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The Ternion - Prologue

by  Moricz

Posted: Friday, May 14, 2010
Word Count: 4398

Prologue - A Champion Emerges

The twin suns of planet Aura beat down over the wild lands. With sharp towers and sheer walls, the city of Arc lay in a long forgotten land. A massive dome of blue magical energy shielded the entire city. The Aegis warded off the heat and kept the citizens safe from the outside, but also cut them off from journeying into the world around them. In the very center of Arc was a hollowed peak where a horde now gathered around a colossal ring. The crowd filled the air with a clamor of applause.
The announcer stood. His stone booth was raised above the great expanse of the arena floor. He wore dark robes that hung loose beneath his arms as he raised them, and the intricate stitching of bright gold glinted in the sunlight. The masters on either side of him watched carefully. A few carried an envious look in that the arcane master of wind magics need never ask for quiet to be heard.
The announcer's eyes closed in concentration while the cheering subsided. With arms still raised outward, he began to speak. His voice trailed from his lips softly, and as he finished speaking his right arm shot out in front of him with fingers outstretched to catch the words. His eyes opened and began a drastic change from golden brown to an icy blue while he focused; the air around him began to swirl and his words poured over the crowd amplified a hundred fold.
“For our next match, the Arcane University is proud to present our reigning champion Relik Drax, Preceptor of the crystal magics.” His words boomed over the mass of onlookers in the smooth stone seats. “His contender this day will be the acclaimed newcomer, Melios Fenred - a Preceptor of the light magics!”
His voice echoed from the high white walls, which still remained unaltered to show the natural beauty of the mountaintop from which the arena was born. The crowd that filled the seats numbered in the thousands, a great outpouring of arcane wishing to see the unpredictable chaos that was arena warfare. Aside from the box which held the arcane masters in comfort, the rest of the arena was open to the sunlight. The stands were packed with onlookers dressed in all colors of robes and finery.
This place was made for all arcane, and there was no charge to attend. Maintained by the Arcane University, the arena was the one place in Arc where class truly had no bearing. Nobles and commoners could eat and drink side-by-side, to cheer as one to whatever end.
The other arcane masters stood and joined the announcer at the edge of the booth. They bowed to symbolize their blessing and contentment in the commencement of the fight. Challenging the arena champion had only one outcome; in a matter of moments one of these men was about to die in the presence of thunderous applause. The victor would be acclaimed and written of in history books; his name would be etched into the record of champions. The loser of the bout would likely become only a memory.
The contenders stood and faced each other in the center of the arena floor. The hard packed dirt underfoot was worn smooth. Between the fighters and the walls where the crowd watched from above was an array of ruins. The towers and stone obstacles were scarred both with time and the scorching of flame.
Relik Drax looked into the crowd to find Aiona, his wife. Heavy with child, she stood and waved to him with her left hand placed over her heart for luck. Her long golden hair hung about her shoulders, trailing down her back over a fine dark robe. She sat carefully, her hand moved to her mouth instinctively with nerves. Her nails slowly found their way to her mouth. Since as long as she could remember, the arena had never been a place she wanted to be. Many times she had attempted to convince Relik that they no longer needed the fame or fortune. She worried each time he put his life on the line, knowing each battle may have been his last.
Sitting next to Aiona was the wife of Preceptor Melios, Chantilla Fenred. Chantilla now stood in turn and waved to her husband. Her headband was a fine work of art which disappeared into her dark brown hair. A single tear ran from her dark eyes down her cheek, showing the worry that was written on her fair face. She wore light yellow wrap to show support for her husband's magic, her long sleeves hung heavy with the weight of dark beads.
Relik had been the champion for four long years now, successfully defending his title from forty-eight challengers. Of the seven magics taught within the Arcane University, it was a rare thing for an arcane student to choose the path known as 'crystal magic' to be his only distinction of magic. For that student to rise so quickly in the ranks and move on to become an arena contender was completely unheard of.
