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A Felony of Birds

by
Harris Tobias
Hold The Anchovies

by
Harris Tobias
The Tooth Fairy War and Other Tales

by
Jeromy Henry
Lockdown

by
Timothy O. Goyette

The Collective's Orders

by

Blake Collins



Stopping just beyond the gate leading up to the lofty fortress chosen by the Collective for this meeting, the Impervious Four as they were called had not said a thing since receiving the news.  Stunned by their findings and the fact that Nicolai’s brother was the main conspirator had made each member more cautious than usual in choosing their words.  Even Sebastian held back his tongue rather than speak his mind as was customary for him.  Nicolai had not reacted, rather he had only asked the elders for their orders which were simply to neutralize the threat leaving the outcome of this mission open for interpretation. 

 

His brother had always resented him for surpassing him in the mage lineage as Nicolai was the younger of the two.  Always cool headed and intelligent in his decisions, Nicolai had proven time and again that he was surely the better choice when the brothers were discussed for assignments.  It was also no secret that Nickodemus despised the wizards.  He had expressed many times his feelings that the wizards held to much control in magical affairs just because they were not bound to the same limits as the mages and warlocks.  Though the two races were very powerful indeed as the mages could manipulate all forms of existing energy while the warlocks could create it by pulling it from the void, they were still bound unlike the wizards to their certain abilities.  Nicolai knew this and also that Nickodemus was hungry for prestige and some resemblance of power.  Even so, these desires to some degree were common amongst all mages Nicolai had reasoned.  He assuredly had never fathomed that Nickodemus would try and unseat Ridus the wizards’ master elder.

 

Whatever Nicolai had thought, it didn’t matter now as his brother had passed into a realm where his aid would not be granted.  There was only one path now which was to end the forming rebellion before others were recruited to the cause.  It was luck that had brought the news so early to the attention of the Collective and allowed for the secret deployment of the four before any news of it had spread.

 

The unlikely foursome had been chosen by their own kinds as seemingly worthy representatives to answer and carry out the Collective’s orders and in turn to be the only form of law able to police the magical community as a whole.  Each of the three races were represented in the Impervious Four. Jack Silver hailed from a historical and powerful family of wizards, considered by many to be the most powerful male outside of the wizards’ own group of elders.  Emeralda was a wizard as well though she represented the females of the race whom shared importance within the wizard community unlike the other two where only males possessed powers.  Sebastian a disagreeable yet powerful warlock spoke first having felt that he had given Nicolai enough time to digest the information.

 

“I’m not sure I am on board with this entire plan” Sebastian finally said slightly irritated.

 

“You’re not on board?  I don’t believe it’s your brother whom we mean to confront and more than likely subdue” Em quickly replied shooting Sebastian a harsh look before apologetically glancing towards Nicolai.

 

“Even so, the collective said he is in league with a fellow Warlock and I don’t like the idea of possibly killing one of my own” Sebastian said.

 

“So it would be fine were it not a fellow Warlock?” Em countered.

 

“Come; let us stop this” Nicolai interrupted calmly “Em your sympathy is much appreciated however this is a delicate matter for all.  Nonetheless, we are left with the task at hand which must be carried out.  No matter how disagreeable it may seem” he finished sternly.

 

Sebastian looking slightly defeated gazed out towards the woods that surrounded the area where they stood.  “Alright” Sebastian said coldly “I’ll go find this warlock’s portal as he and your brother are supposedly close.”

 

The other three watched as they had many times before while Sebastian held out his arm with his palm facing downwards.  The dim blue light forming under it grew quickly into a spiraling vortex before the swirling mass became a perfect oval and exploded away from Sebastian.  The brilliant blue ooze like substance sprayed outwards as if trying to escape from the warlock’s control but quickly retracted back into the floating doorway that now stood like a mirror suspended in air.

 

Sebastian removed his hand from inside of the portal and brought his arm back to his side.  Not shifting his gaze from the reflection before him he began to walk forward into the magical tunnel.

 

“Wait here.” was all Sebastian said before disappearing completely in the glowing portal that closed behind him.

Immediately after Sebastian’s departure Emeralda turned back to face Nicolai.

