Cover

Prologue: Of Actors and Thieves

“Greetings, Ladies and Gentleman!” declared the tall young man. “And how are we all tonight?” Smiling brilliantly, he gazed out at his audience of thirty or so assorted adults decked out in armour and bearing sharp looking weapons. From his position, perched atop the glass case, he was able to look down on their expressions of shock with ease. As he waited for the moment of surprise to wear off, he did a quick head count, twisting the long white braid of his hair through his fingers as he did. There were thirty, slightly less than had been anticipated but he’d put on a show for them all the same.

Guns were beginning to be pulled from holsters. The gold and ivory barrels of Government issued firearms pointed themselves at him.

“Step away from there,” the Captain ordered, an older woman with thick muscles sitting beneath the skin of her arms and legs.

“But the show has only just begun,” the young man declared. “For my first trick, I shall move through glass,” He glanced to the side as he began to lean. The red light that should have gleamed from the camera was gone. Excellent.

“Don’t move!” The Captain tightened her grip on her gun and the young man paused, staring at her with luminous blue eyes. For a second, everything was still. Then he laughed and plunged his hand straight through the glass.

There were exclamations of surprise and horror. The rest of the guard glanced at the Captain whose eyes were wide with… fear.

“Magic,” she spat before nodding to her lieutenant.

“Open fire,” the younger woman declared, pressing down on the trigger. Energy burst from the end of the barrel. White gold light streaked across the space, quickly followed by dozens of other beams. Laughing ecstatically, the young man leaped from the glass case. High in the air, he paused, floating, and looked down on them.

“Nice try,” he taunted, tossing the gleaming orb he’d just removed from the case from hand to hand. “But for my next trick-” He clicked his fingers and the air exploded around them. Things broke and smashed, the guards scattered trying to seek higher ground and safety. Enemies appeared at vantage points firing at the guards with highly illegal weapons. Red energy tore through the air leaving scorch marks on the ground and walls.

Unseen by all but one, a boy in his mid-teens strolled casually from an alcove. Holding his hand was a tiny girl. They paused to dodge a guard’s fire but then continued on their way.

“Is that really necessary?” the boy asked the young man who was crouched behind the pedestal the glass case was sat upon. The young man glanced up to see a copy of himself flying through the air laughing maniacally, shooting bolts of lightning toward the guards. The little girl stared at it with a curious expression.

“One of them almost hit me,” the young man grumbled, picking at the scorch mark on his sleeve. “They deserve a few weeks of nightmares.”

Muttering to himself, the boy placed his hand onto the glass case. A gleaming blue circle surrounded his hand. It shone with such an intense light that the guards might have noticed if they weren’t so busy running and shooting.

After about a minute, the glass side of the case melted away and the boy plucked the golden orb from its velvet cushion. For a moment, the boy was unsteady. Energy depleted for the time being his feet stumbled beneath him. The lock had clearly been a lot more complex than they had originally anticipated. Judging by the pale white the boy’s face was turning, there had been some kind of energy drain involved.

“Easy there,” the young man whispered, catching his arm and passing the orb to the girl. She stared at it for a moment, the golden light reflecting in her large eyes.

The symbols carved into the device were beginning to glow a bright, angry red. A curse. Placing both palms firmly against it, she closed her eyes. Red light flowed from the orb into her skin. As it faded so did the threat. She collapsed and the young man caught her. “Alright,” he said. “We’ve got it. Let’s go home.” They left through the main entrance, unseen and unheard by the guards as they scurried about. Outside, the night was cool and dark, perfect for slipping away unnoticed. A car was parked for them, tucked out of the way from prying eyes.

The boy collapsed into the backseat, gently placing the girl on his lap. She curled up, the orb pressed against her chest. Head tilted, the young man watched them for a moment, eyes affectionate. Then he sighed and set the engine of the car purring.

As he drove away, he smiled to himself. Almost as an afterthought, he clicked his fingers.

Back inside the gallery, the adversaries vanished, the explosions stopped, all damage not caused by the guard’s themselves ceased to exist. Stumbling to a halt, the Captain stared, chest heaving, around the room.

“What in the name of…” she began but fell silent as her eyes reached the now open and empty glass case. “I hate magic,” she growled as realisation set in.

Of Glamours and Blood

Light filtered in through the east windows of the wide hall. Thick wooden beams served as rafters, spanning from wall to wall. Unlit lamps hung from them by long chains. The warm light of the sun spilled across the long oval table in the centre, cluttered with maps, blue prints and floor plans, the beds and book shelves, chairs and desks, each with its own coating of life’s general detritus.

