Full Text Edit
Part 1 Edit
Vox Arnason: (approx. 5 years before the Rebellion)
High Central had a way of making this day seem to bring the world of the young scholar down. They didn’t see age as a designation for placement in society — more as a rising liability for dissent. The older they became, the wiser, and more likely to destroy the notion that they could be controlled any longer.
Vox knew this. Late night talks with Dario by the lake only reinforced the mindset that things couldn’t remain the way that they were. The consistent belligerent containment of the people who were supposed to be protected by their government was leading to an uprising, and it was the talk of the entirety of High Central. Government officials and citizens alike felt the rising tension. Patrols were in higher guard, and most people were afraid to leave their own homes.
Dario, his elder by only two years, was the only thing that gave Vox the courage to leave his home and think on his own. The half-breed, a descendant of Cervidae origin, took Vox under his leadership and taught him what he needed to know to keep alive in such a totalitarian government regime. The man was a half-breed and was still able to live with his head held high, despite the growing fear of being exiled, or even worse, executed.
The stag perked his ears; prolonged silence had allowed him to fall into a deep concentration. His friend’s speech was broken and tired, almost as if he had let his own train of thought consume him.
"Yes, Vox? You’ve been as quiet as I’ve been. You’re usually full of things to say. What’s going on?"
The boy kept his eyes towards the ground. He couldn’t explain the feeling of dread that was slowly building inside of him. With the past few weeks creating friction between the government and it’s people, he knew that it was only a matter of time before it caused an uprising.
"Do you… do you understand what’s happening, with all the rumours of High Central coming after you guys?"
Wrong choice of words, Vox.
Vox was almost startled at the response. Dario was a very sensual guy. He understood things better than most, and his ability to read others was unmatched by anyone Vox had met before.
"I don’t think we’d be out here if I didn’t know what I- we, I’m sorry. What we were up against.”
Vox laughed under his breath. The half-breed was right. This wasn’t so much Vox’s fight, or any human from High Central for that matter. They weren’t in any existential danger.
"I get it, Dario. You can be afraid."
"It’s not being afraid, Vox. It’s a little more complicated than that."
Dario ran his fingers through his hair, starting up at the night sky. There was not nearly as much cloud coverage as normal, and he took note of constellations he hadn’t been able to see on a typical night.
"If I allow myself to be afraid, I won’t be able to protect my family. Fear is what they want us to feel. I’m more… cautious. If they can’t get into my head and leave me feeling vulnerable, and I’m prepared for what they have in store for me and my kind, I might…”
He exhaled. The next choice of words were very important for the stag — the last thing he needed was Vox feeling any sort of harm was possible for his best friend.
"…I might stand a chance at beating their regime."
The human understood. Vox shifted his weight to face Dario, folding his legs and resting his elbows on his knees. Cradling his chin in his hands, he gazed towards his best friend.
"You stand a pretty good chance in my book. Do you remember a few years back, when we were younger, and I had to fight those guys who threatened my parents?"
"Of course, Vox."
"Then you’d know how well you and your family have done in times of peril. That fight was completely one-sided — it was you against eight guys, and sure, they messed you up a bit… but I think that knocking out five guys and letting three get away sends a pretty strong message, don’t you think?"
"Vox." Dario interrupted. This isn’t the person he wanted his friend to remember him as.
This wasn’t the person he wanted anyone to remember him as.
"I did what I had to do to keep you safe. All through our childhood, you were one of the few who actually saw me for who I was, and not as a half-breed that didn’t deserve the light of day from anyone. Maybe it was your naivety from being so young when I met you, but if you can know one thing about me, it’s that if I could find a solution that was intrinsically non-violent, then know that it’s the course of action I would take in a heartbeat."
Vox looked away from Dario. Damn it. He’s right. The stag fought when the threat called for it, but it was a very rare occasion that the boy would see him in any physical altercation.
"You were always the peacekeeper. Kept me in line, that’s for sure."
The thought of Vox in his younger years brought a smile to Dario’s face. They had been through a lot to get here, and reminiscing was a change of pace he could get used to.
“You were always the scrapper. Kept me on my toes, that’s for sure.”
"Not when you’re keeping your ass in line, kid."
“Kid. I’m only two years younger than you!”
"…and always will be."
