The blast of energy that exploded a dozen or more of the pretas was dark red and still somehow vibrant in the bright morning sun. The soldiers that were suddenly faced with an empty hole where their foes used to be turned back in surprise.
Rune was already turning his hand and blasting the next group away. Saving Jovanni and those men beside him. More pretas from the back rushed forward to take their place. Rune began carving his way through them.
He stepped forward, hand in hand with Lucia. She walked beside him, grateful now that she didn't have to rely on her weak magick. She need only focus on being a conduit for him.
Behind them both, the citizens cheered as Rune began walking past the soldiers forming a perimeter around the city. There were still men fighting, but the cheers of those that could see him quickly caught the attention of the others.
As did Rune's flagrant displays of power. He was cutting his way into the heart of the army without once looking back. Lucia steadfastly at his side. The spell he cast made the pretas explode into hundreds of pieces. The sight of which was hardly subtle.
"Tamsyn!" One of the nomads cried, pointing it out to him.
The hedge wizard looked over and his eyes widened in surprise.
"By the river," he gasped, a slow smile forming. "The Great Wizard has returned."
Further down the line, Cinna grinned at the display.
"Don't lose heart now, men!" He yelled over his and the king's people. "See there? Great Wizard Rune has come to protect us all. There's hope! Keep fighting!"
Standing behind the Great Wizard, watching with crossed arms. Jovanni almost grinned to see the destruction the one man caused. Destroying pretas by the dozen as though doing so were the easiest thing in the world.
"Quite showy, isn't he?" Boreas grinned, crossing his arms over his large chest.
"My king, I don't believe this fight is over," Jovanni said, lifting his sword. "Plenty more of these things to kill."
"I should beg your forgiveness, general," Boreas said, drawing his blade in turn. "I seem to have married your promised bride to another."
Jovanni grinned. "She was hardly ever mine. Besides, that's fine with me. I had my eyes on another girl anyway."
"Oh? Why didn't you say something?"
"Well, I can hardly turn down my king, can I?" Jovanni laughed.
There was still an army left to destroy. It didn't seem so daunting a task now. Not with the way that Rune was blasting his way through them.
In the process creating a perfect circle of destruction around himself and Lucia. They were walking over the scattered and shattered remains of the pretas he exploded. His hand and eye moved quickly as he continued disposing of them by the group.
They eventually walked so far that the pretas enclosed themselves around them. Creating a bubble of sorts as Rune and Lucia put their backs together. She could warn him and he could turn quickly to continue throwing his spells at them.
She reached backwards and into his pockets. The beads of magick were still there. He couldn't use them when his powers had been stripped away, but he hadn't gotten rid of them either. They were very easy to use, even for a hedge wizard because the magick stored within wasn't even hers.
She broke the first one she picked up between her fingers and threw it away from her. It was a gas bomb, useless on these unfeeling things. However, the second one exploded in a flurry of icicles that cut through the face of the preta nearest to her. It didn't kill it, but the spikes did make it flail around and knock the pretas near it off course.
Mostly she was just detracting the pretas near her. Lucia no longer had the energy to summon more fireballs. It was starting to get hard just to break the beads. Rune wouldn't ever use them to actually hurt anyone though, so they were all nonlethal and, mostly, useless.
Not that he really needed her help.
Crying out, Rune threw a long wave of red energy. It washed over the pretas directly before him, capturing dozens up in its light. They all began expanding then exploding at different times. The large swath he cleared offered a brief glimpse of the horizon. They had cut through to the other side of the preta army.
Then the hole closed again as the pretas rushed towards them. Unthinking. Unfeeling. They had no sense of self preservation. They thought only of devouring the two humans adrift in the sea of death and decay.
They didn't last long.
As though Rune were trying to make up for his lack of ability to protect the city before, he was expending energy like a madman. He couldn't help but feel guilt at his failure for letting the pretas get this close to the people. He had to fix his failure.
