This is a fragment of a story that I have wanted to write for a long time. In sequence, it’s out of order from any of the materials I have put together or intend to publish in the near future. That presented a challenge in how to write this, put it out there to be read, and yet still avoid giving too much away or spoiling it.
I took the perspective of an outside storyteller here who tells things from their perspective with a bit of motivated self interest involved. So, the narrative details will later be different but it’s interesting to know some of the characters presented and to see where it all moves to.
Without any further wordiness, I present: History Lesson
Dell sat out on the porch overlooking the farmland. It stretched out further than his old eyes could see and beyond that point the sun was setting off on the horizon. He held a wrinkled hand out as if to push the heavenly body down further but the burning mark of the sky disobeyed him yet again.
Dell’s wife approached him and placed a hand on his shoulder. Even after all this time she still caught him off-guard. He wondered if she still practiced her soft footfalls or if it was so ingrained that it was merely habit now.
“The grandchildren were asking when we would leave for the parade. You promised them Dell.”
“I know. I know… I wouldn’t miss it. Fifty years, can you believe it Jacki? She has reigned for fifty years and tomorrow is the end of it. We were there. You remember don’t you?”
She smiled but Dell did not see it. “I remember.”
“And the way you used to dress! Those days… It’s hard to imagine…” he looked back over his shoulder to see Jacki’s smile turn crooked with embarrassment.
From inside the house a powerful gust of wind threw open the door and a child blew out of the entryway, laughing all the while. The gust of wind literally lifted the boy up and out of the building. It was quite graceful the way in which the boy bent with the blast of air up until the child met with his landing. He fell unceremoniously to the porch and rolled off the short series of stairs to the ground below. Behind him, two young girls gave chase on foot.
The first one reached out and touched the other on the arm. A burst of energy was shared between the two and then at once the older girl leaped a distance of ten feet or more to finally grasp the boy and retake a doll that had been stolen in jest.
Dell looked on with amusement. His wife, their grandmother, was far less tolerant.
“How many times have I told you that you will NOT use your powers in my house or on my porch?”
The children stopped their game of chase at once and shared a collective look of guilt.
“We are sorry Grandmother.” the older girl began.
“Just passing some time until we go out to the parade. It’s so quiet here in the countryside…”
The boy plead his case.
Dell looked to Jacki with a knowing smile, “Do you remember the time when there was no one who would complain of such a thing.”
His wife laughed, “They are young and…it’s been a long time since the wall was taken down.”
Dell nodded at this. He asked the children, “Do you know why they are celebrating the Governess and her fifty years of rule?”
“Because she’s not dead?” the boy hopefully responded.
“That’s… not a bad answer.” Jacki grinned at Dell.
Dell chuckled and began a story, “There was a time when people who lived in Britania did not have the luxury to live in the countryside you know. There was a time when all of our people lived behind a massive wall that protected us from the outside world. The Governess was one of the heroes who helped to cast Envy out of this world.”
When he said those words, the children made a motion over their hearts as if to ward off the evil that had been mentioned.
“We know all that Grandad…they teach it in school.”
The girls shook their heads in agreement and the little one added, “It’s booorinnngg…”
Dell laughed out loud and even Jacki could not help but to reveal a smile at this.
“Do you know the story about when Britania went dark? Do you know about the Long Night?”
Again the children shook their heads.
“It’s something that they won’t tell you about in school until you are much older. Even then they may not tell you what really happened the night that Governess Wellington took over the whole City State.”
Jacki nodded her agreement, “There aren’t even many who remember much less know the whole story. There may be a handful of us still alive…”
“What…what happened?” It was the younger smaller girl who finally asked.
Dell picked his youngest granddaughter up onto his lap, “Well, when your grandad was a boy, they used to require special little children like you to join up with the Elemental Guild.”
He let his words have a hint of playful mirth to them despite the serious nature of what he was telling the child.
“Special children with special talents had to do their part and serve the State.”
