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Path

24. One learns more from failing t

23. Every day contains a lesson.

22. Burning the candle

21. A fall precedes a fall.

20. We learn by listening.

19. Good pruning makes a healthier

18. Blessed be the ties that bind.

17. Up, up, down, down, left, righ

16. One small step for armor

15. Every mountain can be conquere

14. If a woman's reach cannot exce

13. Even little endings should be

12. The family that bleeds togethe

11. One can never tell when everyt

10. Contradictions always eventual

9. A mind is a terrible thing to

8. Needlepoint isn't just for dec

7. A robe, some sandals, and a be

6. Line up, girls.

5. Somewhere very different

Some trees must be pruned to grow.

on 2024-05-03 19:01:29
Episode last modified by AnonyMouse on 2024-05-04 11:03:49

573 hits, 90 views, 7 upvotes.

MC MTF Magic Unaware

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A pause.

"Kamiéra," Magistra Leirola's voice sang -- ugh, it actually sang -- out. "Forward and ready. Bring your lieutenants."

Jon would have groaned there, audibly, because that was normal and expected of a young man of his age and time. Kamiéra did not, because he would have been horrified by the thought of that sort of weakness and disrespect commingled before a Magistra and his whole Company.

Better manners are their own reward, which was good, because the whole day, and indeed the last three weeks, had gone downhill from there.

Scouting reports placed the Third and Fifth Brotherhoods circling around to the East, through the rocky passes. This wasn't unexpected; Kamiéra would have sent a flanking force the same way, so Fourth Company was holding at the narrow point of the gap into the plains.

The problem was that committing two Brotherhoods through hard terrain was either a stupid waste of manpower or a deliberate attempt to force that gap or something else he couldn't decipher, and Joran had rather clearly shown that he wasn't an idiot.

Kamiéra strode out with Tesliain and Oloma, Second Company's head, as three young men detached from the Blademage ranks in parallel. They all came to a stop at the adults who looked like teenagers set for the final meeting with the Canon before their vows were pledged. Formal greeting bows were exchanged.

"Joran," the older Blademage announced, pointing at the slender, tall young man in the middle. "First Brother, First Brotherhood."

Joran nodded, seeming to wait on something for a moment, and then pointed right and left. "Malamo, Second Brother, First Brotherhood," drawing a brief nod from the ebony-skinned block of muscle and blonde braids to his right. "Sarpas, First Brother, Second Brotherhood," with a nod from the fair, nondescript young man to his left.

Kamiéra was trying not to admire Joran's rather stunning good looks when she realized her lieutenants were kneeling to her right and left.

Kamiéra had sometimes wondered, in his spare moments, if Blademages were as competent on the field of battle as Witchspears; and because he was a teenager who seemed to flow from victory to victory, had assumed the answer was probably not. Joran was teaching the young Witchspear a lesson now weeks-long.

The Trials would last for three months, the first of which was a getting-to-know-you phase of minor bloodletting and increasingly complicated direct engagements between the two student bodies. After each battle, the loser was required to serve a meal to the winner, and then each leader was required to identify, out loud and before all of the assembled Gifted, what each had done right and wrong from their own vantages (their lieutenants would handle this if the leaders were with the Medicae post-combat).

Kamiéra had done a lot of serving meals and eating hatan the last three weeks.

Of seven exercises in humility and camp fare, the Witchspears were on the wrong side of a 5-2 split. Today had the dreadful feeling of making the third Witchspear-served meal in a row.

Perhaps the most humiliating part was listening to Joran explain, every wretched time, that Kamiéra's strategy and tactical adaptation were synonyms for "brilliant," "flawless," and other words that felt like daggers into his heart for some reason, probably because Joran then turned to explaining exactly how he'd worked around them, each time with a sincere nod to Malamo for his improvisation in the field as he did so.

Kamiéra needed to know where Fourth Brotherhood was, now, because he intended to force the trap Joran had clearly lain, but perhaps a bit differently this time. He also needed to know where Malamo was, because wretched, taciturn Malamo was almost always the problem.

His mouth started to form the word, "Why," when Tesliain hissed, "The Heir!" He sank to his knees before the words even sank into his brain.

