This one is one that I am very much interested in pursuing. I have actually begun to draw out the world surrounding this.
There are a few options for how this one can go. One is where magic cannot be used by humans (as far as most people know). In this case, I had it set where my character would eventually discover that he was the sole surviving member of a clan that COULD use magic. They were killed out of fear.
Another is where magic is not taboo. It is used by the military freely. There are Battle Mages and Court Mages, and except for recent political shifts, women were only allowed to be Court Mages. There is a split point here where either a woman goes from being a Court Mage to being a Battle Mage, or where a woman disguises herself as a man, is supported in her ruse by those in charge, treated no differently than the men, and forced to prove that women can hold their own just as well as men. This sample is available for use as an opening post.
A warm wind blew through Azrial, the capital city of Peres, the scorching sun a familiar heat against the backs and heads of its countless inhabitants. Summer would soon draw to its close and with it the temperature would begin to drop to freezing conditions, and complain and lament and wish for the days of summer the citizens would, yet despite that knowledge and the memory of the very same occuring only months previous, the prevailing thought and complaint was 'It is too bloody hot.'
Through the market district blew a gust of wind, shaking the stands of various merchants, some losing wares as they failed to cover their tables in time. What the wind stole was quickly counted for lost. Merchants at a stall could not afford guards and knew they would lose more to lightfingers and urchins in chasing down what was lost than they would gain leaving their product unattended. It made for bountiful pickings for anyone with half a mind to wait for everything to blow their way.
At the edge of the market district sat a rundown, but well used, building with a faded wooden sign hanging over the door. Once well funded by the local government, it had fallen out of anyones thoughts or care for years, over shadowed by war on the outskirts and famine not nearly so far away. When efforts were needed to secure livelihoods, one did not sacrifice even a copper mark on what one was sure someone else was handling.
Only no one was handling the orphanage anymore. Not since right after the war started. And for fifteen years Mistress Ryss had fought tooth and nail to care for all the children in her care. In the last years, that had fallen to only her and her spinster daughter, Laris. Everyone else had quit.
In one room, rarely seen by any of the children in her care, did Ryss locate her office, humble as it was. Children came to this room for three reasons. To be welcomed. To be consoled. And, much as she disliked doing it, to be punished.
Adults, on the other hand, only came for one.
A firm knock rapped against her door, bringing Ryss' eyes up from the document she was viewing. The list of expenditures against resources was set to the side, but not forgotten. It was not well. "Enter," she called out in a tone that many said belonged to a commander in the field. She was firm, but never harsh. She simply believed that the only way the children would survive in the real world was to understand their place. So she taught them, in turn, how to be firm and commanding. To be successful.
A youth of middling height stepped into the room, his brown hair laying flat and falling to his ears, his steel gray eyes betraying none of his nerves. He knew what was coming. "Mistress Ryss, you called for me," he said, meeting her eyes.
Oh yes. He will do well, she thought, grateful for every bit of success she could find. "Markus, you are now seventeen according to the birth records we received for you." She left it at that. They both knew what was coming.
"Yes. To the day," he said. He didn't appear angry, but perhaps hurt? It was hard to tell with him sometimes.
"Over the sixteen years, five months and fourteen days you have been here, I have done everything I could to prepare you for this day," she said to him. She always counted. She knew they did the same. If it mattered to them, it mattered to her. "I am proud to say that you are a fine man."
He smiled, the warmth barely touching his eyes. She was sure he was restraining any and all emotion. "I have you to thank for that."
She tsked at him, blowing off the kind words. "We both know I have failed as often as I have succeeded. The difference was that YOU wanted to be more." He sat quietly again, not rising to the compliment.
"You know I hate goodbyes," she said, swallowing the lump in her throat. "So, I will simply wish you well."
He nodded, dropping his eyes to the floor. Markus turned, lifting the latch on the door as he left, uttering four simple words before taking his leave, grabbing his bag, and leaving the orphanage behind forever.
Ryss sat in silence for some time, shock painting her face. No one had ever affected her in such a way, no one had ever left her speechless, not even her late husband, May he shelter in the hand of the Goddess, she thought numbly. Never, until Markus had uttered those four words.
"I love you, mom."
Markus walked quickly down the main road, trying to remember his way from all the forrays into the city he had taken on various trips with the other orphans. He knew it was near the center of the city, behind the Third Ringwall, but beyond that he had never seen it even at a distance.
After asking for directions above a dozen times and getting lost nearly as often, he found himself standing in front of the barracks, a bannerman taking his name for training in the Guard. After training, he would be a soldier. But for a man of his age, the money was right. And it was something to do.
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