Much later that night in a nearby establishment as Zuko slumbered, an armour clad figure walked into a somewhat smoky looking bar. The sound of the Knight’s heavy boots thundering on the hard floor alerted those within the establishment to said Knight’s presence, including the person who was expecting them.
“Fuck me, Cass; do you ever take that armour off?!” Scolded Curtis, the Archmage’s son.
“Shut it. A Knight is always on duty, therefore, always ready for action.”
“Yeah, but you actually aren’t on duty! You don’t take the night shift!”
“I said shut it.” Cassandra commanded as she sat down in a heavily fortified chair.
The pair was in a bar that regularly housed Order Agents, and had chairs specially made for Knights to sit in. Curtis signaled to the bartender who was on duty that night, and he nodded at Curtis, before starting to pour some drinks. It didn’t take long for him to bring them over and set them down on the table. As he walked away, Cassandra lifted the visor of her helmet, revealing her green eyes for the first time that day. She grabbed the long, bendy straw that was in her surprisingly bright and fruity looking drink, and fed it into the helm.
“At least take that damn helmet off! Do you know how weird it looks to have a fully clad Knight drinking something so girly?!”
“…so why am I here, Curt?” Cassandra said, completely ignoring his previous question and sipping on her drink.
“Well…” Curtis said as he took a sip of his own drink. “…I just thought you might be interested to hear more about our… guest.”
“Oh don’t play dumb, Cass… you know, that guy who held us both off with relative ease earlier today.”
“He didn’t hold us off with ‘ease’!” Cassandra protested as she banged her fist on the table, which had also been reinforced in the event something like that happened. “Besides, we weren’t taking him seriously! If we had—”
“Yes, yes, I know… anyway, do you want to hear what I have to say or not?”
“…go ahead.” Cassandra said as she sipped her drink once more.
“Alright, so… I had my own suspicions about him, but after speaking to Pop, my suspicions were not only confirmed, but blown out of the water in terms of what I suspected, and what was the truth.”
“That doesn’t make sense, Curt.”
“Would you let me speak? Anyway, so you know how we as Mages work right? You know, with regard to Spellcasting and such? As Mages, we don’t actually have Mana, right? We make a connection with a Source, and then siphon Mana from that source, the relationship we have like one between a car and petrol filling station. So much like a car fills its tank with fuel, drives around until it’s almost depleted and then fills up with more fuel; Mages do the same with Mana. We don’t have Mana, we store and use it.”
“Okay, I already knew all that. Why the lesson?”
“Well, because that Izano Zuko fella is completely different from us. Pop said he wasn’t a Mage when we first started discussing him. I asked him why, and after withstanding a slew of insults, the ArchPop finally revealed the difference, and it blew my fuckin’ mind. Regular Mages, of all races, make a connection or a contract with a Mana Source in order to fuel our activities. That dude, is filled to bursting with Mana.”
“So what? He has a larger tank than the rest of you?”
“No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. Izano Zuko has no tank, he only has Mana. He doesn’t cast Spells, either. He… yo, he…”
Curtis then milked the moment, taking a particularly long and slow sip of his drink, prompting Cassandra’s pretty green eyes to scowl intensely.
“…so as I was saying, according to Pop, he manipulates Mana itself. So as you well know, the method in which we cast Spells goes like this; we start chanting or reciting the text of a Spell, and the moment we do that, a Magic Circle is created, whether in internally or externally. Then, we pump Mana into said Magic Circle in order to fuel its transformation from a mere Magic Circle, to an actual Spell. Then, we pump in the requisite Mana to meet the Spell’s Mana Cost, and once that is done, the Spell is complete and ready for you. That guy, on the other hand…”
Curtis started sipping on his drink again, prompting Cassandra to actually growl.
“I swear one day, I’m gonna kill you, Curt.” She threatened a little too seriously.
“...yes, as I was saying, that guy… he doesn’t cast Spells. He doesn’t use Mana as the fuel, he uses Mana DIRECTLY. Everything he was hitting us with, and using to defend against us with, was pure Mana that he pushed out from and manipulated with his hands.”
“…what?” Cassandra said in disbelief. “If he’s not a Mage, then what is he?”
“Alright… so, a Mana Source is a body of Mana, either self-replenishing or not, of great or miniscule capacity, that has the ability to provide Mana to one or multiple beneficiaries, and provide fuel for Spells, incantations, Enchantments, and so on. A Source does not cast Spells or the like, and—”
“Wait a minute!” Cassandra said as she interrupted Curt.
“Finally figured it out, have you?”
“That fucker… it sounds like he’s a—”
“A Source.” Curt said as he finished the sentence. “He’s a living, breathing, walking, talking Mana Source.” Curt said as he grinned and took another sip of his drink.
“W-What? How is that even possible?!”
“We don’t know… this is just a theory based on what both Pop and I picked up during that brief skirmish, but if he really IS a Mana Source, then it’ll be the first time I’ve ever come across a sentient one.”
“I heard from the Knight Captain-Commander that his being brought here and everything was at the behest of the City Lord.”
“Yeah, me too. The Archmage handed that dude an old, tattered piece of paper, and that’s all it took to get his cooperation. Pop actually received the paper from the City Lord, who said that things would work out the way they did if it was produced.”
“…fucking hell. That damn City Lord isn’t even around to provide answers to these questions.”
“Even if he was around, I doubt he would answer anything… you know how that guy is with information.”
“…yeah.” Cassandra said with a sigh.
“Whoever that guy is, and whatever his connection to the City Lord, it seems things are about to get more interesting around here.”
“I’m not sure if that’s a good thing, Curt.”
“You worry too much…” Curtis said with a smirk on his face, as he signaled to the bartender again.
Morning came, and Zuko was sleeping ON the bed, as opposed to sleeping IN it. He slept right in the middle of the bed, hands and feet pressed together. Considering how practically his entire body was wrapped in those bandages of his, he looked more like a corpse than a sleeping person. All that was quickly thrown out of the window however, as Zuko shot up, sitting up and thrust his left hand out, and shot out a Mana projectile in the direction of the bedroom door. A Magic Circle appeared, before a shield formed, and Zuko’s attack was easily blocked, however the robes of the person who had entered the bedroom fluttered about due to the gust of wind that emanated from the point of impact.
