“Everything you know about magic is wrong,” wheezed Qu’a’ka, her mottled feathers bristling with distaste at the sight of her pupils. Her black eyes darted to one student who dared raise his hand, speaking before he had even been acknowledged.
“Wait, we’ve spent weeks learning the harmony between elements,” his impetuousness earned him a rap on the head with her long pointing stick.
“Silence, Yellow Hair!” the previous instructor’s derogatory term for Scion had caught on and now no one called him anything else. The boy rubbed the small knot the stick had raised as Qu’a’ka continued. “As your stupid human fellow noted, you have spent weeks learning the harmony and balance that must exist between the five elements and with that knowledge, you must now learn that it is wrong.”
[Long and kind of rambly, just writing as ideas come to me…]
An uncomfortable silence falls across the room as the motley assembly of students looked nervously at the back of Scion’s head. He was often the target of criticism and disdain during lectures, but during actual practicum, his skills improved more rapidly than any of the longer lived races could fathom. Humans should not be able to master the techniques and theories he could, humans were slow, stupid and short-lived! Yet, this human with strange yellow hair and brilliant blue eyes put to lie everything they had ever learned about humans, not withstanding the fact that the High Priestess and the Head Matron themselves insisted he be given a seat at the academy was proof enough he was special.
When the ancient crone was satisfied that she would not be interrupted again she clacked her beak in satisfaction and tapped on the elemental chart she had scratched onto the floor. “Air, Water, Earth, Fire, Darkness,” her eyes fixing Scion with a look that dared him to contradict her, and when he did not she continued, “these are over-simplifications of the truth and also a needless over-complication. Magic is simple. Magic is complex.”
Scion stirred in his place and his class-mates wondered if he would interrupt again, silently relieved when he did not as Qu’a’ka continued, “Magic, to make it rudimentary for our slowest student,” her dark eyes again on Scion, “is both the Will and the Power to act. Without one or the other, Magic does not exist. Take for instance Yellow Hair. His people have the Will, but lack the Power. Eran’s people,” the old crone motioned to the delicate elfling next to Scion, “on the other hand? They often have the Power, but lack the Will. Our people,” she droned, about to launch into a familiar tirade about the absolute supremacy of the Avian race’s magical abilities, interrupted this time by Scion.
“Murder your fledglings who lack either by throwing them off the nearest cliff,” his voice a low growl that carried across the room causing elven ears to perk up and avian feathers to ruffle. “Tell me again, oh wise Qu’a’ka, how murdering children makes your race so far superior to the rest of us,” the ancient avian stood there, beak agape as Scion snarled at her. “I’d rather be a filthy, stupid human for ten thousand incarnations than an avian for even one!”
“GET. OUT!” Qu’a’ka shrieked at him raising her hands as she hissed a spell angrily, but Scion was already on his feet in the strange stance he always used, one palm extended outward the other curled in near his chest.
“Are you going to strike against me, Qu’a’ka?” Scion asked with deceptive calm, his eyes glowing with faint luminescence.
Eran reached over and tugged at Scion’s pant-leg, “Scion, don’t do anything stupid…”
The young man’s eyes never left his instructor’s face as the muttered spell was abandoned, replaced with a hissing curse, “Hairless rabbit, leave my presence before I show you what real power is.”
Scion smiles coldly, his white teeth flashing in a goading threat, “You sit in your nest and dream of real power, bird,” a soft gasp escaping his fellows at the slur, “but I’ve seen it. I’ve tasted it. I could level this mountain if I willed it,” his eyes blazing brighter as he spoke, “you think I don’t know why I was sent here? You think I don’t know this is her attempt to tame me?” Students began slinking back and away from the youth as guards began rushing into the room, surrounding him with a ring of spears. “You think I don’t know why human children are taken from their homes? Tested to see if they have both the Will and the Power and then murdered if they do? Between ten and twenty percent of human children never return home, Qu’a’ka… did you think I didn’t know why?”
There were soft gasps across the hall as students began whispering to one another, the guards surrounding Scion looking decidedly nervous as the youth continues to ignore them, fixing his glare on the suddenly cowering instructor. “I, however, am an anomaly. An aberration. Her Highness has decided to see just how far I can be pushed before I break, to see if breeding human mages is worthwhile or not. To see if I can be controlled…”
“Not controlled,” chimed a soft voice, a hush falling across the room as the High Priestess of the Elves herself enters, the Head Matron of the Avians beside her. “Guided, Scion. Guided. If the Avians are of the Air, the Elves of the Sea, the Dwarves of the Earth… then Humans are of Fire. You know better than most what happens if a fire is left untended, unwatched. A single spark could burn down a home, a city, a nation. And here you are, not a spark… but a bolt of lightening. Your power could ignite a war that would ruin the lives of millions.”
The youth smiles a grim smile, his eyes tightening, “So it is true. You have been culling us for a thousand years.”
Alabaster hands raise in protest as her silken voice tries to calm him, “No Scion. We’ve never killed a human because they had both Will and Power; usually, they end up killing themselves. Your minds are too fragile to handle the Power, most of your people burn themselves to death within weeks. We seek only to protect the rest of you from the horror of that…”
“Right,” the youth snarls, “you’re just looking out for us poor, stupid, filthy humans.” He makes to leave the room at last, a guard poking him in the chest with his spear out of sheer reflex, Scion leveling him with a glare. “You can get out of my way now or I can step over your smoking corpse.” A nervous glance at the Head Matron later the guard steps back to let the young man through, Scion storming off past the High Priestess and the Head Matron without a word.