A large mirror was situated in the centre of the north wall between two massive bookcases. The young man was stood before it, shirtless and with his long hair hanging loosely around him. Leaning forward, he inspected the pale white of his skin only a few shades darker than the ivory mane that hung around it. With a practiced ease, he flicked his wrist banishing the glamour that clung like a second skin to his body. Ice white flesh gave way to dark brown, silver hair melted into blue black. The lashes of his eyes lengthened, darkening as they did so.

Natural appearance restored, he tied his hair back into its usual position. A single braid hung free, ornamented by a silver pendant.

“Tilké?” a voice mumbled from behind him. Turning, Tilké grinned to see his orange haired companion looking a lot less pale than he had been last night.

“Finally awake, eh, Laron?” he laughed, looking back at the mirror. “You slept for like… five hours straight. Even Lyria woke up before you and she usually sleeps like a babe until midday. She’s raiding the sweet cupboard so we might want to stock up sherbet soon.”  Laron grumbled something as he crawled out of bed, his hair a complete mess. Still zombified by sleep’s continued hold over the larger parts of his brain, the boy stumbled over to the kitchen unit to drown his senses in coffee. “Any plans for today?” Tilké called as he compared two tunics that had been folded on the stool beside him.

“Recover,” Laron said, clearing a space on the table for the coffee pot. “Then contact the buyers.”

Deciding on the red one, Tilké pulled it on. “You’ve got some in mind? Already? I was kind of hoping we’d be able to keep it for a bit… try it out… you know?”

Eyebrow raised, Laron stared at him. His eyes were the same intense shade of blue, the mark of a Magi. “Do you even know what this thing does?” Narrowed eyes fixed on his only friend, he held the orb up. “Well?”

“It,” Tilké began, “does… Sorcerer… st…stuff. I don’t know!”

“It hypnotises people,” Laron said, placing it onto the table with a tap. “We can't risk keeping it. Do you have any idea how dangerous it would be if people heard we had it or if it fell into the wrong hands?”

Leaving the lacing undone, Tilké joined him at the table. “Good job we’re selling it to criminals then,” he chuckled, pulling the previous day’s news-telegram out from under a blueprint of the gallery. When there was no response, he looked up again. “It was a joke.”

“I know.” Laron placed his chin against a folded arm and spun the orb gently. “Anyway, it’s Mage stuff.”

Confused, Tilké blinked. “What?”

With the general air of someone who had been forced to explain this one to many times, Laron said, “Mage stuff not Sorcerer stuff. Mages shape magic into a physical form like this; Sorcerers use rituals and ceremonies to perform magic. Wizards,” he continued, deciding that he may as well run through the list. “Use spells and incantations. Vikans, the general population of Magic Users in our country, use runes. Magi use innate and unique abilities passed down through blood. Do you think you’ll remember this time?” There was no reply as Tilké had managed to distract himself with the holographic pictures of the page three girls.

“Nice,” he muttered. “Wait sorry what?” He returned his attention to Laron. “Was any of that worth repeating?”

Exasperated, Laron smacked his head down on the table.

*

“I know the Art Thief is an Icemancer,” one of boy exclaimed to his friends. The four were situated on a table in the local diner, hot chocolates warming their hands

One snorted. “Let me guess. He’s got an Aquamancer girlfriend and Pyromancer sidekick too.” The girl beside him chuckled while the girl across from him rolled her eyes. “For the billionth, Bran, Mancers don’t exist.”

“He’s got the silver hair and skin,” Bran pressed, “kind of unusual for normal magic users.”

“Please,” the girl who’d chuckled scoffed. “You think that’s real? There are such things as glamours you know. You don’t even need to be a skilled magic user to make them now.”

“Nya, just ‘cos you’re a Vikan,” a second girl snapped her, “doesn’t mean you’re always right. I’m with Bran on this one.”

Thank you, Em.” Bran looked smug.

“Dude,” the other boy laughed. “She only believes it ‘cos you based her project on it. And you only believe it ‘cos you wanna sleep with the dude.”

“Chad!” all three exclaimed. From the table beside them there came a choking, spluttering noise. Bemused, the four students looked around. Two males sat facing one another; the younger of the pair, an orange haired boy in a long blue coat, had his feet on the table and was flicking the catch of a small black case. He looked about their age but none of them could remember seeing him around school before. Or anywhere before for that matter. The noise was coming from the older one, a guy in his twenties, with long dark hair. He was coughing severely, a black coffee in his right hand. There were several splashes of the stuff on the table cloth. Something silver dangled from his braid.

“Dude?” Chad raised an eyebrow. “Y’kay?”

The young man looked up briefly and gave the thumbs up. “Just went down the wrong way,” he explained, voice hoarse. “Blergh.” With a final cough, he sniffed and sat up straight. “I apologise for interrupting your conversation.”

“How come I don’t get an apology for you ruining my ears?” the orange haired boy asked, deadpan.

