The Story Of Magus Chapter 10
Painful Lessons And Ozzie's Plotting
"This will be your room while you're here," Ozzie said, pushing open the door to a small, cramped room that looked more like an incredibly short hallway. It's one window was barred and out of Janus's reach. The furnishings were an old cracked desk with a wobbly wooden chair. The desk had four drawers with tarnished knobs that gleamed dully in the light of the small metal chandelier that hung overhead. It was made of black wrought iron with wicked spikes pointing downward. The spikes looked like they were just waiting for someone unsuspecting to walk under them where they would swoop down and impale themselves in warm flesh. Janus shuddered involuntarily. The only other objects in the room were a small table beside an unstable looking bed. The only consolation was that despite the unsavory appearence of everything, it was reletively clean.
"My room? It's more like a cell," Janus remarked. "Am I an prisioner then?"
"No, just a high-security guest," Ozzie replied quickly, not liking the glint that came into the boy's violet eyes. He hoped Janus wouldn't start any trouble. The boy sniffed disdainfully. He knew that Ozzie was lieing. He may not have been a fully condemed prisioner, but freedom was a luxury that was apparently going to be denied him. But it was no matter. The fat Mystic had promised him a means of revenge, a means of power. Ozzie had promised that he would be taught how to use magic correctly, which was all that really counted. For a moment he thought back to his lessons at Zeal. It was about time he stettled down and really applied himself to learning. In this place, his life would most probably depend on it.
"So, when will my lessons begin?," Janus asked, hesitantly sitting on the bed. When it didn't imediately break under his weight, he allowed himself to relax sightly.
"That depends on Slash and Flea. They will be conducting your training." He almost smiled when the boy frowned at the mention of Flea. So, there was some bad blood between them after all. Flea would definitely be gunning for Janus and the Mystic was sure that Janus would do his hardest to take Flea down as well. This could prove usefull. He'd have to discuss these things with his Captains. "Anyway, get some sleep. Tomarrow, I'll show you around your new home."
Janus grunted and pulled back the skimpy covers, checking for any bugs or animals. When he found none, he gingerly scooted under the covers. He gave Ozzie a sharp look. "Do you plan to stand there all night or will you let me get some sleep?"
Ozzie shrugged. "G'night, my boy. Sleep well." Waving his hand, the chandelier went out, throwing the room into darkness except for the light of the moon which shone in a square patch on the stone floor. When Janus's breathing had evened out into sleep, the Mystic left. "Sleep well indeed," he chuckled to himself as he floated down the empty halls of his home. "It will be the last restfull night you'll have for a while."
When Janus was sure Ozzie was really gone, he rolled out of bed and went over to the door. It was locked, of course. He leaned against the rough wood for a moment or two before stepping into the puddle of moonlight. He held up the amulet Schala had given him. "Finaly I have a means to return to you, my sister. These fools will teach me the magic I need to find a way back to Zeal. I'll find a way to stop the destruction Lavos caused. We'll be together soon, I promise." Crawling back into bed, Janus closed his eyes and fell into a deep sleep and if he dreamed, they were pleasent ones of being reunited with Schala at last.
Flea hurled another vase into the air and blasted it with a fireball. The plush carpet was strewn with the reminants of other vases she'd destroyed. Slash sat idlely in a deep cushioned chair, one leg hanging casualy over the arm. Slasher was unsheathed and lay across his lap. One hand cradled it gently while the other used a whetstone to sharpen the already keen edge. His hand moved in a slow, seductive rythem, almost as if he were carressing a lover.
"I can't believe this!," Flea howled, tossing another unfourtunate vase into the air. She wound up her arm and cast an ice spell. The vase froze instantly and broke into a million ice shards when it hit the floor. "I refuse to tutor that sniveling brat! I'd sooner kill myself then teach him any of my prescious art."
"C'mon sweet stuff. Don't have a cow, as the human's say. Think of the advantages we'll have over the humans. We can finaly kick Ozzie off the throne, such as it is, and one of us can rule. Isn't that what we've always planned? And now we can attack the humans as well. What more could you ask for? We're perfectly poised to create plans for the future." He puased to run a finger along the edge of the blade. The razor edge lightly cut his finger, a single drop of blood sliding down the edge of the metal. He wiped the blade clean with a soft rag and sucked on the cut. "If you don't screw this thing up, we should do just fine."
Flea wiped her arm across her forehead. She'd changed into a tight, off-the-shoulder sleeveless vest with rust colored pants. A white cape was draped over her slender shoulders and trailed down her back untill it brushed the tops of her ankle-high boots, the tops folded down. Her hair, recently washed and combed, was pulled back into a braid. She came over and removed Slash's sword from his hands, leaning it against the chair. She sat in his lap and put her arms around his neck.
"Now, this is more like it!," he grinned, putting his arms around her waist. Flea smiled slightly. "It's about time you were a little friendly with me."
