My writing prompt always explodes in length. oops. Unfinished version.
Writing Prompt: Your agent is actually a warlock using magic to make your book sell. Unfortunately, something about your book means this process is going to go horribly, horribly wrong.
Gathering his manuscripts together, Levi reflected on the work of the day as he carefully rolled up the scrolls. He carefully labeled each pile with a distinct seals. Each received a drop of golden wax that carried with it the authority of his office, then impressed two items: first his signet ring, in effect binding them as his to ensure their authenticity, and second with the appropriate seal of their destination. After muttering a brief chant over the seals the process was complete. Each scroll secure until opened either by himself or one holding the seal of its destination. The second stack of scrolls he labeled as herja, to be taken later that evening and buried by a 3rd year student. The first pile he carefully set on a wooden tray that would be taken down to the second floor for the priests to send to the designated monasteries.
It had been a long day. The demand for the manuscripts had picked up since the beginning of the war. For the 49th time that day he wondered at the correlation. Why would the enemy waste the energy on the destruction of the scrolls? The most recent reports stated that the culprits were often well-respected, long time priests, monks, and diakonos. Levi suspected the office of Seekers were truly pressed, researching backgrounds to uncover how deeply the conspiracy had spread throughout the Clergy.
He sighed as he tightened his sandals. The rain outside had provided a gentle chorus throughout the day. The sweet rhythm of the rain was a sweet break from the unbearable humidity that reigned the region. Despite his prayers and working hours longer in hope of a break in the clouds, it appeared as though his night would be spent washing mud from the road off his single set of robes.
It is ordained, Levi thought smiling, just sometimes I wish I would have a larger input.
He made his way through the tower which was largely silent given the lateness of the day. Most scribes began at the break of day and worked until the heat of day to allow the afternoon to work the kitchens throughout the city. The stairs wound haphazardly throughout the tower, designed intentionally to encourage the clergy to meet with each other in passing, forcing the often introverted clergy to interact with each other.
Levi met no one as he walked, in no hurry to fight the torrentous downpower and the roads now steeped in mud.
And then he heard the chanting.
At first he thought nothing of it. Priests chanted regularly. Healing, bonding, and imprinting all often called for chants of various kinds. This, however, was something else entirely.
It was not the earthy hum he was so accustomed to, nor was it the soft pitch of the diakoness’ harmony. This was dark, the rasping chant of the enemy. Its distinct grating noise instantly struck fear in his soul. Danger.
Questions flew through his mind without ever pausing to consider the one before. Had the M’s captured a prisoner? Was there an attack? Was it a foolish prank from of the students.
Levi realized he had stopped breathing.
The sound of the single, rasping voice, unmistakably in the enemies dialect, continued.
Falling to a crouch, Levi slipped his cloak off his back, loosened his sandals, and crept barefoot towards the door.
And chanted, so softly that the breath barely slipt from his lips. Fear raged, adrenealine filled his limbs. This was what he dreamed of.
He felt the familiar fire kindle in his stomach. The familiar words continued to flow, as he began to replace to words of truth with those of passion and judgement.
He felt the fire seep from his soul down his arm, forming into solid form at his fingertips.
It became solid, a blade wrapped in flame.
Holding truth and judgment incarnate before him, Levi stepped through the door to meet the intruder.
The rasping stopped. The room was indistinguishable from any other throughout the tower. Cold granite walls framed a single window on the far side of the room. The soft sound of rain against the stained glass grew to overtake the vacancy left by the course chant. Bent over the table was a figure robed in white, face hidden by a deep hood. Its presence filled the room, the brilliance of its white robes wrapped in contrasting shadow.
And still the rain fell, as Levi waited for some acknowledgement of his presence. None came. Vainly attempting to subdue the quiver in his voice the lone scribe whispered, “In the name of the Commander, what is your intention here?” His voice was barely distinguishable from the sound of the water breaking on the pane.
Still, the white figure wrapped in shadow stared at the manuscripts arranged neatly before him. A sigh, like a teacher interrupted from their lecture by a student who had clearly missed the point of the lesson.
“Sit down and shut up. Or leave. I do not care which. But if you interrupt me again I will take that pretty blade of yours and instruct you in the frailty of truth.”
His answer actually caused Levi to blink his eyes in confusion. Confusion. True, he had never actually used a blade in actual combat. The closest he had ever come to an actual fight was crossing broomsticks with Jachin. Still, it had to look rather impressive. Still fighting the fear within, he said so.
“Not many would take a Dual-Blade so lightly.”
“And I am obviously not many. Sit. Maybe you’ll actually learn something”, the figure said dryly, eyes still fixated on the manuscripts that lay before him.
Levi had heard of stories told from veterans from the front. Of rumors whispered among initiates, tales of those brave and righteous enough to do battle with the dark. This encounter was not going as anticipated.
Doubt crept on the fringes of his mind. Lowering the blade, he asked, “You are a warlock though, correct?” Immediately he regretted the question, realizing as soon as he asked that in spite all of his posturing, his naivety was starkly obvious.
However the expected laughter did not come. For what seemed like an age, all that could be heard in that room was heightening of the storm outside.
The accused finally looked up to meet the young man’s eyes. What he saw chilled him to the core. Tattoos were blazened across his face in horrific designs, vague imitations of effects left on imprintors. These however, instead of the familiar curves and soft worn by those of the Realm, a jagged blackness was seared into the skin. Beneath the hood of the cloak Levi could feel hatred emanate through the room.
And finally, Levi noticed a critical detail. The manuscripts, like all those throughout the tower, held the seal of their author. His seal. The sword extinguished, his inner chanting stunned to silence.
“Ah, and finally the boy understands his part.”
This time he was unable to keep the fear from his voice. Levi whispered, “What are you doing with my work? What have you done?” His work was insignificant. A simple replacement of damaged and lost works from throughout the realm.
The warlock gently picked up a manuscript.
“You see this? It is your work from yesterday. Quite excellent. Quite accurate.” The Lock coughed quietly to himself, as if politely concealing the humor in the situation, lost on Levi. “At least, it was accurate. Our war with the Realm isn’t fair, you see. As long as you people can draw from Him,” here he spat, as if even the idea of the one referred to was poison, “we are quite helpless. And so consider this our little plan to…even the odds. Here, have a look.” Still keeping his distance, wary of any tricks, Levi carefully took the offered document.
It was chant of healing, one of many, particularly designed to counter the internal bleeding of the stomach. Nothing extraordinary. He skimmed it quickly, remembering how this particular document was ordered by the town of Fraechiel. Levi had completed it first thing this morning. When he reached the final paragraphs, there was an itch in his mind, like when one walking into their home to discover a new arrangement of flowers, or an extra plate set on the table. Something was different. It was wrong. It was not what he had written. But there it was. This manuscript, his manuscript, had been changed.
The pieces clicked into place. The reason for the attacks, the destruction of the books, was all to require replacements. Modified replacements. Inaccuracies that would have ripple effects throughout the Realm, caught only when it was too late.
Levi felt passion of justice begin to quell inside, matching the wind that was now steadily rising.
“How did you do it? How did you break the seal? Documents are protected…”
“Ah yes, your precious seal…”, the warlock rasped, and slipped away the hood.
It was the woman from all those years ago. The one night no one would ever know about. And she was holding the pledge of payment: a signet ring.