“Ruby, would you relax? The Wicked Witch is crushed. It’s over.”
“Be that as it may, Inbeef, I cannot shake this feeling of dread. A feeling that’s it not exactly over. Perhaps it’s only just begun.”
“Nonsense, Ruby. You trained as a seer? I don’t think so. What’s that?”
“I said, your mistphone, its glowing red.” Ruby said, pointing at the medallion that hung from Inbeef’s pocket.
“That’s odd.” Said Inbeef as he took the medallion into his hand and held it up. Almost immediately, wisps of smoke radiated from the medallion, coalescing and reforming, until they’d merged into the miniature shape of a small, willowy woman.
“Namgan, what a pleasant surprise! It has been some time since…”
“I’m sorry, Inbeef, I don’t have time for pleasantries. I need your help. It’s an emergency.”
Inbeef looked at Ruby, who’d assumed her ‘I told you so’ expression.
“What’s going on, Namgan?”
“Xavi has been taken over.” Namgan blurted out without preamble. The worried look on her face made it amply clear to Inbeef and Ruby that she was not joking.
“You’re saying someone’s captured the Xavi College of Magic? How? The Xavi fort is supposed to be impenetrable!”
“We don’t know, okay? You have to understand, this is a far greater shock to me than to you. As Commander of the Xavi Politscia, the guardians of Xavi, it is supposed to be my duty to ensure nothing happens to the college. Now, under my watch, someone’s taken over a large portion of Xavi. The other Politscia and I are trapped in the outer embattlements of the fort, and we’re being held off by some powerful magic. This is one of the few places in Xavi where I can connect to the ethereal network to mistcall you. Can you help us?” Namgan’s voice, high-pitched and reedy, was on the verge of breaking with emotion.
“I’ll be there in two shakes. But why call me? I mean, there are other, more powerful warriors you can call to help. Why didn’t you call them?”
“I already did.” Namgan said, as her mist form evaporated and the mistphone went dead.
“Ok, so yeah, you were right. Stop giving me that look.”
Ruby smiled, but only briefly. “Sure, but what do we do now?”
“Wearen’t doing anything.You’restaying here.”
Ruby snorted. “You’re kidding, right? I’m coming with you. But we need backup.”
Inbeef thought about this for a while. “That’s a problem”, he finally said, “Lord Beavis is visiting the towns that the Wicked Witch attacked in her rage.”
Ruby smiled and said, “I think I know just the person you could fight with. Let’s get moving.”
Inbeef and Ruby stood outside the large doors of Xavi College of Magic, looking at the massive fort that held it. It seemed impossible that anyone had been able to get in and take the college hostage. But clearly it had happened. The sounds of magic duels and clashing swords and exploding cannons were audible to them even here.
As they stood there, waiting to rendezvous with Namgan, another man walked up to them. His hair was long and black as night, but his skin fair as day. He walked lightly, almost floating on the ground, and neither of them heard a sound till he was right behind them. But Inbeef felt the breeze.
“One step further and I’ll cut your head off. Who are you?” Inbeef yelled as he unsheathed his sword.
“Relax, bro. I’m on your side.” The newcomer smiled at them. “Ruby, tell this nice gentleman to take his sword away from my face if he likes his sanity.”
Ruby turned to Inbeef and said, “It’s okay. This is Gnaruag the High, Lord of Psychedelia. He’s here to help.”
Inbeef slowly put his sword back in its sheath, keeping his eye on Gnaruag.
“Lord of Psychedelia? You’re the wizard who can produce phantasmagoria?”
“Yep, I’m the Inducer of Inebriation.” Gnaruag replied, a big smile plastered on his face.
“Well, I never …” The rest of Inbeef’s words disappeared as a tree near them burst into smoke, and Namgan stepped through it towards them.
“Follow me, we don’t have much time.”
The three of them followed Namgan into the smoke…
…and walked out into a large room, somewhere in the northern wing, inside Xavi.
“Our makeshift command center.” Namgan said, as she hurried them towards the center of the room, where several people were gathered around a large table, discussing loudly the best plan of action. At the head of the table stood EnPsyClops.
“EnPsyclops, may I have a word with you?” Namgan gestured to the Wizard of All to step away from the crowd. EnPsyClops saw the others and quickly greeted them before turning his attention to Namgan.
“We seem to have herded the attackers down to certain key points in the fort itself. They can’t get out, but we can’t really get in either. I’ve been scouring the entry and exit points for some time now. They know all our routes, even the secret ones. They’ve taken most of the inner rooms.”
EnPsyClops unrolled a small map of the X-shaped structure of Xavi, each wing extending along one of the four directions and meeting in a large atrium in the centre.
“These are the places where they’re holed up.” EnPsyClops spoke as he circled areas on the map with his finger, leaving a slight red tinge on the map wherever he touched it. “This is where we think they’ve taken the document. Here and here is where they’re holding the magelings…”
Ruby interjected, “Document? What document?”
EnPsyClops and Namgan exchanged looks, but Namgan sighed and nodded.
“You have to understand, everything I’m about to tell you is in the strictest confidence.”
“Understood. Go on.”
“Two days ago, a noted wizard named Auric Petra finished his research in his field, and made a document detailing his findings. The document was then brought here, to Xavi, for observation, verification and safekeeping. We thought the Xavi fort would be the safest place to keep it.”
EnPsyClops picked up the thread. “Someone knew the document was coming here. Someone knew and attacked Xavi with great precision and impeccable timing. And now they have the document in their possession. They just need to take the document and get outside the walls of Xavi. Of course, we can’t let that happen.”
“Why?” Gnaruag spoke, “What’s so great about this document?”
EnPsyClops answered him. “Let me put it this way. Auric Petra was an alchemist.”
“Holy smokes! It’s the ultimate secret, isn’t it? The key to making gold from nothing?”
EnPsyClops smiled grimly. “Quick as ever, Gnaruag. Yes, we believe this could be the real deal. But we never had the chance to test it. I was called in as soon as they knew. It’s Xavi. I had to come.”
Inbeef, who had been silent all this while, spoke. “I’m sorry to digress, EnPsyClops, but did you say ‘they’re holding magelings’? They weren’t evacuated?”
EnPsyClops, a little annoyed at Inbeef’s lack of focus, replied curtly, “Yes, I did, and no, the attack happened too quickly. Luckily, not too many people were in the College. They’ve got a few First Degree and Second Degree magelings, even some senior undermages as hostages. Why…” EnPsyClops’ voice petered out as realization dawned on him.
Inbeef, a frantic note in his voice, asked Namgan, “Do you know if a Leon Koreo, Mageling First Degree is one of the hostages?”
“I’m not too sure…I think maybe…”
“And you didn’t think to tell me?!”
“Look, it was not the first thing on my mind. I’m sorry.”
Gnaruag spoke, “I’m not sure what’s going on. Who is this Leon Koreo?”
Inbeef turned towards him, a curious mixture of fear and anger on his face, “He’s my brother.”