Battlemage Taika – Part 4

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

The enemy just kept coming. Wave after wave of oddly armoured soldiers carrying crossbows that fired some sort of magical energy. Taika had never seen anything like them but she didn’t have time to analyse their armour or weapons.

The soldiers, unlike her own, were disciplined and efficient. They worked in formation and cut down the legion.

“Their armour is absorbing any spells we cast!” Yelled Julien.

“They’re coming through the gate. We need to shut that down!” shouted Pat.

The one advantage they had was the spells that let them give commands directly with voice while the enemy relied on horns and runners. It wasn’t enough of an advantage. They were down to two thousand in the legion, less than half, and only one hundred of the five hundred battlemages when Taika started to consider retreat through teleportation.

“Knight Commander,” one of the knights from the legion yelled, “The Panos are breaking through behind us.” She had never heard that the Panos were capable of fighting on this scale.

“Put the communication spell on their leader and move your men to the front, we need to get to the gate.”

A woman’s voice, speaking perfect common, replied, “I couldn’t agree more. I am Aleenia, temporary War Alpha of the Western packs. I bring you two hundred hunters and twelve Shamans. I need to get through that gate.”

“Welcome! Move your people to the eastern front, they seem to be weakening on that side.”

“No. They are preparing an ambush there. I’m a seer and I say we move forward.”

Seers were unheard of in the Maneean mages but the Panos seemed to have one or two in each pack. Most couldn’t tell what time they were currently in, or who they were talking to. It was shocking to have one not only be coherent but leading a war party.

“You heard the War Alpha!” Taika yelled at her commanders.

The battle did turn and they started pushing the enemy back but they just kept coming out of the gate and Taika’s forces were starting to tire and dwindle.

“We need to shut that gate down,” Pat yelled again.

“He’s right, but I need to get through it first,” Aleenia replied.

“Ok, we’re fighting like battlemages and Hunters. I think we need to start fighting like spies. Julien and I are going to take Aleenia and ten soldiers under an invisibility spell and shut down that gate.”

As they prepared for the stealth offensive, their army tightened their formation and moved as if they were preparing to either retreat or regroup.

Adeleine recognized the War Alpha immediately, she walked with confidence and radiated power. “Aleenia War Alpha, I presume?” There was something else in the way she held herself, an impatience that was more than battle anxiety.

“Please, Aleenia is fine.”

“Who’s on the other side of the gate?” Taika was being blunt to the point of rudeness but she needed to know that the other woman understood this was a one way trip.

“My betrothed tried to stop all this and failed, but he managed to get the alarm out.” She gestured around.

Nodding, Taika went back to preparing the invisibility spell. When she was almost done, Julien walked towards her and said, “What are we going to do with them when we shut down the gate?”

“When the gate shuts down, Pat has orders to teleport everyone out. I’ll activate the volcano.”

“But that’ll destroy everything and everyone inside the wall, millions will die.”

“Not if we can create a big enough shield to contain the army and the blast.”

Julien’s eyes grew wide and he looked like he was going to argue, instead he stood straighter and said, “We need someone on both sides to create a powerful enough shield…”

“No. It’s my plan and I’m going to be the one inside. That’s an order.”

There was no more argument, they formed a tight line, and she cast the invisibility spell. They spent the next hour dancing around the enemy troops trying not to be noticed. The spell hid them but didn’t make them intangible.

As they finally reached the gate, it was guarded. They’d expected the guards but something else was going on here. Half the guards wore comfortable looking uniforms. She assumed they were battlemages but she hadn’t seen any one the field. The others wore the regular armour.

A handsome man who wore no armour and carried a sword was yelling at another man. Taika directed a full stop and quickly cast a translation spell. The yelling man stopped and looked at them before going back to yelling, “Is this what the glorious Empire is about? Torturing children?” He gestured at a small enclosure, there were four Panos youths, no more than five. They were tied to stakes with steal wire.

