Bloodline, the Chronicles of Shaarn
Zynn found himself alone, standing in the dark. Cold water dripped from the now flaccid overhead sprinklers and rain fell with it through the gaping hole in the roof overhead. A fire had started when the roof came in. All the wiring in the lights shorted and the old dry timbers of the overhead beams caught fire. The scent of burnt wire and wet smoky ash hung thick in the air. Steam rose from the still smoldering timbers all about the floor. He remembered the other boys making fun of him. Mocking him for what happened to his parents, or rather, what young Zynn had done to his parents and then it all went black. That night when his parents died, much like this, had all been a terrible accident. He lost control.
He’d been only five years old and had no idea of his capabilities at such a tender age. His power had not yet manifested itself and so he had no understanding of magick and neither did his parents. They were all fast asleep in their little cottage in the corn fields just north of Innisport. It had been a quiet, relaxing evening after a long day of work harrowing the fields. That night some men, ruffians from a local village or maybe they’d been from the city, invaded the Greywolf family home. They were poor men, ‘Starvers’ is what the folk of Shaarn called desperate men like these. They had no qualms about hurting someone if it meant a meal in their bellies or a new pair of boots on their feet.
Zynn awakened to the screams of his mother. He felt paralyzed with fright. Somehow, he mustered up the courage to creep from his bed swallowing down his fears he gently tip toed to the door of his bedroom.
There, in the hall light he saw three men. One of them held his mother by the hair as she knelt next to his father. The man cut her nightgown open with a long knife. The other two were holding down his father. They made him watch as the first man raped her. Too little to understand what went on, he knew they harmed her but didn’t understand the details of what happened.
That night would be first time he felt it, the power within him. Out of instinct to protect himself and his kin his arms rose. He remembered seeing a chair against one wall fly through the air striking one of the men holding his father. He couldn’t be sure if he’d made the chair move or not but he felt a sense of power flush his face. Goosebumps traveled up and down his arms and neck. The man struck by the chair went over the stair rail backwards and let out a quick yelp before landing with an unnatural sounding thump somewhere below. It took Zynn a moment to realize what he’d done and by that time the two other men noticed the boy.
“Get that little freak!” Ordered the man holding Zynn’s mother. The other man followed the order and ran at the boy. He remembered his mother screaming frantically as the man came at him. He threw his hands in front of his face and the rest of the memory drew up blank.
The Headmaster filled in the missing moments when he arrived at the orphanage three days later. They found him half starved and nearly dehydrated shivering from cold or shock or both. He’d been sitting in the doorway of his bedroom. He hadn’t moved since the incident. Sitting and staring at the remains of the cottage and the mangled remains of his mother were the only things he could do. Debris had fallen from above and his father lay beneath it.
The Headmaster said that he’d crushed them with his power, with his mind, with his magick. Only five seasons old, he had no idea what the Headmaster talked about and had no response to the allegations. The Headmaster thought him dumb or mute at the lack of verbiage yet took him in cautiously nonetheless.
He kept young Zynn in isolation for nearly a year under the watchful eye of the orphanage doctor before he decided the boy not too dangerous to live in the common rooms with the others. He didn’t understand magick, nor trust it, but he understood children, and he knew this young fellow could not be kept alone forever or he’d grow up unfeeling and might turn wicked.
Since then Zynn had been in trouble a few times for letting his powers get the better of him, but the Headmaster had always let him go with a warning. Not this time. This time he’d caused real damage, for which he’d be expelled from the Sunnyside Orphanage.
The fire alarm finally stopped its inhuman cadence and Zynn heard voices. The voices of the other boys in the room with him. They cried out for help, mostly out of fear. He could see them moving in the smoky shadows. He looked up into the rainy sky overhead. Black as pitch and from that blackness he rained down the spitter-spatter of the drops as they fell into the grey of the room above him and onto his face.
“You’ve done it this time lad! Come with me!” One of the Guardians grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him out of the mess.
Zynn locked eyes with one of the boys he passed on his way to the hall door. The boy seemed afraid, no mistaking it. He looked absolutely terrified of Zynn. People, especially children tend to fear that which they lack understanding of. He wouldn’t be the first or the last person Zynn had seen fear in the eyes of.
“Freak! Just leave! No one wants you here, why don’t you just go?!” They hollered at him as the Guardian dragged him by the shoulder scruff out the door and down the hall toward the Headmaster's study.
The other boys shunned Zynn since he’d arrived five years ago. They’d been warned the day before he came to live at Sunnyside Orphanage about his differences. Zynn had been blessed by the Old Gods as one of the last few folk born to the Land of Shaarn who possessed the ability to cast and control magickal energies. Zynn’s talent lay in Telekinesis; a mental power enabling him to move objects about with his mind. Whether a talent or a curse had yet to be determined but to date ‘curse’ seemed the most appropriate term to use for the power as it brought him nothing but sorrow and shame in his very brief existence.
Zynn being just a small lad, had little control over his power and when he got scared or angry, he often lost that tiny morsel of control and let the power take him. Because of this poor little Zynn Greywolf was alone. People feared him, didn’t trust him and because he’d been orphaned, he didn’t know the love of a mother or father to console his fears and misgivings about the world at large before they grew into the full-blown psychoses of an adult.
“Did you hear me boy? Are you deaf as well as daft? Boy! Did you hear me?” The Guardian shook Zynn as he dragged him down the hallway.
“No sir, I... I... I’m sorry I didn’t hear you.”
“Listen, lad! I said you’re lucky to be alive! That beam nearly crushed you! That arm of yours don’t look so good. We’ll have to get the doc to have a look at it in the morn when he’s around. Now; why did you attack that boy Zynn? What could he have possibly done to you to provoke such an attack?”
Zynn looked up at the Guardian with tears in his eyes lower lip quivering and the streak of smoke and dust on his cheeks. He thumbed at his arm. He should have been screaming in agony. Any normal boy experiencing a wound so traumatic would have been howling. Zynn had gone into shock. Until the Guardian pointed out the arm all he only felt the damp of the blood seeping from the wound through his shirt.
“I don’t know sir. What I mean to say is..... I don’t remember attacking him. What happened? Is he alright? I thought I saw him through the smoke, walking and, and he looked at me and he looked OK. Is he OK? I swear he’s OK sir; I swear it!” Zynn became worried now. The Headmaster had warned him after his last altercation with one of the other boys that if he hurt anyone or damaged anymore property that they’d have to make arrangements to have him removed from the Sunnyside Orphanage.
They came to a stop in front of the door of the Headmaster’s study. The shock of the accident wore off slowly and Zynn could feel a dull and deep throb begin to set into his left arm. He reached for it and felt a large bump under the warm wet shirt sleeve. He hadn’t even noticed how bad it hurt until now. Something stuck out of his forearm at an odd angle under the bloody shirt sleeve and it hurt just too look at it.
The Guardian knocked at the door and waited looking down at Zynn as he fumbled with his malformed arm.
“Don’t fuss with it, boy! The Headmaster and I’ll tend to it momentarily. You’ll only make it worse if you start thumbing around in the wound. You don't want gangrene do you?” Said the Guardian.
“Come in!” Came the voice of the Headmaster from the other side of the door.
“Ah Zynn! Come in here boy!” The damage and panic coupled with being called from his bed just after lights out left the Headmaster with a less than reassuring look on his face as young Zynn met his gaze. The boy knew in an instant that he’d be in terrible trouble and looked to the floor thumbing at the lump on his throbbing arm as his lip quivered.
The Headmaster paced back and forth behind his desk. The rhythmic flap, flap of his slippers as they clapped against the hardwood made Zynn nervous. A dimly, candle lit room, due to a loss of power throughout the complex. Zynn had seen to that with his little outburst in the dormitory.
“Zynn you’ve really done it this time. I’ve told you many times, that if this behavior of yours didn’t improve that we’d have to look at moving you out of Sunnyvale; in fact the last time we spoke I promised you. Well I’m not a man to go back on my word. You’ll be sent to the city of Stromsgate on the morrow. Sunnyvale can no longer take care of your..ahhh... special needs. There is a group there, more of an organization, which is keenly interested in folk like you. They call themselves the Technomancers. Have you heard of them?”
Zynn did not look up he only shook his head back and forth slowly. He grew fearful at the prospect of leaving Sunnyvale. While he’d never fit in with the other boys and lived a life of loneliness in the orphanage, it became familiar to him and in spite of the other boys’ jibes and mockery Sunnyvale had grown to be the only home he knew. He knew Stromsgate to be the capital city and that it lay far, far away from Innisport.
“No; No I don’t suppose you would’ve heard of them would you? You’re just a boy. Well the Technomancers are people like you; people with magick in their blood. They tend to keep to their own kind. They make Magitech, little devices that contain magickal properties. From what I know of them your particular brand of magickal ability will be quite valuable to you amongst their kind. Telekinetics are in high demand these days.”
Zynn didn’t like the way the Headmaster had said the words ‘their kind.’ He said nothing but his brow furrowed visibly and the headmaster took immediate note of the expression on the little fellows smoke stained face.
“Now, Now Zynn, let’s not bring the roof down. All I meant to say what that they, the Technomancers, and you, are a special breed. They might be able to help you. You need guidance boy. You need tutelage. You have to learn to control yourself and we can’t teach you that here. You’ve got all the other children scared Zynn. We can’t have that. You have to understand that we have to keep these boys in a peaceful nurturing environment in order to ensure that they grow into decent productive members of society.”
“What about me sir?” Zynn interrupted him.
“Excuse me? What do you mean ‘What about me?’” The Headmaster didn’t understand what the boy referred to.
“Shouldn’t I have the chance to grow up decent too sir?” Tears rolled down Zynn’s face. His lower lip still quivered but he let not a whimper escape. He would not give them the satisfaction of his sobs.
“Well lad I feel for you but there is nothing more I can do for you here. There is hope Zynn, I wouldn’t send you off to your doom. The Technomancers hold a series of trials every ten years to bring new members into their fold. It just so happens that they are accepting applicants to the trials on the morrow at their Tower. You will leave on the five AM Drifter for Stromsgate. Courage lad! This could be your calling. To become a Technomancer is to hold a position of great respect and power within the Land of Shaarn. Besides, there’s simply no place for you here any longer boy. We can’t endanger the other children any further than we already have. Now then; let’s have a look at that arm before we send you off to bed shall we?”
They took the boy and laid him out on the Headmaster’s desk. Zynn’s poor little arm had swollen to three times its normal thickness now and looked awful. A large piece of bone jutted out through the skin of his fore arm, well beyond the remedial first aid training that the Headmaster had. He called the Doctor and asked him to come in at once to tend to young Zynn.
The Headmaster and the Guardian helped Zynn into the doctor’s office and lit some more candles to make enough light for the doctor to work by. They took his shirt off and proceeded to wash his arm as they waited for the doctor to arrive from the staff quarters.
“What do the Technomancers do, sir?” Zynn asked the Headmaster as he dabbed at the wound with some disinfectant.
“Well Zynn, I don’t know exactly. I know they make implants... little devices that are implanted into the body that allow those without magick to wield it. I know they make other devices as well such as those that power the Drifter you’ll be taking to Stromsgate tomorrow. So you see if you learn to apply your... ahh.... gift you could do great things in life lad!” The arrival of the doctor saved the Headmaster from choking on his words further.
“Alright friends what seems to be the trouble here? Why are all the lights out? Was there a fire in the dorms?” With that he turned and saw Zynn lying on the table and his pleasant countenance dimmed some.
“Oh, hello Zynn.” No explanation necessary from that point on he knew what happened, or at least who had caused it.
“Land yourself in a bit of trouble, again did you?”
“I guess I did doctor.” Zynn didn’t fully remember what happened but he felt sure he didn’t intend to bring the roof down or start any fires. The other boys who teased him incessantly while the Guardians, the good doctor, and the Headmaster looked the other way must have done something to provoke him into his fit of rage. He didn't even care anymore. None of it mattered. In the morning he’d be on a Drifter Rail to Stromsgate.
The doctor set Zynn’s arm, stitched his wound and gave him his third good stern talking to of the evening about learning to control his temper. He finished up with three injections into the arm. One, an antibiotic that the doctor said would keep infection from getting into the bone. The other two were anesthetic to keep the pain down. Zynn’s arm grew numb from the shoulder down. It seemed an odd sensation as he could still feel it throbbing against the fresh casting, but it didn't hurt.
The Guardian escorted Zynn back down the corridor toward the still smoking and steaming remnants of the dorm he’d lived in for the last five years. The other boys had been moved off to the gymnasium where cots had been set up for temporary living quarters.
“It’s hard to believe someone as little as you could cause all this.” The Guardian looked about as Zynn filled his bag. All his things had gotten wet and smoky from the hole in the roof and the sprinkler system going off. The Guardian didn’t seem to care much about the state of the boy’s things. He simply hurried him along and then took him to his own private chamber in the staff quarters for the evening where he gave Zynn a thin blanket and a rolled-up sheet for a pillow instructing him to sleep on a small oval rug on the floor. Barely even big enough for little Zynn to curl up on, he made due. He lay out some of his clothes to dry for the next morning then covered himself head to toe under the blanket.
Zynn knew very little about his powers. Neither of his parents had the gift of magick, nor had he met anyone else with the gift. He’d never even considered that there might be others like him out there and fell asleep dreaming of the things he might see on the morrow in Stromsgate.
Over the past five thousand years magick slowly faded from the Land of Shaarn where it had once been common as breathing for a man or woman to be born with the gift to wield magick, now only every fifteenth generation or so a family would find a member born with the gift. Because of the loss of magick in Shaarn and a continued need for it to be ever present in all things, magick and technology merged into a new science referred to as Technomancy.