Even if it wasn't really his failure at all.
The flash of the silver dagger through the air was as fast as an arrow from a bow. Rune almost didn't see it coming for his chest in time. As it was, he barely caught it with his magick. Reaching out and stopping it in midair.
He stared at the bright silver blade as it spun almost lazily before him. The rubies in the hilt glinted brightly in the morning sun.
Rune's eyes lifted from the blade to see Regin's ugly, desiccated face glaring at him. He had attempted to kill Rune exactly as he had been killed. Regin might recognize that Rune wasn't Easton, but in that moment it hardly mattered. Rune was preventing him from entering the city and finally finding an end to this three hundred year obsession.
Rune twisted his fingers and the knife flipped over its end. He reached out and snatched it from the air, clutching the cold silver tight in his palm.
"Rune..." Lucia said cautiously, looking around.
The pretas weren't coming forward any longer. It was a bit eerie to see. They were just shuffling around now, watching with dried or completely missing eyes.
She didn't realize that Regin was even there until she turned to see why Rune had stopped firing. She gasped. Though he was just as inhuman as the other pretas, she still recognized Regin right away. Even without his dagger, his eyes were still whole and untouched by time. He glared at Rune who was now holding the silver knife telling Lucia what must have happened while her back was turned.
"Keep your eye on the pretas," Rune ordered her softly, his own gaze locked on Regin.
"Right," she turned back quickly. They were in the middle the army. They had to be constantly looking out from all sides.
Releasing Lucia's hand but keeping his back to her so that they were still in contact, Rune threw out his magick again. This time aiming solely for Regin.
The wizard preta threw his own, burning green light. The two met in the air and exploded together with a flash of white sparks that sizzled and burned the pretas unfortunate enough to be caught in the sparkling shower.
It wasn't enough to kill them, nor to move them forward.
Rune growled in annoyance. He attacked again.
Regin countered again.
This time the magick met and burst with a concussive sound that made Sen flinch and cover her large ears in pain.
Two Great Wizards in battle. Even if one was dead...
"My queen! They've breached the city!"
Jenifry's jaw tightened. She could delay no longer. Not unless she wished to put her son at risk. She had really hoped that Boreas and Lucia would...
"Let's go," she ordered, stepped away from the side of the boat.
She refused to watch as the captain of the vessel untied them from the docks and shoved off. She frowned as they floated out towards the center of the river where the rest of the boats had all dropped anchor to wait.
The queen didn't look over her shoulder again until she heard the splash of her own ship's anchor into the water.
Then she gasped and flinched away. There was already a preta on the docks. Snarling and spitting with rage. Reaching for them with grasping hands. Though it refused to come forward. Almost as if it knew that jumping into the water would only wash it away.
Jenifry took an automatic step back. Happy now that she had insisted Emrys remain below deck. She didn't want her son to have to see such a thing.
It was only one at the moment. Though if this one had broken through, how many others just hadn't yet made it to the docks?
"Shall we head for the ocean now, my queen?" The captain asked, clearly eager to get far away from the disgusting preta.
Jenifry's hands tightened on her kalasiris. Her people were the river people, not the ocean people. The ships designed for river travel wouldn't be able to handle a long ocean voyage. Their odds weren't much better if they tried to leave now.
The queen looked down, eyes tight. How could she ask them to stay though? If those things were in the city, then those who couldn't evacuate to the boats would soon be...
Her eyes landed on the rope used to tie the boat off to the docks. Strong and sturdy. Made to combat against the powerful current of the river.
"Captain, how good is your man at throwing that line?"
The captain appeared confused. "My lady, you aren't thinking of returning to the docks now, are you?"
"Don't be obtuse. Can your man hit the preta? Force it into the water?"
"Uh..." The captain hesitated before looking to one of his deckhands.
Jenifry's jaw tightened as she watched the man run forward and grab for the line. It was long, but it wasn't really made for such things. However...