Small crystal shards flowed within arcane blood and gave them the power to perform many magics. Light and shadow magics were possible, along with elements such as fire, water, air, and energy; the last magic was known only as crystal. It was typically the students with plans to become crafters who chose the crystal path. Crystal magic was known to be mostly defensive, it could bolster the natural abilities of an arcane to give them strength or focus.
In the arena it was fire and water magics that had been the long reigning schools of choice. Though many originally attempted to dissuade Relik from choosing to compete, he was extremely stubborn. Relik Drax redefined the possibilities of crystal magic by gaining control over crystal itself. His challengers had underestimated him until he began to twist their own magic against them.
Relik had a way of upsetting the competition and destroying preconceptions. Most arena battles consisted of pure magic, but Relik had trained his body with ferocity. He favored strength and speed, and had been known to actually strike opponents using his fists and feet. The University frowned on such uncivilized practices, but it made him a crowd favorite nonetheless.
Relik had chosen a light vest that hung loose and unfastened across his broad chest. Bare feet peeked from under frayed pants that ended just above his ankles. His hands were wrapped tightly with black cloth, except fingertips which remained exposed. Though the clothes were made at expense, the choices he had made in apparel seemed strange to the arcane standard.
Melios wore a yellow hooded robe with sleeves that had appeared to be torn off, a frayed look added to his otherwise classic garment. His boots were soft cloth that wrapped around his legs to just under the knees in a dark black material; his pants were loose fitting for ease of movement. His eyes were locked onto the champion as if searching for weakness.
Chantilla's fingers twined with Aiona's, their hands squeezing tight against one another in anticipation and fear. Each of the women had good reason to fear for the life of their husband. Relik was used to fighting fire and water mages, he was nearly untested against mages from the school of light. Melios had studied Relik and his past battles to probe for weaknesses and analyze his style; Aiona had noticed Chantilla and Melios near the front rows in a few of the most recent bouts.
Melios had long sought the champion title so he could take care of his family. The prestige and money that came with championship was unattainable even by great artists and crafters. His light magic was unmatched, except by the current master of light magics. Melios was offered the chance to become a Magus, and take an instruction position in the Arcane University. In time he would have possibly even become the new master of light magic. Lacking the patience to take the long path to security, he turned the offer down and instead made a submission for challenge.
“Under the eyes of the Arcane University, and the great city of Arc, this fight will commence!” The announcer gently whispered. The audience was again overtaken by his powerful voice. “Contenders, ready yourselves...” He said, watching to see that both men again faced each other and bowed. “It begins!”
Melios was first to act. His right arm stuck straight out and he began to summon an orb. The veins inside his arm glowed with a bright light. His energy was being poured into the creation within his hand, and he was forced to close his eyes to continue the summoning. His brow furrowed and he readied to release; he pulled his arms above his head, and held the orb aloft with both hands. His eyes snapped open, they burned hot-white and glowed with magical fury. Quickly locating his target, his eyes grew wide to see that Relik was much closer than he had anticipated.
The blow from the crystal mage had caught Melios directly in the forehead. So focused in creating his orb, he had not noticed that Relik had simply picked up a stone from the ground in front of him and taken a few steps forward. Relik had lightly tossed the rock at Melios without bothering to seek cover from the scalding energy. Stumbling back, Melios regained his balance and wiped the dirt from his brow with his sleeveless arm.
The champion stood relaxed and wore a look of confidence. He began to simply walk towards Melios with eyes fixed forward and an unchanging smile. Relik moved faster, and his gentle stroll escalated into a sprint. Almost within striking distance, he saw his opponent's hand move to cast a new spell. Relik dove at Melios' hips to attempt a tackle. The light mage sprang skyward over the onslaught of the champion. Melios looked down to see his opponent hit the ground violently. After landing, Melios took steps to make some distance and prepare a new attack.
Relik's mind began to reel, hitting the ground unprepared had slammed his head into the hard arena floor. He lay for a moment completely dazed. His head was turned in the direction of his wife, who stood now against the wall with her hands cupped over her mouth and a look of horror. He grunted, and forced himself to stand once again. Relik began to brush the dust from himself and saw that it was now Melios who wore a smile.
