Short stories, Flash fiction, and Novel Excerpts

The Seven Seals 2

In Writing on December 11, 2009 at 1:58 am

By:  Ben Pollard

Leaning with her elbows on the desk of polished marble, she had her head cradled in her hands.  Jet black hair tied back severely at the nape of her neck, Emily stared intently at the book laid out in front of her.  The room around her was painfully bare.  One small cot, a bookshelf filled with musty tomes, and the stone desk at which she sat.  There were very few luxuries at the academy.  With it being the only one of its kind for the study and practice of magic.  Only one hundred students and faculty together, it was smaller than any other center of learning in the Kingdom and so less funded. 

Unnoticed in the doorway, an old man stood in his billowing white robes.  Smiling wryly, Jonah knew he would be left standing all day if he said nothing. 

“It’s time child.” the old man said softly, then chuckled at the sight of that beautiful face startled into bemusement.  Her eyes, sparkling like emeralds, flashed anger then to laughter at the sight of him. 

“M-master Jonah”, Emily stuttered as she stood quickly to flourish, with as much of a swish as her robes allowed, a courtly curtsy. 

Master Jonah stopped her saying, “If you display courtly graces princess, then I will be forced to as well and I’m much too old for such things.”

With a sultry laugh Emily said, “But that’s all too true, old Master.”

Master Jonah harrumphed loudly, “Child in my day we never spoke to our betters so,” he grumped.  Rolling her eyes, Emily glided across the stone floor to the stern Master.  She knew his indignant pose was all bluff and bluster and embraced him.  This earned her another loud harrumph. 

“Child, child when will you ever learn not to fraternize with the heads?” rebuffed Master Jonah.

Blushing, Emily stepped away exclaiming,”I’ve never done…what you say!”

“My dear, an old man has to give back what he can these days, “replied Master Jonah.

Blushing even more furiously, “You said it was time, “she evaded.

“You never let me have any fun, “muttered the old man, “but yes, its time for the Tests child.”

            Emily walked down the hall, trepidation in her heart.  She was going to take the Tests, by laws as old as the Kingdom; she should not be able to.  No heir to the throne could hold the position of Master and still be an heir.  So Emily had abdicated, had given up the rights, duties and privileges of the royal family, not just for herself but for all her offspring down thru the ages.  After this she would have no family whatsoever.  By midafternoon tomorrow her father would know, then the Kingdom, after that, the world. 

            The magical arts were Emily’s passion, what made her feel alive.  Her progress thru her novitiate and apprenticeship had given her a love of magic and what it could do too better other lives as well as her own.  As a Master she would not be able to own property of any kind; no land, horses, slaves, nothing, not even the clothes on her back.  Nor would she be able to make decisions for herself afterward, she would be under their purview.  Emily hoped that her father would understand but she had made her decision.  She knew it would be the last she could make on her own.

            Torches, hanging from wrought iron scones, cast fluttering shadows around the pair as they made their way to the inner sanctum.  Magic was not only put upon a pedestal by scholars but was venerated around the world.  The Yu’llish priesthood, to the southwest, was comprised of only magi, trained and indoctrinated by their clerics.  Granted their magic was not profound but the power those clerics wielded over their people was indisputable.  Other countries also followed the belief that magic was of the Gods.  Only the Kingdom used magic to serve the people not subjugate them with it.

            Trying to calm her fluttering stomach, Emily focused on Jonah’s strait back; belying the old man’s age.  The cowl of his rough spun white robe was drawn over his arched head, hiding the silver hair underneath.  Emily similarly attired in blue walked to match the Masters measured gait.  As they neared the Sanctum with its large double oak doors bound in iron, Master Jonah mumbled and with a wave of his thin hand, opened the portal.  Twice his height and trice his weight the doors of their own accord, smoothly, ponderously, reveled the heart of her ambition, the heart of Povoir.

            Circular, the stone walls were not fitted but unnaturally smooth, seemingly carved not built.  Pillars of intricately worked marble were spaced evenly along the wall encircling the inner ring in the center of the chamber. From the obsidian floor to the vaulted ceiling the supports presented mosaics of the supernatural.  Mythical beasts and creations encircled the pillars at head height, fantastic figures in outstretched poses, held torches that gave the amazing room light. 

Flickering illumination gave the illusion of movement to Dragons, Chimeras, Unicorns, and other monsters out of a dozen legends.  Each figure seemed to have a life of its own, Fairies danced while Minotaurs raged.  Emily gave an involuntary laugh of delight, startling herself out of the enchanted reverie the room had spun. 

In front of the inner pillars sat the Decca of Povoir.  Old men all, though not decrepit; they sat, backs strait in robes of gleaming silver.  Ten chairs made a half circle in which Emily and Master Jonah now stood in its center.  Emily stood, head bowed in supplication, as the old Master beside her intoned with authority steeling his voice, that she had meet all requirements to stand before the Decca.   Custom required that a Master vouchsafe a Supplicant to ensure only the worthy become Masters of the Arcane. 

The Trials would kill those not having the strength or skill necessary to pass.  Master Jonah would be held accountable if she failed; misery and death were the punishment for failing her.  The faces of the Decca were grim with the knowledge that two lives could be lost today.

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