Twirling it around his head to pick up momentum, the deckhand aimed, steadied his arm, and released the line. It flew through the air and slipped almost too easily over the preta's head. The creature tried to grab it even as the deckhand jerked it taut.
Another sailor came forward and grabbed the end of it. The two of them heaved at the same moment and, with an inhuman growl, the preta hit the deck then slipped into the water. Jenifry watched the rope line pull downstream as the preta was picked up by the current.
The deckhands jerked on the rope again, pulling it in. Only far enough that they could slip the noose away from the preta's flailing body. Then they let it go again and, just like that, it was gone. Sunken in the river to be taken out to sea.
Jenifry nodded, satisfied. "Get the word to the other boats. If you see a preta on the shore, try to force it into the water. This is our home! We're not going to surrender it without a fight!"
The sailors on her boat let out a mighty cheer as Jenifry nodded once, satisfied. It wasn't exactly standing at the border to keep up the fight, but it was one less preta to power the hoard. Until this city was nothing but a nest of death, she was going to keep fighting for it. They were river people, and they weren't going to abandon their river so easily.
Her fierce and proud thoughts were interrupted by a loud clangor echoing from the city limits. She turned just in time to see a bright explosion of light. Gasps and murmurs came from all over deck at the light show.
Magick? Who could be casting such a powerful spell?
"Rune," Jenifry breathed softly.
Jovanni felt his blood chilling. From this close to the dual between two Great Wizards he could actually feel the waves of power as they rushed over him. The sounds were deafening, the lights were blinding, the power was humbling. He felt an odd desire to physically get to his knees to hunker down the magickal storm.
This was Rune's power. His true power. Flashing so bright in the air that it threatened to overpower the great sun. Pretas were being knocked flat. The people were crying out in pain. And they weren't even at the epicenter of it all.
This was the man that Jovanni had once stabbed in the side, then cursed when all he had done in return was hit him in the face with a burning gas. He had considered the teleportation spells a threat because they had felt so disorienting.
He didn't think he had actually appreciated just how strong Rune was. With the amount of power he was wielding, he very well could have wiped out the armies sent to fight him. He might not have broken a sweat in doing so.
He had showed restraint. He had shown deference at every turn. Instead of meeting their hostility with his own, he had tried again and again to reason with them. He had been fighting since the beginning to spare them from this very fate.
Jovanni was a fool. He would beg the Great Wizard's forgiveness later. Knowing full well that he did not deserve it for leading this army to his city's door.
"They're breaking into the city, men! Hold your lines!"
There were still just too many. Even as Rune was mowing them down, they didn't seem to be lessening in number for the soldiers trying to keep them at bay. There always seemed to be another one eager to take the place of the one just killed.
Some were even breaking through. Instead of trying to fight the soldiers, they were running through the streets, looking for the easier kill. Or the gold. Or the jewels. Or whatever it was that had driven them to obsession even in death.
It always seemed to come back to death though, didn't it. These people had all likely died in the desert of starvation or dehydration. Though those who died of dehydration had probably sunken themselves into the river already. There was still three hundred years worth of the unfortunate dead beating at the thin defenses of the foolish living.
Jovanni cried out in pain when a preta's jagged nails scored across his arm, opening three uneven lines that started quickly bleeding. The pain of it angered Jovanni so that he shoved his sword up through the thing's jaw and into its head. He used it as an improved club and bashed it against its brethren. Using one to break and beat the others.
Jovanni would not loose this. He had to trust the people to deal with the few rogues that were managing to escape on their own. Just as he had to trust Rune to deal with the wizard preta that seemed to have an equal amount of power, and a great deal more hatred, compared to the living man.
More than anything, he had to keep fighting. Until these pretas ripped him apart, he was going to keep fighting to take them down with him. He had to protect this city. He had to protect that pretty smile that he adored so much.
