Saturday, September 21, 2013

Two important aspects of the magic come to light in this section, though one isn't really revealed yet. The first is that Humans with the magic ability can trace that back to some form of Elvish heredity. Humans and Elves have long mingled together, though the Half-Elf offspring are generally shunned by both. This union diluted the Elvish magic in some lineages, and instilled a random factor in the Human side of things. In many cases this can trace back ten thousand years.
     The other aspect is that many gems can be used to store flux in them; either the raw flux waiting to be shaped, or inscribed with a glyph to bestow certain powers. John's ebony bow carries such a sapphire within it. Aeriona's staff also carries a gem, though I'll keep the details of it safe for now.
     Oh, The skysuit is a relic from before the magic was drastically altered some three thousands years previous, in an event usually called the cataclysm.


Regrets are never your friend. Stand by your decision with the certainty that it was your best choice.
…Chelen Tai…

     Jurriscin’s little shop looked much the way she’d remembered it. Nestled into a little bubble that he claimed to have asked the tree to grow around, the walls were lined with the magical finds of half a dozen countries. A few of the items were weapons, etched with glyphs to hone the blade or seek vital spots. Most were little trinkets imbued with glyphs of hope and health.
     Aeriona strummed her fingers across the Wyr’keen, a little web colored threads and glass beads that tinkled to announce her entrance. The sound came out as a mixture of the lute and wind chimes. In a moment Jurriscin dropped in through the hole that connected into his home. His feet knew well the loops in the rope ladder.
     His voice gave no hint to the centuries he’d lived as he greeted her. “Ho, is that you little dove? You Humans grow so fast,… and big.”
     “I wish you’d have come back to Twillingspire, at least to give me a friendly face at the gatherings.”
     He glanced at her as he shifted a crystal egg on the shelf where it sat. “The way you grasp the magics, I imagine you must be a Senior Journyist by now.”
     “I gained that rune a little over a year ago. I…”
     Jurriscin turned from his fussing to face her. “Don’t be modest. I know you wouldn’t be satisfied with stopping there. You won’t hurt my feelings; I know my limit was reached when I gained the Senior Journeyman rune.”
     “But you could be doing all sorts of things. You came back here a decade ago, and what? Opened a shop?”
     “Ahh. You have the knowledge, but lack the wisdom. That will come in time; hopefully before old age sets in. I serve my people here by seeking out the magic that verge on being forgotten. But you didn’t come down the river just to chide my choices.”
     She clutched up the suddenly remembered pack. “No, you’re right. I’m on an errand to Orb Island, and we had to stop here to deliver a crate..”
     “So I wasn’t even a planned stop. How fortuitous. What did you bring me, or was it to stare longingly at that staff again?”
     She unfastened the flap on the pack as she continued the conversation. “I do want it, but that’s for when I have some actual money. Since we had to stop here, I wanted to ask your thoughts on something.”
     Aeriona pulled the pale blue pouch from her pack, eliciting an intake of breath from Jurriscin. “Is that…?”
     A smile touched the corners of her mouth at the impression it had made. “Yes, a sky suit.”
     “I know where all nineteen of the known remaining ones call home, so I guess that must be one of the three held by the council. How did you wrest it away from them? No, they had to think you needed it for whatever errand you’re on. But that brings up why are you traveling by boat if you have that? You’ve had the skill for that for years.”
     “It kinda slipped my mind to return it after my last errand. I got back, and was rushed out again the next day on this one.”
     “There’s no way in void that slipped their minds. I can’t think of a single time in the last century that it’s been out of the hands of a council member.”
     Digging further into the pack, she pulled out the pin box. “They also gave me this, so I guess it really never left the council’s hands.”
     “Ahh, that explains a lot. Unexpected to say the least, but that’s why you have the sky suit. Let me see.”
Aeriona opened the small box, and presented it to him. Pulling a crystal lens from his pocket, he carefully examined it. “Roveena’s. I remember this one. Warbler before her, and Fir’liscin prior to him. I don’t know these other marks of a certain. Wait, you haven’t laid your mark yet?”
     She looked at him in puzzlement. “What mark?”
     “What did they tell you when you were given this?”
     “Only that Roveena was the last one to wear it.”
     “Every one of the mages that bore this burden cast their mark upon it to seal it to them. I’m appalled they didn’t mention this to you.”
     “There was a bit of a rush. I had to hurry North right after they handed me the pin. They pulled me out of the stupid feast, handed me the pin, and shoved me out the window to go on the first errand.”
     Juriscin stroked his chin a few times as he mulled over thoughts kept to himself. Aeriona looked on, holding her tongue as she waited for him to say something. Twice she started to ask some thought that nudged her mind, but bit the words off before they disturbed her friend. When he finally did speak, it was still a mystery as to what path his thinking had taken him. The muttered ‘Yes’ as he reached for the staff she had desiring ever since she’d first seen it.
     Jusriscin turned back to face her. “First, there is more to being a council member than wearing a mere pin, lovely as it is.”
     “I know there’s some big ceremony, but…”
     “But, it didn’t fit into your chasing Dragons. Yes, I know about that. So does half the council.”
     “I was going to read up on that sometime.”
     “Most likely when you’d gotten too old to go chasing around the world. I’ll tell you about it when you return. Make sure you see me before setting foot in Twillingspire again.”
     “Make sure you do, and here.” He held forth the staff.
     “I haven’t the money yet.”
     “Consider it a trade for taking Wi’ikfi with you. He was set to journey there in a few weeks, but since you’re going there now. Elder Ri’lu’gher will see that the letter is ready before you sail.”
As they talked he walked toward the doorway of his little shop. She fell into step beside him. As they reached the opening, she realized the sky suit still sitting on the counter. Rushing back, she picked it up before joining him at the exit once more.
     “Oh yes, you had a question about that, didn’t you?”
     Aeriona traced glyphs sewn into the leather. “I know most of these, but there’s this row that looks written in ancient Elvish.”
     “Let me see…” Juriscin’s finger traced along the glyphs as his lips struggled to silently form the words.          “This is old. There aren’t many examples of Silver writing around.”
     “I’ve seen a few things done in the silver thread.” She chipped in helpfully.
     “Not silver thread, and that isn’t silver you see. That’s another thing that isn’t important right now. Silver as in Silver Elves. Silvers preceded the Spire Folk that most Humans call the Blue-Blood Elves; your own ancestry comes from that line.”
     “I’m Human, not Elf.”
     “Somewhere, who knows how far back, you had an ancestor from that line. Tree Ghosts, Spire Folk, Blue-Bloods, Whatever term you wish to put on it, your magic comes from that ancestor.”
     “In Monoga they called me an Ice Giant.”
     “Bah, who cares about your looks. Your magic falls right along the air mastery of the Spire Folk.”
     “So, what does it say?”
     “How should I know? I’m one of the dirty Mud-Bloods.”
     “I never called you that!”
     “I’ll have to do some looking. As I said, there aren’t many examples of Silver writing around to compare it with.”
     Aeriona couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed with the lack of answers. The twisted frown on her lips as she packed the sky suit back away, carried the message well enough that Juriscin patted her back. She looked up from the pack to find the old Elf giving her his best reassuring smile.
     “Lets go meet Wi’ikfi.”
     Crossing five of the twisted branch walks, and spiraling up another hundred feet, they came to Elder Ri’lu’gher’s home. The sculpted wood terrace wrapped most of the way around one of the giant trees. She was in the midst of pouring tea when the two arrived. Seated across from her was a young Elf nibbling on a bowl of cherries.
     Juriscin gave them both the soft whistled greeting that Aeriona did her best to imitate, drawing a chuckle from the Elf lad at the table. This in turn earned him a harsh glare from the Elder still holding the tea pot. Two other cups had already been set on the table, and filled with the peppermint tea. They had been expected.
     Aeriona nodded toward the ancient Elf. “Earth Mother, I am honored to meet you.”
     “Journeyist Juriscin has been telling stories I see. Not many outside our clan know the proper title.”
     “I spent a year reading everything I could, and I learned much from him too.”
     The Lad, who was probably at least as old as Aeriona, looked more like a child with the long years of the Elven folk guiding his growth. With a quick apology for his abrupt departure, he slid down one of the ropes that dangled near the edge of the terrace. Ropes were one of the few additions to the Wood Elf architecture, where most of the structures were shaped by controlling the growth of the trees.
     With a wave of her hand, Ri’lu’gher indicated the vacant seats at her table. “Please, share some of the bounty the forest has granted us.”
     Aeriona slid into the curved bench, taking her spot before one of the cups that still steamed. Taking a small sip, she held it in her mouth a moment before spitting it over the railing. The gesture earned her second smile from the elder.
     “I’m touched that a Human would know that offering.”
     “Yes, it isn’t covered well in the scrolls, but he told me about it on my last visit.”
     “Well, I shan’t keep you long. Your big friend is pacing the docks after they got the crate hoisted over.” She slid a scroll across the table. “This will gain entrance for young Wi’ikfi to study at the orb. I will trust you to deliver both it and him safely into Uiyah’s care.”