“I wouldn’t like that…” the girl admitted.
Dell had to look to his wife and smile at that.
“There were some people back then who did not like it either. People who could hear the dance of the elements, who could see the magic in the world around us…were very rare in those days. They were so rare that the State got to pluck you right out of your home so that you would be helpful to everyone else…even if you did not want to be helpful to everyone else. Families that did not do their duty, they were put in a place called Southwall and kept away from everyone else.”
The other two children sat down and began to listen.
“Back then there was a boy who had control over wind, much like you do boy. He taught the people in Southwall who would listen and prepared them for a time when they might be free to live as you do now. That boy was named Vavian. It was he and the would-be Governess who brought freedom to everyone in Britania by showing how far the Guild had fallen and how corrupt the Elemental Master of Fire had become…”
50 Years Ago…
“That confirms it. We have to act now. Tonight.”
Vavian looked at the young mage who was tied down to the table with regret. He knew this boy. The child was named Joshua. He was a water mage of reasonably potent abilities. Vavian had helped the boy awaken to and control his powers. Now the child was writhing in agony and shouting as though possessed. The Guild had captured him in a recent raid and awakened something inside him that drove his powers to the brink of insanity.
The twins, a boy and his sister approached both Vavian and the captured boy. It was the male twin who voiced his concern first.
“What does this mean for us Vavian? It was bad enough that the Guild was rounding us up, that they had actually brought the Templars into Southwall…but this? What the hell is this?”
Vavian had no answer for him. He turned back to see the gathered mass of people who had sided with he and Sarai in Southwall. There were the free-wielding magi, they were in the most danger if this boy was an example of things to come. There were Jacki and Sarai’s Black Cats, they were in this out of loyalty. There was probably more to it than simply that. Jacki was clever. She and Sarai had probably come to realize that if the Guild was hunting down free-wielding magi, they were probably at risk too.
He did not have to answer to the question. Sarai knew what needed to be said.
“Vavian’s right. We move tonight. We take the State House by force. Our girls will provide the chaos that will allow enough of Vavian’s free-wielders to escape into the streets. We move to the State House and remove that filthy Master of Fire from office by throwing him into the street…from the fourth floor window.”
The girl twin objected immediately, “And just whom will be left in charge when you’ve gone and done this thing hrm? You? Will it be you Governor’s daughter? I would not fear leaving Vavian in charge of the Guild but that’s not what you’re planning is it?”
Sarai frowned. The wind mage was too smart for her own damn good.
“Yes, I plan to take my father’s place as the executive of the city. Removing Richter is only a single step on this path. Despite his villainy, there are many on the Senate who agree with what he has been doing. In their eyes, Southwall is a problem to be fixed, not a people to be saved…”
Vavian moved to quickly smooth over tensions. He could see some of Sarai’s girls moving around to the girl’s back-side in the event this turned into a forceful argument.
“Whoa. Whoa. Hold on Sarai, you’re scaring them.”
Vavian turned to the collection of young magi who hung on his every word. He closed his eyes and tried to center himself.
“There are things transpiring that are even worse than the conditions we find ourselves in here. The fact that the Guild is now actively hunting our kind down is no coincidence. We only need to look at Joshua here to know what kind of future awaits us.”
All eyes moved towards Joshua who was raging at something or someone and struggling against the bindings that kept him from injuring himself. Vavian nodded towards one of the twins who cautiously approached the boy and used his powers to tune Joshua out of his elemental powers. The effort nearly exhausted the young water mage but the effect of being separated from his power actually seemed to help Joshua.
Vavian continued despite the distraction, “Many of you have come to know Sarai. I know there are some of you who have families so injured by the State and the Guild that you will never trust those in positions of power. The choice we all face now is clear. We move together tonight, with the promise of a better future when Sarai takes her father’s place in the State House or we surely face death tomorrow when the Templars come back. Every confrontation with them means that more of our kind end up like Joshua there. You know well that life and its choices are never easy. Everyone here has the power to create change. I’m asking you to have faith in me one more time.”
