to separate his hands with immense effort, and a creaking of metal pierced through the night, overpowering the sounds of explosions. “For Al’Mathria!” The Wizard yelled as his hands fell limply to his side and he collapsed to his knees, eyes remaining locked on the Destroyer.

          At the same instant his hands had fully separated, the Wallace-class Destroyer ignited into a series of explosions and the airship was rent in two pieces, fire and smoke bursting from every seam. Flashing warning lights and sirens sounded off as the pieces fell helplessly to the ground, crashing with a titanic explosion.

          A gloved hand pulled Reil to his feet and the man shoved him forward, “we need to keep moving. My armor is low on power, let’s try not to draw anymore attention to ourselves.” The Wizard ran fast, making sure to keep Reil and Cent moving as fast as they could. With the help of Magic, the man could run far faster without tiring, but he stayed with them the entire way to the Docks.

          Reil found it hard to think of anything other than the immense power the Wizard could wield; he’d heard stories of Wizards his entire life but never believed he’d see one in person. The Wizard not only lived up to the stories, but with modern casting-armor, exceeded them.

          The party made good time; Reil found himself running with newfound vigor. At first it didn’t make sense, but he noticed a slight glow coming from the Wizard’s eyes and realized the man had been empowering Cent and himself the entire run. Even his bruises and sores felt better, and his legs felt like they had miles of running left in them when they finally reached the Docks.

          The Docks were a disaster. Normally one of the most scenic views in the system, a place for the largest star cruisers, battleships, and cargorunners in the entire universe to come together to trade, refuel, hire crew members, and get repairs. It was placed on the edge of Feldrin, where a cliff plummeted 3 miles down. Docks, loading bays, and catwalks were constructed all over the cliffside to form a structure that confused even the most experienced of star captains.

          Now, however, most of the structures were demolished, with smoke and fire coming from all directions. Explosions could be heard one after another following the miles down the cliffside as damaged ships fell and crashed into the walls of rock.

          Amid the wreckage, the Wizard pointed and yelled with his gruff voice, “The Everlight, that’s our ship!” Reil could only make out part of the ship through the smoke, but the colorways of the Al’Mathrin Empire were clear, and their cruiser was the largest thing Reil had ever seen in the sky.

          The Wizard held his hand up and cast a massive ball of light as a signal flare, and almost as quickly as the color appeared, the Everlight’s boosters could be heard roaring to life. The ship could not wait at the edge of the Docks for citizens, as the damage was far too great. But stationing off the dust and hiding in the smoke was a clever strategy.

          “Help the others up, they may be too injured to get onto the Everlight by themselves. It’s not going to be an easy ride,” the Wizard’s face was hard and his jaw set. Even with the aid of his casting armor, using Magic through the day had clearly taken a toll on him. Cutting deals with Mother Yvesu was a one sided-game, and She certainly never lost.

          Reil ran toward the crowd of citizens who had been waiting at the Docks for the Al’Mathrin evacuation. He followed the Wizard and noticed Cent had already left to tend to the injured as soon as they had reached the Docks.

          Al’Mathrin soldiers formed a barrier around the cowering and scared Feldrin citizens, but opened their ranks as soon as they saw the Wizard headed toward them. Every soldier snapped to attention at his presence and saluted him with 4 fingers extended and placed over their chests.

          “Prepare yourselves, men! The loading bays have been bombed to Darkness and with the smoke the Everlight is going to have minimal visibility. That means our ship won’t be able to dock correctly. I will control the air to create a bridge from the Docks to the ship, but I won’t be able to hold it for long. We will have to move fast, and I want no one left behind,” the Wizard spoke his orders calmly over the crowd of people and the sounds of explosions, but with the aid of Magic every word could be heard crystal clear. It was risky to waste energy at this point when he could have simply shouted, but he needed to keep the crowd calm.

          Reil, Cent, the soldiers, and a few others were deemed healthy and would be the last to load onto the ship. Reil strained after a full day of running to hold injured people on both shoulders and lead them to the Everlight.

          When he got to the edge of the docking platform, his heartbeat went crazy. He knew he’d have to walk across a Magic bridge to get to the ship, but he hadn’t expected it to be invisible. I have to do this, or people will die, Reil reminded himself.

          He took the first step and was surprised to find a hard, solid surface hanging in the air. With his new confidence, he charged across the bridge and dropped off the two citizens and rushed back for more. As his eyes met with the Wizard’s, the man nodded with a strained smile. He can’t hold that bridge much longer. His armor might already be empty.

          If that was true, the Wizard could kill himself accidentally by overextending his powers and holding the bridge longer than his body was capable.

          By the fourth run across the bridge, the only people left on the Docks were the soldiers, Cent, Reil, and the Wizard. The Wizard put a hand to his ear and spoke to the star pilot of the Everlight, “we’re going need you to pull in closer, I’m dropping the bridge and we’ll have to jump for it.”

          The man then sagged to the floor as his energy left him. Reil caught a glimpse of the power meter on the casting-armor; it was at less than one percent and flashing critical. “Alright men, I’ll be last on this ship, now move, the Everlight can’t stay here longer. We’ve already caught wind of GavFed fighter jets coming in as the clean up crew. If we aren’t gone by the time they get here, we won’t make it out of orbit.”

          Reil was shocked at haste with which the soldiers obeyed orders. With the last words out of the Wizard’s mouth, two soldiers sprinted forward and leaped onto the open loading bay of the Everlight.

          Two by two, the entire team was on the ship, and Cent looked to Reil with a grim nod. “We gotta make this jump, we can make this jump.” Reil tried to calm himself as Cent lined up for the sprint. At the last moment Reil looked to the Wizard, who had only just stood up.

          “And you? You’re exhausted, how will you make the gap?”

          “Whatever I may look like, kid, remember this one thing because it negates all others; I’m a Wizard.” With that, the man’s eyes glowed slightly once more and Reil’s exhaustion left him; this was his chance to make the jump.

          “Thank you,” Reil nodded and then charged toward the edge of the Docks with Cent and jumped, out into the air with three miles of cliff below. He felt confident as he flew through the air, closer to the loading bay, when a delayed bomb detonated some thirty yards below the Everlight.

          The cruiser rocked back from the blast and Reil and Cent were thrown higher into the air from the force. Reil blacked out momentarily but quickly reawoke, Cent was not as lucky. When he realized his friend was unconscious, Reil could feel a power surge through his bloodstream. It was like when the Wizard had given him strength while they were running, but a thousand orders of magnitude stronger.

          As they began to fall, Reil faced the Everlight and stretched his hand out to it, pulling with all his might. The entire ship shifted in the air towards the falling bodies of Reil and Cent, and both young men crashed onto the loading bay floors with a crack. The last thought Reil had before he blacked out was, there goes my Light forsaken ribs again.

The Wizard – Entry 7

Bright light flooding the streets caused Reil to bring an arm up to shield his eyes as the two thieves exited the alley. The crowds were already thicker than usual, even in the early morning. Two young men in dark clothing could only move so fast without drawing the attention of the Guard, but Reil and Cent made good time, having learned the ins and outs of the city years ago. They moved close to a light jog, keeping their eyes down and staying away from the busiest roads. Getting across the city could take days depending where you were headed, as it stretched over thousands of square miles. Reil had never been out of the city, but rumors were that the rest of the planet was a barren wasteland, with all its resources being exhausted building the Great Factory. As with most rumors, Reil held off on believing it, but from the expanse of the city, he could see how it came about.

          Reil shifted his coat each time they entered a new district, trying his best to match the garments of the locals so as to keep them blending in. Cent’s coat wasn’t a shifter, but it had a modern cut and was a simple black cotton material, fitting for anyone living in Feldrin nowadays. As the two friends drew close to the Franklin District in the North Central area of the city, spiraling towers covered the skies. Glass with gold, silver, and bronze worked between the panes filled in the space between the buildings. The bronze was old and oxidized, but the aged green added more to the spectacle than the original color did, at least Reil thought so. The gold gave away the age of the district, as use of it outside of weapon manufacturing had been outlawed hundreds of years ago after a man named Gill Westworth discovered gold, along with many other minerals and chemicals, could be used to make immensely powerful bombs and weapons without the horrid side effects that came with nuclear power.

          Everywhere else in the city had had its gold stripped away, either by the government for use in weapon production, or by thieves who would sell it on the black market. The fact that the Franklin district was able to keep it by order of the government, and that it hadn’t been stolen yet, was a clear indicator of the wealth that filled its streets.

           The Franklin district was one of the oldest districts in the city. When the Great Factory was first being built, the Royal Family had a section of the land set aside for when they visited, or when any wealthy families or investors wanted to visit. The goal was to build a district with such grandeur that it could make the guests forget what an industrial slum they were in. The glass roofs connecting every building held back the smog and the smells of the city, and solar film covering the glass and metalwork worked to cool the district, keeping it a comfortable temperature year-round.

          “Why did we come to Franklin? No way in Darkness we’re getting in.” Reil scratched his head before giving Cent a condescending stare.

          “You spoke to Quentin during the raid,” Cent put on his most pompous and scholarly look to combat Reil’s doubtful eyebrow raise. “And I spoke to Dan’avik.” Cent gave a small triumphant laugh as understanding found its way onto Reil’s face.

          Dan’avik was the Intel Leader for the House, his network of connections and “friends” rivaled Quentin’s. He got his start as a butler for a rich businessman who owned a good lot of factories in Feldrin. Dan’avik, known as Avi to his friends and fellow thieves, was only on duty while the businessman was in town, only accounting for a few weeks out of the year. In the meantime, Avi was to tend to the house’s garden and day to day maintenance and cleaning. Shortly after starting, he realized it was beneficial to pay his two sisters to take care of his duties while his employer was not there, and use the off time to explore the Franklin District in clothing stolen from the businessman’s wardrobe and make connections under fake names. After gaining a fair amount of “friends,” Avi began feeding the House information, having known Quentin from an earlier time in life. Eventually he was caught, but he escaped arrest with the help of the Thief House and came to work for Quentin full time.

           He was a dark skinned man of average height and weight, but both his physical and mental strength were consistently underestimated. Reil had seem him outwit scientists and intellectuals as many times as he’d seen him win a bar fight within minutes of it starting. The whole House had always wanted to see a sparring match between Dan’avik and Cent, but the two never agreed to it and never gave reasons.

          Reil assumed that since he wasn’t with them, Avi had most likely died in the raid, but he also figured the man had given Cent a parting gift. “Did he give us a way into Franklin? I thought he would never step foot in the district again after his public escape from the law ruined his aliases.”

          “Not all his connections left him after he was discovered, and quite a few saw a continued alliance to be mutually beneficial considering Quentin’s power in the city. He didn’t get to be Intel Leader by sitting around talking of old information. The man probably came to Franklin on a weekly basis.” Cent’s smile split his face in two as he reached into his backpack and removed a cloth covered object. “This is our ticket in,” his voice was a whisper of disbelief as the two friends stared at the thin card of carbon with silver inlay around the border.

          The card was an Identification Key. It was connected to the transmitter that created the energy fence around the district. Whoever had their DNA scanned by the Key could pass through the fence without a worry. Cent wasted no time and pressed his thumb onto the center and a green light glowed through the carbon housing. Reil did the same, unsure if the glow was a good or bad sign. “He gave it to you, so you should do the honors of passing through the fence first.”

          Cent laughed, “don’t make it out to be so honorable, Reil. You just don’t want to run into the fence and look like a fool if the Key didn’t work.”

         Reil shrugged and motioned for his friend to lead the way.