Friday, September 13, 2013

Another character that this book has referenced, and not yet introduced properly, is Scirririn. She is a Wood Elf about 30 years old. That works out to be about 15-20 in Human years. As we found out in the first book, slavers raided her family's farm. Her parents were both killed, while she and her younger brother were taken. There were hints of her magic in Uiyah's Paw, specifically when Aeriona let her hold the magic sniffing globe called a mouse. The covenant between the mage's guild and the followers of Uiyah prohibits interference. This seems odd given that Uiyah is the goddess of magic, but they view it as being the best way to prevent corruption of each other's purpose. Scirririn was studying to become a priest of Uiyah when she met Aeriona. Now we find that her magic is manifesting, and Aeriona must intervene to prevent the emerging power from consuming her.
Scirririn was basically raised by the slavers, and thought of herself as one until forced to escape. The memories she had of living on the farm had been shoved into forgetfulness as she integrated herself into the life among the slavers. When Pantarra escaped, she was drug along kicking and screaming. Afterward she started looking at a new life of freedom, and chose a course devoted to Uiyah. With her awakening magic that life isn't possible any longer. At this point her magic is a mystery that I won't spoil with telling about it.

Delving in to Zyndel’s saddle bags netted her a pouch of jerked fish, and a flask of cider to wash it down with. It was rather a bland beginning to her day, highlighted by the wonderful view of the river ahead. By now it had cleared the deep cut valley, and spread out on the middle plain. The boat had already shortened their journey by a day’s ride. She washed down the last few bites of fish just as the shuffling behind her announced a few crewmen gathering.
Aeriona turned around expecting to find the usual gawkers, come to catch a glimpse of the mage, or even a few who thought themselves impressive enough to catch her fancy. There were four of them skulking in the shadows of the few crates still bound on the deck. Another two were scuffling by the mast. They had picked a spot away from the eyes of their captain standing firm on the fore deck.
This was not her first time on a boat; a few of the errands she had run for the council had even taken her across oceans. Always there were the curious, but they never carried cargo hooks and belay pins as these men did. Her mind raced with thoughts of what she should do. Step out from behind the shielding crate bound for Caliroth Traders and call to the captain? Would he help her or them? Scream for John? They’d be upon her before he reached the deck.
She needed to get out of their reach and fast. Jumping over the side was too absurd to even consider. That left… Reaching for the flux felt like it was buried at the bottom of a tar pit. It came, but slowly, as though the river had washed all trace of flux from the area. Aeriona gritted her teeth to stop her tumbling thoughts that wanted to argue whether rivers could was away the flux when the flux wasn’t part of the physical world.
She shoved the flux into her newest rune combination, finding a use for third master level accomplishment. Combined with the flux she still held within herself it snapped her attention into reading the wind currents. With her heightened senses, it was no problem at all to see the rectangles spring up circling the mast. Scrambling up the invisible steps that threatened to disperse with the wind, she gained the yardarm. In a moment she was seated with her legs wrapped around the mast as the crew stared up in wonder. Even the captain took notice enough to call out.
“Just how… No, what are you doing up there?”
She wanted to scream that his crew was trying to kill her, but it came out as. “I don’t know.”
“Well, then little mage, best ye get back down before you fall.”
“Drop the sail.”
“Get down however ye gots yourself up there, and hurry bout it now. Last thing I need is trying to deal with him when ye break your fool neck.”
“No, drop the sail so we can use it.”
“That only works for going up the river. Can’t ye feel that breeze in your face?”
“I most certainly can feel it, and more.”
The feel of the flux was getting stronger by the minute, as the barge drew nearer another of the energy strings flowing through the ground. It wasn’t long before she felt ready to show them just what she could do. She had used this trick before, only the last time was returning from Westerlind.
She didn’t have to create a breeze from nothing, though she could with more flux. She split the breeze right before the prow, and curled it around behind the ship. Now the pennant at the top of the mast stood out straight forward. It was tricky keeping the wind going in the loop when it really wanted to shove them up the river.
“Now, Captain? Now will you drop the sail?”
“So, you really are a mage after all. Men, rig that sail on the five. Half mark up. Might as well set the bow kite too.”
The men that had been milling around after the loss of their quarry, suddenly perked up with a task at hand. The ropes looping over the yard arm slipped loose, releasing the sail below her perch. It fluttered a few times before they got it secured. With a final snap it filled out, nearly shaking her off the precarious spot she held.
The land to either side began slipping by at a blurring pace. They rounded the bend by Yelnar, and came within an arm’s reach of another barge making way up the river. The sudden reversal of his breeze sent the other craft spinning until they had passed far enough for his sails to right the course once more.
The river shallows were dotted with dozens of canoes and fishing skiffs, all vying for the best spots. For several of them, it put them right in the path of the barge. The crew below her was well versed in the art of shaking fists, and responding with equally angry shouts and laughter as their wake rocked the small craft.
The captain called up to her with a little excitement as he pointed to a waterfall easily a hundred foot wide, dropping over a stone wall.
“That’s the Fir’tli. Plenty of water to play in now.”
Clearing the last of the houses on the shore, the river wound into the edges of Yi’Dur Forest. She could feel the flux strengthening, and thus the breeze she had been twisting was becoming more of a wind. Trees on both banks were flashing by in denser numbers. The banks drew closer, though still wide enough to pass four of the boats without scraping hulls or rocks.
As the boat plowed along with the wind behind it, waves started breaking over the bow railing. Half the crew was getting soaked as they worked to shift the lines guiding the sail.
“Easy on that wind little shrike. This is a barge, not some Virago schooner, mind ye.”
“Sorry, just in a bit of a hurry.”
“Won’t do ye no good, if ye drop us to the bottom of the river here. Besides, theres only a few leagues left till we have to make a quick stop in Ca’min’ra.”
“You were hired to get us to Port Haven.”
“Never agreed that it were a non-stop ride down the river. One of the few crates I got loaded before ye hijacked my ship were a crate for them Mudbloods.”
Aeriona let her grasp on the wind die off. Released from her control, it shifted back to the gentle upstream course. The sail drooped, and then flapped back against the mast as it worked to push them back from whence they came. The crew was moving even as the captain shouted his orders. Their ropes pulled the sail back up to a tight bundle under the yard arm.
With a bit of show, Aeriona stood up on the yard arm, and stepped off. The gasps below told her that the effect had hit home. It took only a little of the flux to send through the runes for her feather weave, and bring her descent to a gentle stop. She landed with the barest flexing of her knees before the stunned crew and captain.
The first of the mighty trees came into view on the left, towering out of sight in the sky above on a trunk larger than the barge. The trees that had comprised the forest so far, looked like brush at the base of these giants. The small dock at the base jutted out into the river like a root that had breached the ground. Even the stairs that spiraled up to the platforms seemed more like growths of the bark than anything carved by the forest Elves.
One after another of these towering trees appeared, all seemingly joined by walkways along the interwoven branches that spanned the river. They had passed a dozen trees before reaching the main dock; one of the few actual structures crafted from stone. The platform stretched out to the deep water on the backs of stonework animals.
Few Human cities rivaled the Elven ones for beauty. Where Humans built according to need, Elves built for artistry. Even the lifting cranes on the dock were crafted to merge with the flowing stone lines, and sweeping tree branches, to form a single harmonious scene.
A handful of the brown-skinned Elves was waiting on the end of the dock to grab the ropes thrown across. In surprisingly short time the boat was tight against the stone pier, and a giant carved wooden spider was lowering ropes for the medium crate strapped to the deck.
It had been nigh on three years since Aeriona had last set foot in this Elvish abode on council business, and she was anxious to take advantage of the chance, despite the urgency to continue onward. Grabbing the small knapsack tied to Ryndel’s saddle, she raced across the dock and up a set of stairs on the second tree.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Comic Con SLC has been great.
Continuing on with describing characters, I have john Heathrow. He was born the son of a wood cutter, and a mother that passed away from illness before he knew her. The life of a wood cutter had him roaming the hills, and it didn't take long before the tediousness of felling trees dimmed with the allure of hunting the game that also roamed those hills. His father was never the adventurous sort, and never understood those desires. He still instilled a sense of fairness and hard work. I've already told the story of his meeting Velimina, and her death. Her loss took much of his spirit with her. He had the skills of a very good hunter, and those expanded to encompass fighting men as well, when the situation arose. Living a life of fighting is hard, and to survive to the age of 42 means gaining a great deal of skill. It didn't take him long in the service to Twillingspir to realize that Mages can be quite powerful, and at the same time extremely vulnerable. Most of them had a mouth to match their power, and his job was to deliver them alive. He learned to read people from a first meeting, and often extract the mages from whatever trouble their mouths got them into. One of Aeriona's first excursions in the service to Twilingspire had been in the company of John. They worked together so well, that she refused to go with any other escort. The easily fell into a father-daughter role, with John looking over her like the daughter that Velimina would have given him had she lived. He had seen a Dragon once, though his report was dismissed as a drunken tale. He had chanced upon a ruby Dragon with a wingspan well over a hundred feet. It had landed on the next hillside, and ripped a bear apart in a single bite. It had glanced at him as though noticing his presence for the first time, and flew off. In that brief moment that it had locked eyes on him, he knew it had debated slaughtering him and then dismissed him as insignificant. You couldn't ask for a more loyal friend, or worse enemy than John. His list of friends is short.