A quiet murmur ran through the collected young magi. The girl stepped back and stood next to her brother. She had relented. If Vavian’s words could reach her, there was hope for the rest too. After a few moments where no one spoke or made a move to leave, one of the twins spoke.
“Then what would you have us do? How will you take the State House?”
Vavian’s faith in his own words was restored as his friends rallied around him now.
“We attack the power grid.”
That got their attention. The pride of Britania was the complex integration of magic into its city buildings. All throughout the City-State a complex series of delivery systems were set up to provide magical current that brought light to the citizen. It was a living testament to Guild power and influence. Where Britania hailed itself as the light of the civilized world, there was literal truth to that claim.
Even Sarai blinked her eyes at this proposal, “You’re serious aren’t you Vavian? How?”
Vavian nodded, “One free-wielder per sector. They find the Guild Station in the area and tune-out the elemental power reserves. They’ve all trained in it. It should be simple actually. The difficulty is in getting them out into public to do it. That’s where you come in Jacki.”
The young girl, clad in black with the bored expression on her face finally found something to be interested in.
“Let’s hear the plan Mr. Magic Man.”
The other Black Cats began to giggle. Mischief was soon to be in their hands. The gravity of the situation no longer mattered. It would be fun.
Vavian returned their enthusiasm.
“I think it’s been far too long since your girls were sent out into the city-proper to play. I’d like you all to go out and have a good time. The only rule is that everyone needs to come home when you’re done. That means working in pairs and keeping an eye out for one another.”
Going out to play meant that Jacki and the Black Cats would be let loose on Britania to vandalize, steal, and generally cause havoc. The girls often used play time as a means to distract the authorities while a select number of them went about acquiring food and supplies. The order and prosperity that Vavian and Sarai had helped bring to Southwall had all but put an end to the need for such activities. The girls grinned with anticipation to finally cut loose once again.
“Make a show of it ladies. Stir up the bee’s nest. That’s the only way that the free-wielders will make it to their targets unhindered.”
“Oh, it’ll be a show alright daddy…”
Jackie winked and pointed at Vavian. He was glad it was dark enough in the building to hide his embarrassment.
It was the male twin, the one with control over water came to understand something that the others had not put together yet.
“Vavian…how will you and Sarai gain entry into the State House? Some chaos in the streets will only go so far. The House Guards aren’t going to leave their posts and I know that you can both fight but…”
“I was hoping that you and your sister would come with actually. Some borrowed skills would be most useful. I hesitate to bring anyone with fire based abilities…I think somehow Richter can affect them.”
The twins looked at one another as though they knew somehow that the conversation would end up this way.
“We’re with you but…the four of us still isn’t what I would consider a threat to a Guild Master.”
Sarai stepped forward, leaving behind what little shadow was obscuring her features. She moved towards the magi and the Black Cats all at once ceased their idle chatter.
“I’ve got that covered Actually.”
Sarai snapped her fingers and from the shadows she left behind a slender vision of death and darkness slipped down from the ceiling above. It was a woman, clad entirely in black with a pair of swords strapped to her back, and a wild look about her. Her hair was unkempt and somewhat dirty but that only served to make her appearance even more threatening.
Sarai smiled, “This is LeKitaoli. I call her Kit. Her job is to protect me…no matter what.”
LeKitaoli took a knee next to Sarai and as she did, every one of the Black Cats with the exception of Jacki did the same.
“By your will Mistress.”
“Kit, we’re going to storm the State House. A man is waiting for us there who intends to hurt my friends and kill me if given the opportunity.”
Kit pulled her hair back behind her head into a single strand and pinned it into place on her head with a small sheathed dagger.
“This man will never lay a hand on you.”
The others could now see that Kit was not human. Her elven features were revealed to everyone, even the Black Cats who had suspected but never confirmed this were in awe.
