Professor Myson was hard to spot in the chair that was the same dark maroon as his hooded cloak. All that gave him away were his ghostly pale hands and the black eyes staring out of his ghostly pale face. A flickering flame in the grate tried its best to portray a fire but failed. Kintra and Helian stood in the doorway. If Farron hadn’t walked over to the long sofa at the back of the room, they would have struggled to spot their friends. No other light shone in the room. They followed Farron and managed to squeeze themselves on to the sofa, Helian perching uncomfortably on the wooden arm. Zorbel looked at them and held a finger to his lips. It was the eeriest place Kintra had ever been.
Her eyes wandered over stacks of papers and books, heaps of furs, a huge cheese plant that had taken over one wall and seemed to be creeping towards them. There was a musty smell of dust mixed with damp. Thick maroon drapes hung against the wall where a window must be, completely blocking out any light.
She gave Farron her ‘what the hell?’ stare. He shrugged and grinned. So, she tried it on Petra, who just raised her eyebrows.
A loud snore made them all jump. They peered at the old man lit by the flickering light.
‘His eyes are open,’ Farron whispered softly.
‘This is creepy,’ Kintra said looking at Zorbel. ‘Why are we staying?’
Zorbel fished in his pocket and pulled out a very large wad of notes. ‘He hasn’t given us any details yet. Just the money.’
‘Who lives here with him?’ she asked, ‘This house is huge.’
‘No one we have seen,’ Petra answered. ‘Perhaps we should go to bed. He said there were plenty of rooms.’
‘It feels a little rude to just go,’ Helian said. ‘Where did the food come from?’
‘I made it,’ Petra said. ‘There’s a fully stocked larder in the kitchen. It does look like there should be a cook, or a housekeeper, but we haven’t seen nor heard anyone.’
Vlarimar sat at the other end of the sofa, his head nodding on to his chest.
‘We need to rest,’ Petra said in her authoritative tone that meant she was taking over. ‘Zorbel grab Vlarimar and help him up the stairs. Kintra, we’ll look at the room situation. Farron, Helian, stay here in case he wakes.’
Both men shuffled uncomfortably but said nothing. Kintra wondered if Petra did these things on purpose.
They headed up a wide staircase that creaked badly. An oil lamp halfway up had a small stuttering flame. Petra reached up and turned the screw and it sprang into life. At the top a long corridor stretched to the right with a shorter one to the left. Doors disappeared into the darkness.
‘We need some light!’ Petra said.
Kintra walked to the first door and turned the handle. It opened into a room with a large window. The low evening sun streamed out onto the landing. They walked along opening each door until they could see from one end to the other. Zorbel and Vlarimar had reached the top of the stairs.
‘Which room shall I put him in?’
Petra was going into each identical room and coming out again.
‘Just choose,’ Kintra said.
‘Which one belongs to the Professor? They all look the same.’
‘Perhaps he sleeps downstairs. He looks so frail.’
‘You look,’ Petra said. ‘See if any of these rooms has anything I am missing that would show as someone using it. I don’t want him to walk in on one of us in the night!’
Kintra went into each room. All of them were exactly the same in layout, décor, and furniture. It was like de ja vu. ‘I honestly think he sleeps downstairs. There’re keys in the locks. We can lock ourselves in.’
‘Are you sure this is a good idea?’ Petra asked Zorbel.
‘Where else will we stay. The inn in that town will be tiny, and it’s getting late. Do you want to sleep on the ground in wet clothes?’
‘Well just stick him in the first one then,’ Petra said. ‘I’ll stay with him.’
‘In the same bed?’ Kintra asked.
‘Why not? Farron isn’t the only one to be sleeping with royalty.’
‘Oh…I didn’t know…’
‘Kintra. We sleep on a bed, because there is only one bed. It’s hardly the same as you and Farron.’
‘Ok!’ She put up her hands and took a step back.
‘Go and grab the feuding partners and tell them it’s bedtime,’ Petra said sarcastically.
Zorbel glanced at Petra as she went into the room with Vlarimar and closed the door.
‘I would advise you not to choose those words,’ Zorbel said with a smile.
Kintra tried to creep down the stairs but each one protested noisily. At least they would hear anyone sneaking up on them in the night. Farron and Helian sat at either end of the sofa in silence. The Professor hadn’t moved. She beckoned to them from the doorway and both leapt up quickly.
‘There are rooms upstairs, all identical. Enough for one each.’ Farron turned his puppy dog eyes on her. She ignored him. ‘Should we cover him with something?’
‘And risk waking him?’ Helian returned with an imperceptible shudder. ‘Perhaps we could leave one of those furs at his feet.’
‘Farron, creep in and get one.’
