Loud footsteps could be heard echoing in the emptiness of the great corridor. Afternoon sunlight poured in from the tall windows that flanked it, painting the tiled floor golden.
The owner if these footsteps was a lone man. His face was ruddy, round, and framed by long, wispy locks of brown hair and an equally wispy ghost of a beard on his chin. He was slightly hunched over, occasionally muttering to himself. He marched down the hallway hurriedly, his mouth set in a stern frown.
At the end of the passage, the man was met by an enormous pair of stone doors with a keyhole in the right. Without a single break in his stride he pressed his right palm to the door (a stack of papers was held under his left). A blue, fire-like energy burst from his palm and into the keyhole. Seconds later the doors were lurching inwards.
The man entered a cavernous and circular room with dark desks of three levels set in a semicircle. Opposite to them was a single desk. The room was filled with a buzz of chitter from it's 30, now 31, occupants.
As the man walked up an aisle of stairs dividing the multi-layered semicircle to his seat on the third level, the hum of idle conversation ceased. The man could feel the sear of 30 pairs of eyes on him, especially that which came from the lone desk facing the semi-circle.
The occupant of that lone desk was a severe woman. Her pointed gaze was that of a hawk's through the glasses perched upon her nose. She adjusted them carefully.
"You're late, Mr.Thomas."
Our man, evidently Mr.Thomas, eased himself into the chair before his seat wearily. "I apologize, ma'am. It won't happen again."
"Good, because I will not tolerate it again, Mr.Thomas." Turning away from him, she addressed the general assembly. "Now, to buissness."
She picked up a stack of paper from her desk and shuffled it. "These are the latest damage reports coming in from the east. Dreusdal is becoming more aggressive in their raids."
The woman set the papers down and massaged her temples. "The Branch of Civil Affairs is pushing for us to send wizards out to defend our borders, but the recent shortage of mages being born makes this fight rather unevenly matched."
The woman straightened in her seat and continued. "We need to come up with a solution to this plan. You all recieved this information as well as further details last week so I expect some suggestions. Would anyone like to speak?"
Mr.Thomas straightened in his seat. "May I propose a possible solution Mrs.Rivers?"
The woman nodded and motioned for him to speak.
Mr.Thomas rose in his chair, papers in hand.
"I propose a way to fix this shortage of mages." There were a few stray murmurings at this opening, and when silence restored itself, he continued.
"As we, most of us being mages know, being born with magical ability is something of chance, dumb luck. As the myth goes, this is because the first man, Buri, drank from a spring possessing magical properties, gaining magical powers himself. Now, as we all are of Buri's blood, some among of us possess the same powers, though they manifest themselves differently in everyone."
He paused for a breath.
"I suggest we find the Spring of the First Man."
A discontented hum arose at this, swelling into a steady thrum of voices, and further into shouting-
"Quiet!" Mrs.Rivers voice echoed in the room, silencing the protests. She hunched forward over her desk, eyeing Mr.Thomas carefully. "Thomas, there have been searches after searches to find the Spring. None have ever been successful. Quite frankly, I'm not sure why you would even bring it up. So, give me your reasoning."
Mr.Thomas set his jaw. "According to all accounts of the story, the Spring is located far north, evidently farther than we've ever mapped. So I suggest we ally ourselves with people who have mapped that far. In fact, I propose we ask the best sailors of our coast. We should ask the Red Marauders."
Now an immediate shouting erupted in room.
"QUIET!" Mrs.Rivers's voice rang through the room with a steely edge. The room silenced immediately though there was still an agitated feeling in the air.
"Mr.Thomas," She continued, "You are suggesting we ally ourselves fugitive pirates. Many of them are wanted criminals in our country, how do you think the public would react to that? How will you get in contact of mutual trust with them?"
Mr.Thomas shook his head. "I don't know the answers to your questions, ma'am. But I do know that Arcus is in danger, and this is the possibility to find the source of our magic and produce more mages to defend it. "
He looked upon his fellows calmly. "If any of you has a better idea, speak."
It was silent.
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"Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still."
- Henry David Thoreau