 

“I’m so sorry about all this Nicolai.  About your brother, Sebastian…everything” Emeralda said

 

“I know Em, me too” Nicolai said while returning a reassuring look

 

“Actually I thought Sebastian was more cordial than usual” Jack said laughingly

 

Each smiled for a moment trying not to think about the events that were about to unfold.  It didn’t take long before the portal opened again and Sebastian emerged from it.

               

“They were right, less than a few miles away from here so you two should have no trouble flashing.” Sebastian said having directed his comments towards the wizards and pointing in the direction in which to travel.  “I also found out that Daggoon is the warlock in league with your brother.” Sebastian said with a great degree of remorse

 

“Daggoon?  That only makes things slightly more complicated being that he is one of your elder’s sons.” Jack said

 

“Best not kill him then.” Sebastian said with a slight grin

 

“We will do what we can with all involved as is our usual course.” Nicolai said

 

Sebastian returned to looking at himself in the portal that awaited his return. 

                 

“There is a set of hills just before you reach the valley with a pathetic little stream running across it.  His last portal mark stops there.  No telling where they are holding up though, I came back once I recognized his work.” Sebastian said

 

The others could tell Sebastian seemed more stressed than before.  Apparently engaging with an elder’s son had made matters more complicated.  Not to mention Daggoon was more ruthless than most and far superior to Sebastian in power.  However, the Collective had ordered them to take apart the duo no matter who they might be.

 

“Well what do you think Nicolai, shall we just drop in or proceed slowly” Jack asked “I have a feeling that Daggoon will be able to detect our presence from a good distance away should we choose the latter.”

 

“If he hasn’t already” Sebastian added

 

“I am in agreeance with Jack, being cautious will not aid us now.  We must move quickly.  We must move now.” Nicolai said

 

The wizards and Nicolai acknowledged each other with a nod. 

 

“Let us find each other safe on the other side” said Nicolai

 

Immediately after Nicolai finished his last word the wizards pulled out their wands each yelling “Propelvid” as they threw their wand brandishing arms in the direction that Sebastian had pointed.  The momentary blur of color lingering after the wizards shot by at the speed of sound faded quickly as Nicolai dissolved into the air and Sebastian re-entered his portal.

                 

While the wizards possessed greater power in being able to cast and create countless spells, the one area the wizard community suffered in comparison to the others was travel.  The fastest way was to flash between locations though it only allowed one to travel as far as the eye could see which resulted in multiple flashes to reach their destination.  However, the mages who were one with the energies around them only had to separate themselves into the air and form again wherever they wished along with the warlocks who traveled through self made portals as they were able to create energy from the void.

 

Nicolai arrived first in the valley but did not take to his bodily form waiting instead until the others arrived.  While he knew his presence would have already alerted Nickodemus and Daggoon, he did not want to give them a singular target.  As Nicolai lay in wait he sensed the quick advance of the wizards as the feeling of their power became stronger.  He had felt their presence many times before and knew that within three seconds they would arrive as he had become in tune with the levels of each of their strengths. 

 

Nicolai extracted himself from the surrounding air to his full form again as the wizards appeared on the left side of the small valley enclosed by hills and Sebastian’s portal began to open a few feet away.  Experience had taught the four that having plans were of no use in these cases as they could never be followed.  This time being no exception as the returning feeling of each others’ presence was quickly surpassed by the emergence of a new and daunting power.  All rushed to advance towards the middle so that they could combine their powers for both an assault and defense if need be though Jack remained immovable in a seemingly invisible box. 

 

The two opponents must have planned on such a visit as Jack had seemingly been caught in a well disguised flash trap.  The magical devices were hard to spot and would only allow the entry of objects or people, completely leaving its victims as easy prey.  The only way now to release him would be for the one who formed it to release him or at the time of the captor’s death.

 

“Leave me and aid the others, this matter is bigger than me.” Jack shouted at Emeralda who had turned back at the discovery of Jack’s plight.

 

As she ran back in the direction of Jack while yelling and waving at Nicolai and Sebastian to follow, the power unmasked itself as an endless sky of dust emerged from over the hills and swarmed into the valley.

