Dragon Magic(9)

By: Megan Derr


Sule flinched and went to see to getting the boat moving. Mahzan turned to the priest. "Where is the fearmonger?"

"We injured the damned thing, though only the Great Dragon himself knows how," the priest replied, and looked suddenly sad and weary. His eyes took on the shine of unshed tears as he looked over Mahzan's shoulder. "I had no deep love for the place, but I never wanted that."

Mahzan turned to look over his shoulder, and did not bother to hold back his tears. The great spires of the Compass Gates, the gleam of the castle towers, the cathedral—gone. Everything had been destroyed. The Heart of the Dragon was in ruins. His home… Even if he had once agreed to leave the city for Kuzey, he had never really wanted to go. He had been born and raised in the Heart, had planned to die there.

Destroyed in a matter of minutes. "His Majesty?" he asked dully.

"I don't know," Binhadi said as he joined them. He did not look like the ominous shadow mage everyone held in awe and fear. He looked as sad and broken as the rest of them. At the helm, Sule looked angry, but Mahzan suspected that was how he faced anguish.

He tried to think of something witty, clever, the sorts of things jesters always had on the tips of their tongues. But the words stuck in his throat, choked him, and he gave up. In silence, they watched flames consume the Heart of the Dragon, until night and distance stole it from their sight.





OATH


They slept in the fishing boat when it grew too dark and all of them grew too exhausted to continue traveling. Land must be close, but Sule was no sailor, and he did not want to risk running the ship into something. The moon was only a sliver in the sky, slipping in and out of clouds. The smell of smoke mingled with the fresher scent of the Great Lake.

Sule's eyes stung from the smoke, and the cold air made him shiver; his formal cloak was meant for celebration, not the chilly winds of the Great Lake. He drifted in and out of a restless sleep, and woke as the sky was fading from black to gray.

As dawn slowly came upon them, he looked back toward the Heart of the Dragon. Smoke still poured from it, though it was in trickles rather than gouts. The city that had survived centuries had been destroyed in less than an hour.

How had the other cities fared? The Great Lake stretched for leagues in all directions, forming a loose oval close to the very center of the continent. At each of the compass points was a large city: Dragon Claw, Dragon Tooth, Dragon Scale, and Dragon Eyes, the great twin-city that stretched across the enormous river to the north that fed the lake.

Turning around, Sule's heart immediately sank as he saw more smoke where Claw should have been. The beacon tower that should have hailed them as they drew close was gone, and he saw no signs of life, only empty boats drifting along the water with them. If they had been foolish enough to push on last night, they would have crashed into at least one of them.

How much devastation had the fearmonger wrought?

The sound of movement, groaning and yawning, made him turn again. He stared at Mahzan, who stripped off his ruined purple and pink tunic and cast it aside, leaving only a white under tunic stained with sweat and blood—though none of it appeared to be his.

Memories of the previous night ran through Sule's mind, but very little of it was clear, especially after he had returned to the Hall after ensuring the king was safely away. But he remembered how Mahzan had brought down what remained of the ceiling. That was high level mind magic. Most mind mages were empaths of low to moderate power. Usually they took up roles as clerks, advisors, or similar such that made being able to feel emotion a useful skill. Those with strong emotion reading often went mad as they grew older. Once it had been illegal for mind mages not to report their abilities to the throne, since the skill had terrible potential. Long before that, they'd been killed outright the moment they were discovered, considered too dangerous to be left alive.

A mind mage powerful enough to move objects with mere thought, to bring down walls and ceilings… and he had been living as a mere jester. A spy of some sort? But no, that didn't make sense. Jesters had access to many places, but a spy would not want to draw the sort of attention that being the King's Jester would garner.

So one of those who preferred to eschew his magic. Bah.