De Cineribus: From the Ashes | First Chapter

De Cineribus: From the Ashes | First Chapter

So… yeah. I haven’t written anything in a month. Go me.

I’ve been tied up in both the second draft of my W.I.P. novel and getting my let’s play YouTube channel going, so the blog kinda fell by the wayside. That, and I’ve been struggling with my motivation on and off, because life sucks.

But I’ve decided to try and get at least some of the work I’ve been slaving over for nearly a year now out there. What follows is the first chapter of my new adult urban fantasy novel De Cineribus: From the Ashes (Working title.). But keep in mind that it is still very rough because this is only the second draft, and the content is subject to change in future edits and revisions (Especially since I haven’t done proper beta reader phases and a professional edit yet.).

If you enjoy this, I’d very much appreciate you share it with those who might be interested. Any critiques or insight is welcome, and I hope you enjoy! Also, I won’t be starting the actual beta reading phase til at least the end of my second draft (Which I’m about halfway through currently.), but trust that I will announce the signup process in time.

CHAPTER ONE: Magus

Listen to a boring history lecture, or watch a bunch of powerful sorcerers beat the shit out of each other? Decisions, decisions.

Felix placed his phone in the small cubby inside his desk. Ms. Wallis stood at the front of the room as she wrote important dates and events on the whiteboard. The red marker’s squeaks cut through Wallis’ lecture, though it didn’t help that its ink was nearly dried out; Felix had to squint to make out the notes. “The Revelation occurred in 2052,” Wallis said. “Directly following the Second Cold War. Major cities across the world were attacked and many destroyed by the sudden appearance of magical creatures, and subsequently…”

Felix tuned the rest out. He’d heard this a dozen times before: magical creatures show up; wizards are real; humans are idiots; near nuclear war. Go humans. He went to the Dragora Institute of Magic’s website, then carefully put on one of his wireless earbuds—still a terrible idea, but if it buys me a moment of distraction—and started the livestream.

“Ladies and gentlemen.” The boom of the announcer’s voice in the coliseum was just barely audible over the crowd’s cheers. Felix had to turn his phone’s volume nearly all the way down to avoid unwanted attention. “We are gathered here today for the 220th septennial Ancient Dragons’ Tournament!”

The crowd roared in applause.

“And in honor of this, I’d like to introduce the beloved royal family of the Magian Empire: Princess Gloria, her father Francesco, and his wife–Empress Andrea de Angelis!”

A family of three walked onto the stage. The girl looked a little younger than Felix, maybe 11 or 12. Her eyes were a bright gold, and her auburn hair was tied into a ponytail. She wore a plain red dress with long, draping sleeves, though despite how festive she might’ve looked, her expression screamed “Save me!” Felix couldn’t grasp why. After all, she was in the one safe haven for wizards in the entire world, not to mention how loaded she had to be as a royal. She is kinda cute, though.

The man, Francesco, was tall and lean. His black suit stood in contrast with the garments of the rest of his family. If the princess didn’t want to be there, then this man looked completely disinterested. Not in a way that said “I hate all of you”—Felix did that enough to recognize it almost immediately—but just enough to where it looked like all he wanted to do was sleep for a year.

Empress Andrea waved to the crowd, dressed in a fiery red gown with golden trims. Her hair, like her daughter’s, was auburn, though a bit darker, and curled. Her crown was a lustrous silver, with a shining blood-red jewel adorned at its center. This was the leader of the magical world–a realm so very, very far from Felix’ everyday life. A world of dragons, spells, and things he could only dream of in his ordinary Long Island town.

Can we get to the kickass magic fights, already?

“Mr. Brasher.”

The voice sent a chill down Felix’ spine as his head jolted up. Ms. Wallis, along with the entire class, stared right at him. Felix cracked a smile, then slowly moved to put his phone into his backpack.

“No, no, no.” Wallis held out her hand. “Phone and headphones, please.”

Felix handed both items to his teacher. There goes my only escape from this miserable hellhole. Also, they’re earbuds, not headphones. Ms. Wallis dropped the oh so forbidden contraband next to her computer. Carson and his dolts Billy and Buck, the Camo Crew as many liked to call them, snickered at the front of the room. If only they blended in like their name suggested. Then I’d at least have less headaches.

“Now, if you’re so focused on your own research, Mr. Brasher…” Wallis’ face, like her voice, was stone cold. “Then I’m sure you could tell us which U.S. president founded the Magus Special Ops Unit in 2078.”

Of fucking course I can remember the year it was made, but not the schmuck that actually created it. “Um… I… I don’t know.”

