Originally posted 2016-01-01 17:00:35.
So, a very brief explanation. This fic-lette, came about as an attempt to jump start a novel that was basically a Wild West with Magic kind of thing. I’m still working on it, but with the work I’ve done on it this probably won’t make the cut into the final novel.
Samuel winced as he tried to shake the blood and stars from his vision. Looking around the surrounding dark desert there were many things about his situation that didn’t quite sit right.
First, his hands were folded with interlaced fingers and bound together at the wrist in front of him, keeping him from being able to do the hand motions he would need to cast a spell.
Second, his side arm, a trusty double action Peacemaker, was on the ground about ten yards away.
Finally, he most certainly didn’t like the ring of small bonfires being lit by the unruly band of men that had gotten the drop on him back in Lone Hill.
He reached out with his magic and tested their auras. He immediately could tell that these men weren’t of the magically inclined type. Not to mention Sam was fairly certain that their combined intelligence couldn’t have been more than that of a desert jackrabbit. These facts didn’t lend themselves to any explanation of how they might know the way to disable, bind, and hold a fully trained mage of the Arcane College – or a mage that was formerly of the Arcane College.
He watched their movements as a whole unit, their clockwork like precision was inhuman and caused gooseflesh to raise up on Samuel’s exposed skin. It was also unsettling how quickly they worked, moving at speeds he had never seen before in a mundane human. It was like they were of one mind, one consciousness. There was something — or someone — bigger at work here.
From out of the darkness and shadows there came the sound of furious horse hoofs and the rattling of a coach. Sam narrowed his eyes looking in the direction of the approaching noise. He couldn’t make out the shapes until four large, jet black draft horses reared to a halt next to the largest of the bonfires. Behind them was a large ornate stagecoach. The dark lacquered wood and gilded accents gleamed in the light of the lanterns that hung from it. It had deep red curtains covering the windows, hiding the occupants from view. One of the men abandoned his post next to the large bonfire and opened the door while kicking down the steps.
The first person out of the carriage seemed more beast than man to Sam. He was over seven feet tall with a chest broader than the sides of most barns. He wore a cocked, black bowler with a matching black duster that concealed the rest of his clothes underneath. As he stepped closer to the fires, there was a clear scar that ran across his face, from his left temple across the bridge of his nose and stopping at the right side of his jaw. His eyes were narrowed to slits as he stroked his bushy, red mustache. Sam noticed that he was very careful not to break the plane of the guardian fires.
The next occupant out of the carriage made Sam’s jaw drop. She was a gorgeous woman. Her long, scarlet locks were styled in soft curls that spilled over slender shoulders, framing the perfection of her face. Wide eyes and pouty, full lips stood out against pale skin with the aid of dark rouge. The deep red skirt she was wearing almost blended into the darkness of the night, and a corseted top left very little to the imagination. Sam could tell she was studying him, even from fifty yards away, he could feel his aura being pulled in her direction as she tested his magical mettle.
He knew that she was the brains behind the bunch; skilled enough in the magical arts to know he was a threat and know how to neutralize him into impotence. She was the type of woman who played with fire, and thought she was immune to being burned.
This must be the Lady he had been warned about.
There was movement in the carriage but the Lady held up her hand and the movement stopped. She took a couple of steps forward, distinctly putting herself into the ring formed by the bonfires.
“Everybody out.” Her voice was as clear as a chime and reverberated into the night. Sam could hear the power she laced in her words. As watched he her brute forces scrambled outside of the ring he realized her game. A mage who used magic to hold sway over the weak and impressionable. It wasn’t exactly the type of behavior that was approved of by the College, but she was far enough out into the western territories that the College couldn’t reach her.
When the last of her lackeys crossed out of the circle, she closed her eyes and whispered into the night. The bonfires flared as one and Sam could feel the circle seal itself. He was now in her domain as a prisoner, even if he could free his hands to cast, he would be at a severe disadvantage. As she closed the distance between them, he reached out with his mind as she had and tested her aura. She did indeed have power, but it was middle of the road compared to many of the mages he knew out East.
“So, the Arcane College has finally started to send its lackeys out to tame the frontier. I figured it’d take them at least ten more years of bureaucracy before we’d see their presence.”