“You’re like a wild beast.” Archmage William sneered. “Anybody that traipses into your domain gets attacked, huh?”
“What do you want, Old Man?” Zuko asked, his arm still raised and pointed directly at William.
“I’m here to talk, boy; nothing more.”
Zuko looked at the Archmage, suspicion still apparent in his eyes, and arm still raised. As he lowered his arm, the Archmage turned around and began to walk out of the bedroom.
“Get dressed, and join me in the lounge when you’re decent.”
Zuko watched the Archmage leave, and a few minutes later, he was in the lounge, with his cloak on. William was sitting in the only single seater in the lounge, holding a cup of coffee in his hand. On the coffee table, there was another steaming cup, presumably for Zuko to drink. The Archmage looked at him, and then at the cup.
“That one is for you.” He said before raising the cup to his lips and taking a sip. “As I said, I’m only here to talk. Have a seat.”
Zuko continued to eye the older man, before slowly and reluctantly sitting down. He watched Archmage William sip his coffee, before setting it down on his saucer and looking right back at the towering man.
“First of all… do you even know what the Order is?”
Zuko just stared blankly at William, which drew a sigh from the old man and a shake of his head.
“I can’t believe it… that City Lord.” He said as he grumbled to himself. “To give you the simple version of who we are and what we do, we police magic, and magical beings. The regular police, while competent and capable of maintaining order, are unable to deal with those deviants who illegally use magic. Regardless of whether it’s standard magic, or racial magic, all Mages and Magic Users must be licensed, and regulated. We are the regulators, and in the event of the Law being breached, we are the enforcers, and in extreme situations, the executors.”
The Archmage paused briefly, to take a sip of his coffee. Once he had, he resumed his lecture.
“We, and by we I mean Mages, we wear robes, while the Knights wear that ghastly armour. They are not Magic Users like us; instead, they use ridiculous technological augmentations and such that allow them to fight against Illegal Mages and the Magics that they use.”
The Archmage then pulled the papers which had the results of the previous day’s Scrying and tossed them onto the table between them.
“We use the colour of our robes to differentiate between ranks; Red, Blue and Purple indicate rank. As you can see, my robes are an extremely light shade of purple, and I am the highest ranking Mage within the Order. Deeper colours signify a lower tier of rank, and I’m certain you will figure out the rest during your time here – if you decide to accept the invitation to join the Order, of course. Now, with regards to your results… the Scryer has decided that due to the purity and strength of your Mana, you are to be given Black Robes.”
William leaned forward and set his coffee down on the table, almost sighing as he did.
“I’ve lived a long life, and have been in the Order for most of that life… I have only ever seen two Black Robes, and they were… dangerous.”
There was a slight lull in conversation as the Archmage stared at Zuko, who had not only been silent, but was also staring right back at him.
“I don’t know why you are here, or why the City Lord has gone so far for you, but what I do know, is that yours is a dangerous existence, and I will not allow you to threaten the Order in any way.”
William then stood up, smoothing out his robes as he did.
“Come down and meet me in my office a little later. There, I will explain your rank, and the significance of your robes. I’ll send someone up to fetch you when I’m ready for you.”
The Archmage began to walk towards the door, before turning back and looking at Zuko once more.
“You had better drink that coffee! The last person I made coffee for was my late wife, so if you don’t, she’ll haunt me from her grave for wasting good coffee on a… well, you know.”
William quickly left the loft, and Zuko remained seated on the couch. He stared at the coffee for the longest while, as if debating as to whether or not to actually drink whatever this drink was. A lot of what Zuko had seen in the past day or two was completely new to him. He hailed from beyond the Empire’s borders, and worse still, from a place so remote that he was extremely unfamiliar with culture of the Humans from the Empire. He reached for the cup of surprisingly still steaming coffee, and tentatively brought it to his mouth, sniffing it before taking a sip through the bandages that covered his mouth.
‘What on earth is this bitter tasting drink?!’ He thought to himself as he stared at the mug, as if it had decided to be bitter just for his benefit.
This didn’t deter him however, and after a number of gulps and sips, he downed the rest of the drink, which seemed to taste better the more he drank it. Before he knew it however, Zuko was fast asleep, as if he didn’t get enough sleep the night before. He was woken up by the sound of something chiming and making noise. His head darted around as this thing continued to chime and make noise, and he eventually stood up, walked towards a small square box next to the door, and just stared at it. It chimed a little longer, before a knock on the door prompted Zuko to look at it, and then open it. Standing before him was a woman who was dressed in clothing similar to Brometheus Bob’s, but more Mage-like. She had her hood up, and just as she was about to speak, she took one glance at the towering, wrapped up savage and froze. Zuko just stared at her with those intense eyes of his, and remained dead silent. The youngish looking lady started to shake a bit, as she looked as though she was trying to say something, but couldn’t. She looked to her right, as if looking at somebody, before a familiar sounding voice burst into a fit of laughter.
“Oh man, that was great!” The voice said, as moments later, Curtis came into view.
“Hey there Izano, remember me?”
Zuko just looked at Curtis and nodded.
“Why are you here? Who is this person?”
“Damn dude, you don’t even say hello?” Curtis said with a slight shake of the head. “The Archmage sent Krystal here to come and get you, but having seen you up close, I fuckin’ knew she wouldn’t be able to do or say a thing once she saw you in the flesh. So I decided to come with her. Are you ready to go to my Father’s office?”
Zuko turned around and went back inside for a bit, before coming back and walking out, closing the door behind him. He just continued walking down the hallway, and Curtis quickly caught up to, and walked alongside him.
“So how was it sleeping in the most luxurious and highly sought accommodation within the Order? That loft you slept in is fit for a fuckin’ King”
“Lodgings are lodgings.” Zuko stated in a rather anti-climactic manner.