Carson and a few others laughed, but Wallis shut them up with a single shush. “Then I suggest you pay attention to the lesson rather than waste your time on your phone.”

Trust me, Ms. Wallis, if technology had progressed like it was supposed to, this kind of educational system would be considered archaic by now. As it should. It’s 2110, for Christ’s sake, and yet it feels like the Dark Ages. If Wallis had asked about the Magus Registration Act, however—asked about the magus detention camps and the escalations towards open, all-out war with the Magian Empire—Felix could easily pinpoint the presidential numbskull responsible for all that nonsense: Leonard Wolfe. A monster in Felix’ eyes, and a hero in his father’s.

The raindrops beat against the windows as lightning flashed across the dark gray sky. Hurricane Hanna: the worst storm to hit the northeast in… well, forever. Since he was born, Felix had witnessed storm after storm, blizzard after blizzard, hurricane after hurricane, all growing stronger with each passing year. The worst of it was mostly kept out by the barriers, but did the humans ever thank the magi for that? No. Why, the magi are to blame for all this chaos. If it weren’t for them, the Earth would’ve continued peacefully into a Third World War, and the globe would’ve been reduced to a smoky graveyard of ash and nuclear waste. What a wonderful future humanity had been robbed of.

“And that’s led us to the recent election of President Kendra Brooks,” Wallis said. “Who’s worked closely with the Magian Empire to establish a formal alliance with the U.S. She’s promised to increase funding for the Magus Special Ops Unit—begun by President Jessica Morris in 2078—and to help young magi here in the U.S. feel more at home.”

Carson glared at a girl seated next to Felix, but she kept her head down towards her books. Her giant glasses seemed to weigh down on her small head. There was a faint trace of purple in her eyes.

A roar of thunder shook the classroom, but the ring of the school bell gave way to a much louder roar of shouting students. Wallis tried to remind them all of their homework and research projects, though her words were drowned out in the ensuing chaos that is junior high. Felix walked up to Wallis’ desk to grab his phone and earbud, and Carson bumped into him as obnoxiously as he could as he walked by. At least buy me dinner first, bitch.

“Ms. Wallis?” Felix folded his hands behind his back, trying to appear as sorry as possible. “I’d like to apologize for-”

“Are you doing alright, Mr. Brasher?”

Again, her voice caught Felix off guard. He expected a rant on how he was “wasting his potential” and that he should “fully apply himself to his studies,” not an “Are you okay?” “Yes,” Felix answered. “Why?”

“You look tired,” Ms. Wallis said. “Constantly. You show exceptional academic ability, yet you rarely push yourself to finish your assignments.”

It’s junior high. Who’s gonna remember how well I did in sixth grade social studies? He forced a smile. “I’m fine, really.” It took all his strength to resist the profanities that served themselves up to him. “I just…”

“Is it something at home?”

If by home, you mean the fact my father is a religious, over-controlling nutjob who says the president is a magic-using, Kenyan-born demon from the depths of hell who makes me wanna hitch on the nearest flight to Dragora, then yes. Yes it is. “My home’s just fine. Parents and sister are well.”

“Ah yes, your sister Aeris.” She clasped her hands. “You know, I had her when she was your age. A bright, good-hearted young woman.”

Yes, yes, I know. My sister’s an angel, and I’m the Devil. Can I have my stuff back now so I can go eat? He had lunch next, and had skipped breakfast that morning–like every morning. By now it was half past noon, and his stomach was ready to devour itself. “She’s doing well,” Felix said. His cheeks stung from holding up his goody two-shoes act; a persona that killed him inside a little bit more each time it had to be donned.

“One more thing, Mr. Brasher. I see you’re interested in Dragora.”

The Dragora Institute of Magic: the best, and only, college for magi in the entire world (I.A.M.U. doesn’t count.), way off in the heart of the Magian Empire. An escape from Felix’ father’s bigoted clutches, and a place to become a powerful sorcerer both feared and revered by all. “Yes,” Felix muttered. Please don’t sell me out. If someone had learned of his secret, then the feds definitely would be knocking down his door (Provided his father hadn’t murdered him yet.). To be a magus in the U.S. and not report it to the government was like walking a tightrope, but replace the net with a bed of swords.

“I wouldn’t get my hopes up if I were you.” Wallis’ matter-of-fact tone crushed Felix. “They charge a fortune, and getting in the door in the first place is no small feat. You could always go to I.A.M.U. and join the Magus Special Ops Unit.”

