Undergrad Fiction Writing
Instructor: Scott Smith
They All Fall Down
There's little time left. Reina must hurry if she is to succeed in their plan. The plan that will bring about the death of Erik. The plan that will set the earth's balance right again. The plan to kill Dunstan.
Reina never imagined he would go this far to obtain power. Certainly, he had always lusted for it, but now he'd gone too far. Capturing the King and taking the palace hostage. Does he truly think he'll get away with it?
Precautions were made to ensure this would never happen. Many people throughout the past have given up their lives to ensure Dunstan would remain powerless, and now history was about to repeat itself.
The only constant thought running through Reina's mind is to stop him, to stop Dunstan, before he kills anyone else. Hopefully she'll get there in time, and that Ivan's part of the plan to distract Dunstan's guardian's spells is working. If not, she might not make it. Her power reserves are now dangerously low, she won't even spare the smallest amount to fly at the moment. She can't risk it, not if she plans to get Max out of the palace alive, and kill Dunstan. She'll need every trick she's got. If only she hadn't been so stubborn before, she'd have plenty of energy to cast hundreds of powerful, deadly spells.
Evening out her breath, she runs, Reina remembers her training, Don't lose control, master your emotions. The chant continues on in her head. Rule number one: never mix your emotions with your sorcery. Doing so could be catastrophic. Especially if you are one to dabble in the darker arts of magic, the type of magic she was brought up by. Although emotions can be helpful to a sorcerer who uses forces of light, when it comes to arts of the darker nature the results can be deadly.
How Ironic, Reina thinks, that the one rule I was taught while training is the very same mistake my master made all those years ago. Falling prey to his own emotions, just to become more powerful. how pitiful.
Ivan's distraction must have worked; she's seen neither hide nor hair of the guardian spell, not even when entering the throne room, a beautiful circular room with high vaulted ceilings and a glass dome. Catching her breath for a moment, Reina looks across the room. Whatever breath she was attempting to find suddenly evacuated her lungs. In the large circular room, which once made her feel so at home, so safe, lays the broken form of her last comrade.
Ivan, the sweet, innocent man she had become friends with over the past year.
Ivan, who charmed his way into everyone's hearts with his brilliant smile.
Ivan, apprentice to the great Braxton, one of the strongest magicians of the century.
Reina walks over to him and slowly turns him over, mentally preparing herself for the worst. The only noticeable marks on him are the faint bruises creeping up his neck from under his clothes. Her breath begins to shake. She's familiar with this spell, a spell which causes its victim's blood to slow down, eventually turning into sludge. It's a slow and frustrating death, watching helplessly as your body eventually stops working. All the while you can do nothing but wait for the end to come.
To have used this spell Dunstan must have found the second talisman, giving him a moderate boost in power. There were three of them, in the beginning. These objects were conjured into being by the two masters Xandar and Braxton, they were used in a curse that stripped Dunstan of his powers and divide them into each talisman, like an animal would a cache. After Xandar's death, Braxton gave the three talismans to Markus, Reina, and Ivan to hide and protect from Dunstan.
Ivan's was the first to be found. It was inside the old flower shop his family used to own. Erik's was thrown into the sea, meant to be carried away by the current. Reina's has yet to be found. She hopes it'll stay that way.
With her current condition, reserves almost depleted, Reina will have no hope in killing him if he breaks the seals on the talismans and regains full power. All his original powers added to all those others that he has already drained dry.
Like what he did to all those juvenile sorcerer's in that school.
Like what he's currently doing to Erik.
Moving away from Ivan's body, Reina fears she's already wasted too much time mourning over the lost soul. Looking at Ivan's body once more, she stands and walks away when the doors to the main hall open, revealing Dunstan himself.
"Sad for your loss, Reina? Don't fret, you'll join your friend soon enough."
The man taunts, pulling at his long, thin beard. Reina turns to face him.
"Your King is alive, dear, I assure you of that. He is, after all, the guest of honor for tonight's celebration."