"Oh, it is?," she said, raising an eyebrow. She leaned forward and looked him straight in the eye. "Well, maybe if you weren't so ugly, I would be!" So saying, she put a magic-created ice cube down his shirt.
"Why, you...!!," he sputtered, leaping to his feet, knocking Flea to the floor where she lay laughing. Slash jumped around trying to shake out the ice before it melted. Finaly, the little chunk fell to the carpet. He glared at Flea who was holding her sides and rolling around. "That...was NOT nice!"
"I'm not in the nice buisness!," Flea replied, looking up at him. She held out a hand to him for him to help her up. Slash grimaced and grasped her hand, groaning as he pulled her to her feet. Flea patted his cheek. "Sorry, baby!," she laughed, using his own phrase against him.
"You better look out, Flea. One of these days you're gonna push it too far and then I'll-"
"You'll what, Slash?," came a new voice as Ozzie appeared. The lights went out and his bulk appeared in a blinding white glare. When the lights came on again, Ozzie hovered his way over to the two Mystic captains. "Are you threatening Flea again?"
"Yes, I am! Do you know what she did to me?!"
"I can imagine," Ozzie leered. Flea curled her lip in disgust.
"Huh! As if, Ozzie! Slash isn't quite that lucky!," she snapped, turning her back on them and going to pout by the big window that opened out to a large balcolny. She crossed her arms.
"Oh, Flea, honey, don't be so childish!," Slash, sighed, rolling his eyes. "It was a joke."
"Don't call me that, Slash. I'm a guy!," she replied tartly.
Ozzie rubbed his flabby hands together in a sign of merriment. "Incidently, Flea, I have some news that migh help cheer you up."
"And what might that be?"
"I wanted to talk to you about your teaching methods, both of you," Ozzie stated. "Trust me, you'll like what I have to say." The two captains gave each other questioning looks and pulled up chairs. Ozzie floated over to the big cushioned chair and seated himself. He sank rather deep and it looked as if he might never be able to get out again.
"Okay, so what's this happy news?," Slash asked.
"This boy, Janus, he's very smart, don't you think?"
Ozzie grinned. "I was just thinking. If he's so smart, what's to keep him from turning on us?" He pressed on before they could answer. "I had an idea. Right now, he's thinking as a human, with human principles. We need him to think like a Mystic, or else he won't last ten seconds in our world."
"I see what you mean, O Fearless Leader, but how is that supposed to cheer me up?," Flea questioned acidly. Ozzie raised his hand as if to back-hand her and the Mystic magician flinched. Seeing that she was properly cowed, he continued.
"Reflex instincts aren't trained, they are developed. We need to instill such instincts in this little rabbit if he's to be any use to us. This is where you two come in." The Mystic leader leaned forward as much as his bulk would allow. The sight looked like a marshmallow imploding on itself. "I want you to be brutal to him in your training. Knock him senseless for all I care. Make him fear you. Teach him what it means to take orders from superiors. Maybe that will knock some of the arrogance out of him."
Flea flexed her fingers. "This will be a piece of cake! Give me five minuts with him and I'll have him on his kness begging for death!"
"No, you simpleton!," Ozzie roared. "We need him pliable, but not broken. The boy needs to have a killer instinct. All three of us can feel the approach of an enemy. Even in the deepest sleep, the slightest pin-drop will wake us and alert us of trouble. We can be covert and sneaky and hide our true intentions without being obvious. This innocent knows nothing of the intrigue we face daily. I'm counting on you to help guide him along the path."
Slash shook his head, "I don't get it, Ozzie. You want us to train the boy to become a killer, right? And to do so, you want us to terrorize him and tear down his principles, instill our own, and teach him the basics of under-cover subtlety?"
"You got it!," Ozzie crowed. Slash beamed.
"I think I'm starting to like this plan."
They say time flies when you're having fun, but time has a way, as time often does, of moving twice as slowly when you're miserable. Such was it for Janus who seemed to have fallen out of the the frying pan into the fire. If he had thought life at Cyrus's house had been bad, he was not prepared to face the onslaught of torment he was now facing. Slash drilled him unmercifully in sword techniques, though the weapon was almost too heavy for Janus to wield. The blue-skinned Mystic offered no assistance, saying only that Janus better find a way to build up his muscles or else. Slash repeatedly told the boy that the punishment for a mistake in swordsmanship meant death. Unless Janus could properly handle a sword...
By the end of the lesson, the youth was exauhsted, his arms and back aching, minor cuts and dark bruises stinging like pin-pricks of acid, discouraged, and bitter. What had ever prompted him to join the Mystics in the first place? He knew the reason, of course, but it chafed him like steel wool on raw skin.
