Chapter 1


Sunstroke was a huge and magnificent city. It was the seat of all important bodies such as the government, the military, finance, and education. The city got its name when it was a mere town on the south facing slopes of the Clod mountains, and was therefore stroked by the sun. Now a days, no one would disagree that it hadn't been thought out very well. Amid this general splendour was the grand and ancient University of Mages. People travelled many miles to study within its walls and seek advice from its Masters. Of course there were other schools of Magic in the Realm but one thing made Sunstroke's University unique. It was home to the Realm's Warrior Mages. Even though there had been peace for many years, the Warrior Mages still studied their art and trained to perfection.

Raze Farren had been a pupil at the University and was declared a prodigy very early on in his life. Now, aged thirty, he was a high ranking Warrior Mage and a Master Teacher. As though that wasn't blessed enough, Raze was obscenely good looking and in abnormally good physical shape. He stood six feet four and his eyes were almost as dark as his cropped hair. All this was perfectly balanced on a healthily tanned skin.

"So!" Raze stood in front of his class of sixteen year olds. "We focus on moisture in the air, compress it, then fortify air around it. We get?"

"Detention for having water fights." Berwick Dean answered, sulkily.

"You bet your cantrips you do." Raze grinned. "So a water globule. Right? Splendid. Anyone in here who can't direct air currents should be chucked off the astronomy tower. So now we get a globule and the means to propel it." The class began to snigger as Raze steered his water globule so it was directly above the snoozing Theo Potter. "Neutralising the fortified air will do .... Potter? Any suggestions?"

"Er ... um?" Theo sat up straight and looked around the room.

"Pop!" Raze snapped his fingers and his water globule splashed down over young Theo's head. The class was in fits of laughter. "Tee-hee." Raze smirked childishly. "Assignment! Isn't that fun. Those of you who use tools will work on creating the water bomb via your instruments and those who don't will concentrate on generating multiple bombs. In the training yard! Any indoor buffoonery will result in my boot implanted where the sun don't shine and double detention. Clear off." The pupils shuffled out of the classroom, bound for the training yard.

Raze loved his job, and was very proud of every student he'd ever had, even the ones that 'struggled' or were 'a bit slow'. Seth Larkin provided a timely example for Raze's ponderings when he tripped over the verge that lead to the training yard and fell flat on his face. Raze remembered Seth when the lad expressed an interest in specialising in daggers. Raze sobbed audibly and tactfully talked him out of it. Seth now had a wand, a blunt one. Raze looked out of the window and across the yard to where a soggy Theo Potter was holding his staff. Not many pupils chose a staff as they were quite difficult to master and the wielder had to possess a certain level of dexterity. Seth would knock out the entire population of Sunstroke, himself included. Theo was quite skilled with his because he'd had it since he was a child. Apparently one of his many uncles, possibly the one in Slackjaw, had fancied a mystical life, staff and all, only to discover he wasn't suited to it, six weeks later. Theo ended up salvaging the white elderwood staff from the firewood pile. Theo created a water ball with very little effort, using his staff, and looked like he was dozing off to sleep again.

"Raze, you busy?" Hal Logger was in the military. He was six foot of sheer muscle and ran anything that involved law and order in Sunstroke. Obviously he rarely had cause to visit the University.

"Hal. What brings you here?" Raze liked Hal. He liked most soldiers because they told you how it was. Mages couldn't do that. Mages waffled on in some weird contest as to who could be the biggest pedant. Soldiers swore at you.

"Your horrible bloody kids." Hal stated, meaning Students, seeing as Raze had no children that he was aware of. "That little git Harvey Whetton was among it, I saw him. Him and a few others."

"Not the water silos again? I'll snotter the little creep."

"No not this ... that was him? I'll shove him in the blasted water silo. This time, him and his toerags are blowing holes in the Slag Scree wall. Yes I know it needs sorted out permanently but it hasn't been yet. It's unsafe, Raze. There are fences and signs all over the place but Whetton doesn't want to read them. Can you not batter him?" Hal said seriously.

"Er ... I can if I want to end up in your cells for child assault. He's in the yard just now. I'll go and intimidate him." Raze left the classroom and Hal went back to his Slag wall.