Nedder’s gap straddled the Loorma’gnish’ka’ki River; often shortened to simply Loorma, at a point where the plains dropped down to the river cut for the first spot in a score of leagues up and down the river. The original Ferryman’s house and trading post had blossomed into a thriving town connected by a bridge.
The grand stonework arch of the king’s road, cleared the river with enough room for the trading barges to make it as far North as Twin Falls, and wide enough to pass two wagons without cramping either. Of course their destination was on the near side.
The guard standing watch beside the road barely looked up from his game of dice to note their passing as they entered the town. The muted cheer told of another ale his rival owed him. Their path took them past a few taverns still ringing with the sound of evening festivities, and on into the quieter part of the port district.
Row after row of storerooms sat dark and quiet. Even the port master’s office was long since closed. About the only thing stirring in this section was the night patrol man walking his rounds. Aeriona pulled a little flux to muffle the clopping of the hooves on the dirt streets. Unwanted attention would only slow them down.
John led them along the wharf to the last barge in line, a medium sized one with only a few crates tied to the deck. “This one.”
“Are you sure?”
“You want to get there in time, don’t you?”
The gangway silently bounced a bit under the tread of the horses. Within moments they were tied to the single mast amid-ship. Aeriona could only watch as John set about freeing the lines that held them tight against the wharf. The slow bobbing as it rode the swells became the gentle rocking as the boat merged into the rhythm of the river.
Almost to the dot of when the runner had knocked on his door the night before, John was shaking the barge captain awake. The bleary-eyed man woke with a dagger already slicing the spot John had stood. The back swing was caught in John’s grasp, drawing a curse from the captain.
“You’ll nae get much for your efforts, sort of a month in the stocks. Even if you run, it’s a boat. The night guard’s at the end of the pier.”
“Yell if you like; his ears aren’t that good. Can’t you feel the boat? The lines are cut, and we’re drifting with the current.”
“Are ye daft? You’ll kill us all! There’s one o’ you and eight of us, less you cut their throats. I’ll have you tossed over the side.”
“Two, but she’s a mage, and that makes her count for more than a dozen of your rivermen. I’m not stealing your boat; I’m merely hiring it to take us down the river.”
Aeriona twisted the top seal on a small orb, bringing a pale blue glow throughout the barge cabin. Light from the fist-sized ball glinted off the air rune on her cheek, as though it burned with blue fire. The sight was enough to draw the captain’s attention, as his mind sorted through the details of what he was waking to.
His mood shifted from anger to irritation. His reply had lost the harsh edge. “You could’ve waited till morning.”
John held out a small pouch to the captain as he gained his feet. “I figure twenty gold ought to about cover our trip down the river. We’re in a hurry, and I couldn’t take the chance of someone stopping us before we could escape.”
“Escape huh? Make it twenty-five and you got a deal.”
John dug a few more coins from another pouch at his belt. “This will make it twenty-three of the gold duckies, and ten silver florens. That just leaves me ten to get us food when we stop.”
“Alright, deal, but two silvers each for meals you eat on the way. It’s still five days floating down the river. Now move so I can get the crew awake before we hit a rock.”
The Captain rushed through the door calling for the men to wake. In seconds the sound of cursing and shouting filled the air. John and Aeriona followed behind as the crew scrambled to dress and run at the same time. Ten minutes later the boat smoothed out under the steady hand of the steersman, and pole pushers.
The slow pace of the river had posed little hazard as yet. Aeriona snuffed the small orb, to cast her own luminous spell to float a stone’s throw in front of the prow. The light from hers was far more akin to silvery moonlight, than the orb crafted on island named for them. Thankfully, the draw on her power from this was negligible enough to keep it up with little concentration.
As dawn brought with it light enough to see the river, she released her hold on the flux feeding the moon ball spell. Slowly it broke apart like a thousand fireflies drifting away on the breeze. It had been the last bit of work keeping her awake, and momentarily her head tilted over with the first snore.
She let out a half-articulated grumbled as John lifted her into one of the crew bunks, grabbing the cover as he pulled it up to her shoulder. John lingered over her a moment after settling her, letting his thoughts linger over how she’d grown in the years he’s known her. After their first meeting, some nine years ago, she had refused to go with anyone else.
As he exited the crew cabin, three of them stood to block his path. Two of them held the cargo poles as though ready to try their luck against his sword. He held off drawing his own weapon, hoping to avoid the bloodshed that would follow.
“Now ya nae gots yer pet witch. Ya gonna answer us.”
The one on the left found his own voice to add. “Yeah, what gives? Why for ya go and steals the boat? Ya know Tir’kei were still in town.”
“I paid your captain for fair passage. Now if you don’t mind, I need to see to the horses.”
“That be ‘nother thing. We got no call for dragging your horses with us.”
“Take your gripes to the captain if you don’t like it. My deal’s with him, not you.”
