Created for a game set in Midkemia we were asked to bring characters to the table for a game of Wizards going to school. The magic system was designed around MTG for it so I decided to go for Red and make my wee rage monster the epitome of a volcano. Time to meet Mags.
The purges created whole swathes of new street children. There were those who’d been out when their parents were taken. There were those that were simply abandoned in the rush to flee. Others had been hidden so that the emperor’s guard didn’t find them and take them into custody with their parents. Mags wasn’t sure which he’d been. His brother hadn’t been able to tell him.
He knew that when the guards came that the three of them had been hidden behind the tall chest in the elf-hole but Phoren didn’t know if their parents had successfully escaped or been caught elsewhere.
They had barley been able to shut the case behind them due to Mags’ bulk and a sliver of light seeped in just enough to show the terror on his sister’s face. Amelia looked ready to cry out when the soldiers burst in but she held it together for long enough that they were far away by the time she started sobbing.
Mags still didn’t know the reason for those purges. In truth he couldn’t tell which of the purges it was. The Vizier had carried out more than one in the name of the emperor to ‘ensure the security of the great Empire of Kesh’. There were many of the purges nobody alive could give a reason for. Perhaps the torturers may or perhaps they too were purged when the last Vizier died. Mags hoped so.
The new Vizier was no pushover but he was said to be more stable than the last. Mads could take or leave stability but he enjoyed the predictability of life on the street in the last eighteen months.
He missed his brother though and could barely remember Amelia now apart from that terrified look in the dark.
The children had waited till nightfall to come out of the hiding place. Some of the older dwellings had these elf holes. A holdover to when the last dragon lord had assaulted Kesh and the great heroes had cut down both he and his dragon. Kesh had been unparalleled in its glory and the city was thought unassailable but after the attack those with a little money started to construct shelters should such a thing happen again. Perhaps the guards didn’t care to make too sure a search or maybe they weren’t of the city. That would make sense. There would be some among the Keshian’s who would turn on their own but the inner circle of soldiers that formed the Viziers personal elite guard would likely be from outside to prevent any conflict of interests. In any case the elf hole had worked well. Now though they were hungry and that hunger overcame their fear. There were fewer than the usual number of lanterns lit outside this night and the small windows designed to keep the heat out did the same with most of the illumination.
It was Mags’ stomach that broke the silence in the elf hole. Then a small nervous laugh from his sister.
“Nothing should get in the way of a meal eh baby brother?” Asked Phoren.
In the near dark Mags scowled but he couldn’t feel either of his siblings laughing at him.
“Let’s get some food and get out of here in case they come back. We can go to Aunt Milikas and see if they know where Mum and Dad are?”. Phoren, as the older brother usually took charge if their parents were away. At seven years old he was a full three years older than the twins and in a few weeks time they’d all have been celebrating birthdays as a family.
The only other thing Mags remembered of that night was the bloodstains all around the courtyard of their elderly aunt.
That one bit of hair on the top of his head had kept growing in. It always had. No matter how much of the scalp cream his mother put on it that tuft… that sprout of red hair kept coming back.
When it was very short it wasn’t as noticeable. It could be taken for the blond of a fisherman. If it grew in though it looked like the flames licking out of the top of a candle.
Mags knew he’d had an actual name once. It was the one that his parents used for him. He couldn’t remember what it was and his brother’s nickname for him had been the only name used for these past five years. Even now his brother had passed the rest of the Sevens called him Mags. They didn’t know why though. Mags kept that piece of hair scraped clean. To be thought Doonish on top of all the other things that they would throw at him on a daily basis would only lead to more conflict. Now they backed down though. New Sevens may try it on a bit but the ones that knew him knew when to stop pushing. The name he got when he was four would be a name that would fit him now. Mags. Magma. God of the fiery mountain. A pyramid with a gout of flame on top. His brother had started it as a cruel taunt. Mags had been resting his head on the sill looking out at his brother playing. His arms were flat below his chin and his cheeks dripped down onto them like a dogs jowls. ‘Brother! You look like a pyramid! No! You look like a mountain. With a flame on top! Are you a ziggurat? Are you a mountain? Look on my brother and weep for he is Magma!!’
His mother had scolded both of them. Phoren for goading him and Mags for smashing a jug trying to brain his brother with it.
Mags. God of the fiery mountain. It suited his temper too. Maybe that’s why the others still used it. Maybe it was a reminder to tread carefully. That suited Mags.
Amelia’s sickness had worried the other children. Without parents or money there was nobody to care for them should they all become ill. She’d been refusing food for a while now, drinking more than her fair share and her temper over the past week had put Mags’ own in the shade. What colour she had in her face was gone and she was weak and unable to move for more than a minute or so at a time. Most of the time she was delirious and it was down to Phoren to make the decision.
They’d shaved Amelia’s hair before taking her to the temple. Their parents had kept it dyed. Their Mother hadn’t been able to bring herself to use the scalp cream on the girl the way she had on the boys. Both of them were bald as old men although Mags resembled more of a large baby.
The red hair of Doonland wasn’t trusted within Kesh and while their Aunt Milikas could get away with it to due to her wealth and status a girl without that protection may be accused of being a witch. As Amelias hair grew in red at the roots instead of the dark brown of the Keshians they had concealed it with a stolen hat. Dye was harder to steal. When she grew sick the rest of the Sevens refused to let her into their hiding place. Without shelter ,in the cold desert nights, she would grow sicker yet but to hand her over to the Sisters of the Temple may mean that they’d never see her again. It would be better for their sister than death. That same night that they made the decision they left Amelia a the door to the temple and rang the supplicants bell. From the shadows they made out two sisters coming out to her, lifting her by the shoulders and carrying her inside.
