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Authors: Michael Dalrymple,Kristen Corrects.com

Shaping Magic

BOOK: Shaping Magic
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Chapter 1

 

“Okay, Grams, I’m going now,” Lindon said to the old woman.

“Be careful,” she answered.

“I will.” Lindon was out the door before she could say anything else, or decide that she would go with him. He didn't get many opportunities to be out on his own; Lindon's grandmother was overprotective of him, and he resented it. It wasn’t like he was a little kid anymore, he was seventeen and felt trapped in the tiny cottage. Farm life seemed boring to him; he wanted excitement, he wanted adventure, but nothing ever happened.

When Lindon neared the village, some of his excitement left him; it was a fairly lawless place. The town guard was a joke. Spending most of the time drunk; they were pretty much useless. Not having any friends to watch his back also made Lindon an easy target, so whenever he was allowed out on his own, he had to keep a sharp eye out for trouble.

Spying around the corner of the blacksmith's shop, Lindon attempted to see if it might be safe enough to make his way across the market. His grandmother had sent the young man to get some meat. Some venison would be nice, but with the small amount of coinage he was given, about all he could expect would be mystery meat, the kind of stuff you really didn't want to look at too closely.

Not seeing anyone looking overtly hostile, Lindon figured now was the time to make his way across. With a deep breath to try to calm the nerves, he left the safety of the building, walking as confidently as he could he made his way to the shop.

Shaking on the inside but showing no sign to the outside world that fear clutched his heart, Lindon made it about three-quarters of the way across, when from behind, he heard the sound of steel being drawn.  Not wanting to be anywhere near that sound, he sprinted the remaining distance, not looking back, running into the butcher's shop. He quickly closed the door behind him. He peered out through a small window in the door to see what was happening.

The market square was empty of people except for six men with drawn swords surrounding a man. At first, he didn't recognize who he was, then the lone man swayed to the right and Lindon let out a small moan. Arden. Lindon desperately wanted to run out and plead with the men to leave him alone. He knew if he tried, though, there would be two dead. He remembered when Arden came to town. The look on his face was a look of total despair, and in the six months that he had been here, he had spent all his time in the bottom of the ale mug. 

Feeling ashamed at his own cowardice, Lindon stayed in the shop and watched.

The men were circling Arden, taunting him. “Well boys, looks like we're going to have some fun today,” said the leader of the group.

The others laughed at Arden, as he was barely able to stand. When the leader had spoken, Arden had stopped his swaying. Standing still, it didn't even look like he was breathing. His head was bowed, not a muscle twitching. His tormentors were unaware of this sudden change.

One of the men, thinking it would be a laugh, swung the flat of his blade at the backside of Arden, hitting him square and hard enough that a man should have at least stumbled forward. Lindon was not sure how, but Arden still didn't move, not even offering any evidence of his being struck.

The sounding men all stopped, not sure what to make of the man standing before them. They were a little nervous now, likely thinking this may have been the wrong man to pick on. It was too late for them to change course, however, without losing face to the frightened townspeople.

The leader had to do something or lose command of the group, so he raised his sword, ready to thrust, when Arden slowly raised his head and looked directly at him.

  Lindon damn near wet himself. The visage he witness was almost not human. Arden's eyes glowed. With the sun behind and to the right of him, it couldn't be a reflection. The only way to describe it was radiant. The color was deep angry red—if a color could be pissed off, that's what it would look like.

The effect on the men standing in front of him would have been funny if it weren’t such a deadly situation. They were like statues, unable to move. Their mouths were hanging open.

The men behind Arden, not sure what was going on, decided to end the game and advanced on Arden, not realizing the danger. Two of the men that were behind Arden swung their blades, meaning to decapitate him.

Ducking faster than humanly possible moving with a speed unseen for a generation, Arden spun in a half circle and jabbed both in the throat. They dropped instantly to the ground, dead.

Seeing their fellow men downed broke the spell that seemed to have frozen the men and with a yell to bolster their courage, the remaining four men charged, thinking to overpower this demon that they had provoked. However, they were not well-trained warriors in any sense of the word and fared no better than their companions. With barely any effort, Arden avoided their clumsy swings. Like clockwork, each man dropped to the ground, clutching his throat.