Sarai approached the twins and offered them her hand.
“I promise. With the help of you and the others, we will change this place. The Curtain Wall will come down and your families will be free to live as they like. I can make no other promises to you other than the chance to fight for your own future.”
Vavian nodded at her words. Whether Sarai knew it or not, a chance at something better was all these young people had ever wanted.
Vavian and Sarai followed Kit up the steps to the grand State House. Vavian knew what Kit was, he knew what she was capable of. The two younger magi that followed in their wake found that they were unprepared for the brutal savagery that the dark elf engaged combat with.
Sarai had been explicitly clear with Kit. Unless our lives are a breath away from death, you will under no circumstances kill these men and women who are merely doing their job.
Kill, she did not.
With the need for death removed, Kit let all of her effort fall into other forms of victory. She shattered swords, hamstrung those slower than her, and delivered injuries that made continued combat nearly impossible.
As Vavian and Sarai approached the grand door to the State House, they found themselves standing next to a blood drenched and wordless Kit. At her feet were two unconscious Templars and just beyond them were another two, still conscious but crippled never the less.
One of the more dedicated Templars attempted a last ditch attempt at preventing these intruders from gaining entry into the building. His reward was a prompt kick to the chest that stole the breath from his lungs.
Sarai looked concerned but did not utter a word of complaint over the way Kit was handling things. There would be time for apologies and recompense later. Too many people were making sacrifices now for her resolve to weaken at the sight of pain. These men were alive and that would be good enough.
The twins did not object to seeing Templars finally get rewarded for the brutal way in which they had persecuted those in Southwall however, they were still essentially children at this point in their lives and the bloody truth of combat did nothing to relieve the sickened sensation in their stomachs.
Vavian had a better vantage point at the top of the entryway to evaluate how things were progressing out in the open city. He opened up his connection with wind and allowed the sounds of the city to come to him. Chaos was indeed being strewn through out. The streets were beginning to take on widespread panic. Forces had been dispatched to deal with the civil unrest that Sarai’s Black Cats were creating. Everything was moving according to plan.
“I need you.” He waved the water mage to come forward. “Lend me your strength.”
“You got it Vavian.”
The water mage reached out and grasped the hand Vavian offered to him. A flash of light came forth and both men staggered back slightly.
“What is this?” Kit quietly asked of Sarai.
“Human elemental magic can be shared, offered to another. It confers onto the one who receives the power enhanced abilities according to the element. Water for strength, Fire for precision, Air for reflexes.”
“Strength.” Sarai nodded knowingly.
Vavian approached the grand door and placed his hands into the seam of the two great wooden panels. With a considered effort and after a few seconds of prying, Vavian threw the doors off their hinges. The sound of cracking wood and tearing metal made an awful sound that caused the others to clutch at their ears.
Vavian fell to a knee panting. He had used up the entire boost of power in one tremendous effort. The twins quickly moved to his aid and lifted Vavian up to continue on.
The interior of the State House was luxurious and fully lit with numerous lumen devices integrated into the room. It was somewhere that Sarai was all too familiar with. Vavian had been here once before and the return now felt far more ominous than his first daring adventure into the seat of Britania’s power. The twins never imagined they would be in such a place. Seeing the splendor and wealth that was revealed in every corner was almost too much for young people who grew up in squalor and filth.
Sarai held up a hand to stop the group from moving forward.
“Guardian, ready yourself.”
The dark elf drew her second sword and moved several bloody strands of hair from her face. The room slowly found itself populated by Templars and guards who quietly and efficiently surrounded the group. They entered from any and every available door and another group stood ready at the top of the stairs that would deliver them to the second of the four flights they would need to ascend.
The Templar at the top of the stair spoke for the rest.
“Sarai? You? We did not believe Richter when he assured us that you were somehow behind these attacks. We had…faith in you my lady. I am saddened that it has come to this. I am Sidar Malachi. I am sorry to say it, but you will go no further Ms. Wellington.”