“Because- Ah, our client is here,” the man perked up, shooting his friend a look. With an aggrieved sigh, the boy swung his legs of the table and stood, just as two men in suits approached their table. Quiet words were exchanged between the three adults while the boy stared at the four friends with curiously blue eyes. As if sensing something foreboding Nya quickly launched into a conversation about Economics homework.

As the four strangers left, they fell silent.

“Let’s follow them,” Chad suggested, a manic grin on his face.

“Let’s not,” Em snapped back. A silence fell. “No! Why would we want to?”

Bran gave her a look while Chad said, “Because two mysterious dudes we’ve never seen before met up with two shady looking guys in suits and I definitely heard the word ‘transaction’.” Another pause. “C’mon, it’s like something from a movie!”

“Dammit,” she muttered as the four leaped to their feet simultaneously and raced out of the door.

There was no sign of them outside on the street. People bustled along the streets, eager to get home before late afternoon faded into early evening. But there was little evidence of the strangers.

“Hang on,” Nya told her friends. “I wanna try something.” She pressed her palm over her dominant right. Before she could activate a rune of search, Chad shouted. A shock of orange hair flashed from within the crowd.

*

“They’re gonna follow us,” Tilké mused as he left the diner behind their client, Master Manasai’s, agents.

“Yup.” Laron checked the lock on the case.

“One of them’s a Vikan.”

“Well spotted.”

“They might walk in on us.”

“Mm, hmm.” Laron flicked at non-existent lint on his sleeve.

“Can you make the deal alone?” This just earned a look. “Okay. We’ll meet up at the car in half an hour.” Without waiting for a reply, Tilké stepped into a side alley, running his fingers through his orangeing hair. The beloved pony tail shortened itself twisting into loose curls. His eyes darkened to brown and his skin lightened. As an afterthought, he made his cheek bones less pronounced and thinned the eyelashes. His jacket lengthened into a trench coat, a blue pigment eating through the fabric. He didn’t want to look like Laron exactly, just resemble him from a distance. The best part about the entire thing was that it took less than a second.

When the school children exited the diner, he smiled, long fingers tapping at his palms. As he watched the Vikan pressed a hand to her eye. He recognised the sign as the precursor to using a rune of sight or search.

If she did that she might find Laron.

With quick, light steps, he danced out of the alleyway, weaving through the crowd. It was the loud, brown haired one that had had been addressed as Chad that spotted him. He pointed wildly, exclaiming something while accidentally elbowing his male blonde friend in the head.

He had better move fast.

Unlike the Orb they had stolen last night, not all artefacts were for reselling. Some were for themselves. Unclipping the ornament from his braid, he threw it onto the ground. It took the form of a silver board, not unlike the hover boards that were fast replacing skateboards in the youths of today. Only this was much faster.

As expected, they took off after him.

Swerving along the curb, he dodged between pedestrians. Hands in his pockets, he moved only his feet and legs, keeping balance with acquired grace and ease. Behind him, the Vikan was pressing runes into her friend’s skin so that they could keep up. She was quite advanced considering she couldn’t be older than Laron who had only turned fifteen three months ago.

As he led them into a quieter district of the city, his mind began to formulate a plan. There was a chance they were beginning to realise he wasn’t actually Laron but he doubted they would give up now. All he had to do now was make them think he was completely unrelated to Laron and the Client and he could be on his way.

In the near deserted Old docks, there was an assortment of disused warehouses that he and Laron owned (neither of them actually used them, Tilké had bought them on a whim after a few too many drinks). It was one of the smaller ones he chose to stop by. Flipping the board up, he tucked it under his arm and made to open the door. Feigning bemused puzzlement, he looked up blinking. The four kids were staring at him, only the Vikan not out of breath. Upon seeing him properly, their faces fell.

“Y’a’right?” he asked, adding a slur to his words.

“Yeah,” the Vikan said, disappointment etched across her face. “Sorry.”

Shrugging, he opened the door knocking on it as he went. “Sorry I’m late,” he called to an empty room.

A simple sound glamour was needed for several voices of greeting and a gruffer voice saying, “You’re always late, Tamota.” The door slid shut behind him. Pressing his ear to the thin wall, he listened intently.

*

“Urgh,” Chad groaned, hands on his lower back as he rolled his head. “Such a waste of time.” Crouching, Em pulled open her bag to retrieve water.

“It was your idea,” she reminded him, downing half a bottle’s contents over her head. Bran sat down heavily on the floor.

“What was that thing he was on?” Bran asked, pulling off his shoe to massage his aching foot. “It was way faster than anything we have.”

“Mage board,” Nya said tracing runes over her aching muscles. “They’re modes of transport but they can be transformed into things that are easily carried like phones or… jewellery.” Realisation suddenly dawned on her. She pointed at Chad and made a talking gesture.