“Hate to disappoint you, darlin’, but I’m not with the College.”
Sam wasn’t prepared for the strength of her backhand as she slapped him across the face and knocked him onto his side. He groaned and spat out the blood that had filled his mouth.
“How dare you refer to me in such plain terms!” She shrieked and kicked Sam in the gut with the same disproportionate amount of force as her back hand. Who knew such a dainty foot could cause so much pain? He rolled onto his back, trying to gulp and air he could to let out a rough laugh.
“That’s right, what did the locals call you . . . Lady De Fuego . . . or something idiotic like that.” Sam braced for another strike, but it never came. He looked up to see his lovely captor smiling down at him.
“Now I quite like that. Lady De Fuego. I wish I had known the locals had given me a delightful nickname . . . perhaps I wouldn’t have had my boys raid the town last month. You may address me as such.” She kneeled down next to Sam and pulled him back up onto his knees. She leaned in close to his head and whispered in a throaty voice, “If you tell me what I want to know, I will let you call me Fiona.”
Sam felt a shiver run down his spine followed by a sharp spark in his brain. Several very vivid and tantalizing thoughts crossed his mind, many of them involving his hands running over her smooth, pale skin, rhythmic motion, and soft, feminine moans in the darkness. Tempted as he was to give into those thoughts, he bit down hard on the inside of his cheek and tried to remember what his father had told him. ‘Never give in to the illusion…’
He had only ever seen glamour magic used on other people; he had never had anyone try to use it on him. He focused his mind on facts. That his new friend Fiona had him beaten, captured, dragged out into the middle of nowhere, and imprisoned in a magic circle dampening his abilities. Anger was attempting to beat lust but it was a losing battle.
“Fi? Fi! Where are you?” A young voice, also as clear as a bell, rang out. Fiona must have lost her concentration because the weave of the spell was suddenly shattered. Sam could feel the cold fingers of influence pull out of his thoughts suddenly as Fiona looked over her shoulder to the edge of the circle. He slumped to his side and followed her gaze.
At the edge of the circle was a young girl of maybe ten or eleven years of age in a blue gingham dress. Her eyes were covered by a neatly folded strip of blue cloth, the ends of which were worked into the complex bun that her hair was styled into. The man with the scar had a heavy hand on her shoulder, keeping her from breaking into the circle. Sam reached his senses out to her and grasped for any since of her aura. What he found would have knocked him on his ass, if he wasn’t already splayed out on the ground.
“I’m right here,” Fiona called out, “I told you to wait in the coach. I’ll be there in just a moment. O’Doyle, can you keep her company until I’m done?” The man with the scar leaned down and whispered in the young girl’s ear. She reluctantly stepped away from the circle and back toward the coach. Before she climbed in she cast a glance back over her shoulder. Even though he couldn’t see her eyes, Sam got the very distinct feeling that the girl was staring straight at him. Once she and O’Doyle were safely back in the carriage, Fiona turned back to Sam. But now, her facade was cracked. And Sam wasn’t the type of guy that could let that lie.
“I just wonder how much longer you’re going to be able to keep her under your thumb.”
“I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean.” From the ice in her voice, Sam could tell that she knew exactly what he was talking about. The reasonable part of Sam’s brain was telling him not to push this lady’s buttons. But, damn it all, she had her lackeys beat the hell out of him. She had it coming to her.
“Oh sure you do, darlin’. You were able to spot me coming into town, get an aura read on me without my knowledge, and assess the fact that I had magical abilities that could be threatening to you and yours. That takes a fair piece of ability, especially untrained. So here’s what I think is going on.
“As you no doubt know, magic is passed through the father’s side of the family more often than not. I’m guessing you father had some considerable talent in the art and when you were born he could see you had the touch in you. From a young age he began teaching you the art, but eventually he realized that all you would ever grasp were glamour magics, the lowliest of all the arts, and he gave up teaching you.
“Your mother probably died from some disease or maybe your father left your mother and kept you. It doesn’t matter, what does matter is that your father remarried and had a second daughter,” Sam nodded in the direction of the coach, “You’d have to be blind, deaf, and dumb not to see the power in her. I’m sure your father did and forgot all about you and started to train her instead.
