Flight of the Scions 1: The Letter

In ninety-five out of a hundred people, the first magical manifestation of power happens by the age of thirteen.

Emerging Wizardry (Volume 91, Issue 6)

Kanéko had seen the expression on the new postal carrier's face before. It was the same look of surprise and disgust almost every stranger revealed in the seconds after first meeting her. When her father was present, adults would have the civility to at least mask their expressions once they regained control of their senses. When it was just her, adults rarely bothered hiding their true feelings.

Lowering her gaze, she hid her hand behind her back in attempt to make herself smaller. She knew the gesture wouldn't erase the sight of her dark skin or green eyes, but there wasn't anything else she could do. Her mother said Kanéko was the color of farming soil mixed with desert rust. In a land of pale-skinned folk, there was no hiding that heritage.

“Back off,” snapped the courier. He clutched the bundle of letters tight to his chest.

Kanéko glanced at the papers and envelopes in his arms. The top one held the seal of the Royal Academy of Knights. Her heart beat faster. She had been waiting weeks for it to arrive and she couldn't wait to read it. Despite the courier's expression, she decided to try again. “I-I can take them. It's okay. I'm Bartim Lurkuklan's daughter.”

His lip curled further, and she could see his teeth. It reminded her of when one of her father's dog had gotten sick and snapped at everyone. He stepped back and lowered one hand to his sword.

Seeing it, a twinge ran down her back as she took a step back.

A few letters spilled out and fluttered to the ground. “Back off,” he repeated before looking around.

Kanéko glanced over her shoulder to look for someone to prove her own legitimacy. The nearest building, Jinmel's smithy, was empty. Next to it, the village's only store was shut tight. The half-dozen houses lining the road leading up to the gate were also quiet. Everyone would be at lunch in the great hall. The gate itself had one of its two doors propped open with an old cart. Missing wheels and waist-high grass were both a silent statement of how long it had been since someone had last closed the heavy doors.

She gestured toward the keep. The copper embroidery on her sleeve matched her hair and sparkled in the sun. “Come on, I'll take you to my father.”

The postal carrier stepped back. His sword inched out of its sheath. “I said back away, sandy! And go back to shit-hole of a desert you came from!”

Kanéko cringed at his words. She had learned years ago, it would be pointless to tell him she was only desert on her mother's side. He wouldn't believe that she had never left her father's lands, much less had never seen the vast Mifuno Desert. Nothing would change his mind; she could only hope he would listen if she remained polite.

“Please,” she said as calmly as she could. “I'll take you to the others.”

The carrier yanked his sword clear of the sheath with a scrape of metal. It was a short sword. Plain, but serviceable. On the hilt, she could see the crest of Kormar underneath his palm. He stepped back and waved the blade menacingly at her. “I said back!”

She cringed, worried that he would lunge forward and cut her.

“What is going on?” asked Jinmel as he came around from the back of his smithy.

At the sight of the older man with gray, frizzy hair, both Kanéko and the carrier let out sighs of relief.

“This thief,” the postal carrier gestured at Kanéko with his sword tip, “tried to steal the mail.”

Kanéko flinched again, her eyes locked on the tip of the weapon.

Jinmel smiled broadly at the courier. “You're new, aren't you?” His voice was tense. It didn't match his smile. His wrinkled hand tightened around the haft of a short hammer in his palm.

“Yes, so? Who are you?”

“Jinmel Sandor. That's my smithy right behind you.” He pointed to the anvil which had his name embossed on it. Then, he held out his free hand for the mail.

The postal carrier chuckled as he handed the bundle of letters to Jinmel and then glared at Kanéko. “Sorry. I've never had someone try to rob me before.”

Kanéko tore her eyes away from the sword and followed the topmost envelope as it passed between their hands. The man's insult stung, but she wanted the letter more.

“You haven't been robbed,” muttered Jinmel. “She's an unarmed girl. You have a sword and ten stones over her. If you consider that a threat, then you need to seriously reconsider your life's choices.”

The stranger froze before his mouth slowly dropped open.

Jinmel glared at him. “We have all known her since her father was changing her diapers in the great hall. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who would believe a man like you was even remotely threatened by her presence.”

He yanked the letters away from the carrier.

Kanéko turned to follow it and then reached up.

The carrier inhaled sharply and his hand inched toward his weapon.

