Root Magic

Story day has come round again. This week I’ve got a fantasy story (about 11500 words long) that involves magic and those that are against magic. Check it out and see what you think.

Henrik Veldervern is hurrying as fast as his old legs will take him down a well lit underground passage under the walled coastal city of Wren. The long hood of his plain brown robe has fallen off his bald head and now sits slumped awkwardly upon his narrow shoulders. Henrik can feel his heart thumping in his chest as he shuffles forward trying to keep ahead of his pursuers.

Henrik is a Majika, a wielder of magic, and is attempting to flee the walls of Wren so he can continue on his quest to locate the source of all magical power known as the root. However, Prejudges are hot on his heels. They have youth and numbers on their sides, as well as weapons.

Henrik can hear the clatter of their armour as the less than half his age anti-magic extremists race down the length of the arrow straight tunnel after him.

While the Majika may have a head start on them it isn’t going to be enough. That doesn’t stop Henrik from briefly taking a glance over his shoulder only to immediate regret it and then attempt to redouble his efforts and increase his pace. His attempts fail as he almost manages to go stumbling forward and land flat on his face. But he avoids such a mistake with a quick spell of balance that immediately returns him to his upright. If he had more stamina he might have been able to cast a haste spell to aid his progress but magic is disappearing from the world. As a result it is becoming harder and harder for the elderly Majika to replenish his energy to levels that will allow him to cast more than a few moderate level spells a day.  Not that such things matter right now as they don’t.

Still, Henrik can’t help but recall the days before the Prejudges rose from being an obscure peripheral cult with only a half dozen members to the massive almost religion that they are today. The screams that came in the wake of their rise to power still haunt Henrik, as do the faces of all those that the Prejudges held public executions for. They used the fear and hate of the weak to aid them in their ascension. They blamed Majika’s for the tragedies that had befallen them, whether that was a failed crop or the sudden death of a relative. In most instances Majika weren’t present, but that didn’t stop the mob mentality that the Prejudges helped to purvey. Even kings, queens, emperors, empresses, lord and ladies took heed of their words without pause for thought or contemplation of the obvious manipulation that was being doled out by the hands of the Prejudges.

“Stop Maj-eye-ka!” One of the Prejudges roars suddenly pulling Henrik from his raft of thought.

As a younger more headstrong man he would have corrected anyone who mispronounced the name of the people of which he counts himself among. But those days are long gone for many reasons. One of which is because to mention Majika marks you as a target for consideration by the Prejudges for monitoring. Henrik doesn’t know how many have wrongly lost their lives or freedoms as a result of the paranoia that the extremist orders fear mongering has brought. But it pales into insignificance compared to just the sheer number of innocent young people who have lost everything they knew because of the actions of the Prejudges.

Still, Henrik pays no attention to the order as he continues to flee as fast as his rake thin crooked legs will allow him. He can’t call the action a run or even a jog. In truth his movements, due to age and his advancing frailty, are little more than a swift shuffle. That is why the Prejudges, seven of them to be precise, are gaining on him at a rate of knouts.

That doesn’t mean Henrik is just going to lay down and accept his fate however. He knows what would await him if he did and he has no intention of doing that when he has to find the root, and before the Prejudges do. If he doesn’t the Majika will be lost forever and Henrik is not prepared to die yet.

If only those that he had paid for passage through this tunnel, used for the movement of contraband goods in and out of Wren, hadn’t seen a chance to profit from him twofold. But they had and now he is having to try and flee for his life and for the sake of all those like him.

The worst part is that he is only a little over half way down the length of the two mile stretch of the tunnel and by his quick calculations will be apprehended about two hundred metres ahead of where he is now. That settles what Henrik must do next. He doesn’t like the prospect but knows there is little other choice. That is why he quickly grinds to a halt and then stretches out his right hand. His palm flat and pointed toward the wall on his right which is a good half metre away. His eyes at first spark with light a couple times as he attempts, with difficulty, to gather the magical energy he needs to cast his spell. But before long the sparking turns to a small yet consistent glow. Not as strong or as vibrant as it should be however.

Henrik would prefer more time to gather his magical energies but time is not something that he has on his side as one of the Prejudges notches an arrow and prepares to fire. Henrik hasn’t noticed the actions of the Prejudge, but even if he had he would he helpless to do much about it in his current state. The days of casting multiple spells in tandem are gone.

The Majika sweeps his hand from its outstretched position to his right, slowly, across him. But as he reaches perhaps three quarters of the way across his torso the arrow is let loose. It cuts through the empty air and then slams into Henrik’s left shoulder. The elderly man manages to suppress his cry of agony into little more than a grunt. He has to if he has any hopes of cutting the Prejudges off from him. Though, his hand falters, as does the glow in his eyes, due to the fact that he has to fight the urge he has to cradle and survey the damage inflicted upon him. The only positive he can take is that the arrowhead was not dosed in poison. If it had been his casting would have already failed, he knows.

