Sample chapter 1
Vie leaned back and nudged her hat up a little. She’d been this way before and hit every small town dive there was. Wasn’t much in the Rift Plain other than people who didn’t want to bow down to the Northern King and his Covenant Wizards. Since she was a wizard who was trained by apprenticeship to an Adept and not the Covenant designed system, she was considered a risk and danger to the system as it was. Called her sort Wilders but really they were just unaffiliated. Said they were vastly unpredictable and mentally unstable. Like mental stability issues were unique to Wilders.
The barmaid dropped off another mug of room temperature beer and hurried off. Vie ran her finger down the glass and with a sizzle of burning pain she lowered the temperature of the contents. Her Northern ways were hard to give up. Like basic human hygiene and cold beer. The slumped regulars in the fine establishment she found herself in could use some basic hygiene tips. One barrel-chested man made eye contact. She slowly grinned and pulled up her sleeves, showing off the glyph tattoos and markers on her body. He flinched back and looked away. It was the reaction she wanted and expected. Nevertheless, there were times when she wished people around the Rift Plains were not so intimidated by magic. In the Rift Plains, they would value she was a Wilder though. Cheaper to buy her spells that may save their lives and she was willing to sell them no strings attached.
She had yet to decide whether to stay in town for the night or just make her way out of town. She didn’t mind staying in the wild since she could protect herself with the proper rift protections. There were always other risks of people who had also managed the same protections to prey on others. She preferred to be alone and in her own company. It was always safer that way.
A feeling of the barometric pressure changing was the first sign the night wasn’t going to go as planned and then the iridescent but very light colors flitting through the air. Both she and the mage in the other far corner stood up suddenly. They made eye contact but he looked away quickly.
“Rift!” the mage yelled.
Vie grabbed her beer and chugged it back while everyone ran, or rather stumbled erratically, from the building. She had no idea where they were going. Small towns generally pooled their money for one secure rift zone. She ought to know, she made them often enough. Something that pissed the Covenant Council off because a Wilder or rogue mage would, of course, undercut the price of the Covenant certified. The Council didn’t bother with a lot of the small areas though. But they claimed the town should petition for a proper barrier as the quality would keep them safe. They were right. Half the rogue mages that helped desperate people barely had the skill to protect themselves. It made for some shady workmanship; wards that fizzled out or lasted nothing more than a week. She did quality work, but then, when it was all said and done, she was a wizard, not a mage. She had the raw talent.
She could hear the mage yelling out orders like they often did. Rummaging through her backpack she pulled out a pair of goggles with rose-colored lenses and slid them on. Immediately the air became vibrantly colored with stretches of energy. Around her wrists were the coiled rope tattoo markers of her Rift protections. It was no time to mess around so she pulled in dark energy feeling the searing pain of it claw into her skin. She held still as it did, becoming unaware of her surroundings. “Hasteil,” she hissed out through clenched teeth, igniting the Rift wards on her wrists and ankles creating a body morphing ward protection. The language she chose for her trigger words was a dead language. A tribal tongue her ancestors used to speak and her mother had taught her before she died. The Covenant had their own magic language. The issue was anyone would know your trigger words and defend themselves. No one would know hers. Her sort was crafty like that.
The multicolored energy flow around her was repelled from her by her body ward. She slung on her backpack and adjusted her wide-brimmed hat and exited the premises. The town people it seemed had collected in the church courtyard. The mage was there as well, likely making sure their barrier was actually sufficient. The church was ornate and carved with beautiful stonework. She could tell it was to worship the old gods. The Northern God was a stark, cold god that required places of worship that matched.
She scanned the streets and the very air. The rift wave itself scared people. It terrified them really because they all knew what rift storms could do in the South on the rim where they were not protected by the Covenant. The wild energy could change things. It was raw uncontrollable magic after all. Not Dark Energy that fuelled her field of magic and not the Source that fueled Mystics, but rather the Universal Energy that fueled the Order wizards. The very same who made up most of the Covenant. So this energy bleeding from the rift in waves and storms could affect matter and energy. And it was hard to say what would cause a wave to become a storm. So hunkering down was the best you could do. She knew there was no real harm in a rift wave, except it made magic riskier for Order wizards. Still, people feared contamination. Likely because of what the storms did.
