Prologue- Ceremony of Marking
Author's note: I love to read what you thought of this chapter. Don't be afraid to leave a comment, I don't bite ;)
“Carnel Nago! Come up on the stage!” A booming voice echoed through the grand hallway. I sighed: Why did they always give a grand party like this one whenever people went for their Marking? I adjusted my long coat and brushed my hair aside as I made my way over to the big stage in the middle of the hall.
The Marking Ceremony. I’ve read about this event during the past years. But I’d never imagined they’d invite every single high official of the city to come and take a look what Marking would be linked to the soul of this year’s youths! Not that everyone got a Marking.
A disillusioned young man walked past me, tears in his eyes. He wasn’t lucky: He didn’t have any capability to hold a power inside him at all. Not even a weak one! So he was doomed to find work elsewhere in the city or, if he was unlucky to grab one of the few places available in the city for non-Marked people, try his luck elsewhere in a different country.
“Place your hand on top of the stone slab, child.” An old man explained. I took a good, long look at the impressive stone. It was engraved with all kinds of ancient texts, with words I didn’t even try to understand. I had read much about this stone: it was supposed to give people an idea what kind of being their soul had been Marked with. Essentially, it was a show where people got to hear what they’ll be doing for the rest of their lives.
Cold and smooth. Not what I expected, I mused when I placed my hand against the hard material. The stone hummed softly and started glowing in a light white colour. One at a time, magical circles lighted up, each in a different colour. I knew that each magical circle represented a kind of Mark: a devil, an angel, a fairy, a Valhallian or an Our. There was also a sixth circle, which glowed in an abundance of colour.
“The Unknown…” I mumbled. Those were strong beings that weren’t really affiliated with anything else. For that reason, there were not that many people that had their soul Marked with any of them, as they tended to keep human matters far, far away from them.
I saw how the light slowly moved over the dark red circle of the Devils, then crossed the golden glow of the Angelic, the dirt-brown colour of the Fairy circle. Then ice-cold glow of the Norse and the pale green glow of the Greek circle. But the light of the table didn’t stop there. It continued onwards, flowing through the cracks of the stone as it searched for something.
“Well, this is taking longer than I expected…” I deadpanned. I tapped my feet on the ground in an impatient fashion as the light suddenly disappeared. At first, I thought I didn’t have the capability of being Marked by a being. Which wasn’t all that surprising, considering 85% of the continent’s population didn’t have any capability either. Still, I felt a slight twang of disappointment course through my veins when I saw the light disappear.
“H-Huh?” When I tried removing my hand from the stone slab, I felt something tugging against me. Like it wanted my hand to stay on the hard surface. The old man that called me up on the stage walked towards me.
“That’s enough, child. You do not have the capability for a Marking. Please remove your hand from the Choosing Slab.” I looked him dead in the eye, all the while I pulled as hard as I could at my arm.
“All fine and well, old guy, but the stone doesn’t want to let go!” Suddenly, the stone started to vibrate. No matter how hard I tried pulling at my right hand, it seemed like my fingers had been glued to the cold slab.
I looked around in a panic, before a bright light suddenly erupted from the centre of the Choosing Slab. Every eyeball in the room was directed at the newly emergent light as it searched its way through the ancient scriptures and circles. And then, it stopped with a dark glow emerging from a peculiar spot: the circle of the Unknown.
Warmth drained from my face. A black smoke started bellowing from the stone, easily covering the entirety of the stage. The old man shrieked and quickly ran to safety, as did the people seated on the first three rows around the stage.
“Uhm… H-Hello?” I carefully said. A pair of glowing red orbs were directly staring at me. I gulped and noticed I had a dry throat. Of course, the smoke didn’t answer. Instead, it reached up to the glass ceiling high above. Before it got there however, the smoke pillar collapsed and cascaded all over me. The smoke completely covered my surroundings. I couldn’t even see my own feet.
There were those red eyes again! I gulped before I saw a row of misty teeth emerging from the smoky darkness. They looked sharp, as sharp as mist can be. I didn’t get any opportunity to say anything, as the red eyes and teeth burst forwards and rammed against my chest. From the moment they touched my clothes, they splattered in countless smoky particles. The mist swirled all around me while I felt like something was being pumped through my skin against my will.
“What is…?” Those were the only words that I could muster. The mist thinned out, until only the red eyes and misty maw remained. The teeth turned into an excited grin before they hid inside my body as well. After I stumbled a couple of feet, I fell down on my knees. My head was spinning while my body felt like it was about to explode.
“Let me see your mark, child.” The old man had returned. He knelt beside me and roughly reached for my arm. When his fingers touched my skin, he suddenly pulled back. The man seemed genuinely shocked: Was he unable to touch me? I looked all over my body before I showed him my left hand palm. Instead of being smooth, it now had a strange marking. In my mind, it kind of looking like a multi-legged serpent that was gnawing at… something.
“I-I've never seen such a Mark...” He looked perplexed. His eyes bounced from the Mark on my hand to me and then back to the Mark. I didn't understand: there were Marks that were still unknown? I knew the Unknown were seclusive and didn't like to meddle in human affairs as much as other pantheons, but having no information at all on this Mark worried me a bit.
“Please remove yourself away from the choosing slab, young man." Since the old man seemed too stunned to say anything sensible, his aide took over. He ushered me away and out of the Grand Hall while everyone's eyes were directed straight at me. Not that I cared: I was more taken with my Marking.
An Unknown, huh? , I asked myself. Before I could return to my apartment a couple of streets away, a young man ran towards me. He dumped a small plastic bag in my hands before he dashed away.
