The Beginning

This is my story for the Genre Stretch for August.  The genre for the month was Prehistoric Fiction.  This story is set in the early Iron Age of the world where the other stories in this series are set.  So… even though none of the usual Genre Stretch characters appear, this is still in that universe.

**

It started off as nothing more than a thought.  He woke up one morning to the sounds of the people around him.  They had been together as a group for generations.  Some were kin, but others had simply joined the group as a way to survive.  Everyone knew it was safer in numbers.  The wild animals that hunted in the dark didn’t attack them when they were many.

That was simply how it was for years.  That morning was different somehow.  He woke up to the sounds of those people and realized that they weren’t simply people who lived together in a group for safety’s sake.  They were a People.  The people were his people.

Henryk sat up on his cot with a soft gasp.  It was as if, with that realization, something had change inside him.  He dressed himself and then slipped out of the roundhouse.  He looked at the man he’d always called “father” – the leader of the people.

“Do I seem different?” he asked, as he looked up at the older man.

Father looked at him critically and then nodded.  “You do,” he said.  He crouched lower, so that they were looking eye to eye.  Nodding again, he said, “Speak with the elders, Henryk.  One may know what this change means.”

Henryk nodded.  He headed through the gathering of roundhouses to where the elders made their home.  He felt a tremor of fear as he peered inside.  What if the change he felt was wrong?  What if they cast him out of the group?  He couldn’t live without these people – his people.  Of that, he was certain.

Lukasz spotted him immediately and moved to his feet.  “Henryk,” he said, waving him into the roundhouse.  “I might have guessed it would be you.”

“You do know what this means?”

When he nodded, Henryk stepped over to him.  He tensed when the old man touched his chin, forcing his gaze upward.  However, Lukasz smiled.  “It means that you are special, Henryk,” he said.  “From this moment on, we are one people: your people.  You will be called upon to unite and protect us from this day forth.”

A faint smile touched Henryk’s lips.  He didn’t feel special.  He felt strange.  He was glad, though, that they wouldn’t be casting him out of the settlement.  His brows furrowed.  “Is there anyone else like me?” he asked.

“Many others,” Lukasz said.  He shrugged.  “Perhaps, if you are fortunate, you meet one.”

Faculty – Core Curriculum

Adrian Glen – young Professor of Transfigurations; quiet and serious; does not seem to like the students very much, often scolds them for small infractions; is distrustful of Cyrus; thinks that Larissa is lovely, but is too shy to tell her so; formerly of Lucidaran House

Athena Lark – junior Professor of Captivations; a terrible flirt, has bedded nearly all the male staff and some of the females staff; very skilled with spells relating to allure; low, musical voice; lovely, feminine; formerly of Eidolon House

Chloris Adams – junior Professor of Potions; head of Constantine House; Keenan Meadows will often substitute for Chloris Adams, and she will take his classes at Northeast Academy as well; skilled with spell-activated potions; Master of Apothecary Arts; golden brown curls, blue eyes; 36 years old; formerly of Constantine House

Shadow – Professor of Herbology; true name is Thaddeus Goldeneagle; head of Eidolon House; only head of house to have not attended Ashwinder’s Academy; old friends with headmistress; claims to be 50 years old, is actually at least 400 year old; strange personality; dark brown hair, intense gray eyes

Chelsea Williams – young Professor of Evocations (also called Defensive Magic); head of Kindaran House; she and Loki were lovers; 23 years old, one of the youngest professors they’ve had at the school; lovely and rather innocent; formerly of Kindaran House

Alexander Narasweln – senior Professor of Astronomy; playful and kindly towards students; very informal in class; skilled with astrology; rumored to be Nestor’s lover; formerly of Constantine House

Melinda Kalkberg – senior Professor of Transmutations, leads school chorus; curious and outgoing; likes the students to ask questions, even if she doesn’t know the answer; skilled with bardic magic; head of Lucidaran House

Xenia Bluebunting – junior Professor of Illustions; a bit flighty; has very particular views about what she should and shouldn’t be asked to do as part of her job; grew up with Athena and is, therefore, immune to her charms; lithe; formerly of Lucidaran House

Logan Rembrandt Starke – senior theoretical wizard; replaced Loki Gildheim as Professor of Theoretical Magic; a werewolf; an agent with Shynian Intelligence, skilled investigator codenamed Chance; unable to perform any magic (a mundane), however he is considered the a top notch theoretical wizard; dark hair, gray eyes, glasses; has terrible scars on his chest and back from the werewolf that attacked him in December of 1995, from whom he contracted lycanthropy

Theodore Madison – senior Professor of Language Arts; one of the only staff members to have no magic; magic makes him uncomfortable; unable to perform magic safely; gifted in Theoretical Magic, but has no desire to teach it; formerly of Candidan House, failed to graduate from Ashwinder’s Academy