It was over almost as soon as it started with six men dead on the ground. There, standing in the middle of the carnage, was Arden, looking like a warrior of old. Not wanting to break the moment, Lindon didn't so much as breathe. Arden looked directly at him, sending a shiver down Lindon's spine. For a brief moment, Lindon thought he would be next. Arden gave him a slight nod, and Lindon could take a long-needed breath.  Arden turned and, almost like it never happened, started to stagger away and was soon lost between the buildings.

“My God,” whispered the butcher.

Lindon jumped, not realizing that he wasn't alone in the room. Not wanting to let on that he was scared with what we had just witnessed, he turned to the butcher and said with as much of a steady voice as possible, “Grams sent me here to buy some meat for supper.” He wasn't feeling very brave, but one didn't mention that to people. It was a good way to wind up dead or worse.

  Still shaking with fear, Lindon handed over the copper pieces and accepted the package of—well, let's call it meat—and made his way to the door.

The town guard was outside, tossing the last body into the wagon. They weren't trying to find out what happened, simply cleaning the mess as fast as they could. Then, back to the brothels for ale and women. It’s all they were good for. Lindon wasn't too worried that they would go looking for Arden; there wasn't really any law, and he was sure they wouldn't fare any better than the dead men.

Lindon made his way around the market square instead of across, not wanting to draw any attention. The square was deserted; the only people in the square was the town guard, and they were leaving—most likely back to the woman they were called away from.

With one more look behind at the spot where the fight was, Lindon noticed that there was no blood, nothing to show that anything had taken place there. He turned and made his way home with the image of Arden the Warrior, not Arden the Drunk, firmly in mind.

Chapter 2

 

Walking the path home, Lindon should have been watching where he was going and on the lookout for trouble, but his mind consumed with thoughts of Arden and his glowing eyes made him oblivious. As the young man came around the corner of the steep path, there in front of him was Arden, the man he thought until recently was just a town drunk.

Freezing in place, barely able to breathe, Lindon breathed, “I’m dead.” Arden just stared at him, not making any move to attack. A noise behind Lindon drew his attention. Seeing nothing, he turned back, and Arden was gone.

  Shaking with fear, Lindon started running and didn't stop until he was within sight of home. When it came into view, he stopped, still trembling and trying to catch his breath, not wanting to scare Grams. He knew that if he ran into the house the way he was shaking, she would never let him go out by himself again. As bad as it was outside it was, however, better than being cooped up in the tiny house.  With his breathing slowed and most of the tremors subsiding, Lindon walked the remaining distance.

As he opened the door to the tiny shack, he could hear gram's singing. For an old lady, her voice was amazing. When she sang, it was like the world was a happy place instead of the hell it was. When she sang, all of Lindon’s cares would just melt away. The last of his trembling subsided as soon as the door closed, and the tension left his body.

One thing that always confused Lindon was why, with all the violence and suffering in the world, nothing ever bothered him as soon as he was home. A little old lady and a scrawny kid—it's not like they could really defend themselves from even just one man with a sword, let alone the gangs that would prey on the innocent. It didn't make any sense why they were left alone—not that he was complaining. It was nice to come home and relax, leaving fear at the gate.

Standing there at the door, lost in thought, it took a minute for Lindon to realize that the singing had stopped. Looking up, there was Grams, standing by the fireplace watching. Moving quickly and hoping she wouldn't notice the fright  he'd experienced, Lindon tried to look relaxed and calm, put a smile on his face and walked up to the tiny counter where the food was prepared.

“Here's the meat, Grams. It looks like it could be venison and not muskrat.” He tried to be casual.

Giving him one last look, she moved forward to examine the meat. “Well, would you look at that. It is venison. Wonder how he would have made that mistake.” She gave a sly look at Lindon. “There was no way that the money you had should have been enough for almost two pounds of venison.” Grams seemed like she knew something happened.

Not wanting to let on, fearing that he would never being allowed to go out to get supplies again, he countered, “Didn’t know this is the package he gave me.” He should have told her all that happened, but just couldn't bring himself to tell her.