“You strike me as the jealous type, Fi. And I’m going to guess that you didn’t like playing second fiddle to your younger half-sister. So you taught daddy to never underestimate you again. Although you’re not with the College, everyone knows their rules. Killing another human with magic outside of sanctioned duels is illegal and punishable by death. I’m sure that was the first lesson that daddy dearest taught you, so you decided to run. Now either your sister survived the attack on your father and was blinded by it or you maimed her intentionally so she would have to rely on you and she was too young to remember what you did, but you took her with you. You couldn’t just let a power like hers go to waste.
“You found yourself a meat shield in that O’Doyle fellow, you may have lured him with glamour, the promise of getting into your petticoats, or genuine trust but that doesn’t matter. The rest of your crew are probably single miners that were on their way out to California to get their cut of the gold rush, but they met you first. Alone and unattached, you were able to cloud their minds with glamour magic and bend them to your will. Now you have grand plans to become some sort of crime baroness terrorizing the western frontier of the United States.
“So,” Sam lay the sarcasm on thick, “how did I do, darlin’?”
Fiona’s face was twisted in rage, fists clenched, and body tense. Sam may not have hit the nail on the head, but he got too close for comfort. The fires around them flared and then went out, Sam felt the magical barrier dissipate almost immediately. At the same time Fiona slammed his back against the trunk of the lone tree in the circle. She lowered her face to his and stared him in the eye. Sam took a brief moment to wonder why it was he always found pissed off women so attractive.
“You think you’re so clever don’t you?” As Fiona spoke, rage dripped off every syllable. Then she flashed him a smile that sent chills down his spine. “But I’m clever too. You want to send me into a rage, so I challenge you to a duel. I know you’re stronger than me, and you would beat me in the blink of an eye. And without your hands, you’re unable to cast force magic. So, I’m going to do this instead.” She stood, turned on her heel and waved a hand. Immediately her glamoured lackeys started moving toward them.
“Hang him high, boys. Don’t cut him down until he stops twitching.”
Well, Sam, that backfired. It was the only thought in his mind and Fiona’s boys descended down on him. With his hands bound, it took them no time at all to get a hangman’s rope over a branch, around his neck, and tied to a horse. He watched bitterly as the stagecoach pulled away and vanish into the night. Sam needed to think fast, otherwise he was a dead man.
“Any last words?” All of the men gathered around the tree started laughing.
“Yeah,” Sam said bracing himself, “HEEYA!”
At the sound of his voice, the horse his noose was tied to took off and started eating up the slack. Sam reached his bound hands up above his head and grabbed the knot in the rope. He flung his weight forward as the rope went taut, he used the momentum to swing his body up and caught the rope with his boot. The horse continued to pull his weight until he was able to hook a leg on the branch and swing himself. Once he was straddled on the branch he flung the noose off of his neck.
The men below were still trying to figure out what was going on. Sam was thankful to see that none of them had gone for a gun yet. He leapt off the branch and landed on the closest grunt. There was a sickening crack as his head hit something, probably a rock, in the dark. Sam rifled at the man’s belt until he found a knife, he cut away his bonds just as the other men started to figure out what was happening. The closest guy pulled a gun and leveled it at Sam’s head.
“Paello!” The Latin rolled off his tongue easily as he made a motion with his hand. The goon aiming at him was flung by an invisible force and landed twenty yards away. Sam dove and rolled for his Peacemaker; his hand found the comfort of the worn ebony handle and he spun on the rest of the group. They stood staring between him and their friend laying face down, unsure as to what they should do.
“If you don’t want to end up like your two friends,” Sam said in a level voice, “you’re going to let me go. Understood?” The men continued to look at him dumbfounded. He didn’t wait for a response. He pursed his lips and let out a shrill whistle. The horse that was to be his hangman trotted to him, and let out an exasperated snort. Sam holstered his piece and mounted.
As he rode off into the night, in the opposite direction from the settlement of Lone Hill, he couldn’t help but realize one thing. If he continued to make friends like this, he was going to be about as welcome in the western frontier as he was on the eastern seaboard of the United States.