Curtis just looked at the taller man, who strode powerfully towards the elevator. They reached it rather quickly, and once the trio was in, the awkward elevator silence ensued. Luckily, much like yesterday, the elevator ride was almost unbelievably quick, and they were already out and walking towards a different elevator, which after entering, produced a similarly fast trip to the desired floor. As they all walked out, Curtis looked at Zuko, who was yet to get used to riding in elevators and chuckled.
“You okay there, Big Guy? Do you want to know how the elevators work?”
Zuko didn’t say anything, but gave Curtis the briefest of glares, which elicited another chuckle from the long haired Mage.
“So essentially, they are Spell powered. They use a basic Telekinetic Spell, and every time the desired floor is selected, magic circles between the two points are created, at which point, the elevator is pushed from one to the other.”
As Curtis spoke, Zuko’s attention was on the surroundings. This was yet another lavishly designed hallway which was more like a corridor as it was not only straight, but led to two offices, belonging to the Archmage and the Knight Captain-Commander. Their offices were side by side, and their doors were next to each other. The door to the Knight Captain-Commander’s office suddenly opened as Zuko and the others were approaching, and out walked Cassandra, flanked by a pair of Knights that had been present the day before in the Chamber of Scrying along with her. Zuko found himself paying attention to all three of them, noting the differences in sizes and designs of each set of armour, with Cassandra’s being the grandest, so to speak. It was a rather pale looking gold, with black accents. There were two emblems on her armour; one belonging to the Order, the other being the emblem of the Knights. The two that flanked her had darker armour; however it was almost bronze in colour. Their weapons hung from their waits, and appeared to be bladed weapons, much like Cassandra’s. All of them wore full helms, visors down, and not a single facial feature was visible. Cassandra looked at Curtis, and he waved at her with a smile on his face.
“Morning Cass!” He chimed. “Considering how much you drank last night, you’re up early.”
“Shut it, you bastard.” Cassandra snapped. “Whose fault is it that I drank so much?”
“Oh come now, you're a grown woman Cass… don’t blame your alcoholism on others.” Curtis taunted with a shrug.
“I’m going to kill you someday, Curtis.”
“No you won’t, because that’ll be against the ruuuuuuules…”
“Hmph… so, where are you taking the brute?” Cassandra asked as he gestured towards Zuko with her head.
“Next door. The ArchPop wants to see him to give him his Robes and stuff.”
“Give him his Robes? So he’s officially becoming an Agent of the Order?”
“Why don’t you ask him yourself? He’s standing right here, you know.”
“As if the Lady would have anything to say to a savage such as this.” One of the two Knights flanking Cassandra snorted.
Zuko looked at the one that spoke, before looking at the other one and snorted.
“Fleas.” He scoffed before powering towards the door.
“What was that?!” The other Knight boomed, before both reached for their weapons.
“Whoa, whoa; calm down!” Curtis pleaded. “Ladies, you antagonised the Big Guy first… besides, he’s an Agent now! Attacking him wouldn’t be sma—”
Before Curtis could finish his statement, Zuko went and kicked the Archmage’s door open, as if he had been bugged by being spoken down to by those he himself looked down on.
“What are you doing, Zuko?!” Curtis roared as he started running towards the large man, followed closely by the woman who was actually the one who was supposed to be escorting him there.
Cassandra and Knights scoffed, before walking off and going on their merry way. Curtis spent more than a few minutes trying to handle the situation, fending off his father’s personal guards, while also trying to assure those who handled admin that Zuko wasn’t scary, and wasn’t a bad guy. This wasn’t helped by Zuko striding forward purposefully, completely disregarding the current situation and atmosphere, both of which were caused by him. He looked around, trying to figure out which door led to William’s office. He didn’t have to search for all that long though, as the Archmage burst out from his office, scowling deeply.
“What in all the Hells is going onnnnnn?!” He boomed as he looked around.
His eyes quickly met with Zuko’s, and that was all the answer he needed.
“Of course… where you roam, chaos is bound to follow, is it not?”
As soon as Archmage William said this, a number of his private guards came flying into view, looking as if they were about to attack Zuko. Clearly, Curtis had failed at holding them off, and as he himself came flying in to try and stop them, the Archmage seemed to lose his patience, and stomped his foot down, causing a wave of raw Mana to pulse out and crash into everybody in front of him, sending his guards and Curtis flying backwards and crashing into the décor and such behind them. Zuko on the other hand just stood with his arms beneath his cloak, which fluttered about as the Mana wave seemed to split and flow on either side of him. William watched this happen and just scoffed, before turning around and walking into the office.
Zuko did just that, and walked in, with the door closing behind him. His personal office was different from the office of the Archmage, as beyond the door, it looked like a modern office filled with computers, modern furniture and the like. William’s personal office was far more old fashioned, filled with antique furniture, book shelves lined with an insanely voluminous collection of thick tomes as well as regular books. There were multiple jars filled with preserved mythical creatures such as faeries, small goblins, and many, many more. Zuko looked around the office, and William took note of the towering gentleman’s curiosity.
“Everything in this office has been placed there by me personally. Everything in here was found, killed or caught by me.”
Zuko looked at Archmage William and gave him a small nod, which William couldn’t quite interpret, but he didn’t dwell on it for too long.
“Izano Zuko, before I continue with handing over your Robes, Agent’s License and Access Keys, I must formally ask you; are you willing to accept the invitation proffered by the Order and our City Lord?”
Zuko didn’t say a word, all he did was take a breath and nod quite slowly.
“Well then, I guess that’s that.” Archmage William said with a deflated shrug and moved over towards his desk. “So, Black Robed Mages, or Black Robes as they are more commonly known, are Mages that possess extraordinary talents and abilities. They are not subject to the laws and regulations that the rest of us were, and are. The power that these Robes alone grant you in the Order is ridiculous, and the fact that a savage from beyond our borders who knew nothing about the organisation is about to get them infuriates me to the point of wanting to kill myself in a rage induced psychotic episode! However if I did that, the Mages of the Order would all be left in the hands of my imbecilic son, and that would be far worse than having you here.”