The Technomancer society took the place of a much more ancient society of magick users known in the First, Second, and Third Ages of the Land of Shaarn as The Tower of High Sorcery. They were a society of magi who, at one time in history, ruled all Shaarn under a single Council. After the fabled Generations War had ended, the call for magick no longer held such high demand. It got to the point where they only required it for the basic mundane day to day things that made life more convenient rather than being used to make war. After all, one of their very own magi turned wicked in service to the darkness to further the gain of his own power who brought about the Generations War which would forever change the land and the people.
While they feared those who wielded magick and did not trust them; the good people of the Land of Shaarn grew complacent to their new found peace. Over time, people showed less and less interest or fear in magick in general and, in turn, the general public showed less and less interest in enrollment into the Tower of High Sorcery’s apprenticeship program. Eight-hundred years after the war had ended the people decreed that a new system of government be instituted.
They formed a senate and the Tower council disbanded giving over the right to rule willingly. One man remained. He’d been their leader for many, many generations, the Arch Mage Rostioff Fastelaine. He vowed to stay with the arcane arts and foster those few who still came to the tower from time to time for tutelage. He’d been there through it all. He’d seen the Generations War through from the first battle to the last and remained a pivotal figure in the victory of the people of Shaarn over the dark and evil beings that had sought to bring an end to their way of life. And so, Rostioff lived in secret for many years in his crumbling tower, his life force sustained by an orb of great power he’d liberated from a vanquished foe.
Soon things began to change. Men discovered electricity. The age of digital communication followed, and with it new sources of power were found; the windmill, the wave energy capture system and the solar array. Along with them the advent of the microchip followed close behind. With its invention the Land of Shaarn became a much smaller place in a great hurry.
With the invention of the microchip the concept of Technomancy began to take shape. Rostioff worked on the idea with some scientists from the dwarven country of Aragon. It intrigued him how much information could be stored on a single silicon chip. Even in the early days when the technology had bulk and clumsiness to it, it showed great potential. Rostioff got the idea when he’d heard that the new government converted all the census records to data files. If words could be stored electronically, then so could magickal words that generated magickal energies.
Dwarves were brilliant engineers and scientists so as the ages past and the integration of magick with these new technologies found its way into the day to day world, the dwarven engineering expertise turned from stone, metal and jewel crafting to microchip design and evolved into the birth of cybernetic implants, and microtech that allowed virtually any machine with an electrical system to be controlled and remotely and made able to do things previously impossible all through the use of simple binary mathematics and silicon. Through centuries of cooperation with the remaining magi under the tutelage of Rostioff the dwarven engineers were able to bond magick to modern technology. They taught their craft to the pupils of Rostioff whom he called Technomancers from that time forward, those able to bond technology with magick into what is referred to now as Magitech.
Now, in young Zynn Greywolf’s age, Magitech has become a privilege for only the most elite members of government and the haves, while the have-nots are left to their mortal shells and meager existence of white-collar slavery under the current capitalist fascist regime. Most everyone is forced to work on a corn or cotton farm in the region Zynn lives, and those who don’t work corn or cotton are left to service the great windmills that dot the plains from Stromsgate as far north as Hilltop, or repair damaged solar arrays in the cities. On the coast there are seafaring techs whose lives revolve around piloting Driftercraft that are designed for removing algae and seaweed from the wave energy capture devices in the Orcun Ocean.
Many more work for the government directly for pittance wages that are propped up with promises of free medical and dental services, along with a comfortable retirement for their many years of service to the senate.
Most everything is owned by giant corporations now and the giant corporations are in close league with the government. The senate intend to keep it that way to maintain control over the white-collar slave class that keep the money flowing through mass consumerism. Everything you can buy in Zynn’s age is single serve, disposable. At least the fascist capitalists had the good sense to keep everything recyclable and disallow the use of fossil fuel, or coal burning. In fact, most types of mining had been outlawed as well aside from precious ores and gemstones. They saw the folly in stripping the Land of Shaarn of all its natural resources and how it would result in a mounting decline of quality land and thus life which meant that there would end up being less people, with less money to spend and less spending money meant less purchases.
The day dawned brightly through the little window of the Guardian’s bed chamber. Zynn woke stiff from his night on the floor but warm enough. A ray of sunshine had found him and cradled him through the wee hours of early light. He rose and stretched himself yawning wide as he stepped over to the window to survey the sky, blue with not a cloud in sight. It will be a good day for travelling, he thought to himself.
The Guardian still snored away noisily on his bed so Zynn decided he would gather up his things now that they were dry and dress himself. He thought about the journey ahead of him and his head began to swim. He felt scared. Scared to leave Sunnyvale, scared to board the Drifter Rail, and scared of Stromsgate and the Technomancers, scared of it all. He’d been aboard one Drifter Rail when they’d brought him to Sunnyvale five years past and his memory of the ride grew hazy as often happens with children who experience trauma.
“Oh, you’re up Zynn. That’s a good lad. Now let’s get downstairs and have some breakfast before we catch the Drifter, shall we? Wait here while I get ready for the trip.” The Guardian stepped off into his washroom and slammed the door behind him. Zynn could hear him yawning and farting on the other side of the door.
Soon lost in his thoughts again, he envisioned the tower the Technomancers lived in and what they themselves must look like. From the way the Headmaster had explained it he envisioned half man half machine near monsters with wires coming out of their heads and robotic arms. He imagined they were soulless monsters bent on turning children into machines. All, of course totally unfounded. He had never seen a Technomancer and until just the previous eve had never even heard of one before. At only ten seasons old, what could they possibly want with a boy?
The Technomancers were a gentle breed. They were half tinker and half scientist. Since the slow disappearance of the dwarven race many generations past, the act of physically building the circuit boards and implants for the Magitech had now fallen squarely onto the shoulders of the Technomancers. Only in recent years did a newly formed Crown Corporation called Innotech enter the playing field. They began working on boards of their own, even still; with the introduction of Innotech into the mix, the Technomancers were still required to enchant the Magitech as they were the only ones capable. There were but nine left so of course this had become a major undertaking. They were a government funded society, but were kept more like honorable slaves than freemen with a gift. They worked long hours in their tiny laboratories, and every ten years or so the government would decree it time for them to select a new child to begin training.
The selection of a new Technomancer took time and planning. It had to be done through a series of trials. The children would face off against some very difficult challenges to see if their magick would be strong enough, versatile enough and to see if they had enough control over it for them to be accepted into the prestigious folds of the Technomancer society, or if they were only capable of simply mundane parlor tricks which meant they would have to be sent back to their lives, such as they were. For most these trials meant a second chance at a better life, or what they thought to be a better life at any rate.
Because magick became so rare few people understood it and as we all know, that which is not understood is often feared the most and associated with all manner of tales of wickedness and demonic possession. In reality, these were just regular people born with an extraordinary gift.
The government and secret societies vying for power such as the Hand of Shadows saw the merit in these extraordinary gifts. In fact, they viewed them as commodities to be sought out and traded to the highest bidder. The Hand of Shadows had its roots in crime. In centuries past they’d been nothing more than a well-organized band of assassins and thieves. As time passed, they accumulated wealth. They found murder and robbery not as lucrative a business as simply taking advantage of the current economy. To them it seemed like practically the same as stealing, but now they could do it legally if they simply fronted their thieving activities with a proper corporate name and logo and that is exactly what they did.
The Hand of Shadows had bribed several high-ranking government officials to ensure they’d be allowed to invest in and start up a holding corporation which they named Innotech. Innotech grew from a small silicon supply service through mergers and acquisitions using very old, very dirty money into a giant conglomerate of companies. They now distributed most of the silicon in the Land of Shaarn, and a good portion of the gold and platinum used for the circuitry as well. Along with their distribution services they had in the last fifty years or so also been granted a manufacturing licence. This meant that now they not only controlled the flow of raw materials into the world of Magitech, but they also controlled the manufacture and sale of the end user products, which would in our world, dear reader, be known as a monopoly and would actually be very illegal. The only clincher to their plan, all enchantment still had to be performed by one of the few remaining Technomancers. Unfortunately for the naive folk of Shaarn they had turned all the power to rule and make laws that would protect them from such atrocities over to the very people who were perpetrating this act of legal criminality against them.
As a result, the last fifty years had seen a sharp upturn in the price of new Drifters as they came to market which everyone needs to get about in the big cities. The windmills were also powered by Magitech that reduced friction on the moving parts in much the same way the Drifter Rail system worked to minimize the expenditure of power and save money. Since Innotech built these parts and only subcontracted out the circuit board enchantment to the Technomancers, and the boards they were building were cheap and shorted out frequently requiring replacement, the cost of electricity tripled in only twenty years. Since the farms had grown so large there were few who could eke out an existence on the pittance they were paid for the crops as the pricing of commodity grains became federally regulated.
To subsidize their deficient incomes the farmers had no choice but to sign off on allowing the government rights to their land for the use of building windmills to support the massive demand for electrical power. With laws in place that banned the burning of any and all fossil fuels or coal beyond personal home fires and campfires for recreational use, the demand for reliable clean electricity became immense. The windmills provided nowhere near enough power so solar cells had been added to most every home as well. They made it illegal to own a solar cell or to be in possession of one not built by a government backed agency within the last ten seasons, so constant replacement and upkeep of the personal home solar array became another expense that the average family had to account for.
A new technology had also emerged. Wave Energy Capture. Giant fans hinged to the ocean floor swayed back and forth with the natural movement of the seas to capture and store as usable hydroelectricity. These had become the new mainstay for providing a virtually limitless source of power that generated far more energy than the new swelling populations of Shaarn could ever possibly use. However, the government kept the efficiency of these devices very secret as their efficiency, if leaked to the public, would mean there would have to be a subsequent reduction in electricity costs which the federal budgets could not sustain.
After Innotech formed and all the money started rolling in, the senate decided to pat themselves on the back for their brilliant new business venture and give themselves all big fat raises and bonuses on top with increases to their retirement funds to the tune of fifteen percent. Not one dime ever got reinvested back into Innotech or into social programs for the general population.
The down side to Wave Energy Capture is that it put a serious dent in the fishing industry as well. As the Land of Shaarn grew to be a relatively small continent on what can only be described as a massive planet some nine times the size of our own Earth fishing became a very important source of food for the people of Midgaard, the planet Shaarn is on. Since the construction of so many wave Energy Capture devices, the shoreline grew to be almost devoid of fish. The environmental scientists say that the fish are scared of the fans under the water and that the devices create unnatural sonic vibrations which drives the fish off. As a result there are no fish for miles out to sea now along the southern coast of Shaarn and the fishermen who have remained with their professions are forced to spend many long weeks at sea catching, processing and freezing the fish before they have a full enough hold to make a profit when they return. Unfortunately, fresh fish has all but become a thing of the past. When one does find it, in the market, it is exceedingly expensive as there is no other way for the fishermen who have to travel so far to get it to make any money at their trade. In short, things were economically bleak for the good people of Shaarn, and it did not seem as though they would get any better any time soon.
“Alright lad, let’s get a move on. Grab your bag.” Zynn lay on the Guardian’s bed half asleep now daydreaming of his day and half terrified at the uncertainty of what would become of him.
Zynn and the Guardian ate a hurried breakfast of fortified corn porridge and ate an apple with it. He popped down his vitamin and they were off. He hadn't even been outside the Orphanage in weeks now. The Headmaster had taken them all for a walk down to the ocean to watch the water, but that is the furthest he’d been in five years.
The city of Innisport shrunk like a mouse compared to their destination of Stromsgate. Innisport a port town, it had once been the capital of a magnificent free state called Sunover, one of the original Five Kingdoms of Shaarn, but since had been absorbed into the country of Castille and now came to be a lonely little sister port to its much larger sibling Stromsgate.
Innisport fell on hard times when the fishing industry took its nose dive. Now it eked out a paltry existence through transport from sea to rail and through the Wave Energy Capture devices along its violent shores. When one looked out over the ocean from the port of Innis they saw there an almost endless grid of buoys bobbing up and down, each one attached to the top of a Wave Energy Capture (WEC) fan far below.
They arrived at the Innisport Drifter Rail Station; an old-style station from a better managed time. By modern standards it might be considered a quaint structure but to little Zynn he saw only magnificence. He didn’t remember it at all from his arrival in Innisport, but certainly thought it impressive on his way out of town.
“Now sit right here, and don't move a muscle lad. I’m going to go and get our tickets sorted out.” Zynn nodded up at the Guardian agreeably and smiled.
His fear seemed to have been replaced by the wondrous curiosity of boyhood. He found the station hall quite interesting. All through the common were benches where various folks stood and sat waiting for their trains to arrive. Along the back wall in the center, stood the Central Office and Ticketmaster. Above which on the great peak of the roof-line on the wall sat an enormous clock that now showed seven-o-clock on the nose, and an electronic chime sounded to demonstrate the time to passersby. To either side of the Ticketmaster were open walls with beams every twenty feet or so and these openings led directly out onto the platform. A Drifter Rail had just arrived and hundreds of citizens were now disembarking and hollering to the porters for their baggage.