“What's wrong Drax, haven't you got any stones?” Melios said. He watched as Relik struggled to regain composure.
“Don't fool yourself sunbeam, this fight has just started,” Relik said. His smile returned, and he watched anger flare across Melios' face.
“So full of pride... I will be sure to tell my children all about it,” Melios retorted.
“What are you going to do, flash me to death?” Relik asked with a grin of confidence.
“Your last words Drax, though at least you said them with a smile,” Melios finished.
The light mage began a cast, flourishing his arms about strangely. Relik watched carefully as Melios completed his cast and began to dissolve from sight. Relik glanced about for signs of movement, listening for footfalls around him. Instinct gnawed at him and his hands moved in front of him defensively.
Relik began a spell of his own, his eyes changing from brown to yellow, and quickly back to brown. Just in time, it seemed, he saw dozens of small orbs begin to appear around him. The orbs danced quickly in small and random movements. The spheres acted in unison, arranging themselves around Relik in a rotating circle. Acting like a swarm, they descended upon him. They attacked at high speeds, but stopped as they struck an invisible barrier.
Relik was relieved to see his shield-cast was effective against the assault, and the glowing energy was thwarted. Unable to see Melios, he was not able to simply nullify the spell. If he chose to move, his shield would fade and the orbs would have destroyed him. He heard laughter around him. Relik stood fast and watched the orbs as they careened into his barrier. His brow furrowed in annoyance that Melios was hiding in perfect safety while he was trapped in place.
“You cannot defeat what you cannot see, Relik,” a voice said from in front of him with pride. “Worry not, I will make this quick.”
Suddenly, the small orbs ceased to attack. They moved into a different formation around him. One by one, they moved directly over his head. Each orb added to the others, creating a single larger orb. Another laugh rang out from in front of Relik, full of confidence. He attempted to pinpoint the source, but the crackling energy overhead made it difficult to focus.
Relik looked into the crowd. Aiona was again sitting with her hand to her mouth in worry. His eyes moved to her other hand, which rested upon her swollen belly. He started to think of his unborn child, who had not yet seen the beauty of Aura. Adrenaline surged through him with a new fervor, and his eyes flared with a yellow fire. All sound was lost, except for his own heartbeat that pounded in his ears.
A final laugh from ahead of him was all it took. Relik charged forward through his shield, with arms outstretched. To the crowd he appeared as no more than a blur, using crystal magic to amplify his speed. A surprised whimper was heard, and his fingers closed around Melios' neck. Still running, Relik lifted the light mage from the ground and slammed him into the dirt. Melios shimmered into sight, unconscious but still alive.
The crowd exploded with cheer and applause. His hands raised in victory, Relik spun slowly to address the audience. His face was beaming, despite the scrapes he had received from his brief slide along the arena floor. He turned once again towards Aiona, but his smile faded when he saw that she was now missing. He saw that she was replaced with a crowd of people, they appeared to be gathered in a circle. The group stared at the ground where she had just stood, and Relik forgot all else. He sprinted towards the wall to see what had caused the commotion, but was unable to see past the crowd.
“What happened?” Relik heard a stranger ask as he reached the wall. The entire audience had quieted upon the realization that something was amiss.
“She... just collapsed,” he heard a woman reply with a hint of panic in her voice.
The brief exchange was all that Relik needed to hear. His eyes glowed once again, and his legs sprang him over the wall in a great leap. He pushed his way through the crowd, and heard the arcane around him roar again with cheer. He suddenly felt a flash of hot pain, and flew face-first into the stands.
“Drax!” He heard in the distance, a scream of agony mixed with hatred. The mage of light stood alone in the arena. A crimson gash across his forehead left his face bloodied and horrifying. “We finish this now!”
Relik pushed himself up from the white stone and turned toward the arena. The glare he gave the light mage showed little but contempt. Relik had no wish to fight while his wife and child lay in jeopardy.