“Things are about to change Templar. You are not the true Sidar. You do not bear the ring and you do not…well… Enough of that. Stand down. Escort me to my father and to Richter. It is time for a reckoning.”
Malachi shook his head reluctantly, “I am sorry for this my lady. Guards, arrest the young governess. You may dispatch of the others as necessary.”
Sarai looked to the twins and asked the wind mage, “The lights if you’d please.”
From her pockets, Sarai produced two handfuls of small rocks and pebbles. She threw them up into the air and as she did, the girl immediately understood what she was getting at.
Centering her powers, the girl twin grasped the element of air and created multiple currents of wind to separate the stones before flinging them about the room. The tiny clouds of projectiles danced on her gusts of wind and shattered the lumen containers. Darkness began to spread through the chamber. Like a conductor before a symphony, she waved her hands about and the stones swam through the currents, shattering the remaining sources of light as they went. Only the lights that lit Sarai’s path remained in place.
Sarai began walking forward, unconcerned about the armed Templars waiting for her. All around them the room began to fill with the anguished cries of injured men. The water mage caught glimpses of Kit moving with superhuman speed through the shadows, winning fights against men who had neither the training or capacity to fight within the darkness as the Elf of Deep Shadow had.
The Templars still standing beside Malachi recoiled slightly. It was the first time Malachi could ever remember seeing his men move in fear of something. He began to consider that Sarai was correct in her assertion that he had made a mistake. Moving now before him with a deadly purpose, the cries of his men ringing out amidst the darkness, and this girl walked forward still. Unconcerned with the possibility of injury or death, her determined eyes locked onto his while her followers made embarrassingly short work of his trained soldiers.
With only several yards separating Sarai and her companions from Malachi and his men, the young woman stopped. The darkly clad warrior appeared before her as if she had melted out of the shadows surround them.
Malachi did not understand why he was hesitating to engage them now except for the nagging suspicion in the back of his mind that any attempt to do so would be futile at this point. He watched as the dark woman knelt before Sarai and quietly spoke.
“Your way is clear. Shall I remove the others?”
Sarai shook her head, “No. They must bear witness.”
Looking past her servant, Sarai calmly and evenly addressed the Templar who claimed to be Britania’s Sidar.
“You can’t stop what will happen here. Take me to Richter. I have instructed my Guardian to spare the lives of your men. They are…injured but they will live. In return, do as I ask now and take me to the Master of Fire. That bastard has to answer for his crimes. And if you still feel the need to fight us, you can then do so with his support. I think that’s a fair compropmise when the only other option I offer you is defeat.”
As if in response to Sarai’s words, the dark servant turned and growled at the Templar.
It would be as Sarai demanded. Malachi relented, regrouped his men, and began to lead them to where the Master of Fire held council with Britania’s Senate.
The door to the fourth floor meeting chambers of the Senate was kicked in and as it slammed open against the old stone walls of the State House, every one of Britania’s nine Senators recoiled at the site they saw before them.
Kit held the Master of Fire aloft by what remained of his robes. Richter hung without moving in her grasp. She threw the powerful mage on to the table where the Senators had gathered to discuss the civil unrest that was brewing like a storm outside their window in the city below.
Kit’s flesh was bruised and cut. Her hair had been singed such that most of it was gone now. The stench of burning hair was pungent in the otherwise clean and sterile room.
Sarai stepped out in front of her Guardian. Vavian accompanied her and his two magi followed behind with great trepidation. In the hallway behind them, Malachi and his Templars stood waiting. The memory of what they had seen only moments before had burned a loyalty into their blood that reminded them of the true meaning of duty and honor. They watched the scene play out with pride.
One of the Senators rose up from his seat to protest the brash intrusion. He had not moved half way out of his seat when Vavian stepped forward and commanded him to sit back down.