Moments later, and just as the Prejudges are within striking range, Henrik finishes his spell.  A mass of thick dirt and stones harden to create a barrier between the Majika and the Prejudges. The wall of earth filling every nook and cranny of the rectangular shaped passage a metre thick.

Henrik, suddenly feeling dizzy, manages to stagger backward until his crooked back is braced against the rocky wall of the tunnel. Both sides are lined with evenly spaced lit torches, the oil from which drips. The drips make a hissing sound as contact is made with the cobble stones covered with a thin layer of dirt that has fallen from the ceiling of the passage as a result of the road that runs right above this section of the tunnel.

Henrik wonders if the tunnel has ever collapsed but swiftly decides to force such thoughts aside to instead inspect his shoulder. The arrowhead is out of sight but the bolt hasn’t passed right through. That concerns Henrik as it means that the shot was not clean.

If he had the strength he would use a spell to extract and seal the wound, but he can’t. So he elects to simply grab hold of the neck of the arrow as tight as his arthritic fingers will allow. A wave of pain shooting through his joints as he tries to ensure his grasp on the wooden neck is as solid as he can make it. But he doesn’t attempt to wrench the arrow free. Doing so could cause more damage and blood loss and he already has a widening dark crimson patch around the wound. He gets a slight whiff of iron from the wound in the moments before he sharply snaps his wrist toward his left flank. The arrow neck snaps about as cleanly as he could have expected but his head goes into a spin in response. Henrik leans his head back to brace it against the damp wall of the tunnel hoping that he doesn’t pass out. He can hear the Prejudges as they curse and hack with their swords and axes at the dirt and rock wall that is between them and Henrik. The wall will not last forever and was never intended to. Though, Henrik had never factored in being clipped by an arrow. He knows the wound he has suffered is entirely his own fault, but as he lets his right arm drop and release his grip on the broken arrow he tries to will movement back into his aching bones.

At first there is no response to his demands as he instead hears the clatter of the broken arrow on the cobbles beneath his sandaled feet. His eyes threatening to roll back into his head until a loud clang pulls him back into the present. His mind begins to race as blood is pumped more rapidly now around his body. His senses become hyper alert as a result and Henrik reasons that the clang was one of the Prejudges blades slamming into the thicker and larger rocks that form the inner section of the temporary wall between them.

I have to go, now! Henrik demands of his weary body and to his surprise and relief his body conforms.

He forces himself away from the wall that had been serving as his crutch for the last few minutes. His feet shuffling forward with as much pace as they can muster, which isn’t much admittedly, but Henrik is grateful for it nonetheless.

Before long he reaches the far end of the tunnel. It’s a miracle he thinks to himself as he hauls his body up the vertical wooden ladder. It creaks and groans from years of heavy use and lack of weather treatment that has caused rot to set in as a result.

It goes through Henrik’s head more than once that there is a real chance that the rungs may simply fail if they’re too rotten. If they do then he will he sent tumbling back down the four metres he has struggled to climb, likely breaking bones and guaranteeing his capture.

But upon reaching the summit of the ladder, he feels a wave of relief break against him as he lies on his back for what feels like hours. The Majika is sure that it is only a few dozen seconds, but the short rest does nothing to replenish his energy levels. That is why it takes Henrik a couple minutes to struggle back to his feet. The passage of time in achieving his return to being upright worries him and he even glances back at the hole carved into the soft grass covered dirt only to find it vacant. Still, he can’t afford to dawdle any longer, he knows, as he shuffles, much slower now, away from the square cut in the ground, through a gaggle of small trees and low bushes before stepping out onto a narrow lane. It can’t be called a road as it is too narrow, but much like many of the roads it is comprised of two dirt tracks between which are long fronds of grass. Many of the fronds are bent or broken from the passage of carts.

Henrik pays no mind to the fronds as he shuffles towards a nearby stationary cart. It is exactly where he requested the smuggler, a young woman with a hood, waits for him. The Majika would have preferred to keep what little coin he has but he’d been right to suspect that the runners, who he paid handsomely for the use of their tunnel, would sell him out.

“You’re late.” The hooded woman says without fully looking at Henrik. Twin horses attached to the front of the wide wooden cart, which is in much better shape than the ladder that Henrik has just climbed.

But the elderly wounded man doesn’t care about her distaste for his delay and instead quickly moves round to the back of the cart before he then throws himself up over the low edge used for loading and unloading. As soon as he is aboard the cart begins to gently roll forward, one of the wheels creaking as it makes a revolution. But Henrik pushes the sound from his mind as he rolls onto his back and stares up at the sky. It’s not a sight he views for long as exhaustion claims him and pulls his already heavy eyes shut in the short period before he passes out.

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