“The match is forfeit, Melios. The title is yours!” he screamed in reply. He turned once again to the commotion that surrounded his wife. He heard a gasp emanate from the people around him, who looked toward the arena floor. He turned to see Melios once again summoning a giant orb, which began to pulsate as the mage stood unhindered. “Did you not hear me?” Relik screamed again, though his opponent ignored him.
“I will do everything I can for her,” Relik heard a voice say. A hand grasped his shoulder. Relik turned to see a medic had appeared next to him. “This fight can only end one way, and you know that.”
“So be it,” was all Relik said. He turned to face the light mage, who had finished conjuring his assault. Melios maintained a pulsating ball of light within his hands. Relik moved quickly to the edge of the viewing wall, and set a foot atop it. His hand shot out toward Melios. Melios aimed the orb toward Relik, but stopped as Relik took control of the crystal within his blood.
“I am sorry it came to this Melios, you really could have had it all,” Relik said. His eyes glowed yellow, and quickly exploded with a brilliant white light. Melios was forced to hold the orb which had begun to grow larger in size. Quickly, the orb reached the size of Melios' body. With a sizzling heat, it cooked him where he stood. Screams were all that remained in the arena, where the energy had grown too bright to look upon. Relik closed his fingertips into his gloved hand and the orb was extinguished. His opponent was a pile of ash and bone, charred black, and smote to dust.

* * *

Relik stood holding his Aiona's hand, the medics worked tirelessly to make her condition more stable. All told, nobody knew exactly why she had collapsed during the fight. The lead medic had guessed it was from a mixture of nerves and worry. They had decided it was safer for the baby to be born sooner than later. Relik chose to stay by Aiona's side as long as he was allowed.
The medical facility within the Arcane University had a distinct smell of cleanliness. Sickness was an uncommon thing in Arc, but injury was not – accidents had a way of happening around unskilled mages. The staff was made up of Neophytes who had given their lives to the service of the University. Instead of intense study in a particular school of magic, they were taught how to heal the body. Magic was unused in this place, save for a few crystal trinkets that were used to cut or mend.
Aiona's eyes flickered and she groaned lightly, waking up confused. The sound made Relik's heart jump, he squeezed her hand tight and leaned over her lovingly.
“It's time Aiona, we're going to have a child,” he whispered to her, smiling.
“Relik... you're okay,” she smiled with the realization that he had survived.
“I told you Aiona, I will never leave you. I'm going to quit fighting now – we can live quietly in peace, with our baby,” he said and squeezed her hand again.
“The baby... we haven't even named it yet,” Aiona said. Her voice was almost a whisper. Her eyes struggled to stay open. “Relik, I think something is wrong--” she started again. Her eyes shut as she faded away, passing out in the small medical bed.
“We have to work fast, Relik,” the medic said. Relik recognized him as the same man from the arena. He stepped back to the wall, and was shown through the door by a young woman.
Moments seemed like days. Relik stared with a blank expression into the crystal lamps which hung along the walls. The simple decor was mostly red in this waiting area, the color of blood and medicine. The chairs and benches were adorned with brown cloth. The smell lingered still, the pristine cleanliness that was unmistakably the medical wing of the Arcane University. He sat and waited, and Relik's mind flashed back over his history with the woman he had always wanted, the woman he worked his entire life to win over.
When he was only fifteen years old, Relik had just become a Neophyte of crystal magic. His father, a crystal-worker and trinketeer, had recommended the choice in hopes that Relik would follow in his footsteps. When he had seen Aiona for the first time in passing, he felt that Aura herself had summoned an angel to walk amongst the people. He had moved to talk to her, though she was amidst a gaggle of friends. They had seen him coming, and began to whisper amongst each other. When he had finally come close and opened his mouth to speak, she had simply walked away. Her friends tossed insults to the lowly crystal mage from such a humble family line. In that moment, Relik had decided to become more than just a trinketeer. He chose to begin a quest for greatness, and earn her love.