With a sharp flick of his wrist, multiple ball of fire appear in the room spreading out within the room, not natural fire but instead it gives off a sickly green color. Gathering her wits, Reina takes in the entire room. She had been so distracted by the sight of Ivan's dead body that she hadn't noticed the spell circle drawn on the floor. The intricacy of the circle's inner design tells Reina that Dunstan will be restoring his powers in this room with Ivan's body in the center just as part of the décor. Studying the circle, she also notices four symbols which, when combined, can only mean one thing, that this spell requires a sacrifice to be made for it to succeed. Looking straight at Dunstan, Reina can feel anger beginning to bubble like hot wax under her skin.
"Very good, Reina. I assume you've guessed right, have you?"
"You plan on using Maximus as the sacrifice."
"But of course, it's quite poetic, isn't it? After all, if it weren't for his damned father I'd still have full control of my true powers, and we wouldn't be going through with this charade."
Maximus XVII's father, Maximus XVI, was the one to send Braxton and Xandar after Dunstan, the reason he's been stripped of his powers for several years.
"Always for the dramatics, eh Dunstan?"
"Is someone feeling a bit left out, hmm? Don't worry, dear, you'll have your part to play soon enough. "Tell me, where have you hidden the third talisman?"
Silence answers him.
"Tell me, Reina, and I might just spare you."
"I'll find out one way or another, Reina. Be a good little girl and obey your master's command."
"Why should I start now?"
Dunstan growls out with annoyance. Green ropes shoot out from the shadows, wrapping themselves around Reina's legs, binding her to her spot.
"You ungrateful brat! Where would you be if I hadn't taken you off of the streets? Taught you everything you know? This is how you repay me? You worthless piece of puss, I should have left you to die on the curb."
His anger causes the ropes to tighten, biting into her clothes, through simple purple dress, and digging into her flesh. Reina refuses to show the slightest amount of discomfort, refusing to give him the satisfaction. Pushing some of her own energy into the ropes, Reina loosens them long enough to escape their grasp and takes flight. Dunstan growls once more and chases after her.
His anger for the sorceress consumes his thoughts. Putting all of his attention into catching her, he doesn't take notice that she's not attempting to escape from the room. Working as quickly as possible, Reina flies in a circle around the room, planning on making her own spell over his own. Guiding her energy into her index finger, she glides it lightly against the wall as she goes. She must complete this spell. It's the only way Max and she will get out of this alive.
So close. She's so close to finishing the outline of the circle. After that, all she needs to do is get Dunstan to follow her into the center of the room.
She wasn't quick enough.
Dunstan's got her in his grasp now.
So close. . .
Her vision goes dark.
Hunger shakes Reina's figure to the core. It's been days since her last morsel and she's desperate. Sitting in a skinny alleyway, attempting to use the buildings to shield her skin, which has already begun to crack due to windburn. Closing her eyes, Reina recalls the last day she saw her parents, the last time she felt safe and warm. Clenching her fists, she tugs at her short, untamed hair, wishing she could travel back a year into the past, before everything in her life went to hell.
Before her father lost his job.
Before her mother drank away all their savings.
Before her father left her and her mother due to economical despair.
Before her mother left her on a street corner, without a shred of remorse showing on her face.
Reina walks up to that same street corner, secretly hoping her mother will change her mind some day and return for her, Reina braves the coarse winds in search of food, hoping for a better result than yesterday. With her black hair whipping around and stinging her eyes, she walks past all the food carts open to the street in search of an easy target. After a few minutes, she finds one: the bread baker. She smiles with twisted glee. At last, she thinks, payback time.
Remembering her first day alone on the street a year ago.
When she asked the baker for a loaf of bread.
Feeling the sting of his hand making contact with her cheek.
And finally running back into the alleyway from whence she came, crying like an eight year old, or anyone for that matter, would.
