Inexperienced Mage (Reawakening Saga) (2 page)

BOOK: Inexperienced Mage (Reawakening Saga)
12.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

The queen’s walk through the room was slow as she stopped often to talk with the students. She flipped through a thick set of parchments she held in her hands. Her voice was
soft but stern, someone who didn’t just expect respect but demanded it. It was the only time Mark could remember hearing anything that both excited him and scared him all at once.

The closer the queen got to him the longer it seemed to take for her to move. Mark’s hands were beginning to sweat and his stomach was knotting up as she drew closer. Closing his eyes he took a few deep breaths and started working through some of the mental exercises that he often used to calm his mind before a sparring match.

“You are Mark, the prize of this auction, with the highest rank possible in swordsmanship, archery, mathematics, good knowledge in politics, economics, history, and military strategy. Quite impressive! Is there anything you do not excel at young man?”

Opening his eyes
Mark saw the queen standing in front of him. “Yes, Your Majesty, I have had some trouble in the area of medical sciences.” Mark responded coolly as he stared at the floor.

The princess let out a soft giggle. “Mother
he’s cute! I want him for my guard,” the little girl said her voice light and melodious.

“We shall see Maria, he will have to be properly tested, but no matter I believe we can find a place within the place for such a skilled slave.” The queen spoke solemnly with little emotion
or inflection in her voice. Then it was over as quickly and efficiently as they had appeared the queen and her guard disappeared leaving the room eerily silent until the next round of patrons began to make their way through the line of students.

The day passed quickly
and soon they were led from the waiting area to the dining facility for a light mid-day meal where they chatted about their prospective new owners. Mark spent most of this time trying to calm his nerves, his meeting with the queen still fresh on his mind.

Mark watch
ed with disinterest as those he had known and studied with for the past eight years were sold off, chained and handed over to their new owners. In less than an hour all the numbered students were all sold. The patrons’ energy and emotion began to rise as the more desirable students were brought to the block and competing family spent increasing amounts of gold to purchase the slaves of their choice. The day seemed to be passing in a blur and Mark soon found himself standing in the arena for the bout that would start off the sale of top student’s.

His opponent
Saru was short, lithe and very fast on his feet, but his attacks held little power behind him. Mark had spared with him many times in the past and had never lost to the talented knife fighter. Saru had always considered Mark as his rival for the top position in the Academy and had turned everything into a challenge to be won. Mark had only focused on his own studies and usually tried to shy away from Saru’s taunts.

The battle began fiercely with
Saru coming at Mark, quickly striking with his two wooden practice blades simultaneously coming in at different angles. Mark let out a heavy sigh as he watched the attack pattern. He had hoped Saru wouldn’t be so brash right at the onset of the fight and allow both of them to display their strengths. But it seemed Saru wanted to end this quickly. That was one of Saru’s main drawbacks. He always started with a flashy move. Outwardly the move was good. With only one blade, Mark couldn’t block both of Saru’s swords, but he was skilled enough he knew he didn’t have to.

Waiting until the last second, Mark dropped to the ground. Rolling around to
Saru’s right he kicked, connecting with Saru’s shin, knocking him off balance. Wasting no time, Mark continued his roll coming up behind his opponent. Saru, sensing his predicament, tried to dodge but chose the wrong side and took the full force of Mark’s blow to his ribs knocking him down. Saru’s face was scornful as he looked up at Mark and the wooden blade at his neck. Mark stretched out his hand but Saru knocked it aside opting instead to spitting a small portion of blood onto Mark’s shoes.

The audience was unsettled and Mark could hear complaints among the crowd. They had expected a more exciting battle between the top students. Mark could understand the disappointment having hoped to show off more of his skill than
Saru had allowed. His and the patrons wishes were soon to be answered as the queen stood raising her hand high above her head.

“Not near enough to show us where you talents truly lie. I shall have the captain of my guard challenge you.” Her statement was met with applause and eagerness as a burly man stepped toward the arena.

As the captain shed his armor and sword, replacing it with a wooden practice blade of comparable size, Mark looked up at a man that towered over him by at least a foot with a body that looked as if it had been sculpted from granite. After giving a few practice swings the huge warrior presented himself in front of Mark who, unable to help himself, let out a loud gulp as he studied the massive figure in front of him.

Steeling his nerves, Mark raised his blade and reset his footing to match that of his new opponent. The battle started slowly, the guard taking measured strikes at Mark - testing his reaction, with each strike coming slightly faster than the last. Mark looked for an opening, no matter how small, as he parried the blows of his opponent.
Soon the attacks were coming so fast and hard that Mark was barely able to keep up. His hand was growing increasingly numb from the continuous impacts of sword on sword. He knew he was outmatched. The man in front of him didn’t even look to be trying hard. If Mark was going to have any hope of even landing one solid blow he would have to take a risk. But to get that chance he was going to have to get some breathing room.

As the guard came with a strong underhand slice, Mark bounced on his toes, letting the force of the blow help carry him, as he flipped backwards. Mark landed hard on his back but ignored the pain and quickly rolled his shoulders allowing him to jump up and backwards to his feet. The guard gave him an appraising look as Mark began slowly backing away giving himself
more room and keeping his sword up in case the guard decided to press the attack. But the huge man seemed content with waiting for Mark to make his next move.

The guard made no move to close the distance
he simply stood ready, waiting to see what Mark would do. Mark steeled his nerves, sat his feet and ran at the guard with everything he had. At the last moment, Mark went into a slide, slinging himself right between the guard’s legs. He had hoped to get a strike at the guard’s exposed legs but was moving too fast and just didn’t have the time or maneuverability to do it.