As was the case in any populated public setting in the Land of Shaarn, the militant National Police Service were ever present. Officers were posted at every door, two on either side of the Ticketmaster and seven more out on the platform keeping the rabble down to a dull roar. They were dressed from head to toe in lightweight high tensile steel photon and fire-resistant body armor; armed with a photon blaster rifle, photon side arm, and several small photon bomb grenades. The National Police Service took their policing very seriously and since weapons were illegal for the public to own, they seldom faced any resistance. If anything ever did happen it usually ended quickly and violently so people had a tendency to comply. It wasn't uncommon for a public shooting to be reported on the nightly news. If a citizen got out of line at all and did not very quickly resume some sense of self control, they were usually shot on the spot more as a demonstration of power by the NPS than anything. This swift and brutal brand of justice kept the poor folk of the Land of Shaarn docile and subservient.
“Alright lad lets head out to the platform. We’ll be able to board that Drifter there as soon as it’s disembarked and repacked.”
Zynn and the Guardian headed out to the train platform. A drifter rail sat hover in front of them. It bobbed lazily up and down on its magickal current. The rail itself was charged positively as were the rails of the Drifter. The rails were two sets above and two sets below. When both the rails and the Drifter were charged it would hover. If the engines were engaged it could be pushed along the opposing poles of current never touching the ground. The zero-friction resulted in a very low volt electric engine drive system that used very little power considering the size of the rail. Several hundred people could board at once. The rail system boasted to be the fastest way of travel invented thus far in Shaarn. Once at full speed the Drifter Rail could move at well over four-hundred earth miles per hour.
It didn’t take long before the conductor sounded the ‘All Aboard!’ and the Drifter hummed at full power, ready for boarding.
Now the fear found its way back into Zynn’s mind. It all became so real to him. He boarded a Drifter for the capital, leaving the last remnants of his homeland behind.
He enjoyed the smooth, fast ride but remained terrified at what lay in wait for him in Stromsgate. The Guardian could sense his fear and bought him a soda to improve his mood. It helped some, a rare treat for an orphan to get a soda, but Zynn remained unsure of what his future had in store. He finished off his pop and fell asleep watching the water below the rails swell and fall as they passed out over the ocean toward the Midgaard Isles and their next stop where they would pick up more passengers from the islands.
Zynn slept right through as he’d had quite a trying evening the night before and a less than comfortable sleep on the Guardian’s floor. The Guardian shook him awake sometime just before supper. A porter moved down the aisle way toward them with a cart handing out meals. The Guardian let the porter charge his government card and took two meals, one for each himself and Zynn. The food tasted terrible but Zynn felt hungry so he ate it. He couldn’t tell what they’d served him to look at it but he got a piece of meat, some corn porridge which the people of Shaarn ate as a staple at most every meal now as a dietary supplement since it contained all the basic nutrients required for survival, and washed it all down with a glass of water.
Just as they were finishing up the conductor came across the PA system and announced that they were now entering the city limits of Stromsgate and that they would be disembarking shortly. The same porter who had delivered their supper came around hurriedly scooping up half eaten plates of food much to the chagrin of the passengers who had taken their time with the meal.
Zynn peered out the window to have a look about at the countryside. He could see the lights of Stromsgate coming to life as the sun dipped down on the other side of the train out to sea. There were towering skyscrapers that were lost in the misty midst of the low hanging clouds that dotted the skyline above the city. Beside the rail lay a highway. Zynn could see personal Drifters zipping along. They were much smaller and designed to carry only two to six passengers. For the most part they tended to move much more slowly than the rail so as not to smash into each other as they went about.
The highways worked on different engineering than the rails. They had only the lower rails to work with so one did not want to get moving too fast and then have to make any high-speed manoeuvres or they might find themselves flying off into the cornfields and smacking into a windmill. Accident reports were commonly on the news in recent years.
Zynn remembered a story he read in class one day about the old forests that used to line the coast between Stromsgate and Innisport. They called it the Faerie Wood. A thin string of trees running along the Lower Sarandanus River stretching out to see several hours behind Zynn’s Drifter.
As they got closer to the city Zynn could see the great metal wall erected around Stromsgate. Men patrolled the wall below on the ground in Drifters with huge photon cannons mounted on the back, and above by more National Police Service officers armed with photon blaster rifles. The National Police Service (NPS) presence had always been strong in the larger cities but nothing like what Zynn and the Guardian were seeing here. Stromsgate stood as an impenetrable fortress and as a symbol to the people. But against what foe? The Land of Shaarn stood in a vast ocean so isolated from the rest of Midgaard they seldom had contact or even conversation with other countries let alone armed conflict. No, there were no immediate threats to the power of the current government. These high walls and militant police patrols were there to serve one purpose and one purpose only; they kept the citizenry afraid. In the event of civil unrest Stromsgate would be the last bastion for the government. A city, but also a massive military compound almost impenetrable, and nearly self sufficient from within. The senate had planned it this way purposely in case the populace ever grew restless and tired of their iron handed rule.
They came upon the mouth of a long tunnel that led down underground to bypass the great wall around the city and then back up onto a high rail system that lead them over the city itself toward the distant rail station. Stromsgate rose up out of the dimming evening light in the distance like a flashing beacon. But what from a distance looked beautiful and almost surreal with its towers and lights in the clouds now seemed gritty and dirty from the inside.
“There’s the Tower of Technomancy, lad. That’s where we’re going.” The Guardian pointed out the window into the distance on the far side of the rail. The sun set out over the sea behind the Tower and shrouded it in an ominous darkness that left Zynn feeling very uneasy about the whole affair.
It didn’t take long before the Rail came to a very abrupt stop at Stromsgate Central Station. They were ordered via the PA to disembark and to seek out a porter or conductor to get their luggage. Both Zynn and his Guardian had only a small carry-on bag so they were on their way at once.
Zynn marvelled at the size of the Stromsgate Rail Station. The Station at Innisport looked tiny compared to the sprawl inside Grand Central Station. There were actually platforms on different levels here to allow boarding and disembarking of several trains at once. The number of people shocked Zynn and stopped him in his tracks. The Guardian held him by the hand. When he stopped hthe Guardian turned and looked at him.
“What’s the matter lad?” Zynn’s lower lip quivered.
“I don't want to be a Technomancer. I’ll be good. I just want to return to Sunnyside. Please sir, can we just go back home and speak with the Headmaster once again? I promise I’ll be a good boy this time.” Zynn stood petrified with fear. Stromsgate seemed such a big and busy place to him. All the steel and glass skyscrapers. Drifters flitting about at all levels in the sky frightened him. He’d never seen such a place nor even imagined one existed, and the smell almost made him wretch on the floor of the station. It had a musky aroma like when you've left the dog out in the rain too long. The air hung close, hot and heavy. Zynn didn’t like any of it one bit and already began to realize this would not be a happy destiny. He felt pretty sure it would be more of a prison sentence away from the normal children because the Headmaster and the other Guardians simply couldn't handle him any longer.
“Look; Zynn, it’s not as bad as it seems. This is all new to you and you’re just a little boy. This is the right place for you and your kind, truly. You must believe me. Once you get to the Tower and meet the Technomancers you’ll see. They’re just regular folk with some extraordinary abilities. If you're accepted you will have a special place in society, with a station far more important than me or the Headmaster could ever hope for. You’ll be well off, paid a government salary, and have all your needs, looked after from here on out. What’s more is you will be amongst your own kind. You won’t be mocked and ridiculed any longer for being different. That is what always got you into trouble in the past lad. Now then, buck, up, be brave and let’s get this over with so I can catch the nine-o-clock train back to Innisport.”
Zynn stopped walking again and wrenched his hand free of the Guardian’s one more time. “You mean to leave me here don't you?” Zynn panicked. The Guardian could see it all over his little face. He knew what it meant when this boy got panicky. It would not be a good state of affairs in a large public place such as Grand Central Station in Stromsgate. So, he did the only thing he could do to prevent the boy from having another meltdown and injuring or killing a whole mess of innocent citizens; he lied.
“If you want me to stay I will Zynn. I am your Guardian after all and I care about you a great deal.” He would have said anything to keep the boy from exploding and having the roof come down on his head.
“You’re a liar! A dirty rotten liar and you always were! You don't care about me, nobody does. You just want me gone so you don't have to be afraid of me anymore.” Zynn did not wait for a response but took the Guardian’s hand once again and proceeded to pull the man through the station toward the street out front.
The Guardian didn't speak to him again for many long moments and the silence and distance between the two felt harsh to Zynn. The Guardian hailed them a taxi and they got inside.
“Listen Zynn, for what it’s worth I do care about you, but you're right. I am scared of you. Who wouldn't be? You possess uncontrollable magickal powers with a history of violent outbursts. I don't understand how it works, that’s all...”
“No, you don’t care. If you did you wouldn't be taking me to that Tower to give me away to men you don't even know. But that’s OK. Since I killed my mum and dad, I’ve been alone and I’ve gotten used to it. I mean; I don’t even know your name sir. I call you ‘sir.’” Zynn shook his head and looked out the window at the Tower of Technomancy in the distance. He could see it now and again as they passed by the feet of the giant skyscrapers they had seen from the rail into town.
“Zynn its government regulation that we don’t use our proper given names with the children as it creates attachment that can be emotionally damaging when separation occurs during the transition to adulthood. I know that probably makes no sense to a boy your age but that’s why you must call me sir. You’ll understand when you’re older.”
“Sir, I don't even know what that means. I’m ten. You all seem to think that because I have the power to kill you all that I’m some kind of super genius. I’m not. I’m ten, and I've got a problem I need help with. You’re not the man to help me, that’s all. Maybe these Technomancer guys can help me, because you can’t, and I don’t even want you to.” Zynn slumped his head into his hand and leaned against the window ledge of the taxi facing as far as possible away from the Guardian as he could.
“Listen, Zynn; my name..... my name is.... Paatric Newhound. You know what lad? You’re right. I am scared of you, and I can’t help you. I don't want to die. But I've also been your Guardian these last five years and I see something special in you, something more than the magick. You are a fiercely independent child and quite intelligent, so when I talk to you about things most children wouldn't understand it’s because I know you do understand what I’m saying. I hope you’ll forgive me for leaving you here Zynn, but I don't have any choice. The Headmaster finalized the papers himself.” The Guardian put his hand on Zynn’s shoulder to console the boy. He watched the youngster cry in the reflection in the window.
Half an hour passed before they reached the Tower. Traffic in Stromsgate, at the best of times held travelers up. They arrived at the height of rush hour traffic as everyone came home from work. Zynn never spoke to the Guardian again. He simply looked out the window at the city and came to terms with his lot in life.
The gates to the Tower of Technomancy rose before them, taller than necessary and as thick as Zynn. They’d surrounded the Tower with the same type of high metal walls the city had been secured by. Beyond that were guards below the wall on both sides, and atop it every fifty feet in guardhouses that sported huge mounted Photon Cannons. The government wanted to keep their Technomancers secure from intruders, and also secure from escape. The Guardian showed the gate-man their ID’s. He shone a very bright light into the Drifter as he looked at them both. He did a quick scan of each of their retina to ensure they were who they said they were, and then the taxi sped off again.
All one could see inside the walls of the Tower were the heights of the fortress they’d constructed, as a phallic symbol of their mastery over the people of Shaarn. Darkness already settled within the towering walls and lights were lit along the roadway along with huge spotlights from the tower itself that pointed down into the courtyard scanning the ground back and forth for anything unusual.
“Geez Zynn, you’re going to be safe here. No intruders would dare make an attempt on this place.” The Guardian tried to make the boy feel better about the Trials but it did little to console the young chap.
“You mean no one would dare try to get out. This looks like jail.” Zynn looked out the window again. His little brow furrowed now half with fear and half with frustration.
The taxi finally stopped on a little roundabout in front of the main doors to the tower. The gate-man had radioed ahead that Zynn arrived. He’d been expected as the Headmaster called and enrolled Zynn in the Trails a few days back, before the incident in the dormitory occurred.
A man in long white robes stood out in front of a large opened door. There were three other children there with him and they were all laughing and talking. He straightened up as the taxi stopped and stepped over to the door to greet the newest contestant.
“Hello there lad, my name is Rostioff Fastelaine, and you must be Zynn Greywolf. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance. The man extended his hand for Zynn to shake it. Zynn looked at the hand quizzically. He shook the old fellow’s hand and said nothing. He hadn't expected such a pleasant greeting. The man was old, very old. In fact, he appeared so old Zynn couldn't believe he still stood on his own two feet. The wizened old man stood as frail as a sapling, and pale like white corn porridge. When Zynn shook his hand, the skin felt all loose and thin. The old fellow’s flesh chilled him to the bone when he made contact, literally. Zynn could sense the magick in him before their hands even connected like a spark of static electricity it passed between them.
As they touched Rostioff`s eyes lit up like they must of in his youth. Instantly he knew that this boy would be special. He contained his excitement and merely smiled at the troubled looking boy.
“Ok Zynn; I'm going to leave you here with Mr. Fastelaine. You're in good hands now as you can see.”
“But you said you’d stay.”
“Well I can't Zynn, I'm sorry. The Headmaster only approved a same day round trip, no overnight stays. I know you are going to do just fine here with these people and you will find your way.” Rostioff interjected;
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Excuse me?” said the Guardian a little confused at the question.
“You said. ‘these people,’ that would imply that we are different from your people so I’m merely curious as to what the difference is you imply.”
“Well, ahh, ok then, ahh, you know, like magickal people as opposed to normal people.” The Guardian blinked and bit his lip as he finished that sentence.
“So you're implying that we are not normal people because we possess inherent magickal prowess that your people do not; is that it Guardian?”
Zynn liked the tone of the way this old man said the word Guardian, he spoke it as if it were something he’d found stuck in the bottom of the privy clogging the drain.
