This book is dedicated to all of those that need a ray of hope in these trying times.
Copyright 2021-2022 Xe Iaso. All rights reserved.
This book is a Within Studios publication. Find out more at https://withinstudios.itch.io
This book is a work of fiction, Names, characters, business, events and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
However, the topics that the author alludes to are entirely real and serious problems that require deep thought and consideration.
I was originally gonna release this by the end of the year as a cohesive novel, however it looks like the cards aren't falling that way. I want to instead shift Spellblade into a web novel, which I am defining as something that I'll release in big chunks like this every month or so. I don't want to compromise any of the artistic vision or whatever, I just want each "chunk" to be a lot more finely scoped than "the entire damn novel" so that it feels like it's much less daunting of a task. As always, any feedback about this is appreciated. This is my first time doing this kind of writing, I expect it to be kinda rough.
From our world to yours,
Alicia scanned across the clearing. Her cat eyes darted across the field, her ears focused forward and ready for victory. The battlefield was a wide open grassy field without any good spots to take cover. Her team was losing. Badly. Her team's flag was solidly in the hands of the enemy and every attempt to wrestle it free had failed. Alicia looked over the field and got a very terrible idea. She turned towards her friend Tistus and whispered "We're going to try a pincer attack, when you get the flag, run like your life depends on it" into his ear. Tistus nodded back and stretched his legs a little. Alicia told the other group the plan via hand signals. Alicia sent the "go" signal and they all took off sprinting.
The two groups managed to pinch the blue team together, their backs against eachother and tails interlocking for stability. Zekas, the blue team leader with the red team's flag loomed over red team and readied his wooden sword. His plan almost worked, if only he wasn't struck in the back on his right side by Alicia's matching wooden sword. Zekas dropped his sword and growled at Alicia, baring his shark teeth to her. Tistus managed to squeeze between the other blue team members and yanked the flag free. He held it for dear life in his claws and gave Alicia a signal with his tail.
Alicia took a hit to the side from one of the guards she was struggling against and a small trickle of blood started to run down her left leg. Zekas noticed that his flag was missing and saw Alicia's cut, sending him into a rage. "You witch, I'll kill you!". Zekas knocked Alicia to the ground with an uppercut and Tistus sprinted off for home base while blue team surrounded Alicia. Zekas tried to grab what he thought was the flag and got Alicia's blood on his hand. Zekas growled again and looked around, seeing Tistus fleeing like his life depended on it.
Blue team took off and tried to catch up with Tistus, but the distraction was long enough that his victory was all but guaranteed. The rest of red team didn't bother to chase down blue team, they knew Tistus was the fastest sprinter at the bladecraft school.
The horn sound resonated throughout the area. Tistus had made it to the base and the exercise was over.
Red team had won.
Puri, one of Alicia's teammates, helped Alicia up and gave her a bandage. Alicia dressed her wound and felt a surge of lightning race up her hand. The exact kind of surge she didn't want to have around other people.
No no no no no no. Focus, calm, let it drain to the lightning rod in my heart. Alicia ran through the exercises her father told her to do and the feeling settled. The surge had stopped, but so had the bleeding. Alicia and the rest of her team started walking back to camp, catching up with Zekas' slow gait.
Zekas growled at Alicia in frustration, "Nice trick with that fake flag. You got me."
"Trick? Oh, the guard to my left cut my leg with his sword. I think you got got."
Zekas facepalmed and looked at Alicia. No real emotion, he just looked at her. Alicia's roughly six foot snep frame. There was a trickle of blood down her left side, but other than that her white fur and gray spots were well-kept, with her chocolate brown hair tied into a battle bun. "Lemme see that wound."
"I'm gonna let the apothecary take a look at it, it's still hurting but I can walk on it."
Alicia and Zekas started walking back to camp with the remnants of their teams.
Zekas laughed, "At least you didn't let that witch beat you." and he lead the way towards the teacher's garrison.
Alicia nervously laughed back and followed suit.
Belsa facepalmed at the news of what had happened on the battlefield. She knew that today's debrief was going to be a frustrating one. She heard a knock on her door and knew it was Alicia and Zekas ready to debrief. She let them in and stated "Sit." like she was telling animals what to do.
"So, let's talk about the...unorthodox strategy I saw on the field today."
Oh no, this is how I die, isn't it?, thought Alicia.
Belsa continued, "I have to admit, that is one of the best ways to get yourselves KILLED that I have ever seen. Well done."
Belsa clapped a very sarcastic slow clap.
"Excuse me, I think I can exp-"
Belsa raised a hand and cut Alicia off.
"Now, what's done is done and all we can really do is learn from these mistakes so that future events won't end up repeating this, right?"