Archmage William sighed as he reached down and grabbed the bundle that was on his desk and walked over to Zuko, before handing it to him.
“These are your Temporary Robes – temporary because unlink regular Robes, we do not have Black Robes readily available. They may not have the same level of Enchantments as the actual Robes, but they will do the job for now. As a Black Robe, you are essentially a Division of your own, and while you aren’t omnipotent, you are almost unbearably free to… you know what? Here, just take these and put them on.”
The Archmage was doing an awful job at explaining things to Zuko, who was no better off than before the old man started explaining. He knew just from holding the Robes that they were of a rather high tier, and despite them being temporary robes, they were of fine make. Archmage William was taken by surprise Zuko simply tossed the robes onto the floor. He then pulled the cloak off, revealing that apart from the bandages that covered his entire body, he wore nothing beneath the cloak. He then proceeded to put on the robes that were on the floor, and despite not looking as though they would fit him, they ended up fitting him perfectly. They were long sleeved, quilted, and despite how long Zuko’s legs were, dragged somewhat as he walked. His tattered cloak was then put on above the robes, and the hood of the cloak was flipped up.
“They fit.” Zuko said to the Archmage, as if he couldn’t see that.
“Yes, they do. Now, as a Black Robe, you have the choice of appointing an assistant. I would highly recommend that you do so, so that there is somebody with knowledge of how things work close by to help you with things.”
“I do not need one.” Zuko rebelled.
“Yes you do.” William insisted.
“I do not.”
“Stop arguing with me, you sa—”
The door to the office suddenly burst open and interrupted the Archmage, and Curtis flew in.
“Sorry to interrupt, but the unlicensed use of magic has just been reported! Some Red Robes are en route!”
“If it’s something that can be handled by those who wear Red Robes, why did you feel it necessary to come and report it to me?” William snorted.
“I wasn’t telling you, Daddy-o, I was telling him!” Curtis said with a bob of his head. “Come on Zuko, dontcha wanna see how we do things around here? Let’s go!”
Zuko looked at Curtis who was far more excitable than his appearance suggested, and only took a second to deliberate on whether or not to stay in the office and argue, or escape and see just what kind of magic was used within the Empire’s borders. The choice was an easy one, and before the Archmage could say anything, both Zuko and Curtis were sprinting out of the office that was still being tidied up after the earlier commotion. Curtis looked at Zuko, and grinned before nodding as they ran.
“Nice threads, dude! Why are they black, though? I’ve never seen robes like those before.”
“That old man said these were temporary robes.” Zuko said with a shrug.
“Ah, I see… hey! Wanna do something fun?”
“Yeah! Follow me!!”
Curtis suddenly started running faster, and suddenly pointed at a particularly large window at the end of the corridor where the elevator was.
“Quick, Big Guy; shoot out that window! Hurry!!”
For some reason, Zuko felt absolutely no hesitation and without even raising his hand, he just blinked and blew the window to smithereens.
“Alright, well done Big Guy! Get ready, we’re jumping!!!”
As bits of glass, wood, and brick fell from the hole in the wall that used to be the window, those Agents who were down on the ground and who heard the sound produced by the shattering glass suddenly saw two figures leap out from the hole. The first figure to have jumped out was easily identified as Curtis, due to the robes and the laughter. Next thing, a towering figure in black flew out after him, and this figure was neither laughing, nor making any sort of noise.
“So, how is it Izano?! Have you ever jumped out of such a high window before?!”
Zuko didn’t respond, as he just watched Curtis, waiting to see what the laughing Mage was going to do next. The two of them cannoned towards the ground, robes fluttering so frantically that they almost looked like deflating balloons. As they got closer and closer to the tarmac below, Curtis suddenly pushed his hands out as if readying a spell. As they were moments away from becoming smudges in the Order parking lot, Curtis spoke.
“Float like a butterfly…” He said as he invoked a levitation Spell.
His hands and then body started to glow, and he quickly altered his body, virtually standing upright as he started to gently float to the ground.
“…sting like a—”
Before Curtis could finish the Spell, the sound of something big and heavy smashing directly into the tar below interrupted him. The sound was so loud, it actually sounded like an explosion, and the force of the impact generated a series of powerful gusts of wind, which almost blew Curtis away as he landed on the ground deftly. He stood upright and rigid, looking dead straight and not daring to look behind him, fearing the worst.
“N…. N-No way… he can’t be… he couldn’t have… sp-splat?”
Moments later, Zuko came flying out from the dust cloud, arms tucked beneath his cloak, and began running, zipping past Curtis as though he knew exactly where he was going, and Curtis, who was equal parts dazed and relieved, took a moment or two before running after him.
“Wait! Wait a minute, WAIT!” Curtis called.
Upon hearing Curtis calling for him to wait, Zuko actually stopped and looked back.
“Oh. You were back there?” He asked matter-of-factly.
“Don’t just say shit like you didn’t just smash into the ground like that! Isn't anything broken? Are you okay? Why didn’t you cast a Spell to fly or…”
Curtis suddenly remembered the discussion he had with Cassandra the previous night, remembering the fact that Zuko didn’t cast Spells. The fact that he looked perfectly okay and unfazed ended up making him even more curious as to what happened.
“…where are we going?” Zuko asked while pointing behind him, as if to remind Curtis that they were actually going somewhere.
“Oh shit!” Curtis said as he remembered that they were going to watch some Agents handle an incident. “Let’s go!”
Curtis started running once more, and just he had previously, Zuko thundered after him.
‘…what the hell is this guy?! Taking that beast-like running style out of the equation, what the fuck was that just now? Why isn’t he broken? Or even dirty?!’
The pair ran to towards something of an exclusive parking garage that was used by the higher ranking Agents, both Mage and Knight alike. The brief sprint came to the end as Zuko and Curtis reached a squat, two-seater supercar.
“So?” Curtis asked in between heavy breaths. “How do you like my baby? 600hp, 0-100 in mere moments, top speed of…”
As Curtis continued to rattle off stats and specs of the car, Zuko looked at the Mage who was currently doubled over. He had absolutely no idea what this guy was going on about, but he remembered getting in to one such thing yesterday. He pointed to it, while looking at Curtis.