She didn't say anything more about it, and before she could, Lindon interrupted her.

“I’ll go get some wood for the fire,” he said quickly.

Not looking at the stack of wood that was already beside the fireplace, Lindon turned to go outside, needing to be alone to collect his thoughts. It's not like he'd lied to her; he just didn't tell her everything that had happened, and she didn't ask.

 

The next couple of days were uneventful, just the daily routine of life—until one day.

Lindon was taking a break from chopping wood. He looked up toward town and on the path leading down to where he had stopped to catch his breath the day of the fight, he saw a man—at least it looked like a man; it was hard to tell. Whoever he was, he was covered in a heavy cloak with the hood pulled up. It looked like he was trying to push his way through a bramble patch, but there was nothing there.

The man kept pushing at the invisible barrier, and it looked like he was about to come through when, from behind, Lindon heard a voice unlike anything he'd heard before. Grams was standing there, encompassed in an aura, similar to what was in the eyes of Arden—an angry red glow—but instead of just in the eyes, this redness surrounded her.

“BEGONE!“ she bellowed. The man stopped in his tracks, seemed to shimmer, and then—for lack of a better word—exploded.

Falling to his knees at the power his grandmother was displaying, Lindon stared in complete awe.  There was the answer to the question as to why they were left alone. All these years living here and having no idea that Grams had that kind of power…Lindon wondered what she was doing here, and if he was, in fact, her grandson. It's not like they looked that much alike, but for as long as he could remember, they had lived together.

  There, kneeling on the ground and not seeing anything around him, Lindon looked up at Grams and asked, “Who are you?” His voice trembled.

She just looked at him with the same kind expression that always seemed to be there or did until she obliterated someone.

“I am Cora, your grandmother. Don't you ever forget that, no matter what. I will always be your Grams, got it?”

 

Shaking his head and trying to clear his thoughts, but not able to get rid of his trembling voice, Lindon said, “Okay, Grams, but what else are you? I have always thought that magic was just fables for bedtime stories.”

“No Lindon, they are not just stories, but kneeling in the dirt is not the time to talk about it. Come, we have some packing to do. It is time for us to go. This place is no longer safe.”

“Something is going on, but for the life of me, I have no idea what it is,” he whispered to himself.

Lindon saw Grams in a new light. She had always been just a little different than the people of the town and for as long as Lindon could remember, she didn't sulk about her life or even complain; she just lived it.

He wasn’t able to wait for Grams to start explaining what was going on. “What happened to that man?” Lindon had to ask.

Not stopping the packing, Grams was silent for a minute; then, a resigned tone she said, “That wasn't exactly a man; it was a shadow.”

“Huh?” was all he could get out. He didn’t understand what she meant by “shadow.”

“A shadow is a projection of a person.”

“But what was it doing before it blew up?” Lindon asked, still not understanding.

Grams gave a deep sigh before she stopped packing and turned to face him.

“Lindon, I know you’re full of questions, but we really have to hurry and pack; there isn't much time before we have more uninvited guests.”

It didn't take that long to finish the chore—it was almost like everything was just waiting to be packed. Within the hour, they were walking out the door with everything they owned on their backs. Gram was the last to leave; she stopped in the doorway looked back in. Lindon was watching her closely to see if she had any emotions about leaving the place they had called home for as long as he could remember.

Lindon was about to turn away when he could see a faint reddish glow surround Grams, then a wisp of smoke started to snake out the open door. He was about to run back inside and put out the fire that seemed to have started from nothing, but Grams closed the door and headed toward Lindon with an unreadable expression her face. Before he could move, she intertwined her arm in his and started walking away from the only life he knew.

As they walked down the path thinking that they would be heading toward town, Lindon was surprised when he was guided to the path leading down the mountain, out toward the plains. Wanting to ask where they were going, Lindon looked at Grams, but the look on her face said now was not the time, so instead he started to scan the path and surrounding area looking for dangers.

After a couple of hours of walking, Grams stopped and was intently peering behind them, toward home. Lindon wondered if he should still think of the little house as home, doubting that he would ever see the place again.