“Know your station man. You are in the presence of greatness.” Rostioff straightened his robe and looked at the Guardian expectantly. The Technomancers held a station far above his own and were well respected. If he did not show this man the utmost respect, the old man could make things very difficult for him back home in Innisport with very little effort.
“Yes sir. Please accept my most humble apologies sir. I meant no harm, and spoke without thinking.”
“You most certainly did. Besides, it’s not me you ought to be apologizing to it’s the boy.” Rostioff looked at the man expectantly. Zynn liked this a lot. He smiled coyly up at the Guardian now waiting for the man to speak.
“Zynn, please accept my apology. Best of luck to you. I'm sure you will find your way from here.” With that the Guardian gave a quick and curt little bow as he wheeled about to get back into the taxi before he got himself into anymore trouble with his loose tongue.
Zynn couldn't resist the moment. It turned out to be the happiest he could remember since his parents had passed.
“Apology accepted Paatric. Best of luck to you and yours.” He waved to the Guardian as the man and he locked eyes for the last time in Zynn’s life.
“That’s the spirit boy. Never forget the little people that helped you along on your journey.” Rostioff threw that last little quip in there just to sprinkle a little salt into the Guardian’s wound.
The Guardian gave a very condescending looking smile and a quick wave to Zynn as the taxi sped out of sight down the road back to the gates. Zynn would never see Paatric Newhound again face to face, but Paatric would most certainly hear about Zynn in the days and years to come.
“Well lad I suppose you’re hungry tired and upset. Life in a government orphanage is barely a life at all. What say we introduce you to the others in your class and then we will get you inside for a bath, a hot meal and some much-needed rest in your very own bed shall we?” Rostioff placed one if his icy hands on little Zynn’s shoulder and gave him a smile. Zynn liked this old man already. He seemed kind and showed no fear at the boy’s magickal powers.
Zynn looked over at the other three children playing and laughing out in the courtyard. A spotlight shone on most of them and they were making a game of trying to evade the light and laughing like fools whenever one of them got caught in it.
“If it’s all the same to you sir, I’d just as soon go inside to eat and sleep. I’m not particularly interested in meeting the others.”
“Oh dear, well it isn’t all the same to me lad. You will meet the others, and do so right now. You will not be made to feel like an outcast. We are all in possession of magickal powers here and you are no longer special or different. How does that make you feel? To be normal? To be just be like everyone else?” Rostioff smiled at the boy again and looked into his eyes searching for some sense of understanding.
Zynn looked at him brow furrowed and opened his mouth to speak but no words came. He didn't even know how to respond. Rostioff just smiled and gave him a pat on the back as he nudged young Zynn toward the other boys and girls.
“Everyone, please come here. I want you to meet someone.” Two boys came running over. A girl simply appeared beside him. It made Zynn jump. He’d never seen someone Transportal before. He smiled at her and she back at him. They were all laughing and talking as they gathered. “Everyone, please now be quiet. This is Zynn Greywolf. Zynn comes to us from Sunnyside Orphanage in the city of Innisport. Let’s all make him feel welcome, shall we?”
“Wait; are your mom and dad dead?” One of the boys said to him very plainly.
“Yes,” replied the little girl on his behalf.” He killed them by accident when some bad men broke into their house and he doesn't like to talk about it so shut up Vortiis.” Zynn looked at her long and hard brow once again furrowed in curiosity. How could she have known that?
“I knew it because I can read your mind silly. Not everyone’s power is the same.”
“I... I... I... didn't know that was possible.”
“Oh, great he’s got a stutter too. What can you do kid? Can you do this?” Vortiis thrust his hand into the air and ignited a ball of flame at the end of it that he seemed to hold in his hand. He hurled it into the air and it exploded harmlessly in a flashy ball of gas.
“No, I can’t do that.” Zynn looked down and kicked at the dirt a little nervous and shy about showing off his power. He’d not tried to use it much at all and had very little control over it.
“He can move things. Like, with his mind,” said the girl again his behalf. “Show them. Show them what you can do.”
“Yes, please show us.” Rostioff urged him and sat on a bench near the door.” Don't be shy. Nothing you can get into trouble for here.”
Zynn looked over at the girl and then he looked around the courtyard for a target.
“Well? What are you waiting for move something!” Vortiis demanded.
Zynn gave him a glare and looked up at the searchlights. He concentrated hard and tried to hold back his power as he began to feel the weight of the lights and the hands of the men holding them. The lights began to move about wildly on their own and Zynn placed all three spotlights on Vortiis simultaneously, and then levitated the boy into the air. Vortiis began to kick and scream immediately.
“Put me down! Put me down!” Zynn lost his control and Vortiis came down hard from quite a height on his arm. “Owww my arm, my arm.”
“Now, now children I think that’s enough for tonight. Vortiis come here lad let’s have a look at your arm. Mmhm. Just as I suspected it’s broken. I will take both you and young master Zynn here to the infirmary at once as I see his arm could use a little work as well.
“You stupid goof! You broke my arm! You’re gonna die!” Vortiis eyes turned red and his hand came to life with fire again. In a flash the girl disappeared and reappeared in front of Vortiis.
“No! Stop!” She stared at him with pale white eyes that illuminated the air about her face. Vortiis stood frozen in place; he couldn't move a muscle and the flame slowly flickered out. The boy became a statue.
“OK Herjaa, that’s enough, release him.” Rostioff placed a hand on the girl’s shoulder to calm her down. She released her hold on Vortiis’ mind and turned away to Zynn. She spoke to him in a way only he could hear, inside his mind.
“My name is Herjaa. Vortiis is a wicked boy, watch him. The other boy is harmless enough but seems to stick with Vortiis. His name is Bjaarn, and he is only dangerous in that he cannot think for himself. He is a water manipulator. Quite the mix those, two fire and water. See you tomorrow at breakfast.” She smiled at him and walked into the tower.
“Alright Bjaarn, Vortiis, Zynn, I think we've all had enough action for one night, let’s get inside. Bjaarn off to bed with you. Vortiis and Zynn come with me to the infirmary. I will need to fix those arms of yours for the first round of tutelage tomorrow.” Rostioff turned to guide them into the tower.
“Tutelage sir?” asked Zynn.
“Yes lad; Tutelage. You must learn to control that immense power of yours before the Trials, and Vortiis you must learn to control your temper. If either of you loses control during the Trials you may be disqualified. There are several children here this year and the other Technomancers will certainly think nothing of disqualifying a quick-tempered hot head and an uncontrollable Telekinetic. You are both very dangerous right now and need focus. Now come, let's head inside and get you straightened out.
Rostioff led them into an infirmary room that smelled of medicine and cleaner. The lights were very bright and the air felt cold. Zynn didn't like it. It reminded him of the orphanage infirmary where he’d spent far too much of his young life. Rostioff produced from beneath his robe an impressive looking piece of jewelry, a small orb the grew to about the size of a tennis ball as he pulled it out. It hung affixed to the end of chain with an odd-looking tree and root with a tower attached to them. He spoke in odd whispered tones and the Orb came to life. Colors scintillated from within. Zynn’s eyes went wide at the sight of it.
Rostioff held his hand out over Zynn’s head first. Zynn could see a small arc of what appeared to be bluish electricity jump from the old man’s hand to Zynn’s head. The boy jumped back and shied away from Rostioff afraid of the magick.
“Now, now lad. I can't fix your arm if you don't hold still, can I? Quit squirming and sit very still.” Rostioff put his hand on Zynn’s shoulder and looked into his eyes. Rostioff’s eyes began to glow the same blue as the eerie light within the orb, and reached out for his head again. The blue light came to life and a crack of thunder could be heard. The light shot from the orb down through Rostioff’s arm into Zynn’s head. His eyes crossed and he began to shake as the magick took him. It wound down and around his arm to where he’d broken it. The casting that the doctor from Sunnyside had done began to crack and fell away. Blue energy sparked and whirled about the arm stitching away at the flesh as a skilled tailor works cloth. Zynn felt strange and couldn’t move. His arm hurt something awful and the pain mounted until he heard a great snap as the broken bone fragments came back together and began to heal over. The pain became immense and he felt terribly afraid.
“It’s alright lad, calm yourself you’ll be fine in just a moment I promise you that.” Zynn began to lose control and he became even more afraid, then panic set in. The medical implements in the room began to shake on the counters around them. The lights and window began to shake as well. Zynn clenched his eyes shut and gritted his teeth using every ounce of his will to keep the power at bay.
“He’s a freak! What’s he doing? Let me out of here!” Vortiis’ panic didn’t help the situation any. But Rostioff simply continued on. Vortiis began to feel the examination table they were both sitting atop begin to rise off the floor. He punched Zynn in the arm and yelled at him.
“Stop it! Freak! Stop!” Zynn’s eyes snapped open as the magick of the Orb left him finally as it did, his self control went with it. The window exploded out into the courtyard. One of the counters across the room crumpled into a ball of indiscernible metal instantaneously.
“Well you certainly have an unusual response to healing.” Rostioff looked at young Zynn and gave him a big smile. “You showed remarkable control just now lad. That is precisely the sort of control you will need to demonstrate tomorrow in front of the other Technomancers. You on the other hand Vortiis, you showed very little control over that temper of yours. When you have a Telekinetic locked in the midst of a spell he has never experienced before, you might reconsider before you begin striking him. You're lucky you weren't flung out that window over there or crumpled into a ball like that table behind you. Now let’s get your arm straightened out, shall we?”
Rostioff got Vortiis fixed up as well and then escorted both boys to their chambers. He dropped off Vortiis at his room first to make sure he felt comfortable and then escorted young Zynn to his new room. It had been furnished lavishly compared to the orphanage He’d always slept in a common dormitory with the other boys. All he’d ever had for a bed was a thin cot with a very thin mattress and a simple blanket. It had a trunk for him to keep his things in, a window, a basin and a washroom attached to the room as well. He had his own real bed for the very first time in his life. Even before his parents had passed, he slept on a cot on their farm as they didn’t have much money for the luxuries of expensive beds and the like.
“Well, Zynn this is your room for now at least. Leave your things here. There is fresh soap and towels in the washroom. Go have a quick shower and meet me back down in the dining room. I know it’s late but you arrived well after supper and you missed orientation. I want to get you up to speed on what to expect tomorrow and get you fed before you turn in for the night. Oh, and Zynn..... There is nothing to be afraid of here. From what I’ve seen so far, you're not going to be going back to that orphanage or off to the islands either. You’ll have a place here in one form or another if I have anything to say about it and I will. I have never seen such a gifted Telekinetic in my life. No worries lad, your troubles appear to have come to an end.” The old man smiled and knocked on the door frame for good luck before he shut the door behind him on his way out of the room.
Zynn cleaned himself up and got dressed again in a hurry. He ran down the stairs, not wanting to keep the old wizard waiting. He hadn’t had proper decent meal in years.
Zynn followed his nose all the way to the kitchen where a fat greasy looking jolly old woman directed him into the dining room in a language he had no understanding of at all. He smiled and ran down the hall into the room. Rostioff sat at the table thumbing through his file from the orphanage when Zynn entered.
“Ah! Zynn come and sit. There is a plate here for you. Rostioff poured him a tall glass of milk; real milk, not powdered. He hadn’t had real milk since he lived back on his parent’s farm. He drank the cold milk down in great gulps holding the cup with both hands. It dribbled down his cheeks. Rostioff caught it with a napkin and gently lowered the glass from the boy’s chin.
“Slow down there young fellow. There’s plenty more where that came from” He laughed a little and smiled at Zynn. “Eat, before it gets cold.” He pushed the plate toward Zynn who scooped up the spoon beside it and began to shovel the warm stew in front of him into his mouth at an alarming rate.
“Slowly lad. I know they don't feed you well in those orphanages, don't need you with a case of the squirts on the morning of your first day of tutelage now do we?” Rostioff watched Zynn eat for a moment and then went back to reading the file from the orphanage. They spent several long moments in silence as Zynn happily gulped down two plates full of stew and Rostioff read his file.
“Zynn, it says here you were indirectly responsible for your parents’ death. Is it alright if we talk about that?” Rostioff looked at the boy right in the eye to gauge his reaction to having such a painful memory brought to mind by a complete stranger.
“Yes sir, I suppose we will be talking about it whether it’s OK with me or not so go ahead and ask me what you wanna ask.” Zynn put his spoon down, wiped his mouth on his sleeve and crossed his arms looking down at the table.
Rostioff watched the boy visibly shutting down at the mention of the incident.
“Call me Rostioff or Master Rostioff.”
“Stop calling me sir. You are a free man now Zynn. I am not your Guardian and I have a name that I want you to know and remember. My name is Rostioff Fastelaine. I will be your Master for the next several years while you train here so you might as well get used to it. You’ve been assigned to me as an apprentice and I can see now that you’re not one of the children going home when these trials are through. You are special lad, and I don’t mean you are weird or scary, you are truly special. You are a unique specimen of a magick-user and you have a bright future. I can see it, so I want you to call me Rostioff or Master Rostioff, whichever you are more comfortable with at the moment.
“Yes, Master Rostioff sir.”
“That’s close enough, good start. Now tell me how killing your parents made you feel.”
Rostioff asked the question pointedly and without restraint purposefully to evoke a reaction from the boy. It worked. His chair lifted a full foot off the floor and smacked back down hard.
“Now Zynn, you can't play parlor tricks on people every time they say something you don’t like hearing. I want you to tell me how you killed your parents. Did you do it on purpose?”
Rostioff tried to evoke more emotion from the boy. This time he’d gone too far.
“NO!” Screamed Zynn. His voice echoed as if he were an enormous being and the walls began to heave in and out as if breathing of their own volition. He began to float into the air before Rostioff.
