The Crimson Mage ~ Fantasy Short Story

Madelaina, the most powerful wizard in the Northern Kingdom, ran through the forest, zigzagging around the trees and leaping over babbling brooks. The galloping group of horses was closing in on her. She heard the hooves thumping against the ground covered with leaves and branches. They whinnied and neighed as the knight’s on their backs pushed them to move faster. The frightened Mage gripped her long wooden staff tightly in her hand.  The crystal ball at the top of it began to glow as her emotions bubbled up inside of her. She looked back and shot a blast of white light towards the knights. She hit the middle of a tree and it collapsed to the ground. The crash echoed throughout the forest, scattering birds and deer in all different directions.

“Please let me get to my cottage,” she said to herself in her kind, twinkling voice. Her legs began to ache, but she forced them to keep moving. She could easily transport herself to her home, but that would take up more time and energy than she could muster at that point. Leaves crunched under her boots and she nearly tripped over her long flowing robe.

Minutes later, she saw her quaint little home up ahead. She created it in the heart of the forest, as that’s where her power is the strongest. It was built in stone, with a wooden door that had a rounded top. Wood panels covered the roof and a small metal chimney poked out of the top. She sprinted towards the door and tumbled inside. Dropping her twisted staff, she curled up on the ground and kicked the door closed. She coughed heavily as she tried to catch her breath.

She waited until the horses passed by her. Not many people took notice of her cottage, so she assumed she was safe. Sure enough, the sound of the horses and shouting knights neared her home and quickly faded into the distance. That is, except for one curious knight.

Sir Charles saw the cottage and wanted to investigate, but the other knights told him that the cottage had been abandoned for years. Madelaina had placed a protection spell on her home to ensure that everyone who saw it perceived it as abandoned. Charles, for reasons unknown, was immune to the spell. He told the others to keep going as he dismounted his horse, Winston. Tying the horse’s reins to a tree, and placing his helmet on the saddle, he inched towards the home.

Madelaina panicked. She stood up and placed her thick, dark red hood over her head. Muttering a few ancient words, she transformed her long red robe with golden lining into a peasant girl’s dress. Her staff vanished and she twirled around to inspect her new look. The hem of the light blue dress reached down to her ankles. The sleeves were a tight fit that reached just above her elbows. Her light brown hair flowed down passed her shoulders, framing her thin, fair-skinned face.

The Knight knocked on her door and she flinched. She knew he wouldn’t leave easily, so she nervously opened the door which loudly creaked. “Hello, madam,” Charles said, with his arms firmly pressed to his sides.

She looked into his kind blue eyes and smiled meekly. The shine of his silver armor gleamed in the sun and squinted at the light. “May I help you?”

“Yes, M'lady,” he nodded, “I have been ordered by his majesty to track down a dangerous wizard.”

“Oh?” she said, clutching the side of the door.

“Have you seen a woman running through this forest? She wears a red robe with intricate gold stitching and holds a wooden staff which is twisted like a tree branch.”

“No, sir, I haven’t. Goodbye,” she said and quickly tried to slam the door.

Charles stopped her from closing it with his foot. “You’re quite secluded out here. Are you sure you haven’t noticed anyone around?”

“No, it’s just been you this whole day,” the Mage nodded and had the urge to strangle him. Something inside her told her that it wasn’t a good idea. The Knight had no reason to suspect her true identity so she was going to be okay.

“Thank you anyways, madam. If you do see such a woman, stay away from her. She’s very dangerous. It was only a few hours ago that she massacred an entire village,” Charles said in a hushed tone. He looked at her closely, noticing her beauty. Her eyes sparkled in the sunlight with a strange hue of purple and red colors. “Your eyes are quite unique. I’ve never seen a woman with those color eyes. They’re beautiful.”

“Thank you. G’day, sir,” she huffed and slammed the door in his face. Charles frowned, and headed back to Winston. Something about this girl intrigued him and he planned on returning.

Madelaina flopped to the floor and held her face in her hands. The only reason she destroyed that village was because the people started attacking her. Madelaina is known throughout the land as the Crimson Mage and almost everyone is afraid of her. There are tales of Madelaina growing fangs and sharp claws and eating children to fuel her power. She’s never done such a thing in her life. She’s a beautiful wizard and has struggled for years deciding what to do with her magic.