Dario gave Vox a playful punch in the arm. The banter was one of the few luxuries the two still had. One of the few things that reminded them that even through the hardships they faced, the only harm to befall the other would be from the other.
Part 2 Edit
Vox Arnason: The attic was humid, dusty and cramped. The volume of the space was just enough to compensate for the two occupants, but it was home for the boy and his stag friend.
There were few places in High Central that went unnoticed by most. For Vox and Dario, the attic above the masonry was ideal for them to discuss their futures.
…and for Dario, to practice a skill he’d kept to himself for a while.
"Wait, do that thing."
"What thing? Vox, you have to be specific. I’ve learned a lot over the past few months."
"The thing with the fruit!"
"…fine. One more time. This one’s hard."
Dario reached a few feet away from him and picked up a visibly rotted pear. The fruit they stashed up here was starting to spoil, but fortunately for the two of them, Dario had a way of reversing the aging process.
"Close your eyes, Vox. It’s going to get bright."
The boy appeared to follow the deer’s orders, but only at face value. He squinted to allow slight vision to give him the luxury of witnessing a miracle in action.
With the pear in his right hand, Dario guided his left above the congealed mass. He spoke no words, but kept a gaze centered at the core of the fruit. After a few seconds, a dim light emitted from his palm, creating a thread leading down to the subject in question. As the light and the pear made contact, the brightness exuded from it manifested a wave of heat that instantly warmed the room. Vox threw his hands in front of his face to deflect as much of it as possible, while Dario seemed unaware of it. The trance he placed himself in kept him focused on what he was doing.
The light only lasted for a few seconds, before it receded back into Dario’s hand and darkened the room once more. Where the carcass of a fruit once was, a bright, ripened pear sat in his palm.
Dario dropped the fruit, waving his right hand in pain. The searing light obviously did a number on him, but he managed to do what most mages around High Central had spent lifetimes trying to do.
"You… you can revive." Vox was beside himself. "This is incredible!"
"Yeah, it’s pretty neat. Been working on that one for a long time. My dad showed me what he could do when I was a young buck, but I never actually tried that one until I knew how to properly control what I was capable of."
"Capable of magick!” Vox stood up, nearly hitting his head on the ceiling in excitement. “Do you know what this means? The mages aren’t the only ones who can scare us with their tricks!”
Dario cringed. The last thing he needed was to be on their radar for this.
"Vox, you need to understand that just because I have the ability to do these things, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the best course of action. You realize what they’ll do to us if they find out, right?"
Vox’s expression fell from his face.
Damn it, Dario.
"Yeah, I get it. It would be selfish of me to expect you to risk your wellbeing on some spells."
"It’s not that I don’t want to help. I just can’t see my craft being of any real aid when it hasn’t been mastered. There’s only so much I’m able to do at this point."
Vox sat again, emotionally deflated. He had a moment of hope that this would solve things for them.
"Well, at least let me help you to get to that point, okay? You know your secret is safe with me, and I can at least do what I can.”
Dario couldn’t help but smile, picking up the rejuvenated fruit at his feet. He lobbed it in the air a few times, before tossing it to Vox.
"Works for me. Here’s to the future, buddy."
The crowd only half a mile from Vox’s home was growing, and with good reason.
High Central’s mages had gathered themselves here, with news brought down from the Councilmembers. Dario gripped Vox’s wrist and dragged him through the crowd, anxiety looming over them both as they awaited to news as to what brought the mages to their part of town.
"-as of late. We know that most of you are merely trying to get by, and we mean to trouble to you, but for those of you… half-breeds… who manage to circumvent our regulations, know that we have the means to find you. We are mages, after all.”
Dario clenched his grip around Vox’s wrist. He muttered under his breath, as to not be heard by the mages.
"Shit, Vox. They know."
Vox’s face went stark white at the words his best friends uttered to him.
How can they know? He’s done this before!
"There are many of you," the head mage continued, "who believe that they can keep themselves hidden from us. May we remind you of the last set of unregistered magick users in High Central?"
"Now, we know who you are. There are at least five of you who have broken our set protocol and continued to use magick without being registered with High Central. In fact, you’re all here now…"
A buzz erupted from the crowd. Glances were exchanged amongst the observers, attempting to find the culprits as they stood with them.
"You are free to step forward and accept exile for what you’ve done. We will spare your lives, so long as you leave High Central and do not return. There is no purpose for dishonesty and treason here."
