This is part two of my three parter. I intended to put a little bit more about the magic system in this one but I felt it was better served to show the perspective of the willcasters, leaving the magic for the final chapter which will be almost entirely one big fight scene. Should be fun to write!
As I said I've tried to show the perspective of the willcaster here, to give the 'villains' some kind of understandable motivation and to show her side of the dialogue with Alex in the warehouse. I think this style works pretty okay for this kind of short 3 parter. I'm going to wrap this up in the next chapter but I'm unsure if I want to do that immediately or if I'll try something else first, we shall see!
Hard Vs Soft, Part 2 of 3: The Fire
Hard Vs Soft, Part 2: The Fire
Isabella gazed out over the cityscape, jaw clenched tight as the light morning breeze blew a few strands of hair across her face. It was almost time. They had trained so hard, and her abilities both physically and mentally had come on more in the past few months than they had in years. Her mind was sharp, and her body was lithe and ready. All that was left was to test herself. Her partner had already informed her; the Council's so-called Invigilator had arrived earlier that morning. It wouldn't be long before he'd be on her trail. They had put in so much work. Spreading rumours for the Council to pick up. Letting his little informant follow them around for the better part of a week. Their training, their preparation. Everything came down to today. She'd lure him out to the training ground. It should be easy. With the overwhelming ego of the Council behind him he would never assume himself to be in any real danger. No Invigilator had ever called for backup. After all, what possible threat could a few untrained fools messing around with forbidden arts pose to the fist of the Council? That's how they would see it. They would come to regret that perspective. Once she had him it would just be a matter of subduing him, and then milking him for all he knew. The plan was to force him into battle, just the two of them. When she had drawn out his true strength she would signal her partner to close the noose. Once they had defeated him, the whole world would know. Those who were not brave or stupid enough to challenge the Council without the knowledge that they could win would rally to their cause, they would be able to take the fight to the Council. With the newfound confidence that they could stand up to the Invigilators, they could start their offensive on the Council in earnest. It was all there in front of them, they just had to seize it!
Isabella stood, brushing her dark hair behind her ears and smiled a grim smile as she turned her back on the sun and started towards the door. Their victory today would act as a clarion call across the world. Things wouldn't change overnight of course, and it wasn't their job to overthrow the Council alone. This one small act of rebellion would remind oppressed willcasters everywhere that they were not powerless. It would plant the seeds of rebellion in their hearts. For a better future. Isabella glanced back at the Roman skyline. If they succeeded here tonight, tomorrow's sun would rise on a more hopeful world, for her and many others.
Isabella nervously smoothed out her business-like white blouse as she strolled as casually as she could manage through the outskirts of the city. Her dark hair was gathered back in a tight bun, just a few strands loose to hang about her face, and she wore unassuming black trousers and shoes. She passed by old shipping containers and warehouses as she went, some ramshackle, some brand new compounds protected by expensive looking automated gates. She knew that not far behind her the Invigilator was following. Her back itched as she felt his eyes upon her, and it took all her concentration to not try to peek a glance at the man. She knew it was a man because Paulus had told her so. He had been following him since his arrival, watching him, and making sure that Isabella knew where she had to be to lure him in. It had worked, as she was now leading him slowly towards their training grounds.
Isabella had always thought Paulus was a strange man. They had known each other for long enough now that there was a strong mutual trust between them, but that was all. For all the training they had been through, and all the time they had spent together Isabella still didn't feel that she really knew the man. It felt wrong somehow to even consider calling him a friend, though in a sense he was. The idea of having a heart to heart with Paulus seemed laughable.
They had met half a year prior, Paulus had come to the city and had attended one of the major Passion league meetups. He was not well recieved. The locals didn't like how loosely he played with the rules, they didn't like his blasé disregard for the council. The way he talked made people nervous, and before long he had been politely asked not to come back. A few of the more disenfranchised souls stayed in contact with him and they formed their own little club. Isabella was one of them. Paulus taught them at first. Safely willcasting was a dangerous pursuit; one had to carefully manage ones own emotions to both focus and cause the desired effect. Any deviation in focus could be disastrous. Of course the Council exaggerated the dangers. Their claims were nothing more than ridiculous propaganda meant to keep people from discovering their true strength. After a while the club changed from simple teaching to sparring and experimenting with their abilities. In the beginning there had had been many others, at one point there had been over a dozen counting Isabella, but over time they fell away. The long shadow of the Council and the threat of reprisal was too much for most.
As she finally entered the training grounds Isabella heard her partner step out from his hiding spot nestled in the shadows behind her.
"He's almost here.", she said in a hushed tone.
"We are ready.", he replied with surety in his characteristically deep voice.
Isabella turned to face him, "I hope so."
Paulus stared down at her, expression unfaltering.
"He's a strange one, but nothing you can't handle.", he spoke without betraying any emotion.
He was a large man, almost two meters tall and athletically built, despite his advancing years. The ends of his flowing shirt were gently swaying in the breeze, and the thin scarf he wore threw shadows across the wall. His eyes glittered out from the shade of a wide brimmed hat and he slowly smiled.
"Today is our day. There's nothing he can do that we aren't ready for.", the words came out in perfect English, with only a slight Scandinavian accent.
Isabella wasn't so sure, but his confidence was hard to deny. She nodded and turned away. If she wasn't ready now she'd never be.
"You better hide.", she walked on as she said it, entering the wide main chamber of the warehouse.
Isabella kept going until she was up against the opposite side of the building, then stopped. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. The doorway behind her creaked open and she smiled. Her nerves evaporated, replaced with adrenalin. As she turned she heard the sound of boots on concrete, and there at the other end of the hall stood the Invigilator. It was the first time she had gotten a good look at him. Tall, lithe, and with a pretty face, he did not wear the traditional robes of his order. He didnt fit the traditional image of the Invigilator, but Isabella could read that smug look on his face even from across the room. She could see his self important swagger. There was no mistaking him for anything else. Her lips contorted into an angry frown despite her best efforts. When faced with her personal symbol of oppression, in the flesh, it was all she could do not to lash out.
"I thought you had given up.", her voice echoed out across the room.
She continued, "I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. I've waited a long time for this -"
The man interrupted her and Isabella's temper flared.
"...you know why I'm here don't you?", he finished, but she could hear little over her own anger, her ears growing hot with blood.
It was all she could do to hold off her rage, and she could feel her grip loosening, slowly but steadily.
Her Passion continued to rise as she answered him, "Of course I do, did you think we were just some ignorant casters messing around in our free time? You'd have a word with us and we'd pack it up for you just like that?".
She was close to tipping point, the hatred broiling within her.
He did not reply. The mans silence spoke volumes and for Isabella it was almost too much. She couldn't do this any longer. Her fury began to boil over. Words poured forth as her grip weakened. She had never felt anger like this.
Of the two of them Paulus was the more skilled. He could form his Passion to suit his will as easily as making tea. Isabella however, was the more direct. She was a force of nature and her Passion knew no bounds.
She heard her own voice as if from a distance, words cutting the air like knives as she spoke with a breathless rage.
"I hear you're pretty good. Show me!"
Finally, like stepping off a cliff edge, Isabella's grip faltered and with an ecstatic outburst she lunged forward. Her fury released, she became the flames.