        The fence lay thirty steps away from them, shimmering in the sunlight and shifting between gold and emerald. It was opaque, but clear enough for passerby’s to look in and see the beauty inside of the fence. It ran straight up, connecting to a metal ring around the district, where it met the glass roofs. The fence was mostly covered by beautiful stone buildings and walls or vine covered metalwork, but every block there was a bronze arch with the gold and green energy field clearly seen where residents of the district could enter.

          Cent walked forward with a confident swagger about him, but faltered right before he entered. He ran a hand through his unruly onyx hair and let out a sigh. “I’ve always hated this district, you know? The barons that live here disgust me with their opulence in the heart of such filth and ruin. And still, I’m excited. I’m excited to enter Franklin and finally get a taste of what these people bathe in everyday. Does that make me a hypocrite?” Cent let out a nervous laughter that came out as no more than a huff and stepped forward once again. “I’m trusting you on this one, Avi,” and with that, the young thief was enveloped in a gold and green energy and promptly deposited safely on the other side, into the center of wealth for the planet.

          Reil’s eye widened and his confident posture staggered as he watched his friend enter the Franklin district. He had fully expected Cent to walk into a hard and possibly painful wall of energy, or even for alarms to go off and have guards crowding in from all angles. The Key had actually worked. Eyes full of excitement, Reil pushed off the concrete and ran full force toward the energy fence.

          A slight pulling of his clothes and a tingling sensation on his face were the only things Reil felt as his body was wrapped in energy and scanned by the control tower, all in an instant. Before he could register anything else about the experience, he was inside Franklin, looking up at the grandest view he’d ever laid eyes on.

          The glass ceiling domes covered in gold and precious metals dotted with gemstones took both thieves’ breaths away. Twisted beams of bronze curled from the sides of buildings and grew like vines, connecting to the metalwork of the ceiling. Small cuts of glass and crystals hung on invisible wire from the domes, giving the effect of it snowing diamonds from the sky. They twinkled as the artificial wind brushed them from side to side.

           What hit Reil first was what he hadn’t expected. Of course the view would be stunning, one could make out bits and pieces from the outside if they got a high enough vantage point. However what had never crossed his mind was the aroma. The scent was subtle, in no way overpowering, but it was there. The cobblestone street he stood on got a nice cross breeze from the wind machines off to the East side, and the wind brought with it a scent of chestnut and what could possibly be coffee, along with a few other smells.

          The sounds of Franklin were soothing and fitting for such a center of economic dominance. Many of the buildings had channels cut into the stone exterior and had small, controlled waterfalls, falling from an unseen source near the roof of the building. The water fell into a cobble-lined drainage ditch that ran the length of the city blocks and gave off a very comforting sound. Reil noticed the complete lack of moss or algae, and zero erosion from the constant flow of water, indicating how well kept the district was.

          Bronze bells hung at the front of doors and the wind jingled them in unison from time to time causing a symphony of different tones. Open top cars casually glided over the streets, their thrusters echoing pleasantly off the cobblestone. In the rest of Feldrin, cars were a rare sight, and cars with their tops open to the air simply did not exist. The air in the city was too polluted and it hurt to breath if too much time was spent outside. The rich few who could afford to drive through the city streets, or more accurately, be driven, did all they could to avoid breathing in the smog of the Great Factory.

          Reil caught himself gaping and quickly stepped backwards through the fence leading out of Franklin. Once safe from the view of any passersby, the thief shifted his coat to a brilliant red coat, almost looking transparent like a ruby. Such an extravagant look would be rough on the coat’s power source, it probably couldn’t keep the image for more than half an hour, but it was necessary if he and Cent were to use Franklin as a shortcut. Reil also assumed he could find a source that could charge his coat somewhere in the wealthy district, they had to have everything anyone could need.

          “Good catch, I was stupid. Got too caught up in my own excitement,” Cent looked down, ashamed. “What scene are we going to play here? I’ve been planning on shortcutting through here ever since Avi gave me the Key and I was too oblivious to plan out what we’d do.”

          “I’m a young nobleman, or at least the son of one. You are my escort,” Reil reached over and uncuffed the collar of his friend’s coat, the way he’d seen private guards wear them. “Walk with your chest puffed, flex when people look our way, and always be looking around.”

          “That last order won’t be hard to follow. Did you see that place?” Cent’s voice was woven with awe.

          “I did, I can’t decide if it’s amazing or sickening,” Reil found a scowl sitting on his face. He’d never been as empathetic to the poor as Cent was, but seeing the beauty of Franklin contrasted to what he grew up in… It was enough to turn his stomach. “And besides, it’s no Taiath’Rhowar.”

          “If even Franklin doesn’t compare, I would kill to see it,” Cent looked at Reil with a short upturned smile.

          “I’d do more than kill,” Reil’s scowl fell to a frown. “Come on, my coat can’t hold this image very long.”

          Cent flushed with regret at his previous statement. It was easy to forget and say the wrong thing when someone had lost their entire home world. Reil especially didn’t care for displaying emotions, so when something got him down, it was bad. “I’m s-,” Cent shook his head, “yea let’s get going. Franklin won’t be much of a shortcut if we get arrested when your coat runs out of juice.”

          “Unfortunately, today has taken a toll on the power source already, the power is dimmer than usual. We’ll have to make finding a source to charge it a priority,” Reil buttoned the coat back up all the way to the highest button, to match the fashion of the district.

          The two thieves took moments to ready themselves for the parts they would have to play. Entering a district like the Franklin District was unlike entering any other. In the others, the price to pay was a berating lecture from the Guard and being shooed away, but in Franklin, they would be arrested on the spot, beaten, and held for Yvesu knows how long. Cent did a breathing exercise to calm his nerves while Reil said a prayer to the Mother.

          After the golden haired young man opened his eyes, Cent nodded and entered first, looking around the entire time to give the impression of checking the area for any dangers. Reil held his chin high and let his eyelids relax, assuming the most confident and arrogant posture he could manage without gagging.

         The two walked through the district, holding back awestruck gazes and amazed comments, while trying to fit in as well as possible. Reil split his attention between looking at the beautiful architecture and finding a suitable place with which he could recharge his coat. His suggestion that Cent look around like the typical hired muscle in Feldrin worked in their favor, allowing his friend to have a better lookout for a power source.

          Reil cursed under his breath at catching himself for the third time trying to walk toward an alleyway; the habit was hard to break. Is this even a shortcut at this rate? We should’ve just went our normal route around Franklin. The thief knew he was just being irritable at the slow pace, to get to Victoria’s through the usual path would have added an extra four hours to their trip, and on a day like today, it could’ve added six. It was the reason dealings with Victoria were usually three day planned trips when the House would conduct sales with her in the past.

          Cent’s gesture to a small bench relaxed Reil, it would appear they wouldn’t have to wait as long as he’d thought. Reaching the bench, Cent brought up his foot in an act of tying his boot. He used the sole of his opposite foot to untie the boot on the way up, it was a practised routine.

          “The shop across the sheet, next to the garden. The cigar porch has external outlets we could use. It puts us out in the public eye, but a rich man like you wouldn’t be questioned if he wanted a nice smoke on a pretty day like this.” Cent finished retying his boot at the moment Reil nodded in agreement to the plan.

          The pair moved slowly, as if the walk to the smoke shop was a casual decision, but inside Reil was thanking the Mother that the Franklin district had such good air conditioning, or he’d be sweating through his coat. He eyed the cigar shop and its outlet with eyes like a predator. His and Cent’s well being rested in this operation going smoothly.

          Walking up the steps, Cent moved first with his chest as large as he could manage, looking as if he was inspecting the seating porch for potential threats to his employer. He nodded once, to no one in particular and moved to pull a seat out for Reil. After Reil had taken his seat, Cent walked around the table to the opposite side, immediately setting his chair at an angle to allow him to watch the streets and the patrons of the smoke shop at the same time. He muttered something incoherent about the creakiness of the wooden floorboards and ran a hand through his hair, pushing it out of his hardened face.

          Reil removed the power disk from the inside of his coat, spinning it to charge mode and placing it on the outlet pad. It glowed gold and red, showing it was charging. He checked the backup power source on the inside sleeve of his right arm to see how long he could be without the power disk before his jacket reverted to its plain exterior.

          A pretty woman with light green and sky blue hair cut in a short bob came to help the two men who had just sat down. She looked slightly intimidated by Cent’s rugged look, but gave Reil a large smile after she’d pulled her eyes away from the gruff bodyguard.

          “Hello, good master. Will it be a Pelicar special, or a Lionheart? And can I offer you a complimentary coffee or beverage with your cigar?”

          In his mind, Reil chose Lionheart, but in truth, only because the name sounded cool. He had not a smidge of knowledge of cigars. Before he could answer however, a long legged woman in a daringly short dress woven from gold and silver colored threads sat down in the open third seat and answered for him.

          “We’ll have 3 cigars from the Rhowaran cask; uncut and unlit. These boys look like they could use some coffee, and I’ll have a stagroot ale, on the rocks. Thank you, little missy,” the woman handed the waitress a card and flashed a flirtatious smile.

           “Oh Madame Victoria, what a pleasure to see you again. I hope all is going well, we here got worried when we didn’t see you last Fallday. I’ll be right out with your cigars and drinks,” the vibrant haired young woman beamed with delight and ducked into the shop.

          “Oh she is a sweetheart, and cute too,” Victoria said while hiding a laugh at the surprise evident on the two thieves’ faces. “Don’t be so surprised to see me. I’m here every Fallday of every week, at the same exact time, barring last week as Kelli pointed out already. I’m the one who should be surprised. What are two street urchins like yourselves doing in Franklin? Quentin’s not the gutsy type, and sending two alley rats in here is as gutsy as it comes. Be straight with me or I’ll call for help, and not even you’d be able to handle the Franklin guards.” Her last comment was directed at Cent, she didn’t know his name but she was one of a few people who’d seen his true fighting prowess in action before, and it wasn’t something anyone ever forgot. Cent’s grunt was followed by an eye roll, and Reil began to explain their situation.

          “We were actually on our way to see you, Vicky, er, Madame Victoria. We’ve got quite the news story for you, but it may not be the safest conversation to have in public,” Reil gave an overly cautious look around, which only worked to make himself look more suspicious.

          Victoria nodded and raised her hand in the air, snapping his fingers twice, then paused, then once again. A black-haired young man in a waiting suit jumped from his seat and pressed a button on the wall to his right. At the button, an ephemeral wall much like the one surrounding Franklin descended around the table.

          “Completely soundproof. And not a bit suspicious, rich folk are constantly discussing important and classified business operations, not to mention illegal ones. Now out with it, Erinfife.” Erinfife was a character from a popular book of poems famous for his hair that was made out of pure gold. Reil thought about giving the woman a glare but thought better of it. Now was not the time nor place for his usual sarcasm and wit.

          “I’ll get the more important of the news out first; Quentin is dead and the House is destroyed. Hired guns, probably from a bad connection of Quentin’s, raided and destroyed the place yesterday around noon.” Reil could see the shock on the black market dealer’s face but continued, “Cent and I only know of ourselves as survivors, though I can confirm the death of Quentin and a few others for sure.”

          “To say I’m shocked is an understatement. You have my sympathies. Do you know for sure the deaths of either Don’avik or Nicholi Olivirin?” Victoria’s face was like stone. “I do not mean to be so cold, but certain losses of life could be very dangerous to my own.”

          This time it was Cent who spoke up, “I am not sure about Olivirin, but his laboratory was hit by a clearance bomb. Again, I can’t be certain as I didn’t see a body, but there is very little chance he lived. As for Avi, he took his life with a caperoot pill. He was injured by the clearance bomb and knew he wouldn’t make it far without the protection of Quentin’s power, and he knew too many secrets to ever allow himself to be captured. It was an honorable death for an honorable man.”