Is it just me, or did he look afraid?, I wondered. I took a quick look inside and spotted a pen, a welcoming brochure for the Academy of Magic and a map of the school grounds. That’s right, I realized. I’m supposed to attend classes from tomorrow on.
"What a pain..." I mumbled. People who had been marked were forced to attend the Academy for at least one year, as their powers were still developing.
I looked ahead, at the massive tower-like structures in the distance. The Academy of Magic, where Marked people went to learn to control their powers and learn how to use their magic. How to create and structure their own magical formulas. A school where elves, merfolk, beastmen and humans alike live together, Just like the rest of the city actually.
“Right. Back home I go.” I mused. I liked talking to myself. That reminded me I was never alone, even if I didn’t have any tangible friends to speak of. While I waited for the electro-tram to arrive, I read through the welcoming brochure of the Academy. It mostly handled talked about the facilities on-site, like a pool (including a real-life beach and reef for merfolk) or an acrobatic trail (located inside a forest to accommodate for elves) and a running court. But what stood out the most for me was the time when students were supposed to arrive.
“8:30 am?! The electro-tram takes half an hour to get to the Academy.. Argh, that’s too early!” I complained. I rubbed my temples as I stepped unto the electro-tram and scanned my key card. I could see the spell imbued in the card and in the scanner resonate with each other before spells retracted into their metal cases.
While the vehicle brought me to my apartment, I looked around. Everywhere I looked were elves, merfolk and beastmen going about their normal days. Some shopping, some returning from home , others going to one of the Devil districts to unwind after a long day of work. I saw some believers heading towards Angel’s tower, a massive white tower piercing the heavens in the far distance, for their daily prayers as well.
“Finally, back home.” I said in a tired voice before I unlocked the door to my modest apartment. After the electro-tram delivered me to my destination, I had to walk just a hundred feet until I reached my apartment. The room behind the door was still the same: messy and disorganized. I quickly grabbed some bread and started munching. I held the bread between my teeth as I fell down on my bed and grabbed the welcoming brochure again.
“8:30 am… I’d better set my alarm.” I reached out and tapped the small egg-shaped object. The magic formula slowly extracted itself from the metal and hovered in the middle of the air. The magic circle slowly rotated as its complicated symbols glowed in a golden colour. I reached out to the magic circle to adjust the time of the alarm, like always.
“What?!” I could feel an otherworldly pulse course through my body before it exploded from my left hand. A ghostly image, shaped like the red eyes and misty jaws from before, appeared and chomped down upon the magic circle. Before I could do anything else, the jaws fell shut around the spell. I saw how the symbols on the magic circle faded until they disappeared completely. A second later, the circle broke apart completely with the fragments fading into glowing particles that were eagerly devoured by the black mist.
“…Huh.” That was the only thing that came out of my perplexed mouth. The red eyes blinked at me before they disappeared again. Which left me with a broken alarm. And a lot of panic about how I’d ever get awake in time for my first day in school.
“All right, let’s calm down. If I leave my blinds open for the night, I’ll be fine.” I reasoned. I calmed down and finished my bread before I took another look at my clock. No reaction. Was it broken? It didn’t react anymore, so I tossed it into the trash.
With a deep sigh, I fell down unto my cushions. I grabbed my teddy-bear and pulled him close to my chest. I always slept with him, whether I was one year old or , like right now, 21 years old. At first, I couldn’t catch a wink of sleep as the excitement and questions about my first day at the Academy slowly came seeping into my system. But after the moon had risen into the sky, I finally fell asleep.
When I awoke again, it was when a ray of weak sunlight poked through the blinds of my bedroom. I rolled away from the light, noticed too late my bed wasn’t too wide and landed on the floor. I grumbled as I untangled myself from my bedsheets and dragged myself into my apartment’s shower cabin. If only I’d stripped myself of my pyjamas before I turned on the water…
After I’d hung out my pyjamas out to dry and dried myself off, I dumped some things into a small plastic bag and set off for the Academy. When I reached the electro-tram, I barely managed to get on before it went on its daily route throughout the city. I let my pass be scanned by the metallic pole in the middle of the copper cart, and saw the same magic circle as yesterday hover above the metal. It waited for my key card.
“Well, this may not be my key-card but…” I couldn’t stop myself. I was just too curious after the jaws ate the spell yesterday. I reached out to the magic circle, which glowed in a light green colour. Fairy magic, I recognized. The ghostly image appeared once more, the red eyes hungrily gazing at the magic circle in front of it. The image threw a couple of teasing gazes towards me, like a child who was about to do something naughty, before the misty teeth sunk deep into the circle.
From the moment the circle faded into particles, the alarm of the electro-tram went off. The copper cart immediately stopped, and the Norse electrical spell powering the thing faded at the same time. The driver of the cart jumped from his chair and bolted towards me.
“You! What did you do, you teenage scum?!” Wow. He's rather aggressive, wasn’t he?, I thought. I shrugged.
“The spell malfunctioned suddenly when I tried handing it my key-card.” The driver clicked his tongue before he reached for the portable phone hanging from his hip. The man tapped on a short sequence of numbers before he spoke against the plastic object. The spell embedded in the metal hovered slightly in the air. I tried to have the ghostly image eat it again, but each time I lashed out, the driver jumped away.
“Hello, police. I’ve got a reprobate, right here in front of me in electro-tram 729! Come quick, he's very violent!” He announced. I felt the blood retract from my face.
Uh-oh, not good!, I realized. I wanted to jump of the electro-tram, but the conductor kept a tight grip on my arm. No matter how much I tried pulling away from him, his hand stuck to my arm and kept me close to him. Soon, the police arrived and took my away to the station.
Well, this wasn’t exactly how I’d imagined my first day at school to go., I mused to myself.