John shoved between the two, forcing them to take a step back as he made his way back onto the deck. Marrow and the mares seemed very grateful to be relieved of the saddles and packs. After the day and night of steady moving, they were even more grateful for the touch of the brush, while they munched a bucket of the summer oats.
Aeriona roused herself before noon, stifling a lingering yawn as she came back into the sunlight of the deck. Before she could talk to anyone, she walked over to pull a couple of the journey breads from Ryndel’s pack. She was munching the second one when John came up behind her.
“Why didn’t you say you were tired? You’ve gone two days without sleep before, what happened?”
“Because you would have wanted to stop, and we don’t have time.”
“But still, you’ve ridden through the night before.”
“I spent he night before answering questions. I didn’t get a chance to rest after riding in from Manoga.”
“Who were you answering to? I thought you were the council.”
“There’s twelve other council members. Well, seven of them at the towers anyway.”
“Seven? Isn’t there normally only two or three?”
“That’s part of what’s got me on edge. You took Hashima with you to Edinbarrow when you left. It was hinted that I might find out if he said anything to on the way. When I asked why, they brushed it aside as though it were trivial. I didn’t get the feel of it being trivial though.”
“He was an odd fish; kept making jokes about how mages ought to be in charge of everything. Thought the church wasn’t doing enough to help restore the old magic. What old magic could he mean?”
“You want the official version Uiyah priests tell the world, or some of the stuff I’ve dug out of the dusty scrolls?”
“I hadn’t heard either, but you know my love for those worthless… I should just shut up before my mouth gets us in trouble.”
“The church puts out about how they provide a bridge between the mages and the rest of the world. There is no other magic than what mages know. But Twillingspire once had six towers. The central one being the common ground for the other five. I haven’t found any records that talk of the black tower, and what element it held. Every time I asked, the subject got changed.”
“What element could it be? Fire, water, earth, and air, covers about everything.”
“There’s more too. Up in Manoga I was chasing after a relic that got stolen. A jade tablet that showed Dragons teaching magic to Humans. I’ve found a handful of other such notes among the tomes and scrolls under Twillingspire. Think about it; Uiyah, the goddess of magic is said to be a Dragon as old as the world, yet her church doesn’t recognize Dragons as being more than dumb beasts.”
“And here I thought it was my mouth that was going to start criticizing the pompous teachings of Uiyah.”
“Ok, I’m a hypocrite for keeping close to the church and delving into ancient ruins in search of magical relics for them. If it wasn’t for that trip to Issen Gint, I never would have met Scirririn. That’s another example too. Issen Gint was an ancient Elven place to worship the magic of the moons and wind… and I sealed off the bottom levels when I found signs of Dragons.”
John chuckled softly. “One of these days you’re going to have to decide Whether you’re working with them, or against them.”
“You better get some rest too. There’s a long trip ahead of us.”
He flicked his eyes upward. “I’m sure you can find a way to shorten it. I’ll rest, but watch your back.”
John left Aeriona leaning on the railing as he found a bunk to rest in. Four days of sitting idly in the inn, and then a full day of non-stop riding had left him tired. It didn’t take long before his eyes were drifting closed with the gentle rocking of the boat. Prompted by the turn of the conversation, his dreams took him back to the deep tunnels under Issen Gint. This time it was Velimina who brought the stairs crashing down behind their escape.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Reading over some of the reviews I've gotten, It becomes clear that I need to fix the way a few characters are portrayed and perceived. Aeriona was born to a wealthy family in a country called Kanasas. The town of Colonsky lies just north of the center. Kanasas borders Manoga and Skybowl. Her father is a nobleman with an estate famous for the bulls he raises. She had known servants and such in her childhood, though no really close friends. By the time she was nine, her magic had started to surface, so her father did the best that he could by sending her to the only college of magic on the continent. By then the fevers had set in so her memories center around abandonment. Encountering the people from other backgrounds took some adjusting to. Where she had never had to struggle for things, they knew a life of competition. The division spread even more with her natural talent making the lessons seem easy where others struggled. Her goal at first was simply getting through the lessons until she could return home, but as the years slipped by with her father too busy to visit, they changed to being the best that she could. Subconsciously she wanted to impress her father enough to take her back, and at the same time show him that she could stand on her own despite him. When she turned 15 she discovered references to Dragons, and shifted her focus to them. Her goal now is to find the lost Dragon magic, since only some had been given to the mortal races.
She is strong and steadfast, though can be impulsive. She would go to the ends of the world and jump off for a friend, though her list of friends is short. She has learned that most of the mages are only looking out for themselves, taking advantage of anyone they meet, so she looks to others for friendship. She has finally reached a level that will allow her to pursue her ultimate goals.


Urgency inspires unique solutions, and lightens the purse.
...Ccedryll Gh'nkkl...

