“Kalan, child of Frelnir, Getr, and Enoin, do you understand why you have been brought before the assembly today?” Elder Richin, a tall, bald-headed man asked as he look down at me from where he perched, like a scrawny vulture, in the stands.
…why are they called stands when they are seats?
I brushed a stray lock of hair back behind my ear, grazing the raised scars of my Scarifice of Vasha, now nearly a decade past, as I looked up to him, surrounded by the adults of the town, “I believe it’s because I burnt the town’s Vashan Records when an experiment got away from me.”
More than a few of my elders stifled a chuckle, struggling to keep the solemn looks on their faces such an occasion demanded.
“Yes.” Elder Richin said, “Would you care to elabourate on what occurred that night? Perhaps you can explain why you felt the need to destroy the magical history of our people?” he cocked an eyebrow at me.
“Well, it wasn’t so much that I felt the need, so much as it kind of happened. You see, I was just trying to perform a basic conjuring, and it was the flames of the half-fiend fire elemental that set the fire.”
“Are you saying, in all honesty, that it did not occur to you that would happen?”
“Well…” I shuffled my feet, one hand clasping the elbow of my other arm behind my back, “I mean, I could have sworn magical fire didn’t set things on fire unless it was an aspect of the magic, and fire elementals and demons are inherently magical, so their flames should be magical, so… magical fire.”
Richin pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed, “Some. SOME magical fires will not ignite materials. In general they do.”
“Well, I know that now…” Richin would be tempted, and within rights, to slap my head from my shoulders for playing the petulant child if I hadn’t been rather… good to him in the last few months. He’s probably still tempted.
“Why did you feel the library was the appropriate place to perform this conjuring?” he pressed on.
“Because that’s where the books are. I had to use one for the conjuring in the first place, and I knew there could be unforeseen complications, so I figured better to use the facilities of the library and be right there to find the appropriate book to deal with whatever complications arose than to be somewhere else and add theft of a book to the whole breaking in thing.”
“Your ability to well plan poorly thought out courses of action is admirable,” Richin said, fingers having moved from the bridge of his nose to his temples. “Is there a reason you decided to summon a fire elemental, rather than earth or water or air or some other Vasha-damned thing that wouldn’t burn the building down?”
“…I didn’t want to get the books wet, blow their pages around, or put a giant hole in the floor from where the earth elemental came out?”
Several members of the assembly were only succeeding in hiding their amusement by turning it into fits of coughing or managing to laugh silently as they clutched their stomachs and fell off the stone benches.
Richin looked downwards and muttered–I could only catch the invoking of Vasha’s name. For misotheists, we share a lot of traits with the second men.
“Look, if the magic courses were at my level, rather than remedial, theory-only bullshit, this wouldn’t have happened, and it’s not like you can’t reverse the damage,” I levied.
“We’ve been over your complaints about Elder Erther’s magic tutelage. Until you can attract a master to apprentice to, that is your place. And you’re right, the damage can be reversed, and you’re damned lucky for that. If it couldn’t be, this would be a much more serious offense and the other elders would not be TAKING THIS SO LIGHTLY,” his voice rose to address the assembled incapacitated with laughter. He calmed again, breathing deeply as other elders slowed their hysterics and regained their seats. “As it stands, instead of recommending your destruction, I will be recommending your exile until such time as you can show you are not a danger to–” he caught himself as he remembered our peoples’ propensity for being raucous dangers to everyone around them “until such time as you can show you are a self-controlled danger to those around you.”
I was mortified and pissed off. Exile was nearly a death sentence. Vasharan Warriors were regularly sent into the wilds to survive on their own without support from their towns as a test of their abilities before they formally accepted into the military structure, or as a lesson when they were still young. But the town was always still there, and would usually go looking for them when the set time was over! Also–I’m not a warrior! I wasn’t trained to kill wolves bare-handed and harvest grubs! I mean, I could find some, just, you know, turn over some logs, but I doubt I’d get anywhere near enough to sustain me! A sentence of exile for a young vasharan woman with only the barest instruction in magic was essentially a round-about and stupid way of selling them into sex-slavery. Round-about because they could just put me in the damned market and be done with it, and stupid because they wouldn’t get the money!
