“Newt…why did you back talk the Queen of Baron like that?” AC sighed out of the blue, his chin balanced on the open palm of one hand.
Despite the fact that the young Black Mage always seemed to get caught up in any punishment that was dropped upon his White Mage roommate, he was still surprisingly patient about the situation. Even now, it was more of a sad sigh than a reprimand.
“Yeah, well, if I had known that being ‘in the service of the Crown’ meant pet n’ brat-sitting, then I might have kept my mouth shut,” Newt grumbled in reply.
“Is it possible?” AC’s question was wide-eyed and innocent. From anyone else, it would have been a cut-down.
“For me to keep my mouth shut? You’re right… probably not.” Newt let the comment slide, leaning back against the stone wall of the Baronian outer gate. His blue eyes scanned off across the open countryside, studying how the green of the hills eventually misted away into the darker green of forest.
The White Mage wasn’t really up to beating on AC at this point. Especially since Palom had been doing more than his fair share of ragging on the Black Mage over the past few days. Almost enough to make him just a bit sorry for the kid…. Almost.
How the hell did I get mixed up in all this shit anyhow?
He knew the answer to that…. It all began after the Elder and the group of researchers left Baron, followed shortly by the departure of King Cecil and his party. That’s when the Newt and AC had found themselves summoned to a conference by Queen Rosa. There, the two Mages had been informed that they had been hand-picked to do ‘service for the Crown’ as ‘representatives of Mysidia’.
Representatives my ass! Hand-picked by who? I bet it was that damned Elder Max.
Such an order was impossible to argue against, despite the fact that Newt wanted nothing to do with service to any crown. Except to show them exactly where they could shove the crown — but that was a different story.
Max and the Queen probably planned all this shit before he left. Everyone knows the Elder just wants to piss me off any chance he gets, and it’s hard to believe that Queenie would forget me talking smack at her in the healing chambers.
It wasn’t until afterwards that he discovered what task his ‘service to the Crown’ would lead him to do. It did nothing but add insult to injury.
They stuck us watching over Palom and Nodd! The brat who’s so full of himself that it’s coming out of his ears… and Golbez’s talking pet cat! What the hell do they think I am – the nanny service?
Nodd — that was a name that Newt wished he had never heard. Because now he found himself swearing it ten times an hour: Nodd—don’t do that! Nodd– get down from there! Nodd— just go get your fool self killed so we can feed your remains to the dogs! Dammit, Nodd, this is my fist and there is your face – they’re going to be meeting really soon!
Luckily enough, Nodd was already off to sleep – even at the first hints of sundown. The kit had some really strange hours when it came to the normal everyday things. But that was not in the least bit surprising to Newt. So, for now, there was a bit of peace and quiet with Nodd out of the picture.
Not that Palom was much better company to have. And he currently was making his presence known, shadowing the two older Mages every waking moment.
The kid is practically begging for a beating.
Every chance Mr. Mysidian Genius could find to trash AC was eagerly exploited. It was a relentless tirade of insults and arrogant hostility that left Newt disgusted… and jealous.
He’s my roommate – not yours, you punk-nose snot.
“Are you kidding?” Palom snorted. He sat perched on the stone wall a few feet away, an annoying little twitter-bird that just wouldn’t shut up. “Newt’s mouth is like an open sewage drain — always spitting crap out. And most of it isn’t even his own.”
The red-haired White Mage turned with a glare. “You better watch your own mouth before I come over there and knock your attitude off that wall.”
“Right… like I’m scared of some pansy White Mage,” the boy taunted.
“I almost canned, labeled and shipped your ass out last time,” Newt snarled. “You were lucky the Elder came in time to save you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” there was a sharp glint in Palom’s eyes.
“Guys… don’t…” AC murmured, peering back and forth between them, as if it would do any good.
“Bottom line? You’re just a wuss who can’t even fight your own fights,” the White Mage ignored AC’s protest and spat off to one side. “You always gonna hide behind the Elder’s robes your whole life? It must be nice to be such a pampered little pet. They dress you up real pretty, too.”
“You take that back!” Palom had hopped down from the wall and was stalking towards Newt with a dangerous look.
“What? You can’t take the heat of the truth, can you?”
