by Frank Moricz
Zek is pursued by the Felguards of Arc City
If you choose to rate and review this story, please ONLY do so after having read the story from the beginning. ("The Ternion Prologue" )
I am looking for ratings and reviews involving character development, setting, flow, and anything else you think that would help.
Chapter 4 - Zek Cain: Flight of the Adamant
Zek stood against the wall of the dark classroom and waited for time to pass. His arm ached with a dull throb, but the excitement he felt in knowing that he was going to leave the city made the pain worthwhile. He knew that what he had done in the shadow classroom was wrong, but defending Mason had become such an instinct over the years that he had acted without a second thought.
Zek felt guilty for having passed so much energy into the pompous Shadow Magus, but he had heard Mason cry out; he simply snapped and could not hold back his anger. He remembered looking at the world through shades of deep purple - the energy that had discharged from his hands was greater than he could have ever anticipated.
It had taken a great effort to stop himself while the indigo energy zapped from his hands – it had formed jagged lines that blasted across the room to find their target. Zek had felt himself pour every insult and every wicked thought he had ever had about Magus Zeno into a single cast; the power flowed freely from him, and the sheer feeling of justification and righteousness was intoxicating.
When it was all over, all eyes were fixed on the smoldering heap of pride that lay in the back of the room. Nobody had seen Zek's face while he struggled to pull himself out of the trance that the soul magic had left him in. He remembered the sound of his breath as it strained through gritted teeth, and the thirst he had felt to finish the mage off completely. When it fled, the feeling left a fear in Zek that he had never felt before. That fear was only a memory now, but Zek assured himself that with practice he would only have more control over this new power.
He moved to the doorway and looked down the hall towards the exit. He saw a large mix of students and teachers near the doors. His first thought to just run quickly and exit by force - he knew nothing would stop him within these walls. A nagging feeling of emotion begged him to remain calm; he knew that if he was to hurt anyone on his way out that his friend would not forgive him so easily again.
Zek had already pushed the limits of friendship too drastically over the last few days, and he decided to find another way. Patience was never one of his strongest virtues, but waiting for a clear exit seemed the best way to escape the university. He slunk back into the darkness and leaned against the wall once again; his sleeveless robe disappeared into the shadows of the dusky room.
A group of students walked by - young children of probably ten to fourteen years by his estimate. They spoke to each other of the rumor that they had heard. Zek gathered that 'the most powerful mage in the school had attacked a teacher'.
“The whole school is looking for him!” one of the young girls exclaimed.
“He hurt a Magus, he should go to the Feltower,” a boy added.
The children traveled out of sight, but Zek stood with a smile across his face. He was pleased that his rumor had already spread so far. He thought it was good that they had a final memory of him - a story to tell their future children as they went through the motions of life within the sad cage of Arc city.
A long while had passed, and he noticed that the exit was not yet clear. Frustrated with the wait, he decided to act. He began to peer around the doorway again, while he slowly shimmered out of sight. The light bent around him, and he felt he had a good chance of walking out undetected. Taking a step from the room, he felt fingers dig into his shoulder and push him back to the darkness. He attempted to let out a sound, but a finger was pressed against his lips.
“Zek Cain!” The woman started, with a familiar voice.
“Magus Nylia--” Zek started. He wanted to warn her to stay back; he had no intent to harm someone who had been a friend to him. He faded back into sight and awaited the fast-talking instructor's impending lecture.
“Don't speak, don't you even think. I just want you to listen,” the Magus interrupted. “It's not instructors behind that door Zek, there are Felguards out there. Felguards! Don't you understand?”
“I under--” Zek attempted to reply.
“Shut your mouth! I don't know exactly what you did, but if you won't go with them you will get killed trying to get past them. You are powerful, Zek, but you are not invincible,” Magus Nylia lectured. Her light blue robe was set tight against her skin, and even in the darkness Zek could make out her feminine curves.
Zek had always felt comfortable near the instructor of water magics. Though she was slightly older than he was, he always had feelings for her. She had a fair face that made him look forward to attending her class, and deep blue eyes that he sometimes found himself lost in. For a moment, Zek forgot all about his current situation.
