The wind blew harshly from the south, over the endless icy peaks, over the short fletch of clear, iceless sea, and into the costal town of Stonewatch Perched on top of a rocky outcrop overlooking the sea and the wall of ice barely one hundred miles off. The town grew up around the fort, there to protect the scant patch of clear water at the cape of ice, the bottom of the continent. It was there for defence not for comfort how, but nonetheless a town gradually grew up beside the fort until it was a sizable city. It was through this city that the icy wind blew up from the docks up through the narrow streets, and up to the fortress. In the courtyard stood perhaps two hundred youths all waiting to be tested by the old mage. Every five years there was a testing. The town had stood for two hundred and thirty four years and not a singly mage had been raised; no one had had even a wisp of the power and Enethar the mage did not expect to find anything this time either he had tested Stonewatch ten times already and hated the fruitless
Task, he was always the one who was forced into doing the testings, probably because he was the weakest mage in the province. He had been on the line for almost four hours and finally he was going to be able to leave the cold courtyard how do these southerners live this way? Thought Enethar. Ridiculous why do I always get sent to the bloody testings? Enethar reached the end of the line and looked at the pitiful wretch of a child before him, about fifteen, thin as anyone he had ever seen with matted black hair hanging at ear length but he did have one distinguishing characteristic, the darkest ebony eyes Enethar had ever seen. Enethar sighed and closed his eyes and focused on the boy. The aura hit Enethar like a whip knocking him halfway across the courtyard. Everything was silent all eyes were on the boy. ’Boy come with me everyone may leave’
Ziare felt as if he had taken a blow to the chest, how could he have the power? No one did. Not the nobles and certainly not a lowly street boy forced to the end of the line, he clearly wasn’t good enough to stand beside a high born child. But it wasn’t a highborn child who was chosen, it was him!
‘You hear me boy? I said come with me’ the old mage knelt down and looked into Ziare's dark ebony eyes. ‘Come with me boy, you’re finished here. You can’t stay, regardless of who you’re leaving behind’ Ziare finally noticed the people all around him, two hundred of them, slack jawed clearly disbelieving that this lowly street child could hold the power. ‘Must be a cruel joke!’ Ziare heard from the crowed.
The mages head whipped round ‘you think this it a joke? The first child in two hundred and thirty years to have the power from this godforsaken town. You think I would joke about that?’ the crowed went deathly silent ‘any of you who doubt my judgement in the boys taken come foreword and say it to him’ no one did ‘just as I thought, spineless cowards. Now boy, come with me’
Ziare had finally re-gained control of his legs just to see the lanky man stride confidently out of the courtyard. Less a stride thought Ziare, the man walked like a predator. Always watchful, for his prey or for another predator.
The rounded the corner from the courtyard and the mage pulled the Ziare into a narrow alley. ‘What is your name boy?’
‘I’m Enethar’ he paused a minute, obviously expecting Ziare to recognise the name. When the boy remained silent he audibly sighed ‘boy have you any idea what your in for? You need to be trained; well obviously you need to be trained, what would you do without training? Destroy the city, well at least a part of it. And doubtless yourself too, no we can’t have that you're far too strong…’
Enethar trailed off, having obviously said too much. ‘Just be careful boy, no attempt at magic.’
‘I couldn’t sir, even if I tried’ Enethar clearly wasn’t listening and walked off ignoring Ziare's confession of ignorance to everything arcane.
‘Just follow me boy’ Ziare ran after Enethar, how does the bloody man walk so fast? Thought Ziare to himself. He had so many questions for the mage but the man, but despite his kind outer appearance Ziare was sure Enethar was dangerous. Far more dangerous than any man he had ever had dealings with. The smugglers and drug runners who he ran messages for had nothing on this man.
‘Were going to The White Queen Inn boy. The ship won’t be here for two days yet, if that quickly. Three other mages are testing in towns up the coast. Were the last people to be picked up. Maybe they’ll find other talented youths; you may have some company on your way to the academy.’
‘Its ok, im more used to dealing with adults. There aren't many children living on the streets or working were I work.’ Enethar eyed the boy ‘what would your line of work be boy?’ the boy hardly looks fifteen, but those eyes. There not the eyes of a young child. ‘I just run messages sir.’
‘Messages eh? Messages for who?’
‘Just messages sir, nothing shady or nothing’ Enethar didn’t believe that it was nothing shady but he was prepared to let it drop. ‘Well your messenger days are over now boy. You're a novice now.’
They came out of the alley right in front of the White Queen Inn ‘Well boy, here we are. Your home for the next few days I hope it’s up to your high standards’ Enethar walked into the dark smoke filled room, Ziare could swear he was laughing.
* * *
Ashin watched the pair enter the Inn. The man tall almost lanky with thinning white hair hanging to the nape of his neck and cold calculating eyes, this one was clearly the mage. But it was the boy who surprised him most. Around sixteen and small for someone his age not six foot and thin, very thin. With hair as black as tar hanging loosely around his ears. His face could be called handsome if not for those dark eyes. This boy didn’t miss a beat. Ashin was for the first time in his life stumped. So many choices had opened up to him. He couldn’t simply kill the old mage now. Despite the order coming straight from the Emperor. He couldn’t just go in the boy might be damaged. Ashin knew just how prized mages were in The Empire that is if they were young and “mouldable” his plan crystallised, he had to get the boy before he reached the academy and bring him to the emperor. This would be his making, but if he failed he would wish he’d never been born. The Emperors agents would see to that. Ashin swallowed hard and went back to his lookout post.
* * *