“You’re just jealous that the Elder recognizes that I rock so much more than the rest of you!”
“Oh, give me a break!” Newt waved the boy off with a motion of dismissal. “Next thing you’re going to say is you expect to become the next Elder of Mysidia!”
“Yeah, well, what if I do?” Palom ground his teeth in frustration.
The White Mage peered over for a moment before promptly laughing in the boy’s face.
Palom’s glare turned more dangerous.
Newt managed to sneer around his laughter, “Go ahead… there’s not much left to that mud-pile city to be Elder over, anyhow!”
AC took in a sharp breath that spoke his disapproval. Pain and disgust covered the Black Mage’s usually quiet expression.
“You’re wrong,” Palom choked. The overwhelming dismay at the memories of the destruction of his home was all too apparent. He bit his words off one by one. “You lived in Mysidia but you were never one of us… not if you talk like that! We’re going to go back there and build it all back again. Right down to the last stone. And it will be even better than it ever was before! You just wait and see!”
The White Mage fell silent, for once deciding it was probably better not to kick-when-down. There was a nagging sense that he should probably admit that his last statement was way out of line, but he kept his mouth pressed into a firm frown.
No way in hell I’m going to apologize to that punk.
“I hope so…” AC’s voice was quiet in response to Palom’s determination, his violet eyes fixed on the toes of his boots.
“I thought Baron was your home town?” Newt glanced over, attempting to make a quick change of subject.
“So where’s your rich daddy at, then?” Palom jumped at the chance to get his own jabs in. “He hasn’t come to pick you up and take you home yet?”
“No…” AC murmured, his voice still low. “And he never will.”
“What the hell kind of father is that?” Newt snorted.
“The kind who disowns his son to the Mysidian Academy because he is a magic user,” AC answered quietly.
“You gotta be kidding me. He tossed you out of the inheritance just because you could use magic?” the White Mage scowled, putting his hands on his hips.
The Black Mage sucked on his bottom lip. “And I don’t even do that very well, either.”
“Dude… that sucks…” Palom muttered. For some reason, his motivation for insults had dwindled mercifully for that rare moment. “What does he have against Mages?”
“I’m really not too sure,” AC answered slowly. “He just never tried to understand… not like my mother did. Sometimes, when I look back, I think that my mother might have also been a magic user – she just never showed it to anyone. I think because of what my father would do.”
“Your old man sounds like a real prick,” Newt snorted.
“Yeah, how’d he end up even getting hitched in the first place?” Palom scowled his disapproval.
“It was one of those arranged marriages… you know, the kind nobles are famous for,” AC’s own face mirrored disapproval. And sadness.
“You talk like you’re not one of them high and mighties,” the White Mage prodded him.
“I’m not,” AC shook his head. “Not anymore. Not if it means I end up like my father.”
“We’ll see,” Newt sneered, though only half-heartedly. It was true that the Black Mage hardly acted like the snobbish higher classers that he had met in the past. But still…
He was raised by them rich bastards. It’ll probably only be a matter of time before he starts wearing a red velvet mantle around and demanding I make him some tea or some cracked shit like that.
“Yeah, well, what about you?” Palom leveled a finger in the White Mage’s direction.
“What about me?” the red-haired man glowered back.
“You must have had a lousy set of parents to turn out the way you did,” the boy jeered, his tone oozing jest. He didn’t seem to know how close he was to getting his head torn off.
Instead of giving into the wave of rational violence that bubbled up through his system, Newt pressed his lips closed firmly. His cold blue eyes spoke all the fury that needed to be said.
Palom backed up a step. He seemed to realize, a moment too late, that he might have just said something seriously wrong. Quickly, he moved to cover it, “Yo… I didn’t mean anything by it. Really?”
“Lousy set of parents?” the White Mage half snarled. He realized his fists were balled at his sides and could only imagine the ire that must have been streaked across his face. From the expression of the two Black Mages, it must not have been a pleasant thing to behold.
But thinking about the past did that to him.
“Newt… I think he’s saying that he’s sorry…” AC’s voice was quiet. He didn’t seem to really want to get into the middle of the conversation. If anything, the boy’s glances toward the White Mage were leery and apprehensive.
And you’ve got every right to be.