Richin stared at me. “You are excused from the chamber, Child Kalan.”
Bile raised in the back of my throat in time with the anger rising up my spine. I faltered a moment, biting back words that I would definitely regret and searching for words that were less reactionary, “You forget yourself Richin,” I hissed with eyes narrower than an orc-helm’s eye-slits, “I may be a quarter your age, but do not forget that I won my passage from childhood with pain greater than an old man like you could ever hope to withstand,” the assembly murmured around him with a sound like the forest turning bad on a traveler at night, “you may exile me, and you may spell my doom, but you will do so with respect, you feeble old fool, or the next spell that passes from page, to these eyes, through my lips will send your soul to the gods,” I shook as adrenaline coursed up from the small of my back uttering the gravest threat our race recognized, “and, might I add, nothing of yours will ever pass these lips again.” The murmurs of the assembly turned bemused.
Richin considered impassively, “You are excused, Kalan.”
I turned and swept out of the chamber into the hot sun without like a fell wind.
I was still shaking, but tremors were beginning to still, when a throat cleared behind me. I turned, tamping down my fury, and regarded the second-men scholar who’d been visiting us to study our culture for the last month. “Yes, god-child?”
He smirked, “Not everyone outside your culture has much love for the gods,” he advised, “I was of course not allowed in the assembly, but the elders did allow me to scry over your hearing,” he pulled out a bag of tobacco and began rolling a cigarette, “It’s a shame they’re so strict about a minor, easily repaired indiscretion.” He offered the cigarette to me.
I waved it off and produced my own, “Welcome to Vasharan culture. I’ve seen starving wolves more forgiving than Richin.”
“You show promise,” he said, raising the roll-up to his lips and igniting it with a small flame from his finger. “To cast a spell from a tome, with no practical training in spellcasting? Impressive. You know, I’m an instructor at a mage’s university–do you know this word, university?”
“Larger Vasharan cities tend to have academies and universities of various types, or similar institutes.”
“We instruct our students in both the theoretical and practical aspects of magic. Even specialist students receive at least theoretical instruction in their forsaken school of magic.”
“Cost?” I said with clenched teeth as I lit my rollup from a tinder twig.
“Well, for students from wealthier families, we do charge a tuition, but for promising students who may not have much money to put forth, there are opportunities to conduct adventures and crafting for the benefit of the college. A talented pupil such as yourself might make would likely do quite well in these ventures.”
I cocked and eyebrow and leaned against the warm outer wall of the assembly chamber, “Well, let’s see what the shake out of this is. If I’m exiled, I’ll take you up on that. If I’m not, I may get apprenticeship offers here.”
The creak of the Assembly Chamber door announced a new participant in the conversation. A tall and weedy Vashar man, just a year my senior, poked his head out the door. Males of Vashar society didn’t receive the same Scarifice ritual that women did, instead burn scar tissue crept artfully up his jawline, and canvassed his neck and, I knew, most of the rest of his body. The result of Dipping, a practice whereby Vasharans were immersed in aligned water after receiving a spell which gave them the vulnerabilities of undead or fiends, causing sever burns and tremendous pain. The head belonged to a friend of mine, Miete–we had grown up together, and spent a lot of time together before he was taken as an apprentice by an older Vashar.
“You should probably get out of here, or at least prepare to, Kalan,” the young man said, “Richen’s agitating to have you exiled–at best.”
I swore and muttered a lengthy slander of Richen’s lineage and parentage–an impressive feat in the libertine society of the Vashar. “He wants me destroyed?”
“Looks like he wouldn’t object if you were slain shortly after your exile. Probably in a way that would not be the good kind of unpleasant.”
