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Nov 5, 12 at 8:41pm ^Circle [NaNo Novel] [YA themes]
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The sky darkened as what passed for night on Elysia fell. The glowbulbs that lit the sky blinked out one by one and the ethereal light shed by the orbs of light in the streets below dimmed to a ghostly white. The tiny town just south of the Imperial Capital was a collection of shabby huts hidden within the deadly crags of the magicite mine, a place where those unwanted by the Emperor fled to and hoped they were never found.
Rem felt at the cloth strip covering his eyes. His cursed eyes. He moaned softly, and felt the ache of his bruises and cuts as awareness began to return. He gave a start and leaped to his feet, ignoring his body's protests.
"Easy there. You've not healed anywhere near enough for that." A man's voice, thick and brusque spoke.
"I must leave here," he rasped, "It is not safe for me to be here!"
"Son, it's not safe for any of us out there. Here, drink. You sound like death walking." Rem's hands fumbled around the shape of a cup and brought it to his lips. The liquid was warm and harsh going down, but energy seemed to blossom in his middle as he swallowed.
"Light's breath, what a miserable day. We didn't steal as much food as we'd have liked and one of us got caught by the Rune Knights," the man paused, perhaps realizing what he had said and his tone brightened, "But don't worry about that! We're well-protected, son. No harm here! So, what'd you do to your eyes? Did you spark and burn them out?"
Sparking...Rem put a hand to his head, trying to spur his muddled mind to action. "No, no I did not spark. I need to get out of here. Could you lead me...?"
"It's alright. You're safe here - or as safe as you can be. Strength in numbers, as they say." No, no, no! This man did not understand!
Rem opened his mouth to argue once more, and stopped, mouth hanging open in horror as lines lanced across his vision. His skin seared as a loud crack rent the air and tore the ground beneath him asunder. His body crashed against the splintered remains of the bed where he had been earlier.
He howled and scrabbled at his eyes as bright red lines exploded and flashed angrily around him. Fire...they were burning Elysia to the ground. Because he was here. His body was in pain. So much pain. He flexed an arm and cried out. There was something embedded in it. His heart hammered with each desperate gulp of air he took. He was an abomination, him and his eyes, but...he did not want to die! He didn't want to die!
"Degenerates," a voice reached his ears as the flames roared higher and engulfed the little town, "They thought to hide here, at the Capital's doorstep, and believed they would be safe." the owner chuckled, "We came here chasing one rat and found a whole nest of mice. Is there any sign of him?"
Rem's heart tightened.
"No, sir, but the rest of the division is fanning out as we speak to search through the corpses."
"Very well, then. Hopefully, he died in the attack and we can take his body back to the Emperor. Nobody ever need know of what occurred."
Safe. But not for very long. There was no time. He had to fight. He had to...see. Rem flex his right arm. It was bruised, but relatively unharmed. He lifted his hand to his eyes and tugged the cloth strip away.
Pain vanished and was replaced with a vast power that kept growing, building inside of him. He looked down at his injured left arm. A long, thick shaft of wood was embedded in his forearm. The energy had to go somewhere. He had to do something with it or he would explode! Rem seized the shaft and channeled as he jerked it free. Amber lines crackled across the length of the wood as Rem shaped it into a spear and got to his feet. The house he had been in was blasted apart. The roof had been completely ripped free and flames licked the wooden walls and furnishings. Red seeped from the corpse of the man who taken him in, a portly fellow who looked to have just arrived at middle aged. So he had been a Fire Mage. Rem Drew the red magic trying to return to the planet and the power inside of him soared.
His eyes fell on the two stunned guards who had been talking, gaping at him. They each wore runic armor, the mark of the Rune Knights, with gems and runological symbols inscribed along the armor's plates. They glowed to Rem's eyes, giving off an aura of energy. They had activated the runes, then. Rem hurled pure Fire at them and a pillar of flame erupted beneath them. The column of flame rose high into the sky. It was a beacon. Let them come. Let them all come. Rem Drew the seeping magic from the charred corpses of the Rune Knights, and as the magic left them, their bodies turned to white ash and their armor glowed no more. Earth, Air, and Water welled up inside of him as he seized more magic from the corpses of the slain magi and rune knights.
Rem was walking. He could feel himself walking, and yet...the only sensation that was real to him was the hum of magic inside of him. Pulsating, growing louder and louder with each beat. Fire danced at his feet and lightning sang at his finger tips as he moved through the destroyed town. Where his eyes found Rune Knights, a maw of earth opened beneath them and swallowed them in fiery gulps and moisture in the air coalesced around their heads and slowly deprived them of air. He walked toward the horizon where a bright white mass nearly blinded him. Had he not known better, he might have thought it to be the Light itself. No...
At the edge of town, waiting, was the Fifth Legion of Rune Knights. Five hundred men and women armed with runological weapons and armor, whose very existences were to subdue the mages and summoners. To kill people like him. Rem channeled a storm of magic; Earth, Fire, Water, Air, they all went into his creation. Streaks of Amber, Green, Orange, and Blue energy sped through the air. This was the form of magic that only Rem's eyes could see. From that storm of magic, whirling discs of lightning rained forth and where those discs neared flesh, a blast of lightning smote the soldier down, and for each corpse created, the elements of magic returned to Rem and fueled another strike. A channeled flow of Fire, Earth, and Water just so, and spears of fire fell like rain upon the Fifth Legion. Horns blasted through the night, briefly overpowering the sounds of death, and the legion charged.
