• Brent Streeter

The Protégé


I grew up in a humble village off the coast of a vast ocean. From the moment of my birth, those in the village believed that I was unique, an individual blessed by the gods with unparalleled gifts. I was treated with awe and admiration at every conceivable point in my young life.

My parents had sent word of my talents to the prestigious tower of magi, boasting that I was a born protégé, and asked if I would be taken in to begin tutelage. Within a matter of days, I received a letter. It was an invitation written on aged parchment that still had the damp smell of mildew clinging to it. Bound by a thin leather cord and golden wax seal bearing the signet of the Arch mage himself, confirming the letter’s authenticity.

I broke the seal and unfurled the letter. The Arch mage had a delicate hand and the detail of the script written within was magnificent. I read the letter’s contents out loud. My parents who stood hovering nearby were barely able to contain their excitement. I had been accepted, and one of the Tower’s own would arrive on the morrow to take me there. The rest of my day was spent in preparation for my departure. Word of my acceptance had spread like a wildfire through the village, and many stopped by our home to shower me in the praise I justly deserved. After all, I was unique, and there was no other like me, the tower would soon come to recognize this too. I had no doubt in my mind that I would rise faster than any had, and in the not too distant future would even surpass the Arch mage himself.

I was surprised when my escort arrived the next morn. I had expected to be whisked away by some sort of teleportation magic, but instead was greeted by a shriveled old man atop a horse with another in tow. When I raised my concerns, he responded with a gruff laugh and praised me for my imagination.

When we finally arrived at the tower, I was ushered into an empty room made of cold stone, a single slit in the wall allowed for a meager trickle of light to enter. I was told to wait and was left alone. I could feel my irritation writhing beneath my skin, how dare they treat one of my caliber in such a manner. This was not the welcome I had envisioned, but I persevered nonetheless.

An hour passed and eventually, I heard the boom of a voice echo around the room, “You have proven that you are a patient man. This is the most vital skill when pursuing magic. You may enter the tower.”

Stone scraping upon stone erupted shortly after the voice had ceased, and at the far end of the room, I watched a portion of the wall crack open, revealing a flight of stairs that ascended into the tower proper. My journey begins here, I thought as I placed a firm foot upon the first step and began the ascent.

The first several weeks of my tutelage flew by at a rapid pace as I sought to learn my way around the tower and delve deep into my studies of the practicalities of magic. It soon became apparent to me that the tower’s mentors did not appreciate my talents and had placed me amongst the mundane rabble of young mages. Leaving us to flounder about like beached fish sucking for air while they allowed a select few sycophants to coddle up to them and suckle from their teats like swaddled babes.

I was later outraged to discover these ‘exceptional’ students in actual fact were merely the offspring of the wealthy, and a hefty sum of gold to line the Tower’s pockets was more valuable than raw talent and innate ability.

I approached the Arch mage on the matter, insisting that I was being overlooked and should have the opportunity to flourish above them. His simple response that I was average at best and did not have the right to call myself a protégé left me stunned and resentful. The system had failed me, and I was left to prove that I was unique, even if it meant that I would stand alone.

I must thank them though, due to their blatant abandonment, I was able to discover over the years that I did not require books or scrolls to carry out my incantations, and unlike the others, my magic came from within and not from the ancient tomes housed in the Tower’s libraries. I had the tempest living within me and I sought to control it.

The time came, and I carried out my plan with deft precision, from the tiniest detail of drugging the Tower’s water supply to the cataclysmic meteor swarm I summoned to crush the Tower and its occupants.

Once the dust had settled, all but the Arch mage had perished. He crawled out from amongst the rubble and corpses and looked at me with a sadness in his eyes.

“What have you done?” He whispered.

I placed my boot upon his back and pushed his crippled body back down onto the ground, “I cleansed the stain that you called a place of learning. All that’s left between me and my rightful place is you.”

“What drove you down this dark path?” His words feeble, his life-force fading.

“You did when you refused to see that I was unique and like no other.”

I raised my hand and uttered a single word. The magic flared from my hand and the Arch mage lay dead at my feet.

I stood in the palpable silence and examined my handiwork.

I was unique once more.