I’ve been here for a few months now, and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. Here—I’m not sure what to call it. Someone called it a menagerie of mages, a Magiary, and the name seems to have stuck somewhat, but since it was meant as an insult, those of us who stay here are torn between rejecting the name and trying to reclaim it.
The Magiary is a large house with lots of towers, and is intimidating from the outside but a friendly, cozy place inside, for the most part. The house is not inside the city, but the main doorway is set into the city wall, which is only a few feet high there.
It’s a school, sort-of, and probably several other things as well. People come here to learn magic, and Malexandra and whatever other magic-users happen to be around teach it. There’s nothing official about the Magiary. It’s in Majardea, but everyone knows the king has no control over it. There aren’t many rules here--most of the normal things such as don’t kill or steal are assumed to be obvious. Besides for that, it pretty much amounts to everyone here being expected to not do anything cruel or utterly idiotic. The king’s laws don’t apply here, and so problems are dealt with by Malexandra—you can imagine how relieved I was very when I heard that, considering there’s a warrant out for my execution. But official laws are highly frowned on, and I don’t worry about anyone here turning me in. On the same note, we’re not allowed to go watch executions or other public punishments.
You wouldn’t think that last one would be a big deal. I’ve never had any urge to go watch someone being killed, and the fact that it could easily happen to me has made the idea even less enticing. And it’s not like my friends would want to, either. Devrin’s a bit squeamish, and while Quaos is the last person in the world I’d call squeamish, seeing people die isn’t entertainment for her either.
But we were walking around the city, just for the fun of it. It had been raining for a week, and now that it was bright and sunny we wanted to get out. At first we thought the crowds were just other people who felt the same. But they were all headed in the same direction, and a cheerful woman with a small child on her shoulders told us that we should hurry, because all the best places to see the execution from would be taken.
“Oh no, we won’t be able to get a good view of someone being killed! Whatever shall we do?” Devrin was being even more sarcastic than usual, which is saying a lot.
“We should go,” I said.
“Back home, you mean? This does rather ruin the beauty of the day.”
“No, to the execution.”
Quaos and Devrin both stared at me. “Because your idea of fun is watching people die?” Devrin asked.
“No, because it could have been me.”
“And it could still be you, Aniya, if anyone recognizes you,” Quaos said sharply. “I’ve had friends in line for execution before, I’d prefer not to repeat the experience.”
“I’m not just going to go home and pretending nothing’s going on,” I said stubbornly. “You can, if you want.”
They didn’t, of course.
Executions took place on a stage in a large, beautified square. The square was packed, and we stood far from the stage and right next to the path leading to it which the accused was marched down. The path was empty; everyone knew it was bad luck to stand on it, and most people tried to stay as far away from it as possible.
The path stretched all the way to the prison, and was relatively straight, so we could see the guards marching the prisoner towards us from a long way off, and they marched very slowly. As they drew closer, we saw a scowling woman in chains, held on each side by a uniformed guard.
That could be me. The thought repeated in my mind over and over. I could feel myself in her place, barefoot, wearing only a thin prison shift and thick chains, marching to my death. It could be me.
“We should stop it.” The words popped out of my mouth before I could think them through, but I had no desire to take them back.
“It’s not that easy,” Quaos objected.
“We could do it, though. Just, grab her when she comes by, and we know enough magic by now we could probably get away.”
“What if she’s a murderer?” protested Devrin.
“Well, then, that would make two of us,” Quaos reminded him.
“Same goes for treason,” I added. “So you’re in?” I asked Quaos.
“I’m always up for stopping executions!” Quaos said with a crazy grin. “At least I won’t have to kill a king this time. Hey, the worst that can happen is that we end up on the block next to her.”
“So it’s not like anything really bad could happen to us.” Sarcasm, of course, but Devrin had said ‘us.’
“So, our plan is really just to grab her and run?” Quaos asked rather incredulously.
“Um… we improvise after that,” I said. I was very nervous, even terrified, and maybe beginning to have second thoughts about the whole thing, but I had just to glance at the woman to see myself in her shoes, and my second thoughts disappeared.
And then, they were next to us. The guards had swords; I, stupidly, hadn’t thought about that. Still, they didn’t have them out, and were holding the woman’s chains. So I let myself kind of stumble into the guard closest to me, and when she was off her guard, so to speak, grabbed the chain from her hands. She hadn’t been expecting it, but she reacted quickly and grabbed it back, and we were playing tug-o-war. Devrin, I noticed out of the corner of my eye, had grabbed her sword from its sheath, though he wasn’t doing anything with it. I took a deep breath and used a bit of magic to heat the chain. It hurt the prisoner as well as the guard, but it only lasted long enough for me to jerk the chain from the guard. Quaos, I saw, had the other guard on his knees, holding his head in his hands.
It wasn’t just the guards behind us; the crowd wanted their entertainment. The prisoner, still chained and now burned under the chains on her waist and left ankle, was not fast. This was the part we hadn’t planned for, and the dangerous part—if they got us now, we were all dead.
Devrin, who had been at the Magiary the longest and was the most studious, did something magical that seemed to slow down everyone else, as though they were moving through thick syrup. We got a bit of a head start, but he only managed to keep it up for a few seconds, and the use of so much energy tired him. We began to slow, and the crowd was upon us, the people at the front just reaching out to grab us—
And suddenly, I felt a large jolt and the four of us were in Malexandra’s tower. I felt rather nauseous.
“That was quite impressive,” Malexandra said. “I haven’t seen a rescue like that since I was- well, in a long time.
The woman who was to have been executed finally spoke. “Who are you? I don’t mean to be ungrateful, but who are you and what the hell is going on?”
We introduced ourselves. Somehow, our names didn’t seem to lessen her confusion.
“Okay, it’s nice to meet you and all, but where are we, how the hell did we get here, and why?”
“You’re in my tower. I was alerted to the unusual occurrence by a friend and brought you here in order to keep you from the bloodthirsty mob and bloodthirstier, if rather inept, guards. Now who are you, and why were you about to be executed?”
“Smuggling. I’m a smuggler. I was a smuggler, I guess, I don’t think I’ll be going back to it. My name is Wrayli.”
“Pleased to meet you. I’m worn out from transporting all four of you, but if you give me a few minutes I’ll do something about those chains, and your burns.”
“Sorry about that,” I said.
Wrayli shrugged. “Better than being dead.”
We all stood around awkwardly for a minute. Suddenly, Devrin laughed loudly. We all looked at him.
“Um, you know how we’re not supposed to go to executions? Well, we rescued the condemned prisoner, so we weren’t actually at an execution, since nobody was killed.”
“Well, I’m so glad you’re not in trouble,” Wrayli said, but she laughed.