The head mage turned in their direction, almost gazing straight at the deer halfling.
"Don’t make us call you out. Surrender yourselves, or we’ll gladly come take you by force."
Dario released his grasp from Vox, turning to look the boy in the eyes. There was a hint of dread and sorrow in them, as if he’d done something he shouldn’t have.
"Vox, bud, I’m so sorry."
The boy grabbed at his hand, keeping him planted where he stood.
"Not a chance, Dario. Please don’t do this."
"You know as well as I do that they’ll kill us both if I don’t. You live, I live. You still have your family here. There’s no point in getting yourself killed over me."
"My family doesn’t see the issues here like you do! I can’t live like this, Dario."
"I can’t live without my best friend."
The human boy trudged past his deerling counterpart, shuffling through the crowd and making his way to where the mages stood.
The head mage turned to face the boy who was creating a scene, curious as to the nature of his disturbance.
"Ah, we have one. Speak your name, child."
"Vox Arnason. My name is Vox Arnason, and I believe it’s me you’re looking for."
Part 3 Edit
Vox Arnason: "So, you’re one of the ones? You’ve been using magick without expressed permission from the guild?"
Vox clenched his hands into fists. His heart racing, he tried to speak with conviction, through a shaking voice and nerves eating at his every word.
"…yes. Yes I have."
The crowd fell silent. All eyes were focused to the boy who stepped forward, surprising many and placing the attention of the mages on him.
I can’t believe I’m doing this.
"I won’t let you harass these people any longer. We’ve lived under the shadow of your regime for years, and if my actions will give any emancipation to those you’ve oppressed, then I can stand here and have no fear."
The head mage smirked, raising an eyebrow to the young man who foolishly put himself in the line of fire.
"You have no idea who you are dealing with, boy. You say you’re an Arnason? Your father, he is a mason, no?"
"That would be him."
"Good work he’s done. It’s a damn shame that he shows such sympathy for those half-breeds… I see that you’ve inherited his pity for the lowly beasts." The mage nodded towards Dario, who was still placed where he and Vox had been just moments ago, stunned at the actions of his friend.
You are NOT doing this right now, Vox.
The deer couldn’t break his gaze from the scene playing out before him. The boy he fought so hard to protect, the boy he spent years teaching and guiding through his younger years, the boy who he saw as his own flesh and blood…
You’re an idiot.
Dario paved his way closer to the mages, throwing his arms against anyone who stood in his path. He was stressed to the point of physical shaking, but he couldn’t let his emotions divert his mission. He brought himself close enough to Vox, just in arms reach. Grabbing him by the shoulders, he pulled the human boy behind him and took a step closer to the mages.
"Vox is not who you’re looking for. You want the half-breeds? How about one that can use magick?”
The head mage’s grin grew wider as the scene unfolded before him. This was playing out in his favor.
"Ah, Dario. Not the first time we’ve met. I’m sure you remember me from our many encounters before…"
"Shut it. You have done enough damage here. I’m not going to let my friend," Dario made sure to turn his head to look at Vox at this point, “die for something that I’ve done. I’m who you want exiled from High Central.”
Without any hesitation, the head mage threw up a hand to silence the deer halfling.
"Enough, boy. I’ve got a way to deal with the two of you. The rest of you, consider this your warning. These two have caused enough trouble for today. Just remember — we are watching."
The crowd began to bustle again, speaking softly and dispersing before any more words were said by the mage.
This left only the two traitors, and the mage guild.
"Human boy. Step forward."
Vox, now visibly shaking and nervous, obeyed the commands of the mage.
Whatever it takes. This isn’t going to fall on Dario… not after what he’s done for me.
It’s my turn to take a hit for him.
Vox stood a mere inches away from his addresser. He couldn’t bring himself to raise his head and make eye contact. This was as far as he was comfortable taking things.
"You’ve got a mouth on you. I heard your words; trying to incite an uprising with these people…"
Before either Vox or Dario could register it, the mage slapped Vox acrossed the face. The boy’s knees buckled under the weight of the hit, bringing him to the ground before he could let out a cry of pain.
"How DAREyou speak to me like that, in front of these people!” The smile had faded from his lips, replaced with a repulsive scowl that screamed towards the heap of flesh at his feet. “You find yourself to be BRAVEwith what you’ve done? Well, do you?”