 

Nicolai, connecting with the air again, quickly amassed a small circle of wind blowing out from the space surrounding Sebastian and him as they ran in the direction that they had last seen Emeralda.

 

The swirling pieces of brown earth entirely blocked the view between the split parties as Nicolai and the warlock pushed forward with the mage’s air shield before it disappeared as they both leapt to the ground in reaction to the blue wave of light that was directed at their heads.  The energy orb scorched the ground as the two quickly recovered and pushed forward using the same tactic as before.  The orb waves being hurled at the running pair were coming faster now and with greater accuracy.  Sebastian threw a few of his own to counter the massive blankets of light with little effect.

 

“Nicolai, he is too strong for me to defend against.” Sebastian yelled as he helplessly hurdled another devastating bolt of light.

 

“I am aware” Nicolai replied through the roar of the wind as he temporarily focused their surrounding protection of wind on the advancing orb and managed to steer it directly into the ground in front of them.

 

The pair could see Em now through the storm of brown as they ran forward.  Her side faced them as she stood in the direction of the opposite end of the valley with her wand arm outstretched.  Nicolai saw her wrist circling while yelling something indistinguishable.  Without looking he again redirected the wind but in the direction of where Emeralda seemed to be aiming.  The blue mass illuminated its path even through the storm as Em’s green bolt of electricity and Nicolai’s powerful dose of wind met it a few yards out.  The orb erupted and sent tiny waves in all directions allowing them to deflect with ease the ones that came in there vicinity. 

 

“I think he is atop that hill” Em yelled upon their approach as she pointed in the direction of their last attack

 

“He could easily be portal jumping around this dust bowl” Sebastian said “Daggoon could be anywhere”

 

“Sebastian’s right, though we assuredly can’t stay down here.” Nicolai said

 

“What about Jack” Em said to Nicolai as a series of blue waves sped in their direction.

 

As the four prepared to defend themselves the direction of the wind changed from a tornado like spin to a steady and forceful stream in their direction.  The sandy spray filled their eyes as Em blindly flicked her wand and shouted the spell again.  Nicolai issued his gust forward while Sebastian also offered the biggest orb he could wield.  The blast on the advancing first orb erupted into the second causing a similar reaction as before though this time the remaining shards of orb were overwhelming.  Emeralda howled in pain as one scorched her arm and the other took a piece of her shoulder. 

 

“Em” Nicolai yelled as he sent a shock wave of wind back in the direction of his attackers.  The remaining bits of orb were sent sideways and away from the four.

 

“Sebastian we must confront them” said Nicolai as he helped Emeralda to her feet.

 

“I’m fine” Emeralda insisted as Nicolai worriedly looked at her tarred shoulder. “Not even my wand arm”

 

The raining dirt had now begun to turn into muddy droplets of hail as Nickodemus had begun to mix in water from the growing water stream with the dirt.

 

“I’ll stay with him, you two go” Sebastian said to Nicolai and Emeralda

 

“No you must go too” Jack pleaded

 

“We will be enough, we must” Nicolai said as he turned around and spoke in Em’s ear

 

Her wand was up again and the blur of her cloak disappeared as quickly as she did along with Nicolai.

                 

Nicolai arrived first atop the large hill where Nickodemus stood godlike with his hands raised while controlling the earthly storm below.  Nickodemus immediately became conscious of Nicolai’s presence turning his forceful wind from the valley in the direction of Nicolai while skimming it across the hill on its ascent to pick up chunks of earth along the way.  Nicolai was prepared this time as he called air from the sky and sent it swirling towards Nickodemus’s storm and funneled it in his direction.

 

Emeralda appeared behind Nickodemus but before she could issue any charge from her wand a blast erupted below her feet and sent her sliding across the rocky surface.  Daggoon had not had time to form his customary sized orb as had barely emerged from his portal in time to stop Emeralda from overtaking Nickodemus.  He ran in her direction with another blue orb growing quickly in this hand.  Emeralda didn’t have to guess what had happened and she had managed to keep hold of her wand.  She scrambled to her knees as soon as she could with her wand pointed forward yelling “Intrepito” as she did so. 