“I’ll tell you about a lousy parent!” Newt’s voice rose, echoing off the side of the gate wall.
“Chill out, man… I was just being stupid, okay?” For once, even Palom seemed to know better than to want to scrap with the White Mage. Both of his hands were motioning for Newt to gather a piece of mind that wouldn’t be found. Not at this point.
His mouth opened and the anger just poured out, “My bastard of an old man was a raging drunk who thought that wife beating and child abuse was the nation’s number one pass time. Nothing good that I ever got in my life came from anything he ever did for me. Hell, when I was a kid, I thought my second name was ‘dumbass’ until I finally got old enough to know better.”
Palom gave a sheepish look, fixing his eyes on the base of the stone wall. It was obvious he didn’t know what to say in return. And it was just as obvious that Newt was going to have his say about it, right up until the bitter end.
“You wanna know why I’m on the black list, kid?” the red haired man growled, bunching a fist at the world.
Palom shook his head.
“You wanna know why the hell I was locked behind bars at the age of fifteen?”
Palom shook his head again, voice weak, “No…”
“You wanna know why I was sentenced to death in my city… but by law they were forced to hold me until I was sixteen?”
“Because I killed my bastard father — that’s why!” the glint in Newt’s eyes had turned animalistic and feral. The murderous fact was well known – to himself… to the people of his old home town… even to the Elder. But it was the first time he had ever admitted it out loud in his own words.
To a couple of sniveling punk kids that don’t know their finger from their ass. How can they possibly comprehend?
A whooshing sound escaped the small gap between AC’s lips. The Black Mage’s face had fallen absolutely colorless.
Here you have it, kid… the guy you’ve been rooming with is a murderer. Wonderful world, isn’t it?
AC’s expression of shock was enough to strike a twinge of shame somewhere in the back of Newt’s mind. Something that quickly got avalanched in the mounting pressure of his pent-up anger.
Maybe now, that he realizes what I really am, he’ll piss off…
“That’s right,” Newt continued, jerking his hands up to make a point. “With these hands. In cold blood.”
AC winced, taking a step back. Palom looked a little ill.
“Now how’s that for a screwed up life? Huh?” the White Mage just shook his head, glaring one last time at the two boys before he turned on his heel and marched away. “So now that you know, leave me the hell alone!”
Newt’s steps carried him out across the slowly sloping hill towards the light brush at the bottom. The other two didn’t try to stop him from leaving. Nor did not follow him. Very soon, the White Mage was left by himself, standing on the edge of the Baronian forest.
Why the hell did I go and tell them that?
The sounds of encroaching night blanketed his senses with a calming effect that began to help simmer down the boil in his blood. Something about being alone, standing upon the sliver of time where day met night always did something to soothe the fury within him.
Why did I have to go and remember him? All of that is over with now, isn’t it?
Even the thoughts of his father, who he had fought so long to forget, slowly washed away as he gazed at the flourish of color that graced the skies above the tree line. Newt became more aware of the cold breeze upon his bare arms.
Or will I keep paying for what I did for the rest of my life?
He drew in a deep breath, running his fingers through the crimson of his bangs.
Does it even matter anymore?
Newt’s gaze slid off across the gathering darkness of the forest floor. That’s when he saw something glimmer in the passing shadows.
The White Mage blinked for a moment, his previous train of thought vanishing for the new-found moment of interest. Then he squinted, walking slowly forward, towards the spot of light he had seen.
His boots crunched twigs and leaves underneath without prejudice. His gaze struck straight ahead, marking the spot in his line of vision where he had last seen the phenomenon occur. And he saw it again.
There! There is something there!
The closer Newt came, the more of the light he began to make out. Why it never occurred to him to try and use more stealthy tactics of approach, he never even stopped to wonder. As he parted the frond curtain that fell between himself and the source of the light, the White Mage found himself face to face with a pair of cold, clear eyes.
“What the hell..?” he heard his voice ask, as if from a distant.
The light rose, gathering itself up before him. As the ghastly features of the creature became clearer, a brick of nausea struck his gut and nearly caused him to double over. Newt staggered back a step, mouth parting with a hissing rasp.
The rasp broke into a shattered scream as the ghost-light leapt upon him.