Authors: V. St. Clair
The Other Prism
(The Broken Prism, Vol. 2)
V. St. Clair
surrounding area in an approximately one-mile radius is rife with the aftershocks of runaway magic; even animals will not enter the area. In addition to leveling number seventeen, Gladdington Lane, six other domiciles were destroyed in the explosion. Initial findings suggest an unprecedented amount of tangential magical spillage, originating from the kitchen of number seventeen, titled in the name of Isabella Cohen.
Merina attest that Isabella and her son, Hayden, were the only two inhabitants of the dwelling. There is no documentation to suggest that either Cohen was magically-inclined. Hayden, age ten, is the sole survivor of the incident, but has been comatose since his removal from the wreckage. Causal analysis team expected on site on the second of Shemm for a full analysis of the wreckage.
Excerpt from Initial Assessment Report,
Biloxas, Chief Mage of the Council
Wands made from pine are generally used to perform magic of high complexity, due to the flexibility of imbued-pine. Unfortunately, the same properties that give pine its fluidity in casting also make it highly-unstable, and tangential magical spillage (TMS) occurs at more than ten times the rate of other standard wood types. Its instability also results in pine being the least efficient wood-type (there is much debate as to whether or not TMS occurs during every cast and whether this explains the exorbitant material-to-magic exchange); it is not uncommon for even a mastery-level wand of pine to be capable only of performing one to two spells before being completely consumed.
Hayden Frost finished reading the paragraph with a yawn and glanced at the
chrono beside his bed. It was much later than he expected, nearly midnight.
No wonder I’m tired.
He found a scrap of paper to bookmark his page and closed the level-two Wands textbook with a soft thump, setting it on the floor near his bed. He tried to imagine the look his best friend, Zane, would give him if he knew that Hayden was reading school books at midnight during their winter holiday. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t see his best friend for several more weeks, when the new school year started at Mizzenwald.
It was hard for Hayden to believe that almost exactly a year ago he was sitting in this same room
, in the capital city of Kargath, waiting for the same ten members of the Council of Mages to decide his fate. Of course, the last time he was here it was because the Council would decide whether to remove the lead Binders that suppressed his magic or leave him as an exile forever.
Hayden hadn’t even known he possessed magical
abilities until after the day his father turned up at his mother’s house and blew the place up. He still remembered almost nothing about that day, other than waking up in an infirmary and being told he was the sole survivor of the horrific event. There hadn’t been enough of his mother left to bury, and his father’s body was never recovered either, though he was clearly dead since his reign of terror had abruptly come to an end.
It wasn’t until weeks later that Hayden learned his previously-unknown father was none other than Aleric
Frost, the most hated and feared mage in the Nine Lands. During his first year at Mizzenwald it became clear just how many people’s lives were affected by the man who was dubbed the Dark Prism, a legacy that haunted Hayden to this day.
Just last year
the Council of Mages convened in this same building in this same town to decide his fate. More recently, at the end of the fall term, he’d been summoned back here for what the Prism Master at Mizzenwald called a “check-up” to make sure he was staying out of trouble and doing well in school.
Hayden had dutifully packed a bag and come to
Kargath as soon as term ended, and he’d been cooling his heels ever since.
Hurry up and wait—
that should be the Council’s motto.
He’d been resid
ing in Kargath for three weeks and the Council of Mages still hadn’t come to meet with him. He was beginning to wonder if they had forgotten about him altogether; perhaps none of them owned a chrono.
Despite the fact
that he didn’t know anyone in the entire massive city of Kargath right now (and was essentially under house-arrest in the capitol) he found that he didn’t mind the solitude too much. Since he would start in the level-three Wands class this year (his grades were high enough to let him skip the level-two class altogether), he spent most of his time trying to read through the level-two textbook to catch up. True, it was not his ideal choice of how to spend the holiday, but it did keep his mind off of the upcoming meeting with the Council of Mages.
He yawned sleepily and rubbed his eyes, his focus becoming blurry the longer he stayed awake. Deciding that there was no point in continuing on tonight, he padded across the room to put out the oil lamps, which were magica
lly-imbued to burn for months if left alone.
Fumbling his way through the sudden blackness, Hayden eventually found the bed
again and climbed underneath the covers. His last conscious thought was the same litany he had been telling himself every night before bed for three weeks running:
The Council will definitely come to
Despite the fact that he had been thinking it for weeks, Hayden was completely caught off guard when the Council showed up on the following morning. A worker wearing the dark blue jumpsuit of the hired cleaning-and-grounds-keeping crew knocked on his door until Hayden woke up and answered it.
“Hayden Frost?” The man’s eyes took in his appearance at a glance. Hayden was getting used to the way people’s gazes flickered over his facial features, looking for the resemblance to his infamous father no doubt.
“Yes, that’s me.” He thought it would be rude to ask how many other almost-thirteen year old boys they had locked up in this place, that there could be any confusion as to which one he was.
“I was sent to inform you that the Council of Mages have arrived and are meeting in the informal dining room. You’re to join them as soon as possible.”
Hayden was tempted to point out that if they wanted to talk to him so urgently they could have shown up at any time during the last three weeks and gotten it over with.
It’s not this guy’s fault; he’s just doing his job.
“Why are we meeting in the dining hall?” He quirked an eyebrow in surprise.
“I don’t know, I was just told to deliver the message.” The man looked like he couldn’t care less about Hayden’s problems
“Is that the dining hall on the second floor beside the archives?”
“Yes.” The messenger must be tired of talking to him, or else he was just in a hurry, because he turned around and left without saying another word.
Hayden shut the door and changed clothing, pulling on
beige pants and a red long-sleeved shirt that covered his Focus-correctors. His brown hair was getting a little long and currently had an annoying cow-lick in the back from where he slept on it, which he tried (unsuccessfully) to smooth down with a wet cloth.