 

The bolt caught Daggoon off guard as he had thought his orb big enough to knock her out and barely issued his growing orb in time to counter the advancing bolt of light sent by Emeralda.  The mini explosion sent Daggoon reeling backwards as Emeralda grew excited at her success and advanced towards him while sending another bolt of lightning his way.

 

“You must get up there” Jack pleaded as they watched from afar the silhouettes and bursting light taking place on top of the hill. 

 

“There are four figures so both of them will be there.  Besides I can deflect most things from in here anyways.” Jack continued

 

Sebastian only stared at the fight showing no signs of aiding their two counterparts

 

“Sebastian, you must…” Jack started before Sebastian interrupted angrily

 

“I will not fight my own kind” Sebastian said defiantly

 

“Then fight Nickodemus, but you must help” Jack said helplessly from his invisible prison

 

“No, Daggoon will try and force my hand…so I will not give him the chance” Sebastian said

 

Jack could not believe what he was hearing but did not try and convince the warlock any longer.  He could only stare powerless from within his magical cell at what may be his friends’ last battle.

 

Nickodemus reacted quickly to the redirected cumulative force of wind directed at him by Nicolai and sent it up over his head and back down on Nicolai.  Nicolai was prepared for the gale of wind and sent it back at Nickodemus in this endless display of force.  Emeralda blinked in the mages direction to check on Nicolai’s progress having succeeded in returning one of Daggoon’s damaging blows to her arm. 

 

However, it was short lived as Daggoon had let the bolt scar his arm knowing that she would become overconfident.  As Emeralda advanced ready to make the final blow Daggoon hurled orbs from each arm.  Knowing that she could not possibly dodge them both she confronted one issuing a charge in its direction.  The blast was to close and sent her sprawling across the ground. 

 

Nicolai did not say a word at Emeralda’s plight knowing that doing so would alert Daggoon.  He had taken care thus far to not overpower his brother in a way that would destroy him.  However his Em was in trouble now and should his brother’s death be exchanged for her life than the trade would be made.  There were no exchanges now between the mages as it took all of Nickodemus’s energy to just stand against the sudden shift in momentum of power as Nicolai exerted all his force on his brother while also sending a rain of water on top of Emeralda.

 

Surprised from the sudden yet brief shower of water over he and his defeated opponent that now lay in front of him, Daggoon turned to the mage battle only to see Nickodemus forcefully pushing against a storm being hurled at him from Nicolai whom had one arm extended towards his brother and the other in the direction of the warlock.  Daggoon knew in his last moment that he had underestimated his ally’s brother as he shared a fierce stare with Nicolai.  Droplets from the puddles around the warlock and defenseless wizard rose off the ground and began to swirl before pulling Daggoon into the new cocoon of water.  The powerful warlock did not even struggle with a complete understanding that he was no competition for the crushing wind and water that was now filling his lungs.

 

Jack had pleaded again with Sebastian to aid Nicolai and Emeralda knowing exactly who it was that had been sent flying across the ground at the last explosion.  Still, Sebastian made no effort to aid them even while possessing signs of an internal struggle.  As Jack continued to ask Sebastian, the warlock immediately formed a portal and left.  Confused at first the reason became clear why as Jack stared at the revolving world of water that swirled atop the mountain.  Circumstances had indeed changed.

 

As Nicolai was focusing most of his attention on Daggoon, Nickodemus knew there only existed one last opportunity to defeat his brother.  Brandishing his short staff hidden beneath his cloak the mage began to utter the words to release the essence contained within the marble ball that lay intertwined in knots of wood that made up his mage’s staff.  The marble ball cracked as Nickodemus carried on his chant and finally crumbled completely apart at its culmination.  Nicolai had averted his attention back to his sibling as he caught site of the faint yellow glow across the swirling mass of wind and earth.  He knew that Nickodemus had unleashed his essence and dropped his tornado of water containing the warlock and directed all his attention and efforts on his brother not sure if he could stop him now.