"No," the older Blademage barked. "Stand." The Witchspears paused, caught between the ingrained habit of responding to authority and the knowledge that to fail to do duty to the Throne was blasphemy before the Father and Mother. "Now," he and Leirola said at the same time.

As one, they stood and saw Joran's stoic-but-flushed face forming a near-perfect midway point between Malamo's impassive block and Sarpas's look of utter chagrin.

"We should have started this off differently," the man muttered. He cast a deadpan look at his wife. "I blame you," he said, before a smirk escaped, followed by a sharp exhalation as Leirola shot a fist into his short ribs. He mock-staggered, then gave his wife a quick kiss before turning to the younger Gifted.

"I am Derasos da'Samressa," he began. "I have taken up the role of Magister Primus for this class because most teaching Magistri have been called to deal with the Oneists. Oh, and that's my wife," he said with a quick grin, ignoring the mock-exasperated look on Leirola's face. "Joran," he pointed, "Is indeed the Heir. You will do no obeisance to him, any more than his fellow Blademagi do, because he will be your enemy and then your ally on the field of battle for the next Season. That means he's going to try to defeat you, and you're going to try to defeat him.

"He's very good, and you're not going to beat him with your faces in the dirt."

"First and Second Brotherhoods are advancing behind a Wall of Flame to the South, Kamiéra," Tesliain called as she ran up the rise. In response to Kamiéra's look, she added, "No word on Fourth."

The very first engagement between the young Witchspears and Blademagi had been a rout, essentially because none of the Witchspears had experience of the sort of strength, speed, and power with the Will and the Word that young men post-adolescence could bring to bear; Kamiéra's carefully-lain bait-and-close encirclement had broken under the sheer power of their assault. It would have been a brilliant strategy for use against those without the Gift, or Ontim; it was barely a delaying tactic against young men who could move and hit

like cracked-out linebackers on speed

like a gale-force wind and with Fire before and around them. The consolation the Witchspears had received after, that this is how it usually went the first time, was bitter to their ears.

Kamiéra had never lost before, but he took in everything, as was his wont, and on the next battle, created a mobile defense-in-depth with collapsing and opening ranks and the First Company set to harry to throw the Blademagi into disarray and take them apart in isolated pockets pinned up against the Teeth of Creation.

It had taken until early afternoon to lose that one because Joran had identified what was happening quickly and forced a weakness at which Malamo and two Brotherhoods broke through before becoming half of a vise; Malamo had led half a Brotherhood to delay First Company while the vise closed.

Two Brotherhoods in the passes. Two Brotherhoods essentially announcing to the world where they were and that they were coming. It was a slow-moving pincer, and it would be deadly if not for how long it would take to close. The obvious answer was to hammer First and Second Brotherhoods, then turn to the passes.

"Mother, help me," Kamiéra prayed quietly to himself. Joran would not make it this easy and this obvious -- that was part of how he'd lost the third battle, by his own reckoning -- and Fourth Brotherhood was the key.

"Wait," he said. He said a silent Prayer for Good Tidings and turned to Tesliain. "Order Fourth Company to pull back and join the main force. Move the other Companies to join them. Split the Companies into their Hands in a double line and advance at full speed to the passes. Order a collapse on first contact with a Brotherhood."

Tesliain, Mother bless her, did not even pause before racing to summon runners to carry Kamiéra's orders to the Witchspears. Kamiéra loosed the peace-knot on her scabbard and prepared to Dance.

"I'm sorry," Joran began once the introductions were done and the adults off to pretend they were studying maps in the tent set up with the Wind. Kamiéra's attempt to accept the apology was the second time today someone had spoken around him.

"Don't be," Malamo rumbled. "The fault does not lie with you and they're old enough to understand that." He barely glanced at the Witchspears, staring off into the distance as he spoke.

Kamiéra fought back the urge to put a fist of Wind into the block of muscle's jaw. "Your apology is accepted, Your Gra-- Joran," he managed smoothly instead, keenly aware that her Second was not even trying for a polite look.

"Cousin," she said wryly.

Joran laughed. "I am sincerely sorry, to you especially, Tesliain," he said, with a courteous bow. "Truth of the Prophets, I still have trouble thinking of myself as bound. I haven't seen Amarala since the day of our betrothal vows." He looked them over appraisingly, and Kamiéra found himself irritated that there wasn't a hint of the sort of appraisal most young men gave him. "Sister Kamiéra," he finally said, "It will be an honor to defeat you and stand beside you in battle."