Alicia cautiously nodded and looked to Zekas. Zekas had a very dumb grin on his face. He was loving every minute of this.
Belsa looked over at Zekas and glared with the force of a thousand suns. Zekas' grin quickly turned into a grimace. Belsa smiled and redirected her scolding. "Now, for you. What the hell were YOU thinking letting yourself get pincered like that? That was even dumber than what that cat did."
Zekas stuttered back "But I didn't see them! Those sneps came out of nowhere and they got us!"
"So you're really telling me you didn't notice a bunch of gray streaks coming at you contrasted against a green field? I'm not an expert in shark eyesight but what I know about cetacean eyesight tells me the difference is as clear as night and day. Did anyone in your cadre of oafs see them?"
"Well we did see them when they attacked us."
Belsa facepalmed. One of these days she was going to actually hurt herself doing this job.
Alicia cut in "By the way, we accidentally tore the flag in the process of wrestling it free. Is there anything we need to do about that?"
Belsa laughed. "Not unless you make a habit of it. Say speak of which, how did you manage to get the flag away anyways?"
Alicia pointed at Zekas and answered "Apparently our resident genius over there thought a cut on my leg was the flag. It's fine now, but it seems my blood is the exact same red as the flag, which made him think I stole the flag or something. Tistus actually stole the flag and got away with it as soon as he could."
"You know, I was wrong. That strategy wasn't just an amazing way to get yourself killed, I'm amazed you didn't get infected. You took that to the aopthecary right?"
"Yes ma'am. I've always been a fast healer so the field bandage did most of the trick."
"Alright. I've heard everything I need to know. You two are dismissed. Try to not get yourself killed next time, or I'll be there when you get judged."
Zekas stood up and proudly trod off towards his team's barracks. Alicia stretched a moment and then continued towards the mess hall. Being scolded at always made Alicia hungry.
Alicia strode across camp and made her way to her team's barracks. Her team was one of the better performing ones in the Zhalrami School of Bladecraft. It got her to thinking about her father.
Her father had done a lot of the hard work raising her after her mother passed from the mage trials. The Zhalrami army was so desperate for spellcasters that they had invaded her home town of Letsel and found her mother. Alicia's mother was a natural born mage, absurdly skilled in her craft. She used her talent to help her community thrive. Tistus had gotten into a tustle one day and had broken his arm. Without her mother's intervention, Tistus would have easily suffered a life of deformity or worse.
Alicia paused as she approached her cot. It was exactly as she had left it. The corner she left folded was in the same upper left corner that it was always in. She stretched and laid down in the bed. Her mind drifted back to a warning that her mother had given her: "If you see signs of the awakening, hide your hands. They can't find you if they never see your hands glow. If it happens in public, you're on your own. Lie if you must."
Alicia curled up in her cot and held her hands out in front of her face. Her hands were immaculate, which was odd given all of the training. One of her claws had gotten scuffed in the battle. She grabbed a nail file from her bag and started sanding it down.
Tistus walked over by Alicia and knelt down next to her, purring. Alicia purred back and smiled. "Good work out there. I don't entirely know how that worked out, but you were catalytic to it. Thank you." Tistus smiled back.
"I was just doing what felt right. How did Belsa react?"
"Oh she yelled at us both, slow clapped too. Zekas seemed to take it well though."
Tistus grinned more.
"That sea-sucker needs to get taken down a notch sometimes."
"Maybe, it's getting late though. Let's rest for tomorrow. We've got green team tomorrow. The Chees are on offense."
"Good point. Night 'leesh."
Tistus headed to his nearby cot and curled up under the blanket. Alicia could hear him start to snore almost instantly. Her mom was never able to fix that issue.
Alicia looked back at her hands again and stared deep into them. Am I a mage? she thought, That can't be. My skills lie in the battlefield. This can't be happening to me. I'll get expelled. I'll have to go back to that town. I'll lose Tistus. I--
Alicia caught that she was caught in an anxiety spiral and took a deep breathe like her mom had shown her. Deep breath in for a count of four, hold for a count of four, out for a count of four, hold for a count of four. Then repeat. Focus on the Now, not the Then. In, hold, out, hold. Pause to savor the moment that's happening, not the moment that's not happened yet. Deep, calm breaths.
After a few moments, the panic subsided and Alicia was left laying on her cot staring at the ceiling. I miss you mom and dad she thought to herself before the tiredness caught up with her.
Alicia was asleep.
This article was posted on M10 11 2021. Facts and circumstances may have changed since publication. Please contact me before jumping to conclusions if something seems wrong or unclear.
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The art for Mara was drawn by Selicre.
The art for Cadey was drawn by ArtZora Studios.