John woke to the soft knocking on the door of his room. The Hunter’s moon was setting, and dawn was still a few hours away. A thief was unlikely, as they rarely knocked. Palming his dirk, he slipped over to the door to listen carefully. There was only the sound of someone shuffling  their feet, a single person. He slid the bolt back, and let the door swing open just enough to catch sight of his visitor.
A young Half-Elf lad wearing the sash of a Twillingspire runner was glancing nervously down the hallway. Something must be wrong for them to send a runner in the middle of the night. After reporting his success the previous day, John had expected a summons shortly, just not in the darkest hour. He grabbed the lad’s tunic, pulling him into the room and closing the door behind.
As the boy picked himself back off the floor from where he’d stumbled, he started to mumble a chant as he glanced around the room.
John brandished the dirk before his face. “I Like the shape of this place just the way it is. If you hadn’t noticed, there’s not a lot of stone within your reach. Now speak. Quietly.”
“I… I… I… Sir John Heathrow?”
“I doubt that you have the same name as I do, but I’ve never felt the touch of a king’s blade on my shoulder. What couldn’t wait until after a decent breakfast?”
“Please don’t kill me. I’m just a mage.”
John glanced down at the blade still pointed toward the boy’s nose, and set it on the side table with a shrug. “You’re an earth mage, and a young one at that. Probably first, maybe second year. Don’t think of yourself as just a mage. No, given time and runes you could have reached for the steel heart of my blade and twisted it to your bidding.”
“I’m sorry sir. I’ll try to remember that.” His trembling hand held forth the letter as if it were a shield that would save his life. “They said to give this to you. I didn’t open it.”
John gently took the letter with a faint smile to assure the lad his life would be spared. Before the hand could be withdrawn he dropped a silver round, which nearly rattled itself free before the fingers curled over it. “I know you didn’t. You still have a hand.” The lad’s large eyes glanced up to catch the slight nod signifying he was free to depart. He wasted no time in turning to bolt down the stairs like he was running for his life.
John closed and latched the door before holding the small envelope up to the light to get a better look at it. The tell-tale glitter was easily seen in the simple looking wax seal. Should the seal be broken improperly the contents would vanish before even the first letter could be read. This told John that his mission was going to be a little more interesting than a shopping trip. Of course he’d already guessed that much.
He pulled the thin cord circling his neck free of his shirt, letting the small token it held dangle from his fingers. A simple-looking silver flower pendant known as a shimmerwing's kiss. It was the kind of thing often given to someone you love. This was the one he had given to Velimina so long ago. The tiny sapphire at the center had since been charged with a glyph by Rees Garath. John touched the charm to the wax seal, and watched the small flash as the ward released its hold. Gently kissing the charm, he let it fall back within the safety of his shirt, to rest over his heart.
The wax broke free with the slide of his finger, and released the envelope to unfold into a simple sheet of parchment, scribbled in the delicate hand he recognized as Gadrielle's. He quickly read the couple of paragraphs detailing his upcoming task.
His hands began trembling as the implications buried in the note wound their way deep into his thoughts. He was being asked to set aside his two exemptions to service. The first being that he wouldn’t be sent after wild mages; the memory of what Velimina had suffered still lingered strong. He doubted there would ever be a time that he would forget her fate. The second understanding he had with the Crystal Towers was that he would never be sent to Orb Island.
Uiyah’s Seminary taught them all too well how to strip the magic from a wild mage leaving an empty husk behind. Velinia’s face floated before him, slowly turning from the gleeful smile she held when bounding through the hills to the soulless stare of empty eyes that crumbled to dust as what was left of her body starved.
The one bright spark was that he would be escorting Aeriona on this journey. A slight smile touched his lips as he realized that meant that she’d passed her testing. If it had been anybody but her, he would have walked away. Aeriona was like a daughter to him, and the council knew it. She was the leverage to ensure that he took the job.
The children who came with bright hopes to Twillingspire, the Crystal Towers, rarely had more than a rudimentary feel for the magics that had led them here. As such they took years to be taught how to eek out enough flow to light a candle, or smooth a pebble. If their abilities went untested, and undiscovered, most would atrophy to nothingness with barely any indication they ever existed.
Wild mages on the other hand, had so strong a feel for the magic that they could often pull a sizable flow of the flux, without the aid of runes. Like his Velimina, the power lay quiet until something triggered it, often brought out by a wild emotion. An angry wild fire mage might set a person's hair on fire, or incinerate the entire house including themselves. They hadn’t been taught how to shut off the magic.
The edges of the parchment blurred as the remaining act of the ward triggered. In a matter of moments the message fell to dust on the bedside table where he had lain it. John was busy tightening the straps on his packs, and gathering the few trinkets still sitting on the table. Twenty minutes later he was settling those same packs behind the saddles of his horses.
A quick raid of the kitchen larder gave him enough food for a few days. He already knew that the old man running the inn would bill it all to Twillingspire. He might even add a few extra things to his list. He had to travel fast, and waiting for the merchants to open for the day was too much of a delay.
Just as the sun rose over the none too distant mountains, Twillingspire’s Western gate opened to a cloaked figure stepping forth, and promptly closed again. John spurred Marrow out of the shadows, and within a moment she was climbing into Ryndel’s saddle. They were well away from the walls before either spoke. Aeriona broke through the steady clopping of hooves with her subdued greeting.
“It’s good to see you again John. I just wish we had a better task ahead of us.”
“As usual, they did give me much to go on. But for it to bring you down like this, it must be worse than I’d guessed.”
“Something’s not right, and I don’t even know where to look to see what that something is, nor even how it’s wrong.”
“Carandell stopped leering at you? You really ought to let me carve out every one of his runes.”
“I can handle him, though he keeps wanting to show me some relic in his library. Unghh. No, this is something else. And I get Fronk trying to tell me that the Council of Magi have no understanding of true magic.”
“Those stodgy old coots can be thick headed at times.”
“Watch who you’re calling stodgy. I’m part of that now.”
“What? Not to say you’re not good enough, but don’t you need like grey hair and a beard.”
“I’m not the youngest there’s been, but yes, I think Wenkler is next youngest now. He’s got to be at least forty-two; that’s like ancient.”
“Hey! I’m forty-two.”
“I know. Sorry I missed your Anumfest.”
“Ok, change of subject. Since you’re on the council now, did you tell yourself just what we are facing with this wild mage? And Orb Island of all places.”
Aeriona looked down as though not wanting to meet his eyes. “It’s Scirririn.”
John pulled Marrow to a halt, and looked at her. “The Elf girl? From when we went after Issen Gint? Wait, you knew she had it in her already! Didn’t you?”
“The covenant forbid me from interfering with an acolyte. Frastil thought; I thought, that being dedicated to Uiyah would have held it at bay.”
“Frastil knew as well?”
“I told him about the mouse. How it glowed green.”
“Sorry, must have missed that lecture somewhere in my tenth year of not being a mage.”
“It meant she had ability, but I’d never heard of green before.”
“How bad is she? Do we have time to do anything?”
“All they would say is that there was an incident, and a few acolytes were hurt. That same covenant requires them to seek our help before they soothe her. I don’t think Lady Desmont is happy about that.”
“Such a simple term for ripping out a person’s essence.”
“We have to hurry. All it’ll take is some small excuse and they’ll claim they had to soothe her.”
“When is this sort of thing not urgent? I figured to head for Nedder’s Gap; that’s going to be fastest.”
John nudged Marrow’s flanks, urging him into a soft trot that had the leagues flowing by without tiring fast. By mid-afternoon they had passed two haven rests, and the town of Roarst Grove. Only two more of the traveler way stations remained between them and the ferry at Nedder’s Gap.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Just when things were going so well. That's the proper time to knock the protagonist on their butt. Here I inject another tiny clue of the impending climax, but for now it is still not even noteworthy. As the lesson on plots pointed out, there is a need to stack the plots like a set of nesting dolls. Each one carries a theme to connect them all, but each is unique as well. I'd tell you to find more of the clues within Uiyah's Paw, but I keep tearing that book apart to rebuild it. I just love it too much to shred it and start over.
So, here is rest of chapter 5.

