Chapter Three: Mages

42 6 0

The mage, Jin, bowed to the emperor. "Shall I escort the visitor to the waiting room until your audiences have finished, Your Celestial Majesty?"

Azara couldn't help feeling like a bit of sand had gotten somewhere unmentionable at being talked about like that. She had a name, one that had no doubt been given to them already. Jin obviously considered her beneath him and was probably one of those people better at politics than their actual work. Though she had to admit, that truth spell of his was effective.

"No, accompany her to visit the mages. I am finished with audiences for the day."

Both Jin and Azara bowed. When she straightened, Azara found Jin watching her, a frown seeming to have permanent claim on his lips. She held his gaze. She might not be willing to challenge the emperor, but his chief magus was a whole other story. Especially if he was going to get in her way.

His eyes narrowed but he inclined his head. "If you will accompany me?"

She nodded. When Jin strode towards the door to the left, she followed close behind. He stopped halfway across the room to bow towards the emperor again, and she awkwardly followed suit. When he did the same at the doorway, she again was several beats behind him as she wondered how many times one needed to bow to the emperor.

They ended up in a hallway that had carved windows all along one wall, offering up a view of a stone-paved courtyard kept shaded with trees and lush green plants. Jin strode down the hall, his gaze locked ahead. For her part, Azara kept up with him, glancing around as they went.

"Are you a mage?"

She turned her attention to Jin. "No, I'm not."

His gaze flickered away before it went back to her. "Are you a magus?"

She raised her eyebrows. "I don't know what the difference is between a mage and a magus, but no, I'm not." This time Azara followed his eyes and noted he still held his crystal in the hand farthest from her. So, he thought he'd investigate her, did he? She'd keep his spell in mind as she answered. She wouldn't be tricked into revealing more than she wanted to again.

"Mages have innate power that is connected to the natural world. Fire mages are clearly mages and a good example of them. Magi are reliant on spells and rituals to harness power from around them. If you continue to seek out fire mages, you shouldn't remain ignorant of the different methods of practicing magic."

Azara glowered. She'd never heard of delineating the two types of magic with different names, having long called every magic-user a mage. Jin had obviously never left the Empire. Though she did now know what type of magic he used, which was useful. "Except for fire mages, I don't deal much with magic."

Which was the truth. It wasn't often those who kept fire mages as slaves had more than one or two other mages in their employ, and she could handle most mages. Her defense was practically perfect.

Unconsciously she began rubbing the scar on the back of her hand before she caught herself. Practically perfect wasn't perfect, of course. She needed to be careful. Especially since Jin's type, a magus as he'd said, were the hardest for her to deal with.

Jin eyed her. "His celestial majesty currently owns eight fire mages. Five males and three females. Of those, I believe four could be of an age to potentially be your parents. The other four are far too young. His celestial majesty doesn't keep child slaves of any sort."

Azara shook her head, a little surprised there were only eight. She'd been expecting a dozen or maybe two. The way the rumours told it, the emperor had an army of fire mages.

Heart of CrystalWhere stories live. Discover now