          The slump in Victoria’s posture showed a mixture of relief and sadness. “He was an honorable man indeed, and a wonderful friend,” she stopped to wipe a tear out of her eye. “But his suicide guaranteed my safety. If Nicholi is dead, I may lose a great deal of money in investments, but money can be regained. These deaths rip at my Heart, I’ve known Quentin since I was going through puberty, Don’avik since his first day in Feldrin, and Nicholi for over twenty years.”

          “I know how you feel, Quentin raised me like his son and every member of the House was part of my family. I’m glad you will be safe though, Avi’s move was a brave one.” Reil lowered his head in reverence for the dead.

          “Quentin was like a father to you, you say? So you must be the little thief he had talked about so many times. If it makes you feel better, he loved you. He really did. There wasn’t anyone else he talked about with so much pride in his voice and joy in his laugh. You must be Reil, am I right?” Victoria reached a hand to lay it on Reil’s shoulder.

          “Yes, and thank you,” Reil’s voice was a somber whisper. Before the conversation could continue, a light tap on the energy wall around the trio alerted them to the return of the waitress.

          “Come in,” Victoria nodded to the woman quickly, averting her eyes to hide the solemn nature of their conversation. The waitress placed down a three-pronged cigar stand in the center of the table and laid 3 uncut cigars on the rounded spaces, before returning Victoria’s card to the woman. She gave out the drinks and bowed, with an extra large smile for Victoria, and left to reenter the smoke shop’s interior. “Well I hadn’t known who you were exactly when I ordered, but I’m sure you will especially enjoy the specialty cigars, Reil. They are from your home planet. Allow me to cut them for us.” The distractingly beautiful woman took turns cutting the ends of each of the cigars with a small blade that rested in the middle of the cigar stand, which acted as a sheath for the tool.

          “Yes, thank you. I didn’t know it was possible to still get anything from Taiath’Rhowar. These must cost a fortune,” Reil stared at the honey brown leaves that had been grown and harvested on his own home world. Grinir leaves were possibly the most traded commodity in the Galaxy, enjoyed for their aromatic smoke, calming effects, and long held tradition of smoking in almost every culture. Taiath’Rhowar’s grinir was considered to be some of the finest ever grown and fetched top shelf prices. That was before the destruction of the planet by the Federation, Reil could not imagine what they cost now.

          “No need to worry about the price, I only gave Kelli my card to leave a tip for her. The shop owner of this place owes his life to me four times over for all the political messes he finds himself in. In exchange, since that rash fullop of a man could certainly never save my life, I come here once a week for a free cigar and drink.” Victoria passed around a lighter after lighting her own cigar and taking a sip from her drink.

          Reil accepted it with a smile, noting the beautiful copper scrollwork on the side of the lighter. He lit the cigar with a bit less mastery than Victoria, he’d only smoked a handful of times in his life, and passed it to Cent. The smoke’s taste reminded him of his childhood home, specifically the kitchen, and the smell reminded him of the Alvennis. To top off the unexpected treat, Reil eyed the coffee in front of him with the most joy he’d felt since before the House fell.

          “Now, on to why you are in Franklin of all places. I’m still not quite clear on that part,” Victoria took a large, unladylike puff of her cigar. In fact, smoking in the first place was considered unladylike, but that didn’t appear to matter to the well-dressed woman. With her gold and silver dress cut in a fashion made for dancing, a slight country accent, stunning beauty, and a thick Rhowaran cigar in her hand, Victoria Delgado appeared to live only to challenge societal expectations. Her being one of the four Pirates of the Underground, the leaders of the black market in the Sovon System, made her pile of confusion into a mountain.

          Cent took two content puffs on his cigar and chased the smoke down with coffee. “Well, before escaping the House, I took it upon myself to clear out part of the infirmary, leaving enough for any potential survivors who might find their way in there after me. After saving Reil, I gave him some megs to help his wounds, and we set off to find you. Without the Thief House we have no income nor a place to stay. I figured selling you some of the medications I, er, borrowed, was the next logical step.”

          “But why Franklin?”

            “Feldrin is a dangerous city, I think you know this quite well, Victoria. Sleeping on the streets is asking for a fight, and though between the two of us I’m sure we could handle our own, it’s not a risk I like to take. Without cutting through Franklin, our journey would have had us sleeping in the alleyways tonight. Using this district as a shortcut would allow us to reach you by nightfall.” Cent finished his explanation with a big puff, matching Victoria’s.

          “And I assume Avi gave you his Identification Key, then?” At the end of her sentence, Vicky looked off behind Cent toward the sky with a confused look. A small tremor ran through the ground and up the floorboards of the cigar porch.

          Reil moved his chair to see what she was looking at. At first, it appeared nothing was out of the ordinary, but the more he looked, the more he could see through the shimmering energy field of the city. In between gold shimmers, when the field was green, Reil thought he saw smoke, and large amounts of it. Not that smoke was out of the ordinary for the Great Factory, but it was in any district even close to Franklin. “What do you think th-”

          Before he could finish, the entire city shook violently. The wood of the smoke shop creaked angrily and the support beams sounded like they would give way. The trio immediately stood up and ran into the street to get a better view. Smoke like a tsunami washed over the energy field from the West, blanketing the district in darkness. The smoke, filled with red sparks looked menacing, but could not harm the citizens in the district. Reil thought to speak again, asking what the plan was, when massive columns of concrete began pounding against the energy field, breaking into millions of pieces at the collisions. Entire skyscrapers must be falling, Reil thought.

The Wizard – Entry 6

Reil and Cent picked their way between the throngs of people, Feldrin’s crowds had become normal to the two young men. Cent breathed a sigh as they passed a young woman and two children huddled against a indention in the wall of a skyscraper. The dirt covered children shivered despite the heat of the day, not a good sign. He slung a strap of his backpack off and brought the bag around front to grab a protein bar from the mess hall of the Thief House the day prior. Once they reached the black market dealer and friend, Victoria, the two friends wouldn’t be strapped for cash, so helping out the children couldn’t hurt.

          “Hey, I don’t have much, but it’s really yummy and filling!” Cent softly said to the children and their mother, exaggeratedly rubbing his stomach. The younger of the children looked on the verge of giggling, but the older one protectively reached an arm around his younger sibling in a sorry act of defense. “Ah, well it’s clear you’re the strongest of all of us here, I’ll let you decide what to do with the food.” Cent raised his hands to each side, palms facing outward, feigning surrender before placing the protein bar on the ground in front of the older child.

          “Thank you,” were the words Cent thought he heard from the mother, but they were scratchy and quiet.

          Cent simply nodded, humble as always. “This city is falling apart, this war is going to be the death of all of us,” he ran a frustrated hand through his thick curls once they were back on their way.

          “Even before the war, hunger and poverty still existed. And even if we win, it’ll still be around. You do what you can and that’s honorable,” Reil had had this conversation many times with his altruistic friend.

          “I know hunger will always exist, but it wasn’t nearly this bad even just five years ago, when the Delkari weren’t as heavily hit by the war as they are now. Day by day I’m more convinced that the best way to help these people doesn’t involve me staying on this planet acting like Rorak.” Rorak was a character from a popular children’s story who was famous for stealing from the rich and powerful, to give everything to the poor. “As much as I detest violence, I have to join the war effort. I think I can make a bigger difference there than here in Feldrin. And without the Thief House and everyone holding me here anymore, well I’ve been thinking maybe I should enlist tomorrow.”

          Reil’s eyes widened with surprise and he let out a high pitched whistle. “What brought this about, Cent? Those are some big words.”

          “I know, I’m sorry for just dumping it all out but that starving family was just the last straw. I promise this isn’t rash thinking, I’ve been thinking about this for years. That bar I gave them will last them what, a day? Less? That’s not what they need. They need a government that can focus on the economy and the widening gap between the rich and the poor. They need the old Delkari Dynasty back, and that won’t happen until the Royal Family is not being forced to focus all its energy on the war.” Cent’s pale green eyes flared with passion.

          His hands rubbed tightly together as Reil shifted his gaze from the floor to his friend and back. He wasn’t sure how to take in what he was hearing. He heard where Cent was coming from, and he felt for all the people suffering in Feldrin and across all the Systems right now. But he wasn’t sure he was ready to enlist, and if Cent left, there’d be no one in Feldrin that he knew or cared for. He didn’t want to be alone. “I agree, I-”

          Cent stopped walking and looked at Reil with kind eyes. “I know, you don’t want to enlist. And you don’t want me to leave either. I’m sorry, I got so caught up in my fantasies I didn’t think about you. Look, I don’t have to enlist tomorrow, we can relax for a bit. We’ve earned a break, eh?”

          Relief inched into Reil, it wasn’t a solution but at least it was a temporary halt to his worries. “Yeah, we have. And some coffee. Let’s hurry it up to Victoria’s.” He shrugged off the sad look Cent gave him, he didn’t like to feel pitied, and started off down the alley again.

          Tall walls on both sides of him felt oppressive to Reil. They had to walk single file, and even with his lanky frame he had to inch sideways past air conditioning units at times. As much as he tried to keep his mind on the dreams of rest and coffee, Reil couldn’t help but think about Cent’s words. His friend was so confident all the time, and had passion and drive. He knew exactly what he wanted out of life and had the Soul and the Heart to achieve anything he decided. What do I want? Reil had always wanted just to be happy, to be relatively safe, well fed, and close to good friends. He had that, until yesterday’s raid.

          Nearly tripping over an air duct, Reil stumbled and tried to pay more attention to his surroundings. The main difference between what I want and what Cent wants is that his goals help people, and mine only help myself. Cent always made Reil feel the need to strive to be a better person, but this was the first time he had made the connection between their goals in life. Reil could see that his old goals were just hopes of clinging onto his childhood, but he didn’t know what he wanted more than that. What did he want with the same passion Cent had toward his goals? Nothing short of being back on Taiath’Rhowar, no Godless war, and a nice big smile from Lyrin every Lightless day of my life.

          Feeling his fist begin to clench, Reil breathed his anger out, instantly feeling the stresses leave him and his muscles unclench. It was a technique his father had taught him as a child when he had his temper tantrums. He taught him to view all his problems as gusts of wind, and to pull them all together in his cheeks, then blow them out of his mouth. At first it did nothing but distract him from whatever it was he was throwing a tantrum about, which Reil believed was the whole purpose to begin with. But after years of practice, Reil could bring himself from a state of near blind rage to a controllable level of anger, bordering on the calm.

          “Sigil for your thoughts?” Cent cast a cool look at Reil, he looked to be as deep in thought as Reil.

         “You probably already know,” Reil held back a curse as he nearly stubbed his toe on a piece of metal piping. “Hard to think of much else after a bomb like that.”

          Cent huffed a laugh, “Sorry about that one, it all just came rushing out.”

         “No apologies needed, actually, I want to talk about it,” Reil lept up onto a low hanging piece of piping and sat on it, motioning with his hand to the air conditioning unit opposite him. “We’ll get to Victoria’s later. Like you said, we’ve earned a break.”

          Cent lifted himself onto the unit, shifting on the uncomfortable metal. “Alright, let’s have at it then.”

          “How do you figure out what you want? You’re always so confident, Cent. You know your Heart shares my Light, but I can’t help but be jealous. Without the Thief House, I don’t know what to do. Rising through the ranks, training, stealing… that was my direction. Now? Well I don’t really know anymore,” Reil ran a hand through his hair to keep down the shaking. “You took it with such stride, had the thought to raid the infirmary, saved me, and now you’re ready to move on to whatever comes next. How do you do it?”