Dario lunged forward, intent on stopping the assault before it progressed any further, until he was stopped by two of the other mages in their company. He was held with his arms pinned behind him, helpless and forced to watch his best friend take the fall for his actions.
Vox rested himself up against his elbows, blinking and heaving as to bring himself back to clarity. As he motioned to push himself to his feet, the mage placed a sharp kick on his ribcage, knocking him a few feet away. He let out a muffled yelp, unable to breathe and form anything more with his voice.
"Not so tough without your words, are you, boy?" The mage stepped closer to him, dropping down to one knee and grabbing Vox by the collar. "You listen to me. You had nothing to worry about. Your friend here, the deer boy, has committed a crime of treason, and was to be dealt with on our terms.”
He released his collar, but not before landing a swift punch under Vox’s jaw. The boy fell backwards, hitting his head against the asphalt beneath him. He was still conscious, and unable to speak. The world was a blur, and his entire body burning with unbearable pain.
"…but fortunately for you, I’ve had a change of heart. We aren’t going to exile the half-breed."
Vox squinted in the direction of the voice, trying to keep up with the pace of the conversation. He still couldn’t find his voice through all the disorientation.
"I’ve got something better in store for him. Fellow members of the guild, take the wounded boy to the Centre. Let his friend see what his wrongdoings have caused.”
The Centre filled with those who had heard of a supposed “dissent”; a boy had spoken up against the Mage’s Guild and was to be punished. Exile was no longer an option, as far as anyone witnessing the madness before them could tell. Before them stood the mage that spoke to them before, and a boy, lying before him.
Across the way, a deer half-breed was watching while restrained by ropes. Crying out for this to end, Dario couldn’t keep himself together. This was his best friend, his brother.
"P-please! Let Vox go, please!" Dario wrestled against the ropes behind his back, pulling until his arms bled against the strain. "This is my fault! This is all my fault, please!"
The mage disregarded the desperate wailing, focusing instead on the boy who tried to rebel against him.
"My dear guests, let this be a lesson to you all… that there is to never be any disrespect shown towards the Mage’s Guild, or any High Central official. This boy here believed himself to be a hero… but I will show you first hand what becomes of your precious heroes.”
Without a moment wasted, he motioned to a guard keeping hold of a large axe, beckoning for him to bring it forward. The guard extended the weapon to the mage, allowing it’s transfer of power.
"He chose to stand as a traitor, and he shall die here as one.”
At the last word, he lobbed the axe forward, building momentum for a single swing that would surely do the job.
Vox, still foggy and bleeding, fought through the pain to look up towards the sounds. He could see a man, and an axe…
Dario writhed and kicked, screaming to the point that he feared his lungs would collapse.
“STOP! Please, just let him go! He doesn’t deserve to die!”
The shrill yelling from the deer crumbled into hysterical wailing; tears traced the thin shape of his face, obstructing his view.
He could think of nothing else but that day, years ago, when he found Vox brutally beaten by the sons of High Central officials. His views on half-breeds damned him to a life of abuse and assault.
He could think of nothing else but pulling the boy out of there, taking the punches as he held Vox close against him. His body a shield, nothing could harm him. His boy was safe.
He could think of nothing else than carrying the human home, and bandaging up his wounds. He was a shoulder to cry on, and a safe haven.
He would let his best friend down.
…not before, not now.
Using his magick once more, he sparked a flame with his wrists, burning through the ropes and allowing them to fall to the ground behind him.
As the axe swung, the air fell still. Not a voice could be heard as the crowd braced themselves for the end of this boy’s life.
The head mage, committed to the swing, let out a roar as the axe began it’s downswing.
The tearing of flesh and cracking of bone was chilling. The metal pierced through layers of skin and muscular tissue, forcing blood to spill from the crevice it left. Wailing could be heard from the crowd, as women and children reacted to the sight.
The mage, axe still in hand, couldn’t help but stare in astonishment at what he was seeing before him.
At the end of his weapon, there was no human boy.
Rather, there was a half-breed. A deer half-breed, curled around the boy as a shield. Neither moved, and for at least one of them, death was the cause. He let go of the grip, leaving the axe inside of Dario. Blood continued to spill, staining the ground beneath them and the clothes Vox was wearing.
Vox had shut his eyes, prepared for his end.
But he was still here.