Now it's time for revenge. Slinking over into the large crowd around the populated area, she stands over to the side of the cart, a small distance away from the sweet-smelling bread, drawing her to it like a bee to a newly pollinated flower. Reina takes a deep breath, like she always does before she pulls this little stunt, and exhales, then stretches out her right arm and focuses her mind's eye on the largest loaf of bread she could spy while closing her two tangible ones. No doubt the most expensive of the bunch, Reina just knew by looking that if she had it in her possession and was allowed to break it, it would crackle with it's freshness. Just the pure smell of it was making Reina go insane with want for it. Soon she can feel her mouth watering, her body telling her just how much she wants this morsel of food. Opening her eyes after several moments, she smiles when she sees the loaf floating mid-air in front of her. Quickly, she grabs it and tucks it under her arm, then dashes off back into her alleyway once more.
Glancing back behind her, Reina thinks she sees a man looking over her way, but she disregards it. No one saw her, she's sure of it, as sure as any nine year old can be. Settling down against the wall of a building, Reina rips into her bread like a ravenous raccoon and stuffs a large piece into her mouth. It was just as she had imagined, biting into the crust made the familiar crackling sound, bringing goosebumps to her arms, ones that have nothing to do with the bitter wind. Quickly scarfing down the first half of the loaf, her head shoots up when she hears footsteps coming towards her. Reina backs up slowly, preparing for a quick escape.
"Well, well, aren't you a little curious thing?"
It's the man from before, the one she thought was looking at her. His brown eyes make contact with her green ones, Reina's stomach begins to flip: a warning. The man takes small, careful steps towards her, trying not to scare her. The man smiles as he closes in on her. The smile scares Reina. It's not a warm smile, like her father used to give her. It's one that hides many secrets.
"Now how did you get that bread, small one?"
Bringing the item in question closer to her body, she exclaims, the sound echoes off the close walls surrounding them, making it seem as if she yelled.
"It's mine!" She backs away from the strange stuff.
"That wasn't my question, girl. Tell me how you got it."
"I—I stole it." She admits, terrified of angering the man anymore than she has already.
"Yes, but how?"
"What do you mean?"
Tugging on his long, brown beard, he grimaces at the girl. Realizing that the question was getting him nowhere, he decides to show her what he means. With the flick of his fingers, the bread rushes out of Reina's arms and directly into his hand.
"Hey!. . .Hey, you can do that too?"
"Yes, girl, I can."
"So, so you're like me? You can do things without, er, without, you know, actually doing something?"
"Yes, girl, I am like you. The correct term is Sorcerer. Now stop asking stupid questions."
His temper has shortened considerably. He came to see if this girl really had the gift, which she does, surprisingly enough. Now he just wants to take her under his tutelage and finish with these idiotic questions. Clenching his brows together, he fears for a moment that this girl could be inferior to the others apprentices due to her sex. There are very few known female sorcerer's, none of which are alive at the present time. His mind has been in a fog every since news reached him that his enemies Xandar and Braxton both chose their apprentices. Fretting that he will be over powered and killed, he decided to find his own apprentice, to teach them his dark ways, and this girl is the first one to actually show any sign of true talent, unlike all those boys enrolled in 'wizardry' school.
"You're homeless, yes?"
"And hungry, I presume."
"Good. Follow me, and you'll never have to worry about the cold or food again. I will teach you my ways, and in return you will pledge your loyalty to me."
Turning around and setting a quick pace, the man doesn't look behind him to see if she's following.
"Wait!" She yells.
He hesitates, and looks over his shoulder.
"What's your name?"
"Dunstan, but you will call me 'Master'."
He begins to walk again.
Looking around her small alley, and over Dunstan's shoulder to the corner where she last saw her mother, Reina makes her decision.
"Fat chance, Dunstan!"
She shouts dashing forward to follow him, grabbing her loaf of bread from his hand as she goes.
Her vision is blurry. Reina blinks multiple times to focus it and realizes she's in a storage room connected to the throne room, where the servants keep the cleaning sulies. Next to her, bound to a chair, serenely sleeping within an induced slumber, sits Max. Max, King of Finiel, the one who brought the three sorcerers together, the reason they all became friends over a year ago, just a few years after the fall of Dunstan, one year after her abandonment of his practice.
Wobbly, Reina gets to her feet and slinks over to Max. Placing her hands on top of his own, she focuses a large amount of her energy into his mind, causing him to slowly awaken. Looking back on it now, she wishes with all her might that she hadn't tried so determinedly to free Erik from his magical bind to Dunstan.