He looked surprised. ‘Why me?’
‘Because you are the stealthiest.’ She pushed him gently, one hand on his chest, back into the room, taking a step or two after him so that her face was hidden from Helian’s. She winked. The look in his eyes changed and he silently retrieved a fur and placed it at the feet of the snoring old man.
‘Any open door is an empty room,’ she said as they climbed the stairs. ‘There’s a key in each lock.’
Helian chose the first he came to. He gave her an unreadable look as he closed it and turned the key.
‘And goodnight to you too,’ Farron whispered. He grabbed her hand and took her to a room four doors down. She stopped in the doorway. ‘What are you doing?’ he asked.
‘There are plenty of rooms,’ she said. ‘We don’t have to share.’
She had never seen Farron look startled before. She smirked and walked inside, throwing her saddle bags in a corner. ‘Just testing. Lock the door.’
Farron, in his usual post sex comatose state, lay spread eagled on the bed. The sky outside held onto the last hope of daylight. She searched through her pack for matches to light the oil lamp on the wall above the bed and came across the book. The cover was slightly damp, and she pulled it, and anything else that had suffered from the deluge out onto the floor to dry. She stood on the bed and took the glass from the lamp, noting the fresh wick. Someone must look after this place. The room suddenly burst into light. She turned the wick down a little as Farron moaned and turned on his side creating a space for her to sit comfortably.
She picked up the book and opened the front cover. The author was a Marissila Pol-Hok. The book seemed to be a cross between a journal and an instruction book. It began with an introduction. She made herself comfortable and began to read.
I greet you dear reader and thank you for taking the time to read my work.
If you know of Earth Magic, please use this book as an instruction book and case study of its capabilities and uses. If you are new to the study, this book will be the foundation of any instruction you receive from an Earth Magic Master.
Let us begin by discussing what Earth Magic is. The origins of this magic go back to the beginning of time, when the human race was new to this Earth, walking in wonder, experiencing the magic of a flower gently opening it’s petals to the sun, a mountain standing on a level plain, seemingly sprouted from the Earth, a stream trickling around rocks, creating its own path as it finds its way eventually to the Ocean. At this time, we, as a species were far more like the ancient race of Elves, our senses open to things that we have since forgotten, or now ignore. Now, so many humans have lost the ability (or memory) to access magic, and only bloodlines that have passed the wisdom and usage through generations are still able to wield it. Of all these blood lines the strongest users are the Eranians, who originated from a culture far away across the Endless Ocean, which has since disappeared.
Kintra flipped to the frontispiece to check the publishing date. 1719, one hundred and fifty years ago nearly. She wished she’d paid more attention to her history lessons.
Earth Magic is an art form. You must craft the energy so that it produces the desired result. All magic works this way, but Earth Magic uses primal forces that other magic cannot access. Earth Magic is a mixture of the four elements, Earth itself becoming a fifth as it combines and grounds all else.
The fire element (Wildfire) crafts the energy of the fire deep in the Earth’s core, creating it into a force that can destroy, lay bare, or forge anew.
The element of air (Wildwind) can be crafted into oxygen so that the artist can walk the ocean floor, gale force winds to destroy or reshape a landscape.
The element of water (Wildwater) can be used to bring rains to parched lands, to turn the course of rivers, to harness the power of the ocean, to clean, clear, destroy.
The element of Aether (Soulfire) is the most advanced, using the supernatural forces of the unseen dimensions to bring about anything the artist can imagine. This skill should be avoided by novices. The training takes many years and should only be partaken with a high-ranking master, many of which are now few and far between.
The element of Earth connects all of these. The artist must be fully grounded, preferably standing on the Earth itself for the magic to work correctly and with utmost effect. Crafting in buildings is not recommended as the structure will not stand up to the forces, unless you are capable of Soulfire itself.
Earth is the fundamental conductor and creator of Earth Magic, the artist shapes it with their will and intent.
If you have used Earth Magic or know you possess the bloodlines of Erania, Mordani, Comporia or Basanov, please begin this book at the chapter for your, or your family’s predominant skill. Once you have fully mastered this skill, it will be easier to use all others (other than Soulfire). If you are unsure of your bloodline, start at the beginning.
I am often asked how one knows if they possess the Earth Magic blood. There are always signs dear reader. You will be someone who intuits things others cannot, or senses things other don’t. If you can divine future events, know when someone is lying, know that someone is watching you, feel the use of supernatural powers or magic, or have an inner knowing of disaster, you hold the propensity to become an artist of Earth Magic.
Pal-To City, Mordani, 1718.
Kintra tingled all over. Inner knowing, she presumed. She flicked to Chapter 1, Wildfire and read on.