Jovanni swore when he made it through this that he was going to beg Twyla to marry him when she turned seventeen. He didn't care if they did it the very moment she washed in the river to become a woman. He suddenly felt like nothing was more important than loving his woman, settling down in his house, and just living.
The lights and sounds of the wizard dual that washed over the city were awe inspiring. To Lucia, who was standing in the middle of it all, it felt like she was being swept down the river, the current beating her against every rock while the water still managed to cradle and nurture her. Fast paced and incredibly powerful, yet somehow not painful...
Rune's power didn't hurt her. Maybe because she was acting as his familiar. She didn't know. But the lights didn't burn her eyes and the sounds didn't hurt her ears. A great deal of her focus was simply making sure she was constantly in contact with Rune. Though she was still keeping an eye out on the pretas, she didn't really need to. Even when a few tried to come in closer the sheer power wielded between the two Great Wizards would force it back again.
It was getting faster. More desperate. Rune's teeth were clenched, bared in a snarl, as he tried to keep up with the tireless Regin. The dead wizard had three hundred years worth of impatience and anger ready to dispense and no limit on his dead body. Rune had just gotten his powers back and he had spent all night helping dig trenches and set traps.
He was tiring. But he was not slowing down. As his hands started to first tingle then go numb from the energy expenditure, he didn't let up his onslaught. Regin only needed him to falter once. He needed just the one opportunity to kill him.
Rune had never actually fought a battle with his magick. Though Lerion had told him that such things did happen, it was always something for hedge wizards to involve themselves with. Great Wizards were not to do it because of the impact their power would have.
And Rune could see it happening already. The water of the Iifa was starting to get turbulent from the shock waves they created. Pretas would fall and have trouble standing again. His own ears were beginning to ring. If this had been happening inside the city...
Which was exactly why Rune couldn't let himself fall or falter. He couldn't allow this wizard to get into the city. The barricades that might keep out regular pretas would be wet parchment to Regin and his power.
Rune was holding his own, but he didn't know how long he could keep this up. However, it was Regin that finally changed tactics. Three hundred years was a long time to wait and, now that he was so close, he was getting impatient.
When Rune threw his next attack, Regin ducked under it and rolled away. The power barreled into the pretas behind him and they were all razed to blackened bone. When Regin came up again, he had a pair of bright blue magick 'swords' in his hands.
He rushed towards Rune, making that inhuman, preta sound deep in his throat. Rune turned quickly, grabbed Lucia by the arm, and twisted them both out of the way in time to avoid being speared on the magick blades.
Gripping the silver dagger tighter, he coated the short blade in his own magick. It glowed as dark red as the rubies in it hilt. So when Regin turned to come back at him, his magick swords were met by Rune's bright red dagger.
The sight of the blade made Regin's eyes widen. In anger. In betrayal. They had nothing in common but hair and eye color, but in that moment Rune looked exactly like Easton. The long dead brother that had betrayed him so.
And now all that mattered was taking his head.
Rune had only the one blade. But he also had a free hand. He continued trying to shoot energy into Regin's body. Regin wasn't the only one that needed only a single opportunity. Regin alternated between attacking and blocking.
He was rather good at it too. He was much more a physically minded wizard that Rune was. He had fought in his life and created an army after his death. Rune had spent most of his time making the barrier and keeping the peace.
"Lucia! Take this!"
"Huh?" His new wife turned just in time to pick up the dagger Rune shoved in her hands. His power, quickly placed into the ruby stones, kept the magick blade burning. Regin's eyes were entirely focused on that glow coming from the instrument of his death. He could see nothing else. Lucia had white hair and green eyes too. She just became the next Easton he saw.
"Buy me time!" Rune ordered her as he stepped back quickly.
Lucia's initial reaction was to scream in panic. Her second was to lift her blade and deflect the attack Rune aimed for her heart. She didn't have to defeat him. She only had to keep herself from getting hit by him. She could do that.