Madelaina was raised in a home with a mortal old man. The man, named Robert, told her that he found her crying in the woods when she was a baby. Robert never had a child in his life, and he yearned to fill that whole in his heart. He immediately decided to adopt her and raise her as his own. He had studied the art of magic for years so when Madelaina started showing signs of having powers he was thrilled. Robert taught her all about spells, portals, controlling her powers, and how to help others with her magical gift.

The two of them had a strong bond. They laughed and played together every day in a secluded cottage, not unlike the one she currently lived in. She quickly took to calling him father, even though she knew she was not his flesh and blood. The kind old man was her only friend and the only person who ever cared for her. On Robert’s birthday, when she was sixteen, she snuck out of her house in the morning to fetch some water from their well and a few supplies to make his favorite meal. When she returned, she saw two men speaking with her father.

The girl had no experience with others and had never seen such people with shiny metal clothes before. Her father told her that the Knights were there to collect his land tax. He could not afford the increased tax, so he offered the men a hot meal instead.

“No,” one of the burlier Knights said, “I have a better idea. We’ll take your daughter as payment until you come to buy her back.”

The other Knight grabbed onto Madelaina’s shoulder, making her drop everything she was holding, “Father, no! Don’t let them take me!” Before her father could reply, Madelaina accidentally shot a ball of fire from her palm at the burly Knight. It bounced off of his armor and fizzed out.

“Witch!” the Knight shouted and both of them grabbed onto her, trying to drag her out the door. “We’re taking her to the King!” The burly Knight kicked Robert to the ground which made him cry out in pain as he watched them drag his daughter away.

Madelaina started to become very angry. She clenched her fists and her eyes glowed red. Suddenly, the bones in the burly Knight’s leg collapsed. He screamed out and collapsed in front of Robert. “Maddie, don’t hurt them!” Robert called out. Madelaina squirmed and kicked trying to get away from the second Knight. She tried to suppress her anger, but it was too much for her to handle.

“Let me go!” she demanded. Grabbing onto the knight’s wrist, she flipped him onto his back and shot fireballs at him. She ran outside and even more fire was ejected from her palms. Standing by her father’s horse, she glared at her house. She watched the wooden house burst into flames and cackled malevolently. The screams of the Knights and her father echoed through the forest. “Father!” she shouted, realizing what she had done. “No!” she dropped to her knees, tears streaming down her face. “What have I done?” she whispered to herself and looked down at her hands. They were not charred or hurt in any way. Madelaina hadn’t used magic at this point, only studied it.

The power she felt as she burned the Knights fueled her anger. Hopping onto the horse, she used her first transformation spell. She created a beautiful red robe for herself and galloped away from the blazing inferno. Over the next few years, the frightened girl scoured the Northern Kingdom. Traveling through bustling villages and poverty stricken towns, she tried to be a normal girl.

She knew she couldn’t let people see her magic, so she couldn’t live in a busy town, especially not one near King Phillip’s Castle. Eventually, she settled down in the forest, creating the cottage in which she now resided. She practiced her magic and tried to do good, but to no avail.

Occasionally, she would need to venture out to a village for food and other supplies. She had to trade her horse for a loaf of bread and some wine. It was easy for her to conjure up those items, but she desperately wanted to have some company as she often got lonely. She loved smelling freshly baked bread as she sauntered through the town and seeing children chase each other around their village.

During one of her outings, a young girl tripped in front of her and smashed her nose into the ground. Blood was dripping from her nose and Madelaina bent down to help her. “Don’t cry, my dear, you’ll be okay.” She cradled the girl in her arms and waved her hand over her nose. It was instantly cured and all the blood was cleaned up.

“Witch!” an old lady yelled and pointed at Madelaina on the ground. Hordes of villagers surrounded her which made her heart race.

Breathing heavily, she tried to explain to the people that she only wanted to help. They didn’t believe her and grabbed onto her arms to tie her up. Madelaina screamed and a flash of light sent the villagers around her flying backward – children and all. She twirled her robe around herself, muttered some words, and instantly vanished before their eyes.