Felix nodded and tried to forget what “advice” he’d just been given. It was bad enough he could’ve been drafted into the unit against his will if he was a registered magus, but going to I.A.M.U.? International Academy for Magi United? Hell no. The only thing they’re united in is sucking. He pointed to his phone and earbud. “May I…?”

“Oh yes,” Ms. Wallis said. “Of course.” She handed them to Felix. “But I’m serious. And if you ever need to talk-”

“I know.” And I never will. He put his things into his pocket, grabbed his bookbag, and left. Wallis told him to have a good day, though Felix pretended not to hear and marched down the hallway. The ceiling lights, dim as they already were, flickered as the late May storm raged on. Why Alderwood didn’t bother cancelling classes was anyone’s guess. Yes, the hurricane came earlier than expected, and the barriers did a decent job in reducing the damages, but the least they could’ve done was not take a chance with their students’ safety (Really Felix just wanted an excuse not to be stuck there for another six hours.).

He headed to the cafeteria, sitting at his usual corner table. A group of kids on their phones played some sort of fighting game, and another didn’t even bother turning down the volume on his “What Magus Eye Color Do You Have?” app. Felix plopped his phone on the table, put in his earbuds, and got out his lunch: a couple of PB&J sandwiches–America’s favorite meal (Aside from ignorance.).

Felix went back to the Dragora website to watch the tournament live as he ate. They’d already gotten to the mid-level brackets, mostly for graduate students with a few magical athletes here and there. And up there on stage were two of Felix’ favorites: Eunice Karahalios, and Darius Ambrosia.

Eunice had traveled the world, and fought for magus rights everywhere she went. She donated huge sums of her fortune to charity, and it also didn’t hurt that she was also pleasant on the eyes (In the most respectable way of course.): her olive skin, black hair, and strong physique. She was most certainly a personal hero for Felix.

Darius, on the other hand was a shameless celebrity crush. Tanned skin, muscular, and all-around good looking, Felix couldn’t keep his eyes off him. Maybe it was the allure of a “forbidden romance”: bad enough he was a magus, but if his father had found out Felix was interested in more than just girls, he’d probably have a stroke that sent him to hell and back, and dumped Felix off in eternal damnation along the way.

Though Felix wasn’t much to look at, in his own opinion. Short and chubby, with messy, curly brown hair and oily dark olive skin. And his eyes: technically blue, but so dull and gray they might as well be cobalt. In fact, they were, but as far as the people who still thought he was an ordinary human were concerned, they’d be an ugly, lifeless blue til the day he died.

“Can I sit with you?”

Felix lowered the volume as a boy looking about his age stood there with his lunch tray. He had red hair, even messier than Felix’. His glasses and braces gave off the impression that he was a huge nerd, along with his timid voice. He was lanky in stature, and his arms trembled as he held his tray. “Sure.”

The boy sat. “So… is this book yours?” He placed a black marble notebook on the table beside the tray. Felix swiped the book. The dog ears were enough of a sign, though he opened it up to be sure. Inside were all his notes, poems, and scribbles. “I… suppose that’s a yes?”

“Where’d you get this from?” Felix held the notebook close to his chest. He glared at the boy, who stuttered and shook even more than before.

“I-I’m sorry,” the boy said. “I was in class with you, and-”

“So you stole it?”

“N-No. I was about to talk to Ms. Wallis after you, and you left that on your desk. I thought…”

And I was just a dick to someone for being nice to me… Felix sighed. “I’m sorry.” He put down the book. All his writing was an escape for him: all the terrible, dark, edgy poems; all the shitty stick figures; all of it was a place no one could invade. A place where his father couldn’t look over his shoulder every ten seconds. “Thanks.”

The boy didn’t even touch his food. As much as Felix wanted to scarf down his sandwich, he’d hate himself if he just ignored the kid, especially because of how cruel he was before. “You’re… gonna eat, right?”

“O-Oh yeah.” The boy cut the pizza into squares. Felix was about to ask why he didn’t just eat it like a normal slice, but then, looking at his braces again, kept quiet.

“So… what’s your name?” Felix gave himself a mental kicking for not asking sooner. He felt for this poor naïve kid having to put up with such an insidious demon.

“M-Me?” His mouth was stuffed, and sauce ran from his lip. Felix handed him a napkin, and after the boy swallowed, he wiped it from his mouth. “Alec.”

“Nice to meet you, Alec.” Felix searched for a topic of conversation, though really he’d just wanted to be left alone today (Like everyday.). “Oh, my name’s Felix.”

“I know.” Alec stuffed his face yet again.

“What?” Felix held back his fist as he fought the urge to punch his potential stalker. He forced a smile and awaited an explanation.