Jeremy Crane – late Professor of Equestrian Arts, also teaches Flying (carpets, broomsticks, animals); only ghost among the staff and faculty of the school; knows nearly all the secrets of the school, but has never heard of any monsters on the grounds; killed protecting a student from an enraged hippogriff; although he’s dead, he’s full of life; formerly of Constantine House

Loki Gildheim – late Professor of Theoretical Magic; he and Chelsea were lovers; was attacked at the edge of the school grounds my some sort of monster; although the faculty and staff are being told that he is injured and making a miraculous recovery, he was killed; in spite of his posting, he had strong magic, gifted in Captivations; formerly of Kindaran House; red hair, green eyes, glasses; died at the age of 24 years

Staff – Ashwinder’s

I’ll add to this when I’ve worked a bit more of the details out.

Alyssa Gardener – elderly headmistress; matronly sort of woman; seldom seen, except during meals or emergencies; closer to the faculty and staff than she is to the students; formerly of Contantine House; silver hair, gray eyes

Eustace Foster – senior wizard; deputy headmaster, Professor of Abjurations (also called Offensive Magic, especially skilled with curses, hexes and jinxes); very particular about how things should be done; controlling and manipulative; has an eye out for young men, has targeted Cyrus in the past; formerly of Eidolon House; brown hair, hazel eyes, glass, scar on right cheek

Myron Lorember – elderly groundskeeper; has worked at the school longer than nearly any of the professors; frequently scolds Cyrus; skilled only in low level spells; formerly of Candidan House; gray hair, blue eyes

Alistair “Cyrus” Ezekial Grayson – young caretaker; seems shy, quiet and bumbling; actually an agent with Shynian Intelligence, top undercover agent called Time; very poor hand with magic, tends to break things (too powerful for him to control); afflicted (unable to recharge without the aid of an energy sink, which he has hidden in a white teddy bear); very skilled with taming magical beasts, natural gift with herbology, animagus that becomes a rainbow swallow; was not trained in magic at Ashwinder’s Academy; red-brown hair, red-brown eyes, glasses; 20 years old at start of story

Danae Silversparrow – senior school nurse; serious and business-like, while still being caring and gentle; acts motherly towards Cyrus; very skilled in potions and healing spells; formerly of Kindarin House; graying black hair, brown eyes

Larissa Redfinch – young librarian; intelligent, quiet and bookish; skilled only with low level magic spells; formerly of Contantine House; blond hair, gray eyes

Houses – Ashwinder’s

Yes… some ideas gleaned from Harry Potter. However, it’s mostly original stuff.

**

Eidolon House
Head of House: Shadow
Noted quality: Sneaky, troublemakers
Actual reason for sorting: cunning, determined and resourceful
Colors: Red and silver (white)
Symbol: Wraith

Candidan House
Head of House: Theodore Madison
Noted quality: Wanton disregard for authority
Actual reason for sorting: brave and bold
Colors: Gold (yellow) and black
Symbol: Gryphon

Constantine House
Head of House: Chloris Adams
Noted quality: Hardworking
Actual reason for sorting: loyal and true
Colors: Cream and gold (yellow)
Symbol: Wolf

Lucidaran House
Head of House: Melinda Kalkberg
Noted quality: Bookish
Actual reason for sorting: clever and scholarly
Colors: Green and silver (white)
Symbol: Dragon

Kinderan House
Head of House: Chelsea Williams
Noted quality: Quiet and shy
Actual reason for sorting: innocent and kindhearted
Colors: Blue and silver (white)
Symbol: Unicorn

A bit of worldbuilding…

I’ve been working out some of the details of the school where Logan teaches and Cyrus works.

**

Ashwinder’s is a prestigious and well-known school for magic located in an undisclosed location (somewhere in Canada). Students come from all over the magical world to attend classes. The teachers are among the best and brightest minds in their fields.

The student body numbers, roughly, eight hundred students with an average class size of between twenty and thirty students for lecture classes and forty for laboratory classes. The students range from eleven to eighteen years of age and are divided into five houses.

World Building: Dark Fae

There are two kinds of fae, as classified by humans. Light fae are fae that are either fair to behold or appear as mostly human in appearance. Dark fae are either hideous or inhuman in appearance. Very often, dark fae will not come out in the daytime. This is not an exhaustive list. It contains only the ones that I have come up with to date.

Fox fae – a vampiric fae that is very close to nature; rather than feeding on blood, fox fae feed on energy itself; most have vulpine features of some kind; it is believed that they can take on the form of a fox at night

Nightfiend – a vampiric fae of hideous appearance; very adept at casting glamours; they attack those who are out at night, generally the victim does not realize the attack is occurring until it is too late; they are repelled by those of great faith and cannot be stopped if you scatter grains, as they will stop to count each one

Shadow Hunters – generally appear as handsome young men with bluish skin; they are said to kidnap young men and women who wander alone at night; it is also believed that they hunt vampiric fae

Hag – generally appear as hideous old women, however some can appear as beauties either in the spring or in the daytime; most avoid contact with humans, however some will steal children who are left unsupervised

Goblins – hideous, mischievous fae; some are dangerous to people, while others are merely destructive; they lurk in dark places, waiting to strike out against those they can catch unawares.

