John Forrester: Fire Mage

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John Forrester Fire Mage
  • Название:
    Fire Mage
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  • Жанр:
    Фэнтези / на английском языке
  • Язык:
    Английский
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John Forrester


Fire Mage

1. THE HUNT

Talis searched the swamplands in twilight, driven by the challenge of hunting his first boar. He bent down and ran his fingers along the mud, feeling a thrill at discovering fresh boar tracks leading towards a stream. He looked ahead, squinting at the path illuminated by the four moon sisters. Mara, his best friend, came alongside and studied the tracks. He pointed his spear to where they led.

She shook her head stubbornly. “It’s late.”

“But these are the best prints we’ve found.”

“What are you trying to prove? We’ve been out here all day. I’m not going to let you get yourself killed doing something foolish like hunting a boar in the dark.”

“Don’t be angry.” He flashed her the look he knew always made her smile. “We can do it…if we work together.”

“It’s your father, isn’t it? You think he’s going to pay attention to you if you bring back a boar? Listen, he doesn’t really see you like he should. Ever since your brother died…”

The wind stirred and Talis sighed, memories flooding his mind of his older brother Xhan.

“You know I’d hunt with you to the Underworld and back. We’re a team. I just hate seeing you like this.”

“Please…just one boar-”

A blur of movement ahead shifted his attention. He stopped and searched. There, beyond a patch of bushes, something waddled down a muddy path. His heart pounded at the sight. Tensing his muscles, he stalked low, tracking the animal. He found another track and grinned at Mara. A boar. He followed until he reached a stream, and there, in a wallow surrounded by a circle of mossy rocks, was a boar, settling into the mud.

This boar will make a fine roast for Mother’s kitchen, he thought, wielding his bow.

He nocked an arrow and glanced at Mara. She nodded, her eyes wary, but she readied her bow as well. This will be a tricky shot. He leaned to the side, aimed, and the arrow sped towards the boar. It was a good shot. Straight at the target, but the arrow caught a thicket's branch and droned off past the boar.

The boar jerked its head up and glared at Talis. He barely had a second to think before the beast sloshed in the stream, bounding towards him. He ducked as Mara’s arrow flew past him and slammed into the boar's chest.

He brandished his spear. “Spread out,” he hissed, and circled around as Mara gripped her spear. He twirled his weapon, ready to strike.

The boar charged. He leapt out of the way, and thrust down as it whipped its tusks at his leg. The creature squealed in pain as his spear pierced the back of its neck. Mara dove at the boar and sliced its rear flank. It screamed, swung its tusks around, and knocked her to the ground. The boar bounded away, howling and grunting in a mad rush.

Mara winced and hunched over.

“Are you alright?” Talis bent down next to her.

After she coughed, redness swept over her face. “It knocked my breath out…there are stars everywhere!” She coughed, getting to her feet with the help of Talis. But she stumbled and almost fell.

“You’re hurt!”

“I’m alright, really.” She waved him away and lifted herself up, breathing deeply. “I feel better now.”

He crinkled his forehead, unconvinced she was okay.

She wobbled, then slapped her palms to her stomach. Talis grabbed her just as she was about to topple to her knees. Mara shook him off, trying to steady herself. She winced and wiped her hand across her mouth. A line of blood sat menacingly on her wrist. She stared at her hand.

“You cut your lip?”

She shook her head. “No, it just started bleeding… I think I’m going to be sick.”

Talis grabbed her arm and slung her over his back. “I’m taking you home now.” He carried her, stumbling down the bluff, ignoring her protests. A wound that caused bleeding from the mouth was very serious. After awhile he was too tired to carry her, so he rested for a bit. Even though it was almost dark, Talis could see that Mara looked paler. He had to get her home quickly to a healer.

By the time they spotted the city from afar, moonlight sent long, wiry shadows across the hillside leading up to the towering stone walls. Lights flickered from countless braziers mounted hundreds of feet higher on the upper part of the city. Naru stood ominous under the garish light of the four moon sisters. The evening gong sounded from atop a watchtower.

As Talis and Mara approached the main gates, a group of soldiers making their rounds studied them.

“Young Master Talis,” said Baratis, the captain of the barracks. “And Mara…is she alright?”

“I can’t talk now…open the gates…Mara is hurt!”

“Carem and Jorem! Help carry young Mara,” Baratis shouted. The soldiers carried Mara through the gate, massive steel shafts rising into the stone walls. Eyes blinked at them from behind murder holes as they entered. Archers ready to strike down enemies in a siege. Spread before them past the gate was the Arena of the Sej Elders, formed of gigantic white granite blocks, rising over everything in the lower part of the city. Stone towers lined the wide avenue leading up to the arena.

The soldiers’ boots clapped against the cobblestone streets as they strode past the arena, finally winding around until they reached the gates of the upper city. Up the snaking rise, they walked past merchant shops and eyes that gawked at the soldiers carrying Mara. They continued on, to the highest part of the city, beneath the Temple of the Goddess Nestria, the Goddess of the Sky. To Mara’s house, the House of Viceroy Lei and Lady Malvia, daughter of the king and second in line to the throne.

As the soldiers carried Mara towards the white marble mansion, Talis worried that her wounds were too grave to cure. Today was the worst day, and he was all to blame. Why did he have to chase after the boar? Two servants ran up and gasped when they noticed Mara, and they quickly carried her inside. Lady Malvia rushed towards them, her silver robe swirling behind her.

“What happened to my daughter? She’s so pale, why is she pale?”

“A boar…we were out hunting-”

“Gods, Talis!” She brought her hands to her face, an expression of horror paling her eyes. ”Boar hunting? You’re both only thirteen! What were you thinking?” Her face seethed with rage, and she paused a moment, breathing deeply as if trying to calm herself. “ I warned you two about hunting alone. Now go and quickly fetch the healer.”

A sick feeling wrenched his stomach as he raced out back to a small building overlooking the rose garden. It was his fault. He never should have insisted on going hunting in the first place. He vowed not to go on the hunt again-not if it meant hurting Mara.

Inside the healer’s apothecary, he found Belesia grinding herbs inside a round, wooden bowl. The room held the pungent smells of mold, fire and smoke. The walls were lined with jars of herbs, roots, dried insects and small, shriveled animals floating in clear liquid. The healer narrowed her eyes at him.

“Young master…what brings you here?”

“Mara was injured in the swamp…by a boar.”

Belesia clasped her hands over her stomach. “Is she bleeding?”

“From the mouth.”

She groaned. “How did it strike her?”

“Tusks slashed here.” He pointed at his lower ribs. ”And later blood spilled from her mouth.”

“Oh, an internal wound, this is dire…” She grabbed a satchel and hobbled outside. “We must hurry.”

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