Read Conclusion (November 23)


If you liked this, why not read more stories set in The Tree of Worlds:

Battlemage Taika – Part 3

Part 1 | Part 2

“That’s it?” Taika looked at the six old men and shook her head, “There’s supposed to be hundreds of you.”

“Tales for children and peasants. There hasn’t been a new battlemage in… What is it now, Frank?” Julien asked.

“Twenty-three years,” the oldest said.

“What happens if we hear from the towers?” Taika had grown up with stories of the battlemages protecting their world from the demons that came from the portals inside the wall.

“We tell the nice indigenous children not to play with the towers have a nice lunch with the village elders and come home.” Julien smiled and looked at her like he pitied her. “There hasn’t been an incursion in over a hundred years. Since we’ve declared peace with our neighbours, we’ve been glorified illusionists for parades.”

* * *

“There are only six of them!” she bellowed at Adrix not caring that his wife and small council were in the room. He smirked and she yelled, “You knew?”

Giving her a laugh that was too much like her father’s for it to be natural, he said, “Yes. Over the past three decades, father has cut their budget and prevented recruitment.”

“Why do the official papers say eight hundred?”

Rachel, Queen consort, replied almost bashfully, “That’s my fault. I didn’t want the other kingdoms realizing how under prepared we are to deal with magical attacks.”

It made sense and that made Taika all the more angry. “So I have six battlemages and no money to recruit more? You realize the youngest is seventy?”

“Sister. The wall accords have been broken. We can ignore our oath and let the rest of the world burn or we can ensure it stays safe. I refuse to be the king that forsakes our world. You’ll have your budget.”

Recruitment was harder than she expected. Everyone wanted to be a battlemage but most didn’t have the magical ability or the discipline. Instead of battle plans and training regiments, she and the other battlemages spent their days sifting through the recruits. By the end of the six months they had accepted three hundred, none of which were even close to the old standards of the battlemages. A fact that Julien reminded her of daily.

After a bad day of training, just under a year since she’d been appointed Knight Commander, she sat in a meeting with the six senior, in every sense, battlemages.

“How are they doing?” Each of them had been given a specialty to train. Each battle specialty needed a particular style and the six of them covered the five main specialties; Attack, Defence, Physical Enhancement, Healing, and Counter-Magic.

“They rely too much on the ambient energy of the ancestor crystals. When we’re out in the wilds there won’t be as much and they’ll find themselves unable to cast.” Julien followed his statement with a tisking sound.

“Then teach them.” She lifted her hand to stop his witty retort. They were insubordinate, rude, and questioned everything she said, but they only did it in private. They were exactly what she’d want as commanders. “I want each of you to pick the best ten of your classes and start giving them extra training. I want a fighting force by the end of the month. I want two groups of Defence mages. Until we can train a full battalion, we’ll be working with the fourth knight’s legion.”

“Those ninnies wouldn’t know a demon from a Panos.”

“Well, it’s a good thing you outrank them, then, and that they can follow orders.” Their faces fell as she said it. battlemages were taken from every class while knights were always nobles. To have the battlemages outrank knights was unheard of. “You six are now honorary lords and commanders. You’ll each have five hundred men under your command while in the field. You’ll also have a knight commander to advise you.”

After a month of preparations, the fourth legion and their battlemage commanders were ready for battle, or so they thought.

The Panos towers lit up and the legion prepared. They were slow to teleport and when they transported to the towers they were already surrounded by an enemy in strange armour, who was much better prepared for battle.

Read Next


If you liked this, why not read more stories set in The Tree of Worlds:

Battlemage Taika – Part 2

Part 1

Taika was knighted and everyone in the Maneean military was relieved to see her go. Despite being a capable knight she was too smart and stubborn for her own good. If she’d been a regular recruit they would have given her a frontier outpost to command.

The battlemages paraded in all the major parades and occasionally did demonstrations of combat for foreign dignitaries. They hadn’t seen combat since her grandfather’s time. There were fewer and fewer mages capable of casting anything beyond basic spells away from the power of the ancestors.

