The Order of Mages arise at the crack of dawn. That gives me about 20 minutes before anyone is up. I tip-toe out of the dormitory and down the spiral staircase. I know I’m not supposed to be doing this. Ever since the Order rescued me 15 years after the Orcs invaded my village, I have never once broken a rule. Rule 146 of the code of Mages: apprentice mages are not allowed to leave the dormitory after 6 o’clock without permission. Failure to abide by this rule can result in 60 public strokes of the cane. I wince and rub my shins at the realisation of what might happen if I’m caught.

But I need to know. Ever since my best friend Elwira and other apprentice Mages have disappeared my blessing, “vision” has been bringing me to the dungeons every night. But I don’t really understand my new-found blessing. It’s as if I have awoken millions of new eyes all around the island, allowing me to catch glimpses and sometimes invade others minds.

A rat’s point of view isn’t solid evidence though I need to see it with my own eyes to believe it.

The dungeons are guarded by the High Mage Marcus’ own homunculus, a two-headed dog with the body of a bear. I can handle it with no problem though. I use my vision to knock it unconscious. It won’t be for long, though. A creature of that size takes a lot of magic to keep under control. It will be out for maybe 5 minutes tops which means I need to hurry.

 

The hallways of the caverns are deep and dark. I chant some incantations of Merlin and call a small flame into my hand. I wish I hadn’t. Across in every cell is an Orc. Giant monstrous creatures I have only heard of in stories due to the protective barrier surrounding the castle.

Very powerful and complicated magic, rumoured to have been put up by the great Merlin himself. Only members of the High Council can leave and come out of the barrier as they please. There is absolutely no way they should be here!

Nine feet tall, mouth bursting with giant yellow teeth. I gather my courage and travel further down the caverns. It seems they can’t see me. It’s probably the work of a mirror spell. Only High Mage Ezra is capable of casting those.  I can see them but they can’t see me. There seems to be hundreds – no – thousands of them down here. Somebody’s building an army! I have to alert the High Council of this now. How could they not know this is going on beneath their feet? But then I hear footsteps. My mouth reacts quick and casts a forget-me-not spell and I duck into the shadows – who I see coming down the steps astounds me. The High Council! Of course, Cecil, how could you be so stupid! They’re in on it.

They don’t seem to notice me and chant an incantation. As they uncloak their robes I see their faces twist and tusks form within their mouths. Orcs! But it can’t be. Orcs are supposed to be immensely stupid creatures, incapable of understanding the delicacy of magic. They start speaking in a tongue I don’t understand but I am able to decipher a few words “dark lord” “return” – it can’t be! The dark lord has been locked in the underworld for centuries. There’s no way! As I step back in shock and realisation of what has happened. I hit one of the cells. It makes a small “pang” noise. My tongue thinks faster than my brain again and I cast a quick silencing spell.

The Orc in the cell seems to have noticed the sound. I turn to see the beastly creature…Eliwra!

She’s locked in one of the cells. Why? She’s one of the most faithful apprentice Mages I’ve ever known. She stares into space, sadness swelling in her vibrant brown eyes, I so vividly remember. Then I see it. Long teeth have formed in her mouth and her eyes are a bloodshot yellow. She is no longer Elwira.There is no saving her now. I turn and run.

 

*

I find Merlin’s spellbook, and the key to stopping the Orcs. I summon myself an army and stop the Order of Mages. I renovate the Order of Mages castle, and change it to a school of magic, open to all backgrounds.