Julia shifted uneasily in her chair as she sat at the side the large wooden dinner table along with several others. At the head of the table was the Chancellor, the greying leader of the Mage Institute and a presence that exuded calm power and self assurance. Kyte sat across from Julia and seemed quite cowed himself. His head was bandaged on one side and he looked as if he’d just arrived from a battlefield. Next to Kyte was the Chancellor’s daughter, who was talking to Kyte quite animatedly about the events of the past day, although she seemed only to be talking to hear her own voice as she never paused to listen for a response from him. She had light blond hair and blue eyes, and was filled out in places that Julia could only dream of.
Julia quelled a pang of jealousy. She’d only known Kyte for a very short time, and while he seemed friendly, she had no business thinking he was interested in anything beyond friendship. *Besides*, she thought, *with voluptuous girls like the Chancellor’s daughter around, what hope would I have?*
She shook her head inwardly at the direction her thoughts were taking her. Right now was definitely not the time to be thinking about those things. Her friend Trixie had been kidnapped, as well as several other students from the Institute. The Chancellor was talking quietly to the other person seated at the table, a man named Rein. The Chancellor’s daughter, who was called Bernice (*ugh, what a name!* Julia thought) had briefly mentioned the man as they had all sat down together. She told Julia and Kyte that he was from the Knight’s Guild.
*He doesn’t look much like a Knight.* thought Julia.
Rein was thin and dressed all in dark close-fitting hunting clothes. His pale face and dark black eyes gave him a sinister quality that Julia could not quite shake, even though he had bowed deeply and spoke with a smooth and confident voice as he had introduced himself. He also carried two swords strapped to his back with thick leather straps - each at an angle evidently best suited for being rapidly drawn in battle.
Julia yawned. Despite having slept overnight - or rather being knocked unconscious - she reminded herself, she was terribly distressed about Trixie and her own strange new powers. She kept glancing over her shoulder in case some new Remnant or other scary creature might leap out at her. She pressed the amber gem between her fingers absently as it hung from a silver chain around her neck. She would not take it off for anything, even to change her clothes. It was the only thing about the past few days that gave her any sense of hope, and she somehow knew that she needed to guard it with her life.
“... has made all the arrangements. You will be travelling with Rein, Julia to the Zirac forest where there is a Mage that is an expert in ancient magic. The Archknight has already dispatched others to find this Mage. We seem to be entering very troubling times. It is my opinion that the movements of the Goblins to Stormwind Keep and the activity of the Remnants with you Julia are no coincidence.”
Julia blinked as the words seeped in. Then she swallowed. “You - you want me to travel to Zirac forest? To find a Mage? But I’m just a first year student. I’m not much more than an herbalist with some magic talent.” her words sounded hollow even to her as she felt the terror in her own voice bring it up in pitch.
Kyte gave her a lopsided smile. “Julia, whatever you were, you seem to be much more than that now. Nobody has so much as gotten a Remnant to blink for hundreds of years, and then they run into you and bang!” He made an exploding gesture with his hands, then suddenly dropped them self-consciously as everyone else at the table stared at him in silence.
The Chancellor looked at Julia with heavy-lidded eyes.
“I know that this seems to be happening quickly for you Julia, but in all honesty we cannot afford to put you at risk. It’s obvious that we have been infiltrated by Rath worshippers, as we discovered many of the wards surrounding the Institute have been broken or sabotaged. We cannot ensure your safety here, and this mage Findar may be our best hope of finding out why the Remnants have singled you out. Travelling with Rein will give you a measure of safety as well as preventing Rath from tracking you.”
“Who is this Rath everyone keeps talking about?” Julia asked. “Why was Trixie and those others kidnapped? What is all this about?”
Rein regarded Julia with barely concealed disdain. “Rath is an ancient dragon and a force of great evil. He tried to take over this world, and kill all of his own kind. It was only with the combined forces of Dragons, Elves, humans and other creatures banding together with the Mages that he was imprisoned deep within the earth.”
Julia shrank under his gaze as he continued.
“It has been so long since the last great war that much knowledge of how he was imprisoned has been lost. It appears that whatever spells had held him are weakening, and he has started to enlist other evil races like the Goblins to help him become free once again. Now, we can sit here and waste more time with history lessons, or we can prepare to leave. Tonight.” With that, he pushed his chair back roughly and strode out of the room.
Kyte glanced at Julia. “Gee, he seems ... uptight,” Kyte said.
The Chancellor coughed.
“Rein is a Knight and is sworn to uphold a code of conduct and he is an agent of justice. He became a Knight after his family was killed by Goblins when he was young. Despite your fears, Julia, you should be as safe with Rein as with anyone here, probably moreso.”
Julia shivered involuntarily.
“Don’t worry Julia. I’m coming too.” Kyte said, pressing a thumb to his chest grandly and grinned.
Bernice and Julia exchanged skeptical glances.
*I feel so much better* Julia thought to herself wryly as she clutched the teardrop shaped amber.