Black Magician Trilogy Fanfiction: The Hunters - 6. Chapter 6
A/N: Wow, it’s been ages… if anyone’s still interested, enjoy! The next chapter and the epilogue are half-way finished, too, so I might finally complete this fanfiction. Thank you for the awesome reviews, even years after the late update, I read them all and love them!
Akkarin closed the book with a soft sound and set the volume down. He would not get any reading done tonight. He had just read the same passage from Lord Barnabald’s theory on the conservation of magical power three times and had entirely forgotten why he had even looked it up in the first place. It seemed his mind was only capable of one thing that night, and that was reflecting on the experience of a few hours ago. His gaze wandered over the dark bookshelves in the library until he noticed his own reflection in the dark glass of the window. He was smiling, a rare sight. With a sigh, he closed his eyes. Yes, he told himself, he had kissed Sonea. It had surpassed all his fantasies. He had done it for many reasons – to make it even between them, to let her know what he felt. He’d also done it to wipe away all of Sonea’s thoughts and worries about what the Ichani had done to both of them. He had already forgotten about the woman kissing him until Sonea had mentioned it tonight. In truth, he’d had much more trouble with the memory of him standing there, powerless, watching the woman holding the knife against Sonea’s throat, far out of his reach behind her shield. That still gnawed on him – and rightly so. His remorse sobered him up again. Sonea had been more than willing to return the kiss, yet he would not lie to himself – he had taken advantage of her. The situation had given him a set of perfect excuses to follow his own selfish desires. He had taken what he had wanted. After months of slowly failing to keep his distance from her, he had given up his restraint entirely tonight.Akkarin extinguished the light orb that had hovered in the air above his reading table. The darkness served to remind himself that he was, after all, a criminal. As if abducting Sonea and teaching her Black Magic wasn’t horrible enough, he’d committed yet another sin in the eyes of the world. He was her guardian, by the Eye. It could never happen again.However, now that they had come so close, it would be so much harder. Akkarin knew what the burning sensation in his stomach meant. He knew desire. And he hadn’t needed Sonea showing him her mind to know she felt it, too.We will burn for this, he thought.
The following evening, Sonea smiled at him as she entered the Residence. After closing the door behind her and taking off her shoes, she stepped up to the table in front of his armchair.”Good evening, Akkarin”, she said by way of greeting. “How are you?”His name passed her lips easily. For a second, he did now know how to reply. Her tone was by no means lacking in respect and she still looked at him with the composed attention of a guild novice, always prepared for a lesson or criticism. However, the distance and formality between them had vanished the second she closed the door. She looked well, he noted. Happy.Full of trust. After a second, she smiled with just a hint of sheepishness.All in all, the change in her behaviour was striking.”I am well, thank you”, he finally replied. “How were your lessons?”She proceeded to tell him about a failed alchemy experiment that had caused a minor fire to break out. Excitedly, she described watching the healers treating several of her classmates. Akkarin found her observations of healing magic quite interesting, and it was only after some time that he noted they were, well, chatting amiably in the foyer. Noticing her heavy bag full of books, he finally gathered his empty glass and stood, sending her off with a nod of his head. She needed to study and do her homework, after all. Sonea gave him a smiling half-bow and ran off.
Later that evening, he sent Takan to bring Sonea down to the underground room for another lesson in black magic. Avoiding the topic of bloodstones for the moment, he asked her a series of detailed questions about the process of taking powers by force from somebody through cutting. Sonea answered them to his satisfaction. She had learned the theory and the basics well. However, in this case, the gap between magical theory and practice was especially huge. And Sonea had only once before used it against an enemy, moths ago, in a situation where she’d had the advantage of her enemy not noticing her until she had been inside her shield.”You might find yourself in a situation again where you have struck your enemy with a deadly blow, perhaps knocked him or her unconscious, yet your enemy still possesses a great amount of power. We often tend to forget how quickly a human can die, even from seemingly superficial wounds or the lack of air. The Ichani we last fought was very close to death. The head wound would have killed her within minutes.”Sonea nodded, frowning. “I’m not sure I would have been fast enough to reach her and take her powers”, she admitted.”Would you have tried?”, Akkarin asked.”Yes, of course! I knew she had a lot of power left. I didn’t see how bad the wound was, I feared she would get up again and finish us both.””I see. That makes sense.” He regarded her carefully. Sometimes it was difficult to tell how far Sonea could see. Battle tactics were not one of her major strengths, but she usually had very good instincts.