At first he was able to make more money for the Sevens than his brother. Although now five years old he still resembled a large baby and the Sevens milked this for all he was worth as a tool for begging. As the months went on though Phoren started to learn the ways of the street and passed on his knowledge at night when they were hunkered down in the rotting warehouse on the docks. The rest of the children were amazed at how quickly Phoren picked things up but were even more shocked as to Mags even being able to perform the simplest of tasks. His fingers were too fat to pick pockets but he did it. His legs were too short to gain the stride on a guard but they’d pump twice as fast and he was soon quicker than his brother. Even when it came to following people without being noticed Mags’ height meant that although highly distinctive he could easily hide. He was still used mostly for begging and as a distraction for the more accomplished pick pockets.
Mags was far too distinctive for a pickpocket. At age six he was as wide as he was short. He could still pass for much younger and he started to use his sleight of hand skills not for removing coin purses but to perform feats of legerdemain. It was simple stuff such as asking for a small coin and making it disappear. Marks were often happy for it stay that way. Meanwhile others from the Sevens would be relieving them of more than just a small coin. As long as they stayed away from the grumpier traders then the guards didn’t bother with the magic show although occasionally a boy or girl would be pursued after clutching at a purse. Those of the Sevens would have to lay low for a while until their faces were forgotten. Mags wouldn’t have that luxury. Those who were caught could be transported to work camps, beaten, mutilated, or killed. The Sevens therefore had a fluid membership as purges and disasters added to their numbers while the guards pruned them.
It was among the newer members that Mags had the most trouble. It was with them that he struggled most to keep his temper. They often mistook the small, fat and comparatively weak member with being defenceless without his brother around. The comparative weakness of Mags and Phoren to the other Sevens when they first arrived was evident and the gulf was huge. As time went on and Phoren became more and more able to hold his own. Soon both boys became used to the mistreatment and also used to finding the easiest way to hurt larger opponents. Mags and Phoren would tussle between themselves finding the sorest places that could be hurt with the least pressure. Many an opponent would be brought down to Mags’ height with his fast and accurate hands. Phoren on the other hand quickly became one of the tallest and strongest of the group and with the same ferocious cunning. It was perhaps no surprise when one of the older gangs came calling to ask if he’d join. Mags was only seven but understood that if his older brother fared well in a more prosperous gang then the nights in the warehouse would become a thing of the past and perhaps they could pay someone to look into what happened to their sister.
Both boys hoped for the best but didn’t risk communicating with the Sisters of the Temple in case they were denounced as witch kin and treated as such. Phoren was more circumspect. The older gangs were more aggressive in their money making. It would increase the danger and would mean doing more than just stealing to advance in the gang. After much discussion between themselves and then the wider group it was agreed that he’d leave the Sevens. Having an ex-member in the South Dock Gang would make them all a little safer.
It lasted all of two weeks. Mags waited three nights in a row to meet up with his brother and to no avail. After the third day he took himself over to the dry-docked ship in the south docks that housed the older gang. The ship looked deserted but he’d been there before when he walked Phoren over join them.
Mags had slipped from shadow to shadow along the dock looking for signs of the gang’s lookout.
The lookout found him first. He felt the blade of a knife across his throat as he peered round a corner.
‘What do we have here then? The new boys podgy little baby brother. What does the pretty little baby want crawling around at this time of night’
Mags tensed. The knife was too tight to his neck to do anything about it and the boy was clearly much stronger than he was. When his voice came out it did so in a whisper.
‘Little fat pudgy baby. All alone. No brother to protect him’
‘Shhhh! Little baby. Don’t want anyone else to hear you. You’re all mine. If the others
heard you I’d have to slit your throat. Have to slit the throat of intruders and spies but you’re not a spy are you. You’re just a pretty little baby come to keep me company on a lonely dark night.
Mags felt the boys breath on his ear as he leaned in.
‘You’re brother won’t save you! The watch have him. You’re mine to play with. If you’re a good little baby and stay quiet I might let you go afterwards.
A rancid smell assaulted Mags nose and he opened his mouth to retch. As he did so the foetid rag was pushed into his mouth.
‘Don’t you struggle too much little baby. I don’t want my knife to slip. Oh you’d be warm enough the first time but once might not be enough. Do you feel how excited I am to have my own little baby to play with?’
As the boy pressed himself against Mags he grabbed him under the arms and pulled him up off the ground mouth against his ear, nuzzling, the other hand still with the knife towards the throat.
Mags didn’t care about the knife. His brother was gone. He was separated from his sister. He had no idea what had become of his parents. This creature was going to use him as a play thing then probably kill him. The rage at his loss, the rage at the indignities he suffered due to his size, the rage at this boy thinking that he was defenceless. Mags let the rage build and summoned all his strength in readiness to kick back violently between the boy’s legs. At first he merely felt the red mist rise but then it coloured his vision in the dark and suddenly it was light around him and he was free.
Flames licked around them as the boy dropped him to the ground.
Mags looked around and ,although well lit, Mags was unable to make out which of the elder gang it had been as his face was entirely melted.
Mags ran. He didn’t stop running until his vision started to swim from the exertion. Alone and confused Mags tried to catch his breath between the sobs. What had happened?
Character names, place names, specific events and situations referred to are based upon the copyrighted/trademarked material of Raymond E. Feist and Midkemia Press. All Rights Reserved by Raymond E. Feist and Midkemia Press.