“This one is… smaller.”
“Yes, yes it is… wait. Smaller than what?”
Zuko didn’t bother answering as he reached for the door handle, and just as he was about to yank it open, Curtis suddenly panicked and jumped in front of him.
“Noooooooo!! Nononooonononnonooooooo!! You don’t just reach for and YANK the door of a beauty like this! NNNNOO!”
Curtis turned around and after spending almost a little too much time fondling and caressing the door handle, Curtis unlocked the vehicle and slllooooooowly pulled on the door handle, opening it and gently pushing it up.
“These are scissor doors, Izano. They must treated with tenderness and—”
Zuko, clearly having lost patience with Curtis’ yammering, shoved the Mage aside with one arm, causing the smaller man to become airborne as he flew out of the way. Zuko then sat down in the car, and looked around. He remembered that one of Kev’s people had slid some kind of belt over his torso, and he began looking and feeling for it. Curtis was already back in a flash, looking to fasten the seatbelt for Zuko.
“Don’t worry about it Izano, I-I’ll strap you in!” Curtis said.
‘This fucking savage! With that brutish strength, he’ll rip my baby apart!’ Curtis thought to himself as he strapped Zuko into place.
Curtis had actually been forced to use MAGIC to stop himself from flying out of the garage forcefully. Once Zuko was strapped in, Curtis hopped in the other seat. He pressed a red button on the console, and with a ferocious roar, the car came to life; the idle of the angry sounding engine echoing throughout the garage. The interior of the car lit up like something out of a Sci-Fi movie, with dials, knobs and the large in-dash screen suddenly had the words ‘Welcome, Curtis’ appear across it. Curtis looked at Zuko, who was as stone faced as ever, not showing even the slightest hint of being impressed. The Mage sighed, and moments later, the car was shooting out of the parking garage and screaming towards one of the exits. Due to his rank, Curtis’ car had special license plates which were scanned from a distance, resulting in any gate he sought to enter or exit from opening long before he got it, which was the case in this instance. The gate was already open, and the car absolutely tore out onto the long road leading into the city. Curtis pressed a button on the wheel, and after a bit of static, he spoke.
“This is Curtis, Second Tiered Blue Robe Ranked Agent, can you hear me?”
“Loud and clear. What can we do for you, Agent?” An operator type person responded.
“I need some directions. There was recently a 1-Star level incident that flared up and was reported no more than fifteen minutes ago. Could you input its coordinates into my GPS?”
“Absolutely. Please stand by…”
The screen in the car lit up, and the GPS coordinates were remotely entered into the in-dash navigation.
“Okay, I can see it all, thanks.”
“Do you need anything else, Agent?”
“Nah, we’re good! Thanks!”
Curtis released the button on the wheel and looked over at Zuko with a grin on his face.
“See how awesome being an Agent can be?”
“What did you do?” Zuko asked, having no idea what just happened.
“Really, dude? I just had our GPS set while…” Curtis’ voice slowly trailed off as he came to the realisation that Zuko still had absolutely no idea what he was going on about. “Never mind.”
Curtis was nonchalantly talking to Zuko while tearing through the streets of Glory City and this was a little disconcerting to Zuko. The bullet train he had boarded the previous day was quick; however he didn’t feel it nearly as much as he did with this car. Order vehicles were all customised, and those of high ranking Agents even more so, so Curtis’ car was instantly recognisable as one belonging to an Agent. This prompted most cars in front of them to move and make way, much like had been the case with the car Kev was driving before.
“So anyway, Cass was all ‘bullshit!’ and then I said….”
Curtis continued speaking as he threw the car into a particularly sharp bend at the behest of the particularly deep voiced GPS lady, all the while looking at Zuko, and not even paying attention to the road. Zuko’s head was being thrown this way and that, which made it hard for him to get his bearings. Around ten minutes into the drive, Curtis suddenly hit the brakes hard, bringing the car to an abrupt and screeching halt. He then looked at Zuko and nodded.
“We’re here – well, close enough to being ‘here’ without actually being ‘here’.”
Zuko just looked at Curtis, looking slightly annoyed but also rather confused.
“Oh, we can’t go storming into somebody else’s incident. You and I shall be watching from the safety of a nearby building. Let’s go!”
Curtis was once again displaying levels of excitement that didn’t seem to mix with his appearance. He quickly reached over and undid the seatbelt and then leaned over further to open the door. He did the same for himself and soon, both men were standing outside the car. Curtis looked around for a bit, and once he found what he was looking for, he cast his Levitation Spell, however unlike earlier, it was cast on Zuko as well, who looked at Curtis as they both began floating upwards.
“…don’t give me that look. Who knows what you’ll destroy in order to fly up.” Curtis said with a sigh. “And now, I’m suddenly painfully aware of the talking to Pop’s gonna give me when we get back.”
The pair floated for just a bit longer before completing their ascent. They landed on the roof of a moderately tall apartment building, and as they walked to its edge, it became extremely apparent to Zuko that they were no longer in the shiny and sparkling part of Glory City. The buildings were decidedly brown in colour; the ocean wasn’t quite visible from where they were, the infrastructure was in poor condition, with roads being full of potholes, many buildings with broken windows and such. Down below, there was a crowd of people who were standing behind a barrier of police and their cars, who were behind a few cars belonging to Agents. The crowd was almost entirely Non-Human, and a mixture races. There were variants of Elves, Orcs, Dwarves, Trolls, and a few mixed races as well. They were all wearing old, faded clothing, along with a slight sheen of sweat and decidedly muddy appearance. It was clear that this area was something of a slum compared to what Zuko had seen yesterday.
“Is this your first time seeing this part of the city?” Curtis asked as he saw Zuko looking all around them.
“It is.” Zuko simply replied.
“Well, don’t let its appearance fool you – this place is one of the better Districts in which our Non-Human brethren reside.”
“One of the better Districts? This is?”
“Yeah… we don’t really have the best of relationships with them, so those who are Non-Human tend to avoid areas in which we humans live in.”