“That’s good boy, that’s good. Feel the rage, learn to understand it rather than fear it. Here let me help you along.” Rostioff stood up abruptly knocking over his chair. He raised his hands into the air and with a deft and confusing hand gesture Zynn saw the old man’s lips move out of sequence with the strange ghostly words that escaped his lips. Rostioff traced a figure eight in the air over and over before him until a symbol appeared out of nothing and he continued his chant;
“Tillflykt, Tillflykt, Tillflykt.” He repeated it over and over again with his hand moving in a rhythmic almost hypnotic pattern.
Zynn hadn't noticed the glowing blue bubble that had formed around him. He began to lower to the ground curious about the magick that Rostioff used. Rostioff saw this and wanted to ensure he kept the boy focused on his rage.
“You were just about to tell me what made you want to kill your mother and father lad, or do you regret your murderous ways now?” Zynn flew into the air and roared. A sound came out of him not of a Midgaardian and it shook the walls and windows. Rostioff expanded the bubble to include a chair.
“Do try to sit down lad. You can't hurt anyone here. The bubble began to waver and shimmer as if Zynn affected its structural integrity. Rostioff fought back tightening the grip of the magick on the lad.
“You are a strong one, aren’t you?” Zynn’s eyes were a terrible red now, the color of blood and his head shook as he tried to explode out of the bubble that held him fast.
“Now, breathe in and out deeply and try to think about how you feel right now.” Zynn gave no response other than the chair that he'd been ordered to sit on splintering instantaneously into a billion tiny slivers of wood and flying about within the bubble. After several moments he simply tired and the adrenaline left his blood. He fell limp to the floor unconscious and so did all the splinters hovering in the air about him. Rostioff dropped the magickal barrier and rushed to the boy’s aid at once.
He picked up Zynn in his arms and cradled him there. Zynn shoo, breaking into a cold sweat.
“It’s alright lad. You’re safe here. It’s alright.”
“I’m sorry, please don't send me off. I just can't control it. I didn't kill them on purpose. It was an accident.” Zynn started to cry and could barely get his words out now. “I have lots of accidents but I never meant to hurt anyone ever.” Rostioff could feel the tears coming to his own eyes now as he looked into the face of this lost and lonely confused little boy.
“Oh.. Oh hey Zynn, you don't have to worry. I’m not going to send you off. You see while you are a little bit of a handful for me, that’s about all you are. You’re not in the orphanage now. I can take care of you and teach you to control that awesome power of yours. I don't ever want you to worry about being alone or unwanted again lad. I’m going to take care of you now. Let’s get you off to bed. You have a big day ahead of you tomorrow.” Rostioff picked him up in his arms and carried the wasted form of the little boy up to his bed. Zynn fell asleep before they got to the top of the stairs.
He woke only for a moment when Rostioff lay him down on the bed.
“Master Rostioff sir?”
“How old are you?”
“I’m very old Zynn. Now go to sleep and we can talk about that and a great deal more in the morning.”
The next day Zynn awoke to the sounds of children's voice coming from the hall. They were fighting.
“Let my hair go you jerk!”
“No! whatcha gonna do about it?”
“Ahhhh!!!!! Let me go you freak! Master Rostioff! Herjaa hit me back!” Followed by the sound of footsteps running off down the hall. Shortly after Zynn heard a quiet knock at his bedroom door.
“Zynn? Are you up yet? It’s me Herjaa.”
“Yeah I’m up, come in.” Herjaa opened the door and slipped inside. She jumped onto the big bed and sat down next to Zynn.
“How did you sleep? Aren’t these beds just awful? Mine felt so lumpy couldn’t sleep a wink. I couldn't have even if I’d had the best bed in all Shaarn. Too excited, I guess. Aren’t you excited Zynn? This is going to be magnificent!” She smiled broadly at him, a big toothless smile. her two front teeth were gone and the new ones had just started budding in so she looked quite comical when she grinned.
“Come on! Let’s go have breakfast. All the Technomancers are going to talk to their pupils this morning while we eat and then we’ll have our first lesson.” Herjaa ran out of the room in a flurry of smiles and pigtails.
Zynn crawled out of bed cleaned himself up and got dressed. He headed down into the dining room to find it much livelier than the previous night. Several children filled the room, all talking at once and eating their breakfasts. Little squabbles went on between the girls and the boys here and there and several important looking men sat about the room, one at each of the nine tables. Zynn presumed these men were the Technomancers. They were neither monstrous nor scary looking as he had envisioned them to be. In fact, most were quite mild mannered looking. The one thing they all had in common is that they all looked old. Most of them looked older than Rostioff even though the reality of the situation was that Rostioff happened to be the oldest living man in Shaarn, though no one save the Technomancers knew of it. Zynn looked around for his peers and saw them all sitting at a table off to one side under a window. Vortiis pulled on Herjaa’s piggy tails and she grew quite upset with him. Zynn surmised this to be the same argument they’d been having on the other side of his door upstairs earlier. He went over and took a seat next to Herjaa between here and Vortiis.
“That’s my spot freak!” Vortiis shrieked at him.
“Is it alright if I sit next to you Herjaa?” Zynn smiled at her and gave her a wink.
“Yes of course, sit where ever you like Zynn.”
“Thanks. Good morning Bjaarn, Vortiis.” He smiled at the other two boys and grabbed for his napkin. In front of each of them there sat a bowl and a spoon. In the center of the table, a great bowl of apples and a steaming hot pot of corn porridge. It looked like he wasn't going to escape the awful stuff altogether, even as far from the orphanage as he felt here in Stromsgate.
A few minutes later when Rostioff arrived at the table to find Vortiis and Zynn shoving at each other’s arms whilst they tried to eat, corn porridge in splatters all over the table.
“Good morning children. Zynn, Vortiis? What seems to be the trouble here?”
“Zynn stole my spot Master Rostioff and he won't MOVE!” With the word move he shoved Zynn right over and knocked him to the floor. Zynn cracked his head on the back of Herjaa’s chair on the way down.
All the other children fell silent and turned to see the commotion. When they saw what happened, they all began to laugh at poor little Zynn. He became terribly embarrassed. He’d pulled his porridge over with him and it soaked in all over him now, head to toe.
“Vortiis, that was completely uncalled for. You apologize to Zynn this instant!” Rostioff spoke quite sternly with him.
“That’s better now help him up.”
Vortiis extended his hand out and when Zynn grabbed it he flashed Zynn a quick smirk and Zynn felt the palm of his hand burn and heard a sizzle. Halfway to his feet, he panicked at the burning and let go falling back over again. This time his head hit the floor hard as he landed. All the children began to laugh at him and call him names now.
“Vortiis, that’s enough! Up to your room at once! You will not be participating in today’s lesson.”
“But Master Rost....”
“Not another word Vortiis! Up to your room! I’ll be up shortly to discuss this with you. You’ll learn to control that temper of yours or you’ll be sent home before the trials begin!”
“You can't send me home! My father practically owns this place and he says I’ll be coming to work for him once I learn your magick!”
“Listen child, I know precisely who your father is and what he does over there at Innotech. I don't care who you are, you’re going to learn to listen and if I feel you should be sent home, then home you shall go! Now get up to your room at once or you shall be home before nightfall!”
“I'm sorry about that children. Zynn run up and change, would you? I’ll save some porridge for you.” He smiled at Zynn.
Zynn simply nodded and ran off for the stairs. Some of the other children shot vicious little jibes at him as he went by their tables.
He passed Vortiis in the hall.
“Hey jerk. Thanks for getting me kicked out! I should barbeque you right here for that!” His hand lit up with a small ball of fire.
Zynn felt afraid but didn't want to get into trouble so he simply ran off down the hallway for his bedroom door and slammed it shut behind him. Vortiis laughed at him as he ran “CHICKEN!” he shouted after Zynn.
After he dressed himself in some clean dry clothes Zynn returned to the table where Rostioff sat in the midst of telling the children a story about a great Barbarian Warrior who rode a dragon and fought ghouls during the Generations War. He saw Zynn coming across the dining room and scooped the lad up a fresh bowl of porridge as he talked. Zynn sat himself down just as Rostioff finished the tale.
“And that, lady and gents is Zynn here’s ancestor from long ago!” Zynn had only been half listening but that last little bit had caught his attention definitely and he looked up at Rostioff. “My ancestor rode dragons in the Generations War? No. I don't think so Master Rostioff.”
“Yes lad. His name was Dennon Greywolf and he was the first in your blood line. Your magick comes from the very first union of the Northern Horde with the southern peoples of the Kingdom of Ancient Castille. You even have a smattering of elf in you boy, and as such it’s not surprising that you should have such potent magickal powers at your disposal.” Rostioff smiled at him again and Zynn found that the both Bjaarn and Herjaa both looked at him now with a certain sense of wonder he’d never seen anyone use to behold him before.
“Ravak Winterwolf, my pupil at the time, Manya Silverleaf was his wife, her brother Turynn, and myself, who all helped to imprison the dark one in the Black Shaarnite Ruunstone, guarded by the spirits of ten selfless magi of the Tower of High Sorcery who agreed to give up their lives and be locked inside with him to ensure his eternal imprisonment. For if ever an evil as great as that of the dark one should return to Shaarn we would no longer be able to overcome it. We have lost our way and magick is all but gone from the realm. We would now have no way to defeat him and his undead minions.
Herjaa interrupted him there.
“Is there no way to defeat him master?” Her little eyes were wide and her chin rested on her hands on the table as she leaned into Rostioff attentively.
“Well, there is hope yes. There’s an ancient prophecy written by the lady of the Faerie Wood before she left the Land of Shaarn to return to the Faerie World of Aalfheim. She said that many thousands of years into the future a child would be born with the power to right all the wrongs the dark one had done throughout history. The prophecy said that the child would bear a mark in the shape of the Land of Shaarn on the back of its right shoulder, and that the child would be able to uncover the lost Dragon Orbs and restore fully the power of magick to the lost Magi of Shaarn. The prophecy goes on to say that this child would grow into a being referred to only as The Traveler and that this person would roam all time and space battling the darkness. What do you say to that Zynn?”
Rostioff turned and smiled down at the boy. Zynn’s eyes were wide with wonder. Herjaa also seemed quite amazed at the tale. Bjaarn, an unemotional boy, simply shrugged and took another mouthful of his porridge.
“You said that you were there, but the Generations War ended like five-thousand years ago, so how could you have been?”
“You’re smart as a whip girl! Not much gets past you does it? Well lass, I’ve been alive for more than five thousand years now if you can believe that. Do you see this necklace?” He wore a few of them all very impressive and magickal looking but one in particular he kept beneath his robe. He produced it and showed the children a sparkling white orb, cold to the touch and filled the air with frost as he moved it about.
“Ravak Winterwolf took this necklace from around the neck of the dark one when we defeated him. It holds the power to slow the aging process and to preserve the life of a man almost indefinitely. Through its power I will live for many more years to come, but I must never take it off or I could pass into the spirit world as my body would rapidly catch up to its current age and I would wither away as the time I have stolen caught up to me.” He passed the Orb around slowly watching the children’s expressions as he moved it past each of them.” It’s called the White Dragon Orb and it’s an artifact from the very First Age of the Land of Shaarn created by unknown shaman in a time long forgotten. This jewel children, and its like, could never be recreated. Almost all of those who possess the power to create such an enchantment are long dead.”
Rostioff smiled at the wide little eyes about him as he tucked it safely back into the folds of his robes and away from prying eyes and fingers.
“Is that why you are so cold Master Rostioff Sir?” Zynn asked curiously.
“Yes Zynn. That’s why I’m so cold. The White Dragon was a Dragon of the North, a dragon who possessed dominion over snow and ice and weather but most of all over the cold arctic climate. So, my skin is cold. The cold slows down my metabolism and preserves my life force. I hardly neat to eat and my heart beats but thrice per hour, yet I do not tire and most importantly I do not expire. And now children, it is time we stepped out into the courtyard with everyone else and take in our first lesson.”
Rostioff rose and guided the children outside into the wide-open courtyard. It did not look nearly as prisonlike during the day. Large murals of scenes of forests and the sea had been colorfully painted on the interior of the outer wall. The grass grew thick and lush. There were trees and bushes all about that Zynn had not noticed in the dark the previous night and all in all it really didn’t seem nearly as bad as Sunnyside Orphanage which when it came right down to it hadn't been a very sunny place at all.
“Alright children I want you all to come and sit here in a circle around me. That’s it let’s all sit down together in a little circle.” Zynn walked slowly over. He looked about at the other groups where the Technomancers had their pupils lifting things with their minds, burning things with their fire, disappearing things, striking things with lightning, and so on. He had no idea that there were so many magick-users in Shaarn. In reality they were just a smattering of what once had been a powerful force of magi leading the nation as it matured. These children were the last of a dying breed. The age of magick had slowly been replaced by the age of science.
“Alright children, I want you all to think of the one thing in your life that makes you the happiest.”
“Like my cat, Mr. Buggles?” interrupted Herjaa.
“Yes, that’s it Herjaa, like your cat Mr. Buggles. But it doesn't have to be a pet.” He looked around at Bjaarn and Zynn each in turn; “It could be a pastime such as swimming, it could be a time long ago you have locked in a memory, it could be a favorite food, or a smell. It can be anything really. Just sit on your knees like this, fold your hands in your lap, make sure you’re comfortable, think about your happy thought and focus on it while you take deep slow breaths. Good.... That’s right. Excellent Herjaa, good Bjaarn.... Zynn... Zynn... Zynn! Stop looking at the other children and focus on the task at hand.”