Alec gulped. “You go to Saint Corona’s, right? I go there with my family all the time.”

“Oh. Sorry, I… never noticed, I guess.” Not that he’d want to notice anything in regards to the church. The people were nice, but it was never Felix’ choice to go. Weekly religious lessons were ironically their own special kind of hell, especially when the kids acted like pitchfork-wielding imps. This guy seems nice at least. And he doesn’t look like he’s got many friends of his own.

“Hey, wait up!” Carson ran up to the girl from class, and she paced away. Billy blocked her path while Buck knocked the tray out of her hands. The Camo Crew towered over her. “What’re you waiting for?” Carson’s smirk disgusted Felix. “Use a spell to clean it up.”

“Maybe she’s lost her wand,” Billy chimed in.

“Or she’s too stupid to know how to use it,” Buck added. All three laughed as kids around either laughed with them, glanced back and forth doing nothing, or just completely ignored the situation. The lunch aides stood stiff against the wall.

“That poor girl.” Alec looked away and kept his head down. “Those guys terrify me.”

Felix’ blood boiled. His hands clenched into fists and his knuckles whitened. He nearly slammed the table as he grit his teeth.

“A-Are you-”

Felix stood. “Watch my stuff.” He walked around the table. The boys that were on their phones before now watched Felix approach the Camo Crew, ready to bet on how bad he’d get his ass kicked.

Carson grinned. “If it isn’t the little edgelord himself.”

Wow, what a unique insult. The early twenty-first century called: they want their humor back. But snark wouldn’t get him anywhere with these braindead bozos. “Leave her alone.” He stood as tall and sound as firm as he could, though his high-pitched voice made it difficult.

“And what if we don’t?” Carson cracked his knuckles.

Felix yearned to smack the grin off Carson’s face, but now the fatal flaw in his plan had surfaced itself: What the fuck am I gonna do?

Carson punched Felix in the stomach. Felix doubled over in pain, then fell to his knees as his gut burned and ribs screamed. His eyes shut tight, and the mocking tone of laughter all around him pierced his ears.

Then the laughter stopped, followed by a brief collective gasp, and a shrill whimper.

Felix opened his eyes. The whimper came from Carson, whose mouth gasped out air. His eyes widened as he gazed at the ceiling.

The girl held Carson by the balls. “You’re going to leave us both alone now, right?” Her grip on Caron’s blue jeans tightened, and his knees buckled as tears rolled down his bright pink cheeks. He nodded yes, and she let go. Carson fell, while Buck and Billy hung their mouths wide open.

I like her style.

The girl smiled. “You wanna get outta the lunch meat now?”

Felix’ his knees were over all the spilled food. He smiled, took her hand, and stood.

“Thanks for… trying I suppose.”

Carson knocked Felix to the ground, then punched him right in the eye. Felix grabbed Carson’s arm to hold back another hit. Don’t have much of a choice. He held tight and dug in his fingers. A spark ran up Carson’s sleeve, and he screamed and flailed to put out the small flame.

The smoke alarm and sprinklers went off. Everyone screamed as they ran out of the cafeteria, past the lunch aides trying to herd them like cattle. As the students scurried, Felix could make out some of their shouts: “He used magic!” “He’s a freak!” “He’ll kill us all!” It doesn’t help you’re all making it seem appealing to me right about now.

Carson ran out, and the girl knelt next to Felix. “You okay?”

Felix held his bruised eye. “Yeah, I’ll be fine.” His damp clothes clung to his skin.

“What’s going on here?” A security guard approached the two. The static on his radio sounded like dial tone (Truly, there is no escape from outrageously outdated technology in any era.). “C’mon. Principal’s office. Now.”

Alec handed Felix’ things to him. Felix thanked him, then waved goodbye (At least some people aren’t total jerks.). The guard escorted Felix and the girl down the hall. Their shoes squeaked as they walked, and their clothes dripped and left a trail of water. Once they reached the main office, they were seated while the guard talked to one of the receptionists at the desk. As he left the room, he glared at Felix and the girl and muttered “Buncha freaks.”

The room was freezing, and Felix’ ice cold drenched sweatshirt and pants stung his arms, legs, and chest. He longed for the hot, muggy air of the classrooms and cafeteria. The office was like the waiting room of a doctor’s office: unpleasant, awkward, and cold. Though it wasn’t quiet–far from it. Secretaries chattered on the phone about “personal matters” as they typed with their long manicured nails. Every now and then the ringing of one of the phones would go off, and Felix would recoil whenever they did. He’d always hated the sound of a ringing phone. Felix held his bag on his lap. Dad’s gonna fucking kill me when he finds out about this. And when he hears about me making fire…

A slight sting overtook his face, along with a strange light. The girl held her hand over his cheek, and from her palm glowed a faint yellow-green light.

