“I tried to warn you the Elder was coming. But you didn’t hear me?” AC offered, pulling the brim of his hat down a bit lower.
“Piss off! This is all your fault.”
“You sure are!”
AC’s mouth closed with a click. He turned his attention back to the book in his lap. It was the only thing that kept his eyes open after such a dreaded lack of rest.
I would have let myself sleep in another hour yesterday if I had known I’d need it tonight.
Newt was much too tired, despite his discontent, to continue the abuse. So for a long while, the two of them sat in tense silence.
The earliest of morning light filtered lazily into the crystal chambers of the Tower of Wishes. Mysidia lay wrapped in a mystical slumber and would not be stirring for another few hours yet. Off down the hallway, the ancient grandfather clocked chimed a cheerful reminder of the time, an hour too early to be decent. The walls cast a cold reflection of dawnlight — drowsy rose dipped in amber. Before long, the crown of the sun would break from the depths of the ocean, illuminating the whole island in its golden glory.
It’s way… too… early… to be awake after not getting any sleep all night long…
After the fight between Newt and Palom at the Mysidian Ball, the Elder had shipped all guilty parties off to individual realms of punishment. AC didn’t know what had happened to the other black mage. But he and Newt had been sentenced to pull all-night guard duty in the Crystal chambers of the Tower of Wishes.
How come I got in trouble too? I don’t understand. The Elder knew I wasn’t part of the fight. Still, yet…
The Elder had made it clear that guarding the Crystal of Water was especially important now that Mysidia had so many foreigners visiting for the festival. Still, AC couldn’t help feel a little down-trodden that his festival fun was ruined not only for the ball but also for the following day.
When I get back to my room… I’m going to do nothing but sleep all day!
Newt finally scowled at the silence, drawing his dagger and picking at the mortar between the stones. “I have better things to do than sit out here watching over the stupid Crystal of Water.”
Violet eyes slid over to glance at his white-robed companion. Somehow it never failed.
Where ever Newt goes… I always get stuck there, too.
Rumors had followed the White Mage’s arrival at the Academy, stories of a dark past and a cruel heart. Simply to look at Newt, one could feel it. The cold blue eyes stared back at you, shimmering in suppressed malice. There was not a trace of readable emotion upon his face. Indeed, in all his time there, AC had never met any other student so uncivilized in action, thought, or speech. How Newt had ended up in the Academy to begin with was one of those things to add to his growing list of Wonders.
It doesn’t help that no one wants to be within ten feet of him without a good reason… much less take him on as a roommate. Not to mention there is a secret union of Black Mages who find ways to work their schedules so that they never share guard duty with him… because I always get it.
“It’s too damn early to be studying.” The bulky shadow of the White Mage dropped down across the open pages of the book, making it impossible to pick script from the parchment, “Hell, it’s too damn early to be alive.”
And at this point, he’s been up all night, the same as me… and he’s probably pretty irritable about it.
The Black Mage gathered his book in one hand, schooling himself into politeness, “I’m not studying.”
His companion looked at him as if he was insane. “You mean you read just for the hell of it?”
“I… guess you could say that.”
“Man, you’re seriously screwed up, you know that?”
Me? What about you?
It was within these thoughts that AC first heard the sound. It echoed somewhere between the folds of drowsiness and the waking world.
It sounded like someone had struck a large bronze bell with a cushioned mallet at a very far distance. It began as a low reverberation, a hum that buzzed the inside of his ears. The Black Mage looked up with a furrowed brow, “Do you hear that?”
“Yeah… Yeah, I do.” The White Mage’s troubled expression slowly melted into annoyance as he grumbled, “Damned aggravating whatever it is.”
AC rose and carefully shuffled into the Crystal chambers. The sunlight was hardly strong enough to show the way. The Elder never allowed torches in the room — maybe because the effects of adverse polarity between fire and water. Besides, the Crystal of Water seemed to light the room with its own soft glow… or it usually did. For some reason, it the room fell to darkness that morning.
Perhaps, the Crystal is asleep?
The low humming was unmistakably coming from the chamber. Though from exactly where, he could not tell.
What is it?
In a twist of air, the hum suddenly became separate sounds — two low tones in wavering harmony. A shadow in the back of the chamber shifted. As the Black Mage’s eyes adjusted to the dim light, he could see it taking on a more defined form.
AC felt a sudden twang of fear as his voice lowered into a hissing whisper, “I think we’d better alert the Elder! There’s… someone back there!”
The Crystal of Water pulsed quickly, a pale azure heartbeat. A live-wire of energy traced over its smooth surface, flickering the room in patterns of techno sparks. Thousands of tiny lightning bolts zipped from the Crystal, pulled ever groundward, straight through the pedestal it rested upon. In the sudden explosion of energy, they could see a small hooded figure presiding over the frightening display. There was such calmness in its stance, as if it was merely observing children playing in the park.
“Hey, you!” Newt roared, launching himself towards the intruder dagger-first. “Not on my shift!”
AC gave a high-pitched wail as his companion was suddenly frozen, pinned in mid-air. As Newt’s body hung suspended, a garbled choke wracked him in the convulsions of pulsing light. With a soundless impact, the White Mage was thrown back against the far wall.
Darting across the room to where the wounded mage lay, AC knelt down next to the slumped pool of white robes. “Newt! Newt, are you still alive?”
“That… bastard..!” Cold blue eyes opened slowly, filled with pain and rage. Then with a hissing sigh, Newt fell limp.
The twin humming filled AC’s mind. As he lifted his eyes, the Crystal’s light became his only vision. It shivered maddeningly with tendrils of power that sizzled and cracked the air. Within the Crystal’s core, a black glow began to flicker — a dark heartbeat that kept time with the crescendo of its brazen song. From the depth of this void, a chilling shadow flooded the room like a midnight wave.
Somewhere from within Mysidia, the watchtower bell toned a chilling dirge. It was a sound that had not been heard in the city for many hundreds of years… a sound that AC had never heard in his lifetime. But somehow he still knew it.
The Crystal of Water pulsed stronger, the dark core within more pronounced.
It can’t be! There’s not been a tsunami threat in Mysidia since…
A twinge of fear and sadness swept through his mind as AC lifted his head, blinded to everything but the brilliance of the Crystal light. Under his feet, the city shook.
Something in the distance cracked… wetness around him…
There was suddenly no breath… no pain… no feeling at all. His last vision was a pool of gold as the rising sun dripped off of the crystal walls.
Darkness awaited him as the dawn of chaos woke over the lands of the Blue Planet.