“What would you have done if I hadn’t acted? Let’s say… you saw me lying on the floor, not moving.”Sone hesitated. The question seemed to worry her. “I… I would have come to you. To see if… if you were still alive. And to heal you, if I could.””Ah.” Akkarin hid a smile. “Would that be wise in this situation?””No”, Sonea admitted. “I would have wasted precious seconds. The Ichani could have died that moment. And the resulting blast would have killed us both and ripped a hole into the city.” She seemed troubled now.”Correct.” Akkarin kept his voice deliberately level. He was a teacher discussing battle tactics with his novice. He could not comfort her, no matter how much he wanted to.”So, what is the only course of action in this situation?””To take the enemy’s power immediately. With black magic”, Sonea answered softly. She didn’t hesitate this time. “No matter the circumstances. Without regard for healing anyone before that.”Akkarin nodded. “Yes. Then let me ask you one last question. Are you prepared to do it?”Sonea looked at him. “Killing an enemy? I think I proved that I can.””You did, in self-defense.” Akkarin looked at her directly. “I wished to spare you from having to do this, but the last few months have proven that we need your skills – all of them. Are you prepared to perform black magic in any situation that might come? Prepared to use any advantage you have in order to cut your enemy and eliminate him… or her?”Sonea considered that for a moment. “I need a knife for that”, she realised. “Oh – I even had one in my boot when we last fought! But I … I completely forgot about it.” She grimaced. “I am not prepared at all. In the last fight, I was only thinking in terms of magic – shields, strikes, how much power our enemy had left.””It seems the guild truly has achieved to turn you from a street urchin into a refined magician”, Akkarin noted with amusement. “If you don’t even remember the knife in your boot.”Sonea grinned at that. “I will make sure to very quickly relearn my street manners”, she promised.He nodded. “From now on, you should carry a knife on you whenever you leave the guild grounds. I will have Takan sew some small inside pockets into your robes. He is quite skilled with the needle, and we can’t ask your handmaid for this task.”Sonea nodded.”Also, we will need to do some training. I will talk to Takan about it.” As expected, Sonea looked appalled, though she quickly regained a grip on her features. The thought of cutting Takan still troubled her. Well, they would work on that.
“Not tonight, though”, he decided. “That was enough for one evening, I think.” He rose.Sonea stood as well and took a step towards him. She held out one hand, looking at him expectantly. He had long since failed to resist that look, but now it was near seduction to him. He felt the immediate effect on his heartbeat. Taking her hand and drawing her close to him brought back memories from last night, of course, which didn’t help his restraint at all.Sonea wrapped her free arm around his waist and began transferring her power to him. He accepted the flow of magical energy into his own body, accompanied by a well-known sensation of pleasurable light-headedness. He looked down at her and met her eyes. She held his gaze for long seconds. In some sense, it felt as intimate as being naked in front of her. When she was finished, neither of them moved. Holding her closely, smelling in the scent of her hair, hearing her breathing and feeling her heartbeat with his magically enhanced senses, Akkarin was torn between desire and responsibility. It was the most pleasurable torture he had ever felt. After a few more minutes, he sent her away. He didn’t miss the look of disappointment in her eyes, even though she hid it quickly and left obediently.
Later that night, Akkarin heard Sonea softly entering the library. Sitting at his table and reading under the pale light of a magical orb, he glanced at her.”You look tired”, he noted.”I have a headache”, she said, rubbing her temples. “I didn’t mean to trouble you with that… I just can’t sleep. I thought I might find something to read.””You should trouble me with things like that”, he said. “Come here.”She came obediently and sat down opposite him, closing her eyes as he placed one hand on her head. It required hardly any effort to chase away her headache with healing magic. Sonea sighed with relief, the pained lines disappearing from her face, her skin gaining a bit more colour. However, as she opened her eyes, she seemed embarrassed.”We should not waste power on something so trivial.””Your health isn’t trivial, Sonea.”She looked like she wanted to object, so he raised an eyebrow at her. “What I just used was the equivalent one drop of water from an ocean. Don’t even think about it.”She nodded. “Thank you.” Her relief was palpable.”From now on, I want you to always come to me with such matters.” Akkarin softly traced the faint line of a barely visible blue vein from her temple to her chin. “Healing magic is never a waste.””I will”, she promised, colour rising in her cheeks. She met his gaze and held it, her brown eyes dark and beautiful in the dim light.In contrast to the last time, Akkarin felt his restraint vanish quickly this time. With hardly a second thought, he bent his head and kissed her. Sonea shuddered softly and returned his kiss eagerly. Within moments, she closed the distance between them and he felt her warm hands wrapped around his neck. He wasn’t expecting such passion. His body reacted without his