“A-Are you-”

“Relax.” The light faded, as did the pain. “There. All better.”

“Thanks.” Felix held his hand up to his eye, and as he pressed his fingers down, he felt nothing.

“So what’s your name? You do have a name, right? Cuz if not, that might be child abuse.” Her humor, while right up Felix’ alley, was unexpected coming from someone who just before was so quiet. Then again, people probably felt the same towards him.

“I’m Felix.”

She smiled. “Nice name. Fits your feisty personality.”

“Mhm. What about you?”

“Rosie.”

Felix smirked. “Kinda flowery name for such a vicious ball-buster.”

“Hey, even the prettiest of roses gotta have thorns.” She flipped her wavy black hair. “Nice pun, by the way.”

“Uh-huh. What shitty poem did you get that line from?”

“None.” She crossed her arms and flared her nose. “I’m just that kinda genius.”

Felix crossed his legs. “Was there also a line about ice burning cold like fire?”

Rosie put her hands on her hips. “Shut the fuck up.” They both burst into laughter, then quietly snickered after one of the secretaries shushed them.

“Rosie, what did I tell you about cursing?” A tall, light-skinned man walked into the room. He had black hair and a goatee, though his eyes were hazel; not purple like Rosie’s.

“Hey, Dad,” Rosie said.

The man sighed. “What happened exactly?”

“Guy was being a jerk to my new friend here, so I set him straight.”

“You… what do you think your father would say if he heard that?”

Father? But aren’t you… ?

“I think Pop would be proud of me.” Rosie crossed her arms again.

Ah. Two dads. Gotcha.

The man turned his attention towards Felix. “Is this true?”

“More or less. Some guys were picking on her, so I tried to help, and-”

“Then I guess I should thank you. But please be more careful in the future, alright? You seem like a nice boy, so no more fighting, okay?”

Felix nodded.

“Mr. O’Brien.” A woman in a dark gray suit approached Rosie’s father.

“Giordano-O’Brien.”

“Yes.” Her face was as expressionless as her voice was toneless. “Your daughter was involved in a rather serious altercation earlier today.”

“I’m well aware.”

“Please be sure to remind her that use of unlicensed magic in a public space is a serious offense, regardless of-”

“I will.” He held one hand on his hip. “My husband and I might be human, but I assure you that we’re more than capable as fathers.”

“I’m sure.” Could you be any more condescending? “Make sure it never happens again.”

“Right. C’mon, Rosie.”

Rosie jumped off the chair. “See you again, Felix!” She waved goodbye as she left with her father.

Felix swung his legs and stared at the clock every few seconds. Certainly his parents had already been called, but as for which one was coming to pick him up was a mystery–a dreadful one. Should it be his mother, he’d probably get a short lecture. His father on the other hand…

“Felix!” His mother Lydia rushed in and hugged him tight.

“H-Hi, Mom.” Thank the gods.

“Mrs. Brasher.” The woman’s voice now held a tinge of judgment. It was enough that when Lydia let go of him and turned away, a sickness rose in Felix’ stomach. “You’re aware of what your son has done, correct?”

Lydia clasped her hands and gulped. “Yes.”

“And you’re aware that it is our responsibility here at the Alderwood District to report an unregistered magus citizen when one is identified, correct?”

Lydia nodded.

“You’ll be receiving a not insignificant fine. I’ve already called your husband Eric.”

Oh fucking great. Way to go, self. You found a way to fuck things up way more than usual.

“I understand,” Lydia said. “Is there anything else?”

“Not for now, but if the potential danger of hiding a magus is deemed enough of a threat, it will result in the incarceration of the parent or guardian and a juvenile detention center sentence for the child.”

Translation: I’ve potentially landed us all in jail! Go me!

“If anything changes, you’ll be notified immediately. You may both leave now.” Her glare got the message across. Felix stood, threw his bag onto his back, and followed his mother out of the building. Though the rain was terrible before, it seemed to have let up just a little as they ran to the dark blue car. Lydia pulled onto the road. The trees danced in the winds of the storm, and thunder occasionally sounded off.

“So…” Felix twiddled his thumbs, trying to find the words. “I’m a magus.”

“Yes. Yes you are.”

