by Frank Moricz
Prologue of "The Ternion", Updated 8/10/10
The Ternion - Prologue - http://legendsofaura.com
Arc City : A Champion Emerges
The twin suns of planet Aura beat down upon the wild lands. Arc City, with sharp towers and sheer walls, lay secluded under a massive dome of magical energy. The ward kept the citizens safe from the outside, but also kept them from any exploration of the world around them.
In the center of the city, there was a hollowed mountain where a crowd gathered around a colossal ring. The horde filled the air with a clamor of applause.
The announcer stood. His raised stone booth stood above the great expanse of the arena floor. He wore dark robes that hung loose beneath his arms, and the intricate stitching of bright gold glinted in the sunlight. The Arcane masters on either side of watched on with envy - the master of wind magics need never ask for quiet to be heard.
His eyes closed in concentration. With arms raised skyward, he began to speak. A soft voice trailed from his lips, and as he finished his words, his right arm shot forward with outstretched fingers. His eyes opened, and they began a drastic change from golden brown to an icy blue while he focused. The air around him began to swirl and his words poured over the crowd – they were amplified a hundred fold.
“For our next match, the Arcane University is proud to present our reigning champion Relik Drax, Preceptor of the crystal magics.” His words boomed over the mass of onlookers in the smooth stone seats. “His contender this day will be the acclaimed newcomer, Melios Fenred - a Preceptor of the light magics!”
His voice echoed from the high white walls. The natural beauty of the mountain from which the Arcane were born remained uncut in reverence. Occupants that filled the seats numbered in the thousands - a great outpouring of Arcane who wished to see the unpredictable chaos that was arena warfare. Aside from the box which held the Arcane masters in comfort, the rest of the arena was open to the sunlight. The stands were packed with onlookers who dressed in all colors of fine robes.
This place was made for all to enjoy, and there was no charge to attend. Maintained by the Arcane University, the arena was the one place in Arc where class truly had no bearing. Except for the lone booth that held the revered masters, nobles and commoners would eat and drink side-by-side, and cheer as one to whatever end.
The other Arcane masters stood to join the announcer at the edge of the booth. They bowed to symbolize their approval in the commencement of the fight. To challenge the arena champion had only one outcome - in a matter of moments, one of these men would die in the presence of thunderous applause. The victor would be acclaimed and showered with riches, while the loser would be lucky to survive long in memory.
The contenders stood and faced each other in the center of the arena floor. The hard packed dirt underfoot was worn smooth. Between the fighters and the walls where the crowd watched from above was an array of ruins. The towers and stone obstacles were scorched by flame, and weathered by time.
Relik Drax looked into the crowd to find Aiona, his wife. Heavy with child, she stood and waved to him with her hand over her heart. Her long golden hair hung about her shoulders, and trailed down along her fine dark robe.
She sat carefully, her hand moved to her mouth instinctively with nerves. Her nails slowly found their way to her mouth. For as long as she could remember, the arena had never been a place she wanted to be. Many times she had attempted to convince Relik that they no longer needed the fame or fortune. She worried each time he put his life on the line, and knew each battle could be his last.
Next to Aiona was the wife of Preceptor Melios, Chantilla Fenred. She stood in turn, and waved to her husband. A single tear ran from her dark eyes down her cheek – her worry was plain on her fair face. She wore a light yellow wrap to show support for her husband's magic, and her long sleeves hung heavy with the weight of dark beads.
Relik had been the champion for four long years now, and his title was still defended from forty-eight challengers. Of the seven magics taught within the Arcane University, it was a rare thing for an Arcane student to choose the path known as 'crystal magic' to be his only distinction of magic. For that same student to rise so quickly in the ranks, and move to become an arena contender was completely unheard of.
The Arcane were taught from a young age that Aura had gifted them the power over all elements. In the arena, it was fire and water magics that had been the long reigning schools of choice. Though many originally attempted to dissuade Relik from his choice to compete, he was extremely stubborn. He redefined the possibilities of crystal magic by learning to gain control over crystal itself.
Relik had a way of upsetting the competition and destroying preconceptions. Most arena battles consisted of pure magic, but Relik had trained his body with ferocity. He favored strength and speed, and had been known to actually strike opponents physically. The University frowned on such uncivilized practices, but it made him a crowd favorite nonetheless.
He wore a light vest that hung loose and unfastened across his broad chest. Bare feet peeked from under frayed pants that ended just above his ankles. His hands were wrapped tightly with black cloth, except fingertips which remained exposed. Though the clothes were made at expense, the choices he made in apparel seemed strange to the Arcane standard.
