Man, I had this one almost completely outlined. Knew exactly where it was going and everything! Too bad I lost the notes. The character design I did for Mara is still one I like, though.

The Wind Witch
Prologue: Journeyman's Travels

The scene that greeted Mara's entrance into Magic Forum (or Magyk Fore-room, as the battered and wind-tossed sign outside would have it) was, to put it politely, one of distinct disarray and utter chaos. The girl was forced to take a step backward in order to allow a pair of squabbling fighters to roll by, and immediately following that, she was forced to swing her snake-headed staff in front of her face to avoid being pegged by flying crockery. Wind Goddess Shirlithe, have mercy on me . . .

She scrambled forward as another pot struck the wall next to her head, slapping one hand down on what appeared to be the front desk and shouting, "Excuse me! Is anyone here --"

The man behind the desk had his back turned to her, screaming at someone in an office beyond.


He spun around sharply, and she lurched back as he screamed at her, "What!?"

"Is anyone here in need of a witch!?" Mara shrieked back, ducking her head just in time to avoid a platter. The projectiles appeared to be coming from the direction of the mess hall, and the two fighters who had rolled past her in the doorway had rolled back into that same area only moments before.

"Say again --" The man cut off as a knife went flying past his nose, and he proceeded to direct a few choice curses at the mess hall.

By the goddess . . . Mara swore, growing weary of the endless barrage. She cupped her hands before her chest, murmuring a soft chant as fast as she dared and hoping the goddess would see fit to grant her power after using her name in vain. There was the slightest release of mental pressure, and she knew the spell had succeeded. With an air of irritable finality, she half-bellowed, "Dead Air!"

A flash of light started between her palms, then widened into a clear globe of air, surrounding herself and the man at the front desk. His expression turned blank as he watched the projectiles from the mess hall suddenly stop in midair, caught by the expanding field. He turned his gaze back to Mara, who was dusting her hands off with a satisfied grin.

"Now," she said, leaning one hand forward on the desk, the other catching her staff from where she'd leaned it in order to cast the spell, "is anyone around here in need of a witch?"

The man leaned back, adjusting his wire-frame spectacles with one hand. "Just who are you, girl?"

Mara drew herself up and held her right hand, sideways, an inch away from her chest, flicking her fingers in the sign-salute of her order. "Mara Ilsdur of the Wind Temple, second-year journeyman, Class A."

He nodded at her, frowning slightly as if her words hadn't meant a blazing thing to him. "I'm -- Andver Coalsmeth, head of the Empire's military detachment to this town."

Mara blinked. "Military -- detachment?"

Andver nodded, a slight smile starting on his face. "I apologize for the misunderstanding." He rubbed the back of his head, then ran his fingers through his black hair. "You see, this town hasn't had a Magic Forum in some years -- they generally use it as a council hall."

The girl's mouth twitched slightly. "But I heard --"

"Heard what?" His eyes immediately narrowed in suspicion, much to her exasperation.

"Someone put up a bulletin that a witch was needed in this town!" She put one hand on her hip in annoyance, the other tightening its grasp around her staff.

"Well, whoever it was, they didn't come through this office," he said, relaxing slightly. "You'll have to look elsewhere if you want a job."

You've got to be kidding me . . . she mumbled to herself. Then, without another word to the man, she turned on her heel and marched out the door, dropping the spell. She allowed herself a satisfied smirk at the sound of a large, blunt object striking Mr. Andver Coalsmeth in the side of the head.