Anyway, I recently decided that I am going to try and pick it up again. I have a good 6 chapters written already and by the time I hope to post them, I want to have at least another two.
Hitori walked through the darkness, her eyes closed against the coarse linen covering her face. She was dressed in a robe of her own stitching, a plain garment dyed red to follow the ceremonial code. She could have borrowed one, but such a thing would not be befitting to a stitch witch. Or so she claimed, she just wanted no trace of another against her skin on this night.
The two men at her side were silent. On her left was her guide, a man with soft hands compared to her own, a scholar. He breathed softly as they walked, treading lightly on slippered feet with barely a swish of clothing to mark his movements. The man on her right was larger, but no less gentle. He was her conscience, his massive body making her feel small and frail as she was led through the dark. He did not touch her hand, but his footsteps spoke of a booted giant following her through the stone tunnel. Or at least she thought it was a tunnel, it smelled dank and earthy enough.
Excitement was getting the better of her. This was her initiation into the world of accredited mages, the rite of passage that would give her a token to explore the world Kamatari kept telling her about. Sure the man was a professional thief who was more than slightly paranoid, but he was her friend and protector.
Perhaps it was his influence that made her think of removing the veils over her vision. She had the Sight, the ability to perceive magic as shimmering threads of light even in darkness. Normally, she would dampen it with her own magic in order to not go insane. The University in particular was bad at using magic instead of labour, but charms and talismans were common in every home to bring luck -among other things. The temples of the Goddess handed out pregnancy charms to any woman with a couple coppers who wanted to prevent anything forming in her body. They were so common that Hitori still imagined a bright spot at a woman’s neck even if she had no charm.
She removed the veils over her magical vision without any effort. It took concentration to affix them in her mind, less so to maintain them; but it was so easy to accept her Sight it scared her sometimes.
Twin lines of power ran along the walls at her sides towards their destination. She touched them slightly with her mind, a minute plucking of a string that told her that they were merely mage-light. To occupy herself as she walked, she peeked at her Guide and then at her Conscience. They were not mages, she decided, with only a hint of fire in the core their beings. That small ember was in every living creature she has ever looked at this way. Those with magic in their families were banked fires, something wild held back until the next generation. Mages, on the other hand, burned brightly.
Hitori saw the flares of magic in the darkness well before she reached the chamber. Five mages stood at the points of a pentagram of magic, their magic active and flowing into the pattern with each breath. The design extended to the corners of the cavernous room, an interactive display that intersected itself the same way it would if someone had drawn it on a piece of paper without lifting a pencil. Within it was a smaller pentagram with its tip pointing in the opposite direction. Five mages fueled the pentagram, stronger mages than those around the bigger one judging by the lines of power. Or perhaps it was the man standing in the middle of it that made the power so much more potent. By the sheer amount of power banked in the frame of a human, he was a great mage, maybe even an archmage. The Arch-chancellor of the University was an archmage.
Out of habit, she put a skin-tight shield around herself. Living in the University taught her that some kinds of magic irritated her senses and that usually it was simpler to put a light shield around her body than to deal with the headaches that would occur otherwise. Of course Kamatari claimed that it was the people that gave her headaches rather than their magic.
“And so you are welcome to the Chamber of the Initiate,” the Arch-chancellor of Halesborough University intoned, “remove her cowl.”
Hitori blinked as her eyes were suddenly flooded with the mage-light all over the chamber in addition to the magical flares. She put a dampener on her sight, though a much milder filter than she usually maintained around powerful mages. There was something about the magic they were putting out that made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. She was here to partake in the private ceremony that would mark her as a mage, there was no reason for so many people to engage in pattern magic. Unless it was part of the ceremony? Still wary, she reinforced her shield slightly.
She was led to the centre of the chamber to stand before the Arch-chancellor. Her slippers did not protect her feet from the cold of the waxed granite floor, a cold that spread through her body as she became more and more convinced that something was wrong. The mages at the points of the pentagram were dressed as common scholars with long grey robes and a distinct lack of the hourglass pendants that announced them as certified mages. And they were certified, their magic was too refined not to be. Even the ones by the Arch-chancellor wore no obvious markers of their strength, though they did have the pendant. It would have been too suspicious if they had not. Everything else would make sense to someone who could not see magic, outwardly it looked like a regular ceremony. If she were unable to see magic... She licked her lips nervously.