Water and Air arranged in a ring around the charging knights that collapsed inward saw horses' feet frozen solid and snapping beneath them. "You can protect yourselves but not your horses..." Rem muttered. His eyes widened as a streak of scarlet snaked toward him and surrounded him. A ring of fire blazed into existence around him and the ground beneath him melted and began to shape around his feet and began extending up his legs. The blasts of lightning and arrows of fire no longer struck their targets, but stopped short a clear foot away from them.
A fast recovery. The veteran knights were collecting themselves now that the initial shock of Rem's power was over and now they had activated the runes on their weapons to trap him. Rem's eyes traveled along the scarlet and amber tendrils of magic linking his prison to the Rune Knights controlling the effects. A green line extended far beyond the knights behind a mound of rock. Breaking their weapons should suffice...
The weakness of runological weaponry and technology was the channeling point. A focus for the stored magic to create a rune's effect. Destroying the focus point would take an extraordinary amount of physical force, and even then, normal people couldn't even see those points. But to Rem's eyes, the foci blazed like beacons. He channeled an immense amount of Fire along the length of the Scarlet conduit. An explosion rent the air and an inferno of fire swallowed the Rune Knight channeling the ring around Rem and spread outward consuming many more knights in its wake. The earth creeping up the length of his body shattered into dust as the amber conduit snapped. Now to deal with the Shielder...
Rem wove a vast net of air around the remnants of the Fifth Legion to catch his attacks. As long as they thought they were still protected, then the game would soon be over. He channeled a tiny spark of Earth toward the Shielder. He thought himself hidden, so he was unlikely to have planned for a defense. A simple shard of rock, sharpened to a spear's point, driven into his throat. The green conduit dissipated as the dead knight could no longer channel the shield of Air.
"Now then..." The discs of lightning and arrows of fire continued to bounce harmlessly off of Rem's own shield as the storm of magic still raging above him raged even more fiercely as he added more and more of every element into it. The clouds above the legion parted as all of the magic Rem had drawn gathered there, slowly shaped and formed into what he wanted. None of them could see it. None of them had his eyes, the vision of death approaching.
When it was ready, Rem snapped his eyes shut and gathered the shield of Air he had woven around the Legion around himself instead and flung the torrent of magic down from on high. A great spear of lightning as thick as the Imperial Palace itself blasted out of the sky in a thunderous flash. The heat seared Rem's skin even through his barrier and he screamed even as he was thrown several feet into the air and as the roaring torrent of magic finally left him, his energy spent, he felt his body crunch against the ground.
All was quiet as Rem stumbled through the remains of Elysia. He did not dare open his eyes to look at what had been wrought because of him. He could see the flows of magic, but he could not control them, could not stop them from being drawn into him. And then...he had to do something with it or explode, be ripped apart by the magic from within. He could not open his eyes. Would not dare. But still he tried desperately to pick his way through the remains, searching for the flickers of magic from a mage. He had taken the magic from the dead. All that should be left would be still-living people. But there was nothing. Not even a glimmer. Just the quiet of death.
"Is there anybody out here?" he called desperately, half-pleading for an answer.
"Please..." a woman's voice rasped from somewhere to Rem's left. His heart raced and he stumbled and staggered toward the sound. His hands felt for the source of the voice, cutting themselves on sharp rock and splintered debris before they found flesh. No light to indicate magical ability.
"What can I do?" Rem whispered.
"My daughter...I am dying, young man. Please, care for my daughter."
Rem felt his heart break, "...I cannot. She will die in my care. I have no sight. I am sorry." Wetness trickled down his hands, still cupping the woman's face, and Rem shed tears at his own helplessness.
"She will die if somebody does not save her. Please. Please. She should be hiding in the magicite mine. Please. Take her away. Keep her safe! Promise me, young man, promise me. It is all I want as a mother...I need to know that she will be safe..."
"...Very well. I shall care for her as best as I can. I give you my word." No response came from the woman. Rem stood and swallowed past the lump in his throat. There was nothing here. Nothing for him to salvage. He turned and left the ruin of Elysia to nature and history, heading toward a cave south of the Imperial Capital where a child slept in wait for her mother to wake her.
For the ordinary folk living under the protection of the Empire, the destruction of Elysia and near annihilation of the Fifth Legion of Rune Knights spawned hushed whispers of a terrifying weapon that the magi had perfected at last, who used the dead themselves to power his horrific magic.
For the mages and summoners still in hiding, dreaming of a day they might rebel, tales were told of a legendary man who brought the Empire to its knees and crushed its vast armies in a single hour with his own army of dead souls.
For the Lord Emperor and his courts, arguments raged and distrust flared, but beneath it all, ran an undercurrent of fear of the man who commanded the dead, and of the Lord Emperor's silence.
Be they citizen, rebel, or noble, they all whispered the same name with a mixture of terror and awe:
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