Before you read and then visit the other bloggers I would like to post a little disclaimer about this installment. It will seem silly to some of you, but I know there are some diehard WOW fans out there, so I felt the need to put this up beforehand. If this makes no sense to you please disregard the disclaimer and move on. LOL Warning: I am fully aware of what Phantasm is, and yes, I tweaked it to fit the story. So please note the use of this skill will be a little different than in WOW gameplay. Okay, now that I've outed myself as a baby nerdling you can get back to the story. :D
Flash Fiction Friday Bloggers:
The Great Mage: Week 6
Aneris noticed how quiet Seth was on the ride up. There was something about the Dragon Shifter Seth wasn’t saying, something unresolved between them. Aneris went to take Seth’s hand, but he wasn’t sure the reaction he’d get from Seth’s Uncle, so he kept his hands to himself. After his magic show minutes ago, he didn’t want to push his luck.
The fog lifted once they were high in the air. A treetop village greeted. The platform stopped. Thousands of wooden planks and thick ropes created walkways between the homes and other boxy structures. Much like tree houses, each home was built into the thickest trunks in the forest. Their copper roofs shimmered in torchlight. Their iron lattice windows threw shadows upon the walkways.
More distracting than the tree house village, Aneris studied the creatures standing, waiting. Dragon Shifters in many jewel toned colors and sizes stared. Their red and yellow eyes regarded the platform as Aneris, Seth, and Heith stepped onto the entry walkway. The look in their eyes wasn’t welcoming. Their unspoken warning directed solely at Aneris.
“Don’t mind them,” Seth whispered. “They’re spooked by Othersiders, nothing to be done about it.”
“Certainly is,” Heith muttered. “Could’ve refrained from bringing him here. Not only is he an Othersider, he’s also a Mage. You do remember our history with mages, Setherum.”
“He is of the White King’s people, Uncle. His intent is peaceful.”
“The White King has not had such a Mage in centuries, boy. Not one he seeks council with. The only mage we trust is the Gamemaster and he hasn’t visited us in many a moon. Our distrust of your mate will remain. And you have overlooked the fact Aneris seeks to drag you into the Valley on his quest. Such a fool, Setherum.”
“You do know I’m right here.” Aneris scoffed. “You think I want Seth dead? Do you think I’m trying to trick him?”
“I don’t understand your plot, but I know I don’t like it. Forgive me, Mage, if I don’t welcome you with open arms. The Black King and Silvius have been sending their lot to our tribe for months, trying to enslave our people for their precious army. They want a war and know of our strength. What is to say you are not one of them? What is to say you have not come when we are at our weakest during the mating season, to steal our young in the night?” Heith’s nostrils expelled smoke. His red eyes burned for blood. “You will sleep in the cell until the morning. If Setherum chooses to bed with you that is his life to risk, but I will not risk my children and my tribe.”
“Uncle, how can you treat my mate this way?”
“Because you foolishly chose to bond with an Othersider you know nothing about. It is bad enough we must protect you from yourself, shielding you with our armor, strengthening your hand with fire forged from our throats, but to disrespect our people by throwing yourself into mating with his magic is disgraceful. Stay with him. Don’t stay with him. Whatever you do, know you don’t have our blessing.” Heith addressed two armor-clad Shifters. “Take him to the cell. Lock him up tight and don’t you dare leave that door.”
Seth slammed his foot down, holding up a hand to the approaching warriors. “Is this how you treat the son of your brother? How little do I mean to you, Uncle?”
Heith stopped. “Because you are my brother’s child and I care for you as my own, I shall continue to protect you from yourself. It is why Aneris sleeps in the cell. If his love for you is true he will go willingly, and respect my wishes. If you wish to protect him you will abide my command as well. He might be Mage but he is no Dragon.”
Seth sucked in air, then hung his head. “I will never be your equal.”
“Not until you see yourself as one of us will you ever be equal, Setherum.”
“And how will I do that if you treat me this way?”
“I treat you as I treat my own. It is time you grew up and learned that the body isn’t everything. The strength inside is what keeps us alive. I refuse to see someone take that away from you when you haven’t found it yet.” Heith’s shoulders rose and fell with a deep breath. “Goodnight, Setherum.”
A female shifter came to Heith’s side, lifting her hand to Seth. Her sad eyes looked upon her mate before she took his hand and led him into their home in the center of the village. Aneris was pissed, beyond so, but he kept his head high as he took Seth’s hand too. He wouldn’t fight the Dragons because it would upset Seth, and because he wasn’t sure how he would even combat such powerful beings. He knew he held the magic to do so, nonetheless everything was too new and he was too tired for such a battle.
Conjuring the dragon with his magic had taken a lot out of him. Creating a being from his body as a weapon, only to let it go mid transformation to physical had zapped him. In gameplay, a mage could create replicas of themself by moving at a rate of speed unfathomable to the human eye, or conjure multiple creatures to surround an enemy. It was called phantasm, a skill that took a lot of power. He needed to rest to regain his strength.
Instead of fighting, he worried about Seth and the implications of his outburst towards his uncle. “I don’t care where we sleep as long as we’re together.” Aneris squeezed Seth’s hand.