A magus. A sorcerer. A person able to wield the raw elements. A god in most ancient literature… and a monster in most modern eyes. Though Felix knew of his power over fire for a couple of years, it always burned deep within him. Every winter when he’d have to shovel the snow out of the driveway or start the fireplace, a small flick of the wrist was most of the time enough to make the job just a bit easier. He’d never been as skilled or powerful enough to conjure a straight up fireball, though he knew there was more to this ability than sheer luck. But if he were to go to Dragora…

“No, I’m not mad at you,” Lydia said. Her eyes were fixed on the road, and her hands seemed to tense up on the steering wheel.

“I know… but Dad-”

“I won’t let him do a thing to you.”

Felix lied back in his seat, dreading every inch closer they go to his home. The gray sky seemed eerily fitting for such a black mood. “Are you…?” Felix didn’t finish his question, and his mother didn’t answer. Neither of them spoke the rest of the ride.

He’d always assumed his mother was a magus. She had to be. Magic was inherited, after all (Or at least thought to be.). It made sense to Felix: a lot of magi disguised themselves as humans, leading unassuming lives free from all the bullshit they’d have to otherwise – assuming their eye color allowed, of course. This could easily have been the case for Lydia: a magus who’d pretended to be human, living with a human husband and hoping for human children, only to wind up with one of them turning out magically inconvenient. And when you factored in how less “religiously devout” she was in comparison to her husband Eric, all the pieces lined up perfectly.

After about ten minutes, Lydia pulled up into the driveway. The roof of the ranch-style home matched both the sky and the dark cloud overhead its inhabitants in terms of color and aura. The gutters were flooded with rainwater and wet leaves, and the garden in front—normally neglected and ugly—looked more of a mess than it usually did. And right in front of Lydia’s car was a black pickup truck: his father was home early from work; unusual for a weekday, but expected given the circumstances. Through a window, the bright image of the living room TV shone through the rain-covered glass: Probably RWB “News,” as usual. As Felix put up his hood, he wished he could disappear into it, away from the meltdown he sensed approaching from his father. Living with Grandpa can’t be that bad. He’s a pretty laid back guy, and I’m almost positive he doesn’t want me dead.

Felix reached for the door handle, then stopped as a hand pressed against his shoulder. He glanced over, looking into his mother’s aqua blue eyes. She looked like she was holding back tears, trying to act strong. “You’ll be okay,” she said. “And no matter what he says, you are perfect. I love you.”

Felix found himself fighting the urge to cry. Like mother like son, I suppose. He rubbed his eyes with his sleeve, then said “I know. I love you too.” They hugged as tight as they could, then exited the car.

Felix trudged through the puddles. He would’ve avoided them if they hadn’t overflowed across the entire driveway, along with the rest of the street. The downpour beat against the blacktop, the raindrops bouncing off the ground like little marbles of ice–not quite hail, but definitely getting there. Felix normally enjoyed the sound of rain, and found it soothing to listen to. But now it was a metronome of anxiety; a ticking clock of dread counting down til he got inside, and his father ended his world. There was no way around it; no way of escaping from what was about to happen. Felix knew it was inevitable, and had been a long time coming.

He followed Lydia onto the dilapidated front porch. Felix stamped his muddy shoes over and over on the welcome mat. The thing was worn-out, and the colors had been long faded for years. In his short twelve years of existence, Felix had never read the mat’s message as “Welcome home.” Instead, he’d seen it for what it truly meant to him: “Welcome back to prison.”

Lydia turned the key, unlocked the door, and headed inside. Felix savored the few precious seconds of the entrance swinging open, and—with one last mental bracing—stepped onto the foyer carpet. As it slammed shut behind her, his nerves jumped, and his hair stood on end. While the TV was left on—his guess on it being the news was right (Truthseer riot in the city. Yay.)—there was no one on the mud brown couch or recliner. All across the worn-down coffee table were official-looking papers: birth certificate copies, tax records, and all the such. And as Felix looked closer, what he saw on one told him all he needed to know: his name.

“LYDIA.”

He jumped again. The call came from downstairs, followed by heavy footsteps thudding up the basement steps.

Lydia pushed Felix down the hall. “Go to your room,” she said. “I’ll handle this.” Felix wanted to be with her when it happened; it was his fault in his eyes. But in the moment, terror drove his impulse, and he ran down the hall, past the basement door, and into his bedroom. He shut the door as quietly as he could, and held his back up against it. As the basement door slammed, the screaming began.

“You knew.” His father’s voice boomed through the house. “You always fucking knew.”

“Eric, please,” Lydia pleaded. Her voice was far more muffled. “Just listen to me.”

“I’m done listening. Do you realize what we’ve had, living under my roof all these years.”