If only I had listened to Erik earlier.
The spell finally breaks, and Max is fully awake, though still bound to the chair. Reina falls to the ground, her head resting in the King's lap.
Reina stares at the letter in her hand, a small grimace on her face. She knew this day would come, especially now that a plague has began to affect the people of Finiel. Standing in the doorway of her small, but quaint, herbal remedy shop, Reina re-reads the words on the piece of parchment, requesting her presence at the palace. Reina sighs and walks back into the building, knowing that even though the letter is stating that she is being requested, implying she could deny the offer, she knows that she'd be in a lot of trouble if she did, and that is something she does not need right now. However, it doesn't seem like she'll be in the clear of trouble with either choice. Sitting down on a stool in her kitchen, Reina places her hand on her cheek, taking in every detail of the room from the silky spider webs to the almost invisible cracks in the door way leading out into town.
With a snap of her fingers, and a small incantation, the room springs into life and begins to pack itself. She was going to miss this place, the locals were nice enough when she moved in, even though they knew her past and who she was taught by as well as who she deals with in her line of work. However, when they found out she could also conjure good, helpful spells for the town, they gladly put all that aside and welcomed her. And now she would have to leave, all because of the new king. Reina snorts,
He's probably just some pompous ass who uses sorcerers for his own gain, just like his father before him.
Her frown declines even deeper on her face, if it weren't for the last King Dunstan wouldn't have a death wish on her. He would still be happily residing in his dark and lonely mansion with only his spells to keep him company. The thought of Dunstan gave Reina a bittersweet feeling, he was like a father to her and she still felt some type of perverse loyalty to him, but the way he treated her, humiliated her, it was no wonder she left him months ago. That wasn't the only reason for her departure, she was tired of the dark life, always living in the shadows waiting for something to strike. So now she runs a magic shop of sorts, using her powers to make people smile instead of cringe in fear.
Noticing that everything was packed and ready to go, Reina picks up her belongings, safely tucked away in her bags, and makes her way out of the shop.
I wonder if Ivan and Erik have been summoned as well.
She liked Erik well enough, he was one of the reasons she finally left Dunstan's side due to his incessant speeches about morals and his willingness to listen to her whenever she needed someone to really talk to, but Ivan, well he would just never stop talking. It was enough to give anyone a headache. Taking a deep breath to calm her mind, she walks out into the street and immediately looks up to the town's clock tower in the main square, a little farther off. The clock itself had been in the town since its beginnings, it was nothing special, red brick body with no tracery to make it look haughty or superior in any way, but Reina always made a habit to look at the face of the clock, where only she could see, because only she knew, the small symbols engraved on the rim holding the face, resembling only two other objects in the world, which were also hidden away.
"Reina? Reina, dear, wake up. Please, Reina, say something."
"Don't worry, Max, I'm still alive. Just tired."
Max places his tied up hands on top her head, stroking her hair soothingly.
"How did he capture you?"
"I was careless. Should have moved faster."
She takes a few moments to regulate her breathing from a shaky gasp to a steady flow before standing back up.
"I'll get you out of here, Max, safe and sound, I promise."
"What about you?"
"I'll stay here and take care of Dunstan, once and for all."
"Reina, no, it's too dangerous. We both need to get out of here, now. We'll—we'll regroup and strategize!"
A sharp pain enters into her thoughts. Images of both Markus and Ivan creep into her mind. She must push the images back for now, however. She must remove Max from harm's way, even if it's the last thing she does in this world.
"This is not a discussion, Max. Now hush, I've got a plan to get you out of here."
"No, just stop—"
Before he can continue arguing, Dunstan returns to the room, coming in from the throne room. Reina faces him, ready to attack. Raising her hands, she quickly makes a sign with her fingers, sending psychic waves his way. Dunstan waves her attack away as if he were merely shooing a fly, making a disapproving sound with his voice.
"Did you really think that attack would do anything? Why, it was as useless as poking me with a stick."
Reina's breathing once again becomes labored; she bends over at the waist, exhaustion finally taking its toll.