“Are you listening to me?” she asked.
“I appreciate your concern Nylia, I always have. I am going through the shield tonight. We can escape, and you can come away with us,” Zek replied.
“My place is here, Zek. I have a decent life here. What you are trying is impossible – nothing can breach Orin's shield,” Nylia said. “I will help you get out of the university though, because I have seen what happens to the proud who would fight the Feltower. I pity you if they catch you.”
“Don't worry about me – I can get out of here. Come away with me tonight, Nylia. Meet me by the old Drax estate at sunset. We will make it through the shield. I swear it,” Zek said. He shimmered out of sight again and bolted through the door.
Zek raced away from the exit, and climbed the massive stone stairs that led to the second level. He stopped for a moment to look around. The upper level was nearly empty, and he started through the hall unnoticed. At the end of the hall lay a large balcony that overlooked the entrance and the streets of Arc. He ran towards it, and the invisibility left him while he summoned a great flow of wind to carry him away.
He flew over the edge of the balcony and through the air. Over the main street he looked down and saw a large group of people who had been waiting for him to exit. He was clearly noticed as he flew overhead and fell toward the rooftops across the road. He created a small tornado at his feet that allowed him to land gently on the flat roof of a neighboring building.
Zek turned his red gaze, and looked over the edge at the group. They scattered in an attempt to reorganize. He ducked quickly at a small orb of flame that flew toward him. Zek smiled, and shook his head. He turned toward the ancient district, and summoned another gust of wind that blew him skyward. His feet landed on a new rooftop, and as soon as he landed a new wind carried him to the next. In moments, he created a vast distance between himself and the university.
He traveled to fulfill the secret bargain he had sworn to the exiles – their freedom given in exchange for the knowledge he needed. Although he was now a criminal, he was not about to add a broken oath to his conscience. He made his way toward the now familiar doorway that was hidden in the ancient ruins; he landed softly once again on the old path, which he found easier to navigate in the light of the suns.
Zek made his way through the narrow alleyway. He stopped at the door and turned to the ruined wall that lay opposite. His eyes and hands burned a fiery red, and Zek etched into the wall an arcane symbol with a blast of flame.
“Freedom, my brothers,” Zek said. He took a step back to examine his work. With his promise fulfilled, he had brought new hope to men forced to still live underground, and for that he was glad. His work done here, he turned back towards the center of the city. He wanted to pick up the few items he had prepared to take with him when he left the city, and then he would meet up with Mason and finally taste his own destiny.
He prepared to lift himself from the ground once again. The air whipped the winds around him. His hands moved out to his sides. Before flight, Zek heard a curious sound in front of him, and he paused. His eyes moved to a strange brownish object that seemed to shine with the look of crystal in the sunlight. All at once, Zek felt panic rise in realization of what the object was. Nearly too late, he cast a shield in front of him. The object exploded, and shards of brown crystal moved through the air in all directions. The magical shield struggled against the few shards that connected with it; visible ripples moved throughout it.
Zek had only heard stories of the Felguards, and even less of the methods they used to bring down their prey. He felt lucky that the rumor of the crystal grenade had reached him, and he was able to react in time. A shard of brown crystal would either kill him, or make him incapable of defending himself against their wrath.
Zek stood in place with his shield. He awaited the next grenade, but it never came. Instead, four guards made their way around the corner in front of him. They spread themselves into a line, and blocked the path. The Felguards stood at varying heights of gigantic; their skin had a green tinge to it - a result of unnatural growth. It was said that the same green crystal used to grow trees within Arc was used on these brutes to give them strength. They stood musclebound and immense – a force bred to hunt the worst of the arcane.
“You guys got here quick.” Zek said aloud, to no response. He was full of pride when he anticipated this encounter, but in their presence he could feel that courage waning. He stood strong. Each of the guards held their right arms toward him with fingers stretched toward the sky; their eyes began to glow in unison. They acted of a single mind, with the intent on dragging him back to the Feltower.