          “I’m not the best person to compare yourself to, Reil. Sure I look fine on the outside, but it’s just that I don’t show my worry the same way you do,” Cent blew hair out of his face and looked up at the thin line of blue sky shining through the narrow opening between the buildings on either side of them. There was a long pause, while Reil looked at his friend and wondered what he meant. Finally, Cent leveled his stare and took a breath, “I’m terrified Reil. Of all of this. The House was my rock, it lit my path in every aspect of life. I thought I had everything figured out, thought I was being so righteous, always giving to the poor. But what was I? A low life thief who thought helping out the homeless somehow balanced my line of work? And what line of work, I couldn’t even finish a mission without my feelings getting in the way. Reil, I’m a failure. And one of the biggest reasons I want to enlist is because if I fail then, at least it’ll be the blame of whoever is commanding me. And maybe by fighting in this war, maybe I’ll stop being so childish. Reil, I’m more lost than you. In fact I’ve always looked up to you. From the beginning you knew what you wanted and how to get it. You wanted to be happy, and you did it. You were the star of the House, Quentin’s favorite thief, and the youngest to be nominated for Squad Leader. Every time you came home, it was with a big smile on your face and a bag of loot. To me, you were always the confident one.”

          Reil swapped his wide-eyed stare between Cent and the sky over and over as he tried to process what he was just told.

          “Well, now that I’ve poured out more than my share of my Heart, how’s about we get to Victoria’s? Today’s a big day for the harbor and it’ll only get harder to get through the crowds if we wait until afternoon.” Without waiting for an answer, Cent was back on his feet and headed off, clearly ready to change the subject. Reil couldn’t be sure in the dim lighting, but he thought he saw flowering blushes streaking Cent’s face.

          Reil didn’t want to embarrass his friend after such an open and trusting conversation, so he let the blushing slide and agreed, “Yeah, and the sooner we get there, the sooner we get some silver.” His usual excitement wasn’t in his voice though, Reil was still in a bit of a shock after what Cent had said to him. Cent? Looking up to me? Reil could hardly stifle a laugh.

          “Oh quit that goofy laugh of yours. And hurry it up, you walk through alleyways like a drunkard.” Cent took the lead and rushed through the alley not stopping to motion his friend to follow.

          Reil smiled, happy to see that at least some of the tension had left the air. He hurried after Cent, feeling surprisingly better after the conversation. Cent had a point too; with the trade going on in the harbor, getting anywhere in the sprawling city would be impossible if they didn’t get there soon.

The Wizard – Entry 5

Reil squinted and shielded his eyes from the bright suns. There were clouds in the sky, but any that tried to provide shade dissipated in minutes. He was home, his real home, on Taiath’Rhowar, standing in fields of rolling green hills. Wildflowers ran through the grass likes veins, bursting with colors of red, white, and purple. In the distance, great walls of trees stood like an approaching army, towering into the sky with rich, proud leaves shining dark green in the sunlight.

          A few hundred yards in front of the thief stood a house, stout and strong, and made of thick palestone. A roof made of solar catchers basked in the sun-filled afternoon air, powering the house’s electrical needs as well as the automated irrigation machines. A garden overflowing with fruits and vegetables, shined from the shower it was being given. Chickens, sheep, and goats roamed in and out freely, happily filling the air with clucks and bleats.

          Reil knew this house, it was the house he was born in, built by his father and mother. Yet despite knowing he was home, something felt off. He felt as though this wasn’t where he actually was. The wind rushing around him and throwing his clothes and hair into fits of flapping; that was about right for this time of year in the Alvennis Forest. The damp, cool smell the wind carried from the woods; that was right as well. The tight fitting, white shirt and tight blue pants tucked into ankle-high running boots; that was right however itchy the shirt was.

          This is a dream, it finally hit Reil as he realized he hadn’t been to his home planet since the beginning of the war nine long years ago. I’m on Sovon’Yur, in Feldrin with broken ribs. He assumed he’d wake up upon noticing the fact that he was dreaming, but to his surprise he remained standing in the fields of his youth. It must be a side effect of those megs, I’ve heard they mess with your head worse than wyneroot.

          Reil had assumed that being in a dream was what felt off, but the sinking feeling lingered yet. What was it about this day? What day even is it? Hoping to learn more of his whereabouts and whenabouts, he set off toward the house of his childhood, not sure if he should be wary or just accept the dream and smile.

          As his feet fell closer and closer to the door with stained glass scenes of flowers in the center in the shape of a crescent moon, Reil let small turns of a smile edge onto his face as the smells of his mother’s garden filled his nose. Great, now Feldrin will stink even more when I wake up for having remembered this. The thought was hardly filled with anger, Reil could even forget the itchiness of his shirt for the beautiful aroma of the garden and the soft, comforting whirrings of the irrigation machines. A wide window stood off to the left of the door with a large sill that Reil remembered curling up on with coffee and a book on countless days of his early childhood. He slid a hand across the well worn wood of the window sill, letting his fingernails scratch along with his hand. His hands were more calloused than he was used to, they were as his hands used to be when he spent all his time climbing trees in the Alvennis.

          Admiring the wood and the architecture of the house, so carefully and lovingly crafted by his own parents, he slowly pulled his eyes upward and into the house. It took him a time to adjust, the humid air from the freshly watered garden fogged the glass, but he saw two very familiar shapes sitting at a large table, hands being thrown in directions and occasionally slamming onto the tabletop.

          Tall and burly, with his tight blue shirt of Rhowaran fabric strained by the mass of muscles underneath, stood the man who taught Reil how to climb, fight, track, and hunt. Bave Ryik, a true man of Taiath’Rhowar with a massive personality and an even larger beard. His blonde hair was pulled back in a tight ponytail and his beard spread wildly across his face. His violet eyes looked happy, even when the man was furious, with creases around the edges from spending most of his days smiling. The usual strong, jovial cheeks were more drawn this day, and his forehead was taut with worried wrinkles. The subject of his frustration stood on the opposite side of the table, a thin blonde woman of below average height with sparkling eyes of two colors; one typical Rhowaran violet, the other a warm brown. The multicolored eyes betrayed her mixed heritage, one parent evidently having been from somewhere other than Taiath’Rhowar. Her pointed chin was tilted up and her thin lips were pulled into a haughty pout. She stood as if she was three feet taller than she really was. Anne Ryik was without a doubt the most stubborn being that Yvesu ever crafted, and Reil shuddered with memories of the times he spent attempting to win an argument with her.

          His parents’ fighting wasn’t uncommon, but it was always gentle and they made up soon afterwards. They truly loved each other with all the Heart the Mother had given them, and it showed in all they did. But this wasn’t one of those fights. Reil remembered these fights clearly, fights out of frustration and fear of the approaching war. Rumors that the fighting would reach Taiath’Rhowar early on because they were the energy producers of the Windfell Empire had caused high tensions and stress among everyone, his parents included. They weren’t misplaced fears either, two of the Empire’s eleven planets had already fallen to the war, and Yellen was currently in a losing and bloody battle.

          Windfell, that’s a name I haven’t thought of in a long time. The Windfell Empire was the first casualty of the war. It was once powerful, stretching across the better half of the Olitheren System, twelve colonized planets under its power and two more in mining colonies. Windfell flourished because of its powerful grasp on the energy industry. Its planets, though not very large in number, were prosperous and strong. Taiath’Rhowar was the Empire’s greatest asset, producing enough power for the other eleven planets and the mining colonies by itself. Great rivers and powerful wind raged across the surface, with only man-made terraformed areas and rare natural forests such as the Alvennis being hospitable. Those who lived in the terraformed cities were not natives to Taiath’Rhowar, but colonists from the more central planets of the empire who first came to the planet close to a thousand years ago, fairly early into the 9th and current, Cycle.

          Those who lived in the forests were true natives of the planet, and were given immunity to the laws and governings of the Windfell Empire. A brief war could be found mentioned in historical texts, with the natives resisting the arrival of the Imperial colonists. But over centuries, the two people groups grew close, with the Rhowaran natives eventually voluntarily entering the Windfell Empire and accepting their government. Natives all looked similar, with tanned skin, blonde or white hair, and the most striking and unique feature, eyes of pure Rhowaran violet.

          Rhowarans were humble yet loud people, they weren’t afraid to speak their mind but they didn’t often boast. Emotions flowed freely in conversations with people of Taiath’Rhowar; it was considered unhealthy for the Soul to hold back emotions, so gatherings were filled with loud singing, professions of love, tears of both grief and joy, and everything in between. Reil’s family lived as traditional Rhowarans did, building their own house out of wood gathered from whichever forest they lived in, often miles from the nearest neighbor, and entirely self sufficient. He grew up learning how to garden and cook from his mother, and how to hunt and woodwork from his father. Childhood for a native Rhowaran meant climbing and running through trees, fishing from roaring rivers, and countless hours of manual labor helping run the family house.

          “I won’t say it again, Anne!” Bave said through gritted teeth, effort from withholding a yell clearly evident. “If we want him to live, we must send Reil to the Sovon System, whether the war reaches us or not. He’ll be safe there.” His tone softened slightly as he reached for his wife’s tear streaked cheek, “regardless of what happens, we’ll be with him again.”

          “In this Vein, or the next?” The now trembling Rhowaran woman choked audibly on her last words.

          “Oh my Heart, I am so sorry,” Bave stepped around the table and pulled the woman into his arms in an all encompassing hug.

          The Sovon System belonged to the Delkari Dynasty, and was the target for many Windfell refugees in the last year as the recently united Gav’Rethil Federation swept through systems, colonized or not, annihilating and conquering every planet they laid claim to. The Delkarians had been close friends with the Windfell Empire since the Collapse, a Galaxy-wide economic disaster early in the Cycle, when the two powers worked to pull each other from the financial hole they had both fallen into.

          In an act of good faith, the Delkari Royal Family sent ambassadors from the Family itself to tell the citizens of Windfell that any and all refugees seeking safety from the approaching Gav’Rethil army would be welcomed on any planet in the Sovon System, barring there was room remaining. The first planet filled with refugees was Sovon’Pel, with Sovon’Yur, the planet Reil had found residence on, being the last to accept Windfell citizens before closing their gates as the war had reached the galactic scale and the Delkari Dynasty became a target of the Federation as well.

          “Anne, I ask it out of love and nothing else,” Bave pleaded while caressing his wife’s hair, “please sign the documents. As the war keeps growing do you think the Delkarians will continue their altruism? Do you think they will welcome us with open arms as our people walk into their cities with targets painted on their backs? Soon their gracious offer will be rescinded, and when that happens I want to thank the Mother that our son is safe in their cities.”

          Anne’s hands trembled worse than the rest of her frail body, “I will sign. I will sign out of love, but my Heart breaks today.”

          That’s why everything feels off. Today is the today they told me I was leaving Taiath’Rhowar without them. To go to the Sovon System, leave the home of my people, become a citizen of another empire, and have my own identity ripped from my Soul. Reil’s long held bitterness toward his parents’ decision had not left him. When a native of Taiath’Rhowar left the planet, they would forfeit their identity as a Rhowaran. He kept his first name as a matter of necessity, but he was no longer a Ryik after that day. He was just Reil now; Reil the thief, Reil the street urchin, Reil the golden-haired fullop. But not Reil Ryik.

          Perhaps he would not have been so angry with them had they come with him, but by the time his stubborn parents had finally realized how real the danger of the war was, the Delkarians had already altered their offer to accept only one refugee from each family. Of course his parents would not leave each other, and as he was an only child, the decision of who to send a very easy one to make.

          Reil’s hands trembled as memories coursed through him and shook his core. He was in a travel pod on a Leviathan-Class Passenger Ship by the time the carpet bombs leveled the forests of Taiath’Rhowar. He was told of the bombings the day he stepped off the ship that brought him to Feldrin. The Delkari soldier showed true compassion, and Reil remembered the genuine pain in the man’s eyes when he gave the news with a comforting hand on Reil’s shoulder.