"Move out of the way, you foolish girl."
Flicking his wrist, Reina's body is flung to the side of the room.
"Now, young King, it is time to prepare you for the ceremony."
Flames lash out at Dunstan, setting fire to his long dark beard and elaborately sown robes. The fire startles him, enabling Reina to make it back to her original spot in front of Max. Smothering the flames with extra fabric from his clothes, he looks to the duo in front of him, a twisted look upon his face.
"That magic was not the norm for you, Reina, I wonder why that is? You've never put emotion into your spell casting before, not even with your back against a wall. That attack, though, that was too, ah, powerful for someone in your condition."
Reina breath stops, her body tenses, waiting for him to finish.
"And was that love I detected in those flames?"
His eyes scan over to Max's form. The King shifts his gaze away from the deranged sorcerer, looking instead to Reina.
"Oho! Do my eyes deceive me? But of course not! You two are in love, how perfectly delightful."
Reina takes a half step back, placing herself further in front of Max.
"You're not going to hurt him!"
"Hmm, no. Not physically, not now. Emotionally, however, I fear I might scar him for life in just a few moments."
Grabbing the sorceress by her throat, he forces her to look in his eyes.
"Brace yourself." He taunts, and then mutters a spell.
Reina begins to struggle, trying to free herself, then stops suddenly, standing straight and as stiff as a board. Slowly she begins to shake, with each passing moment the shakes become even more violent, eventually becoming pure convulses. Then comes the screaming. From Max's view point; he can see plainly the twisted smile working its way onto Dunstan's face, becoming larger with each passing moment.
Inside of Reina's head, Dunstan is making her relive every nightmare she's ever had to live through. From the abandoning of her parents to the torturous trainings she endured under Dunstan's tutelage. Her world shattering over and over again in her head; with her unable to end it. All the while Dunstan has access to every thought in her mind, enabling him to read her like a book, telling him all her secrets; all of them.
Finally he has what he was looking for. The final missing piece to his puzzle. He releases Reina from his grasp, who falls listlessly to the floor. Max, who had watched the entire ordeal in horrified silence as the person he loves is tortured, begins to struggle under his bindings, trying with all his might to get closer to the fallen heap.
"You clever, clever girl. Hiding the Obelisk in plain sight. How could I have been so blind?"
With that, the sorcerer storms out of the room, robes billowing behind him. The door closes with a deafening thud. Reina begins to move.
Max's attempt to escape intensifies.
Her voice croaks out.
"Dunstan knows now where the last talisman is. We have to hurry. It won't be long before he returns, and if that happens before I can get you out of here, we're both dead."
Her body hurts everywhere as she pulls herself up. Letting out a shaky breath, Reina notices tears have begun to escape from her eyes. Roughly brushing them away, she gets to work.
"Reina, Reina, it'll be all right. Everything will be fine. The others must be close. They'll get here soon. You can rest now."
"No. No one is coming, Max. Ivan is dead, just outside that door, and Erik is fading fast. There's no time to rest. I told you, I have a plan, so don't worry. I'll get you out of here."
"You're coming with me though, right?"
She doesn't answer, in the back of her mind she wants to say yes more than anything. She wants to promise him they'll both survive, but Reina knows that it would be a hollow promise. One she might not be able to keep. Instead, she begins to draw a spell circle around his chair, the same way she did in the throne room, focusing the energy through her pointer finger. Soon, a purple glowing circle, intricately drawn, surrounds the King.
"Erik is waiting in the city to take your place here. You'll be exchanged for him. You'll be safe."
Max looks down at the circle with disgust. It's a switching circle; he knows this because he remembers Reina practicing it for a week straight not too long ago.
"The spell takes little energy, so I'll be able to get you out of here quickly. That's why we chose it, just in case."
She thinks back to Erik. She wonders if he's still alive, or if Dunstan has already drained him dry.
Ivan and I both shouldn't have gone after Erik. Only one of us was needed, nothing could have been done anyway, but in the panic of the attack, we just weren't thinking straight.
Ivan and Reina had found Erik' body on the outskirts of town, alive, but unable to move. Spell symbols were written all over his body, symbols foreshadowing his death.