“But Master Rostioff Sir, none of the other children are doing this. Can we go and see what they are all doing? Can we practice our magick too? I need to practice.”
“Actually, Zynn that is what we are doing. Before we learn to run, we must learn to walk.”
“What? I don't get it.” Zynn became confused now. Why were all the other groups of kids working on their magick while his group simply sat and daydreamed?
“Well Zynn it’s like this. You have a gift. A very powerful gift, and if you don't learn to control yourself before you begin flinging it around at the world you could hurt yourself or other people. What we're doing here is learning to focus ourselves. Once we have the basics down pat, then we’ll begin to demonstrate our power. Do you understand?”
“I guess.” Zynn knelt down with the others and began to breathe. He started to think about what made him happy but had a great deal of difficulty. Zynn had experienced so much loss and so much loneliness that he couldn't seem to find his happy thought. His little brow furrowed and he concentrated as hard as he could. He thought he’d found it for a moment when he thought about looking out to sea the few times the headmaster had taken them down to the shoreline and while it wasn't a particularly sad memory, it definitely didn’t seem happy either, just not as bad as most of the others.
“Excellent children, excellent. Now don't forget to breathe in and out, very slowly like this; In..... and then out..... In..... and then out. Let your shoulders relax, let your jaw relax, feel all your troubles melt away as you think of that one thing that makes you so very, very happy.”
Rostioff could see Zynn squirming, brow furrowed, feet kicking. He knew the boy had lived a trouble young life. Now it occurred to him that the lad had trouble finding even the smallest thought of joy in his own life. Rostioff shook his head back and forth at this. How can a boy so young be so unhappy?
“Zynn tell me about your happy thought. Where are you right now?” “I don't have one Master Rostioff Sir.” Zynn opened his eyes and looked at the old man for guidance.
“Close em’ back up lad, listen to my voice, don't look about like a lost lamb. Now, what about memories of your mum and dad.”
“No!” Zynn shouted back at Rostioff. “Ok Zynn, that’s fine, how about..... A friend back at Sunnyside?”
“I didn't have any friends there. They were all mean to me.” Zynn breathed harder now.
“Why don't you try thinking about me and Rostioff, I’m your friend,” said Herjaa. She opened one eye and smiled at him. He stared at her now dumbfounded. She gave him a little wink and closed her one eye back up. “Zynn closed his eyes and breathed deeply as he thought about Herjaa. He breathed in and out deeply focusing on her face and her flowing hazelnut colored curls, her cute little toothless smile. It worked he felt good. He calmed down and relaxed. In fact, he couldn't remember ever feeling better.
“Excellent Zynn, excellent. Now open your eyes children... and..... stand up slowly. OK, now Bjaarn you shall be our first guinea pig for the day.” With that Rostioff held his hand high and spoke the word “Meteor!” A small flaming rock appeared in his hand. He hurled it at a nearby tree and it exploded in a terrific mess of flaming pebbles. The tree went up in flames instantly.
“Save that tree lad! Extinguish that fire! Immediately! But remember... Stay calm, focus on your happy thought, and use the power, don't let it use you.”
Bjaarn turned and stepped a couple of paces closer to the still burning tree. He raised his hands in the air over his head and started to slowly pull them apart. As he did so, a ball of water started to swirl between them. Once the ball grew to about the size of a beach ball, he pulled his arms back, and flung the ball at the tree. It burst in the air above and extinguished the flames instantly.
“Excellent Bjaarn, excellent! OK Herjaa now it’s your turn. I want you to transport yourself from here to the top of the outer wall where that guard is standing and then back down here again.”
“It doesn’t work like that Master Rostioff.” said Herjaa with her arms crossed. “Whatever do you mean dear? Of course, it does but you must first carefully visualize your target destination.”
“No, I mean I can't go anywhere I’ve never been before or I could get stuck. I got stuck in the ground once and I was sick for a month after that when I finally got myself unstuck. All I could smell or taste was dirt for a very long time. I don't want to get halfway stuck inside that wall or I might come back without any feet or something.”
“I assure you that won’t happen. I'm here Herjaa. If you get stuck, I will transport you back in one piece myself.” Rostioff smiled at her reassuringly.
“You mean you can move about with your mind as well?” This excited Herjaa. She’d never met another Transporter other than herself.
“Well, not exactly no. But this Orb here allows me to move about at will in the same way that your mind allows you to move about. Now close your eyes and focus on the top of that wall. At the same time think of your Mr. Buggles and breathe slowly and deeply. Then move yourself from here, to there and back again.”
Herjaa looked up at the wall and stared at it for several seconds. Then, she closed her eyes and began to breathe slowly and deeply. A good long moment passed before anything happened and Rostioff had begun to think she’d lost her nerve when she finally blinked out with a little flash as if a portal of light opened on the spot she stood and then another opened just above the wall where she’d been looking. She reappeared as if falling through a hole landing on the top of the wall as if she’d jumped down off a high step. One of the guards wheeled about frightened by the sudden appearance of the little girl and lowered his Blaster Rifle on instinct. Herjaa saw the rifle and in a panic reached out for it. She touched the tip of the barrel and in a flash, she disappeared again. She reappeared back in the courtyard where she’d been only moments before and the Blaster lay there in front of her at her feet.
“Excellent Herjaa, except next time leave the guards with their guns. I’d imagine he will be a might upset that he has to walk down here to retrieve it now.”
They all laughed at the guard shouting from the top of the wall down at them now and running for the stairwell.
“Now then Zynn, last but by no means least, it’s your turn lad.”
“No!” Zynn cut him short. “I can't do it! Whenever I use my power someone always gets hurt or something gets wrecked.” Zynn crossed his arms and shook his head back and forth defiantly. “Now Zynn, that is why you need to focus on your happy thought of young Miss Herjaa here. If you stay calm and focus your thoughts you will be able to stay in control of your powers. It’s OK if you fail Zynn, but you must at the very least try. Learn to use your focus”
Zynn looked to Herjaa who gave him her big toothless smile and a nod. He closed his eyes and thought of that smile. He breathed slowly and focused on the clean crisp image of her face.
“Now that you’re relaxed Zynn I want you to very gently lift that statue over there off the ground about two inches and then very gently set it back down again without damaging it. Can you do that?”
“I don't think I can Master Rostioff Sir, I don't seem to be able to move anything without smashing it.” His breathing became labored.
“Alright lad let’s try something much smaller then, shall we. There is a coin in my hand here. I want you to move it into your hand. Do you think you can do that?”
“I’ll try sir.”
“Zynn; there is no try, there is only do or do not. To try means you do not believe you will accomplish your goal. You must DO the thing you set out to do. Now then; breathe slowly, think of young Miss Herjaa’s spacious grin and focus on the coin.”
Zynn began to breathe in and out slowly. He opened his eyes after he had envisioned Herjaa and looked at the coin. He could sense its weight in the old man’s hand. He could feel it; he could feel the old man. He could feel his power welling up inside of him as he prepared to release it. He knew that he only had to use a tiny morsel of power to move that coin into his own hand but he felt a tidal wave of energy rising up from within his heart. He tried to breathe deeply as Rostioff had taught him. It worked to some degree, allowing him to calm himself and focus his thoughts on only the coin, only its minuscule weight. It might have been weightless for what it felt like to him. He raised his hand and held it out open palmed toward the coin and furrowed his brow as he bit down hard on his lip to pull back the power as he released it. The coin shot through the air toward Zynn and into his hand. He’d done it! For the first time in his life he'd used the power controlling it with his own will instead of letting the power overwhelm him.
“That was remarkable Zynn! Remarkable! Congratulations! You’ve just finished your first lesson, and passed the first trial.”
“That was a trial Master Rostioff Sir? And I passed it?” Zynn felt shocked as were the other two. “Yes, it was and you did very well my boy. Very well indeed! You all did!” “Except for Vortiis Master.” said Bjaarn. “You made him stay inside. What about his trial?” “Bjaarn, Vortiis failed his first trial this morning in the dining room. The first trial is self control and focus, and Vortiis failed it before he’d even finished eating breakfast. Now you don’t worry about him, you worry about yourself. Your future is at stake lad.” Rostioff explained to them that they would each face three trials and that as soon as they failed two of the trials or the third trial itself, they would be sent back home and would not be joining the Technomancer Society as apprentices. As he finished telling them about the trial process, Vortiis approached the group from behind and sat himself in the circle with the other children in his group. “Vortiis; didn’t I tell you to stay in your room?” Rostioff gave the boy a frustrated look and crossed his arms. “I suppose you did Master Rostioff. But my father called me to ask how my first day had gone. When I explained to him what you’d done to me he instructed me to return to the group at once and to participate in the lessons and trials. I listen to my father Master Rostioff. If I don’t, he will paddle my backside.” Vortiis very cockily sat himself down on the grass and smiled over at his friend Bjaarn who gave him a very big smile back. “Well lad I can appreciate that you want to listen to your father. Respecting one’s parents is a great virtue however when you are within the walls of this Tower you shall listen only to my commands and I instructed you to spend the day in your room considering what you'd done and how to control yourself and that is the only thing you should have been doing. Not talking to your father. How did you even take the call? I thought all comms were confiscated on entry to the Tower yesterday.” “I just kept mine. My father told me to keep my comm close at all times so he could reach me if he needed to.” “Again lad, your father is not in charge here. I am. Now I must tell you that your attitude and lack of self discipline has caused you to fail your first trial already. If you fail one more, I will have no choice but to send you home to your father and you can explain to him why you will not be apprenticing here. Is that understood?” Vortiis stood up with a shocked and angry look in his eye;
“What do you mean I’ve already failed my first trial? I wasn't even given a chance to perform! This is so unfair!” Vortiis reached into his pocket and pulled his comm. “What are you doing boy? What did I just say about comms? They are forbidden during the trials.” Rostioff took a step toward the boy to retrieve the comm from him. “I’m calling my father. You are treating me unfairly and he needs to know about it.” Vortiis began entering his father’s comm address. “Give him the comm Vortiis!” Herjaa Transported directly in front of the lad and grabbed the comm. “Herjaa! No!” Cried out Rostioff, too late. Vortiis ignited into a human fireball and the rush of heat knocked Herjaa back burning her skin and clothing. She cried out in pain and began to cry. Instantly Zynn’s hair stood on end and he began to levitate into the air. His eyes went red like blood and his arms came out. “Zynn! Control yourself! Stop that at once!” Rostioff spoke the word of incantation and placed a bubble around the boy to contain him.
“Hahaha! Let him come! He can't hurt me when my flame is up.” Vortiis hurled a small fireball at Zynn and it exploded harmlessly against the protective and imprisoning bubble that Rostioff had placed around him. Zynn panicked and screamed so loud that the ground shook. Ripples of dirt and dust exploded outward from where he hovered in the air. The bubble he’d been contained in shattered as if it were nothing more than delicate glass. The statue behind him began to crumple into a heap of indiscernible metal and steam from the friction and pressure it had been placed under. Vortiis hurled another much larger ball of flame at Zynn. Zynn simply raised his hands. An almost invisible wave of force rippled through the air back at Vortiis blowing out the flames like a candle in the wind and the sound like a muted clap of thunder knocked over Rostioff and the other two children as it struck Vortiis. He flew backward at an alarming rate and struck the far courtyard wall so hard he left a boy shaped indentation in the metal. His flame extinguished and he slid down the wall lifeless into a heap where he lay in a very unnatural position, unmoving.
All of the other children and the other Technomancers were now silent and observing the very shocking display of violent power that had just taken place. Rostioff regained his composure and he along with a couple of other Technomancer and a couple of guards ran for the tattered body of Vortiis who lay on the ground still unconscious. Of course, all the children including Herjaa and Bjaarn followed suit and ran over to crowd around and see if Vortiis was still alive because he most certainly didn't look it.
Zynn didn’t move. He simply stood right where he’d been with his fists clenched in anxiety and frustration. Tears rolled down his face. His lower lip quivered as he thought himself.
I should have known I wouldn't be able to do this. I'm a freak. He’s going to send me back to Sunnyside for sure now. Oh god I think he’s dead. I know he’s dead.
Suddenly there came another voice within his head, Herjaa’s voice.
He’s not dead. He’s just unconscious.
He looked across the courtyard for her. She stood there at the edge of the crowd looking at him as all the others ran by her in a panic to lend aid to Vortiis.
He’ll be fine after Rostioff heals him. You saved me from him. Thank you Zynn.
Yes. You did. He’s a wicked boy and he might have killed me had you not stepped in.
Zynn smiled a little half crooked smile just for a moment and only Herjaa saw that little smile cross his lips before it faded again. One of the other Technomancers who stood on the outskirts answered a question that one of his contemporaries had just asked;
“He did it,” came the unnamed Technomancer’s response as he wheeled about and pointed at Zynn. “I saw the whole thing! That boy tried to make a call and then the boy over there attacked him, tried to contain his terrible power but the other boy’s power overwhelmed the old man. He escaped and attacked this poor defenceless little boy!”
All the children turned and shouted insults at Zynn. He began to feel the tears again. His lip quivered and finally broke. He simply couldn't take it any longer and gave over his sobs to them as he fell to his knees. Rostioff finished healing Vortiis with his Orb and pushed his way through the crowd to find Zynn. He found the boy crying with his face in his hands across the courtyard in front of the still smoldering crumpled remains of the statue.
Rostioff knelt before him and grabbed the boy close into his chest and hugged him close.
“It’s alright lad. I know you didn’t do it on purpose. It’s alright. Vortiis is going to be fine.”
