by Ben Crawford
Torin takes a stroll through the city and find something he never wanted to see.
|Torin screamed as he walked through the halls of the Archium "Screb bla fla bin craw!" A few people who spoke Riall gasped in shock, and one girl even looked like she might throw up. The school was home to student's young and old alike.
He hated first class duties and every time he dared to stick his head into a single Masters meeting they saddled him with it. It's not like he was a total lay about. He ran the school's vast library, which was a lot of work. The truth was he delegated much of that work to the student staff.
The masters were always shown respect as they walked the halls of the Archium but, this was different. They gave Torin something much different than respect. It was a mix between fear and wonder. Torin knew every story they told behind his back, he had even started a few of them.
He finally made it outside to the courtyard and he took a deep breath. With the new term starting soon the halls were packed with new and old students. Torin saw young boys and girls being dropped off for their first term, returning students who looked too cocky for their own good, and older students with the look of long-suffering and an eagerness to finally get their certification.
Off near a small grouping of trees, he saw a young boy and girl playing. The boy chased the girl with a stick, poking her and laughing. The boy was bigger than her, and she could do nothing but run from him. Torin spoke a few words under his breath and a branch of the tree bent down and snapped the boy in the rear end. The girl stopped running when she saw what happened. She looked around until she spotted Torin. A look of comprehension stole across her face and she laughed herself off her feet.
"She is a sharp little thing," thought Torin.
Torin kept a straight face as he walked past the little boy trying to tell his mother that the tree hit him but his mother would have none of it. The little girl just stood there with the biggest grin on her face; she would not corroborate his story.
The sun was shining brightly today and there were people everywhere. Students of all kinds walked around the courtyard and sat on the many stone benches. A small group of Luxamancers were taking advantage of the bright day to get in some practice. Even in direct sunlight they looked to be standing in the shade because they were absorbing light around them.
Off in one corner a row of punching bags were being brutalized by students with huge hulking frames. With every punch their bodies glowed more brightly. These men and women were training their bodies and their magic at the same time, one of the perks of Physicamancy.
All the schools had class rooms and training centers elsewhere but the main courtyard was the more popular place to train, hang out or eat your lunch. It was big enough that even with the large number of students milling around, it did not feel crowded.
Torin had some time to kill before he had to teach that blasted class. He felt like taking a trip to the market, maybe he would check out some of his favorite book sellers. It was rare for him to find a book he had never heard of, but there was always a chance to find a rare book or one in better condition than the one in his personal library. Sometimes if he was feeling generous he would pick up books for the Archium library, but normally he left that kind of work to the acquisitions office.
In this massive city the market district was at least an hour away by foot and sometimes even longer by cart. Torin did not feel like wasting all that extra time; he had a different plan. His power did not reside in his legs his arms or in anything so mundane. His power lay in his mind and in his words.
He made a few mental calculations then looked skyward and said "To the heavens, I ride, with haste I depart this mortal earth." His voice reverberated with a strange resonance and as he finished speaking his body glowed a light blue and he shot off the ground. He did not always need to recite the words out loud, but he liked showing off a little for all the people around the Archium.
Flying through the air was pure joy. Watching the eyes, wide with wonder, of the people below follow him through the air made him laugh.
The glow started to slowly fade and as it did he lost altitude rapidly. He was coming down faster than he expected and when he hit the ground, it was not soft or graceful. Once he came to rest, he just laid there and took an inventory of his body. Nothing was broken and the only thing hurt was his pride.
"I can never quite stick the landing," he said, looking up from the ground at a man selling glazed pots.
Standing up, he looked around and saw that he was near the edge of the marketplace. It was a nice day, the sun was high in the sky and the street was full of people. The heat of the day was starting to hit the market in force. Men and women yelled and barked there wears trying to attract customers. People of every shape, size and color walked the wide open square.
The shifting market looked like a vast sea of people and canvas tents with trails of smoke rising here and there. The long rows of carts, stands and blankets on the ground were very orderly. The market wardens kept a very close eye on sellers both for what they were selling and how they did it. The larger buildings that made up the walls of the square were the bigger more expensive shops that had a more stable and reliable stock. In the shifting market place if you did not buy something you saw today then chances are it would be gone tomorrow.
The air was a battle ground of scents all fighting each other for dominance. The smell of horses, cooking meat, spices, perfumes and unwashed flesh along with many more hit Torin's nose at once. The nasal cacophony might be off putting to some people but Torin loved the madness of it all.
The shifting market sold nearly anything you could want to buy if you had the coin. There were spices from Shenala, large Sea Shells from Larael and the most amazing fabric from the south. Many stands also sold glowing crystals of many sizes, shapes and colors. To the untrained they seemed nearly divine but many knew them as source stones or crystalized magical energy. Skilled mages can collect energy from their source and then focused their will upon it and transform that energy into a solid crystal. This process was very complicated and being able to do this was one of the tests when trying to pass your certification.