Before meeting the mages, she’d been given all the official papers about the battlemages. The papers said there was a full regiment of eight hundred. That was less than one percent of what they’d had in the last great war. Before they’d built the wall to keep out the demons.

She’d been given command a month before the coronation and her brother had asked that she appoint an honour guard of ten battlemages to protect him. She was thinking about that while she traveled to the official battlemage barracks. It was the only building in the capital that was against the wall.

Unfortunately, like the wall, it was old and crumbling. The wall was still a priority but the barracks were not and it showed. Walking into the crumbling building, she was challenged by a young soldier, maybe sixteen, “Stop. Who goes there?”

“Taika of Maneea, Knight Commander of the battlemages.”

To the boy’s credit, he didn’t flinch, simply replying, “You may pass.”

“What’s your name Private?”

“Alex, Sir.”

“Continue the good work Alex.” The boy’s chest puffed out and he seemed to be paying better attention. Her words and their reaction gave her the reassurance that she could do this.

Walking into the command office she found it empty. They must have been running drills, she thought. She checked the practice yards and found them not only empty but barren.

She found the banquet hall in the same state and most of the first two floors. She was going to give up and use a locater spell when she heard voices coming from the officer’s mess.

“You should have seen her Frank. They don’t make women like that anymore,” an old man was telling his tale to a group of five other old men. Each had a full glass of beer in front of them and several empty ones.

She stood at the door shocked and what she was seeing. None of them were in uniform, they were drunk and it wasn’t even eight in the morning. She let the old man finish his story and then said, “Is this what a battlemage does in the morning?”

The old man who was telling the story, swung around and threw a line of pure force at her. It was weak but well crafted; she deflected it easily, converting he energy to harmless wind.

“Hmm that normally works. Okay boys, let’s teach this pup some respect.” The six of them stood up and she could feel magical energy coalescing around them.

Raising her shields, she said, “Gentlemen, this is not the welcome I expected as your new knight commander.”

The entire group burst into laughter. The man who’d been telling the lewd story, between guffaws, said, “New is right. What are you, twelve? And what moron appointed a knight commander to us. We haven’t needed one of those in sixty years.”

“I’m twenty-two, and the moron who appointed me was the king. May his soul find rest.”

“A dying man’s wish for his what? Niece? Mistress?”

“Daughter.”

They all nodded sagely. The oldest of them squinted at her and said, “You’re the youngest one aren’t you. The troublemaker.”

One of the others said, “That’s why she’s been assigned to us.”

Since they seemed to have released their offensive magic, she dropped her shields and nodded, “Yes. That’s me. Now that we’ve decided not to try and kill each other I’d like to address the entire group.”

“Go ahead. We’re all here,” the storyteller said. “My name is Julien and here are your mighty troops. Impressive shield by the way.”

These six old men were all that was left of the mighty battlemages.

Read Next


If you liked this, why not read more stories set in The Tree of Worlds:

Battlemage Taika – Part 1

“No Adrix, you’re wrong!” Taika turned her head away to not let her older brother see her cry.

“I’m sorry Tai, he’s dying.” Adrix had the height and rust coloured beard of their father, but had yet to gain the girth of the king.

Running towards the royal chambers, still in her practice armour, she fought back the tears that would have most of the other knights in training laughing at her. Sir Vastra was fond of telling her that knights don’t cry. As if the older woman could ever dredge up tears from her cold crystalized heart.

The castle guard didn’t stop her running through the halls. Her amber hair, bright pink eyes, matched with her improbable height, marked her as one of the thirteen Maneean royal heirs.

The royal surgeon stopped her at the door of her father’s rooms. “He only has a few minutes left. He’s asked to see you.”

A wave of indecision rolled over her. She wanted to remember him as the vibrant happy man he’d always been and part of her thought if she didn’t go in he couldn’t die. After a breath she decided she was being silly and walked into his rooms.

The large bed that he’d always looked so comfortable in now made him look small and frail. He gestured for her to come closer and she kneeled at his bedside. “Father, I… she trailed off, unsure what she wanted to say other than “Don’t Die”.

