November 2021’s short story of the month
The day was scorching hot and bone dry, the air smelled like burnt toast,
and everyone’s nerves were on edge. Only Zeke was calm. He patrolled the
perimeter, making jokes about women and how stupid they were.
“Hey, knock it off,” said Charles. He placed his hand over his chest pocket
where he kept a picture of his fiancé, Annie. He leaned back feeling the wood
of the makeshift fort they were currently waiting in. He couldn’t wait to get
this over with. One month from now he would be married, and his life could
begin. This silly game felt like the last of a very long to-do list he had to
finish before he was finally done being a child. He was ready. Ready to grow
up. Ready to start a family. Ready to start a career. His service to the Elders
was complete. He was now his own mage. There were a lot of exciting career
fields a water mage could go into.
The water mages were tired of waiting. The games were always like this—get
there, wait, and wait some more. The Magic Elders staged one game a year
between different teams. It was a way for mages all over the world to get
together and meet.
This year, they had decided that each team wound be a different type of
magic. This left the teams unevenly matched. Certain types of mages were more
common than others. For example, there were more earth mages than water mages,
and more fire mages than air mages.
As they sat in their temporary fort waiting for the start, they weren’t even
sure what their objective was.
Zeke was still making jokes that were inappropriate. He clearly didn’t care
who heard. He made another crack about women being dumb.
A water mage in a blue robe stood up and pushed her hood back away from her
face. She crossed her arms over her chest.
“You need to stop telling those jokes.” When she said jokes, she used air
“I’m just saying,” said Zeke. “In my experience…”
“Don’t finish that sentence,” chimed in Charles.
“Why not?” asked Zeke.
Charles nodded towards the mage still standing and glaring at Zeke. “Pretty
sure, she’s a princess or something. Very powerful mage.” Charles bowed
slightly. “Your highness.”
She curtsied in return.
Zeke opened his mouth and then snapped it shut again. Even he wasn’t dumb
enough to purposely piss off royalty.
Charles never got a chance to see how Zeke would react, and the princess
never got a chance to tell him what she really thought.
There was a loud boom followed by tiny pebbles raining down on them.
“Take cover,” someone yelled.
He didn’t need to be told twice. Charles, Zeke, and the princess all dove
into the tiny makeshift room. It was the only place in the fort that anything resembling
“What is happening?” asked Zeke.
The pebbles continued to rain down on their fort.
“Well, if I had to guess, I’d say the earth mages have found our fort and
are attacking.” She looked outside and saw the ground covered with tiny grey
rocks. They covered every square inch of the area inside the wooden fort wall.
“Shouldn’t we fight back?” asked Charles.
“Fight against what?” The princess reset her hood. “I haven’t seen any mages
yet. It was just pebbles. They’re just showing off. Trying to draw us out. I
say we sit tight. Let them get in closer and then we go for it.”
“Go for what?” asked Zeke. “You seem to know a bit more than the rest of us about
what is going on right now. What’s our objective even?”
The princess opened her mouth, but she never answered because another mage
listening in on their conversation shook his head. She shrugged. If she wasn’t
supposed to tell the others, fine, she could keep a secret.
Charles saw the princess respond to the other’s look. “You both know
something,” he said. “I get it. You were probably told not to tell anyone. But
how is it that you know something the rest of us don’t? You’re royalty, and I’m
guessing tall and silent here has some powerful family too. You guys always
come to the mage games knowing more than the rest of us. I don’t even know why
they invite the rest of us.”
Neither the princess nor the silent mage said anything in response.
Charles glared at them both. “You’re really not going to tell us anything?”
Both shook their heads.
“Great. That’s just great. Okay, Zeke. How do we fight someone we can’t see
and fulfill a mission that we have no idea what the goal is?”
Zeke shrugged. “I say we just run out there and hit ‘em with everything we’ve
got. Maybe we’ll get lucky.”
Charles stared at Zeke for several minutes trying to decide if he was being
serious. Zeke just stood there blinking. He was fully serious.
“You know what. I think I would like to be done with this sooner rather than
later, and if the two that have information aren’t sharing, let’s just go for it.”
Charles pulled his hood up. “You and me, Zeke.”
Zeke pulled on his hood too. He nodded.
The two walked out of the little ramshackle building, walking carefully over
the piles of pebbles that rolled around under their feet. They didn’t even
hesitate. They pushed open the large gate and walked out of the fort.
There standing in formation for as far as their eyes could see were the
other mages. The earth mages were in the center and made up the majority of the
ranks. They were flanked on either side by the fire and air mages. They were
all just standing there.
Two water mages versus the entirely of all the others.
“Right. Any ideas?” asked Charles.
“Only one,” said Zeke as he clapped his hands and started running right at
the assembled mages.
He wasn’t casting, and he continued running straight for them.
“If you can’t beat them…” said Charles as he too ran into the armies.