say, one arm pressing her close to him, his other hand buried in her hair. He angled his head and deepened the kiss. It was only when he realised he could feel all of Sonea’s body through the fabric of both their robes that he managed to stop.”Wait”, he said. His voice sounded rough in his own ears.Sonea slowly let go of him and bent back to look at him.Akkarin cleared his throat. “We need rules for this”, he said. “We are not in a position to allow ourselves to just … get carried away by passion.”Sonea’s cheeks reddened slightly more. She nodded, sitting back into her chair.”What are the rules?”, she asked, unfazed. If he wasn’t mistaken, she was very eager to continue where he had stopped them. Akkarin had to hide a smile.”For one thing, what exists between us has to stay inside this building”, he declared.Sonea nodded. “But Viola must not notice, either”, she added after a second.”True.” Akkarin frowned slightly. “We must keep this to ourselves alone. I believe Takan already noticed something. He knows me too well”, he noted dryly. “He will of course never speak a word about it. Your handmaid, however… that is a problem.””I don’t need her”, Sonea said quickly. “I can do well without a servant.””That would be highly unfitting. And it might raise suspicions if I suspend her.” Akkarin tapped two fingers against the table, considering. “Talk to her and tell her you don’t need her services in the morning anymore”, he decided at last. “She will be surprised, yet rather relieved than vexed, and you might still want to have someone bring you a cup of raka from time to time, don’t you?”Sonea chuckled. “You know me very well, High Lord.””I do. I have had my eyes on you for a long time.” He chuckled as her eyes widened at that comment, then drew her close to him again. Sonea’s body was soft yet strong against his and very clearly the body of a woman. The realization of where this would inevitably lead to finally made him stop again, but it took a lot of his self-control to do so.
The hour was very late. He brought Sonea to her bedroom door, where they both hesitated. He regarded her closely, then kissed her one more time, lightly, and wished her goodnight. Sonea raised a hand and softly touched his cheek. Her smile was radiant.”Sleep well, Akkarin”, she whispered. How easily his name now came over her lips.He turned and left, determined to give her space and time to reconsider, to come to her senses. She was a young woman and, he assumed, probably experiencing desire for the first time. It might well be that it was just a fleeting fancy. After all, with the way things were, she had no opportunity to get closer to somebody other than him, someone closer to her age and equal to her in position. Though part of him felt a strong aversion against the thought, he knew it would be best for her to form bonds to other novices or young magicians, to find friends and love among people that would not, in all likelihood, one day face a death sentence for their crimes.
As soon as Akkarin was alone, he felt deep regret for his weakness. From all the crimes he had committed, all the laws he had broken, this one made him feel the most tainted. He was taking advantage of his favourite, who was completely at his mercy. He momentarily felt disgust at himself. Then he shook his head. As long as she was willing, he would not stop it. As he laid down to sleep, Akkarin started to make plans. Plans to hide an affair with his favourite from the curious eyes of the guild.
Though the complicated situation between Sonea and him had occupied most of his thoughts, Akkarin hadn’t forgotten about Ceryni and the Sachakan magician who, he supposed, was still hiding somewhere in Imardin. The new informants had obviously not been able to differentiate between an Ichani and another magician from Sachaka. Akkarin could not exactly blame them; foreign women probably looked all the same to the thieves’ scouts, and he had not been very specific in his description of the person he was searching for. If there was someone to blame for their dangerous encounter, it was himself. He had relied too easily on the information from men he did not know. It might have been any foreign woman they had seen, it might have been a merchant’s daughter from Sachaka, or it might even have been that they had spotted the magician Ceryni was entertaining as his guest, but she got away and the Ichani seized the opportunity. Now that Akkarin reflected on it, it was highly likely that another magician hiding in the tunnels would have noticed the fight against the Ichani. They might have been there, her and Ceryni. They might have watched it all.He sent the thief a note. It said he wished to meet him and his guest, Savara. For that was the name he had gathered from Ceryni’s thoughts the last time.
Sonea would accompany him. He decided to take her along for several reasons. Apart from the obvious, there was one he would not openly admit. He knew that Ceryni had once loved Sonea – and surely still cared about her. The thief would not risk bringing Sonea into a dangerous situation.
The meeting was held in one of the thieves’ many underground rooms and began in a rather formal way, in Sonea’s eyes. Savara, the mysterious Sachakan magician, hid her face behind a veil. The woman declared that she must stay neutral by orders of her ruler. At first it seemed that was all she was going to say, but after some probing from Akkarin, and a little nudge from Cery, Sonea noted, Savara offered at least some more information.