What… I’m a what to him. Felix’ heart raced and thudded against his ribcage. He slid down against the door, then curled up. He shut his eyes and covered his ears as best he could.

“He’s your son,” Lydia said. “And this is our roof. Our son, our responsibility.”

“He is not my son. I can’t believe this… who’d you sleep with to make the little demon?”

“What?”

“I’m human. Aeris is human. Don’t know about you, but it had to come from somewhere. So either you slept with one of those ‘people,’ or…” An eerie silence fell across the house.

“Or what, Eric? Say it.”

Mom, run. Please run.

Felix looked up: his room was a mess. Not the kind of mess a young boy would make, but one that seems like it’d be raided. His floor was covered with his clothes, and his closet was totally empty. He ran in and looked through the drawers where he’d hidden things he knew would anger his father. All the tacky magic charms and talismans; all the posters of magical athletes; even fantasy books that were forbidden in the house. All missing. Nothing was on his desk or in any of its compartments. The sheets on his bed were ripped over, and his mattress was flipped against the wall to reveal a dirty, dusty carpet beneath. The thought crossed his mind: were his belongings tossed out?

That’s when it hit him: the basement. He might’ve been tossing them into the basement.

Felix slid out of his room, trying not to make any noises. The creaks of the wooden floors were just a nuisance before when all he wanted was a quick midnight snack; now, they could sell him out to an unholy tirade. He opened the basement door, shut it behind him, and hit the light. He stepped carefully as not to make too much noise during his descent. At the bottom of the staircase, Felix heard something besides the the raging hurricane outside and the even more pervasive shouts of his parents: the crackling of a fire nearby. He turned a corner, and at the end of the brick-walled hall was a dim worklight, and underneath it–a growing fire, with pitch black smoke rising up and overtaking the corridor. A nausea swirled in Felix’ stomach, and his lungs burned as traces of the smoke invaded his body. He stepped back, and as he looked down, his eyes fell on a poster of Eunice Karahalios in the flames. Her face was completely erased by the blaze.

His father had set fire to all of Felix’ belongings, and it was now out of control. The shock nearly drove Felix to tears, but he forced himself to turn and run back up the stairs for the fire extinguisher. As he reached for the handle, the door swung open. His father stood in the hallway light; his figure towered over Felix and eclipsed him. His dark blue eyes glared right through Felix, and sent a chill through his body.

“You saw it.” Eric’s voice was low and cold, like that of a killer. “Didn’t you?”

Felix couldn’t answer. The world froze around him, and a sick fear took hold in his chest.

“Maybe you’ll wanna look closer.” Eric grabbed Felix’ wrist, and he crushed it in his grip. He pulled Felix back down the steps and refused to let go. “Go ahead. Use a spell. Put it out.” He forced Felix’ chin up right towards the fire. Felix shut his eyes, but Eric shouted “LOOK AT IT. OPEN YOUR FUCKING EYES.”

Felix held his eyes shut.

“Eric, that’s enough!” His mother’s voice cut through the chaos. Eric tossed Felix against the wall. Felix recollected himself, then looked up. Lydia stared at the fire; her eyes were wide with shock. “You’re insane,” she yelled. She ran to the flames, then outstretched her hands. Water sprayed forth from her palms, extinguishing the flames. Steam and smoke mixed, and the result found its way down Felix’ throat and sent him into a fit of coughing.

“I KNEW IT.” Eric’s yell curdled Felix’ blood. He walked up to Lydia and scowled at her. “You… you fucking bitch.” He slapped her across the face.

Lydia flinched, then held her palm over her cheek. She scowled back, then said “You’re insane.” Her voice was calm, even in spite of the abuse she’d suffered. She took Felix’ hand and lead him up the stairs, while Eric stayed in the basement. He glared at Felix as he followed his mother, and Felix couldn’t ignore the hate in his eyes. “Put your hood up.” Lydia looked ahead, and they walked to the door. Felix did so, and got into the car with Lydia. She started the car, then pulled out of the driveway and onto the road.

“M-Mom?” Felix wasn’t sure of what to say. “Are you-”

“I’m fine.” Lydia kept her eyes on the road. “We’re getting your sister.”

“Aeris? But-”

“Honey, please. It’ll be okay.”

A roar shook the car, and Lydia swerved off the road. Bright red shone through the window as the car tumbled and metal screeched. The seatbelt dug into Felix’ skin as he held on for dear life. He grit his teeth and shut his eyes as tight as he could, and after a loud crash, a shrill ringing followed suit. Felix opened his eyes, and as his vision began to clear from the blur of the shock, he found himself in his mother’s arms. She broke through the crumpled sunroof and carried Felix out onto the grass.

