Episode 9 – A Test of Will

Ardeshir came one step closer to collecting all seven of the Battle Maidens. He sensed the magic coursing through his body and into the relics. The sheer power contained within such simple objects. He increased the flow of magic and summoned both Battle Maidens by mental command.

Ahzi regarded Vida with a sense of disgust, grimacing and quickly turning towards them instead. She folded her arms under her chest and snorted. “So these are the humans that think they can take on the devourer of worlds. Hah, your combined magical prowess would be little more than a nuisance to him. I can’t believe this is what it’s come to but I have to make do with the cards played out to me.”

“Wonderful,” Kyros said, clasping his hands together. He took a step closer to the dragoon, eying her as he circled her. He pointed to the remaining relics and urged Ardeshir to activate them. “Quick, try them on. We need to be sure. Just think of the endless possibilities we can achieve with the power of the Battle Maidens at our command.”

Ahzi narrowed her eyes onto Ardeshir and clicked her tongue. “Wait, are you this man’s servant? Such a disgrace of a master. At least the ahura were princes amongst their kind.”

“I’m not his servant but he is the leader of the Guild,” Ardeshir said as he took a step closer to Ahzi, disregarding her imposing figure. She wielded a dragon and was herself partially draconic. “He’s going to help us defeat the Leviathan.”

“You are free to believe whatever helps you sleep at night but I’ll be the one to watch your inevitable end.”

Ardeshir ignored her comments and reached for the relic. He felt the tug of magic on him increase as his fingers grazed the surface and gasped. A jolt ran through his him, laming his body instead of revisiting the worlds of the Battle Maidens. He remained in place, legs slowly trembling before collapsing in front of the Arch Mage and the Battle Maidens.

Vida rushed to his side and lifted him in her arms. “Master, what happened?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Ahzi said, pushing the relic away from Ardeshir with the tip of her boot. “He’s too weak to summon any more Maidens. I told you he’s pathetic and will never stand a chance of reuniting all seven of us. We can only hope to find someone stronger and better suited to wield us. After all, a weapon is only as good as its bearer.”

“Don’t speak that way about us or our master. We’re bound to serve him and should do everything we can to support him.”

“I’m all right,” Ardeshir said, regaining enough strength to sit upright. “A moment of weakness. I’ll try again.”

“Stop,” Kyros said, extending his hand. The Arch Mage fixed his jaw and crouched down in front of him. “They’re correct. Every summoner relies upon magic to keep their summon in our realm.”

“It’s only two. I’ve held more before.”

Kyros hummed and slowly nodded. “Then it would appear as if the Maidens are more demanding of you than a simple summon would. Not surprising, considering the enormous potential within each of them. I’m willing to give you more time to adapt to the new situation. There are still two anchiti that need to be recovered and once they have been we can reassess. I’ve heard a lot about Yazdan and his summoning ability.”

“It’s a specialty of his,” Ardeshir admitted but an awkward feeling settled in his gut. The thought of giving Vida away was enough to stir his uneasiness.

“Then it’s settled. Let’s return before people question where we’ve gone.”

There was no need to start an argument with the Arch Mage Kyros. He agreed and nodded his head. The two men returned to the red Hall shortly after and were met by Yazdan who had a concerned expression on his face. He pressed his lips together and bowed before Arch Mage Kyros before turning to Ardeshir. 

“Was beginning to worry about you where you’d gone off to. I’m relieved to see you are in the capable hands of the Arch Mage himself.” 

“Let’s take our leave. There’s nothing here for us to do right now. I’m sure the guild will inform us once our information has been confirmed.” 

“Oh Ardeshir,” the Arch Mage began. “I hope to see you again soon. What you’ve told me could prove to be revolutionary, not just in regard to summoners but to every magic wielder in the galaxy.” 

Ardeshir nodded and motioned to Yazdan that he was ready to go. He already knew how important the Battle Maidens were and the lengths to which the ahura were willing to go. The only question was whether he would be strong enough to wield that power or if she would have to rely on someone else. Yazdan, as a summoner and friend appeared to be the natural choice and yet having met Vida and Ahzi. He almost felt sorrowful to let them go. They were part of him now and that made them like family. He wouldn’t give family away. 

They strolled down the road towards the arrival square where a realmwalker sat on duty. It wasn’t every day they were on Masad. In fact, Ardeshir hadn’t been there since the graduation ceremony. Once he was free his imagination run wild and he let it take him across the galaxy and put him and Ervin and plenty of danger. Settling down, moving up the ranks like Yazdan was out of the question for him. 

Yazdan slowed his pace and cleared his throat. “I’ll go through the archives and the library tomorrow and see if I can find anything about the remaining relics. With any Luck we’ll get the okay from the guild to return to the planet and thoroughly search the ruins this time.” 

“Okay. I think and to do some studying for myself and try and become a better summoner. The relic demands a high stream of magic and I want to be fully prepared in case we encounter the leviathan once more.” For now, Ardeshir felt it would be best if they went their separate ways. 

The two magi arrived on Tasbir and moved towards the exit when Ardeshir noticed the guards and realmwalker which were meant to inspect arrivals were missing. He walked over to the guard post and knocked on the door before opening it. A candle burned on the table but nobody was inside. 

