Skip to content

The Four Magi by Adelina Dimitrova, Theano Xirouchaki, Anastasya Wish, Zdravy Venkova

A couple of months after the start of the Tenebran invasion

All corners of the Empire stank with death. A sort of peace had once again been established within the lands, though many still struggled to comprehend how the Tenebrans could have conquered us so quickly.  The borders remained turbulent. Belene had seen more foot traffic in a few months than in the past several years combined. Thousands of people attempted to flee north, through the Fog and into the lands beyond. Few of them succeeded, as neither the Tenebrans nor the Fog itself were kind to them.

Robin had arrived there some days after most of the refugees, not seeking to flee but rather to find Layla, or one of her other acquaintances among the Sand Blades, still holding onto the fickle hope there was something they could do, despite the invaders having well and truly taken command of the land by now. Accompanying Robin, Phylitte was also there to help with the situation. She was also seeking guidance, as she was still young and with the recent traumatising events, she tried to find hope in this vile situation. Robin was rather comforting company and their conversations about knowledge, magic and their fellow mages warmed her heart deeply.

Though they did not find Layla, Alexia was there, frazzled beyond normal human limits.  Ever since news of the Empire coming upon the shores broke, she had  been sending Blades to collect intelligence and hopefully find a place safe from the claws of the Black Masks. Aaliyah had joined her in Belene not too long ago. She’d spent time in the old Sand Blade provinces before they were overtaken by Masks and Governors, but she’d been in Dospat for some time now, listening and waiting for resistance agents and sending messages to whoever needed the information. Without revealing too much, she told Alexia there was much talk of uprisings, yet little to no action. Even still, she hoped things would change soon.

Rest was much needed for the travelling mages, and one of the abandoned estates in Belene provided just that. When they had all washed off the blood and sweat of travel, they received word of the Empire’s new rules… Concerning mages.

‘Well, it seems we’re breaking their rules right at this moment,’ Aaliyah said, throwing the paper on the table before them. ‘How would they know what we’re up to, if they’re not in the room with us?’

‘I suppose this is when and where we ask the questions,’ Phyl said.

‘Well, as far as I’m aware, this is the most Academy leaders in one room that one could find anywhere in the Dragonlands right now. Unless you’ve heard anything more recently, Alexia?’ Robin asked.

‘Nothing from our people, unfortunately. Considering officers and high-ranking mages throughout states and realms have already fallen or been captured, I say most of the Blades are probably in hiding. If they are, it means news of these laws hasn’t reached them yet or… they don’t want to compromise their plans.’

Phyl looked concerned with the papers presented in front of her. The others had definitely seen these people in action in the past. She really did not want to be indoctrinated and she was not there to surrender to unreasonable demands. Still, she was scared. Aaliyah recognised the fear in her eyes and reached out to offer a sympathetic hand.

‘We have to do something. There’s no-one else here, no Layla, no Phase, no gods-damned Aradia to save us.’ Robin proclaimed, crumpling the paper with the issued laws. ‘So it’s up to us. These rules are absurd. And besides, what does “in one place” even mean? What if there’s more than three mages at the market? This isn’t how one writes laws.‘

‘Precisely,’ Aaliyah agreed. ‘Everything would be disrupted. They can’t expect us to abide with so little information, surely… We could gather more mages to confront the Governor.’

‘I agree.’, Phylitte said. ‘Mages in unity could show our general opinion on the matter and we may be lucky and be heard. I know they are harsh but they are not irrational.’

‘No, they might see it as violent intent. And besides, there’s no-one else high-ranking around. Might as well be us,’ Robin insisted.

Alexia had been thinking over every possible option for the moment and the future of the lands, should they remain under the Empire for long, and she was in full agreement with her companions. They must act soon.

‘It should be us, there’s truly no one else. I cannot let my students or the Guild be separated, not in times like these. We have to do it now or never.’ Alexia’s stern face relaxed for a second, showing that familiar smirk of hers, ‘Besides, if we go as four, we can send a better message.’