Nobody at the University knew of that aspect of her gift. Kamatari had made her promise to never breathe a word about her Sight or the fact that he had taught her how to shield herself with magic to the ‘nest of vipers’. At first, she thought he was being overly paranoid like usual but now... If she could not See, she would not have shielded, would have walked straight onto the lines of the pentagram without a second thought. As it was, she carefully avoided stepping directly on the magical lines tethered to the ground. She took care to keep her stride smooth to avoid unnecessary questions.
Her expression of nervous excitement was innocent enough for a seventeen-year-old initiate as she stopped just short of the centre of the pentagram. “Hitori Yarrow of Kazoul, arch-chancellor Grant,” she said respectfully.
“We are here to witness the evolution from initiate to accredited mage.” The Arch-chancellor boomed, his deep voice reverberating in the large stone chamber. He was a man well into his sixties with shockingly green eyes framed by salt-and-pepper hair. His robes were the dark green of an arch-mage, embroidered with silver symbols of power and others that looked impressive but had no specific purpose. In his hands was the oak staff handed through the ages to the Arch-chancellor of the University, said to have been wielded by the arch-mage who defeated Samara the Arconic Queen at Samara’s Point, and created the wasteland that was there now. “With the blessing of Lord Halesborough, the founder of this proud university, I would like to bring this young woman into our ranks as a proud sister. She has studied with us these past five years and will be graduating in the eyes of the public tomorrow. Her studies have focussed on pattern magic, the strongest magic when used by one with a strong will and a learned mind. Will you all stand witness to this ceremony?”
“Aye.” Was the unanimous call.
“So, my daughter, will you not step closer?” The Arch-chancellor said with a warm smile. “So you may be bound to the fate of an accredited mage and all of its responsibilities?”
“Sir.” She bowed formally, putting all of her strength into her shield as she stepped into the centre of the pentagrams.
“Seal.” He commanded, unleashing his strength to activate the network of power around him. He became the nexus, directing all the energy his subordinates were emitting towards her.
Her shield gave her a precious second to gather all of her strength before it broke under the strain. Hitori fell to her knees, feeling the magic in the pentagrams twist around her, an insulating ball that would smother her. She saw the threads that kept the seal connected to the Arch-chancellor’s will, the threads that connected the power around her from dissipating in the darkness of the chamber. She lashed out instinctually, imagining her power to be a blade to those threads. The ones to the outer pentagram snapped, hitting the mages they were tied to with all their strength. They were out of the fight, but they were not the ones with the real power.
She screamed as the binding spell started to close in, ensnaring her legs first even as she slashed at it wildly with her magic. She did not have the experience to fight this off, she realized. There was no way to escape simply by thrashing wildly. She needed to pour her power into one hit but if she stopped defending herself she would lose outright. Kamatari would never let her forget she stepped into a trap if she could not get herself out of it.
Hitori took a deep breath, drawing her magic together even as the binding spell pounced towards the opening. She struck at the thick wire that bound the Arch-chancellor to the spell, spiraling from the core of her being towards the thinnest point. It snapped, making the spell go wild. It blew everyone around her back five feet, making them fall onto their backsides as they slid on the waxed floor. The Arch-chancellor fell to the ground, winded. “How?”
“Why?” She asked, gasping for breath. It hurt to breathe.
“It’s not safe.” He whispered.
“You are too strong, your magic too wild. We are not safe.” He closed his eyes, resignation and exhaustion clear on his face. “Here is your pendant.” He brought a small box out of the chest pocket of his robes. “Take it.”
“Is there a binding spell on that too?” She asked, trying not to vomit at the thought. After five years of working hard, she did not know how to deal with the betrayal. She had spent so much of her life preparing for this moment, she had left her homeland for all that the hourglass represented. And then this.
“No. Our most powerful binding spell can only be cast once upon a mage. If unsuccessful, all other binding spells are also ineffective.” The archmage stood, his legs wobbly.
“So I can take this?” She went to him, shaking like a drunk who was missing his livelihood.
“Only if you promise to leave and never come back. We will not say anything to the outside world, and neither will you. We just cannot risk you being among us.”
“So I’m a rogue.” Hitori wept.
“Only to Halesborough.” He agreed, placing the pendant around her neck. “Now please leave.”