Felix looked back to see the car on its side–totaled and burning, and as a pile of cars and a giant inferno raged back on the main road. Even in the heavy rain, the fire still breathed. He squinted into the fire and saw a pair of scathing red eyes staring back at him. His heart stopped dead, and in the flames the beast roared again. It spreads its wings wide as it stretched out its tail. Its coal black scales glistened in the heat of the flames, and its razor-ship teeth shone white amongst the orange.

A dragon? What the fuck is a dragon doing here?

The beast set its sights on Felix and his mother. Lydia held onto him tight on the side of the road, and Felix’ heart once again thudded against his ribcage. Felix braced himself for the dragon’s fiery breath, only to feel a strange chill in the air. He opened his eyes and saw small flakes of snow falling down from the sky.

A whirl of cold air blew through the road, and the fire of the car wreck vanished as the dragon was encased in ice. As the frost slowly chipped and broke away, several figures dressed in strange black uniforms with flowing capes ran to the cars, escorting survivors away.

“Are you two alright?” Felix looked up to see a tall woman with gray eyes in the uniform extending her hand. Her badge featured the image of a red, white, and blue dragon–the symbol of the Magus Special Ops Unit.

“Thank you,” Lydia said. She took the woman’s hand and stood up. Felix held his arm as a sharp sting ran through his muscles.

“You’re hurt,” the woman said. “Let me help.” She took Felix’ arm, and a faint white light shone from her palm. The sting ripped into Felix’ arm before fading away. Once she was done, Felix bent his arm and felt nothing. She’d healed him.

Felix was at a loss for words. He barely managed to choke out a “Thank you” before the woman turned towards the dragon, joined by at least ten other operatives. These weren’t just ordinary magi–these were sorcerers enlisted by the U.S. government to protect the people: the Magus Special Ops Unit.

The dragon broke free from the ice and roared again. It flapped its wings and flew away. One of the sorcerers pointed his wand downwards, and a giant slab of concrete shot out of the ground. With a wave of the man’s arm, the rock flew through the air and knocked the dragon clear out of the air. The ground violently shook as the monster thudded against the road.

The woman who’d healed Felix approached the dragon slowly. She held up a strange staff–longer than a wand with a strange light blue crystal at the end. She pointed it at the dragon, and a bright blue light enveloped the dragon. The dragon let out one last roar, then vanished in a blinding flash. In its spot was a pile of purple and red crystals, which the woman swept up in her hands. A pair of operatives walked up to her holding a container, and the woman dumped the crystals into it.

“You let that thing loose, didn’t you?” A man got out of his car, shouting at the operatives. “Buncha freaks!”

His cries were joined by many others, their way blocked by the wreck of cars. A pair of ambulances arrived, and EMTs and paramedics rushed to pull people out of the cars. Some of them gave judgmental glares at the operatives, though they ignored it and entered their own cars, driving off.

Lydia took Felix’ hand. “C’mon. There’s a gas station down the road. We can call your grandfather to pick us up, then get your sister.”

Felix followed. He and his mother trekked through the sloshing mud. Thankfully, the rain had stopped… at least on Felix. The showers still continued all around him, but not a drop seemed to fall onto Felix or his mother. This is what she was. What he was: a magus. And that’s what those people who stopped the dragon were. They saved them from a rampaging dragon, and what did they get? Not a thank you or an award, but an angry crowd of ungrateful assholes cursing their existence–“Do you realize what we’ve had, living under my roof all these years.” The wounds from his father’s cruelty were still fresh in Felix’ mind.

Felix watched as lightning danced through the sky, crackling right along with the thunder. He imagined himself commanding it, mastering his powers and showing the world just how amazing he could be if given a chance. Dragora–if he could go to Dragora and learn how to properly wield his magic, then maybe this fantasy could become a reality. All the silly dreams he’d had of traveling to the Magian Empire to make a name of himself suddenly came back with a vengeance, but now they felt… more than possible. Destined. He’d never believed in fate, but if it meant this one thing could come true, he’d be ready to believe in a talking goat.

His heart was seized with passion. A burning desire to prove the world wrong. To prove his father wrong. To show them all what he could do, and what fools they were to spite him and those who shared his gift. They were the ones with the power. They were the ones with the magic. And it was time they be treated like it.

I don’t care if I have to go to the ends of the fucking Earth to do it. If they all see me as a force of destruction… I’ll give ‘em a force of destruction.

Continue reading “De Cineribus: From the Ashes | First Chapter”

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