- Word count: 900 (2 to 8 minutes) | Rating: T
- Available on Kofi and Simily
- Note: Magic, historic elements
- ©2022 Quillful
“You’ve got one,” the scarred security woman said, crossing her arms in not a little annoyance. Someone had lost a bet, then! It wouldn’t be the first time Oliver could take pride in foiling a doubter’s expectations. Just desserts for her negativity, if anyone asked him. Not that they did.
“Indeed,” Oliver retorted and presented Rick with a touch of flair in the roll of his hand. Impersonable though his former carriage driver was, Oliver could sense an untapped potential in him. Both metaphorically and mystically. “As talented as he is hardy, Rick here is a true contender among mages’ aides.”
“Mhm. We’ll see about that tomorrow,” the man standing guard with her spoke in pure disinterest. The glittering parts of their uniforms shimmered less now with the sun making a hasty retreat. Sunset certainly felt rushed to Oliver, having run around the city on foot. “Novice rooms are along the hall to your right in the foyer. Your immediate right. You’ll know yours when you reach it.”
They only took a few steps into the grand foyer when Oliver spotted a narrow, less impressive hallway on their right. That guard was incredibly serious in his description after all. Where the foyer had plush carpets and delicately carved furniture placed at key points to best appreciate the fine chandeliers and regal-looking tapestries and paintings, that particular hall had modest wall lights and a spare runner carpet to keep it from looking too out of place.
Still, it outpaced his prior quarters with ease.
“Right then, this way,” Oliver chimed, waving Rick along behind him.
“How’ll we know our room?”
His voice seemed somewhat muffled as they went, and Oliver guessed he was looking off at the inoffensive landscape paintings dotting the hall. Traveling by horse wouldn’t show him all of those places. He supposed it might’ve been Rick’s first time seeing the Kinarian lighthouse of Silon or Mount Tosowyn north of Raverc. Given the oceans and nations between them and the port town he worked out of, that was fair enough. It was probably more unexpected that Oliver had read about them before.
“Trust in the magic, my dear Rick!”
He kept his pace, although a bit worried about how far they were walking down the hall without so much as a hint from the Trialist Charm around his neck. Just how many novice mages were there that year? With technology fast replacing mages, Oliver doubted that came to a large number. Fewer to compete against would be agreeable at the very least. Another explanation for the long walk was that more high-ranking mages were staying here, in this unremarkable hallway. If other patrons of the Aethian arena and its sleeping quarters were more important to impress… It wasn’t a good sign for the Council. Technology made magic possible for anyone, essentially, in not even half the effort.
But it relied on wires and cables and factories. Oliver was confident that magic users would still forge ahead into this new era as well.
He held the stone tighter and tried to put on a brave front. For Rick. He distinctly recalled his driver being uninterested in this event when it was hypothetical. What sort of mage would set a bad example for their aide when they were in need of inspiration?
Whatever tracking or resonance magic they used, Oliver had every reason to believe it would go off any minute. Any second, actually!
“Mr. Oliver,” Rick explained, his frown carrying into his voice too easily. What ever became of the aloof teen driving his carriage? As though Oliver himself were not in his teenage years. Hm. “I gave up my room for this.”
“A fine example of your good judgment,” he stalled with flattery, “as you will also see soon enough.”
That was when he first felt it—the tugging of magical energy, leading him farther down the hall and towards his left. It nestled in his chest, rising anticipation that urged him to follow where it led. A sensation of something just around the corner or maybe something flying at his head. Which he hoped it wasn’t.
If Rick had the Charm on him, he might’ve felt it too. The resonance was too far away for an untrained mage to find without help otherwise. He counted his paces up to ten, when the tugging was more of a thrumming like an orchestra in the walls. Oliver turned on his heel to face a startled Rick.
“Aha! Did you feel that?” Oliver pressed his hand on Rick’s chest, the Charm between them.
He kept his unassuming brown eyes on Oliver, blinking a couple of times and staying perfectly still otherwise. It was good for them that the hall was empty. Rick had all the time in the world to ponder whether or not he felt the magic indicating the door next to them as their quarters. Well, not all. But enough. With a breath in and out, he furrowed his brow.
“That depends. Did you also feel it?”
“Of course,” Oliver answered, quirking a smile. “A shift in energies like that is relatively low level, magically speaking. We’ve arrived!”
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