“Good morning Zynn how are you feeling today? Are you ready for your trial this morning?” A day had passed now since the incident. The Council had agreed that a day of rest and contemplation should be in order prior to anymore trials. Zynn spent the entire day in his room aside from a short talk with Herjaa late in the day. He’d fallen asleep early. Morning came quickly for him. He had still not come down for a meal so Rostioff decided to take matters into his own hands bringing him something to eat, and a little something else.
“You know Zynn I understand why you’re feeling the way you are but you mustn't let the opinions of others drag you down. They don’t know your path and you don’t know theirs. I want to ask you something.”
Zynn sat up and began to hungrily spoon the hot corn porridge into his mouth followed by a big piece of apple. He looked up at Rostioff to pause a moment for the question.
“What happened to the coin from your trial? What did you do with it?”
Zynn chewed slowly and his head lowered. He reached under his pillow to retrieve the coin and held his hand out. There in his little palm was a perfectly round marble sized ball of metal completely compressed into a sphere. He had a painful looking blister in his hand as well where the friction on the coin caused by the extremely fast and powerful force it experienced while being crushed caused it to reach a very high temperature.
“My god Zynn, your hand. Why didn’t you tell me? It must hurt something awful.”
“You said I’d passed my first trial. I didn't want you to be disappointed when you saw that I failed.” Zynn’s chin fell to his chest now. Rostioff took his hand and produced his Orb to heal the boy’s burn. Not but a moment later the skin looked like new. Zynn looked at the spot where the burn had been and wiggled his fingers. It felt as if nothing happened.
“Zynn you still passed the trial. I saw the coin fly through the air whole and land in your hand. Why did you crush it?”
“I had to.”
“Why did you have to?”
“I couldn't stop it when the coin hit my hand and if I hadn’t crushed it, I might have hurt someone. So, I put it all into crushing the coin instead. It got hot; really hot, and it burned my hand. When I saw what Vortiis did I got scared that he would burn Herjaa too. I guess I overreacted.” Zynn took another small mouthful of porridge and swirled the spoon in the bowl aimlessly.
Rostioff looked at the wise young man before him. Zynn talked and acted like a man but he’d only seen ten seasons.
“Yes, yes you did. You made a near fatal error my boy. Do you know who Vortiis is?”
“Well he is the son of a powerful man. His father is Geraat Jordan and he is the CEO of Innotech. Have you heard of Innotech?”
“No. what's a CEO Master Rostioff Sir?” Zynn had no idea what the old man talked about.
“It’s not important. What is important is that you know that Vortiis’ father is a very bad man. Vortiis is here because his father paid money to some of the Technomancers to be here. He shouldn’t be here. He should be in a mental institution for the criminally insane. Nothing good will come of that boy’s life with the father he has.”
“At least he still has a father.” Zynn sat up cross-legged now spooning at the sloppy porridge, which he found to be particularly bad this morning. “Yes. Yes, well I suppose he does, doesn’t he? However, you have me lad. I may be a little wrinkly but I’m sure I can teach you a thing or two about living a happy and successful life as a Technomancer. Now I have a gift here for you that I think will be of great help to you in your plight to control your magnificent power of Telekinesis.” The old man reached down beside the bed and produced a long white Staff which he lay down across the bed before Zynn. It looked unlike anything Zynn had ever seen before. It had been carved of Rowenwood; ancient Rowenwood by the look of it, and at the head of the staff sat the what appeared to be a dragon with its claws held open as if they were to clutch something. It stood some seven feet tall yet very light. Zynn reached for it and a tiny bolt of magickal energy shot into his hand as he got near it. He recoiled in fear gripping his hand and looking for a burn mark. “It’s OK lad. Go ahead, it won't hurt you.” Zynn reached out for it once again and felt the energy from within the staff spring to life in his hands. “What you are feeling is the power of all of the powerful Arch Magi who held that staff in ages now long gone by. That was my staff given to me by my Master Danthalas Whiteash at the end of the Second Age of Shaarn at the foot of the Generations War. It’s been held by every Arch Magi of the Tower of High Sorcery since the Towers inceptions in the First Age. It is more than ten-thousand years old. It once held a powerful Dragon Orb up there at the top but I have long since removed it. When the Tower gave power over to the senate, they told me I would no longer be able to carry the staff openly as it represented a symbol of ruler-ship and I no longer had that power. So, I removed the Orb and added it to my chain of talismans here under my robe so that I could still use its power when needed and then put that beautiful staff away for a very long time. It’s yours now lad. I want you to use it as a focus.” Zynn smiled at him and stood up on the bed holding the staff out in front of him. “Thanks Master Rostioff Sir. What’s a focus?” “A Focus dear boy is an outlet for all that power of yours and you lad, need a mighty powerful focus to contain all that energy. Step down from the bed I’ll show you how it works.”
Zynn jumped down brandishing the staff menacingly as a warrior would. Rostioff laughed at him a little and then stood behind grabbing the boy's arms to show him how to hold it properly. “Now just like we learned yesterday I want you to think of your happy thought and focus on it breathing deeply. Once you have that in your mind, I want you to think moving that bowl of porridge sitting on the bed there up into the air a little and then gently back down onto the tray. but this time when you are ready to move it, smack the heel of the staff into the floor and direct your power through the staff first, and then out at the bowl. The staff will help maintain a steady and restrained flow of magick as you accomplish your goal. Now give it a go Zynn!” Rostioff stood back and prepared himself to create a containment field around the boy should things go sideways. While this always worked for magi in past ages this boy had something more inside him, something unique Rostioff had never before seen. Zynn looked at the bowl and began to breathe slowly in and out then closed his eyes. After a long moment his little brow furrowed and he slammed the heel of the staff into the floor. His eyes snapped open blood red as he filled with magickal energy. In the same instant a silent rippling wave of force fell away from the staff and shook the walls of the building. The bowl slowly and gracefully levitated into the air and then retreated back down onto the tray with nary a clank or clatter. “Excellent Zynn! That’s excellent! You’ve done it! Now we must talk. What I am about to say is forbidden but I want only the best for you so I fear I must tell you this before you face your next trial. Today your trial will also be about control. For a telekinetic the trial usually consists of lifting an immense object overhead and then moving it to a very tight location. There will be a catch. During the trial you will be attacked or accosted at the very least by some outside force. This is all a part of the trial. The council wishes to see if you are able to not only control your emotions to stabilize your power but also manage your fear under duress. With this focus I think you can do that. I think you will do exceedingly well! Now let’s get you ready for the day, shall we?
The day grew overcast and hot. It looked like rain and the air stunk. Zynn entered the courtyard with his new staff to many a whisper and pointed finger. He did look quite comical carrying a seven-foot-tall ancient Rowenwood staff considering he stood only four feet tall, ten years old and just a boy. Herjaa caught sight of him and waved at him running over. “Hi Zynn! Wow! Awesome staff! Where did you get that?” She reached for it and he pulled it back defensively. Her hand recoiled and she gave him her little toofless grin. “Master Rostioff gave it to me. It’s my focus. It’s so I don't kill Vortiis today during my trial. It’s really old and lots of famous wizards used it.” “Wow! What does it do?” Herjaa became enthralled with the ancient staff and looked up and down the length of the haft admiring the inscriptions and the carving of the dragon’s claws at the head of the staff. “With this staff I can control my power so I don't hurt people; watch.” He looked at Herjaa closely for a moment and then closed his eyes. He began to breathe slowly and then his eyes snapped open filled with blood once again. Herjaa jumped back at the eerie sight of Zynn’s bloodied eyes and smiled again, not at all afraid of him. Slowly she began to levitate into the air overhead. She did a little twirl and gently landed back down on the grass. Rostioff walked over at that moment. “Good morning Herjaa, I see you’ve begun to master telekinesis as well as telepathy and Transportation. Excellent! You shall be my star pupil!” “No Master Rostioff it was Zynn! Zynn made me fly with his power! He was showing the staff you gave him to use for his focus. Isn't it magnificent?” “Indeed.” Rostioff gave Zynn a wink and a smile. The lad practiced using the focus and seemed to have much keener control of his faculties than he had only two days earlier. There were nine chairs set atop a large T shaped stage that had been erected early that morning before the children had risen. The center of the stage extended out into the courtyard. In front of it were several objects that seemed very out of place. Zynn guessed that these must have something to do with the trials. A voice came over the PA system;
“If everyone could please assemble in the roped off viewing area stage left we’ll begin in just five minutes. Technomancers please take your positions for judging.”
“Alright boy this it, they are going to call you first. There is something I have to tell you before you go up.” “ First!? I can’t go first! I’ll kill someone!” Zynn became terrified. “Zynn, you’ll do fine, you just levitated little miss Herjaa here off the ground with as little effort as lifting your hand to your mouth to feed yourself! Now snap out of it! This is important! Two of the Technomancers are working for Vortiis’ father. I don't know what your twist will be during your trial today but those two volunteered to plan it. So be careful, be calm and above all else remain in control of the power through the staff. Now go!” The PA system sounded again; “Will Zynn Greywolf please take the stage for the first trial of the day.” Zynn felt half panicked. He walked slowly to the steps at the foot of the stage. The other children all watched him as he walked and whispered things about him. Atop the stage he could see the courtyard clearly. There were five objects there. The statue he’d crushed two days previous, a Drifter Tank filled with soldiers, a chair, a table with a feather pinned to it gently blowing in the breeze and a glass of water also sitting atop a table. He could hear the crow off to his right whispering and made out a couple of snide remarks. It didn't do him any good either. Zynn closed his eyes and tried to focus on Herjaa's face. Her smile came to mind first as always and then her curls. He just stood there breathing and focusing on Herjaa trying to clear his mind of the fear, and the uncertainty he felt. A voice from behind him spoke.
“Turn and face us boy.” He did as instructed. There sat all nine Technomancers, Rostioff among their ranks watching him closely. The man who spoke was one of the men Rostioff had warned him about. “Your trial today will be a daunting one. It will demonstrate your ability to wield magick under pressure, and will also demonstrate your ability to control yourself under duress. Here is how we shall begin. I will shout out a command to you and you will complete it. If at any time you are unable to complete my requested command then you fail your trial for today. Are you ready to begin?” “I’m ready.” He gave a quick bow and turned back to the courtyard closing his eyes, picturing all the objects therein.
“Firstly, you shall lift the Drifter Tank into the air.” This seemed simple enough he breathed, focused, slammed his staff into the stage making it shake with restrained magickal energy and the tank slowly levitated into the air about ten feet off the ground.
“Excellent! Now you shall maintain control of the tank whilst you unfold and repair the statue you damaged the other day. Restore the statue!”
Zynn focused on the tank a second longer to ensure he had it, which he did, almost effortlessly. It wasn't heaviness that he felt. He got the urge to unleash more power that he had to restrain and the Technomancer instructing him did not understand that as no one had even the vaguest idea of how powerful his magick truly was. He looked at the statue and closed his eyes again. He saw there the tank hovering, he saw Herjaa’s face smiling back at him from the crowd and he saw the crumpled statue. He began to envision it as it looked the other day when he’d seen it. He breathed slowly and deeply focusing on the original form of the statue and then gently, ever so gently he allowed a little more of himself to escape through the staff. His eyes snapped back open filled with bloody magick and he watched and concentrated as the form of the crushed statue began to take its original shape. He allowed a little more power through and the process sped up dramatically. The Bronze of the statue turned red hot as it reshaped at such an alarming rate. It began to smoke and steam. A moment later the statue stood repaired and looked like brand new again steaming as it released the heat of the friction into the air. Rain drops began to fall on the scene now and they sizzled as they touched the hot shoulders of the statue.
“Well done lad! For your next challenge you will lift that statue into the air while at the same time turning the table with the glass of water upside down while not spilling a drop.”
“Oh, come now this is getting ridiculous that is a bit much to ask of a child, is it not?”
Rostioff stood from his seat and protested the asinine request of the treacherous Technomancer trying to make Zynn fail.”
“Master Rostioff please take your seat. You will have your chance with my pupils shortly.” Rostioff shook his head and threw his arms into the air taking his seat. Little Zynn focused and breathed while he accomplished the task given with relative ease. A great cheer went up from the crowd of children followed by a voice over the PA;
“Please save all applause for the end. Thank you.” “Now Zynn, I want you to maintain all of your current tasks but move the tank pilot you can see there sticking his head out from the porthole into the chair and move the chair under the tank.” Zynn nodded his recognition and lifted the man into the air. He began to sweat. He had no idea he could accomplish such complicated tasks with his power and had never been asked to do such a thing before. His head began to shake under the strain of such intense concentration but the man and the tank moved into position. The soldier had a less than happy look on his face as he looked up at the tank hovering above him with no support other than the mind of a ten year old boy with a track record of losing control. “For your final test you shall unpin that feather from the table and move it into the soldier’s hand.” It seemed easy enough to Zynn he refocused his concentration on the feather and unpinned it. As he did so he heard a voice inside his head. Not Herjaa’s voice, someone else. A man’s voice, but a whisper. He couldn't quite make out what it said and it startled him. The tank wavered slightly and a hushed gasp fell over the crowd but Zynn did not lose control. Blood slowly ran down from his nose and the corners of his eyes as the magick consumed him but still he did not lose focus. Then the voice came again like a clear whisper right in his ear; Murderer! You killed your mother and father! With that Zynn’s eyes snapped open and he let out a whimper. The staff fell at his side. The tank wavered uneasily in the air. The statue shook and expanded and contracted as if something within it were going to explode out. He looked at one of the Technomancers. The other man Rostioff had warned him of. He barely had a grip on the objects behind him in the courtyard now. His form wavered and shifted. The voice came at him again and as it did the corner of the Technomancer’s mouth curled into a slight smirk. You let your mother be raped and killed and you could have stopped it. You are a coward. The last word ‘coward’ rang out in his mind over and over again louder and louder still. The Technomancer’s eyebrow raised slightly and little Zynn finally succumb to the suggestion the man had planted in his head. The tank dropped crushing the soldier; the statue exploded sending red hot fragments of bronze flying in every direction striking several children as it flew through the air. Panic broke out. The crowd began screaming and people ran every which way. Zynn simply opened his mouth to speak to Rostioff but blood ran freely from the boy’s lips and he collapsed in a heap on the stage where he stood caught up in the midst of a seizure. Rostioff ran to his aid. Zynn lay there convusing something awful and blood ran freely from his eyes, ears, nose and mouth as he shook. Rostioff produced his Orb and began to work his magick on the boy. It took several long moments of chanting and a great deal of impressive looking blue healing magick light before the seizure subsided and the bleeding stopped. Zynn opened his eyes which were still very bloodshot from the ordeal and he opened his still quivering lips to speak to Rostioff gripping the old man’s arm as he did so. “I..I... I...I’m sorry Sir. I... There was someone else... Inside my head. I’m so sorry Sir.” His eyes rolled back and he passed out again. People were scattering back into the tower and the alarm sounded. Several of the other Technomancers used their magick to lift the tank off the crushed soldier.