“I saw some Orcs and Elves yesterday; in a shiny part of the city.”
“Yeah, probably while driving through the Stanford Business District. High Elves think too highly of themselves not to make money and associate themselves with Humans.”
Curtis was then interrupted by a loud bang, and both men looked down to see three Red Robes, all with their Spellbooks out and Magic Shields active, standing opposite the one who appeared to be the cause of all the trouble. The person in question was male, and looked no different from those in the crowd behind the police with regard to his attire and such. A rather unimpressive and tattered Spellbook floated in front of his chest, and there were scorch marks and the like on the asphalt in front of him.
“Three Agents, versus one Illegal Mage… and by the looks of it, that fellow down there is a Half-Elf. Such a shame…” Curtis sighed and looked at Zuko. “Now, our guys are probably holding back, all the while trying to apprehend that fellow without killing him. But he more than likely has it in his mind that this is his last day alive, as is going to go out with a bang.”
As if on cue, the man’s outstretched arms and hands glowed orange as he cast a Spell, and a seemingly never ending torrent of flames shot out from his palms in the direction of the Agents, whose Magic Shields were working overtime in an effort to keep them from burning. One of the Agents then cast a Spell of her own, which turned out to be an ice equivalent of the Half-Elf’s spell, and the two clashed. The Agent actually had to pump more Mana into her Spell in order for it to cancel out the guy’s Spell, and as soon as that happened, the other two cast Magic Missile in tandem, producing a large number of very large projectiles, all aimed at the Illegal Mage. The pages in the tattered Spellbook turned themselves with blinding speed before landing on the desired page, and after a quick invocation, a MASSIVE Flame Wall appeared right in front of him and blocked all of the missiles, with each one bursting into flames with a bright flare. Zuko and Curtis continued watching from above, and Curtis shook his head.
“See that? Elves are naturally far more magically inclined than we Humans are, and even though that guy is a Half-Elf, he still seems to have inherited that ridiculous affinity.”
The struggle below continued, and with every failure the Agents experienced, the crowd behind them became bolder and bolder, hurtling all kinds of insults at the Red Robes, cheering and encouraging the Half-Elf, and eventually, booing the Agents. Curtis shook his head slowly once more and looked at Zuko again.
“So, a lot of the animosity between us and them is caused by the fact that the first High Lord of the Empire created the Order upon his forming the Emp— WHOA!!”
The reason why Curtis reacted in that fashion was because the Half-Elf Mage had used Flame Tornado to block another wave of attacks from the Agents, and this actually prompted Curtis to clap for him.
“Wow! This guy is fucking amazing! He’s using offensive Spells to defend himself! High level lower tier Spells at that!”
As Curtis continued to clap, he watched the Illegal mage start to breathe and sweat heavily and the look of childlike glee on his face quickly disappeared. It was replaced with a look of grim realisation as he watched on.
“So… this is about to come to an end, Izano.”
“Exactly… well, at least that is what I should be saying, but no… at this point; these Illegal Mages usually end up taking their own lives, because if they get to the stage of Depletion, then we can apprehend them.”
“Why is that?”
“Who knows, Izano… perhaps to Illegal Mages, dying free is better than living within Drae Maelk.”
“Yeah… that’s what our prison for magical beings is called.”
Meanwhile down on the ground, the Red Robes were now becoming increasingly confident that they were going to win the battle, but were also becoming aware of the fact that the Mage was bound to try and kill himself, so they were looking for ways to incapacitate him before he could do so. As the trio was talking amongst itself, the Half-Elf started speaking.
“You… Smooth-Eared SCUM!” The Mage slurred between ragged breaths and behind disheveled hair.
He then reached into his worn trousers and pulled something out. Before any of those below could identify what it was, it was already in his mouth, and the sound of his teeth crunching it to bits as he chewed it filled not only the battlefield, but the air above it.
“Gone are the days that you and yours lord it over us in your Tower! Gone are the days of you and yours trying to control us – to control MAGIC! We are here to protect Magic, and to protect its children!”
As the Half-Elf spoke, and immediately after he swallowed whatever pellet he had been chewing on, he started in to inhale deeply. As he did, both his body and his Spellbook started glowing, and one by one, each of the pages of the book were ripped out, and flew into his mouth. As each page flew into his mouth, it was chewed and then swallowed unbelievably quickly. The rate at which the pages were being consumed was rather rapid, and the book became thinner and thinner by the second. Everybody present was absolutely stunned to silence as they had never seen something like this before, and soon, even the hard cover of the book had been chewed and swallowed by the Half-Elf Mage. His body continued to glow, and after a large number of lumps pulsed on multiple points across his body, they erupted and much like steam shooting out from a geyser, jets of flames shot out into the air as the Mage screamed in obvious agony. The more prominent the sprays of flames became, so too did his screams become louder and so too did his body actually grow in size. The sleight, wispy haired Mage from before was slowly becoming a thing of the past, as his body became an object of flame and rage. The crowd of Non-Humans behind him started cheering him on once again, even if they didn’t quite understand what was going on.
Meanwhile, up on the rooftop on which the two Order Agents were observing the events happening down, Zuko and Curtis were both silent, but for different reasons. Curtis had never seen anything like this before, and as the Mage continued to scream and grow bigger and taller, and the jets of flames that continued to burst from his body, the Curtis continued to look not only more shocked, but also more interested as well. Zuko broke the silence between the two gentlemen by pointing with one arm, and speaking.
“…Curtis, is that how the Mages killed themselves previously?”
“…fuck no. This is a fuckin’ FIRST.”
The Illegal Mage let out something of a roar, which almost signified the end of the transformation process. He now stood at over seven feet tall, and was a walking mass of rage and flames.
“That is no longer a person, Izano…”
“That man has become a Flame Elemental.”
“Whatever it was that he ate, it allowed him to consume his Spellbook, and become a creature of flame.”
“That’s fuckin’ CRAZY, Izano.”