“My ruler is not responsible for deeds committed by the Ichani. They are outlaws. Criminals.””In my experience, kings do not like outlaws running wild in their country, even if it is a wasteland”, Akkarin noted dryly. “So I assume the reason your king will not act is because he lacks the strength to oppose them.”Savara huffed. “Our magicians are strong. Just as capable as you in your Guild.” Even through the veil, she managed a piercing glare. “However, the king will not expose his own kingdom to hunt down outlaws on foreign soil.””I see. Your king and his magicians are content to wait until Kyralia has finished the dirty work for them. What a comfortable situation.”She turned her head and did not reply to that.
Cery glanced nervously from Savara to Akkarin. Sonea felt the tension, too. Akkarin’s tone was bordering on arrogant. He conveyed superior strength, as would be expected of the powerful Magician’s Guild of Kyralia. But this woman was proud, Sonea felt. She would not offer more information if provoked. She could just walk away and leave them on their own with the Ichani threat. They had to try something different.
“May I ask a question, um… Lady Savara?”, she asked in a tone that she hoped was neutral. All six eyes in the room turned toward her, and in addition those of Cery’s hidden men behind the walls and peepholes as well, she assumed. The woman nodded, she seemed curious.”How are magicians in Sachaka organised?”, Sonea asked. “Have you formed a guild as well?””I will not answer that”, the woman replied curtly.”You had no trouble telling me”, Cery piped in, nonchalantly. She shot Cery a deadly glance, but he just smiled in a friendly way. “Come on, Savara. I bet their spies already know about that. No point in holding it back, right?”The Sachakan woman folded her arms, but nodded. “Ceryni speaks true. I can tell you, Sonea, what Kyralia’s guild already knows. The Sachakan magicians form an order, ruled by the king in Arvice.””I see. And… do you use slaves, like the Ichani do?””Of course not like them.” She shook her head indignantly. “In Sachaka, slaves with magical talent are amongst the most valuable of our servants. It is a position of great honour and they are treated better than many a free man.”So they use Black Magic, Sonea thought. And they have slaves, too.But they treat thembetter than the Ichani, if what she says is true.It explained the huge power she sensed from the Sachakan woman. Savara carried the magical strength of many people.”Please forgive my student’s rudeness”, Akkarin interjected politely. Sonea hid a smile.”I rather prefer direct and honest words”, Savara replied. Thankfully, she didn’t sound angry anymore.
For a few seconds, nobody spoke. Akkarin regarded the foreign woman thoughtfully. Cery winked at Sonea, who suppressed a nervous smile. How could the fool joke in such a situation? But it seemed that Savara was rather fond of him. She had even taken a somewhat protective stance, standing slightly between Cery and Akkarin. That was interesting.
Finally, Akkarin spoke again. “I prefer honesty as well”, he said. “So I will speak openly to you, Savara.” He cast a clance at Cery. “I trust you that this room is well guarded and none of the men will speak a word to outsiders.”Cery nodded. “On my name as a thief.””Good.” Akkarin looked at Savara. “You can sense my strength, I assume?” He stopped suppressing his aura the moment he spoke. Sonea felt an overwhelming power radiating from him. It seemed to press against her skin, a vast amount of magical power he carried with careful control. Only seconds passed before he suppressed his aura again.Savara nodded, showing no trace of nervousness. “I feel it”, she said evenly.”Am I as strong as an Ichani?”, Akkarin asked.”One of the weakest, perhaps.”Sonea felt her heart sinking. She had hoped…Akkarin nodded, not surprised. “How many magicians do you think are as strong as me in Guild?”, he asked.Savara seemed to purse her lips behind the veil. “Many, I assume, considering it is the great and powerful Magician’s Guild of the Allied Lands”, she said wryly. “Lots and lots?””No one”, Akkarin replied. “I am by far the strongest magician in all of the Allied Lands.””That cannot be!””It is true. You might perchance have noticed our fight against the Ichani in the tunnels, about one week ago. The outcome was very close.” He spoke calmly, but Sonea noted he had formed a fist with one hand. “We are in a very difficult situation. The Guild cannot defeat the Ichani if they come in force.”
“How can that be?”, Savara asked with disbelief in her voice. “Your Guild has hundreds of members.””We have a law that prohibits the use of Higher Magic, which we call Black Magic. Me and Sonea are the only ones who can perform it. The rest of the Guild does not know how it works.”Savara took a step back, aghast. “But that would mean…””Yes. We need help against the Ichani. Otherwise, they will rip Kyralia apart. And when they return to Sachaka, they will have gained hundreds of new slaves and immense powers.”In the following silence, the words hung in the air like an ominous prophecy.