///


"Is he allowed to threaten us with a total inversion via our anuses?" Harvey Whetton grumbled to Berwick Dean after a dressing down from Raze.

"You might have to submit a request in writing." Berwick guffawed. "Hey Theo! Have you seen the field trip groups?"

"No but Seth says I'm with Farren. I suppose I'll need an appointment seeing as he's over there flashing his mantras at my girlfriend." Raze was having a question and answer session with a bevy of herbalist beauties, Theo's girlfriend, Millie, in among them.

"At least he isn't threatening your rectum." Harvey complained. "I'm with him too. Us four, according to the memo."

"Oh come on, he's not that bad." Berwick said, opening his packed lunch. "He's a brilliant teacher and he's a damn sight better than old Norfolk."

"You have a point." Harvey conceded. "I was with him last year. He's going senile. Magical training exercise, yes? So what does he have us doing? Brashing. Bloody brashing! No one even knew what it was until he attacked the forest with a saw. Old loon."

"Think yourself lucky it wasn't you he attacked with the saw." Theo rolled his eyes. "So where are we going? Did the memo say?" He asked Seth.

"Four day trek into nothing." Seth shrugged his shoulders. "Cobbler's Wood, out onto Groper's Reach, Pigger's Tor, then back via the old ruins over by Humper's Hummock. Probably stopping at those manky hostels."

"I can't wait." Harvey said sarcastically. "Oh look out. He's here. Hold on to your anuses."

"Field Trip!" Raze stated. "Make sure you bring clean underwear and your brain. Our delightful refectory here is providing some sort of picnic but otherwise we're at the mercy of the hostels and other charitable establishments." The four students groaned en masse. "It's character building. Brush up on spells and skills attuned to the wilds and the survival therein."

"The wildest thing out there is that horrible old farmer over by Pigger's Tor. He's mental." Harvey complained.

"Yes. Well the University has had words with him and we'll keep out of his way." Raze nodded.

"He buried Master Goode in his compost heap and attacked the students with a pitchfork and two cows when they tried to dig him out!" Theo exclaimed.

"Well if he tries that with me I'll make him eat the compost heap, and the cows." Raze tutted. "Any semi-sensible questions?"

"Harvey wants to know if we can do brashing." Berwick sniggered.

"Who's she?" Raze asked absently.

"Er ... never mind." Berwick muttered.

"Raze!" Hal was striding his way towards them. Raze glared horribly at Harvey.

"No!" Harvey yelped and clutched his backside. "Whatever it is it wasn't me!"

"If I find out differently, I'll hunt you down. Go away." The students scarpered. "Hal! You look a tad animated."

"We have a situation." Hal caught his breath.

"I'll use his innards as a catapult. Whetton!"

"No. No, it's not that. Well not directly. The Slag Scree has beat up four of my men."

"Eh? So it got up and ran amok in the barracks?" Raze asked in confusion.

"No! Don't be a knob. They were banking it up to stabilise it because that little fart over there rattled it all about. Remember?" Hal was shouting and waving his arms around.

"I threatened to rattle his colon about so calm down, Hal. What happened?"

"It started bombarding my men! Dirty great chunks of rock and a shower of gravel, all at high speed. Seriously, Raze, two of them are in the infirmary. I cleared the area and flagged it off. Something not right there, mark my words." Hal nodded sagely.

"Some sort of underground pressure source? Gas?" Raze suggested.

"Oh I'd say! Bilton and Wiggam both followed through, never mind gas!" Hal elaborated.

"Not their gas! For crying out loud! Could a build up of gas in the scree have caused some sort of eruption? Ugh! I can never un-think that now." Raze withered.

"I don't think so. It was ... sustained and with the same force. No explosions or the like. Well apart from in Bilton and Wiggam's trousers." Hal shrugged and Raze gagged. "Magic. That's what it is. Soldiers don't hold with stuff like that."

"Magic?" Raze said in disbelief. "Hal, I find the idea of a magical Slag heap as fanciful as a marauding one."

"Are you going to stand there arguing like a big fanny or are you coming to see it? Anally retentive, poncey arsed bloody wizards. No wonder everyone thinks you're all a bit light in the loafers." Hal stamped off. Raze snorted a laugh and followed him.

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