And so, the mages reached a consensus – they’d try their best to sway the Empire to change their laws, for the sake of all its subjects.


The area was truly infested with Tenebrans. They blended in with the night and stood out like sore thumbs during the day, perched on the high towers of the guarding fortresses. Despite their fear – and they were afraid – the four women presented themselves at the fortress and demanded to speak to the new governor.

Guided by Masks to the governor’s office, the four mages remained vigilant. The Black Masks looked anything but human, even the rise and fall of their chests undetectable under their black robes. They glided through the halls like otherworldly creatures, but they were nothing but soldiers of flesh and blood. And all soldiers die eventually. At least, that’s what the mages told themselves, over and over, as if they could wish it into being true.

The newly appointed governor stood cold and still behind the grand desk – the grand desk that had, until months prior, been Alexia’s. Her glare was almost as cold as his, eyeing her rival sitting comfortably in her antique, creaky, but beloved, chair. She had promised herself upon entering the familiar fortress to remain as composed as one could be, for their sake and the sake of all mages.

With a wave, he urged them to speak, any hint of emotion or, for that matter, humanity, locked away behind the stark black mask.

“Sir, I am Robin,” the girl started. “No doubt you know Alexia, and these are Aaliyah and Phyl.” She tried to swallow down her nervousness, and held her hands behind her back to hide their shaking. “We became duly informed of the new rules, particularly regarding mages, and we are concerned, and confused.” She motioned broadly, and paused for a response.

None came.

“It just isn’t quite clear enough.” Robin continued. “Three mages are not allowed to be together in any given place at any given time. What counts as one place? What if more than three mages just so happen to be in a shop? What about Lazarettes? Those often house more than three mages. And, besides that, how will new mages be trained if classes cannot be held? Surely you understand the necessity.”

Needing a bit of courage Phyl touched Aaliyah’s shoulder and staggering, she spoke.

‘I-I recommend that we declare m-mages innocent as e-evidence of their good intentions with official papers, until proven otherwise. This is a sensible p-proposal given the obstructive demands we are facing.’ She straightened up and felt the earth filling her up with energy and courage.

The man nodded, seemingly thoughtful about their proposition. ‘And they need to be trained because…?’

‘Would you prefer mages run untrained and confused on your lands?’ Aaliyah swallowed the bile of those words. ‘We could work together instead of being punished for simply doing our jobs. Would you flog them for simply sharing a meal with their family or friends, in their own homes?’

His cold, hard eyes had watched each of them as they spoke, and when they all fell silent, he leaned forward, weaving his fingers together in front of him.

‘Tell me, Robin, are all four of you mages?’ His voice was low, curious. Perhaps amused.

A chill ran through their bodies and they tensed… as they realised they had fucked up.

‘Well, yes, but-’ Robin responded, fumbling for an argument, glancing at Alexia for help. But the law was only just announced, and we’re here to clarify it, to-

The momentary silence made it clear enough to Alexia what was about to happen. And there was no visible escape.

‘Surely you can grasp that one small room, where you’ve arrived together, counts as “same place and time”?’

‘Yes, but-’

‘Then the rule is clear. As is the solution – plain and simple.’

Before any of them could act, one of the masked guards, who had stood silent as statues thus far, moved with supernatural speed. He placed one hand on Robin’s shoulder and with the other pressed a sharp device to her chest. For a split second, she thought she had been stabbed.

But she had been stabbed before, and this was worse.

It was like her ribcage was being crushed under a horse’s hoof. The cracking reverberated through her entire body in a wave, followed a blink later by a coldness, seeping into her heart, her bones, her mind. She had not known pain like this before, but she had known cold like it. Not the pleasant stinging of a winter wind nor even the painful, burning pain of ice magic. No, the coldness that spread from her chest was akin to the numbing chill her mind always did such a good job of erasing from memory when she was resurrected. As the excruciating moment ended and everything went dark, she was sure she was dead. In all ways that mattered, that was true.

