Chapter 1

by MacKenzie Kennedy

Mage Aayla Teablossom leaned up against a part of a wooden wall that hadn't been destroyed and thought why am I here?'

A popular question.

Explosions rocked the ground and she grimaced as dust fell from the ceiling above. She should be out there fighting.


Because she was a fighter. One of the heaviest hitters they had and the most powerful at this part of the front.

Um, and that was a point why?

Thinking during a battle isn't conducive to living a long time, she reminded herself. Now go out there, throw spells at the enemy, and try to stay alive.

She eyed the part of the ground she could see around the edge of the wall. No one was there. Just a scraggly clump of stubborn grass on the bare ground. She could start a spell here, launch it, and hope she hit someone on the other side. She knew their general direction after all.

Is this what you want? Trying to kill people?

She frowned. They are trying to kill me back.

Another explosion hit and she winced. That was close, she thought.

Suddenly, she felt close to tears. She was a good mage. Always coming up with a new variation on something. Not really great at teaching classes, but individual lessons were okay. She'd been given a small workroom to herself.

Before the war. Days filled with spellwork that wasn't meant to kill, variation in food, and a safe place to sleep.

She hated her side for taking that away.

She set her jaw and straightened up. She quickly formed a paper note spell and sent it off to whoever was in charge.

It came back quickly, dropping from a few inches above her head. Aayla caught it in one hand as it fell. She read it and started off toward the enemy line.

After much sneaking around and avoiding explosions, she found herself within sight of the enemy. She also saw quite a few of her own side.

Aayla looked at the most active part of the front. Spells flew back and forth as colored streams of light that sought to kill or injure other people. People hid behind whatever they could find, walls, carts, barrels, just to dodge out and throw spells.

Now here was the tricky part.

Aayla stepped out from behind part of a house. She was still on her side's part of the line.

She held up one hand imperiously and the spells stopped launching on her side. The enemy responded to a similar signal.

She walked closer to the enemy until someone said, "Stop."

She came to a halt and put her hands on her hips. "What happens if someone from my side defects?"

Immediately, two spells were launched at her from her own side. The spell she had buried into the ground sprang up and deflected them back.

"I mean," she continued, "is it all torture or fluffy bunnies? What if someone truly wants to come over to your side?"

"We would treat that person very carefully," a male voice said from cover.

She raised an eyebrow. "Torture can be carried out carefully."

"We would restrict your movements and place spells on you to make sure you weren't going to harm anyone. You might be a spy."

"Did I say I was going to defect?" she said mildly.

"No, you didn't."

"Good." Someone had brains. "Will I be welcomed? Allowed to defend myself?"

"If you defected, I would defend you."

Her lips twitched into a slight smile. "Who would protect me from you?"

"A chance you would have to take."

More spells impacted her shield spell from her side. Someone was getting desperate. She could beat most of these people half asleep. "Then I have something to say."

And she deliberately turned her back on her former enemy.

"To Warsoi. We were told that we're at war, because we need more land, they're keeping the good spots for themselves, trade taxes went up." She drew in a deep breath. "Next time, tell us the truth. Your sister ran away and married a prince in their country. Killing a lot of people won't make her come home."

She walked directly into her new side's line with her shield still throwing back spells.