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.
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.