A Witchspear remains calm. A Witchspear allows the Wind to move her and guides the Wind as she goes. A Witchspear never shows weakness to an enemy.

"I may just surprise you, Brother Joran," Kamiéra replied.

In Lake Point, once a year, starting three days before Halloween, a local franchise of some national entertainment company or other would regularly set up a haunted house, Halloween maze, and Tunnel of Horrors. Jon had gone through the usual cycle of such things as he grew up: bravely terrified and enjoying the bag of candy and little rubber toys he got at the end gave way to scared but too cool to admit it (and enjoying the candy and indifferent to admitting it) to finally only going for the laughs (and the candy). After all the years, he'd grown numb to it all.

Except the holograms.

Carefully-placed mirrors, cutting-edge-for-their-time lasers, some smoke, and the darkness had helped create what appeared to be pretty darned realistic ghosts, phantoms, and specters. Even as the animatronic werewolves and pop-up vampires lost their ability to move Jon, he would still marvel at those holograms.

Kamiéra did not remember Lake Point or Halloween or even Jon. Kamiéra did not remember vampires or werewolves. Kamiéra did not remember ghosts or phantasms or specters or poltergeists or any hint that a soul might not go to the Garden or the Chasm at death.

Somewhere, in the back of his mind, Kamiéra remembered holograms.

Late in the third year of his studies, he had somehow remembered in some hazy way the idea of a hologram while reading his first-ever book of racy poetry. On a whim, he had formed the air into a thin mass near a candle and had been able to twist and rearrange the light as it has passed through. Weeks of experimentation off and on had allowed him to cast a picture of his hand, and then of himself, and then of a whole room, feet and then spans away.

He had never tried anything like this before, but as the Prophet for whom he was named famously said, "The Mother and Father make all things possible, and it is for us to discover what They have made ourselves." (I Rallans 15:1)

And at any rate, if this didn't work, he was pretty sure he would be serving warmed camp bread and meat strips again while Willing his wounds to heal, again.

So he gathered the Wind with his Will, and shaped the air spans away from his sisters, before and behind, as they trotted in formation toward where the mountain passes empties on to the plains.

A hand-signal from Tesliain. Ahead, a mass of heat-ghosts shifted on the plains, which would have been odd for plains still recovering from frost but for what was almost certainly the Fourth Company racing toward where Malamo believed the entire mass of Witchspears was racing toward First and Second Companies.

He hoped.

Kamiéra signaled and the Witchspears lowered their heads and charged. The blessing of the Mother was with them, because they crashed into the flank of the Fourth Company like a summer storm in the mountains just outside the Academy, surprising, bowling over, and scattering Blademages who had until moments before believed their quarry was half a league in front of them instead.

Kamiéra had no eyes for the small battles breaking out and dying quickly as the vastly superior Witchspear numbers overwhelmed their counterparts. Though shaky from the prior use of Wind, he formed a solid wedge of air and poured on more speed as he broke into the command vanguard, aiming right at Malamo.

The large young man turned, eyes briefly widening as he pivoted smoothly to meet the sudden attack, starmetal blade whispering from its sheath faster than non-Gifted eyes could track. Starmetal met starmetal so quickly even the others had trouble deciphering, sparks lasting in their vision well after the blades had parted again.

When their dance finally stopped, Kamiéra lay on the ground, holding his blade in one hand, smiling up at Malamo even as the latter's sword-tip pointed at the prone First of the First Company.

"Yield," the Blademage gritted out, his sword dancing in front of Kamiéra's neck.

"You first," the Witchspear replied, nodding toward the five blades pointed at Malamo from all around him.

To his credit, the Second of the First Brotherhood almost instantly realized what had happened, chuckled, and tossed down his sword, offering Kamiéra a hand.

The Witchspear used it to leap up and signal for a complete about-face, as his entire command formed up and charged the First and Second Brotherhoods.

Four hours later, before the debriefing/self-abasement began, Kamiéra found himself being served personally by Malamo, who graciously took the jabs and catcalls from the rest of First Company as he solemnly placed Kamiéra's plates and cup on the table.




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