“They treat you like a criminal when your heart is pure, Aneris. It’s unforgivable they would deny me happiness and tarnish my mate’s name.”
“I don’t want to upset you, but I’m not your mate, Seth. We barely know each other.” Seth pulled his hand away. The rejection in his eyes pained Aneris. “Seth…”
“Take us to the cell. See that we’re provided a meal and drink.” Seth looked away.
The warrior grunted and took them to the cell at the rear of the village. Aneris studied the little windows as they passed. Curtains closed quickly, cutting off intimate dinner settings and heated looks, even an angry male who spied Aneris eyeing his sleeping female. It wasn’t until they reached an unlit house Aneris was able to breathe.
Seth opened the door of the abandoned tree house. He stepped inside and looked at Aneris. “I don’t care what you think you are to me. I care for you and that’s what matters. I will stay here tonight.” He opened his palm. Once again a tiny flame flickered to life, shooting to the lantern in the window. The lantern illuminated a stark, one-room cell. Thick iron bars caged them in as Aneris put his foot inside the house. A straw bed lay on the floor with barely enough room for them both.
“In with you. I don’t have all night.” The warrior gave Aneris a shove. “Whatever happens to you, Setherum, know you did it to yourself.” The warrior grunted and slammed the door closed. Moments later a tray was shoved through a tiny slot under the window. The opening stayed with the warrior’s scaled fingers. “The horse is tended to. You can fetch her in the morning.”
Seth scowled, and then turned his back. “Thank you.” The little slot closed. Seth began to remove his armor.
“You can have the bed. I’ll be fine over here.” Aneris untied his boots and put them on the floor. He slid down the bars to sit, then rubbed his aching feet.
“On the bed, Aneris. You’re drained. There will be nowhere to rest once we reach the Valley.”
“It’s fine. I’m fine.”
“No. You’re not. When I said we aren’t mates, I didn’t mean to say I don’t like you. I care for you too. I’ve cared for you a long time, since we first started talking. But the way you say mates scares me. From what I can tell, mates are like… They’re like married.”
“Dragons mate for life, Aneris.” Seth’s chainmail dripped to the ground, leaving a thin linen tunic over his torso. He pulled it over his head.
Aneris didn’t know what he was expecting when he saw Seth’s lean, yet muscular half-naked form, but he didn’t expect to see the small patch of red scales that ran from Seth’s neck down to the small of his back. It was the only Shifter quality about him, apart from his yellow eyes. For all appearances Seth was human with his armor on.
Seth caught Aneris staring. He put his back to the wall. “Pathetic, isn’t it? I’m an abomination.”
“What? No you’re not.” Aneris got to his feet.
Seth snorted. “I look human, unlike my race.”
“So that’s what Heith was talking about.”
“You see it for yourself now, don’t you?” Seth swallowed thickly, walking around Aneris to hang his tunic over the bars. “My mother’s father is king of the Fire Elementals. He controls the inferno to the west, one of the oldest villages in The Silver Realm. I should be proud to be of his image, but you have seen my father’s race. The Dragon Tribes have never encountered a child like me, a half-breed with no real powers of my own.”
“You can conjure fire.” Aneris put his hands on Seth’s shoulders. His fingers slid over hard muscle and silky soft skin. Seth’s woodsy scent tempted him closer.
“Only a small flicker—more of a trick than a power.” Seth pulled away. “He was right. My armor and my sword are the only things keeping me safe. Without them I would be little more than human. I would not survive, Aneris. It is why I sought out the Gamemaster in the first place, to seek a purpose for my life other than to be a freak. I didn’t think I would have a mate like the others, until I heard your voice that day. I had never been so happy in all my life to be given orders to stay close to someone. You made me feel so special when you spoke, as if I was your equal in all things.”
Aneris realized how much he meant to Seth. They weren’t just friends. They were companions who knew each other’s secrets, paranormal and otherwise. Seth had been there for him when no else was. And he had been there for Seth, creating a bond he didn’t even understand. “Setherum,” Aneris whispered.
Seth’s lips opened in surprise upon hearing his full name. Then his eyes darkened to a sunlit gold. His hands combed into Aneris’s unruly red locks, clenching near the scalp until Aneris purred. “I may not be able to scent your mating call like the others, but I am a man; a man who knows when his mate is in want, in need.”
Aneris put his arms around Seth, entranced with those golden eyes. He gasped when something filled his palm. Glass and twine came away in his hand. A corked potion bottle dangled on twine from his fingers as he drew back. “What is this?”
Seth’s nostrils flared as he scented the air. He grabbed the bottle, inhaling deeply. His eyes rolled to the back of his head. “It is… It is…” He popped the cork.
Smoke formed the shape of a tiny dragon. Something in Aneris took caution. He looked up at Seth. Red eyes looked back at him. Aneris finally scented the potion as it broke free of Seth’s hand to burst on the floor. Smoke filled the room. Hands roamed Aneris’s body. Seth’s hungry lips descended on his neck. As Aneris was lowered to the ground, he caught sight of the tag around the broken bottle’s neck:
Happy Mating, Mage ~GM
To be continued…