Word quickly spread about Madelaina’s magic. Terrible stories were created about her and she hated the name The Crimson Mage just because of her robe. She planned to stay in hiding for many months after that incident. She desperately wanted to explore the world and do good as her father taught her, but it was much easier to destroy things. That’s what people expected from her anyways. Sometimes people got too close to her home and she struggled with the urge to kill them. Most people just walked by, but the ones who got too close made her panic and blast them with her fire.

The morning before she destroyed the village, she decided that she didn’t want to hide anymore. Putting on her robe, she walked outside and took in the sunlight. All she wanted to do was go for a walk. A crow landed on her shoulder and she patted its feathers. “I could use a companion,” she smiled and it squawked at her. With the flick of her wrist, she transformed the crow into a young girl, similar to the one who she had healed years ago.

Whenever the girl opened her mouth, a squawk came out so Madelaina flicked her wrist again to close the girl’s lips permanently. Her staff manifested in her hand and she began walking with the girl close to her side. Strolling through the quiet forest, she had a sense that today would be another uneventful day. The two walked for hours and soon reached a village. Madelaina took a deep breath, pulled up her hood to hide her face, dissipated her staff, and held on to the girl’s hand to lead her through the village.

Madelaina could hear people whispering about her, but she tried to ignore it. They stared and pointed which irritated the Mage. She knew her father wouldn’t want her to react, so she casually strolled through the village and avoided eye contact with its people.  

A few minutes later, a dirty old woman with yellow and chipped teeth jumped out in front of her. “Look, it’s the Crimson Mage and she’s kidnapped a child!” she scowled and wagged her finger in Madelaina’s face.

“I assure you, madam, I’m just a woman on a walk with my daughter,” she smiled weakly and made the girl smile as well.

“You’re a witch!” the woman screamed and Madelaina let go of the girl and mustered up her staff.

“A witch! A witch!” The villagers screamed and tried to grab onto the Mage. Madelaina smiled maliciously. This time, she was prepared for this to happen. She blasted the old hag with a ball of light and did the same to anyone who touched her. The girl burst into flames and fizzled away. Everyone screamed. Children began to cry, mothers pulled others away from danger, and the men started throwing things at her. She shot fire left and right. Soon enough, most of the shops were burned to the ground. Madelaina marveled at her handy work and laughed at the fear in people’s eyes. Power and strength flowed through her veins and she ached to cause more destruction.

Fire crackled all around her and the villagers shouted and cried. Madelaina suddenly heard the sound of horse’s hooves and knew that the knights were coming. She immediately ran off through the forest and escaped every Knight’s grasp. She was now in the safety of her home, slurping up a bowl of hot soup. As she sat at her table holding the bowl to her lips, she found herself thinking about Charles.

Madelaina wanted to see Charles again. He was a handsome Knight and she was curious why he was drawn to her house. Most people ignore the cottage, especially because of her protection spell. She spent the rest of her day practicing new spells. The moment that night fell upon the kingdom she curled up in her bed and fell asleep.

She was awakened the next morning by an incessant pounding on her door. Yawning, she stretched out her arms and changed into her peasant dress with the flick of her wrist. Madelaina was able to do much of her magic without her staff. The staff helped her harness more power that was much stronger, so it was much more effective when fighting Knights.

Walking over to the door, she sleepily said hello without looking at who she opened the door for. “Hello, M’lady,” Charles spoke.

Madelaina’s eyes widened when she realized who was speaking, “What do you want?” she snarled.

“I apologize for arriving without permission, but I must admit I find myself drawn to this house. Madam, I would like to get to know you, if you would so kindly allow me to. Would you like to join me for a walk?” he held out his arm for Madelaina to hold, but she did not speak or move. Today, Charles wore a green tunic and black pants and boots. The Mage peaked over his shoulder to see Winston tied to a tree.

“Please leave me be!” Madelaina growled but didn’t shut the door. She was curious what this Knight had to say and why he wanted to walk with her.

“Please bless me with your presence for just a few minutes?” he pleaded.