She danced and dodged. Ducking his twin blades and making him run in circles. Infuriating him more than anything. He made a high pitched, grating, shrieking noise as he tried running her through with both blades at once. She ducked under his arms, ran around him, and kicked him in the back sending him fumbling forward.
Rune, standing just out of the fight, was focused. Weaving the barrier spell did not require a lot of energy, but it did require focus and concentration. Even with the sounds of battle and the shrieks of pretas all around him, Rune could focus. It was no different than being in the tower and listening to Chaz and Sen bicker while Lucia worked around him.
Green light appeared at his fingertips as he quickly spun them together into the bright shield. The fragments that made up the entirety of the barrier were all small pieces of the whole. That did not mean, however, that they were small.
"Lucia! Behind me!" Rune ordered as he started to finish the complex layering.
Lucia, ducked and rolled. She came up on the balls of her feet and hissed in pain to see that Regin hadn't missed her completely that last attack. She had a burn on her forearm now, edged in black, and unable to bleed. It only hurt for a second before the excitement of the battle pushed the pain to the back of her mind.
She deflected another attack and sprinted around him. She ran away. He gave chase.
And then he spotted the familiar, bright green, barrier spell.
Too late. Rune released the 'threads', finishing it off. He threw it away from him as Lucia ran past. The bright light flew away like a bird. Regin shrieked and turned to run. He only made it a few steps before the barrier spell caught up to him.
It wrapped around him. Tightened into a tiny, circular cage. Regin shrieked again in fury as his claws dug at the spell. The green faded away as the barrier settled into place until he was clawing at seemingly empty air.
Panting hard, Lucia stepped to Rune's side.
He reached down and took the silver dagger from her hand. The bright red of the magick glowed brighter in his grip than hers. Jaw tight, Rune drew back.
Regin turned and screamed in fury. Eyes glowing with hatred.
Easton and his bride. Standing side by side. Paid for by Regin's life.
Rune threw the dagger with a cry of effort. It flew, straight and true, passing through the barrier and embedded itself deep into Regin's chest. Slicing through the gray skin, the yellowed bone, through the shriveled heart. The energy coating the blade seeped inside. He glowed from within for just a moment.
Then his body began expanding. He clawed at his chest to no avail.
Then he exploded and shattered within his tiny barrier. The pieces of him couldn't fly away. The energy couldn't escape. All that remained of the wizard Rune was the pile of bone and desiccated tissue that collapsed into a perfectly circular pile within the spell.
Breathing hard, Rune turned to look back at the city.
They were on the other side of the army now. The preta numbers had been decimated too far to allow them to close around Rune and Lucia again. They were still pummeling at the line of humans, a few of them breaking through.
Lucia's hand closed over Rune's, her fingers intertwining through his.
"Are you too tired?" She asked, wondering if he could handle those that remained.
"For this? Never."
He lifted his hand. The red blasts of his energy were wider now. Expanding over large swaths of the army and decimating their numbers. The soldiers on the other side could start seeing through the horizon beyond them. The glimpses of the end reinvigorated their tired arms.
Even with Rune's assistance, it took until late in the afternoon to kill every preta that remained. The city was coated in ash, in soot, in bone, and in desiccated flesh.
But, as soldiers walked through and declared the streets safe, people began emerging. Living, healthy, whole people began emerging. Boats were pulled into dock and those that had thought they might need to abandon their homes disembarked in jubilation.
The clean up started immediately.
The city wide celebration started almost as quickly.
The king ran to his queen. He pulled her and his son into a tight embrace. For as much as he hadn't wanted to die, he had accepted that it might be a reality. He didn't realize until Jenifry pointed it out that Lucia and Rune hadn't come to join them.
The Great Wizard and his apprentice remained down in the city. At the front lines. Even as the clean up started and the impromptu celebration got into full swing, they were administering burial rights to the fallen soldiers and helping sink them into the river. They were helping those cut or bit by the pretas clean and tend to their wounds.