     The men knew their task, and had rested all afternoon as she worked. Now they had a visible goal to spur them. Soon they began pulling bodies from the snow. Human bodies. Every one of them displaying the marks of a violent demise. Horses and Humans alike had been slaughtered by some large beast. Both wagons had been smashed, and the large chest in the lead wagon, had been torn open. The prize was stolen.
     As the search widened beyond the massacre, one of the scouts found a line of tracks heading Northward. Here the snow was a mere foot deep, as though the subsequent storms had missed this part of the trail. All they could tell from the tracks was that several Humans had gone toward the summit of the pass. Lightly burdened.
     Spurred on by the tracks, a score of soldiers charged forward before one of them thought to look back to the foreman. The foreman started to voice his command, then stopping mid-sentence he cast a glance at his prince. Prince Moffatt waved his hand at them, giving them his permission, though they seemed ready to go regardless. Seemingly an afterthought, he called one last directive.
     “Bring me word of the relic.”
     Aeriona looked up at the prince. “Just what was this relic?”
     His eyes had lost much of their warmth as he looked down at her. “That’s an affair best not meddled with by the Crystal Towers. Herrin, had deciphered enough of the tablet to know that concerned Dragons talking to Humans. I need that tablet to secure peace with the Northern realm.”
     A thrill went through her that such a tablet existed. She had spent years searching for clues such as that, and very few seemed to still exist. Everyone knew that Humans had crafted the runes, Elves had copied them, and Dragons were just some rare beasts that caused great problems. Everyone that is, except for the authors of some ancient scrolls that she’d found by accident.
     If a clever student dug deep enough into the restricted shelves of the vaults, she could find one that clearly stated how a Dragon named Delienth drew the bending shape for a group of Elven earth sensitives. Of course the student also had to be fluent in ancient Elvish to get that far. In all, Aeriona had found five such notations of Dragons being there for early magic; a time before Humans could wield the power.
     “Could I talk to Herrin?”
     The prince gave a short laugh. “You could, if he hadn’t vanished at the first sign of trouble. I sent him off to clear this mess, and he never reached the camp. I’m not sure how much a dirt mage could do against this, but I had just as much doubt about your abilities too. Thank you for showing me different.”
     Aeriona found herself pacing back and forth at the edge of the snow, anxious for the first news of the soldiers. As she rounded about on one of her transits, she nearly bumped right into the cook holding out a bowl of potato chowder. Thoughts swirling in her head about Dragons, and missing soldiers, and thousands of years old tablets had kept her from realizing how hungry she was. The bowl served the second purpose of warming fingers that had grown painfully stiff in the frigid night air.
     Returning the bowl gave her a chance to sit and talk with one of the soldiers that had remained to guard the camp. She lost track of the words somewhere between his favorite horse, and the drudgery of walking the wall. His words distracted her from fretting over the soldiers that had gone ahead, and let her exhaustion creep in.
     The world was a little brighter when the shouts woke her. Blinking helped to clear her eyes enough to see the returning soldiers making their way into camp. Her spirits rose as she realized that there were more faces returning than had marched out last night. The early dawn’s light showed them carrying about half a dozen wounded and starving survivors.
     Aeriona grabbed a bowl, and filled it from the still simmering stew pot quickly carried it to the men stumbling into camp. A shiver went down her spine as she looked closely into these faces that bore the blank look of exhaustion. Most of them sported make-shift bandages. Unsure where to begin, a thought struck her.
     Glances back and forth between the faces. “Kyle? Kyle?”
     One of them coughed. “Here.. Sir..”
     Aeriona stepped over to the man leaning on a returning soldier, and held the steaming bowl out to him. It was only then that she realized his free arm ended at the elbow. A wad of cloth wrapped the stubby end. Unsure what else to do, she helped the soldier guide Kyle to a rock he could sit on. Free of his burden, the soldier rushed to help another of his comrades, while Aeriona held the bowl out to Kyle.
     He started to reach with his stubby arm, forgetting that it wasn’t whole. He switched and took it with his remaining good hand, to stare at it a moment. The good one shaking so badly that it threatened to dump the stew in his lap till he set the bowl on his knees.
     “Sorry, back in a moment.”
     Embarrassment washed over Aeriona as she realized that she’d forgotten to grab a spoon when she’d filled the bowl. She dodged around and between other soldiers getting stew for the ones they’d brought back, and grabbed a spoon. She got back to Kyle, sticking the spoon into the thick meal, like a pennant pole.
     Twice he let go of the bowl to grab at the spoon, only to have to grab the bowl again as it came close to tumbling off his knees. Seeing his trouble, she knelt and scooped up some stew, bringing it to his mouth. For the first time he looked into her face that had been shielded by the cloak’s hood, and lurched backward, nearly falling off his perch.
     “Ice Giant? No, can’t be. How did you know my name?”
     “Your mother asked me about you. I’m a mage from the Crystal Towers.”
     “How? Mum’s a maid in the keep; what’s this costing her? From Twillingspire? She hasn’t the money to pay for this.”
     “Relax, I’m here at the behest of Prince Moffatt. I just happened to meet her, and she asked me to find you.”
     “She must be worried to the bone to ask that.”
     “What happened anyway? I know you were taking a relic over the pass, but it’s too early for snow, and your arm. I mean it’s gone.”
     “It just started snowin’ thick out of nowhere, so the Sergeant pulled the wagons up close to wait it out. Like you said, too early for snow. It was ‘bout a foot deep when them guys came charging right out of the blizzard, swinging at everything. We turned for them, and two big red demon beasts hit us from the other side.”
     “Demon beasts?”
     “They gotta be. I ain’t heard tell of nothing like that, ever. Spawn of the Deep Roads for sure. Tore my horse in half while I was sitting on her. Bit my arm clean off as I were fallin’. Once they’d about killed everything, them beasts busted open the strongbox for them Black Bloods. I played dead with the horse’s head on top of me.”
     “Ebonite Elves? But they usually don’t like the cold.”
     “Ever now and then you see one come through the city, but nah, they like to stay South. There was about thirty of ‘em. They grabbed them jade tablets, and… Wait, gotta tell the Prince. They handed ‘em off to Herrin! I’m sure it were him that brung this storm down around us. Or it were you! Who else could do it, but a frost witch? Get away from me!”
     Kyle shoved her away, flinging the now empty bowl after her. Aeriona turned seeking help from anybody else, and found herself facing the Prince. The look on his face told her that rescue was not coming from him.
     “My cloak.”
     Aeriona slowly slid the cloak from her shoulders, holing it out to the Prince. He took it from her, only to hand it to the foreman standing next to him.
     “Men, seize her, but be gentle.”
     “I didn’t. I couldn’t have. I…”
     “A gag. Now!”
     Soldiers grabbed her from both sides, and a piece of rope jammed across her mouth, to be tied behind her head, muffling any further protests. A few more directions from the Prince had her mounted on her horse once more, with hands tied to the pommel. The horse’s lead rope was passed to the Sergeant that had led the way up the hill.
     In short order, the Prince was leading a small group down the hill, with one wagon full of the wounded men. The rest of the soldiers stayed to load the dead on the other wagon. Aeriona’s mare was towed along behind the sergeant as he rode beside the Prince. They were nearly at the gates of the keep before Prince Moffatt dropped back to talk to her.
     “Two things keep you from spending a very long time in a deep dark hole. First, you came as an emissary of The Crystal Towers. Everything points to their involvement here, but I’d need more than supposition to sever ties with Twillingspire. Second, those men owe you their lives, and I won’t taint that with your death. Jardelth will cut your bonds at the border. The next time a mage sets foot in my land, it better be to deliver the head of Herrin, and my relic.”