And just like that the replenished energy and courage Phyl had felt vanished under her feet and deep in the soil. Phyl put one hand in front of her mouth to muffle her scream and one on her stomach, exactly where the heavy stone named “consequences” lay. She stared for a second, like time had stopped, like nothing mattered anymore. And then her vision blurred, tears running down her face paint as she sprinted to Robin.

Alexia’s heart pounded as she watched it all unfolded beside her. The device flashed brightly and for a split second, she could almost imagine sharing Robin’s pain with her. Everything in her ached, seeing a dear friend fall wounded, beaten unfairly.

‘What have you done?’ shouted Aaliyah as she held Robin in her arms. ‘Isn’t this too harsh, Governor?’

He shrugged. ‘You wanted to know the rules. Now you’ve tried and learned them. You’ve been trained to respect the Empire.’

Alexia had sneaked closer to the Governor, reading her spells of her arms as she intended when they set off – if something were to happen, she’d do all she could to protect them. Yet, this evil proved once again a step ahead.

‘Nuh-uh,’ the man waved a finger before her. She wished she could rip it clean off his hand. ‘Have you not lost too much already, Alexia? Do you want to lose more…?’

She glanced over to the other mages, one unconscious and two scared but willing to fight to the death if need be. They looked at one another, wondering to what end they could defend themselves until they all failed miserably, or worse. Alexia kept her arms down. For the first time in her life, she decided not to fight.

The Governor flicked his hand, the Masks taking them away to the musty cells of the keep.

They flogged them the next day, publicly, to set an example. Ten lashes was by far not the highest number the new governor had handed out.  However, the flogging of the four mages, including the area’s previous governor, was enough to gather a crowd at the town square. The news of the punishment spread among communities, across the land while the wounds on their backs healed slowly, unaided by any type of magic or potion. Painful reminders of the mistake they had made – seeking clarity and justice in the lands of the Fog.

Nobody had ever dared to touch Phyl. As the Duchess of her island, it had been four years since anyone threatened to even lift a finger against her. But her position did not matter here. Those strikes hurt her soul much more than her body. She would not dare to give the news of Robin’s fate or hers or anybody else’s back to the island. Just refuge to those who needed it. The only thing she would do is smile and let the rage build inside her. Also a promise, to not allow any other “Robin” to get hurt.

Later, Robin would not remember the lashing. She would not remember most of the night before it, spent in the keep’s cells, nor the days after. The pain was secondary. All she could recall was what still clung onto her in the days, weeks, months, years after. The cold, empty feeling in her chest, her heart like a lone drum beating in a crumbled war-room. Where, before, feeling her pulse had brought comfort and reassurance, now it felt like a lie. Like her body had not caught up yet. She wished it would.

She didn’t have a chance to speak to the others before the governor, in his infinite wisdom, whisked her away to some tiny town on the borders of the Fog to act as a scribe.

Riddled with ache and trauma, Aaliyah was allowed to return somewhere far away from Alexia, Phyl and Robin. She parted ways with whoever she could before being returned south, to the seamstress and the gloomy town. She knew no mages there, so the Empire’s law would hold – unchallenged. She doubted anyone would challenge them again as they did that day: they were brave and stupid, but at least they had tried to earn time for others. Time to hide, to run, to learn from mistakes and challenge lesser evils whenever possible. But the devastating consequence was always there, no matter if you were brave or stupid; on a battlefield or in your old home, now occupied by the enemy.  There was no escape.

But there was hope. Hope for retribution, hope for resistance, hope for the enemy to leave these lands. Alexia found the consequences hard to forget, too, and the wounds even harder to heal. Though she remained detached from her feelings for quite some time, planning her revenge helped. She imagined the glorious moment when she finally got her hands on the Governor and his fragile skull. Alexia vowed to remember that fateful day and remember the pain of it all until she could finally rid the world of the Empire.

Time went by, with neither the comfort of magic nor of friends. And the drums beat on. What else was there to do?