The greater risk of a wave or a storm was the fissures. That is what she was scanning for now. Hard to say how localized the wave was. It could be just the town. Could be for miles. But if there was a fissure in town she would have to be on the lookout for anything that might have come through. She fucking hated the fissures.
Because she never did have any damn luck a red vivid line of energy cracked into the air. Maybe it would be fine.
Out fell two beings.
Humanoid at least.
That was something. This wasn’t going to be the great toad invasion of a few years back. Oh, people in the North laughed about it but it affected the whole damn ecosystem. She ran up to the fissure and stuck her hand into the burning wild energy. Screaming she pulled a taste of that energy in. She kept her hand in a fist as the burn continued. No damage though. Chaos mages were highly sensitive to the vibration of magic and when they took it in and used it, it ignited the pain circuits in their brain.
The fissure snapped shut. She turned to look at the two humanoids. Both looked to be in their twenties. One female and one male. The male about seven feet tall and the woman right around six. Pale white skin. Far too pale for a human. The woman with eyes of lavender and the man eyes of a deep vibrant purple. Both had long dreadlocked silver hair to their lower backs. They were having a very exuberant conversation and making gestures around them and at her.
She put her hands up and then down slowly in a calming gesture. She knew these creatures. It was the pointed ears that gave them away. When the first Rift fissure she experienced when she was a child she had seen this species. If she recalled they had been brutal fighters with a sort of illusion based magic that could right fuck with your head. They had come through after in other fissures, but not as often as others. Fortunate, for them. Still, they were from the twelve realms. It meant it was more statistically likely for them to fall through the cracks than any other realm in all of the realms out there in the vastness.
“We are just going to put you back where you came from before the wave ends,” she said.
The man held a hand firmly on a sword hilt.
The mage yelled something out to her. She willfully ignored it.
The man frowned when he noticed more people, even at a safer distance.
“If I thought you would remain calm about this I would let you stay awake. But once I open a portal to where the fissure opened, I suspect all the magic will alarm you and you’ll stab me. I seem to remember that theme. Your sort doesn’t have a fondness for our magic,” she said in a low monotone.
The woman cocked her head.
She knew from their very alert body language and stance they were on the verge of action. Vie wore her usual work jacket; a long duster jacket that hung to just above her boots. Along the buttons, she loosely stitched two rows of runecoins. Coins that were showpieces she used when she was selling the cheaper versions. These she had finely crafted to be charged over and over and re-used. Each coin had a hole in the center to be tied to a bracelet or necklace, or stitched to anything. The rim etched with her runes and infused with her spells. Moving slowly she plucked a specific one from the jacket and held it up for them to see.
“Look at the pretty?”
She tossed it to the ground at their feet. The man picked it up just as she said, “Fiemesh.”
There was no pain price in the usage of a runecoin, only a great deal in their creation and some in the recharging process. So she had no reaction and was able to see the flash of white light from her knockout radius spell. She just watched calmly as the two of them slumped over. Some spells were altogether unpredictable on other races, so that could have backfired.
She heard clapping and looked over at the townspeople with a grimace. She knew what they thought. One thing she never needed was a reason to loathe people more. They made it so damn easy.
Having had a lick of the fissure energy she knew she’d be able to make a portal to the specific location of their departure. Hell, since it was one of the Twelve she could open a portal there anyway since she had the skill. Just not to where they came from exactly. Not all chaos wizards could create portals and even so some could only port themselves. She was fortunate she could make a standalone portal for long enough to get people through, or even if she wished, transport someone with her. Made money doing that as well. Some of the worlds that had become entangled with theirs had some interest to mages and wizards unable to teleport. She was often contrary to those interests.
She pushed up her jacket and cotton sleeves and spread her stance a little. It was an ability, not a spell. So she needed no spell, runecoin or her inked embedded spells. She just needed to draw in dark energy and form the portal. She held her arms out like she was holding an imaginary ball the size of a head. She opened herself to the dark energy. A soft gasp escaped her as the flood of pain scorched in. Her legs almost buckled but she knew just how to stand to hold herself up. She took that taste of fissure energy and projected it into her hands while funneling dark energy into them as well. Her arms ached deep in the bone as she held the energy. Focusing on, not thinking, of the pain and rather on the vibration of that fissure energy she let the ball of energy she formed hover before her. Feeling she had the vibration right she reached into the ball of energy and let her mind manipulate it until it matched. It was instinctual. Like she was matching a tune. It just felt right. She then ripped the ball wide open in a violent gesture which expanded it to a hovering disc. This took so much less time if she already knew the world she was going to and it was just herself that was going. None of this external portal business. She stepped back. It would do.