As Torin made his way through the market the crowd parted around him, everyone giving him plenty of space. This is partly because he was a master, but mostly because he had a reputation. The best you could say was that Torin was eccentric and the worst is that he was stark raving mad. He had a young face and stark white hair, no one but him knew his true age but it was guessed to be well over seventy. He also had deep amber eyes that looked as if they were alive with fire and magic.
He entered a small bookshop and started looking around; the smell of paper and the slightly sweet smell of binders glue was a warm comfort to Torin. The Shop was housed in one of the smaller buildings lining the square but it was one of his favorites for many reasons. Books lined every wall and table; they were stacked in corners and on chairs. To a Literamancer this place was just as much an armory as it was a shop.
A beautiful young girl came out of the back and saw him.
"Good afternoon Master Tarsis," said the young lady with a total lack of fear.
"Why, if it's not the loveliest shopkeeper's daughter," he said with a smile.
"I am not as lovely as all that," she said in a high voice showing her embarrassment.
Torin enjoyed flirting outrageously with Sarah mostly because he knew she was too young to know what to do with a man, even if she ever managed to get hold of one.
"Where is old Sarnath today?"
"Father is off in the market getting some supplies to do a little book repair. We got a nice batch of books that have good pages but bad bindings"
"Giving books a second chance at life is something I highly approve of."
"See anything you like?" she asked innocently.
"Always, that's why I come here," he replied with a smile that was almost lecherous.
She blushed even more and Torin laughed. There something so entertaining about making this young girl blush. If she was anything but an innocent and kind hearted girl than it would not be as much fun.
"I almost forgot; I put aside a few books that I thought you would be very interested in. Let me go get them," she said heading into the back room.
The shop only had a few other people milling about and Torin idly picked up and looked at books randomly. Each book was one he read before and he remembered them all perfectly. When you are a mage that gets your power from books you tend to read a lot and in his long life he has read every book he had ever laid eyes on.
Sarah returned with three books: two small and one rather large, "Here we are Master Tarsis. Three very special finds for you."
Torin looked through them; the first was a collection of poems by Sir Rinehart the bard knight. This was an early print and was in great condition.
"You remembered that i had a soft spot for Sir Rinehart. He was a very unusual man and his stories and poems are some of the best," He said with a smile.
"Well, what kind of a book maid would I be if I did not remember the preferences of my customers?" She replied looking a little bashful.
Sarah had a fine memory and her physical attributes were also not above his notice. The second book was a book of dirty limericks from an unknown author but after reading a few and laughing hard he had to buy it.
The third book was something odd. It had a thick leather cover and very nice hand tooled scrollwork. It was quite but well taken care of.
"What is this book you have found me Sarah?" Torin said with a smile.
"I thought the great and powerful Torin Tarsis would be able to figure it out," she giggled.
He of course knew what it was, this was an old hand written Literamancy manual. It was the most complete one he had seen in ten years.
"Literamancy manuals like that are hard to come by. I cannot remember the last time I saw one but according to our records the last one we sold was over twenty years ago," Said Sarah.
"Well, it is a beautiful book and worthy of my personal library" he replied with a smile as he pulled out a coin bag the size of an apple and handed it to the lady.
"Have these delivered to my house and whatever is left over after the cost of the books is yours to keep Sarah."
"Thank you so much," she said with a smile.
She was so distracted by the money that she did not see the look in Torin's eyes. He looked at the book with worry and sadness. He held it like a lover; he held it like a poisoned knife. It was a while before he realized he was just standing there looking at the book. Before Sarah noticed he handed the book back and left the shop.
He still had a few hours to kill before he had to go teach that introductory class and if he was late or skipped it then the council would make his life very unpleasant. He did not like teaching anymore; it's not because he was bad at it, in fact, he was a very good teacher and in a past life he had loved it but now it's nothing but pain and sorrow.
After leaving the book shop he made many stops at many places as he wandered the streets. He won three hands of Solian Breath and used his winnings to buy the table a round of drinks. He stopped three pick pockets, then he also picked a pocket or two, and instead of taking money he left a few items that would make the person really scratch their head.
He told a scandalous story at a large tavern about how Lady Rasonton had a very breathless meeting with her father's business partner and how when the truth came out it resulted in a wedding, a baby and a new trade route.
When he walked by one of the few brothels in the city, the ladies catcalled at him and each offered to give him an experience he would never forget free of charge. He politely declined their offer but handed out a few coins and learned all of the freshest and juiciest gossip.
He bought a few more books as he wandered the streets, he found a book on herb lore that was in rather good condition that could replace a battered copy the library was currently using.
"Master Tarsis," called a voice from behind him.