Savara looked at Cery. “Is it true?”, she asked.The thief nodded. “Big secret. I discovered it together with Sonea, by accident. Nobody outside of the Guild even knows about it. The magicians make sure to act all high and mighty towards common people.” He scratched his chin. “What does it actually do, though, that Black Magic thing?”He received no reply.
“That changes many things”, Savara said. “I need to return to Sachaka immediately.”Akkarin nodded. “Please do so. I would like to give you a letter for your king.””Better talk to your king and have him change that stupid law”, Savara snapped.”That will require time”, Akkarin replied. “I intend to do something very close to that, but we simply do not have enough time. Until now, I have managed to keep this secret from the Ichani by defeating every single slave they sent. They still are not aware of how weak we are. But they are increasing the pressure. During the last five years, they have only sent slaves. Now we had to fight two Ichani within three months.” His face was grim.
Savara begun pacing back and forth. The woman seemed impatient, but she listened. “Yes, that is their tactic. We know it well. They always test the strength of a prey before they attack.” She stopped in front of Akkarin.”I can probably bring help. To prevent this disaster. But we want something in return.”He regarded her cautiously. “What ist it you want?””Your knowledge. Those carefully guarded secrets your guild hoards and keeps for themselves.” She pointed a finger at him. “We have heard rumours about healing magic. Magic that can save lives. It is a crime that you keep this to yourselves.”Sonea found herself silently agreeing with the woman.”I see”, Akkarin said carefully. “The guild rules are very strict in this respect, however.”Savara huffed. “You ask us to risk our lives for you but you will not offer something in return?””Of course we will, but I cannot just promise – “”I thought you were the High Lord of your Guild”, Savara interrupted coldly.”He is”, Cery confirmed.”Then why – “”Why don’t you join the guild?”, Sonea interrupted them. Both Akkarin and Savara stared at her.”No need to change the guild’s law”, Sonea explained. “Just open the guild to Sachakan magicians. Admit them as guild members and they can learn all they want. And I’m sure they have some impressive knowledge to bring to us, too”, she added. “We have magicians from all the Allied Lands in the guild, and they remain under the order of their respective kings and rulers. Why shouldn’t it work for Sachaka as well?””I don’t think –”, Akkarin began, the same moment that Savara declared: “Yes. That is what we ask.”Akkarin turned towards her, surprised. Savara regarded first Sonea, then Akkarin, then she nodded. “I will bring this before … my ruler, have counsel, and return with help as quickly as I can. We will help you hunt down the Ichani’s spies and even their masters, if they send more. Also, I will tell you all we know about them.”Sonea looked at Akkarin. He seemed intrigued. “I agree”, he said. “Let me warn you, though: this will require time. Months, maybe a year or more.””We are a patient people”, she replied. “But I will return all the sooner to remind you of your promise.”
After that, they sat down and Savara passed on all she knew about the Ichani. Soon Sonea’s head swam with names, numbers of slaves and unknown locations in a foreign tongue. At some point, Savara switched to her native Sachakan and she and Cery could only listen, dumbfounded, while Akkarin replied in the same foreign tongue. The thief shrugged and got up, soon returning with two mugs of Raka, for which Sonea grinned thankfully.
When they departed about an hour later, Cery gave Sonea a hug and a knowing smile, which she returned likewise with a glance at Savara’s swinging hips. Cery just grinned and waved before running after his beautiful guest. Sonea turned the other direction and followed Akkarin into the tunnel that would lead them back to the guild. Though he didn’t speak on the way back, there was a new spring in his step, an impatience she hadn’t known from him. Right before they reached the underground room, he suddenly turned, drew her into his arms and kissed her deeply.”This plan is huge and highly complex. It will require endless patience and conviction on our side.” As he spoke, he dimmed the light shining form the orb hovering in the air besides them.”Yes. But we will make it happen,” Sonea said. He was radiating such determined purpose that it was infecting her, too. “I’m good at breaking new grounds and causing scandals. You may rely on my experience in this.”His laughter echoed from the walls. Then silence followed, only broken by the rustling of robes. Akkarin seemed to be quite fond of kissing in dark, damp tunnels, she had discovered. The underground room had become a room for secrets in more than one way, and their last lesson in black magic the previous day had ended with her sitting on his lap, asking for very detailed explanations of, well, not exactly academic subject material.