Jinmel lifted it slightly and shook his head. “What do you say?”

“Please?” Kanéko whimpered as she imagined finally holding it. It was the acceptance letter. Everyone had been waiting weeks for it to arrive.

He chuckled and handed it to her. “Have the bartim read it for you. He's in the great hall.”

Kanéko glanced at the carrier, then backed away from him to keep Jinmel between them. Then, as soon as she felt safer, she spun on her heels and hurried toward the hall while staring at the thin letter.

It was sealed with the imprint of the Royal Academy in Jinto Panzir, the same school where her father had learned combat magic. She hoped it would be addressed to her so she could open it, but it wasn't.

Her heart pounded. She would finally know what magical talent she had, and how powerful she would become. If she followed her father's heritage, she would be able to manipulate stone as easily as someone dipping their hand in water, but a small part of her still dreamed that she would manifest one of the rarer talents such as folding space or healing.

With a giggle, she spun on her bare feet and rushed toward the gate.

“Kan!” Jinmel stopped her.

With a huff, she turned around.

He held out the rest of the mail. “What about the rest of this? Your father likes to dole it out, you know that. He says it makes him feel like he earned his title.”

Next to Jinmel, the postal carrier blanched. “Y-You mean, she really is…?”

“The Bartim Lurkuklan's daughter? Yes.”

“But… but, she's…”

“A girl? You're right.” Jinmel's eyes sparkled as he grinned. “She's thirteen, actually. Almost not a girl. A little short on manners, but what do you expect? She's been waiting for that letter for months.”

Kanéko blushed as she took the rest of the mail, tucking it underneath her arm but keeping the academy letter in her grip.

“No, she's sand… she is black.” The man gestured to Kanéko with a curt wave. “The bartim is….”

Kanéko tensed as she waited for the insult.

Jinmel sighed, shook his head, and gestured for Kanéko to continue. Turning around, he spoke to the man. “Yes, and I'm glad you noticed that. Because if you insult her like that in front of her father, he's just going to beat you into the ground, and leave your corpse under a ton of rock. Her mother, who is from the desert, would use your intestines for her bow. In fact—”

Kanéko didn't want to hear the rest of the lecture. Spinning back, she ran through the gate and across the courtyard.

The bartim's keep consisted of a stone wall thrice her height and a four-story tower in its center. Around the inside of the wall were various buildings including stables with a well, but no horses, the armory, kitchens, and the great hall. Everything was made from stone slabs shaped by her father's magic. He had fitted each one with less than a fingernail's width gap between the edges.

She yanked open the great hall door and yelled over the sudden din. “Papa! Papa!”

The great hall was packed for the lunch crowd, a hundred people laughing and cheering and eating. Most of them listened to a story Kanéko's father was telling. She could hear him speak from the top of the table at the far end of the room.

Her father, Ronamar, held a turkey leg in one hand like a sword, and a stone mug in the other. Compared to the rest of the villagers, he was a mountain of a man, tall and broad. His short hair was brown with streaks of gray, and he had a few scars on his face and arms, but otherwise he was as fit as the day he retired from the army.

Heart pounding, she rushed through the crowds waving the letter. “It came!”

Ronamar crouched, looming over her. “What came? Oh!” He smiled. “Is it the bid for you? I'm going to sell you. I might even get a few dozen crowns.”

Kanéko rolled her eyes and giggled. “No, Papa, the letter from the Academy. It came!”

A hush rolled through the great hall.

“Open it!” She shoved it into his chest.

“Fine, fine,” grumbled her father as he dropped the turkey leg on his plate. It bounced off and fell to the floor. One of the dogs grabbed it and retreated back to the shadows.

Ronamar wiped his hand off and knelt to set the mug down with more grace. He took the letter from her, his tanned, thick fingers dwarfing her own, and tugged it free. With a grunt, he straightened before dramatically tearing off the end the envelope so he could pull out the letter.

Taking a deep breath, he began to read. “To Bartim Ronamar Lurkuklan, Fourth Circle Knight of Kormar, Hero of Dove's Peak, Mage-Knight of the….” He trailed off for a moment. “Hold on, I'm just getting through my accomplishments.”

A snicker.

“There's a lot of them,” he said with a chuckle, puffing out his chest.

Laughter bubbled up across the room.