Flea's lessons were like nightmares given form. Her manner of teaching was much more harsh than anything Slash could dish up. The mental exercises she put Janus through were long and tedious, consisting of repetetive chanting of phrases. Suddenly, she would toss in an extra five words and Janus was expected to automaticaly add them in and remember where they went. If even once a word was lost or the diction un-clear Flea would slap him, hard, and tell him to begin again.
Flea gave him huge volumes of books to study in his free time. Since his only uninterrupted moments were in the evening, he would retire to his room. However, he soon learned that the chandelier that hung above would only stay lit for a few hours, then go out. When he'd complained about this, Flea smacked him and told him he'd better find a way to finish those books before she...and here Janus blocked out the words since they were just too cruel to be repeated. Secretly, he worked extra hard to learn the fire spell he needed to ignite the wicks of the candles on the spiked holder above his bed. The first time he tried it, the spell went wild and scorched the wall and the celing, not to mention melting the candles entirely. Flea harshly reprimanded him and for a good quarter of an hour, his ears were ringing from the cuffs she gave to the sides of his head. The next time, he managed to get it right, but the Mystic magician apparently thought that if the chandelier is out, it meant for him to sleep, so she knocked him around for disobeying the rules.
The boy tried to juggle the fencing lessons and magic training so he had time to practice both. But it seemed every chance he had, one or both of his teachers found something else for him to do. It was around this time that he began learning that if he wanted to be able to do anything, he'd have to do it in secret. Mysteriously, a sword vanished from the armory. A candle in a gold holder dissapeared from the entry-way. Using the fire spell he'd learned, Janus lit the candle and did his studying and exercises by it's light. Twice he was almost caught, but good listening, quick timing, and sheer cleverness rewarded him.
When he wasn't practicing memorization, the youth was forced to have sparing matches between both Flea and Slash which combined magic and steel. These tests were not easy, since it was hard to concentrate on one or the other at the same time.
"You don't just wield the sword, kid," Slash would say as he cut at the boy's mid-section. "You have to be the sword. It has to become an extention of your arm. You don't think about how to use your arm, do you? Then why do you need to think about how to use the blade?"
"Magic isn't just a tool, little spore," Flea would sneer as she blew her signature flaming kiss at him. "It's an essence, a part of you. It's like an extention of your mind. I suppose you could say it's just like organizing your thoughts. Only instead, you organize your power. You shouldn't have to think about how to do it, you just do it. What's so difficult to comprehend about that?"
After the duo had shamlessly abused him, it left Janus with cold determination to one day show them who really was the simpleton around here. And through it all, Ozzie watched with quiet amusement from the shadows. He knew that Slash and Flea wanted his grand position, but thanks to them, they were instilling a hatred in Janus, one that would work to the fat Mystic's advantage. He'd long hoped for a person, strong, smart, and loyal enough to become his personal body-guard. Janus looked like he might be the perfect canidate.
Janus flipped through the end chapters of his latest text-book Flea had given him and sighed. Stretching the cramped muscles in his back, he leaned back against the wall. This latest edition was very dry-cut and he was having a hard time deciphering any meaning from it. He rubbed his eyes. "Maybe I should go to bed," he mumbled with a yawn.
"Still awake, I see? Tisk, tisk! What would Flea say about that, hmm?"
Janus jumped up from the bed, dropping the book from his lap and looked around for the speaker. His candle dimmed and a white silohette appeared before him. As the light resumed it's normal glow, Ozzie grinned at Janus, who gulped, wondering if he was about to recieve another beating.
"Oh, don't worry," Ozzie said, as if reading his mind, "I won't tell that air-head what I saw. I just wanted to talk to you for a while." He floated over to the bed and sat down. The bed creaked alarmingly but didn't break. He patted the spot next to him. Janus returned to his seat, hesitantly, still fearing some sort of punishment. "So, how have your lessons been going?"
"Well enough, I guess. Slash says I'm doing better than when I first started, and even Flea grudgingly admits that I have some talent in her field"
"Really? That's good to hear. You do look dreadfull, though, my boy. How are you getting along with them? On a personal basis I mean?"
Janus shrugged his shoulders. "What can I say? They're a pair of bullies. But that will soon change."
"Want I should talk with them?," Ozzie asked causaly. Inwardly, he held his breath. If this kid was a wus, he'd be no good to anyone. As he had hoped, though, Janus answered with a pleasing statement.
"No, I'll take care of them, in my own time, in my own fashion. It isn't the correct moment yet to have the teachers be taught a lesson."
Ozzie nodded sagely and rose to his feet. "Well, I'll leave it to you, my boy. I guess I'll be going now. I think I hear the pitter-patter of Flea feet coming down the hall."
"What?!," Janus exclaimed. Hurriedly he blew out the candle, picked up the manuscrip from the floor and tossed it on the desk, and crawled under the covers. For a moment he looked about for Ozzie, but he fat Mystics had vanished. A few seconds later, Flea opened the door and poked her head in.
