This story is a part of Aldrich Stories. You can find the other stories here.
Fighting a Mage:
The young man turned to see his new commander’s secretary. The girl had a pair of headphones around her neck.
“Hello, Miss Famer.” He replied. He had quickly gotten used to the way the pair referred to everyone by their first names. After all, it wasn’t the strangest thing he ran into during his recent introduction to the members of Chaos.
“What are we, ghosts?” The boy next to the secretary asked. The creature on his shoulder let out a squeaky roar at that. The mage patted his familiar which then curled back into his shoulder.
“Hello Quake, hello Darts.” Oak replied with no real hurry. If Quake was truly offended, Darts would be much less relaxed. Instead the strange creature, who looked like a cross between a meerkat and a bandicoot, was acting as if his only worry in the world was not getting his ear scratched. “Is there something you need form me?”
“Sparring.” Oak tried to turn, but he was stopped by Farmer’s voice.
“Finnegan’s orders. Everyone needs to learn how to fight a mage.” The secretary said.
“I know how to fight a mage,” Oak shrugged. “I–” He stopped himself. “Let’s go.” Stiffly, he headed towards the sparring area. The pair followed; he could tell Quake was curious from the way Darts was leaning forward on the boy’s shoulder.
Farmer, however, did not seem curious at all. Oak wouldn’t be surprised if she already knew. One of the reasons for his requitement into Chaos was the fact that he had grown up sparing with mages.
His older sisters, the twins Amethyst and Anaika. Both were magic sensitive and had to go to towers, Anaika even made it into the elite Raven’s Tower. As kids, they would insist on ‘wrestling’ with Oak.
He the youngest and smallest, and without any mana, Oak had his butt handed to him repeatedly.
Now Anaika was dead, and Amethyst lives in his spare room. She could only hold down a waitress job since no one wanted anything to do with mages anymore.
Daiz at least was still gun shy after the war. Only places like Keene’s Tower still existed. That was only so that children could learn control.
Also, because there had to be a doorway for unwanted magic sensitive children to be left on.
He glanced at Quake – the military was one of only place where mages could really practice, which was probably why so many flocked there. But even then, they weren’t exempted from the Familiar Law. Familiars were no longer allowed to be created in Daiz and those that did exist were taken away.
And yet here was Arthur Quake, walking around with Darts on his shoulder. Oak wondered how he got away with that.
But he guessed that Baker had pulled some strings. Probably a good thing. The fate of the familiars within Daiz was a cruel tragedy.
They had made it to the sparing room at that point. The doors were quickly opened by a force on the other side.
Oak found himself pulled from his musings by Hollow’s iron helmet charging towards his face.
“Gah!” Oak jumped back. He fell and found himself being caught by the same creature.
Sorry! Hollow hissed out. The young man had only heard the creature’s voice a few times and it didn’t help his nerves right now. Hollow though, simply helped him stand and, with a nod, disappeared into Baker’s shadow.
“Sir,” Oak greeted Baker formally, he and Quake saluting in unison.
“Finnegan, do you need me for anything else?” Farmer asked.
“No, thank you, Moey.” The girl walked over to the man’s shadow.
“Mind giving me a lift to my desk?” She asked into the darkness. For a moment, it looked like there was a silhouette of jaws clamping around the girl… and she was gone.
“I never get tired of that!” Quake said with a grin. Baker gave an absentminded nod before looking at the pair.
“Now, I just want to see how skilled you are at fighting a magical opponent.” Baker said to Oak. “There is nothing to worry about. Simply… act as you would in the field.” He gave Oak a long, knowing smile. Baker definitely knew of his history, and he expected Oak to perform exceptionally.
Oak watched as Quake walked over to the mats and let Darts down. The mage then started to stretch – it seemed he planned to only use magic for the match. He turned and met Oak’s gaze with a smirk.
Narrowing his eyes, Oak walked over to the rack of practice weapons and pulled down a dull blade and a practice pistol.
“Ready?” A voice called. The two glanced over to see the red-haired Agatha Maple watching from the sidelines. She grinned at the pair. Oak raised an eyebrow. A mage nurse? He thought. Was Baker being cautious or was Quake really that dangerous?
Stupid question, he realised. Of course Quake was that dangerous.
“Start!” Maple called out.
Oak took a step back as Quake’s hands moved forward. It was clear he was focusing on Darts. The creature stood up on all fours, its fur standing up on its ends. Its eyes, almost perpetually closed, suddenly jolted open.
Moving fast, Oak raised his pistol and fired – a blank round – at Quake. The bullet hit him directly in the chest. He fell backwards and Darts hissed. The familiar leaped at Oak, who tried to bat the creature away. But he wasn’t quick enough to hit the little creature; Darts latched tightly onto his shoulder.
Out of the corner of his eye, Oak could see Quake making a fist.
Darts exploded, throwing the young man back. His head hit the wall with a thud. The impact was enough to daze him, but only for a moment. Recovering quickly, Oak stood and started shooting again, at Quake. But his aim was off from hitting his head; the mage hissed and easily leaped out of the way of the incoming projectiles. Darts returned to Quake, leaping up onto his mage’s shoulder.
Quake’s eyes narrowed.
As the two humans danced around, Oak kept up the pressure on his opponent. Avoiding moving in any pattern, he continued to move closer and closer to the other male. As he closed in, Quake’s composure slipped slightly, Oak reaching for the training sword on his hip–
“Stop.” Baker’s voice tore both Oak and Quake out of their focused states; and as if his voice wasn’t enough, strong shadowy hands gripped the pair. When Oak and Quake relaxed and the hands let them go, Oak realised that his weapons had been taken. The young man turned to Baker, to see him holding them. Hollow stood beside him awaiting a pat.
“Good,” Baker said, placing the weapons down. “Hollow let’s return to my office.” Baker elegantly stepped into the eerie pool of shadows beneath the creature, his form slowly disappearing. After Baker had completely disappeared, Hollow dived in after him.
Once the pair were gone, silence followed for a long moment.
“You knew…” Quake began.
“Every mage needs a conductor,” Oak said, turning to leave. “I know that’s the point of a familiar, really. But why make it so obvious?”
As Oak left, there was a slight crackling sound as a small crack appeared in the wall. Much like Anaika, Oak reflected. Too much power and not enough control.