          What he didn’t know was that once the real soldiers left to go defend the outer planets of the Sovon System, all good, honest men would be gone. The guards stationed in Feldrin were horrid to the refugees, eating the rations meant for new arrivals and abusing women. Any respect Reil had gained of the Delkari people from their refugee program and the virtuous soldiers he had met on the passage from his home planet was beaten out of him, mentally and physically, in his first week on Sovon’Yur. The remaining human left in him was not the same human who once ran through the Alvennis Forest. His Heart was bruised and his Soul was split in two. He felt a broken old man at only eleven years old.

          Unable to withstand anymore flashbacks, and not wanting to look at his parents knowing they had only a day or two from this moment before they were killed, Reil backed away from the window with tears in his eyes. How long am I going to be stuck in this dream? Has my day not been bad enough, Mother? In a little more than a day, Reil’s life had been turned upside down. He was to be a Squadron Leader, youngest to ever be appointed, had good friends he considered family, and was happy, all things considered. Now he was trapped in a dream filled with painful memories of his ruined homeworld, was lying in some Godless alley way with broken ribs, and with the exception of Cent, everyone he knew was likely dead.

          With nothing else to do while he waited to wake up, Reil did as he always did on Taiath’Rhowar when he found himself unable to handle what Yvesu threw his way. He went to the Alvennis.

          There was a dampness in the air around a Rhowaran forest that never left. The wind of the day made it stronger and the moisture in the air teased Reil’s nose. He patted and searched through his pockets to find a tie that could hold his hair back in the unceasing gusts. The leather band held the blonde strands tightly, and Reil couldn’t help but let the nostalgia in as his eyes scanned the familiar tree line ahead. Blue skies, bright white clouds above, and all four suns shining, telling any Rhowaran that it was midday.

          The emerald tree line shimmered as the different shades of green reflected the suns’ lights. Trying to look past the first row of trees was like trying to see more than a few feet ahead in a lightless cave. The ancient shade of the Alvennis was deeper than an ocean, and said to have beared witness to the Mother’s creation of the first human. Most native Rhowarans claimed that the forests of Taiath’Rhowar themselves, they could never decide which forest, were the actual birthplace of the human race. As the towering treetops grew closer and began to give Reil the feeling of being but a grain of sand in a desert, he could almost believe the creation stories he heard in his youth. If you had to choose a place to give us Life, Mother, this would’ve been a good one.

          Reil stood in grass strands reaching up to his knees, looking upward at the trees that stood as high as twenty-story buildings. He knew they were smaller, but he couldn’t help but feel that these trees even made the skyscrapers of Feldrin seem small. A low howl whispered through the darkness of the Alvennis. The trees were too tall and too dense to allow light through and even during the brightest days of Summer the Alvennis was cool and dark.

          He couldn’t count the number of days he spent in the very woods that now towered in front of him, and yet he had never been afraid of them. They were always so inviting, the cool air being a relief from the heat and the darkness being a blessing of the Mother in comparison to the blinding light of Taiath’Rhowar’s four suns. And yet, as he stood in the clothes of his childhood, the low roar struck fear into him and the darkness looked menacing.

          A flash of blue and white caught his attention and set his stomach to fluttering. Someone in Rhowaran native garb had dashed behind a tree. In seconds, even with the smells of spring and of the fauna in the forest, Reil caught the scent of the phantom Rhowaran. It was as if nothing else had a scent but this human. The familiar tendrils of honey and skylillies tickled his nose and pulled him forward onto the balls of his feet like physical hands. Memories hit him even harder than before, but this time he wasn’t alone in them.

          “Lyrin,” Reil barely got the name out in a whisper. Once the words had left his tongue, he knew he wanted to say it again, it was like a drug. “Lyrin!” He called into the trees, a laugh breaking into his voice at the end. “Lyrin, I’m gonna get you! Who’s the king of the Alvennis?” He taunted and laughed and broke into a run into the dense trees.

          Breaking the treeline was like entering a portal. The whole world changed around him in an instant. Reil’s eyes had to adjust to the darkness and his skin was quickly covered in bumps from the chill. The world took on an entirely new palette. The only thing that remained the same was the scent of his closest friend. He couldn’t get Lyrin out of his nose if he stuck his face right into a patch of whiskeyroot. Despite the cold and the intimidating lack of light, Reil could not force the laughter down as it bubbled up his throat. It felt so good, so right, to be running with Lyrin in the Alvennis again. How long it had been since it last happened, and how much had gone wrong since.

          Trees whipped by on either side, Reil’s ponytailed hair flowing wildly behind him. The darkness grew and the forest’s depths ahead looked black as night. There was the usual sounds of a forest cascading from all around, but also another, quieter noise. Reil’s mind was torn between chasing the blonde haired woman in front of him and trying to hone in on the quiet, pestering noise. Without warning, a dull force coursed through Reil as his right side collided with a tree at full running speed. Lost in thought, he had not seen the fat, gray-barked trunk in front of him. He tumbled to the ground, using his hands and thief-trained reflexes to avoid hitting anything else on his way down. Reil’s fall came to a stop with his body cradled in a swath of large and surprisingly warm roots.

          The system of roots held his head slightly off the forest floor and his feet up even higher, like he was in a hammock. The stiffest hammock I’ve ever been in, that’s for sure. Where in the Dark did that tree come from? Reil put a hand to his head to stop the spinning. Now that his chase with Lyrin was over, she didn’t appear to have stopped when he had his fall, he craned his ears to listen to the sound that had still not stopped.

          “Reil, wake up. I’m not going to carry you again.”

          It was Cent’s voice. As the sounds of his friend’s voice became clearer, the world around him blurred and tore apart. The bark of trees splintered and exploded, sending spears of wood flying all around. The darkness ripped through the forest like a tsunami and a horrible scream filled the now freezing air. A sharp plank of wood dug straight into Reil’s chest, not stopping until it was a full foot into the soil underneath him. He screamed, without feeling any pain, and it was over.




          “Reil, it’s ok. It was just a nightmare. You’re alright,” Cent was kneeling at his side with concern painted on his face and his hands on Reil’s shaking shoulders.

          Reil panted as he fought to believe Cent’s words of comfort. “I was home.”

          “What do you mean?”

          He shook his head to clear his thoughts as much as to finish waking up, “On Taiath’Rhowar. It was a dream but it all felt so real, and I knew it was a dream but I didn’t wake up.” The words came pouring out of his mouth in a breathless flood.

         Some concern left Cent’s face, but he kept one hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Probably a side-effect of the megs, you know everyone says those things mess with your head worse than-”

          “Wyneroot. Now I know what they meant. I couldn’t feel pain really, but my other senses were fine, if not heightened. Everything felt… off. And… well I woke up when the forest began to explode and… a piece of wood went straight through me.” Reil’s voice began to slow down and regain control.

          “That’s… disturbing. How did it feel being home?” There was a pause before the last word; Cent wasn’t sure how to mention the topic around Reil, it was always a touchy one since they first met.

          “It was wonderful, I saw Lyrin. I’ve told you about her before, right?” Reil chucked a bit, feeling far better for having been awake.

          “Oh you may have mentioned her here or there, or you know, a few hundred times.” Cent joined Reil’s laughter.

          Reil didn’t tell his friend everything about Lyrin, about the feelings he held for her or about their inside jokes that only they understood. But in telling Cent about his life before Feldrin, before the war, he couldn’t help but bring her up, because nearly every memory he had of Taiath’Rhowar that was worth mentioning involved Lyrin in some way or another.

          “So, you know what would help me forget my terrible dream and near-death experience?” Reil put on his smoothest smile and wiggled his eyebrows in the direction of his friend.

          “Hm?” Cent took one look at Reil’s face and rolled his eyes, blowing upward to get an unruly strand of hair from his vision.

          “Nectar of the Light itself; some good, piping hot Seventh Street coffee.”

          Cent sighed before shrugging, “well, if we stop by Victoria’s place we can probably trade her a few megs and maybe some painkillers for a whole silver. Most Lightless money I’ve ever held at once. A coffee wouldn’t be too hard on the bank as long as Vicky’s home. Besides, she’d want to hear about what happened yesterday.”

          Reil cheered and pumped his fists into the air. “‘Bout time something good happens.” A bit of sadness ringed with the last words. It was hard to remain happy after the raid on the Thief House. It already seemed so far away, it was hard to believe it happened only the day before.

          “Before you get too excited, let’s see how those megs worked. Think you can walk?” Cent asked cooly, his voice its usual calm, “judging by your fist pump, I’d be willing to bet your ribs are in working order.”

          Reil clambered to his feet, restless after so much time spent immobile. “Good as new! A little sore in the side, but nothing too bad.”

           “Think you’ll be fine for a hike through the city? Victoria’s place isn’t close, and it’s even farther from Seventh Street than here.”

          “I’ll be fine to kick your butt, a hike through the city will be a breeze,” Reil shadowboxed the air in front of him while giving his imaginary opponent his best footwork.

          “As much as I’d like to prove you wrong, I’m not quite in the mood to drag your body to a hospital. And somehow I doubt they’d accept stolen medications as payment.”

          The two friends laughed as they began to pack up their few belongings. Reil stuffed as much as he could into the network of pockets lining his thieves coat, and Cent placed the more valuable and important goods into his backpack. The raven-haired thief wasn’t wrong, it would be a long trek, but visions of a fresh cup of coffee pushed aside the arduous journey ahead for Reil. He smiled and zipped up his coat thinking to himself that maybe things weren’t quite so bad. Cent patted his shoulder with a smile, “Let’s head out, shall we?”

The Wizard – Entry 4

A warm breeze filled with the smells of a city born out of metal and tar blew across Reil’s face, teasing his bangs into curls and pressing them in all directions. It was gone as soon as it came; wind and breezes were not common in Feldrin, they found it difficult to weave in between the hundreds of miles of skyscrapers and make it to the crowded streets. The sounds of the Great Factory, a nickname given to the city for its thousands of production plants, rang as loud as ever. The workers did not cease their duties to mourn the loss of one of the city’s many Thief Houses being destroyed, no one did.

          “Wake up you golden haired little idiot, I see your eyes moving behind those lids of yours, it’s time to get up.” The voice was soft and playful, as teasing as the short lived breeze. The young man with the soft voice sat cross-legged to the left side of Reil, his hands a flurry of precise motion as he oiled bandages with a pain reliever to apply to his friend’s bruised and possibly broken ribs. The breeze had toyed with his hair as well, his thick mane of obsidian hair pushed back and looping curls hanging in a tangled mess. Though, as anyone who knew him would confirm, the man’s hair was in such a perpetual state of disaster, the breeze could only have helped it. His pale green eyes took turns keeping an eye on the oiling job at hand and checking to see if Reil had awoke. “Reil, I mean it. Until you are up and talking to me I can’t assess how serious your injuries are.” His voice had become slightly harder, with a serious edge replacing the playful one.

          Reil groaned and opened his eyes before quickly closing them again after seeing how bright it was. He couldn’t remember where he was or why, but he was positive that by all accounts he should be dead. “Are we in the Vein of Light, Cent?” The Vein of Light was the afterlife for those that Yvesu accepted as worthy, whereas the Vein that the living resided in was called the Vein of Souls, and the afterlife for those damned by Yvesu was named the Vein of Darkness.

          “No, but you would’ve been had I not found your unconscious body in the escape passage, and I nearly got myself sent there by trying to save your sorry golden locks. For such a lanky guy, you really are a Godless challenge to drag out of a building.” Cent’s playful tone had edged back into his voice, but he moved to Reil’s right side to apply the now oiled bandages. “Can you lean over on your side? I need to apply these wraps, your ribs look like they were hit by a bus.”

