The ground lights along the walkways raced in front of him, as if perceiving exactly where SoYa was headed. Illuminated on either side by the soft glow of the columns of tall trees, this was usually one of his favorite places to walk at night. Of all the places within the Manor, this certainly sparked his imagination the most.
No one was quite sure where the light came from or how the trees produced their energies. Theories spoke of the roots that bore the natural power of the planet itself from below the earth to the surface. Others claimed that the wide, flat leaves soaked in the light from the sun, and through processing, created the energy.
The people of Runne had quickly learned how to harness this power and turn it to their whims. An incredible source of energy, it gave light to the darkness and could be stored in the natural crystal-stone found within caves and mountains. People who learned to shape and empower these stones with the planet’s elements were known as crystal masters. They were rare and important people. People that the Manor sought and kept close to the city.
Just as they do with mind mages. Just as they will do with Fu.
SoYa’s mind was miles away. His eyes didn’t see the wonder of the lights or the capering shimmers of the walkways. His thoughts were back home where he was sure he would find an inconsolable AsaHi and a missing son.
There’s nothing I can do but plead on Fu’s behalf. Plead that he’s too young to be taken. Plead for them to wait a little while longer.
Still, he knew the chances of that happening were next to nothing. Once the Manor decided on something, it was done. No matter who spoke against it. No matter the cost to others.
It wasn’t always this way.
There was a time before the Manor was the Manor. When their people woke in the strange, unknown land with no means of defense, food, shelter or knowledge of the past, a group rose up to find a way to survive. SoYa had even been part of that group so long ago, back when equality was born of necessity.
Somehow, their people survived in the world they now called Runne. They found a way to harness the energies and resources. They learned to build a city and organize a society. They set out to record their language, open a school and teach the children.
It was hard to believe that the Manor grew so far removed from its origins. What was once a group of brilliant minds working together to ensure people were cared for had become a leadership that ruled more and more through fear and growing oppression. SoYa saw the signs. It was only now that it touched him personally.
There has to be something I can do…
Yet, the weight in his chest told him otherwise. The badge of the Manor gleamed coldly, reflecting the light as SoYa came to a stop in the Main Concourse. The shadows of others, likely ranking members of the Manor, already stood there, silent against the night. They carried no weapons that SoYa could see. Not on the outside, at least. But, the fact there were this many sent to retrieve one child spoke of their insecurity.
Even a child mind mage was met with a great deal of unease.
A flash of light reflected from spectacles alerted SoYa to the familiar presence of Zemus. He stood, dark coat wrapped around him, like a part of the night shadows. More often, Zemus was some sort of speaker for the Manor to the outside people while those on the inside were seen less and less.
Zemus was a man of great contradiction. Quick to smile and quicker to laugh, he faced the world with great charm and wit. Bold and commanding, his presence inspired and his words captivated. Yet, SoYa could feel the hidden malice oozing beneath the handsome grin and alluring speech.
Perhaps it was because he was a mind mage and could see through the outside shell to the sickening truth that lay within. Maybe others honestly did not perceive the things that he did. Or maybe Zemus did not make the effort to hide it from SoYa, considering him cornered and non-threatening. Yet, his façade was so practiced and ingrained that Zemus still offered him the winning smile, even now as SoYa came to stand at the waiting platform.
“Ah, SoYa,” the words crept from between the dark mage’s glittering white teeth. “You made it after all. I was getting concerned.”
“I’m here,” SoYa didn’t offer him the pleasure of a true answer. Still, Zemus was well aware of his feelings. Of that, he was sure.
The dark mage simply rocked back and forth slowly, shifting his weight from heel to toe. Every now and then, he would smile at something invisible, somewhere in the darkness.
“You must be very proud,” Zemus spoke conversationally. “Your son will be following in your footsteps, won’t he?”
To become another one of the Manor’s biggest mind mage doormats. Yes, that’s something to be proud of.
SoYa didn’t answer. He busied himself in adjusting his robe-front instead.
“Have you considered which Master he is to learn from?” not dissuaded, the dark mage continued.
“I have not,” he heard himself say. “I don’t plan for him to learn from any Master… not yet.”
“Oh?” the question held a hint of delight, as if Zemus relished the thought of a conflict.
“I will appeal this choice with the Manor,” SoYa added. “Fu is too young to be taken from home. I can teach him what he needs to know until he’s of proper age for schooling.”
“A child is always of proper age for schooling,” came the twisting of words that SoYa expected.
You mean mindwashing…
There was little doubt in how the Manor chose to approach the idea of mind magery in Runne. SoYa’s abilities were known to many in the Manor, but he had proven himself to be a man who sought to protect the people, even from the earliest days. Should he ever show himself to be anything other than the pawn of the Manor, SoYa knew his fate would not be kind, no matter his good deeds in the years gone past.
Before he could think of some way to respond, the sound of approaching footsteps echoed across the Concourse. SoYa felt himself straightening, bracing himself for what was to come. He didn’t know how Fu would respond to this. He could only hope that the boy would put a hold on his fiery spirit long enough for the situation to be debated.
Fu was usually a quiet and well-behaved boy. But in a situation like this, SoYa was sure that the courage and spunk he inherited from his mother would shine through. And not in the best sort of ways.
Three men appeared from between the parting shadows. All were dressed in the robes of the Manor’s design. One of them had taken it upon himself to carry one of the bags of the boy who followed just behind.
A jolt of pity and fear rushed through SoYa’s body as he saw Fu’s haggard face. One step forward. That was the only motion he made before steeling himself. Then, father and son, their green-eyed gazes met and locked, emotion exchanged without words. The feelings were overwhelming, but he knew he had to withstand in silence, no matter what his son might say.
For just a little while longer.