“I beg you all to reconsider. The boy is remarkable in ways you cannot even imagine.” “Master Rostioff the council has voted unanimously aside from you. The boy is far much if a potential liability for us to take him in. We realize you've grown attached to the young man but we simply cannot jeopardize the Technomancer Tower or the society any further by keeping him here. He’s killed one man and seriously injured one of the other pupils now.” Another man cut the speaker off;
“I’ve read his file from the orphanage in Innisport that pawned him off on us. Apparently, he killed his own parents. He injured children there as well. The child is a maniac.” “Agreed,” came the voice of another of the council. “He shall be sent off to the Midgaards on the morrow.” Rostioff shook his head. “So that’s it? We are going to send one of the greatest magickal powers of our time of to pick cotton on the islands? Well I'm sorry but I do not accept that. You can all consider this my resignation from the Council. I’ll be leaving with the boy on the morrow and not for the Midgaard Cotton Plantations. I am done here, there is nothing left for me in this place but sad memories. I’ll sign off as the boy’s Guardian and I bid you all farewell.” With that Rostioff turned and left the Council chamber. No one spoke as he left. The two men who had conspired against Zynn were happy with the result. Rostioff had been a thorn in their sides for years now and they had been unable to roust him from the council; him leaving of his own free will proved to be a double bonus for them. Rostioff found Zynn in his room sitting on the bed with his legs hunched up under his chin looking out the window, crying. Rostioff sat on the bed next to him and put his arm around the lad.
“You’ve really done it this time. They aim to send you off to the Midgaards to spend the rest of your life picking cotton for the masses.” Zynn looked at him wide eyed. The child looked awful. His eyes were bloodshot, there were broken blood vessels in his cheeks and he looked pale as a ghost after his blood loss.
“I told them I would not stand for it. I’ve signed off as your legal Guardian Zynn. I’m your father now.” Zynn looked at him wide eyed with his little mouth hanging part way open half in shock at the old man’s words. He jumped around and hugged Rostioff around the neck tightly nearly squeezing the last of the old boy’s life out of him.
“OK, OK I’m glad you’re happy lad. Now let’s talk a moment, shall we? We are no longer welcome here and must leave on the morrow. So, I want you to get your things packed up, take a long hot shower and get yourself in presentable order. You will need to get a good night’s rest. I’ve gotten us tickets for the morning Drifter Rail. We leave at five AM”
“But where will we go Master Rostioff Sir?” Zynn still looked off but he at least had some excitement in his voice, which seemed a good sign of recovery.
“We are going to live with the elves in the forest kingdom of Rowendale. There I will teach you true spell-craft, none of this Technomantic nonsense these fools practice here. Technology has done no good for anyone and they can keep it. I’ll bring you up some supper later. Just stay in here for now and read a book or something. Best you don't show yourself to the other children right now as everyone is quite shaken up by the accident.”
Zynn lowered his head and nodded.
“I’m very sorry I killed that man Master Rostioff Sir. Someone talked to me, inside my head like Herjaa can do, but it wasn’t her. It was a man. He made me lose focus. I dropped the staff and when I turned to see who spoke to me, I saw him sitting there glaring at me.” “Who lad? Who was it?” It was one of the other Technomancers; the skinny one with the pointy head. He was talking to me inside my head. First he said I murdered my mum and dad and then he said I was a coward for not saving them.” Zynn’s head fell. “That’s when I dropped the tank on that poor soldier. I never meant to kill him and I’m sorry I did it.” Zynn looked back out the window and wiped his nose with the back of his sleeve then brushed the hair out of his face.
“Zynn this is terrible. It means that not only were my suspicions correct about there being traitors among the Technomancer council, but that they have also kept their true powers and agenda a secret from the rest of us. I almost wonder if there are not more traitors among them. Blast the accursed senate and all they represent! They've ruined the land I fought for centuries to protect and preserve!” Rostioff shook his head and paced some before addressing Zynn one last time before leaving the boys room.
I’ll bring your supper up at seven PM be ready to leave in the morning by four AM. That means straight to bed after you've finished eating. Now go and get yourself cleaned up and take it easy you need to recover for our journey and whatever you do, don’t open this door to anyone but myself and do not leave the room for any reason.
Zynn did as he was told and sat looking out the window for several long hours. In the meantime, Rostioff slipped into his own quarters and packed up all of his belongings. He tired himself quickly and decided a hot cup of tea and a nice hot shower to go with it would be in order. He made himself a cup and took a big sip as he jotted a couple of last-minute notes into his journal and then slipped it into the satchel he’d packed for the trip, before stepping into the shower. Whilst in the shower the running water masked the sound of a solitary intruder entering the old man’s quarters. Noiselessly the intruder slid a small envelope from within the folds of his cloak, then poured a small amount of powder into the old man’s half drank tea cup and left the room without making the slightest sound. No one saw him, no one noticed. But if they had, they'd have seen the form of a small boy in a black pointy hooded cloak slipping down the hallway so silently and stealthily you’d have guessed him not but a shadow. In fact, as he passed into the shadows, he all but disappeared.
After Rostioff finished his shower and dressed himself he walked over to his desk. He picked up his tea cup and downed the last couple of sips then poured himself another cup. It was only five now so he decided to take a quick nap before going back to see Zynn with his supper. All of a sudden, he became exceptional sleepy. It must be that the chaotic events of the day were finally catching up with him, or maybe, the many thousands of years he had walked the land of Shaarn, either way he was tired and lay down for a nap. He never even had a chance to place his tea cup back on the night stand. As he sat down on the edge of the bed the drug that had been slipped into his tea took full effect on him and he fell back fast asleep into his bed and the cup fell to the floor beside him where it broke. Tea ran slowly between the floorboards and puddled around the broken cup.
A few moments later the same hooded figure crept into the old man’s room and closed the door with such grace and silence that you'd have thought they were under some sort of magickal spell of silence. The boy stepped over the body of the sleeping mage and stood there a moment waiting to ensure the old fool was actually asleep. Rostioff snored away as if he’d been asleep for hours already. The boy drew back his hood and there stood Vortiis with a terribly dark and mischievous little smirk on his lips. He reached out his hand for the old man’s collar and pulled it back to reveal the Orbs the old man wore about his neck. he held his little hand out over the man’s neck and spoke a single whispered incantation from the old language of the Necromancers of the ancient times;
“Alltlasa.” A wispy black smoke swirled out from his fingertips. It slipped about the chain and clasp of the old man’s precious talismans. The faintest click could be heard as the magickal lock on the clasp let loose and the chain fell limp about his neck as he lay snoring. Then wicked little Vortiis did something no one would have thought even him evil enough to do. He removed the White Dragon Orb from around the old man’s neck. His form began to wither and shrivel instantaneously. He opened his eyes for but a split second and one hand shot out into the air where it froze in a state of rigor mortis as the skin and bone of his arm felt the toll of more than five thousand seasons take him all at once.
Vortiis slipped the chain full of Orbs back into his cloak and slipped back out of the room as silently and stealthily as he had entered. Rostioff lay dead now and Zynn, though he did not yet know it, was very much alone.
It went on half past seven by the time Zynn decided he felt hungry enough to do something about the growl in his tummy. Rostioff told him not to leave the room under any circumstances but the old gaffer, now thirty minutes late had left Zynn starving. He also got worried as the old man had said they might be danger. Zynn went to the door and reached out for the knob. As he did so he heard the whisper of Herjaa in his mind.
Zynn are you in there?
Yes, I am. I was just about to go and see what was keeping Master Rostioff with my supper I’m starving!
Zynn opened the door to let Herjaa into the room. She shoved him back inside. Before she closed the door, she stuck her head out into the hall and gave a quick peek in both directions to ensure no one had seen her enter the room. She saw no one in the shadowy hallway and quickly closed the door.
“Zynn something terrible has happened. There are Technomancers and doctors going in and out of Master Rostioff’s chambers. I tried to see into his mind and I cannot find him anywhere. I’m scared something bad has happened to him Zynn.” She grabbed his hands and looked into his eyes. Tears were in hers and she looked panicked.
“Like what do you mean you can't find him? Try and say something to him in his mind like you do with me.”
“I did that many times over the last hour and there is no answer, there is no connection. He’s gone Zynn. He’s not here anymore.”
“Well he couldn't have gone too far; it’s only been a couple of hours since we spoke and he had planned for the two of us to leave together on the morrow for the Kingdom of Rowendale.”
“No Zynn, you don’t understand. I can talk to anyone I know, anywhere on Midgaard with my power. He’s gone. I think... I think they might have killed him; I think he might be dead Zynn.” She buried her head in his shoulder and cried. Zynn’s lip quivered as always and the tears came but this time they came with more. They came with courage. He bit his lip and sucked the tears up. This time he would not be the victim.
“Come on Herjaa; let’s go see what’s happening out there.” He pulled her by the hand and they stepped out into the hall. A crowd conjested the mouth of the corridor leading to the wing of the Technomancer’s private quarters. Zynn and Herjaa pushed through most of them but there were guards blocking access to the portion of the hallway to the old man’s chamber.
“What happened? Is Master Rostioff OK?” The soldier pushed Zynn back with a stern armored hand.
“Just back up sonny. Nothing to see here. Go back to your room and don't cause any more trouble than you already have.”
Zynn and Herjaa stepped back a few paces.
“Zynn have you ever been inside Master Rostioff’s chamber?” “Yes. Why?”
“Well I haven’t and I don't know what it looks like, but if you do, I can get the image from your mind and I can Transportal us into the room.”
“OK but we’ll have to be quick. I'm sure there are several soldiers in there. Then what?”
“Grab something that belongs to him. If I can make a connection with something he's touched recently I can find him.”
“Good plan, let’s go.” The two children joined hands and in a blink they vanished. They ran through the other side of the portal into the bedchamber of Rostioff. Zynn let go of Herjaa’s hands at once when he saw the horrific form on the bed. There lay his Master and new father Rostioff Fastelaine a skeletal form withered as if he'd died thousands of years ago. Half his still extended arm had powderized as it decayed.
“What do you think you’re doing in here boy?” Stated one of the doctors as he grabbed Zynn by the shoulder. But Zynn didn't hear the man. He tried to focus and look about. The bed, the tea cup broken on the floor, the tea, the window, the light. Breathe Zynn breathe he reminded himself. Stay calm. The desk. He spotted a shelf on top of it filled with the Master’s books. The man tried to move Zynn but the boy used his power to remain grounded firmly. He closed his eyes and breathed. The desk... the books... the magick.... The Kingdom of Rowendale.... the Drifter Rail tickets... Zynn’s eyes snapped open and he lept through the air like a monkey using his power, bounced off a wall and landed on the desk in a crouch. He noticed a satchel beside the desk on a chair that Rostioff had packed for their journey. He grabbed it and turned to face Herjaa who’d been captured by one of two guards that entered the room followed closely by the Technomancers that set him up at the trials earlier that day.
Run Zynn! Run!
His eyes were wild with blood and magick. He looked like a wild animal crouching on the desk. The guards were terrified of him, of the way he’d just moved and of what they already knew him capable of doing.
One of the Technomancers stepped between the guards and glared at him.
“Don’t just stare at him! You buffoons! Kill him! Kill him now before he kills us all!”
Run Zynn! Run!
Came Herjaa’s command again just as the first blast of a Photon skimmed his right arm. At once everything in the room seemed to slow. Still holding the sack, he used his power again which he seemed to have ease of use over now and lept for the swinging light fixture. The Photon Blasters made a horrid screeching sound as they tore up the desk and the life’s work of his Master Rostioff. Zynn could only hope that the contents of the satchel would be what he needed. He tucked and shot himself over the heads of the guards and the two treacherous Technomancers out into the hallways with ease.
Rostioff’s room was a blazing fire now and the air held the chemically smell left behind after a photon emission. He could see Herjaa through the commotion and time simply stood still for the boy. The men, the commotion, all seemed to happen in slow motion around him. He could hear children down the hall hollering at him but paid them no attention. He took one last look at Herjaa and smiled.
I will miss you Zynn Greywolf! But I will still be with you! You can count on that!