          “I don’t feel any pain, though,” Reil leaned over on his side to give his friend access to his ribs. “I expected to be writhing on the floor to be honest.” He was telling the truth, he felt as though he was a bit banged up, but certainly not as bad as he should feel considering his misadventures in the House. The thought of the House brought back memories of Quentin’s final moments, “Cent… Quentin is… He didn’t make it out of the raid.”

          “That’s because I gave you about six doses of painkillers, I raided our infirmary before booking it out of the House earlier.” Cent smoothed the bandages while pressing slightly on his friend’s side, attempting to assess if the bones were broken or not. “And about Quentin… I know. I’m sorry Reil, I know he was like a father to you,” empathy filled the raven haired thief’s voice. Empathy was Cent’s biggest downfall as a thief. He couldn’t help but feel the pain of everyone he met, and he always strove to balance the load everyone carried. The reason he had never been promoted had nothing to do with his skill, he was arguably better at sneaking, extracting, and even fighting than anyone in the entire House, maybe the whole city. The reason lied in the fact that on more than half his missions he’d end up giving most of what he stole to those in need that he saw on his way back to the Thief House. On more than one occasion, Cent would show up not only empty handed, but he’d have given his own money to a man on the street.

          Reil was eager to change the subject now that he was sure Cent knew about their Thief Lord. “Do we have enough of those painkillers to stave off the pain until I’m healed?” Reil knew the answer, but he was eager to of avoid the inevitable incapacitating pain that would wash over him as soon as the medication wore off. He stretched slightly before laying back down after Cent gave him the thumbs up for finishing the bandages.

          “Not traditional painkillers, no. But we do have a more natural remedy for the pain, and if you’re up for it there is no short supply of it either.” A smile crept into the corners of Cent’s mouth.

          Reil raised an eyebrow, “and what would this ‘natural remedy’ be?”

          “It’s called manning up and dealing with it, you fullop” the young man roared with laughter, rocking onto the back of his heels for full effect. A fullop was a large, grazing creature known for being spectacularly unintelligent.

          Reil sighed, not entirely sure if he found the joke as funny as his friend had. “You’re a riot, Cent, truly.” He rubbed his side as he attempted to stand up, however Cent stopped him with a hand on the shoulder.

          “Just because you don’t feel the pain doesn’t mean there isn’t any damage. I mixed in some megs into the oil on the bandages, if you can keep still until tomorrow morning, you’ll be free to get up as you wish.” Megs, a slang term that neither Reil nor Cent knew the actual name of, were a powdery white capsule that aided the healing of broken or cracked bones at a seemingly impossible rates. They usually ran a month’s salary for each capsule, Reil figured Cent had come across some when he raided the infirmary.

          “Morning…” Reil’s voice trailed off as he thought about what the night would bring. Feldrin was a dangerous city without a place to stay for the night, and that’s considering you are a young man trained in stealth and combat. With his injuries, it’d be up to Cent to defend them both. Well, if there’s anyone I’d trust to be up for the job, it’d be Cent.

          “I’ve placed us in what I think is a safe spot. We’re out of the way of most foot traffic, and the people that do come here should remember me, I’ve given them food and money here and there.” Cent’s pale eyes scanned the alleyway, it was strange to watch those mint-colored eyes dart between playful and serious, youthful and hard. “And under not so perfect conditions,” Cent began wrapping his wrists and knuckles with black fighting tape, “I’d like to think I’m prepared.” The tape on his hands glinted in the sun that hung low on the horizon, sinking lower with every minute. The oil on them would be active as soon as Cent rubbed his hands together, and from that time on, it would apply a burning sensation on human skin as if it was doused in acid, without leaving any marks or damage. It wasn’t the cleanest of fighting tools, but the Great Factory’s streets weren’t clean and the way Cent saw it, the most humane thing he could do in a fight was end it as soon as possible.

          “Hey Cent,” Reil wanted to relieve some of the tension that had crept into his friend’s posture and gaze, “I wanted to thank you, for saving me. It must’ve been like Darkness to get me out of-”

          “Reil,” the onyx-haired young man cut him off, “what… What happened in the House earlier today?” Reil couldn’t place the thief’s tone; was it curiosity, or fear? “The floorboards above your body looked like a grenade went off on them, and the wood was left in thousands of splinters.”

          “I’m not really-”

          Cent continued on as if he didn’t hear Reil, “those weren’t thin boards. Quentin splurged the last time he had the House renovated, I remember seeing the bill when he sent me to get supplies with Luke. I just… What happened in there? How did you get into the escape tunnel?”

          Another rare breeze blew through the alleyway, picking up force with the building walls acting as a wind tunnel. The faint sound of rustling and tumbling bits of trash filled the silence. Reil’s nose picked up on the heavy smell of tar and oil in the air; tomorrow was a big day for the harbor, ships coming in from all Delkari planets to deliver fuel for all of the city’s factories. There was a mission planned to rob a Starrunner-class cargo ship, a massive brown and orange freighter capable of transporting enough oil and tar to power a quarter of Feldrin for weeks. Supposedly it’d also be housing a modest pile of silver for some lowly Lord of some sort, Quentin had intercepted the message about a month back. “I’d tell you if I knew Cent,” Reil looked at the bottoms of his fists, where he had smashed the wooden floorboards, for the first time since he woke up. They were perfectly fine, not a scratch on them. “I think, I mean maybe… Maybe another support beam fell when I passed out and opened up the escape passage?”

          “There wasn’t a beam that close to it, and if it had fallen that close to you, we wouldn’t be talking right now.” Cent went to run a hand through his hair before remembering the oiled wraps on his hands. “Did…” there was a pause as Cent thought over his words, “did you use-” Cent was interrupted by a sound coming from farther up the alleyway. The wind had masked the sounds up to that point, but with the breeze gone, the intruder’s steps were clear to the thief’s well-trained ears. “Keep talking Reil, I’m checking it out,” his voice had dropped to a whisper, but he needed Reil’s voice to be heard to hide the fact that he had been alerted to the oncoming stranger. He crept towards the bend in the alley, back nearly pressed against the large dumpster that obscured his view. His hands were only inches apart, ready to activate the burning oils at a moment’s notice.

          From his point of view lying on his back, Reil couldn’t tell much of what Cent was doing, but he kept up the talking in hopes of being useful in some way. “I think we should get some rest man, we’re gonna have an early day tomorrow and we’ll need the energy.” He hated being prone and immobile while his counterpart did the hard work, but unless this stranger was heavily armed or in a group, they really wouldn’t stand much of a chance against Cent as it was anyways. “Maybe we can trade some of the meds you took for some coffee on Seventh Street, nothin’ cheers me up like a cup of Yvesu’s own Light.”

          The steps from whoever was approaching their makeshift encampment were getting clearer, they must’ve been coming around the corner of the dumpster any time now unless Reil’s ears betrayed him, and they rarely did. As soon as he heard the steps stop and the sound of clapping hands, he knew the trap had been sprung. “Give ‘em Darkness, Cent!”

          The hands clapping would’ve been Cent activating his wrappings’ oils. Reil had personally seen fights ended before they began simply by the sights of Cent’s wrappings. He bought his fighting oils from a specialty shop in the sewers, where a person could buy nearly anything. These oils were special for more reason than just the painful effects; when they were activated they gave off a blue light that made the user of them look like their hands were engulfed with fire. Most people looking for a street fight wouldn’t mess with someone who looked like they could summon fire with a clap of their hands, it was too close to something a Wizard might do.

          Reil kept his ears tuned to the fight, trying desperately to decipher what was going on. He heard grunting, and at least three sets of boots on the ground. This meant it was two on one, possibly more, with Cent being the one. Reil thought of being worried, but none of the grunts had been Cent’s voice, so he could piece together how this fight was going. He was just about ready to inquire about how things were going when his thoughts were interrupted by his friend’s yelling.

          “Now be smart and don’t come wandering back here again!” Cent called after his terrified and injured opponents. He laughed to himself as he tossed the used up wrappings into the dumpster. “Poor saps looked so confident when they saw me, I think the humility earned tonight will do them good.”

           “The bruised pride might do them good, but what about the bruised bones?” Reil laughed with his friend, feeling pretty decent all things considered. He didn’t know if anyone else made it out of the House after the raid and the fire, and it ate away at him with worry, but Cent made it out and saved his life so things were not as bad as they could’ve been. “Also Cent, I think I’m gonna have to put our previous conversation on hold for a bit, the smoke tore up my throat pretty good and talking is getting pretty painful.” It wasn’t a lie, but Reil’s reluctance to revisit that topic might’ve been as good a motivator as the pain.

          “Of course, and you were right in what you said earlier to distract those punks, you really do need your rest, especially if you’re planning on recovering.” Cent perched himself up on a small mound of metal scraps and sweeped the now sunless night for anymore unwanted sounds.

          Reil thought of telling Cent he’d need rest as well, but he knew his friend wouldn’t listen, and they would certainly need someone on watch. He looked up at his friend’s silhouette, pale skin glowing as it reflected both moon’s light and hair blending in with the night. Reil had known him from his second day in Feldrin, and they’d shared countless stories of their youth. And yet, the young man with the slate hair was a mystery to him. His eyes could shift from playful and young to cold and emotionless in seconds. Certain topics, which Reil always quickly changed from, would cause his muscles to tighten, showing off their usually hidden strength. He had empathy enough for a small village, and yet Reil had never seen someone fight with such vicious precision before. But he was his best friend, and for Reil, that was enough. “Goodnight Cent, wake me up if you want me to take over the watch.”

         “Goodnight Reil, maybe in the morning we can get those coffees you mentioned before.”

          Reil hoped Cent wasn’t just toying with his emotions. He really did want a coffee tomorrow to help him deal with the reality of today’s events. His thoughts drifted to black as the megs’ drowsy properties swept him off to sleep.




          A songbird flew blindly through the fog of the city. The density of the gray film over the city was impenetrable even to a bird’s sharp vision. With an angle of the wings or an extra flew flaps here and there, the pink and yellow creature dodged tops of buildings at the last second. The sounds of the city bubbled up through the clouds of smog, dimmed but not silent. A second sound, louder than the din of city life, crept its way through the fog. The songbird took off in the opposite direction as soon as the Wallace-class Destroyer pierced the clouds in view of the little winged beast.

          The Destroyer was aptly named, a monster of a ship and true feat of engineering. It was a matte gray, only slightly darker than the blanket of fog that clung to its exterior, with black vents and sensor strips lining the outer walls. The ship moved slowly through the air, all sensors giving off a disruptive signal and masking its location. The near skyscraper sized battlecruiser kept its altitude just above the tops of the highest buildings. Round apertures on the belly of the Wallace-class ship opened up with a flare of steam and hissing. Inside the ship, bombs were primed and slowly lowered so that their tips hung at the mouth of the openings. The target of these bombs came into view on the screens of the ship’s Command Center. The harbor was bursting with activity this morning, the refueling of the Great Factory of the Delkari Dynasty was still in full swing. A loud electronic beep pierced through the fog and echoed against the sides of skyscrapers as the bombs were activated, but they still clung to their loading bays. The Destroyer would wait for its signal to attack, no move could be out of place

          Trade and commerce were not the only things that would be kindled that grave morning; the war was almost upon Feldrin.