Monday, August 26, 2013

Many aspects of the story can affect the dialog, Here I've added some stuttering to account for shivering in her voice. I hope this adds to the flavor of the story.

It took an effort for Aeriona to convince her fingers to curl around the mug he offered. As soon as it felt solid in her grip, she looked at him. A young man, barely as hold as herself. His brown eyes locked onto her own, carrying a message of shame. He didn’t fit the mental picture she’d built up of a soldier.
She had seen men like him tending livestock, or working the fields. He wasn’t much different than the one who tended the melon stand where all the students liked to fondle the produce while staring at him. The girl students at least. Aeriona had spent her share of time pretending to be interested in mint melons.
“I..I..I..d..don’t think I heard any of those.”
“It’s just as well. Some of it wasn’t so nice. Let me get you a spot by the fire.”
He led her over close to the fire, where the other soldiers were milling about. Everyone was trying to get their own share of the heat; a few started to protest her intrusion, until spotting the prince standing close by. The cloak around her shoulders helped trap the heat coming off the fire, taking the chill off her skin. The mead did its share of warming her from the inside.
The soldier that had led her to the fire had been glancing at her a few times before he found the courage to speak up. “What’s your name? I mean, if you don’t mind my asking. I’ve never had the chance to talk to an Ice Giant before. I… I didn’t mean to call you that.”
The warm mead had taken the edge off her shivering.”It’s Aeriona. I come from Colonsky. Have you ever seen one of the Ice Giants?”
“Colonsky? Like in Kanasas?”
“That’s the one. My father has an estate there, but I haven’t seen it since before I was ten.”
“And no, I never saw one. I just heard they were big. They tore up the Griffin farm two years ago; killed the whole family. I joined up to keep that from happening again.”
“They’re big,like eight foot tall or more. I just never thought about why my hair was white.”
“You never had problems with them in Kanasas?”
“I was little. I knew the servants, and some of the kids around town, but nobody tells a kid what’s happening. And none of them were Ice Giants.”
“Do you think they did this?”
“I’ve never heard of one coming to the Crystal Towers. Speaking of it; I need to get back to work.”
She drained the last of the mead in a gulp, and handed him the mug as she turned back toward the wall of ice. Spurred on by the thought of more young soldiers, like the one who’d brought her mead, she lashed out with Zaphyri’s Claws as she stepped close. Chunks of snow went flying, to be sucked up moments later as she shifted to the cyclone.
Twice more she had to pause for warmed mead, though the cloak kept most of the chill from her. The shifting routine cleared the snow rapidly, and kept her from completely draining her energy as the flux funneled through her, guided by the runes. It had become such a steady cycle that she let her mind wander down the path of curiosity concerning the large thread of flux running under the mountain.
Such a thread could easily give even a Journey Mage the strength to call up a storm, though this pile of snow would have taken a few Masters to lay down. Not to mention that the water to make the snow had to come from somewhere. By the end of her third stretch of carving the path, it was getting too dark to tell where the path actually lay.
She walked back the few hundred yard to the latest placement of the camp, where the young soldier was waiting with a bowl of stew in his hand. The smell of it woke the hunger in her belly that she’d shoved aside in the rush to find the missing men. She needed no urging to start spooning the hearty meal in to quell the pangs.
“I nearly ran into that tree a bit ago.”
“I saw that. It looks like a wood cutter tried taking vengeance on it.”
“I can’t tell where the trail is before I clear it.”
“Just go for the widest part between the trees. There aren’t any trees in the middle of the path.”
“I’m not sure I can even see that much. Wish I had a couple orbs. They could mark the trail till I got to them, and then move them further along.”
“There’s some back at the keep, but that would take most the night to get them and return. Wait, I got an idear.”
He ran off, leaving her to finish off a second bowl of the stew. The man made rounds through the waiting soldiers, asking for help. A few turned aside, but most were willing to go along. The eight of them strapped the snow scouting shoes onto their boots, and headed out with torches.
The snow shoes let them walk across the top of the drifts, and soon the first pair stopped about thirty feet ahead. One to each side of the trail. Within a short time there was a torch-lit path heading off through the trees. All she had to do was aim between the lights and she wouldn’t lose the trail again.
As her winds grew close enough to snuff out the first set of torches, they headed further up the path to ignite them once more. This way her clearing could progress as fast as it had under the light of day. Back in the repetitious groove again, her thought wandered back to speculating on the flux thread.
Her passion for studying the Dragons, and their magic, had led her to speculate that Dragons sought out these very threads to make their lairs near. The few Masters that she had mentioned this to, had either scoffed at the idea, or kept their silence. Her line of thoughts shattered as a big brown Dragon poked its head out of the swirling winds of her cyclone. It stared straight into her eyes for a moment, almost touching noses, before the winds flung it away once more.
Aeriona collapsed to her knees with shock. The spiraling winds died to near calm, at odds with her nerves, which were shaking like an autumn leaf. The sight had sent an icy spike up her back that resisted her attempts to shake it off. She stayed on her knees for a few deep breaths as she strove to get the shaking under control.
Over the ragged sound of her gasping, she realized the men were scrambling over the snow to where the thing had landed. The logical part of her mind knew that there was no chance of it being a Dragon, still she wanted to call out a warning. Before that impulse could win out, one of them shouted that he’d found it.
“A horse! Or part of one anyway. That witch’s spells tore it up bad.”
A horse; not a Dragon. Still, the relief of the discovery failed to thaw the chill running down her back that had nothing to do with the frozen landscape in which she knelt. With a bit of mustered will, she gained her feet once more. She wanted a second look at the Dragon that had mocked her from the cyclone.
She feared their claim had been right until she got a closer look. The poor animal had been torn apart by large claws. The tears were rough and jagged, with a triple pattern. Despite the few dissenters still clinging to the claim that she’d killed it, most agreed that was an animal larger than any known to roam these mountains.
The foreman stepped into the escalating argument, and bellowed orders to grab the shovels. To mark his words, he kicked a horse hoof poking out of the cut face of the snow wall. Most likely the other half of the one that had played Dragon to her distracted mind. He turned his glare on Aeriona.
“Your work is done. Now get out of our way so that we can get the bodies out right away.”
“What about survivors?”
“Be grateful it were only a horse ya carved up.”
Without even waiting for her response, he turned back to the task of pointing his finger with shouted orders.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

 A good story needs characters. Some we like, some we hate, and some that just send a shiver through our sense or decency. These are the literal lifeblood of the story. Readers shouldn't like all of your actors.