The Art of WildFire
Wildfire derives from the core of the Earth which is so hot that lakes of fiery liquid burn relentlessly, melting whatever tumbles into their depths, or forging rocks and minerals into something new. Its forging capabilities can bring delight and healing, but it is most often used for its destructive qualities.
As a weapon Wildfire is a mighty force, a skilful artist can decimate whole armies if her channel is open wide enough and she has hardened herself to the intensity of this craft.
It may also be used to clear land quickly and effectively for agriculture, city building or, once more for negative uses.
The artist draws their power up through the Earth, usually very quickly and becomes like a volcano, an open channel to release the fire into the world. Her focus determines how and what this fire creates or destroys. It is a force that should be mastered quickly, otherwise emotional reactions will loose Wildfire with serious and often fatal consequences.
The stairs creaked loudly. Kintra’s heart hammered in her chest and she froze, listening. A muffled bang followed. A door perhaps? Each room had a wash chamber with a toilet. The Professor? She put down the book and silently reached for her bow, and two arrows. She slipped a small hunting knife in the compartment inside her boot and pulled them on.
‘Farron,’ she whispered giving him a shake.
‘I heard someone on the stairs.’
He was instantly awake and pulling on his trousers, and sword belt. He pulled the sword free, a beautiful blade, that sang in Kintra’s ears, and brought goose bumps to her flesh. Magic, she noted. There was a lot about Farron she still didn’t know.
‘Cover me,’ he said, turning the key slowly in the lock and taking hold of the doorknob in his left hand.
She notched up an arrow, standing behind but to one side of him so he wouldn’t block her aim. As he opened the door, she pulled the bow back against her cheek.
The landing was empty as far as they could make out. Light streamed from their room, but the lamp on the stairs had gone out. They stood still straining their senses and allowing their eyes to adjust to the dark.
A quiet click proceeded another door opening. It was Petra, her thin blade appearing first. She turned to look up the corridor and waved them forward. Silently they stood at the top of an empty staircase.
‘I head the stairs creak, and then a bang,’ Kintra whispered.
‘Me too. Come on.’
Petra led Farron down the stairs wincing at each creak. Kintra, always two steps behind them had a clear shot above their heads. Petra put up a hand.
‘What’s that?’ A dark mass hugged the bottom step and spread out onto the floor. It didn’t move.
They carried on down, Kintra watchful of the large hallway. Petra bent to the shape and cursed.
‘It’s the Professor,’ she said aloud. At the top of the stairs another door opened. Kintra spun, arrow at the ready, and then relaxed her grip as Helian appeared.
‘Someone get a light,’ Petra shouted, ‘I think he’s hurt.’
Helian turned back to his room and grabbed a lit candle. He banged on Zorbel’s door as he passed. Farron stepped over the old man, looking for lamps in the hall. There were three but no matches. ‘Helian, over here. There are lamps.’
Zorbel opened his door. ‘What’s going on?’
‘We think the professor has fallen,’ Kintra said without turning. She still held her bow ready, and as the lamps lit up the hall, she checked every corner for anything that may be lurking. Petra beckoned her forward.
‘Kintra come and press here. I need to fetch my bag.’ Kintra pressed down just above a wound on the side of the Professors neck. His skin was paper thin and didn’t feel alive. Her own skin crawled and tingled.
‘Something more is going on here,’ she whispered, ‘Magic.’
‘I feel it too,’ Helian said, stooping to look at the old man. ‘Does he have an artefact?’
They searched his robes but found nothing. Petra arrived back and frowned at them before pushing Kintra aside. ‘Get me some water and a bowl.’
Zorbel, who still stood on the stairs turned to obey.
‘Did he fall down the stairs?’ Farron asked. It seemed a fair assessment. There was a purple bump close to his temple, but the neck wound seemed clean and straight as if made by a blade. Petra took the bowl from Zorbel and threw a few herbs in it, muttering something under her breath. Again, Kintra felt the sensation crawl across her skin. The Amorian deftly cleaned and bandaged the wound, the bleeding already lessening.
‘Let’s get him to the sofa. Go light some more lamps,’ she ordered Helian. Farron took the frail body in his arms. Kintra grabbed some furs and he was soon made comfortable, as far as they could tell. ‘His breathing is shallow,’ Petra said holding his wrist in her hand. ‘I will go and make him a tea. Kintra go and check on Vlarimar for me. Tell him what’s going on.’
Kintra stared at her appalled. ‘No! Someone else can do it.’
‘I’ll go,’ Helian said pushing past her with a sigh.
Petra gave her a derisive look and walked out with her herb bag. Kintra stared defiantly after her. Why did she bother to use words when her face could express everything?