Zek felt the air around him stir, and immediately a gust of air blasted him. His feet slid along the rocky ground. Zek struggled to hold his position against the torrent of wind; he dropped his shield spell, and he created a counter blast of wind at his back.
He watched one of the guards cease his wind cast and began to stream flames from his hand. The fire was taken immediately to him in the powerful gale of wind. The blast licked over him for a moment, but Zek altered the path of his windstorm to take the flames into a fiery cyclone. The vortex dissipated as the guards gave up their casting.
The four giants seemed to wear smiles. Zek guessed that most of the time their training was wasted on lesser mages, and they didn't often get to fight. He stared at the group and waited - they seemed to be conversing quietly amongst each other.
“Zek Cain, you have been ordered to the Feltower by the Masters of the Arcane University!” The tallest of the Felguards proclaimed.
“I am sorry to disappoint your masters, but I have other plans for tonight,” Zek retorted with a grin. His reaction seemed to please them, and he heard laughter while they readied themselves for another attack.
“Very well,” the Felguard said. “We were told to expect a fight from you, I hope you do not disappoint us.”
“I'm sure the disappointment will be all mine,” Zek taunted, and his eyes began to darken. The shadows of the ruins around him swelled, and they started to consume the light of day. Given that his crime was against Magus Zeno, he felt the darkness a more fitting setting for his victory.
The guards advanced, and took long strides toward him. The scene loomed with shadow blackness which grew darker with each passing moment. Droplets of pure shadow broke away from the ground - they floated upward toward the sky. One of the guards attempted to radiate light, but it was quickly snuffed out by the thick darkness. Swirled tendrils rose like black smoke in the air around them.
Zek smiled, and wondered what Magus Zeno would have thought to see his art in such a fantastic display. The world grew cold around them, and the guards had stopped their advance to begin working together. They held their arms aloft, and a bright flash exploded from them at once. It dissolved the shadows and disrupted Zek's focus. The ruins slowly reappeared, but the guards saw that Zek was not where they had left him.
Zek floated overhead among winds that held him aloft masterfully. His sleeveless robe flapped about him as if he stood in a gentle breeze. The guards were clearly surprised, but they held their ground and began to launch small orbs of red fire toward him.
Zek did not expect the Felguards to be so capable with each magic, but it was nothing out of his control. With eyes that shone yellow-brown, he formed a shield around him to block the onslaught. His opponents spread beneath him, and he felt his shield being struck repeatedly by bolts of energy. While three of the guards concentrated to weaken his shield by focusing their casts into it from the ground, the largest of the guards took to the sky. It appeared the guard meant to flee, or perhaps meant to distract him. Zek stayed vigilant while he struggled to hold his shield against the energy magic.
The airborne Felguard changed direction and flew directly at him. Zek's eyes went wide; this was a tactic he did not anticipate. To drop his shield would mean the energy from below would reach him, but the shield would not stop the oversized arcane from crashing into him. Moments passed, and he felt panic rise up in his throat.
Suddenly, his instinct took over and the world around him seemed to burn with a violet fury. His primal scream filled the air, and it trembled the ruined walls. Zek's fingers twisted, and his hands moved towards the flying Felguard.
Zek dug his fingers into the face and eyes of his attacker, and he held tight with a supernatural strength. The shield that surrounded Zek rippled and wavered; it became infected by his rage and exploded outward. The force threw the guards who remained on the ground in all directions to crash into walls and rubble.
The ground rose to meet Zek. His grip was held fast to the Felguard, and they fell spinning. The guard crashed into the ground first and absorbed the impact. Zek could feel the man's life drain away; it coursed through him, and before he realized it the head within his hands was nothing more than a skull. The body he rested upon was now little more than a husk.
He stood slowly. His anger faded away, and his eyes became crimson once again. He spun to face the remaining guards, and saw that only one now stood. His head was slightly bowed and long strands of silver hair hung in front of his eyes. He looked upon the standing opponent with a silent challenge. The guard had eyes fixed on Zek's shoulder, and his expressions showed surprise. Zek looked down and saw that his wound had healed.