“All of you,” the High Priestess said as the door slowly swung shut behind him, “listen to me. This is why the humans hate and fear us. This is why they distrust us. We are shepherds of wolves, so do not be surprised if they try and bite you. It is in their nature. Antagonizing them,” she said with a cobalt glare at Qu’a’ka that could have frozen the sun in the sky, “is not just unwise, it is counterproductive.” The ancient instructor quailed under her gaze, her smug superiority evaporated in the face of someone with power that dwarfed her. “You are very fortunate that Scion learned to control his temper while he was with me, Qu’a’ka. He killed more than one elven mage while he was in my city.” She held the gaze of the avian for a few moments longer to make sure that her point was made before continuing, “If we can convince him that we are not his enemy, not the enemy of humans, that we are not simply enslaving his people and murdering their children… then we have a chance to tame our wolves. If not,” signed the High Priestess as she turned to leave, the soft chiming of her earrings loud in the quiet room, “if not, then nothing will save us from their jaws.”
The quiet continued long after the High Priestess, the Head Matron, the guards and even the visibly shaken instructor left the hall. The students avian and elven looked at one another across the room, unwilling to speak first. Eran finally stands, her soft green hair spilling across her shoulders as she stares across the room at her avian classmates. Around her her elven compatriots looked nervous as she speaks, “It is easy,” she said quietly, “it is easy to hold on to old prejudices. Old grudges,” she holds a hand up to forestall comment, her jade green eyes flitting across the room, “but Scion has the right to hold a grudge, more than anyone in this room, he has the right. Yet, he has treated each and every one of you, every one of us, as equals. Can we say the same? Can we, the enlightened and supposedly superior races, can we say the same? At every turn he is sabotaged, at every opportunity he is humiliated, for every minor failure he is belittled. Yet he works harder, trains harder, strives harder. Harder than us all. We have been brainwashed into believing that humans are inferior and seeing Scion excel at things we fail terrifies us. It terrifies me. Remember that it was man who tore this world asunder. Remember that it was man who called Hellfire from the sky and burned entire cities to ashes,” someone finally getting the courage to interrupt her.
“Exactly! That is why they should have been exterminated like the plague they are!” the warbling voice revealing it to be that of an avian, though Eran doesn’t call him out.
“Really? You would murder hundreds of thousands to punish those who have been dead for a thousand years instead of teaching them that there is a better way?”
“They are of Fire, Fire knows only destruction!” one of her friends mutters, her jade glare silencing.
“I’d like you to remember that the next time you eat a hot meal or read by candle-light. Fire, like all things has its place and its uses. Scion and the rest of humankind are no exception. We, the brightest of all aspiring mages, have been brought together to learn a better way. That includes Scion. Consider for a moment if any one of us had acted the way he did today? We’d be in the stocks right now getting a hundred lashes!”
“They’re… afraid of him,” someone said with sudden realization.
“Yes and with good reason. You all saw what he did last week during the simulacra training,” Eran’s dialog interrupted by an avian whose name she was embarassed to admit she did not know.
“I wouldn’t have believed it if I had not seen it. He tore through defensive barriers as though they were made of parchment and wiped out my entire squad with nothing but a wooden training sword,” there was a measure of awe and fear in his voice that sent chills up everyone’s spine.
“Imagine an army of them, they’d lay waste to the continent in days,” someone whispered loud enough for Eran to hear.
“No, don’t imagine that. Imagine instead a group of humans with full control of their emotions and Power, willing and able to defend cities from marauders, helping clear forests of maddened abominations left from the last war. Imagine them able and Willing to do good on everyone’s behalf!” Silence reigned for a long time after that, one of the avians chirping at Eran.
“Can it be done?” there was hope in its eyes, hope Eran shared.
“If we cannot teach him there is a better way, who could? Our prejudiced and hateful Matrons? They cannot see past his pale flesh or his yellow hair. The High Priestess has hope and faith in him and so do I.”
From the back of the avian group a male stands, “You are all fools. He is an abomination and his people are a blight. He will bring us all to ruin and mock us as we die. He is a human and your High Priestess was right to call him what he was. A wolf. They are eaters of the weak and dead and I will enjoy watching him gnaw on your bones!” As he stormed out several other avians left with him, along with more than a few elves.
Eran slumped to the floor, suddenly exhausted. She had tried so hard to sway them all! Why couldn’t they understand? A cough and a low warble brought her eyes up from the ground, about half of the students had remained avians and elves alike, seated now in a circle around her. “Do you have a plan?” asked one of the elves, her pale turquoise eyes shining with anticipation.
“We’ve all seen how trying to plan anything regarding Scion is. He is a walking cloud of chaos who disrupts everything around him,” low chuckles and slightly nervous looks are exchanged. “I suspect he will view any attempt to win him with distrust and suspicion. Instead, make no overtly friendly overtures and silence those who speak against him. We must show him that we are not his enemy before we try and make him our friend.”
[more to come later]