“Fuck.” I ground out my cigarette under her bare heel. “Alright, Wizard. You’ve got a deal. Let me pack my stuff.”
“I can have you out in an instant if you fear for your life,” the man offered.
“No. I need to stay to be sentenced, if I don’t it just gets worse. However, if you could get my stuff outside the outskirts of town and be ready with that teleport spell I’m thinking you had in mind, that would be appreciated.”
Miete’s head snapped around, then back outside, “they’re winding up. Looks like final points are being raised. Get your stuff. I’ll come find you when they say you can come back.”
I ran off and packed–a proffered haversack from the wizard was useful in hastily gathering old keepsakes–and was nearly done by the time Miete rushed into my chambers.
“They’re ready,” he said.
“Are they in the mood to be understanding if two young hormonal Vasharans were a bit slow getting back?” I asked, wheedling for more packing time.
“Fuck.” I cast an eye back over my room, still needing to gather things, including some more personal artifacts.
“I can get the rest,” the gods-child wizard said.
I hesitated a moment, “Decorum be fucked,” I relented, “Congrats, Gods-child, you’re an honorary Vashar in my eyes, take particular care with the nightstand contents, I’ll be cross if you leave me at a loss for relief in a college full of people that think sex is shameful and drugs are bad.”
He laughed. “You have so much to learn about colleges… Don’t worry, whatever you have, I’m sure I’ve seen it before-” he opened the cabinet as Miete grabbed my arm to pull me out. The gods-child retched just a bit, to my amusement before my stronger friend pulled me bodily behind him.
Back in the Assembly Chamber, I stood before Richen.
“Kalan, child of Frelnir, Getr, and Enoin, the Assembley has reached a decision.”
Richen fumed at my insolence, but I knew the result anyway, so I had little to lose.
“You are to be exiled for a term of no less than five years. At the end of that time, you may approach the village as a petitioner for re-admittance to Vashar society.”
I laughed. Genuinely. “You mean re-admittance to this society. If I made it to another Vashar settlement, especially one of the larger ones, like Hetrot, you know damned well they wouldn’t care about my exile from this backwater.”
“This is not the way to make an impression on the counsel that may decide your fate in five years,” Richen lectured with cocked brow.
“Please. Richen, if you don’t die within five years from backed up testes exploding, it’ll be some other fate. You can’t expect to live much longer,” I paused, “especially when you go exiling young women with arcane potential that paid you certain favours for so long.”
He sneered, “All the potential in the world means nothing without a master to shape it.”
“I’ll remind you that you said that when you see me next.”
“I doubt very much that ‘arcane’ potential is what your future owner will see in you on the auction block, ilntr,” the bastard gloated, using a particularly rude word that would have moved me to burn his heart from his chest… …if I knew that spell.
“Well, I guess it’s time for my, what, five minute head start?”
“In light of the graveness of your crime,” Richen began to my gritting teeth, “we have decided your head start will be 45 seconds. At the end of that time, if you are within the village limits, you will be dealt with at the discretion of he who finds you.”
I smirked, outwardly, but inside I was just a bit panicked. 45 seconds would be close, so it’s a good thing I already packed. “You wish,” I said, pumping my fist along an imaginary shaft as I slowly turned and padded out of the Chamber.
Outside I broke into a dead run. Locking eyes on the wizard, I put every ounce of strength I had into my legs–it wouldn’t be much longer before I had some of the more violent members of the village looking for me–“NOT FAR ENOUGH!” I shouted to him.
“Shit. Where are the bounds?” the wizard wondered as I ran up to him, grabbing his shoulder in one hand and my bag in the other.
“Teleportteleportteleportteleport” I raced through clenched teeth.
As the wizard started the gestures I could see thick-bodied Vashar men fondling their groins as they lazily walked my way.
We faded from that spit of land just as they neared grabbing distance.