Coming up quickly he struck but was disappointed as the captain of the guard deftly held his sword over his head blocking the blow. The guard swung around bringing his lead foot behind Mark’s and shoved him with his shoulder. His sword moved around at the same time snapping at Mark’s wrist causing Mark’s blade to fly from his hand and planting him hard in the dirt. Mark let out a silent stream of curses as he looked up at the victor whose face remained indifferent as he held out his hand to the defeated offering to help him to his feet.

Keeping his head lowered, Mark limped his way back to his position on the stage. Looking around the crowd as best he could, he noticed many of the ladies staring at him. They were chatting eagerly, ever so often pointing in his direction. Mark didn’t know why, but the attention of the crowd made him feel lighter, making it impossible to keep a small smile from playing at the corner of his lips.

The first four students were sold for hefty purses
Saru going for fourteen hundred gold. Far too soon, Mark found himself standing on the auction block. His stomach knotted as the price got higher and higher. It quickly rose to over two thousand gold pieces until finally the queen stood and made a bid of thirty-five hundred gold pieces - an unheard of amount for a slave. Mark could hear audible gasps from the audience at the amount and he was quickly ushered off stage, and chained as was custom until he was properly branded.

His chains were soon handed over to a much too eager princess. “Mother said you will be an early birthday present. She said I can’t have you right away because you still have to be properly branded and trained for palace formalities. But soon you’ll be my private guard, isn’t it exciting!”
The young princess rattled on so fast giving him no chance to make an attempt at a reply.

Her voice, while lovely, caused his head to throb as he tried to keep up with the rapid pace she was speaking. His mind was in utter chaos, and was more than slightly relived when an elderly gentleman removed him from the princess and escorted him to a small carriage.

While they were walking the old man chuckled. “The little miss has been begging for her mother to purchase you ever since they came out of the display room and her pleads became even more persistent after your fight with Bren. Now we will be leaving soon,” the old man said letting out another small chuckle, “Well as soon as it takes the queen and her retinue to prepare for travel. On the way back to the capital you will ride and bunk with me so that I may begin your training in palace protocols. Don’t get too excited it will be boring and tedious and it is more for the fact the princess will most likely be badgering the queen until you are ready, so to save her a few headaches we shall try and prepare you as fast as possible.”

The old man opened the carriage door for Mark and helped him climb in. It was not an easy task chained as he was. Once inside the carriage the old man sat across from him and held out his hand which Mark took absentmindedly. “First introductions, I know who you are Master Mark and while I would love to give you the long introduction of my titles, I will forgo you that punishment. For now you may call me Kris. Now before we begin I would like to know if you have any questions so that I may clear up anything that might be troubling you.”

“When will I be branded sir? I’m not overly found of chains.”

“Sadly you will have to wait until we reach the capitol. The queen is quite insistent on your mark and as custom dictates, since you are the property of the princess and not the queen, you will have a separate marking. When the princess chooses what her personal crest shall be, it will be tattooed on your forehead. I don’t think it will take her long to choose. She seemed quite eager if truth be told. I won’t lie to you, it isn’t a pleasant experience. Let’s just hope the princess isn’t too enthusiastic in her choosing.”

The first day of travel was slow and uncomfortable. Every bump made his backside remember his sparring with Bren. His chains chafed at his wrists and ankles. Every few hours they would stop and Kris would help him outside so he could stretch and relieve himself. That night they stayed at a nice inn and Mark shared a room with the old servant who continuously went over what would be expected of him and making him repeat what he was told until he could do it verbatim without conscious thought. After the day’s grueling events Mark was more than happy when the lights went off and he could finally lie down to sleep in what was easily the nicest bed in which he had ever slept.

The next day started with a hearty breakfast containing the largest collection of food he had ever seen. Though he still didn’t want to give up hope and resign himself to being a slave, there was little chance of escape with the level of guards around him. But if he had to be a slave, being one in the employ of the royal family didn’t seem so bad.

The next day continued much as the day before with Kris going over the many palace procedures he would have to follow, focusing specifically on those surrounding the princess. “Right now you will be the only dedicated guard she has but in the future you will be required to train others as well. Back to the main point - your job is to not only provide her service but also be her confidant. Anything you see or hear while in her presence is confidential. Not even the queen is privy to them. If the choice arises, your honor and duty might send you to the headsman’s block. That rarely happens as you will just be following protocol, but it has happened in the past.”

Suddenly, while Kris was droning on, the carriage went out of control jostling about and finally slamming to a stop throwing Mark and the old man painfully onto the floor. Mark could hear voices outside yelling, “Protect the queen!” Soon the sound of steel ringing on steel
echoed outside. As quickly as he could, Mark got to his feet and went to help Kris who was lying unmoving on the floor.

After a quick check he breathed a sigh of relief. The old man was still alive though unconscious with a nasty looking bump on his skull. Once certain his companion was no worse for wear, Mark kicked the carriage door open with his shackled legs - a feat that took several tries.

Outside the fighting was fierce and Mark could not see the queen’s coach anywhere in sight. The royal guard had most likely gotten her away as fast as the bulky thing would move. Neither could Mark see any of the royal guard but only the regular soldiers that traveled with her as an added escort. Useless, chained as he was, and no one paying much attention to him, Mark decided it prudent to hide in the nearby forest.

Once inside the dark canopy of the wood Mark sat down beside a large oak tree and took stock of his situation. With no mark of ownership and as long as no one came looking for him before he could get his shackles, off he would be free. As a man he wouldn’t have many rights but he would have his freedom, which alone was worth the entire world to him - a dream he never truly believed would come true.

BOOK: Inexperienced Mage (Reawakening Saga)
12.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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