I closed my eyes harder in a vain attempt to ignore Xavo’s yelling. I was so close this time; I could feel it. I continued to mutter those arcane words I had learnt by heart, trying my best to hold onto my concentration. I’ll have to admit, given my particular situation, it was quite challenging. But I’ll get to that later.
Tonight, I was trying to make a Hepp stone. It was a crude form of magic really; you found a rock (albeit, as nice a rock as you could find. Magic is pretentious), learned the Hepp rune, and on the first new moon of spring with the bone of a grey wolf, you carved it into stone. More old wive’s tale than Magic, and any true Vizard would never stoop so low. But then again, I wasn’t a true Vizard, and didn’t have much at my disposal. The wolf’s bone alone used almost all of my allowance, since instead of buying one (which would most certainly have had the Magistrate on my tail), I actually had to find a wolf and kill it.
Anyway, just as I could feel the heat from the Hepp stone, which meant the runes were turning a bright gold and the Magic was working, I could hear Xevo again. Closer this time.
I muttered to myself, opened my eyes, and saw in watched in dismay as the runes I had so painstakingly carved melted back into the stone, losing their golden hue. Not only is Magic pretentious, it also has impossibly high standards. If you don’t succeed on the first try, you have to start all over. This better not have been one of Xevo’s false alarms, although those had come less and less after I had threatened to use Magic on him. Not that I actually knew how, but the threat was still as potent to my old friend. I was also going to have to remind him not to shout my name loud enough for any of the Magistrae’s guards to hear. They were daft, but not deaf.
I watched Tiplin come up over the hill, his figure backlit by the moon. No one was following him. Angrily, I threw the now-useless non-Hepp stone to the ground. How was I ever going to get any practice, or get any good, if I could never even finish a simple Rune Magic? I crossed my arms over my chest as Xevo came near. Even in the moonlight I could see that his freckled cheeks were flushed, and he was panting like a dog. Xevo was the best runner in the village, and to see him this tired made him look like he was running for his life. He sort of was.
Vizardy was a criminal offense in this part of Alagasia. Anyone thought to practice Magic, teach Magic, even read about Magic, was condemned to death. Those who associated with these types of people, knowing of what they were doing, met the same fate. It was the “knowing of what they were doing” part that kept me practicing. I would never put my family’s life at stake for a hobby. Xevo was a different story, but I’ll get to that later.
No one really knows why Vizardry was outlawed here. Maybe they do in the larger cities, but the only one in my village who’s been there is the Magistrae himself. My guess was that one upon a time someone with a great deal of power, who was not trained, caused a great deal of problems for this side of the world. But my guess is just a guess, since anyone trying to find out why Vizardry is outlawed becomes a suspect for Magic itself.
“Tilpin…Tilpin I swear there was someone behind me,” Xevo panted. He did look genuinely sorry.
“Xevo,” I said, trying my best to act calmly. “It’s alright. I get it, really. It’s dark outside, you don’t know what’s out there, and it’s really easy to hear things, even things that aren’t even—“
I looked at my friend strangely. Xevo spoke firmly, and when I looked him in the eye, I could see there was no doubt. He said he saw someone. This happened almost every time. But he had never looked so certain before. I motioned for him to continue; I was listening.
“Til, I know I’ve made mistakes in the past, but I swear to you. There was a man, and he started chasing after me. I don’t know where he’s gone, but I can tell you this: he was not a guard of the Magistrate.” I knew I could trust him on this one. “He was smaller, and faster, and not in armor. He was wearing a simpler monger’s cloak. But that’s not the strangest thing.” Xevo leaned in closer, and as his breaths grew faster and shorter, I began to worry some. “Tilpin,” Xevo whispered, “I swear to Daen he knew that I was going to be there.”
“He…He knew?” I was almost speechless—almost, for I’m never quite unable to talk somebody’s ear off. “That’s impossible. We’ve been so careful.” I stood there for a moment, silent. A chill fell over me, and it wasn’t the breeze rustling through the trees. It had been no more than two years since I began to practice, and as a fourteen year old boy, the consequences of my actions had never really struck me as reality. Part of that was my fault—I chose to ignore the truth of what happened to people when they were caught. It’s hard to imagine your head on a stake at that age. Part of it wasn’t really my fault at all. I like to say it was Daen’s divine intervention that Xevo walking in on my Magicing a leaf into a butterfly turned into friendship.
The worst of this was the look on Xevo’s paling face. You know, I was right to call it divine intervention, what happened that day. As the Magistrae’s son, Xevo could do and say whatever he wanted in this town. It was our form of royalty. So, if he had wanted to tell his father that he saw Magic that day, my life could have needed after fourteen short years. He said nothing, and I became forever indebted to him. And while being friends with him by no means hurt me, it wouldn’t save me from death like it would him. That was why he could help me—while he never liked to talk about it, it was decided that if I ever was caught, Xevo would lie and say that he had been bewitched the entire time. Of course, “bewitched” is not the right term. The term “Wizard” is also impossibly incorrect, but that’s for another day.
Anyway, as I looked at Xevo, the reality of what was happening slowly began to crash down on me. We hadn’t been careful enough. Someone knew that we had been out at night, and worst yet, if they had known where to find us and on which particular night, they had known we were doing magic. Normal children don’t go out on new, half, and full moons every other month or so. And while the personal repercussions for Xevo wouldn’t be too great, losing me would kill him. I was the best friend he had, since, surprisingly enough, most fun-loving boys don’t go out of their way to fall under the Magistrae’s ever-watchful eye.
“Come on Xevo,” I said, not able to look him in the eye. “Let’s just go home.” I started to turn my back but stopped as I heard Xevo speak. Only, it wasn’t my friend. This voice was darker, deeper, and oddly compelling, as if laced with a Magic I could not detect.
“We aren’t going home, Tilpin.”
Before I could respond to the voice to the side of me, I saw Xevo, albeit a disheveled looking Xevo, running down the hill. If that was Xevo, then who was…
I turned around slowly, feeling a chill down my spine as I saw a man—small, but taller than me, in a dark cloak, covering all his face in shadow except for his mouth. Several silver teeth glistened in the moonlight, which also drew me to the shimmering barely visible underneath the man’s cloak—A shimmering I could only accredit to the blade of a knife or sword. I could not see this man’s eyes and yet I felt his gaze. As I said before, his voice was compelling. I could not move, and whether this was from fright or Magic I could not know.
“Tilpin! Tilpin, it’s not me! He’s a Vizard!”