“It is my time now brother” Nickodemus yelled as he tilted his staff towards Nicolai

 

The light emitted a brilliant glow as the powerful force that had nearly crushed Nickodemus now shifted in a violent and unforeseen turn towards Nicolai.  The titanic storm hurled towards Nicolai who as powerful as he was knew that his counter was no match for the hurricane of destruction heading his way though he tried in vain.  As Nicolai combined himself as much with the air as possible his arms began to gradually deteriorate into the gales he was sending in return.  Nicolai watched as his attempt crumbled at the might of Nickodemus’s forbidden power when a faint blue glow surrounded Nicolai.  The whirlwind of light pounded against the new protecting power as Nicolai thanked the heavens for his friend.  It was clear now that Nicolai had held Daggoon long enough in the cocoon of water or else Jack would not have been able to aid him now.

 

With the prison castor's death, Jack had indeed escaped and now sent a charge towards Nickodemus.  The mage had not expected this new surprise and barely dodged the screaming bolt of light.  However more were to follow as Jack yelled “Intripito” repeatedly advancing the same attack on a stunned Nickodemus.  His power had relented now on Nicolai having to turn and defend himself against Jack.  Nicolai stole the moment and rolled out from under his protection re-igniting his attacks on his brother before disappearing into the air.  Nickodemus did not even notice his missing brother having to concentrate entirely on the powerful wizard when Nicolai reappeared beside his mad sibling. 

 

Having waited for this moment, Jack immediately stopped his relentless attack.  Nicolai caught his brother off guard and propelled the staff from Nickodemus’s hand with a strong current of wind and brought it safely in to his own hands.

 

“You have broken your decree as a mage” Nicolai said as he closed his eyes with the staff clenched tightly in his hand.  As Nicolai held the staff the light that had been emitted from the staff returned and illuminated the knotted wood before shattering into countless pieces.      

 

“Let’s be done with it then” said Sebastian who had been knelt over Daggoon’s body during the culmination of the battle.

 

“It is done” said Nicolai who had not taken his eyes off his brother.  “Nickodemus shall be banished to Vailtora until his time on this earth is reached.”

 

“So we shall destroy my kindred but let yours live” Sebastian said angrily

 

“It is not how I should have liked it.  I would never take a life should it be able to be saved.” said Nicolai

 

“Who are you to accuse Sebastian?  You stood by as Nicolai and Emeralda risked all.  Had you offered your aid we might have been able to end this dispute with different results.” Jack added

 

Having forgotten about Em with all the events, Nicolai finally became sane again at the mention of her name leaving his brother in Jack’s wary eye to find her.

 

Sebastian’s palm began to glow as his powers gave in to his emotion though he quickly stopped as Nicolai peered sternly from over Em’s wounded body. 

 

“I will see you at the Collective’s call” Sebastian said coldly as he again omitted light from his palm, though this time it formed a portal into which he and Daggoon’s body disappeared.

 

“Are they finished?” Emeralda asked weakly from Nicolai’s cradling arms as his limbs filled with relief at the first sound of her voice.

 

“Yes Em, they are certainly finished” Nicolai said while glancing up towards his brother. 

 

“You’re going to be just fine Em, I will be with you as soon as I can” Nicolai said to her.

 

He laid her head gently back down on the ground making sure to check for any debris that may lie underneath.  They both shared a loving smile before he stood back up and approached his menacing brother.

                 

“Be careful Nicolai.  Staff or no staff” Jack said as Nicolai continued to approach his brother until they stood inches away from one another.  Nickodemus didn’t bother with a retort knowing that his time would come again to take care of the filthy race.

 

“Just take care of Em Jack.  Nickodemus is nothing now.” Nicolai said

 

He slowly laid his hand on top of his brother’s shoulder while staring intently at him.  Then both of the mages disappeared. 

 

“So shall I bring you home” Jack asked having knelt down beside her.

 

“In just a moment” Emeralda said as the two mages gazed out onto the valley where they had arrived earlier. 

 

“It’s a good thing we don’t make plans” Jack said teasingly.

 

“Why is that?” Emeralda asked.

 

“Because I couldn’t have dreamed up this one” Jack said as the wizards sat for a few minutes more taking in the destruction that had been caused but thankful with it's satisfactory conclusion.


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