"Kid? You awake?," she whipsered, almost sweetly. Janus held his breath and said nothing. "Kid?" When he still didn't answer, Flea nodded once and closed the door. Past experiance has taught Janus that to answer her would mean punishment. Letting his breath out slowly, the boy adjusted the covers over his shoulders and wondered what exactly had Ozzie been after with his visit. He'd been almost...friendly. Could it be that perhaps Janus had a friend in this dark place? Shaking his head in wonderment, the youth snuggled down and went to sleep.
Ozzie floated around his throne room in good spirits. Flea and Slash were performing their roles well. If things went according to plan, Janus would turn to him for companionship, and in turn, Ozzie would use Janus for protection. Things couldn't be better....Or could they? Reaching out one chubby green hand, he pulled a bell-cord. Somewhere in the fortress a gong sounded. A few seconds later, a terrified Outlaw scrambled in. He thre himself to the floor in reverence.
"Oh, great Ozzie! What do you wish of me?," the bird-man whined. Ozzie reclined into his throne with a smile of satisfaction. No one could match GrabbleDrek, a scheming, fawning little Outlaw with practicaly no ambition but to serve, with a unique talent for torturing to obtain secret infromation. Of all his flunkies, this particular one was his special little pet.
"Rise, GrabbleDrek, my ever superior chief of inteligence!," Ozzie commanded grandly. "What news have you on the human situation?" GrabbleDrek did as he was bid, flicking off a speck of imaginary dust from his standard black uniform.
"Oh, important news, my lord! Important news!"
"Do tell!," Ozzie replied, eagerly leaning forward in his seat.
"The old king of Guardia died this evening, just three or four hours prior to this conversation in fact. The time hasn't been pin-pointed quite just yet. His son, the young Prince Ruttelard Guardia, will be ascending the throne in a few weeks once the mourning period is over."
"Excellent! This whelp is much weaker then the old king, his father," Ozzie crowed, rubbing his hands together in glee. "How soon will the coronation ceremony be held?"
"At the end of the month, I assume. That is the standard amount of time between rulers. In the meantime, I heard a rumor that his Excellency, the Lord High Chancellor, will be ruling as regent for the durration of the mourning cycle."
"Hmm. What do you know of him, Drek?"
The Outlaw smoothed a wrinkle off his sleeve. "I know that he is a corrupt coward who pilfers the royal treasures and hides the stolen goods by juggling the royal accounts. I know, too, that he is subject to bribes and strong drink and gambles a bit on the side. He's sneaky and viscious."
"Huh! Sounds like he'd make a damn good Mystic!," Ozzie chuckled dryly. GrabbleDrek laughed apreciatively along. "Well, keep an eye on them both for me. We don't want a full scale war on our hands if they suddenly take it into their heads that they don't like Mystics. Well, more then they do, anyway. Dismissed."
GrabbleDrek bowed and backed out of the room quickly, shutting the double-doors behind him. Ozzie rubbed his chin, a habit he'd aquired in his youth when he used to do his own scouting before he'd grown rotund and lazy. Most people thought he was a coward, and sometimes it was true, he mused. But that would soon change when he decided to lead the Mystics in a revolution. A new king on the throne would be an asset. The old King Guardia the Twenieth was a strong leader and had kept the Mystics in check for many decades. But now...Now was the time for action. They had no more then a month's time to set something into motion. But when they did, the new King Guardia the Twenty-First had better watch out!
Who would have thought that anything of a devious nature could come from such a grotesque being as Ozzie? As time progressed, the leader of the Mystic hoards found that this new king was indeed as weak as he'd supposed. The Chancellor stepped down as regent when the alloted time was through, though many could tell he harbored some deep resentment. No more than a week passed after the heavy gold crown had been set on Ruttelgard's head when Ozzie struck. He sent several raiding parties into the towns, bruning and looting, small at first but time alone knew when he would start in big.
As for Janus, 10 years passed in that dreary fortress. An entire decade of abuse and training of the most excruciating sort. By the time his 18th bithday rolled in, he stood at six feet. His hair, long neglected save for the occasional brushing, hung way down his back like a cascade of water. Though he'd never be extremely robust, he would always be too thin for that, rippling muscles had formed on his arms and torso. His shoulders were strong and broad. The lean, sleek body he now possessed flowed like liquid power, a cat stalking it's prey, and bore the scar of many a close encounter with Flea's magic or Slash's blade. His face was rather stiff and angular, never what one would call handsome, but yet in a strange way, shockingly alluring. His eyes held more expression, though, then his features ever would. Their lavender depths changed with his moods. The only emotions they now tended to portray were agression, arrogance, which still hadn't been taken from him, and melencholy.
He had been trained well. But he was lonely. Perhaps that's why the events that followed are not so hard to understand.....