World Building: Light Fae

There are two kinds of fae, as classified by humans. Light fae are fae that are either fair to behold or appear as mostly human in appearance. Dark fae are either hideous or inhuman in appearance. Very often, dark fae will not come out in the daytime. This is not an exhaustive list. This is only the ones that I have come up with to date.

Bloodkin – a vampiric fae that generally appears as a handsome young person; they will not come out in the day, preferring to hunt at night; they are repelled by those of great faith and cannot cross flowing water

Pips – similar to sprites, however they are far more mischievous and some are even destructive; some can be appeased with offerings of honey and milk

Sprites – there are elemental and house sprites; they are small and generally helpful, although they can be mischievous from time to time; they love squash of all kinds

Elemental fae – generally appear as handsome young people; they are said to carry away anyone who joins them in their nightly revelries; some will kidnap anyone who wanders into their territories; many will abduct children and replace them with a changling

Gremlins – fae with an affinity for technology and machinery; generally appear as small young men with oversized feet and bulbous noses; generally helpful, but curious and mischievous; if angered they can be very destructive; most dress in the current fashion of humans, with tall top hats

World Building: Alaric’s Home

As with many high-born nobles, Alaric keeps an apartment at the sovereign’s palace. His apartment is nicely furnished and one of the larger ones found there. Besides the bed chamber, there is a modest bath with indoor plumbing and a spacious sitting room. The decor is in the colors of the Rathmore noble house and the Hurley family crest is placed on the wall of the sitting room, above the fireplace.

Rathmore Manor is located in the capital city of the Earldom, Kaatskill. It is a large home with several bedrooms on the upper floors. There is also a breakfast room and the earl’s personal library. The lower floor has the public areas of the home, such as the formal dining room and ballroom.

World Building: Fortune

A card game (similar to poker) for two to eight players:
Play begins with the dealer giving each player five cards. The players have the option of discarding one to four of these cards, which are replaced with other cards. Then each player antes in – putting a predetermined amount in the pot. Players are, again, allowed to discard. Then the first bets are placed, based on what the players have, what they believe their opponents have and what they believe they may get. Play continues in this manner for six more turns – allowing players to discard three more times. After this, it becomes a game of bluff and counter-bluff. The players retain their cards and must convince their opponent that they have the better hand. At any time after this point, a player may concede, losing their previous bets and the ante. The last player standing wins. At times, it comes down to two players. One may challenge the other, forcing them to show their hand. At this point, the better hand wins. If, at some point, someone receives the Deiva, they must announce it and they win the pot. If they fail to announce it after the final discard, and they are discovered to be holding it (as in a challenge) they concede the pot. Sometimes a card or pair of cards, most often the Fae, are declared wild. These can stand in for any other card in the deck, except for the Deiva.

Hands:
Trump: Five cards in order from among the trump cards
A Proper Family: Lord, Lady, Rogue and Maid, of the same suit
A Family: Lord, Lady, Rogue and Maid, of any suit
A Proper Run: Five cards in order, of the same suit
A Run: Five cards in order, of any suit
Four of a Kind: Four of the same card
Three of a Kind: three of the same card
Two pair: two sets of two of the same card
One pair: two of the same card

Among fae, Fortune is played for much higher stakes. Often the loser is forced to concede anything from their freedom, to the freedom of someone else, to a portion of their territory, all the way up to their very life. In this case, the challenger chooses the stakes. If the challenged wins, then the challenger walks away with nothing. If the challenger wins, he gains the stakes. Only seldom will the challenged make counter-stakes other than those that force the challenger to leave and not return.

When fae play fortune, they also manipulate the cards through their magic, casting glamours and breaking them in the course of the game, so that it appears they have a better hand or reveal the true hand of their opponent. Often, a fae will only concede if they near the end of their strength.

World Building: Living Arrangements

In the east, most of the people in the cities live in apartments – called flats, British-style. Flats typically have only three rooms: a bedroom, kitchen and entryway. The bath is shared with all the tenants on the floor. Merchants and shopkeepers will often have an apartment above their place of business that is larger than a typical flat. Wealthier, middle class people may live in townhouses. Most townhouses have two stories and may have several rooms, including multiple bedrooms. The wealthiest people will have homes outside of the cities that are very large indeed.

In the territories, some of the housing situations are the same. For example, merchants often live above their places of business. However, the wide open country means it is possible for people of comparatively lower classes to have their own home. Also, rather than having apartment houses, there are boarding houses and taverns where one might rent a room and eat on the premises.

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