The Wizard – Entry 3

In an instant, Reil was reaching back into his coat in hopes he could blend back to a DPF worker and escape before any of the Guard could see him. If they had indeed raided the House, they knew what the coat of a thief looked like. As his trembling fingers fumbled with the small blending knob, a window on the third floor of the House shattered. Through it, the body of Brody, a thief two years older, but also two years newer to the job than Reil, whipped through the air. His screams were cut off abruptly and his body made a sickening crack as it collided with the concrete. Had he been but steps closer, blood would have sprayed across Reil’s jacket. He thanked Yvesu he had stopped where he had.

          It was unlike the Guard to kill thieves, arrests were made and men were jailed, but not murdered. One of Quentin’s connections must have gone bad, three gunshots were fired in rapid succession in the house and the sound of something heavy tumbling down a flight of stairs could be heard from Reil’s location, very bad. His trembling hand retreated from the coat pocket; if the guards were killing his brethren, he could not flee and let them die. He had to help, as they had helped him more times than he could count. He unsheathed his dagger from its confines in his boot, threw the canvas bag to the side, and rushed in through the smoke covered back door to the House.

          As soon as he cleared the smoke in the entrance, he leaped and grasped the shoulder of a guard standing watch. He swung his body weight around, knocking the guard off balance before quickly slitting the man’s throat. He felt no pity at the gurgling sounds of the man’s last breaths.

          The guards were not in their standard red uniform, instead in all black, with the Crest of the Delkari nowhere to be seen. This was not to be publicized like most Thief House raids, with the mugshot of the House’s Thief Lord displayed proudly on every street corner as propaganda promoting the Feldrin Guard’s ability and power. Reil’s theory about Quentin’s connection going bad must have been true.

          Perhaps Quentin lost the goodwill of a member of the Royal Family, or angered a high ranking businessman. Whoever it was wanted no trace of their connections with the underground left alive, and to Reil’s dismay, they seemed to be getting what they wanted.

          “Quentin! Cent!” Reil was weaving through the smoke like a serpent, going by sound rather than sight. His yells were answered, not by those he called but with screams of agony and gunfire. “Luke! Oliver!” His knife found itself planted in the chest of a guard who had placed himself between Reil and the staircase. The man fumbled for his gun as he tumbled to the ground with wide eyes and muted grunts. Reil kicked the gun out of his hand and continued his search through the fog.

          “Kid!” That was Quentin’s voice, if strained, there was no doubt. “Get out of here kid! Get out of this Godless house and run!” The last word ended short with a grunt and Reil’s ear located where it came from.

          “I’m coming Quentin!” His hands tore at the smoke, trying desperately to clear it from his vision. The fogged house mirrored his clouded mind. His footsteps fell irregularly as the smoke began to choke him. At last, Reil tumbled into a room, gasping for air and looking around wildly for his boss.

          “You idiot kid, what did I tell you? Lea-” The butt of a pistol swung into Quentin’s temple and the kneeling Thief Lord hit the ground hard. Two men stood in the room, one with a pistol standing over Quentin, and the other standing near the room’s grimy floor to ceiling window. His uniform gave him away as a Guard Commander.

          “Your… leader,” the words came out like venom, “gave you sound advice. Run little runt, my men like a good chase.” The Commander stood with his feet shoulder width apart and his hands behind his back, elbows making 90 degree angles. He stepped forward, his footfalls sounding like a blacksmith’s hammer pounding out metal. He placed a boot on Quentin’s head, pressing it firmly to the ground. “Well? Are you going to stay and watch me kill your… friend…?” The man tilted his head at the question, with an upward twisted line chiseled out of the rock hard features of his face; it might’ve been what the Commander considered a smile.

          “I-i…” Riel was too stunned to speak, and his head too filled with smoke to think. He struggled to his feet and the other guard was there in a flash to plant a metal toed boot in his side. The sound that came from his ribs scared him. A sudden pain flooded him as he was lifted to his knees by his hair.

          The guard laughed and the Commander simply bored a hole into Reil’s Soul with his gaze. “You’re a curious one. So young to be so eager for death.” His voice hardened the air around him and then chiseled through it like ice. He withdrew a pistol from his side with a gloved hand and looked appraisingly at the gun. Slowly he cocked it and released the slide with a flair. “I bought this gun just for this event, Quentin. I had this gun made especially for killing you. It’s quite nice, really.” He leaned down to get his face closer to Quentin’s, no doubt increasing the force of his boot on the man’s face ten-fold. “No more running this city like you own it,” the last words were almost a whisper. This man must have hated Quentin far before the connection ever went bad. Perhaps the Commander even had a hand in causing the failed connection. Feldrin politics went far over Reil’s head, and Underground politics took it even higher.

          “Such an honor, sir. I’m glad you thought me important enough to commemorate my death in such a special way. Will you retire the gun after you kill me? Maybe hang it up on your Godless wall next to your awa-” The boot lifted momentarily before slamming back down and crushing Quentin’s head into the ground so hard Reil could’ve swore the wood on the floor even splintered. But the pain did not overcome Quentin’s laughter. The bloody faced man laughed through blood specked coughs and gritted teeth.

          The Guard Commander threw the gun into the wall in front of him, the clip falling out and landing close to the door. “You are not special, you are a swine. A dirty rat facing an exterminator. You think you deserve an honorable death, Quentin? You’ll not be getting one.” The Commander’s once stone hard face was now red and perspiring. Quentin did always have a way at getting under even the coldest mens’ skins. “Gath, give me your old knife. The rusty one.”

          The guard holding Reil’s hair laughed, his voice filled with evil. Reil already hated this man, this sadist. “Yes sir, a wonderful choice for this peasant.” His voice was slick with grease and spit. Rage boiled up inside of Reil at the thought of men of such low caliber and honor being the ones to kill him and Quentin. In his rage, Reil made eye contact with Quentin, and everything moved blindingly fast from there. His boss had given him his signature wink, it was an over the top, purposefully dramatic wink, with an eyebrow raise to end it, Reil had seen it only a few times before, but it always meant the same thing; “hold on tight, things are going to get messy.”

          Reil knew that this time, he had to play his own role in the mess. And as the guard reached to his boot to draw his knife, he loosened his grip ever so slightly on the thief’s hair. As he tossed the knife to his Commander, the plan fell into action. Reil pulled out of his grasp and planted a fist in the man’s stomach. Pain coursed through his body as a reminder to the damage to his own ribs. He quickly picked his knife off the floor and jammed it through the guard’s eye, quickly turning to grab the pistol magazine that was near the door.

          As this was going on, the Commander’s boot also lightened on Quentin’s face as the man leaned back to grasp the thrown knife. At this, the Thief Lord pushed up with all his weight sending the Commander falling to his back. Quentin pushed himself fast grasping the fallen pistol in front of him, turning just in time to catch the magazine Reil had thrown him. He slammed the clip into the pistol, cocked it, and fired three rounds into the rising Guard Commander. The man struck the ground, hands patting the places the bullets entered, once hard eyes filled with confusion and hate. “Hate to kill a man with his own gun, not very honorable. But then again, Vik, you were never the honorable type, eh?” Quentin forced a smile through a pained face. A moment after the smile crossed his face it was replaced by a gasp and Quentin collapsed.

          “Quentin! Quentin, come on, don’t fail me now. We gotta get out of this Godless building,” Reil rushed to his boss’s side, worry painted across his face. He ignored the screaming pain from his side and tried to lift the injured Thief Lord to his feet.

          “Watch your language kid. Only I get to curse ‘round here, remember?” Quentin reached into his coat pocket and began fishing around for something. “‘Sides, I can’t sneak past these guards, and I’m in no condition to fight. But you, my boy, you’ve always been like a snake. The less visibility, the better you move. Here take this,” it was clear at this point that it was a major struggle for Quentin to even speak. He pressed a map and a few other papers roughly folded up into Reil’s hands. “These are directions and names of a fellow Thief Lord. He and I are real close like. He’ll look out for ya. Tell ‘im ol Quentin sent ya and you’ll be welcomed with open arms. Follow my instructions on who to talk to in order to get an audience with ‘im. No doubt he’ll want to hear about what happened here today from an eye-witness such as yourself.”

          “No, I don’t need this. We can go to him for help together, let’s go. I’ll take out the guards to make a pathway and you can cover my back with the pistol,” Reil felt tears welling up around his eyes and he attempted to stuff the papers back into Quentin’s hands.

          “Idiot boy, look at my legs! I ain’t goin’ nowhere!” The Thief Lord had real anger, or was it grief, finding its way into his voice.

          Reil gasped when he looked. In all the rush, he had only been taking in his surroundings at a minimum level, shapes and sounds mainly. The smoke was still clouding his vision and mind, and only getting worse as the House must’ve caught fire at this point. He nearly brought a hand to his mouth when his mind cleared enough to make out Quentin’s legs. The upper half were fine, but from the knees down they were a bloody mess. Reil could make out at least one bone sticking out, and he couldn’t even find skin through all the blood. The Thief Lord had been tortured long before Reil had gotten there, he shuddered at the thought that some of the earlier screams he heard in the smoke might’ve belonged to Quentin. “W-What do I d-do, sir?”

          “You keep those damn instructions I gave you, and you get out of this Yvesu-forsaken house, ya hear, boy? You saved me once, no need to try to do it again; this time you won’t be so successful.” Quentin had tears in his eyes at this point, the first Reil had ever seen from the hardened older man, but he couldn’t tell if they were tears of sadness or pain, probably both. “I appreciate what ya did for me, even though it was the most fullop-headed you ever did do. But my time here is up, and you still got a long life ahead of you. Yvesu willing, maybe you’ll be wearing the Thief Lord coat one day yourself. But not if you don’t get out of here, and now.”

          “I owe you my life, Q-quentin,” the sounds of destruction began to filter their way through the cloud of Reil’s adrenaline and he slowly drew himself back to the dangers at hand. “I only wish I could repay that debt. Thank you for everything, sir. It’s been an honor.” Reil began standing up, ready to get back into the fight that raged through the House. “May Yvesu’s Heart light your Way.” The last sentence was difficult to get out, he had never expected to be saying that prayer to his boss anytime soon.

          “And the Ways of all the other good men who died today,” Quentin said with a surprisingly strong voice for his condition. His statement was met with a nod from Reil. “And Reil, you would’ve made a great squad leader. And you’ve made me proud every day since the day I found you. Go out there and keep on makin’ me proud, kid. Show the world you’ve got Heart enough for an army.” With that, Quentin pressed the Commander’s gun into Reil’s hand and nodded, his eyes losing their light quickly and his elbow shaking heavily from holding up his weight. Quentin silently breathed a thank you when the young thief turned and ran into the hallway.

          He didn’t want the kid seeing him die, and he knew Reil didn’t want to see it. It was better this way. The old Thief Lord struggled to crawl towards the body of the guard, Gath. In the man’s inside right coat pocket, Quentin found what he was looking for. He withdrew the pistol and checked the chamber for bullets; nearly a full clip. He gripped the gun’s slide in between his teeth and used his arms to drag his body to prop itself up against the wall facing the open door. Satisfied with his position, he cocked the gun and waited. The scuffs of boots coming up the staircase primed his adrenaline for one last firefight. He smiled as he took aim and yelled to get the guards’ attention, “In here! In here! The Commander is hurt, come!” The footfalls faltered as they changed direction. Quentin took a deep breath. His finger slid over the worn edges of the trigger. As he began to let out his last breath, the guards poured in. As soon as the first one took a step through the doorframe, the Thief Lord’s last fight began.




          Back on the first floor of the House, Reil’s eyes darted around wildly. He was not escaping, he was hunting every last guard who was foolish enough to stay in the building. In his right hand he held his knife, now slick with blood. In his left, he held the gun Quentin had used to kill the Commander. A guard, making a run for the door after realizing the building was about to collapse from the fire, turned the corner and all but skidded to a stop after seeing Reil’s soot and blood splattered face with his piercing violet eyes glowing through the smoke.