Melios wore a yellow hooded robe with sleeves that appeared to be torn off, a frayed look decorated his otherwise classic garment. His boots were soft cloth that wrapped around his legs to just under the knees in a dark black material; his pants were loose fitting for ease of movement.
Chantilla's fingers twined with Aiona's, their hands grasped tight against one another in anticipation and fear. Each of the women had good reason to fear for the life of their husband. Relik was accustomed to fighting against fire and water mages, and he was nearly untested against the school of light.
“Under the eyes of the Arcane University, and the great city of Arc, this fight will commence!” The announcer whispered. The audience was again overtaken by his powerful voice. “Contenders, ready yourselves...” He said, watching to see that both men again faced each other and bowed. “It begins!”
Melios was first to act. His right arm shot out, and he began to summon an orb. The veins of his arm glowed with a bright light, which mingled into the air around it. Energy poured into the creation within his hand, which forced him to close his eyes to continue his summon. His brow furrowed, and he readied to release - he pulled his arms above his head, and held the orb aloft with both hands. His eyes snapped open, they burned hot-white and glowed with magical fury. He scanned to locate his target, but his eyes grew wide when he saw that Relik was much closer than he anticipated.
The blow from the crystal mage caught Melios directly in the forehead. A small stone from the ground smacked against his skull, and sent him backward in a stumble. Without having bothered to seek cover from the scalding energy, Relik stood fearless and relaxed. Melios regained his balance, and wiped the dirt from his brow with his sleeveless arm.
The champion wore a look of confidence. He began to simply walk toward Melios with eyes fixed forward and an unchanging smile. His pace increased, and his gentle stroll escalated into a sprint. Almost within striking distance, he saw his opponent's hand move to cast a new spell.
Relik dove at Melios' hips to attempt a tackle. The light mage sprang skyward over the onslaught of the champion. Melios looked down, and watched his opponent hit the dirt in a violent skid. After his feet touched the ground, Melios took steps to make some distance and prepare a new attack.
Relik's mind began to reel from shock. He lay for a moment in a daze. His eyes faced in the direction of his wife, who stood with her hands cupped over her mouth in a look of horror. With a grunt, he pushed himself to stand once again. He began to brush the dust from his garb, and saw that it was now Melios who wore a smile.
“What's wrong Drax, haven't you got any stones?” Melios said. He watched Relik struggle to regain composure.
“Don't fool yourself sunbeam, this fight has just started,” Relik said. His smile returned, and he watched anger flare across Melios' face.
“So full of pride... I will be sure to tell my children all about it.”
“What are you going to do, flash me to death?” Relik asked with a grin of confidence.
“Your last words Drax, though at least you said them with a smile.”
The light mage began a cast, and his arms flourished. Relik watched carefully as Melios completed his cast and dissolved from sight. Relik glanced about for signs of movement, and listened for footfalls around him. Instinct gnawed at him, and his hands moved out in front of him defensively. He started a spell of his own, and his eyes changed from brown to yellow, and quickly reverted back to brown.
Dozens of small orbs began to appear around him, and he offered them a wary expression. The lights danced with random movements – they acted in unison, and arranged themselves around Relik in a rotating circle. Like a burning swarm, they descended upon him, but stopped short as they struck an invisible barrier.
Relik was relieved to see his shield-cast was effective against the assault. Unable to see Melios, he was not able to simply nullify the spell. If he chose to move, his shield would fade, and the orbs would destroy him. Melios' laughter rang out, and Relik furrowed his brow in annoyance. His foe hid in perfect safety, while he was trapped in place.
“You cannot defeat what you cannot see, Relik,” a voice said from in front of him with pride. “Worry not, I will make this quick.”
Suddenly, the small orbs ceased the attack. They moved into a wider formation around Relik. One by one, they moved directly over his head. Each sphere added to the others, and they began to compile into a single larger orb. Another confident laugh rang out. He attempted to pinpoint the source, but the crackling energy overhead made it difficult to focus.
He looked into the crowd. Aiona sat with a hand to her mouth in fear. Relik shifted his eyes to her other hand, which rested upon her swollen belly. He thought of his unborn child, who had not yet seen the beauty of Aura.
Adrenaline surged through him with a new fervor, and his eyes flared with a yellow fire. All sound was lost, except for his own heartbeat that thundered in his ears.
A final laugh from ahead of him was all it took. Relik charged through his shield with arms outstretched. To the crowd, he appeared as a blur, his crystal magic amplified his speed. A surprised whimper cried out, and he felt his fingers close around Melios' neck. Still running, Relik lifted the mage from the ground and slammed him into the dirt. Melios shimmered into sight, unconscious but still alive.