Madelaina sighed, feeling safe with Charles. Her disguise was foolproof so no one was able to tell who she really was. “Alright,” Madelaina said shyly and walked outside.

“What’s your name, M’lady?”

“Maddie,” she said quickly and started walking away from her cottage, but not towards the village she was in the day before.

“That’s a beautiful name,” he exclaimed as he rushed to keep up with her steps. “I’m Sir Charles.”

“I see,” she said and looked straight ahead as she walked.

He looked at her the entire time that they walked, “You know, I actually have seen someone before with those color eyes.”

“Have you now,” Madelaina said coldly.

“Yes, when I was eight I had a baby sister,” Charles explained, “She only lived a few days before she died. Or, at least, that’s what my parents told me at first. My father later told me on his deathbed that my sister was never dead. My mother was a very spiritual woman. She sensed that there was something dark within my sister and had no choice but to abandon her in the forest.”

Madelaina looked at the Knight curiously, “Why wouldn’t she just kill her?”

Charles raised his eyebrows and laughed, “That’s an interesting question, one that I don’t have an answer to. Maybe she couldn’t bring herself to hurt the baby girl. It was still her daughter after all.”

“Interesting,” she nodded and they continued to walk in silence.

“I enjoy your company, Maddie,” Charles smiled, but she didn’t reply. She felt the same way but she wouldn’t dare admit it. She couldn’t let her guard down in case Charles knew who she really was.

After a while, the two acquaintances found themselves at a river. “Sir Charles!” one of his fellow Knights called out to him. The Knight ran over to them away from his wife and two children splashing in the water. “Who is this fair maiden accompanying you?” he slapped Charles on the back and chuckled.

“Maddie, this is William, the most admired knight in all the land,” Charles beamed.

“Pleasure to meet you,” Madelaina said.

William bowed, grabbed her hand, and kissed the back of it, “The pleasure is all mine, M’lady.” The knight asked Madelaina and Charles to join him and his family and they agreed. The two Knights stood by the river and chatted about fighting techniques and the King. William’s wife sat on the grass and Madelaina sat beside her.

“Your children are beautiful,” Madelaina smiled.

“Aren’t they?” the wife beamed, “My two girls are the best things that ever happened to me. Do you have children?”

Madelaina shook her head solemnly. Though she had wanted a child of her own, she was afraid of passing down her powers to her kin. She did not want anyone to be burdened with the struggles between good and evil and controlling powers.

“Ouch!” one of the girls squealed as she cut her hand on a rock. The mother was about to stand up, but Madelaina said she would take care of it. She crouched down beside the girl. Her dress was now soaked and heavy. She said a few calming words to the girl and held the girl’s hand between both of hers. She tried her best to shield the flash of light from the mother’s eyes. The blood quickly vanished and the wound was healed.

“What did you just do?” the mother shrieked. “William, did you see that?” she stood up and pointed, “That woman used magic on our child. She’s a witch! A witch!”

The Knights gasped, and William stalked over to Madelaina with his sword drawn. Charles stood where he was with his mouth hanging open. Madelaina’s heart was beating faster and she looked at the angry and shocked faces of the adults in front of her. The children continued to play as if nothing had happened, oblivious to what being a witch meant to their parents.

“Please don’t hurt me!” Madelaina cried, but William kept inching closer. In a panic, she threw her arms into the air and vanished in a flash of light.

“Did you know what she was?” William shouted at his friend.

“I had no idea, I swear!” Charles said. He said goodbye to the family and ran back to retrieve his horse. Before he rode home, he broke into Madelaina’s house. She was nowhere to be found but he called her name anyways. “I should have known she was the Crimson Mage!” he shouted, “That’s why I was so drawn to this place.” He growled and kicked a stool which then toppled over with a clatter.

Charles felt a mixture of anger and regret. The Mage was a danger to his society and she needed to be caught, but at the same time, he actually liked her. Charles felt a sense of love for her that he couldn’t understand. He returned to her house each day for a year to find her, but he had no luck. He scoured the Northern Kingdom calling out ‘Maddie’ repeatedly, but the powerful Crimson Mage was never seen in that kingdom again.

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