Magic won’t solve your dilemma. It will only lend strength to your method.
Roveena Lei’ku…

It was two hours of hard riding later, that the mountain road became clogged with snow. Little roadside piles that had lined the trail in increasing numbers turned into a wall that rose above her head. The crew had cleared a path into the wall for a several hundred feet, creating a steep walled canyon of ice.
They dismounted in a make-shift base camp at the beginning of the cut. A score of men had been working at shoveling the path for a week, and needed someplace to rest between shifts. Their arrival brought a halt to the work as the foreman related the latest report to his prince. Like all the ones so far, it was merely a confirmation that nothing had been found.
Two of the men that had been resting, traded shovels for bows. Aeriona caught the low mumblings from that direction as they tried to act casual about the change. The crisp air carried their voices well as they spit out words like ‘Frost Witch’, and ‘saboteur’. She was unaccustomed to such anger from the people she was trying to help. A chill crept up her back from the glares that matched the chill in the air.
“Maybe I should start clearing this snow, your Prince, uh.. Princeiness.”
Even the prince lacked a smile with the stiff reply. “Just Prince will suffice, and yes, we shouldn’t waste time when men’s lives hang in the balance. Begin.”
“You might want to get those men out of the way.”
With a single word from the prince, the foreman in charge bellowed orders to pull all of the men out of the cut. His words lashed out like whips to hurry their pace, and goad even the couple that had armed themselves, into clearing all the tools from the end of the cut. In ten minutes Aeriona found herself staring at an eight foot tall wall of snow where the shovels had been working, with the onlookers standing several paces behind her.
A little testing would giver her an idea of how to handle this task. She pulled from the pool of flux within her, and wrapped it around runes that were so familiar that it took less than a though to know where they were. The surrounding trees howled briefly as she pulled all of the nearby wind into a single push.
The fist of wind slammed into the snow wall with a mere thud, and knocked some of the top layer free. Undaunted by this meager result, she changed the course of it, and sent the push downward into the top of the wall. The result was even less encouraging as the snow compressed several inches, but failed to give the crack she had hoped for.
This was nothing like sending a constant breeze through the forge of a craftsman. Or nudging a few stray clouds of a parched field. She was going to have to devise a new solution; one to chew through this wall. Of course. Zapyri’s Teeth.
Aeriona murmured softlty. “Zaphyri, my oh so familiar wind god, help me with this.”
The weave was an easy one, that she had learned several years earlier. She let her senses fan out, feeling for the threads of flux that wound through the mountain under her feet. She didn’t have to reach far to find a good one. Two such threads crossed under the Crystal Towers, lending an easy time for young mages still learning to feel for them. Having the power so close at hand would help greatly.
Aeriona pulled some of the magical power up to pool in her belly as she tied the runes she needed, together. Zaphyri’s Teeth was a weave that froze the moisture in the air around her into tiny hailstones. With a wave of her hand the icy pellets flew into the wall of snow before her. Thousands of little puffs marked where each one collided, riddling the wall with holes, but little else.
One of the men standing in a rough circle behind her called out. “Great ya daft witch. Just what we needed was more snow to shovel.”
His comments inspired a few more. “Why don’t ya try hitting it with hot water?
“Or conjure us up a Dragon to breathe fire on it.”
“I told ya she were a frost witch. She ain’t here ta help us.”
Several other comments died as the foreman bellowed out. “Men! The next one I hear gets scout duty for a week.”
The prince spoke his own comment; whether it was meant to encourage or ridicule, Aeriona couldn’t tell. “Alright Mage. You’ve shown us some power, now make it work.”
Redness from embarrassment colored her cheeks; thankfully camouflaged by the redness from the chill in the air. She needed something that could actually carve out the snow. Zaphyri’s Teeth had shown her that. Perhaps the claws would do better. A single thought snapped the tie that had bound those runes together.
Keeping the freezing one in her thoughts, she wound the tie around the blade rune. As the flux was fed into the weave, nearly invisible blades formed. With every swing of her arms the blades carved through snow a dozen feet in front of her. The wall was quickly crumbling to fall in chunks at her feet. She carried this on for thirty feet before the pile was getting so deep that there was no place for the snow to fall to.
She paused for a breath, and to ease the fatigue setting into her arms. At least with the flux thread so large and close she wasn’t tiring from the energy drain, but weaves like Zaphyri’s Claw took its toll on her arms from swinging them. It was silly really, she had learned how to control the blades without her arms, but she liked the way it looked.
A moment’s rest and she was back with the next spell weave. This one pulled the winds down off the mountain tops, and set them to spiraling around her. If ever there was a showy spell for the wind walkers to use, this was it. The winds circling her turned into a grey funnel as they sucked the snow off the ground to throw it a hundred feet into the air.
Aeriona stood safely in the eye of the storm, where the air was like a gentle breeze. A gentle freezing breeze. Controlling this spell was simple, it went where she did. Every step forward sent more snow flying upwards. This also took far more energy, and she had to keep switching back to Zaphyri’s claws to take a small respite from the heavy drain on flux. It took a lot of her personal energy to keep it going. And she could only keep it up for about twenty minutes before feeling her grasp on the power begin to slip.
She fell to her knees as the circling winds died down to a gentle breeze. Every movement brought with it the stinging feel of skin that was near frost bitten. She was only numbly aware of the men coming up behind her, until the heavy weight of a cloak fell on her shoulders. The extra burden threatened to knock her completely over, but she used it as a focus to gather strength once more. Looking up she found the prince standing there with just his heavy shirt for protection.
“Not a bad start my young mage. You may well have earned that title you laid claim to.”
“I j..j..just need a moment or t..t..two of rest. I d..d..didn’t feel the cold creeping up on”
“The men did not sit idly by as you worked. They have the fires going once more, and mead is already warming.”
“I.. I.. b..b.. blew out the”
He chuckled slightly. “They know how to bank a fire against the winds of these mountains. No, I had them move the camp to keep up with you.”
“Come. You need some mead. The cold seems to have slowed your thinking as well. Didn’t you even pay attention to how far you’d cleared?”
Aeriona looked over her shoulder, and beheld the men still in the process of unloading supplies from a wagon. The depth of the snow walls behind them only reached up about four feet, as though the deepest part had been right at the beginning of the trail. Looking past them. The carved path stretched much further, vanishing from sight around a turn of the trail.
“You cleared more than thrice what it took them a week to accomplish.”
“M..m..maybe I c..c..could have a m..m..mead. W..w..warm you said?”
The prince held his hand out to help her back to her feet. “Your Ice Giant blood isn’t doing much to hold out the cold, is it?”

They were met halfway to the fires, by a soldier bearing two mugs. He knelt before them with the mugs held out to them. “My Prince, and… and I fear I don’t know your name, though I offer apologies for the things that were said.”