The crowd exploded with cheer and applause. His hands raised in victory, Relik spun to address the audience. His face beamed, despite the scrapes he earned from his brief slide along the arena floor.
He turned toward Aiona, but his smile faded when he saw that she was gone. She was replaced instead by a crowd of people, who appeared to be gathered in a circle. The group stared at the ground where she had stood, and Relik forgot all else. He sprinted toward the wall, but was unable to see past the crowd.
“What happened?” Relik heard a stranger ask as he reached the wall. The entire audience had quieted with the realization that something was amiss.
“She... just collapsed,” a woman replied with a hint of panic in her voice.
The brief exchange sent panic into Relik's heart. His eyes glowed, and his legs shot him over the wall in a great leap. He pushed his way through the crowd, and heard the Arcane around him roar again with cheer. He suddenly felt a flash of hot pain, and he flew face-first into the stands.
“Drax!” he heard in the distance, a scream of agony mixed with hatred. Melios stood alone in the arena. A crimson gash across his forehead left his face bloodied and horrifying. “We finish this now!”
Relik pushed himself up from the white stone and turned toward the arena. The glare he gave the light mage showed little but contempt. Relik had no wish to fight while his wife and child lay in jeopardy.
“The match is forfeit, Melios. The title is yours!” he screamed in reply. He turned once again to the commotion that surrounded his wife. A gasp emanated from the people around him, who still looked toward the battleground. He paused, and turned to see Melios bringing forth a giant orb, which began to pulsate as he stood unhindered.
“Did you not hear me?” Relik screamed again, though his opponent ignored him.
“I will do everything I can for her,” Relik heard a voice say. A hand grasped his shoulder. A medic had appeared next to him, and reassured him. “This fight can only end one way, and you know that.”
“So be it,” he replied. His eyes narrowed on the light mage, who had finished his conjuration. Melios maintained an incredible display of pure light, and readied to send it into the stands. Relik moved to the edge of the viewing wall, and set a foot atop it. His hand shot out toward Melios. Melios aimed the orb toward Relik, but stopped as Relik took control of the crystal within his blood.
“I am sorry it came to this Melios, you really could have had it all,” Relik said. His eyes glowed yellow, and then blazed with a brilliant white light.
Melios was forced to hold the orb which continued to grow larger in size. With a sizzling heat, it cooked him where he stood. Only screams remained in the arena, where the energy shone too bright to look upon. Relik closed his hand into a fist, and the orb was extinguished. His opponent was a pile of ash and bone, charred black, and smote to dust.
* * *
Relik stood holding Aiona's hand, the medics worked without pause to make her condition more stable. None could diagnose exactly why she had collapsed during the fight. The lead medic had only guessed that it was from a mixture of nerves and worry. Together, they decided it was safer for the baby to be born sooner than later. Relik chose to stay by Aiona's side as long as he was allowed.
The medical facility of the Arcane University had a distinct smell of cleanliness. Sickness was an uncommon thing in Arc, but injury was not – accidents found a way of happening around unskilled mages. The staff was made up of Neophytes, who had given their lives to the service of the University. Instead of intense study in a particular school of magic, they studied in ways to heal the body. Magic was of no help in this place, save for a few crystal trinkets that could be used to cut or mend.
Aiona's eyes flickered, and she groaned lightly. The sound made Relik's heart jump - he squeezed her hand tight, and leaned over her lovingly.
“It's time Aiona, we're going to have a child,” he whispered to her with a smile.
“Relik... you're okay,” she returned a pained grin with the realization that he had survived.
“I told you Aiona, I will never leave you. I'm going to quit fighting now – we can live in peace, with our baby.”
“The baby... we haven't even named it yet.” Her voice was almost a whisper, and she struggled to keep her eyes open. “Relik, I think something is wrong--” Her eyes shut as she faded away – she fell unconscious in the small medical bed.
“We have to work fast, Relik,” the medic said. Relik recognized him as the same man from the arena. He stepped back to the wall, and was shown through the door by a young woman.
Moments seemed like days. Relik stared with a blank expression into the crystal lamps which hung along the walls. The simple decor was mostly red in this waiting area - the color of blood, and of medicine. Chairs and benches were adorned with brown cloth. The smell lingered still - the pristine cleanliness that was unmistakably the medical wing of the Arcane University.
He sat, and Relik's mind flashed back over his history with the woman he had always wanted - the woman he worked his entire life to win over.