“Little Dagger.” His voice was raspy and distant. “I’ve always had a special place in my heart for you.” He was once again the lithe frame of his youth, but it was due to illness not training. “You’ve always been my favourite.”

Smiling despite her tears, she laughed, “You tell us all that.”

“Perhaps, but it doesn’t make it any less true.”

“Don’t go, Father.” She knew it was an unfair request but she didn’t care.

Taking her hand, he looked at her and said, “You have always been most like me and I’m sorry for that. The traits that served me well as king are not well suited to a life as the fourth daughter and thirteenth heir.”

“It’s okay, Father. I’ll make a good knight.”

“You hate taking orders.”

“If they weren’t so stupid, I’d follow them.” He patted her hand.

“Adrix will be a good King but he will need someone with your sharp tongue and mind to keep him grounded. I want you to finish your knight training and then take over command of the battlemages.”

She assumed he was starting to slip and just smiled and nodded.

Giving her the cutting glare that had him nicknamed Dagger he said, “I have not lost my mind. They might be few but they’re powerful and they’re necessary. You are the most powerful, magically, of the heirs and I fear they’ll be needed now that the other kingdoms have pulled out of the Wall Accords.”

“Are you expecting war?”

Nodding he replied, “I’m expecting far worse my daughter, far worse.” He took a deep breath and released it slowly. He closed his eyes and his entire body started to glow. She called for the surgeon who called in her siblings, all but Adrianna who had been married to the prince of the kingdom on the opposite side of the circular wall.

The twelve of them stood around his bed and chanted the death song as his body converted itself to crystal. When it had finished, most of them were crying.

Taking the crystal, Addison who was the Keeper of the Crystals and first born, said, “And so in his death our father gives his power to his people and will rest in the hall of crystals.” The magical power of all Maneean’s came from their ancestors. It made the capital one of the most powerful places on the planet.

When a king dies, the kingdom goes into mourning for a year. In that year nothing happens but essential events and festivals. On the one year anniversary of the King’s death, the heir is coronated. It’s the most dangerous time for an heir, historically those below them in succession would try to assassinate them. This year was different; Adrix was the only heir that had ever cared about ruling, and both Adeena and Addison had abdicated in favour of service to the Temple of Ancestors.

The year passed with no assassinations, no scandals; nothing but sombre events.

Read Next


If you liked this, why not read more stories set in The Tree of Worlds:

The Ruby Child – 2016 Serial Story – Option 1

It was the middle of the night and darker than Mac was used too. When the clouds covered the stars in the rural islands there were no magical or electric lamps. It wasn’t the first time he’d wished he could use a magical torch or those fancy darkvision glasses but magic didn’t work on or around him. He just kept following the speck of light ahead.

“You almost at the cabin, Captain?” Anita’s voice echoed in his ear. The electric radio crackled as she spoke.

“I think so. Hard to see with these clouds but I think I see their porch light.”

“Idiots.” Was the only reply from Anita. She was right, too. These poor folks didn’t have money for electric or magical lamps. At best they’d have candles and a hearth.

Hiding behind trees, Mac could see the small shack that passed for a cabin. I looked like it was ready to fall over in the next wind. The only incongruities were the magical light on the porch and the clean shaven, military haircut wearing, man sitting in a rocking chair. He was desperately trying to look like he was asleep.

Mac felt the first drops of rain and swore softly. He took out his handgun and aimed at the man’s chest. Poor sod was probably fresh from the academy. Mac thought of those days and shuddered at memories.

Taking a deep breath, he fired the gun and it went off with a hiss and nowhere near the kickback he was used to. The sleep dart didn’t fly straight, but arced down a little and hit the man in the leg instead of the chest. The effect was the same, and the man’s impression of someone sleeping became more believable.

“Guard’s down. Tell Maddie her gun arcs downwards.”