No matter what incantation I used I couldn't release him from Dunstan's grasp. Erik was connected to him, and I couldn't break the line.
That's how Dunstan was able to invade the palace, by channeling Erik' energy and making it his own.
"Reina, don't send me away, please. I can help! I know I can!"
The sorceress pays him no heed and kneels to the ground, looking up into his eyes, her eyebrows knitted together with internal pain at the prospect of never seeing him again.
"I'm sorry, Max."
Stretching up, she takes his face in her hands and kisses his lips quickly, perhaps for the last time. Max stiffens, surprised, but soon melds into her. Too soon she pulls away.
"I love you."
She whispers tenderly for the first, and possibly, last time.
"Reina, no! Don't—"
Reina claps down on the circle. She watches as the King soon begins to disappear in a blinding purple light, another form soon taking his place.
The sorcerer, weak from the drain, turns his head limply towards her. He's fading fast; she can see it in his eyes. Looking at him, she notices his hair, once so neat and pulled straight back, is now tangled and hiding part of his face from her. She brushes the hair away. Erik looks up at her, regret apparent in his eyes, he doesn't want to die.
"I'm so sorry, Erik."
He gives her a small smile, telling her it's not her fault. And then he's gone. Eyes glazed over, the smile still adorning his face. Tears begin to fall freely once more. Reina laughs bitterly, she's never cried so much in her life, not even when she was scavenging for food on the streets.
The door bursts open. Dunstan, heading towards the location where the King was last at, falters in his step, noticing Erik in his place.
He mutters, momentarily paralyzed with confusion. Taking advantage of his bewilderment, Reina pushes past him, forcing herself into the throne room to finish what she had started.
"Get back here you little blister!"
Flying straight at her, Dunstan once again blinds himself to Reina's plan by his own rage. Just when he moves over the center of the room, right over Ivan's body, Reina activates the spell, a second circle appearing around the two of them. Dunstan falls to the ground, the smaller circle tightening itself around him. Both circles begin to glow, a pentagram appearing within the larger circle along with a series of crescents around the edge.
He attempts to deactivate the spell, but it's fruitless. A spell of this degree cannot be stopped once it has been activated. Now the demonic circle begins to pull Dunstan deeper and deeper into the ground.
"This isn't over, Reina!"
Halfway into the ground, Dunstan begins to chant out another spell.
Cursing to herself, Reina uses what's left of her magic to take flight, a feeble attempt to escape the spell that has just been unleashed upon her. Breaking through one of the many windows in the room, Reina can hear the satisfying sound of her spell succeeding. Dunstan's final scream of anguish. She keeps flying though, knowing his spell will not die with him. He was right: this isn't over.
Another sound erupts from behind her. Looking over her shoulder, Reina sees the form of a dragon breaking through the throne room's domed ceiling. Although it's not a real dragon, just a spell taking the form of one, she knows it can do cause just as much damage as a real one. However, unlike a real one, this one is solely after her.
Flying fast, Reina's only hope is to out fly it long enough until she regains enough of her energy so that she can deactivate the spell somehow. Facing forward, she can see the palace walls and the city beyond that. The city where she sent Max slowly comes closer and closer.
Max is standing at the end of the city, right before the large field that separates it from the palace walls, feeling hopeless as ever as he waits for some sign of an outcome. Then he sees her. Letting out a sigh of relief he thinks,
It's over. We've won.
Then he sees the spell, along with the rest of the citizens watching alongside him. He doesn't understand what it is at first. It looks transparent, giving off a sickly green, flickering glow. Max realizes too late what it is after.
He calls out to her, as if that will help. The dragon inches closer and closer to the sorcerers. She can't go any faster, she has no more energy. All too easily, the dragon's form surrounds her, engulfing her in its flickering, green mouth. As soon as it catches her, the spell disappears all together.
A/N: This piece I wrote for a fiction writing class at my university, and it was such a fun class and I love this story! I might continue with it online, I don't know, it depends on my time. Eighteen semester hours sucks, but yeah, anyway, I hope you enjoy. Let me know what you thought of it.