Welcome back to Flash Fiction Friday! This week’s prompt was:
Man’s Best Friend – Give your main character(s) a pet: dog, cat, faerie, dinosaur, etc. Whatever fits your world and/or your character(s)’s personality. They can keep it, find it a home, or recount a childhood pet now lost.
Make sure to visit our other wonderful bloggers after you read this week’s installment of The Great Mage.
Tempest Wolf (m/m
The Great Mage: Week 19
Aneris awoke with a start. Tangled in flannel sheets, he managed to find his phone on the nightstand and shut off the alarm. His feet dug into the carpet after he swung his legs over the side of the bed. His head throbbed. His mouth was dry. And when his eyes adjusted to his surroundings, he found himself looking out his bedroom window of the small house he rented on Briar Lane. At first he wondered if he was dreaming, or quite possibly dead as Sylvius had laid him flat with that last blast of dark magic.
But the smell of his bedroom was too real, the scent of lilac bush drifted through his window. Even the sun warmed his skin as he stood and put his hands to the glass. Aneris dropped his hands and turned in horror to observe his bedroom. His computer screen still held the email from the Gamemaster, detailing this week’s LARP prompt. The same soda can he’d been drinking when Seth had talked to him over voice chat was sitting next to the keyboard. And there in the chair was Aneris’s cape, next to it the plastic and cardboard box it had been shipped in.
He put a hand over his mouth. His eyes filled with tears. Seth… It wasn’t real at all. It was all a dream, a very realistic dream. Dressed in only his pajama bottoms, Aneris stormed down the hallway in mourning. “No. He was real!” He slapped the wall angrily, proceeding down the short staircase to the main floor. “Seth?!” he called frantically.
Aneris stopped in his tracks at the sight of a strange man in his kitchen. The man had a greying ponytail from the back and was dressed in cargo shorts and a shirt. When he turned around, coffee pot in hand, he smiled at Aneris. Aneris’s favorite Gandalf shirt he’d received as swag from a convention graced the man’s upper body.
“Hope you don’t mind. I borrowed it. I’ve been told by many Othersiders what a fine sorcerer this Gandalf is. Seemed only fitting…” The stranger winked and grinned while setting down the coffee pot. He lifted a finger and the fridge opened from the other side of the kitchen. A bottle of creamer came floating into his outstretched hand. He eyed the bottle happily. “Hazelnut. Sounds delicious.”
“Who…” Aneris’s question drifted off. He watched the man swirl his finger over his coffee cup, and then pick it up for a taste. Bliss overtook the man’s face as he hummed his delight.
“I like this hazelnut very much.” The man smacked his lips and opened his green eyes. “Judging by your face I’d say you are not a morning person. That is quite alright, Aneris. Neither am I…normally, although today I find I have a spring in my step. This world is full of many wonders just waiting to be tasted.” He sipped from his cup again then sighed. “Would you mind if I took this bottle back with me? It is too good not to recreate.”
Aneris stared blankly at the stranger. “Sure,” he whispered.
“Oh, forgive me, boy! I make a most terrible houseguest. We have not been formally introduced, though I’m positive if you collected yourself a bit you’d gather my identity on your own.” The man waited, had some more coffee, and then gave up on a silent Aneris. “I am the Gamemaster, but you may call me Theodore. All of my most treasured colleagues do.”
Aneris exhaled and closed his eyes. “I’m not crazy.”
“Crazy? My dear boy, you are anything but.”
Theodore summoned things from Aneris’s kitchen. A teaspoon slipped out of a drawer and dunked into the sugar bowl on the counter. The creamer top popped open. A fresh cup danced through the air, softly landing near Theodore’s hand. If Aneris’s childhood cat Trixie had been around, she would have perched next to him in wonder, slowly following every object with her all seeing eyes. Aneris smiled at the thought of the crazy old cat and how easily amused she had been.
Missing Trixie was nothing compared to the way Aneris missed Seth. He had all sorts of questions, but he waited, knowing Theodore wouldn’t leave him hanging. And he didn’t. He pulled out a stool with a wave his hand, inviting Aneris to have coffee with him. Aneris eagerly took the coffee and sipped, staring at the most prestigious magic wielder in the world.
“I don’t need to tell you how valiant you are for your willingness to sacrifice your life on behalf of the White Kingdom. I believe you found yourself within our realm, and used your talents with the courage you already had to defeat Sylvius. I knew you were the one all along, Aneris. When I sent Setherum into your world, I had been watching you for many years. The fact that he picked you above all others shows he saw you for who you were as well—a great man who didn’t belong here.”
“I wasn’t wasted. I almost have my masters in civil engineering!” Aneris huffed into his coffee.
Theo chuckled. “That is a mortal placement. Who you are cannot be denied. Obviously you are far more qualified for magic than…engineering, was it? You held the respect of every being you encountered, every race that followed you into the fire, and now you hold the respect and admiration of your King. You saved them, Aneris.”
“Then why am I here and not there, huh?”
“I couldn’t very well leave you lying in the earth, now could I?” Theodore rolled his eyes. “What kind of Mage would I be to do that to my protégé? A terrible one! The Dragon Tribes had just arrived and events were dicey, fire everywhere and people screaming. Not exactly conducive to healing, I would think.”