“Run. Go to your Feltower and tell them what happened here, while you have your life,” Zek threatened. His unsmiling face twitched in anger.
“You will not live to see the Feltower, exile,” the guard responded. “Here is where you will die!”
“Nothing will stand in my way - not today!” Zek screamed. He sprinted toward the guard as fast as his legs could carry him. The guard stood his ground, and flames rose from his hands. Zek's eyes became a deep blue, and before he reached the guard his hands erupted with a violent torrent of water. The spray was propelled with such impact that the guard was laid onto his back once again.
Zek stood with outstretched hands and animated the water to his will. He forced the liquid under the fallen Felguard, and created a column that forced the guard to stand. Zek halted his sprint, and his hands connected with his target's chest. The Felguard's soaked body was filled with sizzling energy. Zek's eyes crackled with bolts of amber energy. The screams of the guard drowned out all else, and Zek was deaf to the delicate sound of crystal that struck the ground behind him.
A searing pain tore through Zek's body. Shards of brown crystal penetrated his flesh. The drenched guard had crumpled to the ground next to him. Zek saw that a shard of crystal had penetrated the eye of the guard, and he had stopped breathing. From behind the body, another Felguard approached slowly; dark blood ran from a gash along his forehead.
Zek moved his hand toward his new target; he intended to blast him with flames and give himself time to recover. The brown crystal within his wounds glowed a fiery red and drank in his power; Zek could not summon even a hint of flame to his fingertips.
Zek attempted to bring himself to stand, but the pain was too intense. His hand moved to his thigh, where a large shard of crystal protruded. His fingers wrapped around it, and he gritted his teeth while he pulled the bloody shard from his skin. With his leg wounded badly, he forced himself to stand. Warm blood pooled beneath him. He strained to reach behind his shoulder, and he pulled away another large chunk of crystal.
The guard advanced on him. The guard's hand rose and began to glow with energy. Zek threw the sharp crystal that he still held, and it embedded itself in the palm of his approaching attacker. The guard cried out in pain, and he turned slightly while he tended to his maimed hand. Zek dashed forward with the sharp crystal from his other hand, and punctured the neck of his distracted foe. Blood cascaded through the air and rained across Zek's face. The guard fell onto the rubble at his feet.
The scene in front of him was bleak, and Zek was still wounded. He looked skyward and saw that the suns were almost set. He moved away from any brown crystal he could see, and felt the air swirled around him. Once again he was able to command his magics. He lifted off the ground slowly, and he felt his power increase as he got further away.
He had grown accustomed to hiding the majority of his abilities; the arcane had already given him too much fame and attention at his mastery over basic skills. He was done holding back his power, and saw no need to bound along rooftops any longer.
Zek blasted himself skyward. The wind burned against his tender wounds. He stared at the last blue sunset he would have to watch from within the dome, and he cut through the light clouds above Arc city. He looked down, and he saw the city for what it was - tiny and unimportant compared to the expanse of Aura herself.
He touched down in an empty street at the end of the market, and again he bent light around himself to blend into the environment. He decided to walk the rest of the way just to be sure he was not followed. There were no sounds to be heard as he came upon the Drax estate in the waning light, and his smile grew as he hobbled closer and closer to his destination. Zek ignored his pain, and he started to move faster in excitement.
A familiar sound came from behind him, and he turned to find himself trapped within an explosion of crystal. The shards cut deep; indescribable pain blasted through his chest, and his blood cascaded outward. He fell backward onto the ground, and struggled to breathe.
“You will pay for your crimes, Zek Cain,” Magus Zeno said. He wore white patches that shone through holes in his tattered robe.
“Zeno... How?” Zek asked. His voice bubbled amidst the blood in his throat, and he struggled to remain conscious.
“I have my secrets as well, exile. You flaunted your undeserved power for years, and had no respect for arcane who spent a lifetime honing their crafts,” the Magus lectured.