Maddie must have been listening. “I’ll fix it. For now aim higher.” Mac couldn’t tell if she was being sarcastic or genuine; the girl’s accent always made her sound sarcastic. Anita snickered.

“Radio silence. I’m going in.”

He reloaded the dart gun and approached the porch. No alarms went off and no one shot at him. It was a refreshing change in luck. It hopefully meant the guard was alone or only one of two.

It’s not like many people knew about this place. They’d only discovered it existed from the files he and Anita stole when they defected. The file had said this placed housed something important and anything important to the Empire was something they shouldn’t have.

As he walked by the lamp, it flickered and went out. Magic really didn’t like him. The old wooden door creaked as he opened it slowly.

The entire cabin was one room and it was bathed in crimson light coming from a ruby the size of Mac’s head. The spindly elaborate pedestal the ruby sat on was spelled to kill anyone who touched it without the proper counter spell.

Mac walked slowly towards the ruby ignoring the rest of the room. His mind was screaming at him to check the rest of the room but he couldn’t pry his eyes off the ruby.

A hard and strong fist connecting with his jaw helped distract him from the ruby. There were two guards in the room and it looked like they’d been asleep. The one that hit him was made like a stone golem. Mac dodged the man’s second punch and shot at the second guard’s bellybutton. The dart arced down a little and the man let out a whimper as he fell to the ground.

“Ouch, sorry,” Mac said while the larger guard laughed. The big slab of guard feinted to the right and kicked the gun out of Mac’s left hand.

“I guess we’re doing this the old fashioned way,” quipped Mac.

“Killing you will get me a promotion, traitor!” The man swung at Mac again. Each hit was like being kicked by a horse; a large horse with metal shoes and a grudge.

Mac gave as good as he got, he hoped, but he was starting to feel it and get tired. The bigger man lunged and Mac punched him in a kidney, hard. Both men retreated to a corner of the tiny shack, and Mac said, “Come on, there’s got to be a way to compromise.”

“What’s wrong old man? Getting tired?”

“Yes. And I’m not that old.” Mac saw his pistol not near the big man’s foot and started circling the cabin. He hoped the man would mirror him like a boxer and give him the chance to grab the gun. “Do you know what I did when I was in the military?”

“Betray it?” asked the big man, who wasn’t as dumb as he looked. The man walked straight for Mac and swung at him, almost connecting.

“Nope. I was their specialist in magical artifacts.” He reached out and grabbed the stone pedestal and held it like a club. The ruby fell to the cabin ground and Mac rushed the man with the pedestal. The mountain of meat moved back too quickly and tripped on his feet, falling backwards.

Mac ran to the gun; switching the club to his right hand, he picked up the gun and walked over the guard.

“Tell General Lanthier that Captain MacDonnell sends his regards.” He shot the guard in the leg and walked towards the ruby mumbling, ”Forty-two isn’t old.” He passed his hand through his salt and pepper hair self-consciously.

The moment his eyes looked into the ruby he was entranced. He had no idea what it was, or what it was for, but stealing it would tweak the Empires nose and that was enough.

He reached out and gently touched the ruby, and it cut him. A drop of blood fell onto its crimson surface and he heard a sizzling noise. The ruby’s light became brighter and started to pulsate at the same rhythm as his heart. Its edges got softer and it elongated, starting to look more like a red egg than a gem.

He felt vibrations on the wooden floor of the cabin and knew he wasn’t alone. Turning to the doorway, he saw a line of soldiers walk through the door, wearing full body armour and carrying large crossbows.

“Oh boy!” he said.

There was only one other exit, the small square window in the back of the shack. He was considering if he could make it before they shot him when movement near his hand caught his attention.

The ruby had continued its transformation, elongating and separating. It had gotten paler, more of a pink and had grown arms and legs.

As he watched, in complete amazement, the ruby transformed into a baby with glowing crimson hair. The infant gave a tiny giggle and opened its eyes. He expected red eyes, but was surprised to see little clones of his own dark green eyes staring back at him.

“Oh Boy,” he repeated.