Serving the people. As he had always served the people.
That's where Jovanni found the two of them, long after dark. Working by candlelight. Lucia was making potions and Rune was healing wounds so they couldn't fester and rot.
Jovanni didn't come as a general. He came as a patient. His own arm wa salready starting to smell of infection and his body was getting heated. The pretas were filthy creatures and their attacks could kill even after the victim escaped.
Rune blinked only once when Jovanni sat in front of him where he had taken a seat in the streets to tend to the people. He didn't hesitate to reach for Jovanni's arm though.
"Most people would be sleeping," Jovanni said conversationally as Lucia lifted her eyes to watch them as she sprinkled something into her boiling concoction.
"The sooner I treat them, the less energy it takes to heal them," Rune said calmly. "Is this the only part you were hit?"
"I think I've got one on my thigh."
Rune nodded as he ran his gently ran the pulsating silver energy in his hands over Jovanni's arm. He wasn't fusing the flesh back together. Only killing the infection. There were too many people injured for him to actually fix the damage unless it was extensive or deadly.
"I've met your book before," Jovanni spoke again after a moment of silence when it became apparent that Rune would not. "I don't think I've had the pleasure of meeting that charming jerboa on your shoulder."
"Oh, you're so kind," she beamed at him. "I'm Sen. Lovely to meet you."
Jovanni laughed. "Of course it talks."
"It's a she," Rune corrected gently as he began slathering some of Lucia's potion on Jovanni's arm. It was still hot, but it worked better that way.
"My apologies. And your book?"
"I'm Chaz," he grinned wickedly. "And if you think I'm not going to bring up the fact that you stabbed Rune, you are seriously mistaken. Let the fight begin!"
"Chaz!" Sen hissed at him.
Rune grinned as Jovanni laughed loudly.
"Interesting book," he remarked to the wizard calmly.
"I've been informed that our lives would be easier if I sewed his mouth shut." Rune lifted his eyes and gave Jovanni a little half smile.
And that was it. No hard feelings at all.
Rune insisted that it was a bad idea. He told them over and over again that it wasn't smart. The dangers were too great. There was a reason that the tower had been placed all the way out in the middle of nowhere and it was because magick could get out of control.
Boreas, however, was a very stubborn, intimidating man.
"Lucia is my daughter and you are now my son. I will not have my children living so far away from me. I don't care how high you have to build the tower, you are both staying in Luceria Ostia. It will be good for Emrys anyway. We don't want any more future misunderstandings between the king and his Great Wizard, would we?"
Which was how the large tower was erected out of the center of the palace seemingly overnight. Rune made it taller than before, he put more safeguards on the workroom, because he didn't really like trying to stand up to the Great Ram.
It took longer for him to slowly transfer everything from the ruined Easton Tower. A great many things, including his large boat, had been destroyed when the magick holding everything together had disappeared with him. There was a great deal of time spent going through three hundred years worth of stores and deciding what to keep and what to break down for parts and what to put into the king's own vault as a treasure.
Rune hadn't lived in the city since he was a child, and he remembered nothing from those days. So it was like a completely new experience to wake up in the morning to the sounds of people going about their day around him. It was even more unusual for them to call out to him casually, familiarly as he went about his own day.
When the tower was completed, giving an unparalleled view of all Luceria Ostia, it was christened by Boreas himself. He called it the Weston Tower.
"It's not even in the west anymore," Rune frowned. "That makes no sense."
Lucia had laughed and brushed back his hair. "That's the point, my love."
"We are going to confuse future generations who are going to struggle to understand why it's called that," he grumbled.
"Well, it's not a directional thing," Jovanni had snickered.
Apparently it was funny and ironic to them. Rune was just confused. Then again, he was a straightforward kind of guy. A lot of the things that people did when they got together in large groups only confused him.