“Uh…” Chad blinked. “Cool. I wish I had one of those. I wonder if they’d be easier to do tricks with than a regular skateboard… though I suppose if the whole point of it is to not touch the- What are you doing?” His face morphed into an expression of incredulity.

Unimpressed, she glared at him. “I’m checking my purse,” she replied, when in fact she was tracing a complex bind rune on the floor just outside the door of the warehouse the orange haired guy had gone into. “We’re gonna need to get a taxi if we want to get home on time at this rate.”

“Right,” Chad said slowly. Still bemused, he glanced at Em and Bran who gave him ‘just go with it’ expressions. After several moments wherein Chad talked loudly about dinner, Nya leaped lightly to her feet. She murmured something and the rune appeared to vanish. “Alright!” He punched the air, energy slowly returning after the long run. “Let’s go get some food!”

“I swear you are always hungry,” Bran laughed, setting off down the road. Chattering about nothing they followed. It wasn’t until they were in the taxi and heading off toward their housing sector that they finally began to question what had happened. “What was all that about?” Bran instantly turned to Nya.

“I think that was the black haired guy,” she said, eyes fixed on her feet. “You remember the silver thing he had on his braid. I could sense it.”

“I thought Vikan’s couldn’t sense Magic users,” Em said slowly.

“No but we can sense magical items,” Nya replied, tone becoming firmer and more assured as she spoke. “There were definitely two artefacts with them. A stronger one and a weaker one. That board was definitely the same as the weaker one I sensed. I know it.” There was a silence as the other three glanced at each other. Despite magic being an everyday concept of human life there were still many rules and mysteries about magic only known by magic users themselves. It was only in recent years that the two communities were properly intermingling, so many secrets still remained unknown.

“We believe you,” Em assured her quietly.

“So…” Chad rubbed the back of his head, pulling a face. “The dude was using glamours?”

“We’ll find out soon enough,” she told them, checking her watch. The taxi stopped at the entrance to their sector and she jumped out.

“Meet me at my house in ten minutes and I’ll tell you more. Anyway, I gotta go. See you!” With that she raced down the road.

“Hey!” Chad yelled after her. “What about the taxi fare?!”

*

Blood spilling from his mouth, Laron hacked a cough. Gritting his teeth, he forced himself to stand. “What is the meaning of this?” he hissed, tone seeped in tempered fury.

Manasai let out a burst of laughter. “Isn’t it obvious?” he asked, “I’m double crossing you. Do you really think I’d let anyone who knows about this just walk away? Especially some easily bought brats. You clearly have no idea what this thing is worth.” He laughed again, for all the world a stereotypical villain. Fingers tapping against the black case, he watched as his associates sent Laron crashing back to the ground. “You may be a good thief, boy, but in a real fight, you’re not even a match for humans.”

Once again on his knees, Laron glared at him. “I hate businessmen that go back on their deals.” Hate rolled off of him in waves

“Shut him up,” Manasai snapped. “Kill him and then go find his friends. I know the man is pretty but from what I’ve heard that little brat you keep around is a pretty as a doll.  They’d make perfect presents for my sister. She loves pretty slaves.” He smiled at Laron’s expression. Sorcerers like him grew stronger the more control they had over people. It led to many of them developing a love of exercising and emphasising it whenever they could. “Tell me, do your friends react well to being beaten to within an inch of their lives?” The threat against Tilké and Lyria was the last straw.

Light began to pour from the intense blue eyes. Face outraged, Laron planted a hand against the bodyguards. The gleaming Unlocking circles surrounded his hands. Both man stiffened and gasped, shuddering as the molecular bonds within their bodies were undone. After several seconds, they fell to the ground, reduced to nothing more than sludge.

“I hate businessmen that go back on their deals,” Laron whispered, “but I hate people that threaten Tilké and Lyria even more.”

Of Lock picks and Runes

In progress

Taster:

Scents of coffee filled the air, streaming from the large coffee pot on the kitchen unit. With a slight pout, Lyria pushed a stool against the unit and climbed up onto it. Despite being nearly twelve, she was still so tiny and Tilké apparently saw it as part of his role as her brother to never let her forget it.

“You alright, shorty?” Tilké called over, grinning at the minute creases of a scowl across her little mouth.

Imprint

Text: Naomi M-B
Images: http://www.mrwallpaper.com/Blue-eyes-Creature-wallpaper/ (edited with PicMonkey)
Editing/Proofreading: Alex Ellul
Publication Date: 03-08-2014

All Rights Reserved

Dedication:
Here ya go, Alex! A book dedicated all to you. Thanks for showing an interest in this story and for taking the time to read it. I'm sure it was SUCH a chore not to be doing those ever so lovely essays a certain History teacher set you. Also, thank you for doing your minecraft magic and creating Tilke, Laron and Lyria's home. Knowing you, it's gonna be pretty awesome.

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