“No. There is not going to be any discussion this time. You’ve kept generations of families in a pen of your own design. Silenced their voices and crushed their dreams. You’ve done this all while shaking a finger of rebuke at them, shaming them for refusing to give up their children to State interests…to the Guild.”
Vavian moved forward and stood up on the table where Richter’s body lay unmoving.
“You accepted the rule of a mad man out of fear. You joined with him to persecute a people who have never even raised a hand in their own defense. You never even knew what it was you sided with…”
Vavian reached down and tore off the rest of the cloak and mask that hid Richter’s face. To the shock and horror of the Senators present, they found that the mage had been dead for some time. His skin had rotted and hardened against his bone. A great wound could be seen on his neck where a blade had severed his head at some point in his previous life. What Britania had feared they encountered when LeLayhilani had entered their realm, had been welcomed with open arms in the form of Richter.
The Senators sat silently disappointed in their own failing. Vavian was not done rebuking them yet though.
“In your blind greed and lust for power, you saw fit to remove the one man from office who actually had some inclination that things were not right. Siding with Richter you arrested Governor Wellington and locked him away in the very dungeon where his daughter had been held just months before. Right now, each and every one of you is trying to figure out a way in which you walk out of this room alive. Well, do not fear. Though you are stupid and clumsy, the lady Sarai has no intention of either killing you or removing you from office. Oh no…you are going to bear witness to what is to come. Just like the Templars waiting in the hall, you will understand by the end of this night…”
Vavian was a frighteningly effective public speaker in spite of his youth. Seeing him face the Senate now without fear or regret made the twins proud that they had followed him all this time.
Sarai gently took Kit’s hand into her own.
“Thank you. You have gone beyond what your duties require of you. It is time for me to go beyond my own.”
Kit nodded her understanding and watched as the child she knew to be a hero of legend took Britania into her own hands.
“The Guild is dead.” she proclaimed.
Taking Richter’s body from the table, Sarai cleaved its head off and threw the bloody stump out of the window overlooking Britania. She heaved the remainder of his body out with it seconds later. Glass and thick corrupted blood outlined the shattered glass.
“What ever experiment was planned for Southwall, it ends tonight. Join me in observing how our path forward will be lit not out of fear but out of hope for our own greatness.”
She beckoned them to stand and watch, then requested Vavian to send out the first signal.
Vavian approached the window but not before bringing the twins along with him to bear witness.
“You have just as much right as anyone you know…”
They smiled and took one another’s hand.
Vavian stepped out onto the balcony and lifted his hands to the sky. A single but expansive burst of heat lightning appeared over the Capitol Building. Seconds later, as if in response to the flash of light, Britania began to go dark. Its man-made lights, powered by Guild magic, fueled by fear and tradition…all began to go dark. Within a moment, the city was almost completely without the magical power that was the central pride of its existence.
“This is the darkness you have left your own kind in for hundreds of years. Bask in the fear and terror that comes with it just as those families have done for generations.”
Vavian’s condemnation of Britania’s social structure was damning.
One of the Senators turned to Vavian and laughed.
“This…this is your grand justice? You would condemn us all to the same fate as those unfortunate souls in Southwall? You would destroy everything we have built to ease your sense of social justice? Boy you are no better than the creature you threw before us tonight. And as for you Ms. Sarai Wellington, you are not fit to stand in your father’s house…”
“I will decide who is welcome in my home and who is not.”
The resounding voice of Virgil Wellington caught them all by surprise. He was escorted and slightly supported by one of Malachi’s Templars. The man was in poor physcial shape but still carried himself with as much dignity as his injuries could afford.
“Father?!?” Sarai pushed her way through to see the man.
He shook his head, “Finish what you started girl. You promised me that you would prove your worth. So show them.”
Vavian smiled, “Of course.”
Lifting his hands yet again to the night sky, he let loose another volley of heat lightning into the air. It was a signal yet again.