He didn't understand why people gathered as a family for supper. He didn't understand why they wrestled and grappled for no real reason. He really didn't understand why Emrys looked at him with hero worship in his eyes and had commissioned a doll made in Rune's likeness that he called the monster slayer. The young prince played with it often and tended to follow Rune around whenever he came down from his tower. Having absolutely no experience with children, it made him confused and concerned.
Lucia had laughed when he told her.
"It's not funny," he grumbled as she joined him in their large bed. They lived in their tower. Their bedroom was right under the workroom itself. Not at all dissimilar to the old tower. Rune had even recreated their bathroom. The queen was very interested in the magick that kept the water flowing at all times. She was already asking Rune about making her one similar to it.
"You only don't like it because you don't understand," Lucia said as she cuddled next to his chest.
"That's true, I don't. Why does he do that?"
"Because he admires you. I understand that feeling."
"So do a lot of people here. That doesn't explain why he follows me everywhere."
Lucia laughed, leaning up to kiss his cheek. He turned his head quickly and captured her lips instead earning a small moan of approval from his wife.
The question was briefly forgotten as he rolled over her to deepen the kiss and settle himself between her legs. She moaned again, running her hands down as his back as he gently ground his pelvis into hers, not fully penetrating her but promising what this night had in store. Like most nights that had come before it.
When he finally broke the kiss, it wasn't to find out the answer to his question. It was so that he could continue kissing his way down her neck. He really did enjoy kissing the many areas of her body. It elicited such delightful reactions from her.
Lucia's hands wound through his hair as she moaned and tilted her head back to give him greater access. Her knees bent around him, trapping him place as she did so. As though there were any possibility that he would pull away.
"He follows you..." she started breathlessly, "...mm...because he wants to learn from you."
Rune frowned and finally sat up to look down at her. "Learn from me? I already have one apprentice, I can't take on another. Besides, he's going to be king, he can't be the Great Wizard, too."
Lucia laughed. "I don't mean learn like that. He's trying to learn how to be a man from you."
Rune stared at her for a long moment. The concept foreign to him. "Learn how to be...a man? Isn't that something he should learn from his father?"
"Haven't you heard the phrase that more than one stream feeds the river?"
"It means that it takes more than one person to raise a child. It takes more than two. It takes everyone around them. He learns from father, from mother, and from me. Now, he's learning from you, too. Trust me, he could have much worse role models."
"Hm..." Rune blinked, thinking that over. "I suppose that makes sense. Am I supposed to do anything?"
"Yes. You're supposed to be yourself and set a good example. He's looking to you for guidance right now. You have to show him how a good man acts because he's going to base his future actions on what he learns from you."
Rune frowned. "That is a bit too much responsibility."
"I would hope not."
"Well," she grinned with a blush, "when we have our own children, you're going to have to do the exact same thing over again."
"Oh..." He mulled the thought around his head once more. "I hadn't considered that. I suppose you're right. This is good practice then."
She nodded, smiling as she stroked his hair.
"All right. That makes sense. I'm not entirely sure I'm the one he should be idolizing though. He should probably pick someone less socially inept."
"I happen to think that he's picked just fine," Lucia smiled, kissing her husband's forehead. "Are you going to make love to me now?"
"In a rush, are you?" He grinned.
Lucia laughed. "Well, you know I'm always eager for you. But I was hoping that we could get some decent sleep tonight."
"Oh? Any particular reason?"
"Tomorrow is Twyla's wedding," she frowned. "Did you forget?"
"Oh, yeah...I guess I did." Rune frowned.
"What? I never had to remember things like this when I lived alone, all right?" Now he was expected to keep track of his schedule and everyone elses schedules too. Really, how was he supposed to memorize everything everyone else was doing?
"A wedding is a rather important event. You promised to be the one who washed them."
"I remember. I was assuming that someone would come tell me when it was about to happen so I could change and meet them at the river."