“How did you find me?” Zek asked through labored breath. His teeth were stained red with his own blood, and his silver hair was caked with dirt.
“You left a trail of blood behind you, in more ways than one. I knew you would run back to the Drax estate for your weakling friend. It was only a matter of time. Unlike you, Cain, I am a patient man,” The shadow mage answered. He stepped dangerously close. His hands moved in front of him, and they started to grow dark. “Justice comes to the deserving, Zek.”
Zek's sight blurred. Blood poured from his body, and there was a gaping hole in his chest near his heart. His robe was charred and nearly destroyed. All hope left him, and he stared upward at the sky. A tear rolled down his cheek; it left a clean trail through the soot. He let himself go, and closed his eyes to let the world become black.
Zek waited, but his release never came. A sound from above him snapped his eyes open once again, and he saw Zeno's had a pained expression. Protruding through his chest Zek, saw a thin shard of transparent crystal which was coated in bloody crimson.
“I agree with you, teacher, justice comes to the deserving,” Mason said. He came into sight from behind the Zeno as he fell. Mason stood with a long shard of tapered crystal in his hand. The crystal blade was a relic of ancient history, it was originally designed by his grandfather as a decoration. Mason flourished the blade quickly and placed it across his back, under a strap from his satchel. “I told you not to get hurt, brother.”
“...Just a scratch.” Zek said with a weak smile. His hand gripped onto Zeno's dying body which lay at his side. Zek used soul magic to heal his wounds; crystal shards fell from his limbs as the wounds healed. The hole in his chest burned like fire as it closed, but his skin looked pristine once again.
“I didn't want to kill him, Zek, I had to,” Mason said. His eyes seemed full of regret. Zek saw that he was staring at the siphoned remains of his old teacher.
“You just saved my life, Mason. You had no other choice, and I thank you,” Zek said. He grabbed Mason's outstretched hand to pull himself up. “If you had done anything less, you know he would have killed us both.”
His arm wrapped around Mason's shoulders, and they began to move quickly towards the shield. They crossed the property lines of the Drax lands and came upon the wavering wall of magic. They looked through the azure barrier towards their destiny. Zek gave a final look behind them, and then his gaze fell upon the brother that stood beside him as always.
He moved his hands against the shield and readied himself for his cast. The outside world beckoned him forth, and the only sound he heard was a heartbeat pounding in his ears. He felt his eyes flare with dark energy, and saw his hands glow against the shield. His hands began to sink within the blue surface. He smiled, and despite a pain that burned within his chest, he continued.
Suddenly he felt himself losing focus, and his hands were pushed away. The purple glow around them flickered and faltered. Confused, he gritted his teeth and pushed his will once again. The pain in his chest grew more intense. He again made slow progress through the wall, and the blue shield became afflicted by his touch. All at once, he fell through the wall and landed on the cold ground outside.
He spun and looked at Mason, who looked down at him through the discolored section of the wall. Zek watched as Mason's hands touched the shield and passed through it with ease. The look upon his face was priceless; he stepped into the cold air outside the bubble and looked at the true colors that surrounded them.
Zek raised himself from the ground with his hand over his chest. He examined his skin the with expectation of a new wound to pay for his soul-cast. He saw nothing but smooth skin. With horror, he realized that the pain he had felt was not caused by the soul magic, and a fragment of crystal must have remained within him. Brown crystal would sap his ability, and it explained the trouble he had while attempting to breach the shield.
Zek looked down at his hands, and he attempted to will forth the familiar flames that had always come so easy to him. He watched his hands glow for a moment, and then he felt the crystal burn from within his chest. He willed away the fire, and the pain faded. With the shard so close to his heart, he knew a large enough cast could be his last. He looked to Mason, who stood watching him with a curious expression on his face.
“What's wrong Zek?” Mason asked.
“...The shield is fractured, and we need to move,” Zek replied. He started westward into the dark forest by the light of the stars overhead.
If you choose to rate and review this story, please ONLY do so after having read the story from the beginning. ("The Ternion Prologue" )
Next chapter: "The Ternion - Chapter 5"