There wasn’t any time to say anything else as the Elemental went on the attack, opening its mouth and shooting out what looked like magma in the direction of the Agents, who quickly paged through their Spellbooks and cast Fortified Magic Shield all together, producing one large shield which blocked the magma successfully. It took quite a bit of effort, but they managed to successfully ride out the entire attack, and then as if they had been communicating telepathically, all cast a Spell called Breath of the Frost Giant. A large Magic Circle formed behind them, and then moments later, it formed into a mass of Mana which quickly took the form of a Frost Giant. The Frost Giant then opened its mouth, and with an almighty roar, spewed a giant stream of ice towards the Flame Elemental. The attack hit it directly on the chest, forcing the slightly smaller Flame Elemental to take a number of steps backwards, before resisting and trying to move forward. It was a monumental clash between flame and ice which resulted in bits of the surrounding buildings either melting, or freezing. The crowd was showing a worryingly low level of concern, and in fact, continued to cheer on the Flame Elemental. As if responding to the cheers and egging on, the Elemental let about a booming roar of its own, with that, shot out a particularly large jet of magma from its chest and directly in the Ice Giant’s icy breath. Ice and Flame once again clashed, however this time; it seemed more like the flames were in the ascendency and quickly began pushing the Ice Breath back. The Red Robes all let out roars of their own, and the Frost Giant suddenly received a major boost of Mana, which it pumped into the Ice Breath. The struggle between the two elements continued for a little longer, before canceling each other out with quite the explosion, which sent dust, stones and whatever else flying everywhere.
“Those Agents down there are doing a hell of a job, Izano. Individually, they didn’t have enough Mana to cast such a high level Spell, but by casting it together and combining their Mana, they were able to. It’s just a shame that it wasn’t enough…”
As Curtis said this, there was another roar and another attack from the Flame Elemental that prompted the Red Robes below to cast the Magic Shield Spell together once again, but it was all they could do to cast and maintain it, as casting the previous Spell used nigh on all of their Mana, and they too were perilously close to reaching the state of Depletion. The Flame Elemental seemed hell bent on destroying the Red Robes before it, and increased the intensity of the attack. The Agents’ shield began to crack under the strain of the attack, and just as it looked as though the Agents were about to be blown away, Curtis landed right in front of the Red Robes and raised his right hand.
“That Really Windy Thing!” Curtis boomed and immediately afterwards, a Tempest came through and swept both the magma, and Magic Shields away
As the piping hot magma and remnants of the shield flew into a nearby building, Curtis looked back towards the Red Robes, his own robes fluttering due to the Tempest Spell, smirked and raised his hand to his forehead.
“Sorry we’re late, but…” Curtis then tried to casually move hair away from his forehead, while shaking his head slightly. “…heroes always need to make an entrance.”
Curtis then held the pose, as if there was a camera or something recording this moment. There was a period of stunned silence, and after the winds from the tempest died down, a voice from the crowd suddenly shouted.
“What’s this ‘heroes’ and ‘we’ bullshit?! You’re standing there all alone!”
Curtis’ facial expression changed and his head began darting around, looking for Zuko.
“Izano Zuko, you extra crispy savage bastard! Where are you?! Why did your chargrilled ass let me do this alone?! I thought we agreed to come down here together!!” Curtis barked.
“I did not agree to anything.” Zuko said as he casually walked in from an alley on the left. “Besides, the last time I listened to you and jumped out from a building, you floated down like a leaf, and left me to have ‘fun’ alone.”
“Really?! So you decide to get your revenge by embarrassing me in front of company?!”
The sound of the Flame Elemental roaring got in the way of Curtis’ bitching, and prompted the Red Robes to speak up.
“Excuse me Senior Agents… why are you here?” One of the Agents asked. “Not that we’re complaining, but…”
“Do heroes need a reason for being anywhere?” Curtis asked as he approached the Red Robes. “Where there is danger, wherever they are needed, heroes will always find a way… to be there.”
Curtis said this as he approached the female Agent in particular. Her hood was up, much like Zuko’s, but it was evident that she was blushing somewhat.
“You three did well… you tried your best, and I commend you for even doing so, but this looks like an opponent you three just cannot handle.”
Curtis’ words and his actions didn’t seem to match, as he was speaking as though he was addressing all three, but his gaze was firmly fixed on the female Agent. As he spoke, he inched ever closer to her, until they were practically touching.
“…now it’s time for the heroes to step in.”
“Somebody tell this idiot to shut up with all the hero bullshit!” A voice from those gathered behind the police boomed.
Curtis did his best to ignore them, and focus his attention on the Agent in front of him. The other Agents were also trying to get his attention, but he decided that they were trying to block him, so he ignored them. Their attempts became more and more animated, with the female Agent also looking decidedly worried as well. Curtis suddenly became extremely aware of the stark increase in temperature behind him, as well as the shadow cast by something very tall and very large.
“It’s behind me, isn’t it?” He asked the Agent, who nodded frantically. “…of course it is.”
Curtis sighed, but became very serious, very quickly as he suddenly turned around and found himself face to chest with the Flame Elemental. He suddenly remembered how dangerous its chest was and quickly acted.
“Get Away From Me!!” He roared as he cast a Telekinesis Spell.
The Spell forced the Elemental off of its feet, and launched it further than anybody could have anticipated – well, anybody other than Curtis, of course. He was a Tier 2 Mage after all, so dealing with a creature such as this was child’s play. As the flaming giant crashed into a nearby building, a small book suddenly popped out from beneath Curtis’ robes, floated up to chest level, and suddenly grew in size, until it was as large as a regular Spellbook. The cover was azure - a lovely shade of blue and in pristine condition, and Zuko, who was watching from the side, noted that it wasn’t used during their little introductory skirmish the previous evening. The Spellbook then opened, and the flipped through its own pages until it stopped around a third of the way in.
“So, Izano… you just let this thing come right up to me without so much as a warning?” Curtis said as he tapped into his Mana.