"What about the party?"
"The wedding party. Beforehand and after. Remember?"
Rune groaned and dropped his head. Conveniently right onto her soft breasts. He let out a sigh of exasperation as he nuzzled deeper between them. Lucia bit her lip to avoid letting out another moan at the sensation of his hair and skin on the sensitive peaks of her nipples.
She laughed breathlessly instead, brushing his hair with her fingers. "You'll get used to it eventually, my love. I know it isn't easy being surrounded by so many people so suddenly."
He lifted his head and rested his chin on her chest. "Well, I actually kind of like it. It's nice to hear more than just Chaz and Sen bickering every five minutes."
The sound of his name reminded her. Lucia laughed, kissed Rune's nose quickly, and jumped from the bed. Rune made a sound of protest as she walked around the bed.
"One moment," she said as she rushed from the room.
Rune didn't let her have one. He was up and after her in only a moment so that by the time she was walking into their new workroom he was right at her heels.
"I was coming back," she laughed.
"What did you forget?" Rune asked.
"Hey, do you know what time it is?" Chaz grumbled from his new plinth.
"Like you were sleeping," Lucia laughed. She walked over to one of the workbenches and picked up a quill and a vial of ink. She came back around to Chaz's plinth and smiled at him as she set the vial down on the workbench beside him.
"What are you doing?" Chaz asked, eyeing the ink.
"My love?" Rune came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist.
She grinned at him as she pulled the stopper from the ink. Ignoring Chaz's questions, she grabbed his cover and opened it. She dipped the quill into the ink and brought it up again, waiting for the excess to drip back into the vial.
"You can't write on his pages," Rune frowned, confused as to what she was doing.
"Stop making fun of me!" Chaz yelled, his voice muffled from being forced into the plinth.
"Both of you, hush," Lucia ordered them calmly.
She pressed the quill down, not on the paper, but onto Chaz's cover. Chaz started laughing uproariously, as though he were being tickled. If he had a body, it would be shaking. Rune watched calmly as Lucia very meticulously inscribed on the inside of his cover.
I am Chazzoster, the book of all words. Do not discount my empty pages, for a blank page has infinite possibilities.
Grinning to herself, Lucia lifted her hand. Chaz continued laughing breathlessly as he tried to get himself under control.
"What is it?" He finally asked when he could breath properly again. "What did you do?"
"See for yourself," Lucia instructed with a smile.
A command from a wizard. Chaz gasped as all of his pages were suddenly filled with the new words. His words.
"I have words!" He yelled in delight as all his pages shuffled past. Each with the same message. "I have words!"
Lucia laughed happily as Rune smiled.
"How did you know that would work?" He asked, surprised.
"Well, his back cover has a bloodstain," she explained. "So I guess that it's only his pages themselves that are bespelled to never hold ink."
Rune smiled as he turned her around. He gave her a kiss as Chaz continued reading and rereading aloud the words that were now his.
"This is a gift he will never forget, my love," he said softly to her under the sound of Chaz's cheer.
Lucia beamed as she held him tight. The sounds of Chaz's cries had awoken Sen from her bed under their herb drying workbench and she lifted her head to snap at him. He snapped back at her. They argued for a moment. Then he dared her to come up and read his words.
Lucia and Rune stood back, listening to it happen as they became wrapped up in another kiss. They were both rather adept now at ignoring Chaz and Sen. Though their arguments were never heated, it could sound like it to the casual observer.
Of which there could be plenty now that they lived in the city.
Now people could see all the work her husband did on a daily basis for them. It wasn't just the rare big spell that they used to be privy to on occasion. Now they could also see, from down below, the lights that came from his workshop as he created the barrier and helped repair the river.
The Great Wizard was now joined into the city, joined into the royal family itself.
And the Preta Accord that bound them together was hung, in pride of place, in the throne room so that none would ever again forget what their Great Wizard did for them.