“What’s the matter, you forget something?” Yazdan asked as he joined Ardeshir. 

“No, just give me a second,” he said entered the room. Everything appeared in order until Ardeshir noticed a pile of clothes laying on the floor. He picked up the shirt glanced around finding to other piles of clothes nearby. 

“Is that what it looks like? I can’t believe they’d go off and do something like this while on duty. Honestly, some people have no matters in your people like High Mage still think you’re the troublemaker.” Yazdan petted Ardeshir on the shoulder and left. “Don’t worry, I’ll speak with him tomorrow and report the incident they won’t get away with what they’ve done tonight.” 

“Go and wake the High Mage. There’s something unusual going on and I think it’s linked with the cave we discovered a few nights ago.” 

Yazdan frowned and furrowed his brow. The light-hearted expression on his face after thinking about mischievous magi was quickly replaced by the consequences of waking the High Mage up at this hour. Ardeshir new as much but couldn’t help feeling that something wasn’t right. There was something off about that cave and followed them to the guild grounds. It plagued his dreams and he wouldn’t be surprised if these magi had gone missing as a consequence as well. 

“You can’t be serious. You find a pair of clothes on the ground you want me to go and make the high mage it because you think it might have something to do with thieves. What do you think the thieves came and took them hostage now for some kind of ransom? They might be pretty good but not good enough to get by undetected.” 

It really did sound crazy when Yazdan said it like that. It could be nothing in it only beginning himself into more trouble. He decided to look into the matter on his own and come up with some tangible proof before holding his neck out. Ardeshir sighed and dropped the clothes back down on the ground. “You’re right, I’m sorry. It’s just that I’m overthinking everything with all the stress that’s going on lately. Let’s call it a night and I’ll see you if I find out anything in.” 

Yazdan met his gaze for a few moments and nodded. “I understand, but we have to keep a clear mind if we want to solve this.” 

Ardeshir smiled and tried to reassure his friend before he turned and left. He moved to the door and watch them go waiting until there was ample distance between the two men called upon Vida. The blonde haired maiden, briefly took in her surroundings before turning her attention to Ardeshir. “Can you sense anything unusual?” 

“Other than the tension in your body?” she asked with a smile. “Not that I’m very familiar with your world, but magic has been dispersed here recently.” 

“Dispersed?” 

Vida placed a hand on her hip while holding her right hand out. She drew in some magic before releasing it. Soft blue particles glimmered in the air as it drifted slowly to the ground. “Magic drawn in always leaves a trace behind no matter whether spell was cast or not. Considering we are at the mages Guild. I would say this is quite standard only the amount would appear unnatural.” 

“Yazdan didn’t seem to notice anything when I stepped in here and felt just like back in the cave and then I found these clothes,” Ardeshir said pointing to the piles strewn about in the room. “People might have urges that they wouldn’t wander far off without their clothes.” 

“You think another mage might have attacked and stripped them of their clothing before taking them somewhere? But what would they want with thieves?” 

Ardeshir sighed and began searching the room once more for any clues. There was always a chance a rogue mage might have dealings with the underworld, but for them to attack other magi on guild grounds seemed unlikely. Unless they weren’t after the magi something more important like the relics that he had. “I’d like you to stay by my side tonight. It might be nothing but I just want to play it safe.” 

“Ardeshir.” Vida had used his name until now. He looked up and met her blue-eyed gaze. “I didn’t want to bring this up earlier in front of Ahzi or to the man you referred to as Arch Mage. Are you really my master?” 

“What kind of question is that? Of course I am, I have the Jikka don’t I?” 

“I see. That’s how it is. You may have the anchiti, but I’m asking you if you’re my master. Anyone can carry around a piece of jewelery. You’re a mage, a summoner and you’re supposed to be my master. But you’re acting like a child waiting for permission. Take the initiative and seize the day or else I don’t see you achieving what you desire.” Vida strolled up to him until she was practically looming over. Her armor pressed against his chest and he could feel her breath tingling the hair on his skin. “When we first met, I warned you of the consequences and asked if you were my master. You told me you were, but until now, you haven’t really taken on that role.” 

“Perhaps you’re right, and I am a lousy master, not even capable of summoning more than two Battle Maidens at once.” 

Vida set her jaw and glared at him for several heartbeats in which he wondered if she were to lash out against him. “You’re the one putting up these limitations. Magical capability can be obtained through knowledge and confidence. You have the knowledge but lack the confidence in yourself.” 

Ardeshir remained silent, contemplating her words and the merit therein. He was only a summoner and not as important of a mage as a realmwalker, elementalist, or mender were to the guild or society. Summoners were good at solving simple problems like a shortage of workforce that could be supplemented with daeva. 

There was something in him. A force powering him on despite the hardships he endured and the danger of exploring the outer reaches of the galaxy. 

“Thank you, Vida, but I’m not going to be your master. You may be a Battle Maiden, a daeva, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to treat you any different. The way I see it is that we both need each other and only by working together can we achieve what we set out to do. I’m going to summon your kin and we’re going to beat that snake once and for all.” 

Vida closed her eyes and grinned. “That’s what I want to hear, but I think we’re still going to have to talk about the details at another time.”


Next time on Magefall …

Episode 10 – A New Plague

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