Torin turned around and saw Kenton Gladstone running after him. This was the first time he really got to get a good look at the man; the lighting in the council chamber was not the best.
"Well, now, to what do I owe the pleasure of the company of a magi master" he replied with a smile and warm tone.
"I wanted to talk to you?" Kenton said looking hopeful.
"We don't always get what we want, try to remember that; but as a welcome gift I shall grant your request for a small conversation"
"Would you like to talk here or would you like to get something to eat?" Kenton asked.
"Food does help loosen the lips and aids in talking so sure, you can buy me a late lunch," Torin replied.
They moved along the street until they found a nice place called the Olive Vine and were shown to a table. Torin was looking forward to interacting with Kenton as he was a new variable in his life and he was not sure how he would shake things up.
"What can I get you gentleman?" asked the waiter.
"I will have the chicken and a glass of spiced cider" said Kenton.
"Half an apple, half a small wheel of cheese, half a glass of red wine and half a bowl of roasted nuts" said Torin.
The waiter looked puzzled by such an odd order, but he wrote it down on his pad and then walked off. The two men sat there both attempting to read the other. Kenton was no match for Torin, but he was more clever than most.
"Find any cracks yet?" asked Torin.
"I could ask you the same thing."
"Yes actually, you are too kind for your own good and just smart enough to get yourself in trouble but not smart enough to get yourself out. You are not very well traveled and you know nothing of the customs of this land and that will hurt you in many social settings. And your worst mistake is being seen having lunch with me. I am the last person you should make friends with if you want anyone to have any measure of respect for you" said Torin rather rapidly.
"Oh is that all?" replied Kenton with a look of mild amusement on is face.
"Normally, my thinly veiled insults have more affect," said Torin, looking just as amused as Kenton.
"You have not said anything I don't already know and except for you see, my father was a world class diplomat as well as a powerful Physicamancer and he trained his children to not only have skill in magic but also in diplomacy and debate as well. I am not some young Doe-eyed lamb in a den of lions; instead, I am a snake in a field of grass that strikes when I see a target worth striking."
Torin laughed out loud "You stole that line from Sir Rinehart".
"You are not the only well-read person in the world. I may have grown up on an island, but I would wager that I have read more books than everyone on that island combined," he replied with a defiant look in his eyes.
The food came and both men went to work eating and the conversation was placed on hold for a few minutes but both men still had their guard up.
"Why half of everything," asked Kenton abruptly.
"Do you want the theological-bull-crap answer or the real one?"
Kenton smiled "I feel like the former is more entertaining, but I would rather have the latter."
"I like the look on the waiter's faces when I order something they were not expecting, it gets hard when people get used to the games you play so the reason I wanted to eat here is because many of the waiters are new and I get to have my fun," said Torin.
"The world is a playground for the men who know that life is a game meant to be played and played well" quoted Kenton.
"Ah yes, good old Richard Lathorian, a rather underappreciated philosopher, but worth the time if you can get past his more insane views on bureaucratic loyalties."
"His books are a little ponderously written, but sometimes you just need to take the good with the bad. Even a bad book can teach you something good" replied Kenton.
"So if we are done dick-measuring maybe you can get to the real reason you wanted to talk to me" said Torin with a flat tone.
"Very well. I have been told many things about you by many people and I am the kind of man who wants to get the measure of a man or woman myself and make up my own mind about them. I hope to be on the council for years to come and if that is to be the case I need to know all I can about my fellow masters. You sir, are a wonderful collection of contradictions and I don't know if I will ever fully understand you, but I believe you pose no threat to me or my school."
"Is that a relief or a disappointment?" asked Torin.
"You can't play chess unless you know all the pieces in play," Kenton Replied.
"Am I a pawn or a king?" Torin asked with a huge grin.
"Forgive the cross dressing implications, but I would say you are closer to a queen than a king or a pawn" said Kenton with a smirk.
Kenton was better than Torin could have hoped for; he was smart, cunning and had the brains to stand up to the other masters. Torin was playing his own game of chess and right now Kenton was his most valuable piece, but what kind of piece he was is still to be seen.
"You sir, are a delightful person to have lunch with and I look forward to the chaos that is sure to come when the other masters realize the kind of man you are. I have gone to great lengths to get you in the position you now hold and even greater lengths to keep the truth about how formidable you are away from the other masters or you would never have been appointed.
Don't get me wrong, the masters are not all bad people, but they have too much unchecked power and I believe you will shake things up enough to allow things to change."
"And you say they have unchecked power?" Kenton said still trying to take in all this new information.
"Oh, I am by far more powerful than they could have ever feared but they are saved by two very important facts, the first being despite what they will say or believe I am working for the greater good and the second is I know what true power looks like and I want none of it" Torin then got up and left the table.