“What about Seth? Did he make it out?” Aneris nearly knocked over his mug to stand.
“Of course he did. Nonsense.” Theodore licked his fingers of creamer, nearly purring.
“Oh alright, if you must hear the grizzly details, he slayed Sylvius’s men and swore on their blood he’d avenge your death. Not that you were dead per say, just…sleeping and not moving.”
“He thinks I’m dead?”
“He did for a minute.” Theodore forced a smile and stepped away. “He might have orchestrated an attack on the Black King after Sylvius died, and led the Dragon Tribes into battle.”
“He what!” Aneris clutched his chest, prowling around the kitchen island towards the retreating Gamemaster.
“Before you kill me, hear me out, Aneris. This journey was not yours alone. I sent Setherum into this world in part to choose you as my protégé and to allow you to see your true nature. But I also set into motion a journey for him as well. He needed strength. He needed a reason to keep going, to show his Tribe who he was and like you, show them he was more than an insecure little boy with a sword.
“Without you he would have never had the strength to take command as he did. He would have never waged war with the Black King and took our enemy’s head. If I had not brought you here to heal in peace, he would have mourned by your side and missed his chance to know his true nature.”
“What do you mean his true nature?” Aneris eyed Theodore with suspicion. He leaned in, narrowing his eyes.
“With every sacrifice there is a reward, is there not?” Theodore crossed his arms and smiled.
“What did you do to him?”
“Since you are rested and well again, why don’t you dress and find out?”
Aneris shivered. “He’s here? Where? Where is Seth?”
“Not here, Mage. There.” The Gamemaster’s gaze softened. “As with every Othersider who has proven themselves worthy, I will give you two choices to choose from. Denounce this life and this existence as a mere mortal, relinquishing everything of this world to come with me and live as yourself for eternity in the Silver Realm. Or stay and finish your time here, age and wither under the pressure of human nature, and repress all the things you have seen and done in my world. It is your choice, but if you choose to come with me you must do it fast. The last of your journey is yet to be finished.”
Theodore opened his palm to reveal a glass orb. Black flooded the stone and stars dotted the miniature sky. In the middle, the moon appeared nearly full and glowing white. Aneris sharply inhaled. He grinned at Theodore before racing back to his room.
Theodore leaned against the kitchen counter after Aneris slammed his door shut. He sighed over his cup. “A fine Gamemaster you will make one day, boy. When I am ready to hang up my cape and enjoy a life of rest and relaxation, I will not fear,” he whispered.
Instead of driving to the LARP property, Theodore walked Aneris to the woods behind the young man’s house. He eyed Aneris up and down, satisfied with his protégé’s appearance. The green cape around Aneris’s shoulders flowed down to the ground, whispering over the brush as they breached the tree line.
“Are you certain of your choice?”
“Yes.” Aneris stared straight ahead. He picked up his pace.
“And are you understand the cost should you not complete this last task?”
“A pissed off Elemental that will drown me if I don’t play matchmaker? Yeah, I got it.” Aneris grinned.
“You sound confident you can deliver.”
Aneris licked his lips, tilted his head, and decided to keep walking. His smile widened. “I think I realized the trick to all of this.”
“And that is?”
“I’ve made this journey difficult on myself because I didn’t understand who I was and I was trying to fit into a role that was already mine. I lost a lot of energy because I viewed my magic as something separate from myself, something I had to call on. I was able to defeat Sylvius because somewhere inside I knew this wasn’t the end, that my magic wasn’t gone. I am my magic.” Aneris slid his hand over a tree as he passed, leaving a trail of small white flowers behind. “I don’t have to use spells or words to make things happen. I just do them.” He stopped and disappeared, reappearing in front of Theodore. “I’m a true Mage, natural born.”
“Now he gets it.” Theodore laughed and patted Aneris on the shoulder. “Although conjuring a dragon out of thin air was rather impressive.”
Aneris blushed. His thoughts drifted to Seth. “I had a little inspiration.”
“Well, let us hope the inspiration continues.” Theodore winked. “On your way, boy. Time is of the essence.”
“Aren’t you coming?” Aneris frowned.
“I’ll be along shortly. I have to see a Troll about some hazelnuts.” Theodore smiled. “It is an honor to teach you, Aneris. I look forward to your bright future.” The Gamemaster winked and pushed Aneris through the barrier.
Aneris landed on a soft patch of earth next to a stream. He grunted and rubbed his shoulder as he sat up, only to look into Fia’s red eyes from across the water. The horse shook out her mane, making noises that signified her joy. Aneris shot to his feet, his hope renewed. In a blink he was across the water, his magic surging to life again. Fia attacked him, shoving her muzzle in his neck like a hug.
“I missed you so much.” Aneris ran his hands through her hair. He laughed. “You were waiting for me, huh? That’s good because we have a lot to do.”
Fia snorted, shaking h
er head again. She took a few steps back and bowed her head, inviting him onto her back. Aneris mounted without question. He took her reins in his hand. “Killian,” he murmured and they faded away from the stream.
To be continued…