Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 107

Claude disappeared without much effort. He was ecstatic after his first real engagement using magic and he couldn't be bothered to worry over trivial things such as messes he'd made during it. Besides, he was certain the normal humans would figure something out.

The buildings along the alley's windows were all soon lit as people watched the confrontation between an army of the two gangs cautiously from their upper floor windows. Luckily the two gang's acting commanders arrived in time to prevent an all-out brawl.

Jerad explained the situation to both sides multiple times. Kesline and Kefnie hid in their rooms the whole time. Neither child cared for the fact the Blacksnake thugs that had faced that masked man.

They were more intrigued by the result of the fight than the fight itself as well. Eight elite Blacksnake brawlers were done in by a single masked man. They were all but badly injured, and that one who looked like he was their leader might not even survive. Jerad had sprung into action without hesitation, if he hadn't more might be at death's door. Blacksnake's leader saw his earnest effort, and his cooler head prevailed. He had his men charge any buildings with a view to drag out witnesses that might corroborate the man's story, however.

Earnest or not, he was still a Shark, so his word was suspect. Not to mention how outlandish his story was.

"Did you really not hear a gunshot?" someone asked for the nth time.

"No. We didn't see a gun with the man either. He was completely unarmed." Jerad answered yet again.

"Impossible... They were clearly injured by musketshot! Only rounds make those kinds of holes!"

"Enough, we've asked them this enough times already," someone else interrupted, "Everyone else say the same. Besides, they might be Sharks--" the word came out like an insult, "--but even they wouldn't stoop that low. And I know the people he had with him tonight could never have defeated them in a fair fight."

The first man pinched the bridge of his nose.

"Fine. Thanks for taking care of their wound. You may go."

He watched the Shark leave, then took out a small piece of paper and called a couple minions over. He barked a few words to one of them, handed him the paper, and watched him disappear as well.

The minion returned half an hour later, Hurian in tow. The Blacksnake lieutenant waved his minion away and asked Hurian to check on the wounded and dying.

Hurian circled the spot where the fight took place a couple of times after finishing his inspection of the bodies, then told the lieutenant something before leaving. The lieutenant stared at his back while Hurian left, then told his men to get lost with the bodies.

"Aren't we going after the bastard who did this?" asked one of the other lieutenants.

"We can't." The first answered in a whisper, plainly, "Those weren't cause by rounds--" He pointed at the holes in the men's bodies as they were carried away. "They're made by spells. Third's luck was horrible. He actually blocked a magus' path. Makes sense when you think about it. Who in this town but a magus could so calmly tell our men to f*ck off?"

"They fought a magus?"

"Yes. I don't know why his brain stopped working tonight, but he's a fool for crossing a magus. I just hope his stupidity doesn't cause trouble for us as well. Tell the men to be damn careful about who they cross for the time being. I've heard more than once that magi are petty bastards. They don't forget a grudge."

The minions cleaned up the scene like they were professional cleaners, and melted away into the dark alleys. The onlookers were more surprised by that than by the fight. The Blacksnakes were bombastic bastards that took any chance they could to extort and rob people. Something like this was a golden opportunity for them to empty out the alley's buildings. But they'd just left?

Hurian's companions were waiting for him when he returned. They'd been just about to disperse for the evening when the minion had come calling, so they'd waited for his return. They had a dozen questions for him when they saw his expression.

"...He's too cruel," Hurian said at the end of his short narrative, "He's young, but he really is ruthless. Two of the thugs were dead when I arrived, two more won't last the night, and the other four will all likely be crippled for life. Magi that cruel are rare these days. I just hope tomorrow's trade goes off without a hitch. The apple falls under the tree, so if he's like this at his age, just imagine how bad his teacher must be. Maybe I should ask my contacts in the capital if they know anyone like that. I don't like the thought of a nest of magi thugs in town..."

One of the oldest in the group laughed.

"What are you worried about? You have the magic black market's backing. I doubt even someone as cruel and unrestrained as that boy, or his master, would offend you without thinking it over a couple of times. A rogue magus like one of us might be in trouble for just looking at one of them wrong, but you're not a drifting feather. Didn't the kid say he learned about the place from his teacher in the capital? If he is connected enough to know about a new black market branch so quickly, he must know when to strike and when to be polite. I don't think you have that much to worry about."

"Sook is right," another smiled, "You should be more confident, my friend. I have to say though, I quite admire that young masked magus. Those thugs only know and only respect ruthless. He knew exactly how to handle them. We scholarly types may have a long and illustrious history, but that doesn't track well with these brutal types. And unfortunately it's the brutal types that rule the world at the moment. Ah, I wonder sometimes what it would have been like if the battlemagi's legacy wasn't lost during the war."

Another old magus, this one wearing a black robe, laughed.

"Stop pining for what is lost, Teacher Bajee. Magic has had its day, and that day has passed. We can't bring back the past. Besides, not even the strongest battlemagus on record could stand against musketfire. Besides, don't we remain rogue magi so we can do our research without all that hullabaloo in the capital? If not, we would just have registered when we were discovered."

"Ptooey! Who wants to be a registered magus?!" Sook spat, "They aren't even real magi. They're just a bunch of starved dogs begging for scraps from their masters with entertaining tricks. They have no other worth!"

"Don't get so riled up, Sook," Hurian interjected, "Registered magi aren't real magi. We all know that. They're clowns, pets kept for entertainment, nothing more. If they were real magi, and if they were treated like that by their masters, the magic black market wouldn't exist. Well, I guess that's not entirely true, since we don't exist for them at all. The market is for true magi, not those wannabes. Come, one last toast. To true magi!"

"To true magi!"

The group downed their last glasses of ale.

Another in the group, a large, bearded man, spoke up, slamming his cup on the table somewhat crudely.

"You said the spell he used was Magic Missile? Any traces of other combat spells?"

"No--" Hurian shook his head. "--I only found traces of Magic Missile. I double checked every wound on everybody, but found nothing else. He should only know that one combat spell. Though..." His eyes fogged over in thought. "...only three were injured with it. The rest were taken out with physical strikes. He must be an expert at unarmed physical combat. He most likely specialises in physical combat and only uses magic as a backup or support.

"It's pretty rare for him to have Magic Missile alone, though. I know of less than ten such spells passed down secretly among our kin. He must have incredible luck to have learned one of them. Maybe that's why he's so brazen? He's still young. He probably hasn't met someone who's outdone him yet, hasn't been given a good beating before, so he doesn't know the limits of his strength and where he is on the ladder. He didn't even think about what might happen if the Watch finds out about this. If he isn't just killed outright, he won't have a single day's peace, captured or not."

"The young are always arrogant, it's in their blood. You were like that when you were his age as well," the bearded man said, "We've suffered much since and learned wisdom. We know better than to go around beating people up with forbidden spells. He reminds me of myself when I was younger as well. Ah, those were the days...

"Anyway, it's rare enough for us to get together like this. We're really too busy for our own good. Speaking of which, I'm leaving tomorrow. I don't know when I'll be back, so let me steal a bit more ale for another toast, Hurian! May we have many more stories to tell when next we meet!"

The group toasted with the ale from another opened cask.

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