          Two more guards came running up behind him, but not before a bullet found its way between his eyes. Reil fired off two more rounds, taking down one of the guards who had just arrived. He tossed the gun to the side, he’d used the entire clip, and switched the hand of his dagger before rushing the last remaining guard. The man turned to run, not even bothering to defend himself. Reil planted the knife in the man’s spine and quickly removed it, kicking the man over. A loud cracking of wood worked to take the edge off of the thief’s bloodlust. A large support beam collapsed and sparks and cinders blinded Reil with heat.

          I’m being stupid. The House is coming down and I’m wasting time. Reil sheathed his knife and ran for the door, shielding his eyes and hitting the ground as another burning support beam fell and blocked the exit. The pain in his side roared louder than the fire all around him and his coughing kept him pinned to the floor.

          Both exits were blocked at this point and the heat was becoming unbearable. His vision blurred, whether from tears or the smoke he couldn’t tell. He thought about running back up the stairs and finding a window to escape through, there was one of the fourth floor that was jumping distance from a large power vent on the building next door.

          The smoke is even thicker up there than down here, I have to get out here, and fast. Reil’s thoughts fought with the fog that was blanketing his mind. He couldn’t think straight and his breathing was becoming rougher. Reil pounded his fist on the floor out of frustration, and was met with a loud hollow sound. In his panic he’d forgotten about the hollowed out floor passages Quentin had taught all the thieves about in case of an emergency escape.

          His fingernails scraped across the wooden floorboards, dried blood flaking off of them and fresh blood covering them. The boards must have expanded in the heat from the fire and refused to lift as if completely ignorant to Reil’s desperate attempts to remove them. “Open, damn you!” Reil’s voice was barely recognizable from the tears in his throat. He finally got a single board to begin lifting when his hands, slick with blood, slipped and sent the board snapping back down into place. “No! I need… I need to get o-out of here.” Reil began to waver, his body ready to collapse. His lungs weren’t getting enough air and the pain in his side had peaked. I promised Quentin I’d get out of here! Images of his beaten and near dead boss flashed in his mind, the man’s last words rang loud in his ears. Energy coursed through the thief’s veins and his Heart beat like a drum. “I promised Quentin, and I won’t break that promise!” With a roar like thunder, Reil brought his fists down upon the wood in front of him. Splinters shot in all directions and dust soared into the air to mix with the smoke. Without even moving forward, Reil simply fell forward into the gaping maw of the escape passage, completely at a loss for strength.

The Wizard – Entry 2

Not a second after Reil’s feet had made it onto the concrete loading bay outside of the Labyrinth, the steel doors slammed shut with a plume of gas escaping from the sides. He wondered if the guard had planned such a close call with the emergency switch. He worried about the man’s injuries, but with the capsules he gave him, Reil knew he’d be fine as long as he got some bandages to stop the bleeding soon. He wouldn’t have blamed the man for still trying to lock him in the ship, it would certainly secure his job and a heavy reward in Sigils, maybe even a silver coin.

          With a shake of his head Reil cleared his thoughts of the man and brought his attention back to the mission at hand. He reached into his coat and found the small carbon knob on the inside left chest pocket and turned it 90 degrees. His coat’s exterior shifted into a deep blue hue with a white and red crest on the front right over the heart depicting a globe with three sharp lines cutting through it vertically; the Crest of the Delkari.

          From the back pocket of his pants he whipped out a hat of matching hue with a shortened bill and a white symbol of a bird on the front. He uncrumpled it and fit it over his greasy blonde hair, first slicking his unruly mop straight back with a firm hand. He tossed the canvas bag onto the ground and slid a carrying strap out of his coat, attaching it to two metal rings on the bag.

          He hefted the strap onto his right shoulder and set out at a leisurely yet determined pace out into the busy streets surrounding the cargo bay. Anyone who saw him would dismiss him as a simple deliveryman, the white bird on his hat being the symbol of the Delkari Postal Federation and his deep blue coat with the Crest of the Delkari on it being a rough match of their standard entry-level uniform.

          He knew he had to get back to the Thief House to deliver the pick up, but technically, his orders were to drop off the goods at 4 o’clock and it had only just passed noon. Reil made his way to a favorite bakery on a side road in the same direction of the House. He dug a hand into his trouser pockets and found a few Sigils inside, enough to get a coffee and maybe a muffin.

          If Feldrin did anything right, it was baked goods. He’d even heard rumors, probably false, that kings and queens of other planets and systems had pastries ordered from Feldrin to their palaces because of how delicious they were. It was a rumor Reil was tempted to believe every time he bit into a fresh Seventh Street Bakery smallcake.

          Weaving his way through the throngs of people in the busy streets, he took in his surroundings. The city was ugly, there was no doubt of that, but it had a charm. It had an immense economic value, but the Royal Family cared only for its production capabilities, not its citizens. And the oppressive heat could kill on the right day. It was dirty, dangerous, and the Guard was about as corrupt as they come. I can’t really be one to lecture on ethics though, Reil smiled to himself as he hefted the bag to feel the weight of his prize.

          The buildings in Feldrin were huge, truly scraping the sky and then some. The tops of each skyscraper was never visible, at least Reil had never seen them, as they pierced the smog that blanketed the city year-round. They shot out of the ground, windows dirty and covered with grime; Reil had doubted that anyone inside the buildings could even see through the windows at this point.

          The architecture in Feldrin was an interesting combination. Half the buildings were made only of ground to roof windows, while the other half were almost entirely exposed concrete, either small slits for windows or none at all. The buildings were often smashed up against one enough, real estate prices in a city this size didn’t quite allow for empty spaces. Alleyways, while very rare, were pitch black, with odd sounds coming from them in the late hours of the night. Smells fought for an audience with Reil’s nose from every direction, mixes of gas, tar, food, and filth all assaulting his senses. Reil took it all in and shook his head with a laugh, I really can’t decide if I love or hate this city.

          He took his seat with a bit of flair and a huff, less than carefully placing his canvas “delivery” bag on the seat next to him. “I’ll have a coffee, no sugar please, and one of your muffins. Thank you very much,” Reil beamed a smile to the attractive waitress and arched his back in his chair for a good stretch. The cost of going to a full service bakery to a street rat like Reil was hard to justify, but the way he saw it, he had to treat himself sometimes. His job well done today should be justification enough in any case. He slouched in his chair, earning him haughty stares from the people who frequented high end places such as Seventh Street.

          “Oh, a man can’t rest after a long day’s work, eh? Well, then quit your staring.” Most who knew him wouldn’t describe Reil as subtle nor well versed in the art of social interaction. After a few more haughty huffs and puffs, Reil laced his hands behind his head and looked into the freshly cleaned window to his right.

          His reflection surprised him in a way. He hadn’t remembered growing up, and his face didn’t have the lightness it once held. His greasy blonde hair had grown long enough to pull into a ponytail and his skin was more tanned than ever. There was a small scar under his left eye, but you had to know it was there to notice it. His friend Brody had bought, stolen is what Reil believed the correct word was, an anti-scarring capsule for him for his birthday last year and it had worked wonders. His violet eyes didn’t show their true colors in a glass window, but even so he thought they looked deeper than he remembered. The last bit of ‘baby fat,’ as Luke liked to say, had apparently burned off from all his adventures and escapades leaving a well chiseled jaw line with an ever so small amount of fuzz starting to sprout on the tip of his chin.

          A movement behind the glass stirred Reil out of his thoughts and he realised there had been a woman behind the window, undoubtedly flustered at having had a scruffy looking deliveryman stare so intently at her. Windows aren’t one way mirrors, idiot, Reil reminded himself angrily.

          To hide his shame, the thief turned his gaze forward, to the street in front of him and the massive, towering white structure across from that. The only building cleaned on a near daily basis, and flourished with intricately carved scenes and statues; The Church of the Source Star, Temple of Mother Yvesu. Men, women, and children filtered in and out of the grand white temple, all wearing their best outfits. In most Churches, people were told to come in rags and old garments to show humility and to be modest, but people who frequented Seventh Street were too superior to the rest of the ‘filth’ of the city to be seen in anything but the best suits and dresses. Reil rolled his eyes, I wonder what you think of them, Mother. Walking around thinking they are Gods and Goddesses among men. You ought to teach them some humility sometime.

          To say Reil’s ‘prayers’ to Yvesu were casual would be an understatement, but he thought of himself as a good religious citizen. How he justified stealing for a living was a thought to confront at a later time.

          He enjoyed his coffee and muffin, people watching on the busy afternoon. He had attempted to flirt with the waitress her second time to the table but he was met with a cold glare. Her loss, Reil thought to himself. As he finished the last sip of his coffee he figured it was time to get going. Perhaps arriving for the drop off early would look good in front of Quentin and the others. He left the payment on the table and hefted the bag back onto his shoulder, not so eager to leave the blessed shade of the bakery’s canvas overhang. With one look back at his reflection in the window, he straightened the cap on his head and set off.

          Reil quickened his pace under the hot sun, even hotter after the glass from the skyscrapers reflected it downward onto the streets. The city was always hot, with a fog of fumes and smoke resting over it like a blanket on the hottest afternoons. He found shade quickly and walked along close to the buildings, relishing every time he crossed paths with an air vent and got a face full of semi-cooled air. In the heat, it felt like ice water being poured over his head.

          He was vaguely aware of the rip in his pants and the possible blood stains from the taze-dart in the ship corridor, but everyone around him seemed too busy to take notice, and he himself was simply happy to be alive with a belly full of coffee and baked goods. Not like there’s anything I can do about it right now anyways, Reil reasoned. When the dirty blackstone building came into view, the thief wiped his forehead of sweat and let out a long-held breath.

          This was to be his last solo mission if Quentin was to be believed, and he’d be promoted to a squadron leader for bigger, more important robberies. The previous two missions of his had been successful in the end, but far less clean. A relatively problem-free robbery such as the one he had just pulled off would look good when Quentin and the others reviewed his track record.

          As he swiped the hat from his head and jammed it into his back pocket, Reil rounded the corner to the rear of the building where he always made his drop. Deliverymen and other costumed characters constantly visiting the same run down building would draw attention, so the thieves had to be crafty with their entrances after a successful mission.

          It wasn’t much of a life, the way of the thief, but it was all Reil really had at this point; be a thief or work as an uncared for, minimum pay office mule. The thieving life provided excitement, a rush, shelter, and food. If you can call it that, Reil mused. Above of all those benefits, it provide a family… Of sorts. Truth be told he was lucky to be where he was. The youngest thief to be considered for squadron leader, and he was always given the higher end missions. That fact held far more weight than it appeared to, for it meant Quentin and the others had trust in him, and in the world of thieving, trust was worth its weight in silver chips.

          The Thief House run by Quentin was a good one. It brought in modest money, but made up for the profits in the number of connections it had. Missions were safer, less guards were on duty the day of a big robbery, the death rate of thieves was far lower than any other group in the city, the list went on. The rumor was that Quentin used a heavy portion of the profits to pay off more guards, and his connections rivaled that of members of the Royal Family. He came off as hardened and uncaring, and he played the role well when he needed to, but Reil believed he cared for his thieves. The way he saw it, the rumors had to be true, and Reil knew no other Thief Lord who would pay so much out of pocket for the added protection of disposable, usually untrained, men.

          Still lost in thought, Reil was not aware of the unusual commotion outside of the Thief House. He had already set his shift-coat to revert to its usual black and dark green, with his unruly hair pointing in every direction, by the time he realized what was going on. The back door to the House was broken off at its hinges and trace amount of purple tinted smoke oozed out of broken windows; Reil knew at that point what had happened. The House had been raided by the Feldrin Guard.