This time the signal was to those still residing in South Wall. All at once the quarter of the city became alive with light and magic. Free-wielding magi from all corners of the slum worked to illuminate their homes, light their furnaces, and cast fire into the night sky. It was a spectacular display.
“Each one of them, a human in control of his gifts. Every one of them a point of light in the city. All of them offer hope for a future that may be frightening but also holding the gift of potential in all of us.”
Sarai’s voice softened.
“They hold no malice. This is not a victory. There are no sides. There is only us…US. A people united for once in our miserable existence. There is worse yet coming than what we saw in Richter. My Guardian warns me that an army is being raised in secret in the south. We must be ready. We must be whole and it must begin now.”
To her amazement, a few of the Senators took to a knee before her. The one who protested so openly to her but a moment before was the first. As his old knees sank uncomfortably to the floor, the man looked to Virgil.
“You were right my old friend…you were right.”
Virgil looked down. Being right did not change the fact that the truth was more frightening than any of them truly knew yet. As the fifth Senator took a knee to acknowledge Sarai’s ascendance to the executive office of the city, it was confirmed. Sarai would lead the great City-State of Britania. There was much to explain and far more to do but a revolution had ended here without true bloodshed and the city would unite as one.
Sarai looked about and wondered where it would all go next. She caught sight of Vavian, and the twins taking a knee before her as well.
It was sudden anger that made her words sound fearsome in this company. She pointed at the twins and commanded them.
“Never! You will never kneel before me.”
She grasped Vavian and pulled him up, firmly holding his hand in hers.
“You especially. We…I, owe you all a debt that will never and can never be repaid. You and anyone else who has shown me kindness over the past two years will never be anything other than equals in this house.”
Years of her training in politic and governance were shining through now, polished by experience and colored by love, Sarai made no attempt to hide her emotions. They looked out together at the changing scene of night in Britania.
“It is just as you said once…a thousand points of light, a thousand chances for a future.”
Dell had become so wrapped up in telling the story that he had failed to notice how late it was getting. They would have to hurry now to make it into the city in time for the celebration.
If his grandchildren noticed they were in risk of missing out on the parade, they made no sign of it. To his surprise, they were full of questions about the two magi who accompanied Vavian and Sarai into the State House that night.
Dell could not help but smile at this. It was something that went without discussion in his family. There would be time to tell them later.
Jacki had gone into the house and come out again with a glass of water. She knew Dell would be parched from the long story but in her own sly way she was giving him an opportunity to reveal the truth to the children. Dell just sipped the water and returned the sly glance to Jacki.
With the story concluded, the children rose up, began their back and forth fussing at one another again, and ran towards the house to gather their things.
Dell pulled Jacki close to him. The story brought back a lot of memories for them both.
“You spared them the worse of it.” Jacki said quietly.
“That’s because the victor gets to decide how competent the opposition was in hindsight.”
“You left me out entirely.” she chided him.
“It would not do well for our grandchildren to hear how their grandmother went about slitting throats and using foul language.”
“Oh…I don’t know about that. The girls could use a role model.”
They laughed but Jacki’s hand instinctively moved to her side where the Guild Master’s fire had left a permanent reminder of that night.
Dell saw it and straightened her hair to move her attention away from the wound.
Their embrace was interrupted when they heard one of their grandchildren running back through the house and again bursting out of the door. It was controlled this time. The boy stopped in front of his grandfather and pointed a finger at him.
“It was you! You were the water mage!”
Dell grinned and flung what remained of his glass of water at his grandchild.
The little boy shrieked in surprise but when the liquid stopped mid flight and returned into the glass as the old man righted it in his hand, the shriek turned to laughter.
The little boy turned and ran back to his sisters bragging that he was right.
Jacki gave Dell a smirk, “If you get to show off to them, I should be allowed to swear around them.”
Dell laughed and together they prepared to join the celebration of a revolution that history would not remember their parts in.