“They have come. It didn't take as long as I had hoped but it wasn’t as soon as it could have been,” Grams quietly stated.

Wondering how she could possibly know that, Lindon  kept quiet.

“Let’s pick up the pace,” she said.

Lindon was rather surprised when she started walking faster.

“Grams,” Lindon whispered, “there's something in the trees just behind us!”

“I know,” she replied.

Suddenly, she stopped in her tracks, then brought her walking stick up and across her chest. Ever since they had started the journey, it seemed like the years had started to melt off of her. There was a spring in her step that hadn't been there in a long time and there seemed to be fewer lines on her face. Now with her standing in the middle of the path, with her staff up ready to strike, she didn't look like the frail old lady Lindon was used to seeing.

Thinking he was the man and supposed to be the protector, Lindon bent down and picked up a dead branch, taking a couple of swings to test the weight. Lindon brought his gaze up, ready to look where he had heard the noise, but Grams looked in the opposite direction down the path, at the ready.

What came around the bend in the path were four of the biggest men he had ever seen, bristling with weapons that seemed to be poking out of them everywhere. Immediately upon seeing the pair, they pulled their weapons. Three of the men pulled long swords, the fourth brought out a two-headed axe. Lindon felt his face pale at the size.

“Well it was a short life and not worth much,” Lindon said bitterly.

“It’s not over yet!” Grams had the glow around her, but it was brighter than it had been.

The attackers didn't seem to notice anything out of order and continued their advance. Without thinking, Lindon stepped up to protect his grandmother, knowing he was about to die. Bolts of light shot forward from Grams’ staff. Two of the bolts took out two of the swordsmen. The remaining two bolts seemed to flow around the others, who weren’t slowing at the sight of their dead comrades. The remaining two were within striking distance; the one with the axe picked out a knife and threw it directly at Grams. Lindon felt as if he was going to vomit. Thinking she didn't have a chance but with no time to help her, Lindon had to duck, the blade of his attacker missing by inches. Before he could respond, he heard the clank of metal hitting metal. Risking a quick look back at Grams, Lindon was surprised to see Arden standing in front of Grams. He had somehow picked off the knife with a sword.

  Lindon had no more time to wonder at the sight of Arden or how he got here. He turned his attention back to his attacker. This time, he had no time to duck, and, not wanting to lose his head, he fell onto his backside and thrust his makeshift club forward to off-balance his attacker. Surprisingly, he actually hit the man squally in the crotch. The man doubled over in pain. Lindon didn't hesitate; he jumped up off the ground and with everything, he swung the club, connecting solidly with the head of his attacker. The man never made a sound—just the thud of the blow—and down he went.

Turning to the remaining attacker, he was in awe at the sight before him. There was Arden and the giant man with the battle axe. There were at least a dozen little cuts all over the axe wielder. It looked like Arden was toying with him: Whenever the man swung the axe at Arden, he wasn't there, but every time the man swung and missed, Arden's blade didn't. With one last strike, the big man suddenly stopped, arms fell to the side, weapons dropped to the ground, and the man just toppled over like a falling tree, his throat cleanly sliced open. It was over.

“Was wondering when you were going to stop hiding in the trees,” Grams stated calmly.

“Had to make sure you weren't being followed too closely; I didn't think they would have people waiting, or I would have taken care of them before you got this far.”

That simple statement worried Lindon. These four men were not like the thugs in the market, and the offhanded way he said he would have taken care of them by himself made Lindon feel useless. He did, after all, kill one of the men; of course, it was just pure luck, but he did kill him.

“Oh my God, I killed a man.” It started to sink in that he had ended someone’s life. Lindon collapsed where he stood. Sitting on the ground in the middle of the path with dead men all around was probably not the best place to have a breakdown, but it was the best he could do at the moment.

Lindon could feel his grandmother’s hand on his shoulder, but he just couldn't stop sobbing and didn't want to be comforted.

“Just leave me alone,” he managed to get out between sobs.

Not wanting to cause him more pain, she gave him one last pat on the shoulder and left him there to his self-pity.

Arden was busy looking over the bodies. He held up a strange-looking pendant from the man Lindon had killed.

BOOK: Shaping Magic
11.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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