He was twenty-nine now, it had been a long time since they had first met. Only six years had passed since they had escaped together to be wed. Her family had not been happy, they remained proud and refused to acknowledge the union. Relik remembered smiling when they had first started to come around the Drax estate seeking favors and handouts, after he had become the arena champion.
He remembered the crystal that was worked into the wiring of the tiara she wore that night, and how it seemed to drink in the moonlight. It had seemed to amplify her beauty a thousand fold. She had worn cloth that held her tight and flowed like water over her feminine curves. The gown had trailed behind her, onto the dark-green grass as they said their words and embraced. The feeling came back to him suddenly, the excitement and passion of it all, running hand in hand back to his property. The had never even made it to the door, and they made love under the stars and open sky.
“Relik...” the medic started, snapping him out of his thoughts. He hadn't heard the man approach, but he stood quickly to hear the news. “You have a baby boy.”
Relik's heart soared at the news. A great smile took over and he instinctively reached out to embrace the medic. He stopped short as he saw the man's expression, his wrinkled face frowned with downcast eyes. Relik opened his mouth to speak, but no words would come.
“I am so sorry, Relik. Your wife is not going to make it. There was too much bleeding, and there is nothing more we can do,” The medic finished. He looked directly into Relik's eyes to convey his sincerest apology.
“My--” Relik started again, stumbling for words. He tried to make sense of it all. His face grew solemn, and he gave up trying to speak. Relik fell to his knees and tears began to well in his eyes. His heart shattered and his dreams burned like embers in the wind. In his mind, the world had turned to shadow, and all light was extinguished.
He felt a hand shaking him while he stared at the floor. A woman was kneeling in front of him with one arm placed gently on his shoulder. In her other arm she held a bundle that was wrapped in white. She shook him once again, and his eyes flared with anger. His head snapped up towards her, but he noticed what she held and it gave him pause. Inside the bundle she bore, Relik saw his own eyes staring back at him. In this baby boy he saw Aiona, and though the boy had his eyes, he saw Aiona's nose, and her lips.
Relik began to stand, the older medic who was still by his side had grabbed onto his arm to help him up. He was led into the next room, and his eyes landed again on Aiona as she lay in the medical bed. She was awake again, and did not seem to be suffering. In a flash he was by her side and holding tightly onto her hand. He leaned over her without speaking, she gazed knowingly into his eyes with a gentle smile.
“I'm so sorry Relik...” she started, though her voice was still weak. Her eyes welled while looking into his, and slowly tears began to form.
“No Aiona, you have nothing to be sorry about. You be quiet now, everything is going to be alright,” Relik said. The pain in his voice was palpable.
The female medic brought the child to Aiona, who reached out to touch him. The boy wrapped his hand around her index finger as they met for the first time. A wave of emotion overtook her and she frowned and held back fierce tears. She retrained her eyes back onto her husband, who refused to remove his gaze from her fair face.
“You do what you said now, you quit fighting and live in peace with our boy,” she said with a renewed vigor.
“I promise Aiona, I promise you that,” Relik answered. “I love you so much, I don't know what I will do--” he started again, but she cut him off.
“Just raise him right, Relik. Love him even more than you loved me. Let him know that I will always be there to watch over you both...” she said, and looked over his face for the last time. Her eyes closed. Relik felt the grip of her hand within his cease, and she was gone.
Tears flowed from the crystal mage. He sobbed openly, burying his head into her soft hair and embracing her for the very last time. He kissed her cheek, still warm and wet from her tears. He drew himself back and looked over her face. He nodded silently to affirm his promise. Relik stood and reached over Aiona to take the boy into his arms.
“Mason,” The medic said to him. Her own voice was saddened by the scene. “She told me his name was Mason.”
“Mason Drax,” Relik said, nodding in approval. “My son, you were born amidst tears and blood, and never had a chance to know the beauty that was your mother. I will teach you everything you wish to know, and give you a chance at a life of true happiness.” Relik held the boy aloft in pride and hope, seeing his son smile for the first time. Relik felt happiness flow through him once again. “We will make her proud, son. You will grow into your own measure of greatness – of that you have my word.”