When he was only fifteen years old, Relik had just become a Neophyte of crystal magic. His father, a crystal-worker and trinketeer, recommended the magic in hopes that Relik would follow in his footsteps. When he had seen Aiona for the first time, he felt that Aura herself had summoned an angel to walk amongst the people. He moved to talk to her, though she was amidst a gaggle of friends. They had seen him coming, and began to whisper amongst each other.
When he finally came close enough to speak, she had simply walked away. Her friends tossed insults to the lowly crystal mage from such a humble family line. It was in that moment that Relik had decided to become more than just a trinketeer. He chose a quest for greatness – a long journey to and earn her love.
He was twenty-nine now, and it had been a long time since they had first met. Only six years had passed since they escaped to be wed against her family's wishes. He remembered the crystal that was worked into the wiring of the tiara she wore that night, and how it seemed to drink in the moonlight. It had seemed to amplify her beauty a thousand fold. She had worn cloth that held her tight, and flowed like water over her feminine curves. The gown had trailed behind her, onto the dark-green grass as they said their words and embraced.
“Relik...” the medic started, snapping him out of his thoughts. He hadn't heard the man approach, but he stood quickly to hear him. “You have a baby boy.”
His heart soared at the news. A great smile took over, and he instinctively reached out to embrace the medic. He stopped short once he saw the man's expression - his wrinkled face still frowned with downcast eyes. Relik opened his mouth to speak, but no words would come.
“I am so sorry, Relik. Your wife is not going to make it. There was too much bleeding, and there is nothing more we can do,” The medic finished. He looked into Relik's eyes to convey his sincerest apology.
“My--” Relik started. He stumbled for words, but found none. Overcome, his face grew solemn, and he gave up trying to speak. He fell to his knees, and his eyes welled with tears. Dreams burned away like embers in the wind, and he could feel his heart shatter within his chest. He closed his eyes - the world turned to shadow, and all light was extinguished.
A hand shook him while he stared at the floor. Before him, a woman knelt with an arm placed gently on his shoulder. In her other arm, she held a bundle that was wrapped in white. She shook him once again, and his eyes flared with anger. His head snapped up toward her, but he noticed what she held, and it gave him pause. Inside the bundle, his own eyes stared back at him. In this baby boy he saw Aiona as well, and the dark place he lingered in was brightened at the sight.
Relik stood, and followed the medics into the next room. His eyes landed again on Aiona as she lay in the medical bed. She was awake again, and did not seem to be in pain. In a flash he was by her side, and he held her hand in his own. He leaned over her without a word, and she gazed knowingly into his eyes with a gentle smile.
“I'm... so sorry, Relik...” she started, though her voice was still weak. Tears began to form in her eyes.
“No Aiona, you have nothing to be sorry about. You save your strength now - everything is going to be alright,” Relik said. The pain in his voice was palpable.
The female medic brought the child to Aiona, who reached out to touch him. The boy wrapped his hand around her index finger as they met for the first time. A wave of emotion overtook her, and she frowned. She tried to hold back fierce tears. Her gaze went back onto her husband, who refused to remove his eyes from her fair face.
“You do what you said now, you quit fighting and live in peace with our boy,” she said with a renewed vigor.
“I promise Aiona, I promise you that. I love you so much, I don't know what I will do--”
“Just raise him right, Relik. Love him as you loved me. Let him know that I will always watch over you both...” she said, and looked over his face for the last time. Her eyes closed. Relik felt the grip of her hand within his cease, and she was gone.
Tears flowed from the crystal mage. He sobbed openly, and buried his head into her soft hair. He kissed her cheek, which was still wet from her tears. He drew himself back, and looked over her face. His silent nod affirmed his promise. Relik stood, and reached over Aiona to take the boy into his arms.
“Mason,” the medic said to him. Her own voice was saddened by the scene. “She told me his name was Mason.”
“Mason Drax,” Relik said. “My son, you were born amidst tears and blood, and never had a chance to know the beauty that was your mother. I will teach you everything you wish to know, and give you a chance at a life of true happiness.” Relik held the boy aloft in pride and hope. “We will make her proud, son. You will grow into your own measure of greatness – of that, you have my word.”
Please leave reviews for anything you found confusing, or questions unanswered. I realize this world is strange and new, I want to make it as easy to grasp as I can. :) If you like what you've read here, please be sure to check out http://legendsofaura.com for the very newest versions of my writing. Or...
Continued in "The Ternion - Chapter 1"
Update notifications at http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Legends-of-Aura/105368976160625