Kanéko hopped as she watched him read silently.

Her father held up his finger. “Almost done.”


The corner of his lip curled up. “Almost…”

“Papa!” Kanéko was smiling as she stamped her foot down.

“Fine,” he rolled his eyes. “Thank you for… blah, blah, kissing my balls….”

From behind her, someone spoke up. “I hope she has fire magic.”

“I'm voting for water.”

“A round of stout says she has plant magic.”


“You just don't want to farm anymore.”

Ronamar looked out over the gathered people. “It's going to be earth or stone, so shut up.” He winked at Kanéko.

She tapped the table impatiently. When he didn't immediately resume, she pulled out a bench to crawl up and get to the letter to read it herself.

Before she could, a hand pulled her back. She glanced down. At the sight of her mother's fingers, so brown they were almost black, she relaxed.

Mioráshi was shorter than her daughter by a full hand, but where Kanéko had the softness of a teenage girl, Mioráshi was compact, lithe, and scarred from years of battle. Her curly hair was cropped close to her head and she had intense green eyes that pinned Kanéko in place. “Slow down, imapatsu daughter.” Her mother spoke two languages but often alternated between the two constantly. Kanéko knew Lorban, the language of the country, but only knew a few words of Miwāfu, the desert tongue. At least, a few words that weren't swears and insults.

Straining not to jump up and down, Kanéko rested her hand on her mother's. “I hope it's earth,” she whispered.

Ronamar chuckled and returned to the letter. “Let's see… thank you for giving me the opportunity to examine your daughter….” He looked at her and winked again. “I think he means, thank you for giving us a huge amount of money to test your daughter because she's two years late manifesting her powers.”

“Papa!” Kanéko blushed and shook with anticipation.

He returned to the letter. “Because of aberrations… verified with three separate…” A frown crossed his face. His lips worked silently for a moment.

The room grew even quieter.

His shoulders suddenly slumped and the smile dropped from his face. It was as if all the joy had been sucked out of him by the words on the page. Kanéko could almost feel the temperature lowering around her and the ground quivering under her bare feet.

Someone coughed.

Kanéko's skin crawled. “P-Papa?”

Ronamar snarled. He crushed the letter and dropped it on the table. When it hit, Kanéko jerked as if he struck her. He jumped off the table and strode past her and toward the door. “Everyone back to work,” he announced.

No one moved as he stormed out.

Kanéko's lip trembled as she reached out for him. “P-Papa?”

The crinkle of paper startled her. She turned to see her mother unfolding the letter.

“What does it say?” asked someone in a quiet voice.

Mioráshi read the letter to the room, her voice shrill in the silence. “We regret to inform you that your daughter has no capability of manipulating magic. We therefore withdraw her application to the Royal Academy of Knights and will no longer consider her, or any of her offspring, for automatic acceptance.”

An uncomfortable silence flooded the room, silencing everyone in an instant.

Her mother's face twisted into a scowl. “Assholes,” she said as she read it over again. Her eyes dragged over the page, as if reading it again would change the words.

Kanéko didn't know how to respond. It felt like something had just been carved out of her chest and left nothing but a bloody wound. She stared at her mother, silently praying to the Divine Couple that it was a mistake.

“That can't be right. You must have read it wrong. She's the bartim's daughter.” It was the farmer. He stood up as to take the letter.

Mioráshi glared at him. “Listen, you infested pile of maggot corpses, I know how to read your language. So, if you want to keep walking without your balls stuffed into your neck, you shut it.”

He shook his head and pulled his hand back.

The world stopped for one painful moment. Kanéko felt her heart skip a beat as tears burned in her eyes. “H-How? Everyone has magic. Everyone.” Her voice sounded broken and afraid, tiny in the deathly still of the great hall.

She turned to look at the rest of the crowd. No one was looking at her.

“E-Everyone has magic. Everyone. Right? Everyone?”

No one looked at her. They were staring at the floor, packing up, or simply leaving. A sob rose in her throat and she turned back to her mother. “M-Mama?”

Mioráshi's eyes flashed as a growl rose in her throat. “Gachímo the bastards.” Her mother continued to swear in Miwāfu as she pulled Kanéko into a tight hug.

Kanéko sobbed into her shoulder. “Why don't I have magic? It isn't possible, is it?”