A Magic Circle appeared above his head for a few seconds as Mana visibly flowed from Curtis into it. The Magic Circle changed into a mass of Mana, which in turn started changing into something which had the silhouette of a massive spear of some sort. As this was happening, the Flame Elemental had recovered, and pushed itself off of the building it had crashed into. It let out a loud rage-filled roar and it began approaching Curtis, who continued feeding Mana into the weapon above his head. The closer the Flame Elemental got, the more the silhouette changed into the object in question, and Curtis raised his right hand above his head.
“Ice Thing of the King. Curtis said, casting the Spell known to regular people as Spear of the Frost King.
The instant that the Flame Elemental was within striking range, Curtis quickly brought his arm down in a vertical motion, causing the spear to suddenly appear above the Elemental, and swing down with immense speed and force; mercilessly cleaving its target. The attack was unbelievably powerful, and cleaved the Flame Elemental clean in half; the force of which produced a mammoth shockwave which pulsed out and caused many a robe to flutter. It was not only powerful, but also hot, almost dangerously so. The Flame Elemental dropped to its knees, which produced yet another shockwave and once the gusts of wind died down, attention was drawn to the gaping wound which revealed some sort of nucleus right in the center of the chest cavity. It was a spinning and turning, ball of flames, yet it also felt sentient in some way. The ball continued to swirl, and with each passing second, it also appeared to grow in size.
“…so, Senior Agent…” One of the male Red Robes said. “…that was impressive and everything, but… what is that thing?”
That thing that was being referred to was the swirling mass of flames, and even after observing it from a distance, Curtis had no idea exactly what it was. Before Curtis could answer the Agent who had asked him the question, Zuko started moving, walking into the battlefield, which for all intents and purposes, was still an active one. He stood right in front of the Elemental, and looked directly into the cavity and at the nucleus. He stared directly into it, and while Curtis was coercing the Red Robes into praising him far more than any person should, Zuko continued staring at the mass of flames with unblinking eyes. Zuko swore he could hear something, and the larger the ball became, the more certain of it he was.
“What are you…?” Zuko suddenly became very aware of something, and his head shot around to look at Curtis. “Curtis? Curtis!”
“What is it?” Curtis with slight annoyance.
“This thing is about to explode.”
“Huh? What are you talking about?” Curtis asked as he trotted over to Zuko.
It only took the briefest of glances for Curtis to determine that not only was this thing going to explode, but that it was going to explode now.
“Holy fuck! This is bad!”
“It is.” Zuko stated rather calmly.
Just then, the nucleus became big enough that it looked as though it was trying to force its way out, which in turn aggravated it and made it look as though it was about to blow.
“Oh SHIT!” Curtis boomed before turning around and facing the police and the crowd.
He let out a massive roar as his body was enveloped by a blue glow, with his robes fluttering around like crazy. He was clearly drawing out a gargantuan amount of Mana, becoming truly serious for the first time in front of Zuko. He thrust his hands out and let out yet another roar.
“Six Headed Turtle Motherfucker!!!!”
As Curtis cast a heavily fortified version of the Spell Shield of the Armoured Six Shelled Tortoise, the six shells formed in midair and crashed into the tarmac in front of him. When he cast it the previous day, the shells were placed in single file, however this time, they were placed side by side, with the sides all touching. They were placed in front of the police barricade, protecting the police and those who were behind them, while all the Agents were in front of the shields, and at the mercy of the impending explosion. Curtis didn’t dare look behind him to see the explosion, however something told him to do just that. He turned his head to see Zuko standing directly in front of the burning Elemental, flames pulsing on either side of him, his cloak and robes fluttering about violently, and his hands down by his side. They were open, but he suddenly raised them as he closed his fists, however left his index and forefingers extended on both hands. He quickly flicked both hands up, and as he did, four tarmac walls burst out from the ground. They surrounded the Flame Elemental just in time as it literally exploded the moment the walls surrounded it. The explosion was unbelievably loud and intense; however the walls did a stellar job of keeping it contained. At least, that’s how it initially looked, as it appeared as though the flames threatened to spill over the top. Zuko recognised this, and his hands started to shake, causing the walls to shoot straight up, growing taller by the second. The flames continued threatening to spill over the top, and the walls continued to grow. Deep crescent shaped ditches grew at the base of each wall, with each respective ditch becoming deeper the taller its wall became. Zuko actually disappeared into one of the ditches and after a few seconds, the walls stopped growing. They were higher than the tallest building in the area, so there wasn’t any immediate thread to anybody. The flames however continued to flow upwards, and they shot up beyond the walls like confetti shooting from a gun, with flames also escaping from the small gaps between the walls which actually did end up doing damage to the buildings on either side. Curtis stood with his eyes wide open, and his mouth agape. The intense heat from the bits of fire that escaped from edges of the tar tower resulted in him, and a lot more people sweating profusely. Robes continued to flutter as flames continued to rage, and close to a minute after the tower was erected, Izano Zuko emerged from the giant trench that had been created. He looked completely unruffled and he approached Curtis. Once he reached him, Curtis tried to speak, but standing with his mouth open had left it, as well as his throat dried out. He looked behind him, and then at Zuko and just nodded slightly; an act that Zuko understood the meaning of and reciprocated.
Back at the Order’s Tower, William and Donald stood on the balcony that both of their offices shared and watched over the city. As was the ritual, and had been for longer than almost anybody could even imagine, the Archmage and Knight Captain-Commander would share a smoke and a drink together every single day around lunch time. They stood at the edge, leaning against the rail when all of a sudden, a number of large explosions echoed across the city simultaneously, and both men watched as what could only be described as magical eruptions flared out all across Glory City. It appeared as if the only School of Magic represented was Elemental Magic, as flames, ice, wind and lightning exploded all at once. With the exception of the flames, the other Elemental flare ups were large enough to cause damage to the surrounding areas at a fairly large scale. The flames however were funneled up towards the sky, and both men watched them soar into the sky like a giant pillar of sorts. As the two old men watched this happen down below, William sighed, and as smoke blew out from his mouth and nostrils, he passed the archaic looking wooden pipe to Donald.
“…well this can't be good, can it?”
“I highly doubt that it is.” Donald said in reply as he grabbed the pipe with his free hand and brought it to his mouth.