She grabbed the man first and slowly dragged him the few feet to her portal. Then with a significant amount of maneuvering and effort proceeded to stuff him in. Thankfully, the wave was still going on and no one rushed to stop her. She then did the same thing for the woman. They looked through. To ensure she stuck her leg through and kicked a little and then a few good shoving kicks for good measure. Good enough. With a snap of her fingers, she dissipated the energy.
It was a short wave because it was finished by the time she was done. Two men and the mage came up to her while she was putting away her goggles and then adjusting her backpack.
“Those were Vos, weren’t they?” the mage said.
She nodded. Of course, the mage knew that. If he lived on the Rim then he damn well knew all the top fifty species that came through fissures. Most were not frequent droppers. Maybe the top ten were most often seen.
“They’re worth a lot of money,” one scruffy intoxicated man said.
“I caught them. I can do what I please with them. Legally they are supposed to be returned to where they came from if that is possible,” she said. “And I have the skill and capacity to do so.”
Not that the Covenant even cared about their own laws.
“Yeah, after you bring them in. Cause if they can’t then you get the sale,” the shorter man said. The scowl on his face when he said it was mighty impressive but it would take a lot more than that for her to give a damn.
She smiled and was quite aware she didn’t have a pleasant smile. It always looked like she was baring her teeth in a snarl or mocking. That is because she never was in the mood to humor people. If they earned her good temper that was different. So she smiled viciously and said, “Well, then it is a good thing I’m a chaos wizard right here that can open portals so no one had to lug their unconscious bodies anywhere now isn’t it?”
“What House are you?” the mage asked and she realized by that question he was Covenant trained. Figures. Given how useless he had been. Being a mage he was just one of their peons anyway.
Her smile stretched out again. “No House.”
“What is your name?” he asked, looking at her with a great deal more suspicion.
He grimaced like she had lied to him and it tasted bitter. Nas was the name of all orphans and exiles, after all, and it meant ’no name’. In fact, it wasn’t a lie at all. Her first name, however, was, but then, that had changed a few times in her life. She had discarded her real name like she had discarded her past. This one had stuck for quite some time though as she needed to develop a solid cover as a Crafter of some reputation which one couldn’t simply do on paper or through the Covenants’ wizard matrix. That wasn’t to say she didn’t have other perfectly valid identities. But to sell product on any Covenant run city she needed to pass the matrix spells they used to track mages and wizards through their territory. Since she didn’t like to be tracked she always developed very secure false identities based the different types of work she did to get by or was capable of doing.
“You’re unaffiliated. I would recommend taking them in for processing,” he said.
What he actually meant was take them to the nearest Covenant House so they could decide whether they would like to enslave that particular Rift native or send them back. Well, she wasn’t into slavery. She knew they made a little business out of it as well. Knew they kept ones that could be returned. People with her ability locked onto certain locations and could travel there whether they nicked a bit of the fissure energy or not. There were enough that could make external portals in the larger cities as well. Therefore, the capacity to return every single Rift native. Or most of them that didn’t have metaphysical entanglements or came from offbeat locations no one could locate without having been to the location.
“I’ll think about just that, then,” she said with a tip of her hat.
“You best be on your way,” he added.
She was still burning her Rift ward if a second wave swept in. It wasn’t likely the townsfolk would be buying runecoins or other Crafts from her now that she had potentially cost the town some money. Not to mention a House mage wouldn’t permit her to sell them personal wards or set up house wards for them. “Looks like,” she said with an amused smile.
She left them to sort themselves back out and headed to the stable to retrieve her mare, Pikka. Vie’s gait was smooth and no one would even notice her limbs ached and her body felt bruised. Her head throbbed and pulsed with a constant pain. Prices to pulling power. Always a price. She pulled a few pills out of her pouch and tossed them down her throat. They would dull it a bit. Always a bit, never enough.