, Bonk, this is it,” he addressed the ferret-sized dragonling that was still lolling about in bed. “Do I look well-adjusted and respectable?” He finished wrapping the belt of magical tools around his waist and spread his arms so Bonk could take in the full effect.
dragonling just rolled over in bed and began chewing on the sheets.
, you lazy dragon, this is important,” Hayden scolded him, patting his own shoulder. Bonk was clearly feeling obedient today, because the little dragon stood up and flew over to perch on the shoulder that he’d indicated. “That’s better,” Hayden nodded. “Please be on your best behavior in front of the Council, or they might not let me go back to school this year and they might even take you away from me.”
He had no idea if that was true or not, but the horrible possibility had been plaguing him for the better part of the week as he grew nervous and bored
Bonk cuffed him affectionately on the head with one wing
, which Hayden took for a show of support. After one final look in the mirror, he left the room with his familiar on his shoulder and made his way towards the informal dining room. The one good thing that could be said for having to wait around the capitol building for three weeks was that he had plenty of time to learn his way around the place, and wouldn’t have to worry about getting lost and missing his appointment.
He walked down two flights of stairs to the second floor, which was where most of the mayor’s secondary offices and conference rooms were located, as well as the offices of his more important support staff. The hallway looked
as austere as every other area Hayden had seen so far: shiny hardwood floors were partially covered by dull grey runners of carpet, almost no furniture was set out in the hallways despite the fact that they were wide enough to accommodate it, and the only paintings that dotted the bare walls were of past mayors and other important people Hayden had never heard of who had died decades ago.
He could hear voices radiating out of the informal dining room
even before he entered. He tried to take in the entire space at a glance: the maple credenzas lined end-to-end along one wall, laden with trays of food covered by silver lids; the ten Council members sitting around the dining table with empty plates and cutlery laid out before them; the empty chair waiting for him at the end of the table, closest to the door…
Hayden was ha
lfway to his chair before he realized that there were thirteen seats at the table instead of eleven, and it wasn’t until he blinked three more times that he recognized Masters Willow and Kilgore seated to the immediate right and left of the empty seat.
“Don’t just stand there
, boy,” the latter greeted in his usual gruff tone, “take a seat so we can eat; I’m half-starved.”
One of the Council members let out an indelicate snort and muttered, “Hardly that.”
Hayden was uncomfortably aware of all eyes on him as he walked to the vacant chair and took a seat, trying not to jostle Bonk from his shoulder.
“Um, sorry to keep you waitin
g…” he was completely thrown by the presence of two of the Masters of Mizzenwald, though relieved by the thought of having backup in case things turned ugly.
Despite the fact that the food was set up perfectly for them to form a line and serve themselves, half a dozen serving men and women entered the room and began collecting their plates one at a time, filling and returning them without even asking what their guests wanted to eat. No one acted surprised by this, so Hayden tried not to either, though he wished he could tell the man carrying his plate that he hated
syrup on his flat-cakes because it made them soggy.
“As I was saying,
Wil, the hydras in Minir have been reproducing at a rate of three times the historical norm,” the Council member at the head of the table said to Master Willow, though his eyes occasionally flickered to Hayden. “Of course, the number of human deaths from hydra encounters has elevated right along with it.”
Master Willow frowned thoughtfully.
“Hydras aren’t terribly difficult to defend against, excepting the six-and-seven headed ones.”
Hayden tried not to shudder at the tho
ught of a seven-headed hydra attempting to drown and eat him. He’d been scared enough of the little two-headed ones he’d encountered so far.
“They are for those without the gift of magic in their blood,” the Councilman countered in between bites of food.
Hayden accepted his plate back from the servant and immediately realized his next challenge. There were four forks, two knives, and three spoons set out for him, and he had absolutely no idea which he was supposed to use. The mages all around him switched seamlessly from one utensil to another (apparently different cutlery was used for different types of food), but Hayden could find no visible rhyme or reason to it.
Hoping no one would notice, he chose the smallest spoon and started in on his applesauce.
“Any idea what’s causing the sudden spike in the hydra population of Minir, Calahan?” Master Kilgore asked the Councilman at the head of the table.
shrugged. “These things always seem to go in cycles. I just wish it didn’t coincide with an increase in the population of so many other dangerous magical creatures. We’re a bit overextended at the moment with all the requests to slay the monsters that are plaguing the Nine Lands.”
Hayden almost pointed out that the world had one less monstrous green dragon in it thanks to him and his best friend Zane (and most of all, Bonk), but he resisted the urge
to gloat. He nearly choked on his applesauce when Magdalene Trout—the mother of Hayden’s nemeses at Mizzenwald—turned to him and asked, “Why are you eating applesauce with the drizzling spoon?”
ll eyes turned back to him and the conversation stopped in that moment, causing Hayden to panic and drop the little spoon with a clatter onto his plate.
“I…” he had absolutely no idea how he intended to finish that sentence
, and compromised by tearing off a piece of flat-cake with his fingers and stuffing it into his mouth to buy time to think.
Master Kilgore turned a laugh into a cough and Willow winced minutely. It belatedly occu
rred to Hayden that eating flat-cakes with one’s hands was probably considered a horrible breach of etiquette.
Step right up
, ladies and gentlemen! For one day only, watch the stupid young mage who doesn’t know how to use silverware at a formal breakfast with the most important men and women in the Nine Lands!
He might as well take off his shoes and put his feet on the table.
“Leave him be, he’s young and untrained in formal etiquette,” Master Kilgore spoke on his behalf, though it was plain some of his peers thought Hayden was more than old enough to know which fork to use for the flat-cakes.